Earn Money from Home via TeachersPayTeachers.com

teaherspayteachers

Guest post from Sarah

About one year ago, my husband and I began experimenting with ways to supplement our income. As a long-time MoneySavingMom.com follower, I felt that I had a pretty good handle on a number of legitimate money-making ideas and began trying them, with varying degrees of success.

However, since I work full-time as a middle school teacher and am a mother to three children under the age of six, time is at a premium. I really wanted a more passive stream of income that would allow me to spend my evening and weekend hours how I wanted to — with my family.

That’s when I discovered Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), a website that allows teachers to sell lesson plans, worksheets, and more. Teachers earn 60% of the profit off each item they sell. If they choose to upgrade from a Basic Seller account (by paying $59.95 a year), they can earn greater profit. Teachers are paid each month through a PayPal account.

Aha! I already had boxes and computer files full of worksheets, quizzes, lesson plans, and novel units that I had created over my years of teaching. Why not turn them into passive income?

teachers pay teachers

I did… and have learned a few things along the way:

1. Strive For Quality Not Quantity

This may seem obvious, but it is actually the most important tip. Make sure that your products are high quality, interesting, user-friendly, and kid-tested. Check for spelling and grammar errors. No one will want to buy a worksheet with typos on it!

2. Create Unique Content

Try to find a niche area. Do a quick search of the TPT site and see how many items come up that are similar to yours. If the market is already flooded with “Frozen” themed addition practice, this may not be a good money-maker.

I’ve personally had success with novel units. For example, I had previously created a novel packet for the book, “A Boy At War”. A search showed that there were only two other unit packets for the novel, so I tweaked mine and posted it. It has been one of my biggest sellers.

3. Choose The Right Price

Pricing can be tricky. You want to demonstrate confidence in the value of your product, but you don’t want to scare customers away. First, search for similar products to see how they are priced.

Next, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. How much would you be willing to spend on your product?

Finally, adjust. If something isn’t selling, have a sale to see if customers will buy it at a reduced price.

4. Utilize Pinterest

Whenever you post a new product, there is a sidebar that asks if you would like to Pin it. Always say yes! This allows your product to enter a new market and attract more customers.

There are also Collaborative Pinterest Threads on TPT. You pin another seller’s items to your board, and they will do the same for you.

I have found that, with a little up-front work, Teachers Pay Teachers is a great way to utilize my talents and gain a passive source of income.

Sarah Wright teaches middle school on purpose and loves it! She is wife to Dan and mom to three children under the age of six. In her spare time she loves to read — setting a reading goal of 100 books this year. She encourages her students to set their own “ridiculously big” goals and chase after them.

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5 Fun & Free Ways to Shake Off the Winter Blues

5-fun-free-ways-to-shake-off-winter-blues

Guest post from Asheritah of One Thing Alone

If you’re anything like me right now, you’re counting the days until the temperatures rise and all the white stuff on the ground has melted and spring has arrived. And while booking a cruise to a tropical island sounds like a great idea right now, most of us just can’t afford that.

So to help you ward off the winter blues, here are 5 fun and free ways to make the most of these last few weeks of winter:

1. Build a snowman.

I know, I hear you: delving into the snow sounds like the last thing you want to do. But sometimes, heading outside can help make fun memories that make the time go by faster. So grab a friend (or your kids), bundle up, and head out in the snow. Who knows — you might just enjoy yourself.

2. Book a Movie Night

Getting snowed in is the perfect excuse to pop in your favorite movie and enjoy a bowl of popcorn. And since it still gets dark early in the evening, there’s no reason not to plan a movie night during the week, too.

(Bonus points if you set up a themed movie night. Morrocan dinner and Casablanca? Yes, please!)

3. Catch up on your Reading List

Most of us have reading lists a mile long. Rather than scrolling through our Facebook feed our watching yet another cat video on YouTube, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read.

You’ll soon find yourself immersed in another world, and the snowstorm outside your window won’t seem half as bad.

(For tips on how to read more as a busy mom, check out this post by Crystal.)

4. Join a Lent Challenge

Typically, Easter comes right around the dawn of spring, so why not spend the 7 weeks leading up to it doing something that will give you a sense of purpose?

Lots of people give up something for Lent and find the practice very fulfilling. Others read through portions of the Bible with a group of friends.

This year, every day leading up to Easter, I’m thanking the people who make my life special. If you’re interested, you can join me in the #40Thanks challenge here.

5. Cozy up under the covers.

So this might not be for everyone, but for those of us who are married, there may be a lot of free entertainment waiting in our bedrooms. Why not take these last weeks of winter to spark the passion in your marriage and rediscover why you fell in love with your husband in the first place? You’ll likely spark a fondness that will grow all year long.

These may sound simple, but a little creativity goes a long way in making the bleak midwinter just a little brighter. Try one idea for each of the next five weeks, and before you know it, the warm sun will be warming your face — no credit cards required.

Asheritah helps overwhelmed women find joy in Jesus on her blog and through her books. She’s also the instigator of the #40Thanks movement, a challenge to see Jesus in the kindness of others. 

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How We Improved Our Finances by Living In A Bus

bus home

Guest post from Katherine of Catching Eddies:

The Dream:

When we were first married, my husband and I dreamed of living a self-sufficient life in a yurt on a couple acres. However, property values in our area were too high for us to buy at the time.

We spent a year begrudgingly paying rent. Then we found a converted school bus on Craigslist. We adjusted our dream to fit the opportunity and bought the bus with plans to live in it full-time — and no long term place to park!

Fortunately, friends offered to host us within a month. We’ve lived happily in our bus full-time for 3 1/2 of the last 5 years.

tiny home

The Reality:

1. Tiny living has helped our financial situation.

We paid cash for our bus. Once we moved in, we put our rent money towards starting a successful business, building an emergency fund, and saving for a down payment.

We even went to Ireland for six weeks… and this summer we will be building a small, but not tiny, home.

2. Some traditional money saving activities are harder, but not impossible.

Buying in bulk? Preserving food? Gardening? They’re tricky, but we manage.

Our kitchen takes up a third of our square footage and when we stock up, we pack our cabinets full.

Dehydrating food is a space-efficient way to preserve. As for gardening and freezing, they depend on where you park your house.

3. We have an amazing host family.

Unless you have your own land or intend to move from RV park to RV park, you will need a host. Our hosts are happy for us to grow a vegetable garden and raise chickens on their property. We also have storage in their garage and attic.

In exchange for the space, we help them out in various ways like plowing the road in the winter and digging and fertilizing garden beds.

4. Mess builds up fast in a small space.

No matter how tidy I get the bus, everything explodes again within 24 hours. I am not a naturally organized person, so it’s hard to maintain order. However, I have learned to stay sane by blocking out part of every day for organizing and cleaning.

5. Contentment is the key to tiny living.

Tiny living is a great way to curb impulse spending as fun, new purchases quickly turn into annoying clutter in a small space!

I have to admit that our space does feel smaller now that we have a baby. As I seek to be content in our converted bus, I remember these words from Saint John Chrysostom, “If you see someone greedy for many things, you should consider him the poorest of all, even if he has acquired everyone’s money. If, on the other hand, you see someone with few needs, you should count him the richest of all, even if he has acquired nothing.”

Through living in our bus, we’ve created wonderful memories, developed better spending habits, and prepared for a financially sound future.

We have also skirted a number of pitfalls.

living room

The Nightmares:

1. Stereotypes and Public Opinion

Some people assume that if you don’t live in a modern single family home you must be a drug addict, a hippie who’s forgotten what decade it is, or a loafer who can’t hold down a job. It’s not true, especially with the rise of the tiny home movement, but the idea lingers in many people’s minds. Be ready to prove them wrong.

2. Insurance Issues

It is possible to insure tiny homes and converted buses, but insurance may not be available in all states. RVs are obviously easier to insure. Although we did insure our bus (as an unfinished RV) for the 3 hour drive home, we don’t have insurance on it now because we don’t drive it.

The bus itself, a 1978 International with a bad transmission, doesn’t have much monetary value, so we have an emergency fund rather than insurance.

3. Legal Issues

From what I understand, living full-time in a tiny home, converted bus, or RV is often a legal grey area. If you are considering tiny living, you should look into zoning regulations, building codes, and covenants.

Most importantly, make sure your potential neighbors are fine with your plans.

In spite of these issues, I believe that tiny living can be a viable option for the right people at the right time.

kitchen

Would living in a bus be a dream or a nightmare for you?

Katherine has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, ski instructor, and wilderness trip leader, but she embarked on her biggest adventure yet when she gave birth to her daughter last August. She blogs about tiny living, outdoor adventure with kids, and micro-homesteading at Catching Eddies.

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5 Frugal Ways to Show Love on Valentine’s Day

5 frugal ways to show love

Guest post by Abby Winstead Wandering

Valentine’s Day is a polarizing holiday. On one side, you have Team “every day should be a celebration of love.” Those people argue that February 14, is a “Hallmark holiday”, a day manufactured by greeting card companies and chocolate makers to boost sales. They say that, if you really love someone, you’ll spend all 365 days each year showing it.

On the other side, you have Team “Valentine’s Day is a day for you to lavish me with all the presents I didn’t get at Christmas”. That team asserts that… well, I’m not sure what their reasoning is.

I fall somewhere in the middle. In no way do I think V-Day should consist only of the obligatory exchange of gifts. I also don’t think it’s necessary to skip the day altogether. I think that, like Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day should serve as a reminder to treasure the things and people we should be grateful for every day.

For those of us who want to find a way to our love to the special people in our lives without breaking the bank or giving into the commercialization of the holiday, I have 5 ideas to help you out!

1. Write a love letter.

There are a hundred little things about my husband that I’m thankful for each day. From his patience with the kids during bath time to his enviable laundry skills, I’m constantly reminded of why I love him.

While we both say “I love you” on a daily basis, we rarely expound on the reasons why. Annual birthday and anniversary cards are about it. I know both of us would be thrilled to receive a handwritten letter from the other identifying all the reasons we’re still so happy to be a part of this marriage.

2. Do something they love.

My husband and I have divergent interests. He loves playing golf and watching futuristic TV shows, and I love spending time in the kitchen and watching cheesy dramas. Shock your spouse this year by planning a day dedicated to something he or she loves!

3. Give the gift of alone time.

I love my husband. I love our children. But from the time I was young, I’ve occasionally needed time alone to recharge. I’d guess that many parents are the same way. As much I love being with the ones I love, sometimes it’s necessary to have a break from questions and diapers and being “on”.

I never want or need much time to myself; I usually only last a few hours before I begin to miss the noise and the sloppy kisses.

This Valentine’s Day, giving the gift of alone time can be a thoughtful no-cost or low-cost gift. Consider allowing your spouse to get out and about alone, or maybe with a friend. A few hours sipping fancy coffee or browsing a favorite store might be the perfect gift. Or, if possible, take the kids out or to visit family while the other parent hangs at home, napping or catching up on a favorite show.

4. Take a walk down memory lane.

If your relationship is anything like mine, it has evolved over the years. The new and exciting affection of the early years has been replaced by a deep, steady love born out of confronting the raw realities of life together. That transition is natural and necessary.

I wouldn’t trade the lessons we’ve learned or the way we’ve grown with each other for anything, but it’s easy to get caught up in the details of day-to-day life. Sometimes it’s nice to remember the people we were when we fell in love nearly ten years ago (or more!) This February 14, dig out those old photo albums and love notes. Remind yourselves of the reasons you fell in love.

5. Prepare a special meal.

Tastes and smells have the power to take us back in time the same way sights and sounds do. Think back over the course of your relationship, particularly the beginning, and focus on the meals you enjoyed together.

What stands out in your mind? Maybe it’s the cuisine you enjoyed on your first date, or the first time he made you breakfast in bed. For dinner on Valentine’s Day, recreate that special meal in your own kitchen.

What are your favorite frugal ways to show your love?

Abby is the wife of a patient man, mom to their two baby bears, and teacher of some cool kids. She loves dark chocolate and pretty napkins; the kitchen is her happy place. She lives in Mississippi and blogs at Winstead Wandering, where she shares the wandering thoughts of one who is not lost.

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Why We Rent: Unexpected Lessons About Home Ownership

why we rent

Guest post from Kaly Sullivan

It was 2004 and the housing market was hot. Everyone around us was buying. People were making money buying a home and selling it a few years later. The prices kept going up and up. You couldn’t lose. We jumped on the bandwagon and decided to buy before the prices went any higher.

Couple that with the path our parents and grandparents had paved for us. You get a degree, you get a job with a pension, you get married, buy a house, build equity, have kids, trade up into a bigger house, and retire.

Following that blue print, my husband and I removed ourselves from the urban center we had come to love, and traded in our car-less life for a red shingled house with a two-car garage.

We bought on a five-year ARM because that is what everyone was doing. We bought a small fixer upper with potential because you’re supposed to buy the smallest house in a nice neighborhood (for resale value). We started the process of turning it into a home.

The list of tasks that we undertook is now unimaginable.

Over the next nine years we spent thousands of hours and dollars upgrading systems, putting in new features, shopping for the perfect item to complete a room. Our evenings and weekends were filled with tasks, Home Depot shopping lists, and annual attempts to grow lush grass.

Meanwhile our children were born, and we adapted to life as suburban home owners.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved that house. I loved every creak and every brick in the patio we had installed. But it’s quite possible that the little red house is the only house that we will ever own.

My husband took a job in a different city, and we made the decision to relocate. We sold our house fairly easily (we did not make any money, but we did break even).

Because we were unfamiliar our new area, we thought renting would be a good way to get the lay of the land and settle in before buying a new home.

Now that we are well into the second year of our lease, I’m not convinced that I ever want to own a home again. Although it isn’t always as easy as “Call your landlord and they fix it,” we have thoroughly enjoyed this time off from home ownership.

I can’t imagine walking into Home Depot anymore than I can imagine landing on the moon because as renters we have more…

1. Time:

Weekends are used for adventures, naps, downtime, and new experiences not upkeep and chores.

2. Money:

Our rent is more expensive than our previous mortgage but the money we save in home maintenance and purchases has us saving money every month. And we have zero debt!

3. Brain space:

We don’t worry about systems, resale value, and lists of repairs so we have more room in our heads to pursue our true interests.

My husband feels a little differently about the rent vs. own situation. He worries that as renters were not part of our community because we haven’t put our money where our mouth is and invested in a more substantial way. That maybe if we’re not buying, we’re transients that aren’t going to stick around and are not worth getting to know.

I see his point. People ask me, “Are you going to stick around? Have you started looking at houses?” I still challenge my husband to think about it differently.

If you ask yourself, “What am I going to do with my one life?” Does owning a home make the list? Your top ten?

If you think, “What legacy do we want to leave in this world?” Is the answer, “I was a good homeowner” part of your response?

Since we’ve been renting, we’ve put less of our resources into our home. We’ve used our time and money to start a company, travel more, and explore our new city. We spend more time together as a family and our overall stress level has decreased.

As a family, we will continue to consider what home ownership can offer us. But we are definitely looking at our options through a more critical lens and will not be buying just to buy this time.

In the meantime, we’ll keep renting. And enjoying every second of it and the freedom it brings.

When Kaly doesn’t have her nose in a book, she wrangles and referees two elementary age boys and blogs about her often humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life. She’s the co-founder of Harlow Park Media and is the author of Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family’s Relocation.

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10 Tips to Build a Successful Etsy Business

etsy business

Guest post from Lauren of Funky Monkey Children

Often times when someone asks the question of how they can bring in extra income while staying home with their children, people respond with “how about setting up an Etsy shop?” While I think that is a wonderful suggestion, and one that I did myself back in 2012, it isn’t really as simple as just building a shop and having customers flow in.

Over the past 2 years of having my Etsy shop, Funky Monkey Children, I have learned some invaluable lessons about running and business. Here are a few things I wish I had known when I started mine:

1. Start by Brainstorming Ideas

What is a skill you have or a product you make that has a wide market of desirability? Are you willing to learn a new skill or craft that could someday turn into a product for sales? Do you have a side hobby that friends keep telling you to sell?

Brainstorming for a product idea is the very first step in setting up an Etsy shop. This may seem obvious, but make sure it is something you like doing. It would be unfortunate to “hit it big” with a product you really have no interest in continuing to make!

It’s also helpful to think long-term with your ideas – are there items you could add for a coordinating set down the road or ways that you could expand that product into a bigger or more complex line in the future?

2. Manage Your Inventory

When I first started Funky Monkey Children, I was open to anything people asked of me. I had no problem driving around to different fabric shops (with my two toddlers!) looking for a certain pattern that someone requested, or running out to the store to pick up a single item to monogram for a specific customer.

I quickly learned, however, that this consumed a huge amount of my time and wasn’t very profitable. I ended up with so much inventory and so many supplies that I wasn’t able to use on a continuous basis.

In order to streamline my business I decided to focus on just a few items (burp cloths, bibs, and shirts) and not expand so wide that I was drowning in inventory (and spending all my profits on more inventory!)

3. Create Specific Goals

When you start a business, it’s important to make very specific goals for the future… as well as a path to achieve those goals.

When I first started, my goal was for this to be a self-sustaining hobby. If I got busy and didn’t have more time to work, I closed my shop for a few days and never thought twice about it. As long as I could make enough money to buy more fabric to play around with in my free time, I was happy.

As time progressed, however, my goals changed in a big way. The goals that I have set for the business now are allowing us to save a 20-30% down payment in the next year to buy a house, which is something I never could have dreamed of a few years ago!

4. Pinpoint Your Market

In order to appeal to your buyer, you must know exactly WHO your buyer is. Once you know who you are appealing to, you can figure out how best to reach them and where to find them.

It is helpful to think in very specific terms; knowing that “women” are your target customers doesn’t really help. Knowing that your target customer is a 25-35 married woman who works outside of the home and lives on the West Coast is substantially more helpful.

5. Make Prototypes

You have to have something to advertise in order to get started. One of the best ways to get more traffic to an Etsy shop is to increase the number of items you have listed.

When I was starting out, I made tons of gifts for friends. Since I primarily make baby items, and I have young children myself, I had no shortage of people around me with babies.

With each and every item I made, I took a picture and listed it as a listing for sale. Eventually customers would ask for variations of the same product (different colors, fabrics, applique, etc) and each time I would take a picture of that item and list it separately.

There is a rumor around Etsy that 75 listings is the “magic number” to really increase the traffic flow to your shop. I’m not sure if that is true, but I can say that the amount of traffic to and subsequent sales in my shop increased substantially with more listings.

6. Price Your Items Appropriately

Make sure you aren’t under-pricing your items! In addition to making people think the item is less valuable than it really is (or cheaply made), if you don’t add in a profit for yourself you are doing a lot of work for no reward.

Another thing to think about is the time involved in each item. When I first started, I priced each item the same. Every shirt had a certain price, every burp cloth, etc. Now when I price something I take into account the amount of time that particular item takes to make.

Since I can only do one item at a time, it doesn’t benefit me to sell an item that takes an hour and an item that takes twenty minutes for the same price.

7. Learn about Tags and Titles

Titles and tags are huge on Etsy. Learning about the basics of SEO (particularly as it relates to Etsy’s relevancy formula) will be extremely beneficial to your shop.

While Etsy brings in a lot of traffic on its own, there are millions of Etsy shops open today, so you need to set yourself apart to see success.

8. Take Good Photos

This is something that is incredibly hard to do when you are first beginning, and something that I continue to struggle with in my own shop. Since Etsy is a very visual platform, clear and bright photographs are a must for any successful shop.

Learning the basics of a good quality camera is helpful, as is finding a consistent light source (whether that is outside or a lightbox). Amazon has some inexpensive and decent quality lightboxes that can be very helpful if you don’t live in a particularly clear climate.

Having consistent product placement and the same background in every picture also helps to build your brand and have a cohesive image of your shop as a whole.

9. Provide Excellent Customer Service

Etsy customers expect top-notch customer service. Because Etsy started as a strictly “handmade” platform for selling (it has since evolved beyond that), a typical Etsy buyer is expecting a more personal interaction than they would get from a traditional store.

This means that often times, buyers will message you for more information, ask lots of questions, and generally expect a dialogue about the product or service as they go. Providing good customer service goes a long way in developing a loyal fan base.

10. Learn Your Limits

This has been one of the toughest lessons for me as my shop has grown and sales have increased. Because Etsy provides a more personal platform for interaction between sellers and buyers, there can be some unreasonable requests at times.

It isn’t totally unheard of for people to message asking for a discount, for overnight shipping at no extra charge, to make an item and ship it out by today, or even for totally free items just because.

As someone who very much wants to make the customer happy, it is hard for me to say no. However, I also have learned to value my time and recognize that the time that I am working is time that is taken away from my family.

Through the years of doing this I have had to find a balance between providing excellent customer service and also not being “on-call” to answer messages, send emails, and jump up and make an item for a customer at all hours of the day. Learning this limit will go a long way in keeping your family on board for your new Etsy venture!

Do you (or have you) run an Etsy business? If so, do you have any other tips to add to my list?

Lauren Keplinger is a part-time working mommy of 2 young children who bring joy and chaos to her life. Her hobbies include sewing, running, cooking and reading, but she spends most of her “free” time now working on her Etsy shop, Funky Monkey Children.

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