7 Reasons You Need a Side Hustle

Coffee mug labeled hustle

What’s all the hustle about side hustles? These days, it seems that everyone has one, and with good reason. Here are seven great reasons to add the side hustle into your financial toolbox.

Pay down debt.

This is probably the most common reason people take up a side hustle. If you can’t get a raise, your rich uncle is alive and well, and changing jobs isn’t an option, starting a side business is the easiest way to make more cash to fuel your debt snowball. Continue reading “7 Reasons You Need a Side Hustle”

Five to a Million Project: Weeks 2 through 8

Let’s just forget that January happened, shall we?

My Five to a Million project got derailed by holidays, illness, environmental disasters (yes, really), and a host of other things. So I’m gonna just give myself a pass on January, and start again from where I am.

Starting amount:

Weeks 2 through 8 of the Five to a Million Project were a blur, but I did take advantage of some money-making opportunities. They came from Craigslist and dumb luck.

Sunk Costs

The bike helmets and buttons still remain unsold on eBay. My attempts to list them on Craigslist and Facebook haven’t amounted to much either. I have tried relisting the buttons with a promoted listing (for a fee I pay only if the item sells).

I’m crossing my fingers that SOMETHING sells this time. If not, I may just chalk these purchases up to sunk costs and a learning experience.

The J.O.B. Route

So I pursued the one sure avenue I had in front of me – my job. I work part time as a front desk clerk and housekeeper for a local motel. I picked up an extra shift at work for a sick friend, which made me $50.

This wasn’t the avenue I hoped to use for this project, but most of my original five dollars is tied up in inventory that isn’t selling. This gave me some needed capital to make way for bigger opportunities.

A Craigslist Gig

A short time later, I was browsing Craigslist for money-making opportunities. I don’t do this often, since I am two hours from an urban center of any sort, and most Craigslist ads are very local.

But by some freak chance, I found an ad in the ‘gigs’ section looking for someone to take photos of a house in a nearby town. I had heard of gigs like this before – a realtor or bank will sometimes hire a person to take pictures to verify the condition of a vacant or foreclosed property.

I texted the guy posting the ad, and he gave me the details. It was simple enough – drive up there, take a few pictures of the house and property, and lock the gate behind me. Even though the town was 45 minutes away, I figured there was still room for profit after the gas. He asked me how much money I would do the project for. I had no idea what a project like this was typically worth, so I shot for the moon: $110. (Hey, if you don’t ask, the answer is no, right?)

He said his budget was more like $50. I asked if he would go for $75, and he said that was still a bit high, but he would keep me in mind for other projects. I finally got him to bite at $55. It was only $5 more than his original price, but the way I see it, I got $5 just because I asked for it.

Since I had the $50 from my extra shift, I spent $13 of it on gas for the Craigslist gig. So after paying for the gas, my profit on this venture was $42. So far, I was up $92. Not bad!

Money Falling From the Sky

If it had stopped there, I would have been totally happy with the results so far. I had turned $5 into $92 in a few short weeks!

But God decided to give me a tip. I happened to find $2 on the street. For reals?! Money falling from the sky?!?!


(I did try to return the money to its rightful owner, but there was no one in sight, and the guy at the house on that street had no idea how it got there.)

Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so. In my experience, the more I look for opportunities, the more I find that the universe is crawling with them. Like ants under a rock, it just takes a little effort and curiosity to find them.

Totals and Takeaways

Here are my grand totals for this update:

  • $94.84 cash
  • $2.16 in bike helmets
  • $2 in assorted buttons

I’m pretty satisfied with this considering how heinous and unfocused January was. In just a few short weeks, I got a 1896.8% return on my five bucks!

I know this is small potatoes, considering I still have $999,995.16 left to get to my million dollars. And I know the returns will seldom be this lush. But this is a great place to start!

Financial Lessons I Learned from Judge Judy

JudgeJudyshow sign.png

Confession time: The DH and I have been binge-watching Judge Judy. A lot. Like, every night for weeks. Since the show has been running since 1996, there is an endless supply of reruns to satiate our need to gawk at what the cat drags in to her courtroom.

If you’ve never seen the show, Judge Judy Sheindlin runs a reality TV small claims court on the set. She runs a no-nonsense court, ruling on cases ranging from rent disputes to assault. She’s not afraid to call anybody out on anything.

Most of the court cases are between relatives, lovers, or close friends – people with close relationships. They come from all over the country, from varying ethnic groups and different occupations.

Owing to the embarrassing number of episodes we have watched over the past few weeks (which shall remain undisclosed), I have started to notice some trends in the plaintiffs, defendants, and the disputes they bring to Judge Judy’s courtroom.

  1. Don’t cosign. For anyone. For anything. Ever. If creditors don’t think a person is reliable enough to loan money to, there is always a reason. When you cosign for a loan, you become the bank’s insurance in the (likely) event that the person defaults on the loan. If you cosign on a loan, plan on making the payments.
  2. Determine in the beginning whether the money is a loan or a gift. I can’t count how many of these cases arise because one person says an exchange was a loan, but the other claims it was a gift. And still others arose because people didn’t understand the definition of a gift (i.e., you don’t get it back and you can’t expect payment).
  3. If you make or take out a loan, get it in writing. Especially if it is a family member. Five minutes of awkwardness in asking Aunt Bertha for her signature can save years of hard feelings.
  4. Don’t loan money to people you like. Not even to help them out. People in financial distress seldom benefit from more debt. If you want to help out a family member in need, gift them money that doesn’t need to be repaid. That way if they don’t pay you, you don’t permanently damage a precious relationship. Hauling your own mother to small claims court to get your money back makes conversations at Thanksgiving beyond awkward.
  5. If you pay in cash, get a receipt. Always. Humans are really good at forgetting things. Humans are also really good at remembering things inaccurately. Trust the pen, not your memory.

It’s sad to see so many ruined relationships from disputes over money that are totally preventable. Usually just a contract or a receipt would prevent many of these court cases from ever happening.

Be clear with your expectations. Get them in writing. Family is the most important value; don’t let monetary value interfere with it.

Five to a Million Challenge: Week 1

Starting amount: $5 cash

Ending amount: $0.84 cash, $2.16 in bike helmets, $2 in assorted buttons

My first investment in my five to a million project was in two bike helmets. They were on clearance at Wal-Mart for a dollar each. One dollar! I figured this was a no-brainer. Since they were brand new, they should be easy to resell on Facebook, Craigslist, or eBay in no time. Even if I only charged $5, they would be a deal for the customer and a great return for me. Slam dunk.

Who wouldn’t want this beautiful bike helmet?

Because I was so sure that they would sell quickly, I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into the Craigslist and Facebook posts. I somehow imagined that the masses would be beating down the door to buy these brand-new bike helmets, especially parents who got their kid a bike for Christmas.

Not so.

I got no bites at all. I live in a very small rural community that is infested with goatheads, which puts a severe damper on the enthusiasm of would-be bicyclists. If you don’t live near the Midwest and have never run into a goathead, count yourself lucky.  They are death to bike tires and bare feet. It’s kind of like stepping on a Lego, but the Lego is actually half scorpion.


Lego scorpions

This next week, I plan to take some better pictures and sell them on eBay – hopefully to people who don’t live hear Lego scorpions.

I also bought a large pickle jar full of assorted buttons. I have seen these sell on eBay for a fair amount pretty regularly, so when I saw some at my friend’s garage sale, I snatched them up. I have not listed them yet, but I will list both the buttons and the bike helmets this week.



Five to a Million Challenge

Who wants to be a millionaire? I do! And if you do too, I hope you will join me in an experiment.

I will see how long it takes me to turn five dollars into a million dollars. Impossible? Maybe. I’m going to try anyway.

abraham lincoln american dollar banknote cash
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here are the stipulations for the experiment:

  • I can only use the five dollars, money or things I earn from that five dollars, and the household things that most Americans have access to or own in order to grow the money.
  • I will focus on methods of growing my money that any Joe Schmo could do or learn to do with a little help from YouTube or the internet.
  • Money earned from blogging about the project doesn’t count.
  • No gambling.
  • I finish the challenge when my assets originating from the five dollars reach $1M.

I will post weekly updates about my success, failures, and takeaways from the different avenues I use to make my million.

My theory is that becoming a millionaire is far more accessible than most people think. You don’t need a college degree. You don’t need special knowledge or connections. There are people all over the internet doing it.

Building a million dollars will take time, commitment, work, and a mindful choice to forgo some other things. How much time and work? Let’s find out.

Side Hustle Saturdays

Are you one of the zillion people that could use some extra dough? Me too! Since promotions at work are hard to come by, your rich uncle is still alive and well, and the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math, I suggest the side hustle as the most viable way to earn extra income.

Simply put, a side hustle is anything you do to earn money outside of your day job. I have had a LOT of side hustles in my time – some typical, some not-so-typical, and some downright weird.

Each Saturday, I plan to introduce and explore a new option for a side hustle. Maybe one will strike your fancy and you’ll find it worth pursuing. But if not, you’ll hear tips and perspective that you can apply to your own efforts to beef up your wallet.

Apart from a general pros-and-cons list, I will rate each side hustle with a five-star scale on the following criteria:

*Barrier to Entry – Can just anyone do this? Do I need some special skills, training, or talent to start? How much dough do I need to invest to get started? Are there any ongoing overhead costs of equipment, subscriptions, marketing, etc.?

*Profitability – How much money for your time do you get out of this? How does it stack up against working for minimum wage at McDonalds? How long will it take before I see some returns? Does it allow me to get things I would otherwise purchase for free?

*Flexibility – Can I do this after I get home from work? At home? In my pajamas? With my kids in tow?

*Fun – While you can make money at both, photography is more fun than shoveling manure (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

I’m so excited to share with you the many roads people take to financial success. The paths are as unique as those who travel them, and I hope you can find hope, inspiration, and advice from their experiences.

Stop back in soon for the debut of Side Hustle Saturday!

I Can’t – A Lesson in Bounty and Want

I know I said in my last post that I had four kids. That was mostly true. One is still baking, so I rounded up. I am 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant (but who’s counting?).

The last few weeks of pregnancy have brought into sharp relief all the things I can’t do. I can’t lift heavy objects. I can’t sleep in my own bed; only the couch will do. I can’t run faster than my kids. I can’t fit into most of my maternity clothes. I can’t make it through the day without a nap or a Diet Coke. There are a lot of can’ts these days, which can get depressing if I focus on them.

However, there are still lots of things I can do. I can still reach my toes, even if I can’t paint them myself. I can still laugh, make dinner, hold my toddler (sort of), feed the chickens, and do most of my daily routine, even though I have scaled some of it back. While feeding wet clothes into the dryer this afternoon, I marveled at how much I could still do while growing another human inside me. It’s miraculous to think about! Multitasking at its finest!

Our lives are full of cans and can’ts, some by chance and others by choice. There is bounty and want in all of our lives simultaneously. I point this out not simply as a “glass half empty or half full” exercise, but to point out that life is much richer and we get better ideas when you focus on what we have rather than what we lack. You can only work with what you have.

I still remember the day I discovered this. I was pregnant (again) and walking to the library through our small town of Ronan, Montana with my son. He was about two at the time, and we were struggling financially (struggling as in thousands in debt and on every form of government assistance.)

Employment opportunities for me at that point were few, as were childcare options even if I’d had a job. I didn’t have a car to use. We lived on an Indian reservation, and most of the local jobs had Native American tribal hiring preference. I’m about as white as they come, which eliminated me from many jobs. We couldn’t afford internet service at our apartment, and I didn’t have the capital or know-how to start a business of my own. There were can’ts at every turn.

While pushing my stroller through the park, something snapped me out of my pity party. A voice in my head said, “So what if you know all about what you lack? What do you have a lot of? What plenty do you have in your life here and now?”

I mulled that thought over in my mind as I got to the main street where the library was located. On that particular street, there were three thrift stores and a pawn shop. I knew a family from church owned another second-hand store across town, and I knew of one additional pawn shop. I thought to myself, “For a town of 1,800 people, Ronan sure has a lot of second-hand stores!”

I ducked into one of the thrift stores to browse, and discovered they sold books for 25 cents. I knew next to nothing about selling books, but I knew certain out-of-print or author-signed ones could be very valuable. My gears began turning about how I could resell thrift store items for money online. I didn’t have internet access at home, but I DID have a camera, several thrift stores, time on my hands, and the library within walking distance. It was out of this realization on what I DID have that my eBay business was born.

How does that translate into your life? What do you have that can translate to an improved financial situation? What resources do you have at your disposal?

Some resources may not be tangible, but are just as valuable as upstart capital for a business. Do you have any of the following:



*A strong, healthy body

*Physical storage space

*A creative mind

*Motivation to make money

*Specialized knowledge or skill

*Experience in a particular field

*Older children or family members to help you

All of these can be used to make money. So be honest with yourself – push to the edge of what’s physically possible, even if it’s not comfortable and think outside the box you’re used to living in.  Assessing what you CAN do and what you DO have is the first step in deciding how to pursue making more money.

So what does plenty look like in your life right now? What resources can you capitalize on to advance your situation?

Big Family, Big Dreams


Before my mid-twenties, I had absolutely zero interest in money. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. My parents met in an economics class, and I thought that sounded like the most boring how-we-met story on the planet.

That changed as I moved away, graduated college, got married, took a job, and had babies. The pain from a lack of money and my inability to manage what I had got more intense with each milestone. It finally dawned on me that if I didn’t discover how money worked and how to handle it, this ever-increasing financial pinch would just continue to get worse.

So I made personal finance my course of study for several years. I read many books, trolled websites, and listened to hours and hours of radio shows and podcasts. While these all sources contained useful information, most of them had a similar assumption—you are a two-income, upper-middle-class family with maybe a child or two.

My situation is different: I am a stay-at-home parent to four beautiful children. My husband has a job he loves, and it pays about the average US salary, but it’s spread between a few more people than the average US family. I struggled to find advice on how to pay off debt, invest, and get ahead that was pertinent to a family of six with one parent out of the workforce.

In searching for financial answers, I constantly wondered, “Where is the financial advice for a big family with big dreams and a modest salary? Surely there are others looking for this too!” Since I couldn’t find a hub for the resources I was looking for, I made one instead—this blog.

My focus is helping larger families like mine who have unique constraints on time, energy, and means, but still hope and work for financial freedom. Even if your family looks different from mine, I hope you find many tidbits of knowledge and “Aha!” moments here to help you on our journey to financial success, both from me and from the community of people like you—people with big dreams, who make things happen with modest means.