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side hustles

The Reason Why You Should Focus on Earning More

focus on earning moreWhen money feels tight, the first thought is to cut back on expenses. In fact, a lot of money saving articles and advice would mirror the sentiment. Do you need to save some money? Go look through your spending and see where you can cut back.

It’s good advice. A lot of people still don’t track their spending or have a set budget in place. There is usually always some department to cut back in. Food, eating out, shopping, and excessive subscriptions are the popular categories to look at.

I’m sure I could cut out my Netflix and Spotify subscriptions, but I’ve kinda got some killer playlists going on and need to finish watching that British show Lovesick.  Yeah, I use the $18 a month I would save by cutting them, but it gives me some entertainment.

With this said, you’re primary focus shouldn’t be on spending less.

Despite what negative comments on money articles would lead you to believe, your $11 a month Netflix subscription isn’t the reason you can’t get ahead with your finances.

Your focus should be on earning more.

Yes, I know, you’ve probably heard the words “side hustle” uttered several times. It’s become a buzzword nowadays. However, despite the trendiness it holds, at the end of the day, it is a very helpful thing to have.

This isn’t to say spending less and frugality aren’t helpful. They are. Frugality is a muscle you can develop over time in order to limit the amount of monetary baggage you carry. It helps you learn to value what’s important and what you can really afford.

It’s a necessary habit to have throughout life. But…it shouldn’t be your main focus.

Why? Well, because the world is an expensive place. Rents are going up constantly, house prices are bananas (and not the fun Gwen Stefani kind), and wage stagnation is alive and well. It’s a lot to take in and realize, but when you’re earning a tiny paycheck and putting half of it towards your closet size apartment, cutting back won’t give you the substantial gains you probably need.

A focus on earning more isn’t just for those earning a low income, it’s for everyone. The best thing you can do to hit your financial goals is to earn more.

Frugality Has a Limit

There are two ways to cut back. The first involves cutting out the nice-to-haves. The second way involves cutting out every non-essential thing and only focusing on the bare necessities (a.k.a. the joyless budget). Frugality articles tend to focus on the first way. Internet commenters and keyboard warriors seem to focus on the second.

Either way, there comes a point when you can’t cut back anymore.

Freeing up $100 a month extra in your monthly spending can be great, but what if you have a gigantic student loan payment to make every month. How would you be able to meet that and save for your other goals like travel, retirement, wedding, or a home down payment?

Being frugal is helpful in making you mindful of your spending, but it won’t help a lot if you’re looking to work towards several savings goals and grow your wealth.

Earning More Gives You Options

If you’ve ever played any sort of video game, you would know that you get several lives for your character. So if some disastrous event happens and you get depleted, you can use another one of your lives.

Too bad life isn’t like that. Although having a side hustle can get you semi close to that feeling.

Earning more money could provide a sense of financial relief that cutting back probably would never be able to provide.

According to a 2017 study by Bankrate, 57% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. For young millennials ages 18-24, 67% have less than $1,000 in savings.

The statistics are bad but not surprising. Saving money is hard. It can be done, but what happens if you have several financial goals to hit and don’t make enough to contribute to all of them?

If you were to lose your job, have your car break down, or have an unexpected expense pop up, a few different things could play out. You could use your big emergency fund to help tide you over or you have a panic attack., scrambling to figure out how to cover your expenses.

Ideally, a big emergency fund would be great. You would have the recommended three to six months of expenses in it. Handling unexpected expenses would be okay.

The problem is fully funded emergency funds take awhile to build. I’m talking months or years to get them to full capacity.

A side hustle can give you an additional income stream to use for when you don’t have a fully funded emergency fund or enough income from your main job to reach your goals.

It Teaches You Valuable Skills

Probably the best thing that comes from having a side hustle is the skills you learn from doing it. I’ve learned more about selling, pitching myself, and being confident in my skill set with freelancing that I have ever gotten from any traditional job I’ve worked.

The two things I’m doing right now, blogging and freelance writing, have allowed me to learn a lot. Content marketing, and how to approach it at different angles, has been a skill I’ve grown from doing freelance writing. Putting together graphics for posts and Pinterest has taught me more about graphic design (although I’m still very bad at it, haha).

Changing things around on my site and WordPress theme has made me better at understanding WordPress as a content management system.

Simply put, you can learn a lot from having a side hustle. A focus on earning more, rather than cutting out everything from your spending, can have a greater benefit than the obvious one of earning more.

Earning that first bit of money, outside of a traditional job, gives you an awesome feeling.

Bottom line

Frugality has its place but overall, the earning more side of the equation can yield some pretty good benefits.

You’re able to test out entrepreneurship in a low-risk setting, diversify your income, and learn more about how to position yourself as someone with value to bring.

What do you focus on more? Cutting back or earning more? What benefits do you think a side hustle provides?

Travel, Survival Jobs, and Life in Transition

constant in life australia backpacker travel

At the start of this year, I found myself sitting at my desk in a humid filled room. It was the morning time and the school forbade us from turning on the air conditioning until 8:30 a.m.

I had been living in Thailand for nearly a year at that point. My pay was small but paired with the low cost of living, it evened out.

Eager to finish paying off the rest of my student loans, I picked up a part-time job tutoring and started to work seven days a week. With expenses being low, I was able to put a good portion of my income towards debt every month.

When I did get free time, I traveled to new places. I went all over Thailand, seeing new islands and exploring places like the edge of the world. Malaysia and Myanmar followed suit, getting to explore new temples and cuisine.

The only problem was things didn’t feel stable. I was in a transitionary period of my life. There was the shaky thought of if I moved a little too much, things would be pulled out from under me and I wouldn’t have anything.

I knew I didn’t want to teach English forever and ever, but I didn’t really know what was next. Neither did anyone else I worked with at the school. Every one of us, ages ranging from 21 (me at the time) to 34. Most of us didn’t know what we wanted to do. Not just with our careers but our lifestyles.

Finding a Constant In Daily Life

Eager for something of a constant to hold onto, I continued to write and work on my blog. I had started just before leaving the states and wanted to use it to document my financial path and adventures.

The blog (this blog) became the thing I held onto whenever things changed. I held onto this site when I wasn’t sure where I was going to live next or what job was going to come.

A desire formed to want to work on it more. I bought one of those big fold up white tables from the supermarket for 1,278 baht ($38 USD) and used it as my workstation in my little apartment. Then I quit my part-time tutoring gig. Signing up at a co-working place, I started to commute into Bangkok on the weekends when I was off from my full-time job.

My teaching job had started to become something of a confusion. I liked the teaching but disliked everything else: the school system, co-workers, and questionable teaching standards. Every morning, I sat for half an hour in the humid, no air conditioning teaching lounge and contemplated what I wanted to do.

I loved to travel but yearned for the routine. I wanted to go around the globe yet stay in the states full time. Everything clashed against one another and it was confusing.

The First FinCon Went By in a Blur

This confusion carried over into the states when I visited back in September 2016 to attend my very first FinCon. People would ask me what my blog was about and I would look at them with the vague expressed of “uhhh…personal finance?” I didn’t know what my main focus was.

The whole conference went by in a blur. I went back to Thailand not sure what to make of it and not convinced I would go back again.

Things changed again a few months later while in Thailand. I ended my contract with my full-time teaching job without another job lined up. My mind had been in Australia for a while and I had applied and gotten a 12-month working holiday visa the month prior.

Moving to Australia With No Plan

In April, with a body filled to the brim with nerves, I hopped on a plane and took the 21-hour journey to Sydney, Australia. I arrived in the early hours of the morning, with a backpack, one duffel bag, and no job or anything lined up other than a three-night stay at a hostel.

Nothing was waiting for me and the next few months were blurry and confusing. I had left Thailand in March and didn’t get my first official job in Australia until June. Unemployed for three months, it wasn’t fun.

Well, for the most part, it wasn’t fun. I don’t think anyone would love the idea of living and sleeping in a 10 x 14 room with five other people. As a backpacker, you just make it work.

During the two months of hostel living, I met an assortment of people. A law student from France, a guy from Spain who liked to learn American slang, and even an Instagram famous woman! Maybe one day she’ll start promoting Fit Tea on the ‘gram? Who knows!

It was fun getting to meet a diverse group of people. All of them spoke about their love of travel and getting out to see the world. None of them liked the idea of sitting in an office for 8-10 hours a day.

It reminded me of my reason for moving abroad. I hadn’t done it as a way to “ditch the cubicle” considering that I didn’t even work in a cubicle or office. I had done it because I had always wanted to travel more long term.

Despite the varying reasons for being abroad, we all did what we had to do to afford the dream of travel. We worked our survival jobs, showing up every day and saving up as much as we could so the possibility of traveling for a few months afterward would be possible. We huddled together in the small hostel room, on our bunk beds, and recounted the day’s events.

I haven’t been tons of places but have been to several and noticed a common trend to all the travelers I talked with. Throughout it all, the late night drinks, the hours-long conversations about life, a realization came about. 

We Were All Just as Lost as the People Back Home

On Instagram and Facebook, our curated lives looked appealing. Shots of airplane wings and coconuts on the beach. The day to day showed a different story. Feelings of restlessness and anxious about the future. We were hopping from survival job to survival job in order to keep our ambitions afloat.

Thinking long-term was hard, it required exposing yourself and being uncomfortable. That’s the feeling I had when had attended FinCon16. A restless feeling of being uncomfortable.

Drifting and living in the moment was the focus for so many of us traveling. Of all the people, a big thing I noticed was a lack of some sort of constant in their day to day lives. They didn’t have anything to hold onto whenever any change or uncertainty happened. 

One day, while sitting in a street-side restaurant in Thailand, I was stressed about finishing the school year without another job lined up. I didn’t know what to do and the thought of it was eating away at me.

“Well at least you have your blog and your writing,” a friend/co-worker of mine said. “I have nothing” she added.

That has stuck with me for two reasons. The first reason being that she thought she had nothing to go back to (which I later found out was a fear of not getting a job back in the states).  The second reason being I had never really known how much an impact my blog had on me until recently. For the longest time, I treated it as a hobby that I was just really gung-ho about. Now, it’s possible that it was more than that.

My blog has been the constant in my life over the past 1.5 years of moving around. It’s what has gotten me out of bed in the morning. It fills my thoughts when I go to bed.

I don’t dream and think about sitting at a computer alone, typing words into a screen. I think about sharing stories and information. Hearing what others are doing and making.

My work contract in Australia ended right before I came to FinCon17. It was a blow to the stomach. If it had happened a year ago, I would have been completely lost, which is what I felt when I attended FinCon16.

However, I didn’t lose all sense of myself once I walked out for the last time from that job. For the last few months, I had been working on other things and slowly building up a sense of myself.

A Better FinCon Experience

When I attended FinCon17, as a newly minted unemployed person, I felt recharged. I had my blog and I had been freelance writing for several months at that point.

At the present moment, I’m sitting in Texas. My freelance writing side hustle is growing from all the contacts I got while at the FinCon freelancers marketplace. I’m focusing more on my blog.

I’m still not sure if I’ll make this a full-time gig, but I’m exploring my options and applying for jobs all over. I may go back to Australia and do another work holiday stint. Not totally sure.

All I know for sure is without these two things, my blog and my side hustle, I would feel a lot more uncomfortable and restless.

Simply getting started, on my blog and my side hustle, and learning to be okay with the uncomfort that came with it, has allowed me to build a constant in my life as I go through these transitions. A life in progress, as you could call it.

I could have just not started it all. I could have stayed for years and years in my safe, but dull, teaching job in Thailand. Many others have.  Although at the end of the day, I knew it was the right choice to leave. It’s what allowed me to experience Australia. And leaving Australia is what allowed me to experience the ultimately great and far less uncomfortable FinCon17.

Let’s see what’s next to come.

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” – Abraham Maslow

The Best Unpaid Internship There Ever Was

From doing this blog, I've learned a lot about how to manage my time and unexpectedly learned more about digital marketing topics. It’s safe to say this little blog has been the best unpaid internship I’ve ever had. No coffee runs required. :)
Old Bagan, Myanmar (when I visited in December 2016)

I first learned about the unruly thing that is known as unpaid internships back when I was in university. My major was in the media department and I quickly learned that many internships in the media industry were, and still are, unpaid.

Usually, companies try to dress it up as something more than it is. The position involves gaining valuable experience! You can build your portfolio and get exposure!

Well, you know what happens when people get a lot of exposure? They die. Just ask the sun.

As part of a university graduation requirement, I had to complete an internship. The one-hour credit cost $300. Factoring in the cost of gas to get to and from an internship and a student would literally be paying several hundreds of dollars just to do an unpaid internship.

It was dumb. I praised the internship gods when I finally got a good-paying internship during my final semester of university. I let out a sigh of relief, thinking unpaid internships were a blip in my past.

Well, how life surprises you! I’ve been working an unpaid internship in addition to my full-time job for the past year and I’ve actually liked it! The unpaid internship? Blogging.

I spent a little time gathering up all the costs I’ve put into this blog over the past year it’s been up.


There appears to be two main options when it comes to starting a blog: self-hosted WordPress or Squarespace. I’m on self-hosted WordPress. Lots of people rave about the benefits of it. It is great but the main reason I use it is because I’m familiar with it, haha. I used it a lot during a course I had at university and it just stuck to me. 

For nearly the first year of this blog, I used Bluehost as my web host. There are people who rave about Bluehost and many more people who talk about how crappy it is. Well, I had a 3-year hosting plan back from when I signed up years ago when I started building websites. Maybe I was lucky, but I didn’t have too much trouble with Bluehost during my time with them. 

I switched away since Bluehost didn’t seem like the type of service I could grow with. Siteground was hosting a Black Friday deal and I hopped on it. $66 for one year of hosting!

Plugins and icons and themes

I LOVE Creative Market. Gah, I’m obsessed with browsing the site. They offer six free goods starting on Monday every week. I’ve purchased some icons from the site and also got the Social Warfare plugin, which I love. Total cost for plugins, icons, and WordPress themes came to $92.30.


I rocked the free Mailchimp account for the longest. A couple months ago, I opted for the $10 plan to get the automation feature. Boardbooster is the scheduler tool I use for Pinterest.

Professional Development

Ah, this is always a big expense, isn’t it? Maybe not always. For me, it has been. Mainly because I decided to go to FinCon in September of last year, after unexpectedly winning one of the scholarships for a free pass. Even with the free pass, I still spent quite a bit. It was all worth it though for the bomb-digity people I got to meet. (and I’m sorry, but geez, I do not like the Ally bank cookies. Waaaay too sugary. The people who have gone to FinCon will know what I’m talking about. Almost everyone who goes loves the Ally Bank cookies. 

As for courses and such, on Black Friday 2016, I purchased a bump sale course special and got a bunch of courses from Made Vibrant and Jason Does Stuff for a low as heck price. And I’ve actually gone through two of the courses and put them into practice! Yay for actually using stuff! The cost for professional development came to $966.18 (most of the cost being FinCon).

Altogether, the total cost for running my blog for the first year came to $1,264.48 USD. A lot, yeah. It’s all been worth it, though. While I haven’t made any actual money from the blog itself, I have had opportunities pop up for things. And I love the personal finance blogger community!

I love reading stories about how people learn about money, how their blogs changed their lives, and such. People talk about how the personal finance space can be an echo chamber sometimes (have you read the 1,000,001 articles on emergency funds?). I can see how people say that but for the most part, I love reading people’s unique way they approach their money and how they use it for the life they want. 

From doing this blog, I’ve learned a lot about how to manage my time and unexpectedly learned more about digital marketing topics.

It’s safe to say this little blog has been the best unpaid internship I’ve ever had. No coffee runs required. 🙂 

What do you think of blogs? How can they help people? 

Hold On Or Let Go?

Hold on or let go? Choosing the quick cash vs. the slow burning route

Life has felt a lot more relaxed lately. In the past month I’ve had several free weekends and they have been glorious. There is less of a rushed mindset and it all has to do with quitting my side job.

My main side job for the past several months has been English tutoring. I worked at a language center teaching classes of 2-6 kids. It was fun but the workload started to really take a toll on me. You know, the kind of toll where even getting up to eat food is a chore. 🙂 

A bit of a background on this. In Thailand there are three main ways parents have their kids learn English. The first is to have them go to a school where there are English teachers that teach them 2-4 hours per week. This is the most common scenario. The second option is to sent them to a fancy school that has a dedicated English program where they get the majority of their lessons taught in English. This is a pricey option that requires a semester tuition payment. The third option is to send kids to an evening and/or weekend language center where they learn English in a small group for two hours per week. A lot of English learning Thai kids have a combination of options one and three.

The school I teach at for my full-time job has a dedicated English program where most lessons are instructed in English. They also have lessons in Thai and two Chinese classes.

My school pays a very good salary in comparison to many other schools, so I feel lucky. But I knew that in order to save up some more money and also pay down more debt, I would need to pick up additional work. Enter tutoring and various side hustles.

In terms of side hustles, I have done some basic design and website management work for people.  It hasn’t been a lot but it was something.

Tutoring, the other extra money making endeavor, is one I originally only did two classes per week of. The language center I worked at was new and I was one of only two teachers. I liked the classes I taught. Very quickly as more students started to enroll, my boss gave me more classes. I was excited at first! More money!

New students and classes kept pouring in and my tutoring paychecks started to become a very good sized amount. There was just one problem: I never had any time off.

Mondays through Fridays during the day I would work at my full-time job. Then on Mondays and Wednesday nights I would have private classes at the language center. On Tuesdays and Thursday nights I would do blog work. Over the weekend I would work up to 14 hours tutoring several classes.

Let me tell you, hearing 3-6-year-olds screaming and jumping around for several hours a day really makes you think about whether you want to have kids or not. I would always be super worn out. On Sunday nights I would come back to my apartment, climb into my bed, and try to write while sighing every few minutes. When Mondays rolled around, I had to do it all again for my full-time job.

I felt constantly “on” all the time and it was so draining.

I wanted to quit and work less hours but I kept thinking about building up my savings and paying off debt. How bad do I want it?

I’m still currently in debt (only student loans) there isn’t a ton left on them but I do want them gone as fast as possible. The question I ask myself is How fast do I want to pay them off while still having some sort of life?

Working 7 days a week is good in the short term but it isn’t sustainable. Eventually, a crash will happen. Last month I finally quit my language center tutoring job. It was difficult to do but I knew it needed to happen.

I was at a crossroads for a while deciding whether to hold on or let go. Did I want quick cash or the chance to really build something I liked (which is this blog). 

Is it better to chase quick cash or go the slow burning route? For me, I want the latter. Doing a quick cash side hustle is fine if you’re main purpose for the money is to pay off debt or ramp up savings. However, if you want to build something that allows you to learn new and practice new skills and satisfy your personal development, choose the slow burning route.

Which one would you choose? 

Is The Millennial Bootstrapping Narrative a Good Thing?

Is struggle and underpayment a necessary thing before success? The millennial bootstrapping narrative may have downsides. Click through to read.

Everyone loves a good rising of the ranks story. Individuals who have worked hard, put in the earlier mornings, caffeine-induced late nights and laborious 14 hour days. Success. We all want it in some way. We love reading tales and hearing anecdotes about it.

The stories of putting up with terrible bosses, dreaded working conditions, and fighting one’s way to the top (wherever that is). It’s inspiring. We feel connected to the stories because it feeds the scrappy bootstrapper mentality we crave but still seem to secretly hate.

Accepting responsibility of your personal situation, working hard, and not giving up no matter where you started from. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, as the saying goes.

In a tough love kind of way, this mindset is great. It instills a mindset in people to work hard and not give endless excuses. Accepting the cards dealt. Working up from where you are, with what you have.

But is the millennial bootstrapping narrative always a good thing?

The well-intended millennial bootstrapping advice inadvertently has a negative side: people underestimate their worth.

I sometimes get myself into a long session of reading those ubiquitous “What I wish I had known when I was younger” pieces. Many of them are really good (I love Oprah’s!).

A lot of those “advice to younger self” pieces are also very similar.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard when I was younger. 

Time’s a precious commodity. People look back on their life and think, “Maybe working those 14-hour days and/or juggling those three jobs wasn’t worth that much after all”.

What other option do you have other than hustling hard? When you’re making an entry-level salary and faced with multiple savings goals (paying down debt, saving for a house down payment, wedding, life investments, kids,etc), you have to find some way to reach them and often it isn’t sufficient with just a singular job.

I should have negotiated the salary at my first career job

People are told this over and over yet many still don’t negotiate. They’re afraid. Afraid of looking greedy and overindulgent. The millennial bootstrapping narrative has made them (especially creative industry types) believe that struggle is somehow a prerequisite for success.

That unpaid internship? Gotta pay your dues. The shockingly low salary? Gotta start somewhere.

A funny thing happened when I graduated college. I, and several other people in my public relations program, talked about how salaries were either stagnant or falling for entry-level account coordinators. Employers were paying well below the typical rate for the job and adding “need 2-3 years experience, internships don’t count” to the job descriptions.

All of us discussed salary negotiation tips to make sure we were would be compensated fairly upon taking a job offer. You wanna know what happened? Several of us encountered older adults (and even some people our age!) saying we were greedy for trying to ask for more money and that we should have just taken what is offered because “every has to start somewhere and pay their dues” (there goes that infamous saying! 🙂 ).

I shouldn’t have worried so much about what other people thought

Did you read the bitter differing perspectives of starting out by a former Yelp employee and the rebuttal from another millennial? Millennials feel scared into not saying anything for fear of being judged or labeled as entitled and privileged.

They dismiss their self-worth and strictly follow the perspective with least resistance.

Dealing with hostile work conditions, accepting a pay rate without negotiating, and staying silent about your problems is all wrapped up with the idea of “paying your dues”.

With its negative side effects, the narrative is still rooted in a good-hearted manner.

The millennial bootstrapping narrative is a good mindset to have when you’re trying to avoid spending triggers and push away pesky distractions. I mean, do you really need to ‘keep up’ with the Kardashians or see who got the rose on The Bachelor? If that activity is disrupting a potential for further reaching your goals, then it needs to go. It can be good to flex your resourcefulness instead of just charging $300 to your credit card for a purchase you think might help you.

If everyone got their elusive dream jobs and picture-esque Carrie Bradshaw lifestyles right away then they wouldn’t ever have the chance to hone in on their tenacity and persistence.

Sitting at your desk, slowly eating saltines while you drudge through work in a soul-sucking job can show first-hand a lot about what you don’t want. The only real way to find out what life you want to live is by testing things out with experience.

It’s just sometimes the narrative can be taken too far.

What do you think of the millennial bootstrapping narrative? Is it a mindset good for instilling the value of hard work or something with serious negative side effects? 

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