How I made money last month without a side hustle

Confession: I don’t have a side hustle (this site doesn’t count…yet). I’ve chosen to focus on my main career for now, but that’s not to say I don’t have extra sources of income. Sure, the few dollars here and there I make are nothing like the passive income streams of others, but I think they’re a fun starting point. Let’s go!

Gambling: $700

Ha, I bet you didn’t see that one coming! One day I was chatting to a colleague at work, and she brought up a Super Bowl pool she was running. I honestly still don’t understand how it worked, but for $25 I could pick a number on a big board and if the Super Bowl points matched up I would win. Now, this obviously isn’t a financial strategy and I generally hate gambling, but guess what? Despite only watching the tail end of the game and knowing very little about football, I won $700! The lesson here is you should give yourself some room in your budget for silly fun things. They can pay!

Poshmark: $76

This was from a single sale of Common Projects sneakers. Score! I’m a big fan of Poshmark for both buying and selling.

Ebates: $20.10

Easiest $20 I’ve ever earned! I have a horrible memory, but every time I shop for something on my computer (ie. a new shower curtain, shower gel, replacement makeup), a handy little Ebates reminder pops up saying how much cash back I can get. I click that pop-up, it reconnects me to the site I was on, and I’m on my merry way to making extra money!

Ally interest income: $18.67

I have my emergency fund in an Ally online savings account, and I’m so happy about it. Last year, that money was sitting in my bank savings account making less than a dollar a month. Ally for the win!

Acorns dividends: $0.67

It ain’t much, but it’s something. All dividends are reinvested into my Acorns account.

Credit card cash back: $3.94

This was lower than my cash back from credit cards usually is, and that’s because I just got the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. That card has a 50,000 point bonus if you spend $4000 in three months and while that would normally be hard for me to do on a credit card, it helps that I’m getting married in June! The purchases of my guest book, card box, dress and centerpieces will help me reach that bonus goal- a bittersweet score (#weddingsareexpensive).

IRS refund: $20

I signed up for direct deposit of my tax refund for the first time, and for some reason this $20 showed up in my account from the IRS…even though my refund is supposed to be higher. I’m waiting it out for now, but I’ll take any IRS contributions over IRS debts!

That’s my February! Not bad for not having a side hustle, though obviously the Super Bowl winnings are unsustainable (sigh). How do you make extra money beyond your job?

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How to move to New York City with zero connections, no job and $1500

Growing up, I was always obsessed with the idea of living in New York City. My suburban upbringing came along with day dreams of living in the big city and all of the exciting things I would do there.

By 2013, I was ready to take the plunge. My contract volunteer position in Ghana was ending, and I had no idea where my life would or should go next. Why not NYC?

I had no idea how to find an apartment in New York, and didn’t know where the good areas to live were. I applied to a few jobs here and there, but knew in my heart I wouldn’t have a real shot until I arrived in the city. So, I booked a room in an East Village AirBnB. It was $1300/month (which in retrospect is insane for just a bedroom), and I figured I could use it as a home base as I figured out where to live and how to get a job.

The problem was I only had $1500 in my account; just enough to survive for one month. As soon as I landed in the city, I hustled and spent days in coffee shops applying for every single position I could find. On day four, I ended up at the candy counter in a Dean & Deluca working for slightly more than minimum wage (I felt like Felicity).

My first job in NYC! I was so excited to make $11/hour. How times change.

It was October, and I gave myself until the end of the year to find a “real” position in my field. I made enough money to stay in the AirBnB month to month, and ended up staying there until that magical “real” job began…in late December, right before my self-imposed deadline for “making” it in the city (#fate).

I started at a consulting company with a three-month contract position, then passed up their offer of a full-time position in favor of a part-time position in the non-profit field (where my heart was). The firm was nice enough to allow me to stay on part-time for a while, and I would come in on the days I wasn’t working at the non-profit. It was essentially two part-time jobs that equaled a full-time position, and that lasted almost two years. Eventually, the set up got old and I started searching for a true full-time position.

The cute little 4-bed apartment next to Central Park I lived in from 2014-2016 with a rotating cast of (great) girls – thanks Craigslist! $500 bedroom for the win (bye AirBnB)

By January 2016, I was hired at the organization I still work at today, and it felt like a total coup. It was an organization I had always dreamed of working at, and I applied on a whim thinking I didn’t have a chance with a degree from a Canadian University and a strange work history. How wrong I was! New York magic at its finest.

When I saw the my new office building, my jaw dropped. I love art deco!

That’s how you move to New York City with no more than a dream and $1500, kids. Did luck play a part in my journey? Absolutely, but in my experience, good things happen when you give yourself no other option than to try.

My current apartment, where I live with my future husband(!)

Here’s some tips for those young people out there who are like I was, wanting to move to NYC but totally clueless about how to do so. I say go for it!

  • While AirBnBs are expensive, they’re a good first stop to give you time to search for a real apartment. Those famous stories of people who came to the city without a cent in their pocket but made it are reserved for people who know someone in the city (or those who are willing to sleep on the street, I guess). Coming from Canada, I didn’t know anyone here because, well, nobody else I knew could legally live here.
  • If you have a vague idea of what neighborhoods you want to target already, Craigslist is a great way to find a room. Yes, it’s a little freaky, but thanks to Craigslist I ended up in a lovely apartment next to Central Park with three other great roommates for $500/month. Oh, and I met my future husband through one of those roommates. You never know! Another option for finding a place is the Gypsy Housing group on Facebook. For young people, I’d say neighborhoods like the East Village, parts of Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint are all good options.
  • As soon as you land, make job applications your full time job. Make a coffee shop your office and apply apply apply. It’s a total numbers game in big cities like New York, and coffee shops have the added bonus of being a potential networking opportunity.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about making the big move!

Tips for saving money when planning a wedding

Weddings are expensive, y’all. I’m currently planning mine, and it doesn’t help that it’s going to be in New York City on a Saturday in June (I know, I know).

While I’m a finance buff, it was important to me to get married in the city I love. During the planning process, I’ve learned several important ways to minimize costs as much as possible. Are you planning a wedding? Read on!

ASK ASK ASK

This is probably my biggest lesson. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. I asked for an extra hour of bar service, and got it for free. I asked for a discount on flowers, and my florist agreed to work together to bring costs down. I asked to have a third entree and additional appetizer added to our menu and, you guessed it, they were tacked on for free. ASK!!!!

DIY where you can

While my florist offered to handle the candle centerpieces I was looking for, I looked online and found just what I was looking for with a smaller price tag than florists were offering. I will have to unpack the candles myself and risk breakage in the mail, but to get around that I’ll be ordering the candles months early. It’s worth it! It’s worth tapping family for help as well- my Dad will be building the arch for the ceremony, and my aunt is doing much of the calligraphy for signs. Not only do these things help the bottom line, but they also add a personal touch to many parts of the wedding.

Long engagements help

By the time I get married I’ll have been engaged for over two years, and while that’s longer than most engagements, it definitely did help with costs. Vendors up their prices each calendar year, so the earlier you can book things like venues and photo booths, the better! Even booking in December vs. January helps.

Credit card bonus time

Planning a wedding has involved many credit card transactions, and I’m glad I applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card right when I started buying things for the event. Spending $4000 in three months to get the full 50,000 point bonus currently available would normally be pretty tough for me, but with wedding purchases it’ll be easy peasy. At least that’s one thing to ease the pain of purchases.

While my wedding will not be inexpensive, I’m proud of the little things that have helped bring costs down. Things like a low guest count can help massively, but with big families and large groups of friends, that can be extremely difficult (or at least it was for us- even getting to 125 people was painful).

When planning a wedding, think about what is most important to you, and what isn’t too important. Ask vendors for help, think about what you can DIY, and give yourself time to plan and save. Here’s some helpful links to get you started on your planning journey:

Create an Amazon Wedding Registry

Shop Amazon – Gift Cards for Weddings

Save 80.0% on select products from LOVINLAND with promo code 80U6ZJ4P, through 2/28 while supplies last.

Optimizing your phone for personal finance

If you’re like me, you’re on your phone a lot. Why not make it a force for good? You can optimize your phone to help you with your financial goals. Let me show you how!

Don’t judge me for all the notifications, I’m a busy lady okay!

Banking apps: TD Bank, Amex, Capital One, Discover, Chase

I pay all of my bills on my phone and love having easy access to my accounts.

Saving apps: Principal, Acorns, Ally Mobile, Groupon

While I think the Principal and Acorns apps could be better, I do like tracking the progress of my investments quickly and easily. My emergency fund is in an Ally savings account and I like looking at the balance once in a while to remind me of a goal I’ve hit. Groupon is good once in a while for deals on things like haircuts and massages.

Tracking apps: Personal Capital, Mint, Birch

I’m totally obsessed with Mint, though I’m sad the “Goals” feature on their desktop site isn’t part of the app. Personal Capital is helpful for net worth tracking and I like their charts. Birch shows you how to best optimize your credit card rewards, and I find this very helpful as I have five credit cards.

Payment apps: Venmo, PayPal, calculator

While my fiance and I have one joint account for date nights, we largely keep our accounts separate so things like bills and rent are split using Venmo. I personally like this system and would recommend it!

Cash back apps: Ebates, Checkout51

I’m a big fan of Ebates, and I just got my first check for $20! It’s so easy to install into Chrome on desktop and onto your phone, and despite my horrible memory the helpful pop-ups ensure I never miss out on cash back. Checkout51 is hit or miss, but I find that many of the products available for cash back aren’t available at my grocery stores.

Selling apps: Poshmark, ThredUp

I’m obsessed with Poshmark and have successfully sold and bought several items. I haven’t had luck with ThredUp but it may be because I use Poshmark more because I like the interface better.

Job hunting apps: LinkedIn Jobs, Glassdoor

While I like my job, I think it’s important to know what’s out there. Glassdoor is particularly helpful when scouting out organizations or finding out what people in similar roles make in your city.

Information apps: Audible, Apple Podcasts

I love downloading financial audio books to listen to during my commute, and Audible and Apple Podcasts are helpful for doing so. I particularly liked listening to “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi on Audible, but to each their own!

I hope this helps you optimize your phone to help with your finances! Let me know if I’m missing any great apps in the comments below.