Preparing for the Resumption of Student Loan Payments

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

I don’t pretend to know what anyone’s financial situation is like. I know that our stories are different, and depending on where we lie on our path, the story changes with time. I have already written about what one should be doing with their federal student loans at this time, but the advice is not finite. I find that the best mode of action, historically, has been to share with others what I myself am personally doing with my student loans, and letting others walk away with what they’d like to keep for themselves. So here it is. A little update on me, preparing for the resumption of student loan repayment once the 0% interest resumes at the latter part of 2021.

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO

For the past year, I have been holding onto my usually aggressive student loan repayment sums for multiple reasons. Firstly, the uncertainty of the economic and social situation due to the pandemic. Mike spent 10 out of the 12 months last year not working. I honed in on only working part-time at one of my offices so as not to spread disease among different population groups. Family members lost jobs and we didn’t know who would need our support. Siblings moved back into parent’s homes, parents themselves moved, and a majority of our immediate families went without work or school for most of 2020. So I paid my minimum payment (in order to avoid forbearance just in case it affected the terms of the loan in the long-run) and took the rest of the income and invested it into a High Yield Savings Account.

Meanwhile, to compensate for Mike not working, I maxed out my 401K for the first time ever, and dabbled into a brokerage account. But for the most part, we enjoyed the relaxed vibe of staying at home and doing nothing for the most part of 2020. I wasn’t as tight on finances as I should have been. I have financial independence to thank for that – and you can read how pursuing financial independence has actually benefitted us during times of COVID.

Regardless, I am starting to feel that the end of an era is near. With the available vaccinations increasing in Southern California, I am anticipating the reopening of most of our economy, which will also signal the end of the student loan forbearance (currently scheduled for September 2020). So, like any Spring bird preparing for what’s ahead, I am gathering my resources like figments of a bird’s nest, and preparing for the return of my aggressive student loan repayments.

THE GAME PLAN

Because my loan was huge ($575,000), we initially stayed with a student loan forgiveness program instead of refinancing back in 2017, in case something unexpected came our way (oh, sayyy COIVD?). However, now that the loan amount is dwindling, we are starting to see the light. The OG plan was always to refinance once the loan reached under $300,000. Why this number? I have found that this number is the threshhold for many student loan refinancers. Many of them won’t even consider a refinance if the loan amount is more than $300,000. It is also the threshold that transitions one from a high interest rate (ours is 6.8%!!) to a lower interest rate (around 3%).

Luckily, under the REPAYE plan, the interest rate was half-subsidized by REPAYE, which meant we were able to stay in the student loan forgiveness program while paying interest fees around what we would have paid if we had refinanced. This is why it is important to understand your loan repayment options, which you can definitely learn more about here. This subsidy ends after three years, and we reached that mark during COVID (November 2020). Luckily, due to the 0% interest rate in effect right now as part of the COVID relief program, we have not jumped into the 6.8% interest rate bracket. However, our goal is to be under $300k by the time the 0% ends and refinance to an interest rate that is hopefully lower than 3%. I do not recommend refinancing your loan before the deferment period ends, but I do recommend preparing for it by planning to pay off the largest chunk you possibly can and then refinancing to a better rate to make the going easier for you in the future. Think of it as a snowball method.

OUR PREPARATION

We are doing a few things to prepare for Fall. None of these things are out of the ordinary for us. They are actions that I’ve been advocating for years. Although I must say that we’ve loosened the reigns a bit recently. Our frugal muscles have become droopy, and it’s time to exercise. Here is what I plan to do in the upcoming months.

  • Tightening up the Master Budget. Since we eliminated a majority of our spending due to the lock-down, I have found that over the past year, I have loosened significantly the reigns on spending buckets that would usually have tightly closed lids. The savings we received from cancelling subscriptions, gym memberships, and most importantly, international travel trips has given me a lot of leeway with home and lifestyle improvements. Now, it is time to tighten the purse strings once more. If you need a refresher on mastering a budget, you can refer to my free course here. Don’t let any stone go unturned. You can create monthly frugal challenges to make the saving more fun. Here’s a few of mine.
  • Resume Side Hustles. In order to protect my family and my patients, I had decided to stop my dog-sitting and my bakery last March. I also decided that it would be best to only work at one dental office at a time. But now that things are opening up again, I have started to resume my side hustles. I have returned to the bakery where I once worked as an early morning baker and have started the position of Wholesale Director in March. I love being back with the Rye Goods crew, and truly enjoy my alternative work life. I also have continued to write for this blog, as well as guest write for Bogobrush. If you wish to grow your income, too, check out my ever growing list of ways to earn extra money here.
  • Research Refinance Options. If, like us, you plan to finagle your way down to the smallest loan amount possible with the hopes to refinance for the lowest rate possible in order to snowball your way to student debt freedom, then I highly suggest starting the research on refinance options today. There will be different companies vying for your attention. It would be best if, when the time comes, you are well-versed enough to be able to refinance in a jiff. The worst possible scenario is choosing a refinance company that won’t give you the best deal, or waiting so long that you will be stuck paying the high interest fees when loan repayments resume. A few things to note. Do not apply to them if they pull your credit. You want to maintain your good credit score for when the actual time comes. Also, the smaller your debt, the better your rate. So save, save, save! Lastly, make sure you have budgeted out enough emergency funds to cover your monthly payments after exiting from your student loan forgiveness program in case of job loss or an emergency. Preparation is key before pulling the trigger. Here are a few refinance options that I’ve been recommending to colleagues.
  • Speak to Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner. Still don’t know what to do? Speak to Travis and his team at Student Loan Planner. They are knowledgable and give great advice. I highly recommend their services for those who do not know what to do with their loans. I send all of my closest friends and family members to him because I trust his team and know that they are up to date with the finest details regarding student loans.

I feel like a warrior getting dressed for battle. It has been a long year of nothingness. I must admit that it was lovely and nice, but I am ready to get on my horse and face the challenges of loan repayment once again. Instead of our usual yearly update (because there is nothing to update you on), I hope that this post suffices. I will write a lengthy one as September draws near, as well as after our planned refinance.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

How I Made $535.13 in March 2021 Blogging From Home

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

March was a very slow month for the blog. I spent the first week of March traveling and then worked many dentistry days plus built the bakery significantly. Despite creating only a handful of blog posts, I was still proud to earn over $500 via the blog. In March 2021, I earned $535.13 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 March 2021, I made $535.13 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $74 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 TushyMonk ManualLunettePact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($161.13) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.
  • For the first time ever, I also earned $300 writing for another blog.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $3,954!!

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 I Made $616.46 in February 2021 Blogging From Home

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

February was a good blogging month considering I made a little bit more than January over a fewer number of days. February was a shorter month and I worked more days in dentistry, covering for doctors who were on vacation. I wish I could have spent more time blogging and there were definitely a few goals that I did not reach, but overall, I am still happy with my earnings. In February 2021, I earned $616.46 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to scroll down 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 February 2021, I made $616.46 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $73 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 TushyMonk ManualLunettePact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($543.76) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.

This is the first income from the blog this year! So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $3,419!!

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 Skillshare Can Grow A Blog

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

Skillshare is a platform wherein solopreneurs can learn skills taught by other like-minded folk. Fellow bloggers are teaching courses on the site, as well as learning from each other. I, myself, have a Skillshare account and have written about how it can help one stay productive during times of quarantine. I have been able to grow my blog tremendously since enrolling in their membership program, which gives unlimited access to all the classes available on their platform. As you can see from my monthly income reports, I have made more than a few thousand since we first shut-down for COVID-19 in March! I attribute my blogging income to this course for Affiliate Marketing by Making Sense of Cents and Skillshare. Today, I will be sharing with you guys a few classes that bloggers can take in order to help them grow.

Related Posts:

Classes on Skillshare That Will Grow Your Blog

There are many classes you can take on Skillshare that will grow the blog. Skillshare is divided into the categories “Create”, “Build”, and “Thrive”. All three categories have something to offer to solopreneurs, but bloggers especially.

Create

Bloggers are creatives by nature. Our work requires the making of something-out-of-nothing, balanced with making something-worth-reading. For the written aspect of blogging, there is a sub-section for Creative Writing which bloggers may find useful. For example, courses on how to write your own personal story can help one start to find their voice for a blog or book. Speaking of books, there’s a course on how to format eBooks in Adobe, as well as courses on how to self-publish. There are even courses to get one out of writer’s block, wherein prompts and topics are suggested to get the juices flowing. Sometimes, we need that, too.

However, we do more than write. We create imagery for our posts as well. The sub-section Photography will contain tips on Still-Life Photography, How to Get Paid Doing Travel Photography, and even How to Take Photos for Instagram. Capturing visual stories is important if Instagram is your line of work. Likewise, it is important if your blog is photo-driven. And if you’re like me, capturing everyday objects of the mundane nature, such as coffee mugs and nail color, then these courses may help you elevate the imagery from boring to something that draws someone in.

In the Creative section, you will also find courses for Web Development. I personally use WordPress, which allows me to design this blog in a simple way, but if you wish to make a blog from scratch, this section may be for you! There are courses on CSS, Javascript, Python and more.

Build

The Build section, in my opinion, is the most useful for bloggers. This is where I’ve spent a majority of my previous month. Business Analytics is a fairly new concept for me, but I am obsessed with it! I never realized before that all this work I was putting into the blog space was unfocused and gave less return than it can. It is still far from optimized but I am learning. I took courses on Google Analytics and have learned how to use Google Webtools to see if what I was writing was leading to engagement with my audience. I started this space to write for my own sake, but over time, a community of readers has been created through this space and I want to start writing for my audience, too. By using analytics, I am able to better cater to my readers as well as grow my blog.

Another sub-section is Freelance and Entrepreneurship. This area is a more general section where bloggers and non-bloggers can learn how to price their products, make a living as a creative, and start a successful business. This goes hand-in-hand with the Marketing sub-section, where the focus is more on growing an audience rather than improving content, although I have found that the latter can drive the former.

Thrive

Viewed by some as the least useful section, I would consider Thrive to be my favorite one. In here, you will find ways to organize life for increased productivity as well as meaningful work. I have met many entrepreneurs who can’t seem to get anywhere, not because of a lack of creativity but because of a lack of structure and focus. Creating a business requires both. It can be difficult especially after being trained for many years by the school system to follow structure. As you know from this space, I am all about creating an intentional lifestyle. It may not surprise you to find out that I am even more arduous in creating the ideal work life. I utilize a combination of creating monthly goals, planning my day, and maintaining a peaceful WFH environment to drive productivity. Without it, I would be helpless.

Skillshare really is a great platform for new bloggers and beginning entrepreneurs. It also serves as a starting place for those who want to become a creative without having the experience. If you find that your current 9-5 job isn’t giving you meaning, then this is a way to dabble in a side project that could turn into a line of work.

If you are unsure, you can always try Skillshare for FREE for 14 days. If you really like it, receive a 40% OFF discount from an annual membership using my affiliate link and the coupon code ANNUAL40AFF. This code is available until March 31, 2021. I highly recommend signing up if you are serious about growing your own business and don’t know how. There are many avenues to take, and you can learn about the topics that interest you.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

What To Do With Federal Student Loans Right Now

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

So it has almost been a year since the news first broke out that the US government will be placing all federal student loan repayments on pause with 0% interest. I thought it was only going to last three months, to be honest. But after three (four?) extensions, I thought I should post an update on what you should be doing with your student loans. I hope you’ve been doing these things all along, but if not, that’s okay. We can pivot. Like this post, it’s better to be late than never.

Related Posts:

Hit other debts, hard. It’s no secret that I cannot stomach debt. Part of that is psychological, resulting from trauma regarding debt, but in general, I liken debt to a virus, leeching away at your resources while growing in size. The first thing I did after graduation, even before tackling my student loans, was tackle credit card debt. Most credit cards charge a hefty interest fee. The longer you have credit card debt, the more money you lose. I would also try to pay down any debt you have for your car. Those two are great places to start.

Continue making student loan minimum payments, if you can. I don’t like all this forbearance talk. I didn’t even like the student loan forgiveness program. I think that giving yourself lee-way with paying back debt when you have the ability to pay it makes your financial muscles weak. Even if you want to save money during this unprecedented time for “what-ifs”, I would recommend at least paying the minimum payment. Think of it as a finance work-out routine. It keeps you strong and on top of your game.

Grow your emergency fund. After making minimum payments, feel free to put your extra money in an emergency fund, for now. You want to prioritize emergency savings during this time over aggressive loan payments. With federal loans at 0% interest rates, federal student loans have stopped growing, which gives your money the opportunity to grow. Keep savings in a HYSA like Marcus. My affiliate link will give you an additional 0.20% APY for the first three months. While we wait for student loan repayment to resume, we can increase the amount to put towards it by letting our money grow on the side.

Start saving for retirement. 2020 gave us the breathing room to finally max out our 401-Ks for the first time! Each individual can contribute $19,500 towards their 401-Ks and if you are fortunate, your company will match a portion of that. Additionally, if you have the room, I would also recommend maxing out a ROTH-IRA and contribute to an HSA. These are our personal preferences, but whatever retirement account you have access to or choose to invest in, look at this time as a blessing for retirement planning. We have never had this opportunity to max out our retirement funds, but it’s a habit we will likely hold on to for the future years to come.

Do not refinance. If you have a federal loan, take advantage of the 0% interest rate that it offers. You can invest in stocks, maximize retirement accounts or simply let it grow in a HYSA. Refinancing will increase your interest rate and preclude you from taking advantage of forbearance, which would be useful in times of dire emergency, such as getting ill, let’s say.

Consult with a professional. If all of this seems too much or you feel that the advice does not apply to your particular student loan situation, I would highly recommend talking to a professional. Travis Hornsby at Student Loan Planner has saved us thousands of dollars. Their consultations are well worth the price and you will get more in return than what the consultation costs, which in my opinion is a win! I recommend only Travis and his team, because he knows more than anyone else about this stuff. Schedule your call here and let him know I sent ya using this affiliate link.

Lastly, when all seems lost, know that I am in your corner. You can always reach out to me, too.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

How I Made $475 in January 2021 Blogging From Home

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

As you all know, I took November and December off from blog work in order to focus on my family during the holidays. It was a practice that I always wanted to do (set aside dedicated family time during the holiday season) but I had not been able to accomplish, until last year. I was finally able to become financially independent to quit my job and call the shots at work, including when I wanted to work. This is why there were no income reports posted for November and December. However, now it is the New Year and I am back to work. January was a slow month because I only started to get the ball rolling again. Despite that, I was pretty happy with the result – $475 additional income from doing what I love, which is writing my musings on this blog. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to scroll down 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 January 2021, I made $475 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $396 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 Tushy, Monk Manual, Lunette, Pact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($78) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.

This is the first income from the blog this year! So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $2803!!

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.

Robinhood: An Introduction to Stocks for Beginners

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

Have you ever wondered how to make your money grow? Do you want money to work for you instead of the other way around? Have you heard about stock investing but have no clue where to start? Do you want to practice investing to reach a better understanding of the market? Look no further than Robinhood, a financial services company that has revolutionized the way millennials invest.

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Robinhood is a fairly new platform that has introduced young people to the stock market. It has allowed for next gen investing with ease. The world does not prepare young people to invest in stocks. For the regular new-kid-on-the-block, stock investing may seem complicated. Setting up brokerage accounts, keeping track of management and additional fees, and researching stock options can be quite over-whelming. I would know. When I first started out, I felt like I was drowning in information and uncertainty at the same time. Even learning the terms was difficult!

Robinhood, however, makes investing simple. Signing up for an account is very easy thanks to the form they use. Management of the account has also been a breeze. Unlike other brokerage accounts, Robinhood provides FREE trades on stock, options, ETF, and cryptocurrency. They were one of the pioneers in offering free trades, although many big-name companies have started doing the same in recent years. They also have no required minimum amount for their accounts, meaning the account can be at $0. This makes it an attainable platform for college students and new grads earning very little money or just starting out on their career journey. Plus, they welcome newcomers with a gift: a FREE stock (find out how here!)

When you open your Robinhood brokerage account, you are asked to link it to your bank account. After the connection is made, funding Robinhood is as quick as pressing a button. Unlike other brokerage accounts, Robinhood gives you the credit once you begin the transfer, instead of waiting a few days for the transfer to go through. The immediacy of your funds allows you to invest right away, without losing out on an opportunity or wasting precious time.

Investment on the go has never been easier with Robinhood’s mobile app. Both the website and the app are minimalist and easy to maneuver. There isn’t much to do or choose from, something that more experienced investors find lacking, However, this is a great introductory way for the younger generations to enter the stock scene. It comes as no surprise that the average age of Robinhood users is 31 years old (same age as me!).

Another strength of Robinhood’s is the purchase of fractional shares. Some companies only allow entire quantities of a stock to be purchased. What does this mean? This means that if Apple costs $140, you need to have at least $140 in your brokerage account. Not in Robinhood. If all you have to work with is $50, you can still buy a portion of Apple.

There are, however, a few cons. Mutual funds and bonds are not offered. Also, only taxable investment accounts are available and there is limited customer support. But still. If you are looking to dip your toes in elementary stock investing, this is a great way to limit your costs or start trading cryptocurrency.

One word of caution. If you are new to investing, it is easy to get sucked into the potential growth stocks have to offer. Robinhood makes trading so accessible to millennials that it could almost act like a casino for those with a higher-risk personality. If this is your first experience with stock investing, here is some good advice.

  • Research the stocks that you are choosing to buy. Make sure you believe in what that company is doing. That makes it easier to…
  • Hold onto stocks especially when the market dips. Do not panic and sell your stocks when they tank. If you do, you are taking a hypothetical situation (that being that you lost money) and making it a reality. The market will fluctuate often, but in general, the trend goes up. Have faith and hang on.
  • Treat a brokerage account as your fun money account. I have a fun money envelope in my budget (read about the importance of having fun money in this post) and I will invest the money from this envelope in stocks. Your brokerage account is NOT where your emergency fund goes. The High Yield Savings Account is a better place for that. If you are saving for a home, car, or student loans, place it in a high yield savings account to avoid the risk of losing it all. This affiliate link of mine with Marcus will give you an extra 0.2% APY boost! I would also like to dissuade my readers to Robinhood as a means for their retirement savings. Open a 401K elsewhere or with your company and choose an end-date target fund instead. We shouldn’t be playing games with our retirement savings.
  • Speaking of games, be prepared to lose it all. It is hard to separate emotion from stock trading at first, but perhaps entering with the mindset that you can lose all of your money tomorrow will help. You can think of stock investing as a game. If the market goes down, well you began playing knowing you could lose. Don’t let that dishearten you. Try to think of it as being fun. The stock market is too volatile for it to be your main mode of gaining wealth. I prefer to get rich by doing the small, responsible things such as maxing out a 401K, maxing out a ROTH IRA, contributing to an HSA, travel hacking with credit cards, living a frugal lifestyle through minimalism, paying down my debts, putting my savings in a high yield savings account and reading up as much as I can about finance. I consider the stock market a game, which is why I use fun money a.k.a. extra money that I don’t need for my necessary spending. Other people spend their fun money on things, dining out, travelling, and experiences. But if I spend my fun money on stocks because I don’t need to spend money on all that other stuff, then there is an opportunity for my money to grow. I can lose it all, but hey, everyone else loses all of their fun money by just buying THINGS and they never give money the opportunity to grow. With that being said, don’t place money that you need to access soon in these accounts. That could lead your investing story to a very sad ending.

Despite all of these warning signs, I still suggest young people at least dip their toes in the stock market, if only to experience it and to learn from it. For all new account owners who sign up using my affiliate link, you will receive one random FREE stock. Once signed up, you can spread the word amongst all your friends and family and receive free stocks yourself! Just make sure to refer them using your own specific referral link like I did in this post. Both you and your acquaintance get a new stock with each referral and account set-up (limited to $500 of FREE stock per person per year). This is a great way to start a conversation around investing and to create a community around growing wealth.

How To Use Affirm to Grow Your Wealth

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

In general, I am not a big fan of financing companies because I believe that they enable people to buy more than they can afford, with disregard to social responsibility and actual value. We live in a consumerist society focused on bombarding its constituents with more reasons to buy. The endless cycle of consumption is a rabbit hole that many fall into and never get out of. Because of this, I am generally hesitant to promote financing to my readers … unless it has potential to grow their wealth.

Before reading on, I do want to make the following statements.

I am assuming that the person reading this post is financially educated and savvy, does not live paycheck to paycheck, wishes to grow their wealth, has mastered their budgeting basics, and has an aversion to spending on frivolous things that don’t add value to their life. I would like to say that if you are not all of these things, we need to start elsewhere on growing wealth, and this FREE Mastering a Budget course is a great place to start.

This advice is not for those who are privvy to emotional spending, stress shopping, or just mindless consumption, that which pervades much of our American society. If you feel you have the aptitude and wherewithal to use the information I have yet to divulge about taking advantage of financing in order to grow your wealth, then I welcome you to the rest of the post. But if you have even the slightest uncertainty, I recommend you start with beginner posts such as any of the following:

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With that said, let’s continue on to how we can use financing companies such as Affirm to our advantage.

What is Affirm?

Affirm is a financing company that has recently experienced an increased exposure due to financing partnerships with multiple companies. In January 2021, they went public with the ticker symbol $AFRM and have seen an increase in stock value since their IPO at $45. I have personally seen Affirm used in a few of my favorite companies such as East Fork Pottery, La Marzocco, Nisolo, Dyson and Leesa. While this post was not written in sponsorship with Affirm, the eureka moment for utilizing its financing options came to me at a time when I was mulling over alternative wealth growing strategies.

Given that someone has good credit and can secure a 0% interest rate with Affirm when buying big purchases, they can extend their payments over a short number of months (because long-term financing leads to increased rates) which may allow for investment opportunities.

We aren’t talking big bucks here, of course. But what if everyone who is financially stable approaches all forms of consumption with a mindset of, “pay myself first.” If they embrace this mindset, then they would likely prefer to pay for their new Leesa mattress in three payments over the course of three months with 0% interest rather than upfront. If a new mattress costs $1,200, then divvying up payments into thirds allows for $800 to be invested over the course of one month and $400 to continue being invested for an additional month. You are still able to obtain the product at $0 additional cost to you via Affirm financing while Affirm gives you the time to grow your money. Of course, this is assuming that you were already going to buy this product that adds value to yourself. It is not an excuse to buy, just because.

This concept of pay yourself first is not the mentality that many people take. However, I view it as a great strategy for growing wealth – one that simply requires the reframing of our approach to paying for stuff.

It seems quite silly. Small, even, for some people. It can be especially controversial for finance people who promote paying everything upfront in cash. Some people may view Affirm financing as debt. I would like to argue that we can reframe this perceived debt as a calculated decision made to grow your own wealth before growing someone else’s.

Finance gurus who dissuade the use of credit cards may be cringing at my suggestion, but I guess I’m not exactly conventional in that regard. I mean, I use the opening of credit cards in order to fly globally for free by travel hacking! So yeah, I love credit cards (as long as it is used in a controlled manner to further yourself along your life path). And I like the flexibility Affirm gives people, who may take advantage of the opportunity to grow wealth.

As I said at the beginning of this post, if you are someone who hasn’t yet mastered your spending and your budget, I recommend not trying this tactic. But if you are ready to go next level with the way you pay for your stuff on a day-to-day, it’s something worth considering.