All Posts By

Taylor

Real Money, Women + Finances

The Privilege of Earning More

“What if you didn’t have access to the Internet?” my teacher asked the class. Most of my classmates looked at her with a mix of boredom and disbelief.

“Everyone has Internet now. It’s 2017. Why does it matter?” asked one of the men in the class.

I silently agreed. It seemed like a pointless question. I flipped open my laptop to check my work email while I waited for her to respond. 

13% of Americans do not use the Internet. 10% do not have access to a connection and even more Americans do not have a reliable Internet connection.”

Every Monday night, I sit in a classroom filled with graduate students working towards their Master’s in Education. There are a lot of things I’m learning, like how to create a learning environment that is accessible to everyone and why cultural backgrounds matter. But I’m also inadvertently learning about something else too: a specific kind of privilege.

The privilege of earning more.

When millennials complain about low wages and a chronic lack of job opportunities, they are typically met with two cheerful words: “Side hustle!”

“Side hustles” can range from driving Uber on the weekends to writing articles for a company after work. You can even get paid to stand in line and buy someone else’s groceries. The tasks are all different, but they have one thing in common.

Whether it’s an app on your (smart) phone that allows you to accept jobs or an Internet connection at home that allows you to send emails, “side hustles” all have one crucial ingredient: access to the Internet.

Throughout the past three months, I’ve been increasing my freelance workload in an effort to save $20,000 for graduate school by August 2017.

As I take on more clients and more work, I’ve often felt frustrated and tired. Freelancing on the side while working full-time and attending graduate school is hectic.

But last week I realized that having access to a side hustle is a gift. Sometimes it’s  an annoying gift that I would like to return, but it’s still a gift.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’ve been given the same gift. Here are a few tips about how to use it:

  1. Know When to Say “No”

 

Even though it’s wonderful to be able to earn more money on the side, it can also be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. If you’re embarking on a side hustle (or three), don’t be afraid to say “no” and set some boundaries. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you always should. I’ve found it useful to think of my freelance work as if it were a job where I had to physically show up. Because I’m working full-time, I couldn’t handle a part-time job that required more than 15 hours per week. So that’s the amount of time I’m willing to work on freelance work on a weekly basis.

  1. Take it Seriously

There are SO MANY stories of people who started a project on the side and then had it turn into their full-time gig. But regardless of whether or not you dream of becoming a full-time freelancer or business owner, the fact remains that you need to take your side hustles seriously, and the most important way to do that is by tracking your payments, tax forms and invoices. If you’re earning income on the side, the IRS will want to know about it. Do yourself a favor and start tracking all of that now and not three weeks before your taxes are due.

When I got serious about freelancing in January, I decided to sign up for Xero’s Accounting Software and Online Bookkeeping and it has been a gamechanger.

Not only is it $6.30 per month for the “Starter Pack” (!!) which includes 5 invoices, 5 bills and 20 bank transactions, but it’s also so freaking easy to use.

You also get a free 30-day trial, which is awesome cause, you know, free.

Xero has pre-made emails you can send to clients if an invoice is overdue and makes the whole ~getting paid~ part of freelancing so much less awkward.

They also have so many other amazing tools, including expense reporting.

(And after my stepfather gave me a stern lecture about how important it is to track conferences and other “business expenses” for tax purposes,  I’ve never been more thankful to have a platform that makes it so easy and organized.)

  1. Kindness and Other Things

I often struggle to truly put myself in other people’s shoes. It’s so easy to simply pass judgement about someone’s spending habits or earning potential. Whether it’s at my full-time job or at my side hustles, I feel like I work hard for my money. But that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t working equally hard in their own way and using what they have access to. Not everyone can earn more money. Sometimes that’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.

P.S. If you’re interested in this topic, I HIGHLY recommend reading both Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

 

What do you think? Can everyone earn more?

 

This post may contain affiliate links.

Money Mentality, Real Money

Money Confession: I Have a Car Loan

I’ve been blogging for over a year now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned since joining the realm of ~bloggers~, it’s that it is SO EASY to lie.

Instead of explaining how you spent 90+ hours a week to grow your million dollar business, it’s easy to simply say, “Hustle hard, ya’ll!” Early retirement? No more coffee or cars. Paying off debt? “Side hustle.”

The problem with these one to two word answers is that they barely scratch the surface of what is required (and what is sacrificed) in order to accomplish big money goals.

There are A LOT of things I don’t talk about on my blog. Sometimes I leave things out because it’s not my story to tell. Other times, it’s because it is too painful to talk about. Regardless of the reason, I can assure you that my money situation is more complex and nuanced than it appears.

Which leads me to today’s confession: I have a $3,000 car loan.

When I paid off nearly $14,000 of student loans last year, I swore up and down that I would NEVER take on debt again.

Debt was my greatest enemy and I was happy to bid it farewell.

So what changed?

Me.

Throughout the past year, I’ve done a deep dive into what actually matters to me. I’ve stopped chasing happiness and started chasing meaning.

I’ve become kinder to myself and made a conscious effort to become more generous…even when it’s hard.

I’ve also tried to come to terms with the fact that life is maddeningly, absurdly short.

My mom and my step-dad

As I was on my way to a UCLA math final in 2014, I received a phone call from my sister. She was in tears as she explained that they weren’t sure if my mom was going to make it. Due to one nurse’s mistake, my mom was unexpectedly experiencing kidney failure and no one was sure if she would survive.

I was forced to think about what life would be like without my mother, but I couldn’t imagine it.

She is the glue that holds our family together and the rock upon which my sisters and I lean. She is my very best friend and my role model. With my mother in a small town in Oklahoma that was a two hour car ride from the nearest airport, and me in California, there wasn’t anything I could do as I waited for updates. My sister told me to take my final and I did. While I calculated complex probability problems, tears fell on the page.

Three years later, my mom has recovered and she is as wonderful, loving and fiercely loyal as ever.

But even though three years have passed since that horrible day, I’ll never forget it.

It was the ultimate lesson of the fleeting nature of this world and the fragility of our human lives.

Nothing is guaranteed.

My (very, very small) car loan seems unrelated to my mom and the fleeting nature of life, and maybe it is. But in many ways, I think my car loan is a sign that I’m continuing to grow into the person I hope to become.

I hope to be a person who sees manageable amounts of debt as a useful tool.

I hope to be a person who looks at the big picture and not the irrelevant details.

I hope to be a person who is not obsessed with money or trapped in the past.

I hope to be a person who contributes in meaningful ways to society.

I hope to be a person who always tells my family and best friends that I love them.

I hope to be a person who doesn’t waste my life on trivialities like saving a few dollars.

I hope to be generous with people and organizations I care about.

I hope to be gentle, kind, humble and hard-working.

I hope that when my time on earth ends, I have helped to make it a slightly better place for someone else.

 

What kind of person do you hope to be? Have you ever had a change of heart about money?

 

Money Mentality

How to Stop Being a Jealous Asshole

The more that I read about money and immerse myself in the world of personal finance, the more that it becomes clear that people are jealous assholes. From judging people who “spend too much” to shaming millennials who are genuinely just trying to survive the world of corporate greed, there are a lot of people who have a lot of opinions about other people’s money.

But one of the things that annoys me more than anything else is the judgement of people who get financial help from family members.

Trust me, I GET IT. As someone who was cut off at 20-years old midway through college, I understand that it can feel unfair. During college, I was working three part-time jobs, attending school full-time and still poor AF.

In fact, I specifically remember working as a UCLA fundraiser and what it felt like to call alumni who would donate $10,000 without missing a beat.

I felt angry. It was a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach that would eventually spread through my whole body until I felt my face grow flushed.  

Even though these people were donating money (aka a kind and generous thing), I felt furious. I was furious at the injustice. Other people were comfortable and secure in their finances, while I toiled away for minimum wage and regularly cried myself to sleep from financial stress.

The truth is that the world is unfair. And I firmly believe that it shouldn’t be. I believe that we should work to build societal safety nets for our less privileged neighbors instead of destroying the few safety nets that are currently in place. I believe that healthcare is a human right and that everyone should have roof over their head. I believe in “leveling the playing field” and I believe that people with more privilege should lend a helping hand to people who have less.

You know what that’s called? Being a good human. I believe that we should all be good humans, even if it’s hard or doesn’t come naturally.

But guess what? Being a good human doesn’t involve hating other people. As someone who personally knows multiple people who get significant help from their parents in the form of gifted housing, living at home, “loans” that never have to be paid back, cars, free trips and everything in between, I can assure that people who get help are all around us. And whether or not you want to admit it, you may be one of them. But I can also assure you these people are generous, kind, hard-working individuals with a serious amount of gratitude and humility.

So if you find yourself feeling like I did as a fundraiser, here are some things you can do:

 

  1. Unless someone acquired their money through the exploitation of other humans, animals or the environment, it’s none of your business how they got it or where it is coming from. And YES, this includes people who get money from their parents. IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Be happy that a fellow human doesn’t have to experience the stress, pain and fear of living in (or near) poverty.

 

  1. Start judging people for the good that they do with their money and not how much they have or where it is coming from.

 

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN PRIVILEGE. Guess what? If you are reading this article, on the Internet, on your computer, during your leisure time, you have some serious financial privilege. Instead of judging other people, take some time to acknowledge your own privilege. Here’s a personal example: I’m white! It’s currently the biggest privilege in America and possibly the world. I was raised in a middle class family and my father is a lawyer! Even though I was cut off at 20 years old, my father still pays my phone bill! I have no idea why but I do know that it saves me at least $60/month. These are just a few examples, but I bet you can think of plenty more about me and more importantly, about yourself.

 

  1. If you still find yourself filled with rage, try using that anger to focus on actual things that matter like volunteering with local organizations that are helping people in need (like the Trevor Project or the ACLU) or getting involved with the upcoming midterm elections so sane people can reclaim Washington.

What do you think about people who receive money from their parents? Does it detract from what they have accomplished?

Uncategorized

February Check-In

Oh man. This year has been kicking my butt. In addition to working full-time, I’m taking four graduate classes, freelancing, planning our wedding, volunteering and also passed two major tests that are a requirement for my graduate program (woohoo! Cause seriously, I was worried I wouldn’t pass them…)

It’s been a crazy two months and I think that the older I get, the more I’m learning that the craziness is the norm and not the exception.

But even beyond that, I’m learning that I like it like this. Working hard makes me feel invigorated and happy. My mom loves to remind me that I was walking at 8 months old and I think it’s safe to say that that dedicated and rambunctious 8-month old is still very much present today.

Because so much has been happening, I wanted to do a quick check-in about what I’ve been doing, reading and spending. (And hopefully you’ll fill me in about your own happenings in the comments?!)

The Wedding

We have officially set the date! The venue is booked, the dress is bought and all vendors (minus the cake) have been secured. It has been SO MUCH fun to plan this wedding with Alex. I love making decisions as a team and working together to throw a party for all our closest friends and family. We are lucky enough to be getting financial help for the wedding and feel so grateful that we get the opportunity to plan our dream celebration, especially as a same-sex couple.

When I first started dating Alex, I didn’t exactly know what being in a same-sex relationship meant for my future—Would we be able to have kids? What about getting married? Celebrating our love by legally committing to each other means everything to me. Two years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. And sadly, it might be impossible once again in another two years. No one knows what the future holds, but I know that the nearly five years I’ve spent with my other half, are the best I’ve ever had and I can’t wait for 500 more.

But because we’re getting help for the wedding, the numbers are not my story to tell.

BUT there is one thing that I’m happy to report. My GORGEOUS engagement ring was a cool $600 and boasts real diamonds and white gold.

 

We went to SO MANY different stores when we were looking because I flat out refused to spend over $1,000 on a ring but I also wanted it to be super sparkly  (lol). So if you ever need tips on how to find a cheap-yet-expensive-looking engagement ring, I’m your girl. (Hint: do not shop in the “engagement” section)

Freelancing

I have a super aggressive goal to save $20,000 by August and I’m happy to report that I’m 37% of the way there. Woohoo! In order to meet my goal, I’ve been picking up more freelance work on the side and it’s been awesome. I love writing and managing social media, so half the time, it doesn’t even feel like work. Plus, I primarily work with people and brands in the personal finance space, so becoming even more connected with the community has been an added bonus. I’m looking to pick up a bit more work in the coming months, but overall, I’m happy with where I am.

Reading

After reading a pathetically low number of books last year, I made a commitment to really up my game in 2017. In addition to reading a lot more fiction ~just for fun~ I’ve also been grabbing books from Paulette Perhach’s financial education reading list. So far I’ve read Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom which was so-so but I’m currently reading Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and it is SO good. It’s a deep-dive into what it’s like to live and work in minimum wage jobs. But even beyond that, it highlights the assumptions and conclusions that middle class people make about those who are living in poverty. The book highlights the ways in which “traditional” personal finance advice—Buy in bulk! Meal prep! Budget better!—is literally impossible for low-wage workers to implement. It was written in 1999, but the story is (unfortunately) just as relevant as ever.

That’s pretty much it for me! Happy almost-March, friends.

 

I would love to hear what you’ve been up to. Any interesting projects or good books? 

 

#MyMoneyStory

Money Stories: Breaking Free and Building a Fund

Jacob from Power Over Life stopped by the blog today to share his inspiring story about the power of emergency funds…and what it was like to learn about them the hard way.

 

My money story starts six years ago.  I was 21 and had just returned home from serving a two-year mission for my church.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life.  The only thing that I was certain about was that it was time to start getting serious about school.

On a whim, I paid cash for a cheap car, put all of my belongings into it, and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah.

I had no job, no place to live, but I had been accepted into school there, so I figured everything would work out.

Luckily, it did.  After sleeping in my car for a few days, I was able to find a decent place to live and a few days later I was able to get a job.  The unfortunate part of this story is that, up to this point, I had exhausted nearly all of my savings to get to Utah and start my life.

A few weeks into my stay in Salt Lake City, I had a strange health episode (one that I haven’t had since).

I started having an intense pain in my abdominal area and I lost feeling in my legs and wasn’t able to walk.  I reluctantly went to the ER to get looked at.  Unfortunately, I walked away with a $5,000 hospital bill, with no way to pay for it.

That one decision, to go to the hospital, is what led me on a painful five-year path to get out of debt.

I started making payments on the hospital bill with every penny that I could spare.  I wanted to be out of debt so bad!  Years later, I learned that the biggest problem I faced wasn’t the actual debt, but that I tried to get out of debt too quickly.

It had never occurred to me that I should probably save up a little chunk of money for future emergencies.  Instead, I left my bank account drop down to $0.00.  It stayed there for three weeks straight.

During those three weeks, the timing belt on my car broke, leading to a $3,000 expense to keep my car working. 

In order for me to get to school and my job, I needed to have a working car.  I reluctantly paid for the expense with my credit card and threw the balance on my ongoing debt total.

This trend continued for a few years. Because I had no emergency fund, I wasn’t able to pay for the things that went wrong, which resulted in a swipe of the credit card and me getting further and further into debt.

At the time, it seemed like everything in my life was going wrong, especially financially. Finally, one day something actually went right!  I met my future wife, in the elevator at school.  After one year of dating, we decided to get married.

After a year of being married, my wife and I decided to get pregnant.

Nine months later, we were anxiously waiting for our little girl to come into our lives.  To our surprise, we learned that we would have to deliver our baby by C-Section because she was still breech.  We freaked out…we hadn’t budgeted for the extra surgery expense.

After having an argument about money, we finally decided that we were done playing the debt game. We had had enough!

We agreed then and there that we would work on getting out of debt, until we were debt free.

We put our heads together and came up with a plan of attack.  To make a long story short, we kept with that plan for nearly 8 months. That’s how long it took for us to get out of $16,000 of debt.

The reality is that once we got serious about getting out of debt, we were able to do so relatively quickly.

It was a commitment, but once we had made it…it was easy to stick with it.

My word of advice is that if you feel like you are being crushed by debt, you don’t have to be.  You too can become debt free.  It may take longer than eight months, but if you make a plan and stick with it, you too can have peace of mind.  It will be hard, but I promise…it’s worth it.

 

Do you want to share your #MoneyStory? Email me: taylor@thefreedomfrommoney.com. (You can be anonymous!)

Thank you so much to Jacob for sharing such an inspirational story. And congratulations on becoming debt free! Woohoo!

Extra Income, Real Money

Money is Power: Organize (Your Finances)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Throughout the past few months, I’ve been been forced to think about hard questions: hope, hatred and defeating darkness.

But mainly, I’ve been struggling to answer one question in particular:

I’m only a single human, no one extraordinary or particularly remarkable, is it even possible for me to create change?

I’ve circled around and around with my answers. Somedays, I raise a fist and scream, “Yes!” But more often than not, I feel small and helpless.

The problems seem too big.

But on Monday, I saw something interesting: The ACLU received $24 million in online donations over the weekend.

It’s a HUGE number, but a huge number of people donated as well: 356,306 to be exact.

That means that each of the 356,306 people only had to give $67.36.

$67.36.

Of course, some people gave much more, and others (like myself) gave less.

But the fact remains that individuals, like you and me, made a difference.

That’s the secret about money that no one tells you: it adds up.

Every $10 that you donate, save or use to pay down debt matters. Because guess what? If you throw $10 towards something 10 times, then that’s $100.

The math is ridiculously easy, but the concept behind it is easy to forget.

Your money matters.

As I look towards the future and think about how I want to use my money this year, I have a lot of personal goals, but I also have goals that are bigger than me.

I want to use my money for good.

It’s a lofty, broad goal and I’m still hashing out the details of what that will look like, but there is one thing that I do know: there are some specific steps I’m taking to get there:

  1. Earning More

 

I’m being super aggressive with my savings for graduate school and plan to have $20,000 set aside by the end of August *gulp*

I’m currently 25% of the way there, but the truth is that I when I set out to achieve my goal, I knew that I needed to earn more money. The same is true for giving back.

We can all “trim the fat” on our lifestyles, but for most people (ahem, me) there is only so much I can trim before I literally hate everything.

As an average earner in an expensive city, the best way for me to reach my goals—of giving back and attending grad school—is earning more.

Earning more money isn’t something I’ve talked about it in great detail on the blog (yet) but I did make a starter guide for how to earn more cash online that you can check out here.

Sometimes earning more money means freelancing and other times it means extra shifts at work or a part-time retail job. The method doesn’t matter.

What’s important is that you recognize that earning more money isn’t “bad” or “greedy.” In fact, it’s often the quickest and most effective way to help others and fight for justice.

The more money you have to give, the bigger your economic voice, and in capitalism, that’s important.  

  1. Get Organized

In December, I vowed that I would earn more this year. I had a freelance coaching call with Melanie from Dear Debt and started aggressively looking for work. Since then, I’ve found some great new clients and love the freelance work I’m doing (yay!) but there’s been an unintended side effect: lack of organization.

As I’ve picked up more clients, I’ve also picked up more invoicing, tracking and tax forms to fill out. These are all super important (obviously) but they are also a freaking headache. Finally, I said “enough is enough” and signed up for Xero’s Accounting Software and Online Bookkeeping. 

As someone who is trying to earn more money and not spend more money on accounting software (or anything else for that matter), it’s been awesome.

For $6.30 per month, you get the “Starter Pack” which includes 5 invoices, 5 bills and 20 bank transactions. For someone who is freelancing on the side while working full-time, it’s the perfect amount.

You also get a free 30-day trial, which is awesome cause, you know, free.

Xero has pre-made emails you can send to clients if an invoice is overdue and that making the invoices is SO. FREAKING. SIMPLE.

But they also offer a lot of other services as well.

 

And if you’re a more organized person than me and were already with QuickBooks, they will convert your account for free. Plus Xero’s prices are better and you can redirect your savings (~ $50/year) to a worthy cause. Win-win.

 

  1. Sign up for Recurring Donations

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, but at the end of the month, when my money is low, I’m not likely to donate. If I have $30 left in my account and my friends want to grab a drink, I’m probably not going to say “no.”

And just like that, another month will pass without donating to the causes I care about.

To avoid this all-too-common pitfall, I FINALLY set up monthly donations. The money is going to the organizations every month, no matter what. If you’re serious about giving back, I think this is the most important thing you can do—from a personal standpoint, but also for the organization. It helps the organization plan their yearly budget and allocate money accordingly because they know they can rely on your monthly gift.

The concept of automatic donations is super similar to that of “paying yourself first:” get rid of the money fast and pretend it never existed. You’ll never miss it, I promise.

Do you have any tips on how to use money for good?