How I Made $390.38 In June 2020 Blogging From Home

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

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 Marketing, and 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 2020, I made $390.38 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $380 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive and review 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.
  • $10.38 is from affiliate links. This means that people clicked on a link I wrote about and I earned commission for referring a consumer.

I know it seems like not 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.

Finance: Financial Independence is for times of COVID

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

There are circulating rumors that this pandemic has deemed the FI movement dead. Articles in mainstream media have been claiming that people who are in the midst of attaining FI are now struggling to live. As a FI defendant and warrior, I would like to say that the opposite is true. In fact, this pandemic has shown our little family that the path to financial independence is strictly for times like these. Not saying that I ever expected any of it to happen. I mean, there’s no way I could have predicted this and I certainly did not wish it upon the world. But the financial independence journey is the reason why this pandemic was so good to us. Here’s why.

Why FI is for times of COVID

FI is built on a number of different life-hacks that enable one of my life’s core values: freedom. The word independence itself is crucial to the term FI. Many of the principles in the financial independence community center around independence from other things such as your job, the market, societal expectations, debt, and of course, money. All of this was affected by the pandemic.

Those who are following the FI principles are more likely to have embraced job independency through side-hustles, entrepreneurship, self-employment, or simply creating multiple income streams. Many FI families had an emergency fund to carry them through times such as these past few months. If you’ve taken my course, you also know that mastering a budget is a super-power. If you’ve truly mastered your budget, you would have control of your spending, created a savings, and also planned for the spending a few months ahead. Most FIers lack debt. I, of course, have a huge student debt, one that I’ve also worked diligently to free myself from (see the progress here!). But even this single choice to aggressively pay down my student debt has helped me significantly during COVID-19! I mean, who would have ever predicted that you could get six months of 0% interest rate on student loans? Nobody, ever.

Meanwhile, the market is crashing and FIers with money reserves in their mastered budget can invest at low rates. They can buy rental properties due to their stellar credit history. They can survive off of an emergency fund in case of a layoff. Better yet, they can use their additional income streams or refocus their money-making to their side-hustle business. I’m not saying this is the time to brag, but perhaps it’s the time to pivot.

How COVID helped our financial journey.

Perhaps the reason why people think that the pandemic will negatively affect FIers is because not many of us have been sharing how it has helped. I can’t speak for all FI families, but for us, here is what happened.

  1. Mike had wanted to pursue coding for a while. We decided to sign him up for a course in January and paid the tuition upfront and in full, which we were able to do thanks to our great budgeting and savings (Our entire budgeting method is compiled in this course that I wrote, if you’d like to follow in our steps). In February, about a month before the March 15th California lock-down, Mike offered to be laid off from a company that was down-sizing by forty percent, in exchange for a severance pay that would help with the transition into coding. After the severance pay ended in April, he qualified for EDD due to the lay off and got an additional $600 a week that the EDD was paying out to those who just found themselves unemployed, thus easing the transition even more. In fact, we had expected to receive $1800/mo from EDD prior to COVID 19. Due to the additional $600, Mike gets “paid” $4200 per month to study a course. What does this have to do with FI? Well, we wouldn’t have been able to pay for the course upfront without a savings. We wouldn’t have felt comfortable with Mike switching careers without a stable financial background. And we wouldn’t have been so non-chalant about the lay offs without a back-up plan (which is our other income streams).
  2. I have multiple income streams. I own a corporation as a dentist and pay myself. As a dentist, I work at two different offices which also increases my chances of always having work. I also owned a bakery which I closed a week before the COVID shutdown (for real! What timing…) but which I considered turning back to if both dental offices remained closed (they didn’t). I also had a dog-sitting business on ROVER, as well as this blog wherein I make commissions through affiliate linking. I was out of dental work for a week and a half wherein I spent most of my time writing about it. I then went back to work (three days a week, half the amount of time I usually worked) and poured more time into this space. It has grown tremendously the last two months! All of this to say, I had options in terms of career.
  3. All public student loans got reverted to 0% interest until September 31. This means that any student trying to pay down debt aggressively has a chance to make the money snowball go faster! Of course, I paid only the minimum monthly requirement for these COVID months just to keep cash liquid in case of emergencies, but now we’ve found ourselves sitting on a big chunk of change that we could use to buy a rental property. This gives us choice. I could drastically reduce the loan repayment journey to 2.5 more years, or I could invest in more long-term passive income.
  4. We house hack which means we have someone living with us which helps us pay mortgage. I would count this as an additional income stream for us.
  5. Speaking of mortgage, we refinanced our home. Due to our great credit, there was no hitch when we decided to refinance. The refinance gave us an additional $500 a month to put towards something else!
  6. We paid off Mike’s car in May, therefore paving the way for quickening the loan repayment journey now that we can funnel those would-be-car payments into student loans.
  7. We used COVID related benefits for health professionals and medical doctors such as retail discounts. Some of these benefits continue until the end of 2020.
  8. We got free food when fast food places. I think we made use of free tacos on Tuesdays from Taco Bell four times. Mike got a free meal from Cafe Rio. Mike’s dad and grandpa live in a 55+ community and they received weekly boxes of nearly-expiring groceries. They picked what they wanted and Mike and his sister (and me) benefited from the rest, which then reduced our grocery bill.
  9. COVID inadvertently reduced our monthly spending. Our cleaner couldn’t come for her bi-weekly cleaning which saved us $200 a month. Why would she when all three of us were home to clean, anyway? Mike had no work so there was no need to commute. He took online courses at home, which saved us $100 a month in gas. The aforementioned free food from Mike’s dad and grandpa saved us $100 in groceries per month. Since the yoga studios and gyms were closed, Mike and I had to replace our new-found love for yoga with running outdoors, thus saving us $250 a month.
  10. COVID prevented us from traveling. All our trips got cancelled, which made us quite sad but at the same time, it saved us close to $10,000. (Between March and July, we had trips planned to Japan, Maldives, Hawaii, two trips to Norcal, one to San Diego, a bachelor party for Mike in Colorado, a bachelorette in SD…). We had two weddings that were also sadly cancelled.

Let’s add this all up, shall we?

During COVID, the following things changed in our monthly budget:

$4500 from EDD for Mike’s work transition
$500 per month savings from the home refinance
$585 per month savings from paying off the car
$200 savings from not having a cleaner
$250 from not having a gym membership
$100 gas savings from not having a commute
$100 from the food box donations
$1400 a month of interest that the government isn’t taking from my student loans

That’s $7,635 savings per month due to COVID. Multiplied for the two months we’ve been in this lockdown.

Plus the $10k that we saved from not traveling.

I would assume we have saved near $25,000. Plus the liquid cash I kept from only making the minimum payments for student loans ($16,500).

Now you know why we are looking at a second home.

The FIers are not going to suffer from COVID. If anything, they are likely the least to suffer. I know of FIers who have bought one rental property a year for 15 years straight. Most of them make passive income from real estate or intellectual assets. Many are entrepreneurs, self-published, self-employed, self-sustaining. Most don’t have debt and they ALL have funds to rely on. On top of that, they have a well-balanced investment strategy that is mostly hands-off which protects them from panic-selling during times of market volatility. We are frugal, make use of opportunities, are in the know of life-hacks and benefit from financial situations such as these. That’s what FI is about. And everyone can become FI. Even though the media and the general public would like you to think otherwise. Just like they tried to tell me the loans would be unwise to pay off.

Is FI for you?

If you’ve recently lost your job due to the pandemic, perhaps it’s time to create a space for yourself. There are many pros to being self-employed. Even something semi-self-employed such as creating contract work under your name is a great option. Additionally, now may be the time to chase a dream of yours by picking up a side-hustle. Do something you love, and make money doing it. I did that with this blog, and if that interests you, perhaps you’d like to learn more about how to do that here. If you want to make money dog-sitting, apply to Rover today.

If you felt the crushing loss of a job and didn’t have an emergency fund, then the last few months may have been difficult. The EDD stipend of $600 a week to those who are unemployed has helped many, certainly, but really, having an emergency can also alleviate that stress. Start by mastering your budget. It’s the first step to all financial independence journeys.

If you have a lot of debt, it’s time to start paying it off. Student loan questions in particular? Now is the time to talk to a professional. Our recommendation is Travis Hornsby of Student Loan Planner. Schedule an appointment through my affiliate link, here.

It’s never too late to start. Trust me. I started from the bottom. Negative $575,000 bottom.

How Cyber Monday Can Grow a Blog

It was around this time last year that I got serious about turning this blog from something entirely personal to something more helpful to the general public. I would say that it was this exact weekend that I implemented a number of changes and additions that eventually led me to publishing TWO courses this past year (How to Create a Budgeting Tool That Works and Mastering a Budget). While there are other cyber Monday deals out there that you can spend your hard-earned dollars on, here are a few that actually gives back in terms of profit, making it more like an investment rather than a purchase.

Teachable – the platform I used to create both my online courses

If there’s anything I know, it is that you have valuable skills, experiences, and expertise in something. Every one of us, including you, has something to share with the world — something that others would love to learn.

And while creating an online course is one of the fastest ways to leverage on your time and increase your earning ceiling — it’s also one of the best ways to help more people.

When you create an online course, you’re able to change your student’s lives.

So my question for you is: who’s going to be grateful for you this year when you create your course and share your knowledge with the world?

Yes, you can earn a side-income from your course. Maybe even a full-time income from your course eventually. But there are so many other benefits to creating your course and sharing what you know with the world.

A surprising number of people have found that having their own online course becomes an amazing creative outlet. You get to share your passions and knowledge with the world!

And best of all, you get to do it on your own terms. You get to be your own boss, and you can pursue your biggest, craziest ideas without anyone saying that you can’t. When was the last time you had that kind of creative freedom?

On top of that, you’ll find it’s a real joy to interact with your students. 

Whether you have a course on parenting, or building a vegetable garden…watercolor painting…or even playing the guitar… (yes, these are all real courses on Teachable). 

You’ll find yourself losing track of time. You’ll be fully immersed in the course creation process, and you’ll get to talk all about a subject you love. (With people who love to listen!) 

You don’t need to be a big recognized expert to make a big impact on the world. 

We’ve seen it time after time. Newbie course creators will start off filled with self doubt, but then they take the plunge and share something.

They have zero expectations at first. But all of a sudden, one person enrolls…then ten more…and eventually hundreds, or even thousands.

These course creators are thrilled beyond belief. They never thought “lil’ old them” could be in demand like that.

The bottom line is this: You have hidden talents that the world needs you to share. 

You deserve to feel great about doing work you love. 

You can be the one who helps other people reach their goals. 

I 100% believe this.

That’s why I want you to take advantage of Teachable’s best deal of the year.

Not only do you have a chance to get annual access to Teachable for just $299 (saving $169), but in a couple of months, when you put in the effort, you’ll be able to ask yourself, “Who’s grateful for me?” And there will be a whole bunch of students excited to raise their hands. (And hey, you can be earning a pretty nice side-income as well.)

So if the idea of creating an online course excites you—if you’ve even thought about it for a second—you gotta check this deal out.

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ConvertKit –the platform I use to build an email following

It helps to have an email following. Subscribers are people who have a genuine interest in hearing what you have to say. They are a great group of people to connect to and if you are hoping to teach a particular topic to an audience, there is no better collection than your squad of subscribers.

My followers are amazing, supportive, interactive, and optimistic. They ask a lot of questions about budgeting, paying down student debt, and living a simple lifestyle. It is very gratifying to be able to help this community, and it is because of them that I continue to write.

Having an email following is also useful if you want to reach out to people en masse, or if you have something to share with like-minded folks. Convert Kit has an easy way of organizing people by category, so that those interested in simple living will not get emails about budgeting.

I would highly recommend Convert Kit to any online writer who wants to build a community.

There is a 30 day free trial for Convert Kit for those who are unsure about Convert Kit, but one thing is definite: do not wait to create an email following! It is something that I wish I did early on. It has brought me closer to my readers and has made my writing more meaningful, both to me and others.

After a year of trying it out, I have finally switched from a month-to-month subscription to an annual subscription today, thus saving me $86.

PicMonkey – the site I use to create banners for the blog and Pinterest

PicMonkey is an easy-to-use website for creatives using visual aids to accompany their work. It is especially useful for Pinterest if you want visually captivating banners. Most people who go to Pinterest are in search of something in particular. The ability to catch their attention and redirect them to what they are searching for is key.

Many bloggers underestimate Pinterest as a social media platform, but it is actually the most useful platform to bloggers. Imagery makes it easy to catch the attention of users who are searching for something, and the linking can redirect them to a specific blog post or page.

Off course, PicMonkey has other uses. I specifically use it to create banners for my website, or to create imagery that promotes my courses.

I will even use PicMonkey for personal things, such as invitations to parties or holiday cards. It’s as easy as Paint, but with more functions.

You can try PicMonkey for FREE for 7 days, and then decide if it’s useful to you.

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – the course I took that taught me how to monetize a blog

All of this, I learned from a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing written on Teachable by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. I have spoken extensively about how this course helped me monetize my blog, so if you are looking to invest in a course about blogging, I think this is it!

Off course, the final Cyber Monday deal that I’ve got to offer is one that is my own.

Get 75% OFF my course Mastering a Budget by doing the following:

  1. Subscribe to TheDebtist below

2. Follow TheDebtist on Instagram.

 

All subscribers and followers will receive a discount code in their inbox tomorrow that will give them 75% OFF of the course. This is my way of saying Thank You to all my followers. I couldn’t be here without you.

Also, I would like to open the conversation up to those who wish to see something different or new in 2020. Reach out to me below, or just say “Hi!”

Feature: How to Manage and Pay Off Multiple Credit Cards with Andrew Rombach

I LOVE credit cards. I think that credit cards are really useful when their perks are used efficiently, in things such as travel hacking for example. We use them frequently to fly to places around the world for free. However, my relationship with credit cards wasn’t always good. In fact, I used to hate them. My money egg story here explains how my perception of money was greatly shaped by my parents’ influence. At sixteen years old, they had me open a few credit cards under my name, and then maxed out those credit cards. By the time I was a freshman in college, I was getting letters in the mail saying that the credit card minimums are not being met and that my credit score was being affected. When I confronted my parents, their answers were “Don’t worry about it. We have it under control.” Since 2007, they had maxed out my cards at $20,000. Eventually, when I was 21 years old, I became brave enough to say “No more” and shut down all credit cards that they had access to so that they couldn’t keep using them. To this day, they still owe $8,000 towards that debt. This relationship with money is what made me fear my student loans, and it is eventually what propelled me to knock ’em down! Because this means that all this time, my parents were paying massive amounts of interest on credit card debt, and they still have not been able to pay it back. Credit cards have some of the highest interest rates and unless they are paid back in full at the end of every month, they only work to hurt your financial journey. Therefore, while I advocate the use of credit cards in order to propel you forward in reaching your finance goals, I also warn that you must have the wherewithal to be able to handle credit cards well. If you are starting from a place with existing credit card debt, my advice would be to work with all you’ve got to pay it down … OR COMMIT FINANCIAL SUICIDE! We don’t take credit card debt very lightly around here. So when Andrew Rombach from LENDEDU asked if he could share some tips with my readers, I was all on board. If you are struggling with paying off your credit cards, I hope you find some useful info in this post. 

Do you find yourself in the vicious cycle of trying to pay off your credit card debt? Do you have multiple cards and aren’t sure where to start? You’re not alone in that struggle. Credit card debt is a common problem for consumers. It’s all too easy to fall into. Just take a look at a few nationwide statistics.

According to the Federal Reserve, households in the United States owed a collective $999 billion in credit card or revolving debt by mid-2018. Some sources put average credit card debt at over $6,000 per consumer, and cardholders typically have 4 credit cards. That’s quite a hefty sum to deal with for any household, and if you find yourself in this situation, then you may find yourself stuck paying the minimum endlessly on several cards.

While getting out of excessive credit card debt is hard, it’s certainly not impossible. There are a few ways to manage your credit cards or transfer the debt that can save money, make your life simpler, or both. Check out a few of these tips if you want to find a different approach to your credit card debt.

Try Debt Consolidation Loans

A debt consolidation loan is basically a personal loan used to pay off various forms of debt, or credit cards in this case. To put it simply, you apply for and take out a loan from a bank or lender, which is usually unsecured. That loan pays off your credit card balances. Now you must make monthly installment payments on just one loan instead of various credit cards.

Consolidation loans provide the benefit of simplifying monthly payments to just one payment; plus, it adds certainty to repayment because you can stick to one repayment schedule with an end goal in sight. Furthermore, clearing your credit cards may lower your credit utilization ratio. Finally, a possible interest rate reduction on your debt could save money. This new debt consolidation loan comes with a new rate, so it could be lower than your credit cards depending on your credit.

A drawback is the eligibility requirements for a new personal loan. Lenders prefer applicants with a great credit profile and high income; in fact, those applicants are more likely to get lower interest rates. Also, remember to use newly-cleared credit cards wisely moving forward. You don’t want to be left with a loan balance and mounting credit card debt again.

Time Your Payments Accordingly

Some credit card debtors consider timing multiple monthly payments to save on interest. Interest cuts into your principle payments and extends the repayment process, but timing additional payments can help reduce your principal balance before interest accrues.

After making your monthly interest and principal payment, your interest balance should be lower moving forward. Before it accrues again, it may be worth making an extra payment on your cards. This will cut into the principal balance more significantly, and it also reduces the amount of interest paid on the next scheduled monthly payment.

On the negative side, not everyone has the extra cash to make a second payment each month. If you don’t have the money, then you may need to settle for another way to save money and expedite repayment. 

Try Either the Debt Avalanche or Snowball Method

The debt avalanche and snowball methods are two different ways to handle multiple credit cards over time, and neither requires taking out a loan or new credit card.

The avalanche method requires you to make large credit card payments on the account with the highest interest rate, while paying the minimum on all other accounts. After you pay off the high-interest credit card, you repeat the process with the next high-interest card.

It’s counterpart, the debt snowball method, works in a similar way, except you must prioritize low-balance credit cards. You would make larger payments on the credit card with the least debt and maintain the rest. When paid off, start paying more on the next low-balance card.

A major benefit of these methods is simply organization. They help you get on track with a plan of action. By prioritizing high-interest debt with debt avalanche, you’re paying off multiple debts more efficiently which should save money (eliminating high-interest debt reduce interest costs). With the snowball method, you can simplify repayment by cutting out low-balance cards from the equation. It’s generally accepted that avalanche saves more money than snowball, but that is still up for debate.

These methods are ideal because they require budgeting with your own cash (no loans involved), but this may also be a drawback because it’s very hard to pull off without the extra money for larger payments.

Balance Transfer Credit Card

If you opt for this method, you will take out a new credit card that comes with a lower interest rate, preferably a super-low or 0% rate during an introductory period. You then must transfer your credit card balance to this new card and begin repayment. It’s similar to debt consolidation, but the debt is transferred to another revolving account instead.

The point here is to get a lower interest rate on your credit card debt in order to save money. Ideally, you can get a zero-rate offer for up to a year or more which would save the most money. The goal is to pay your debt before that intro period is over.

Like with debt consolidation, you may be tempted to rack up more charges on a freed-up credit card. Remember that the debt doesn’t go away; you still need to pay it off. Also, balance transfer cards may be less suited for transferring multiple balances depending on your new credit limit.

Find the Method That Works Best for You

Each method offers its own set of benefits and drawbacks. One method could suit your budget perfectly, but another may not be the best fit. If you have the cash and organization skills, then maybe debt avalanche/snowball would work best. If your credit is stellar and you’re used to loans, a debt consolidation loan could be the solution.

Finding the method that works best for you is what matters most. Be honest with yourself and look at which style will best suit you – and then starting acting on it.

Andrew is a Content Associate for LendEDU – a website that helps consumers with their finances. He got his start in content and finance by writing all about credit cards. When he’s not working, you can find Andrew hiking or hanging with his cats Colby and Tobi.

Finance: Make Money Dog Sitting with Rover

This blog post is in affiliation with Rover.com, a platform that connects dog owners with dog sitters. I, myself, am a dog sitter at Rover and this hobby-turned-side-hustle is one of my additional sources of income!

I love watching dogs for other people. Actually, I love watching animals, period. But especially in the past half-year, I have dedicated my time to taking care of other people’s pets while their owners are away. How? Through ROVER. Rover is a hobby-turned-side-hustle and it is one of my most favorite gigs. Today, I wanted to take a few moments to share with you the benefits of becoming a dog sitter for Rover, plus a few tips on how you can start earning your own extra income by taking care of pets!

But first, why be a dog sitter?

I don’t like the idea of placing dogs (or cats) in kennels or small spaces overnight, and since my husband and I have plenty of room and time to spare, we have taken on a number of dogs in the past year. We have no children of our own, but we like to think of ourselves as temporary parents to these loving creatures. In return, being a dog-sitter gives us a number of life benefits. Here are a few of our favorites.

Benefits to Being a Dog Sitter

  • Increases Income – Dog sitting is a side-hustle. It increases our income, thereby allowing us to pay off my student debt faster. The amount of money you earn from Rover depends on what services you provide, as well as how much you choose to charge. That’s right! Rover lets YOU decide how much to charge. Off course, a cheaper price will increase your market, but a more expensive price will also reflect your level of expertise. Currently, we charge $30 a night for dog-sitting services. And since dog sitting for us is FUN, I like to think of it as getting paid for having a good time. We earn over $200 for a week’s stay. If you can manage to book your calendar more frequently or if you charge more for your services, you can easily earn up to $900 as a part-time Rover sitter. Rover reports that sitters who work full-time and take on 2-3 dogs at a time earn an average of $3,000 a month! I can see how someone can earn even more than that by adding multiple services to their profile – such as dog-walking, house-sitting, and in-house visits. However, do remember that Rover charges 20% for the use of their platform.
  • More Frequent Exercise – I will be the first to say that Mike and I hardly get any exercise. It’s a fault of ours, I know. Barring early morning yoga stretches with Adriene, and occasional laps at my parent’s community pool, Mike and I do not have an existing exercise routine. Being a dog-sitter forces us to at least walk two to three times a day for thirty minutes. On weekends, it forces us to take the dogs to parks and beaches, and we sometimes run (gasp!). Typically, the weekends involve longer walks that span one to two hours, or more activities such as ball tossing and frisbee soaring.
  • More Productive Mornings – I wrote recently about predawn priorities and ensuring productivity in the early mornings here. Dog-sitting facilitates all of that. We usually wake up early when our cat signals that it’s time to eat … at 6 am on the dot. It escapes me how he knows it’s time, but to avoid any interferences with his breakfast schedule, we take the dog out as the cat feeds, instead of crawling straight back into bed. Having a dog around makes sure that we are up and about in the wee hours of the morning, and by the time we’ve walked, the cool refreshing morning air and mild exercise has prepped us to start our day. I lay out the dog’s bowl of water and food, Mike hops into the shower, and I make breakfast and coffee.
  • Further Exploration of our Neighborhood – We are lucky in that we live in the heart of a downtown area. So there are plenty of places wherein one could take a dog out on a walk. Dog sitting gives us a reason to explore more of our neighborhood. It gets us out in the later hours of the evening, and allows us to see the vibrant city life that we would otherwise avoid due to our homebody-ness.
  • More Quality Time – What I cherish most about dog sitting is the quality time it lends to Mr. Debtist and myself. My favorite moments include playing chase with a new pup, tossing a ball between us as the dog runs back and forth, going on long walks along the beach on weekends, or having long conversations as we walk our own neighborhood. I also love snuggling on the couch as I read and he plays video games, with a dog on one side of our laps and a cat on the other. We make a great team, dedicated to walking the dogs together, and taking turns feeding the pets as well as socializing them with our cat. We kind of create these little memories for our family, and I like to think the dog appreciates the quality time just as much!

Now that you’ve heard my favorite parts of being a sitter, let’s talk about how you can start your own journey to getting paid for playing with pets! But first, why Rover?

ROVER connects dog sitters to animal lovers.

Pet sitting is an ever-growing industry, and we are far from reaching its peak. As travelling becomes more accessible, we will see a continual increase in the need to have people watch over the pets who are left behind. Most people would report that they would rather have their pets stay in the comforts of someone’s home rather than be caged in a kennel overnight. This is not only great news for pets, but for people who are seeking to earn extra income in this line of work as well! But how does one get started in building a name for themself and connecting with dog owners in their area?

Enter Rover.

FOR SITTERS…

Rover is the perfect platform for both new and experienced dog sitters. It connects potential dog-sitters with pets in the area without needing to put up flyers or create ads on Craigslist. The audience that you have on Rover is specifically made up of people shopping for dog sitters. And dog owners love Rover too, because it lists a number of different services, including dog boarding, house sitting, dog walking, doggy day care, and drop-in visits.

Not only does Rover connect you with dog parents, it is also a great space to build credibility. Reviews after each sitting are public, and is a great way for you to spread your quality services via “word-of-mouth”. You can also upload photos of yourself with dogs or of your home where dogs will be staying to convince dog owners that you are the right person for the job.

However, this does not mean that everyone should be a sitter. You need to make sure that your home is a loving and safe environment. You also need to be confident in your ability to take care of pets. This not only includes dog walking but also feeding, administering medicine, and reading dog behavior. You have to be active enough to give the dogs an appropriate amount of exercise, flexible enough to cater to the pet’s walking and feeding schedules, and patient enough to understand and learn each dog’s unique needs and wants. Lastly, you need to be a good communicator to the doggie parents, and competent in caring for the pet in case emergencies arise.

FOR OWNERS…

For pet owners, Rover makes searching for the appropriate sitter an easy task. You simply enter the dates, the appropriate zip code, and you can search through a number of profiles to find a match that would be good for your furry family member. As suggested per Rover, you can schedule a meet-and-greet to see if your pet and the sitter will get along, or to visit the house that your pet will be staying at. You can read profiles and reviews of your sitters, and rest assured that Rover performs a very thorough screening process for all sitters.

In fact, according to Rover.com, only 1/3 of the applicants make it through the screening process. And just to give a real life example, I actually applied to Rover upon hearing that a dentist colleague of mine also applied. My colleague has owned dogs before, currently owns a dog, and is a responsible and fun guy. We applied at the same time. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a position on Rover.com, who’s to say why. Rover requires all applicants to fill out a generic form, submit some photos, write essays, and answer situational questions. Examples of such questions include: “What would you do if the dog you are watching starts to fight with another pet at a dog park?” or “How will you ensure that your pet will not accidentally escape from your home?”. They ask how you would communicate with the owners if an accident were to happen, or how you would facilitate a meet-and-greet. It is obvious that the pets are Rover’s number one priority.

Lastly, Rover offers complimentary insurance for all services booked through Rover, as well as access to 24/7 vet consultation and partnerships for the sitters. Their cell phone app makes communication easy between sitter and pet parent and it allows photo sharing for those who wish to keep a visual tabs on their pet.

A Guide to Becoming a Dog Sitter

If you are a dog lover interested in earning some extra income, or if you are someone hoping to make dog sitting a full-time gig, then here are the steps to growing your new-found doggy business.

  • Apply to Rover by filling out their general application form.
  • Gather photos of your experience with dogs.
  • Collect references that Rover can call. Let these references know that you’ve given the company their name. It is best to refer either dog owners who you’ve helped in the past or people who have seen you interact with dogs before.
  • Rover will send you a questionnaire full of situational questions. Answer them to the best of your ability. Try to keep at the forefront of your mind the pet’s welfare. Be honest in your answers.
  • Once approved, you need to set up a sitter profile. Include photos of your home and interactions with dogs. Tell people a little bit about yourself and your experience.
  • Part of the job is managing your own calendar. If you have any other engagements, you need to put that in the calendar so that searching dog owners will know what days you are available. Rover makes it very simple for you to create a recurring weekly schedule. Blocking off dates for personal time is made easier with the Rover mobile app.
  • Define your parameters. Determine the size of dogs you are willing to watch. Figure out which services you wish to provide. For example, I am solely a dog sitter, which means the pups have to stay at my house. You may wish to be a dog-walker, or a house-sitter, or offer in-house visits. List all your precautions and requirements. For example, I only choose to watch dogs that get along with cats. I also only accept dogs who are completely potty-trained. Lastly, I only take one dog at a time, unless there are multiple dogs from the same family, in which case, I take a maximum of two dogs. No two families may book with me at the same time, in case two dogs do not get along well with each other. At the end of the day, this is your business! You get to decide your limitations.
  • Offer owners a discount by providing a link that Rover gives you. This discount link gives your bookers a $20 discount while still allowing you to be paid in FULL. This discount only applies if the dog owner is new to ROVER. With the discount, you are more likely to get a review as well, so I would kindly ask everyone who books for one. These reviews can get you even more bookings in the future, since most people would trust sitters with a great history. However, you want to ask for honest feedback, not just five-star reviews. You want to know how you can improve your services because only great customer service will have dog owners coming back.
  • Now you are waiting for your first booking. Rover will send you a notification when someone wants to book with you.
  • Schedule your first meet-and-greet. I would recommend doing a meet-and-greet with every pet. You want to make sure that the pet is trained and compatible with yourself and your family. It is always best to be introduced to a pet on neutral ground, such as a public park, rather than at your home where a pet may feel intimidated.
  • If the meet-and-greet goes well, confirm the booking. Request feeding schedules, walking schedules, drop-off and pick-up times, emergency contacts, veterinary hospital numbers, as well as a list of behavioral tendencies. Ask for permission to take the dog out on any adventures you may have planned and inquire whether the owner prefers to get updates or photos throughout the stay. I like to communicate at least once a day with an owner.
  • After every stay, I follow up with the owner and ask for that review! As you get more reviews under your belt, the bookings come more easily. Eventually, enough people will know your name that you create good relationships with them and you no longer need to use the site to get more bookers. Tip: the best times to get bookings is on holidays and weekends. Being in town and able to watch pets during the holidays is a great tactic for dog sitters, since most families do their traveling during this time!

And that’s it! You can create a savvy side-hustle or full-time gig taking care of pets today. If you think you’re ready to start earning money dog sitting with Rover, sign up here. If you are a pet owner and want to be matched with a sitter, right this way. If you would like to have me watch your pup, this is me. And for all who are new to Rover, why not get $20 OFF with this discount: SAMANT24058 ? See y’all there!

 

The Importance of Fun Money in Financial Sustainability

We all know that I talk a lot about sustainability, harboring borderline ad nauseam (debatable). Most oft, it refers to an environmental topic, but once in a blue moon, it will refer to something finance related. This is because tackling a student loan of $550K+ has taught me a thing or two about how to set yourself up for success with paying down debt, one of which is that the looming debt seems to most an insurmountable task that very easily deters a person from pursuing a tackling of said giant. And if you were as crazed as I about financial freedom and you did pursue freedom from debt, I would postulate bet my money on the fact that we are looking at a journey long-term. In other words, opportunities abound for insecurities to start kicking in, and there are many forks in the road that either lead you back to where you started from (in our case, on a 25 year loan forgiveness plan) or to a dead end. So we must talk sustainability if we are to expect a level of success. More importantly, we must talk sustainability if we are ever going to c r u s h this game (which we are!)

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Finding Financial Sustainability

Saving every dollar towards achieving a goal can be a grueling task. Most inquiries from outsiders center around how we survive the suffering. Surely, we must be starving ourselves of LIFE in an effort to be free?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Firstly, if you think that’s the case, then you don’t know us at all. I think both of us are averse towards doing anything we don’t feel is right. Read also as anything we don’t want to do. And while that seems bratty at best, it’s actually the perfect recipe towards a happy life.

Secondly, I agree. Anyone who is bogged down by the stresses of meeting payment requirements may have difficulty enjoying “the finer things”, but who gets to define “the finer things”? Only you. So while society spends their hard-earned bucks on Rolexes and Teslas, your idea of a finer thing could be a cup of coffee, a morning of solace, a day outdoors, yeah?

And lastly, even when it comes to purchasing stuff, we have the ability to, but with mindfulness. We don’t have a tendency to purchase things right when we see them anyway, and scoff at that on-demand-pull that gets most people to do some regretful spending. What we do have is a category in our budgeting tool (this link will take you to my course on how to set up your own budgeting tool). We have to thank our CFP (who is no longer doing CFP work but who have been invaluable in sending us on our way to a healthy, financially fit life – see The Value of Having a CFP) for teaching us about the importance of having a category for spending on OURSELVES.

Yes! I am talking about a category dedicated towards FUN money.

Sustainability comes from a variety of inspirations and motivations. Just when the going gets rough, one can find the push they need in a community, in the re-evaluation of perspective, in a reminder of the reason WHY we started in the first place. Sustainability can also be found in a bribe – a reward persay … but a calculated reward. This is what fun money is.

How to Set Aside Fun Money

Fun money is literally a category in our budgeting tool. It sits under the “Wants” grouping, and gets allocated a monthly amount. Nothing large by any means. We are talking $50 a month. If we want something more than $50, then we have to save for a few months.

We have our own separate categories for fun money, and we can spend our fun money however we want. Fun money is spent towards things we want but we both don’t benefit from. So, for example, if I want to buy a book about bread, then that will come out of my fun money fund. Or if he wants to buy a video game to play with his guy friends, then that will come out of his fun money account.

There isn’t anything extravagant about the fun money bucket. Because the amount is so small per month (less than 1% of our entire income), there is no guilt associated with it. Because we each have our own category, there is no blame when one spends their fun money. And because we already planned for the spending ahead of time, there is no buyer’s remorse. In fact, the opposite is true. It starts the habit of serious consideration prior to purchasing, because you realize how long it took to build up your fun money fund, and makes you assess whether there are better methods of spending. In fact, I think fun money is a great way to teach kids about appropriate spending habits, especially if the percentage set aside towards fun money is small compared to what they actually receive from birthdays, holidays, and rewarded chore duties.

How Fun Money Helps With Sustainability

So you can buy a few items. Whoop-dee-doo. How does that help with paying down a massive student debt?!

The psychology of working essentially for free and putting all your hard-earned dollars towards a debt that allowed you to work in the first place is difficult to describe. The taxation on the mind, as well as the emotional roller coaster that one experiences, cannot be stressed. Some days, you wonder what it is exactly that you’ve done. You start to question whether it was all worth it. Eventually, you’ll come around. But the hoops you have to go through to continue on this journey … it’s comical how emo the whole thing is. Like I said, the insecurities roll in like a fog. You don’t realize their coming, but they sneak up on you. It is during these times that you may need a little boost of confidence. Moral support does the trick, but there are days when I feel like no one else TRULY understands. Because how could they? We all travel different paths, and no two are exactly alike. An activity helps as well, but only momentarily, as it steals the mind and takes it elsewhere. The insecurity doesn’t fade, however, and soon you are left where you started. Unless the activity spans a long period of time, all you can do is wait.

However, the human mind responds very well to a reward system. In fact, it responds so well, that many people are obsessed with rewarding themselves, so much so that they suffer from excess consumption. No need to go down that rabbit hole now (AGAIN). Reward systems are involved in positive reinforcement, or in bribing people to do what one wants them to do. So really, I guess I’m bribing myself. Or at least, I am psychologically tricking the mind into resetting to a more positive thinking space.

The human mind doesn’t respond to starvation. Nothing lives after that. But the reward system, the mind understands. Fun money allows me to give myself calculated rewards. Things that I have already budgeted for, the purchasing of which is controlled. I don’t need much, as we already know, but occasionally, I need a push. I need breathing room. I need a break. And then, I can keep going.

Fun money makes this work sustainable. Less scary, somehow. More manageable. It makes me less of an anomaly, and more human. Hopefully, it makes me more relatable, and shows people that this isn’t me performing some heroic. It’s something that’s achievable for others too. I hope it gets them to start on their own journeys, knowing that sustainability is possible, and that fun money doesn’t make you less dedicated, nor does it make you less successful. If anything, I will dare to say that it’ll feed your fire, and make you succeed where others only dare dream.

Pictured: My most recent purchase, supporting Two Days Off, an ethical clothing line by Gina Stovall based in Los Angeles, CA.

Finance: The Second Year of Paying Down $550,000 in Student Loans, An Update

I can’t believe how fast time flies! The second year of paying down my student debt has passed, and I didn’t even notice. After the first year, I posted an update that outlined a review of our journey. It seemed to help some, so I decided to do the same for the second year. This year there were some ups and downs (a lot more downs than we thought would happen), but I am so pleased to announce that we are on track to finish paying off our debt in under 10 years. In fact, if we continue on this same trajectory that we’ve been on, we are actually estimated to finish 6.9 years from now, for a total of 8.9 years!! And I have high hopes to bring that number even lower. Read on to find out how we got here, and where we plan to go.

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To recap, we started off our journey with $574,034.50 of student debt (including the interest that had accrued)! All of which was mine. To date, we have paid a total of $145,128.48 towards my student debt over the last two years, bringing the principal amount down to $481,368.06.

To understand the progress, do recall that after year one, only $28,000 went towards paying down the principle. The rest of the $84,000 that we had paid towards the loan went towards the interest only. This means that only 33% went towards paying down the principle amount of the loan.

In year two, you start to see improvement. Of the $61,000 we paid to the loans, $29,000 went towards paying down the principle. That’s 47.5% of our payments going towards actually making the loan smaller!

Off course, you will see right away that we paid way less towards the loans in year two ($61,000) versus year one ($84,000). If we had paid the same amount or higher, we would have had an even higher percentage going towards the principle balance. So I guess this is a great time to recap what slowed us down this year.

THE SET-BACKS

  • In September of 2018, we decided to buy property. Property ownership was something we felt was right for us to do. We bought a live/work space that we hope to utilize in the future for some sort of business. Meanwhile, we are co-housing, or as financial independents might say, house-hacking, our way towards paying down the mortgage. Buying the property did entail two things to happen: We used some of our emergency fund to place a down payment on the home. Because of that, we are now re-building the emergency fund back up to what it was, which decreased our ability to pay back loans. Currently, we are setting aside $1k a month to rebuild the emergency fund and are on track to being back to normal in March of 2020. Also, it raised our total payments towards our housing a teeny bit, since now we pay for things like HOA fees and home insurance.
  • In October of 2018, we were delivered some shocking news. Mr. Debtist’s company experienced a laying off of 80% of the people working there, and even though Mike was one of the “lucky” few to stay, his pay got decreased by more than 50%! It was something we were not really prepared for, so on top of wanting to re-build the emergency fund, we also had to deal with a huge blow to our income. Since we were living off of one income, the change in salary really affected our ability to pay down the loans. But we made it work! That’s part of the joys of being on Loan Forgiveness Program even though we were paying it back aggressively. They still only required the minimum payments. Off course, we continued to pay more than the minimum. We were able to keep up with the interest that accrued and to slowly bring the loans down.

THE POSITIVES

Now that those two negatives are laid out, here are some positive things that happened!

  • A conversation with Travis from Student Loan Planner (affiliate link) is saving us THOUSANDS of dollars. He brought to our attention that we could optimize the loan repayment by switching from IBR to REPAYE. How does this help? Under REPAYE, the government subsidizes the interest at 100% for the first three years for an subsidized loan, and at 50% for unsubsidized loans and subsidized loans that have been present for longer than three years. Which means every month, we are given a free $850 to go towards our loans and help us out! This is fantastic because now that Mr. Debtist has a new job and we are back to our previous income, we also are getting help to pay back the debt. Whereas last year we were paying $6,500 per month towards the loans, we are now sending $7,300 towards the debt with the help of REPAYE’s stipend. And while we were dealing with the smaller income stream for four months, we were still getting that helpful $850 to add to the few thousands that we were contributing to the loan. If you want some loan advice, I really think Travis is your guy, and you can schedule a call with him to discuss your particular situation.
  • Additionally, the side hustle game has been ramping up since 2019 started! Now that we have our budgeting in order, it was time to start increasing our income. I was already writing on this blog and doing some dog-sitting on Rover, but I just recently started as a bread baker, and soon thereafter opened my own bakery called Aero Bakery. In January, I made only $14 in side-hustles, which made sense since we were off traveling in Australia and New Zealand for the first half of January. In February, I made $450, and in March, I made $750. For April, I am on track to make an extra $1,500 in side hustles! Read more about why I am an advocate of side hustles, here.

Why the Future Is Bright

So now, we are not only back on track with making $6,500 payments, but we are actually on track to be finished one year early! How did we do that? By being AGGRESSIVE. The minimum payment for a 10 year repayment plan was $6,063 a month. We set our sights on $6,500 a month. Even with the lapse during those few difficult months while Mr. Debtist struggled with his work situation, we were still able to be at a point where we have only 6.9 years to go! How exciting is that?! And what’s even more exciting is that I predict this will all snowball even more! I turn 30 years old this year, and wouldn’t it be great if this would all be cleared by the time I turn 35? That’s right! I have my sights set on getting rid of this in 5 more years. Here’s what we have planned.

  • Since we are now switched to REPAYE, we are making $7,300 contributions towards the loans, instead of the $6,500 that we were previously doing under IBR. That will vastly improve the trajectory of our path.
  • In March of 2020, we predict to have saved enough for our emergency fund, leaving an extra $1k to be funneled into the loans. That would increase our contributions next year to $8,300/month.
  • Also in Spring of 2020, Mr. Debtist is scheduled to finish his car loan payments. While I was in dental school, Mr. Debtist got a car loan and we currently pay $585 towards it every month. Freeing up $585 will increase our loan contribution to $8,885/month.
  • The side-hustling is just getting started. I hope to continue with many of these hobby-turned-hustles, and we will see how that impacts our payments.
  • Lastly, we decided not to refinance our loan at this time because of the risk of not being able to meet the minimum payments in case we have another fiasco like the job situation. However, when the loan is small enough (say under $300,000), we may still consider refinancing the loan. It’ll be less of a risk at that point, since the monthly payments will be way more doable. If we DO refinance as we get closer towards paying the loans off, then we will be able to attack the loans at an exponentially improving clip.

Please note that we are paying back student loans aggressively, but we are also doing it responsibly. We are living within our means, investing in our 401ks respectively, and are diversifying by entering real estate last year. I make myself less susceptible to fluctuating job conditions by having my own dental S corporation, opening my own bakery, working as a dog-sitter, working as a baker for another company, and doing some writing on the side. We are also a dual-income household, which greatly affects the possibility of this success.

If you are feeling lost in your student loan repayment journey, or you simply want to know your options, I would start with talking to a consultant at Student Loan Planner. This path is not for everyone, but it also may be more doable than they want us to believe. For those who just want to get budgeting down, why not start with my free course on creating a budgeting tool?