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May madness

May 3rd, 2011 at 11:45 am

New month, new budget ... new expenses. After a banner debt reduction last month (to the tune of $2,000), I knew April would be a hard month to beat. And I was right: May is already looking to hammer me with some snowflake-hungry expenditures.

The worst offender is the last minute spending that I failed to account for in last month's budget. So I'm already down nearly $200! Some of it was necessary (or so I keep telling myself), but it looks like we're going to have to majorly rein in the dining out.

May, on the other hand, is staring me down with the lament of broken necessities in its eyes. The laptop battery is near death. The kitchen faucet's handle is hanging on by the proverbial thread. Worst of all (to my DW, at least) is the inoperable ice maker. So much for making progress on debt this month.

Switching to a different topic, I applied to write for The Content Authority yesterday. Assuming my writing sample passes review, I will have the opportunity to get paid as a ghost writer. Does anyone have any experience writing online for them or other content mills like Textbroker or ecopywriters?

Money that I usually forget about

April 28th, 2011 at 09:48 am

Whether I'm looking at credit card balances or next month's budget, my eye is always drawn to the big numbers. Who cares about a few pennies here or there when I've got thousands of dollars to worry about?

Whenever I begin feeling overwhelmed from focusing on the "big picture", I find it encouraging to take a breather and appreciate the seemingly insignificant contributions that we've made to bolster our income.

Credit card cashback - $100 since starting in February
Swipe the rewards credit card on everything that I would have previously used my debit card for, pay it off at the end of the month, and get a check in the mail. Better yet, use it for recurring expenses (like utilities and insurance) and get even more back.

I realize that I probably look foolish to some for using a credit card while digging myself out of debt. I'm confident that I can treat it like cash and not regress to my pre-budget days, but I acknowledge that this option is not ideal for everyone.

Rebates - $10 year-to-date
The most common form of rebate is the type you mail in after purchasing certain products. However, websites like Ebates also count (just substitute the physical rebate form for an electronic version).

In the past, I could not be bothered to look for rebates. In fact, most of the time I wouldn't even mail in the ones that I had. A darn shame, really, since we received over $200 in rebate money last year alone. Now, I always make a point to look for rebates when purchasing items that cost more than a few bucks.

Swag Bucks - $60 year-to-date
The easiest one to forget about (because it is so simple to do!), Swag Bucks rewards you for using their search engine. Rack up enough "Swag Bucks" and you can choose items from their store.

For me, the Amazon $5 gift cards make the most sense (and also seem to convert better than just about any other choice). In a typical month, my wife and I earn enough for 2-3 cards. If we're feeling ambitious, we'll participate in the swag code hunts and surveys to finish the push towards another card.

Envaulted - $29 since starting in March
Similar to receiving cashback for using a rewards credit card, Envaulted is an online service that pays 1% for every dollar you spend using your credit card (even if it isn't a rewards card) in exchange for having access to your spending data.

First, the good. Once you authorize your credit card with Envaulted (up to 3), you just use your card as usual to receive the 1% cashback. No extra work is required. Plus, each week Envaulted will select several vendors (department stores, fast food, gas stations, etc.) that will give you additional cashback (up to 100%!) if you purchase from them during that period.

Now, the bad. In exchange for the cashback, Envaulted wants access to your purchasing behavior. This data, I believe, is used to target the weekly offers to you. But it might also be sold to 3rd parties, so keep that in mind if you decide to give Envaulted a try. For more information, check out my complete review.

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I'm probably forgetting some of the other sources of non-work income, but this is a good start for now. I purposely chose options that anyone can do, instead of side-work that might require certain skills or talent. What is everyone else doing to supplement their income?

Working from the La-Z-Boy

April 26th, 2011 at 05:15 am

Okay, I woke up this morning to an epiphany of minute proportions! Apparently, my last post failed to touch upon some rather odd part-time work that I've been muddling through for the past two weeks: Key For Cash.

The premise is this:

1. You sign up as a 1099 independent contractor
2. Once you're "hired", you log in whenever you want
3. You choose your work as it becomes available
4. You key in the scanned text that is displayed
5. ????
6. Profit!!!!

Continued here...

Kicking debt to the curb, speedy-like

April 25th, 2011 at 10:31 am

Funny thing about having a game plan for paying down debt: the closer I come to approximating the final payoff date, the slower time seems to pass. In other words, the better my wife and I become at finessing the budget and avoiding the days of "please God, let our paychecks clear before the next check bounces", the more the process has become ... well, boring.

Since boredom breeds all sorts of bad behavior, I've committed my spare time to generating extra income. My long-term plan is to head back to college to obtain a B.S. in accounting (I currently hold a B.S. in business management). Until the consumer debt is gone and my kids are old enough to be in school, however, my education will have to wait.

This leaves me with two immediate options. First, I can obtain a part-time job. Since my wife and I both work full-time, this would mean tilting the childcare balance her way. Thankfully, she is on board with the idea. The second option, to my knowledge, would be to create some passive income streams.

The part-time job challenge is an easy one to solve. With the accounting career in mind, I plan on becoming a tax preparer for H&R Block next year. The way I see it, the hours aren't bad, the pay is decent, and the whole experience wouldn't look too embarrassing on my resume. Plus, training starts in the fall and shouldn't cost me anything (supposedly they waive the fee if you commit to doing some work for them).

On the other hand, the passive income stream option is a bit of a mystery to me. I understand that the basic concept is to implement programs and/or investments that don't require a ton of maintenance while slowing feeding you much-needed cashola. The common example would be that of the affiliate, where you are compensated for generating traffic for a vendor. Having absolutely zero experience with doing this, I'm hoping y'all have some suggestions.

P.S. Hope everyone had a happy Easter.

P.S.S. I think I've appeased this website's appetite today after feeding it three freshly-typed variations of this post