March 17

Writing For Love Or Money?

businessman thinking love or money by 89studio
photo courtesy 89studio, freedigitalphotos.net

Are you writing for love, or for money?

Some of you might be asking, “Is there a difference?” If you love to write, you may not care what you write, or even if you get paid for it.  If you are freelancing as your main or additional source of income, you may be writing just for the money, but love it anyway. Unfortunately, sometimes freelancers can write just for the money, but they don’t love what they’re doing.

Lately, I’ve been falling further into the last category.

I have always loved writing fiction, and I have self-published two children’s books, along with a brilliant illustrator, Steve Scatchard. (He came up with the idea and the characters, and I came up with the story…great partnership!) I also love writing non-fiction, particularly stuff that I’m passionate about (saving money, feminism, and reading are just a few that spring to mind).

I felt a little more satisfied when I opened my PLR store, because I got to choose the topics that I write about, to point. I mean, I have to write stuff that will sell, so a million articles about Doctor Who and how much I love chocolate are not really an option, lol!

At some point in the last year, my income has become more crucial than ever. Life just got more expensive, with three kids and a mortgage, plus two car payments…it’s more than we can manage on just one income. So, I write everything I can get paid for, which isn’t always a lot. That’s one of the dangers of relying too heavily on the content mills to pay the bills, when the work dries up or the editors change, it can be a LOT harder to make enough money to keep the bills paid.

I’ve been applying for more freelance jobs rather than just the one-off gigs I’ve been doing, and I’m getting a few responses, but there’s still a long way to go to pull my financial bootstraps up to where they should be, and I’ll admit, I’m getting frustrated.

I want to work on my own fiction, and non-fiction ebooks, but that takes time away from the paid work that I know will bring in money. So, I grab a few minutes here, an hour there, and work on my own stuff. Even the PLR content is on the back-burner, but I know I’ll get to it, eventually.

Still, it’s frustrating to be writing stuff I don’t love for the majority of the time. I think that’s one of the reasons why so many writers and marketers give up before they really see success. It’s not easy making a career from literally nothing but words, but every day, people do it. It can take a long time to make an online business model successful, and if I’d been doing this ten or fifteen years ago, I probably would have given up at the first rejected article.

Fortunately, I’m a lot more stubborn than I used to be. I want to make a real career online, writing for myself, owning my skills and loving what I write. I may not be rich and famous from my words (yet), but I ain’t going nowhere any time soon. 🙂

How about you? Do you feel like you are writing for love or money these days? Share in the comments section below!

March 29

Spring Clean Your Finances

Five things you can do right now to improve your family finances!

I was just reading up on a few of Dave Ramsey’s posts on his website when I found this great article. I love Dave’s no nonsense approach to getting control of your money, and these tips are so easy, you can do them today!

1. Review all your insurance policies.

Dave makes a great point about reviewing all your insurance policies–home, life, and auto–in order to see if your circumstances have changed and to see whether policy changes could save you money.

2. Cut the grocery spending.

Rather than using coupons to save on shopping, Dave advises his readers to try cutting the monthly food budget by $10, and moving that money to another area of your budget. You could use this to pay off extra debt, or simply put it into a savings account. You won’t have to sacrifice much, and the money could be put to much better use in another part of your budget.

3. Review your cell phone plan.

This one is definitely worth doing, because most of us never use every feature of our plan that we pay for. Data usage is on particular area where people often overpay, so check your usage and see if you could save money by lowering your data limit.

4. Combine two items into one.

I really like this tip…it is especially useful for people like me who tend to break their budget down into waaaay too many categories. He suggests combining budget items to save money. You could combine things like ‘eating out’ and ‘entertainment’ to save more money every month.

5. Take a look at the kids’ extracurricular activities.

Again, this one hits home with me. It can get very expensive trying to keep three kids happy and entertained with their hobbies and after school activities, not to mention overwhelming for the kids if their schedules get too out of hand. Pick one favorite activity, and find the least expensive way to do it, and everyone wins!

What tips do you have for tweaking your budget this spring?

December 31

Goodbye 2013, Hello New You!

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Happy New Year…almost! I just wanted to wish you a very happy New Year…I know that good things are coming your way in 2014!

This is typically the time when we all make those resolutions, you know the ones…lose weight, get out of debt, change our lives for the better. Well, for what it’s worth, I want to help you make 2014 the year that you make your financial goals come true.

I will be showing you some great ways to save money, earn more money, do more with the money you already have, and generally improve your financial situation. I hope you’ll join me in making 2014 the year that all your financial worries disappear!

Happy New Year!

Jess

August 15

Christmas is Coming

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My youngest daughter looks pretty freaked out about Christmas in this photo, and I usually feel the same way about the holiday once the excitement of the back to school rush settles down. By Halloween I’m practically hyperventilating about all the gifts I have to buy, food I have to cook and visits to family that I should, but probably won’t, get around to making.

Sound familiar?

Dave Ramsey (oh, God, I love that man!) always says that it shouldn’t come as any surprise to us that we will need to budget for Christmas. It’s not an unexpected emergency, and it always happens at the same time every year. But, still, many of us freak out and do some crazy silly things during the holidays.

My personal bad habit is twofold; I overspend and don’t budget enough for gifts. Or, rather, I set an amount that looks reasonable on paper but once I get into the stores my husband and I can’t seem to accommodate all our gifts on the suddenly miniscule budget.

This year, I’m ahead of the game. Hopefully. I figured that if I put aside $25 each week, starting this week, I’ll have nearly $500 by Christmas. That will definitely help cover the cost of all those gifts and goodies during the holiday season!

Consider this: If you can only manage $10 each week, starting from today, you’ll have $190 put away for the holidays. That’s like, two McDonalds breakfasts a week, or a couple of ‘good’ coffees. You can probably even shave ten bucks off your grocery expenses each week and slide that money over into a red and green envelope for some real holiday fun! Better yet, keep it up all year long for an almost effortless $520 bucks for next year.

See if your bank offers a Christmas club account that holds your savings, possibly pays a little interest, and mails you a check sometime in October or November. Set up an automatic transfer of ten bucks, or whatever you can afford, each week from your checking to the Christmas account, and lose a whole lot of stress in the process!

Excuse me while I go pat myself on the back for being ahead of the game, LOL! I think I’ll indulge in a little early Christmas shopping. If you want, feel free to join me over at My British Christmas !

Got any tips for saving for Christmas? Please share…we love it when you do!

July 13

Shame and Guilt

imageWe’ve all been there…standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with all your food and your credit card in hand because your bank balance is too low to pay for the groceries.

Having buyer’s remorse after using your credit card to pay for something you have tried to convince yourself that you needed, but secretly you know you don’t.

Feeling guilty that your kids aren’t going away for a vacation or that they don’t have the most popular brands of clothing.

There is nothing good about feeling shame or guilt over being broke or in debt. Unless you let it become the impetus you need to break the cycle and get your finances in shape…then it can be a painful, but useful, tool.

Now, let me clarify. I am not talking about feeling guilty that you are choosing to pay off debt instead of slapping Gucci and Nike labels on your kids’ backs; that’s just good common sense and responsible parenting.

I’m not talking about parents who ask family for help providing money for Christmas or camp or extra curricular activities that enrich your child’s life because you just don’t earn enough to cover these and put a roof over their heads. We all need a little help sometimes, and one day you’ll probably be in a position to return the favor. I hope you do!

I am talking about the guilt you feel when you spend money you know you don’t have because you are stuck in a heap of debt and you don’t know what to do.

Now, I personally don’t think that guilt and shame are ever something you should embrace, except, as I said, when it compels you to action. What is the point in feeling guilty about not earning enough money? There isn’t one…you could be a millionaire and still feel guilty about not providing something to your family, whether it’s your time or something else you feel you aren’t giving.

But, money has so much emotion attached to it. Negative emotions like shame, guilt and depression when we don’t have enough of it, and positive ones that we experience when we get a windfall or have extra for stuff we want. A lot of this has to do with society’s ingrained beliefs that life is only worth living if you have lots of stuff. We all buy into this belief from an early age, and then feel guilty when we can’t live up to the standards society has set for us. Well, that is just bullcrap.

Money is just a tool used to buy things. There are two types of ‘things’: things you need, like food, shelter and clothing, and things you want, like fancy brand name clothing and expensive toys. The key to getting a grip on the emotions associated with debt and money is to change your perspective on it.

Once you retrain your brain to realize that stuff isn’t as important as emotional freedom from guilt and shame you will find a peace like no other. It’s not easy and you’ll probably find yourself ‘relapsing’ into old thinking habits every now and then, but keep the bigger picture in mind. Financial freedom and emotional peace are worth more than any ‘stuff’ there is.

Have you ever felt guilt or shame about your finances? How did you cope with it?

July 4

Happy Independence Day!

imageAs we celebrate America’s day of Independence, I can’t help but think of how great that other independence is. Financial independence and freedom from debt can sometimes feel like a far-off dream, but it can be a reality if you just keep at it!

I am taking this day to enjoy spending time with my family and celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary with my lovely husband. For those who don’t know, he’s from England and I’m from Georgia, so our anniversary is a little ironic, don’t you think? 🙂

Have a wonderful Fourth of July! If you are reading this from another part of the world, I hope your dreams of financial independence come true, too! Or if you are facing another loss of freedom, I hope you find that independence soon, too. Sending love to all of you today!

Jess

June 23

Don’t Fall For the Poor Man’s Trap

file0001730089237When I was growing up, my grandmother used to buy items from a particular catalog. I won’t name the company, but it’s one of many that operate in a similarly sly fashion. It offers popular items for only a few dollars each month, making it ‘affordable’ for everyone to have the latest in technology or fashions.

You can conveniently finance with them at ‘competitive’ interest rates somewhere in the 30% APR area over several years, making payments of twenty or thirty dollars a month on some high-end items. For example, if you want to buy your kid that $400 Apple iPad 2 (16gb) but can’t afford to shell out that much cash at once, you can just make payments of $47 each month. Sounds great, right?

Look at the small print. You are not paying $400 for an iPad 2; you are actually paying $570 for it. By the time you’ve paid it off, there will have been several newer, better, and probably cheaper versions available to you. Some of you will be shocked…but a lot of you won’t be. You’ll say to me, ‘Well, Jessica, how do you propose I afford to pay $400 all at once on something my kid needs for school/work/to watch YouTube videos? Some people just don’t have that kind of money lying around’.

I get that. I don’t always have that kind of money lying around. So, I don’t always get the latest and greatest technology. I have been known to finance things that I need, and while it’s never the best way to pay for something, it has helped in a pinch. I get that, I really do. But, what I don’t get is how people are willing to let themselves be ripped off because they feel like they can’t do any better.

It’s not just the catalogs, either. There are rent-to-own shops on every corner in my hometown, and across the street from those are the payday lenders. You know the ones; they all have big neon signs that say ‘No Credit, No Problem!’ They are more than happy to sell to you or lend to you even if your credit score is low because they are making a HUGE profit from your inability to wait patiently and save up to buy the things you want. They are the Poor Man’s trap—the financial and psychological trap we fall into when we aren’t willing or able to save and pay cash for these items.

Low credit scores prevent you from getting access to credit with low interest rates. This means you pay more for money you borrow, including when you apply for credit cards. But, here’s the thing: credit scores and interest rates are just numbers, and if you don’t have that mountain of debt sitting on your chest, those numbers won’t look so important to you.

If you are debt free, you won’t have to use all your hard earned money to pay your bills. You’ll have plenty left over to ‘play’ with, and you’ll be able to buy the things you want as well as the things you need. Every time you force yourself to save up for something expensive and avoid using these rip-off merchants you are strengthening more than your resolve to become debt free. You are telling yourself that you deserve to be happy and financially in control, and that is a powerful thing.

June 12

5 Ways to Get Out of Debt Faster

google erase debt

Debt can be crippling. The worries and strain that accompany being in debt are bad for your health, bad for your mental state and bad for your relationships. Don’t let debt make you sick; use these tips to get out of debt quicker and get back on the road to personal financial independence.

Budget

If you don’t have a plan for your money, you may as well plan on kissing your money goodbye. You cannot hope to get out of debt if you are always struggling to pay bills, feed the family and run a household. Even a simple budget that details your income and your bills is a start, but you really need to work up to a detailed plan so you know where every single dollar is going. Then, you can squeeze out the extra dollars that are sneaking away on unnecessary expenses and put them into paying down debt faster.

Make a plan

Paying an extra five dollars on every single credit card payment sounds like a great idea, but in reality it doesn’t get you anywhere. If you pay an extra $5 on each of six credit cards, you are barely reducing the amount of interest that you are paying on each one, literally just by pennies. Instead, take all thirty dollars and pay it on one credit card, in addition to the minimum payment, and the results will be much more impressive. Pick the debt with the lowest balance so you can pay it off quicker and build up some momentum, and some pride in yourself for paying off a bill!

Stop spending

This sounds like a no brainer, but surprisingly people just don’t get that it’s not going to help you get out of debt if you continue to spend money, especially if you are spending money on credit cards. Don’t be tempted to pay one bill with a credit card in order to use the money to pay off another debt. This almost never benefits you because a zero balance will eventually become too tempting and you’ll re-spend on that card that you just paid off. Stick to your guns and stop the spending to get debt free faster.

Automate your bills

This can help you if you have a problem paying bills on time and are incurring massive late fees, especially with credit cards. Having the payment drafted from your bank account automatically means no more forgotten payments or late fees, but you need to make sure the money is going to be in the bank when the payment is due, or you could face overdraft fees from your bank.

Consider consolidation

I hesitate to recommend this, but for some people it can be a good way to get out of debt faster. The only caveat is that you need to be super full of self-control so that you don’t borrow the money to clear all your credit card or loan debt and have one monthly payment, only to turn around in six months’ time and run up debt on those same cards again by using the same bad money management skills and making the same poor choices with your finances.

Remember, there are no ‘quick fixes’ when it comes to getting out of debt. It probably took you years to get into debt, and it will take a while to get out, but it can be done if you are patient and learn to make good financial decisions.