Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review of My Extra Income

Yesterday I wrote about my good fortune in getting a holiday bonus from my day job. Believe me, I am well aware of how very lucky I am, especially when there are still so many people out there who are out of work. I am very grateful for my job, and the benefits it offers. Though, like everyone, there are days I occasionally dream of giving it all up and living in a shack in Fiji, I've been at my job almost 11 years now and have no intentions of leaving anytime soon!

Since I haven't done it in a little while I thought I would do a review on my extra income - what I earn over and above my day job wages. Though I finally have my finances rolling along like a well oiled machine, I am still actively perusing additional income. I've got a whole lot of goals on my horizon* and most of them require cash. Here's what I've been up to lately...

Rental income - I continue to have a tenant for the apartment (knock on wood!) Things have been pretty quiet in that area lately. She doesn't know it yet, but I am contemplating doing a house project for her, come spring. Next month I will get my tax worksheet from the accountant, and I am expecting a decent tax return - mainly because since my home has a rental unit, I can write off 25% of the house painting job. I am considering investing some of that back into the apartment. She has asked for a new refrigerator in the past. Hers works, but it is a tad ragged. I've already had to work on it twice and since it is a bit older, parts for it aren't cheap. It would be a good business decision, and again, something I could write off, and hey - happy tenants are good tenants!

Part Time Jobs - I still have a hodgepodge of part time jobs. My jobs, as you might recall, are all sporadic. I am not sure I would be able to do a regular day in/day out, 20 hour a week second job. (Well, I probably could if I had to, but I think it would take quite a toll.) My jobs all offer me a little work here and a little work there, never so much that I get too burned out. Part Time Job 1 offers scattered 4-5 hour shifts and Part Time Job 2 offers 1 week of work, 3 times a year. One of those weeks was in October. While the hourly pay isn't all that impressive, I get in almost 40 hours, so it's a nice bump when I add it to my regular income. In addition, I was offered some freelance work that month that was really exciting. It something I had never done before and was interesting, fun and really rewarding. Again, if you take the hours put in versus the return, the rate was pretty low, but it was work I loved doing and it helped my bottom line. I was paid for that work in November.

Currently I am picking up several shifts over at Part Time Job 1. With the holidays, they've had a lot of shifts available and it just so happens most of my coworkers are extremely busy right now. I offered to pick up a few extra shifts to fill in the holes. I pretty much worked every day through the last holiday weekend and have three more shifts coming up. Yay!

Surveys - I still do surprisingly well with surveys. I mean, I don't make a ton, but I usually manage to get anywhere from $10 - $15 a month. Okay, that's not enough to retire on, but it is around $120 a year I make on lunch hours or while waiting for reports to print. You can read a past post I wrote about the surveys I do (and see links to sign up for them if you want) here.

Bank Interest - Again, with interest rates the way they are, I am not rolling in dough from my interest! But you know what I love about interest? It is practically free. I do nothing to get it - the bank just adds it into my account each month. I love that!

Book Sales - Despite selling some nice high ticket items lately, book sales in general have been slow. I know this is my fault. I have proven to myself time and time again that if I am actively working on my book sales, I make more money. For awhile there I got busy and was coasting a bit, then I ran out of books to list. However, people I know have been clearing out their closets and generously giving their old books to me, so I have a box full of books waiting to go up for sale. That is something I need to make happen ASAP. Generally, when I am working at it, I can make an extra $60-70 a month on book sales.

Mystery Shopping - I used to do pretty well on mystery shopping, or at least get a free meal a month, but lately this has dried up! The only things I see offered are too far away or age compliance shops for places that serve liquor. They want shoppers who are under 30, to see if they get carded. Since I am over the age limit (and getting further all the time....) that rules me out. Ah well....

And that is pretty much it, other than the unexpected windfall! Looking ahead at my calendar, if all proceeds as normal, it looks like I will have a fairly good variety of part time work through June, which is when everything dries up for the summer. Here's looking forward to a good 2010!

* Some of my goals are going back to school, fixing up my home for possible resale when the market turns around, and some much needed work on the cottage. Plus I have some purely financial goals, like having 6 months of emergency funds stockpiled away!

Photo by: elycefeliz
via flickr

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Money Decisions for December... Again

Sooo.... guess who got a rather handsome Christmas bonus?

Actually, it isn't a Christmas bonus per se'. My company offers profit sharing. They split the year end profit sharing into two checks - one that you get before Christmas to help with the holiday shopping, and one they give out in January - after the books are closed and the actual figures are known. It is an extraordinarily nice benefit, and you can see it made a big impact on last's years numbers as well. (Please note that not all the money you see in the sidebar is from the bonus though, some was from my freelance work and I have had some nice book & DVD sales. I even sold Night Slave!)

Now... what to do with it? The obvious thing is to pay down my debt. I still owe my Mom for the loan she gave me for finishing painting the house. In fact, $350 of the money in my sidebar there has already been sent to her. It's a bit tricky though. When she gave me the money, she was so incredibly sweet about it. She told me she wasn't going to charge interest and I could just pay her back $20 or $30 whenever I had it. She also said she wanted me to keep track of it, and she wasn't going to worry about it one bit. Isn't that nice?? But, if you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that isn't how I work. With each check I've been getting from my part time jobs, I've been saving a little of it for my emergency fund and giving mom the rest. So far, I have sent her $800 - two $350 checks and one $100 check. Each time she gets one, she tells me how hard it is for her to take my money since she knows how hard I work for it. She's such a dear.

So, I owe her $1900 yet. I could turn around and just pay her off. It is probably what I should do, but for some reason, I am hesitating...

Part of it is what Mom has been saying about how she feels about cashing those checks. It makes her feel bad. She is well aware that it is a loan and I am simply paying her back, but she wasn't expecting big lump sums. If she has a problem with $350, imagine how she'd feel with a $1900 check!?! I'm not sure she'd believe me that it really was okay.

But, that's not the only thing... there is something else, and I don't know how to describe it. When I get money like this, my impulse is always to split it up a bit - make the most out of it. If you look at the post I wrote about last year's bonus, you'll see I split it up. My current urge is to take a portion of my bonus and send it to Mom as a repayment, take another portion and put it in my emergency fund and a final portion and invest in one of my larger home improvement projects. I keep thinking that I could send her another $400 - $500 now, and then kind of pace it out over the month. That will still be a lot for her to take, but I think she'll do it. Then again, maybe this is selfish, I don't know. I originally really wanted to pay her back before Christmas, and this would let me do it. Yet at the same time, my range hood microwave hasn't worked in 6 months, and there are a lot of good deals right now. For a couple hundred bucks I could have that fixed finally. Or perhaps get a bed that doesn't hurt my back, since I have been sleeping without a box spring for 18 months.

On the other hand, it isn't like this is the only money I'll be getting. I'm working a ton of shifts at the part time job through December, and I should be getting another profit sharing check in January. (That one will most likely be a bit less. It usually is.)
It is a strange thing. How come when I get a $400, I can fairly easily turn around and send Mom $350 of it, but once the money coming in gets over that $1,000 mark, I can't do the same? It must have to do with large numbers - it has to. I have to have some kind of block or something. Whatever the reason, it is how I feel. And I guess the reasons don't have to be logical. I am an extremely logical person - who is known for looking logic in the face and doing the exact opposite. I mean, deciding to get $900 a month over your income to keep not one, but two homes, is not at all logical - yet I did it.

So what to do? Follow my head, which says just pay mom back in full or follow my gut which says do it a little at a time? The good news is, I don't have to decide now. I send out my checks through online bill pay, so it doesn't cost me a thing - not even a stamp - to cut multiple checks. I can send out what I am comfortable with now, then see how I feel throughout the rest of the month.

Photo by: _ES
via flickr

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