Side Hustles: A World of Possibilities

by Kevin on April 28, 2014

How often are you striving to test out a new idea to make an extra buck? Are you idly sitting by hoping extra cash comes your way or actively pursuing that dollar?

I like to call this type of work a side hustle. It’s on the side — I’m still employed — and I have to hustle. Time is short when you have a 9 and a 1/2 month old, so I want to maximize my time with him while also maximizing the dollars I can earn on the side.

Side hustles have been instrumental in allowing my family to do things we never thought possible. Thanks to earning a side income on top of our actual jobs we’ve been able to sock away more money for a rainy day, pay for emergencies as they have popped up, and overall lowered our financial stress levels significantly.

How to Start a Side Hustle

Here are three core aspects of side hustling:

Test, Test, Test

No one is going to send you an overnight package with step by step instructions on how to start a side hustle. Not only are hustlers too busy to show you how to do their hustle, it would dig into their potential business that they’ve built from their own sweat.

It’s all about testing. Got an idea? Find a way to test it out as inexpensively as possible. You don’t want to build up a ton of overhead around an idea that may or may not pan out.

Effort

You are going to have to put in a lot of effort toward getting a side hustle off of the ground. Your initial tests might show your idea can make some money. Don’t expect to be rolling in the dollars without a lot of effort involved. Expanding on your tests will take time and energy.

Then again your first few tests might be monumental failures. That’s okay. You might lose $20 or $50 or $100 on your first few tests; a small price to pay to find something that can you a lot more than that in the future. (And if losing those amounts would break your finances you simply aren’t ready to try side hustling.)

Don’t get discouraged and keep your efforts up. You can’t find a real hustle without effort.

Willingness to Fail

Last, but certainly not least, you must be comfortable failing. Hard.

The greatest entrepreneurs in the world have all failed multiple times before finally nailing the idea that made them wealthy and successful.

You have to be comfortable with feeling like you threw money after a bad idea that didn’t pan out. If you can’t be comfortable taking a risk knowing that it can fail then side hustling isn’t for you. Statistically speaking a majority of small businesses — the legitimate kind with LLCs, and buildings, and rent, and so forth — fail. Take one step back from that and wonder how many ideas it took to get to that group of legitimate small businesses, and how many of those ideals crashed and burned before they ever really got off of the ground.

We’re facing steep odds. Good thing we know that going in up front. We can mentally prepare to dominate and deal with the ups and downs of hustling.

It will be hard. It will be bumpy. But you just might find something that earns you a few hundred or thousand dollars per month… enough to change your world.

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Time Moves Fast: Value It!

by Kevin on April 27, 2014

I turned 30 this month.

“How did it come to this?”, I asked myself. “Where did time go?”

It feels like just yesterday my girlfriend at the time (now my amazing wife) and I were driving 2 hours and 15 minutes every other weekend to see each other as we finished up college. (Admittedly, she drove more than I did because I had a duplex to stay at whereas her college would not allow me inside the dorm except for about 4 hours on Sunday.)

10 years ago I was still in college. I hadn’t proposed yet.

10 years ago I had never owned a dog. I wasn’t a parent.

10 years ago I had never purchased real estate nor invested for my retirement. I was just learning about the magic of compound investing and Roth IRAs.

In the blink of an eye (or so it feels) all that has changed. I got engaged, graduated, left the town my college was in, moved to Birmingham, switched jobs, got married, bought a house, got a dog, moved to Knoxville, sold a house, bought another house, and most recently had an amazing, perfect, beautiful baby boy join our family.

Along the way we got to take some great vacations, spend time with friends and family, and enjoy life all while saving money consistently. We built up a solid emergency fund and invested well for retirement. We’re well on our way to being millionaires someday — and it will take many millions, it seems, to be able to retire.

Everyday it seems we hear another story of someone dying early than they “should” have. Whether movie or reality TV stars dying at 31 or a teen killed at school on the day of prom we are constantly reminded that we do not have forever. We do not know when our day will come.

Live Now, Don’t Wait

Taking all of this into consideration has greatly increased my urgency around maximizing and enjoying the time I have now. I want to have the most impact on this world that I can now rather than waiting for some mysterious point in the future.

Fix Your Finances Now

Don’t hope for a day that will never come if you avoid taking action. Many of the things I have experienced would not have been possible without living a sound financial life. It’s hard to buy a home, eat a loss on it (thanks housing bust!) when you move, and buy another home within 6 months when you’re paying thousands of dollars in credit card interest.

Do whatever you have to do to fix your finances now. No delay. It’s all about getting yourself setup to start enjoying life as quickly as possible.

Start Marking Off Your Bucket List

Once your finances are fixed start doing the things you want in life now. Some call this a bucket list, others just their goals and dreams. Whatever they are start knocking them out. Don’t wait to experience the world.

Here’s the deal: there’s no sense in dying with a ton of money in the bank if you’ve lived like a hermit for decades in hopes of really blowing it out big before you die. You might not make it to 80, 90, or 100.

Start taking those trips now. Enjoy your time with your family now. Don’t delay. We don’t know when our clock runs out on this earth.

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It’s almost that time. Our mattress is about ten years old.

I shudder to think how we will survive.

Is it time to replace our mattress? “The industry” says consumers should replace a mattress every five to ten years. But “the industry” has a lot to gain from selling me a lot of mattresses over my lifetime.

Consumer Reports has said you can keep your mattress as long as you like. If you’re getting good back support, no sagging, and a good nights sleep then your mattress is doing its job.

Nonetheless the months are counting down to the time we have to go mattress shopping. Also known as “the most useless shopping experience that you hope works out.”

Really, you think laying down on a mattress in the store for 30 seconds is going to give you an idea of what to expect over the next decade? Eesch. I wish we could just duplicate the mattress we have!

I bought my mattress in college when I moved out of the dorms and into a duplex. It was delivered by a nice guy who carried it in all by himself. That’s about all I remember.

I paid somewhere in the $600 to $700 range for a pillowtop something or another. I think it’s a Serta. It’s comfortable. Best mattress I’ve ever slept on.

But now there are $1,000, $2,500, even $3,500 mattresses out there. Are they worth it?

Running the Numbers on Buying a New Mattress

I won’t be dropping multi-thousands of dollars on a mattress. I just honestly can’t believe that there is that big of a difference between a $1,000 mattress and a $3,500 one unless we’re talking the difference between normal springs and fancy, NASA-grade foam. (I prefer the normal springs, too.)

I will argue there can be a huge difference between a $300 mattress and a $750 mattress, but that’s just my experience. If you find a $300 mattress you love, then buy it, sleep on it, and enjoy it.

If you are hesitant to drop $750 on a mattress, even if you find it more comfortable than a cheaper option, let’s do some math before walking out of the store.

Cost Per Day, Month, and Year

Let’s assume there are two scenarios: one where you keep a mattress five years and another where you replace only once per decade.

Now let’s take your target mattress cost and divide it up over the days, months, and years of those two time periods.

Our $300 mattress over five years would cost us:

  • $0.164 per day
  • $5 per month
  • $60 per year

Over ten years the same mattress would cost:

  •  $0.082 per day
  • $2.50 per month
  • $30 per year

Seems like a fantastic value either way if it holds up that long.

Now let’s look at the $750 mattress. Here’s what five years looks like:

  • $0.411 per day
  • $12.50 per month
  • $150 per year

And over 10 years:

  • $0.205 per day
  • $6.25 per month
  • $75 per year

What are you willing to pay?

I’m not arguing the $750 is superior in every way. But if they last just as long and the $750 mattress is more comfortable, you have to ask yourself, “Would I pay an extra 12.3 cents per day to get a better night’s rest? Or an extra $3.75 per month? Or a whopping $45 per year?”

When you look at it in that context the more expensive and supposedly more comfortable mattress is a far better deal. $300 is pretty cheap for a mattress and it probably pretty basic. I’d gladly pay more than double that to get a pillow top from a name brand that I knew would last.

The incremental cost of each day, month, or year is so small that it seems like a no-brainer. We spend 1/4 to 1/3 of our lives asleep in bed. Paying for one that allows for the best rest seems like a smart idea to me.

How much was your mattress and how long have you had it?

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When Frugal is Dumb: Earbuds

by Kevin on March 31, 2014

Every so often do you look back at a decision you made and just shake your head?

What was I thinking? I’m such a doofus.

I’ve been traveling more for work and to maximize the hours in the air I bought an iPad Mini. (The nice one with the “retina” screen.) I’ve loaded it up with podcasts, Evernote, and photos of my family. I could do all of these things with my smartphone, but I need to conserve battery when I travel all day. The iPad Mini’s battery lasts well beyond my needs on the plane.

My guess is the passengers around me wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to listen with me to podcasts from NPR’s Planet MoneyMichael Hyatt on productivity and business leadership, or Pat Flynn talking about making money online. (Although all three would definitely be good for them to listen to!)

I had an old pair of earbuds that a friend had gotten at a conference and pawned them off to me. They were … fine. They didn’t stick in my ears really well. (I’ve always felt I have a weird ear “inlet” and nothing ever really fits into it like a “normal” person.) They were covered in that fine mesh you find on microphones. 

So off I went into the skies with these old earbuds that I had to push back into my ear several times an hour due to the natural bouncing of a plane through the air.

I thought about buying new earbuds, but passed off the idea. “These are fine and do the job,” I told myself. “New earbuds would be expensive or sound worse.”

The weeks and trips went by until, much to my dismay, the black mesh over the earbuds got torn thanks to living in my backpack. Now they really felt weird in my ears and … well… fine. I’ll look to see what I could buy.

I sauntered over to Staples.com’s Daily Deals section. Typically there isn’t anything super exciting in this area, but some familiar earbuds popped up this time: Sony’s MDREX58V. 

How did I know them well? These same exact earbuds were a Daily Deal a few months ago. I purchased a bunch of them to sell on Amazon. I made a small profit and didn’t keep one set of earbuds for myself. (Doofus!)

Thankfully they popped back up on the deal and I snagged a pair for $9.99 plus tax. I passed on buying a bunch more to try and resell because I wasn’t the only one that thought of that last time. I was breaking-even and losing a few cents on each earbud I sold at the end. (The first 20 I sold had high enough margins to cover the losses at the end and still end up with a profit, but I digress.)

I tried the new earbuds on my trip last week and let me just say… they were amazing. Possibly the best $10 I’ve ever spent for traveling purposes. They have a rubber, flexible end so they fit in my ear really well and block out the noise around me. They aren’t noise-canceling by any means, just a great fit that allows me to listen to my podcasts without hearing the stuff around me.

The earbuds were snug, had great sound, and I don’t think I had to push them back into my ear on any of my flights.

All for $10.

Which means I was being the dumb kind of frugal: I ignored significant upgrade in my life because I didn’t want to spend $10. Granted, a $10 set of earbuds could be a terrible waste of money. But with 600+ reviews on Amazon (and a solid 4-star rating) I was just a doofus for passing on them in the past.

When was the last time you were a “doofus” by being too frugal?

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