Filled with up-to-date information on the newest technologies—texting, mobile applications, and social networks—this guide shows money-conscious web users how to make money and save big during a recession. Providing savvy advice and innovative ideas, this manual instructs how to locate hundreds of money-saving coupons and deals online, comparison shop like the pros, save for retirement or college, develop multiple legitimate money-making channels online, and involve the whole family by making it fun. An excellent resource for stay-at-home and work-at-home moms and dads, this comprehensive guide offers unique ways to save money, build a career, and bring income into the family.
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About the Author
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Point, Click, and Save
Mashup Mom's Guide to Saving and Making Money Online
By Rachel Singer Gordon
Information Today, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Rachel Singer Gordon
All rights reserved.
Let's Get Started
I don't have to tell you: We've been living through some seriously scary economic times, and we all could use some reassurance that we and our families will make it through OK. Even better, we want to know that we can do something to help ourselves make it through, that we can take steps to help reduce the impact of the down economy on ourselves and our family. So fight back with Point, Click, and Save! I will give you the strategies you need to both save and make money from home. I will share thoughts and stories from moms just like you who have made this work, and I will pass along ways to use online resources to mash up the right balance for your family, helping you survive tough economic times — and maybe even have some fun doing it.
As with anything else, the road to saving and making money from home starts by just taking the first step. Any little bit you save, and any little bit you earn, puts you that much closer to your goal. Think of it as being a lot like dieting (but easier). Just as when we try to lose weight, we tend to get overwhelmed when we focus on the big picture. Any of you who have tried to diet know what I mean: It's so very easy to get discouraged before you even start. We think: "I have so much weight to lose" or "It's impossible" or "I'll never be able to do it" or "It will take forever." So we have one more piece of cake, one more bowl of ice cream, one more bag of chips, figuring that it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things anyway.
This is just like our thinking about money. We think, "We're living this much beyond our means each month" or "We have a pile of credit card debt to pay off" or "We'll never be able to afford a house" or "We might as well buy whatever we want because we're already in so deep that it doesn't matter anyway." When we get bogged down in this type of thinking, we never begin to take the steps that will eventually let us get ahead. As with dieting, learning how to save takes time and starts with the simple decision to move forward from this point.
Because this book focuses on using online resources to help us change our patterns and our thinking, let me tell you right now about one of my favorites: Get Rich Slowly (www.getrichslowly.org/blog). Let's focus on one word in that title: slowly. We can look at saving and making money from home in the same way we look at losing weight: Slow and steady wins the race. We would all love to have that get-rich-quick (or get-thin-quick) magic, but real life doesn't work that way. It took time to get where we are, so it takes time to get ourselves out of it. It took time to build our bad shopping habits, so it will take time to re-pattern ourselves into using good ones. If you use the advice in the following chapters, though, you will begin to see savings almost immediately — and these savings will build faster as you gain confidence and learn the ropes.
So what's my story?
I had always been pretty good at living within my means — but this was probably because I was never seriously challenged until we had kids. Before my first son was born, 7 years ago, I worked full-time, my husband worked full-time, and we were a pretty typical dual-income couple. We bought what we wanted without really worrying about it, I never clipped coupons, and we ate out a lot. I always figured that I would go back to work full-time after we had kids and continue working my way up the ladder.
Then everything changed. On my way up that ladder, I found out we were expecting child No. 1, and all of a sudden, the thought of going back to work full-time didn't sit quite as well as it always had before. So we sat down and thought about our budget (and about the cost of full-time day care), and we decided we could make it if I worked part-time after our son was born. That worked out very well for a few years. Because I worked weekends and from home, we didn't have to pay for child care (although this arrangement made for some short weekends). While working parttime, though, I started doing some freelance work on the side: writing, speaking, and editing. I found that my freelance work was both a lot more fun than my "day job" and required less time away from my family. So in the spring of 2005, I decided to throw caution to the wind and strike out entirely on my own. This decision made us start to think a little harder about how we spent our money, but we still didn't make any drastic changes.
The next year, though, we started the adoption process for our second son. This made it very clear that we needed to change our ways further. Although I was bringing in income on the side and my husband still had a full-time job, we really had to take a good hard look at what we were spending and what we were saving. Not only was the adoption process expensive but we were adding another member to the family, and we would have to start buying diapers and formula (both insanely expensive) again. So I started looking for the best ways to save. I stumbled across a few deal sites online and was amazed by the amount of information available. Right on the internet, people were explaining, step-by-step, how to save money, how to make money, and how to change long-held patterns.
I took notes, collected coupons, and made my first, nervous trip to my local Target with my envelope of coupons and scribbled ideas. I walked out of the store with 60 percent savings — and haven't looked back since! In our current economy, I'm happier than ever that I made that leap, and now I want to tell you how you can do it, too. The internet lets people share information like never before, and wonderful people from all over the country take advantage of this opportunity to share their knowledge, their strategies, and the places to find the coupons that make all of this possible. In this book, I share some of these strategies with you and tell you where to look online (and in the real world) to find the best ways of saving and making money for you.
Be Frugal — But Don't Be Cheap!
Strategy No. 1: Think about what being frugal means to you. I know what you're thinking when you see the word frugal — I really do! — but don't let it scare you off. My two rules here are:
Frugal does not mean cheap.
We all need to find the right balance of strategies for ourselves.
Being frugal, as opposed to cheap, means being realistic about what works for you and for your family. It means finding ways to save that don't cause anyone too much stress. What does this mean in practice? Here are some examples.
Books and blogs on frugality often suggest practices that seem extreme to most people, such as making your own laundry detergent or timing your showers. Let me tell you this: I'll be making my own laundry detergent when pigs fly, and I count long, hot showers and baths as two of life's simple (meaning, necessary) pleasures. What I will do, though, is strategically match coupons and sales so that I never (and I really do mean never) have to pay full price for my laundry detergent. What I will do is wash almost every load of laundry in cold water, which gets clothes just as clean as hot water does and saves me money on every energy bill. What I will do is seek out ways to feed our family's Diet Coke addiction (and my carnivorous husband) as cost-effectively as possible.
The proper balance will differ for everyone. You may find Zen-like contentment in making your own detergent or in turning every bit of acreage into an organic backyard vegetable garden — and more power to you! You may choose to pay higher prices to eat organic dairy, produce, and meat as often as possible; you may have food sensitivities or allergies that require you to follow a special diet; or you may need to purchase extra meat because you follow Dr. Atkins. You may find that name-brand diapers really do fit your baby better or that (like me) you are addicted to Diet Coke and no other brand will do. Balance means that when we save in one area, we have more left to spend on what's important to us. Balance means that we each set our own priorities and that we can't measure ourselves against what other families find works best for them. Balance means that we should ignore media-touted examples of extreme frugality and the unmatchable savings of shopping trips staged for the TV cameras. Frugality means finding the best and easiest ways to save, but it shouldn't ever mean reaching the point where saving becomes impractical or downright painful.
If you stop to think about what's important to you, you will be able to decide where to allocate your precious time and energy. We need to get away from comparing ourselves to other families — how much they earn, how much they save, how many things they happen to have — and concentrate instead on what's most important to us and our own families.
How do you establish your own priorities, and how do you determine where the best balance for you might lie? I started by asking myself a series of questions such as, "How important is it to me to work from home?" or "How much do I want to shave off my grocery budget each month?" Your own questions right now might include such things as, "How much debt do I need to pay off?" or "How much do I need to save for my children's college?" or "How long will it realistically take to pay off my own student loans?" or "How will I replenish my lost retirement savings?"
Who needs to think about these things? Everyone! But especially:
Stay-at-home or out-of-work moms seeking ways to save money, build a career, and bring income into the family
Stay-at-home or out-of-work dads seeking ways to save or make money in a down economy
Working moms seeking to scale back and find workable ways of staying home while still staying in touch, being productive, and bringing income into the family
Work-at-home moms seeking ways to add to their incomes and incorporate savings strategies into their lives
Not-yet moms — women in the process of starting or deciding when to start a family — who naturally worry about balancing work and home life and about the long-term cost to their careers of removing themselves from the workforce entirely
Parents worried about the country's economic direction and about maintaining their family's standard of living in uncertain economic times
Recent polls show that more women than men are concerned about their short-term economic security. Go figure! We worry about what we can do to take care of our families, whether we'll have to go back to work, and what to do about ever-increasing grocery prices. Well, the good news is that there are things you can do to help combat these worries. Incorporating mashup mom strategies into your own life will definitely help you save — and can also help you find a workable way of staying at or working from home. Listen to self- described Pennsylvania Marine Corps wife, mom of two, and proud birth doula Amy Owen:
I have always seen this as a part-time job. I joke around with people when I'm out shopping at the stores. They see my coupon binder (it's about 4-inches thick), and they say, "Wow, you are organized." And I say, "Yep. It's the only job you can do at home and still watch reality TV at the same time." Some people leave their house to earn money yet save nothing when it comes to shopping. They spend crazy amounts of money on day care, gas, food for their lunches, and whatever else accumulates while working outside the home. I do the opposite. I work whatever hours I want at home to save big money for my family. To me, it seems backwards to do it any other way. Some women work part-time jobs. For what they earn in salary, I save in coupons and deal hunting, and I get to transport my kids to their activities and be on call for them.
Throughout the following chapters, you will hear stories from other women like Amy who have been able to mash up the life that's right for them and their families.
I find it encouraging just how many women already run their own businesses or make money on the side. Today's economy encourages people to think about different ways to do so in their own lives, giving some of us the push we need to figure out what it is we'd love to do — and to go for it. There are already more than 10 million woman-owned, home-based businesses in the U.S.! Working at home, a trend that began even before the current economic crisis, is becoming more and more popular; it rose 23 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A stressful economic climate only makes more people want to try it for themselves, creatively turning trouble into opportunity by taking the chance to strike out on their own. Think about your own goals, skills, passions, and priorities to see whether working at home is a good option for you, and think about how much time you want to spend working at home for pay. In Chapters 7 and 8, I'll also talk about a number of ways to bring money in on the side without committing to a regular full- or part-time job.
When we think about changing what we do, we also need to evaluate what our job means (or meant) to us. We tend to define ourselves by what we do rather than by who we are. We worry about how others will see us if we remove ourselves from the paid workforce and give up our title or other trappings of on-the-job prestige. This is another time to stop comparing yourself to others. Don't worry about what other people think or do — worry about what works for you.
Saving Money Versus Earning Money
One of the things to think about when determining your own priorities is how to balance saving and earning money. That balance is exactly what makes a mashup mom! We tend to underestimate the power of saving in our own lives, though, thinking that little bits just don't matter. What's most important to realize here is that, when you save money, your dollar goes further. Let me repeat: When you save, your dollar goes further. Money saved is actually worth more than money earned!
Why should this be? First, when you earn money, you need to deduct both your expenses and the government's share to figure out your actual take-home pay. You must ask yourself what it actually costs for you to work. If you work outside the home, your expenses include everything from child care costs to your investment in a work wardrobe to lunches out to the extra gas you use while commuting every day to the extra money you spend on carryout or convenience foods because you don't have time to cook. Then subtract federal taxes, state taxes, and FICA. Figure in also the cost in time away from your family and the things you could be doing to help save and make money from home. You can use the One Income Calculator from Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org/Tools/Calculators/Work_OneIncome.aspx) to help you figure out exactly how much you're taking home after all is said and done.
So if you're planning on saving money to replace the loss of part or all of your outside income, you may need to save less than you think. If you're planning on earning money to replace the loss of part or all of your outside income, you may need to earn less than you think when you combine those earnings with saving strategies! The exact dollar amount you earn matters less than how much of it you can keep. The less you spend, the less you have to earn — if you don't buy it or if you pay much less for it, you don't need to bring in the money to pay for it. Or as Jeff Yeager of Ultimate Cheapskate.com says, "A penny saved is a penny you don't need to earn again!"
The rest of the chapters will give you ideas on both saving and earning, helping you find the right balance for your family.
Getting Your Family On Board
Getting your family on board with any lifestyle change, whether it involves you staying home, taking on new responsibilities, or changing the ways in which you spend money, can be the toughest part. You may need to drag your family kicking and screaming into any change in lifestyle; anything that takes your attention away or that requires a change in eating or buying habits will be difficult for family members to get used to doing.
Excerpted from Point, Click, and Save by Rachel Singer Gordon. Copyright © 2010 Rachel Singer Gordon. Excerpted by permission of Information Today, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About the Blog,
Chapter 1: Let's Get Started,
Chapter 2: Change the Way You Shop,
Chapter 3: Get Connected Online,
Chapter 4: Get in the Game,
Chapter 5: Get It Online,
Chapter 6: Fantastic Freebies,
Chapter 7: Make Money at Home,
Chapter 8: Make Bonus Income With Your Online Activities,
Chapter 9: Organization, Balance, and Planning,
Terms and Abbreviations to Know,
About the Author,