5 Ways to Earn Extra Money Fast for the Holidays


The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Chonce. You can read more articles by Chonce over at her personal blog, My Debt Epiphany. Enjoy! 

The holiday season is winding down. While the holiday time is an exciting time to relax and spend time with family, it can also be quite stressful on your finances due to all the costs associated with the holidays.

Many people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on purchasing holiday gifts, decorations, hosting and attending parties and events, and so on.

Nothing stings more than getting into debt this time of year. One thing you can do to avoid spending more than you earn over the next few weeks is to find ways to earn more money to cover the increased expenses over the past few months.

Here are 5 ways to earn extra money fast to either prepare for or recover from the holiday season.

 

  1. Get a Seasonal Job

 

Earning extra money through a seasonal job is a good idea if you are worried about stretching your budget for the holidays.

Seasonal jobs tend to provide a consistent income (even though it’s temporary) because business usually picks up during the fall and holiday seasons.

Many businesses like Amazon.com will be looking for online customer service reps this holiday season to assist shoppers and answer questions about purchases, shipping inquiries, and more.

This positions with Amazon range from $12 – $15 per hour on average and can last up to 6 months or longer if you leave a lasting impression and they need to take on a regular employee.

You can also try working as a seasonal associate at busy stores like Target, Walmart, K-Mart etc. Or, try getting holiday-themed gigs like doing photography at the mall or decorating store fronts.

 

  1. Test Websites

If you’re looking to earn some extra money from home, you can test out websites during your spare time and offer your honest feedback.

UserTesting is a popular website that pays people to review other websites and blogs.

Testers get paid $10 for each 20-minute review and they just answer simple questions and record their first impressions and experience navigating through the website.

It’s not a ton of money, but it will add up once all those unexpected holiday expenses start trickling in.

 

  1. Sell Items Online

If you’re buying new gifts for people in your family, it’s the perfect time to clean out your home by selling items you no longer use.


You can sell items online via Amazon, Ebay, or Craigslist, or you can sell them directly to buy-back consignment shops.

If you have old clothes, movies, furniture, children’s toys etc. there are many small stores that may buy them back from you if they are in good condition. Plato’s Closet, Once Upon a Child, Clothes Mentor, and Disc Replay are all national chains and there are plenty other options depending on where you live.

If you don’t have many consignment shops in your area, stick to selling your items online for better results.

 

  1. Become an Uber or Lyft Driver

My husband recently started driving for Uber and he loves it. His car is older (a 2006 I believe) and we live in the suburbs but he still gets a decent amount of trips and his side income is currently helping him be able to afford holiday expenses this year.

Uber also pays drivers every week, so if you get started now, you can get paid a few times before Christmas.

One of my friends recently quit a job he didn’t like to drive for Uber and Lyft. Lyft drivers also get paid weekly and Lyft allows drivers to receive tips. According to Lyft, around 60% of passengers tip.

No matter which rideshare option you choose, you can enjoy flexible work and drive to earn money whenever it’s convenient for you.

 

  1. Babysit

If you have friends, family, and neighbors who may be busier over these next few weeks, consider offering to babysit for them. Couples love date nights and since daycares aren’t open in the evening, you can market your services better around that time.

Making a profile on Care.com or Sittercity.com will also help you land clients.

If you can’t or don’t want to watch kids, consider babysitting pets by walking dogs or keeping an eye on them when their owners are out of town.

You can advertise your services in your neighborhood and I always recommend Rover.com which is a site that connects pet sitters and dog walkers with owners who are in need of the service.

If you need extra money to recover from the holidays, you can earn money quickly by trying any of these ideas.

The key is to get started so you know how much you need to earn.

How about you all? How are you earning extra money to recover from the holidays?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7027602839/in/

How My Mom Went From Dirt Poor Single Mom to Comfortably Retired


The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Laurie Blank.  Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

When I was a kid we were always struggling for money. I remember my parents having “discussions” about money and how to work things out so the bills got paid. When I was 11, my parents divorced and what was “financially struggling” turned into “dirt poor” as my dad’s income now was shared between two families.

Dad faithfully paid his child support obligations, which covered the $250 house payment and gave us an extra $50 to live on. To say that things were tight was an understatement. There were many times when we had bare cupboards and threats from the power company to turn the heat off in the dead of winter if the bill wasn’t paid. I remember my mom calling and begging my grandma to borrow her the money to pay the heat bill. I remember not being able to afford new clothes. We shopped at thrift stores and only bought what we absolutely needed. I remember wearing $2 canvas tennis shoes while all the other kids were wearing Nikes and Converse.

Today my mom is retired and financially comfortable. Not rich, but comfortable. How did she turn things around for herself and her family? Here are five things she did to get free from being dirt poor and to create some financial stability for herself.

 

She Taught Herself Valuable Skills

When my parents divorced, mom didn’t have her driver’s license and had no valuable skills for obtaining a job. When she went down to the welfare office to apply for financial support, she saw that they had opportunities for job training and took full advantage of them. She went to classes on how to interview. She bought an old used typewriter at a neighborhood garage sale and brushed up on the skills she’d learned in typing class in tenth grade, even though she hadn’t touched a typewriter in over fifteen years.  She did what she needed to do to make herself marketable to the workplace.

 

She Learned to Live Within Her Means

When mom first was managing our home and family on her own, we were always short at the end of the month. There were a few months when there wasn’t any food until the welfare check came in a day or two later, and credit cards weren’t an option for a single woman in the 1970’s. Free breakfast and lunch at school fed us kids, but mom would just go without.

Our financial situation changed when someone gave my mom a common sense piece of advice: Pay the bills first and learn to budget the rest and live within your means.

This sounds so simple but it was new information to the woman who had always let her husband manage the money. She began meticulously budgeting and made sure we always had enough to eat and live on. It wasn’t fancy, but all of our needs were provided for. Mom budgets meticulously to this day.

 


She Made Saving a Habit

Even though my mom’s income was always smaller (her max pay before retirement was $17 an hour) she always, always saved something each month. She contributed to the 401(k) plans where she worked and put a little bit in savings each month. At the time, the small amount she was putting away each month didn’t seem like much, but it grew over the thirty years between her divorce and retirement and she’s still living on it today.

 

She Learned to Persevere

Mom went through LOTS of tough times in her life after the divorce. She suffered for years from clinical depression. It takes her awhile to learn new skills, so there were many jobs that fired her due to her lack of ability. But no matter what obstacles came her way, mom got up, brushed herself off and moved on. She did her best not to allow failure or discouragement keep her from achieving.

 

She Redefined “Comfortable”

My mom’s life now is not comfortable by many people’s standards, but she has her priorities in order so that her minimal income (about $750 a month via social security and a smaller sized investment fund) is managed in a way that makes sure the bills are paid but allows for some fun too. Mom’s “fun” these days includes her weekly bowling session with her husband, her brother and sister-in-law. They take advantage of the senior bowling rates and then her and her husband (they have totally separate finances and split all of the bills) split a meal at a local restaurant. She gives herself sixty dollars a week to cover gasoline and other incidentals, entertainment and clothing costs, and gift purchases for birthdays and Christmas. She rarely spends all sixty each week, putting the leftovers in an envelope so that when more expensive weeks come she has the cash to cover them. She doesn’t take vacations or live in a fancy house. She has the same bedroom set and coffee tables she’s had for thirty years.

Comfortable to my mom means she’s able to stay retired and spend her free time with family and friends. She doesn’t at all feel like she’s missing out because of her tight budget. Instead, she’s grateful for all that she has and is happy to have a warm home and loved ones to share her time with.

Mom isn’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but she has all that she needs and a little bit more, and that is perfectly enough for her. She’s learned to look at the positive in life and be grateful for all that she has, and that kind of attitude makes life a whole lot more comfortable, regardless of one’s money situation.

How about you all? Have you ever struggled financially? What did you do to overcome?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/ktoine/7976828799/in/

Opportunity Funds


The following is a guest post by Akash Sky. Akash writes articles that teach people about investing using intuitive graphics and simple, plain English over at akashsky.com. Enjoy! 

I’m sure you have all heard of emergency funds, and I’m sure that many of you have them as well. But, have you heard of an opportunity fund? It’s similar to an emergency fund, except the purpose behind its use is different. In this article, we will discuss following:

  • what an opportunity fund’s purpose is
  • how large an opportunity fund should be
  • who stands to benefit most from an opportunity fund
  • where an opportunity fund should be stored
  • how an opportunity fund should be used

Alright, let’s start by discussing the purpose an opportunity fund.

 

What’s the purpose of an opportunity fund?

To better understand the purpose of an opportunity fund, let’s examine the purpose of an emergency fund. According to Investopedia, the purpose of an emergency fund is to improve financial security. In other words, the emergency fund is there to limit your downside potential (i.e. bad things like debt, homelessness, hunger, etc.). Now, take that purpose and reverse it.

The purpose of an opportunity fund is to maximize your upside potential. Basically, an opportunity fund’s purpose is to give you the financial fuel to make the most of an opportunity that comes across your way.

 

What type of person benefits most from an opportunity fund?

First off, I want to explicitly state that an opportunity fund is not for everyone. If you are simply looking to remove risk from your life and remain financially comfortable, an emergency fund is more than enough for you.

A person well-suited for an opportunity fund would have the following attributes:

  1. Is actively looking to increase their wealth / net-worth, even at the cost of accepting risk
  2. Can lock away / save additional money without negatively impacting their life

 

How much money should I set aside for an opportunity fund?

There are no hard rules for the amount of cash you need to have in your opportunity fund – you just need enough to make the most of an opportunity that is likely to come your way. In order to do that, you are going to have to do some introspection. You should try and answer the following question: what are some of the best opportunities that I have come across in the last 5 years?

Then. ask yourself: “How much capital / money would I have needed to take advantage of those opportunities?”. Of course, its hard to give an exact figure. For example, if you happen upon a killer real estate deal, your “opportunity fund” would need to be large enough for a down-payment, whereas if you come across a smaller opportunity like a correction in the stock market, you would only need a few thousand dollars.

In my case, I’ve got $5,000 in my opportunity fund. The opportunities that I’m expecting to capitalize on at the moment are corrections in the stock market, my personal blog, and small business ventures. In order to find out the dollar amount you need in an opportunity fund, you need to clearly define the opportunities that you want to take advantage of. Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is calculate the financial fuel you would need to make the most of those opportunities and then save that amount in the form of an opportunity fund.


 

Where should I place my opportunity fund?

Just like an emergency fund, an opportunity fund needs to be liquid. That means that you can’t store your opportunity fund in an investment that is difficult to convert to cash.

This means that savings accounts, CDs (if you are willing to take a slight penalty), and money market accounts are great places to store your opportunity fund. However, the best place (in my opinion) to store an opportunity fund is inside of a 1 year old I-Bond.

I-Bonds are a hybrid between CDs and savings accounts. After you lock away your money for 1 year, you are free to access it at any time. In addition, I-bonds carry less risk than savings accounts because they are immune to inflation and interest rates. To top it off, I-bonds often pay higher rates.

 

How should I use an opportunity fund?

Before we talk about how to use an opportunity fund, lets quickly talk about how to NOT use an opportunity fund. An opportunity fund is NOT extra spending money for when things go on sale. If you truly want to make the most of an opportunity fund, you need to spend it on opportunities that will provide long term benefit to you.

In order to properly use an opportunity fund, you need to be able to identify worthwhile opportunities when you come across them. In order to do so, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this opportunity likely to benefit me far into the future?
  • When is next time I can reasonably expect something like this opportunity to pop up again?

If you are not likely to come across the opportunity again and it is likely to benefit you far into the future, it may be a worthwhile endeavor to use your opportunity funds on. Ultimately, deciding if the opportunity is right for you is a personal choice. However, having an opportunity fund allows you to have a choice to begin with. It’s up to you whether or not to use your financial fuel to take up an opportunity to change your life for the better.

 

Finishing thoughts

In the end, whether or not an opportunity fund is a good fit for you depends on your financial goals. If you want to actively grow your net-worth instead of cruise along, I highly recommend starting an opportunity fund. In the investment world, cash is king, and you’ll always need to have some of it on hand to pounce on any wonderful opportunity that comes your way. After all, fortune favors the bold, and it is much easier to be bold with an opportunity fund.

How about you all? What do you think about opportunity funds, and are they right for you?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

Smart Money Moves for the New Year

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai.  Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

The new year is often a time for renewal; people frequently vow to get healthier and be more responsible with money.  However, there’s no need to wait until the calendar turns to January 1st.  There is plenty you can do now to help your finances as you head into the new year.

 

Reduce the Interest You Pay

If you owe money, there are many ways you can cut the amount of interest that you’re paying so you can get out of debt more quickly.

Transfer credit card balances to a 0% APR card.  If you have a credit card balance and are paying high interest, take the time to stop that now.  If you have good credit, there are many 0% APR offers available.  Just do a simple Google search.  You’ll likely have to pay a transfer fee of 2 to 3% of the balance you’re transferring.  Crunch the numbers to make sure that the transfer fee is lower than the interest you would pay on the card you’re currently using.  Also, try to get an offer for 0% rate that lasts 15 to 18 months, giving you time to pay off the card.

Negotiate your interest rates.  If you don’t want to transfer your credit card balance, another option is to call your credit card company and ask them for a lower interest rate.  Really, it’s that easy.  This strategy works about 50% of the time, so it’s worth the time.  If the person you speak with tells you the company can’t change your interest rate, ask to speak to the supervisor who may be more likely to negotiate with you.

I did this about a year ago, and I was originally refused.  I asked to speak to a supervisor, and I was again refused.  I called back a few days later and again worked my way up to a supervisor.  This time, the supervisor not only reduced my rate by 3%, but he also gave me enough rewards points to cover the cost of my annual fee and additional to give me $50 cashback.  Persistence is key with this strategy.

If you try to call several times and don’t make any progress, tell them that you plan to move your balance to another card.  This is a last resort option and may provide the incentive the company needs to reduce your interest rate.

 

Be Mindful of Your Money

Money has a way of leaking out if we’re not careful.  There are several steps you can take to stop the leaks and keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket!

Set up a budget.  If you have not done so already, take the time to set up a budget.  For years I did our budget with paper and pencil, but as our finances grew more complex as our family grew, I found this method increasingly frustrating.  A few months ago, I switched over to You Need a Budget! (YNAB), and I love it.  It’s made budgeting so much easier!

There are other budgeting tools available, too, like PearBudget, EveryDollar, Mint, CalendarBudget, Mvelopes, and many others.  Just find the tool that works best for you.

Delete ghost accounts.  Most of us have accounts that we’re still paying for regularly, but we no longer use.  Are you paying for a magazine subscription for a magazine you no longer read?  Do you still pay $40 to the gym, but you quit going months ago?  Take an afternoon to go through your checking and credit card accounts to see if you have any ghost accounts—things you’re paying for that you no longer use, need, or want.  You may be surprised to see that you have several!

Set up auto pay.  If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time or you don’t want to set reminders for yourself, consider setting up auto pay.  By utilizing auto pay, you can reduce the chance of having a late payment and suffering the accompanying late fee.

Check your tax withholding.  If you routinely get a tax refund, check your tax withholding.  You may want to claim more dependents so that you don’t get a big refund each tax season.  It’s far better if you put that money to work for you throughout the year rather than getting back a large lump sum in the spring.  Your accountant can help you determine the appropriate tax withholding.

 

Increase Your Savings & Retirement Contributions

Once you’ve lowered your interest rates and set up a budget, it’s time to look at your savings and retirement contributions.

Set aside money for Christmas.  Do you routinely put all of your Christmas shopping on credit card and then find yourself unable to pay it off quickly?  If so, you’re paying even more for the presents than you realize.

“You can figure out just how much your Christmas debt is costing you to carry by using calculators on the internet.  Plug in $1,000 at 17 percent (the prevailing credit card rate) in the calculator at www.bankrate.com, and you’ll find that your interest totals $94 over one year and $187 over two” (ABC News).

Rather than paying interest, take steps now so you’re prepared for next year.  If you spend $600 on presents, set aside either $11.50 a week or $50 a month.  When the 2017 shopping begins, you’ll have the cash to pay for your gifts.

Set up automatic savings withdrawal from your paycheck.  Most of us have trouble saving money.  One easy way to save more is to set up an automatic withdrawal from your paycheck to your savings account.  When I worked full-time, I did this.  At first, I missed the money from my paycheck.  But after a few paychecks, I forgot all about the money that was being deducted, and I learned to live on the paycheck I was getting instead of counting on the money that was being funneled into savings.

I truly forgot about this, so I was always in for a pleasant surprise when I checked my savings account balance.  It was growing steadily, with no help from me.

Simply go to the payroll department and fill out the form to have whatever amount of money you would like transferred to your savings account every paycheck.  You can likely also do this online.  A perfect time to make this adjustment is when you receive a raise.  You won’t yet be depending on the additional income, so you won’t miss it when it goes to savings.

Put money in your retirement savings.  If your employer offers a retirement savings match, make sure to allocate money for a retirement contribution, at least to the point that your employer matches.

If you’re in a better financial situation, consider adding to your Roth IRA or your regular IRA.  Remember that you have the first several months in 2017 to add to your account for 2016, which can help lessen your tax burden when you file your taxes.

Financial changes don’t happen overnight.  However, as we head into the new year, you can slowly make these changes so that you’re in a much better financial position in 2017.

How about you all? What financial changes do you plan to make for the new year?  What strategies would you recommend others implement?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/scruch/2304897733/in/

Why Is The EUR/USD Currency Pair So Popular?

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

­One currency pair enjoys so much trading volume that it is almost synonymous with the whole world of foreign exchange (forex).

The EUR/USD currency pair sometimes nicknamed ‘fiber’ by some traders, tracks the movement in value between the world’s two most liquid currencies, the Euro and the US Dollar.

But what makes the EUR/USD such a popular trading choice?

One reason is the large number of multinational corporations (MNCs) actively trading both in the US and in the Eurozone. These businesses have an ongoing interest in the currency pair, given their need to actively hedge against exchange rate volatility.

That same volatility is also an attraction for newcomers to the world of forex trading. Given the large number of worldwide market participants, liquidity is never in short supply on the EUR/USD. This makes it a great option for those interested in opening short-term positions on the pair, such as day-traders.  The pair’s continuous and incremental changes, driven by ample liquidity, are important to discerning short-term market trends.

The pair can be significantly affected by geopolitical and economic developments in both the US and the 19 Eurozone countries, where the currencies are the official tender.

For those with a keen eye for spotting how global events play into market fluctuations, the pair offers the possibility to take positions based on the expected outcome of major world events, such as elections, monetary crises, and even wars.

Knowledge of the Eurozone’s ‘macro-economy’, including the complex monetary policy administered by the European Central Bank (ECB) in Brussels, will also play dividends for traders looking to explore the pair.  On the US side, policies set by the Federal Reserve (or simply the ‘Fed’) can have a significant impact on the rate.

Given the prominence of the pair, customers also have a vast array of trading websites, such as UFX.com, from which to choose from when looking for an outlet that supports the pair.

For both newbie and veteran traders wishing to find a currency pair that affords plenty of possibilities to leverage both short-term and long-term trading strategies, the EUR/USD is a great place to start.