Thursday, January 15, 2015

Budget Post: Earning money from home

Oh my, how many posts have you seen like this? "You too, can earn money from the comfort of your own home!" And who doesn't see those posts and think, "Yeah, but... what's the catch?"

Trust me, I've thought the same thing. Many MANY times.

This is NOT a too-good-to-be-true post where I tell you how my family is paying cash for luxury cars, (our only car has over 180,000 miles on it) and living debt-free, (we're not) while enjoying multiple vacations (haven't been since 2009) per year. This is about honest to goodness financial gain, through small tweaks to my normal online activities that DO add up!

Here is my pièce de résistance.

This morning I placed an order for a Kindle Fire tablet, and paid $4... plus tax. And I WOULD have only paid half of those taxes, but my husband insisted that the ad-free option was worth an extra $15. Picking my battles, this wasn't even worth a grumble. 

So how did I do it? With gift cards. Two very large gift cards were birthday and Christmas gifts, but the majority of these were earned - slowly and methodically, through online point-earning sites over the past nine months.

There are dozens of points sites out there, but the two I use are MyPoints, and Swagbucks.

MyPoints sends me regular emails to participate in surveys, and special offers. At 50-150 points per survey completed, and 10 points per survey that I attempt but do not qualify for - these add up quickly. They also have daily emails advertising sales at different websites... with an offer to earn anywhere from 2-12 points per dollar spent. Yes, I do wait for these emails from stores that I shop from anyway. If I know my son (who wears a 30 waist, 34 length... impossible to find in thrift stores) will need new jeans, why not earn several hundred points while simultaneously taking advantage of Old Navy's holiday sale prices?

Think of it as the biggest, most tempting coupon you've ever seen.

Recently, they have also had offers where I go to a specific store, purchase a specific sweet-treat, and fax them a copy of my receipt. The resulting points I have earned from these offers have in a points-per-dollar conversion ended up meaning that MyPoints was actually PAYING me to buy these products. Seriously, no joke. I was PAID to buy candy!

With Swagbucks, I use their search-bar widget. Rather than using Google as my main search-engine, I use Swagbucks and over the course of the day I earn points a few times simply through my regular searching habits. It's only a few points at a time, but again they add up quickly! I will also cross-reference their points-per-dollar offers with MyPoints when making an online purchase and use whichever service offers me the biggest incentive. (No, you can't get points through both sites for the same purchase!) They also offer surveys, but lately I haven't seen terribly many so my points earned via survey have been scarce at best.

I do have one other favorite way to earn points via Swagbucks. They have short video-clips on every topic from animal-news, to cooking tips, to fashion tips. We have a widescreen monitor, and I will open two windows... one to half-watch the videos, and another to check on my email, surf Pinterest, chat on Facebook, or whatever else I may be doing. My daughter will also keep videos running while she is typing out school essays, or playing Facebook games. My husband has SBTV installed on his cellphone, and he will also let videos run on the cellphone while he sits at the computer. I actually earn over $25 per month via Swagbucks. They have a limit on how many $5 gift cards I can redeem per month, so my balance is constantly rising. This actually came in handy these past few months, as I didn't have the chance to be online - and I was still able to redeem my monthly cards!

Money has been painfully tight these past 6 months. We have been living on a part-time income, and unemployment. If it weren't for these points, we would not have been able to purchase a fruit press last fall, or the tablet now. Our next purchase will likely be a pantry restocking of several flours & gluten free oatmeal, but just for the moment I am savoring the single largest "free" purchase I've ever made - ordering something I WANT to own rather than something we NEED to purchase.

It feels pretty darn good.

(For the record, no I was not paid by either company to recommend them... however if anyone happens to want to join either, I would LOVE if you considered using me as a reference! I DO earn points for referrals!) 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Word of the Year

Happy New Year!

I have NEVER been more ready to turn over a new leaf and start over again. Last year seemed like one loss after another, with precious few blessings. I am NOT sorry to see the end of 2014, as 2015 MUST be better. It just must.

The best summary of last year I can give, is to quote the one TV show I've been watching since I was three. Matt Smith (Doctor Who #11) said, in Vincent and the Doctor, "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and... bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant."

That was last year.

This is now.

Several of my friends choose a single word to encapsulate their intentions for each year. I love the idea, and as I was thinking about 2015 and what I wanted from this year, a single word kept coming to mind. So this year, I too will be living this year with a single word as my focus rather than a list of goals.

This year, I will PERSEVERE.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines persevere as Latin, deriving from the word persevero. It says, "The last component part of this word, severo, must be the same as in assivero, with the radical sense of set, fixed or continued. So persist is formed with per and sisto, to stand. Constant and continue have a like primary sense. So we say, to hold on." The Free Dictionary defines persevere more simply, as: "To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement."

Either way you look at it, this seems like a great word of intention for this year. Many of the struggles we dealt with last year, are still with us. We will have an uphill climb, but we ARE climbing back up. So this will be a year of "holding on" and persisting in the face of discouragement. 

Or, to quote the good Doctor once more, (Doctor Who #10 this time) "Allons-y!" 

(For any other blogging geeks out there, I also just realized... this is my 100th post! Wow!)