The Side Hustle Experiment

As you may have deduced from my in-depth blog on the February finances, I’ve been enamoured with personal finance for a long time, despite not really doing much about it. I love the idea of having control over my daily spending (personally, and jointly – the boyf and I have had what we cutely term Team Accounts for going on 3 years now), and I love the idea of control over my future wealth and stability, but actioning that? Honestly, it’s hard. Especially when you lack a familiarity with financial literacy, and suffer from the innate laziness that plagues most modern-day millennials such as myself. 

But 2016 has been a year of spurring myself in to action on a lot of fronts, including finances. And February was, secretly, the month of the Side Hustle Experiment. ‘Side hustle’ is that term bandied around the personal-finance island of the internet and basically means ‘way of making money that isn’t your salary/wage.’ Without realising it, I’ve been a great proponent of the side hustle for a long time. I tutored for cash throughout my six years at uni; I usually held down multiple jobs to finance my expensive year abroad and taste for the fun life; I would have the yearly clean out of my accumulated junk and sell the wares at community flea markets. I even had a weird memory the other day of a small business course I did in year 10 where we had to imagine up a small business and actually implement it. My team sold flavoured ice for $1/ cup – hilarious, yet hilariously popular. We ended up making over $700 amongst four of us after selling at school lunch times for 2 weeks (it is extremely hot through Australian summers, which greatly contributed to our success) and covering our costs. So you can say the bug for making money on the side bit early.

I continued to tutor ad hoc once I started my career, but as always I lacked discipline in dedicating this money to anything and saw it frittered away on expensive international trips and activewear. Life would be so different if I’d never heard of Lorna Jane. But there’s no point in lamenting it now. While I did stack up the cash, it disappeared quickly, and I never really quantified how much it was adding to my income to understand its true value at any one time. Although last year the boyf and I created the Party Jar, where our tutoring cash was stashed, alongside any bonus babysitting money (my cousins are party animals and we are lame, so we look after their kids for an easy $100 – $150 a pop) and other random cash incomes (such as selling our surround sound system from 1992 on Gumtree), which funded a week in the Caribbean, we didn’t really budget it out with hard and fast numbers to actually prove any benefit or spur us on to do it again.

Cue the Side Hustle Experiment. Complimenting my strict approach to tracking my spend and strictly monitoring where those hard earned dollars were running off to, I endeavoured to improve my total income pie. Because when I did that budget with the boyf, I realised that no matter how much I scrimped, squished and remoulded my income, the only way I could get more out of my money was to get more money. So. I did.

Obtaining additional streams of income was subject to the following limitations: time, as I work as a lawyer and the jokes about only seeing the sun every second Thursday can be scarily accurate; and flexibility. I also introduced the limit of using what was available to me with no start-up cost.

With those limits in line, I undertook the following additional income streams for the month of February: market research, tutoring, and selling my own crap on eBay. These options worked effectively because they cost me nothing in start-up costs (although eBay does involve some fees), they were mostly flexible, and many I could do during brain-dead moments when churning through episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix (or I was having a moment at work). (Wow. I like to write with brackets). (Lol).

Anyway, I sat down and  crunched the numbers, and I made an additional $197.83  in February. Using very rough figures, the effect was to increase my monthly income by 4.5%. And, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to overstate the situation, but I term this a massive success. Not only did I earn a tidy little profit on my endeavours that I wouldn’t have earned otherwise (although I wish I’d made just another $2.17 to crack that $200), but by keeping meticulous track of this income, I feel a strong degree of control over the actions I took to generate that $197.83. And that is extremely rewarding.

So, here is how I did it, and how you can do it too. 

1. Swagbucks

I love this site. I wish I had been using it earlier. It is the easiest market research site for making dollars just doing what you normally do: searching the internet, wasting time doing random things (I’ve done a lot of surveys, but earning those Swagbucks are addictive), playing some mindless games, points back on online shopping (I lament the multiple $200+ Lorna Jane purchases from 2014 that would have earned me some serious Swagbucks…), downloading apps… there’s a billion ways to earn points (called Swagbucks), on this multi-purpose site, and all of them add up in order to be cashed out in the form of Paypal vouchers (my personal favourite), or vouchers for favourite online stores such as Amazon, or XBox Live memberships (the boyf was super excited for this particular option). Effectively, if you find yourself messing around on your computer a lot, put that time to more productive use, click around on Swagbucks, get yourself some easy points and find yourself a little richer at the end of the month for no real effort.

In February I earned one $25USD Paypal voucher, and inched over the line for the second on the 1st of March Australia time (which was still actually February in Swagbucks time…but I left the official numbers at 1 x$25 for February). So Swagbucks isn’t an epic earner, but it’s an easy, passive kind of income, and I’d always take an extra $25 every few weeks to boost my total income for the month. If you click my referral link above, or here, you get some bonus Swagbucks to start you off.

2. MySurvey

A simpler take on Swagbucks, MySurvey is a site where you take surveys, earn points, and can cash those points out for dollaz when you reach certain thresholds. I earned 2 x $10AUD vouchers in February. You are notified when new surveys become available which you qualify for, which is really nice, and I found it really quick to rack up the points. I would have probably earned 4 x vouchers, but there was an extended period of time where I just wasn’t hearing anything from them. Anyway, it all seems to be going gang-busters now, and I’ve cashed out a few extra vouchers already in March. I highly recommend signing up, even if you only do a survey every now and again – the points add up quickly, and, as with Swagbucks, it’s an extremely simple way of boosting your account in small but meaningful ways.

3. Tutoring

The only difficult thing with tutoring is finding a solid family to tutor for. I’ve worked through all kinds of students: smart ones, hard workers, extremely not-smart ones, and ones with passionate parents, and the ones who succeed are almost singularly the ones with passionate parents. I’ve been tutoring for the same family since 2014, which is fine, and often it can take that time to build up enough of a rapport with a student (especially a young one, like this student), in order to see results and get the parents on side. Unfortunately, although the parents are happy to pay me, they aren’t happy to put in any work which can undo a lot of the effort you put in. But I digress. I charge a paltry $40 for 45 minutes, which includes me coming to their home, but I’ve found keeping that fee low means that when I just don’t feel like it one week, or they make up a lame excuse at the last minute to cancel, no one is too upset. This month I made $80 in tutoring, because the family cancelled twice. So it’s not necessarily a reliable income stream, but it’s a quick financial boost with great results and can be very personally rewarding if you and your student develop a good relationship and see some personal and grade improvement. 

4. eBay

This has surprisingly been my favourite way to bring in some cash. Marie Kondo filled my mind with dreams of neatly folded envelopes of clothing that only brings me joy, and in that adventure, I discovered many good quality clothing items in my wardrobe that, despite not bringing me joy, could bring me back some cash. Selling stuff on eBay is exceptionally easy with the app. The only limitations come from those imposed on you by eBay at the start as you build your seller’s profile, where you are limited to free ten items to be listed per month. My limit was quickly raised to 30 free items a month once I proved I actually sent off what I sold. The only other limit for eBay is your personal limitations. People will buy the most surprising things; and the only way you’ll know what it is they’ll buy is if you make it available for purchase. My biggest surprises were a used Lorna Jane sports bra that went for  $31 after a hectic bidding war and a broken bracelet (I’d fully disclosed the extent of brokenness in the listing). I’ve learnt a lot of things through my adventures on eBay that I’ll share in another post. But even taking into account the PayPal fees and the eBay fees, I sold eight items in February for a final profit of $72.83. And already in March I’ve made two sales, and have three big bidding listings. It’s looking like another successful month.

So that’s how I made $197.83 in February. Since this month was such a resounding success, I’ve put that money into my Gold Star account, continued with Swagbucks and MySurvey (and tutoring of course), listed another 10 items on eBay and taken the risk of investing some money into some items to kickstart my own etsy business. It’s an idea that’s brewing and taking shape, but I’m so excited to take some real risks and churn over some real income – one very small step at a time.

Anything I missed? Any tips you’d like to share, or you’d like me to share? What else do you recommend I try? Let me know in the comments!

E x

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[Review] Me Before You

If you are debating with yourself whether you should read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, I suggest that you ask yourself, first, are you feeling:

  • melancholy?
  • in love?
  • a little bit lonely?
  • wistful?
  • a deep-seeded sense of lack of meaning in the world?
  • a longingness for something you can’t quite put your finger on?
  • minorly afraid of the inevitability of the options before you and a desire for the safety of maintaining sameness?
  • a desire to sink deeply into the soft corner of a couch under a heavy warm blanket with a cup of tea?

If you answered yes to any of the above, I beg you, immediately, leave your devil screen device and immediately delve in to this absolute delight of a novel. I was recommended this book on the advice of my mum’s book club (<3), and read it in the old-fashioned form of a large-print library book, which honestly contributed deeply to the whole experience and I’d actually encourage you to do the same.

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There’s nothing like the feeling of a novel in the hands.

But nevertheless. This book was one of those true, desperately heart-breaking, deeply fulfilling experiences with insufficient words to capture the world of emotion you’re engulfed in as you turn the pages.

The story is simple. You open to flashy, career-success Will, living in his larger-than-life world. You’re then quickly catapulted two years into the future, through the lens of the small, safe, stifled world of Louisa Clark. Louisa finds herself in the employ of a now-quadriplegic Will, as part-carer part-companion. Louisa accidentally and covertly discovers the real motivation behind her role, and makes it her mission to bring colour and light to Will’s shuttered day-to-day. You fall desperately in love with Louisa, and more desperately in love with Louisa and Will as each second passes. You journey through the process of facing your reality, and acknowledging that you should be, and you are, empowered to dictate your destiny – in all the various, frightening, fabulous forms that may take.

On occasion you’re provided a different insight from the key ensemble of characters to the lives of Lou and Will, which creates a slightly richer picture of the complex relationship that Lou and Will have with each other, their families and themselves. And, the ending. I desperately don’t want to take away your experience of following Lou and Will’s journey for the first time, but through the last 50 pages I underwent every emotion there was – and couldn’t have been happier I had foregone Friday night drinks to spend the evening with these characters.

My only small – not even complaint, but not wholly positive comment, is that the issues this book addresses are perhaps a little old-fashioned now, and the political take is, from my perspective anyway, outdated. Maybe that is more a reflection on my lack of recognition of different moral, ethical and emotional approaches to mine. But all I would say is prepare to suspend your position on euthanasia, whatever it may be, to properly absorb yourself into this absolutely gorgeous story.

But in the end, if you are a fan of, or simply in the mood for, a really cathartic cry and the feeling that the world runs on poetic justice, then pick this book up and dive in.

Like all adorable stories, this book has been adapted to film, and is due out in Australian cinemas on 3 June 2016. I stress that you should read the book first. But then, watch the trailer here. Sam Claflin is adorable, and Emilia Clark is an absolute delight. And be waiting like I am to pre-book your tickets for opening night. I’m heavily biased against viewing a film first, because I believe it robs you of the magic of reading, but that certainly should never stop you from watching the film after you’ve read the story, especially when exceptionally handsome actors are involved.

So, all up, I award this book a resounding 10/10. Thankfully there is a sequel, Me After You, but I’m extremely reluctant to dive in because sequels can severely let you down and I want nothing to spoil the simple magic of Me Before You. But my resilience will likely cave tonight when I’m hunting around for something to read, and  will probably indulge in the gateway drug of one-click on my Kindle. Poor Amex.

Have you read Me Before You? What did you think?

Hello March

Somehow, it’s happened again – the sun has started rising a little later, the mornings are a little crisper, the days aren’t quite so sweltering and the leaves have started to fall. Autumn has hit, and it feels like 2016 has just been racing past my peripheral vision until all of a sudden – here it is. The reminder that summer is over, and it’s time to hunker down for the long haul that is the no-longer-new year.

February had great moments and hard moments, but overall it was a month for positive growth and hard conversations, as well as returning to old yet cherished hobbies, and great news. The highlights for me included returning to ‘creative planning’, using my Kikki K planner and newly acquired Erin Condren life planners to set out my life, which fills me with a sense of peace and focus, as well as fulfill a desire to be more creative. I focused on just writing for this blog; getting out my ideas, trialing new things, and practicing to find my writing voice. I’m getting much more comfortable with sharing that voice on the internet, and working on refining and enhancing that voice as I share more with you all in the future. February was also a month for finding a life-changing approach to tidying and organising. I haven’t provided a more recent update, but currently my home is down approximately 250 items, and every day I feel lighter because of it. The unexpected results of this include finding a peaceful daily morning routine, and building the habit of putting things away. I find much more delight in my bathroom than I ever thought possible, and my bedroom and kitchen are also moving in that direction. It really was a month of finding greatness in the simple things, and I can see 2016 being defined by that understanding: that simplicity has the capacity to  be the cornerstone of greatness. Removing the extraneous makes room for that greatness. And greatness is discoverable in all its

And now, it is March. I have a lot of visions and ideas for March. It is a month for change, as I move teams at work and redefine my role for the penultimate time. It is a month for breaks, as two long weekends loom excitingly on the horizon. It is a month for pursuing some dreams with more focus, including a side business and a five year plan. It is a month for continuing to move and push my body out of its comfort zone. And secretly – it’s a month for chocolate (hello creme eggs!). It is a month for writing and refining that voice I spoke of earlier. And finally, it is a month for hunkering down and just doing it. Not debating with myself, or delaying, or justifying pauses in forward motion. March is for reminding myself to say goodbye to fear and step outside my comfort zone regularly and with the confidence in myself to succeed, and if I fail, to fail well and bravely.

Of course, aspirational generalisations are fulfilling and delightful to write, but a goal can’t be achieved unless it is actually identified. My specific goals for March are to run 60km; complete my physiotherapy exercises daily; complete the KonMari transformation of my apartment; complete my Project Life album of our January vacation; deal with the hard parts of money (go to the bank!!); complete steps one and two of my business plan; go hiking once; and meditate each day. And a bonus goal: not break up my Duolingo Spanish streak, which is currently sitting at 59 days (!).

And enough of my soapboxing and navel gazing! Share with me, what are your goals and visions for March?