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The following is a sponsored post.

Subscription boxes are everywhere. From Birchbox to Blue Apron, Loot Crate  and FitFabFun, it seems like there’s a curated box of monthly goodies for just about everyone.

And while big names like Ipsy and Barkbox certainly exist in the space, thousands of smaller, individually run-subscription box companies find incredible success building their own businesses focused on products or communities that they love.

As the subscription space has grown, new businesses launch every day with the goal of sending curated experiences to enthusiastic subscribers. (To get an idea of just how many subscription boxes are out there, check out Cratejoy’s Marketplace, which currently hosts more than 1,600 subscriptions in 80+ categories.)

So, if you’ve ever thought about channeling your passions into a curated experience for other enthusiasts, check out the top 4 things you need to have in order to start your own subscription box.

What You Need to run a Successful Subscription Box Business 1. A niche or passionate community

All great subscription box businesses have one thing in common: they cater to an enthusiastic community. Whether that community is made up of beauty gurus, bookworms, raw vegans, or mixologists – it doesn’t matter as long as there is an engaged group of people interested in receiving products or experiences that celebrate their niche.

Need some inspiration for your own subscription box business? Here are 50 box ideas you could start today. Once you identify your box’s niche, do some exploring on social media and youtube to find hashtags, influencers, and products that your ideal customer uses or loves.

2. Software and tools to run an online business

If you’re new to Ecommerce, figuring out the technology side of things can be tough. After all, with so many different options, it can be frustrating to even know where to start. Luckily, when it comes to the subscription industry, Cratejoy was built specifically with subscription box entrepreneurs in mind.

That means that in addition to a website builder and check out system, Cratejoy’s all-in-one platform covers the nuances of recurring billing and shipping, customer management, and offers one-on-one coaching and support from Customer Success Managers.  Worth noting? Other solutions will be able to offer an online store with inventory management, but you’ll need to attach several plugins to make a monthly (or quarterly) subscription box business run smoothly.

For more information on Cratejoy’s platform, check out their features and pricing pages.

3. A good eye for product curation

Running a subscription box business means being able to find, source, and curate products your subscribers will love month after month.

Imagine you’re running a box for crystal enthusiasts. Sure, you could send out three unique crystals each month, but is that the best experience you could give a customer? Curation is about knowing your niche and what kind of similar products your customers want to discover.

This is where customer and product research come into play. Maybe your box has crystals as its core offering, but each month explores related niches like aromatherapy, natural beauty, meditation tools, and more.

Remember: the goal of a subscription box is to cash in on recurring revenue by keeping your subscribers happy for as many months as possible. Having flexible curation with a variety of products is key to keeping your box exciting, and something your subscribers will look forward to again and again.

Wondering where to find products for your subscription box? Check out these 7 sourcing ideas to keep your box fresh and exciting.

4. The right mix of business smarts, product expertise, and marketing prowess

At the end of the day, a subscription box is like any other entrepreneurial endeavor: you need a solid business foundation, a good product, and a marketing strategy to be successful. Here’s what we recommend nailing down from the get go:

Business Foundations –

  • Pricing your box – too low and you won’t make money, too high and you won’t attract customers (Check out Cratejoy’s pricing calculator to get it right)
  • How often will you ship – monthly, quarterly, bi-annually?
  • Tools – We recommend Cratejoy, but finding tools you trust is critical to building a business that can operate at every growth stage

Product Expertise –

  • How many products will you send each month
  • Where will you source your products? Artisans on etsy, wholesalers, Alibaba?
  • Can you think of at least 6 months of box themes or curations before launching?

Marketing Strategy –

  • Which social media channels will you invest in? Facebook, instagram, pinterest?
  • Do you have a budget for ads, and if so, what is your cost of acquisition?
  • Do you want to take the influencer or affiliate route?

These questions are a great starting point as you begin to flesh out your business, and the answers will begin to intertwine as you explore how you’ll build your product and attract customers. For more information on the entire subscription box business process, check out Cratejoy’s comprehensive guide on starting your own box.

Want to learn more about starting your own subscription box?

Check out Cratejoy’s 14 day free trial to poke around the platform, as well as their content library filled with blogs and guides to help you get started.

The post 4 Things You Need to Start a Subscription Box Business appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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My monthly Extraordinary Lives series is something that I'm really enjoying doing. First up was JP Livingston, who retired with a net worth over $2,000,000 at the age of 28. Today's interview is with Tanja Hester, who retired at the end of 2017 at the age of 38.

You probably know her from the amazing blog Our Next Life. Our Next Life is one of my favorite blogs, so I'm glad Tanja said yes to this interview!

In this interview, you'll learn:

  • How she managed to retire so early;
  • How she still lives comfortably in one of the most beautiful places in the world;
  • Her advice for retiring early no matter what your career choice is;
  • How she decided how much she needed to retire on;
  • The sacrifices she has had to make;

And more! This interview is packed full of valuable information!

I asked you, my readers, what questions I should ask her, so below are your questions (and some of mine) about Tanja's story and how she has accomplished so much. Make sure you're following me on Facebook so you have the opportunity to submit your own questions for the next interview.

Related content:

1. Tell me your story. How are you managing to retire so early?

Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for having me. We feel like we’re now living a magical life as early retirees, but there’s no magic to how we got here. We spent a lot less than we earned for a bunch of years in a row, made easier and faster by above average salaries (both earned six figures in our last several years of work), and we tried to make some other smart decisions along the way. But we didn’t strike it rich with Bitcoin or build a unicorn startup or get an inheritance or anything else. We just stayed focused on our goal and ground away at it, bit by bit.

More specifically, we focused on three big things:

1. Buying less house than we could afford. The banks would have happily lent us three times as much as we paid for our house in Tahoe, but we stuck to our guns and set our own budget. We lucked out by being able to buy at almost the bottom of the market in 2011, but even though we could have bought more house then for a pretty good price, we kept our budget modest, and that allowed us to pay off our mortgage in just over five years, which then let us save more in our last year of work as well as go into early retirement with no mortgage, which means our basic cost of living is minimal.

2. Paying ourselves first and automating that. We set our paychecks up so that a big chunk went straight into savings without us ever seeing that money, and had another big portion set to go into our investments automatically with each paycheck. We kept only a small portion of our total income in our checking account, and so felt like that was all we had to spend. But more importantly, saving wasn’t a choice we had to make, which would have relied on willpower we don’t always possess. It just happened without us doing anything. For those who aren’t natural savers (like us!), I can’t recommend enough taking the decision out of it and automating your savings.

3. Not inflating our lifestyle. For the last decade of our careers, we banked every bonus and every raise. So at the start of each year, we’d increase our automatic investments by at least as much as our paychecks increased, meaning we never felt like we got a raise, and we didn’t start spending more. When you add the compounding effect of all those raises we banked, it adds up to quite a big number! But for us, because we did it gradually that way and just kept the amount we had to spend steady, it never felt like a sacrifice to save at a really high rate.

2. When did you begin saving for early retirement?

While we’d been saving for years for a string of financial goals – paying off my consumer debt, buying our first place in LA, buying our forever home in Tahoe and saving a bit for traditional retirement – we started saving for early retirement in a focused way about six years ago. And then we got super focused four years ago.

I still can’t believe how much we saved in that time, but it’s amazing what’s possible when you get really clear on your “why” and align all your decisions around it. (And again, having a higher income for sure helped. You can’t save more than you earn, so the more you can earn, the faster you can save.)

3. Was early retirement always something you were striving for? What made you want to retire early?

Mark and I always had a sense that we didn’t want to work “forever,” but we didn’t know what that meant. We had very demanding, high-stress careers where we could never truly be offline. We loved much about the work and loved our clients and colleagues, but it definitely took a big toll on our physical and mental health. And that’s how we knew that we weren’t willing to do that kind of work forever.

We talked about transitioning to different, lower-paid careers, but once we realized that we could work hard for just a few more years and then never need to work again, it was an easy choice to keep going.

4. Would you say that you live comfortably? I ask this because many people assume that early retirees eat a lot of rice and beans!

I mean, I do love rice and beans. But we only eat rice and beans a few times a month. I would definitely say we live super comfortably! We own a single family home in a crazy beautiful part of the world, we spend money on fresh, healthy, mostly organic food, we ski multiple times a week and we take several international trips per year.

There’s a lot we don’t spend on, of course, and we do have one freakishly frugal habit that shocks a lot of people – keeping our house at a chilly 55 degrees F in the winter – but we think our life is pretty darn luxurious. But we keep it reasonable by ruthlessly cutting out the mindless spending that doesn’t add real value to our lives and focusing our spending only on the things we love to do.

5. What career did you have before you retired? Did that career help you to retire earlier?

We both worked as political and social cause consultants for a long time – 16 years for me and nearly 20 for Mark. We loved doing meaningful work with smart, talented people, but the pace of it was really hard to sustain. We had to travel a ton and be reachable at all times, and that stress was something we carried around with us at all times. But, the upside of high-pressure jobs like that is that they often pay well. So yes, absolutely – having those careers 100% enabled us to retire early!

6. What advice do you have for the average person that doesn't make six figures a year who wants to retire early? What do you have to say to those who may think that they can never earn as much as you can – can they still retire early too?

While earning more certainly helps speed things along, there’s nothing about the core principle of financial independence – spend less than you earn and save the difference – that requires an especially high income or a job in tech or any other particular factor. (We both went to state schools for college and majored in English and communications, if you’re curious.) If you can afford to save even a little bit of money each month, you can do this, you just might be on a slightly longer timeline. If you make saving for early retirement a priority, you’ll be amazed that it does not take 40 years to save, as many financial experts would have you believe.

My best advice is to be diligent about tracking your spending. Know where every dollar is going, and then then ask yourself which of those dollars brought you real, lasting happiness, not just a momentarily thrill, and which ones didn’t. Then, as much as you can, cut out the spending that doesn’t make you happy. You don’t even have to do it all at one time, but once you start seeing your spending that way – mindless spending that doesn’t add value and mindful spending that makes you happier – it becomes a whole lot easier to save money.

And then don’t just think about the saving side of the equation. Think about the earning side, too. Side hustles are all the rage, and I side hustled for the first 12 years of my career, working a few odd jobs and then teaching yoga and spinning for 10 years. Those jobs definitely helped me earn and save more in my early career years, but eventually having extra commitments held me back in my “real career.” And at that point, I ditched my side hustle and committed myself fully to my main job, working as long and traveling as much as that required. I know that having that real commitment to work paid off in the form of promotions and bonuses, and that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d kept my side hustle.

7. Will you still earn an income in retirement?

Our retirement is funded primarily by selling shares of stock and bond index funds that we bought throughout our savings phase, as well as by collecting rent on the one rental property we have. We created our “magic number” that we needed to save by figuring out what we’d need to have if we never earned another penny, and that’s what we saved. But now that we’re retired, we also realize that of course we’ll still earn money in some form. Retiring early takes a bit of a hustle mindset, and you don’t just stop being a person who hustles when you leave your career.

The good thing is that we can now put that hustle to use toward community service instead of paid work, and if we do take on paid work, we can be super picky and do only work that sounds super fun, that we’d happily do for free. And that extra money we earn can go toward more charitable giving, toward an extra trip overseas, or maybe toward a home project like a kitchen remodel. In the spirit of full transparency, Mark and I are both working a little bit this year, though in total it will only be about 10-20 percent of our time. We didn’t plan to work, but Mark got an offer he couldn’t refuse to work on a passion project, and I got an offer to fulfill a lifetime dream, so we both had an easy time saying yes.

8. How did you decide on how much you needed to retire on?

The starting point for calculating any early retirement number (or traditional retirement number, for that matter) has to be knowing what you spend in a year. Most online retirement calculators base your target number off what you earn, and that’s bananas if you don’t spend everything you make. When we started our planning, the rule of 25X (25 times your annual spending, the inverse of the 4% safe withdrawal rule) wasn’t as widely talked about, and it wouldn’t have worked for us anyway because we wanted to build a two-phase early retirement plan that would let us leave our traditional retirement savings alone (many early retirees convert 401(k) and IRA funds to be able to access them early without penalty, but we don’t want to do this), so that we’d have a big cushion for our later years, especially given all the uncertainty right now around health care, and the high costs even for those on Medicare.

We probably overcomplicated our calculations a bit because we’re both spreadsheet nerds, but the short version is that we calculated that our 401(k)s already had enough in them to support our “phase 2” (basically our traditional retirement, from age 59 ½ onward, after we can access our 401(k) money without having to jump through any hoops), and so we focused on saving an amount in unrestricted, taxable mutual funds that our spreadsheets told us would carry us through the first 18 years (our “phase 1”). We based those projections on extremely conservative market gains – only about percent real returns after inflation – so that we’d be okay even if the markets are flat for many years.

9. What sacrifices or hard decisions did you have to make?

I think the way we did this – focusing mostly on keeping our lifestyle contained as our earnings increased and automating our savings – made it not feel like a sacrifice. We for sure did give some things up like frequent meals out and traveling with a bit less of a budget orientation, but for those things, it was easy to give them up because we knew exactly why we weren’t spending money on them anymore. Having our goals clear in our minds and both being excited about our vision for the future was so motivating that it headed off any potential feeling of sacrifice.

Two of the hardest decisions we made along the way were to alter our plans to be able to help out family members. We hadn’t planned to buy a rental property, but it became clear that a relative with special needs would be helped a lot if we’d buy a property that would meet those needs and rent it to them, and so we adapted our plans to allow for that. And then another relative was about to go to debt collection for some medical debts that weren’t their fault, and we decided to make a personal loan to let that person move forward financially. Both decisions have worked out super well, and we believe strongly that there’s no point in having money saved if you can’t use some of it to help people you care about, but it was definitely tough to make each of those decisions.

10. What will you do about health insurance in early retirement?

We fully expect the landscape around health care in the U.S. to keep shifting, but for now we have health insurance that we purchased through the Affordable Care Act exchange. It’s a bit pricey but it’s normal insurance, which is a huge comfort to have!

11. What are your long-term plans now that you will have significantly more time not working?

We’re trying to keep things as open-ended as possible! I’m definitely going to keep writing the blog, and we’re both actively volunteering in our community. We went to Taiwan earlier this year and are planning a few more trips through the end of 2018, and then, who knows?

We’re exploring getting a very small motorhome (not big and fancy like yours, Michelle!) that we can use for road trips around the west, but that’s not for sure yet. A few years ago, we decided that our purpose is service, adventure and creativity, so while we don’t yet know what path our lives will take, we know we’ll be doing some of each of those three.

12. Are you doing any lifestyle changes to reduce your expenses in early retirement?

We are! When we were working, we were so crunched for time that we ate a lot of frozen and convenience foods, even though we would have preferred to make everything from scratch. We also couldn’t really comparison shop because we didn’t have time for that. But now we’re making more food from scratch and visiting a wider array of stores and learning what items are priced best at each place.

We’re also DIYing everything we can now that we have time to do that. But beyond that stuff, we were already living at a level we were comfortable with and that let us save a lot, so it doesn’t feel like we need to trim much more. But ask me again in a year, and maybe I’ll have found some new ways to save!

13. I’m curious to know what your methods for staying focused on accomplishing such a major goal?

Even in the very best case scenario, saving for early retirement takes years, so it’s important to know up front that you will feel some impatience along the way. Everyone who’s done it has felt it at one time or another, or maybe many times!

We found it helped a ton to track our progress and look at it often, so that we could see how far we’d come. And having everything automated also helped because we didn’t even give ourselves the opportunity to have the thought, “We’d rather spend this money instead this month to treat ourselves.” And finally, we didn’t deprive ourselves, and I think that’s important.

Living solely for tomorrow is not the way to be happy with your life – you have to allow yourself some joy today. We tried to keep things modest, of course, but we still let ourselves do fun things and spend money on things that made us happy instead of saving all our money. Living for both today and tomorrow helps with the impatience a ton!

14. If you were starting back at ground zero, what would you do differently from the beginning?

If I could go allllll the way back, I’d never set foot in Target! Haha. When I was just starting out in my career, Target was my kryptonite, and I wouldn’t set foot in there without buying a whole bunch of home decoration stuff that I didn’t need. One of my best practical saving tips is to know your spending triggers and avoid them, so to this day, I do not set foot in Target, and I get what I would have bought there on Amazon or at less tempting stores.

But if we’re just talking about the beginning of the early retirement journey, we would for sure have invested in more rental properties. Real estate offers a quicker path to financial independence than does saving, and it gives you some diversification you don’t get by only investing in the markets. I thought I’d hate being a landlord and so wasn’t interested in real estate, but now that we’ve done it for several years, we wish we had put more focus on rental properties.

15. Lastly, what is your very best tip (or two) that you have for someone who wants to reach the same success as you?

Don’t just think in terms of numbers. Get clear about what you really want to be doing with your life – what that looks like, what will make you feel like you have a purpose, what you want to be able to look back on at the end of your life and feel proud of – and then decide what you’re willing to give up to make that happen. Doing that exercise will help you figure out much more quickly how much your new life will cost and how much you can afford to save now, but best of all you’ll have the motivation to do that saving because you will have already invested the time in forming that solid vision for yourself instead of saving just to save, or just because you don’t like your job. If you retire early just because you don’t like your job and not because there’s something else you’re super stoked to do, you’ll probably be unhappy in early retirement, too.

And on the numbers front, don’t just focus on saving money. Focus on earning more. There’s a limit to how much spending you can eliminate but no limit to how much you can earn, so don’t neglect that half of the equation.

Are you interested in early retirement? Are you saving for retirement?

The post How This Couple Retired at 38 and 41 appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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I always think it’s a good idea to reflect on any life and money lessons you’ve learned throughout the years. While it helps me see what mistakes I have made, it also reminds me that I’ve made good decisions too. Whether they have been good or bad, I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons.

I usually just let my birthday fly by, but I realized that my birthday would be a good time to think about the lessons I’ve learned and share them with you.

I published the first of these posts two years ago, 27 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned, and last year I added another for 28. That’s one lesson for every year, and now I can add one more lesson, which I plan on doing for each new year ahead of me.

I really think self-reflection is a good idea because we can learn so much from the past, both the good choices and the mistakes we’ve made.

And, I've made mistakes, but I've also made some great choices. I've learned a lot of valuable life and money lessons, and now I am happier than ever.

While I am not perfect, life is good, and I am very fortunate. I have great friends, a great family, a happy marriage, wonderful dogs, a business that I love, a life of travel, and more.

So, in honor of my birthday, here are 29 life and money lessons I've learned in the first 29 years of my life. While some may seem obvious, others may not, but everything below is what makes me who I am today. Plus, you may learn something new or something may just click after reading my list. Enjoy!

1. Value your time.

When I was younger, a year seemed like an extremely long time. Now, it seems like years go by very quickly.

Time is important, and you should value it. Instead of spending your time doing something you dislike, make a goal to eliminate any negativity and focus your time on what you enjoy doing. Don’t wait decades to start living a life you love.

2. Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle.

Comparing yourself to others can sometimes give you motivation to work harder, but you also don't want to be unrealistic or get frustrated.

You should always give yourself time with a new task, and don't think of yourself as a complete failure because you're not at the same point as someone else.

Everything takes time, and practice makes perfect.

“One of the great temptations for us as leaders and dreamers is to compare the start of our new adventures to the middle of someone else’s. You work on your first book and pick up Max Lucado’s 14th book and say, ‘Mine isn’t as good.’ You post your first blog post and look at Michael Hyatt’s 100th and think, ‘Mine is nowhere near as great as that.’ You give your first speech and watch Ken Robinson’s 1,000th at TED and think, ‘I’m not great like that.’” – Jon Acuff

3. Create a plan to reach your dreams and goals.

You aren’t going to magically reach your dreams and goals unless you create a plan to do so.

What do you often dream of? Maybe you want a certain career, you want to travel, or something else.

Whatever you want to do, why not create a plan so you can reach your goal? You might live in regret until that happens! You only live once, so a good first step is creating a plan to achieve your dream.

4. Be positive.

I say this in many of my posts, but I truly believe in it. It’s also something that I think more people need to work on.

Being positive can completely change your life. This means you should laugh more, smile more, be happy with yourself (this is very important!), quit being jealous, complain less, have a better outlook on life, and more.

The power of positive thinking may help you:

  • Find another option or route.
  • Feel motivated, so you can keep pushing forward.
  • Move on from your past mistakes.
  • Convince yourself that you can improve your situation (career, financial, family, etc.).
  • Reach for your goals.
  • Be happier.

Related article: Why I Believe Being Positive Can Change Your Financial Situation And Your Life.

5. Learn something new as often as you can.

Back when I was in school, I hated learning new things. Yes, that's how most children and students are. However, I still remember one day in college when I was a freshman, and there was a man in his 60's in one of my philosophy classes. We all asked him why he was there, because, as young 18 year olds, we all thought school was such a drag. He proceeded to tell us how learning and school were the best things in life and that one day, while maybe not right now, we would realize that.

Well, now I know.

I enjoy learning more than ever. I'm constantly reading and learning about new things, whereas before I probably would have laughed at myself.

There is so much to learn in the world, and it is so easy to do. There are classes, articles, great books, and many more things that are so easily accessible in this day and age.

6. Stop living in regret.

You can't change the past, so there is no point in dwelling on regret and letting it negatively impact you. Instead, you should learn from your mistakes and move on.

7. Don't care about what anyone else thinks.

This is one that took me awhile to realize, but thankfully I truly believe it now. You should do things for you and not let other people's opinions rule your life.

Do what is right for you!

8. Live life to the fullest.

No matter who a person is, what they are currently doing, how much money they have in the bank, and so on, everyone can start living life to the fullest.

You just never know what may happen in the future, so taking advantage of the time you have now is very important. No one ever wants their life to flash before their eyes and wonder whether their life was meaningful, if they had a good time, or if they regret past decisions.

And, yes, you can live a great life on a realistic budget.

9. Cherish moments with loved ones.

Now that we are full-time RVers, we don't see family and friends as often as we used to. In fact, we haven't been “home” in many months.

I've always cherished the time I have with those I love, but now I make sure to make each trip even more special.

You should never take a moment for granted with those that you love. This will sound very doom and gloom, but you just never know what may happen to you or them. Plus, spending time with your loved ones is always a great time, so why not just do it more?!

10. Make time for fun.

All work and no play makes for dull life.

You should always make time for the things that you love, even if it’s just a few hours each week. This can help lift your mood, increase your motivation, and more.

11. Excuses are just that – excuses.

Many people make excuses for why things aren't going their way. Yes, sometimes you may find yourself in a bad situation, but you are still in control of your own destiny.

Don't let excuses hold you back. Instead, take action in your life and overcome the obstacles in your path.

12. Do what YOU want to do.

What makes you happy, excited, joyful, and motivated? That’s what you should be doing with your life, as long as it’s legal, haha!

If you want to live a life of adventure – Go for it.

If you want to start a family – Start planning one.

If you want a better job – Get one.

If you want to change the world – Do it.

13. Less is more.

The idea that less is more is something I think about nearly every day.

After having to get rid of the majority of our belongings to move into our RV, I truly realize how less is more. We had so much junk that we had never touched, and it wasn't improving our lives in any way.

Having less stuff is great for many reasons:

  • Less clutter.
  • We can give more attention to what truly matters.
  • Less money spent on things that don't matter.
14. Laughter is the best form of medicine.

Laughter and happiness can pretty much cure anything. Next time you're feeling down, try to find a way to laugh. It will help!

15. Help others as much as you can.

Helping others can change more than just your life. Whether you do something big or small, do something! The smallest gesture can make someone’s day and completely change how they feel.

Here are a few ways to help others:

  • Smile and say hello to everyone you cross paths with.
  • Donate items from your home.
  • Donate blood.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling.
  • Foster an animal.
  • Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister.
  • Volunteer.

Read more at 58 Random Acts Of Kindness.

16. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Without trying something, you’ll never know all of the amazing things you are capable of doing. Instead of constantly thinking “what if?” you may just want to take the leap and finally try it out.

17. Dogs are awesome.

Here's proof.

 

18. Gain control of your financial situation.

Money isn't everything, but being in a good financial situation may make your life easier.

You should pay off your debt, earn more money than you spend, stop keeping up with the Joneses, save for retirement, and so on. These are very important money lessons to learn.

Gaining control of your financial situation is important because you won’t feel as stuck when it comes to money. You will probably be able to do more with your life because you won’t be held back by monetary problems.

This can help you reach your dreams, such as traveling more, following your passion, be less stressed, and more.

19. You can say no.

You don't have to say yes to every single request. Saying yes can be great if you have the time, but saying yes to everything can also cause a lot of stress and lead to people taking advantage of you.

Sometimes you have to evaluate your options and possibly say no.

20. Gossip stinks.

Gossipping doesn't help anyone.

If you don't like someone or what they're doing, why should you spend your time thinking about them or talking about them to others? That is just a waste of time!

21. Don’t let life pass you by.

It can be really easy to let life pass you by. Before you know it, years or even decades may be gone.

Too many people have the mindset of “Oh, in ten years life will be so much better because of this and that.” And then they just let their lives go by without ever thinking about the present.

Well, what about now?! Ten years is a long time! Reaching a goal is great, but during the present, you should try to fit in some happiness as well (on a budget, of course).

22. See the beauty in everything.

There are beautiful things all around us. Instead of seeing the bad in things, try to see the good.

23. Kill them with kindness.

Being kind to others is always important, even when a person is being negative, hurtful, or difficult.

Whenever someone is being difficult in my life, I almost always attempt to kill them with kindness.

And, I've found that it works 99% of the time.

24. Be open to new things and tackle your fears.

When was the last time you did something new? So many people live inside their comfort zone when they actually need to branch out every now and then.

Yes, stepping outside of your box can be tough, but what if it completely opens your eyes and changes your whole outlook on life? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Related: 10 Daily Challenges To Improve Your Life

25. Balance is important.

You can't do everything 24/7. You need some sort of balance to stay sane.

26. Be confident.

Being confident can help you succeed in life. If you don't believe in yourself, then who will?

27. Money is just money.

Too many people let money take over their lives in ways that don’t bring them any joy. Yes, you need money in order to pay bills and to survive, but it is just money.

This can be one of the hardest money lessons to learn because earning more money can positively impact your life. But, don’t let money take over your life or think that it will make you a better person. You should use it as a tool to help improve your life.

Instead of thinking about money in a negative way, think about it in a positive way and take actions to improve your financial situation.

28. Traveling full-time is amazing.

Traveling full-time is absolutely amazing. While I know that not everyone likes to travel, I know that I do.

I love being able to live by the beach, mountains, desert, and anywhere else we choose to go. I love that I am spending more time outside and hiking nearly every single day. I love how beautiful the outdoors are. I love meeting new people and trying new things.

And, I'm so glad that I gave this untraditional lifestyle a chance.

Related: 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life

29. It's okay to be afraid.

So many people are afraid to try new things. They're afraid of what may happen, the unknown, making a mistake, failure, and more.

However, you won't know what may happen unless you put yourself out there.

Not everything in life is easy, and in order to reach your goals and live your dream life, there are going to be some scary things that you may have to do.

Making changes in your life can scare you, but it can also be great. Changing your life for the better will most likely mean that you have to step outside of your box and try new things.

For me, we are embarking on a new adventure, sailing, and I have been fearful. I have been so afraid that I almost talked myself out of it completely. See, I feel very comfortable in the RV. We've been doing this for a couple of years now, and I'm in my comfort zone.

However, I remember once being terrified of even RVing and thinking of all sorts of excuses for why it wouldn't work.

And, I recently realized that I started doing that with sailing as well.

I've always been excited to sail, but right when we actually started shopping for sailboats, I became afraid. RVing is now my comfort zone, and it took me awhile to realize that. Realizing that I was making excuses for things and just being fearful is a normal human behavior, but you should not let it hold you back.

What life and money lessons do you think are important?

The post 29 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Hi, I’m Ariel, and for the past two years I have been editing nearly all of the new content on Making Sense of Cents. Along with editing this blog, I am about to graduate with a degree in English Literature from Washington University, and I’ve been accepted into their highly competitive Honors program. While the academic writing I do is very different from the posts on Making Sense of Cents, I follow the same strategies for writing and editing my papers that are discussed in today’s post. I have also sought extra writing and editing help through my university to continue growing my skills.

Professionally, not only am I an editor here, I also write knitting patterns and provide technical pattern support for other knitwear designers. You could say that I have a lot of experience in several different writing fields.

Blogs are a unique type of writing as they allow for a conversational tone, while also providing your readers with professional level advice. We’ve all read blog posts, online articles, and social media posts, where the writer makes a mistake and suddenly leaves you wondering why you should be trusting them in the first place. Editing, as the last step of the writing process, can turn the message you want to impart into a professional and cohesive piece of writing that shows your readers they can trust you.

And, if you want to grow your blog through partnerships and affiliate marketing, it’s important for companies to see that you are capable of representing them in a professional manner.

I’ll admit that the editing process can often feel daunting, but with the strategies I’ll talk about below, you can become a better writer and editor, one that your readers can trust, while taking your blog to the next level.

Why you should be a better editor.

Several years ago, I turned an essay into a professor, and they came back and told me, “You had me until this mistake, and from there on I wasn’t sure I could take you seriously.” It was a small error, but it was one that showed I hadn’t dedicated enough time and effort into that piece of writing, despite spending hours and hours on the research.

That comment really stuck with me, and I’m sure we’ve all had that same feeling when reading something online.

If you want your readers to stay with you through your entire post, don’t lose them on a spelling, grammar, or punctuation error. Also, the way you craft your article will hopefully take your readers on a journey from questions to answers, rather than ending in confusion. By editing, you are taking one extra step to keep your reader’s attention through the entire post. The time, knowledge, and effort you put into a post deserve to be read and respected.

By following an editing process, you can ensure your posts are cohesive, thoughtful, and authoritative. It makes your readers know they can trust you and can keep coming back to you for advice.

The editing process.

Everyone follows a slightly different editing process, but it’s important to find one that works for you. For my academic and professional writing, I separate the writing and editing process. This means that I do something called free writing, where I am not focusing on my errors— I just write. There are even times of the day that I am able to write better than edit.

After I write, I let that sit for a bit, maybe a day or two, then I go back to edit.

For editing, I know that I need a quiet and controlled environment because editing is a much more exacting process than the actual writing. Also, the time between writing and editing allows my mind the mental space to reflect on things I have written, what should have been included, omitted, and can even prompt a different narrative structure.

You may find that you need to edit your articles several times over, and that’s okay. If you are getting frustrated, take a break and come back later for more editing. For the work I do on Making Sense of Cents, everything is edited twice, at least. Also, this may sound weird, but when I edit Michelle’s posts, I focus on individual words and read everything out loud.

Find an editing platform that works for you.

For the posts I edit for Making Sense of Cents, I explicitly use Google Docs. This allows both Michelle and me to see all of the edits I have made in real time, and I can also add comments to those edits if needed. In my academic writing, I either print off things and edit on paper or send them to my Mom (she’s my all time favorite editor), who makes edits in Adobe Acrobat.

Microsoft Word, as well as many other word programs, have some editing functions that allow you to see and track your edits. It’s important to find one that is user friendly, and this might mean playing around with several different types of software before deciding on the one for you.

The reason I like being able to see the edits is that it allows me to see my common mistakes, which can help me focus on learning how to prevent those mistakes in future articles or essays. I’ll talk more about this later.

Organize your thoughts.

This is a prewriting strategy that helps me both write and edit. Sometimes it is easier to just write and not worry about how organized a post may be. But, an organized post allows your readers to follow you from introduction all the way to the conclusion.

Depending on how you write, you may find it easiest to create an outline before writing (that’s what I did for this post) and then build on each point as you go. Other times, it may be easier to just free write, and then go back and highlight the points you are making and organize them into a more cohesive thought.

Even if you don’t use an outline while writing, having an organized idea of what you want to tell your readers will give you something to refer back to while editing.

Create a style sheet.

A style sheet is a document or manual that allows you to maintain a consistent style and format for your posts. You can even use it as a template for new posts, plugging in fresh content each time you start.

Beyond fonts, it can help you see how you might organize lists, have subheadings, etc.

While you may not use it while editing, it is a step you can take before writing that streamlines your entire writing process. And, if used consistently, your readers will become more familiar with the way you structure your posts, and that level of familiarity adds value to your blog.

Do you need to follow a specific writing style?

For this, I mean whether or not you need to follow certain writing and citation styles, such as AP, MLA, or Chicago Style. If you have ever done any business or academic writing, you may be familiar with at least one of these.

While they may not seem relevant to your blog, these institutional styles can help you establish a writing style that lends to your overall consistency. Each style has specific nuances, like spelling out certain numbers, using the Oxford comma, and how to format titles for books, articles, and websites.

I may get some push back from this, but I don’t think it’s necessary for a blog to follow one of these styles over another. What is important is being consistent in the rules you do follow. As I said before, blogs allow writers to use a more casual tone and style, but still, consistency is key. For example: In nonacademic writing, I use the Oxford comma, spell out numbers below 10, and italicize titles for books. If you know each of the styles, you may find that there are inconsistencies in what I do, but for my personal writing and editing, this is the consistency I keep.

If you are hoping to use your blog to gain access to freelance writing jobs, you may want to find what style the types of companies you want to attract use, and then follow that style in your posts. This will show that you are already familiar with an institutional style and makes you even more attractive to future employers.

For more information on each of these styles, We Do Web Content has a quick post on some of the basic differences, which you can find here.

Know your writing weaknesses.

Writing and editing go hand in hand, and to become a better editor, you need to find your writing weaknesses and common mistakes. Maybe you are a horrible speller, can’t figure out where to put commas, or get tripped up by dangling modifiers.

To be honest with you, I used to over abuse the comma. Actually, I still do sometimes. However, by knowing where I make my mistakes when writing, I know where to focus my energy during the editing process. One of the things that has helped me overcome my common writing errors is by learning why things, such as commas, are used in certain places. Rather than just blindly following a rule, knowing the reason makes those nuances really sink in.

Last year I took an editing class taught by the book editor for our local paper, and the biggest takeaway from that class was that even she consistently made mistakes while writing. There was something so liberating about knowing that this skilled professional regularly makes mistakes. However, when you look at her writing, you will never see those mistakes because she knows what to look for when editing.

Create a help sheet.

Just like a style sheet, a help sheet is something you use as reference to ensure consistency. Your help sheet may be very different from mine, and I keep one on hand when editing for Making Sense of Cents.

One of the things I have on my help sheet for Making Sense of Cents is hyphenated words. I’ll admit, it’s another weakness of mine. When I started editing for Michelle, I found that I kept looking up how to correctly hyphenate phrases, like ages. So, to save time, I found the rule, copied that onto my help sheet, and keep that help sheet in a separate tab while editing.

Know your voice.

I think this is the hardest thing for new writers, even experienced ones, to get comfortable with. While the information you provide is important, your voice is what brings it to your readers in a compelling way.

I find that my writing voice tends to change with what I’m reading, so much so that when taking a class on 19th century British literature, a friend I regularly email with noticed a change in my emails. Apparently, Jane Austen rubbed off on me a little too much.

Getting comfortable with your writing voice just takes more writing and going back and re-reading your own writing. As I’ve said several times, blogs are a great place for a conversational tone, so maybe try writing in a way that you would talk to a friend. It may not be grammatically correct or lack punctuation, but you can always go back and fix that in your editing process. A conversational tone can add a level of approachability to your writing.

Another thing to consider is your audience. If you are writing about personal finance, then you will want to be familiar with industry terms. Each niche has its own lingo, and to integrate these into your own style and voice, just read more from trusted writers in the field you are writing about.

Energize your writing.

If you are intending to inspire or prompt action from your readers, you will want to use an active voice. The easiest way to think about this is by finding the subject of your sentence, and make sure they are doing the action, instead of receiving it.

Here’s an example that positions your reader as the subject:

Passive- Financial independence brings you happiness and freedom.

Active- You will find happiness and freedom through financial independence.

The subject in these sentence is “you” or your reader, so tell them how they will benefit from financial independence.

This skill took me a while to understand and relay into my own writing, but the outcome is that I am directly telling my readers what they should do and understand. This may not be necessarily relevant to your blog, especially if it’s more of a journal of thoughts, but if you are giving advice, an active voice is more inspiring than a passive one.

Put your reader in your posts.

Your readers are coming to you because they want to know how your insights, experience, and information can help and inspire them. So, speak directly to them!

Here’s an example:

People will love trying this new recipe.

In the sentence above, you are telling your reader that someone, somewhere will like the recipe you are sharing.

But, if you write it as:

You will love this new recipe.

You are telling your reader that they need to try it.

This is an easy one to work out in the editing process. And, again, it helps if you think of speaking to a specific person, like a friend. It ultimately engages each reader individually.

Concision is key.

Being concise in your writing means that you are giving your readers the simplest explanation of what they need to do. Concision really comes during the editing process, and is easiest if you give yourself sometime between writing and editing. While editing, read a paragraph and find the main point you are trying to impart, and if you can do that in one sentence, cut most of the rest.

You may need to find more effective word choices or closely follow your outline, but being concise is respecting your reader’s time by not bombarding them with too much information. It doesn’t mean that extra information isn’t valuable; it could be used for a more in-depth post on that specific part of your original post.

It is really easy to write a lot about a topic when you are passionate about it, but the bottomline is that your reader is busy. So, don’t lose them by getting off topic or by writing the same thing over and over again.

Be an aware writer and editor.

We live in a fast-paced world, and what’s acceptable to say changes just as quickly. As our social and political climate evolves, it’s important to think about how your writing may affect your readers.

What I’m saying, is that your writing, if applicable, and it often is, should be conscious of what terms and topics are appropriate to use and speak on. This doesn’t mean you need to say “trigger warning” before anything that might be controversial, but it does mean you are aware that your audience may have a diverse set of beliefs and experiences.

This awareness can be best honed in your editing process. When editing, ask yourself if you might be offending your readers. If you feel like you might be offending someone, you can cut out the offensive statement, or you can provide reason and context for what you are saying. Contextualizing your beliefs gives your readers one more reason to trust you.

One of my favorite examples of this is with the McElroy family of podcasts, including My Brother My Brother and Me (MBMBAM) and The Adventure Zone (TAZ). I realize they aren’t blogs, but what the McElroys did was realize, through comments from listeners, that they weren’t representing their audience in a respectful and conscious way. They admitted their shortcomings (basically editing their content as it was produced), and they actually saw the numbers of their audience grow, to the point that they now have a TV show and graphic novel! You can read about their growth with TAZ here.

Awareness is a long-term process, as it means listening to your audience and growing your posts from there. You can even dedicate future posts to your own learning process, and readers will respect your willingness to listen to them and acknowledge certain beliefs and experiences. Overall, this makes you even more approachable because even the most respected and knowledgeable writers aren’t completely infallible.

Get help when you need it.

Even the best editors and writers need help. I’ve admitted some of my weaknesses here, and I am constantly working to improve my writing and editing. There are tons of online and print sources for editing help. If I have an editing question, or am second guessing myself, I will type that phrase or word into my web browser to see how it’s spelled, punctuated, etc. While that’s for quick help and guidance, you can grow your skills by reading online articles from professional editors, take an editing course, or by just borrowing books from the library.

My favorite online source for help is Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. Professor Mignon Fogarty gives real examples and clear explanations that I keep coming back to.

Editing can be tough, even I will admit that. If you find that you are struggling with the process or just want to dedicate more time to growing your blog or online business in other ways, you can always hire people like myself to take your posts from a thought to a finished and cohesive piece of work.

If you are interested in seeing how I can help grow your content, you can find me here.

The bottomline.

I’ve given you several strategies to grow your online content, but the most important things you should takeaway are these:

  • Editing adds cohesion and professional ability to the posts and written content on your blog or online business.
  • Find a writing and editing process that works for you.
  • Acknowledge your weaknesses and actively work to improve them.
  • Respect your audience by presenting them with content they can trust.

Never let the editing process prevent you from writing. If you have something to say, put it out there, try your best to edit it, and work to grow your skills.

The post Editing And Writing Strategies That Will Take Your Content To The Next Level appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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The following is a sponsored post.

Retirement is the most complicated time in your life, financially. That’s driven by many factors, including: (1) you don’t know how long your retirement will last, (2) you won’t have a traditional salary coming in the door, and (3) you might not have the same mental capacities as you do now to make financial decisions.

The complicated nature of retirement has increased over time as life expectancy has increased — from around 60 years in 1930 to closer to 80 years today — and pensions have gone away. Maybe your parent or grandparent has a pension? That pension, which might not seem like a big deal when you’re young, makes a big difference in retirement. It fixes all three issues listed above by providing you a continuation of your salary for as long as you live. Now, not only are employers not offering them, but many of us don’t have traditional jobs with benefits in the first place.

Still, for all of us DIYers out there who know how to take control our financial lives and make things happen, there are solutions for us. To make sure we’re financially comfortable and safe in retirement, we need to be aware of the risks and take the right steps to be protected. This of course means thinking about this and planning ahead years before we expect to retire.

Here are the 4 best tools to keep you safe in retirement:

1 – Social Security (I’m serious here…)

Social Security is the golden child of retirement planning. It is THE BEST option we have out there to keep us safe. It’s basically a pension provided by the government. Here’s how it works: While you’re working and paying taxes, you earn Social Security credits. As long as you’ve earned at least 40 credits (1 credit for every $1,320 you make, max of 4 credits per year), you’ll qualify to receive benefits in retirement. The more credits you earn, the more your benefit, which is a monthly paycheck in retirement, will be. That monthly check can start between ages 62-70 and will continue for life, each year potentially increasing for inflation. The longer you wait to start it, the more your benefit will be.

To take full advantage of Social Security, do the following:

  1. Maximize your credits by making sure your reported taxable income is at least $5,280 every year. (This number is based on the 2018 credit value of $1,320 which does go up over time.)
  2. Plan to delay the start of your Social Security to the maximum age of 70. You’ll get an 8% increase in your benefit each year you delay them past full retirement age (67).
  3. Keep track of your Social Security benefit by creating an account. Knowing how much you’ll be receiving each month will make it easier for you to plan how you’ll cover the remaining expenses that exceed your benefits.

2 – Blueprint Income’s Personal Pension

Employers have decided to stop offering pensions, instead providing better access to the stock & bond markets through 401(k)s. But, you can still get yourself the benefits of a pension — steady, guaranteed income that continues for life — independent of what your employer offers. Blueprint Income’s Personal Pension is an account you create and fund just like you fund your 401(k), IRA, or brokerage account. But, instead of putting money in the market, the money in your Personal Pension gets converted into guaranteed, lifelong income backed by insurance companies, of which Blueprint Income has 15 on their platform. (The technical product that makes this possible is called an income annuity, which is what the first generation of pensions used.)

Use the Personal Pension to supplement your Social Security so that all of your most important expenses in retirement will be covered no matter how long you live, and even if the market crashes. Here’s what to do:

  1. Head to Blueprint Income to build a Personal Pension plan. You can set a goal for how much income you want in retirement and they’ll tell you how much to put in over time.
  2. If you have an idea of how much your basic expenses will be in retirement, use that minus Social Security as your income goal. If you don’t know, just set it at $2,000 per month and work with their time to refine it later.
  3. Decide where the money to open the account will come from (minimum of $5,000). You can use existing retirement savings (Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k) rollover) or new savings from your bank account.
  4. Then, keep contributing over time as little as $100 per month to build up your retirement check. If something happens, you can always skip/cancel/change contributions without penalty.

3 – Tomorrow, The Family Financial Planning App

The first two tools protect you from the risk that you live longer than expected and the risk that the stock market crashes. But, what will happen when you pass away? Not only is that emotionally challenging for your loved ones, it can also create very complicated financial situations for them. The Tomorrow app provides a super easy and user-friendly way to make important long-term financial decisions and set up appropriate wills and insurance contracts.

Here’s what you can do through the Tomorrow app:

  1. Create a last will & testament for free. Having a will is important because it specifies who will be the guardian of your kids and pets and specifies what should happen to your assets.
  2. Create a trust fund, which when paired with a will, has the benefit of protecting your privacy, reducing probate costs, and allowing for better distribution of your assets.
  3. Determine and buy the right amount of term life insurance. This is the simplest form of protection for your family over the period of time that a premature death would harm them financially.

4 – EverSafe, Protection from Fraud, Scams & Financial Exploitation

At the beginning, I mentioned that retirement becomes a risky time in your life because of your potentially diminished cognitive capabilities. This reality makes seniors easy targets for financial abuse and exploitation. Elder financial abuse can take many forms, including petty theft, fraud, scams, misguided home repairs and bad financial advice. EverSafe is a personal detection and alert system that stops exploiters from taking advantage of you.

Consider signing up for EverSafe as you approach retirement, or for your loved ones who are already in retirement, to get the following services:

  1. Analysis of your daily transactions for erratic activity and anomalies like unusual withdrawals, missing deposits, etc.
  2. Alerts by email text, or phone to you and your trusted advocates when suspicious activity occurs.
  3. Tools to manage and resolve any fraudulent activity.

With these tools, plus all of the good day-to-day and long term financial sense I know you already have, you’ll set yourself up for a comfortable retirement where, ideally, you never even have to think about money or risk!

The post The 4 Best Tools to Keep You Safe in Retirement appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Looking for time management tips?

You're not alone.

I've been able to reach a lot of my goals due to my time management skills. People have wondered how I was able to pay off my debt in seven months, how I graduated with two college degrees by the age of 20, and how I've been able to build this blogging business to where it is today without a huge team behind me. Well, it's due to me knowing how to get more done in less time.

Some may call me impatient (okay, it's probably my biggest flaw), but I utilize a lot of time management tips and solutions below because I know how much they can truly help.

Now, I'm not perfect either. I can watch a whole season of a TV show in one day, and I can easily spend an insane amount of hours on social media.

However, it's about balance and knowing when too much is too much.

Finding new time management tips and improving your time management skills is important as it can help you in many areas, such as:

  • You can squeeze more hours in for side hustling.
  • Finish your college degree in less time.
  • Have more time with your loved ones.
  • Relax more as you'll have additional hours.
  • Go on vacation, as you'll have more hours in your life.

And more.

Nearly everyone in the world wants more hours in a day. And, while I can't literally extend the clock for you, I can teach you my time management tips so that you can reclaim some of the hours that you have lost.

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. What you do with it is up to you, but you may be wasting time each day, which can hold you back from reaching your goals.

Just think about it: What do you think you could do with an extra 5-10 hours, or even more, each week?

You might even be wasting time without knowing it. You might not realize how this wasted time easily adds up to a huge number of hours.

Hopefully my time management tips will help you find hours in your week, no matter how they are lost.

Related content:

Here are my time management tips: I don't start something unless I plan on finishing it.

Okay, you're probably thinking – OF COURSE.

What I’m referring to is that I generally won't start a task if I can't finish it in one sitting.

Now, this may mean that you break tasks into smaller sections (because, of course, not everything can be finished in one sitting, such as a college degree).

So, for this example, I'm talking about a specific task, such as writing an article, doing homework for a college class, etc. I won't start a task unless I can finish it in that same sitting because it can take a lot of precious time to stop and start up again.

I have a to do list.

I have a constant to do list, and this is one of my top time management tips.

Without my to do list, I would feel lost, unorganized, and probably even confused about what to do! Yes, I rely heavily on my to do list, but putting a to do list together doesn't have to be hard. I keep my to do list on my phone, and it’s just a simple list of things I need to do. Others find that planners work for well for them.

Your to do list will keep you on track so you don't forget what needs to be done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, which in turn keeps you motivated towards your goals.

I set reminders on my calendar.

If there is something coming up that I know I will not remember, I will create a simple reminder. This makes managing my life easier because I don't have to worry about forgetting things.

I create reminders for things such as:

  • When it's time to pay estimated quarterly tax payments.
  • Renewing license plate tags for our cars.
  • Paying semiannual bills, such as car insurance.
  • Business tasks that need to be completed by a certain date

And more.

I probably have over 100 things in my phone's calendar between life, RV, and business tasks that need to be completed. It definitely helps keep me in check.

I make sure the timing for everything works out perfectly.

When I was in college, I always made sure that the timing for all of my classes worked perfectly with my work schedule. This required some research and planning, but it was well worth it in the end.

I made sure all the classes I took worked together timewise, which meant no wasted time in between. It also gave me just enough time for me to work my normal 8-5 job so that I could start my 5:30 p.m. classes. I was able to fit classes and work together without any wasted time in my schedule.

You would be surprised if you stopped to think about how much time people waste. I know people who sign up for college classes and just take whatever they think they need without thinking about their schedule. This might mean having hour or longer breaks each day between each of their classes. I also know people who take a class, go to work, and then come back for another class (wasting driving time), and more.

I'm not in college anymore, but I do still make sure everything is timed perfectly. I guess it's a habit of mine that will never die.

I quit checking my email over and over.

I'm guilty of checking my email numerous times throughout the day. It's a problem I have, but I am slowly getting better with lots of room for improvement.

Checking your email can waste a lot of time. By dedicating your time and focus towards checking your email, you may be losing your train of thought when you should actually be doing something else.

I recommend checking your email just a few times a day, once a day, or even just every few days.

I quit multitasking.

As we rush through life, we have the tendency to multitask in order to speed through tasks and challenges. Some people multitask because they think it saves time and energy, but for many, not multitasking is the real time management tip. This is because some people can multitask successfully, and because it takes so much time to refocus on a new task, many people cannot do it successfully.

Just think, every time you switch between tasks, you may actually be spending more time than if you approached each task separately.

Think about your strengths and weaknesses to understand whether or not multitasking actually helps you save time. It’s possible that you can multitask some things, but others need your full one-on-one attention.

And, for the most part, by single-tasking, your ability to focus on one thing at a time, and fully complete each task in front of you, will help you better focus.

I outsource certain tasks.

Even though there are several tasks I could do, I outsource them.

This can also apply to household tasks among other things. This may sound silly, but I am sometimes guilty of procrastinating by cleaning. I hate cleaning, so that really says something. If you don't have the time to do certain household tasks, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning your home, etc., then you may want to see if there is any value in hiring out some of these tasks.

This time management tip asks you to place a value on a task, and see if your time is better spent elsewhere.

I say no more often.

One of the ways we add clutter to our life is by agreeing to more than we can actually handle. And, I am a big fan of stepping outside of your box and saying “yes” to everything, but there are situations in which you may need to actually say “no” instead. If you say “yes” to everything, but you are ready to pull your hair out, then you may want to start saying “no.”

This is one of the very important time management tips, as it can definitely help you reclaim a lot of your lost time.

Think about everything you have said “yes” to in the past, and ask yourself these questions: Did that bring me joy? Did the benefit of the task outweigh the stress is caused? Was I able to make a meaningful difference for myself or someone else?

If you find that the answer to these questions is mostly “no,” then perhaps that’s the answer you should be giving in the future.

I became more organized.

Being unorganized can cause you to waste a significant amount of time and can lead to late fees, stress, lost items, and more, which can then cause you to lose even more time!

Here are some surprising statistics I found from Simply Orderly about being unorganized:

  • The average person spends 12 days per year looking for things they can’t find.
  • Every day, the average office worker spends 1.5 hours looking for things.
  • In a recent survey, 55% of consumers stated they would save anywhere from 16 to 60 minutes a day if they were organized.
  • 23% of people pay bills late and have to pay late fees because they are unable to find their bills.

These statistics are all nuts! So much time is being wasted every single day by the average person.

To take part in this time management tip and become more organized, you may want to find a day or life planner that works for you, set reminders on your phone, use Post-it notes to remind yourself of upcoming tasks, purchase organizers for your physical items, and so on.

I highly recommend looking into different types of organizers as well. These can save space and save time!

I watch less TV.

Did you know that the average person watches over 30 hours of TV a week. Even if you used just half of those hours finding things to do instead of watching TV, you could probably accomplish something great!

We eliminated cable and even Netflix from our lives a few years ago, and it's one of our best decisions. We hardly ever watch TV (at the time of this writing, I think it’s been at least a month since I have turned on the TV in the RV), and we have so many more hours per day and week due to it.

If you were to add up all the time you spent watching TV, it would probably be pretty shocking. Can you imagine what you could do by just taking half of those hours back each week?

I know this time management tip seems obvious, but sometimes we need to hear how much time we are wasting to finally make a change for the better.

Reclaiming some of that time could allow you to spend more time with your friends and family, work on side hustles, get outside and enjoy the world around you, and more.

Related: Cut the cable cord and start saving thousands of dollars!

I'm spending less time on social media.

Okay, this time management tip is still a work in progress for me.

The average person spends many, many hours on social media each week. Between Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many others, it can be quite easy to waste your entire day.

I've read many statistics that say that the average person spends over five hours a day on social media!

FIVE HOURS A DAY!

Like many of you, I am just as guilty of this. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people, but like I said, it can be wasting valuable time each day.

Spending too much time on social media can even lead to negative thoughts, like comparing yourself to others, trying to keep up with the Joneses, and more.

If you find that you are spending too much time on social media and that it is negatively impacting you, you may want to shut down the social media accounts that you are spending too much time on. One of my time management tips for this is to possibly create a time block so you cannot access your accounts during certain periods of the day.

I get the most out of short gaps of time.

Everyone has gaps throughout their day. This could be a gap before you have a meeting, a gap between your day job and night classes, a gap before you have to pick up the kids from school, or something else.

Maybe you have 30 minutes or an hour. Most people will just plunk down on the couch and watch TV or browse on Facebook. However, you should use gap time efficiently.

That 30 minutes could be spent fitting a little side hustle in, completing a task on your to-do list, and so on. Of course, relaxing is fine as well – I'm just saying that you should make sure you aren’t wasting these small gaps of time when you could be using them to your advantage.

I stopped procrastinating.

Procrastination can waste time as you may find anything else you can possibly do before completing a certain task.

Then, you might do things that waste even more time, such as just standing around, watching TV, cleaning the same area you've already cleaned 10 times that day, and more.

For this time management tip, understand why you are procrastinating and create an action plan to stop this time wasting behavior. By focusing on what you need to do, you will stop wasting time!

I have less clothing options.

The average successful person has a very limited set of clothing options, as this way they have more time to focus on things that truly matter.

By finding items that already match one another and by having a smaller wardrobe, you'll have more time to focus on other things in life, which can help you to drastically simplify your life and find more hours in your week.

If you want to focus on this time management tip, start by looking at the items you wear the most and get rid of the ones you haven’t worn in months. It can feel really good to clean out your closet! You can then start to build your wardrobe around the items you know you love and will wear more often.

Related content: Why You Should Spend Like A Millionaire- The Frugal and Smart Money Habits of Millionaires

I don't hit the snooze button (as much).

So many people hit the snooze button over and over again in the morning.

Sleeping for those two extra minutes after your alarm goes off isn't going to change your life. There are many scientific studies proving that hitting the snooze button does nothing good for you.

I know many people who set their alarms to go off anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before they actually want to wake up.

I'm not going to lie. I used to do this as well and thought it was the only way I could get up. It definitely did not work, as I always felt extremely groggy and sometimes even more tired!

Instead, you should wake up when your alarm first goes off to use those minutes valuably. You should either start going to sleep earlier, or setting your alarm for when you actually get out of bed.

What are your favorite time management tips and tools? How much time do you think you waste each day?

The post Tricks To Get More Done In Less Time appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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As you know, learning to pay off your debt is one of the best ways to reach financial independence. And, there are some crazy and creative strategies to pay off debt, and I LOVE hearing stories from the people trying them!

I published the post 60+ Extreme Things People Have Done To Save Money awhile back, and there were a lot of crazy interesting things mentioned in that article. There was someone shaving their own head to save money, people taping their shoes together, dumpster diving, and more.

Since then, others have shared their own stories, and I’m excited to share all of these new, crazy and creative strategies to pay off debt. I seriously love hearing about them.

Because there are so many strategies to pay off debt, many of us have probably gone to very different lengths to do so.

And, by sharing the things that we do, maybe we can all feel a little less embarrassed about our most crazy and extreme strategies to pay off debt, and we might even learn some new tricks.

By reading other people's strategies to pay off debt, I believe that you can find motivation to pay off your own debt, learn new ways to become debt free, and realize that paying off your debt is possible.

Learning how to become debt free can lead to many positives, such as:

  • You may finally feel less financial stress.
  • You can stop living paycheck to paycheck.
  • You may be able to use that money towards something more important, like saving for retirement.
  • Reaching debt freedom may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more or looking for a better job.

While some of these strategies to pay off debt may seem crazy or impossible to you, remember that everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you can only pay off a fraction of what the people below are able to do or if it takes you twice as long, that's still better than not trying at all.

Great debt payoff stories you should check out:

37 Strategies to pay off debt:

I moved into a Toyota Prius. “I moved out of my expensive apartment near San Francisco and went ‘intentionally homeless,’ or houseless, to pay off my debt. I moved into a guy's Toyota Prius who I'd only known for 6 months, and we lived in the car and camped in the woods near San Francisco to pay off debt and save money. I only had $4,000 in debt from high-interest loans and union dues, but couldn't seem to pay it off due to the crazy cost of living in San Francisco. Living without a home was the only way for me to achieve financial freedom, and my boyfriend saved up enough money to buy a sailboat…and a new Prius….with cash! I'm pretty sure neither of us will ever be in debt again, since both of us now know we get along well in a super small space, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.” – Kristin Hanes

I went through my neighbors' trash for coupons! “When we were paying off our debt, we turned to coupons to save money on our groceries. On recycling day, I would go out early in the morning to grab my neighbors' newspapers. It's kind of gross; I don't recommend it!” – Alaya Linton

We used washable clothes instead of toilet paper. “We paid off $89,000 and then saved $20,000 for a downpayment on a house. The craziest thing we did to save money was use washable cloths instead of toilet paper. We also turned off our heat and burned wood in a fireplace and used fans to move the heat around the house, and supplemented our groceries by foraging for wild edibles. I sewed clothes for the kids instead of buying new and used cast off adult clothes as the fabric and notions, cutting them down to fit.” – Angela Bailey Coffman

We moved in with my parents. “Moving in with my parents. My husband and I were working on paying off $87,000 of student loan debt. After a year of renting an apartment during our first year of marriage, our rent was going up $200! My parents kindly invited us to rent a room from them for some time to pay off our loans. So being newlyweds, we rented a 10X10 sq ft room from my parents for cheap. We lived there for 14 months and were able to pay off our $87,000 of debt in less than 2.5 years total!” – Marissa Lyda

I lived with my husband and his friend for three years. “My husband and I lived with a friend of his for three years, two years in Indianapolis and then we all moved to Denver together. The first two years we lived together, my rent cost $266 a month ($350 cheaper than when I had lived alone). I used that $350 difference to apply to my student loans, which I paid off while we were all living together. It wasn't just about splitting the rent. We also split utilities, internet and Netflix. A lot of people thought I was weird for living with someone the first year I was married, but it made so much financial sense. It allowed me to pay off $28,000 worth of student loans and save for a $15,000 emergency fund and move to Colorado.” – Zina Kumok

We ignored social norms, such as holidays. “Paid off $280,000 mortgage in 6 years. My wife tried cutting my hair once, but she ended up botching the job horribly. She laughed a lot while she was cutting it, and I had to go to a ’real stylist’ to get it fixed. What has worked is totally ignoring social norms when it comes to birthdays, Christmas, Valentines, anniversary, weddings, and social obligations that would have us buy things or spend money. We don't buy each other anything ever (except for investment real estate), and we rarely participate in anything socially that would ‘obligate’ us to buy something or spend money.” – Richard Carey

We moved to the “hood.” “We moved to the ‘hood,’ had bullet holes in the back door—but the home was free. It helped us dump over $120k in debt by 2013. We still live there today–no regrets and I love our community and actively serve and raise my kids there.” – Aja McClanahan

I made my own food, with my own ingredients, while at a restaurant with friends. “I graduated college with over $35,000 of student loan debt, some loans at 6% and others at 8%. This is not a huge number compared to some, but it was still a big scary number for 20-year-old me with the economy what it was in 2009. I rapidly ate away at this debt by working as much overtime as I could, sharing a room with 3 other guys and only paying $275/month for rent, and not eating out for 2 years until I could refinance at a lower rate. I remember one time my new roommates were grabbing pho and really wanted me to join. Not wanting to appear anti-social, but also wanting to stick to my financial plan, I brought some raw brisket from home to the pho restaurant, asked for hot water, and boiled my meat right there in the restaurant, topping it off with the ubiquitous bean sprouts and basil! I cringe at this now and feel bad for being so cheap toward a small family restaurant, but at the same time, I'm proud that I stuck to my guns and did whatever it took to chip away at that debt. At the end of those 2 years, I had paid off $20,000 of student loan debt, bringing my balance from $35,000 to $15,000, at which point I refinanced my loans to a fixed rate in the 2%’s.” – Logan Allec

We flipped houses. “When I met my (now) husband, he convinced me to break my lease and move out of my amazing condo and back in with my parents, so I could pocket $1,000 a month. When we married, our house was only in his name, and he convinced me to buy a $60,000 house in my name. We flipped it in less than a year, the house was on the market for four days and sold for $80,000. I’m a teacher, and he’s a professional estimator for flood damage, I never thought we could make money on the side like that! Thank goodness for my husband’s ideas because we had two babies back to back and were able to pay for me being out of work and medical bills.” – Dana Williams Craven

We didn't go out to eat for almost 2 years. “My husband and I avoided a lot of debt by cash flowing both our 4 year degrees. We also managed to build up our retirement accounts to over $100k in 5 years. The secret to our success was living super frugal and budgeting. We didn't go out to eat for almost 2 years. If we wanted to buy something, we would only buy it if we had cash to pay for it. We even started a small woodworking side hustle to make a little extra cash using our skills.” – Cassie Pipp

I took a gutsy move that is a major no-no. “I graduated with $125,000 in student loan debt. After years of making payments and barely seeing my balance drop, I decided to take out a 401k loan. This was a gutsy move because taking out loans from retirement accounts is considered a major no-no among most financial advisors and gurus. But I crunched the numbers and for my specific situation, it made sense. This decision kick-started my intense debt-free journey and I am happy to say that I am now debt-free (the student loans and the 401k loan). Best financial decision I ever made, despite seeming ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid.’ Quick note: Taking out 401k loans is NOT the solution for everyone. Make sure to do your homework before making a major decision like this.” – Liv Cloud

We went dumpster diving for metal. “My husband and I paid off $25,000 of (mostly medical) debt in 12 months, a handful of those months he was unemployed while switching careers. We budgeted, negotiated down bills, sold any extra possessions from around the house, reduced to one car, and….. went dumpster diving for metal.” – Rebecca Moxon

I took a 4 hour daily commute to avoid having a car. “When I first moved to the States, I had racked up over $5000 in lawyer and immigration fees. In order to pay it off, I decided to forgo a car in Los Angeles, a city where the car is king. My daily commute took 2 hours each way and involved 3 trains, a bus and a 20 minute walk. I travelled through areas of the city that many avoid even driving through. This allowed me to pay off my debt within a year while working a minimum wage job. The best part, however, was that I was exposed to a side of the City of Angels that many never know. My commute allowed me to meet some wonderful people and learn about different cultures in a way that I would never have encountered if I were stuck in my car on a freeway.” Gemma

We bought a car for a dollar. “As of February 15, 2018 we are completely debt-free!!! We have paid off around $50,000 in debt! It's like a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. We even paid off this debt while having a baby and going on one income so I could stay at home. To do this we budgeted hardcore (cash envelopes and all), did some side hustles like flipping stuff on Facebook Marketplace and penny-pinched. Okay, so we did do some crazy things like putting way too much water in the spaghetti sauce to make it last longer (it was not good) and buying a car for a dollar (yes, we did!). My husband also sat down with his CEO and point-blank asked him for a $20,000 raise. He got it. We made getting out of debt a top priority and now we have zero monthly payments! Zero!” – Alice Bolte

I lived without a credit card. “Having come to the UK to live and work as a teacher, I knew that a certain lifestyle was expected but I decided to live the frugal lifestyle and clear off all debt by buying all second-hand furniture, second (or third hand) cars, never bought lunch at work, avoiding the hairdresser (my sister and I do each other's hair) and also live without using a credit card. All of this has cleared a debt of almost £30,000. I still do have an affordable mortgage but apart from that, I owe no debt and am able to give up teaching to work from home.” – Joleisa Creed

I rode my bike for three years. “When I graduated from college, I left with $23,000 worth of student loans. I tried to keep my loans down while in school by only taking out the minimum, working full-time, and living very frugally – like riding my bike for three years. I refinanced my loans for a lower interest rate right away and started using all of my extra money to pay down the loan. I tutored after school (I was a teacher) and put chunks of my tax return toward my debt. All the while, I was paying cash for a master's degree and continued my frugal ways by carpooling, coloring my hair myself, meal planning, paying cash, and living below my means. I finally paid off my undergrad student loan debt and treated myself with a new iPhone! Hey, you have to splurge every once in a while, and I paid cash, so why not? Getting rid of that debt was such a relief!” – Sarah Poeppe

I slept on my parent's twin bed to save money. “After living above my means for a few years after I graduated from college, I had to face the music and move back into my parent's house. I used a debt consolidator and took on a part-time weekend job in addition to my full-time job to pay it all off. It took me 18 months to pay off $24,000. It was worth every rough night of sleep on my parent's twin bed in their guest room! After that I was FREE :)” – Kristiina Craven

I worked 60 hour weeks while pregnant. “My husband and I paid off $100,000 in student loan debt in 26 months. During that time I was pregnant with our 3rd child and was working 60 hour weeks as a hospital physical therapist lifting weak and sick people people out of bed and getting them to exercise (no easy task!). I had horrible morning sickness – I would puke on the way to work, in the car, and would have to leave patient's rooms (because of the smell) and go vomit in the bathroom before I could return to work with them! It was crazy town! But, I wanted that debt gone, so I kept working! I don't regret a thing!” – Nicole Chammas Rule

We started a cakery, and more! “My wife and I both used our existing skills to make extra money to pay down our debt. She created a cake bakery (cakery?) business out of our house, and I performed remote cyber security consulting after my normal job and on the weekend. If that wasn’t enough work already, we also started selling our own product on Amazon. It took a lot of research, trust, and patience but it grossed over 100K last year. We are gluttons for punishment so we also started a blog and YouTube channel for additional diversification of revenue and fun! All this hard work has led to us being able to pay off over 40K in debt over 2 years. We have a remaining $10K that will be paid off before June.” –Jason Miller

We cut up our credit cards. “We were 17K in credit card debt when we decided enough is enough. First thing we did is attend a ‘manage your money class.’ Then we consolidated our credit card debts in one card, cut up all others, created a spreadsheet from the amount we started, then updated it monthly. It was motivating to see the graph going down as we are paying down out debt. Hubby got a second job, and I got odd jobs here and there (including blogging) in addition to my full-time job. Paid off that debt in 2 years.” – Liza Pierce

I managed other peoples' garage sales. “When I accrued about $6,200 in debt from going back to school to pursue a new career, I was filled with guilt for adding that debt to my family. I decided to do anything and everything to pay it off. I started offering various services in Fiverr and Upwork. Some of the creative services I offered were setting up and managing other people’s garage sales and consignment sale tagging services. Managing others peoples garage sales for a fee is a win-win. Not only did I get paid my fee but I often was gifted leftover items that I could turn around and sell online or at consignment sales. Nobody wants to bring those garage sale items back in the house! In just over a year and a half, I paid off that school debt.” – Stef Vassilis Mosesman

I deployed with the Navy.  “I paid off my debt by deploying for a year with the Navy full-time, no travel, rent or expenses to pay for! I graduated with over £30,000 in student loans, credit cards and tuition fees. I was gradually paying this off bit by bit but what really helped was when I took time off work to deploy with the Navy full-time (I'm a reservist). Not only did they match my civilian salary, but I also saved on living expenses, rent and travel in London for a whole year. Those cold and often very rough days at sea were definitely worth when it came to finally getting rid of my debt!” – Andy Ly

I took on two side hustles. “When I was paying off $6,000 in credit card debt in addition to working full-time, I had two different side hustles. One working at Gillette Stadium during Patriots games and one writing legal briefs for the firm my friend was working at, they were overloaded with work and she suggested me. I also saved money by taking advantage of having to travel for work. When I had to travel for work, I would bring home the leftovers from eating out (paid for by work) to help avoid grocery shopping and spending money on food.” – Liz Stapleton

We went dumpster diving for children's items. “My wife and I paid off a $400,000 mortgage in 7.5 years. Before we got married, I lived with three other roommates to help pay down my mortgage. Once we got married, my wife was not interested in living with roommates so we got rid of them. From there we became frugal in every way possible. We went dumpster diving and found ‘treasures’ like double strollers and toys for our sons, shopped Craigslist and Thrift Stores for baby clothes. We went to the cheapest grocery store in town (Aldi) and bought things in bulk. Over the course of those 7.5 years we were able to crush our debt and pay it off!!!” – Rob Andersen

I'm always on the hunt to flip something for a profit. “This topic is near and dear to my heart because I’m very influenced by my extremely wealthy eccentric uncle who’s honestly the biggest cheapskate I’ve ever met in my life. From wearing used clothes because he can’t stand new clothing prices, to refusing to buy coffee when he’s out running errands because his bank gives it out for free, and driving a 30-year-old Suburban because it’s still kickin. He even went to his local market every day for 7 days straight because whole chickens were half price, so he HAD to keep going back to pick up the max limit each day. Honestly though, why in the world would anyone need 14 whole chickens in their freezer for only 2 people?? While my money-saving habits aren’t as extreme, I also grew up poor and appreciate every dollar. When the kids were younger, it was important for my husband and me to live on one meager income and have me be a stay-at-home mom, yet we still had lofty goals of paying for our kids' college, retiring very early to travel and paying for my husband’s business endeavor. Because we kept ourselves on a very tight budget and gave up many things yet didn’t change our lifestyle habits as my husband’s business grew, within the past 10 years we’ve been able to pay off over $600,000 in debt! The most extreme thing I’ve done to save money and pay-off debt is honestly just always being on the hunt to flip something for a profit. I was an eBay PowerSeller for many years, and although, I took my business in a different direction, I still can’t get out of my head that I should stop at every garage sale sign I pass, try to resale something from Costco at a higher price online, or buying up antique books in the hope to turn $1 into $400. One of my favorite resales was when I was doing my weekly shopping at the local deep discount store. When I mean deep discount store, I’m not meaning stores like Wal-Mart, K-mart or Target. I’m meaning the store THOSE stores send items to when they have too much stock of something, only a couple of items left and they need the shelf space for more profitable items, dented cans, food near expiration (which is a great way to also find organic boxed items for cheap), or toys that are perfectly fine but have a slightly damaged box. Do you honestly think kids care about the condition of the box? Heck no! If it’s really damaged, toss the box and make your own DIY gift tag from the box label. I’m sure you’ve heard of American Girl Dolls….my daughter really wanted one for her 8th Christmas, and we of course couldn’t afford it. But what we COULD afford were the American Girl doll look-a-likes from the deep discount store that looked IDENTICAL to the originals because it was made by the SAME manufacturer and sold under a different label. And again, because I’m always on the hunt for a quick flip, YES, I bought them ALL and resold them on eBay for $50-$60 each when I bought them at the discount store for $17.99 each–and YES, I fully disclosed on eBay these weren’t originals)!” – Jen Koellmann

I became debt free at 23. “When I graduated college, I had $28,000 of student loans and $10,000 in car loans. I was only making $12/hour at my day job, so I kept a $15/hour weekend job babysitting, but I kept looking for ways to earn more. The kids I was babysitting needed swim lessons and I was a lifeguard and swim..

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Summer is right around the corner, which means it’s time for warmer weather, more outdoor activities, farmers markets, picnics, and more! When it’s cold outside, things like stews, soups, and other hearty meals sound good. But, in the summertime, it’s all about those fresh and easy to prepare meals for your summer lunch or dinner.

With fresh fruits and vegetables in season, the summer is a great time to take advantage of fresh produce. Who doesn’t love going to a farmer’s market and coming home with delicious fruits and vegetables to add to their meal plan?

Many of these recipes would be good for more than just summer lunches as they would make great light dinners too. Some of these recipes would be perfect dishes to bring to potlucks, easy things to prepare for picnics, or great things to prepare as a quick summer lunch before or after a hike.

Also, having a meal plan is an important step in keeping you on track with your budget. These summer lunch recipes won’t break your budget, and they can spruce up a boring weekly meal plan if you feel like you’re in a funk.

If you’re ready for summer like me, here are some tasty summer lunch ideas to get you in the mood for warmer weather by having new recipes to add to your weekly meal plan.

Other recipe roundups to check out:

Note: If you're looking for easy weekly meal plans that are full of budget recipes, I recommend $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a delicious meal plan and shopping list every week for just $5 a month.

Here are 10 summer lunch ideas. 1. Apple Pecan Rosemary Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

Get the recipe here.

2. Grilled Summer Vegetable Quesadilla

Get the recipe here.

3. Pesto Pasta Salad

Get the recipe here.

4. Tortellini with Pesto and Roasted Veggies

Get the recipe here.

5. Balsamic Berry Vegan Grilled Cheese

Get the recipe here.

6. Easy and Healthy Chicken Salad Sandwich

Get the recipe here.

7. Avocado Egg Salad Roll Ups

Get the recipe here.

8. Green Chicken Salad

Get the recipe here.

9. One Pot Cheesy Taco

Get the recipe here.

10. Crock Pot Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

Get the recipe here.

What's your favorite summer lunch meal to make?

The post 10 Delicious Summer Lunch Ideas appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Welcome to April 2018's business income report where I show you how I made money online last month. It's time to look at this month's update and see how I did.

If you're new to Making Sense of Cents, you may be wondering why I would want to publish my income report each month. You can simply skip to the next section if you're not new here.

This all started out as my extra income report because, in the beginning, it was all about the money I was earning from my side jobs. In my side income reports from the beginning, I included all of the income I made except for what I made at my day job.

However, I left my day job as a financial analyst in October of 2013 and now my monthly income reports consist of the many ways I earn a living.

Many have asked why I would ever want to publicly post my income each month. Some think I'm crazy, whereas some are glad I'm open about what I'm doing. Whatever you think, I enjoy publishing my monthly online income reports and I share them publicly for three main reasons:

  1. Before I started blogging, I knew nothing about side hustling and making money online. I didn't think side jobs were worth the effort and I thought the only way to significantly increase your income was through raises at your full-time job. If it weren't for others publishing their monthly income reports, I don't know if I would have ever tried side hustling. I want to help show others the positives in side hustling and how it can change a person's life. There are many different ways to make money online, and I like to share my story each month to help motivate others to improve their financial situation by making more money.
  2. Secondly, I like to publish my income reports because it's a way for me to look back, learn from my mistakes and actually see what areas need improvement. I use my monthly income reports as a way to track how I've done and I treat it sort of like a journal.
  3. Lastly, I like to show others that making side money is possible and that there are many legitimate ways to make money from your home. If you are looking for information on the many ways to make money online, I published the article Monthly Income Report Roundup that showcases many successful bloggers who are kind enough to share their income with the public each month.

I know I say this every month, but it's the truth. Life is great now that I'm my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day and it's a wonderful feeling. I truly love waking up every single morning.

Above are just a few of the reasons for why I enjoy publishing my monthly income reports. I like to show others that you don't have to hate your job and hate your life. You can make changes to your life and make money in a way that allows you to truly enjoy the life you are living. I'm not saying that you have to LOVE your job, I'm just saying that your job should, at least, allow you to do what you like to do outside of work (whether that be spending time with loved ones, painting, hiking, etc.).

How was business income in April of 2018?

I earned $104,065 blogging and online in April of 2018, before expenses.

April was a normal month for Making Sense of Cents. It was a big drop in income from the previous month due to me not taking part in any affiliate launches. But, the income drop was expected. It was definitely still a great month!

I think the next few months will most likely see an income level around this same amount, and then it should pick up again sometime around September. This is for many reasons such as me just being busier over the next few months as well as the summer months usually just being a little bit slower for personal finance websites, in general.

My biggest goal for the year is to still improve my work-life balance. I'm getting better and better, but I'm still nowhere near perfect. My goal is to work less than 10 hours a week over the spring and summer months.

Currently, I am working on creating my next blogging-related product to sell, which will be about how to earn money through sponsored posts on a blog. You can sign up for the waitlist here.

Anyway, to get back to my monthly income…

I never thought that I would ever earn over $100,000 a month, especially with a blogging business.

While my income levels are high, I do want everyone to remember that I started at $0 a month and have grown my income to where it's at now through a lot of hard work.

Before you think that $100 or even $1,000 is out of your league, you should remember that it is not!

I, myself, used to think that it would be great to one day earn $1,000 online and through my blog. I looked up to many bloggers who were earning over $10,000 a month, and I thought it was impossible.

Now, I'm here to show everyone that it is possible! Through hard work and dedication, you never know where life may lead you.

As you can see, April was another great month. It was great on all fronts – blogging, course-wise, life, and everything else. The business is doing well and I'm very happy with it. I've been catching myself saying “Life is really good” a LOT. And, I truly mean it. Life is really good!

My business is growing, income is increasing, I have tons of amazing ideas for this year, and I am very excited about everything. I really love my business and I don't know where I would be without it.

My Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course is still doing very well as I had many new students join the course last month. It's still not showing any signs of slowing down – and this is still without any guest posts, webinars, etc.

If you are interested in starting a blog of your own, I created a tutorial that will help you start a blog of your own for cheap, starting at only $2.75 per month (this low price is only through my link) for blog hosting. In addition to the low pricing, you will receive a free website domain (a $15 value) through my Bluehost link if you purchase, at least, 12 months of blog hosting. FYI, if you are asking yourself “can you make money blogging?” – my top tip is to be self-hosted. This is essential if you want to monetize your blog as you will appear more professional and this will help you monetize your blog tremendously. My blogging income did not take off until after I switched to self-hosted WordPress.

This chart only goes back to September of 2016. You can find all of my income reports here.

Breakout of April 2018 income – $104,065.67

In April of 2018, I earned $104,065.67 from my blogging business. Below is how my income breaks apart in the different business income categories:

Total: $104,065.67

The income amount above is for the month of April and before any fees or expenses (some fees and expenses that lower the amount above total around $5,000 (rounded up), which include virtual assistants, Teachable course platform fee, technical assistance, newsletter expenses, PayPal and Stripe transaction fees, etc., however, this does not include taxes) being taken out. I also had expenses for the affiliates promoting my course, which totaled $5,765.65. After expenses and fees, I earned approximately $93,300.02

Please keep in mind that I work for myself when you read my monthly income report. This means I have to cover taxes (which are over 30%), health insurance, and all other benefits/expenses that an employer may provide.

Check out The Ultimate Guide To Making Money Blogging for all of the different ways you can make money through a blog.

Below are some of my other monthly online income reports. I publish an online income update every month but only included some of them below as it would be a very long list. If you head on over to my income page you can find all of my monthly income reports from the past few years.

Comparisons and 2018 business income total:
  • Total income in April of 2018: $104,065
  • Total income in March of 2018: $241,649
  • Difference from the previous month: -137,584
  • Total in 2018: $639,665
Blog news 

Making Sense of Cents is doing very well and I'm happy with everything.

In April, we spent most of the month leisurely driving from Arizona to Florida, making multiple stops along to way to see friends and family. We also found our dream boat, entered a contract on it (we move in this month!), and sold the RV. It was a crazy month, which meant that not much work was done on the business.

And, I know that the craziness of living on a boat has only just started. Due to this, I'm working on getting further ahead with more content. I realize that we will be extremely busy moving aboard and getting the hang of everything, so being ahead in content is key right now so that I can focus as much time as I can towards #boatlife.

Overall, traffic for the month was around 400,000 page views.

Below are several other business and blog-related updates:

  • My sister started as my virtual assistant in July of 2017. It is going very well. Some of the tasks she is in charge of include adding Pinterest photos to both new and old blog posts here on Making Sense of Cents, helping manage the Facebook groups I run, scheduling social media posts, and more. This helps free up more of my time so that I can create more products, reach more readers, and most of all, have an even better work-life balance.
  • I am thinking about adding some sort of group coaching session to my business sometime in the future. While I used to do individual coaching, my time was limited. Group coaching would allow me to help more people and to also create a great support group for bloggers.
  • My community group for Making Sense of Cents is continuing to grow. This is a Facebook group in which you can seek advice from other readers on all sorts of topics such as finance, blogging, travel, running a business, and so on. There are already over 10,000 members!
  • I created a new series on my blog here I interview extraordinary people who are doing interesting things in life. First, I interviewed JP, who retired at the age of 28 with a net worth over $2,000,000. I'm extremely excited about this new interview series! If there's anyone you would like me to interview, please leave a comment and let me know.
  • I released my How To Start A Blog FREE Course. If you’ve been wanting to start a blog, then check this out. I created this email course for those who are interested in starting a blog, but haven’t done so yet. The course is free, and over 40,000 people have already signed up. Thank you, everyone, for the kind emails about how great the course is. Glad everyone is enjoying it!
  • Due to how well my first free course went, I also created the free Master Your Money email course. It's full of great money management lessons and financial worksheets (such as a free budget template), and I'm loving the positive response from this email course as well.

Just a quick note before we continue. I created a time-saving cheat sheet that can help you increase your affiliate income. Sign up below!

Popular new posts on Making Sense of Cents last month:

Featured Question: How can I learn how to use social media for my blog?

I feature one question from a reader in each monthly income report. Please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer. 

Social media is very important for the average blogger. It can help you to engage with your readers on a closer level so that they can get to know you better, improve your traffic levels, grow your audience, and more.

There are just so many different ways that social media can help you and your blog. However, I also understand that it can be time-consuming to master just one of them, let alone trying to master them all!

It is well worth it, though, and it gets easier. Plus, you can automate a lot as well as schedule posts in advance when it comes to social media.

Below are my favorite social media resources. I check these resources often for new articles, I read their emails, listen to their podcast episodes, and more, so that I can stay updated.

  • My favorite Pinterest course is Pinterest Traffic Avalanche. This course shows you how to get free traffic from Pinterest to your blog. You'll learn about Pinterest SEO, how to set up Rich Pins, how to create viral content, how to make Pinterest images, all about group boards, and many other valuable Pinterest strategies.
  • If you're looking for great free Pinterest advice, that would definitely be Simple Pin Media. This website publishes high-quality articles on the topic of Pinterest as well as highly informative podcast episodes. They also have several great Pinterest courses.
  • My favorite overall business-related podcast would have to be Amy Porterfield's podcast. Some examples of great past episodes include How to Engage Your Small Facebook Group When You’re Just Starting Out, All About Instagram Ads, and How to Create a 5-Day Social Media Video Series for Rapid List Growth.
  • My favorite Facebook page resource is Facebook Strategies Worth Sharing – I started with just around 6,500 Facebook followers when I first read this resource, and currently have over 90,000. I owe a lot of that to the ebook Facebook Strategies Worth Sharing. Growing my Facebook page has allowed me to reach new readers, improve my blogging income, grow my email list, and more.
  • My favorite Facebook ads course is Flourish with Monica Louie. If you're wanting to master Facebook ads, which can be a great way to attract readers to a blog, this course is something you will want to check out. In this course, Monica teaches how to get webinar registrations through Facebook ads, improve email sign-ups, increase page views through traffic campaigns, and more.
  • My favorite overall guide that covers many different social media strategies is 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17k to 400k+ in 10 Months – Lena Gott's guide is full of great information on how to increase your blog's page views. If you are feeling stuck or if you are a new blogger, check out this resource! Lena went from 17,000 monthly page views to 400,000 and shares all of her best tips in this resource.
  • My favorite overall free resource would be Social Media Examiner. This is a great website that shares tons of great updates that happen on the various social media websites. If there's some rumor going around about social media, I usually check this website first to see what they have to say about it.

As you can see, there are a TON of great resources for any social media help that you may need. There are plenty of other websites I regularly read and listen to as well.

Past featured questions:

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Hey! Today, I have a great article from Alex Nerney and Lauren McManus, owners of one of my favorite courses, Six-Figure Blogger. Alex and Lauren, former personal trainer and CPA, are now full-time bloggers that own Avocadu.com, where they write about health, wellness, and weight loss for women, and Createandgo.co, where they teach others how to blog. They've been extremely successful, and earned $818,105 in 2017 blogging. Below is their story.

My boyfriend and I met in Dallas, Texas on a tinder date three and a half years ago. He was a personal trainer at the time and I was an accountant studying to get my CPA license.

Our jobs couldn’t have been any more different, but we were both motivated and hard-working young professionals looking for success just like everybody else.

Alex always knew that he wanted a different kind of life. He wanted to stop “trading his hours for dollars” as he put it and he wanted the financial freedom to design his work days and travel when he wanted to.

All of that sounded great to me, but I was honestly just fine with climbing the corporate ladder. I was subscribed to the idea anyway, because I had been indoctrinated to it early on in life. Go to school, major in something that you can make a career out of, and them work a 9-5 until you can build up a solid retirement fund.

That’s what everyone does, right?

Alex and I discussed a lot of “what-ifs” relating to working from home, starting your own business, etc., but we only really entertained the ideas. I know that I didn’t take them all that seriously because I couldn’t do anything like that, surely (aka the fear was talking me out of it).

There were a few really important steps that we took along our journey to becoming six-figure bloggers before the end of our first year.

Related content:

1. We decided to decide.

After attending a conference called The Millionaire Fast Lane, Alex made the decision that he was going to start a blog and run his own business.

He decided to decide. No more talking, theorizing, and dreaming. It was time to take action.

Everyone is guilty of entertaining ideas but not taking most of them seriously enough to just MAKE IT HAPPEN. We are no different. But Alex made his decision.

Being a personal trainer, he wanted to stick with what he knew. It would be a health and fitness blog. I loved the idea because I was just coming off my stint as a hardcore vegan of two years and I loved learning about all things health and wellness.

I was on board to support him in whatever capacity he needed me to and in the beginning, I offered to help him with a little bit of design work on the blog. I quickly realized that I really enjoyed the work and it didn’t feel like “work” to me.

Slowly, I started helping more and more until we began to work on it side-by-side every night, weekend, and extra hour that we had to spare outside of our full-time jobs.

After a few months of blogging and making absolutely zero dollars (and spending some money to run our blog), we realized that we were still giving away our most productive hours to our full-time jobs.

One day, after a particularly trying day preparing taxes at the accounting firm I worked for, I made my decision as well.

I called Alex on my way home from work and said “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m all in [with the blog].”

We had the opportunity to move to Seattle to Alex’s dad’s house, which was empty for the winter, and we jumped on it. We weren’t making a dime with our blog, but we knew that the isolation in Seattle away from family and friends would give us the focus we needed to give this our all.

It was terrifying and our family and friends thought we were insane. I thought we were insane. I had JUST passed my CPA exams and gotten my license.

But, we had saved up enough money that we could give it try for a year. If we failed, we could always crawl back to our full-time jobs with our tail between our legs.

We ended up making $103,457.58 with our health and wellness blog by the end of that first year.

The very first step in this process was deciding to decide. Making the decision to start a blog, venture into the unknown, and make it work no matter what.

You can live your life on the fence, waiting for good things to happen, or you can get off of the fence and make them happen.

2. We stayed focused on our goals.

Now, we’re not talking monetary goals. We did have a goal of making $10,000/month, but that wasn’t our north star.

The goals that mattered most to us were to be able to quit our soul-sucking day jobs, work from home, workout when we wanted to, travel when we wanted to, and completely design our days.

It was goals more like “Traveling to Europe before I’m 30 years old!” that motivated me more than anything. And a year and a half later, at 29 years old, I lived that dream on my first trip to Portugal:


We wanted control over our lives, financial freedom, and the ability to build our own dreams rather than someone else’s.

It was all of these things that kept us pushing forward. So, when it came time to make hard decisions like telling our friends that no, we couldn’t go out and have fun this weekend, there was a clear answer.

You NEED these personal goals to be your north star or you will end up giving up along the way. I’ll tell you right now that our path wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Our first blog failed after 2-3 months of working on it. We had visitors but couldn’t seem to make any money. We were too focused on what WE wanted to do rather than what our audience wanted and needed.

We ended up scratching that idea and starting a new health and wellness blog, Avocadu.com, that focused more on the health and well-being of others

But the point is that we didn’t give up. We had fears and doubts every day that kept us awake at night, but our dreams of a different life overpowered those feelings.

Stay focused on WHY you want this kind of life and know that personal goals are more important than monetary goals.  Sure, money gives you the freedom to live life the way you want to, but it’s those FEELINGS that motivate you and drive you forward.

In our first month in Seattle, we made our first $200 blogging. The next month, we doubled that amount. The month after that, we doubled it again, and repeated this process for the first 5 months of blogging.

The reason we were able to do this was because…

3. We tried everything and weren’t afraid to make mistakes.

I’m talking a LOT of mistakes. We have a sort of ‘motto’ that we live by after those first few months of blogging: Fail fast and learn faster.

We tried literally every technique and tactic we came across related to list building and email marketing, affiliate marketing, creating products, running webinars and launches, and more.

You name it, we tried it. Some of these ideas were great but we just went about them the wrong way or at the wrong time.

We ran a webinar once and only had about 20-something people show up, two of which were our moms, and most of which left the webinar halfway through… I cringe just thinking about it.

It was embarrassing and disheartening to say the least and was definitely one of the lowest moments we have EVER had in blogging. But we picked ourselves back up and tried something else.

Yes, we were afraid of failure, but we didn’t let it stop us from trying and reaching those goals that were so important to us.

The key is to fail a lot and learn from your mistakes. Don’t hold on to ideas for too long just because they are working for someone else and don’t force it.

Trust in the process and find what works for YOU. Perhaps the coolest part is that some things that you try might not work at the time, but they may work for you later on down the road.

We created a diet plan to sell on our first blog only to have it completely flop. It was like trying to sell ice to eskimos. But a few months and a LOT of mistakes later, we rebranded and repackaged that same diet plan to sell on our new blog, and now it’s our best-selling product.

4. We diversified our income.

Along this process of trial and error, we began to figure out what was working and what was not.

We made our first couple hundred dollars linking Amazon products on our blog with the Amazon Associates program. This was the first bit of passive income we had earned and that $7-10/day meant everything to us.

Naturally, we tried to become millionaires with the Amazon Associates program and failed pretty quickly at that. You need millions of blog views a month to make any kind of real money that way.

So, we moved on to the next thing, which was to dive a little deeper into affiliate marketing with other types of affiliate products. We had built up a list of a few thousand subscribers at that point thanks to our success with driving tons of free traffic to our blog with Pinterest.   

We began creating email opt-ins and funnels with free videos and written content to try to sell a yoga for weight loss product that we found on a popular affiliate marketplace, Clickbank.

We only made $5/sale on the product, but it was more than double the average sale we were getting from Amazon affiliate products ($1-2/sale). This is how we doubled our revenues for that second month.

After learning that our audience was interested enough in yoga for weight loss that they would buy a product, we decided to create our own. If we could successfully sell our own program, we could control our margins and turn that $5/sale into $20 or $30/sale.

So, we spend the next couple of weeks researching and writing what became our Yoga Fat Loss Bible. By the end of that third month, we had sold our first few eBooks and doubled our revenues again.

We had now created a diversified revenue stream because we were making $300-400 from Amazon + $2,000+ from our yoga program sales.

At this time, we were also successfully selling an affiliate product on weight loss. So, we decided to sell our own diet plan. Alex was, after all, a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist.

This is when we spruced up our previously failed diet plan from our first blog. We improved and expanded upon the content and gave it a new name and a new look.

By the end of that 4th month, we had successfully launched our second product, the 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge, to our list and doubled our revenues again.

Add another $2,000+ to our bottom line and you can begin to see how it grows.

Diversifying your income both helps secure your income on your blog and helps you increase your monthly revenues.

5. Growth can be exponential if you do it right.

During the next few months, we worked on trying out new affiliate products. improving our current products, learning how to sell better, and driving more traffic to our blog. All of these factors helped us continue to make more each month with our blog.

This doubling of revenues led us to making over $40,000 in a single month with our health and fitness blog just 7 months after we quit our jobs and weren’t making ANY money at all.

Blogging is like a puzzle. Get a couple pieces put together, and the rest will begin to fall into place.

Figuring out those first couple of pieces is the most difficult part and it does take a lot of time and work, but it becomes really fun when you start to get those first few small wins.

By this point, we had learned a TON about blogging, online sales, and marketing, a process that was both fun and incredibly interesting to us because we are both business majors.

We wanted to share our story with the world and show others that they could do this to..

Now that we know what we know, when we look back on our mistakes, it feels like we should have seen a lot of the failures coming. But it’s not always easy or obvious when you’re deep in the trenches just trying to get through each day.

Figuring out those first couple pieces of the puzzle was the most difficult part for us, and we felt that sharing our process could help other new bloggers navigate through this period of uncertainty a little easier.

So, we started Create and Go, where we now help and teach others how to create their own successful blogs, work from home, and hopefully have the ability to design their days like we do.

We still continue to run our successful health and wellness blog, Avocadu, and have diversified further with our first physical product, a probiotics supplement, and even branched into selling a few other physical products on Amazon with Alex’s sister.

On Create and Go, we have a quickly-growing YouTube Channel where we teach others about how to blog and about the successes and failures we have experience through our blogging journey.

Despite what some marketers might tell you, blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme or a way to make millions and never work again. It’s still a job, but one that provides a LOT more enjoyment and personal freedom than most do.

The truth is that we came across a lot of both very good and very bad advice along the way. When you try just about everything, you see a lot and learn a lot.

Our goal at Create and Go is as honest and transparent as possible about our journey to becoming successful bloggers so that others can relate and hopefully apply similar strategies to their new or growing blogs.

We have created four different courses on blogging that further help to diversify our income and we now make over $75,000/month between both of our blogs.

We also sell a discounted bundle of all four of the above courses called Pro Blogger Bundle.

We’ve achieved all of this in just about two years and have been able to travel around the world, including to Peru, Portugal, Bali, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and other places.

To wrap things up, here is a quick summary of the most important factors that helped us go from $0-$10,000/month in less than a year:

  1. Decide to decide. Stop talking, theorizing, and dreaming and start taking action. 
  2. Stay focused on your goals. Feelings are a far more powerful driver than money. Your north star should be what that money will provide for you (freedom, travel, happiness, etc.)
  3. Try everything and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Fail fast and learn faster. Sometimes in order to find out what works, you must first learn all the ways that it work work.
  4. Diversify your income. Adding additional revenue streams to your bottom line is one of the quickest ways to reach $10,000/month even while traffic remains the same.
  5. Continue to challenge yourself and improve for exponential growth. The moment you are comfortable and satisfied with where you are at is the moment that you stop growing.

Blogging has opened doors for us that we didn’t even know existed because we stayed focused on what mattered most to us in our lives and didn’t allow fear to hold us back or failure to keep us down. 

What are you doing to grow your income?

The post How we went from $0-$10,000/month blogging in less than a year appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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