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Archive for December, 2008

How I made money with the $20 challenge

December 31st, 2008 at 04:00 pm

I thought I would do a round-up of where the money came from for my 2008 $20 challenge. Maybe it will give me some new ideas for 2009 and let me know where my efforts were best spent. I'd also like to know how you made your $20 challenge money. The more ideas the better!

Percentage of freelance work: $511.75
Web craft sales:$411.89
Google Adsense:$259.66
Tax rebates/refunds:$184.00
Change jar: $142.19
Misc Web projects (writing): $114.83
eBay: $54.82
Amazon marketplace: $45.52
ING referrals:$35
Etsy: $28.67
CafePress: $26.20
Tiki Savings account interest: $24.60
lotto tickets: $10

OK, so looking at those numbers, in 2009 I could:
- probably do better with eBay. I have stuff to sell, I just rarely post auctions.
-I will add a yard sale into the mix in June.
-CafePress was a surprise. I poste a few designs, spent little effort, and got a check. I will post more designs this year and promote them a bit and see if I can make more on this. It's my kind of gig, creative and with zero capital outlay.

Web craft sales and misc Web writing gigs not related to my day job were bigger money makers than I suspected. I will put more effort into these in 2009.

Tell me about your best $20 challenge projects for the year!

Here's hoping 2009 is easier than 2008

December 26th, 2008 at 05:16 pm

New Year's is just around the corner, so I am my usual contemplative self. I sure hope 2009 is easier emotionally than 2008.

As you probably remember, my dad died in July and I added the first baby to our family in April, quit my job, etc. All of that was emotionally very draining. (The baby still is. Good thing he's cute.)

It was a year of unknowns, but here we are.

We made it. Our savings goals were better than I had ever imagined. We managed to exceed our goals for the year. Despite me not having a full0time job. (I freelance, when I can get the work).

We have settled into the routine of being parents. Sure, we don't like spending so many nights at home, but it hasn't been all terrible. Once you get through those first three months, it gets a lot easier.

And, thanks to our No Spend Month experiment (http://www.middlepathfinance.com/no_spend_month/, honey and I talked about money and got on a budget for the first time ever. I'm hoping this will get us in even better financial shape. All of the 2008 goals I did without his input. I just did them, because I manage the money for both of us. (He helped, of course, by working!) Maybe we can do more amazing things in 2009 with both of us on the same page.

Our goals aren't as ambitious for 2009, I admit. They incorporate some more personal goals, like weight loss, travel, novel writing, etc. Money, sure, but it's not as at the forefront, mostly because I have no idea if I can get as much work thanks to the economic downturn. We'll see.

Am I the only one who gets contemplative this time of year?

Trying to get it all done....(and house stuff)

December 22nd, 2008 at 05:12 pm

Geesh. I can't believe it's almost 2009. I still am surprised when I look at the calendar every day and it's nearly Christmas.

Maybe it doesn't seem real because we didn't put up the tree this year. The baby Bean, now almost 9 months, would probably just either try to eat it or pull it over on top of him, so we just decided to skip it. I hope that doesn't make us bad parents.

I will say this is the first year I feel on top of the holidays. The packages were all mailed by Saturday morning, the gifts are wrapped, the cookies are made. This never happens! Usually it's a last minute scramble, and a lot of stress. But I am not stressed this year.

I think part of the difference is that I
1. Made a list in November of what we were getting everyone. And then I used the list only and bought most everything online.
2. Throughout the year, when I saw something that would make a great gift for my family, I either bought it then or bought it when it went on sale. My mom really wanted a fountain for her garden. And I managed to get it 75 percent off in September. I NEVER have shopped that far in advance.

Maybe being a mom makes you plan. Who can say. This is my first year as a mom, so who knows what else is in store.

Now, I am working through my January list of to-dos. don't laugh. Most of it is stuff that has to be taken care of now in order for it to be finished in January.

For instance, I called the window company today. They are coming out tomorrow to measure and estimate for three replacement windows. (It takes about 6 weeks for them to make them and install them)

We had all but these three replaced last winter. Why? Well, we couldn't afford to do all the windows without going into debt, so we prioritized, and these three were considered least important. Now that we have a little money, we're going to do those.

I am having the door between the kitchen and garage replaced. I have it picked out, and will place the order and set up installation right after Christmas. Right now, we have a hollow core door and it lets tons of cold air into the kitchen. I'm replacing it with a solid door and I'll insulate the garage door some weekend, too.

Our "Elvis" bathroom. (Yes, we have a silly Elvis-themed half bathroom), has some plumbing issues. We sprung a leak and it ruined the linoleum tile floor. I need to have that part of the floor redone. And the plumbing addressed.

I maybe could do it myself, but realistically it'd be another 6 months before I could get to it, and I'd really like to have that room just done and finished. Ready to use TRUMPS saving a few bucks this time around.

I also finally have a freelance assignment. Of course, it's the holidays and most people are hard to get a hold of, but I am happy to have the work so it's worth the hassle.

I hope your to-do list is getting shorter.

Used Restaurant.com for the first time

December 16th, 2008 at 03:18 pm

I bought $40 worth of restaurant gift certificates, and because they were having a special, it only cost $3. I am skeptical. It just seems too good to be true. Of course, I assume restaurants participate to get exposure, because the offerings are pretty limited.

But, for $3, I am willing to risk that it's a scam, I guess. Because if it isn't, it'll be a great deal.

I paid with Paypal, rather than giving my credit card number, just in case. Have y'all had luck with restaurants.com?

By the way, the 80 percent off code is SANTA.

my ex-company's Xmas party

December 13th, 2008 at 03:48 pm

These are tough times in every profession, but particularly in journalism. Almost every newspaper is cutting staff, cutting budgets, etc. as ad dollars shrink, circulation declines and people read on the Web.

Everyone at my former company feels like there is an ax hanging over their head, waiting to fall. It was sad. Even the managers were bleak and hopeless.

It was the saddest "party" I'd ever been to.

While one editor was trying to hire me for their section, another said they would never hire a new person to replace a reporter who just quit "because it's just not fair to do that to somebody." Meaning, they would just get cut or laid off.

It was very strange.

But, I did have fun catching up with some former colleagues.

Off to my FORMER company's Xmas party

December 12th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Yes, my former company's Xmas party. I was invited by one of the big bosses and my former immediate boss said it'd be fabulous if I came. I am kind of nervous, even though I left on good terms.

I figure it will be nice to talk to old coworkers that I like and maybe network, so I am forcing myself to go.

Ugh. Wish me luck.

thrifty getting the shaft again

December 11th, 2008 at 09:24 pm

I read today's news story about how people actually reduced their overall debt for the first time since 1951, as a society.

Which in my opinion, is one step closer to the right track.

But, of course, talking heads made it sound all gloom and doom and awful that people weren't taking on more debt or shopping.

My favorite quote:


"Everyone over the past three months decided to become thrifty at the same time, but our incomes depend on other people spending," said Englund. "If we all start saving and cut back on our spending at the same time, it means more people will ultimately get fired."

Pre-Christmas stress and ramblings

December 10th, 2008 at 09:07 pm

Well, my hubby has been moping around the house for a week now. His parents have become increasingly emotionally unstable and needy in recent years, moreso in the past 6 months, and it's really starting to get to him. We even had a lunch date -- I got a babysitter and everything-- and he didn't say three words the whole time.

Sigh.

His parents were just here for 5 weeks. Yes, they stayed in our house for 5 WEEKS, and they are no easy people to deal with, and yet they have been begging to come back AGAIN for the past three weeks. Their last visit was over about 6 weeks ago.

Sorry, but my in-laws should not be like my period-- staying for a week plus once a month. (Sorry, that was a tasteless joke).

They are really using dirty tactics too, like telling my hubby they are sick (two Christmases ago they called while we were opening presents to tell us his dad had cancer, when he didn't.) , and trying to use guilt to manipulate him.

So yeah, they are making the holidays kind of joyless. He has to learn to tell them no and nip all this in the bud because if I have to step in, it will get real ugly fast.

Aside from that, we are a few weeks into our new budget. It seems to be working Ok, although there are a few purchases that have been in a grey area and therefore we aren't sure what envelope they are supposed to come out of. Mostly baby stuff and gifts have been ambiguous.

Beaner is now 8.5 months old, and is getting into everything. He's almost walking independently. Has 4 teeth and is very charming. But exhausting.

On the work front, I just signed a new freelance contract. It isn't much money per story, but it will be steady and interesting, so that makes it attractive.

I also got an invitation to the Xmas party at my old company and my old supervisor has begged me to come. I am going, to see old colleagues and to see if there is any potential freelance work there. I hate networking, but at least there are some nice people there to see.

And, I just got my last big check from my 2008 freelance gig, and I used part of that to finish up the vacation fund: My goal was $6,000 by Feb and I'm only about $40 short, I paid an extra $1,000 toward my student loan debt, and I put $137 more in the Bean's college fund, and $1100 into savings. So, it felt good to divvy up that check. But, it's also sad because it's the last big one I have coming!

Holiday sales on my Web sites are a lot slower this year. Last year, I made about $250 to $300 from Christmas orders and this year I have only made about $40. Big difference! It's not over yet, but I'm not optimistic.

Beaner also gained some new friends. One of our BFF couples had their bean Oct. 28 and the other just had one Dec. 2 . Now we just have to wait for them to be old enough to play together. Although, Beaner does have his first play date with another couple we like a lot. Their bean is 10 months old, so they are much closer in developmental age. It should be interesting to see how they play together.

That's all that's new in Tiki Thriftorama land!

Actual 2009 Goals, money and some not

December 2nd, 2008 at 09:24 pm

I've made my final list...

Jan-Feb:Migrate all of my Web sites to a new publishing platform that will hopefully let me take them to the next level content-wise and money-wise! Go to New Orleans to visit my friends.

March: Write a novel in 31 days, it doesn't matter if it's bad. This will be my first. Start a once-a-month Stitch n B*itch at my house.

April-May: Take a vacation with just the hubby either to Mexico or France.

Summer: Take Mom to San Francisco

Health: Join the gym, do yoga, and lose 5 to 10 pounds.

"Green" Goals: Reduce electricity usage by 20 percent by the end of the year, through efficiency upgrades.

Home: Expand my veggie garden. Grow 150 pounds of fruit and veggies at home. Build a stone wall around my flower beds, and build a patio in the backyard.

Financial Goals for 2009:
We will be making less money this year (sigh), but for the first time we have a mutually agreed-upon budget.

$9,000 to savings/EF
$2,500 to hubby's Roth IRA
$2,000 to 529 plan
$600 to new car fund
Total: $14,100

Pay $3,600 extra on the student loan.

I do not know how much work I will have this year, but the goal is to put all of it into my IRA until it hits $5,000, and if there is any more than that, use it all to pay down the student loan.

Tiki Fund/ $20 challenge Goal:
$2,100