There are two ways to get out of debt: spending less, or earning more. Most personal finance sites deal with the first---how you can spend less and save more of your money. With times like these, however, it might be time to look for more desperate measures. How can you earn more money?
I wrote in a recent article about how the recession might be the right time to start a new business. People want to find ways to save money, and if you can provide people with a good service for a good price, you can definitely start a side business. Trent over at TheSimpleDollar wrote a great article on 50 Side Businesses You Can Start On Your Own. In it, he lists some great ideas such as the following:
"Event DJing: Are you an audiophile? If you have a great sound system and a
large selection of music, you’ve already got what you need to hire yourself out
as a DJ for various events and receptions. This is a great way to fill an afternoon
and evening while also earning some cash in the process.
Landscaping services: Willing to mow lawns and trim bushes and trees? Many
people are quite happy to pay for such services. Not only is this a great side
business for a fit adult, it’s also a great way for a teenager to get a small
There are lots of great ideas to make some quick and easy cash during this downturn. One excellent example is Edufire.com, a site that lets you teach classes via the Internet. Do you speak a language or have a skill that other people might want to learn? You can teach it from your home, either privately or to a class of students!
Have you thought of starting any side businesses? What would you do? What skills do you have that you could teach others?
The state of the economy affects our lives in so many different ways. More than just influencing our financial health, it can also force changes in other areas as well. The Washington Post recently reported how one side effect of the current economy is a shift away from a healthy work life balance.
The basic argument of the article is that when job security is reduced, employees are more likely to devote more time to their jobs. In an effort to seem as valuable as possible, employees are also cutting back on their use of many of the benefits that bring balance to their lives. Some of the cited benefits were the use of flex time, sick days, and telecommuting arrangements. They are more tentative to initiate new uses of these benefits, fearing that they may appear less committed if they ask for such special treatment.
From the employer’s perspective, the importance of work-life balance programs is also diminished. The main purpose of these programs is to retain quality employees. As part of a total compensation package, such intangible benefits may help to keep top employees who could earn slightly more elsewhere. But with alternative job prospects less attractive, employers have less fear of losing key personnel. Making cuts to work-life balance programs seems like a natural first step before cutting pay.
Some companies have actually used the slow economy to encourage flex time and telecommuting as a cost-saving measure. As a full-time telecommuter, I can attest to the productivity boost that working remotely has given me. I telecommute so that my employer can benefit from my services despite the fact that I moved far away from the company’s facility, but the productivity gains would be just as great if I were telecommuting locally.
Unfortunately, many companies use difficult times to eliminate non-traditional work arrangements, without weighing their potential benefits. Workers, forced to forgo the very work-life balance programs designed to retain them, may leave their current employer as job prospects start to improve. So go into survival mode and give a disproportionate amount of your time to your employer if necessary to keep your job, but just remember those sacrifices for negotiation leverage in the future.
Have you been working harder for fear of losing your job?
The older we get, the faster time seems to pass. Think about how much quicker your college years went than your high school years. Three years constitute a very long time to a child and a moderate amount to a young adult, but they go by in an instant for older adults. It also happens to be a great length of time for making a financial plan.
So why should you consider a three-year plan? A three-year period is long enough to make some real progress with your finances but not so long that the end is beyond comprehension. A three-year plan will allow you to make long-term progress without getting bogged down in the minutia of daily adjustments.
Three years also happens to be the length of a loan from Lending Club. You can fix your financial troubles today and be in a much better place in just three years. The main way people do this is by consolidating their high interest credit card debt, even from many different credit cards, into one low monthly payment. They use a P2P loan from Lending Club to pay off those cards and then pay off the loan over the course of three years. The important part of your three-year plan is to avoid adding more credit card debt once you use a P2P loan to pay off your current debt.
Even if three years seem like a lot of time to eliminate your debt, remember that it would take nearly 10 times that long if you just keep making minimum credit card payments. With average rates at Lending Club significantly lower than those of credit cards, you’ll be saving money in addition to time. Without taking action, you’re likely to be in the same place you are today a few years down the road. Are your finances better today than they were three years ago? If not, take the first step towards making your financial health much stronger by consolidating your high-interest credit card debt. Your future self will thank you.
What time frame do you use for financial planning?
We all know that unsolicited emails often contain false information. Some may be harmless, but many others contain worms and viruses or try to solicit personal information to steal your identity. The generally recommended practice is to delete emails from anyone you don’t know and to even be cautious with items received (particularly forwarded emails) from known senders. If you open an item, in a moment of weakness, and find the information too valuable to keep to yourself, consider verifying the information before you add to the problem by forwarding the message along to your friends.
One of the easiest ways to identify bogus claims in emails is to use a myth debunking site. I personally use Snopes.com. There, you can enter a portion of the email text, or the subject line, and get a detailed report of the true/false status of the claims. So if that YouTube video of cell phones popping corn is too cool not to forward, a quick query of “cellphone popcorn” on Snopes will instantly tell you that it’s a fake, actually created as an advertisement for a Bluetooth headset manufacturer. You’ll save yourself the time of forwarding the message and the ridicule when half your friends write back that a) that video is so last year and b) everyone already knows it’s fake.
After deleting bogus emails that have come from friends or family, I usually write them back to remind them not to read unsolicited messages and inform them of the status of the claim. It has gotten to the point where a few friends check with me first before sending a message out to a group. Being able to find this information for yourself will do a lot more than just keep you in the know. It will help to protect your computer and your identity from the malicious intent hidden within many of these messages.
Have you been duped by a bogus email claim?
In nearly every case, buying a package deal from a service provider is less expensive than purchasing each of the included services separately. Even so, you might be overpaying in one of two ways: getting more than you want or paying more than an alternative.
A “Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal” at McDonald’s costs less than the total cost of the burger, fries, and drink. But if you aren’t thirsty, the meal costs more than you would spend on just the burger and fries. You might also be equally satisfied with a Whopper Meal from Burger King that may cost less.
While the burger and fries is a simple example to put package deals into perspective, we are constantly offered “deals” at higher dollar amounts, as well. The cable companies are happy to offer you TV, Internet, and phone service for a considerable savings over the sum of each of those services priced individually. But if you’d rather get free over-the-air HD programming or if you compare the bundled cost of phone service not with the cable companies’ prices but with a discount provider like Vonage or Skype, the package deal could end up costing you more.
I noticed this exact problem when I was scheduling my sprinkler system servicing. In my area, anyone who uses city water must choose from a short list of licensed providers to have their sprinkler systems tested on a yearly basis. I have typically used one company that packages the testing with the pre-freeze fall turn-off and post-thaw spring turn-on. Since I’m selling my home before the fall, I didn’t want to pay for that portion of the package. Removing one of the three services from the package price only reduced the cost by 20%, but would still lower my expense. What’s more, when comparing prices, I found another licensed provider who charged 35% less.
Grouping together items you were going to purchase anyway may get you a substantial discount, but if you are getting more than you need or could save even more money by purchasing portions of the service bundle separately, then a package deal is a bad idea. Our local phone company has started an ad campaign against the cable company with the tag line “Don’t Get Bundled.” Though they clearly have a vested interest in keeping potential customers away from their competition, their advice may be useful if you fall into the situation described above.
Have package deals ended up costing you more?