Cheapskating, side hustle

MicroHustle Monday- OhmConnect

You might have seen those ads floating around Facebook by now. “This company will pay you $300 to unplug for an hour!”

Those ads are (almost) right.

OhmConnectThe company is called OhmConnect, and anyone across the United States can sign up. The company will let you know when a so called “Dirty” power plant in your area is gearing up to turn on, and will ask to you to conserve electricity to prevent excess energy usage. If you don’t live in one of OhmConnect’s payable areas, you’ll get points for participating, which can lead to prize awards. But if you live in California, Toronto, or Texas and use one of the major power companies (PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, Toronto Hydro Electric System, or as part of Smart Meter Texas), you will get paid in cold. hard. cash. (Via PayPal.)

The beauty of this system over other power saving options is that the intervals are pretty small, usually an hour long (although it can go up to four hours, this has been pretty rare in our experience). You’ll get a text message or email letting you know that an OhmHour is coming up; if you can’t or don’t want to participate that day, you simply opt out on their website and go about business as usual. If you are able to participate, then it’s time to get to work.
Right before our OhmHour begins, I run around the house unplugging everything. The company will look at the data from the last few days about how much power you’d be expected to use during that period, and ask you to cut your usage down below your forecast. The more you reduce, the more you’ll make, and you know I can get pretty extreme. So I unplug every cable, extension cord, and surge protector. I take everything off the chargers, I take my daugher’s nightlight out of the wall, and I for sure turn off the AC, TV, and the clothes dryer. Recently, I started to turn off the power to my fridge- we do it by adjusting the temperature manually from inside the refrigerator- and we’ve started noticing a bigger payout as a result.

Now, your earnings will start small. In the beginning, we’d make something like 70 cents to a dollar by participating in each OhmHour. But since Mama loves a micro-hustle, those tiny amounts didn’t bother me at all, and they started rapidly accumulating. I began participating more and more, making a no-go in-laws rule for myself, and pretty soon I was on a “Streak” for participating in so many OhmHours in a row, which adds a multiplier to my payout. At last count, we’re on a 43 OhmHours streak, and we’re getting roughly double the money we would be getting without the streak. You can get additional benefits by “leveling up,” which means increasing your average energy savings over time.

The program, of course, is not without its challenges. I always get about 24 hours notice before an OhmEvent, while Christine gets ten minutes (and kudos to her, that’s gotta SUCK and she still makes it happen). I use traditional power, but Christine has solar panels, which means some days she’s trying to beat a negative forecast. So yeah, that’s definitely more of a challenge. You’re not gonna be pleased with this program all the time, but for me at least (and for Christine most of the time), it definitely feels worth it.

Let’s end with some facts and figures here, in case you need more persuading- on our last four OhmHours, we made $46.18, $13.49, $9, and $43.79 respectively. So far, in the first half of July, we’ve made $138.25 by participating in OhmHours, which covers our electric bill for the month and then some. It takes time to get your account to this point, but once it does- oh man, will your inner cheapskate be So.Stinking.Happy.ohmconnect screenshot

 

For more information about OhmConnect, to see if you are eligible, and to sign up, visit https://ohm.co/c1da05c. You’ll get $20 when your account is synced with your power company, and, in the interest of full disclosure, so will we. Happy saving!

 

This post is neither sponsored nor endorsed by OhmConnect. We just really love it, and think you will, too.

 

 

Cheapskating

MicroHustle Monday presents Mystery Shopping

collage-2017-07-06-08_32_59.jpgWhen I first quit my job to stay home with my little miss, I was determined to do everything I could to maintain our quality of life for my family. And since dining out is basically our favorite pastime, I was desperate to find a way to make it happen on a drastically reduced budget.

Enter the Mystery Shopping experience, in which you visit restaurants (among other places), get reimbursed for your meal, and sometimes get paid a little something on top of it.

Now, mystery/secret shopping has gotten kind of a bad rap in the last few years because of a nasty scam where the jerks of the world posed as a mystery shopping company, wrote people huge checks, apologized for the error, and asked people to wire the extra money back to them. And, since most people are honest and kind, they did, and then they were royally screwed. So, good people of the world, do not do that. No one should be getting any of your account information, pretty much ever. But I think you probably all know that already, so let’s agree to use common sense and move on.

Your next step is finding a company to pair with. There are a few tricks to make sure the company is legit. First, NEVER PAY THEM. If anyone asks you for money, A.) Don’t give them any and B.) Don’t sign up for with them. Legit companies will be paying you, not the other way around. Secondly, the company should be registered with the MSPA, the legit-mystery-shopping association.

Thirdly, and this is just my own personal advice, don’t sign up with a company that requires your social security number upfront. If you start making decent money off it (anything over $400/year; I gave it up before I ever came even close to that amount), it may be required for tax purposes, but by then you should have enough experience with the company to know that they are legitimate. A company may ask for this information upfront and still be legit, so the fact that they’re asking isn’t necessarily a red flag. But personally, I would rather not have that kind of information in too many places. It’s a decision you’re gonna have to make for yourself.

Once you choose a company (I used isecretshop.com which compiles shops from several different MSPA companies, or you can choose one from the list of companies the Penny Hoarder has deemed most trustworthy), you’ll be able to see mystery shopping opportunities and claim a shop or two for yourself (procedures vary between companies). Once you’re assigned, it’s time to carry out your task. You might visit a restaurant and record the timing of everything, from when you’re seated to the appearance of the food via cell photos. Or you may make a phone call to a company on a recorded line for quality control purposes. Maybe you’ll visit a store and take photos of their bathrooms so the company can ensure they are being kept clean at all times. The nature of the tasks can vary widely, from easy to intensive, so make sure you know what you’re in for before taking it on.

Just like the type of shops, payment can be all over the place. Sometimes you’ll find a job with no required purchase and a decent payout (my last mystery shop paid me $25 for an hour of my time, from home). Other times, you will only be reimbursed for a portion of your meal, and you’ll typically need to front the cash (For example, you accept a shop with a $10 reimbursement. You spend $14, which you pay out of pocket, and in a few weeks you receive a payment for $10. You’re out $4 overall, but hey, that’s a pretty good discount on your meal, so it’s a win). It makes sense to run the numbers ahead of time to make sure you’ll come out ahead, or at least understand what you’ll be receiving in return.

You’d need to hustle HARD on this one to make any kind of financial gains, but sometimes that’s not what we’re after. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little hobby that pays for itself, or to go out to dinner on someone else’s dime. I dabble in mystery shopping now and again, especially if it’s a place I already enjoy going to or an easy over-the-phone shop, but it’s a fair amount of work for the payout, so I try to choose my shops wisely, and I suggest you do the same.

So, what do you think? Do you feel ready to get your ninja-fix, one secret shop at a time?

Cheapskating, momlife

Intro to Cheapskating

I’m not totally sure when I jumped the gap between being frugal and being a cheapskate, but here I am, living in the land of pennies and dimes. I count them, I save them, I try to help them grow into strong, confident dollars. I find ways to earn them and work hard not to spend them without long, drawn out conversations with myself and a million lists and plans in my BuJo.
But this land of Pennies and Dimes also gives me power. When I decided to give up a pretty decent income as a well-educated special education teacher, I chose to become more than a budgeter. I decided to be more than a saver, which has always sounded so passive to me, and to become a hustler. A micro-hustler, that is.

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It began with aggressive budgeting, and trying to spend as little as humanly possible. And I got good at it. Like, really good. Like, I don’t buy meat if it’s not on clearance good. But Holy Moses, that can stifle a person. I mean, a cheap month here and there is fine, but as Dave Ramsey would say, a person can’t live on beans and rice, rice and beans forever. And I wasn’t willing to take more out of our budget than I already was. So it was time to get creative.
I began to take on a series of increasingly creative side-gigs, one by one. I started using Ebates, became a mystery shopper, and joined one survey panel and then another. I found a program that paid me to save electricity, I subbed for people for pay at my daughter’s co-op preschool, and I synced up my Fitbit with an app that would pay me to do so. I recycled our bottles and cans, I rolled sleeves of pennies and dimes, and I sold some stuff-a lot of stuff- on Craigslist and Facebook.
And I’m not gonna lie, some people made fun of me. I mean, I was always hustling. But in teeny, tiny little ways. I came to think of all my little income streams as my micro-hustles, and I began to keep track of my earnings. I shrugged off the teasing, and I kept on keeping on. And as for the haters? They didn’t have much to say when I paid for an entire cruise with my girlfriends with those damn surveys and bottles and cans. Because those pennies and dimes? They WANT to be saved. They WANT to grow. I’m just helping to use those small coins to make big things happen.
So no, I’m not pulling in a full income off of these little side gigs of mine. And I’m by no-means replacing the income I gave up to be where I felt that I needed to be. But I am contributing to the household financially, and I am slowly but surely helping to make our dreams come true, the big ones and the small ones. And it’s happening one micro-hustle at a time.

Cheapskating, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting

Those “Cheap” Summer Movies

Let’s talk about those cheap summer movies for a minute.
On the one hand, you’ve got the glory of being the cool mom for a second. You took your kids to the movies! It’s air conditioned! The kids are happy, they’re enthralled, they’re living the dream. This experience was MADE for little kids, so you don’t have to worry if they’re wiggly, or chatty, or if they shout/sing along with the chorus to the movie’s theme song. Because there is a concert of 50 other lispy little voices telling Poppy to get back up again, too. Kids are dancing, kids are laughing boisterously, moms are sneak-opening cans of cherry coke (I’m looking at you, Christine) and relaxing back into their soft, squishy chairs for what almost passes as a break.
But. BUT.
Those concessions, y’all. You pay $1 for the movie, and $16.50 for one ounce of popcorn. This has got to be the whole point of the $1 movie experience from the theater’s perspective, cause you know they have to be making a profit somewhere, and it ain’t from my pocket change.
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Now, if you have somehow managed to make it into the movies without your kids knowing the concession stand exists, or they are content with your smuggled in snacks, or your kids are just so lovely they take no for an answer, we salute you. We applaud you. We envy you.

If someone (I’m looking at you, Daddy) has ruined the movies forever with a kids’ snack pack that has been upgraded to include an Icee AND a full size candy? We are so sorry. We feel you. We are here for you.

So when you get to the front of the concession line, because you’re gonna get them SOMETHING , because AVOIDING TANTRUMS, don’t try to ask for a large Icee split into three cups, because I’m here to tell you, they won’t do it.

Order a large Icee and three water cups, hold the water. Then get to work, mama. You’ve got a movie to see and that Icee ain’t gonna split itself.