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Choose Your Side Hustle Carefully

As I worked to pay off my $86,000 mortgage in 2 years, I tried just about everything I could think of to reduce my expenses.  I negotiated lower monthly bills with service providers, cut cable TV, halved my dining out expenses by cooking at home, and began to avoid the shopping mall at all costs.

I don't think I would have been successful without implementing those savings strategies, but there came a time when I ran out of expenses to cut. I realized that it was impossible for me to reach my goal by just saving. I had to make more money.

Finding a Side Hustle That Works for You

At the time, I was working 40 hours per week at an office. The position was stressful, though I rarely had to do work outside of my set schedule. One day I ran the numbers and found that by working an additional 10 hours per week, I would be able to pay off my mortgage in 2 years.

I quickly picked up several side hustles, including banquet serving, pet sitting and freelance writing. Each of these jobs had pluses and minuses.

Being a banquet server had the highest fun factor. I primarily worked Saturday night weddings. I served drinks, dinner, and helped cut the wedding cake. Another perk is that I got to take home a lot of leftovers! While the job was easy, it was also strenuous. In addition to carrying food on trays, the servers worked as a team to break down tables and chairs at the end of the event. It paid roughly $15 - $20 an hour.

Banquet server:

  • Fun, enjoyable job
  • Worked Saturday nights
  • Free food
  • Easy, but physically challenging
  • Average pay

As a dog owner, pet sitting seemed like a natural fit for some extra cash. I created an ad on Craigslist and began accepting clients around the holidays. This was perhaps the most rewarding side hustle. It also carried the most responsibility.

When looking after dogs, I found myself constantly worried about something going wrong, especially if the pet had underlying issues. Taking care of cats, however, was much easier.  My favorite part of pet sitting was the ability to be my own boss.  I only accepted clients whose requests fit around my schedule. I charged $30 a night.

Pet sitting:

  • Flexible schedule
  • Short-term commitment
  • Be your own boss
  • High responsibility
  • Average pay

My final side hustle was freelance writing. This was the most convenient of my side hustles because it was located in the same building where I worked full-time.

I would simply finish my full-time job and hop on an escalator that took me to my part-time job. The shifts varied depending on the company's needs and by doing this job back-to-back with my full-time job, I worked 12 to 16 hour days. The job itself easy, though boring at times. It paid the highest of my 3 side hustles.

Freelance writing:

  • Convenient
  • Hours varied based on need
  • Long days
  • Easy, but boring
  • Good pay

By evaluating what I liked and disliked about each of these jobs, I've come up with a criteria for future side hustles.

Hallmarks of the best side hustles

1. Convenient - Since I already work full-time, I don't want to be traveling too far to get to my part-time job. It has to be located close to my home or full-time job.

2. Flexible schedule - I don't want to ever feel as though I'm obligated to work more than I want to. If the boss demands 15 hours per week and I only want to work 10, I'll pass on that opportunity.

3. Enjoyable - I want my part-time job to be something that I enjoy. I don't want to ever be thinking "I wish I could be doing something else" when I'm working.

4. Decent pay - I will make sure that I'm being paid a competitive rate for the extra work that I do. Even when pet sitting, I sometimes felt like I sold myself short. I now have a better concept of what my time is worth.

Are you working part-time to achieve your financial goals? Share your tips in the comments section below.

About the author: Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years when he was 27. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.

3 Financial Factors Beyond Salary To Consider When Job Hunting

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Your earnings can play a big role in your financial success over time. While we can all work to save more and live below our means, it’s difficult to build wealth if we barely make enough to cover our basic expenses.

So, yes, your income is important. But when it comes to seeking a new job or planning a career change, your potential paycheck isn’t the end-all, be-all. If you’re job hunting, the salary attached to each position you apply for is only one financial factor you need to consider.

Here are 3 key elements to think about before sending in a resume or accepting an offer

Company Benefits

Most people stop at the amount of money they take home every month when thinking about how they’re compensated for the work they do. But your compensation is far more than what you directly deposit in your checking account. Good company benefits can save you thousands of dollars each year if you use them.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans: If a position comes with an account like a 401(k) with a company match, they’re offering employees free money. 401(k)s and employer matches make it that much easier to save for retirement, and are a big financial benefit to you.

Health insurance: Although you need to pay for your health insurance, employers subsidize much of the cost -- and not all health insurance plans and benefits are created equal. Positions with excellent coverage and reasonable copays can help keep you healthy. If you take advantage of preventative care visits, you can also save money in the future by avoiding some serious health problems. You may also have access to life and disability insurance coverage through your health insurance.

Special savings accounts: Some companies may offer things like health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These are both helpful savings vehicles that make it easier to pay for expensive medical needs, like having a baby or getting LASIK surgery.

Flexibility in schedules and work environments: Some benefits are more intangible than others. Many young professionals don’t want to work in an office Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm -- and many businesses are responding to the desires of their employees. If you value flexibility with your schedule and the ability to work remotely full- or part-time, finding a position that offers these perks may be worth a lot to you.

Vacation, sick, and personal days: Paid time off is a luxury not all workers receive. A position that offers more than the average 5-10 days for new employees is well worth considering (even if the pay isn’t quite what you’d like it to be). Our time is valuable, and so are paid days off work.

Other perks: Some employers offer employees company cars, spending allowances on various work-related items, or paid-for work cell phones. These perks can help reduce the expenses you need to pay for out of pocket.

When you enter negotiations for a new job, keep these added benefits in mind. While the money you take home is important, a position with a low salary figure but extensive company benefits is still one worth considering in your job search.

Cost of Work

Most of the time, we think of our employers paying us. And yes, we do get to take home paychecks. But most employees also have expenses that are exclusively work-related -- meaning, if they didn’t hold a particular job they wouldn’t need to account for a particular cost.

Most of us need to put gas in our cars to drive to work or purchase fares for public transportation. We need work-appropriate outfits, which means an entire section of our wardrobes must be dedicated to office clothes (and some of those may be dry clean only, which is an added expense).

If you need to travel or schmooze with clients, you may be able to turn in an expenses report. But not all employers cover all expenses, and you may be stuck footing the bill for some costs.

And if you have children, you need to arrange for someone else to care for them during your working hours. Daycare, babysitters, and nannies are all big expenses that you must account for.

Some workers deal with other expenses that aren’t required, but come with the territory: going out for a weekly lunch with coworkers, attending other social activities, or grabbing a coffee as a pick-me-up if you must stay late.

If you’re looking for a new job, take these kinds of expenses into consideration. It will cost you money  just to go to work and do a good job, and you need to think about that cost in relation to your potential salary.

Opportunity for Growth

Before accepting a new job, you need to think about your potential for growth with the company along with the position’s current salary. This may be difficult to measure or impossible to predict, but where this stage of your career takes you could have a big impact on your overall financial success.

It’s worth it to at least take a moment and consider the possibilities -- or to ask the manager making the hire directly in negotiations. (Some companies even like to hear a candidate ask, “Is there opportunity for growth?” in job interviews, as it shows a willingness to provide value for the long term.)

A big salary offered by one position may tempt you with all those numbers. But if the company has a history of going through employees quickly or there’s no avenue for future growth, the job might not present the best long-term career and earning opportunities.

When job searching, remember that you have more financial considerations to think about beyond the salary offered for any position. Your compensation is more than your paycheck; it also includes company benefits and perks. These should be weighed carefully against the cost you incur as a working employee.

And you shouldn’t forget to think ahead and research your future opportunities. Although not as easy to measure as things like savings from benefits or expenses related to work, the ability to move up or grow means just as much to the success of your career.

About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.

The Truth About Crash Test Ratings – Are You Putting Yourself in Danger?

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In 2012, the latest year fo which data is available, 33,561 people were killed in U.S. car crashes. Surely several thousand others suffered severe, life-changing injuries.

I’ve asked thousands of new car shoppers how they chose their vehicle. Almost all said they liked the way it looked and handled, and its utility met their needs. Almost no one mentioned occupant safety. Apparently they never considered it; those folks give “crash test dummies” a whole new meaning!

All new cars have an impressive list of safety features. As a result, consumers seem to think they’ll ride safely in a bubble-wrapped cocoon, no matter what they drive. But that’s nonsense. Some cars are much more crashworthy than others in the same vehicle-type, size, and weight category.

Two organizations conduct new-vehicle crash tests and rate their relative safety based on the results.

• The U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts 3 kinds of tests: flat-out head-on frontal crashes at 35 miles per hour; side impact crashes; and rollover resistance tests. You’ll find these results at

• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is funded by the insurance industry that pays for the deaths, injuries, and property damage resulting from crashes. Its tests amplify the government’s safety information by covering other frequent types of crashes.


Revealing results of the IIHS crash test

In 2012, the IIHS introduced a “Small Overlap Frontal test,” in which 25% of the car’s width strikes a barrier on the driver side at 40 MPH. A car’s main crush-zone structure that absorbs most of the impact is in the middle 50% of the front end. Small overlap crashes hit the headlight sections near the outer edges, where there’s no significant “crumple zone.”

The 4 test ratings are: Good (G), Acceptable (A), Marginal (M) and Poor (P). You can view results at (Watch the M & P videos. They’re chilling.)

Keep in mind that a vehicle’s ratings are based on its performance compared to that of similar-sized vehicles. But when a large vehicle hits a small one, the intrusion into the occupant compartment will be more serious. (You can’t repeal the law of physics.)

I’m focusing here on the small overlap test because now there’s “a TV screen” in the middle of the dashboard that can easily distract any driver. (For example, I can plug in my iPod, but to change the volume, song, or artist, I must take my eyes off the road to use my index finger or focus on the remote control device.)

As millions more late-model vehicles replace older ones, headlight-to-headlight crashes will occur much more frequently, especially on two-lane roads, with potentially disastrous results.

ARTICLE: Apps That Help Prevent Texting While Driving


Bottom-line: I wouldn’t put my family in a car that rated less than Good or Acceptable in this test if they gave me one for free. But so far this year, over 2 million “crash-test dummies” have opted for less-safe models.

ARTICLE: Best Auto Insurance Companies

Below are 24 popular 2014 models that were rated Marginal or Poor in this test, yet have continued to sell in quantity during the first 7 months of 2014. (Note: This list does not include 19 other lower-volume vehicles that also rated Marginal or Poor, including the Audi A4 sedan; VW Beetle, CC and Tiguan; Prius C and V models; Jeep 2-door Wrangler; and Mazda CX-9.)

Smaller Cars
2014 sales IIHS rating
Chevrolet Cruze 166,264
Chevrolet Sonic 56,820
Ford Fiesta sedan 42,626 M
Hyundai Accent 38,019 M
Kia Forte 43,517 P 
Nissan Juke 28,086 P
Nissan Sentra 111,477 P
Nissan Versa Sedan 83,570 P
Toyota Corolla 205,187 M


2014 sales IIHS rating
Buick Encore 27,718 P 
Ford Escape 179,448  P 
Ford Explorer 123,466  M
Honda CR-V 183,214  M
Honda Pilot 61,613  P
Hyundai Tucson 28,103  P
Jeep Grand Cherokee 104,782  M
Jeep Patriot 51,721  P
Kia Sportage 24,368  P
Kia Sorento 60,670  P
Toyota 4Runner 41,955  M
Toyota RAV4 143,731  P


Mid-Size & Larger Cars 2014 sales IIHS rating
BMW 3-Series sedan 69,154 M
Mercedes C-Class 38,734 M
Volkswagen Jetta 89,449 M


There were 2,004,692 sales of these 24 M and P models in the first 7 months of 2014 — an 8.2% gain in a market that was up just 5.0%. They accounted for 20.9% of the 9,604,700 total sales in the period.

I’m convinced their sales would have been much lower if their owners had taken the time to view the small-overlap crash videos. You could probably count the number that did on two hands.

How could any thinking adult watch one, then choose it for themselves or their family? There must be days when the folks at NHTSA and IIHS wonder why they bother to provide life-saving information to new-car buyers who never look at it.

Stripped to its core, life is about choices. A bad new-car choice could be one you’d regret forever. You can’t control what another driver does. So do your safety-check homework before you start test driving.

Don’t be a crash-test dummy!  

About the author: James Bragg has been a full-time consumer advocate/activist for over 20 years as the day-to-day, hands-on founder/manager of, a national information service that’s helped over 125,000 consumers buy or lease a new vehicle. His latest book is a revised edition of Letting the Cat out of the Bag: How the Auto Industry "Redesigned" the Dealer Invoice Price When the Internet Arrived.

5 Essential Tips When Working from Home

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Working from home definitely has its perks. You don’t have to drive to the office, you have the comfort of being in your own home, and you often times have more flexibility on the hours that you actually have to work.

However, working from home can also have its challenges. It is easy to get distracted and not get any work done at all. Whether you have kids vying for your attention or dishes piled up in the sink, the distractions are plentiful when you work from home.

Here are 5 tips that will be essential to implement when you are working from home

1. Get dressed - This might sound strange, but there is something about being at home where there is not an urgency to put “regular” clothes on.  It can be tempting to fall into a weekend routine, and wear your robe around the house, but this could stunt your productivity. Getting dressed every day is a good habit to get into. It helps you to mentally realize that this is a work day, not a weekend, and that you need to treat it as such.

2. Close the door - Being at home, it is very easy to get interrupted if you have kids, a spouse that stays at home, or even if you have animals. I have a dog who wants to play constantly and it is hard to focus when he is trying to get me to throw the ball every 2 minutes. If you have an office with a door, keep it shut during business hours. Communicate to your family that when the door is closed that you are working and that you are  not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency.  And vice versa, if the door is open, then it is OK for someone to come in to ask you a question. These boundaries will definitely help you focus on your work and limit the amount of interruptions you get each day.

3. Make appointments outside of the house - It can be lonely to work out of the home, especially if you are single and don’t own a pet. To make sure that you get your “people-fix,” consider scheduling appointments with people outside of the home. These do not have to be work-related appointments. I often will grab coffee with a friend in the morning or lunch with a family member in the afternoon. This has been a huge help for me to have an outlet for engaging with people that I would not otherwise have since I work from home.

4. Get up and walk around - In the 21st century, if you are working from home, the chances are high that you are in front of a computer most of the time. If this is the case, you've got to get up and walk around every day. If you don’t have a regular workout routine, take a 15-minute walk around your neighborhood. This will get your blood flow going and make sure that you stay healthy, since working at a computer is not a very physically intensive exercise.

5. Schedule your day - This is possibly the most important tip. With so many opportunities to be distracted while you’re at home, you have to schedule your work day. I use Google Calendar because it is simple and it syncs everything I do to my computer and to my cell phone.  Whatever system you decide to use, just be consistent with it. This will help make sure that everything gets done so that nothing slips through the cracks.

Working from home is great, but you need to make sure that you create an environment that is conducive to getting work done. If you follow the tips outlined above, you will be amazed at how much more you will enjoy working from the comfort of your own home.

ARTICLE: Clark Howard's Work From Home Guide lists legitimate work-at-home opportunities.

About the author: Check out more entrepreneur related tips from Deacon on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Free Ways To Stretch Your Phone's Battery Life

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If you're in the smartphone orbit, you know that you're always fighting the life of the battery.

That's prompted Apple to issue battery replacements for some iPhone 5 customers who have reported shorter battery life or the need for frequent recharging.

"The affected iPhone 5 devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013 and fall within a limited serial number range," according to Apple.

Once you find your serial number, enter it here to see if your phone is among those eligible for the free battery replacement.

Here are some free ways to get through the day without needing a recharge

For Android, there are apps like 2 Battery that stretch the life of your battery behind the curtain on your phone. But whether you're Android or iOS, there are some simple things you can do.

For example, adjust the brightness of the screen and how long it stays on. Those 2 things make a big difference.

Having apps refresh too much can be another problem. For me, it's my girlfriend The Wall Street Journal. Their app was constantly refreshing and eating up all my data. That one alone was taking more data than every other app on  my phone combined. So I adjusted the settings and my data use went down.

How about other simple things? Did you know having your phone set to vibrate uses more battery than setting it to ring, according to an article I read.

Location requests use up your battery too. Think how many apps ask for your location. That in and of itself drains your battery.

Breaking Scam Alert: Ice Bucket Challenge Email Scam

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Time and time again, Americans prove themselves to be the most generous people on planet Earth. But I don't want you to let that generous spirit be taken advantage of!

It seems like you can't go far on the web these days without seeing someone doing the Ice Bucket Challenge -- pouring a bucket of ice water over their head on camera at the dare of a friend or family member.

The ice cold gesture encourages people to donate $100 for research into the cause and cure of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

But be warned, some of those emails and videos you may be seeing online could contain malware or otherwise try to get at your sensitive financial info.

Scamsters sending fake Ice Bucket Challenge emails and video files

Software security company Thirtyseven4 has put out an alert about Ice Bucket Challenge-themed scams.

Among their concerns are emails with headlines promising must-see Ice Bucket videos that may contain spyware, and attachments containing those videos that could load malware onto your computer when you first open them.

As Thirtyseven4 noted, the whole scam angle is very reminiscent of what went on recently with an alleged final video shot by Robin Williams moments before his tragic suicide.

The takeaway for you? Don't click on what you don't know -- even if it comes from a trusted source like a friend or family member.

And while you're at it, consider doing a credit freeze if you haven't done so already. A credit freeze will stop crooks from opening new lines of credit in your name should they be able to get access to your information. (It won't prevent you from using current lines of credit you already have open.) Visit and search "credit freeze" for more info.

Meanwhile, I recently took the Ice Bucket Challenge. See my video, in which I nominate radio personality Neal Boortz to pick up a bucket, here:


General safety guidelines for charity donations

I always want you to remember, before donating to any charity,  you want to be sure that the lion's share of the money will go where it's needed.  Every charity has different overhead costs. Research your favorite charities and learning how much of your donation will go to the intended purpose (vs. how much will go to overhead)  at, and

Here are some more important tips to keep in mind:

  • Don't give cash. Legitimate charities will take a check.

  • When telemarketers calls, don't give them your credit card, bank account, or personal information. Initiate the call yourself if you want to donate.

  • Don't give in to pressure. Anyone that can't wait for a donation while you check out his or her organization is likely to be a crook.

  • Expect specific information when you're being pitched on a charity donation. Ask what kind of relief this organization is going to provide. Don't give to a vague appeal.

  • Check out the charity with national, state, and local authorities. Established charities register with the Internal Revenue Service. You can search for specific non-profit organizations on the IRS website,

  • Beware of newly formed organizations. If the charity is new, you may have to rely on your relationship with the company or sponsor of the organization to determine whether you trust the group.

  • Report abuses to the nearest Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General's office. You can also report abuses to the National Fraud Information Center using their web-based complaint form at


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