What a week it’s been in the personal finance world. The market turmoil continues, as does the panic over
COVID-19 the fact that our local Target can’t quite seem to keep up its stock of toilet paper or frozen pizza.
Unlike some people, I’m not choosing to tune out the daily news cycle. Instead, I’m choosing to listen sometimes and focus always on things I can control. In addition to washing my hands like it’s my job (it’s everyone’s job!), I spent time last week thinking about how I can focus on stepping up my savings and increasing my income.
It’s an unpredictable world, and if it isn’t a market correction or a pandemic, it’ll be something else. I’m not going to waste my time trying to time the market or taking up arm-chair epidemiology. Rather than that, I’m going to continue to throw my energy into growing the gap between our spending and our earning.
If you’re looking for ways to do the same, check out what I did last week below. Then, make sure to drop your own game plan in the comments!
5 Ways to Save
For us, saving is really all about minimizing the cost of our kid. More specifically, I’m trying to minimize how expensive *I* make our kid. That means that we spend a lot of time getting outside and shopping strategically–or not at all. Here’s how I saved this past week:
Clean up the garden
We have a few different raised beds and other planting spots in our yard. After a burst of spring-like weather, we decided to get outside and clean up the garden. It was really exciting for our toddler to help. Since everything is still dead, we really could put him to work. It didn’t matter what he stomped on or shoveled over, since there’s nothing to hurt. Knowing that we got everything ready for seeds and seedlings will make it much easier to get the gardens going when spring stops by for good.
Make a sensory box
If you think Pinterest-loving adults are the only people who can get crafty with things from the outdoors, you’re wrong! Last summer, HP fell in love with the sensory box at the nearby nature center. Now, we make our own. Instead of keeping his treasures in a box, we use a bucket. It currently has a few crunchy leaves, a handful of different kinds of pine cones, some sticks, a few rocks, and other odds and ends he finds in our yard. It costs nothing and it’s easy to rotate items in and out to keep his interest. Plus, if something breaks? No problem. At least in theory.
Get a new to-go plan
We are spend a lot of time adventuring, and I totally understand why people give into fast food. It’s convenient, kid friendly, and easy on the wallet. The problem (aside from the fact that it’s hard to find things that are even somewhat healthy) is that it all adds up quickly. We’ve gotten in the habit of throwing a bunch of snacks in a bag on the weekend and making that our “fast” food. We had this fantastic burst of sunny weather, so we knew we’d be on a really long walk to some different parks. In addition to our usual snacks, we packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and had a picnic dinner. It seems like the perfect way to summon spring.
Double up on deals
I’ve been trying very hard to limit what I buy for HP. Between getting a box of hand-me-downs and practicing being content, I know we don’t need much for him. The one thing we do need are swim clothes. Target was running a $10 off promotion, plus they offered an extra 20% off toddler swim gear. I snagged both deals, and I used my RED card to save 5% more. The purchase is also connected to the Drop app, so I scored some points as well.
To really make this feel like a win, his swim clothes are going to go in his Easter basket. We will still add a few snacks and things, but the basket will look nice and full. Plus, it’ll be practical!
Delete that app
Target is my kryptonite. Long gone are the days of having over 200 shoes in my closet, and I’ve mostly managed to get my impulse shopping under control. The biggest issue that I still struggle with is trying to buy things unnecessarily for HP. When I noticed that I was filling my cart back up only hours after making a purchase, I deleted the app. The Target website is so annoying with not remembering my login information, this almost feels as powerful as freezing my RED Card in a block of ice.
5 Ways to Earn
This week, I threw some extra (extra, extra, extra?) effort into my regular career. I truly don’t think we talk about this enough. With everyone trying to pivot into entrepreneurship, it’s easy to leave money on the table at your regular career. Because I do love teaching so much, it’s not hard for me to dedicate time and mental bandwidth to improve my craft. Of course, I also got my side hustle on a bit!
Elevate your 9-5 work
This past week, I had the opportunity to attend some different professional development sessions. Teacher PD is a lot like most professional development. Most is OK, some is really unhelpful. There are, of course, those unicorn sessions where you just want to try everything you’ve heard. I did hit the jackpot, so I immediately started working on ways to implement the new ideas into my teaching. In addition to being what is best for me and my students, this also should help me with my evaluations. No career–as near as I can tell–works quite like education in terms of performance reviews. While this won’t put me in the running for a raise, I’m always mindful of how important strong evaluations are. Being RIFed twice at the start of my career does that to you.
Side hustle at work
I’m still agreeing to substitute teach when the office asks. Last week, that meant picking up one extra teaching period. It’s not making me rich, but it’s helping my building. Plus, it’s good to interact with other students and see different teaching plans. It’s giving me some ideas for my own classroom. Plus, I’m getting to meet a lot of students in younger grades. Another bonus to side hustling at my W-2 is that taxes are easily sorted since the pay is included in my regular paycheck.
I agreed to join a committee that won’t result in any direct compensation. However, it should make my life easier once the initial work is done. I’m also going to make sure I give myself credit for this verbally in my summative evaluation this year, and I will include it in all of my official observation/evaluation paperwork.
It’s not tooting your own horn, and it’s not being immodest. And if it is? Who cares. It’s work that we’re doing and we deserve to be recognized for it. Even if it doesn’t lead to direct compensation, it should strengthen my evaluation.
Cash in your cash back
Why do I let banks profit from my money? I can’t come up with a reasonable answer. And yet, I had over $500 in cashback on my Discover card waiting for me to claim it. Once I started jumping through the hoops required to access that money, I remembered why it’s easier to just let the money sit there in the first place. Since you can only move $300 on the initial transfer, I had to do this in two rounds. I sent all of it to my SoFi savings account, and our Christmas fund is now fully funded between that cashback and what we already had in there!
One of the things that I see people struggle with a lot when it comes to freelancing is not understanding the ebbs and flows of the work. The reason why I see this so clearly is others is because I struggled with so much of it myself when I first got started. I assumed that if people weren’t immediately and continuously asking me to do more work for them that I had somehow lost the gig entirely. That’s just not how freelance writing works (at least in my experience!). Last week, I heard from a client who I hadn’t written for in almost two months. A few years ago, that silence would have sent me into a panic. However, I knew that they were addressing other items on their to-do list, and I decided to wait patiently for more work rather than torture myself. It paid off! I’ll grab another $100+ after taxes.
Final Thoughts on How I Saved & How I Earned Last Week
In times of uncertainty, I know there isn’t a magic financial fix. Rather than let people’s financial fears throw me into a panic, I’m going to continue to focus on what I can control. It’s not always fun, but it seems like it is always possible to find more ways to cut back. For someone whose career is on a salary schedule, there are also a surprising amount of ways to boost my income and make my job more secure. Here’s to another week of looking for ways to save and earn more.
So Tell Me…How did you save last week? Are you trying anything out to grow your earnings?