Category Archives: Money

What It’s Like Driving For Uber

One of Lauren’s biggest complaints is that I come home from work and watch sports for several hours. On Sundays, she commandeers the TV during the most important parts of games because “you’ve been watching football for 8 straight hours,” as if that’s a valid reason. Well, I found an alternative that keeps me busy, entertained, and earns a little cash on the side! It’s not as passive as some other ways to earn money each month, but it is a lot of fun! Uber has everything I look for: super flexible hours (work only when you want), interaction with people, and the more you put in, the more you get out.

The Approval Process

At the prodding of a friend, and after reading a lot about it on The Rideshare Guy, I signed up to be an Uber driver. Or rather, I started the process of becoming an Uber driver. The first step was getting a background check, which took a few days, and once I was approved, I got my car inspected. It took about an hour and cost $20, but it was well worth it. I’m now confident I don’t have any major issues with my car, and am aware of a small one that I should get fixed at some point in the next few months.

I uploaded my inspection documentation, my license and registration, and a few pictures of my car, and waited. And waited. After about a week, I emailed asking about the status, was told it could be a few more days, and waited some more. After another few emails, I finally got approved to take my first trip.

Preparing My Car

I cleaned the inside and outside of the car, brought along some charging cables (iPhone and Android), and hit the road. We just bought a handheld vacuum, which came in handy (and will save me time and money in the future if I drive regularly). There are certain points in life where I consider having “made it.” Having a dustbuster is one of them.

Hitting The Road

My first night (a Wednesday), I left the house at around 7:30, and drove a few blocks away to the restaurant area, hoping to pick up the after-dinner crowd. After about 10 minutes, I got my first ride, from someone not at a restaurant. Go figure. I plugged in her destination (a comedy club), took off, and started to make some conversation. Of all the people I drove the first night, this was easily the best. It was a 15 minute trip, the conversation flowed freely, and we were going to a popular part of town where I was sure to pick up more people.

I’ve read stories about forgetting to start the trip, but somehow, I let it happen to me. I was too focused on the directions and forgot to hit the start button until the very end of the trip. I cost myself $7, but after requesting a fare review and explained that it was my first trip ever, Uber credited me with the difference.

After dropping off the first passenger, I had to wait nearly 15 minutes for my next ride. From speaking to other Uber drivers, that seems like a long wait. A couple of short rides later and some more waiting around, I decided to pack it up and start heading home. Of course, as soon as I did that, I got alerted that there was another ride available, so I took it. 3 drunk people entered the car, I started driving to their place, while one asked if I wanted to rob a bank. I said “not tonight,” and he said, “Of course not tonight!” as if I was the crazy one.

Again, as soon as I dropped them off, I got another ride. I took it, hoping that it would bring me closer to home. Nope, 3 girls were going out to a hotel for a fun night out. Another good ride, and as luck would have it, as soon as I dropped them off, I got pinged that there someone at the hotel who needed a ride. Awesome! They got in and directed me to within a few blocks of home. Amazing!

But there was an issue with that last trip. The total came out to $6.66! I don’t like that vibe, so I contacted Uber and they gladly changed the price to $6.65 for the sake of everyone’s luck. Success!

Lessons Learned

Overall, I had a great time, but did learn a few lessons. Lesson one: Start the trip! This was a dumb mistake but luckily, I got it out of the way early. Lesson two: Get a phone mount. I was constantly looking down and the audio wasn’t working properly the whole time, so I decided to buy a phone mount for the car. This way I just have to glance and I won’t be as distracted. Well worth the money and in my mind, it’s a necessity. Lesson three: Stay in one spot. I got a bit antsy waiting for passengers, so I tried moving around a bit. This didn’t work and cost me gas, so lesson learned. Better to not get a ride in one place than not get a ride and waste gas in the process. Lesson four: Start later in the night. I started way too early and the first hour or so was very slow compared to later in the night. Maybe it was a one-time thing, but I don’t see a reason to leave the house before 8pm. I need my sleep so I don’t anticipate driving until 11 or 12 every night, but I will pick my spots so I’m more profitable while I’m out there.

Overall, it was a great first night and I enjoyed the experience. I will definitely be back on the road soon and will do some lessons learned posts!

2014 Third Quarter Business and Personal Finance Goals Update

I changed my goals for 2014, going with 3 goals that keep us accountable both on a personal and business level. We’re into the home stretch now, so let’s see how we’re doing and if we can finish the year off strong.

As always, I am leaving out steps on the way to achieving my goals (like fully funding out Roth IRAs and contributing to 401(k)s) because they would have simply been checkboxes. I don’t believe in setting goals that are more of a given than anything else. It’s not impressive to make a long list of achievable goals and when you accomplish 18 out of 20, to claim that 90% were completed when those last 2 might have been the most important.

1. Grow My Blog Carnival Submission Service To Over $500/Month

This has been stagnant, but something I’m ok with. I don’t see a huge opportunity to grow the business, and the time that would be required to grow this to $500/month might outweigh the benefit.I definitely haven’t put in effort to recruit new users, for a few reasons: I have been lazy and haven’t made it a priority, and I don’t want to step on the toes of friends and other bloggers who have similar services. It does seem like a few carnivals have stopped in the past few months, and for some, it’s been harder to find hosts. If I see things go back to normal and bloggers are more willing to host, I will renew my search for new users.

2. Create At Least Two New Streams Of Income That Bring In $100 Per Month.

At the beginning of the year, I said I had an idea for one of these income streams, and in March, I achieved that mark. With a friend, we buy some items in bulk and resell them individually for more on eBay. It worked very well, but due to circumstances outside of our control, we had to shut the operation down. It was a great run while it lasted and netted me more than $1,200 (or $100/month for a whole year), so I’m going to consider that a success. It certainly wasn’t a failure, or if it was, I hope all my ventures “fail” as spectacularly as this one did.

My perk farm is now earning about $150/month, so that is a huge check mark. It involves very little work and has a low barrier to entry (and anyone can do). Check out that post if you’d like to earn that much, too!

Other that that, I’ve got one last idea in the works. It’s no sure thing, but it is something that I want to try out to see if it has the potential that I think it might. Sorry for the lack of details!

3. Keep Discretionary Spending to 105% of 2013 Levels

In the 3rd quarter, our discretionary spending was 22% higher than the first quarter, and a whopping 37% increase over our second quarter of 2013. This was caused by a huge $3,000+ international round-trip flights we booked for November. We’ll be traveling around Italy for a week before heading to Israel for a few more days. It’s a lot of money, but it will be a lot of fun and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. For the year, we’ve spent 22% more than last year at this time, which comes down to less than 4% when that single transaction was excluded. 5% was a stretch considering two international trips, but other than those we’re doing awesome (and we aren’t going to change plans to hit a goal).

As a reminder, our new car is not included in this calculation (we decided to pay it off over 5 years instead of paying in cash). Our typical grocery bill, insurance, charity, tuition and student loan payments, rent, and utilities won’t count toward this goal, but everything else does. We want to see if we can keep our discretionary spending in check, because that’s all we can really control.

I’m not terribly excited that we spent more this year than last, and I don’t think our spending is out of control. Hopefully we can finish 2014 strong (but we still have to book a hotel in Florence and traveling itself won’t be cheap)!

Rating Our Progress So Far

I’m definitely encouraged this quarter by the business progress, having a few extra streams of income, even if they’re temporary, definitely takes the sting out of spending a bit more. We have some room for improvement, so our work is definitely not done. Overall, I’m pleased by our progress and performance, and am looking forward to more of the same!

How are you doing on your goals so far? Where are you succeeding?

7 Financial Moves 20 Somethings Should Make

You’re young. You have all the time in the world to get your financial life straightened out, or so you think.

Well, you’re wrong.

When you start developing smart money habits in your twenties you can set yourself up for financial freedom at a faster rate. You’ll also avoid major mistakes that can ruin your relationships, cause huge amounts of stress, and unnecessary worry. And even better, the habits that you develop now will stick with you for the rest of your life.

There are a certain set of financial moves you should be making in your twenties. While the list might seem overwhelming at first, realize that you don’t have to do all of these things at once.

Take your time to get your finances organized now so that you can live your life without worrying about money.

Learn to Budget

Living below your means is the golden rule of personal finance. Your outgoings need to be less than your income. Unfortunately, this is a rule many learn later in life only after racking up mountains of debt and creating a huge financial mess.

Start budgeting now. You don’t have to watch every single penny but it’s important that you know where your money is going. You need to be aware of the way you use your money.

A simple way to budget is to use a free program like Mint.com that will track your expenses for you.

Create an Emergency Fund

You don’t want to live a paycheck to paycheck life. But if you don’t have an emergency fund that’s exactly where you’ll end up.

Cars breakdown, appliances go bad, unexpected expenses pop up, that’s how life works. When you’re prepared these emergencies are only slight inconveniences. If you’re unprepared these emergencies can break you financially.

Start by saving at least $1,000 that’s specifically earmarked for emergencies. Over time try to get your emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of your expenses.

Make a Debt Pay-Off Plan

If you’ve just graduated from college chances are you’ve racked up some student debt. Now it’s time to get rid of it.

Having debt and those extra monthly payments prevents you from really building your wealth. Make a debt pay off plan.

Start paying off your balances according to interest rate. It might take a lot of hard work and a few years to wipe out all of your debt but you’ll be so glad that you did.

Start Building Credit

Eventually you’re going to want to buy a house. In all likelihood you’re going to have to borrow money from the bank to do this.

If you want to get the best interest rates and save yourself thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your mortgage you need a good credit score.

If you don’t already have a credit card you can take one out to help build your credit. Charge a small amount on the credit card every month (in expenses you already have) and pay the balance in full each and every month.

To get personalized recommendations on how to build your credit you can open a free account with credit karma or credit sesame.

Open a Retirement Account

The earlier you start saving for retirement the less you’ll have to save. This should be a big motivator to start stashing money away for retirement now.

If you have an employer sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) go ahead and put in the maximum contribution. If you don’t have an employer sponsored retirement plan you can open up an IRA and have automatic deposits put in each month.

Put whatever you can afford in a retirement account now. Even if that’s only $20 a month. Overtime that money will add up.

Create Financial Goals

Once you get all of the basics out of the way like creating a budget, building an emergency fund, making a debt pay off plan, and contributing to retirement it’s time to make your own financial goals.

Money is a tool and should be used to enhance your life. This is the fun part.

What do you want? A fancy vacation? A new car? A new guitar? A house?

Think about your short term and long term goals and make a savings plan. When you save cash for the purchases you want to make you respect the stuff you buy so much more.

Keep Learning

Making smart financial moves is a lifelong process. If you can master the basics in your twenties you’ll have set a solid foundation for yourself. But don’t forget to stay educated.

Review your budget and financial goals every few months, read personal finance books, and stay on top of the game when it comes to your money.