As you all know, I rarely accept guest posts here on Mad Money Monster, but I made an exception. I was approached by The Penny Hoarder to write a contribution piece for their website all about saving for your future over saving for your kids’ future. Since I’m quite passionate about that topic, I was excited to write an article for them. If you’d like to check out my handy work…here’s the link! In exchange, they also wrote a piece for Mad Money Monster! It’s a piece that I hope many of you can relate to on your own financial journeys.
As fall approaches, vacations have ended, and the kiddos are back in school, keep an eye out for more frequent posts here on the site! Fall is our favorite season around here and we plan to have lots of frugal adventures to share with all of you. Now without futher ado, here’s Jen Smith from The Penny Hoarder to tell you that you don’t have to live under a rock to pay off your debts!
I used to get major anxiety thinking about my student loans — that number was really big, and my salary was really small. I mainly didn’t want to pay them off was because I wanted to enjoy my 20’s.
Now that I’m 28 and have paid off almost $78,000 of debt in less than two years, I can see I was pretty naive. I thought “enjoying life” meant going out, traveling and ignoring my financial responsibilities. My husband and I haven’t taken many trips or bought a lot of new clothes while paying off our student loans, but I think I’ve lived an exceptionally full life.
If anyone out there is like I was, worrying that you’ll have to set up camp under a rock for years to pay off your debt, I’m here to set the record straight — there are a ton of fun activities you can do that won’t set you back financially and that might even make you money.
1. Mystery Shopping
My husband and I do a few mystery shops every month. It’s not a lucrative side job, but you basically get go out to dinner for free or get paid a little to test drive new cars. When I’m shopping a restaurant, I look at the maximum reimbursement and plan what I’ll order so I can get as much as possible — that usually means leftovers for lunch the next day!
A few mystery shopping companies I like are:
I prefer to sit behind a computer, but my husband likes talking to people. He started driving for Uber as a way to meet new people and make some money on the side. He gets to talk to all kinds of people and has some great stories from doing it.
Driving for Uber has also allowed him to get an intimate tour of our city. He’s only lived here for three years, so there are still places he’s not familiar with. He’ll ask people about the places they’ve been and what they recommend.
You can get almost anything on Groupon. A few of my favorite purchases have been skydiving, teeth cleanings and a tire alignment. (I’m clearly easy to please.) I also love that they do a different sale almost every week, so you can always count on getting an additional 10% to 30% off the already discounted price.
If you’re a foodie, Groupon should be your best friend — it allows us to go out to restaurants and not feel guilty about spending money. Buying Groupons in advance makes it easier to budget, and the vouchers are less likely to go to waste.
4. Side Gigs
Aside from making your debt repayment process quicker, having a side hustle can be an awesome experience. I’ve done things like babysitting at a foster group home, designing t-shirts and taking surveys for extra money.
I know you’re really busy, but that might be the best reason for wanting to start a side gig. A side hustle can lead to a career in the future that you truly love. And having no debt means you can afford to make less doing something you love instead of working a job you don’t.
5. Discounted Gift Cards
Sites like Gift Card Granny buy and sell unwanted gift cards. You can save around 10% to 20% buying gift cards from these sites. And you can use coupons on top of them, so it’s like a double save!
Road trip? Buy a gas gift card. Going out of town? Get a discounted hotel gift card. Not liking any restaurants on Groupon? Buy a discounted restaurant gift card. You can even buy them for gifts around the holidays (pro tip: buy them in the spring and hold onto them).
See? You can pay off your debt and not live under a rock while doing it. It involves a lot of persistence and a little creativity, but if you keep at it you’ll have a rich life now and a rich bank account later.
Jen Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites with more than 19 million monthly readers. In 2016, the Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder the 32nd fastest-growing private company and the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the United States.