I was invited to be a part of Women’s Money Week, by WiseBread blogger, Elizabeth Lang. It’s an online event designed to encourage women to take control of their finances and their lives as a way to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8th.
I debated sharing these posts on my own blog, but since my voice carries farther here on FatWallet and it would give me the ability to help more women, I decided to share my experiences here instead. I invite you to follow this series throughout the week as we share ways to Increase income, productivity, family and money, happiness, and planning for the future.
Today’s Women’s Money Week topic is on Increasing Income.
My Entrepreneurial Catalyst
Once upon a time we had just bought our first house, scraping together every cent, earned, borrowed, and begged for our down payment. Our oldest was a chubby little one-year-old and I was a stay at home mom. My husband had a good (although not great) job which we would soon find out.
The 1924 two and a half bedroom bungalow was a total dump when we bought it. Seriously. My mom actually cried when she saw it. But it had passed the home inspection, was within our budget and my husband and I both saw it’s potential. It had hardwood floors hidden beneath stinky pet stained and stale cigarette smoke saturated carpeting, French doors in the dining room, and a fenced in yard for our daughter and future kids.
My grandparents gave us, a much appreciated, $5,000 gift as a house warming present, which we used to buy appliances, a lawn mower, and to fund our many trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot for supplies we needed to make the house livable.
I worked for a month, morning until night with my daughter in her playpen, pulling hundreds of thousands (millions I’m sure) staples out of the floors and stripping yellowed smoke stained wallpaper from the crumbly plaster walls. My husband would come after work to help me. We’d enjoy a dinner picnic on a blanket in the back yard and then work all night until we were beyond exhausted. It was an amazing feeling when we finished putting that final coat of polyurethane on our glowing wood floors and locking up the house to leave for a weekend at our family’s cabin. I SO wanted to move in right away, but the floors needed to harden before we brought in the furniture.
We came back from our mini vacation, excited to move in and start our life, only to find out my husband’s hours had been majorly cut at work and we only had enough left in savings from my grandparent’s gift to make our first mortgage payment.
Making Money from Home
So, I went out and got a job putting my art degree to work as a designer at a furniture store, while my mom watched our daughter. After 6 months or so, I was so homesick for my baby and hated leaving her every morning. We decided I needed to find a way to earn enough money to stay home with her.
My husband helped me take inventory of the skills I had and we started networking with family and friends to see if they knew anyone who were in need of what I could do.
From photographing nipple prosthetics for a brochure for a doctor with mastectomy patients, to babysitting, I did just about everything (legal) to earn extra money so I could continue to stay home through the ups and downs of my husband’s hours:
- I built a simple website with a contact form and sold candy bar wrappers as wedding favors and birth announcements
- I worked with my mom on the weekends as a bridal consultant and decorated weddings
- I went garage sale-ing with my girlfriend to buy things to sell on eBay
- I sewed curtains and dance recital costumes, re-upholstered furniture, and embroidered things for people
- I worked as a virtual assistant, sending out e-newsletters and managing websites
- I built a home based business with Arbonne
- I learned how to market myself online and built a business teaching others how to do the same.
I didn’t know how to do any of the things above before I did them. We live in a time where we can literally learn how to do just about anything. We don’t need to have a lot in the way of financial resources to start a side gig to earn extra money we just need to be resourceful.
All of these escapades gave me so much more than extra money. They gave me confidence in myself. They strengthened our marriage, teaching us that we can work as a team to overcome financial difficulties, which has helped us overcome other challenges as well. All of the things I did allowed me to make a difference for others in some way, which was very fulfilling. Plus I was able to stay home with our three kids for 13 years and these past experiences helped me to learn the skills to do what I do now, working as the social media manager for FatWallet.
The Pitfalls of Getting Too Comfortable
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, and become blinded to the limitless options we have to change our family’s financial status. I’ve seen my own cycle of laziness and boredom when times were good and the satisfaction of the hustle, when time’s were tough. We’re so much more likely to work harder to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.
We grow the most through our struggles, and in my experience, is best to stay in that place of being hungry for change. What helps me to keep from getting to comfortable is to continuously set goals and attach a pain to not accomplishing them.
My husband and I could be pretty comfortable living on two full-time salaries and the residual income from my home business, but we’re not. Instead I’ve continued to use my skills outside of work to help others get their blogs started and we’ve put ourselves on the Dave Ramsey plan to becoming financially free. So far this year (it’s only the beginning of March) we’ve paid off just under $4K in debt and we’re on track for our goals.
Here’s my process for setting a goal and sticking to it:
- Write out my goal and state it in the positive (not negative). How will I know when I accomplish it.
- Why is this goal important to me? What are the reasons this goal matters?
- How will it change my life to accomplish it? How will I feel?
- What will I give up if I don’t accomplish it? How will I feel?
- What challenges will I face in accomplishing this goal? Who or what can help me overcome them?
- Who or what will help me stay accountable to this goal?
- What will my first action steps be?
What have you done in the past to increase your income? What are your potentially profitable skills, talents, or gifts to you have to offer others? What hobbies do you have that you could potentially use to earn extra money? Make a list; your experiences are probably worth more than you think.
P.S. Here is a list I shared on my blog of my favorite books to help you realize your worth and turn what you know into extra income.