Now we’re getting to the real reason I’m writing these columns: the struggle for the legal tender. A lot of the books and articles I read about personal finance, side hustling, frugality, etc. didn’t seem realistic. There would be a whole chapter on asking for a raise, and I work a public service job where my salary is determined by a chart of my education level and how many years I’ve worked. If I marched into the principal’s office and demanded a raise because I’m such an awesome school librarian, she’d think I was on drugs. Likewise, many books focused on entrepreneurship. I’m way too risk-averse be an entrepreneur, and I love my public service union job where I get great benefits and summers off. Plus, those books always making it seem like you’re going to “just” start your six-figure yearly profit dog-walking business where you sit back and post Insta pics while your army of dog walkers does all the poop-scooping for you. Not something that most people are gonna do.
I think the worst was the frugality stuff, though. Trust me, I’m all for being cheap. I am cheap. But reading blog posts about pretending to be impoverished and feeding yourself on $2 a day just to see if you could kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I enjoy leaving my house, eating at restaurants from time to time, and wearing inexpensive makeup I buy at CVS with coupons. Why would I want to stop doing those things? The frugal-book-and-blog-post community might answer, “So you can achieve financial independence and retire at 45!” Wait, so I can make myself miserable in the hopes of quitting a job I love to spend my extended retirement eating ramen noodles and marked-down muffins as a “challenge”?? No thanks bro, I’m good.
Anyhow, you’re probably thinking, “Okay Jessie, when are you gonna tell me how to make more money?” Hold your four horsemen, we’re getting there!
Hopefully you read the previous column about Spending Less and tried some of the suggestions. But inevitably, there comes a point in time when you’ve gotten the best deal on car insurance, you’ve canceled all the subscriptions you can live without, and you bought the stuff on sale at the grocery store — but you still don’t have enough money to reach your goals. Well guess what, Old Millennials…. Now it’s time to make more!
The tried and true, American-Dream method of making more money is — wait for it — working more. There are several ways you can do that:
- Work more at your regular job. Pick up some overtime. Teach an after-school enrichment class. Cover a coworker’s shift. Not that complicated.
- Get a part-time job in addition to your regular job. The best part-time jobs build your skill set in your desired field — so if you’re washing dishes, see if you can bartend a slow night at some hole in the wall once a week. If you want to work with children, look for a position at a school or tutoring company. If you freelance in the local music or entertainment scene, get a job at a music store — everyone who walks in the door is a potential client.
- Let your hobby become your side hustle. Similar the idea of using a part-time job to build your skills, you can turn your hobby into a side hustle. This is one of my current methods of “working more” — I spend a lot of time writing stuff for no money and playing around on social media. But with the following I’ve built through that, I’ve found paying writing clients who need resumes, band bios, and press releases. If you need any of those things, get in touch through the Rock It Write Facebook page. *cough*
- Level up by having your side hustle fund your hobby. My retired stepdad is a great example of this — he loves working out, so he keeps an eye on Craigslist for people selling or giving away weights and other exercise equipment. Apparently he’s able to find a lot for free because people have given up on their Insta-bod fantasies and just want to get the weights out of their houses. He picks up the weights, gives ’em a shine, and then resells them. With the proceeds, he buys more stuff for his own home gym, which he uses every day. Yours truly is also an example of this. This year, I’ve used all my writing money to pay for my bands’ recording endeavors — so most of what I paid to go to the studio did not encroach on my regular budget for real life things. I got to have my cake and pay my mortgage, thanks to writing band bios for strangers on the internet.
- Even if your side hustle hobby isn’t incredibly lucrative, it can still create worthwhile connections that pay off down the road. As music industry dude Matt Bacon put it in this article about growing your band’s engagement,
“I’m going to end with a good one whose phrasing I stole from my friend and occasional podcast co-host Scotty Heath – “get a side hustle to your side hustle”. What this means is that yes, your band should be your side hustle. Cool. Well, find another way to give to your scene on top of that. In Scotty’s case, it was printing buttons – he got a ton of traction through it. In other peoples cases, it might be printing shirts or doing free flyers, or just something that you can do to connect with people in the scene for free. That’s really the key, is the side hustle to your side hustle is not focused on making money (usually) it is instead focused on connecting with as many people as possible and bringing as many people as possible value. A lot of you might be saying that you don’t have time for that – well guess what – if you don’t have time to give to your scene to get more people to connect to your creative projects you’re already f*****.”
“Wow Jessie, we’re already a thousand words in and you basically just told me to get another job. What else can I do?”
Hack some cash back.
- Put regular bills like car insurance or Netflix on a cash back credit card and pay the balance off every month. Also, make use of credit cards’ cash back categories. Sometimes these rotate seasonally — for instance, April-June will be 5% back on groceries, then July-September will be 5% back on gas. Other cards will let you choose what category you want to get extra cash back on. Use the card for those expenses and pay it off every month.
- Keep an eye out for credit card sign-on bonuses like gift cards, cash back, or frequent flier miles. I’ve found some good offers through my Credit Karma account. Some people get pretty wild with “travel hacking” — read more about it on The Fioneers if you’re curious. Just be aware that opening an closing lots of accounts will impact your credit score, so do this judiciously.
- Use Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for shopping online. Sign up and install the extension on your Chrome browser; then whenever you’re shopping on a site that gives cash back, it will automatically prompt you to shop through Rakuten. The beauty of it is that when you’re ordering pet food, renewing your domain name, or booking a hotel, that bubble will appear unexpectedly. One click, and you’re magically getting money for stuff you’re buying anyways. They also have in-store deals, which are a little more effort because you have to enter your debit/credit card number each time you use the deal — and you have to remember to run your debit card as credit, or it won’t go through. The payouts are quarterly through Paypal or check, and you get a $10 Wal-Mart card for signing up.
- Scan your grocery receipts in the Fetch app, then redeem rewards for gift cards to Amazon and many more. When you buy participating brands, you get “points” that add up to rewards. It seems to be mostly Kraft-related brands, but there are a lot of items on there that you’d probably be purchasing anyways — including booze! For instance, a Miller Lite twelve-pack will earn you 2,000 points/$2 in rewards right now. #merica If you sign up for Fetch with the referral code K3ADF, we’ll both get some bonus points — so do it!
- Use coupon codes and promo codes from Swagbucks to save even more. Find online She In coupon codes, TicketLiquidator coupon codes, and deals for hundreds of other retailers.
The not-so-secret “secret” to hacking cash back is to only purchase things you’d be buying anyways — have I said that enough times? — and if you’re using a credit card for cash back, pay off the balance before it accrues interest. How do you think credit card companies can afford to hand out free cash? Because all the other schmucks are paying that 18% APR… Bonus level hack: use a credit card with an interest-free introductory period for large one-time purchases that you can pay off over time, such as a hotel room for Psycho Las Vegas or “I just got divorced and I need new living room furniture.”
So how much can you really make by hacking cash back? Not a life-changing amount, but for me it’s been enough to say, “Okay, cool.” Plus, all these rewards are tax-free — but don’t say that too loud or Connecticut governor Ned Lamont will find a way to tax them. And yes, these companies are tracking your purchase data, but I don’t really care; if Kraft finds out that I buy Dove body wash, good for them. Here’s how I’ve made out with cash back so far in 2019:
- Credit Cards: $85 cash/statement credit and $200 Amazon gift card
- Ebates: $15 with another $22 coming in August
- Fetch: $21 in Amazon gift cards
- Total: $343
“That’s cool, Jessie, but $343 isn’t quite as much dough as I was thinking. How else can I make more money??”
I saw a funny Tweet from a finance guy about how no one ever became a millionaire by earning frequent flier miles. He was right. And just like you can only cut so much spending, there’s only so much time in the day to hustle and so many points you can earn buying Miller Lite. The real secret to living like a king is creating passive income…. Which we will discuss in the next column, because we’re already 1,700 words in! In the meantime, this king shows us that money can’t buy happiness…
If you need help getting your money in order but don’t want some old guy “boomersplaining” finances to you, try this book. I will definitely refer to it when the Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials series becomes an ebook!
I’m pretty sure that this was the book that suggested not buying makeup. If you need some encouragement to reign in your spending, it’s a worthwhile read.
Those are Amazon Affiliate links to purchase the books and give me three cents, but level up by finding them for free at your local library. 🙂