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Tag Archive: Income-Earning Ideas

A few more reader-recommended survey sites

After posting about iPoll yesterday, a number of you asked for other recommended survey companies. So here are a few others I’d encourage you to consider joining as either I’ve used them myself or they come highly recommended by readers here:

Synovate — This site gives you 100 points for survey screeners —  even if you don’t qualify for a survey! I personally haven’t used this site, but it comes highly recommended by a reader.

MySurvey — I signed up with MySurvey around a year ago and have been paid by them multiple times. Unlike many survey companies, you earn points for every survey and screener you take and these points can add up quickly!

LightSpeed Research — This survey site pays in points and they are fairly generous in their points given. Once you’ve accumulated enough points, you can cash them in for cash, online gift certificates, music downloads, and hundreds of other prizes. Or, build up your points for bigger prizes in your Lightspeed Points Account.

MyPoints — This is a site which rewards you points for online activity such as reading emails, taking surveys, signing up for offers and so forth. When I was doing this, I mostly just read the emails and clicked on the links and slowly accumulated points. You won’t get rich quickly doing this, but you can earn enough points by reading emails to get a few free gift cards each year.

20/20 Research — A reader commented and said, “You won’t get a ton of surveys from 20/20 Research but when you qualify for a prescreen subject they compensate you really, really well. I got $150 Amazon gift card last year and $100 this year for a follow up. The forum was a week long in both cases and great fun. Because the forums are smaller groups you get alot of interaction and really get to contribute.”

Edit: And don’t forget about Swagbucks! Two readers commented to remind me that they now have a survey section on their site. Take the surveys and you can rack up more points towards gift cards and other items. Just another great way to earn Swagbucks.

Please realize that you’re likely not going to make hundreds of dollars each money filling out surveys. But if you stick with it and learn which survey companies work best for you, you can likely make at least $8-$10 per week filling out surveys — and sometimes more than that if you qualify for some of the higher-paying opportunities.

What are your favorite survey sites? I’d love to hear!

Reader Tip: Earn money writing for Examiner.com

Sarah emailed in the following tip:

I thought I’d suggest another way for your readers to make a little extra money. They can write for Examiner.com. Each article (300-500 words) earns $1 plus additional residual money that grows with site traffic and such.

It’s not much, but you can write up to five articles a week for $1 each. Every once in awhile, they also have special incentives. For example, if you post two articles in one day, you’re entered into a drawing for gift cards and prizes.

To become a writer for Examiner.com, first go to the Become An Examiner page and choose your location and suggest an area you want to write about. There’s just about every kind of topic available, so there should be something for everyone. (If you don’t see what you want to write about, you can suggest an area and a topic. That’s what I did since there was no one focused on my current town and topic idea.)

Once you choose an area, you enter your personal information. Then, tell a little about your experience and submit a sample article that you would write if you become an examiner. What’s nice is if you’re accepted as an examiner, you can publish that article and get paid for it.

Like you say about survey-taking, you’re not going to get rich from writing for Examiner.com, but it’s a little extra money. Plus, it’s fun to share the articles and know people are reading your writing! -Sarah Hernandez

Looking for more ways to earn money from home? Check out the brand-new Income-Earning Ideas page I just finished putting together. And if you have any great ideas to share, be sure to leave a comment or send me an email with a tip or suggestion for me to consider posting.

The Blessings of Being a Work-At-Home Mom

Note from Crystal: A bunch of you have asked if I’m going to finish the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series. I know I kinda fell off the wagon with that for awhile — and I’m sorry! But for those of you who have been patiently waiting for the conclusion, you’ll be happy to know that it’s on the blog calendar to be finished over the next few Fridays. So come back this Friday and the following Fridays for the final installments of the series. In the mean time, enjoy Laura’s post on her experiences as a work-at-home mom.

Guest post by Laura from Heavenly Homemakers

First, let’s all acknowledge that working from home truly is work. It’s hard work. The work is always there. You don’t leave it at the end of the day.

But as a Work-at-Home-Mom, what else don’t I have to leave? My children. My home. And some days, my most comfy slippers.

My husband and I chose for me to work from home 13 years ago when our first son was born. We have always maintained a frugal lifestyle and we have always lived on a modest income. My husband has always been a hard working provider for our family. But a little extra income has never hurt. Anytime I have earned extra money for our family, it means we’ve been able to breathe a little easier. It means we can save up for a new (to us) vehicle a little more quickly. It means we can give more generously when we are made aware of the needs of others.

Through the years, I’ve participated in all kinds of “work from home” opportunities as the Lord provided. I’ve offered day-care for extra little ones. I’ve sold Stampin’ Up! products. I’ve done sewing and mending for people. (That job was very short lived as sewing and mending are not my strong suit!) I’ve baked and sold goodies at our local Farmer’s Market. (These homemade soft pretzels sold particularly well!) I’ve made craft items and sold them at craft shows.

Currently, I write a weekly column for our local newspaper as well as maintain the blog Heavenly Homemakers where I share on all varieties of subjects regarding simple living, healthy eating and good ol’ family silliness. (We have four sons. There is a lot of family silliness to write about!)

While I’m able to earn a little income through these endeavors, I am constantly overwhelmed with joy that this “job” not only provides some financial help to our family, but it has also become a wonderful hobby and a beloved ministry. How awesome is it that all three of these blessings could be wrapped up into one!?

Oh the joy of being able to stay at home while I work and to absolutely love what I do! I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to homeschool my children. I’ve been blessed with the ability to drop whatever I need to drop in order to help my husband or to be flexible around his work schedule. I’ve been blessed to leave what I’m doing to go help a friend in need. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be right beside our four boys as they grow, learn, discover, struggle, overcome, cry, laugh and love. I do believe I have the best job in the world!

Use your gifts! Be creative! Discover what it is that you can do to bless your family from home.

Laura Coppinger and her husband have four sons ages 5-13. She loves to cook healthy, family-friendly food, create new recipes, watch her boys play soccer and spend time with her husband. She strives to balance it all while she writes and shares what she’s learned at Heavenly Homemakers.

Do you have a work-from-home success story to share? If so, drop me a line and tell me about it. I’d love to consider sharing it with the readers here!

6 Tips for Becoming a Successful Mystery Shopper

Guest post by Tanya at Little Life Improvements

I’m sure you’ve heard the ads that tell you how great mystery shopping can be: “Get paid to buy stuff and eat out!”

When I first heard about mystery shopping, I actually thought the whole idea sounded too good to be true — basically like a big scam. I decided to do some research because mystery shopping sounded like the perfect way to add a little extra money to our budget and I had to know for sure whether or not it was legit!

I did a lot of reading on the internet and found some legitimate companies who were actually paying people to shop for them.

What would you think if I told you that during my first two years of mystery shopping, I made over $10,000 (between paid compensation and being reimbursed for merchandise or food purchases that were required by the shops)?

My husband and I are living proof that it is possible to make a reasonable extra income through mystery shopping. It’s taken a lot of work and quite a bit of learning, but it’s been a worthwhile venture for us.

Before you start out on your own mystery shopping venture, I’d like to share some of what we’ve learned over the past 5+ years of mystery shopping:

1. Watch Out For Scams

I found this to be crucial when searching for companies to work with. You’ve probably heard about them and it’s true — there really are mystery shopping scams out there. A couple of things I’ve done to avoid the scammers are:

  • Don’t pay anyone to become a mystery shopper. Would you pay the local retail store to hire you? Mystery shopping is a job and we don’t pay to get jobs anywhere else. If they’re asking for your money in order to allow you to shop with them, beware!
  • Sign up with companies that offer a secure sign-up form. I have the policy that I will not sign up with a website whose registration form is not on a secure site. I figure that if they can’t go to the trouble to keep my information secure on the internet, they might not be the highest quality company to work for.

2. Prepare to Work

Like anything else in life, mystery shopping takes work. Each shop assignment will have specific instructions that need to be followed in order for the shop to be acceptable. And once the fun part of shopping is done, there is a report to complete. The effort that you put into the quality of your shops will help determine whether or not the company will assign you shops in the future.

3. Weigh the Costs

This point ties in with the previous one. When searching for mystery shopping assignments, carefully weigh the costs. Remember to take into account the time you will spend both completing the shop and filling out the report afterward. Remember to calculate your gas costs too — these days those can add up pretty quickly!

4. Save for Taxes

You’ll have to record your mystery shopping income as self-employment income when you file taxes each year. The amount of taxes that we have had taken out each year has varied. Sometimes we’ve saved too much and had a “bonus” at the end of the year. Other years, we haven’t set aside enough and have had to scrounge up more money to cover our self-employment taxes. I have found that setting aside 30-40% of my mystery shopping earnings to save toward paying taxes at the end of the year is a good amount.

5. Track Your Earnings

I keep a spreadsheet in Excel of all the shops that I complete, the company I complete them with, the shop fee amount, the amount I spend and will be reimbursed for my purchase and the date that I actually receive payment.

Most mystery shopping companies pay 30-60 days after the shop has been completed so it’s important to be able to know if you’re missing any payments or not. This spreadsheet is also key when it comes time to prepare our tax forms. I can tell at a quick glance how much we earned that year.

6. Know the Companies

As you work with different mystery shopping companies, you will find the ones that you like the best. Some are very strict with their requirements and will absolutely not pay you if any condition is unmet. Others are a bit more flexible and will try to work with your schedule and needs.

Some require lengthy survey forms to be completed after shops are completed, others only want a short description of your visit. Some companies specialize in upper class shops (like the Coach shop I completed or the $200 meal at an upscale restaurant), others are more ordinary (and less stressful — like gas stations and fast food chains).

Whichever mystery shopping companies you choose to go with, learn their requirements and strive to meet or exceed them. This will help you build a good reputation with that company and it improves your ability to receive future shops.

Is mystery shopping right for you?

I don’t think mystery shopping is a good fit for everyone. You have to decide how well it will fit into your own lifestyle.

My husband and I now have two little ones and we really don’t do a lot of mystery shopping these days because a lot of the shops require you to complete them alone, with no children in tow.

We have had to weigh how willing we are to give up the precious time that my husband has at home for me to go out and complete mystery shops while he watches the kids. We haven’t stopped mystery shopping altogether, we’ve just gotten more choosy about which shops we accept.

Tanya is the blessed wife of a very loving husband and mommy to two toddlers. She loves finding ways to improve the life of her family by budgeting, finding tips and tricks for around the house and looking for fun frugal ways to spend time together. You can check out her blog Little Life Improvements.

Interested in Becoming a Mystery Shopper?

If you’re interested in becoming a mystery shopper, be sure to check out the list Tanya has put together of her favorite companies to work for. In addition, check out my article on my experiences as a mystery shopper. -Crystal

How Stay-At-Home Moms Can Help Save for Retirement

Guest post by Michelle, writer for DaveRamsey.com covering topics in the Endorsed Local Provider program.

You’ve got to admit that at-home moms have special challenges when it comes to saving for retirement. Most moms who work outside the home can sign up for a 401(k), get the match and contributions are made automatically.

At-home moms must be much more deliberate. Even if your spouse participates in a workplace retirement plan, whatever you can add to the pot will make retirement that much sweeter.

But how to find the extra cash? I’m with ya, sister! Any new expense is a big deal for already tight budgets. So, let’s back up just a minute.

For your retirement savings plan to be successful, you need to be out of debt and have a solid emergency fund. That way, you have a secure foundation to build wealth that will last. And, you’ll be able to funnel more of your income into your retirement without busting the budget!

Once you’re debt-free and have that rainy day fund, you’ll have no trouble finding $100 a month for retirement. If you do that for 20 years and your investment grows at 12%, you’ll have added nearly $100,000 to your retirement fund. But, I bet you can do better than $100 a month.

Why 12%? Good question. Dave Ramsey, money-management expert—I’m a fan who’s blessed enough to work for him—uses a 12% rate of return because it is the actual, historical growth rate of the S&P 500, a commonly used indicator of stock performance. You can try different amounts and rates of return using his investing calculator.

Suggestions To Make Some Extra Cash

Obviously, couponing is a great way to save some serious money, and Money Saving Mom® can teach you everything you need to know. Track your savings and direct that money to your retirement fund.

More ways to save:

  • Adjust your spouse’s withholding – The average tax refund this year will be about $2,800 according to the IRS. That’s $233 that isn’t coming home in your spouse’s paycheck. Adjust the withholding and send the savings straight into your Roth.
  • Insurance – Insurance is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. Shop around, raise your deductibles, and combine policies to get the best deal.
  • Utilities – Energy-saving solutions are often money-saving solutions. Use a smart power strip that stops drawing electricity when appliances are turned off, raise or lower your thermostat by one degree to lower your power bill by 5%, and run the dishwasher and wash clothes only when you have a full load.
  • Phone, Internet and TV – Bundle services for a better deal, drop premium cable channels, and get rid of costly extras like internet service on your cell phone, or just negotiate a lower rate.

Part-time work is another option. As a spin on the traditional work-from-home suggestions, my list includes services that, as a work-outside-the-home mom, I would totally pay for if I had the money. I’m guessing other moms would, too.

  • Tutoring – The hairy, scary stuff—algebra, chemistry, calculus—Stop! I feel dizzy.
  • Gift packaging – Some people have the gift of making gifts look good. Wrap birthday and Christmas presents, assemble gift baskets—who knows where this could go?
  • Party planning – Got an eye for detail and a nose for bargains? Of course! You’re a mom! Party on!
  • House cleaning – I know—as if you didn’t get enough of this at home. But it is a viable way to get some extra money if you’ve got the drive to do it.

More good ideas you don’t need me for:

  • Home-based customer service agent – There are several options here. Just search online for home-based customer service companies.
  • Freelance – It’s not just for writing or graphic design. If you have skills in foreign language, software development or administrative support, you can freelance. Again, a quick internet search will turn up lots of job opportunities.
  • Sell stuff – Dave recommends this all the time for paying off debt, but it works just as well to raise extra money for your retirement fund. You can sell online or with your local consignment shop.
  • Blog – It might take some time to see any real money from blogging, but it’s certainly a viable way to bring in an extra $5,000 a year. Successful bloggers are happy to share their secrets, so there’s no shortage of guidance or inspiration.
  • Consult – If—in your life before kids—you gained some valuable and marketable skills, you can earn a significant income as a consultant. Start by checking out consultant job listings on any job listing service to see what companies are looking for.
  • Nurse on call – Licensed nurses can make great money providing phone-based triage and medical information for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies or other medical organizations.

I can’t stress enough the importance of watching out for scams as you pursue your work-from-home career. You should not have to pay to get a job, and the hiring process should be similar to the process for a work-outside-the-home job. Be careful!

Here’s What To Do With Your Extra Money

The best way to invest for retirement is with mutual funds in a Roth IRA (or a Spousal IRA), because when you retire, you get to withdraw from it tax-free. Even income from a 401(k) is taxable when you retire, so a Roth gives you a lot more bang for your buck.

If you and your spouse file a joint tax return, you can contribute $5,000 to your own Roth IRA—even if you don’t earn an income. That $5,000 a year, earning 12%, will grow to more than $400,000 in 20 years. Keep it going for another seven years, and you’ll have $1 million—as a stay-at-home mom!

Another equally crucial component of a successful retirement plan is your dedication to continuing your savings for the long term. Retirement is for retirement, not for emergencies. That’s why you built up your emergency fund before you started investing.

It’s also important to work with a professional when you open your Roth and select your mutual funds.

The best advice I can offer is to tell you to tackle this issue with the same intensity that you’ve used to attack other financial issues for your family. One thing I know, Mom can get it done!

If you would like to learn more about retirement saving and planning, Dave Ramsey has a free service that can help you find a trustworthy investment advisor in your area. Find out more here.