Thursday, April 30, 2015

The "More Money May" Challenge

For April, I issued myself the 100-Miles Challenge, and many others joined me--and kicked some serious ass, so great job to everyone who met/exceeded their goals. Many people have even asked me if we could do another challenge for the miles, and I am all for it, even if unofficial. Let's do it!

For May, I wanted to focus on financial goals as the primary challenge, so I decided in early April that the challenge for May would be to Save $500, NOT including any of the retirement account transfers/deductions. I thought of the phrase "More Money May" the other day, and thought it was perfect, so that is what the challenge will be called.

Here is where I currently stand so I know if I hit my goal or not:

-Currently about $2115 combined in all non-retirement savings accounts, so by the end of May, to meet goal would be at least $2615.
-About $70/week is automatically deposited into savings from my paycheck (none from Shaun's since is still currently unemployed), so that is about $280/month so far.
-With some Smart Decisions, we are able to save $22 off bills we didn't need, so that brings it to about $300 automatically saved every month. Which is actually more than I thought was occurring, so that's great.  Now to bump it even higher!

So with that, I have to make up about $200 to hit the $500 challenge I set. I guess it's time I start using some of  my own advice, hmm?

Would you like to join me with your own "More Money May" challenge? Whether your personal challenge is $500, or you're well ahead of me and challenge yourself to way more (GO YOU), or even if you're just starting out and challenge yourself to something smaller--it all counts. The biggest point is to make sure that you choose something that is challenging for YOUR current situation. I'd love to help cheer you on as you're working on the challenge. Comment below with your challenge and let's tackle this!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mucho Moolah: Some Creative Ways to Make Extra Money

Have you been looking for some extra ways to pad your pocket or savings (or even for fun)? I had previously written some of my ideas on how to save money to start your nest egg, and I thought it would be good to flip the coin and brainstorm some ways to make some extra cash.

Some of these are "duh" obvious (but we can all always use reminders sometimes) and some may be weird or random, but when it comes to hustling, anything (legal) goes!

Here are some of the ones I have come up with. Do you have an idea on how to make extra money that I didn't think of? (Very easy to do since I am just one person.) Please share it in the comments so we can build an even greater list!

Ways to make extra money:

1. We all know the obvious option for extra hours. Whether it's some OT or maybe a second job, picking up some extra hours is a good way to finance a short term need or something you're saving for.

(Side note, if you are looking for maybe some at home options for extra work, I did recently find this site that focuses on work at home [WAH] opportunities that I thought was really awesome and may be looking into some options myself soon. )

2. Along the same lines as extra hours, you could also do some odd jobs to snag some dough. Mow your neighbor's lawn, help someone move, house/pet sit for someone... there  are lots of possibilities, and with a bit of thought, I bet you could come up with quite a few that you could do right away even.

3. Freelancing/Consulting. While these do technically qualify as extra hours, and maybe even odd jobs depending on what you do, freelancing and consulting are more about taking your skills and charging for them on a regular basis with recurring clients than the typical one-off that an odd job may be. Freelancing can be as simple as dog walking for a regular client to anything as complicated/advanced as you can imagine.  What are your skills? I bet there's an opportunity for it somewhere.

4. Sell your clutter. I bet you're like me and have a bunch of random crap lying around that you don't need, or necessarily want. Get rid of it and get some money at the same time by selling it. Ebay, Craigslist, and even Amazon are your friends. (Amazon will give you account credit for what you sell to them.) There are also sometimes local places like music stores/book stores/etc. that will take certain things, so there are lots of options to be explored. Bonus: getting rid of your crap clears up space and helps cut down on mental stress.

5. Sell your creativity. Are you a crafty person with things taking over your place (either supplies or finished projects or both like me)?  You could sell your crafts through places like Etsy or other sites, through craft fairs or at conventions, etc. There's also sites like Zazzle and CafePress for creating things to put up for sale.

6. Donate Plasma.Some Basic research I did indicates that selling plasma averages around $25 per visit and that you can donate up to twice a week. Say what?! That's an extra $200/month right there! Bonus: You are potentially saving lives or helping research progress by donating your plasma.

7. Take surveys. I haven't participated in surveys in a long time, so I don't know what the best sites are, but there are online sites that do pay small amounts for opinions so this could be worth checking out if you have some spare time for those surveys.

8. Be a Mystery Shopper. Like many extra money opportunities, mystery shopping won't replace your full-time income, but hey, if you're going to go somewhere anyway and there's an option for doing so, might as well get paid a few dollars for your opinion of their service. Here is a site I found that could help find some mystery shopping options.

9. Paid Search Engines. Admittedly, I had heard about sites that are paid search engines, such as Bing, but always thought they were a scam and never signed up. But I had a friend confirm they are not a scam and that she had been using them for years, so I went ahead and signed up. I can't speak for any other sites that do this (if there are any) but Bing earns credits for searches that can be redeemed for various gift cards.  At 1 credit per 2 searches with a maximum per day, it can be a slow process, but it's one of those things that if you are going to be doing something anyway (in this case web search), you may as well get rewarded for it. You can sign up here. (That is a referral link, so I will get a few points for the first 5 people to use it.)

10. Speaking of gift cards, do you have any gift cards lying around that you have no use for? You can sell them at a Coinstar Kiosk. I just learned about this recently, so I don't know what the exchange percentage is, but according to their site, you can accept their offered amount or not. I know there are some sites that you can sell/exchange the cards as well, but if you were looking for a faster cash option, of course a Coinstar option will be closer.

11. Recycle. Have a bunch of recyclable things lying around? Many grocery stores have bottle redemption centers where you can return bottles and get the recycle value for it, up to a certain amount of bottles per day. And depending on the area you are in, you may also find full recycling centers that also accept the paper and cans recyclables.  It's a quick and easy way to clear some clutter from your place and make a few dollars while you're at it. Bonus: It's good for the environment.

So there are some ways to make some extra money. I hope this helps inspire some creativity in your pursuits! Remember, if you can think of additional ideas to make some side money, please share them in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

100 Mile Challenge Update

I just wanted to do a very quick update on the 100 Miles Challenge that I started just so I can have "official" record of how we're doing (since I have been posting on Facebook for accountability

As of Sunday's totals (haven't added in the new numbers since then), I am about 72-point-something and my husband is at about 55-point-something. So, with 9 days left in the month, we are on good track to meet, or beat, that 100 mile mark challenge. We are also participating in the March of Dimes walk this coming Saturday (4/25) which is about a 5-6 mile walk from what I was told, so that will definitely help in the overall goal.

I am also aware that some people who accepted my challenge are doing so well that they have since self-challenged themselves to a 200-Mile challenge and are on their way to meeting that goal, so I am super proud of them and excited for them. Kicking ass and taking names is a great thing. A few others took the challenge in spirit, but challenged themselves to their own personal fitness challenges (like x amount of Yoga every day or X amount of added gym minutes/sets) and have, as far as I am aware, been doing well on their personal challenges as well. I love it when people take an idea and make it work for their own situation and challenge themselves! Keep it up, guys!

How are you doing on your own challenges? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below, or if Facebook is more your thing, there is a newly-formed page I created that you can find here. I hope you are doing well on your goals and meeting your own personal challenges!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke

A few weeks ago, I read through Suze Orman's book, The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke and, as always when I read a book that is related to the topics of this blog (Fitness or Finance), I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it.

Suze's Young, Fabulous and Broke (or YFB) book is, as its name implies, is written with a target audience in mind of younger readers who may be first navigating their way through the financial world. This book discusses everything from credit score, building savings, how to analyze your investments, and almost everything in between, and is a great resource.

At over 300+ pages, it would be impossible to discuss every topic, but the whole book is broken down into categories and gives information at the beginning of the chapter, then answers specific situations in a question and answer style, then does a  chapter recap with actionable items for that chapter. So you can read in order from front to back, or just dive in with something you may have been having trouble with or have been wondering about. I always find that this style is most helpful, because you don't want to have to read dozens of pages to find the two-five sentences that you were looking for, so I greatly appreciate that.

One thing I thought was strange, was that in her chapter about buying a house, Suze actually goes as far to say directly that "flat out, a home is the best big-ticket purchase you will ever make" and she actually believes that it is a good investment strategy. Here's the thing: I simply do NOT agree with that sentiment. If you are buying a home structure for the purposes of renting it out or if you are a skilled "flipper", then sure, buying a house can be an investment strategy. But your primary residence that you yourself live in? No. That is not an investment.

Many people buy houses expecting them to appreciate so much they can sell for a profit later in life, but that is not a guarantee, and many studies and articles show that, after inflation is accounted for, housing prices actually don't change upward that much.  Through the life of living in a house, mortgage interest, property taxes, and general maintenance of the house typically means you will pay much more than the purchase price (double or sometimes many times over), and of course you never know if there will be another housing bust like that of 2007-2008 that leaves your $200,000 house worth $50,000.  If you are buying your home for your own personal reasons outside of it being an investment, then by all means, please do. (We certainly plan to when we're able to!) Just try to keep in mind the true price of home ownership in your dealings.

However, when it comes to buying a home, YFB did give one piece of advice that I thought was pretty genius: "Play house before you buy a house." The basic idea is this: After figuring out a general idea of what your mortgage could be (look up house prices in area, check to see interest rates and possible mortgage based on your credit score, etc.), add 40% to cover maintenance, etc., and transfer the difference between your current rent and the increased amount for 6 months to your savings account. For example, if your estimated mortgage plus that 40% is $1450 and you currently pay $1000 in rent (totally made up numbers on my part), transfer $450/month to savings for 6 months. If you miss one payment, or are consistently late transferring the money, you are not ready to take on the burden of actual homeownership. I think this is a great way to practice paying that higher amount, and of course as Suze points out, it does help boost the down payment you're working towards.

So overall, I think this book is a very useful resource. Even if you are not "YFB", it does explain things in a pretty clear and easy to understand terms. It would be worth a read or look if you are looking for some basic information on saving, investing, home ownership, or other topics having to do with personal finance.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Workout Focus: How the 5x5 makes you Better and Stronger, Faster

My Husband and I have been (inconsistently) working on the 5x5 workout since the beginning of February and since it has been very helpful for me so far, I thought I would share some information about it. If you are looking for a strength building routine, you may want to consider the 5x5 Workout.

The 5x5 workout (which stands for 5 sets of 5 reps) is a weight training regimen designed to help you build strength at a faster pace than if you were to do the "traditional" 4 sets of 10-12 reps routine.  The idea is to make those 5 sets challenging enough that you feel as though you DID do the full 10-12 rep routine, and since it is compound muscle workouts, you are getting more "bang for your buck", so to speak, in both muscle strength and time spent at the gym. Since we lift weights on opposite days of each other, the routine takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour (though that is with waiting for weights on occasion, so could be less.)

We do 5 sets of 5 reps of Bench press, Squats, Deadlifts, and Shoulder raises on alternating days with the goal of lifting 3 times per week. (Goal, being the key word at the moment since we have not done the workout in a couple weeks right now.) Most articles or resources that talk about 5x5 routine suggest that you start at lower weights for your first set and add weights throughout the sets, but we find that that brings us too close to the kind of failure that can lead to injury (instead of just exhaustion and not finishing the set), so we instead switched it to be the heavy/max weight on the earlier sets and find that it is very helpful for us. We work toward adding one more set of the high weight each time we go, until all 5 sets are at the highest weight-then add more and start the process over again. Between sets, you would rest about a minute or so, so you can power through the next set.

Here's what a typical workout looks like, using some of my most recent numbers, with the high(er) weight sets at the beginning:

Bench press: 3 sets at 75 pounds, 2 sets at 65 pounds.
Deadlift: 3 sets at 115 pounds, 2 sets at 95 pounds.
Squat: 5 sets at 155 pounds.*
Shoulder Press: 2 sets at 20 pounds each hand (40 pounds total),  3 sets at 15 pounds each hand (30 total).
-We'll also do about 15-20 minutes of cardio to help burn fat, or in my case sometimes, I will walk home from the gym, which is about a mile from our apartment. (Though when we get back to the workout and get consistent again, I am really going to work on doing more actual high intensity cardio to help burn these last few pounds before goal weight faster.)

*For the squats, I started at 135 and tried 155 for a few sets and the next workout felt like the 135 didn't offer as much as a challenge as it could have, so did the 155 for all 5 sets. This is one way the workout helps build strength faster.

So there you have the 5x5 workout, which in addition to helping us build strength even when we have been inconsistent, is a workout that is easy to master and improve on as you go. It will help you add strength a bit quicker and you can use it as a stand alone workout, or in conjunction with other workouts you may do to help get to your goals. We had considered using it as a jumping off point build strength/endurance so we could ACTUALLY do the Buff Dudes' Challenge that we didn't finish before, but we're not sure what we're going to do yet. (But that is the nice thing, we have possibilities and find something that works well for us.)

Do you have any workouts that have been working really well for you and the goals your reaching toward? Please share in the comments below.