Maximize earnings potential (or something)

Back when we started talking about our leave (oh, the faraway land of February), I made a general estimate about the amount of money we might need in order to support ourselves overseas for 9 to 12 months: USD$15,000. Mia and I were on vacation, visiting my parents in Florida, and to me, the whole idea of dropping out of our daily lives (map in hand) to take up travel was still a “maybe.” The money, I figured, would be sorted out sooner or later.

Of course, the $15K was only an estimate, and not one thoroughly informed by the intricacies or unexpected things world travel entails. I had to start somewhere, I guess, and that seemed like a good, round and terrifyingly hard to reach number. Now that I’ve had a chance to do some more extensive research, a better number for us to have would be a nice, even more terrifying USD$20,000. Some will argue that even that isn’t enough, but our plans for workshares and volunteering will come up in future posts.

After I left Florida and got home, I started sorting through my finances. Bills, bills, BILLS. Ack. What could I cut? (How about running for FREE, outside [weird] instead of in a gym for USD$65 a month?) What could I absolutely not live without? (The internet. Do I even need to explain this?) And where the hell am I going to find this damn money? (TBD.) I figured I would try to save at least $12K myself to lift some of the burden off Mia, who is in the midst of a disparate transition from college to this bleak work-world.

The bad news is, I’ve never been a good saver. Back when I was a Boy Scout, I did indeed earn the Personal Finance merit badge, but my Mom taught the course, and perhaps nepotism (er, joke?) allowed for my slack on the specifics of how it actually “works,” and prompted the slide into the financial tumult I found myself in a decade later. Racked with student loan and personal debt from a cross-country move (and several other questionable moves) and years of knowing better, but not doing better, I am faced with some serious issues.

My salary is good, and would be GREAT, have I none of the aforementioned. But frankly, the goal is too strong to let the equally irresponsible financial sector pin me down to grinding away for “the man,” just so I can make good on my debts (Up the punks!) Not that I plan on running away from them (down the punks!), or declaring bankruptcy (hardly an easy task anymore). Rather, it’s time to own up and figure out how I can maximize earnings to keep me afloat overseas while squelching debt at home. Yeah, I cringed after typing that last sentence.

Over the past few years, I have occasionally taken part in research or focus groups to earn extra cash. My casual participation would yield $75 here, $100 there, and always free pizza and soda. One time we got an advertising company to pay us each $100 and buy us pizza and beer (always better than free soda).

Now, more than ever, these little paychecks have me scouring market research groups’ sites and Craigslist looking for opportunities to voice my opinions on everything from cell phone service to hair gel. One thing I can guarantee–they love a talker. Get your gab on and you’ll be hearing from these folks again.

Keeping up on this kind of thing can be tiring, especially if your day job frowns upon you scouring the internet for other work. But if you don’t mind getting up early (before work, of course), and checking Craigslist, you might find the most opportunities. The Bay Area isn’t exactly rife with early risers, so I’ve gotten plenty of call-backs for focus groups from replying to ads as soon as they go up.

Maybe a year or two ago, I would have frowned or look down on this kind of hustle and bustle for cash. Nowadays, with our journey (and co$t) in clear view, I’m prepared to take on any extra task. So, I ask you, “do you need your lawn mowed?”



One response to “Maximize earnings potential (or something)

  1. i need my house cleaned. oh! i also need a full-time best friend.

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