Top 5 Small Business Tools

I recently realized my favorite part about being a creative is starting small businesses. In the past few years, I have started multiple small businesses. This list includes a blog, a micro-bakery, and a dog-sitting business. In my ventures, I get the most excitement from beginnings. However, when I am doing the actual work on the daily, I get this negative feeling inside. Is it boredom? After some self-discovery, I realized that my favorite parts are in growing the business. Creating a business idea, creating websites, working on marketing, optimizing financials, and brainstorming for new ways to grow are my favorite things to do. Once business becomes stagnant, I lose interest. I see now that growth is my motivator in life, both in business and personal. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you my top 5 small business tools that will help a small business grow!

Top 5 Small Business Tools

  1. WordPress. A website is very important to growing your brand. Actually, even if you don’t own a small business, I think you should still have a website for yourself. As we progress into the digital space, each individual should embrace a brand that represents them in the professional world. No matter what that looks like, it should be expressed on a website that is easily found online. Like a resume, it should include a brief bio, your mission statement, and what you’ve been up to in the past few years. WordPress is a user-friendly platform that costs very little to start. You can use my referral link here to get $25 off your first purchase – this could cover your custom domain.
  2. Tailwind. Social media presence is crucial these days. It is not only a social platform, but a place to sell your products and services as well. Twitter sells your brand, Pinterest sells your site, Instagram sells your products and services. The most important thing about social media is consistency. Posting and engaging every day is important. If you don’t have someone managing your social media then you have to do it yourself. Tailwind helps streamline the process by scheduling future posts at ideal times. You can time-block your schedule and set aside one hour to schedule all the posts for the week. Everything from there runs on auto. You can try Tailwind for free at first to see how you like it, but eventually you’ll want to post often enough to do a subscription of some sort. It really changed my life and freed up my time and to-do list! I love time-blocking so this app really worked for me!
  3. Flodesk. Growing an email list is very important to your business. Your email list should consist of subscribers who are interested in your product or services. Engagement is key as that boosts interest. And emails help alert people when you release a new product or service. This will then increase conversion rates. Sending out emails even once a month makes a big difference! I used to use ConvertKit but switched to Flodesk recently. This post explains why I made the switch. Since moving to Flodesk, I have had more fun creating emails, and they’re a breeze too. I genuinely believe people can tell when you are having fun doing your work, because I have also seen an increase in subscribers! Flodesk is great for email marketing beginners. Sign up for a Flodesk account to start growing your mailing list today. There’s no time like the present!
  4. Moo. People may say business cards are a thing of the past, but I don’t think that’s true. When I was growing my bakery, people took my business cards at Farmer’s Markets and I left my business cards at restaurants and coffee shops where I dropped off bread samples. For the dog-sitting business, I left my business cards at the local coffee shop and about half of my clients are from there! People will be drawn to your business if you have great cards. That’s why I recommend Moo. They’ve got easy-to-use templates, great quality cards, made in modern prints and sizes. My most popular cards are those in a square shape with a gloss print.
  5. YouNeedABudget. I am always promoting YNAB for personal finance but it is useful for small businesses too. Proper accounting of your expenses and income will drive future growth with the business. You need to know what the profits are, and where you are bleeding money. Analyzing the finances of small businesses is really fun for me. It challenges me to find creative ways to save, as well as new ways to make more profit. If you have a small business just starting out, YNAB could be a good option for now. Eventually, you will grow to a point where you could outsource the accounting and taxes to a professional. I highly recommend Prescott Tax and Wealth Management for my local peeps. Until then, sign up for YNAB and try to do things on your own while starting out.

There are many business tools out there, but these happen to be my top 5 tools for small businesses.

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

Thoughts: On Work

Earlier this week, I came home from working a day of dentistry. It was Monday, which is a day I am usually off. I was covering for a friend who went on vacation to Korea for a month. I pulled into my driveway as my neighbor was putting away the groceries. She saw me wearing my Figs scrubs (the only brand I wear for work) and cocked her head to the side. “What else do you do besides taking care of dogs?” A funny question, as the dog business is my side-hustle. But here in my neighborhood, I’m known as a dog caretaker, not a dentist. So I told her I work as a dentist and she appeared even more confused. “But if you’re a dentist, why do you bother taking care of pets?” she asked.

Now it was my turn to get a quizzical look on my face. This happens a lot in my life. A sort of disconnect between myself and others who follow the formulaic status quo. I could tell right away that she didn’t understand the point of working if it wasn’t for pay. It was also obvious that she viewed work as a job that one must do, whereas I viewed work as fun things I like to do. She is a stay-at-home mom and might be proud of the fact that she didn’t have to work. It’s also possible she was insinuating the question, “Do you not make enough as a dentist that you have to do more side-hustles?”

So I answered her as truthfully as I can.

“I take care of pets because I like to. It’s fun for me, and I fall in love with them and treat them like my kids. I started out watching just one or two here and there, but now I get requests all the time. Since I have a lot of time on my hands, I accommodate as many as I can. This way, our neighbors can go on their vacations with peaceful minds, knowing who is taking care of their pet family members.

I actually do a lot of things! They are all fun for me and give me joy. On top of taking care of pets, I am helping a bakery grow and I write a blog to help new grads, moms, and people in debt live minimalist lives in order to get closer to financial freedom. I also volunteer at the farm down the street. You should join me sometime!”

Her son came out of the house at that point. A saving grace for both of us. ‘Ah, okay’ as she backed away. I hope I didn’t freak her out. But it’s true. I can’t say at what point during the pandemic I actually became financially free – in the sense that I am not tied to my money, and I stopped working for pay alone.

Perhaps it was when I had enough FU money to quit the job that I hated. More likely it was the healing time period when I learned that I could create any position for myself. Or maybe it was after people reached out to me to help them. Did you know that I never asked to work at either of the two dental offices I currently work at? Actually, I was expecting to never work in dentistry again! I also did not apply to be a wholesale director of the bakery. In all three cases, they came to me and asked if I could help at times when they had no one.

I do my work because it entails helping others. That’s what I like to do. Not because of the money anymore. If my jobs were taken away from me today, I wouldn’t be sad, mad, upset, or worried. I would probably just shrug my shoulders and keep contributing myself to this life, keep showing up for people I’ve gotten to know. Not much would change, except maybe a pivotal shift on where I spend my energy most.

When I think about work, I don’t think of it in the traditional sense of a job. I just think of it as another day where I go and help a few people out. That’s all. I am not dependent on a specific company or career. I am only dependent on myself. I’ve focused on building myself up rather than building a career. (That’s advice I would give any college student!)

My neighbor was probably thinking to herself, “Poor gal. She has to work so hard to be able to live.” I’m over here thinking, “How do I get this neighbor out of her box to join me in this thing called life?” Hopefully we become fast friends. Bringing over banana bread might do it.

Do what you love, and call it work. Some say it can’t be done, but I’m trying my darndest to prove them wrong.

The Ever-Growing List of Things I’ve Done to Get Out of Student Debt

I graduated from dental school at 26 years old with $575,000 of student debt. That fact alone was mind-blowing enough to land me a podcast interview on Choose FI back in 2018. I then became the first interview with Travis Hornsby on Student Loan Planner Podcast. Since then, I have partnered with Student Loan Planner and Student Loan Advice to help young grads tackle their debt. Because the shocking reality is that big debt exists for almost every new-grad out there. Which is why this blog was originally born. I wanted to share my path towards financial freedom in the hopes of helping others maneuver past their student loans. I really hope it has helped thus far. Today, I decided to write a round-up post on everything I have done to get out of student debt. I’m sorry it has taken this long.

But before we get to it, you might be interested in The Ever-Growing List of Ways to Earn Extra Income, The Ever Growing List of Things I’ve Given Up in the Name of Frugality, and The Ever-Growing List of Things I Have Given Up in the Name of Creating Less Waste. You may also want to read my interviews with other bloggers. The UnOrthoDoc shares how I am paying back my student debt in 7 years. I talk about the effects of our heritage on personal finance in an interview for the series Blood Debts. And Making Sense of Cents shared how I used side-hustles to catapult debt repayment.

The Ever-Growing List of Things I Have Done to Get Out of Student Debt

  • I worked three jobs during under-grad to support myself financially and to take as little debt as possible. This work ethic is what got me to start side-hustling my way to financial freedom. Check out these posts for ideas: 15 Early Morning Jobs To Jump-Start Your Day and 3 Early Morning Jobs I’ve Done to Earn Extra Money.
  • I chose a college that I could commute to for Undergrad. Even though I got into more prestigious schools, staying local was an intentional choice. I lived at home with my parents in order to save money on rent and food.
  • I finished Undergrad in 3 years. I was able to do this by taking more than 10 AP classes in high-school. These credited as college credits. My college classmates suggested I stay the fourth year to ‘get the full college experience’. I chose to graduate in three years so I could save on tuition and work full-time in my ‘fourth year’.
  • I moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband and two guy friends in order to save on rent during dental school. I lived near campus the first two years and was paying $1200 per month in rent. I asked to live with the boys in a city 30 minutes away to save money. My rent went down to $375 per month. After calculating in the gas, I ended up saving $600 per month the last two years of dental school. This equated to over $14,000!
  • I hired a financial planner who ended up saving my life. I spent my first paycheck to pay for his services. He listened to my needs and wants, and made a plan that worked for my goals. I owe all of my financial success to him. I always recommend interviewing a few options before choosing the planner that’s right for you. A few options are Travis Hornsby’s Team from the Student Loan Planner or Andrew Paulson’s team from Student Loan Advice backed by White Coat Investor.
  • We mastered our budget. I think budgeting is the most important life skill for financial well-being. It doesn’t matter how much you make, if you don’t know how to control spending. That’s why I wrote a Free Course on Mastering a Budget. We use You Need a Budget (YNAB) for our budgeting tool. It is my absolute favorite. I call YNAB our secret weapon. I recommend people create a budgeting tool that works for their needs. You can always try YNAB for free for 34 days.
  • I paid off all credit card debt within six months of graduating from dental school. If you have trouble paying off your credit card debts, you can always try The Credit Pros. They will help identify the most damaging and most helpful credit items, as well as provide advice and educational tools.
  • My husband and I got a roommate for the first five years of our marriage. Getting a roommate is the best way to save money on rent. In California, housing expenses are very high. By getting a roommate, we were able to save money to buy a home. Learn more about co-housing here.
  • We bought a home which gained equity. We then sold the home in 2021 to buy a better home. We took the equity and saved it for loan repayment. Find out How We Made Our Home Cash Flow Positive and How Home Ownership Sped Up My $575,000 Student Loan Repayment.
  • We travel-hack in order to see the world. One of our top life priorities is to travel. We spent the first five years of our marriage traveling to 10 countries and over 10 states. We did that without paying for air-fare. Learn how to TRAVEL FOR FREE in this post.
  • I worked midnight shifts as an early morning baker. It eventually led me to open my own bakery. When that shut-down in 2020, I became the wholesale director of the previous bakery. I had no experience as a baker, shop owner, or salesperson. But I ended up doing those things simply because I asked to learn.
  • I opened a dog-sitting business. I now earn over $1.5k a month taking care of other people’s pets. If you want to set up a dog-business, sign up below to receive my guide in your inbox. It walks you through the steps I took in order to set up my business and thrive within 6 months!
  • We placed all of our savings in a High Yield Savings Account with Marcus. A HYSA gives a higher interest rate than a savings account at a bank. When the pandemic caused a pause in student loan repayment, we held on to our money ‘in case of emergencies’ and stored it in a HYSA. It has grown with interest while the student loans are at 0% interest. It really catapulted our loan repayment journey forward! Sign up with my referral link to receive an additional 1.0% APY bump on the current listed APY for the first three months.
  • We invested money in I Bonds in order to beat inflation. On top of putting our savings in Marcus, we recently invested the maximum amount possible in I Bonds. Due to high inflation rates, I Bonds are currently at 9.6% APY until October 2022. This rate of return is unbeatable especially at a time when stocks are down. I really recommend I Bonds as a hedge against inflation. Learn more about it in this free email course.

  • I decluttered all my stuff and embraced minimalism in order to reduce spending. Here is a list of 100 things to declutter if you want to get started!
  • I try my best to resist the attention economy. I try to avoid a consumerist lifestyle. Instead, I engage in free activities that bring me joy and vitality.
  • I started this blog! I learned a lot about blogging and how to turn my writing hobby into a side-hustle. It all started with taking the course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I learned how to make passive income through my writing. I really love this course and have taken it over and over again. It’s a one time fee for life-time access. It is the most life-changing course I have ever taken and definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to start a blog.
  • I’ve done everything on this list to save as much money as possible. All the money I saved, I put towards my student loans!
  • I’ve done everything on this list to make money. Saving only gets one so far, so making money is also key.
  • I invest in personal growth and learning. I read at least two books a month. There is variety in the topics I choose. I never assume I know everything about a topic. Plus I have embraced fiction as a way to learn more about the self. You can check out the recent books I have read on GoodReads.

Photo by Adam Bartoszewicz on Unsplash

Why I Switched My Email Marketing from ConvertKit to Flodesk

This summer, I switched my email platform for the blog from ConvertKit to Flodesk. I have been loving creating emails ever since! What once was a chore is now a fun activity for me. I look forward to creating pretty emails for my readers, without the stresses or hassle of complicated platforms. There are many pros to switching to Flodesk, and today I will share with you why I ultimately made the switch! I did it, and personally, I never want to go back.

But before we jump into email automation systems, perhaps you are just starting out your blog? Or you are considering whether blogging is for you? If that’s the case, check out these popular posts on my blog.

Flodesk Made Emails EASY

I am not a techy person and I did not get a degree in marketing. To be honest, when I started to create emails, I signed up for ConvertKit because it was recommended by another blogger. But I never got around to creating content. The ConvertKit platform was too technical for me. It was boring, designed mostly with code, and had complicated automation workflows that had me feeling lost. I spent a ton of time trying to figure it out, and never getting anywhere.

This year, I came across Flodesk. After being frustrated with my email experience, I decided to take a chance on Flodesk. I now love it! Flodesk took out the complicated stuff and made email creation easy. Pre-designed templates provide me with inspiring ideas. Customization is as easy as swapping out text and photographs. And making emails from scratch is also a breeze with the blocks that Flodesk provide.

Workflows Are Clear

Flodesk is a very visual platform. Workflows are clearly outlined by trigger labels. Each subscriber can be automatically assigned to an existing workflow. At the end of the series, they can then be subscribed to the next workflow. Automation is wonderful. All I have to do is select the number of days between each email drop. And on Flodesk, you can see the flow easily! In ConvertKit, I was always wondering where my subscribers were going and how to get them to the next email. Now I can focus on the CONTENT and send out beautiful emails without the headache of figuring out automation systems and workflows.

Flodesk is Cheaper

At the end of the day, Flodesk saved me money. To subscribe to Flodesk is only $39 a month (although it is $19 a month with my affiliate link here!) Unlike other platforms, Flodesk does not charge based on the number of subscribers you have. You can have an unlimited number of subscribers and still be charged the same fee. While ConvertKit is only $9 a month for a Creator Subscription, they charge $25 a month once you hit 1,000 subscribers. And the price only goes up from there.

Flodesk is a fairly new company, so of course, they are still growing and figuring a few kinks out. It is not as advanced as a more established platform such as ConvertKit, but to be honest, that’s what I like about it! It is simple and easy to use. Those with more experience may find Flodesk to be too elementary, and that’s totally okay! As always, I recommend choosing what works for you.

Personally, I have been enjoying using Flodesk, and I just wanted to share it with others who may be hoping to start a blog or an email list for their small business or company. I seriously think that Flodesk is the best email marketing platform for beginner bloggers who don’t know much about the technical side of marketing. You can always do a free trial to see how you like it.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I only share about companies that I truly believe in.

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Top 10 Easiest Things I’ve Cut Out of My Budget

The biggest push back I get when I talk about cutting costs and saving money is that it’s difficult. People fear the word ‘budget’ because they associate it with negative implications. As a writer of intentional living, I can tell you that is not true. The point of budgeting is not to deprive yourself of things that make you happy. Rather, it is a curation of activities that you choose to engage with in order to prioritize that which makes you happiest. Because of this, budgeting is a personal task. There are some things that may be easier for you and your family to cut out than others. I recommend you start there! Today, I want to share my top 10 easiest things to cut out of my budget.

Top 10 Easiest Things I’ve Cut Out of My Budget

  1. Alcohol
  2. Shopping for clothes
  3. Beauty Products
  4. Personal Maintenance (manis, pedis, haircuts, etc.)
  5. Certain groceries like snacks, bars, soft drinks
  6. Paper towels (went fully green in 2018 and never looking back)
  7. Fancy restaurants
  8. Entertainment (Bowling, Movie Theatres, Theme Parks, etc.)
  9. Cable TV
  10. Buying books (yay for libraries!)

As you can see from my list, I can easily give up food, activities, and goods for myself. I wrote an ever-growing list a long time ago, but these ten were the easiest to let go by far. It’s been a while so I do have a caveat that some of my thoughts on the items on the ever-growing list have changed. But in exchange are other things current me won’t spend money on. Of course, everyone is different. There are things I would not sacrifice, such as good coffee and quality goods. That is totally okay! The point is not to deprive, but to thrive.

With current inflation at a high, I think we all need to practice what I’ve been preaching for the last five years. Which is, to flex our frugal muscles as best we can. We may be in it for the long-haul, but the better we are at managing spending, the more we can shoulder the weight of rising prices. If you’re new to the space, do check out my course, Mastering a Budget. It’s helped a lot of people get started!

Photo by Amol Tyagi on Unsplash

I Made Over $1K Last Month Taking Care of Pets

Dog sitting is one of my favorite side hustles. There are many positive aspects to dog sitting that make it a great side gig. (I share my favorite pros, as well as cons, in this post below.) The best thing about dog sitting is that I get to hang out with cool canines and make decent additional income for it. Essentially, I get paid to do something I already love to do! In May of 2022, I made over $1k taking care of pets. I foresee the same revenue in June, which is already mostly booked. In this post, I share why I chose dog-sitting as a side-hustle and the pros and cons of dog-sitting. I also included a simple start-up guide at the end of this post which will walk you through how I created a profitable side-hustle from my love of animals with zero capital and zero experience.

Why I Chose Dog Sitting As a Side Hustle

Taking care of people and things has always been my strong suit, and pets are no different! I have always loved animals. In particular, I love how affectionate and loyal dogs are. Plus, I like to get to know their personalities. My parents currently have a 14-year old female yellow Labrador. As the child who always lived close by, the responsibility for taking care of her when my parents went on vacation usually fell on me. She was my inspiration for creating a business out of dog-sitting.

My First Dog Sitting Experience

It was the summer after graduating from dental school when I got my first booking. I had a three month gap between passing the national boards and getting my state license to practice dentistry, and I was hurting for money. I had moved back home for a month and was watching my parent’s dog while they went away for a week long vacation. One of my friends saw on Instagram that I was taking care of a dog and asked about his own. I offered to watch his dog for a week while he was away.

The dog’s name was Bixby. Bixby is an adopted dog who is cautious and defensive around humans. His owner was nervous to leave him alone for the first time, but he did really well with me and my dog. In fact, he was very loyal and loved to sit by my feet. Whenever I moved to a different chair, he would follow. I enjoyed watching him roll his back in the grass, although I always had to stop him from eating it.

I thought to myself, I could get used to walking dogs and watching over them while their families are away, especially dogs with special needs or who have difficulty socializing. There are many dogs who would not do well in a day care facility because of trauma or anxiety. There are also many dog owners who do not want to kennel their dogs for weeks at a time. I could provide love, attention and care, adopting these dogs as my own while their parents were away.

However, I did not start my dog sitting journey then. After a month, Mike and I moved in together, renting a live/work loft. We did not want to bother the landlord for permission to have pets. We did not buy our own place until two and a half years later. My dog sitting business began three years after I watched Bixby. A year into dog sitting, the world shut down. I didn’t take care of dogs for a year-and-a-half.

Flash forward to today. I rebuilt my dog sitting business, RMV Tail & Paws, after moving to a new neighborhood (our second home) six months ago. Last month, I made over $1k taking care of canines within our community. I care for each one as if they were mine and Mikey’s. Plus, I got to meet a lot of great, kind families along the way. It was an awesome way for me to integrate into our new neighborhood!

Side note: I believe in turning hobbies and passions into income-producing side hustles. I think that we all have certain talents and strengths that we can share with the world, and those talents and strengths show up in our hobbies and passions. Side-hustles built around things I love make it feel like I am not working at all, but also, end up being the most successful businesses. I have done many side-hustles, mostly in the early mornings when I am most creative and have the most energy. Check out these early morning side hustle ideas for inspiration!

Pros of Dog Sitting

There are many positive aspects to dog sitting. Here are a few of the reasons why I enjoy taking care of dogs!

  • I get the benefits of a dog’s company, love and affection. Mike and I view each pet as one of our own. We end up forming really great bonds with the dogs we watch, who in return gives us a sense of purpose and meaning in life. So many of our pets rush to the front door and get excited when they know they will stay with us. I really love that.
  • We get to meet our neighbors and make friends with people in our community. The pawrents of these pups have been really nice. They care about their dogs a lot, and we build relationships with them. It really helped us settle down in our new space.
  • I get to spend more time with my husband. Mike and I enjoy creating ‘vacation plans’ for the pets. It forces us to have a ‘stay-cation’ too. We try to plan a fun event every few days for the dog. Whether that’s a hike, a beach trip, or a dog park play date – it ends up being a great time for Mike and I to connect with the dog and each other. There are no phones on these outdoor activities and long walks.
  • The dogs get me outside. I have to walk them a few times a day, which is beneficial for me. I get some sun, listen to the birds, breathe fresh air, observe plants and wild life… pretty much absorb all the good things nature has to offer.
  • Dog sitting gets me up very early. It is one of the many early morning jobs I have taken up. I feed the cat and the dog at the same time at 5:30am. Then as the cat finishes up his food, I take the dog out on a walk. I love having a productive morning and this ensures that before I even make a cup of coffee, I do something that gives to others and to myself too. Walking is rejuvenating for the soul and one of my favorite things to do when I walk or meditate and observe my surroundings. I used to listen to podcasts when I walk dogs because it made me productive, but I have found productivity in the walk itself, too. This part of dog sitting had really improved my mental health.
  • I set my own schedule. I book my dog sitting days and dog walking days when I can, but not every time I am asked. I can always say no to a booking for whatever reason. It could be because I am too busy with my other jobs, I want some relaxation time for myself, or even because I don’t think the dog is a good fit with my lifestyle, home, family, or cat.
  • I set my own prices. I am able to call the shots when it comes to fees. I do charge extra for dogs who have special needs, or for additional services. I also charge extra for holidays and for inconveniences.
  • I get to go through my regular day without too much extra work. The thing with dog-sitting is that, aside from feeding them and walking them, it’s pretty much a regular day for us. I can work on my blog or bake in the kitchen. I can also do billing and accounting for the bakery, or enjoy a good book. Dog-sitting isn’t active work all the time.

Cons of Dog Sitting

As with anything, there are a few things to note about dog sitting. For example, I have to be more flexible with dogs around. Here are a few cons.

  • I have to be okay with messes in the house. I am a pretty neat and tidy person, and for the most part, most dogs have been okay. If a dog is especially messy or tends to break things, I offer to watch them at their house instead. Or I offer drop-in visits where I simple check-in on them, walk them, and feed them in their home.
  • Sometimes, there are accidents. Dogs can pee when they get excited or scared. Which means we have to roll up our Nordic rugs every time we have a dog over – just in case. It’s not too much of a hassle, but it is an inconvenience.
  • After every doggy stay, I have to clean the home. Kind of like AirBNB visitors, doggy visitors can leave a bit of a mess. The cleaning time if part of the job.
  • We have to be home more often. We don’t like to leave the dogs at home alone especially because their parents are already away. I am sure they miss them dearly, so we try to spend every moment with the dogs. With Mr. Debtist working from home, there is always someone here during the weekday. On weekends, we limit the errands we have to do.
  • We can’t schedule impromptu date nights or socializing events. This works out okay with me since I am a heavy planner. Planning ahead is actually how I am able to juggle all my side-hustles! (If planning is habit you want to take up, check out my top 5 favorite planners for productivity). However, there have been occasions where we were invited to something last minute and were not able to attend. One has to be okay with missing opportunities like that.

How I Built A Dog Sitting Business

I built a dog sitting business for FREE and built up my clientele on my own. It was quick, easy, and simple. Dog sitting was something I was able to get off the ground right away. I made profit with the first booking, and built up from there. I created this guide to walk people through how I built my dog sitting business from scratch with zero capital and zero experience. If you want to start making additional income taking care of pets, this download will definitely be useful for you. It contains tips and tricks I wish I had when I started on my journey! Within six months, I was successful and earning over $1k per month. I believe you can, too.

The Secret to Success

I think what made my dog sitting business successful is my dedication to the pets, as well as my excitement whenever I meet someone new. I care deeply about each one. Being genuinely passionate about your work show others that they can entrust you with their pets, which are like family members. As with all types of work, love what you do and it won’t feel like a means to earn money. It will legitimately make you feel happy and accomplished. Convince people of your own happiness and you will be successful at what you do.

The Best 2022 Birthday Freebies

Back in 2020, I wrote a post about celebrating our quarantine birthdays by collecting as many birthday freebies as possible. It started off as a request for Mike’s birthday. Since then, it’s definitely become a thing. I made fun of him for it at the time, but I secretly enjoy it. My birthday is in June. Which means, I recently signed up for as many freebies as I want. It took me about fifteen minutes, because I did a majority of the work last year. (Every club membership keeps giving back year after year). You kind of just build onto your repertoire of freebies, y’know?

Birthday freebies are a major giggle. Imagine zooming around town on your birthday month, just picking and choosing from a list of desserts, drinks, and food. I definitely recommend trying it – especially for the little ones!

There are hundreds of birthday freebies to be had out there, including local hidden gems. I only sign up for the ones I want to pick up. I don’t always get around to all of them, but at least the option is there. Had a bad day at work? Grab a freebie! Have a busy week? Pick up a freebie for dinner. Running late and couldn’t pack a lunch… you get the gist. Birthday freebies are a great pick-me-up and add a little extra support to make your birthday month more enjoyable. Here are a list of my favorites across the U.S.

The Best 2022 Birthday Freebies

  1. Denny’s – Free Grand Slam on the birthday month
  2. Chili’s – Free dessert for the birthday week plus free chips and salsa anytime you dine in
  3. Red Robin – Free birthday burger
  4. Sprinkles – Free cupcake, redeemable until the month after your birthday
  5. Auntie Annie’s – Free pretzel, redeemable until two months after your birthday
  6. Wetzel’s Pretzel’s – Free pretzel for downloading the app, and another free pretzel on your birthday
  7. Baja Fresh – Free Burrito (with purchase of beverage) , valid until the month after your birthday
  8. The Habit – Free Charburger, valid for two weeks
  9. Jersey Mike’s – Free Sub and 22 oz. drink
  10. Baskin Robbins – Free ice cream scoop or soft-serve, plus $3 off an ice-cream cake
  11. Ben N Jerry – Free ice cream scoop, plus $3 off an ice-cream cake
  12. Buffalo Wild Wings – Free birthday wings valid until end of the month
  13. BJs – Free Pizookie for signing up for rewards and also for your birthday
  14. Breugger’s Bagels – Free bagel with cream cheese for signing up and also on your birthday
  15. Einstein Bagels – Free bagel egg sandwich with purchase on your birthday – usable for 14 days
  16. Nothing Bundt Cakes – Free Bundtlet valid for one week
  17. Buca Di Beppo – Free pasta after signing up and a $20 birthday gift voucher
  18. Chipotle – Free chips and guacamole with $5 purchase
  19. Cinnabon – Free Iced Coffee on your birthday and free BonBites for signing up (must download app)
  20. Chick Fil A – Free ‘birthday surprise’ when you download the app
  21. Cold Stone Creamery – BOGO coupon for your birthday and for signing-up.
  22. A & W – Free root beer float for your birthday
  23. Acapulco – Free entree on your birthday and free appetizer for signing up with entree purchase.
  24. Del Taco – Free regular size premium shake
  25. Dunkin Donuts – free beverage on your birthday
  26. Edible Arrangements – Free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box during birthday month as long as you’ve spent $29 in the past calendar year as a member
  27. Godiva – free birthday chocolate
  28. Hooters – 10 free boneless birthday wings
  29. Ihop – Free shortstack pancakes on your birthday
  30. Krispy Kreme – Free doughnut
  31. Marie Calendar’s – ‘exclusive offer’ for your birthday and wedding anniversary – slice of pie and $5 off your check
  32. Olive Garden – complimentary dessert on your birthday – no sign-up needed
  33. On the Border – “special surprise” on your birthday plus free dessert with purchase of an entree
  34. Pinkberry – Free yogurt if you download the app
  35. Starbucks – Free beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards
  36. PF Changs – Free dessert or appetizer on your birthday month
  37. Applebees – Free dessert on your birthday when you dine-in, plus if you sign up for their EClub, you receive a coupon for a free entree
  38. Benihana – Free $30 gift certificate redeemable any time during your birthday month
  39. Corner Bakery Cafe – free baked good
  40. El Pollo Loco – Free 2 piece chicken meal or a free chicken tostada salad
  41. Yogurtland – free 3 oz yogurt if you sign up for their rewards
  42. El Torito Grill – Free entree for your birthday plus a free appetizer when you sign-up for their EClub
  43. Jamba Juice – Free smoothie
  44. Johnny Rockets – Free hamburger when you purchase an entree and a drink
  45. Panera Bread – Free pastry

I randomized it so that they aren’t presented in any particular order. To be honest, we usually pick places that are closest to us to save on gas money. I would not recommend driving far just to get a $5 freebie, especially considering the gas prices. You can make it more efficient by going on one endeavor and mapping out the best route to take in order to hit the most number of stops. I prefer to spread them out throughout the month. The best part is that Mike and I are two weeks apart, but our birthdays are in different months. So for some rewards, we overlap and we both get free food. For others, we do a back-to-back trip and split the treat.

I hope you nab freebies for your special day!

What You Need To Know About I Bonds: The Inflation-Protected Asset

It is May 17, 2022, and the current market is down, down, down. This applies to both stocks and crypto. Putting money in the market can be scary for short-term holders (although it’s a sale for long-term holders!). Plus, buyers in the housing market are slowing down with interest rates at nearly 6%, double what it was for the past two years. Meanwhile, the inflation rate is up, with an April-to-April rate change of over 4%, which makes holding onto cash unideal. For those near retirement (5 years out or less) or those saving for shorter term goals and want their wealth to grow, there is a solution in I Bonds! I Bonds are low-risk, inflation-protected assets that are currently yielding a 9.6% annual return until October 2022. This makes I Bonds a great investment option right now. Here is what you need to know about I Bonds.

What You Need to Know About I Bonds

I Bonds are an inflation-protected asset. While inflation remains high, I Bonds will likely continue to see high interest rates. In November 2021, the I Bonds had a guaranteed 7% interest rate. Just this month, the interest rate bumped up to 9.6% and will remain at that rate until October 2022.

The I Bond interest rate is determined by a fixed rate and the inflation rate. Currently, the fixed rate is at 0%, and the inflation rate is at 4.3% for the next 6 months. This is how we get to 9.6% annual rate of return. The interest rate renews every 6 months. It will remain at 9.6% until October, when the rate will change. If inflation goes up, then the rate will go up, too.

I think everyone should be considering I Bonds right now. But before you buy, here are a few things to note.

Facts About I Bonds

  • You can invest $10k per person/entity per calendar year into I Bonds. I have also heard that you can invest an additional $5k in paper bonds directly from your tax return.
  • Per entity means if you own a business or a living trust, you can invest $10k in I Bonds on behalf of those entities as well.
  • The interest rate is redetermined every 6 months.
  • I bonds cannot be cashed for at least 12 months (1 year). Do not tie up money that you need in 6 months, for example. Do not tie up your emergency fund into an I Bond either. Look at it as a short-term investment. If you are looking to buy a house at a moment’s notice, I Bonds are not the option for you. However, if you wish to buy a house next year, then definitely consider it!
  • The life of the investment is 30 years. But the money can be pulled out any time after 12 months.
  • There are no penalties for pulling the money out before the 30 years are up if it has been in the I Bond for at least 5 years.
  • If the money is pulled out between years 1 and 5, you lose the interest gained from the last three months. This doesn’t sound terrible to me. For example, I can buy $10k in I bonds right now with the plan to pull it out in a year. I will gain 6 months of interest at 9.6% and 3 months of interest at the percent determined in November 2022. I can still beat the current market.
  • There is no state tax on I Bonds.
  • There is a federal tax on the gains, but one way it can be federal tax exempt is if you use the money from your I Bond to pay off higher education costs from a list of approved institutions, including paying off your student loans! However, there are requirements. For example, you cannot file married filing separately. Income requirements also apply. Single tax filers must have an adjusted gross income less than $94,550. Married tax filers must have an adjusted gross income less than $149,300. I would definitely check out the rules on this page.

Who Could Benefit from I Bonds

I Bonds can be a useful tool for multiple financial situations. Whether you are a college graduate looking to pay off student debt, a high school graduate just starting college, parents who want to start a college fund, a young couple saving up for a home, an almost retiree looking to earn in your last five years of working, or a short-term investor unhappy with the current state of the market – all of these people may want to consider I Bonds.

Learn more about I Bonds at the Treasure Direct Website.

Trying to decide what to do with the rest of your cash? Why not consider a High Yield Savings Account? If you happen to choose to open a Marcus High Yield Savings Account using my referral link, you can receive an additional 0.20% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) on your Online Savings Accounts for 3 months. Learn more about HYSA in my post below.