Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How To Make Money Online

Money Cash
By Jericho [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The internet is one of my favorite modern amenities. It has the potential to be massively entertaining, of course, but did you know it can also be an income source?

If you've been down the 'make money online' route before and found that the promises were way too good to be true, I sympathize. Different websites rope you in with big promises, and before you know it you're sucked into the cycle of making pennies for an hour's work. I've been down that road myself -- a lot. The good news is, through trial and error, I've found a few ways to make a small side income that aren't an enormous suck on your time with little to no reward.

  1. InboxDollars is a survey site, for the most part. I don't love survey mills, because they take up a lot of time for very little reward. InboxDollars, however, has a few saving graces. First of all, you get paid to read emails. It's only $.02 per email, but it adds up fairly quickly. I usually receive between one and three emails on any given day, and it takes me less than ten seconds to scroll and click 'confirm' on each one. Another nice attribute is their coupon feature. If you print coupons through InboxDollars, you receive a $.10 account credit for each coupon you end up using. A few of their surveys are worth checking out (I've often filled one out while I'm laying down with the toddler to get him to go to sleep), but even the better paying ones usually wind up averaging out to less than $6/hour of work. The best money you can make through this site is actually through their cash offers -- I bought my friend a dress for Christmas that was originally around $43 and paid $.59 between the discount I got on the site and the $15 that were credited to my InboxDollars account for using their link. In my opinion, it's definitely a site worth checking out. Bonus: they have an app that makes it easy to read emails, complete offers, and fill out surveys from your phone.
  2. Swagbucks is another survey site with better ways to make money. The most lucrative is again going to be shopping through their site. You can wind up paying pennies on the dollar for a lot of things you might've bought anyway after the account credit that you get. You can also search the web through Swagbucks (they have a convenient button you can add to your browser) and accumulate points that way. Some of their surveys are higher-paying than InboxDollars, but for the most part they're not going to pay you back for the time you pay in, just like most survey mills. It's still worth it to sign up in my opinion, if only to take advantage of the search-to-earn feature.
  3. Bing Rewards is the incentive program that Bing has in place to search through them. There's also a few daily activities you can accumulate points through. It's not a 'quick money' option, but points rack up pretty quickly when you're on the web as much as I am.
To be clear, none of the above sites will get you enough money to replace your day job. They are, however, convenient ways to supplement your income in a way that doesn't take up much time at all. I've inserted my referral links into the above post, by the way -- I wasn't recruited to write this post, and everything I've said has been my honest opinion. But if you do decide to sign up for any of the above, using my referral links will share some of the wealth with me.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why I'm Grateful For My Insomnia

Awake Title

It's 6:27 a.m., and I'm wide awake. I've been awake since 11:00 p.m. or so after falling asleep at 8, and if my normal pattern holds true I'll be awake all day. I've been this way for as long as I can remember; I run on three to five hours of sleep for weeks at a time, then crash hard for half a day or so. I used to hate it, but that's starting to change.

The day is filled with obligations and schedules. Breakfast is at ten, naptime is at one. Naptime is over at three, and lunch has to be ready by then. Dinner must be ready by eight and bedtime is at nine. In between there's work, bills, baths, calls to make, deadlines to meet...

The night is different. I can exist for the sake of existence; I can think about all the things I didn't have time to ponder while the world was awake. I can stare into my newborn's face while I feed him and we can bond without the demands of a toddler and a career in its infancy pressing in on us.

My inability to sleep affords me something priceless: more time. And time is the most valuable resource I have.

Rather than wasting that time wishing for rest like I used to, I'm starting to savor every moment.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Should I Pay Off My Credit Cards Before Saving Money?

By Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa (sxc.hu) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There's a lot of financial advice out there. Some is contradictory, some is common sense, and a few pieces of it are honestly kind of useless (hint:  if your advice is to drop my $5 a day latte habit so I have more money, you obviously think I'm less broke than I actually am). Personal finance tips are just like any other piece of advice, in that you have to pick and choose what works best for you. Here's my two cents.

A big question if you're in debt is whether to start paying your credit cards down first, or to put back emergency savings before anything else. Conventional advice is to do the latter, but in my opinion, it depends on the situation.

Situation A:  you are beyond the credit limit for the card, and will not be able to make any new charges in the foreseeable future.
In this situation, I would definitely recommend going with conventional advice and building up your emergency savings while paying the minimum payment. You need to have a backup plan in case things go south, and an emergency savings account is the best way to do it. Once you have at least three to six months of living expenses saved, then go ahead and start focusing on your debts.

Situation B:  you have the majority of your debt on store credit cards.
This is another situation where convention holds true in most cases. If you focus on paying off your Kohl's card, that's great, but when you need to pay the light bill a cute cardigan won't save you.

Situation C: you are at or below the limit on a conventional credit card.
In this situation, I would recommend throwing convention out the window, and here's why. If you're truly broke -- not 'can't afford the second car/bigger house/giant t.v. that I want' broke -- you need as much money as possible available as quickly as possible. An emergency fund would be ideal, but while you're building that, more interest accrues on your debts. Better to pay down those credit cards and take the risk that you may have to fill them back up than to spend an extended period of time building an emergency fund while accruing possibly hundreds of dollars in interest while you're paying the minimum balances. Keep in mind, however, that once your conventional cards are paid off, it's better to leave the store credit cards for after you've got a few thousand dollars cushion built up.

Every financial situation is unique, and in the end you have to make the final judgment on your own budget; hopefully, however, you can employ this and other strategies to build a plan that will take you from hardship to success.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Getting Over Mom Guilt

There's this thing that happens when you have a kid. I've heard about it from friends, family, and the internet (and since it's on the internet, we all know it must be true). It's called mom guilt, and it sucks.

Symptoms of mom guilt include blaming yourself for things that aren't your fault (like the common cold choosing your kid as an incubator), crying because your child is mad at you and so you're obviously the WORST MOM EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MOMS, and feeling terrible for ever being frustrated with your children, ever.

At this point, I'm two kids deep into the mom guilt game (both under two, by the way -- what is this thing you call sleep?), and I have to say I'm pretty much a pro. Guilt for not having a job? Check. Guilt for having a job when the oldest was less than a year old? Check. Guilt for working from home and not cherishing every slimy, poop-smelling moment? Check. Guilt for not working from home more so I can afford the latest educational toys and nicer clothes? Check.

Recently though, I've had an epiphany.

Being a parent doesn't make you perfect -- and that's a good thing.

Everyone makes mistakes as a parent, and as a person in general. Everyone wonders if they're doing it right. Everyone thinks that there's another parent out there somewhere who has all their ducks in a row and is doing the whole parenting thing perfectly, but there isn't.

So I'm working on letting go of my mom guilt. My kids are alive. My toddler has a regular sleep schedule, loves hugs and kisses, and he's the smartest kid I know. My youngest is gaining weight and learning about the world around him. They eat enough, even if it's not kale and cauliflower rice. And the fact that I'm not perfect makes me a better mom than I could be otherwise, because I know what it's like to make a mess of things and I don't hold my kids to a standard I can't uphold myself.

So next time the house is a mess, we're having junk for dinner (again), and the toddler is running around in a diaper because clothes were just too much to bother with, I won't beat myself up about it. I'll let it go, and pour a glass of wine to wash down my mac and cheese.