Freedom Fund Update 4.30.17

Another month down and time to put together a Freedom Fund recap.

Last month, I was sitting at approximately $4 in passive income per month.

This month, I added a couple shares of Intel and more shares of STB.

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Monthly Dividend Stocks
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Monthly Dividend Stocks

I compiled a list of companies that have a track record of issuing dividends and have filled in the corresponding fields for the stocks I already hold. The others are on my list to acquire. I plan to base my decision to buy on the stock price and the number of years dividends have been paid. That said, GE, PG, and Waste Management are all on the short list.

Last month, I mentioned that near the end of the year I will have much more freedom with funds to put towards investing. A surprising turn of events allowed me to get to that point this month, though, so moving forward, I anticipate being able to contribute $200-$500, depending on the month’s obligations.

I added an unexpected $60 check to purchase a few shares of Intel on the Loyal 3 platform since I could buy partial shares. I am actually in the process of moving all of investments over to Robinhood, though, since Loyal 3 is being acquired by another platform that will charge fees and not allow partial shares. ūüôĀ

I also learned that foreign stocks charge a 15% tax on dividends, so my calculate return on STB was less than I had anticipated this month. While that’s unfortunate for me, the game plan is to continue to purchase STB since it is $6/share and get it up to the point where it is generating $6/month in dividends (which would be 174 shares, taking ino account that 15% tax). Then, each month, the dividends that come in will be able to purchase one more share of that stock and start a small snowball for that monthly dividend. Once that gets rolling by itself, I will turn my efforts to GE first, Waste Management, and PG. Since Target’s stock is still pretty flat compared to a few months ago, I may buy more shares of that as well.

I’m also mulling the idea of taking $100/month and continuing to add monthly dividend stocks to the list, as well. Last month I listed several of those¬†and while the dividends themselves seem low (less than 10 cents), they pay every month and tend to cost less than some of the others. I’m thinking about GLAD.

So after April’s contributions, I am sitting at $62.80 for the year, which is $15.70 per quarter, or $5.23 per month. It’s not a huge jump, but I was able to add $1.23 in passive income per month, up from last month.

Even small wins are wins, the important part is to keep going.

 

 

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Freedom Fund Update – 3.16.17

I’ve been throwing a few bucks into different stocks lately and thought I’d update the list of what’s in the freedom fund.

I’ve got a few more shares of Coca Cola and Ford and I added STB to the list.

Freedom Fund Update 31617

STB is a monthly dividend stock and while it doesn’t pay a terribly high dividend, the shares are super cheap so that $100 threshold goes to buy about 18 shares (18x $0.04=$0.72 a month). I’m reconsidering my HCP holdings and contemplating selling those shares to buy more STB. $60 of STB would almost double my current holding and add another $0.44/month for a total of $3.12/quarter, beating all of my other dividend totals. HCP pretty much cut its dividend in half so it has room to rebound but I think STB has a lot more room for growth. Since it just paid out a dividend in February, I don’t see myself waiting until May to dump it.

I broke it down by month to see how much should be coming in each month, since the goal is $750/quarter or basically $250/month.

Currently

January: 
Ford pays $1.05
STB pays $$0.60

Total: $1.65 dividend payment

February/May/August/November
Target pays $1.12
AT&T pays $2.94
Verizon pays $1.16
HCP pays $0.74
STB pays: $0.60

Total: $6.56 dividend payment

March/June/September
Intel pays $0.76
STB: $0.60

Total: $1.36

April/July/October
Ford pays $1.05
Coca Cola pays $2.69
STB pays $0.60

Total: $4.34

December
Coca Cola pays $2.69
Intel pays $0.76
STB pays $0.60

Total: $4.05

I based this on past dividend payout, some of them were a month off the regular pay schedule.

I’m sitting at $49/annual dividend payouts or $4/month.

I was utilizing the Acorns app to set aside $20-30 each month to invest and I really didn’t miss the $4 or $5 it would transfer out here and there, based on my spending patterns but it wasn’t earning for me based on my dividend approach. If anything, I was losing money due to the $1 monthly fee and the market changes. At this point, I don’t want to try to time the market or ride out the changes, I simply want to put money into dividend stocks and work towards building those up. I do not look at the actual dollars that are changing every day as the stock price changes.

Instead, I am going to transfer $30 to buy stocks of my choosing. I do have a few dollars in dividends sitting in my Loyal 3 account that I could combine with a transfer from my bank account to go towards Coca Cola, Intel or Target, as those are the stocks that I have on that platform and I am able to purchase partial shares.

In September, my cost of living will be dramatically cut (as my lease in my apartment is up and I am now living with my boyfriend at his house) and I will be able to contribute $500/month towards stocks, minimum.

I hope to be posting much more exciting changes in the Freedom Fund near the end of the year. For now, though, I have limited funds as I explore different career avenues and will more than likely slowly increase my holdings to at least equal $200 worth of each of these stocks and throw anything extra I have into STB as well as be on the lookout for additional monthly dividend stocks.

By the end of the year, I’d like to see that monthly dividend average be much closer to $20.

 

 

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Monthly Dividend Stocks

Monthly Dividend Stock Picks

In my quest for passive income, I am continually adding quality stocks to my list that have a consistent history of paying dividends. In my research of such stocks, I realized that there are stocks that pay monthly dividends as well and that was pretty intriguing. Mostly, the monthly dividends are MUCH less than the usual quarterly dividend payouts, but in some cases the quarterly sum is pretty close.

I came across a list of 12 Reliable Monthly Dividend Stocks on Dividend.com and I decided to dig a little and apply my $100 threshold rule to see if they would be worth adding to the freedom fund.

Here’s what I found.

GOOD (REIT)
Paid dividends since 2005
$19.62/share
$0.13 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 5 shares = $0.65/month payout or $1.95/quarter

LTC (REIT)
Paid dividends since 1992, and paid a monthly dividend since 2005
$45.81/share
$0.19 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 2 shares = $0.38/month or $1.14/quarter

O (REIT)
Paid dividends since 1995
$58.38/share
$0.21 monthly dividend
$100 would only buy 1 share = $0.21/month or $0.63/quarter
$117 would buy 2 shares = $0.42/month or $1.26/quarter

SBR
Paid dividends since 1995
$36.56/share
$0.14 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 2 shares = $0.28/month or $0.84/quarter
$110 would buy 3 shares= $0.42/month or $1.26/quarter

SJR
Paid dividends since 2005
$20.52/share
$0.10 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 4 shares = $0.40/month or $1.20/quarter
$103 would buy 5 shares = $0.50/month or $1.50 quarter

ARCP 
Appears to have been acquired or not publicly listed under this ticker symbol any longer

STAG (REIT)
Paid dividends since 2011, and a monthly dividend since 2013
$24.84/share
$0.12 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 4 shares – $0.48/month or $1.92/quarter

CRT
Paid dividends since 1992
$15.17/share
$0.06 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 6 shares = $0.36/month or $1.08/quarter
$107 would buy 7 shares = $0.42/month or $1.26/quarter

GLAD
Paid dividends since 2003
$8.95/share
$0.07 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 11 shares = $0.77/month or $2.31 quarter

ERF
Paid dividends since 2001
$8.16/share
$0.01 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 12 shares = $0.12/month or $0.36/quarter

HGT
Paid dividends since 1999
$1.75/share
$0.01 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 57 shares = $0.57/month or $1.71/quarter

MAIN
Paid dividends since 2011
$36.84/share
$0.19 monthly dividend
$100 would buy 2 shares  = $0.38/month or $1.14/quarter
$110 would buy 3 shares = $0.57/month or $1.71 quarter

Based on these breakdowns, I definitely would not spend $100 on ERF to generate 12 cents a month, I’d call that one the loser of the bunch.

My choices:
1. GLAD
2. GOOD
3. STAG
4.HGT
5. MAIN

For a few of the stocks, I provided two price points if it would only be a few more dollars over $100 to purchase another share.

GLAD would generate the highest payout as a dividend investor with GOOD and STAG following close behind. HGT and MAIN are a little behind that, but I would choose HGT before MAIN since the share price is so low. You could potentially purchase many more of HGT for the same $100, even though it’s monthly payout is quite a bit less. Then, if its dividend were to increase even a penny, you’d have that much more buying power or income based just on the high number of shares you’d own in comparison, since it’s so cheap and that $100 would go a lot further.

I use the Robinhood app for most of my stock purchases as well as Loyal 3, both are fee free investment platform options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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$5 projects: taking mason jars to the next level

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I like mason jars. For everything.

Everybody has their thing that they collect and mine has always been bottles and jars. Endless hours of treasure hunting at antique stores and thrift shops and what do I come out with 75% of the time? Bottles and jars.

I’ve gotten to the point where I have all loose foods and grains (rice, flour, sugar, noodles)¬†in glass jars to protect against weevils (been there done that, not fun). They’re also good to freeze things in, they don’t have BPA, and they’re reusable.

So, naturally, when I moved into my boyfriend’s house a few weeks ago, I converted the bulk size containers of coffee, creamer, and sugar that were living on the counter next to the coffee pot into glass jars that are much easier on the eyes and free up counter space.

My jars had mismatched lids because I had swapped a few around to have solid lids on the ones that sit next to the coffee pot as opposed to the lids with separate pieces for canning.

This is what I started with.

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I’ve recently had my eye on some copper and rose gold spray paint. I bought the copper for another home project that I just started but thought I would experiment with it a little to see if it would unify the look of the jars.

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I sprayed 3 coats on the lids and left them outside in the sun to dry.

At some point, there was a brief rain shower that I didn’t notice and it rained on my lids when the paint was still tacky.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find a raindrop pattern actually stuck IN the paint.

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This is the final product and I can’t even believe how much a little copper spray paint elevated these babies. They went from upcycled and plain to a matching, interesting set that looks as though they were purchased together. Although I couldn’t have planned for the rain drop pattern, if it looks like the weather is forecasting storms – I may try to recreate the effect for another project.

Copper is the new gold, my friends.

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How to Be Successful Working From Home

How to Successfully Work from Home

Working from home.

That’s the dream, isn’t it?

I know I have personally been striving to get out of rush hour traffic, to free myself from a micromanaging boss, and to spend less time with coworkers that make you so mad you could hit something.

For the last month and a half, I’ve been doing the work from home thing.

I’VE ARRIVED.

I am basking in the glory of running errands while the other 90% is sitting in their office. The 7:00 AM get-up-and-get-ready-for-work alarm clock does not go off in my house. (The puppy goes off before 8 AM usually though, but that’s our house) The brown paper bag does not consist of my lunch.

But what’s funny though, is that while you should have so much more time available and you should feel energized about working on projects that excite you and the work day should just zip right by, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Even for people who consider themselves as introverts, as I do, you start to feel like you need that connection with the outside world. That afternoon crash hits harder than ever and since you’re not sitting in an office full of people, you find it harder to resist the couch or the bed for ‘just a quick little nap’ that turns into 2 hours.

I consider myself to be pretty disciplined and to have a good amount of willpower when it comes to handling what needs to be done, but when the only deadlines is “I need to do that today” — that quickly snowballs into “I’ll just knock it out tomorrow.”

Do you know what the answer is?

A SCHEDULE.

I know it seems slightly counter intuitive when the whole point of working from home, at a glance, is to be able to basically do what you want, as long as you get it done. The biggest problem with that, is that [for me] there’s always later. Sure, I have until I go to sleep tonight at 11 pm, but am I really going to do whatever it is I put off once my significant other gets home and it’s 8:30 at night? On occasion, sure. But on the regular?¬†Probably not.

The main idea to take away here is that there has to be some sort of structure and a couple of goals to strive for.

You need to know why¬†you want to work from home. Is it because you want to have a flexible day? (I do). Is it because you don’t want to wake up before the sun? (Of course). Is it because you want to have more free time? (Don’t we all?)

I want all those things. But, the point here is that – since I want those things, I have to also realize that there are things that working from home does not afford me and since I want those things, I must do other things I may not want to do.

It’s all about the way you see it.

It does not allow me to stop working whenever I feel like it every day because that quickly gets out of hand. It does let me work whenever I want, whether that be from 9-12 and then 4-7 or from 10-4, etc. It does let me take off on Tuesday if I need to, but probably means I have to work on Saturday.

I have found that while a set everyday schedule sets up a good routine, the beauty of working from home (mainly its flexibility) is that you can CHOOSE when to work.. as long as you ARE working.

A change in attitude can change your life, my friends. That’s the secret.

If you work from home and have any tips about being productive or getting more done in less time, I’d love to hear them!

 

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What I’m Adding to My Freedom Fund this Month

budget dividend stocks

I’ve made it a goal to focus on creating passive income this year. There are so many ways to do it and eventually, I’d like to have some real estate earning passive income, dividend stocks paying the majority of my bills, and who knows what else.

For now, I’m focusing on building up my portfolio of dividend stocks.

My current portfolio is very much DIY and based off of stocks that I am familiar with, that have a track record in business, and that show potential for growth. I invest using the Loyal 3 and Robinhood platforms (both are free and don’t cost anything to trade).

I currently own:

Coca Cola
Intel
Target
Verizon
AT&T
HCP
Ford

I would like to generate $250/month of passive dividend income to be apart of my octopus income strategy (more details to come on this later). So, since dividends are paid quarterly, I need varied stocks that are affordable ( for me, that means ideally under the $50/share range) and that pay out $750 for each quarter.

Ford
Price: $12.28
Dividend: 15 cents/share quarterly

Coca Cola
Price: $41.30
Dividend: 35 cents/share quarterly

HCP
Price: $30.04
Dividend: 37 cents/share quarterly

Intel
Price: $36.42
Dividend: 49 cents/share quarterly

AT&T
Price: $42.00
Dividend: 49 cents/share quarterly

Verizon
Price: $48.40
Dividend: 58 cents/share quarterly

Target
Price: $63.67
Dividend: 60 cents/share quarterly

I started this portfolio with companies that I personally have faith in (Coca Cola, Target, Intel) and in companies that have higher dividend yield like Verizon, HCP, AT&T. Honestly, Ford was sort of spontaneous because the stock is just so cheap and even with Ford’s performance as compared to other car makers (I had a Ford once), I see so many Fords on the road because they’re just so affordable.

I’ve got about $1,000 in at this point and am sitting at about $11 of quarterly income! It’s hardly close to that $750 goal but if you’re generating anything above 1% these days, it’s winning. I’m generating about 4% and that’s not considering reinvesting dividends, which I plan to do as well until I have substantially more coming in.

I’ve decided, though, to add a little more analysis as I continue to build the fund. I want to have a diverse list, I want there to be at least a few years track record of paying dividends, I want to have some idea about what the company does, and I want to get the most value for the money spent.

I decided to test my current holdings on a scenario based on $100. If I had $100, what would that get me with each of these stocks?

Ford: $100 would buy 8.14 share and yield a $1.22 dividend quarterly
Coca Cola: $100 would buy 2.42 shares and yield a $0.84 dividend quarterly
HCP: $100 would buy 3.33 shares and yield a $1.23 dividend quarterly
Intel: $100 would buy 2.74 shares and yield a $1.34 dividend quarterly
AT&T: $100 would buy 2.38 shares and yield a $1.17 dividend quarterly
Verizon: $100 would buy 2.07 shares and yield a $1.19 dividend quarterly
Target: $100 would buy 1.57 shares and yield a $0.95 dividend quarterly

So, interestingly, of my seven holdings Рthe mid priced Intel stock offers the highest dividend potential at the best price (of the options). If you had unlimited money, you could buy whatever had the highest yield but yield is determined based on the stock price. Higher stock price does not necessarily mean higher dividend payout. So, since I do not have infinite money, I play the game.

I specifically targeted my search for stocks under $50 that have at least 3 years of dividend history. My next buys will be:

New Residential Investment Corporation
3 year dividend history
$15.75 share price
$100 would buy 6.35 shares and yield $3.05 quarterly

Steinmart
10 year dividend history
$3.69 share price
$100 would buy 27.1 shares and yield $2.03 quarterly

Mattel, Inc.
17 year dividend history that fell in 2011, but has been steady/rebounding since
$25.51 share price
$100 would buy 3.92 shares and yield $1.49 per share

My future goals will involve purchasing many of the dividend aristocrats, as their stability is fairly guaranteed. $100 doesn’t take you very far with many of those, though. As my income increases and I see myself investing $300-$500 at a time, the dividend aristocrats will be more center stage.

I’ll continue to be on the lookout and post as I find more of these budget-priced stocks.

 

 

 

 

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Side Hustle Try Outs: Cleaning Houses

Side Hustle Try Outs
Side Hustle Try-Outs

Welcome to the side hustle try outs!

Side hustles is becoming a much more familiar phrase lately, at least on the internet. Everybody could use a few extra dollars in their pocket and I am the most intrigued to read stories of people thinking less than conventionally, and choosing to do things COMPLETELY outside the traditional job roles as their main form of income.

The first side hustle worth discussing and a pretty simple one to start is cleaning houses.

Side hustle tryouts-cleaning houses.JPG

I did this for a good part of 2016, on the independent contractor side of things. It is possible to do this on a less structured level and find friends and friends of friends to work for. Chances are, this income is going to be under the table and tax free. However, the chances of clients just changing their mind and no longer needing services is fairly high as there are no contracts involved, probably.¬†Of course, that’s a case by case thing.

One could also create their own cleaning company and advertise services via word of mouth, Facebook Swip Swap Groups, Care.com, and other various forms of social media.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum, working for a company. Merry Maids is an example of a very large, well known company but it is also possible to search in your local area for smaller companies that service the area. Chances are one of the companies will more than likely hire independent contractors as well.

I personally worked for Vacation Rental Pros and they operate through a large part of the country. I spent basically every Saturday and a few random days throughout the weekdays cleaning up beach houses for folks that were vacationing.

I actually kinda liked it. 

I was able to work by myself without somebody looking over my shoulder constantly. I took my ipod and a bluetooth speaker and jammed while I worked. I was personally working on beach houses so I could step outside and see/walk on the beach afterwards and/or leave the doors and windows open so I could hear the waves while I worked. It was pretty alright, mostly.

Here’s what I learned though:

  • The pay is good (we’re talking $25-50/hour) but the turnaround is QUICK. If you can’t turn over a house in under 5 hours (and the house sizes vary ¬†ALOT), this isn’t your gig.
  • You have to bring your own supplies. It’s not that big a deal, I got most of my supplies from the dollar store and spent the most on my $50 vacuum that I brought just for vacation houses. I didn’t want to clean my own house with one that had lots of sand, etc. in it. I also have a designated Swiffer for the same reason. Otherwise, you really just need a good stash of sponges, cloths/small towels, a good all purpose cleaner – I¬†LOVE the Jasmine Fabuloso (you just have to stumble on it at Dollar Tree). I personally stretch my supplies by mixing up said Fabuloso and reusing Mrs. Meyers spray bottles (that I use at home anyway). Throw in some Clorox clean up and paper towels, and you’re pretty golden.
  • If you’re cleaning at the beach – you can’t get all the sand off the floor. You just can’t.
  • You may have to travel quite a bit depending on the need of the agency in your area. Most Saturdays I drove 35 miles one way. You can and should claim mileage though for tax purposes. You can also utilize a driving app like MileUp which awards points for regular driving and you can redeem those points for gift cards! (If you’re feeling sweet, you can use my referral link for MileUp)
  • The customer is always right. If you try to cut corners and the vacationing guests complain (even if you DON’T cut corners and the people are just picky, perhaps), you’ll be called back to do a recall clean. If you can’t do that or feel like it’s a bogus request, the agency will get another contractor to go back for the recall areas and more than likely, you will get a pay cut.
  • I found the smaller houses (under 2000 square feet) are the best value for a contractor. They are easily cleaned in under 3 hours and paid an average of $70-100)
  • You have to clean EVERYTHING you would clean in a spring clean at your own home. (bathrooms, sheets, dust and wipe all surfaces, dishes, unload dishwasher, on top of and under couches and inside cushions, wipe outside and inside of fridge, empty and take out all trash and usually remove all trash from premises, all floors must be vacuumed/swept/mopped where applicable, patio areas are also included)
  • There’s a delay in payment from your first job – usually a week – up to a month when checks are cut
  • 10:00 am check out is not always recognized by the guests and if they check out late, it cuts into your cleaning time to turn over the house for the next guests, which is obnoxious and frustrating.

Ultimately, this was an easy side gig to start up. It was low cost to get started, it was simply a matter of contacting the agency and submitting my ID, filling out routine paperwork, etc. and waiting until the season began. Most weeks I did 1-2 houses and as it became summer, more workers flooded the agency and there was actually less work to do even though it was busier as far as people vacationing.

I decided to stop contracting with this particular company because of the turnover rate. It was expected that guests check out at 10:00 am and new guests check in at 4:00 pm. If everything goes according to plan, typically this system works and the agency employs other contractors called PCs (property care) to come in behind all of the housekeepers and sign off to verify that the house is ready for the next guests.

I always communicated with my designated PC and waited for them to come in and inspect my job (sometimes up to 45 minutes after I was already finished). I waited until they were satisfied and fixed any problem areas of details they asked for. When I started to get more regular recall call backs (7 months into this gig) because of what I can only assume was particularly picky guests, I felt it was unfair that none of the responsibility fell on the PCs who ultimately signed off on the house for new guests to come in and I had to make the drive back or take a pay cut.

It is also not stable work as the schedules depend on who is renting out the houses each week, how many contract housekeepers are available to  work, etc. That being said, there are several vacation home companies that may be accepting workers and if you live near a popular vacation area, I would recommend signing up with several of those companies to keep your schedule full.

If you’re looking to do the octopus approach and build 8 streams of $250/month, though – this side gig is definitely fitting of that criteria. Most months, I made $500-$600.

If you are thinking about starting a cleaning business or contracting to clean houses and have questions about the experience – feel free to leave me comments or connect with me via Instagram or Twitter.

Happy hustling!

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A new word for a new year

Have you ever taken part in the One Little Word experience?

I’ve tried it a few times over the years, and I’ve been heavily influenced by Elise’s participation over the years.

My past words have been quality and heart, but I never felt like they were quite the right words. Pieces of those were right for the season but perhaps just not quite right.

This year, I agonized over what I would choose. 2017 is the year to do things differently. I talked before about how I plan to work from home and basically overhaul the way I do everything.

As I was taking a walk, it hit me Рmy word for this year is move.

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MOVE has so many facets that I want to apply to my life this year.

I actually did not set a long list of resolutions as I usually do. I have goals that I would like to meet on a weekly and monthly basis with relation to my new job and schedule, etc. but not a bucket list of things I want to accomplish this year.

The only things I did set were to hit 10k steps every day in 2017 and set my word. Move is appropriate for the 10k steps goal because it requires me to get out and move more. I have taken a few walks into nearby¬†neighborhoods and have already been so inspired by the houses, yards, and just feeling of getting out there and doing something. It’s also great because while it is of course fitness related, it is not so suffocating as go to the gym x amount of times per week. It’s much more along the lines of I can go for a walk or a run, or I can dance around the apartment if I feel so inclined – just so long as I hit 10k. My new Fitbit Alta that I got for Christmas is helping keep this goal at top of mind.

I also want to¬†move past the safety zone I have been in for the LAST 10 YEARS OF MY LIFE. My get through college job – waiting tables – somehow turned into something that lasted an extra six years past college graduation. It used to make me feel as though I was behind in life, that I had taken a wrong turn or made a bad decision somewhere. Turns out I’m just not cut out for sitting at a desk in an office and commuting during rush hour traffic for less money than I can make working a few nights a week. I no longer feel like I didn’t figure it out, I now think that this job served me well over my 20s and let me experiment. I finally feel as if I’ve found my thing and I’m ready to make this the year that I move on¬†to new great things.

There will also be an actual move this year as well as it feels like the time to join households with my significant other, that’s just a fun coincidence though.

2017 shall be a year of great movement, career wise and personally and for once I still feel the clean slate excitement of a new year even though we’re a week in. That can only mean good things!

Cheers, 2017.

 

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It’s a good time for a good change

2017

via individuallocker.com

A new year always beckons change.

Every year, after the magic of Christmas has settled, it’s time to look around and take stock of where you are and decide if you’re in the right place and headed in the right direction.

I’ve been unsettled personally for much of 2015 and 2016.

I knew that I needed change, I knew that I needed a different job… and it has taken me those two full years to figure out the exact path to do that.

It’s funny how when you look back over the course of events, you can see the patterns and the cause-effects that occurred that brought you to the exact place that you are now.¬†Those small changes that happened, the different ideas you looked into.. they eventually all came together at the end to point to a specific avenue.

So that’s where I am, I’m on a cliff and ready to jump, finally. It just so happens that my jump will perfectly coincide with the first week of 2017 and I didn’t plan every exact detail for that to happen (as I normally would try to) – so I know the timing is dead on.

This 29th year of my life is the year where I will close a lot of chapters that have spanned basically all of my 20s. It’s hard to keep trudging through circumstances that you know you’ve outgrown, but are unsure of what the next steps look like.

This last week of 2016, I’ll be putting away the Christmas decorations, clearing a space to work from home, and drawing up a schedule that has room for: going for walks in the middle of the day, puppy snuggling, pulling balanced dishes out of the fridge for lunch, morning yoga, and freelance work.

I know it will be an evolving process that gets tweaked a little each day, but I plan to recap a first month’s progress and celebration for hitting the goals I’ve set.

CHEERS TO BIG CHANGES IN 2017.

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How I Saved $200 on My Christmas Shopping This Year

Everyone wants to save money, am I right?

In general, it’s a thing.

It seems to be easier, though, when you’re saving towards a specific goal or occasion. It’s easy to say no to something you don’t need if you’re putting money aside towards a vacation, new car fund, or Christmas.

Let’s talk about Christmas, tis the season after all.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it comes round every December 25th, and yet the scramble and the financial pinch is felt for most people every year, it seems like.

What if you could set aside money throughout the year without feeling that pinch and just start putting things in your [physical or digital] cart after Thanksgiving without the stress and not have to spend hundreds of dollars you don’t really have or at least spend a few hundred less than usual?

I was able to cut my Christmas spending by 67% this year by employing these methods. 

Here’s how I did it.

I earned $95 worth of gift cards that I converted to Amazon gift cards from the following resources:

Swagbucks¬†-I didn’t even use this website to its maximum potential but plan to execute it differently next year.

There are lots of ways to earn through Swagbucks but I primarily do a few things:

I defaulted my search engine to the Swagbucks search and am awarded a random swagbucks at least once a day (depending on number of searches) simply for routing my queries through their search engine, which utilizes Yahoo search.

I enter swagcodes whenever they are available and I can catch them. If you follow the Swagbucks Facebook page, they post swagcodes (a unique code) a few times a week that you can then copy and paste into a box on Swagbucks.com and be awarded swagbucks.

I have started watching the Inbox feature on swagbucks.com. There are frequently offers inside to sign up for free products or download free apps on your phone for large amounts of swagbucks.

I used to do surveys pretty regularly as well, but became frustrated when I would get screened out of 80% of them. That being said, there were times when I would hit the jackpot and do a 2-3 minute survey for 70-100 swagbucks, usually late a night. Next year, I plan to do a more consistent combination of these things to yield more consistent earnings.

You can then turn your swagbucks into gift cards. I like to check the ‘on sale’ gift cards near the end of the month and purchase those, if they will benefit me. Last month, for instance, instead of simply buying a $25 Amazon gift card for 2500 swagbucks, I chose a $25 Mastercard that was ‘on sale’ for 2300 swagbucks and then used it to buy a $25 Amazon gift card directly through Amazon. Little tricks make a difference, people.
Receipt Hog

This is a free app for both iOs and Android phones and you simply upload your receipts for your regular spending. It is a slow and steady endeavor and you can get coins for connecting your Amazon account, your email address, your Facebook, etc. and you earn coins and/or slot machine spins (where you can win additional coins) for every receipt that you upload. Certain store receipts earn coins (and the coin awards depend on the dollar amount of the receipt you upload; the higher the receipt amount, the more coins awarded) and certain stores earn slot machine spins. A lot of times you don’t win any coins on the spins (like regular slot machines, haha) but sometimes you get lucky and can win 2, 10, 20 or 40 coins from one spin. You can upload receipts from a household so anyone that lives in your home and spending money, tell them to save their receipts and scan them all.

As you move up levels (every week of participating counts towards moving up a level), you earn additional rewards. The first 11 levels earn you additional spin rewards and once you get to level 12 and above, you earn coin rewards. The higher the level, the longer it takes to advance, but the reward is better.

It’s not going to make you rich, but it’s free money you’d be leaving on the table otherwise.

Slidejoy

Slidejoy is an Android only app that puts an ad on your lock screen and is essentially one more screen to swipe off to get to your home screen. It was a little annoying for me at first, but after a few weeks, I got used to just swiping twice to get to my lock screen and was able to earn $20 in Amazon gift cards. I have more points available, but the catch here is that they are not able to be redeemed until the 18th of the following month so I can’t unlock some of mine still. This app would probably be best utilized over the span of a year (start in January for Christmas, for instance) so that there is time for the points to accrue and then become available for redemption.

Cross Media Panel

This is a new application I’ve recently put to work. It is a research panel that is powered by Google that obtains usage statistics on devices that you install the meter on. It studies how you interact with the internet by seeing how individuals interact with websites, etc. You can install it on up to 3 devices and earn an initial $6 for those 3 devices (or $4 for 2 devices, $2 for 1 device) and then $1 per device each week.

For simply installing the extension on your computer and 2 other mobile devices, you can earn $162 in a year.

I just added it recently and will only be adding $25 worth of Amazon gift cards to my Christmas spending pot, but next year will be able to use that full year’s amount.

The other ways I funded my Christmas spending:

I use a rewards credit card for all of my regular spending and earn free money for simply being responsible with my credit card usage.

It keeps my credit score healthy, is safer for making purchases (I’m not losing a dime if there is a data breach), and earns me money for spending I have to do anyway.

I transferred $100 of my credit card rewards from my Citibank Double Cash Card.

There are so many cards out there that earn rewards, it’s silly not to harness that. Do a little research to see which card makes the most sense and is the most beneficial for your type of spending and then use the rewards¬†efficiently.

I utilized an offer through Amazon.com to open an Amazon Visa credit card to save $50 on my order. Again, if you have good credit – use it to benefit you. Your credit only matters when it’s bad.¬†

I deliberately changed my spending methods to pay cash for anything under $5 and painlessly saved that change for the past couple months to set aside $50 to go towards Christmas spending.

So, in total:

$95 worth of earned gift cards
$50 Amazon credit
$100 credit card rewards
$50 extra change
=$295

My total spending this year is about $450, meaning I only really had to fork out $155 for all of my Christmas gifts.

Next year, I plan to harness these methods FOR ALL OF 2017 and not pay 1 cent for Christmas shopping.

Wouldn’t it be such a glorious season of giving, Christmas trees, puppies dressed up in sweaters and sweets if you didn’t have to figure out how to pull together money to buy Christmas gifts?

Dare to think differently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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