Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I decided that I really needed to put more time and effort into writing articles on Helium.com. The way to earn money on this site is by having writing and rating "stars" - the more stars you have, the more cents you earn. The higher rated your articles are, the more cents you learn. So I have been taking the time to revise some of my lower-rated articles (known on Helium as leapfrogging) and was pleasantly surprised to see most of them then climb up a few notches, in some cases by leaps and bounds.
In addition, Helium now pays you an "upfront" payment each month, calculated by the number of new articles you've written (low-rated or not) and how many writing stars you have. I currently have 2 writing stars (out of a possible 5 or 6) and this month I wrote 7 articles. So, $7. If I were to write 20 articles in a month, I would earn $20 (probably more, since writing that many would up my star level.)
Helium also has a Marketplace section, where publishers list specific titles they need an article for, and then you write for it. You are able to see how your article ranks numerically among the others, although you can't read the other submissions like you can with regular Helium articles. The publisher then picks an article to purchase. This month I sold an article written about how to take care of pregnant dogs. It sold for $24.
The final way to earn money at Helium is to participate in the writing contests. Every two weeks there are topics, and within each topic, 20 titles. For each title you write to, you earn or lose points based on how well your article is ranking. The contests can be lucrative, with first prize for each topic being $60. This month, one of the topics was Babysitting (think: "How to Hire a Babysitter" or "Leaving Your Child with Their First Babysitter). I wrote to about 8 of the titles, and 6 of my 8 articles were ranked number 1. Meaning, I was winning the contest!! I have since been booted to 2nd place (grrrrr) and the door for writing is closed, but there is still one more week of rating left. So its possible I could move back to first or down to third (or lower.) Still, it's a lot of fun and a good way to exercise my writing muscles. If I should win 2nd place, I will win $40. Which would make my total earnings from Helium about $70 for this month. It's not a living by any means, but it's something. Especially when you consider that's from an average of 1 hour of work a day, maybe 15-20 days of the month.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Here is the run-down...for $50 I got:
* 2 jumbo packs of Huggies
* 1 50-ct bottle of Aleve
* 1 8-pk AAA batteries
* 1 4-pk C batteries
* 1 bag of fun-sized York Peppermint patties (ooops, how'd they get in there??)
* 12-ct package of Scott tp
* 1 36-ct box of tampons
* 2 of those magnetic photo frames (since the little one has broken all the hard plastic ones!!)
So, while $50 seems like a lot for CVS, I did get a hefty return with $11 in ECBs for next time. And I can pretty much always justify spending a bit for things that we are always going to need (diapers, toilet paper, and batteries of all sizes for the gazillion toys our son has). We also go through Aleve like its candy in this house, since its the preferred pain reliever for both my husband and I. Tampons are always needed...and sometimes, so are Peppermint Patties:)
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
1. Avoid Plastic Water Bottles. I actually have one triumph under this resolution already--I purchased an aluminum water bottle from www.mysigg.com. A bit pricier than the average bottle, I figured it would be worth it to have one that would stand the test of time, and--having spent $15 dollars on it (I purchased one on ebay)--I would feel compelled to use it. So far I am extremely happy with this purchase. It makes me feel cool:) I'm not saying I won't purchase water in a bottle ever...if I'm somewhere like a concert or a fair and I'm thirsty, I'm going to buy a drink. But no more buying cases of water...even if I was reusing them a few times its still bad.
2. Up The Ante on Exercise. I have to say the month of December was a wash. I barely worked out (aside from a few leisurely walks here and there, during which no sweat was broken) and I've paid the price to the tune of 2# gained over the holidays. The first week of January was also a bust...half was spent on vacation and the other half being lazy. Starting this week I'm 2 for 2 and hoping the trend continues. My husband is planning on investing in an elliptical machine, and while I'm not looking forward to the giant eyesore that will be hogging space in our basement, I am looking forward to another option for exercise. Walking/running is great--except when it's below 30 or above 75, which is pretty much half the year. DVR'd workouts suffice, but are boring as hell. I've done elliptical training before, and I do enjoy it, and its definitely a calorie burner. And, if G2 lives up to his word, our small flat screen tv will finally come out of the box its been living in for 2 years and be mounted on the wall in front of the elliptical. Time will tell...
3. Cloth Napkins. We have them, 8 beauteous striped napkins that I believe we got as a wedding present...and have been used about 2 times ever. 1 of those times was the other night, when our fellow greenie friends were over for some sushi and taboo. It was the exact amount of effort as getting out the paper ones, and throwing a few napkins that weigh less than air in the laundry is also no trouble. I think investing in another set to ensure that we don't run out between laundry days is in my future....
4. CVSing, Bargain Hunting, Couponing. Another habit that has fallen wayside due to the holidays. Why is it so hard to keep on track during December? Nonetheless, taking the time to investigate deals, find coupons, and replenish our stock pays off. I made my first CVS run in over a month this Monday, and for $32 I got some serious loot: 2 10-pks of batteries, 2 boxes of cereal, a large thing of mouthwash, 2 bottles of dish detergent, a box of trash bags, a bottle of Aquaphor for my poor chapped hands, and 2 bottles of shampoo. AND $8 in ECBs for my next run. Not bad.
5. Composting. I have been meaning to look into this. It seems that with the right set up it will be little or no extra work and will cut down on disposed trash. I need to figure out if a real compost pile is do-able, or if a fancy schmancy composting bin would be better. We do live in the woods, but my main concern is that my Labrador Retriever will see the compost pile as his own daily buffet.
6. Saving My Money vs Spending It. We have a pretty rigorous budget in place, and each week of the month I write out a bunch of checks and give it all to the bank and various utility companies. We are slowly improving our grocery habits by attempting to make a menu for the week and stick to it. (We could be doing better in that department.) My main goal here will be with "my" money...ebay earnings, writing earnings, "extra" things like rebate checks or Christmas money. I have the tendency to spend this money on "stuff"...basically I can piss it away in a matter of hours. Already by not spending the cash I received for Christmas on clothes and whatnot (as I did last year, running through the Tannersville Outlets like a crazy person) I have more than enough money set aside for a projected trip to visit my sister later this year.
That's it, for now. Some of these goals are simple and easy...the kind of resolutions they say you're "supposed" to make, some are more open-ended and vague...the kind that are harder to keep. It will be interesting (to me at least) to look back on this in 1 year and see how I've done...
Happy (belated) New Year!!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
* Eating green and organic might make me skinny but it is ridiculously expensive.
* A LOT of green things are more expensive, i.e. cleaning products, clothes, sheets, etc
* Something I aspire towards (writing a book) could make me richer, but printing books certainly isn't green...
Those are just a few examples. I can only thing of a few of my changed practices that are conducive to all three of goal areas--one of which is running. Its free, it's green (no travelling to a gym or purchasing something like an elliptical machine), and it definitely made me skinnier.
Anyhow, I'm reading a great book right now called "Green Chic--Saving the Earth In Style" by Christie Matheson. I received this book as a Christmas gift from my wonderful friend Tara, along with a year's subscription to "Green Guide." Anyhow I am truly enjoying this book for several reasons.
1. I appreciate well written and humorous prose. Let's face it, there are lots of topics (i.e. being green, personal finance) that can be pretty boring to read about if just the facts are listed. This book is funny, engaging, and I'd even go so far as to call it a page-turner.
2. For each green tip it explains WHY you should do what the author suggests, and HOW to do it. I particularly like the HOW: its great to say "Well, I'd really like to purchase some organic sheets next time" and quite another to actually find them in your local WalMart.
3. My favorite thing, however, is that the book is intended for REAL people, i.e. ME. People who care about the environment, who want to make changes in their lifestyle, but who don't want to live in a mud hut and give up certain pleasures of life (such as blow dryers.) One of the biggest annoyances I find in reading green blogs and green literature is that there seems to be a certain snootiness amongst super-green people towards people like me. Sort of a haughty "Oh you think you're saving the earth because you have 4 canvas bags and you hang 1 load of laundry a week? You naive simpleton!"
Green Chic addresses that every little bit counts, and we can all find ways to change things in our life that will positively affect the environment. She doesn't gloss over the fact that yes, the earth is in bad shape and WE are the reason, but she also doesn't preach or use scare tactics. She simply advises many ways to green-ify your life while still remaining chic. Although I'd be hard-pressed to refer to myself as "chic", I have a feeling this will be a book I will keep coming back to in the weeks and months and years to come.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
* It would be beneficial for me to get some type of paying job. Multiple ideas were thrown out, but complications stem from several factors.
- Neither of us wants to put G3 in daycare. Besides that, going back to my job as a vet tech would basically clear me about $10 a week after daycare and gas. So not worth it.
- Gabe's job is not time-specific. Meaning, he does not punch out at 5pm on the dot every day. And he is "on call" every other weekend and 2 weeks a night. So me getting an evening/weekend job is also pretty limited.
- Something that I could do from home would be ideal, such as babysitting another kid or a legitimate type of work from home job. Legitamate being the key word. Scams are rampant.
* In lieu of getting a "real" job (or until I find one) I need to be more aggressive with eBay and my writing. I have made a small amount of money writing for Helium (about $116 total) but by making myself write at least 1 (or more) articles a day I can certainly up my chances. G2 also suggested entering more contests and submitting to more magazines.
* We also made a list of ways to cut back on the amount of money we spend each week. Since we've made a lot of snippets over the last year, there isn't a whole lot of room, but there's some. We're not quite at the point of completely lowering our standard of living, but yet there are a lot of things we could do to save a buck (or 20, or more). Our main area is food. We spend a ridiculous amount of money on food, even with me CVSing and couponing and all that. We buy expensive, top of the line ingredients. We almost always buy fresh vs frozen. We throw a lot of leftovers away. And, twice to three times a week we buy food from a restaurant. Tuesday nights are "take out night", Thursday night is "G2's Night Out" and its pretty likely that at some point over any given weekend we will eat a meal out. I also do something social involving eating out about 1-2 times a month as well.
So, we've come up with our list, and while G2 is not willing to give up his weekly night out (as well as me not wanting to give out my random Girls' Night Out) we have agreed that take-out can be more sporadic and that we need to STICK to the grocery list, buy generic where it really doesn't matter (such as our toddler son's snacks...I know, we're terrible. Gourmet cheese for us, store-brand crackers for G3.) There are also a few other household things on the list (but we do pretty well in that dept.) as well as changing our cell and satellite packages to cheaper ones.
ANYHOW, the point of this post (you knew I'd get here eventually) is that when I sat down to make our list, I first googled "ways to save money". And I came across a GREAT blog, that I have read almost all of in my spare time over the last few days, and plan to add to the list of blogs I read regularly. Check out http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/. Its written by a 20-something Indian guy and is geared towards younger, college educated people, but its full of great advice, challenges and ways to--you got it--become rich. The really generalized theme is that instead of focusing on the economy and the world at large, focus on how much money YOU can save.
My husband has a ton of personal finance books, most of which can put me to sleep simply by looking at the cover. This blog is actually entertaining and a "good read"...as well as full of important and smart advice. I highly advise everyone to check it out!!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
But I did go to CVS today, because after not doing it for oh, about a month or so, I noticed that it had for sure been making an impact on our grocery bill. Stocking up on things like diapers, cat food, and toothpaste while they're cheaper/on sale was definitely helping us not spend nearly as much at the grocery store. As we head into a recession I'm realizing that playing the CVS game, bargain shopping, and coupon clipping are not just lovely little ways for this housewife to pass her time. (You know, 'cause I have so much of it...) In reality now is the time to be thrifty, snatch up good deals, and cut out unneccesary spending.
Anyhow, at CVS this week they had a few good deals. Here are the two that I got:
* Huggies Jumbo Packs of diapers were on sale for $10 a piece. THEN if you spent $25 on Huggies products, you received $5 ECBs. So (essentially) 90 diapers (3 packs) for $25. Not bad.
* Duracell Batteries were on sale for a large pack for $15-something...and then you got $5 ECBS if you spent over $15 on Duracell. So, something like 24 batteries (which go like hotcakes in this house) for $10.
So now I have $10 ECB to get me back in "the game." Go me.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I have used half a roll of paper towels in the last month. This does not bode very well for the remaining 8 or so rolls to last me the next year! In my defense my husband is responsible for some of the usage, and my dog puked not once, but twice. But other times I simply felt too lazy to go to the drawer (5 feet away) that contains rags and get one, wet it at the sink, and use it. Bad, lazy, wasteful!
I have used a significant amount of my remaining stock of Swiffer wet pads and Clorox Clean-Up wipes. Again, no excuse but laziness and, paradoxically, being super busy lately. I have been a lot better about using rags and mopping with a bucket of water instead of the Swiffer, but there have been quite a few incidences that I thought to myself "f*** it". No excuse, again!
Running is over, for now. With the exception of any mild days that may make an appearance over the next 4 or so months, running is out. If it was just me I could stick with it (and probably would, because I do enjoy getting outside) but I think anything below 40 is too cold for my bundle of joy, even if he is bundled up. I have resorted to my old DVR'd workouts and Tae Bo, but since its a lot harder to do crunches and kickboxing with your toddler than it is to strap them into a stroller, I'm somewhat limited. Meaning--nap time is when I now need to squeeze in exercising, along with cleaning, writing, and showering. Since nap time is (average) about 2 hours long, somethings gotta give now and than. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to at least do a half hour work-out when I'm pressed for time...especially with the holiday season coming up!
I need to get a drying rack. Or get something in my laundry room. Though I have been hanging clothes out when I can, they aren't really drying. And, today I went out to check them and found the whole line of towels and rags frozen solid! So, I admit I have been using the dryer WAY more often in the last 3 or so weeks. I have the perfect spot to hang two bars in my laundry room, and that coupled with a drying rack should be more than enough. I just need to DO it. You would think with my next confession I would be all over having to run to Walmart and, you know, buy things.
I keep buying things. Its hard this time of year. I know we're in a recession, and I know that my son is too young to remember this Christmas. I know that I don't "need" a new wreath for the door, new stocking for the whole family, or a Magnadoodle for G3. But lately, I've been bad about spending, and I've been TERRIBLE about using coupons and CVSing. I had started to develop a really nice stockpile of non-perishables and know I missed a lot of good deals. But--sometimes life is just too busy! I really need to sit down and start shopping the way I had been for groceries and necessities.
My final confession...I don't want to be green with Christmas wrapping paper! Well, in my head I do but in my heart I want to wrap everyone's presents in brilliant holiday paper adorned with bows and ribbon, or stuffed into decorative bags with oodles of tissue paper. I recently wrote an article on Helium about ways to be green during the holidays, and a big focus of it was re-using materials like newspaper, paper bags, and previously used wrapping paper, and skipping the embellishments. So why don't I want to follow my own advice!!??
Okay. Confessions over. I promise to be better!!