Michelle Schroeder Paid off her $40,000 student loan debt (within 7 months) by the age of 24. Left her day job for her growing online business. She shares useful tips about personal finance on her blog.
What would you do to save more money and pay off your debt quicker?
One thing that I've noticed more people doing is living in a camper in order to save money.
Before we begin, I will say that RVing is funny. Some people who don't RV think that all RVers are trust fund babies, and others think the complete opposite, like that we are all truly homeless and have no money.
In reality, living in a camper has a wide range of costs, just like houses that don't have wheels do. You could live in a $1,000 travel trailer, or there are $2,000,000+ motorhome mansions. Similarly, the budget you keep while living in a camper can vary widely too.
Some people manage to spend just hundreds of dollars a month, whereas others can easily spend several thousands of dollars a month RVing.
While we don't live in an RV to save money (the house we used to own was actually much less expensive than our motorhome), there are many who have been able to pay off debt, save for early retirement, and more, all by living in a camper.
There are soooo many ways to save money when living in a camper, so I definitely think that if you wanted to pay off your debt quicker, reach financial independence earlier, etc., then RV living may be something you want look into. Of course, though, there are ways to completely blow your budget as well, so you need to do some careful planning before deciding that living in a camper is the right choice for you.
If you’re interested in RVing, check out other RV-related content:
Has anyone saved money by living in a camper over a house?
I know quite a few people who have been able to save more money by living in a camper over a house.
Below are several RVers who have found that living in a camper has actually saved them money:
Cheaper living in a caravan than living with roommates – “Living in a caravan in New Zealand is cheaper than renting with 3 people in Auckland. A year ago, I was struggling to save for a house deposit. A caravan seemed the next logical step. I've left the city and only pay a third of my old rent and have a place to myself. Heavenly. You can learn more about the break down of my expenses here: http://travellingk.com/cost-of-living-caravan-rv” – Karen
Finding inspiration to downsize – “We decided to downsize and live the RV life after the birth of our daughter. She was our inspiration to have less stuff in exchange to spend more time as family. Initially we thought we needed bigger and better to grow a family. A bigger house, bigger car, and bigger debt to make it happen. Then we realized, what if we go smaller? I am now able to live my dream as a stay at home mom to our daughter, because of the money we save RV living. We travel the US making memories as a family and teaching her along the way. We live debt free and have more freedom than we ever thought was possible.” Marissa
This family cut their expenses in half by moving into an RV – “We cut our expenses in half when we sold it all and moved into the RV. Biggest thing was selling the house and getting rid of the mortgage. The rest of our cutbacks were getting rid of the high truck payment and started using a sharing program for our insurance. We also are very budget conscious when it comes to buying groceries and going out… although this definitely our biggest splurge area as we loooove food! Oh and closing my photography studio and not needing to pay for full time daycare any more were huge as well!” – Alexi
$1.40 a day average campground costs – “I am a single, middle-aged female who full times in an older Class A motorhome with my Golden Retriever, Sully. Before I hit the road I purchased two important items: a New Mexico State Park Pass for $225 and a campground pass to the Southeast through Thousand Trails (got it on sale for $285). I figure if I travel between New Mexico, all the way over to Virginia over the course of the next year, my campground costs will average $1.40 a day (and it’s already prepaid). Here’s how: I can stay in New Mexico state parks for free, but they also have hot showers and clean restrooms. (If I want to spend $4 per night, I can get water and electric there.) And with Thousand Trails, I stay in their parks in Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia for free for up to two weeks in a row. Then I have to be out of their system for 7 days, so my plan is to boondock in between stays (in some areas that will mean Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots, but it’s free!), and I have dozens of friends who have asked me to come and stay in their driveways, as well. Before hitting the road I was paying $610 (I know that’s still cheap!) per month to rent a small trailer. Now I get to see the world AND save money!” – Shelley
This couple reduced their expenses 40% by living in a camper – “My husband and I worked full-time, corporate jobs for many years, and thought we were living the traditional American Dream. But it seemed like we were always chasing our paychecks instead of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. You can read the full story here https://www.morethanawheelin.com/why-i-left-everything-behind-to-rv-full-time/. We used to joke, ‘Let's quit our jobs, leave everything behind and travel’ and then one day we finally did! We walked away from our corporate jobs to travel in an RV and see our own beautiful country. Living and traveling in an RV is more sustainable than you'd think. We learned how to work remotely, and discovered that RV living is much less expensive than owning a home and paying a mortgage. We've reduced our expenses by roughly 40% of what we were paying before and now we have more fun and freedom too!” – Camille
This person saves over $1,700 a month through RV living – “When I was 45, I started to wonder if it were possible to retire at 50. I just didn't want to wait another 20 years to start checking items off my bucket list. Plus I wanted to find a way to create more time in my life to pursue my passion of writing, I knew there was no way my savings would be enough to cover my monthly living expenses, not to mention the health insurance coverage I'd be losing if I left my job. I considered many options from working part-time, to moving into a tiny home but ultimately decided buying an RV was the best option. Not only did it dramatically lower my monthly cost of living expenses (for example I paid $2200/month for my mortgage/utilities and now I can stay a campground for about $500/month), I get the added bonus of traveling around seeing this amazing country.” – Debbie
This person is saving thousands of dollars a month by full-time RVing – “We left behind a mortgage of approximately $2200 + about $600+ a month in utilities. Car loans and motorcycle loans near $1200 a month. Now we cover our mortgage with rent from a tenant, and all the other bills have gone away as we downsized. We still have a loan on our RV, we own our Jeep and pay about $1000 a month some months for campsites. But that includes utilities! So overall we are saving in the thousands every month. We have paid of credit cards and other bills. We didn’t RV to save money necessarily but it is a great side benefit!” – Sonya
Living in a camper means a difference of $15,000 a year for this couple – “We were parked on the shore of Lake Ohau in New Zealand when we had the epiphany that we could continue to live a nomadic lifestyle much cheaper than when we were living in the house we own. Backpacking and living in a van in New Zealand had us spending around $64ish dollars a day for that amazing lifestyle…all in (gas, food, beer, campground fees, wifi, insurance). We crunched the numbers and our lifestyle in Colorado had us at a sunk cost of around $35 dollars a day just to have the house. So, that means we had to make $35 a day just to have the living structure. Then, you had to make more for the food, wifi, beers, gym memberships, etc. Our number for our Colorado lifestyle had us around $105 or so. $105 – $64 = $41*365 = $15,000ish…means you had to make $15k more just to live the Colorado, home lifestyle the way we wanted to. We could take the $15k and pay down debt or choose to work less. We paid down our debt before we started traveling to be honest. We view the cost savings through the lens of having to work less hours. Living the RV lifestyle makes that number a much smaller number which means we ultimately have to work less hours…which means we get to play more.” – Adam
How you may save money by living in a camper
Now that you’ve read those real experiences from people choosing to live in an RV, I want to talk about the many different ways you could possibly save money by living in a camper over a “normal” home.
Purchase an affordable RV.
If you want to save the most amount of money, then this is where you can really do some damage to your debt and get rid of it quicker.
The average house is somewhere around $200,000, and depending on where you live, it may be well over $500,000 for a normal house.
But, with RVs, you're paying specifically for the RV, not for any super expensive land like with a “normal” house.
To save money RVing, many people purchase older RVs and remodel them, and they save a ton of money. Or, they purchase smaller ones that don't cost much money.
If you wanted to, you could buy your next home for less than $10,000! This can mean a great amount of savings over your current rent or monthly mortgage payment.
Now, typical expenses related to your actual RV include the RV you buy, sales tax (this can be quite high in some states!), license and registration fees, property taxes, and maintenance.
Whether you buy a new or old RV, many are purchased by taking out a loan, and RV loans are a little different from car loans. You can often get an RV loan for 15 or 20 years. So, I always recommend that you are careful, because a 15 or 20 year loan can make an RV seem more affordable when in reality it is not. Remember, you're trying to save more money!
Stay in one place longer to save on fuel.
A big expense when RVing is fuel. RVs have notoriously bad fuel mileage.
So, if you really want to attack your debt and/or save the most amount of money, then you may want to move more slowly (we know many people who may only drive their RV 100 or 200 miles a month), or possibly not at all.
Be smart when choosing where you'll park.
Your nightly stays when RVing can vary widely. There are a ton of awesome places to camp for free in the United States, and then there are RV resorts that can charge $150+ a night.
If you want to save the most amount of money, then you will most likely either want to find free campsites, stay at state/national/city/regional parks, or stay monthly at campgrounds because that's how you will receive much more affordable rates.
Can you imagine how much money you may be able to save if you were to get an affordable camper (as described above) AND camp for free or super cheap?
To find free camp stays, I recommend searching Campendium, All Stays, Free Campsites, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. We love free camping because you can usually find some amazing places with beautiful trails close by. Plus, you may also get a large amount of area to yourself. Free camping can include something like parking at a Walmart (this is for when you are trying to get somewhere and just need a place to rest and/or sleep) to staying on amazing BLM land in national forests. While there are no hookups, many RVs are fine for a week without hookups anyway. To learn more about finding free places to stay, please read How To Camp For Free, Even In Beautiful and Desirable Places.
Campgrounds at state and national parks can vary widely. I've been to a state park in California that was $50 a night (California has the most expensive state campgrounds I've seen so far), and I've also been to beautiful campgrounds for $8 a night in Colorado. There's also the great New Mexico deal, which is explained in Shelley's story above.
If you plan on staying at a lot of RV parks, I highly recommend getting both a Passport America card and Good Sam card. They usually pay for themselves in just one or two uses and are well worth it. Also, think about staying longer so that you can get the weekly or monthly discounted rates.
You'll buy less as you'll have less room to store junk.
Living in an RV means that you’ll have to downsize. While some people dread this, getting rid of nearly all of your stuff is extremely liberating.
When we sold our house and moved into an RV, we donated and got rid of a lot of our belongings. At first it was difficult to get rid of so much, but it became easier as time went on.
These days, all we have is what we have with us. We have a small amount of everything, and we like it best this way.
We are much more mindful of what we buy, we waste hardly anything, and this is allowing us to save money as well.
It’s pretty simple, you just can't buy as much when you have nowhere to put it all!
Would you start living in a camper if it meant you could save more money and/or pay off debt sooner?
The following is a sponsored post provided by AutoSlash. I personally heard of AutoSlash before they contacted me and have seen for myself that they save money! Whenever you book a car rental, I recommend going to AutoSlash as well.
What if I told you that you could save 30% off every car rental? Would it sound too good to be true?
Well it’s not!
Have you heard of this awesome website called AutoSlash? It’s a site where you can book a car rental except it’s way cheaper than booking on the rental company websites or through other online travel sites.
The reason it’s cheaper is that AutoSlash has special algorithms quickly figure out the best publicly available coupons and discount codes that apply to any rental. Their proprietary system then test each one to figure out which combinations yield the lowest price possible They also take into consideration memberships that you may be a part of like Costco, AAA, AARP and many others, saving you time from having to find and apply their codes or book through their portals.
And then – get this! – they keep searching for better rates until the day you pick up the car. Car rental companies adjust their prices all the time. AutoSlash is constantly on the lookout for lower rates. When they spot a better deal, they’ll alert you so that you can rebook to lock in the savings. It’s like price protection for your rental. This works for rental cars because you don’t have to give a credit card to book – you can cancel or change your reservation as many times as you want.
If you already have a reservation coming up, they can track your existing rental. They’ll probably find discounts right away and email you links to rebook your car. Or it might take them a few days or weeks to find a better discount. According to AutoSlash, the earlier you book, the more likely you are to save – it allows their tracker to work its magic!
AutoSlash might at first feel unnatural because they ask for your email address and don’t show you rates right away. Maybe you’re used to just searching on Travelocity and seeing rates pop up. AutoSlash asks for your email because it takes their algorithm a little while to find the best rates. Sometimes they even give each quote a little personal attention. They usually send the rates to your inbox within about 30 minutes and then you can book your discounted car! To book the car, AutoSlash will take you to Priceline.com where you’ll be shown special rates that you wouldn’t otherwise find if you just went to Priceline on your own.
AutoSlash has a lot of really positive reviews from customers online. Many of them show just how much people can save with the website. Here’s some of the examples that blew us away!
There’s one more thing we gotta mention: AutoSlash is free. It’s FREE!!! How?! AutoSlash gets a small commission for each booking. It is their mission to save rental car customers money and they save customers millions of dollars per year.
Give it a try and comment below. If you book with this special link before or on 4/30/2018, you are entered into a chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift card. If you’re reading this on or after 5/1/2018, you can book at AutoSlash.com and hopefully get a super cheap rate!
Then come back and tell us: how much did you save?
Today, I have a great article from professional and trusted house sitters who have saved over $5,000 by house sitting. Enjoy!
We are Brittnay & Jayden, full time roaming enthusiasts from Australia and New Zealand, respectively. Find out how we managed to save over $5,000 in 3 months, in one of the most expensive cities in Europe.
We met in the Australian Alps and quickly discovered each other's passion for travel. We were eyeing off South America as our next trip. However, one snowy Sunday afternoon we came across flights to London for $300 AUD ($220 USD). The next thing we knew we were booked and were applying for our UK work visas.
Two wild and exciting years in London quickly followed. We had managed to visit over 21 countries in Europe and Africa in that time and not ready to stop. Our visa’s expiry date quickly approaching. We scrambled, not quite ready to head home, we put our heads together, Spain was an early thought and then a friend mentioned Dublin. It was close, easy for work visas for and similar climate to the UK.
However, after deciding on this move we found out that Dublin is known as one of the most expensive cities in Europe. When we looked into rental properties, we were shocked. It was a minimum of $1450 for a room in a share house. Our recent house sitting job came to mind- we could try that there. After lots of research and applying, we landed our first house sitting job via Skype.
Fast forward another four months and we have completed four housesits and saved ourselves over $5,000 in the process. We put together some of our favourite house sitting jobs below, and have outlined how we managed to save $5,000. We have also included some of our top tips on how to become a housesitter. We would love for everyone to see the great adventures, knowledge, and relationships you can gain from house sitting.
House sitting has allowed us to save a significant amount money. It has come about in many ways such as transport, bills, household goods and food. There were some areas in which we were able to cut costs we didn't expect. This came as a nice little surprise and helped a hefty amount to our savings accounts.
Rental expenses are where we managed to save the bulk of the amount. Over the course of three months, we were saving at least $1,450 per month. We were working full-time during this time so we were able to put a majority of our wages in savings. We are able to put that away for the purchase of a campervan in the upcoming summer.
An unexpected advantage was that we were given the opportunity to live in homes, we would have never been able to afford. We lived in three highly luxurious homes in the most upscale areas of Dublin.
Over the three months, we managed to save $4,350 in rental expenses.
During one of our house sits we were given access to a very smart yellow Mini. The owners were kind enough to put us on their insurance policy.
Having a car allowed us to drive to work together, which ended saving us time and money. We were both spending around $6 a day for public transport as well as spending an hour each way. A tank of gas would last two weeks and only cost $40. We were also able to park for free at Jay's workplace. The public transport in Dublin has been acknowledged as one of the most expensive in Europe. It is more costly than Brussels and Zurich, two notoriously expensive cities.
With a car, we were also able to explore areas of Dublin and the surrounding countryside that would have been inaccessible via public transport. We would have had to either pay for a tour or hire a car. Our favourite areas we explored was the coastal town of Wicklow and Glendalough, a beautiful lake surrounded by sheer cliffs.
Previously our transport costs were $144 per week. At $20 per week for fuel, we managed to save $124 per week, therefore saving around $496 that month.
After rental and transport costs, bills are the next biggest expense we were able to avoid. Always within reason, we could enjoy a nice warm shower and well-heated rooms, without monthly bills looming over us. We also didn't have to worry about the stress of phone bills or internet bills either.
With the average cost of our bills at our current rental property in Dublin being around $85 per month. We saved around $255 over the three months.
Most people don't see household goods as much of an expense, however, they can quickly add up. We were able to cut out the need to purchase items such as washing detergent, toilet cleaner, shower cleaner, paper towels and floor cleaner. They may seem like low-cost items, however, there was a noticeable difference in our previous shopping bills when we did have purchase these on a regular basis.
The majority of homes we stayed in had kitchens most chefs would be envious of. The homeowners were also very adamant that we consume the perishable items and help ourselves to any of the sundries. Being foodies, this was heaven for us. We were able to use appliances that we would never dream of using. This meant we were less likely to head out and spend money in restaurants or cafes.
With the average cost of household good in our shopping bills at $35 per month. We saved $105 over the three months.
Our Favourite House Sitting Jobs
The Housesit Overlooking Finsbury Park
Our very first house sit wasn't in another country or even in another city. We managed to land a housesit about 5 km from our current home in London. We would be spending Christmas and NYE looking after a gorgeous little kitten name Arya in an apartment overlooking Finsbury Park.
This apartment was lovely, we had endured years of being stuck in the typical English semi-detached house. We were used to lots of stairs, pokey little corners, and strange roommates. Now we had an open plan apartment to ourselves that was spacious and modern, we even had a kitchen that would even make a chef jealous. This wasn't even the best part, we had views from the bedroom, lounge and even the kitchen over the gorgeous Finsbury Park.
We even awoke on Christmas morning to what appeared a be a dusting of snow in the park. It turned out to just be a frost, nevertheless, it was beautiful. It was all going well however, Arya took a while to win over. For the first few days, she would spend her time watching us from behind the Christmas tree. After a few conversations with the owners, we realised we were pronouncing her name totally wrong. Neither of being us being Games of Thrones fans, we had never heard the unusual name before. After we corrected this we started to get a lot more attention.
After two weeks the owners were back, we weren't ready to leave our cosy new home, the views were so lovely, the tube was so close and we had a kitty to cuddle. However, that is nature of house sitting. We were addicted and on the computer to find the next.
Home in Country of Enfield
We had chosen to do some house sitting before immersing ourselves in Dublin. An hour west of the big city, down a quiet country lane, it where we found our next housesit. It was a complete change from the hustle and bustle of London, however, we were delighted. The Dutch couple had built themselves a stunning hidden cottage with no neighbours or busy roads for miles. It had a gorgeous Scandinavian aesthetic, sleek and modern yet snug.
We looked after their two Siamese cats, two Scottish terriers & two chickens. The dogs warmed to us right away and were happy to cuddle with us on the sofa for an evening. The cats took a day or two, however, once we realise that they loved to play fetch with a small toy rat, we were all best friends. Only being one week it was over too quickly and we were off to the big city for our next adventure.
House near the Bullocks Harbour
Our next house sit was in the most affluent suburb of Dublin. While we were still in London, we had a Skype conversation with an expat couple who were headed off to the of south France for a month. The couple needed someone to look after their eight-bedroom estate and their older lab Roxy. Roxy was a dream to look after, all she required was a daily walk to the end of the lane. At the end of the lane was a beautiful harbour full of wooden boats, pelican and seals.
Dalkey, an array of beautiful beaches, harbours and castles to admire. It was no surprise when we learnt that Bono and Enya chose to live there. What came as a bigger surprise was that Bono was actually just next door!
With only a week until our stay was over, we thought we better find a new home. After scouring our favourite house sit aggregators, we managed to score an interview with a homeowner just around the corner. After a quick glass of wine downtown in the beautiful tree-lined main street, we had locked in another month long sit.
The Home in Killiney
Even with two previous house sit done and dusted, we were still nervous. The home in Killiney was even more luxurious than the last. This house had been the winner of Ireland's most beautiful home the previous year.
Here we looked after two of loveliest two long-haired chihuahuas, Bruno & Lance. We also looked after her parent's dogs, Nori, a Chinese Hairless Crested and Luca an elderly Whippet. We were quite a sight on our daily walks with this quirky crew. The homeowner was even kind enough to put us on her insurance so we could drive her zippy little yellow Mini around town. The dogs loved a walk on the beach which was only 5 minutes away.
To date, this still prevails as our favourite house sit. We have remained great friends with the homeowner. We recently spent the evening out for her birthday. We also managed to squeeze in a cuddle with Bruno and Lance before we headed out for the night.
The Inner City Cats
From living amongst castles and mansion, we were a little apprehensive about moving into the inner city. We had gotten used to the leafy streets, beautiful harbours and coastal walks. Our next housesit sat in an interesting area. It straddled what had been described to us as one of the roughest spots in Dublin and the leafy northern suburb of Clontarf. To the left of our street, we had the coastal walkway, waterside coffee shops, and a yacht club. To the right of our street was the housing projects, home to some of the most notorious gangs and drug dealers.
Our change of scenery wasn't the only difference, the entire home was smaller than the entranceway to our last house. We had the task of looking after two very relaxed cats. Bobby had a very early stage of Parkinson's and Luc would just spend her days waiting in the kitchen for her next meal. The homeowners described Bobby as a cat in a dog's body. He had absolutely no common sense and would fall off couches, run into walls or try to engage you in a game fetch.
Surprisingly to us, we quickly adapted to our new surroundings and started to feel very content in our new home. With only a 20 minute walk from the centre of Dublin, we didn't even miss the train ride along the coast into town. Our three weeks went as quickly as the last and we were soon searching for another home.
We were beginning to learn so much about ourselves. After five moves we really had begun to minimise the things we valued necessary to have. We used to get attached to house and belongings, However, we have moved around so much, it wasn't feasible to have everything. We would just as happy without “the stuff”.
How You Can Become a House Sitter
Sign Up For House Sitting Sites
There are many sites out there to link up homeowners and house sitters. The two main ones that we use are listed below, both charges a yearly fee. We were a little apprehensive to pay at first and looked for alternatives. However, we found that these were the most popular with homeowners. We also found that it creates a more secure environment when both parties are financially invested. We also quickly realised that what we had spent paid for itself after one night in Dublin house sitting.
Much like a job, most people want to see positive references from previous homeowners. We struggled to get our first house sit without any. We managed to get one over Christmas and in our current city. We found due to supply and demand over the holiday period it is easier to find homeowners willing to hire without references. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door and start building some glowing references.
We recommend attending a pet first aid course. It can help to ensure you are prepared for any situations. Generally, they are a one day course and only cost around $50. It can also give you an edge when you are amongst 25 other applicants for that house sit at a beachfront villa in Bali.
Ensure you have an up to date & clean police record on hand. This could also push you towards the top of the pile and gives your homeowners some piece of mind.
Apply, apply, apply!
Once you have signed up, start applying for houses sits in your desired area. You need to be prompt and stand out with your applications. Don’t send a generic copy and paste application. Show the homeowner you have read their listing and you really understand their needs. You have to remember that depending on the location, some homeowners can get hundreds of applications. You want an applicant that is well thought out and personalised. Mention how you would love to take Frofro for his regular walks or snuggle up with Jinxy & Scotty in evenings.
We aren't going to sugar coat it, it can be competitive. We use to check all the sites religiously. First thing in the morning, a few sneaky times at work then once in the evening. It can become a little addictive.
Details, details, details
Much sure the homeowner lists out all the information about the animals and the house. No matter how small or irrelevant they might think they detail is.
Find out the little quirks of the house, from when the postman comes to the names and numbers of neighbours and close family. The last thing you want to be doing is sending irrelevant questions like “where are the doggy do bags kept?”
We cared for a cat that had a tendency to throw up in the lounge room at night. The owner had mentioned this to us only because it happened during the handover. Most owners become accustomed to some behaviours and may not pass on this critical information. Without knowing what this cats lounge room habits, we would have been in quite a panic.
We advise learning as much as you can about the process of house sitting if you're interested, as it can be quite competitive. Here is a guide on how to become a house sitter and believe that this can help anyone get started. Who knows, you could land one in a house sit at a beachfront villa in Bali or in a small village in Austria looking the snowy mountains from your quaint cottage balcony.
House sitting has helped us create lifelong friends and discover the generosity of people in the Ireland. We have the opportunity to discover places we would never otherwise see. We felt a sense of community straight away with helpful neighbours and homeowners. We would recommend it anyone who is looking for an adventure or would just love an animal to snuggle up with in the evenings.
Where to Next?
After six moves around Dublin, we finally signed a rental agreement. However, quicker than that we are heading back to the southern hemisphere. Jay’s sister is getting married in New Zealand and we were booking flights back home. We have decided to spend all of December 2017 and January 2018 in Thailand. From February 2018, we will have a campervan to explore the north and south islands of New Zealand. We have a house sit lined up in the Bay of Island for three weeks in March.
From there we will head over to Australia for another wedding in Port Douglas. This is a beautiful little tropical town on the coast of the Great Barrier Reef. We will spend time with the family in Melbourne before heading back over to Europe to explore Croatia, Greece & Turkey. We plan to buy a van and spend two weeks travelling and two-week house sitting each month. If you want to follow our adventures find us at The Travelling House Sitters or Instagram.
Author bio: Brittnay is an Aussie and one half of the Travelling House Sitters. She has been living in London for the past two years and recently moved to Dublin. She has visited over 21 countries in Europe and Africa in that time (including lots of cheese, wine & beaches). You can find all her adventures in housesitting and travels on The Travelling House Sitters.
Are you interested in becoming a professional and trusted house sitter? What do you think of house sitting?
Have you been paying attention to how much insurance is costing you these days?
While it is a necessity, it’s possible that you are overpaying and could benefit from learning how to save money on insurance, from car to home, and more.
I know people overpay because at one point I was overpaying. When I was 16, I had just gotten a new-to-me car. It was cheap, had high miles, and had more paint chips than actual paint.
Even though everything else about the car was overused and cheap, the insurance was over $100 a month!
My Dad helped me find a policy, and neither one of us paid much attention to the cost, which was surprising considering how frugal he was. Yes, I was a teenager and a new driver. However, neither my Dad or I did our homework and shopped around to save money on insurance, as we just used my dad’s insurance company.
Also, I had all kinds of coverage on this cheap, ugly car. I had a very low deductible (like $250 or something), and collision insurance (which usually isn't needed for a super cheap car). Once I realized all of the mistakes I was making, I made changes and my insurance dropped by over HALF. I went from paying over $100 a month in car insurance to somewhere around $50 a month.
And, I know I’m not the only one with a story like thisI
Whenever I look over someone’s spending to find ways for them to save money, I almost ALWAYS see that they are overspending and could save money on insurance.
This applies to many different types of insurance rates, such as for your car or your home.
In fact, just the other day I was online, and someone said that their monthly car insurance payment for a $2,000 car was over $200 a month. I wish this was the first time I heard something so crazy, but it comes up all the time!
Many times, people just stick with the same insurance company, and this can lead to overspending for years, if not decades! I recently overheard someone say that they didn't want to switch insurance companies, even though they knew they were overpaying, because they didn't want to offend their insurance agent.
Well, let me tell you something. Your insurance agent isn't really “yours” – they work for the company!
There's no need to waste money on overpriced insurance. Instead, you should be finding the best value for you and your situation.
So, I decided to do some research on who is overpaying and by how much. That led me to Gabi (which is a personal insurance company that I have no relationship with, and they have no idea who I even am), and I found that customers from Farmers, Nationwide, and State Farm are overpaying most often. In fact, 87% of the time, Farmers customers were overpaying, 81% of the time for Nationwide customers, and 80% for State Farm customers. Geico was among the most competitive rates, but even then, 1 out of 3 of their customers was still overpaying.
Here's a chart from Gabi’s website that breaks down, by company, the average amount people are overpaying for insurance:
As you can see, many people are probably overpaying for their insurance, and they probably don't even realize it.
Here are my tips on how to save money on insurance.What impacts how much you pay for insurance?
First, in order to save money on insurance, you need to learn about what exactly impacts your insurance rate.
For the sake of ease, I am going to simply refer to car insurance in this section.
Some of the factors that come into play for car insurance include:
Where you live. Depending on what city and state you live in, you may pay more or less than others. This impacts your insurance rate because if your area has a higher than average amount of accidents, lots of car thefts, crazy weather, or something else, then you may have to pay more for insurance.
Your car. A Corvette is probably going to cost more to insure that a Camry. Sorry to say, but this is definitely why you should be thinking about the WHOLE cost when deciding on what car to purchase. Your monthly and/or yearly insurance payments are directly related to the type of car you purchase. This is because certain vehicles simple will cost more money for an insurance company to fix damages.
How you drive. Yes, the way you drive has a large impact on your insurance rate. If you get in a lot of accidents, then you are probably going to pay more than someone who never has.
Your age. A 16-year-old is going to be charged a higher insurance rate than someone who has been driving for two decades. This is due to experience and the likelihood of getting into an accident.
Your credit score. Yes, your credit score plays a part in your car insurance rate. The higher your credit score, the less you may have to pay for car insurance. This is because car insurance companies think that those with higher credit scores tend to be more responsible. You can check your credit score with Credit Sesame for free here!
The coverage you choose. There are a lot of different coverage options you can choose when purchasing car insurance. This will greatly impact the rate you have to pay.
These are just a few of the many factors that will cause you to overspend or save money on insurance.
Shop around to save money on insurance
So, with the above information, you may say “well, I'll just completely avoid the most expensive insurance companies.”
You should not do that. There are cases in which they may be the best for you. To save money on insurance, you should always shop around to find the best rate for you and your situation.
For us, our Jeep is insured through State Farm. And, I know that it's the most affordable rate for me and my situation. So, that goes to show that you shouldn't completely avoid the more expensive companies mentioned above.
Shopping around is important, but it does require you to do a little extra work. However, considering that the average person can save several hundred dollars a year, possibly over $700 even, then it can be a task that will pay off quite quickly.
I recommend shopping around for better insurance rates about once a year. One good way to do this is to use the annual renewal notice as a reminder.
Analyze your insurance coverage.
Not everyone needs some crazy policy with all of the possible options.
Some things you will want to analyze or try include:
Your deductible amount. Some people choose the $0 or $50 deductible amount, which can lead to a significantly higher insurance payment. You should analyze whether paying the extra is worth the lower deductible. For us, we usually choose the $500, $1,000, or even the $2,000 deductible.
Evaluate what you actually need. In some instances, you may only need liability coverage. Paying collision coverage on a $500 car may not be worthwhile, which is something you should analyze. For us, when we had cheaper cars, we would only ever get liability coverage.
Ask for insurance discounts. Things such as the good student discount, good driving discount, etc., do exist, so you should ask about them! You probably qualify you something, and it's money you're just throwing away if you haven't asked yet. And, if you don't know what you qualify for, simply call and ask “I'm finding a more affordable car insurance policy elsewhere, what percentage discount can you offer me?” Or, ask something like “What discounts do I qualify for if I am a good/loyal/long-term/etc. customer?” The list can go on and on. If you're not happy, just call back and try again.
Bundle your insurance. Bundling does tend to save money. So, if you have both home and car insurance, you may want to bundle them together to see if you can get a lower insurance rate.
Remember, in many cases, your insurance agent isn't there to help you save money on insurance. YOU need to do that yourself. Only you have your best interest in mind.
How much do you pay for home and/or car insurance? Have you ever sought out a more affordable rate? How do you save money on insurance?
Between running this personal finance blog, and the fact that I've always been fairly open about money, people love talking about money with me. So, over the years, I have heard countless pieces of bad financial advice.
Plus, people just love giving others advice. Yes, I've heard great financial advice, but some of it has really been awful financial advice, that I knew was bad even as a kid.
Some of the financial advice I've heard has had me shaking my head in disbelief, and others have left me wondering how that person has made it so far in life.
Money is a funny subject like that, though. And, until we start talking about it more openly and spend as much time learning about finances as some of us do reading the latest gossip, watching sports, or something else, then we still have a long way to go.
It's been almost four years since I first published The Worst Money Advice I’ve Ever Heard. Today, I want to continue on that – talk about some that I mentioned four years ago (some of those still make my jaw drop on the ground and make want me to bang my head on the wall) as well as bring up some more that I haven't discussed.
Below is the most awful financial advice I've ever heard:
Take out more in student loans for vacations.
This is always the first one I tell because of how bad the financial advice is. Seriously, it's the worst I have probably ever heard in my whole life. Sadly, I've heard it more than once, and I actually know of a few different people who have done this.
The person that gave this advice was borrowing around $40,000 in student loans each year at interest rates of around 6% to 8%. They did it for around six years, which means they have a significantly large amount of loans.
The thing is, they've never gone to an extremely expensive school. They would take around $10,000 out for actual school purposes each year, and then they spent all of the leftover money on vacations and multiple timeshares (they don't use any of it for living expenses, as they work full-time and used that income to live off of). Their other top piece of advice was to buy lots of timeshares.
So, they would spend around $30,000 a year from their student loans on having “fun.”
Nope, I'm not even kidding!
My mouth dropped. I didn't even know what to say.
The really sad thing is that this person was trying to convince others to follow this really awful piece of financial advice.
Buying a home is always better than renting.
Many believe renting a home means that you must be bad with money and that you cannot afford to buy a home.
However, renting does not always mean that you are making a bad decision.
There are many reasons for why a person may want to rent instead of buy. The reasons may include (and there are many more reasons than just what’s listed below):
You may not know the area you are moving to, and you want to see what is the best fit for you before purchasing a home.
You're not sure if you want to stay in the area for long.
You're waiting to save up for a down payment.
Just like how renting isn't for everyone, buying isn't either.
Co-signing a loan doesn't have any consequences.
I once heard about a person who has co-signed on several different loans. They didn't think it mattered because they're not the “main” person on the loan. They also thought it was okay to co-sign because all you're doing is helping someone with their credit, and that nothing bad could come from it.
This financial advice honestly scared me because a lot of damage can come from this. And, because it’s often family that does this for one another, it can cause unnecessary tension with your loved ones.
If you co-sign a loan for someone, you are liable for it if they fail to make payments on it or if they, sadly, pass away.
You should always lend money to family.
To go along with the above, I recently heard someone say, “They're not a true family member if they won't lend you money.”
I could not believe it. To me, mixing money and family/friends is a tough situation to tackle, and you must proceed very carefully.
I have personally seen relationships go completely bad because of money, and it's not a fun situation to be in.
Pay interest on your credit card to improve your credit score.
I've heard this one quite a few times. Many people believe that the only way to improve your credit score is to carry a credit card balance and pay interest fees.
That can be horrible financial advice because interest fees on a credit card can be expensive, sometimes more than 20%!
If you want to use a credit card to improve your credit score, I recommend paying off your balance in full each month, before any interest charges are made, and using less than a 30% utilization rate.
There are other ways to improve your credit score too. Here are my general tips for increasing your credit score:
Make sure to pay your bills and accounts on time. Late payments can hurt you.
Regularly check your credit report.
Keep your balances and utilization rate low.
Ask for your credit limits to be raised.
Pay before your credit card balance is reported.
Keep your credit card accounts open if it makes sense, such as to lengthen your credit history. However, if you think you'll go into debt with them open or if the annual fees aren't worth it, you may want to think about closing them instead.
I deduct that off my taxes, so it's legal and you can do it too.
I hear this one all the time, and it's so bad. Some people assume that since the IRS hasn't caught them deducting an incorrect expense on their tax return yet, that it's completely legal. Wrong, it’s actually a federal crime.
Just because you do it, doesn't mean that you should be telling others that they can knowingly claim false or incorrect expenses.
Eventually, that person may be caught, or you may be caught before them! Whatever the case may be, being legal is always the best way to go.
Emergency funds are only for those who are bad at their jobs.
Some believe that emergency funds are only for those who are at risk of being laid off or fired. This bad financial advice couldn't be further from the truth though!
Having an emergency fund is actually great financial advice, and it can serve so many purposes. It can help with more than just a layoff or losing your job for any other reason. Emergency funds can help cover any type of unexpected expenses, such as emergency home repairs, health issues, and more.
Plus, no matter how great you are at your job or how stable you believe it is, there is always a chance that something may happen.
I'm all about living life and enjoying yourself. I also think money is meant to be enjoyed.
However, I think there is room to do that and save money.
Saving when you’re young is actually one of the smartest things you can do, and because of compound interest, it’s especially good to start investing when you’re young.
I've heard people say you don't need to save money when you're young because retirement is far away, meaning you should spend all your money now and enjoy yourself. I've also heard that you shouldn't save when you're young because you can rely on others.
Both of those reasons just make me cringe. You can't predict the future and who wants to rely on someone else for money just because they are young?
It won't kill you to save at least a little bit out of each paycheck. Plus, the more you save now, the less it will hurt later.
The monthly payment is all that matters when making a purchase.
Salespeople often like to push monthly payments on customers, and sadly, many people believe that the monthly payment is all that matters.
Once, I was in a coffee shop and overheard a conversation that someone was having about a home they were planning on buying. The main person wasn't sure if they should buy the home because of the price. The other person said they should buy the home because as long as the monthly payment was “good,” then that was all that mattered.
I wanted to chime in, but I'm assuming that would have been awkward.
The monthly payment is not all that matters.
It can be easy to be blinded by the cost of something when it is spread out over a period of time. However, you should think about the whole purchase and whether it is worth it or not. Plus, with a house there are many other factors that can add to the cost, such as property taxes, home insurance, maintenance costs, and so on.
Before you make your next purchase, add up the total cost, and make sure you can afford the whole purchase, not just the monthly payment!
I recommend you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is very similar to Mint.com, but much better as it allows you to gain control of your investment and retirement accounts, whereas Mint.com does not. You can connect accounts such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more, and it’s FREE.
Only people with money problems have credit cards.
I've had a credit card pretty much since the day I turned 18. I've always used them, have never carried a balance, and I have never paid money towards interest.
Several years ago, I took my credit card out to pay for a purchase. One of the people I was with told me to put it away and that they would pay for it since I couldn't afford it.
I looked at them confused…
I asked, “What do you mean I can't pay for it?”
This person started to tell me that only idiots carry credit cards and that I must be tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and that they couldn't believe my debt had gotten that bad.
They told me to get rid of my credit cards immediately because they would ruin my life. They also said there was no way to responsibly use credit cards.
I remember standing there laughing because I had no idea where all of this was coming from. I tried to convince them I was okay, but I'm positive they still don't believe me to this day.
Don't get me wrong. I DO understand there are people out there who should only stick to cash, but I also think there is a way to use credit cards responsibly and to your advantage.
You never need receipts for tax purposes.
I actually heard this “tip” on a national news program, which really scared me.
The expert was telling everyone that receipts are never needed for tax purposes and that you can just throw them all away.
I couldn't believe my ears!
Wes heard the “tip” as well and asked me why I always save my receipts if I don't have to. I had to tell him that this expert was confused and that this bad piece of financial advice was going to cause a whole lot of trouble for everyone.
I still can’t believe I heard this from someone with such a large audience.
According to the IRS, you must keep receipts for anything that you plan on deducting. If you get audited, you need to show the receipt or a copy of the receipt as proof of the expense.
Please, please, please keep any receipts that you need for your tax return. You never know when you may need it.
What bad financial advice have you heard? What bad financial advice have you followed?
The following is a sponsored partnership. All opinions are 100% my own. This movement is powered by Unison.
I have partnered with several amazing personal finance bloggers to help you save for your down payment on your next home.
Why am I doing this, you ask?
I want to help motivate my readers to save for their down payment for their home. I know many of you are interested in purchasing a home, but may not have the motivation to actually save for your down payment – and your down payment is so very important!
I purchased my first house at the age of 20. See, I needed a place to live (I was on my own since I was around 18 years old and my dad passed away. I received no inheritance, and desperately needed a place to call my own.
I was young, though, and I made so many mistakes when it came to purchasing a home. While I did manage to buy my own home when I was very young, there were so many mistakes that I made.
One thing I did was that I didn't save enough for a large enough down payment. Instead, I put the smallest amount that I could down and this led to me paying PMI. I recommend reading Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage? to learn more about PMI.
In 2009, me and my husband bought a house but didn't have 20% down. We were taking advantage of the low housing prices and the first time homebuyer's tax credit.
One thing we didn't much think about was mortgage insurance and how much it would affect us.
Yes, we're human, and we made a mistake. While we no longer own that home (we are full-time RVers now), we do wish we would have found a way to not pay mortgage insurance.
So, when I came across the Down Payment Movement, I was so excited to share it with you all.
This movement was created because I have heard from so many people that they cannot afford a home of their own. While owning a home isn't for everyone (as there are many situations in which renting may be a better solution), owning a home is also great for many people.
Many potential home purchasers find it hard to save for a down payment for their future home because cost of living is increasing across the United States. Plus, you may have student loans, other debt, and, of course, other bills that you need to pay for.
However, that doesn't mean that home ownership is impossible for you.
I recommend signing up for the Down Payment Movement, as you'll get the motivation that you need in order to save for your down payment.
The movement is FREE, and you will get a 12 -week home buying course which gives you all the basics on the home-buying process, such as:
How to Know If You’re Ready to Buy a Home
How Much Home Can You Afford
What Credit Score Do You Need to Buy a Home
How to Get Pre-Approved to Buy a Home
How to Choose a Real Estate Agent
How to Find the Right Home for You
What to Look for When Home Shopping
How to Make a Successful Offer On a Home
How to Apply for a Mortgage
Is It Better to Have a 20% Down Payment
How Does Mortgage Insurance Work
What You Need to Know About Closing Costs
This movement sounds so amazing to me, and I definitely think anyone who is thinking about purchasing a house will benefit from it.
Welcome to February 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:
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.
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.
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 February of 2018?
I earned $179,139 blogging and online in February of 2018, before expenses.
February was another great month for the Making Sense of Cents blogging business. In fact, it was my best month ever!
I took part in the Work-At-Home School launch in February, and that earned me $48,751.90. I won both the optin contest and the sales contest for this affiliate launch. I prepped for it in January, and spent a lot of time crafting emails to send out to my subscribers. The launch did amazingly well and I'm so happy I could be a part of it!
I usually don't participate in launches as I am a bigger fan of a more passive income strategy (such as linking to affiliate products within blog posts), but the Work-At-Home School is such a great resource and it was created by a friend of mine, so I knew that it would be successful.
I have plans to take part in more affiliate launches this year, as I've been neglecting my email list and I feel like this is a great way to help my email list reach their goals (such as working from home, managing their money better, finding valuable products/services, etc.), and it's a great way to earn an income as well.
March is looking amazing already as well and I am estimating revenue over $200,000.
But, 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.
I'm constantly asked what my recommendation is for my favorite overall blogging course, and that is Elite Blog Academy. This course can help you start a blog from the very beginning – from forming your blog structure, creating content, growing your traffic, monetizing, and turning your blog into a successful business. The doors open TODAY, so I recommend checking it out now! If you're on the fence, EBA founder Ruth Soukup will be offering a free live training webinar and Q&A session this week. In it, she’ll be sharing the four simple steps every blogger needs to take to create massive success for your blog, as well as answering any questions you may have about blogging and Elite Blog Academy.
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, and it's crazy to think about how I earned over $100,000 last month alone.
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, February 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 July of 2016. You can find all of my income reports here.
Breakout of February 2018 income – $179,139.02
In February of 2018, I earned $179,139.02 from my blogging business. Below is how my income breaks apart in the different blogging income categories:
The income amount above is for the month of February 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 $7,550.80. After expenses and fees, I earned approximately $166,588.22.
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.
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.
Making Sense of Cents is doing very well and I'm happy with everything.
Wes went on a long sailing trip in January and most of February, and I used that time to work like crazy. I managed to write around three months of content and I am hoping to finish a few more in March so that I can focus on other projects during the spring and summer.
If I can be even more ahead in evergreen content, the better. This is because the spring and summer months are usually busier for us, as we travel more places (the weather is much nicer in many more places in the US outside of winter). Plus, we are starting the sailboat shopping process, so that'll take up a lot of time too. Due to that, I want to be as ahead as I can so that I can have a good work-life balance.
I am still brainstorming some sort of personal finance product to create and sell on Making Sense of Cents. What would you like to see from me? I have a few products that I've brainstormed on the blogging side, but I'm really wanting one product that I launch in 2018 to be on the finance-side. Please leave some comments below to help me brainstorm!
Overall, traffic for the month was around 400,000 page views. And, this is why I always say that page views don't determine your blogging income – February was one of my lowest page view months, yet it was my best income month ever.
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 are 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 where 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 38,000 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 much does it cost to start a 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.
Starting a blog can be done quite affordably.
When I first started Making Sense of Cents, I spent almost nothing on blogging expenses. In fact, I believe I spent less than $100 my first year – and that was all on blog hosting and getting a domain name. Through my How To Start a Blog tutorial, you can start a blog for less than $100.
Of course, there are different things that you can purchase to make blogging a little easier, or you can just do everything yourself.
I did everything myself in the beginning, including creating my own website design.
Now, to run a successful blogging or online business, your expenses may be different from mine. And, you definitely don't need to spend a lot of money with a new blog – I certainly wasn’t in the beginning.
In fact, I probably went a few years where I was only spending about 1%-2% of my revenues on blogging expenses. Now, my expenses tend to be around 5% to 10%.
Do you need to spend that much?
No, not at all. Or, you may decide to spend more. It all just depends on you and what you want to do with your own business.
Some of my expenses include:
The actual blog: design, hosting, etc.
Courses, guides, and ebooks
Virtual assistant and editor
Technical management (I spend less than $100 a month on this)
Transaction fees (as your income grows, your transaction fees will grow too since they are a percentage of your income).
And, let me repeat, to start making money from a blog, you do not need to spend money on all of these things. In my first year of blogging, I spent less than $100 total for the whole year!
As you grow, though, you may decide to spend more just to make your life easier and so that you can continue to grow and earn a higher income – which is what I do.
The following is a sponsored post with Lucktastic. All opinions are 100% my own.
Recently, my friend was telling me about Lucktastic. As someone who is always looking to share ways to make money, this, of course, caught my attention.
I talk a lot about making extra money here on Making Sense of Cents. I do this because I truly believe that learning about the ways to make extra money and making extra income can change a person’s life.
Making extra money can change your life in ways such as:
It may help you pay off your debt;
It may help you save for things such as a vacation;
It may help you to better budget for things in your life;
Whether you have just a few minutes each day or if you are willing to work 40 to 50 hours a week on top of your full-time job, there are many options for you when it comes to the different ways to earn extra money.
And, a new way you may want to try is by playing games right on your mobile phone, for FREE!
Lucktastic is free mobile phone app that offers digital scratch cards where users can actually win cash (anywhere from $1 to $10,000 instantly) and accrue tokens which can be redeemed for gift cards and entries into big contests where users can win anywhere from $100,000 to even $1 million.
It is 100% free to download and play Lucktastic and there have been over $4,000,000 in cash & prizes awarded, with over 1,000,000 winners. Plus, there is total of $25,000 in cash up for grabs every day in the Lucktastic app.
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 Elizabeth, who reached financial independence at the age of 32.
Elizabeth Willard Thames, better known as Mrs. Frugalwoods, is the creator of the award-winning personal finance blog, Frugalwoods.com. At age 32 she “reached financial independence and left a successful career in the city to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life on a 66-acre homestead in the woods of Vermont” with her husband and young daughter.
I asked you, my readers, what questions I should ask her, so below are your questions (and some of mine) about Elizabeth'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.
In May 2016, at age 32, I reached financial independence and left a successful career in the city to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life on a 66-acre homestead in the woods of Vermont with my husband, Nate, and our young daughter. We're now expecting our second daughter and loving our new life out here in the country! I actually don't refer to myself as “early retired” since I find that to be a bit of a misnomer. Rather, I'm financially independent and don't need to work to earn a living, but choose to work as a writer because I find it personally gratifying. I define financial independence as the point at which our passive assets comfortably cover our expenses and we no longer have to earn paychecks.
In terms of when I began to save money, in truth, I've always been a saver. Throughout childhood, I'd save all of my birthday money and when I began babysitting and earning my own money, I saved up enough to buy my first car by myself at age 16. My husband has a similar relationship with money, and we were able to reinforce this tendency to save in each other. Before enacting our plan to reach financial independence, we were saving around 40%-50% of our take-home pay. After deciding we wanted to retire early, we ramped our savings rate up to over 70%, and sometimes 80%, of our take-home pay.
Our route to financial independence really began during our undergraduate days, which is when we met. Nate and I both attended a relatively inexpensive state school–The University of Kansas–and thanks to scholarships, working during college, and help from our parents, graduated without any debt. After graduating, we were committed to not taking on any debt in our new lives as adults, and we lived frugally from the start. Thanks to this debt-free start in life, we were able to save ever-higher increments of our salaries over the years. And we started very small! My first job out of college was with AmeriCorps in New York City, and I received a stipend of $10,000 for the year. I managed to save $2,000 of it.
From there my salary increased, as did Nate's, and we established a goal of buying a home. With a laser-like focus on saving up a downpayment, we socked away as much as we could every month, even though we both always worked for non-profit/mission-based organizations. Although we also increased our standard of living and experienced lifestyle inflation, we were always focused on saving fairly high percentages of our take-home pay. We didn't always know what we were going to do with this savings–and we certainly didn't have financial independence as a goal initially–but we did know that money provides opportunity. I knew that without debt, and with a substantial savings built up, we'd be able to make unusual choices in our lives and not be beholden to our paychecks forever. I always like to say that no one has ever regretted saving more money. To the contrary, it provides you with options.
Then in March 2014, Nate and I had the startling realization that we were deeply unhappy. We were 29 at the time, living in the Boston area, and both working what we'd assumed would be our “dream jobs”: white-collar, career-track positions we'd worked hard to attain. In 2012, we'd purchased our first home, in Cambridge, MA, and adopted our retired racing greyhound, Gracie. From that point on, we'd thought we had it made and that we'd achieved our long term goals. The problem is that we were both unfulfilled. We realized that working in cubicles under artificial lights all day every week day was a depressing proposition to us both and we couldn't imagine doing it for another 30 or 40 years.
And so, we hatched a plan to radically transform our lives. My husband asked me the simple question: “when are you happiest?” My response: “when we're hiking in the woods together.” His answer was identical and we realized that our lives didn't make sense as we were living them in the middle of urban Cambridge, MA. We made the decision in that moment to reach financial independence and move to a homestead in the woods of Vermont in order to start truly living each day as opposed to wishing time away, working for the weekends.
2) What are the differences between 9-5 and your dream life?
I'm now in control of my time. I'm able to decide what to do and when as opposed to being beholden to an arbitrary nine to five schedule. Additionally, neither my husband nor I have a daily commute, which frees up even more of our time. When we considered how much we were “paying” to work–both financially and with our time–we're grateful every day that we no longer have to trade away our lives for our jobs.
Another major factor in our decision to retire early was our desire to spend as much time as possible with our daughter–who is now two–and her baby sister, who is due in February 2018. Our ability to be stay-at-home parents is transformational for our family and allows us to structure our time, and our daughter's early learning experiences, as we wish. Plus, not having the cost of daycare represents a profound savings in our budget. I consider time and money to be our greatest resources and the two things from which all other priorities stem: family, health, fulfilling work, and more. When I didn't control my time and my money, I felt like I wasn't truly living my life.
3) What sacrifices did you have to make in order to reach this milestone? What did you give up to save 70% of your income?
When Nate and I decided to pursue financial independence, one of our first steps was to comb through every dollar we spent every month. We needed to know where our money was going in order to create a plan to save more of it. Without this crucial base of knowledge, there's no way to set an actionable savings goal.
We decided to eliminate every single expense in our budget that wasn't strictly necessary. Things like restaurant meals, coffees out, new clothes, haircuts–all of it went. In our first month of extreme frugality, we wanted to test ourselves and see just how much we could save. Then, we made conscious and deliberate decisions to add certain expenses back into our budget because we felt they delivered a high return on our investment. For example, my husband and I now go out to dinner together once a month, which is a very special treat for us.
I've found that the rarity of a luxury's occurrence actually serves to increase the level of happiness I derive from it. If we repeatedly expose ourselves to treats, we become deadened to their enjoyment. For example, if we ate dinner out every single night, it would no longer be special and would become a rote chore. By keeping that particular luxury rare, we derive an incredibly high level of satisfaction from our monthly date night out. This is very much in alignment with the concept of hedonic adaptation: repeated exposure to any stimuli or luxury means we'll have to increase the amount or frequency of the luxury/stimuli in order to derive the same level of pleasure. By resetting our hedonic adaptation meters, my husband and I are able to enjoy our lives more while spending less money.
Additionally, we discovered that frugality delivers profound benefits beyond merely saving money. Frugality:
Is environmentally friendly
Reduces waste (both food and otherwise)
Brings you closer to your partner and family
Helps you identify your priorities and goals
Gives you options
Reduces stress by yielding a simpler, more peaceful life
On that last point, I often hear that people assume a frugal life takes more time, but I find exactly the opposite. Rather, I only do the things I most want to do with both my time and money. I don't let society or other people dictate how I should use those two precious resources, which means I use a lot less of both!
A great example of how frugality saves us time and money are our in-home haircuts. I cut my husband's hair and yes, he cuts mine! I was really nervous before my first home haircut, but was pleasantly surprised at how great it looked. I used to spend $120 per haircut and now, for zero dollars, I have a haircut that looks almost just as good. Plus, I save hours of time! In the past, I had to make an appointment, commute to the salon, get my haircut, and commute back home again. All in all, at least three hours of my time. Now, it takes just 15 minutes! The trade-off for me in a no-brainer.
Additionally, my husband and I have developed our DIY prowess in many different areas: everything from plumbing to cooking to haircuts to working on our homestead. In teaching ourselves how to do all of these tasks on our own, we reduce our dependence on paying people to do things for us, learn new skills, and derive a higher level of satisfaction than if we hired people to do them for us. Researchers have documented this as the “Ikea Effect” whereby people are happier with projects they DIY than with projects they pay others to complete.
Another important thing to remember is that when you eliminate an expense–such as haircuts–you're not just saving that money for one month or one year. You're saving that money every year for the rest of your life. And, if you invest the money you save, which is what I recommend doing, you're then benefiting from compounding returns on that money.
Here's one of my very favorite examples of how eliminating one expense can net you a tremendous amount of money in the long run:
Let’s say you spend $75 every month on cable. Not a huge amount of money on its own. But, multiplied by 12, that’s a whopping $900 per year on television. Let’s say you instead invested that $900 in low-fee index funds, and enjoyed a 7% return (which is considered an average annual market return over the long-term). Imagine you kept that same $900 invested for decades (which is the wisest way to invest) and added $900 to your investments every year instead of paying for cable.
Absolutely! We consider our lifestyle to be luxuriously frugal. We live where we want, as we want, and we use our time as we want. I can't imagine anything more luxurious than that. My husband and I are fortunate to live in a spacious, comfortable home with our children on 66 acres of gorgeous woods, fruit trees, gardens, ponds, creeks, and more. Deprivation isn't part of our equation at all, and we have everything we need. I've found that through living a simple, frugal life, I no longer lust after material goods. I'm not interested in buying new clothes or shoes or purses because I know that those things won't bring me lasting happiness. I'm much more interested in quality experiences and a life that I love living every single day.
I find that the less I buy, the less I perceive I need. The inverse, I think, is also true, such that the more we buy, the more we perceive we need. That's the insidious nature of our consumer culture and the tempting path of treating ourselves everyday with purchases that don't actually get at long term happiness, but that serve to derail our long term goals. By focusing my spending only on my highest and best priorities, I've been able to craft a life that includes everything I need with very little money spent. Frugality mutes the noise of unnecessary consumption and instead focuses us on our true priorities.
5) What career did you have before you retired? Did that career help you to retire earlier?
Prior to achieving financial independence, I worked for ten years as a fundraiser and communications manager for nonprofit organizations. My husband and I both always worked for non-profit/mission-based organizations. Hence, we never made investment banker salaries, but we both did very well. I'm extremely cognizant of the immense role of privilege in my life and in my ability to achieve financial independence at a young age. My husband and I were both tremendously fortunate to be born to families that encouraged us, taught us, and never struggled in a significant way financially. Neither of us comes from wealth–and we certainly didn't inherit any money–but we both come from stable, middle-class families.
I don't think that my success is entirely due to my own good decisions; rather, I see the role of luck and privilege in everything I've achieved. I think it's important for me to acknowledge the many benefits I've enjoyed in my life–from being raised by well-educated parents, to attending quality public schools, to going to college, to securing good jobs. It's a privilege to even consider financial independence and the question of “when are you happiest.” I use this recognition to guide my life and rather than view frugality as a mechanism of deprivation, I see it as the opening to a life filled with abundance and infused with gratitude.
6) 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?
There are essentially only three factors to achieving financial independence:
The more distance you can put between your income and your expenses, the faster you'll reach financial independence. Since my husband and I set an aggressive, fast-paced goal of getting to financial independence in under three years, we needed to save at a very high rate. However, if you're comfortable with a longer time frame, you can save less and earn less. It's all a question of how these three factors relate. It's also true that the less you spend, the less you need to save, the less money you need to live on, and the less money you need overall. Conversely, the more you spend, the more you'll need to save.
I'm an advocate for coming at a goal of financial independence from both the income and the expense angles. If you earn a very high salary, for example, but don't save much, you're no closer to financial independence than someone with a lower salary and low savings rate. So, if you can work to increase income–either by changing jobs or taking on side-hustles–and also reduce your expenses, you'll be able to get at your goal more quickly.
Additionally, it's important to then invest the money you've saved. It's only through solid investments that you'll grow your wealth. It's not enough to just stash your cash in a savings or checking account. I'm an advocate for DIY investing in low-fee index funds and I recommend the brokerages of either Vanguard or Fidelity as they both offer low-fee index funds that you can invest in on your own. My husband and I also own a revenue-generating rental property in Cambridge, MA.
7) What do you do now that you're retired?
Since we live on a 66-acre homestead, my husband and I each split our days between outdoor labor on our land and inside work on projects that we find fulfilling. Living on such a large parcel of land means we're never short on outdoor work that needs to be done. There's planting, tending, harvesting, and preserving vegetables from our garden; pruning our apple and plum trees; making cider from those apples; cultivating garden plots for future planting usage; picking blackberries; maintaining our woods according to our sustainable forestry plan; felling trees for firewood; splitting and stacking firewood; clearing snow in the wintertime… and the list goes on! We don't view the maintenance of our land as “work,” but rather as the joyful pursuit of the life we want to live. We love being outside in nature, and it's a wonderful blessing to have the ability to walk out our front door and hike on any number of trails that we've built through our acres and acres of woods.
We're also stay-at-home parents, so a good deal of our time goes into caring for our two-year-old daughter. Having the ability to structure our days around her schedule makes our lives easier and allows us to spend lots of time doing things together as a family.
In addition to this work on our property, both my husband and I choose to work on other projects that we find fulfilling. I always wanted to be a writer, and it was only through the liberation of frugality that I was able to finally pursue this goal.
8) Do you still earn an income? Does your husband work?
I do! As I mentioned above, I choose to work as a writer because I'm deeply passionate about spreading the message of frugality's transformative power and advancing financial literacy. My husband, for his part, chooses to work from home as a software engineer as he enjoys the intellectual stimulation that stems from this work.
The crucial difference for us is that we don't need to work for..
Here on Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about making extra money, especially through side hustles. After all, having side jobs changed my life and allowed me to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt.
My side jobs even turned into my full-time business, which is something I will always be grateful for. I love my business, I earn a good income, I travel full-time, and I have a great work-life balance.
Side hustling is one of my favorite topics due to the fact that it positively changed my life, and I truly believe it can improve the lives of others.
And, while I love talking about and helping people cut back their expenses, I believe that earning more money can be extremely helpful too. This is because there is no limit to how much money you can make.
Making extra money is great for many other reasons, like helping you pay off debt, save more money, test out a business idea, reach financial freedom, and more.
Below are some of the many side job related questions that I am often asked.
How do I choose a side hustle?
Because there are so many different side hustle options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing one to start with.
Some questions you'll want to ask yourself include:
Are you passionate about your side hustle idea? While, you don't need to be passionate, it may help you decide between a side hustle you hate and one that you love. Or, you may just be passionate with the fact that this side hustle will allow you to reach your goals! It all depends on your mindset and what you want out of it.
Can YOU earn money with it? Someone else may be able to earn an income from it, but can you?
Do you have enough time? Does the side hustle fit into your schedule?
Are you skilled in the area, or can you become skilled? It’s better to know this before you waste too much of your time and figure out that you don't have the skills needed. Sure, some skills can be taught, but others may not be worthwhile, they may be too much effort, etc.
How much money do you need to start? Do you need a lot of money in the beginning in order to start the side hustle idea? If so, can you afford that?
What is your dream side hustle idea? What do you picture yourself doing? What is your goal with the side hustle?
Will your day job allow you to have the side hustle? Some day jobs may have restrictions on what exactly you can do outside of work to earn an income. If you are questioning it, then you should do your research before you move forward. An example may be if you work as a financial advisor⎼ your employer may not want you giving financial advice on the side because that could be seen as competition.
Answering these questions will help you narrow down the side hustle ideas you are thinking about. I recommend creating a pros and cons list too, if you are stuck between a few different side hustle options.
How much money can I make from a side job?
The amount of money you can make from side hustling will vary. You may only make a few dollars a week or you may find yourself making hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.
It can vary depending on what exactly you are doing to earn side income, the amount of time you are devoting to it, the effort you are putting towards it, and more.
Below are some estimates and ranges of what you can make with some different side hustle ideas:
Blogging – $0 to millions of dollars a year. Yes, there's a personal finance blogger out there who makes over $10 million a year. Yes, a year! I was earning around $10,000 a month on the side of my day job. Now, I'm earning around $100,000 a month from blogging.
Writing articles online for others – $15 to $1000+ per article. Usually, new writers start out at around $15-$25 per article in the online world.
Renting a room in your home – $300 to $1,000+ a month. This can vary widely depending on your location, whether you are renting it on a monthly or daily basis (such as with Airbnb), and more.
Mystery shopping – $3 to $100+ per mystery shop. Usually, whatever you are shopping for is free, plus a small payment for your time.
Mowing lawns – $20 and up per lawn. Of course, this depends on what work is being done, how large the yard is, and more.
Dog sitting – $25 to $100 per day. This all depends on the area you live in, the amount of work you are doing (walking the dogs, administering medication, cleaning up, etc.), and more.
This is one of the most common questions I receive about side hustling. The way you get paid depends on who your client is and how you want to get paid.
So, you may choose to get paid via check, cash, PayPal, credit card, direct deposit, etc. This may also include setting up a seperate account for your side hustle to help keep track your expenses and how much you are making.
And, speaking of getting paid, always make sure you set some aside to cover your taxes.
How can I find time for my side hustle idea?
Everyone has at least a little bit of time that can be devoted to making extra money. It all just depends on how bad you want it.
If you don’t think you have time, I want you to add up the amount of time you spend watching TV, on social media sites, hours that you can't even remember what you did, and so on.
Whether you only have a few hours each week for making extra money or if you have a few hours each day, every little bit counts. And, yes, there are side hustles for those with hardly any extra time, and side hustles for those with tons of time (see below).
If you are having a difficult time finding time in your day for a side hustle, here are some ways to start:
Wake up earlier or stay up later. Yes, this may mean less sleep.
Use your lunch hour for side hustling.
Take vacation days at your work just for side hustling.
Waste less time with TV, social media, and so on.
Strategically use any breaks during the day for side hustling.
How can I grow my side income? How can I find clients?
There are many ways to grow your side hustle idea. Whether you eventually want to turn it into a full-time business or if you just want to start making more money, growing it is possible!
Some of the things you can do to grow your side hustle idea are listed below. Of course, different things can be applied to different industries and types of side hustles.
Ask around. You can start off by promoting your side hustle service to those you know, such as friends and family, on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and so on.
Place ads for your side hustle in your local community, such as by handing out business cards, posting flyers or billboards, and more.
Attend networking events. There are networking events for writers, bloggers, crafters, side hustlers, the list goes on and on. Find one!
Start a website so that potential customers can search for your service/product.
Reach out directly to those who may be interested in your service/product.
Ask past customers to spread the word about your side hustle.
Post on Craigslist. Craigslist is a great place to advertise your side hustle service as it allows you to reach people that may not normally be in your network. You can also search job listings on Craigslist to see if any match your services.
And the list goes on and on.
What types of side jobs can you have?
There are an endless amount of side hustle ideas. You could work online, offline, for yourself, for someone else, sell a product, sell a service, and so on.
Here are some of the many side hustle ideas, plus links to other blog posts of mine that may help you out.
Find a part-time job. There are many part-time jobs out there. You can find a job on sites such as Snagajob, Craigslist (yes, I’ve found a legitimate job through there before), Monster, and so on.
Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I made over $1,500,000 in 2017 and will make more than that in 2018. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.75 per month, plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
Sell your stuff. There are many things you can do to make money by selling items. We all have extra things laying around that can be sold, or you can even search for items that can be bought and resold for a profit.
Use Swagbucks for your online searches.Swagbucks is a great way to earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded “points called SB” for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough points, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
Test websites. One company I recommend for virtual assistant work is UserTesting. This website pays you to test websites, and they pay fairly well.
Side Hustle Series – Read this if you are interested in hearing about the many side hustle ideas that my readers have shared.
How do I make sure my side hustle doesn't interfere with my day job?
As I mentioned earlier, some day jobs may have restrictions on exactly what you can do outside of work to earn extra income. If you are questioning it, then you should do your research before moving forward.
I used the example of being a financial advisor and providing your services outside of your day job, something your employer may see as competition. However, if your side hustle has anything to do with your day job (from writing, teaching, selling things, etc.) it is important that you find out your company’s policies, especially if you have a contract with your employer. Being in breach of your contract can lead to losing your job, side hustle, and more.
You also don't want to work on your side hustle while you are on the clock, unless you are able to use your lunch time. I always used my lunch hour to side hustle, and this was a great way for me to put an extra five hours a week towards my side hustle.
Other tips to make sure your side hustle doesn't interfere with your day job:
Don't let the quality of your work slip at your day job.
Usually, it's against company policy to take a side hustle client who is a competitor of the company you work for, as that can be a conflict of interest.
What other tips should you know about making extra money?
Side hustling is something that I believe many people can find success and satisfaction doing. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Below are some of my tips to help your side hustle flow smoothly into your work-life balance:
Have your side hustle be something you enjoy and/or are passionate about so that you can enjoy the time you are spending making extra money.
Find a side job that is flexible with your current schedule. A side hustle with a flexible schedule is amazing because you won’t feel as stuck each and every day.
Take it slow if you need to. You don’t need to jump in and extend your work week to 60 or 80 hours. Easing into your side hustle may be the best way for you to find a comfortable balance, and you can always build your hours from there if need be.
Pay taxes and get any legal help that you need. Yes, you need to pay taxes on side hustle income!
What side hustle ideas are you interested in trying out? What do you think of side hustling?