Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Side hustles April 2018

The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Once a month (usually on the 1st), I like to post a short summary of our personal and financial situation for the previous month.  Here I’ll share some of what’s been going on with our lives and our side hustles. 

Welcome to May!  Did everyone have a good month of April?  It’s been a busy and exciting month for us. 
The biggest thing that happened to me was that I decided it was finally time to get refractive surgery.  I have a high amount of myopia (nearsightedness) with my glasses Rx around -10.00 for my right eye and -11.00 for my left eye.  With 2 kids at home, I just got more and more tired of depending on my glasses and contact lenses to see well.  I’ve also become paranoid about the risks of not seeing well in the event of an emergency (such as an earthquake here in Southern California).  
One last picture of me in my thick glasses before surgery!
I decided to undergo a newer laser vision correction procedure called SMILE.  This surgery is slightly different from traditional LASIK in that there is no flap created.  Also, visual recovery from SMILE is much slower than LASIK, from a few weeks up until 3 months.  
I just had surgery last week and while my eyes feel slightly dry and irritated, my eyesight without glasses is fantastic.  It’s an amazing feeling to be able to wake up in the morning and not worry about where my glasses or contact lenses are.      
Our daughter is now 4 months old!  We are thankful that she is now sleeping well through the night.  Some nights she can stay asleep for up to 8 hours!  We are sad that my wife is going back to work this month.  It bothers me thinking about how most working individuals dedicate 5 out of 7 days of the week towards work, while only having 2 days to themselves.  This gives us more motivation to strive towards reaching financial freedom as fast as possible.
Our son will be turning 3 in a few months and it’s been such a joy watching him grow.  He’s accepted his younger sister as part of the family and has not shown any signs of jealousy.  He’s slowly learning how to communicate with us.  He loves books, Legos, music, and the outdoors.  His new favorite toy is a big brown box!  We have gone for walks almost every day this month.  He still loves playing with pinecones, ants, pill bugs, and flowers.

Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of April.
Cash Back
On 4.9, I received $10.23 deposit in my Discover Cashback Checking account.  This is a 1% cash back on my mortgage payment for our rental property mortgage, which allows us to make payments with a debit card.

Rental Income
On 4.5, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property.

Side Job
On 4.2, I received a check for $162.50 for teaching at the local university. 

Miscellaneous Income
On 4.14, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from MyPoints.  I continue to earn points from MyPoints just by clicking through email advertisements.   
Website Income
On 4.20, I received a direct deposit of $300 from Commission Junction.  Thank you all for your continued support of this website.  What started off as a hobby to track our financial progress is generating a fair amount of income. 

Monthly Totals:
We earned $10.23 from cash back
We earned $430 from rental income
I earned $162.50 from my side job teaching
We earned $5 from miscellaneous income
We earned $300 from website income

All of this totals $907.73 from our side hustles for the month of April.  It’s been a light month of side hustles for us.  I have some projects in the works that I hope will pay off soon.  In the meanwhile, we continue to earn, save and invest towards our financial freedom. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Side hustles March 2018

The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Once a month (usually on the 1st), I like to post a short summary of our personal and financial situation for the previous month.  Here I’ll share some of what’s been going on with our lives and our side hustles. 

Welcome to April!  Did everyone have a good month of March?
One little joy we experienced this past month was the daylight savings time change.  While most people saw the time change as losing an hour of sleep each night, we saw it as gaining an hour of peace before our son wakes up in the morning.  It’s nice to slowly sip on a cup of coffee in the morning in silence.  Advancing the clock forward by 1 hour also allows the sun to stay out longer, giving us more time to walk in the evening without it getting dark too soon.
This month we took our son to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.  He had a blast running around the aquarium and closely observing all of the different sea animals.  This was the first time he had a chance to dip his fingers into the touch pools to touch stingrays, small sharks and even moon jellyfish.  He was so excited to touch those sea creatures that he almost fell into the pools! 

One of our big goals this year is focusing on preparing food at home instead of going out to eat at restaurants.  Instead of going out 1-2 times a week to dine in or take out, this past month we only went out to eat at a restaurant 2 times.  We are becoming much better cooks now too!  Preparing all of our food at home saves us a ton of money, time, and fuel.  It’s really not that difficult to do.
Instead of buying things new, we now aim to find the same or similar products used and for sale.  Our favorite websites to find deals on used items are Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, 5miles, and LetGo.  My wife recently purchased 50 baby clothing items for our newborn daughter for $20.  Most of these items were lightly used and some were even brand new with tags on them!  
My wife also found a deal on a Little Tikes children’s table and chair.  Retail price is $44.99 but we purchased it for $12!  This table is perfect for our son for eating snacks and doing other activities. 
Our son is starting to talk much more than before now.  He's slowly getting better at verbally telling us what he wants.  He still loves playing outdoors, running around, touching flowers, and playing in the sand.
Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of March.
Cash Back
On 3.6, I received $10.23 deposit in my Discover Cashback Checking account.  This is a 1% cash back on my mortgage payment for our rental property mortgage, which allows for debit card purchases.
On 3.21, I received $10 total ($5 + $5) in our Chase Checking account for completing a spend bonus using Chase QuickPay.  After sending $20 using QuickPay 3 times, Chase gave us two $5 credits.  QuickPay is a quick and easy way to send money to friends between bank accounts, transfers are safe and instant.

Survey Income
On 3.9, I received a direct deposit of $45 from GLG survey company
On 3.19, I received a check for $20 from My Impact Network for completing a medical survey

Rental Income
On 3.5, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property.  This new lease has a 100% increase in late fee amounts but no change in monthly rent.  We hope this will help our tenants pay on time consistently.  We’d rather receive rental income in a timely manner than collect extra income from late fees. 

Side Jobs
On 3.5, I received a check for $162.50 for teaching at the local university. 
On 3.7, I received a $250 check for providing 4 hours of fill-in work at a colleague’s office.  In the future when we retire, I’m sure I will participate in some part time work such as this to keep my clinical skills sharp and continue to take care of patients.
On 3.19, I received a check for $1056.50 for healthcare consulting.

Miscellaneous Income
On 3.1, I noticed ANOTHER bank charge that was incorrect on my new Chase Business checking account.  The bank charged me ANOTHER $12 fee that was a mistake.  Somehow the bank charged me an “insufficient minimal funds” fee that I wasn’t supposed to get.  I called in and the representative on the phone quickly reversed the fee.  I discovered the incorrect charges thanks to Mint and Personal Capital.  The rep assured me that these incorrect fees would no longer be charged to my account.
On 3.7, I received a $25 Amazon gift card by redeeming 5,000 Opentable points.  We used to dine out often and make dining reservations with Opentable.  Reservations are easy to make and you can earn between 100 to 1,000 points per reservation at a restaurant.  The 1,000 point reservations tend to be for more expensive restaurants.  5,000 Opentable points can be redeemed for a $50 dining credit, however since we rarely eat out now, an Amazon gift card would be more useful for us.  

Website Income
On 3.21, I received a direct deposit of $102.73 from Google Adsense.  Thank you for your continued support!

Monthly Totals:
We earned $20.23 from cash back
We earned $65 from paid surveys
We earned $430 from rental income
I earned $1,469 from side jobs
We earned $37 from miscellaneous income
We earned $102.73 income generated by this website

All of this totals $2,123.96 from our side hustles for the month of March.  How much income are you bringing in on the side? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thanking your past self

If I started investing 20 years ago, I'd be long retired by now.

One of my biggest motivators for striving to work so hard now is looking forward to a rewarding future.  Where you are now with regards to your health, wealth, relationships, and happiness come largely from decisions you’ve made 1,5,10 or more years ago.
Sometime in the future, you will look back at your past.  How do you want to reflect back upon your life?  Do you want to be proud of the choices that you’ve made?
Today I want to talk about things you can do now that your future self will thank you for.
Start improving your financial situation today
If you are living paycheck to paycheck with no adjustments to your spending or saving, a year from now you will likely still be living in the same dire situation.  One financial emergency can put you into a debt spiral.  If you have credit card debt and only make the minimum monthly payment, a year from now your debt will still be sizeable.
Life is long
An argument many younger people in debt often make (myself included when I was younger), is that you should live only for the moment, since life can be short.  What these spenders fail to realize is that statistically, life is long, and you should plan accordingly.  If you don’t plan for your retirement, you may find a lifetime of working forever until your body gives out.   Otherwise you may find yourself to be a burden on others, whether it’s your family or society.  Read this depressing article about what life without retirement savings looks like.  Valuing your free time is one of the best reasons to strive for financial freedom.   
If you are in the middle class and have financial problems, I’d argue that there is always a way to improve your situation.  But some action does need to be taken.  Let’s face it, your money problems are not likely to go away by winning the lottery, marrying rich, or getting a surprise inheritance anytime soon.  We are not all given the same advantages in our lives, but most of us do have some choices that will shape our future.    
When I first started working in 2008, I was living paycheck to paycheck.  I was living for the moment and I told myself I would start saving and investing “sometime in the future when my income increased.”  Credit card debt was normal and just a part of my life – I would always be one month behind on my debt since I took advantage of credit card interest arbitrage.  Thankfully, I always found a way to pay off my monthly credit card balance in full. 
It’s not just about making more income
In the past, if I wanted something, I’d just buy it and charge it on the credit card.  Since I was too lazy to cook, I ate out all the time.  If I needed more money, I would just go out and hustle for more.  I would take on several side jobs or buy and sell merchandise on eBay.  I told myself that the way to get financially ahead was to make more money.  Saving more wasn’t even an option I considered.
I made a good salary but I still felt constantly broke.  Every time I got paid, the money would go towards paying off my credit card bill.  I always found ways to make more money, but I didn’t even think about all the money I could find by just cutting back my expenses.
When the financial crisis occurred, many people around me lost their jobs and were unemployed for a long time.  I watched the news about how the stock market was crashing and how the US economy was in a recession.  People at work started talking about the importance of saving money.  Almost all of my coworkers started to bring their lunches to the office.  I felt guilty going out to lunch while everyone was bringing his or hers into the lunchroom.  I joined them and appreciated how easy it was to bring my lunch.  I immediately noticed how much time, money, and fuel I saved if I just stayed in the office during my lunch hour.  A common topic of conversation during these lunch hours was how broke everyone was.  Many of these individuals were decades older than me, still complaining about living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet.
I didn’t want to live like these broke coworkers, so desperate for their next paycheck.  Many of them sadly had a lifetime of working, yet almost nothing to show for it.  Some expressed regret that they didn’t have any money to buy into the stock market, which at one point had dropped 50% in value.  That’s when I decided it was time to take action and fix my finances.  All I knew about stocks during this period was that money was made when you “buy low and sell high.”
I turned to the internet to search for ways to save money and invest.  I read every single financial blog and book I could get my hands on.  I actively read through as many financial posts at Bogleheads.org that I could, learning as much as I could about saving and then investing in index funds.  I met and married a frugal wife.  Discovering the Mr. Money Mustache blog really lit a fire under our asses to work relentlessly to improve our finances.  We started saving money by bringing our lunches to work, cooking dinner at home, getting haircuts at home, cancelling cable, and making coffee instead of going to Starbucks.  Having a high savings rate set the foundation for having an abundance of money that we could invest.  It took many years for me to go from a paycheck to paycheck existence to saving over 50% of my income. 
The most important thing you can do is take action
You can read through a ton of investing blogs and books, but none of this information will matter unless you take action.  Investing for your retirement doesn’t have to be difficult.  The simplest of all portfolios could simply be to invest everything into one stock market index fund.  The Vanguard Total Stock Market index fund (VTSMX) has a minimum initial opening deposit of $3,000.  After that, each contribution can be as little as $50.  Vanguard Target Date Funds have a good mix between domestic and international stocks and bonds with a minimum initial opening deposit of $1,000.  Future contributions can be as little as $50.  For those looking to invest in an index fund with even less money, the Schwab Total Stock Market index fund (SWTSX) has a minimum initial investment of $1.  Opening a retirement or investment account will take less than 10 minutes of your time.  Every single dollar you invest and hold onto today will continue to increase in value and pay you dividends over time.  These small investments over time can add up to make a big difference. 
S&P 500 returns since the beginning.  You want to start investing as early as possible.
Our financial situation did not improve overnight.  Little by little we worked on cutting out expenses and increasing our savings rate.  As our income has increased, so have our investment contributions.  I slowly increased my paycheck contributions into my 401K (sometimes by as little as 1% every few months) until I could max it out.  We slowly saved enough to buy a rental property, which continues to give off monthly income and tax deductions.
If you are looking to improve your finances today, the first recommendation I would make would be to track your spending.  We automatically track our spending with Mint.  We automatically track our investments and asset allocation with Personal Capital.  We manually track our spending with ClearCheckbook.  After you get a good idea of how much money is coming in and going out of your checking account each month, you can start to optimize your budget and investment accounts. 
I’m thankful today for the investment contributions we made years ago.  Many of these contributions were as little as $50.  Our investment accounts are now close to reaching $400,000 and our net worth is now over $1 million.  This is all due to decisions we made and stuck to in the past.  Sometimes I regret not investing more when we had the chance, but there’s no sense in dwelling on the past.  What we can change is our future.  We continue to save and invest because we likely have a long future ahead of us.  Decades from now, I want us to look back on the financial decisions we continue to make today - and be thankful. 
Start improving your health now
Aside from your finances, maintaining good health also pays off tremendously in the future.  Small health choices today can end up making a huge impact on you’re your health tomorrow.        

Getting just one extra hour of sleep every night can make a huge impact
If I don’t get restful sleep at night for two consecutive days, I find that my mood, creativity and energy levels suffer the next day. 
A recent study found that losing one hour of sleep when switching over to daylight savings time was associated with a 24% increased risk of having a heart attack.  Insufficient sleep has also been associated with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and even cancer.  What small changes can you do to your daily activity to get a little bit more restful sleep?  Here are a few ways that I try to focus on getting more sleep.

I have set a personal rule of never using my smartphone while lying in bed before bedtime.  When I used to have trouble sleeping, I would just lie in my bed and mindlessly browse the internet on my iPhone.  Over the years, I’ve learned that doing so just makes it more difficult to fall asleep.  Now, I use the last moments before falling asleep each night to reflect on my day, visualize my goals, and to be thankful for everything that I have.  A recent study found that screen time was associated with poor sleep.  Those that spend longer times staring at their screens suffered from shorter sleep duration and worse sleep efficiency.  It took them a longer amount of time to fall asleep and their quality of sleep was poor as well. 

One routine I don’t like doing JUST before bedtime is flossing, brushing my teeth, and washing my face.  Going through those motions seems to give me a refreshing feeling, instead of putting me to sleep.  To avoid this, I’ve now developed the habit of doing those things 2 hours before I go to sleep.  This way when it’s time to go to sleep, I don’t have to worry about doing anything else.  I just hop into bed.

A little exercise (even walking) goes a long way
Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise.  It’s relaxing, low impact, and always helps me clear my head.  Walking at least 30 minutes daily can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer, colon cancer, and obesity.  Walking is an underrated form of exercise that will improve your physical and mental health.  
Since we adopted our dog, we spend a lot of time walking her.  Our dog goes on a walk at least 4 times a day.  While these aren’t extremely long walks, we do get to stroll around our neighborhood to meet our neighbors and their dogs.  Our dog has made us more sociable with our community and makes us feel much more connected to our neighborhood.

Our son absolutely loves being outside.  He loves running around our neighborhood and exploring.  He is fascinated by all of the birds, squirrels, pinecones, flowers, and plants we encounter on our regular walks.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with our little man since he runs so fast.  Many studies including this one found that outdoor activity has been directly linked to less nearsightedness in children.  Having 2 children in the house has definitely kept us busy, but we are always able to squeeze in some outdoor time to walk.

The lifetime benefits of healthier eating
We mostly cook food at home and we focus on trying to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  Plant based diets have been shown to reduce risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer.  Recent research suggests that diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease.  We minimize our red meat consumption and stick to eating reasonable portions of chicken and turkey.  We try our best to balance our intake of healthy foods daily.  This includes keeping unhealthy snacks and junk food out of our home.  If we don’t have any unhealthy food in the pantry, there’s no temptation to eat it.  And if we do splurge by eating an unhealthy meal, we try to make up for it by having our next meal be healthy. 

James Clear wrote a great article about effortless ways to lose weight and eat healthy that is definitely worth reading.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle now pays off in the future with less sickness, less money necessary to pay for health expenses, and an overall better quality of life. 

Live a life that you will be proud to look back on
10 years from now, do you want to be in the same financial situation you are in today?  Do you want to be overweight?  Will you reach financial freedom 10 years from now? Do you want to look back at your life history with regret, or with appreciation?  Change doesn’t happen unless you take action.       

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