Monday, April 30, 2012

What Some People Do For Money - A Look Into Some Bizarre and Odd Jobs

Photo credit: ngould
Have you ever thought about what extremes you would go to for money?  I mean, is there a particular sum of money that would make you do something a bit (or a lot) crazy?  I am not talking anything illegal like murder or selling yourself.  I'm talking about things that are legal and legitimately loony.

What if you really needed a job?  Does needing to provide for your family make you take a job that you wouldn't ordinarily consider?

Well here are some...let's say...interesting choices for employment that you might not have known were available:

1. Armpit Sniffer - Seriously.  You know how deodorant companies brag about how much odor their products eliminate and/or prevent?  Someone has to test those claims. Professional sniffers are well trained to understand everything about the human body and the role of the sweat glands. A single sniffer is said to sniff around 60 armpits an hour and they take three sniffs per pit to assess the intensity of the body odor, all the while using their clipboards to note down offensive odors on a scale of 1 to 10. (source)

2. Breath odor evaluator - Similar to the armpit sniffer, these people test the effects of products like toothpastes, gum, mouthwashes, and mints.

3. Beer Tester - These people littler taste and spit out beer all day long to examine new flavors and varieties.

4. Video Game Tester - Every little boy's dream.  These people sit around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week playing and replaying games testing for glitches in the game play.  I wonder if these people are at all interested in playing their own games when they get home.

5. Gold Ball Diver - Those water traps on the golf course would fill up quickly if someone didn't get in there and retrieve those balls from time to time.  So people suit up with a mask, tank and flippers and dive (not so) deep to reclaim those balls. Although this may sound like a dream job (some make between $50K-$100K a year), it doesn't come without hazards including broken glass, fishing lures, barbed wire, alligators, snakes, and deadly algae.

6. Furniture Tester - Did you know that there are professional couch potatoes? Yep - there are some people who get paid to sit on furniture and tell you just how comfortable is it.

7. Foley Artist - These people work for the entertainment industry. They take everyday products and create sound effects for film, radio, and TV.  You've seen those TV shows where in a recording studio someone is using a sheet of aluminum to make the sound of thunder or something similar - these people do that professionally. But they do much more.  They add in all of that ambient noise that really isn't there (or not clearly captured) during filming - the sound of rain, the wind, the street noise. 

8. Gum Buster - This is one that I did not realize had it's own name attached to it.  These are people who are contracted to remove gum from public settings - park benches, stadium bleachers, picnic tables, lamp posts, etc.  Although this sounds unappealing, with a pair of gloves, I bet you could get used to making money doing this pretty quickly.

9. Animal Reproduction Assistant - Okay, so this isn't the name of the two jobs that fall under this category, but I wasn't going to add the name of one of them to my search engine results.  Let's just say this: often in the world of farming you have to help animals mate when Mother Nature is not moving things along naturally.  You have to - um - handle the bulls in such a way to obtain their contribution to the process.  And then you have to add it to the cows so that little baby cows can result. That's the simplest way I can explain it - I think you get the idea. If not, go google it on your own because I'm not going into any further details.  Farming can be a rough job.

10. Chicken Sexer - Baby chicks are divided into males and females while they are still little and yellow and fuzzy.  This is because their diets are different depending of whether they will be used as egg-layers or dinner. So it takes someone some serious investigation that involves squeezing the poop out of the chicken and then looking for a bump inside their little booty to tell whether you have a little guy or a little girl chick. Sounds just strange.

I have to say that I've never had a particularly strange job, but during one assignment as an engineer intern I had to do a time study on a custodian. That means I had to follow him around his tasks for 8 hours timing how long it look him to do each task with a stop watch. It was completely mind-numbing.  I had a friend who, also as an engineer intern, had to measure length, width, and depth as well as the location of each pothole in a parking lot and plot them out in precise detail to determine the wear and tear of the asphalt in the company parking lot.

What about you?  Have you ever had any strange jobs?  Do you know of any not mentioned here?  Please share with us all!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Make Good Use of Travel Time

Do you love to read as much as I do? I absolutely adore books and the worlds they allow me to visit. I can read 2-3 books at a time (provided they aren't too similar in plot) and often do. But as life got busier and busier, I found that I was spending less and less time with one my favorite old companions - books.

But I found a solution, and since this blog is what it is, I will tell you that this solution is FREE.  Hooray for free, right?

I read on my daily commute.

Before you call the state patrol on me, let me clarify.  I "read" audiobooks every day on my drive to and from work. And thanks to our local library, I have thousands of titles available to borrow and pour through on my otherwise mind-numbing 35-minute commute (each way).

Photo source: ESwift
I have found a lot of great books this way. In fact, there is one particular series that I really enjoyed but didn't like the first 1/3 of the (LONG) first book in the series. Had I been reading it in a book, I don't know that I would have finished the book, as I really wasn't enjoying it. But since it was all I had to listen to in the car (other than a radio station sated with commercials and music I was tired of), I stuck with it and ended up LOVING the series. 

It doesn't matter what genre you enjoy: biographies, science, self-help, history, crime thrillers, trashy romances, or even a series about sparkly vampires - you can get a hold of any of these courtesy of most local libraries and get your reading done while you are in the car.

Here are a few ways to use audiobooks:
  • Enduring a daily commute (like I do)
  • Enduring a long road trip (we listen to family-friendly fiction like Chronicles of Narnia while we travel 6-1/2 hours to my mom's house to visit)
  • Studying - some textbooks can be found on audio and you can soak in some extra study time while traveling
  • Using a self-help/motivational book to pep yourself up for a day
And I'm sure there are others.

So don't just walk past those chunky cd boxes in your library (you can also get some on MP3 in some libraries). Stop and glance through them. You might catch up on your favorite author or find a new one you really like.  I know I have done plenty of both!

I would be remiss if I didn't include this warning though:  you might find when you arrive at your destination that you don't want to get out of the car because you're engrossed in what is going on in the book. It's like that book you can't put down at night and end up reading all night. I have been known to sit in my garage listening or drive around the block a few times to finish a particular intense scene. =)

Have you ever used audiobooks?  Does your library have a good selection?  What are your favorites to read/listen to?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The First Steps I Took Toward Getting Out of Debt

If you've been here a while, you've been walking through this process of getting out of a monumental amount of consumer debt with me.  If you're new here, please know that we're not there yet, but we're getting there!

The point is, this process has been going on for over 2 years now and we're at least a year (or more) away from being completely debt free. In all of this time, I have been telling you about the here and now, but I want to revisit what we did to start this long (and sometimes seemingly endless) road to financial freedom.

1. Had an emotional breakdown. Yep...that's right. I lost it. I don't remember what set it off, but there was that day, that moment when I realized how much trouble we were really in.  And I cried. And I blamed. And I fussed. And I fumed.  And then I got over it.  I think the breakdown was an essential part of my process.  I had to go there before I could move forward and I think the raw emotion that was set off made me realize just how big of a deal this really was. So go ahead - have a breakdown. And then get ready to move forward.

Photo source: zd
2. Sat down with spouse and the online banking statements and looked at what we were spending. Yet another important step that many people miss.  People will tell you to "make a budget" - but how in the world are you supposed to know how much to budget for food if you have no idea what you are currently spending.  Categorize it and write it down.  If you are spending $800/month for two people to eat, you can deal with that later. You might even get it down to $200/month. But before you can know what is doable - what is reasonable - you have to know what you are currently spending.

3. Segregated the necessary spending. Here it is. The power bill. The credit card minimum payment. The mortgage. The car payment. These are all of the minimum payments that you have to pay everyone in order to live right now.

4. Noticed what our income was. Now, compare this to your necessary spending. If the spending is above the income, big changes are coming.  If you can cover the initial necessary charges but not the "extras" your road might just be a bit easier.

5. Started making cuts. First cut out all of the extras. The shoe shopping each weekend. The convenience store snacks. The manicures (I know...that one might hurt). Cut it all out. You can get them again later, but the key here is to make progress and make a lot of it at one time. Then once you are down to the bare bones, cut it down again. Do you really need those premium cable channels? Do you really need cable at all? Do you really need that weekly detail job on your car? Can't you do it at home? Now that you've done this twice, take a break. You'll find more cuts later, but too much at one time can be simply too much.

6. Found extra cash. This may come from freeing up some of those previous purchases. Maybe you'll need to sell some extra "stuff" you have. Maybe you need to get a side job. Just find cash.

7. Read a good "getting out of debt" book. We chose The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It was inspiring. It was embarrassing. It made sense to us. You can choose a different one if you want, but this is the one that really hit home for us.

Photo source: ekki
8. Got moving. After deciding on a plan based on the info we read, we had to get moving. Putting it into action was exciting and inspiring at first. We were having a blast making changes and seeing those bills decrease.  We learned to live without things we thought we needed. We found that we could make even more cuts in our budget.

9. Reduced our debts.  Of course we were paying them down. We also called for lower interest rates, refinanced our home, took out a low-interest loan to replace a high interest one, snowballed our debts, threw every extra paycheck at our debts.

10. Rewarded ourselves. I will honestly tell you that we could live more frugally than we do. Plenty of people live simpler lives than we do. We still occasionally go out on dates and pay for a sitter. We still pay for summer camps and sporting activities for our kids. We have made huge cuts but continue to reward ourselves for the strides we have made. As long as they are in moderation and we keep it under control, it makes us feel a little more "human."

11. Made adjustments.  I hate to tell you, but your plan will not go as you want. Not all of the time. We were sailing along smoothly and then BAM! Chip lost his job. That really threw a wrench in our plans and seriously decreased our income possibilities. We had to adjust. We had to modify our plan. We had to make more cuts. We had to refocus. At some point something (and I hope it isn't job loss for you) will interrupt your plan. You have to reshift and keep going.

12. Stuck it out. This is the hard one. This is the day-to-day feeling after a few months of being "gazelle intense" (Dave Ramsey term there) of just being tired of this whole process. I find ways to remind myself that we've come so far...that's why it's so important to me to show myself how we're in $25,000 less debt than we were 2-1/2 years ago. I have to try to remember what the future will look like when we arrive at that debt free goal. Sometimes it's easier (like when we sent a huge check to a credit card) than others (you've seen our dining out numbers, right?).  But it is a process. This is, to me, by far the hardest of those steps. And the one that lasts the longest.

Photo source: _TekToNik

But I have to keep my eye on the prize. I have to remember where we've come from. And you do too.

So if you're starting out on this journey, let me tell you Welcome to the Club. You aren't alone. You aren't as dumb as you might feel (I know I did). You have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you have less to be ashamed of now that you're starting your journey than you did when you were ignorant of your bondage to debt.

We're going to do this together. Some will do it sooner. Others will take longer. But we'll all finish this race as long as we keep running, or jogging, or even walking. The finish line is out there even if it isn't in sight. Forward progress is the goal right now. It will get us there.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I Am a Proverbs 31 Woman - And I Have a Full Time Career

Photo Credit: pepo
There is a blog that I read that I sometimes agree wholeheartedly with and at other times, balk at when I read the titles of the posts. It's okay. I like reading differing opinions - in the comments as well as in the body of the post. It keeps me on my toes and keeps me thinking. I should go ahead and state that it is a highly conservative Christian blog written by a woman. I am a pretty highly conservative woman myself so this isn't something completely foreign to me.

However, there are times when I frankly just feel judged. You know, you read the post and something just jabs at you. And then you read the comments and find everyone agreeing with the writer and no one offering any differing opinions. Is it because I'm just that wrong (I don't think so)? Is it because this blog only captures a certain audience (mostly, but not entirely)? Does this writer moderate and delete the comments of those who differ from her (I don't think so)?

This is one instance that I just have to share. I have to write my point of view. I have to state my case (even to those of you who aren't part of that same audience).

The writer of that blog wrote:

It is impossible to have a full-time career, a solid marriage, secure and godly children, and a well-run home with nutritious food.  Nobody is superhuman.

While I will nod in vehement agreement that no one is superhuman, I felt slapped in the face. You see, I have a full time career...and because of that, I'm obviously lacking in one of the other categories because it is impossible based on her opinions (which so many agree with in the comments) that I could do all of those things well. Forget that she has never met my husband, my children or seen my house or our refrigerator and pantry.

I will not claim to be superwoman, but as I state in the comment section:

...I am a full-time working engineer. I have a solid marriage with a man who loves me and respects me. My children love God and love learning about God. Their father and I are far from perfect, but we strive daily to show them how to seek God and love others as we are commanded to do. My home is well run - the bills are paid on time every time; the house is clean; there is currently one load of laundry waiting on me; there is a fully stocked fridge of fresh and healthy food as well as some treats that may not be healthy but are also not altogether terrible - and those are limited in their consumption. The beds are made, the kids' chores are done, everyone is dressed, their homework is finished, we attend church services and functions at most every chance, and our children are also involved in extracurriculars. Additionally, we are not raising children who are materialistic. They are generous and loving. They are giving and fun. There is plenty of family time spent absent from technology. There are lots of cuddles to go around. There is plenty of husband-wife time. There is even room left for me to have a bubble bath with a good book at the end of the day.

So - although I am not perfect; my family is not perfect either - we're quite put together. We get our stuff done. We serve the Lord. And to say that this is not possible because I work away from the home, is quite a far reach from reality.


I understand, and honestly agree, that no one will raise my children like I will. I agree that time is the best thing I can give my children. I believe that it is mainly my responsibility to maintain our household (not that I do the work, but make sure it is done).

But I want to point out something that a huge trend of Christian women are missing these days, I believe.  You know the Proverbs 31 woman that everyone quotes?  You know, she cooks and sews and gives and volunteers and raises godly children all while pleasing her husband?  Read between those lines.  You know what else she does?  She buys a field with her earnings (verse 16), she trades (verse 18), and she sells items she has made (verse 24).  She is a business woman. Yes...she is at home much of the time. But is this what the writer of the proverb is praising?  Could it be that she is at home doing these things because it was socially unacceptable for women to work or be formally educated?  It appears that she is working hard and earning her own money to care for her family. Notice again...the field is bought "with her earnings" (again - she has earnings, people).

It actually never says that she stays home and cares for her children. She might have to hand them off to a relative to do all of this work and these business dealings - at least some of the time that would seem feasible.

It simply says that she does whatever she can to take care of her family.

So why is it that working outside the home is thought of as "lesser" in some Christian women's circles?  The Proverbs 31 woman did it...at least some of the time. There is no way she did all of that from home.

So if you want to stay at home and raise your children, I say good for you. More power to you. I'm so excited that you have that option in your life. On some days, I wish it were me as well.

But if you can't stay at home...or just don't want to...I think that is certainly your decision to make as well as long as you talk it through with God.  Just like I have.  I think as long as you are doing everything you can to make sure that your children are being taken care of by people who have similar values as you and that you are making sure there is food on the table for everyone to eat...you also are a Proverbs 31 woman. You are not selfish...no matter what some corners of society tell you.

You are taking care of yours.

Good for you. Carry on and be at peace with God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Free For All - 04/17

Sorry...late to the party today. No big Free For All post today because life is CRAZY right now. This seems to be an ever-growing theme in my life.

However, I am leaving you with a linky to list your giveaways and to enter others.  And while you are here, enter one (or all!) of the giveaways I currently have going on!


Best wishes!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Best of 13 Uses

Becoming a new Friday the 13th series for 2012 (yes, I can call it a series when there are three such occurrences this year), I am introducing you to 13 posts that feature a list of 13.  In January, we saw 13 Ways to do different tasks.  Today we will look at 13 uses for ordinary items. 

I hope you learn something new...I sure did!

  1. 13 Wonderful Ways to Use Epsom Salts 
  2. 13 uses for receiving blankets 
  3. 13 Unusual Uses for a Hair Dryer 
  4. 13 Uses for Those Stray Lemons in Your Fridge 
  5. 13 Ways to Use Vinegar 
  6. 13 Uses for Dryer Lint 
  7. 13 Amazing Uses for WD-40 
  8. 13 Uses for Cucumbers 
  9. 13 Unconventional Uses of Duct Tape 
  10. 13 Uses for a Bottle of Vodka - this site is not written in English-as-a-first-language style, but you easily get the message. 
  11. 13 Uses for a Lanyard 
  12. 13 Uses for Homegrown Tomatoes 
  13. 13 Alt Uses for Your New Mason Jar

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quick Check In

So you don't have a real blog post today because I mainly blog from work during my breaks. I spent yesterday at home so I didn't get much done. I got one blog post written for Friday that was quite time-consuming so the day wasn't a total loss blogging-wise.

But I wanted to tell you something really quick that might just make you happy.

The first good news is that tomorrow morning I will pick a winner for the Char Crust and Spiffies giveaways. If you haven't entered yet, get to it...just a few hours left.

The second good news is, regardless of the lack of blogging this week, you will have four (yes, FOUR) new posts tomorrow.

The third set of good news?  Three of those four are NEW GIVEAWAYS to enter!

Hooray!

So come back tomorrow for some great chances to win awesome prizes and another blog post that will have some interesting info for you.

Have a great evening!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

It Is Finished

Taking time today to honor what Jesus did you you and me.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Our Financial Status #26 - March 2012

So we've made some great headway this month in the area of debt reduction.  A lot of money flowed in this month and there are other big opportunities coming, but there were also some really ugly spending habits that reared their heads.  You can probably guess that they were in the area of eating.  We're truly awful at that and really need to reign it in. I mean, I know I say that frequently, but I hate to think of what more we could have done by now if we'd done better on food spending.

So let's move forward and see how March looked:

INCOME:
We came in at just over $300 over our expected income for this month. Some of that was some extra National Guard activity pay (Chip was on orders for some extra time this month) and some was a reimbursement we've been waiting on. 

UNDER BUDGET:
Electricity/Water: It appears I am $78 over budget this month, but that's just because I paid two power bills in one month (March's and April's).  In reality, I was $25 under budget for the month and that will roll over into the budget for April and I should still be under there.  Hooray for building up some wiggle room for the warmer months to come.
Doctor: $20 under budget.
Mortgage/HOA/Timeshare: HOA and Timeshare were on the money.  But we were a full mortgage payment's ($1619 previously) less than planned because we refinanced and didn't owe a mortgage payment for April 1st like we would have.  I'm using that extra amount to put some money aside for child care for this summer while Chip is gone for his Army stuff and making an extra $500 payment to Chase. Booyah. 
Toiletries: No spending this month on toiletries. Love my stockpile.


ON BUDGET:
Tithe: I haven't previously indicated our tithe on this section (or any other) before. That's because it's really not optional.  We're believers in Christ who believe in giving the first 10% of our income to God's work. Because I knew this would always be on budget, I haven't been including it, but decided to add it so that you, as readers, would know that we are not leaving out this important part of our financial life. 
Auto Insurance: No surprises here.
Television: As usual.
Term Life Insurance: Done
Mobile Phone: Nothing new here.
Alarm Monitoring/Pest Control: Regular charges here.
Pharmacy: We were on the nose with the pharmacy budget this month.  That means we didn't make any headway in knocking down the rolling "over budget" amount though.

OVER BUDGET
Gasoline: $300 over budget. Some of this was wrapped up in Chip's National Guard travel that was extra this month.  He will get paid for his travel in next month's paycheck, but all in all, this bill will only go up it appears (with rising gas prices).  I think I'll have to find some way to increase this budget to be realistic.
Auto Parts/Repair: $70 over budget this month.  Between a couple of oil changes, a headlight that was out and the stuff to restore your headlights (which really works, by the way), this bill was over and above the usual this month.
Eating Out: $364 over budget. Obviously reporting this is not making us change our habits.  We seem to be eating out more than ever although I know it is stupid and a waste of money.  As I mentioned above, I'd hate to think how much more we would be knocking down our debt if we didn't do this. I've gotta' find a better way to change this because shame and accountability on this blog don't seem to be working.
Groceries: $249 over budget. How can 4 people eat so much when you add this up to the eating out numbers. It's depressing.  That's $600 I should have been able to tuck away towards debt. I hate that.
Home Supplies: $41 over budget. Just some work done here and there.  Hopefully this will roll off in a few months.
Childcare: $120 over budget. This was spent for a sitter to watch Abigail for the two days that Chip was on orders with the Guard.  His paycheck covered this amount plus some debt repayment to the military PLUS some active duty hours that will count toward his retirement.  All in all it was a good thing, but it was an expensive two days.
Hair: $80 over budget for the month.  But since I have this on a rolling budget, I'm still underneath that rolling budget amount for the year because I don't often have my hair done. =)  Hooray for treats that you save up for. 
Clothing: $8 over budget for the month.  I bought some swimsuits online for Abigail as well as an adorable dress that I just couldn't pass up.  They were all great deals but they put me a bit over budget for the month.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

  • To rub salt on a wound of a month that was successful but could have been much more so, I had to pay a speeding ticket in the amount of almost $400. Ouch. Same day...Chip got a $27 parking ticket. If I believed in Karma I would say that it was frowning on us that day. 
  • Spent $55 on three birthday presents for this month.
  • Spent $1600 on bedroom furniture for Patrick. Yes, it is a lot, but this is stuff that he will take with him to college and then out into the real world, so an investment is good.  I also hope to recoup some of this cost ($500 to $800) by selling his old furniture. 
  • Spent $50 on a groupon deal to get a canvas print of a photo.  I've been wanting to have one of these done with a picture of our two kids together and I finally bit the bullet when I saw the good deal. 
  • Spent $5 to order some caterpillars for a project I will share with you soon. It is awesome!
  • $112 on a hotel room that will be reimbursed via the Army's travel pay.
  • Spent $10 on lottery tickets for this past weekend's Megamillions lottery.  I don't believe in the lottery, but my husband wanted to play. Although I don't believe in it, I didn't stop him from spending $10 on something that was fun for him for a few hours. 
  • The big one: Sent $4500 to credit cards!!!  WOO HOO!
Caveat: The below numbers are a bit different this month.  We made a lot of headway with debt repayment this weekend, but when we refinanced, we took on a few thousand dollars in closing costs that we didn't previously have. I know, it seems like taking some steps back, but we'll recoup our closing costs in about 18 months while using that money to pay off debt. All in all it is a good move, but this month's numbers don't look nearly as exciting as they feel.

Debt Paid off Since February 2012:+$6065.97 (see comment above about refi)
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $17,191.22
Change in Networth from February 2012: -$7097.10
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: $41,497.83
 

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