I’ve hired my friend and huge blog supporter, SherryH, as an occasional staff writer here at BFS. 😀 SherryH lives near the coast of North Carolina. Her family consists of her husband, their two adult sons, and the requisite writer’s cats. In 2013, Sherry survived a brain tumor that destroyed her eyesight. She’s determined not to let that slow her down. She recently started blogging at http://www.blindnotinvisible.wordpress.com/.
In one of her recent vlogs, Crystal advised people who complained that they couldn’t do the things she’s done to Stop Whining, Start Doing, or Shut Up. I don’t think Crystal gives herself enough credit. She’s got an awesome blend of talent, drive, and creativity that I don’t think many people can match! But I think most people can almost always do something to improve their situation.
My Action Plan
I made a somewhat whiny post here not long ago, When Does It End? I felt like our family was holding onto the last thread at the end of our financial rope, and more and more kept piling on. I couldn’t see any way out, and I was feeling pretty desperate. Some great comments here and some very supportive emails really helped me put myself back together.
I kind of feel like I needed to have my whine, but now that I’ve gotten it out of my system, I can concentrate on our situation and what to do about it. So here’s what I’m going to do:
Step 1: Cut Ourselves Some Slack
Two and a half years ago, I survived a brain tumor that nearly killed me, and lost my eyesight in the process. That’s a pretty huge freakin’ deal!
My job for the past couple of years has been to heal and to relearn how to function independently in a world that’s changed hugely. The brain tumor, my near death, and my blindness didn’t just affect me. My husband and our two sons were along for that ride. They too have had to heal from some serious emotional trauma and learn to function in new ways as our roles and family dynamic have changed.
This isn’t meant to whine or make excuses. It’s a thing that happened. What I mean to say is that for the past few years, we’ve had some pretty major issues to deal with, and those had to take precedence. It’s only natural that staying on top of our finances took a back seat.
Now that those other issues are under control, it’s time to deal with the financial situation. There’s no point in beating ourselves up over it; we just need to take the situation as it is and move on from here.
Step 2: Focus on Savings
In the past, I’ve always prioritized paying off debt. After all, if we paid something off, we saved on interest and we no longer had that payment going out every month. But as Revanche noted in the comments of my last post, if you don’t have an emergency fund, the next financial crisis will put you right back into debt. And there’s always another financial crisis coming along.
This month, we managed to cut a $70 payment from our budget. That $70, plus a few more, went into savings. As I told MrH, we can always take it out again if we need it. But if it’s not in checking, we don’t think we have it, so we’re not tempted to spend it.
In addition, in the months we can get by on MrH’s income, I intend to put any writing or online income I make straight into savings as well. I fully expect that anything we put in savings this year will go toward paying our 2015 tax bill next April. But if it buys us some breathing room, I’m okay with that.
Step 3: Earn More Money
There are two ways to balance a budget: cut expenses or increase income. I think we’ve cut our expenses as far as they can go, though I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. This means we need to increase our income.
I don’t want to put the specifics of MrH’s drafting business up for discussion because he’s not here to take part in the conversation. But he and I have discussed it quite a bit. We’ve agreed that he needs to diversify – either find more clients or devote some of his time and energy to developing a second income stream.
That leaves me.
Currently my income comes from writing. I’m up to three staff posts and two stories each month. I think I’ll be able to increase that as I get used to the pace and find new opportunities. I do think I need to spend at least some of my productive time offline. I get tired and headachy if I spend too much time working on the computer, though I hope I’ll be able to build that up a bit as I go along.
That said, here are some of the other options I’m exploring:
- Migrate my blog to a private host and monetize it. (It would help if I were better at WordPress, but I’m learning.)
- Become a freelance proofreader or copy editor. (I’ve got a lot of experience with peer editing in critique groups, but no real-world experience or credentials.)
- Sell handicrafts such as paracord keychains, leather pouches/purses, and woven scarves and belts. This could be online or in person.
- Earn points with SwagBucks or another online survey site. (So far, I’ve found many parts of SwagBucks inaccessible, but Revanche has offered to help me out, and we’re working on it. There are other sites I could try, too.)
- Work with my Vocational Rehab counsellor to find part-time employment, maybe as a dishwasher. (Hey, I wash dishes at home all the time, and I have worked in commercial kitchens.)
- Become a motivational speaker. (I’m not sure how that would play out, but I’m open to the possibility.)
- Evaluate websites for screen reader accessibility. (So far, almost all my experience is with one operating system, one browser, and one screen reader.)
I could probably do any of those, though I’m not sure I could do all of them, at least not all at once. I think the trick is going to be to concentrate on developing one or two, then slowly add others.
I don’t see any one of them becoming a full-time business or providing a full-time income, especially not in the beginning. But who knows? Enough income trickles might add up to an income stream, and enough income streams might add up to something like a real income. And in the meantime, every little bit helps.
I’m still a little down about our financial setbacks and worried about how we’ll catch up. I’m still looking for ideas and strategies for getting out from under. But I have a plan now, and I feel a lot less alone. We made it through before, and we can make it through again.
Many thanks to everyone who commented or contacted me. Crystal’s right – you all are the best blog readers ever!
Crystal’s Comments: I highly suggest everyone make a list of their own income options and then concentrate on the one that makes you the most excited to start with. I have found that excitement equals motivation, which leads to much faster success. Sherry, you are freaking awesome too, and I may not give myself enough credit, but you don’t either. 😉