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Extra Income, Real Money

Money is Power: Organize (Your Finances)

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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?

Extra Income, Money Mentality

The Secret Money Equation No One Is Telling You

There’s a lot of chatter about saving on the Internet and even my blog is not exempt. I frequently wax lyrical about the power of saving money. But I haven’t been telling you the whole truth.

When it comes to money, saving is only one half of the equation. The other half is where the magic happens. It’s where dreams come true and life changes for the better. It’s where family vacations and early retirement become realities instead of just stories you read.

Here’s the secret no one talks about:

Earning more money

After a certain point, you can’t save any more money. There’s simply nothing left to cut. You’ve cancelled your cable, moved apartments, hacked your beauty routine and even started biking to work. Your savings rates are high and maybe you’re even stashing half of your income.

But there’s no future in saving.

Saving will never give you more money. It will only reclaim money that was already yours.

Earning more money, on the other hand, will change your life.

Right now, I save half of my income. Each paycheck is sliced in two and I live comfortably on one half. But there’s no future in that. The minute I start a family, pay for my wedding or stop living with a roommate, my savings rate will drastically decrease. In other words, my current finances are not designed to support my long-term goals.

So what’s a girl to do?

Should I…

A. Continue to cut back and hoard my pennies.

B. Never leave my house and live the life of a deprived hermit.

C. Earn more money!

Hopefully you chose, “C.”

(If you failed the quiz, don’t stress. There’s hope for you yet!)

At a certain point, it’s impossible to cut back anymore without losing your freaking mind. After all, we’re only human and there’s nothing wrong with you know, enjoying life.

In the same way it’s crucial to stop spending money to the point of excess, it is also necessary to stop saving money to the point of misery.

 Two years ago, when I was living in (almost) poverty, no amount of cutting back could have saved me. The only thing that could have actually helped? More money.

Saving money will only get you so far.

It’s like learning addition and subtraction in math. It’s part of the fundamentals and it’s necessary to learn, but it’s only the beginning. Without knowing how to save, earning more money is pointless because you would spend it all and still feel poor.

But once you learn the basics, you’re ready for the big kid math. You’re ready for the imaginary numbers and graphs and all sorts of crazy equations that come with advanced learning.

You’re ready to earn more money.

 

Think of personal finance like a game:

Level 1: The Money Basics

Now is the time to understand credit scores, debt, net worth, how credit cards work, and basic investing options.

Start here with CNN’s article: Basic Money Lessons You (Probably) Missed in High School

Still looking for more information? I’m currently working on a FREE survival guide for money basics that won’t make you want to scream (or cry from boredom). Subscribe to the mailing list for updates.

This level is kind of boring. It’s easy to master, but can feel dull. DO IT ANYWAYS. These are the fundamentals of the fundamentals. When you’re at this level, you’re learning how to count.

1-2-3-4-5

Awesome, now you’re ready for the next one.

 

Level 2: Save and Optimize

This is the level where you learn about yourself, your values and your money goals. Perhaps you’re a spreadsheet junkie and love tracking every single penny. Or maybe you’re more like me and prefer a less formal relationship with money. Whatever your style, now is the time to discover it. Once you optimize, it’s time to save. Cut out the expenses that aren’t adding to your happiness.

Once you cut ruthlessly, you can spend freely on the things that bring you joy.

Unsure how to tell the two apart? This guide is for you: How to Only Spend Money on Things That Will Make You Happy.

 Congratulations! You just learned addition and subtraction. You may now move on to the final stage.

 

Level 3: Earn More Cash

You’ve learned the basics and you’ve optimized your finances. You’ve scaled back according to your values and you’re saving a good chunk of your income each month. (In other words, you’re awesome)

Now is the time to earn, earn, earn.

Throughout the next few months, I’m going to cover a lot of different ways to earn money on the side and invite some awesome people to share their stories on the blog as well. I’ll even share how I’m earning money on the side. (Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it too.)

But in the meantime, here are some amazing resources about how to make more and take control of your earning power. Grab a cup of coffee, relax and learn from some of the greats:

1. Side Hustle Nation

 

2. I Will Teach You to Be Rich

 

3. Smart Passive Income

 

4. Unsettle

 

Congratulations on reaching Level 3.

I can’t wait for us to unlock it together.

 

Extra Income, Extreme Savings, Money Mentality

Debt Update: 2 Months Until Freedom

My debt is almost gone. Five months ago, I had $13,000 in student loans. Today, that number is less than $4,000.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.48.45 AM

 

In two months, I will be 100% debt free. For the rest of my life, my money will be mine. It won’t belong to a bank, the government or a credit card. It will belong to me.

In many ways, it feels surreal. After all, my entire post-college working life (all 7 months of it) has been shadowed by debt. Each paycheck was sliced in two as I made aggressive loan payments and built a small emergency fund.

I’ve thought about my debt a lot. In fact, I probably think about it at least once a day. Sometimes it feels like my life is on hold until it is paid. But other times, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come.

 

$10,000 paid off in 5 months.

 

I know that I’m in the home stretch now and it’s finally feeling real. Even though it’s been stressful, the truth is that I’m still thankful for my debt and that will never change. In many ways, I feel more thankful than ever:

 

1. My Earning Potential is Limitless

Before I got serious about paying off my loans, I thought that my earning potential was defined by how much a company would pay me. During college, I dipped my toes in freelance writing, but my earnings were small. Once I got serious about paying off my debt, I knew that I needed to earn more…a lot more.

I did some research and found that earning a significant amount of money through “side hustles” is entirely possible and honestly, it’s changed the way I think about money. I still work a full-time office job (that I enjoy!) but the company I work for no longer defines my earnings.

In February, my “side” earnings from freelance writing and social media management will hit $1000.

If someone had told me that was possible when I was in college, I would have laughed and thought they were insane. But it turns out, it’s entirely possible. $1000 in extra cash?! UM, YES PLEASE.

But what’s even better than earning extra money is the feeling of control that accompanies it. I’m in control of my destiny—financial and otherwise, and that’s the best feeling in the world.

 

2. I Can Live (Happily) on Less

When I made the decision to aggressively pay off my loans, I knew that I needed to keep my spending low as low as possible. BUT, I also knew that extreme budgeting or deprivation would lead to a spending binge. So I learned to create a sustainable budget with “fun” money budgeted in.

But even beyond that, I was never too strict with myself. If I wanted to buy something extra one month, I did. There was no guilt or shame. Instead, I tryto always approach my spending desires from a place of acceptance and understanding.

The result is that I’ve learned to happily live on less. I’ve lived on less before and it wasn’t fun (or sustainable) because it was driven by fear, necessity and shame. But this time has been different. I want to be debt free so badly, but I want to be happy and healthy even more.

3. Everything Happens in Time

When I was in college, I never would have believed this was possible. In fact, I thought that my loans would haunt me for life. (Yep, even though they were “only” $13,000) At the time, $13,000 was more than I had ever made in a single year and it felt utterly impossible to pay off such a big amount in a year, let alone 7 months!

But paying off my debt has shown me that everything happens in time. The things that felt impossible last year now feel simple and that’s a trend I hope to accomplish throughout the rest of my life: constantly pushing myself to be better.

 2 months until freedom!

2 months until freedom!

Okay, so the lessons learned are awesome. But what about the fun part…what will I do when I’m finally done?

Although it’s a little taboo in certain financial circles, the truth is that there are some things I’m super excited to buy when I’m done paying my student loans in March.

There are a lot more than the ones listed below (K-cups! Perfume! New couch pillows!). But, these are three I am most excited about:

 

Exploring the streets of London in December 2015

Exploring the streets of London in December 2015

 

1. Vacation

I love travelling and like most Millennials (we’re awesome, what can I say?) I believe that traveling is critical to a happy and healthy life. While I was paying off my loans, I was still able to travel a bit and visited London, South Carolina and San Francisco. But my travel rewards credit cards are brimming with points and I’m excited to expand my destinations once I’m finished. The top places on my list? Mexico, Italy and New York City.

 

IMG_3119

Mimosa flights (aka: My greatest weakness)

 

2. Brunch

I’m a sucker for brunches (especially ones with mimosa flights….) but I’ve curbed my brunch cravings quite a bit in past few months so I could focus on my loans. I can’t wait to indulge in brunch more regularly once I’m finally free.

 

3. Freedom

This is definitely the one I’m most excited about. I cannot wait to build my savings, invest and create a killer nest egg. When money is taken care of, life is infinitely easier. After all, how can I plot world domination if I’m concerned about next month’s rent? 😉

 

What are the indulgences that you couldn’t live without? Any advice for what to do when I’m finally free? If you’re still paying off debt, what would YOU do once it’s gone? I would love to hear from you!