My First Side Hustle

In the in-between time of being a banker and a preschool teacher I knew that I needed to bring in some extra income. I was frantically searching for a job I would enjoy and wasn’t content to fall into something like sales, credit specialist, or collections! At that point I didn’t really care what I did to bring in some money as long as it was legal and fast. I wasn’t having any luck until I stumbled upon the opportunity to clean houses for $20/hr. I picked up one gig a week and brought home $40 in cash. Excitedly I called my friend to tell her my good fortune and was met with “I could never clean somebody else’s toilets”. What?! I remember being stunned into silence but thinking that I would rather clean toilets all day than go back to the bank.

It’s been almost seven years since I left the bank and I’m still cleaning other people’s toilets and, you know what? It’s awesome. I’m serious – I get to set my own hours, listen to whatever music I want (or not, if it’s been particularly crazy at work), and make good money. I’m now involved in even more side hustles than just cleaning houses, but the process for success is the same. Let’s call these the:

Successful Side Hustle Tips and Tricks

Brand yourself – Even though I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing floors I make sure that I’m dressed appropriately. Some clients will hand over their keys and let you enter their homes when they’re not around, but others prefer to be there. Nothing screams “amateur” louder than looking like you’re in your pjs or ready for a day at the beach when you show up for work.

Know your worth – Around here it’s common to make $20-$30/hr cleaning, depending on who provides supplies and how last minute the job is. Crazily though, I see listings on local job boards all the time for people offering to clean at a rate of $10/hr. Not only are they selling themselves short, but it makes it more difficult for others to get a higher rate. Know your value and don’t accept less.

Follow through – Be at work when you say you will and do what you’ve promised to do! This seems like a no-brainer, but clients are paying good money for you to do what you’ve agreed to do. Sickness or family emergencies are good reasons to call in, but “it’s 65 degrees in the middle of February and I really want to go to the park!”, not so much.

Follow up – If the client isn’t staying home the first few times I clean I like to call in the evening to touch base and make sure that I did everything they expected. It’s a simple thing to do but makes a wonderful impression that you care and are in it for more than just the money.

Fess up – Every person I know (including me!) who cleans houses has broken something before. There’s the sickest feeling when you realize what you’ve done and are stuck staring at something chipped, shattered, or snapped. The only thing to do in this case is to call the client and be upfront and honest. I’d rather tell them what happened and apologize before they found the broken item by themselves!

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These are just some ideas to help you become a better side-hustler. It’s such a blessing to be able to bring in some extra money for our family and I’m happy to help out however I can. Although I think of myself as a pretty accomplished side-hustler the queen of the side hustle long before anyone hustling now was my grandmother.

She had four daughters under the age of four (hello, surprise twins), a husband who worked crazy shifts at the Duke plant, only one bathroom, and a need for extra money. At night when the kids were all in bed and her husband had trucked off to work she ironed dress shirts for money. At .10 a shirt and averaging 3 minutes to iron each one she would bring in a whopping $2.00 if she worked nonstop for an hour. Makes cleaning toilets for $20.00 an hour seem like a dream, doesn’t it?

So here’s to all the side hustlers – past and present! We’re a group of people not afraid to do the weird and the dirty – as long as you pay us.

 

Radical Good News

Have you heard the good news about one? No? Well, here it is. One is enough.

I know, I know! It’s weird and it rails against everything that our current culture is trying to convince us of. It goes hand-in-hand with the news that you are enough, but we’ll get into that another time. Right now it might be tricky to accept that one is enough.

One what? One car! One mortgage! One kid!

Oh, I’m sure that last one got your attention, but let’s start at the beginning here. We sold our second car after I quit my banking job so that we wouldn’t have to pay for insurance on it. There was no car loan attached to it, so having it sitting in our driveway wasn’t hurting anything, exactly, but it wasn’t helping us in any way either. We put minimal gas in it since we rarely drove it, but when we went from two incomes to one, things needed to change. And fast.

So we sold it! And it was awesome and suddenly we only had to pay insurance for one car and that was really, really nice.

I’m sure most people out there are in the same boat we are of having to have a mortgage. Unfortunately we didn’t have the cash on hand to buy our house outright (hopefully next time!) so we pay monthly for our home. As normal and accepted as this is it really stinks! The worst part of it is that many people have not one mortgage, but two – the second in the form of either a traditional mortgage or a home equity line/loan.

When I was in banking we were strongly encouraged to make a lot of HELOCs (home equity line/loans). They’re fast, easy, and have a wonderful collateral in your home. Also – the rates on home equity lines are variable and nothing is better for the bank than the ability to raise rates on money owed to them. Anyway, a lot of people who applied for and received these loans weren’t using the money for life or death situations. They were financing boats, vacations, additions to their homes, or even things like motor homes. In fact, we were encouraged to ask customers if they had any interest in updating their homes. If they did, boom, sounds like you need a HELOC.

No, no you don’t. I’m here to tell you that I think a second mortgage of any kind is not a great idea. Oh, sure, there are arguments for them and wonderful reasons that you might really need the money, but because you want a bigger kitchen? Or to go to Hawaii? Let’s all take a deep breath and think about it.

Ok, now for the doozy. I’m convinced, as are some other like-minded people, that having one kid is fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. It’s awesome!

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The end.

No, I’m kidding. I do want to delve deeper into this in another post though, so here’s the skinny of it.

Only having one child is not for everybody and, in fact, isn’t always an easy decision. But now, with C almost 5, I want to tell you that it’s pretty nice. Even though she was not an easy baby it was very hard for me to give up on my dream that I’d always had of having multiple children. (My body giving out was part of the reason we don’t have a second child, but we could have pushed through that with medical intervention.) I remember talking to Bruce when C was almost two and getting him on board with having another kid. Even then there was a small voice in the back of my head questioning if that was the right decision for our family, but in true bullheaded fashion I plunged ahead.

Although we live below our means and hope to not spend nearly as much money raising C as common thought assumes we will (around 250K plus college!) kids are still expensive. They cost money and they cost time. This fall C will go to kindergarten so we won’t have her preschool bill to pay, but there’s still insurance and food. We hopped onto a hand-me-down train as fast as we could and have spent a grand total of under $50 on clothes for her this far, but not everybody is as lucky.

Having one child means funding one college account. It means the occasional meal out and spur-of-the-moment trips to get ice cream. Most importantly, it means undivided attention and the knowledge of a secure future for her.

Is one enough for you? That’s the question you’ll have to ask yourself. Dig deep. Convention screams at us everyday that more is better and that more will make you happier. Challenge that assumption. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. I feel like people are moving away from the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and it makes me so happy to see. Find your happy and live it.

Today’s Grace

I have found that – as much as I adore my to-do list – I tend to give it enough power to dictate the mood of my day. I love seeing little x’s next to each of my tasks and find an incredible sense of relief and accomplishment at the end of each day when I have completed all of the “necessary” things.

So what happens when I don’t?

Yesterday was the kind of perfect day that seems to only come around once in a while. C and I spent hours outside together. We ran around, picked flowers, weeded, and played Eye Spy while watching the clouds go by. She swang, rode her tricycle and scooter and sang while I weeded (some more. This time with a glass of wine while I did it.). For part of the time though, I knew that the laundry was about to be done. It was the last thing on my to-do list and I really wanted to put an x next to it before Bruce got home.

Our dryer is in the garage and I heard it buzz right as C asked me to watch how fast she could ride her tricycle up the hill. I paused. On one hand I really wanted to check off my final task. On the other…

I gave myself grace yesterday by leaving a basket full of clean laundry sitting by the dining room table. And what did I find this morning? It hadn’t moved, and neither did the world fall apart. Life kept on just as it had – or perhaps even better. Bruce came home, we ate dinner and tucked C into bed. I walked past the overflowing basket no fewer than a dozen times last night and didn’t bat an eye.

We need to give ourselves the gift of grace every single day. Every interaction you have with another person is a chance to show them grace, forgiveness, and love. What I sometimes forget (and maybe you do, too) is that I need to show myself the same compassion that I am happy to show others. Unfolded laundry will not ruin the day. Nobody is perfect, and leaving a basket of clothes to do another day does not reflect on who I am as a person. I would never be angry with Bruce for choosing to play with C over folding underwear and I need to give myself the same respect and compassion.

This, of course, is easier said than done. But I would bet that in the course of an average day everyone has the chance to give themselves grace more than once. I challenge you, and myself, to accept the grace offered. Let the laundry wait. Serve brinner instead of a fancy meal if you just can’t cook anymore. Paint your toenails and take a bubble bath. Take care of yourself and treat yourself how you’d treat others (the new Golden Rule).

Kids: Less Stuff, More Time

Disclaimer: I won’t pretend for one moment to be an expert on children. We have one daughter and I have worked as a preschool teacher for six years and I still definitely have not seen it all. With that in mind I’ll tell you something that works pretty well for us: the great outdoors.

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It seems like every day I’m bombarded with information about what I should be doing with C. This comes, for the most part, from well-meaning parents at work or church. Karate? Art? Swimming? T-ball? Preschool time at the library? What do you mean there are days you don’t leave the house during the summer? What do you do with C?

Phew. What do I do with C? Well, we read, paint, snuggle, and build. Then we bake, play outside, ride bikes, and run. C loves to exercise with me and chase the dogs around the back yard. Last summer she perfected climbing our giant mountain laurel. She helps plant potatoes, weed, and pick vegetables and fruit. We love to can and dehydrate and she’s in the thick of it. When it’s raining she’ll throw on boots and grab her umbrella and go find huge puddles. There is nothing wrong with structured activities. When C gets older I’m planning on giving her piano lessons. But not yet. She’s 4.

Some of my fondest memories growing up were taking the dog and heading out into the woods behind our house for a few hours. The only rule was that if my parents called my name I’d better come running.

So we instituted this same rule with C. She knows that she’s free to spend all afternoon stalking birds, digging holes, and climbing trees as long as she comes when we called. We always send a dog (or two!) out with her and keep an eye on them from either the window or the garden. The best thing we’ve done since buying this house was having a fence put up. It was expensive but worth the peace of mind.

Unfortunately, the amounts of toys and activities that a child has seem to be the new measure of their happiness. This morning we’re going to a birthday party for one of C’s friends. To prepare her for the inevitable present-opening envy we had the “stuff” discussion. The gist of it is this: Your friend will be opening a lot of gifts today. I know that they will look really cool and you might want them, but don’t envy his gifts. Do you need anything? Do you want anything?

She answered “no” to both of those questions. Now, whether or not she remembers her cool-headed answers in the excitement of the party remains to be seen. (She sure didn’t when she was picking out a gift for her friend and wanted one too because it is so cool and I don’t have one what do you mean it’s not my birthday??) But Bruce and I both believe that kids don’t need as much stuff as everyone thinks they do. Rather, they need time. Time outside, time to play by themselves, and time with people who love them.

In C’s world she sees all the new shiny things her friends have – backpacks, lunchboxes, Frozen gummies – and she has to struggle with being happy for her friends while at the same time being grateful for what she has. This is difficult! As an adult it’s also easy to have a pang of envy over friends’ new toys – the Xbox One, a fast car, the whirlwind trip – but we have the benefit of understand that our financial goals are more important than keeping up with the Joneses.

Gratitude is something that both Bruce and I both practice every day, and it’s no different for kids. We like to talk about what she’s thankful for each day and about how blessed she is to have all the things she has – a house, food, a family who loves her, and – yes – toys. Is the process perfect? Not by far. But I think we’re making headway. And hopefully, when all is said and done, we’ll have a raised a child who values experiences over things and understands how amazing our world truly is.

Appreciating the Daily Things: An Ode to Our Roof

We had a tree fall on our house towards the end of December. We were in the middle of an awesome thunderstorm when suddenly the house shook more than usual with a crack of thunder. I woke Bruce up and we rushed outside with flashlights and found a tree. It had fallen on our roof, taken off the eaves along the whole side, and landed on the ground/fence/hose. Luckily nobody was hurt, but C did spend a handful of nights with my parents while we had her room dried out. (Three times. We had to have her room dried out three times!)

We had already been in the market for a new roof since our old one had sprung a few leaks, but the tree expedited the process. Thank goodness for good insurance, because a month later we were sitting pretty under a beautiful new roof.

We learned a few things during this time that amazed me – especially how much we took our old leaky roof for granted! I have never been more thankful than I am now that we live in a home with a solid roof over our head. Even before the tree fell when it was leaking, causing Bruce to climb up into the attic during every rain to adjust buckets and plastic sheets, we were still kept (mostly) dry. Looking back on the whole process (tears, wine, and wanting to shake our insurance company included) I learned a couple of really important things.

1 – It’s easy to get accustomed to less-than-steller conditions. C’s room had a massive stain on it and sagged for over a month while we waited to have it fixed. Our fence is still crushed as we try to get a reasonable quote on repairing it. We had insulation hanging from the ceiling during this whole time, and water poured in through that hole each time we had a hard rainstorm. At first, these were all eyesores and I grimaced every time I saw them. But, as time went on, I noticed them less and less. Suddenly I looked past them and they stopped bothering me as much. It’s amazing, as humans, how quickly we adapt. What I learned from this is to repair quickly! The longer things sit broken, messy, or out of place, the easier is is to allow them to stay that way.

2 – I am so, so glad to have a house that keeps us safe and dry. Admittedly, I’ve cringed during the last few wind/rain storms we’ve had – because I know how horrible the whole experience of getting your home fixed is – but not worrying about rain coming into our home? Awesome. Knowing that limbs may fall on our house but unless it’s a giant tree again nothing bad will happen? Such a blessing. The size and location of your home stop mattering as much as soon as you realize that the importance lies in its ability to keep you safe and dry.

3 – Having family nearby to help with a child is quite honestly one of the best things ever. Without my parents being happy to let C sleep at their house multiple nights we would have been setting up an air mattress in the living room and letting her sleep in our bed. Obviously this would not have been the end of the world, but in terms of comfort and familiarity, nothing beats grandma and grandpa. Looking back, returning to my hometown after college made sense at the time. I love the mountains, didn’t want to be in a big city, and was able to find a well-paying job. Now that we have C and are a little older I’m able to see how grateful and happy I am to have my parents nearby. Not only are they people too, but they’re really awesome.

I wouldn’t recommend waiting for a huge tree to fall on your home to practice gratitude for the often overlooked things (like a roof!) in your life. It’s amazing how, if we slow down and look around, we truly are surrounded by huge blessings.

The Catalyst for Homemade Bagels

May 14, 2010 I left my super-cushy job at the bank without another job lined up. Besides being a huge leap of faith it was the first major decision Bruce and I had made together since getting married. I was absolutely miserable, and by virtue of being my husband, so was Bruce.

Making the decision to leave the bank was easy, but executing it was a little more nail-biting. I was unable to find a suitable job for after I left the bank. Options like collections and sales, although lucrative and available, were off the table. Why leave the bank to do exactly the things I hated?

Obviously our income took quite a hit when my paychecks stopped. We had been living large – meeting friends at favorite restaurants twice a week, grilling steaks just because, and not questioning online purchases. All of that came to a screeching halt in May and we had to quickly adjust our priorities. The adjustment period wasn’t as difficult as expected. We were both sold on the idea of me working a job that I loved that we were able to meet dealing with a huge income cut together.

There were a few main areas that we attacked in order to save some serious money. First, we looked at our outrageous cell phone bill. I’m embarrassed to say that we both really wanted Droids and we were willing to pay out the nose for them – to the tune of $160/month. Now I’m a huge fan of Verizon’s pay-as-you-go plan and my bill is under $50. We’re lucky that Bruce is able to have a work phone, but if he wasn’t I’m sure he’d be using a burner like me.We also sold our second car. With me not working that summer and then taking a part time job as a preschool teacher we were able to make this work easily. Again, we were blessed that Bruce has a work vehicle. The amount of money we saved on car insurance would be worth any hassle that was created by only having one car.

Next we attacked our food budget and we went from eating out whenever the mood hit us to a meal plan and tight budget. This was one of the areas that we were able to make a big impact and it was exciting to see the numbers drop each month until they stabilized where they are now. The last major change for us was to stop playing with the thermostat! Seriously, there are stats all over the internet about how much money can be saved by setting it a degree or two higher in the summer and lower in the winter, and they are true. Sweaters are a one-time purchase, and nothing beats snuggling under blankets while watching a movie in the dead of the winter.

By cutting these four areas we were able to save a ton of money, and we were pushed outside of our normal comfort zones. I have always loved to cook and bake but never really had the time when I was working at the bank. Now that I teach preschool I’m able to spend a lot more time in the kitchen. This is not only good for our budget but also for our health! I stopped buying any sort of bread at the store a while ago and love that I know exactly what ingredients go into C’s food. One of her favorite things to wake up to in the morning is fresh bagels with homemade apple jelly.

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Homemade Bagels

1/2 T yeast

1/2-1 T brown sugar, plus 1 T for boiling

3/4 C warm water

2 C flour

1 T salt

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and proof yeast. In the bowl of a mixer add flour and salt and mix for 10 minutes, scraping down hook as necessary. Let rise in greased and covered bowl on counter for 1 1/2 hours, or in fridge overnight. When ready, form into 4-6 bagels and rest under tea towel while you bring water and extra brown sugar to a gentle boil. Add bagels in batches, cooking for 2 minutes on one side and then 1 minute on the other. Bake in preheated oven at 425 for 25-30 minutes.

Although they only have to rise on the counter for 1 1/2 hours, putting them together the night before and then boiling and baking them in the morning means fresh bagels for everyone!

Working at the bank was not all bad. I made enough money to be able to afford buying a house by myself at 23, met Bruce, and learned what truly makes me happy in a job. Quitting it however, pushed me to find a job I love, gave me time to explore other interests (including lots of time with C!), and pushed me to learn how to make homemade bagels. Worth it? Totally.

Why I Don’t Believe in Guilty Pleasures

Let me back up and start by saying that I fully condone taking part in what some people might consider guilty pleasures. Things like binge-watching Gilmore Girls is ok by me. I also fully support drinking way too much tea (obviously), lacy undies (if that’s your thing), and skipping work on really really nice days. I don’t, however, agree with self-destructive actions like drinking to excess, smoking around kids, and drug use. Sorry.

I like what I like and I don’t want to apologize for it. Our days are spent doing things we have to do – work, laundry, making dinner, paying taxes. So when I find something I truly enjoy I’m going to take part in it completely. I will eat the last piece of Valentine’s Day candy at 4:30 in the morning while my tea steeps and everyone else is asleep. I’ll do it, I’ll enjoy it, and I won’t feel a moment of guilt or regret over it. And yes, that happened this morning and it was a great start to the day.

It’s so sad that we feel pressured by others to hide what we really enjoy so that we feel like we can fit in. I think that this need to be fulfilled by others fuels consumerism and judgmental lifestyles. Like I wrote about in my last post I really want to break away from that way of living. I want to spend my days doing things I truly enjoy, even if that’s not what is considered  normal or cool. I honestly can’t remember the last time I went clothes shopping and I’m ok with that. Whenever I do need to replace an item I head to goodwill instead of the mall. I have to have clothes, but they don’t have to be brand new or expensive.

In the spirit of being who we really are here’s a list of my top 10 guilty pleasures:

1- Reba McEntire – This girl is awesome. I crank her up when she comes on the radio and now I vow not to turn her down the next time I pull up next to someone at a red light.

2- Cook-Out – Where else do you know that you can get an order of chicken nuggets with a side of chicken nuggets? Nowhere, I’d wager. This is fabulous food.

3 – Wearing my pjs all day on snow days – Snow days are THE BEST. As the only teacher in a family full of professionals I often feel a stab of guilt when I shower and put on my day pjs. No more. Snow days don’t happen nearly enough and they make up for all the bodily fluids I get on me in a day.

4 – Shower wine – OK, this is not something that happens very often. But it should.

5 – Peppermint Mochas – From Starbucks, of course. They come around once a year and I always feel like the people in the store are judging me and my gift cards I use to buy them. What, you think I’m paying out of pocket?

6- Naps – I don’t do this very much in the winter, but when summer break is here and C and I have played outside all morning you best believe this is going to happen. Extra pleasure points for naps in hammocks.

7 – Talenti Gelato with C and my mom – This is a cross-generational pleasure and the best it can get. We’ll buy a pint of gelato and sit on the sofa together with three spoons. The best part? No dirty bowls.

8 – Period dramas like Reign and The Tudors – Something about the outfits and the accents make me keep pressing “next episode”.

9 – Craigslist “missed connections” – I’ll sit, happily married, next to Bruce on the sofa and giggle over these. I’ve actually seen one directed at a close friend before!

10 – Letting a dog on the couch with me – Letting the dogs on the furniture is frowned upon in our house, but sometimes Bruce is working at night and the snuggles are nice. Extra points for watching The Tudors while breaking the rules.

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Yes, I’m wearing pearls and long underwear at the same time. It must have been an interesting day.

So there’s my list of ten awesome things I really enjoy. Life is short. Enjoy it.