How I Made $233.48 in September 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

September was a slow month, both in the blog space and the dental office. Schools resumed, summer ended, and even the Memorial holiday proved sleepy. But I am happy to report that the blog still made money, regardless. In September 2021, I earned $233.48 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to skip to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

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I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In September 2021, I made $233.48 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $98 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include TokoDesign.
  • The rest of the income ($135.48) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog which continually earn me commission for every successful sale. It is the best method of passive income for bloggers, as it connects your audience with valuable products and services that you recommend, while paying you for your work.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $5,391.87!! Of that, $3,094.48 was earned in 2021.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

How to Set Up Your Living Trust at Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I was super excited to finally have our living trust notarized last weekend in the presence of two friends who kindly gave up a Saturday morning to be our witnesses. Now that the living trust is behind us, I finally have the bandwidth to jot down a few comments on the process as a whole, plus share a few tips and answer a few questions on how to do-it-yourself in the comfort of your home. Or in my case, whilst wearing pajamas.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is a form of estate planning that allows you to control your assets while you are alive but have your money or properties distributed to people of your choosing once you pass. It is comprised of documents written in a standardized way that outlines what happens to all the assets you’ve worked hard for after your death. It is important because it ensures that your property and money goes to people who you want it to go to.

Is a living trust the same as a will?

A living trust is not the same as a will. A will is something that you can write and simply keep or give to someone you trust. It is not a formal document. In a will, you can outline who you want your assets to go to in the event of your passing. However, once you do pass, your assets do not immediately go to the people or organizations that you’ve outlined in your will. It goes to the state (in my case, California) who will take it upon itself to divvy your assets as dictated in your will. In the case of a living trust, your assets go directly to your Trustee (someone you name as the controller of your assets) who will then divvy up the rest of your property as dictated in your living trust.

The main difference is that at the time of your death, your property will either go to the state for dispersal or to the Trustee that you name.

Why do I need a living trust?

You want a living trust over a will because the state of California is very busy and will not disperse your assets without a fee. And a nominal one at that. They will first use your assets to pay off any debts or fees that are in your name. Then they will take a cut for the distribution of assets, usually a percentage of the asset price. By having the state do all of your asset distribution for you, you could potentially lose a lot of your assets in fees!

Alternatively, the living trust will protect your assets and transfer them directly to your Trustee at the time of your death. The Trustee will then be responsible for distributing your assets, without having to lose any of your assets.

How Much Does a Living Trust Cost?

Most frequently, living trusts are concocted by estate planning lawyers. Research in the Orange County area of California revealed that the costs of drafting a living trust with a lawyer costs anywhere between $2,500 to $3,500. Of course, this does not include additional fees for additional assets, recording with the county, or notarization of documents. I, however, produced my living trust for a mere $329, including a living will and Power of Attorney documents.

Why the huge price difference?

Because people assume that lawyers know something we don’t know. And they do. They know that a standardized form is sufficient to drafting a living trust. I could have written my living trust from scratch, but in order to ensure that I was following the standardized structure for a living trust and using the correct verbage, I created my living trust using an online company instead of hiring a lawyer.

When we were talking with a estate planning lawyer, I noticed that she handed me print-outs written using big font. The print-outs looked like they were written in the 1980’s or 1990’s. They had fill-in-the-blanks that elementary students could fill out, given that they had the information. The fill-in blanks were things such as ‘Name’, ‘Address’, ‘Asset’, and ‘Trustee’. It was only a few pages long, and extremely simplistic.

So I asked myself, “Is this all there is to it?” After a few moments of research, I learned that it is. People pay for estate planning lawyers for peace of mind, under the assumption that a lawyer’s education makes them an expert. They pay a premium for the convenience of not having to write it themselves or to do the leg-work. Honestly, I think people pay the high fees because that’s what most people do. We’re all just lemmings following each other to the edge of the cliff.

Thankfully, the internet is chock-full of guidelines for doing your own living trust.

How did I Set Up A Living Trust at Home?

As I said previously, you can write it yourself from scratch. It doesn’t have to follow an exact format, but it does have to contain the correct information and be thorough. You’d hate to leave money on the table because you left something out of your trust. Do recall that this is one of the reasons why people choose to pay lawyers to draft their trust – the fear that they won’t do it right.

I had my own doubts about my abilities to write one from scratch, and I honestly did not want to spend a lto of time learning everything there is to know about living trusts. So I found a solution that was in the middle. I wrote my living trust using Legal Zoom. I had set up an S Corporation through the same company four years ago, and really like the customer service I received at that time. So I was quite excited to learn that they charged only $329 for an estate planning bundle.

When you purchase this bundle, you get a living trust, up to two basic wills, up to two powers of attorney and a year of attorney assist – access to an attorney who can answer all your questions about your trust. This year of attorney assist should be cancelled before the renewal one year later, to avoid the recurring fee of $120. I recommend cancelling the Attorney Assist once your trust is completed, notarized, and recorded, so there are no surprise fees one year later.

My hunch was correct in that the writing of the trust only required me to fill out my information on a template – a process that took me 15 minutes. To check out, you simply pay the fee at the end, and submit the forms. Within a day, my forms were finalized by Legal Zoom and were ready to print. A guideline on the following steps required to notarize your documents are included in your package. All-in-all, the process probably takes 39 minutes total.

How do I Notarize My Living Trust?

Notarizing a living trust is quite simple. A quick Google search of local notaries informed me of their abundance. Luckily, one of my neighbors happened to be a notary, so I emailed her and through this process, I’ve gotten to know our neighbor! Some notaries will be willing to travel to your home, but for an additional fee. I went with a notary that charges per signature, rather than a flat fee. To give you an idea, we paid $15 per signature for our notary, for a total of $150. Other notaries were charging a $200 flat-fee. We ended up saving money by walking to our notary’s office, and choosing one who charged per signature.

A way to reduce notary fees is to have witnesses. Technically, the documents don’t all have to be signed by the notary. Some parts can be signed in front of two witnesses or a notary. If you want to save money, choose to bring two witnesses to your signing. Just keep in mind that witnesses cannot be anyone with familial relationship to you (whether by blood or marriage) nor can they be a benefactor in your living trust.

Lastly, make sure to ask your notary if they have the ability to notarize living trusts and powers of attorney. Not every notary has that power, and it will save you a trip by asking ahead of time.

How Do I Transfer a Deed to My Living Trust?

Transferring a deed to your living trust takes a bit more work, and requires a different service altogether. However, you mustn’t leave your real estate behind. The process of transferring a deed to a living trust is equally simple. Legal Zoom can do a Standard Real Estate Deed Transfer for $249. Once again, you can do the transfer yourself, which will require you to write the documents as well as record the transfer with the county recorder’s office. The recording of transfer with the county has a tiny fee, which differs depending on where you live.

How Do I Transfer My Assets?

Part of your living trust package includes letters that must be sent to your asset accounts. For every asset you listed under your trust, Legal Zoom provides letters to be mailed to each account letting them know that you are transferring the ownership of your asset to the Living Trust. It was quite simple to do. I just logged into each institution, found the address designated for TDA (or Transfer of Assets) and mailed each letter to them.

What next?

After our living trust was notarized, our deed sent to the county office, and our letters send to all institutions, we made a few copies of our trusts. We keep the original copy with us, and handed another copy to our parents for safe-keeping. We are also planning on renting out a safety deposit box at a bank somewhere to hold a copy. However, I am pausing on that for now since it comes with a yearly fee – and you all know how I hate subscriptions. An alternative would be to get a fire-proof safe at home, a decision left for another day.

I know estate planning is boring stuff, but it’s really something I urge you to do. Legal Zoom made the entire process easy for us, and it really didn’t take a lot of time. Compared to paying thousands of dollars and spending hours meeting with a lawyer, creating a living trust took only an hour or so of our time and a couple hundred bucks. Plus, getting to do it all in the comfort of my home makes working with Legal Zoom one of the best decisions I have made.

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Finance: A Few Words on Bitcoin

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I am, by far, no means a Bitcoin expert. Based on my historical data, you wouldn’t even think that Bitcoin falls within my financial game plan. I mean, I am the Debtist who is more interested in wiping my debt than taking the forgiveness plan in order to up my wealth accumulation game. I know I am giving up a lot of potential wealth in order to get rid of my debt. But I am not anti-wealth-accumulation altogether! I am keeping an eye on Bitcoin, and learning more as time goes on. To get to the main point of this post: I invest in Bitcoin because I think it’s a viable financial option, even for Debtists such as myself.

One of the most interesting things that has happened during the pandemic is the government’s postponement of student loan repayment. It has created the space for me to get a glimpse of what life would be like if I hadn’t chosen to pay back our debt aggressively. I got an idea of how much we are saving, and we have started to learn more about where we could be investing all that money.

I am still of the mind that paying back my debt aggressively is what I want to do. I can see how the debt accumulating in this country is leading up to the collapse of the economy. It is apparent to me that building our finances on debt can be extremely detrimental, and I use the economy at large as an example. Currently, the economy is controlled by the government, who has been inflating the value of a dollar by printing crazy amounts of money in the past few years (2020 and 2021 especially). We are printing money to cover our deficit, which even the Feds are warning against as it has been proven to be the demise of other countries in the past. But the printing hasn’t stopped, and neither has inflation. Meanwhile, the wages have not increased enough to offset the inflation rate, and the amount of goods in our economy hasn’t increased to match the money being printed. Due to the high inflation rate, it makes sense for people not to hold on to cash or an emergency fund, since the value of the dollar is declining. So people are putting their money in assets like real estate, stocks, bonds, etc – just to offset the inflation rate (and marginally!).

However, if Bitcoin becomes more prevalent as an alternative monetary system, then the way in which society deals with money will change. Bitcoin is an asset that should continue to gain value over time (as it stabilizes) because it is a limited asset. With that being the case, as more people use Bitcoin, we will switch to a society that values savings and emergency funds over putting their money in assets. A world of Bitcoin is a world in which I will do well – because I value being debt-free, having savings, having emergency funds, and owning something that increases in value.

Meanwhile, the fiat system will continue to inflate the dollar. Why? Because the fiat system is built on this foundation of debt. When we print more money without increasing the goods in the economy, we decrease the value of the dollar and cause inflation. We then create debt as people need more dollars to pay for things. At the same time, the value of bonds will decrease, which will lead to a distrust of the government. Less investors will place their money in bonds (aka lend their money to the government), which would require the government to increase interest rates. And how do you think the government will pay back the investors with such high interest rates when it comes time? When it comes time for the investors to collect their money, the government will need to print more money. Essentially, the creation of more money leads to the creation of more debt.

In a world where you have a choice between an asset that is deflating in value over an asset that is increasing in value, it can become quite obvious why people would choose Bitcoin. Now I am not a Bitcoin maximalist. I don’t think Bitcoin will completely replace the current monetary system. I don’t know if it will stay decentralized forever. I don’t think governments will sit back and allow it to completely usurp their way of life. I don’t think Bitcoin is without risk. I heard that 80% of all Bitcoin is owned by 2% of people, who have the power and ability to sway its price tremendously. I heard that 40% of Bitcoin mining happens in China, whose government has more control over their miners. I am not even so confident as to say I am betting on Bitcoin. I am not going to put 100% of my lifesavings in Bitcoin. I know there are people out there borrowing money and selling all they own to go fully into cryptocurrency. I am not about that.

BUT. I have bought Bitcoin and my husband has had the foresight to purchase and hold Bitcoin from over five years ago. I griped about it at the time since we were young and we had no money to play with. Plus Bitcoin was “new”, which is always scary. In hindsight, I am glad he did it and will never live down all that groaning. I, myself, started investing in it over this past year as insurance. If the probability of Bitcoin having a place in this market exists, wouldn’t you want to get in it? My thought is, “if Bitcoin does become a thing, I don’t really want to be the guy without any.

These are my few words on Bitcoin. Like I said, I am no expert. I am no Bitcoin maximalist. I have my doubts just like anyone. But I have my hopes too. I am not here to spread ‘facts’ about cryptocurrency (what are the facts these days?!). You can brush this off as simply musings from my desk.

However, if you wish to dabble in cryptocurrency, or like me, to insure yourself, you can easily set up a Coinbase account here (referral link!). If you use this link, you get $10 in free Bitcoin after you buy or sell your first $100 on Coinbase. If you are a student or someone who is tight on cash but hopes to be financially free one day, here is what I would do. Invest $100 in Bitcoin, and then just let it sit. Ignore the volatility that will surely exist in the coming years, but just think of it as a reserve for the just-in-case. Start there, and see where this pans out. Adjust later if you’d like. It’s not going to make you rich, but it’s a place to start with cryptocurrency. And it won’t break your bank or hinder your current plans. Then learn more about Bitcoin. Listen to podcasts or find tutorials on YouTube. I personally like the BTC episodes on The Investor’s Podcast (TIP). I recommend starting with episode 1 if you are starting from scratch. It helped me a lot to get the ball rolling.

OR!

Get free Bitcoin by signing up for a credit card that gives bitcoin for rewards! I personally use the Fold Debit Card (referral link!). For every purchase, you are granted free satoshis. I have always been a travel hacker, earning free rewards through normal spending and traveling the world for free. Well, I have since traded in my travel rewards for Bitcoin rewards. I watch my Bitcoin stash grow with every swipe. Whether you are planning for a big purchase, a big trip, or the holidays, I would definitely recommend applying for the Fold Debit Card now.

Other Recommendations

  • Earn $10 cash when you buy your first $5 in crypto on Paypal through my referral link.
  • Sign up for BlockFI credit card (referral link!) to earn $10 in Bitcoin after you’ve made a minimum transfer of $100

Afterthoughts on: “10 Steps for Financial Success for New Grads”

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

This past week, I had the pleasure of hopping on an InstaLive session with Dr. Unorthodoc once again. In this week’s Live, we talked about my recent post: 10 Steps for Financial Success for New Grads. She even threw in two bonus recommendations, which you can surely review on her Instagram @dr.unorthodoc. In typical fashion, I’ve spent the last few days conjuring up a few afterthoughts that I wanted to share in this post.

Regarding Financial Success:

Financial success” can mean different things to different people. The vision could include accumulated wealth, fancy things, or financial freedom. For me, it is certainly the latter. A quote that I recently read sums up my idea of success:

“A nice car and a big house are the old status symbols. The ultimate flex is freedom. Time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom.”

Obviously what was success to my parents’ generation is not financial success to me. The same goes for a peer of mine who might hold different values, be in a different situation, or have a different upbringing. There is no judgement in that fact. It is simply an observation. When I talk about my own journey, I don’t want to exclude people and make them feel like the information is irrelevant to them. I want them to tailor my experiences to their own needs and versions of financial success. Because of this, not every tactic we discuss will apply to everyone and certainly the order in which you do things may change. We went into some of those details in the InstaLive so feel free to check it out!

Regarding Where to Spend Your First Paycheck:

Some of my classmates spent their first paycheck investing in the stock market or contributing to their 401k’s. Some saved up for their first home’s down-payment or upgraded their cars. I used my first paycheck to pay for a financial planner. (The two recommendations we mentioned in the podcast were Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner and Andrew Paulson from White Coat Investor.)

This is a prime example of how we can use our money to get closer to our ideas of financial success (wealth, stuff, and freedom). For me, I wanted to be free from debt or anything that would prevent me from living as I please in a day-to-day basis.

Regarding Financial Literacy:

What this also shows is differing levels of financial literacy. I think that’s what makes my financial journey so relatable is the fact that I started at the bottom with zero financial literacy. Meaning, I have been through every possible stage of wealth accumulation so many people can relate to the different phases of my financial journey.

I have classmates who have more money awareness than I did at graduation. Heck, I had friends who had more money period! One of my closest friends spent his mornings in dental school investing in the stock market. I was not even exposed to that world at that point in my life. I also did not have access to generational wealth being a zero generation immigrant.

I am not saying this in an accusatory way or anything like that. But, certainly, they were better versed and can invest in things right out of school because they were at a stage in their life where they were already set up for that. Just because I started at the bottom doesn’t mean every has to hire a financial planner. You might already know everything a financial planner has to tell you!

Remember: the path to financial success is mutli-factorial. The level of financial literacy, current phase of wealth accumulation and your personal definition of financial success all play a role towards your path post grad.

Regarding Student Loans

The best advice that I can give is to choose a path that works for you.

Not everyone should aggressively pay student loans back, and I don’t mind going on record saying that! Those whose definition of financial success falls under wealth accumulation or having nice things would be better off with the loan forgiveness program, granted that they invest their money in preparation for the tax bomb at the end of the 20-25 years. Those who yearn for freedom or value frugal living would benefit from paying it off aggressively.

The question new grads need to answer is, “What lifestyle do I want to live?”

Since my values are centered around gaining financial freedom, the reasons why I decided to pay my student loans off aggressively are as follows:

  • I don’t like having debt looming over my shoulder. It causes me stress and holding on to debt has a psychological and emotional toll on me. Even when it comes to a to-do list, I am the type of person that prefers to check off tasks as quickly as possible, in order to alleviate worry. If you asked my husband, my famous saying that would follow me to the grave would be, “Let’s get it over with!”. Regardless of whether the task at hand is enjoyable or not, the part that matters more to me is getting it done. At the end of the day, it gives me more peace to get rid of my debt.
  • I am not the type of person to only do one thing for the rest of my life. Right after graduation, I knew that I wasn’t going to be the type of dentist who would happily work a 9-5 shift Monday through Friday, running a practice until I was 65 years old. I am a creative person and I wanted to have the choice to quit dentistry all together, whenever I want. If anything, the last four years since graduating has been proof that the 25 year loan forgiveness is not for me. I’ve already quit once (here I wrote about How to Gain Enough Financial Independence to Quit Your Job) which happened to be a job that did not bring me joy at a time when I wanted to recreate myself (we can blame that on Saturn’s return.) I’m the type of person who wants to be a baker some days, a writer other days, a pet caregiver on my time off, and a world traveler not tied down by a consistent job. I want to work remotely in my pajamas at home sometimes, and interact with people other times. I want to think up of ideas as much as work with my hands. Because this is the person I am, I decided having no debt gave me more freedom to live wherever, work however, and be whomever. This required a deep understanding of the true me, which is where the real work lies.
  • Lastly, I am a numbers gal and while there is wealth growth potential to doing the loan forgiveness programs, it appealed to me that paying the loans off in ten years time is still cheaper than waiting 20-odd years – cheaper by more than $100,000! Of course that profit margin increases even more if you pay it back quicker than 10 years, which is what I am trying to do!

Regarding Emergency Funds:

I like emergency funds because it gives me that layer of added security and ease of mind. That being said, emergency funds don’t have to be that traditional idea of putting away a monetary amount in a savings account or in a safe under your home. I don’t like that idea anyway because that prevents you from growing your wealth. You should at least invest it as a hedge against inflation. I like to make every single dollar work for me and I love the idea of passive income. There are many ways to have an emergency fund without reducing the chances of wealth accumulation.

  • Open a brokerage account and invest your savings into something. Even a mutual index fund like SPY, VTI, or VTSX will be better than keeping it in a savings account, especially if you don’t know much about stocks. Your brokerage account can be you investing in stocks, but also a source of funds in cases of true emergency.
  • We travel hack a lot so that we never have to spend our hard-earned dollars on our travels. Which means we have multiple credit cards open at the same time that have maximum limits. Since we pay all our credit cards in full every month, we have those funds readily available for emergencies. Between my husband and I, we have over $100k in unused credit card spending (I alone have $83k) and that is a source that we can turn to in case of a true emergency.
  • Depending on your loan situation, you could use pivoting your plans to gain access to more money during tough times. For example, even though I am paying off my loans aggressively, I remained with REPAYE the first three year’s to benefit from the program’s promise to pay half of the interest fees. My minimum monthly payment was $900 per month, but I was paying $6,500 or more per month. When 2020 hit and my husband lost his job for 10 months, we paid only the minimum payments to my loans and used the left-over to cover his income loss. Luckily, the interest rate since the pandemic has been at a miraculous 0%. Regardless, this was a good example of using loan repayment pivoting in cases of emergency.
  • Just like you can gain access to money by selling stocks, you can do the same if you have equity in real estate. We own a commercial/residential property and can sell it if things go south, immediately gaining access to our equity.

Regarding Investments:

We briefly touched on investments here but I think the InstaLive had better content within the banter that Dr.Unorthodoc and I had. I just want to summarize with the following: Investments are GREAT but require a bit of heeding. Do your research, don’t let emotions carry you away, and use your head.

Regarding the big picture:

I am all about balance – as you can tell from my lifestyle. Paying loans off aggressively does not hinder us from

-maxing out our 401K

-buying a property

-growing our wealth and investing in stocks

-building businesses

Do a bit of everything! It makes life more fun and interesting. I view life as one big social experiment. Novelty is good for the soul and honestly, I know very few people who can do the grind and truly call themselves happy.

I am choosing happy.

XOXO

How I Made $415.39 in June 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

June was a busy month, as we were preparing to depart for Iceland for a few weeks. There was also a wedding to attend, as well as multiple gatherings trickling in. I focused mostly on friends, family, and our future trip. Still, I was able to make some money with the blog doing minimal work. It was better than the goose egg I produced in May! In June 2021, I earned $415.39 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to skip to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

Related Posts:

I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In June 2021, I made $415.39 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $252 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include True Botanicals, Piglet, and Symbiome!
  • The rest of the income ($163.39) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog which continually earn me commission for every successful sale. It is the best method of passive income for bloggers, as it connects your audience with valuable products and services that you recommend, while paying you for your work.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $5,158.39!! Of that, $2,861 was earned in 2021.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

10 Steps to Financial Success for New Grads

This post is sponsored by SoFi. SoFI recently created a Work Dashboard that you can use to keep track of your goals. This includes a Student Loan Debt Navigator. And if you decide to pay off loans aggressively, SoFI can also refinance your loans (here’s my affiliate link). Please see Step 5 before doing so.

First and foremost, Congrats! You’ve made it out alive (barely, perhaps?). Now that school is out, it’s time to make money in. Whether you’ve started your first job or are just figuring out your next move, it’s important to start thinking about your finances from the get-go and to act intentionally about money. In an effort to get you closer to a life of financial independence (or at least just enough to quit a job you don’t like and have the freedom to pick-and-choose), let’s review 10 steps you can start to take for success. If it all sounds too overwhelming, no worries. Take it one easy step at a time. I recommend breaking them down over a few weekends to ensure steady, solid progress over time.

10 Steps to Financial Success

1. Review Habits

You want to know where you stand with your money. More specifically, you want to know where the money is going. Whether you’re aware of it or not, the way you handle money is centered around the habits you’ve formed over time. The best way to find that out is to create a budget. That is the very first step we took towards our path to financial independence. Without tracking where your money goes, you cannot ever analyze your habits or learn from your mistakes. You don’t know where to improve. This step is so important to our financial journey that I even wrote an entire course around it: How to Master Your Budget. You can access my course for FREE. After the course, I would highly recommend signing up for a budgeting tool, to streamline the process. It makes it more fun rather than feeling like a chore. The one we use is YNAB (You Need A Budget)! Find out how YNAB helped me pay off $84,000 in student debt within my first year of loan repayment.

2. Build Credit Score

If you’re like me, I had a whole slew of debt when I graduated college. I decided to tackle all of my credit card debt and improve my credit score. Graduating from school is a great time to build habit #1: Pay off all your dues in full each month. After you do that, go ahead and tackle the bigger payments like car loans and student debt. By making monthly payments on time, you’ll build your credit score in no time. Don’t forget that a poor credit score can make your life harder in the future, so avoid it at all costs. In fact, it could cost you more money too, since a low score typically lands you a higher interest rate on future loans!

3. Pay Off High-Interest Debt First

High-interest debt increases the amount of money you lose paying off the interest. I had a lot of credit card debt when I graduated dental school because I pretty much had no money and was living off of my dreams and thin air. I tackled credit card debt first because the interest rate on those was 16-24%! YIKES. Get that high-interest debt off your plate, so that you can focus on paying off your student loans (if you have any).

4. Pick a Strategy for Your Student Debt

I am being honest when I say that it doesn’t matter what strategy you pick for paying down student debt – as long as you have one and you stick with it! I personally needed to pay off my student debt as aggressively as possible, but if your lifestyle better matches with the loan repayment and forgiveness programs, then go ahead and do it! It is important to be well-versed in the different repayment options, so do the research and choose wisely.

5. Talk to a Professional

If you have any doubts at all, I would highly recommend speaking with a professional. That’s what I did! I spent my entire first paycheck paying for a financial advisor. They aren’t cheap, but their return is ten-fold! I have two I would recommend. Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner saved us thousands of dollars by picking the correct plan. Andrew Paulson, from White Coat Investor, is another option. Once you’ve decided which path to take, determine if refinancing is something you should do. SoFi is a company that does student loan refinancing but there are plenty others out there, too. Shop around – I’ve listed a few in this previous post!

6. Max the Match and Other Contributions

The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. There are plenty of options out there, but whether you choose a 401K or an IRA, if you have a company match benefit, make sure to maximize it! That is free money that not everyone has the privilege to have. I certainly don’t, but we definitely max out my husband’s match from his company.

7. Save up

I am certain future you will have wants and wishes. There are many things out there you probably plan to buy, some of which are quite big purchases. If you wish to buy a graduate degree, a car, a home, or anything else of that nature, you’ve got to learn how to save up. Remember those habits you formed at the beginning of the journey? Well now it’s time to benefit from them. For me, I don’t mess around with my savings, especially if it’s a short-term goal. I am quite conservative in that way. I stash my savings in a high yield savings account like Marcus, where I can gain interest on my savings at a higher rate than a traditional savings account, without risking losing money (as opposed to investing my savings in a brokerage account). Find out how a Marcus High Yield Savings Account can help you reach your short term goals. If you’d like to sign up, my referral link here will give you a 0.2% APY increase on the current rate.

8. Invest With Your Head – Not With Your Heart

I consider investing an advanced finance skill. However, I can’t argue with the fact that the sooner you start, the better you become. Like any other skill, it takes practice. However, if you haven’t learned how to control your spending, get rid of debt, maximize your retirement opportunities and save money for your future goals, then there’s a chance you’ll lose the investing game – and bad! Perfect Steps 1-7 first, and then remember this advice: Invest with your head, not with your heart.

9. Find Your Tribe

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, the same goes for being managing money. You need people in your corner who won’t tempt you to spend your hard-earned dollars. People who will understand if you would rather order pizza than go out. Friends who won’t ditch you because you said no to a few happy hours. You want someone in your corner cheerleading you on your way to financial independence. Your tribe is very important. It can be the making of your success, or the downfall. I don;t want to be elitist, but even your friend group should be an intentional choice.

10. Set A Date

All of this should be given an end date. Make a plan, then set it in a calendar. Life can get in the way – so make sure to revisit your plans, goals, credit score, and debts once every six months. Look at that date you’ve created for yourself when you lose your way. Soon enough, you will be financially free!

I don’t know about you, but navigating the post-grad world can be tough! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the advice out there, or worse, completely lost and with no one to turn to. I hope this guide has helped to at least start the journey. Other related posts that you may find helpful:

How We Made Our Home Cash Flow Positive

Most of the time, I feel that the advice I write in this space comes in the telling of my personal story. I could have titled this article, “What You Need to Have a Cash Positive Home”, but decided to take a more narrative approach, since what worked for me may not work for others. Since starting my road to financial independence in 2017, we have acquired a property that has potential to be a source of income. While I hesitate to insinuate that real estate is a good “investment”, I do have to say that this particular one worked out for us, despite living in the Golden State (Orange County, no less). If you want to know how we got here, read on to hear about the process.

Our story begins in 2017, when I decided to pay off $575k+ in student debt, and suddenly realized that the beautiful live-work loft that we were renting was absolutely and horrific-ly expensive. Even though it fell within the average cost of an OC rental ($2,800 a month for a two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,500 sq. ft. live-work loft with a 2-car tandem parking garage), it became apparent that it could not support my goals. So I went down a rabbit-hole of considering my options.

First, we looked for cheaper rentals. We almost pulled the trigger on renting out a 500-square foot apartment in Huntington Beach for $1,900, but voted against it because it had no garage, was farther from work, and would have likely caused marital issues due to cramped quarters. As much as I loved Mike, we were still growing accustomed to being around each other 24/7. Little did we know a pandemic was written in our futures. Either way, we nixed the idea of moving into a tiny box, although now, I think I could handle it.

Next, I wrote to our current landlord to ask her to reduce the rent. We had a great relationship with our landlord and she was so grateful to our on-time rent payments and our care for her home, that she did reduce the rent from $2,800 a month to $2,600 a month (a savings of $2,400 per year). Okay, so now we were getting somewhere.

Then, I thought of renting out the bottom floor (which had its own entrance, bathroom, and floor). The living space was on the second floor and the bedroom was on the third floor. I told people around me that I was thinking of renting it out and luckily, my brother’s newly graduated girlfriend happened to find a job in Orange County. At the time, my brother was living in my parent’s two bedroom home and she was living with her sister in San Diego, where her internship was located. Her new job in OC meant that she needed a new home, and apartments, like I said, would have likely cost her anywhere from $1,800-$2,400 monthly.

So, we offered her a place to live, for a mere $700 per month. Liiiiiiiiiike, a really nice place to live for any new college grad. Lucky for us, she said YES! That cut down our living expenses to $1,900 per month, the same number we would have had to pay for that tiny room by the beach. By house-hacking, we saved $900 per month, which saved us $10,800 per year. This brought down our yearly cost of rent from $33,600 to $22,800 – quite an amazing feat.

But still!

It killed me to know that $22,800 of our hard-earned, post-tax dollars was going into someone else’s pocket, without increasing our wealth. So I became obsessed with buying a live-work loft of our own. I must have searched Zillow for an entire year straight. I was so in love with our current one and our location, but when one was listed on the market, I couldn’t stomach the $650,000 price tag. It was for 1,500 sq. ft., one bedroom, one bath, and a downstairs office. It was street facing which brought up it’s property value, but after stalking Zillow for a year, I felt that the right price for that loft was about $100,000 cheaper.

The most important thing about the home searching process is this:

We knew what we wanted. A turn-key live-work loft that allowed us to keep Kirsten and that is fairly new for a fair price that will not wipe out our bank accounts. We wanted one in between Los Angeles and South OC, and we wanted a property that can become a rental, a business storefront, or our home. Essentially, I wanted options. Our lives were open-ended at the time, so we wanted our housing situation to be, too. We decided to put the smallest down payment we can (about 5% of the asking price) so that we can get in on the market sooner.

(PS: The loan we did was a traditional loan which included a PMI for only putting 5% down. We also looked into a physicians loan which allowed 5% down without PMI. However, the physician’s loan increased the interest rate, and when we ran the numbers, one ends up paying more for the physician loan over the course of 30 years than a traditional loan. As far as putting more than 5%, we just did not have the cash at hand especially since we were making $6,500/mo payments to my loans. So we decided to put in the least we could, and this kept us from being house broke. We had extra cash to cover the fees and still keep a nice chunk for an emergency fund!)

We were sitting at Bruxie’s waiting for our chicken and waffles, disappointed at deciding to let go our “dream” loft, but also proud of not allowing emotion to make our home purchase decision for us. It was then that I saw it for the first time listed on Zillow. A loft in the heart of downtown Santa Ana, maybe about 2.5 miles from where we currently lived. It was listed at $499,900 and had the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, and parking spaces as the loft we lived in. Also, it was street-facing. The seller was under contract previously, but for some reason, the contract fell through and he decreased the asking price by about $15k. This gave us a clue: He was motivated to sell. He listed it only a few hours before our seeing it, and the next day, we had done a walk-through and placed an offer.

Some might call this an emotional decision but that it was not. We just happened to know what we wanted and did not want. We happened to know the current market. We also happened to know a stellar agent who was a friend of a friend’s, and we happened to know the person who lived next door to the loft we bought. We have done the research, the thinking, and the networking – and everything just kind of fell into place, which is great if you’re a believer in fate.

So we bought the house with a 5% down at 4.6% interest rate (which happened to be more than 2% less than my loan interest rate!) and our monthly mortgage, (plus PMI, plus HOA, plus property tax) was about $3,300 a month. We kept our roomie on for $700 a month and gave her a garage spot for the inconvenience of moving her butt to downtown, so this made our portion of the payment $2,600 – the price we were at before we started house hacking. This was at the end of 2018.

During the pandemic in 2020, we refinanced in the summer, reducing our interest rate from 4.6% to $3.5%, and our monthly payment from $3,300 to $3,000. We even gave our roommate a $100 discount, reducing her rent to $600 a month, for being such a stellar, long-term roommate. Unfortunately, our living situation with her is coming to an end this year, so we decided in January of 2021 to refinance a second time.

This second refinance (5 months after our first) reduced our rate even further from 3.5% to 2.85%! It also reduced our monthly payment down to $2,700 (HOA, property tax, and mortgage insurance included). With our roommate still on board until July/August, we are paying $2,100 for a roof over our heads. Unfortunately, she will leave at the end of summer, and we will have to face a few rental options. However, since we treat her (and charge her) like family, the rental price of that downstairs room will likely increase to a going rate of $1k/month. At that price, our housing cost will go down to $1,700 a month – not bad for OC and more than $1k cheaper than where we originally started.

The refinance put us at a fantastic place to be since our unit has a rental value of about $2,800 – $3,000 per month back when we originally bought it. However, just recently, lofts that were built over the pandemic down the street are now being leased. These 500-800 square foot lofts go for $2,800-$3,000 / month. The proximity to our place will, we hope, drive the value of our unit above $3,000/month as a rental. Either way, it is safe to say that our place is now cash flow positive shall we decide to move on from here after “things return back to normal.”

Both our jobs are taking us south, so if remote work doesn’t remain a thing, we may rent this space out and get a second property. Shall we choose to stay, we can continue to house-hack and rent the bottom floor as either an office space for a WFH parent that needs their “work away from home”, or as a bedroom for someone we know. This will lower our living expense to under $2k/month.

In the meantime, the value of the property is estimated to be at $550k according to our appraisal, and $565k according to Redfin. We are earning equity and when we move on, will also earn rental income on top of that.

The following are the tips that worked for us when buying a property:

  • Know your market. I stalked Zillow for a year for a very particular type of home in a small area.
  • Know your numbers. Don’t accept loans at face value – actually map out the dollar amount over time.
  • Know your must-haves and cant-live-without. For Mike, that was a garage. For me, it was natural light.
  • Know an emotional decision when you feel one. This is why we did not buy the loft “of our dreams”.
  • Know your financial limits. I knew I had my student debt to worry about. I also knew I wanted an emergency fund and to not be house-broke.
  • Know your future goals. I knew this wasn’t going to be our forever home. Our lives are so open-ended, there was no pressure to buy a home that we would live in forever.
  • Don’t ascribe to the “dream home” and all that HGTV stuff.
  • Take Renovations Slowly or not at all.
  • Don’t just buy a home and forget. Continually re-evaluate and find ways to save. That’s why we thought of refinancing.
  • Be open to non-traditional ways of living. House hacking and living with a roommate is the best decision we ever made.
  • Be creative in your solutions. Not only did we house hack, but I also built a bakery out of my kitchen. I operated my own bakery for a year. My house also acts as my WFH blog space, my ROVER dog-sitting space, and now, it is my husband and roommate’s work-office. It is more than a home or a rental property – it is where we work and earn a living, too.

I know this narrative is extremely personal and number heavy, but I also hope it’s been of help.

Thanks for reading along.

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash