Follow Seedtime | Christian Personal Finance on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook


Ever since I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad about 15 years ago, I have been itching to get into real estate investing.

While I don’t agree with everything in that book and he makes it seem just a little too easy, I do think some of the principles of building wealth with real estate are sound.

So in 2015 when we packed up and moved to Nashville, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet – we decided to hang onto our old house and see if we could rent it out.

Being in a completely different state, I wanted to have a property manager who would take care of finding the renters, dealing with all their issues, and do the most important part of his job: mail me checks!

The trade-off, of course, is that he eats into our profits. He charged 10% of rents, which was a little painful, particularly since we had such low-maintenance tenants.

But, since we were out of town, it just made the most sense.

Within a month he found someone who appeared to be a great tenant and told me all about him and asked for my go-ahead. Having never done this before, I just said, “I trust you – if you think he looks good, then let’s do it!”

A month later, I got my first check in the mail, and it was far more exciting than I thought it would be. It was truly passive income that I didn’t have to do anything for other than deposit the checks.

Over the last two years, I have realized that we really had found great tenants. They paid every single month – and on time! And only had 2 minor maintenance requests during that time as well.

Calculating Rental Property Returns

Keep in mind that this is my first rental property and that I didn’t seek out a property that would have a great ROI.

I just used our first house because it was easy.

Now that we have had our renter for over two years, I decided to run the numbers and see what kind of ROI (Return on Investment) I was getting.

After calculating out all our expenses (they add up fast) we have been sitting with an average return of 5.4% on the cash we have invested in the house.

Side Note: I know many Real Estate pros would suggest using the equity in the house to buy more properties and use leverage to grow those earnings, but that is not how I roll.

When I discovered that we weren’t getting the 10+% returns from the property that I was hoping for (especially when we had GOOD tenants), I realized that while this was a great house to live in, it wasn’t the best earning rental property.

Stepping back to July 2017…

Enter Fundrise

Simply put, Fundrise is the simplest way I have seen to passively invest in real estate for most people.

It is kind of like crowdfunding for real estate investments.

As investors, we “own” a small percentage of each of the dozens of rental properties that Fundrise has in their portfolio.

I am oversimplifying it, but you can think of it like this:

Instead of needing $50,000,000 to buy a massive real estate development, they try to get $500 from a 100K investors to acquire the property.

What this means to you and me is that we can get in on their returns with a far smaller investment.

Opening my Fundrise account

In July of 2017, I opened a Fundrise account. Basically, my idea was to take some of our rental profits and have it invested there so that it could grow until we had enough to buy another rental property.

The account opening process was surprisingly simple – especially since I opened a business account (which usually is much more of a hassle).

I don’t think I spent more than 15-20 minutes on the entire process and within a few days, I had gotten email notifications that my investment had been divided up into 8 different properties that I now “owned” a small part of.

For those interested, you need a minimum of $500 to get started with their Starter Plan (which is different than the plans listed below), but see these other ideas on how to invest without much money if $500 is too much.

Getting paid

About three months later I got an email from them saying that I would be receiving a dividend payment – woo hoo!

It turns out that they pay out dividends every three months.

I chose to have all the dividends reinvested to keep things growing.

Calculating my investment returns Fundrise returns and performance

Fundrise advertises very strong historical returns:

And those numbers sound really nice, but I wanted to see what kind of returns I got from Fundrise myself.

I should also mention that they have three separate investment approaches:

  • Supplemental Income – (Lower Risk)
  • Balanced Investing – (Middle Risk)
  • Long-Term Growth – (Higher Risk)

I opted for the ‘Balanced Investing’ option with mine.

Here is a look at the projected returns for the ‘Balanced Investing’ option:

As of the time of this writing, here are my total dividends since I opened the account in July 2017:

Calculating my actual Fundrise returns

Because I have dividend reinvestment turned on as well as an auto-invest each month, it is a little messy trying to calculate my ACTUAL returns so far.

But getting deep into a spreadsheet and taking a fairly conservative approach, I calculated annual earnings right at 6% from my investments in Fundrise.

Since this doesn’t take appreciation into account, this is right in line with the 5.9-6.4% in dividend earnings that the reference in the blue graph above.

As with all investments, I know past returns are not a promise of future results, and I am interested to see how the Fundrise does during hard times.

Comparing the Returns

In case you just scrolled all the way down to see which one won, here is your answer:

  • Rental Property: 5.4%
  • Fundrise (Mid-Risk): 6.0%

The reality is that both of these could be increased pretty easily:

  1. With the rental property, I could just use more leverage and get more properties and minimize my cash invested to increase my ROI, but I am done with adding debt so that won’t happen.
  2. And with Fundrise, I can click a button and change my investments to the Long-Term Growth option to get higher overall returns, or use the Supplemental Income option if I were trying to increase my dividend payments.
Even more enticing than the Fundrise returns

Even with having a property manager for our rental property, it still has surprised me how many times I have had to spend mental energy thinking about the rental.

On the other hand, my Fundrise investment is 100% passive income. I don’t have to think about it at all and even with the middle-risk option selected it beat out my rental property.

At some point, I might be interested in building out my own massive real estate portfolio, but for now, the ridiculous ease and returns of using Fundrise has me putting more of my money there.

Any Fundrise investors out there?

If so, can you let us know in the comments what kind of returns you have seen with them?

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Last week I wrote about WHY I took a year-long Sabbatical and what led me to make that decision. And today, we get to chat about the nuts and bolts of how we pulled it off logistically – and managed to continue to eat and live indoors throughout the year.

My goal with this article is to share what I have learned from taking 6 Sabbaticals of 1 month or more in case you are going to be doing one yourself.

The principles are basically the same – regardless of Sabbatical length.

But let’s begin with 2 key lessons that have helped me develop the systems that made it possible…

1. Learn from the mistakes of others

I do my best to learn what NOT to do from others as much as what to do. Eleanor Roosevelt has a quote I love…

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

When I was 18 I began waiting tables at a little ‘mom and pop’ restaurant near my home in St. Louis. They had just recently opened up and the owners (a husband and wife team) had spent decades in the restaurant business and they knew what it took to get one off the ground and make it succeed.

I quickly realized that for them, that meant working 12+ hour days…

Every. Single. Day.

In fact, after the restaurant had been opened for 6 months, we (the waitstaff) celebrated with them because they were taking their first day off since we had opened.

At this point, I had some desire to venture out as an entrepreneur, but I hoped that there could be a better way.

And to be fair, maybe that was what they wanted to do. Maybe working nonstop 12-hour days was what they loved doing.

Regardless, the truth is that so many entrepreneurs chase after their dream to build a business and quickly find themselves becoming a slave to it.

They find themselves working crazy hours with no end in sight and seeing no way out.

From the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I wanted to do my best to avoid this. I didn’t really know if it was possible, but I figured there was no harm in trying.

2. We find answers to the questions we ask

We all have seen incredibly “successful” businesspeople who maybe achieved all their business aspirations, but it cost them all their time, their marriages, their faith, or relationships with their children.

By changing the questions that we ask, we will have a much better chance of achieving what we really want without having to sacrifice things that are important to us.

Tony Robbins has illustrated this point better than anyone else I have heard and he talks a little about it here…

Anthony Robbins: Shift Your Focus - The Power of Questions - YouTube

Because I was so scarred from seeing many business owners in my life working themselves to the bone, I changed the question I always asked myself and essentially created a filter through which to make my decisions.

For those who don’t know, this blog you are reading is my business.  And in 2008 after I got laid off, I began the journey to full-time blogging.

As desperate as I was to generate some income from the blog to pay rent, I fought against the temptation to ask this question:

“How can I turn this blog into a full-time living?”

And instead opted for this question:

“How can I turn this blog into a full-time living requiring as few hours as possible of my time?

This might seem trivial but stay with me here.

What this essentially did was force me to say NO to lots of income-earning opportunities that would have made me money, but would have taken up a lot of time.

And by sticking with the 2nd part of my question, it was easy to say NO because they didn’t fit.

The truth is that it took me a little longer to make a full-time living blogging, but because I had that filter and asked that question, I ultimately found the answer I was searching for – and I was able to create a profitable business, without requiring every moment of my time.

Seeing if the boat floats

The theory of asking better questions is easy in principle, but much more difficult to stick with it.

And after about 2-3 years of running the business, though I had continually worked to create a somewhat passive income approach to it, I had to step out and test it.

I had designed my blog business to not REQUIRE much of my time, but I loved spending my time on it and was addicted to working on it.

Taking 1 week off

I decided to take a 1-week vacation and NOT check email at all. I was terrified that the site was going to break and when I returned Google would have removed us from the search results and many other baseless fears.

I honestly had a hard time enjoying the vacation because I was so nervous. But it was critical that I put that boat in the water to see if it floats.

And it was amazing to see that the site didn’t crash and nothing even remotely urgent came up while I was gone.

The next time, I decided to take a 10-day break and only check email 1x (for 1 hour) to scan for urgent stuff and the same thing happened – nothing!

Could I do a month?

In Feb 2012, I nervously stepped out to take a month off as we went down to Sanibel Island, FL on what I would call my first Sabbatical of sorts in over a decade…

Having two week-long breaks under my belt, I was pretty comfortable with that stretch of time away from the business and had developed some systems to get me through.

But, I had no idea if they would hold up for a month.

Only one way to find out right?

So that February, I did my first no-internet Sabbatical. The only exception was to scan email for one hour or less each Saturday.

By the last Saturday of the month, I was honestly feeling like I didn’t even need to check email; I had gotten comfortable with the distance.

The benefits just flat-out amazed me

The concentrated focus time with Linda strengthened our already strong marriage. Dedicating a good amount of time to prayer and the Bible each day dramatically boosted my spiritual life. On top of that, the mental clarity and clear direction for the year had me counting the days to get back to work.

I felt more refreshed than I had been in years and I had a clear focus and plan of action for the rest of the year.

Why take a month off in the first place?

It had been such a valuable experience that I decided right then and there that I would do this every year going forward.

And for the last 5 years taking a month-long Sabbatical has been our regular pattern.

I’ll get to the details of our 1-year Sabbatical in a bit, but first I want to focus on how to take a month off from your business successfully. Because if you can’t do that, you aren’t going to be able to take a year.

Focus on disconnecting, NOT on having a vacation

This is a big distinction for us. Vacations (fun as they are) tend to fill my schedule to the brim, and since we have kids, tend to also bring a level of inherent stress with them.

We are very intentional about how we use our time on Sabbatical trips. While we will do some fun stuff, the goal isn’t a vacation, but rather decompression, meditation, and connecting with God.

It should go without saying that before we had kids it was much easier: we would both spend most of the day reading, praying (alone or together), goal-setting, and listening to Biblical teaching. And then after dinner maybe watch a movie or just hang out.

Our typical daily schedule

Now that we have 2 kiddos in the mix, we have found what works best for us is alternating days.

So on one day I will take the kids and be responsible for them basically until dinner. And Linda can go to the beach, coffee-shop, library, park or anywhere else to get alone and focused. And then she takes the kids the next day and we just continue to alternate like that. And occasionally throw in a family day.

With 2 kids we obviously have less time alone together, but we try to focus on using the time AFTER the kids go to bed to chat about our goals for the year and where we think God is leading us.

Leaving vs. staying at home

As much as I hate to admit this, I have found that it is a LOT easier to have more and better focused time when I get out of town. I don’t know why exactly, but my hunch is that:

  • The familiarity (and established patterns) of our home life creep back in and knock us off our schedule.
  • Many of my home life demands don’t follow me to a vacation rental.

We have found renting from Airbnb or HomeAway are typically much better options than staying at hotels.

They typically have more room to move around, are more comfortable, and have a full kitchen – eating out all day long, every day for an extended time takes its toll quickly.

We also look for places that we can walk to from where we are staying. Ideally a beach or park or coffee shop.

I hate that it seems like we have to have the big expense of leaving home and renting to get the maximum benefit, but for us thus far that has been the case. Your mileage may vary. Logically, there is no reason you couldn’t get the same benefits from home – it is just tough to break those established habits and patterns.

How we keep the business afloat while we are gone

Our business is this blog you are reading. Your business very well may be different, but even if it is, hopefully there will be some takeaways for you in here.

I will go into some detail below, but honestly my strategy is really simple in that I ask myself 2 questions:

  • What’s the worst case scenario? (Q1)
  • What’s the likelihood that the above would happen? (Q2)

The answer to the first question is often scary, but if the answer to the second question (my best guess) is less than 20%, I go for it.

1. Schedule blog posts

I do a good bit of writing before we leave and schedule out blog posts to publish automatically. This is really easy to do with Self-Hosted WordPress.

Sometimes I even “cheat” and update and republish older content that I wrote years ago.

If I feel like I can’t create enough content to get scheduled out that far, I just post less frequently during the trip.

But what if you post daily? I would ask the same 2 questions above about posting weekly.

  • Q1 = a small percentage of people might be upset
  • Q2 = 5%

In my experience of doing this the last 10 years, I have never heard of anyone unsubscribing from getting too few emails – it is almost always the opposite; they unsubscribe all the time because they get too many emails.

So the first time I did this, I just let all the subscribers know that I was taking a month-long Sabbatical and would be posting less.


Problem solved.

Not a single person complained. And actually fewer people unsubscribed than normal. Lesson learned.

2. Schedule out emails to our subscribers

For a while, our emails were automatically sent every time a new blog post was published, so I didn’t even have to think about this.

Now we write a quick email for each blog post that we create. It definitely helps with reader engagement, but I would go back to auto-emails in a heartbeat (especially just for a month) if that was preventing me from taking a month off.

3. Blog Comments

What happens if I don’t check blog comments for a month?

Q1 = I will have missed the opportunity to connect with some readers.
Q2 = 20%

Let me start by saying that I love reader comments and normally I read all of them. But, I learned many years ago that as fun as they are, they don’t feed the family, and they can (if you let them) try to take over your life.

So, I didn’t check comments for a month. And, not surprisingly, nothing bad happened. Sure, a few spammy ones made it through, but they were easy to delete when I got back.

4. You can’t possibly ignore email for a month – can you?

I think I could. But I haven’t yet. My standard process has been to go to a coffee-shop each Saturday morning and dedicate no more than 1 hour to scanning through my email for urgent stuff. For me, this normally means 1-2k emails to scan through.

I literally just quickly read through subject lines as fast as I can looking for truly urgent stuff. Most times I don’t find anything urgent and ‘cheat’ just a little by responding to a few really important (but not urgent) emails.

Urgent stuff would be like:

  • A notice from our main Webhost that our site is down.
  • Our business credit card expired and our web host will be taking down our site if we don’t update the payment method.
  • Our email provider saying that we reached our monthly limit and they won’t send our emails out.

I mostly ignore really important stuff that doesn’t fall into the urgent category. The main reason being is that I have found most of the time I can take care of it when I get back. And I have yet to have an issue where I regretted NOT responding while on break.

More on my process

Gmail has a cool autoresponder feature that I always use. My standard looks something like this:

Put the burden of responsibility on the sender

The first couple times I took a month-long break, I would get back and spend almost an entire week catching up on email. I would feel the need to respond to thousands of emails.

What made it worse was that many (if not most) of the emails I was answering, the sender had forgotten about it, already found an answer, or just didn’t care anymore.

It was almost like I wasted an entire week answering emails that didn’t matter.

Then one year I modified my OOO (Out of Office) responder to put the burden of responsibility back on the sender.

Anyone who sent me an email now had 2 options:

  • Email me again after I get back (if it will still be important).
  • Email my assistant (if it is truly urgent or if she can help).

This one thing probably gave me 4 days of time back. Now, when I got back to work I scanned email again and answered urgent and maybe really important emails and then hit the delete button on everything else.

And I could do it without any guilt because I knew the people would email me again if they still needed to.

Create an urgent email address

Another thing that worked well was having a dedicated email address for urgent stuff. I gave this email address to my assistant and all our contract workers and allowed them to use their best judgment when determining when to use it.

One or two times I included this email address in my OOO responder as well. If you don’t have an assistant helping you that isn’t a bad idea.

I then had that email forwarded to my phone with notifications on. It should go without saying that my main email account was removed from my phone.

In the last 5 years, I don’t think I have had 10 emails sent to this account.

Social media

Automation of posting to social media is pretty easy. There are tons of tools out there, but we use Buffer.com and Boardbooster to take care of this for us.

Responding to replies?

For me, this falls into the category of blog commenting, so I just don’t do it when I am on leave. In theory, I could probably batch it with my weekly email check in, but I haven’t yet. If unsure, ask yourself Q1 and Q2 again.

Clean off your phone

I have found the hardest part of the whole Sabbatical thing for me is breaking my regular habits. This is why I delete off any apps that might tempt me. So delete all social media apps off. Since I use the urgent email address, I don’t delete off the email app, but I make sure that my main email account is removed.

Hire a VA (virtual assistant)

I haven’t always had an assistant, but being able to have someone who can check on things daily is a nice perk that helps me feel more comfortable. And it is even better if they can cover many of the areas mentioned above. And with it being so easy to find VAs these days, it is probably worth considering.

Years ago I would just have Linda peek on the site for me daily so I could rest knowing that it was at least still there.

What I learned

Here are just a few lessons I have learned from doing this 6 times now:

  • Batching email weekly easily frees up 10+ hours a week.
  • The website is far LESS likely to break when I am not touching it for a month.
  • Almost everyone is really respectful of your Sabbatical time. Just that word carries a weight of importance that almost everyone respects.
  • When I get back I realize how unimportant most of the things I do each day are – because I hadn’t done them for a month and everything has been fine without them. This is a huge help in refocusing my time towards things that matter.
The one-year Sabbatical

It has taken a while to get to this point so thanks for bearing with me. The main reason is that most of what was required for me to pull off a year Sabbatical was learned from taking month-long ones.

When I find myself thinking that something is impossible, I use this trick I learned from Tim Ferriss to help me overcome my small thinking. I ask myself,

“Ok, I know it is impossible, but if it WERE possible, how would I do it?”

It is a simple question, but it removes some of the pressure and it gets my brain looking for solutions, instead of resting on the excuse of it being impossible. Sometimes, it legitimately isn’t possible for me, but it never hurts to really dig in and see.

In this particular case, as I began digging in and imagining how I could pull this off if I absolutely had to (if my life depended on it), I came to the conclusion that most of the systems I used to handle a 1-month break would directly apply.

Not all, but most.

My team ran the show

I am blessed to have some phenomenal people working with me. Lauren and Dawn did almost everything while I was out.

They took care of:

  • Sending out an email each and every week
  • Republishing some of our most popular content from previous years
  • Social media
  • Blog comments
  • Looking for urgent emails
  • And a lot of misc stuff
How much I ACTUALLY worked

I ended up working an average of about 1 hour each week.

Each Monday I would have a meeting with Lauren and she would run urgent emails by me to get direction and we would finalize the weekly email going out that week.

I would then answer questions from our course students that had come in. This often was the majority of my “work time”, but our students had paid for access to me and I wanted to make sure that I honored that.

How taking a year off differed from taking a month off

The biggest difference was just that I was at home for most of it. I have an office (outside the house) that I work from and we decided to keep the rental over the year so it could be our place to go.

Linda and I followed the alternating day pattern that I mentioned above for a good chunk of the year – giving us each some good focus time.

Additionally, stepping (mostly) away from work for that long just really changes how you see things.  You can’t help but see things from the 10,000-foot perspective.

All the minutiae gets pushed to the side as the mostly meaningless junk that it is, while you begin seeing the bigger picture, the things that really matter.

Final thoughts

Like I mentioned in the previous article ‘WHY I took a year-long Sabbatical’ there is something incredibly powerful about taking a Sabbatical that I don’t think you can fully understand until you do it.

I feel like a Sabbatical salesman, but it has been such a life-changing practice in my life that I can’t help but encourage people to do it!

Regardless the length, my encouragement to you is to start where you are, and stretch a little beyond your comfort zone and go for it!

Any other questions I can answer?

Let me know in the comments!

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

I will soon be writing about why we use credit cards and all the ridiculous amount of free travel (hotels and flights) that we have gotten solely from credit card points. 

But this post is specifically about my favorite credit card of all-time for anyone who has a business and purchases advertising.

So if you run ads on Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, etc. you need to pay attention!

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

It is a relatively new card and it is called the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. 

I opened one about 18 months ago on a friend’s recommendation and it has been nothing short of amazing for us.

(Compare this card with other rewards cards here).

Here she is! My credit card point generating machine!

3x points on online advertising!

When I saw that I simply couldn’t believe it.  For years we had been earning 1 point per dollar spend on all our business purchases (including advertising) and I was tickled with all the points we were racking up.  

But when they released this card and wanted to basically give us triple the number of points for the same amount of purchases, I ran to sign up as soon as I could!

Since we have signed up, this is what we have been seeing as a result…

80k point sign-up bonus

As if the 3x wasn’t good enough, we also got an extra 80k points just for signing up and spending 5k in the first 3 months.  With our regular advertising spend, that was pretty easy to do.

At the time of this writing, they are running that promo again.

Lucky you!

(Compare this card with other rewards cards here).

Got any good tips, tricks, or products that have helped your business?

Let us know in the comments below…

We do have the privilege as working as an affiliate with many great companies like Google, Amazon, Ebay and others. This helps us to pay the bills and reduce the number of banner ads. Regardless, our opinions are never for sale.  Find out more here.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

It isn’t too difficult to find a place to file your federal tax return for free, but finding a service to file your state return for free is another story.

I did a little digging and found a few options to consider . . . .

How to File Your State Return for Free!

As you have probably noticed, many places offer a free filing of a Federal return but don’t offer free state filing. But there are a few ways to get your state tax return done for free.


Turbotax (for a limited time) has rolled out their Absolute Zero program where you can get your Federal, State, and Efile all done free.

I honestly am not sure why they are doing it that way and giving it away like that, but they are for a limited time.

You can read more about the details of who is eligible on their website, but for now if you want to get started you can just click below.

Other Free State Tax Filing Websites

MyFreeTaxes.com – This is a not-for-profit with funding from the Walmart Foundation, The United Way and H&R block – and they offer free state and federal tax returns if you meet the criteria.
On-Line Taxes – This one is pretty simple. You have to have an adjusted gross income within a certain range. If you don’t qualify both returns cost $7.95. They are a little bit different than many of the other places in that they offer free customer service with a toll-free number, e-mail, and live tax help. They also allow you to view the forms before paying.

How to File Your Federal Return for Free!

In the past I have gone to the IRS free file webpage, because they have links to a bunch of tax preparers that offer free tax return filing (for federal anyway). Some of them offer a state return to be filed for free as well, but most don’t.

If you are interested in this option, you will have to use the links on the IRS page in order to get the free efile deal they are offering. Many of the tax preparation websites listed will not offer you the free efile if you go directly to their website.

Another Option: Go to Your Local State Government Website

Also, you can go directly to your state’s Department of Revenue website to see if they offer a free filing option.

Worst Option: Get the Paper Forms and Mail Them In

Yes, it sounds pretty archaic, but if you really want to file your state return for free and don’t qualify for the options listed above, this might not be a bad option. If you have already completed the federal form online, it should be pretty easy to fill out the state return. You can get the forms from your local library or you can print them off at your state’s Department of Revenue website.

One Last Tip About E-Filing Your Tax Return

Do it before Friday morning. The government processes tax returns in week-long blocks. So Friday morning at 11am, they process all the returns they received over the previous week. So if you can sneak it in right before the cutoff (Fridays at 11am EST) you will just get your refund that much quicker . . . .

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Since we have written a handful of articles about ways to make money, and some include a variety of money-making websites, readers are often concerned about avoiding the scams.

I will first tell you that I have investigated every one of these websites that we link to and have tried out almost every one myself.

Obviously the scammy ones, or ones that never pay up never appear in the articles.

But even better than the ones that are just legit, are the ones that are truly outstanding.

So that’s what I decided to with this post is point out 5 of the best out there.

As you probably know, BBB.org (the Better Business Bureau) is where everyone turns to file complaints about a business.

Now, to be fair, every business if it is around long enough will get complaints.  But some businesses just don’t seem to care about their customers and never address the complaints, while others do everything in their power to fix the situations and satisfy their customers.

Businesses like this get higher grades with the BBB, while the ones that ignore the complaints and have unresolved issues get the lower grades.

The bottom line is that if you find a company that has a A or A+ rating with the BBB, you can be very confident that they are going to be an upstanding business that will be good to deal with.

And each of the 5 listed below is rated A+.

1Survey Junkie (aka Blue Media Ventures, Inc.)

I have always been a little hesitant to recommend survey sites because many of them are so scammy, but Survey Junkie stands out as a legit player in this industry.

They make it easy to get paid (unlike so many other survey sites) and they have over 7 million members, so clearly they are doing something right.

You won’t get rich taking surveys, but it may be one of the simplest money making websites out there.


(aka Prodege LLC)

Basically they are a free site that offers you a bunch of ways to earn cash, gift cards (including Paypal for cash), or other rewards.

You can earn by answering polls, taking surveys, doing simple tasks (like giving feedback about a website), trading in old video games or books, and even playing games on their site.

I have tried it out and have received multiple payments from them, so I can attest that it is legit.  In fact, at the time of this writing they have paid out over $78 Million dollars in rewards to their users.

While you won’t get rich doing this, to me it seems like a great way for internet-lovers to make some money.

Find out more in our Swagbucks review or get started here.

3Ipsos iSay

If getting paid to answer surveys from your phone excites you, then this one is for you.

Ipsos i-Say is a survey app that allows you to take surveys, earn points, and then cash out for PayPal or other rewards.

It is a great user experience and really just a nice site.

In order to try them out you need to sign up here first and then they will send you a link for the app.

4NCP (Nielsen)

This one is a pretty fun one. They pay you to scan your grocery purchases with their Smartphone App.

Basically, as a member of NCP you help manufacturers and retailers make decisions on what products to develop or improve.

How It Works:
  1. Sign up for your free account here
  2. Next NCP will provide you access to use their Smartphone App
  3. Then, you’ll use your phone to scan the barcodes on all products you purchase during any shopping trip.
  4. You record some other information like where you shopped and how much you paid.
  5. Each week you are compensated with points that can be redeemed for CASH.


Ebates isn’t a money-making website per se, as it is more of a money-saving site, but I thought it should be listed.

For more detail, check out our Ebates review, but basically the way Ebates works is like this:

  • Merchants pay Ebates to refer customers to them.
  • Ebates then pays a chunk of that back to the shoppers themselves.
  • Win, win, win.

So all you do is go to Ebates.com before making any purchase online, and then search for that store on Ebates website and then click their link to the website.

In doing so, they will pay you up to 25% of whatever amount you spend.

It is that simple.

I have gotten checks from them for years and I love it.

For more info you can find out more here.

Know of any other money-making sites that are well-rated at BBB?

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Have you ever met a successful person who did not encounter some failures along the way?

I know I haven’t … it seems that failure is inextricably blended into the pathway toward success.

Fortunately for us, some very famous people have traveled this path.

What can we learn from these “famous failures”?

1. Never give up.  (Winston Churchill)

Churchill failed sixth grade and was defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister of England at the age of 62.  When he met with his Cabinet on May 13, 1940, as England was about to enter the war against Germany, he told them that, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

I believe it was Churchill’s determination to face his earlier failures head on which gave him the resolve to lead his nation through years of warfare.  He later wrote these now famous words, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, never, never, never give up.”

How about you?  When you are pursuing something noble, honorable and right, do you tend to give up or do you, like Churchill, doggedly stick with it?

2. Learn from your failures.  (Thomas Edison)

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.”  He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.”  He made thousands of unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, but when a young reporter asked him how it felt to have failed all those times, Edison’s now famous reply was, “I didn’t fail 5,000 times.  I discovered 5,000 ways that didn’t work.”

How about you?  When things don’t go as you hoped for, do you get paralyzed by self-pity or do you take a step back and ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?”

3. Discover your niche.  (Albert Einstein)

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old and did not read until he was 7.  One of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.”  Einstein had speech difficulties as a child and was once thought to be mentally handicapped.

He was expelled from school and failed admittance into Zurich Polytechnic School.  However, he buckled down, received some training and was eventually accepted into Zurich Polytechnic.  A few years later, after earning his Ph.D., he received a Nobel prize in Physics and has generally been recognized as the genius of our modern era.

Because of his early failures, Einstein could have given up. Obviously, he wasn’t meant to be a writer or speaker, but he WAS meant to be a physicist of the highest order.  The key?  Discovering his niche.

How about you?  Do you think of yourself as a failure in life because you failed in one area of life?  Maybe those failures are a message you should heed:  try something else, and keep trying until you discover your niche.

4. Trust your gut. (Beethoven)

Although Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly, and his music instructor told him that he was “hopeless as a composer”, he continued to play his own compositions instead of working on his technique.  The rest, of course, is history and even legend: Beethoven wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf.

We are thankful today that Beethoven insisted on playing his own compositions, but, if he hadn’t “trusted his gut”, he may have given up his pursuits of composing.  He just KNEW that he was meant to be a composer.

How about you?  Are you doing what you know you should be doing?  Do you continue doing it even if critics and friends tell you to give up?  Do you trust your gut?

5. Use criticism as your motivator. (Sidney Poitier)

After his first audition, the casting director told Sidney Poitier, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”  Poitier recalls that he decided at that very moment to devote his life to acting.

How about you?  Does the sting of criticism make you want to quit or do you allow it to motivate you?

6. Allow failures to give you focus.  (JK Rowling)

Before Harry Potter fame, JK Rowling was a divorced mother living on welfare.  She refers to herself as “the biggest failure I knew”, but credits much of her success to her failure.  She explained in a Harvard commencement speech, “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

How about you? 

Do your failures give you an intense focus on the things that really matter to you?  If not, why not?

Hopefully, these stories will help us realize that failure is not final, but merely preparation for the next step in our journey.

“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
    But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.”

–Proverbs 24:16 NLT

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

You can bet that the raise you are hoping to get is not going to fix your financial squeeze.

I mean even if you were making what your boss is making, it will not fix your financial squeeze.

There is a famous principle called Parkinson’s Law that essentially says that expenses rise to meet income.  So if you are having a hard time paying your bills or making a dent in your mountain of debt, more money is likely NOT your answer.

I know it may sound like this is bad news, but really this is great news.

This is because money problems (difficulty paying bills, paying off debt, getting into debt, difficulty saving) are most often caused by behavioral problems.

And behavioral problems can NOT be solved with money.

People seem to think that they can make their problems go away with more money, but really it just covers them up. This is apparent with all of the millionaires who file for bankruptcy.

They have more money than most people can dream of, yet they also have a spending problem that is far stronger than their income.

How do you fix behavioral problems?

Well, you start by asking God for help and then begin just doing one small thing at a time. It is a lot easier to update your house by working on one room at a time than by tearing up every room all at once.

You can start by learning to not spend more than you make.

There are practical things that can be done to help out, but I think nothing will be more valuable than just taking a long hard look at where your money is going and asking yourself, “do I really need this?”.

We say we NEED all this stuff to survive and yet 100 years ago most of it didn’t even exist (see Richer than Rockefeller for more).

I think when we are honest with ourselves, we can see that a lot of our NEEDS are really just screaming, yelling, panicky WANTS.

1 Timothy 6:8 puts things in perspective…

“6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

I have a long way to go as I try to fight off my panicky wants daily, but that is what I am aiming for.

What about you?
Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

In order to have an effective budget, you’re going to need some basic personal budget categories to start.

Determining the budget category to use isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve never made a budget before.

Start your budget off right . . . here are some of the best budgeting categories to set you off on the right foot.

Making Your First Budget

The budgeting categories listed below won’t do you any good unless you have some sound principles behind them.

Bob has written a great article on how to make a budget that includes how to make the “world’s easiest budget” and other budgeting methods designed to save you the most money possible.

And if you prefer, you can download one of these free budgeting spreadsheets to get started as well.

70+ Basic Personal Budget Categories

Below I’ve listed many basic budgeting categories, but understand that these are not necessarily prioritized. Some are essential, some are recommended, and some are discretionary – it’s up to you to figure out which are which beyond what I’ve said below. I’ve added subcategories to each major category so you can further define your budgeting categories as needed.

Remember, these are just to get you started, nothing more.


Giving puts money in perspective – and it also helps the community at large. It should be the top priority on your budget.


You can’t survive without it. Food needs to be very high on your prioritized budget list.

  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Pet Food/Treats

Nothing like a roof over your head. This one is important too, and make sure that you can afford whatever dwelling you choose!

  • Mortgage
  • Rent
  • Property Taxes
  • Household Repairs
  • HOA Dues

Don’t forget the importance of utilities. Some of these are more important than others. For example, you might choose to go without cable!

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Heating
  • Garbage
  • Phones
  • Cable
  • Internet

Wear something. It’s kind of socially important. But don’t go overboard here with all the latest trends – that’s for your Fun Money category to manage.

  • Children’s Clothing
  • Adult’s Clothing

Commute to work? Transportation is important. But you’re going to need more than gasoline and oil changes . . . .

  • Fuel
  • Tires
  • Oil Changes
  • Maintenance
  • Parking Fees
  • Repairs
  • DMV Fees
  • Vehicle Replacement – This should be for reasonable vehicle replacements; fancy add-ons should come from your Fun Money category.

Even if you are healthy and don’t have many medical expenditures, make sure you consider these categories.

  • Primary Care
  • Dental Care
  • Specialty Care – Think orthodontics, optometrists, etc.
  • Medications
  • Medical Devices

The goal of insurance is to pay for expenses you can’t afford but desperately need to cover. Raise your deductibles to save some money if you have a fully funded emergency fund.

Household Items/Supplies

Look at your bank account and determine what household items and supplies you purchase throughout the month. Here are some common supplies . . . .

  • Toiletries
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Tools

This is just as it sounds. This category is a sort of “catch all” for anything having to do with you or your family personally. It can include subscriptions to personal items or services as well as other personal expenditures.

  • Gym Memberships
  • Hair Cuts
  • Salon Services
  • Cosmetics
  • Babysitter
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Subscriptions
Debt Reduction

Reducing your debt is a vital part of your overall financial health. Adding and maintaining debt causes you to pay more for items and services than you should.


It’s important to have a retirement plan you can depend on. With Social Security wavering, who knows if you’ll be able to depend on the government for assistance. It is often recommended to save and invest for retirement as a high priority in your prioritized budget.


Funding your family’s education is a great return on investment. Raise your income through education! Beware of funding your education through debt. Instead, save money up for your education needs.

  • Financial Coaching
  • Children’s College
  • Your College
  • School Supplies
  • Books
  • Conferences

Many financial experts recommend saving at least 10% of your income for various expenses. Here are the most common ones.


Whether you’re saving for gifts for your spouse, family members, or friends, make sure you write out how much you intend on spending per person per occasion. You might need a spreadsheet for this to include in your budget.

  • Birthday
  • Anniversary
  • Wedding
  • Christmas
  • Special Occasion
Fun Money

Everyone needs a little fun. If you don’t budget some fun money, you’ll end up spending money from categories you shouldn’t. Keep this category reasonably funded.

  • Entertainment
  • Games
  • Eating Out
  • Spontaneous Giving
  • Vacations
  • Subscriptions – Such as Netflix.

Editor’s Note: Need a revised and expanded list of these categories? Check out my Budget Category Brainstormer – a beautiful worksheet for printing with 80+ time-tested categories and plenty of blank spaces for your own!

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free year
Free Preview