GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED! Congrats to Sarah and Helen!!!
The following is a guest post from Mich & Nadine, the husband+wife team behind Cupcake Makeover. The shop is the fusion of Mich’s technical experience from blogging in the past few years with Nadine’s passion for unique and adorable designs. A mom of 2 twin girls, Nadine has been enjoying party planning for the past 7 years. Mich has been a blogging buddy of mine for a while. Good luck guys!
Choosing the Passion
The hardest part of starting your own business is finding something you like to do; a passion or a talent that you can monetize. That was never an issue with my wife; she is creative and equipped with the proper graphic design skills. But most importantly, she has a blast when it comes to planning our kids’ birthdays. For the past few years, she’s been asked on every birthday why she doesn’t monetize her skills by offering her services.
How could she do that when she has 2 young kids to take care of along with a job during the day?
Getting it Going
We were always part of those people who dreamt of running their own business yet always had a reason to avoid taking that first step. However, she really wanted to! She’d been itching for some way that would allow her to do what she loves and profit from it. She certainly has the skills and the talent, these were never missing. What she was missing was the technical expertise to step into the world market of the internet. This is where I stepped in as I developed this knowledge over the past few years.
She was finally able to have her store on the internet as we took the plunge and started our small business by launching an online party supplies store: Cupcake Makeover. It was the result of combining her passion with my technical background in building and running websites. It’s the perfect business marriage, one that took a few years to materialize.
Taking that step required a high level of dedication as there’s an extremely competitive market out there. Your passion for something is often not enough to start a small business unless you believe you can do better than everyone out there. This is what I meant by having a high level dedication, prior to starting a business you need to study the market to know who you’re competing against. And in the party supplies segment, the competition is disheartening.
Yet that did not deter my wife from her decision, I did my part by setting up the store and after a few late nights she started rolling out her designs. She had jumped right into the fire by starting her work on a superhero party theme; this is one of the most popular (and competitive) party themes out there. She created all the coordinating supplies for a number of superhero sets from cupcake toppers & wrappers to treat boxes, party favors to food labels and everything in between.
Then we received that first order and it was a memorable experience. The feeling is weird, making $10 dollars from your own work beats making $100 from a regular job working for someone else. The money is just more rewarding. With the initial orders rolling in, my wife was also able to put her biggest fears to rest. She has been very worried about customer satisfaction; the recurring positive feedback from customers finally eliminated that anxiety.
Her work has paid off!
To celebrate, I’m sponsoring a $50 giveaway (two $25 certificates) for free stuff from http://cupcakemakeover.com/shop/! This will run from today through September 15, 2013. Crystal will let me know who wins. Use the Rafflecopter Widget below to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
We are part of a really cool group of people that hang out to board game whenever possible. We also take turns hosting potlucks and dinner parties pretty regularly as well. One of those friends and his wife haven’t had 3 days in a row to themselves for more than 12 years! Holy moly! So I will be taking care of 3 kids from Friday morning through Sunday night…
How Did I Get Into Babysitting?
Well, our friend asked me about a month ago to see if anyone could babysit this coming weekend since his regular go-to sitters weren’t available. He has a 6 year old little girl, an 8 year old boy, and an 11 year old boy.
The only special circumstance is that the 11 year old is autistic, but he is actually the most laid back kid of the group. I’ve been around him for half days two or three times now. The only thing that seems different is that he can get really, really focused on something to the point of it being almost obsessive. Like rules or making sure something was worded correctly. But anytime it’s happened around me, I just distracted him with absolutely anything else for a second and then he moved on. He’s just a normal little guy that sometimes has what feels like a brain glitch over specifics.
I asked our friend what the pay would be so I could pass it along to the group. It’s $12 an hour during the day and $6 an hour for 8 hours each night. That comes to nearly $700 since they needed someone from 6am Friday morning through midnight Sunday night! That is a lot of babysitting…but it also is a nice chunk of change.
I Threw My Hat in the Ring
I let him know that I would cover it for sure, and that I would ask around to see who else would help me out. He was so excited that he’ll get real time with his wife! That made me smile. But I also thought I could split a couple of days with other friends and the weekend would be a little easier. Well, no one else is free this weekend, so it’ll just be me.
I babysat all through middle school, high school, and occasionally throughout college and these past 10 years. So I am ready for this weekend, but it was a little unexpected that I’ll be handling it alone.
Before anybody yells at me for taking money from a friend, he is supplemented by the state for babysitting expenses like this once in a while because of the autism. It’s called “respite care” money to allow parents of children with disabilities to get a little time away each month. But they haven’t been able to get any time away for a while, so it has built up enough to cover a 3 day trip.
Ideas for the Weekend
I’ll be staying at their house the whole time, so I know we’ll have access to their normal activities. There is a swimming pool (and life jackets), a netted trampoline, and their pets (a dog and 2 cats…lots of Claritin for me, lol). I also know that they can play a few board games already and have a ton of coloring supplies. The kids also know how to operate the tv and dvd player.
My general plan is to get them outside in the morning and late afternoon using the pool or trampoline. In my experience, half the battle of watching kids is making sure they have ample opportunities to burn off energy. During the super sunny parts of the day and at night, I’ll see what they want to do inside and take it from there.
I know I don’t need to actually keep them entertained 100% of the time since they all are a but autonomous already. I also made sure my friend and his wife know that I will consider this a complete success as long as their kids are alive and their house is still standing by the time they get home. I definitely am setting a low bar.
I do have 2-3 people on call that will drive up if necessary. They just didn’t want to babysit the whole weekend. So if there are any problems at all, I’ll have all of the parents’ info, my husband, and a couple of friends that have promised to help if needed. I’ll let you know next week how this turns out.
Also, my plan is to use the money from this weekend to pay for an 11 day trip in September to visit a couple of great blogging buddies out in Utah and Portland. I’ll be spending about 5-6 days in each place and just turn it into a blogging buddy adventure. I’ll let you know how that pans out too.
What would you suggest for a 3 day babysitting extravaganza?
Last June, I went to an open interview to become a Chick-Fil-A cow mascot. I didn’t think I did that well in the practice part of the interview, but they called me in anyway a few times last year and a few more times this year. Since I am 5’2″ tall, I am the perfect size to be the kid cow (which is apparently the hard one to find). And since I work from home, I am available when their normal high school student employees are in class.
My Cow Experiences Thus Far
So, from last December to last week, I have been the kid cow 6 times. I was at the mall for Cow Appreciation Day and again for Christmas with Santa. I also worked the main restaurant once, a high school once, and two events held in a huge church auditorium for school events.
The gist of the job:
- Show up 15 minutes early to wherever I will be working.
- Put on the sports band to keep my glasses on my head and put my hair into a ponytail.
- Squirrel away in a closet or unoccupied room to put on all of the mascot stuff with the help of a “wrangler” – yep we have cow help. Specifically, we put everything on in this order – suit, clothing item of choice, feet, hands (with help), and the head (with help).
- 30-45 minutes of being a cow. A wrangler stays nearby to make sure we aren’t tipped. Seriously.
- Then 10-15 minutes of break time with water.
- Repeat if necessary. My jobs have been 1.5-3 hours long.
- Get out of the suit with help, put it back into its bag, and head home.
- My check is mailed to me 2-3 weeks later (I could pick it up like a regular employee, but I am lazy and rarely near the mall).
Overall, it’s hot inside of the suit, but a lot of fun. I’m paid $10 an hour, $25 minimum. My favorite part is sneaking up on people and making moose ears on them when they don’t know I’m there but everybody else around notices…hehehe.
And to be honest, all of the hugs from toddlers, kids, teenagers, and even adults is really nice. I like hugs, expecially when there is a cow suit that I’m not in charge of washing between me and sticky fingers. ;-) Not too shabby for a once-in-a-while hobby job.
Pics or It Didn’t Happen
And I know the following pictures will give most of you a nice laugh, so without further ado…
I’m the cutest Elf Cow ever, lol. Side note, that Santa is actually a real, freakin’ professional that gets flown around the country for events. There is a market for everything!
And now coming down the runway…cows in red. I’m the short one…
This poor guy was asked for a bunch of pictures once he picked me up for fun the first time. He never expected a 170 pound woman inside of a 30 pound cow suit…he was literally shaking by the time the last pictures were snapped. I was laughing to myself harder than anyone who has to be silent has ever laughed before…
We even get to dress snazzy for the nice ceremonies, LOL. I was dancing my butt off at one point in this getup…and no, I’m not the one in the dress…
What is the most entertaining job that you’ve ever had? Any other mascots out there?
The following is a staff writer post from Amanda L. Grossman at Frugal Confessions. She covers how to live a frugal decadent life where saving and living in the present are both held in high regard.
Have you seen that commercial where a guy puts himself up for all kinds of medical testing and he turns from a normal college student to some sort of babbling, blue-skinned caveman? Don’t worry, you won’t find opportunities like that in this article. Medical test studies are not all bad; in fact, my friend completed a sleep study one weekend in college and earned $300 for doing so! But if you are not interested in medical studies (or in becoming a permanent member of the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas), then below are some legitimate, non-compromising, product testing opportunities for you.
Each of the following websites offers a huge variety of products for you to test.
- House Party: Did you ever wish you could host a party sponsored by somebody else? Well, this is not as glamorous as the post-Emmy’s parties, but it certainly is fun. Use this website to apply for a sponsored party. Current parties include Atkins, Bic Soleil, Nerf Super Soaker, and Dole. When you are accepted (they only accept a certain number per campaign), then put together a party of friends and family for the date specified by the website. House Party will send you free products around the theme of the party, as well as coupons and all kinds of other things. You need to post about your party and/or photos on their website at the end. Check out current parties here.
- Synovate Global Opinion Panel: This is more survey-oriented, but from “time-to-time” you will test out products and give opinions. Surveys earn you points, 5,000 minimum amount of points to redeem for something or cash (1,000 points = $1). This is free to sign up.
- Mom Ambassador: You can apply to be a Mom Ambassador and receive free products to test. The hope is that you will introduce these products to the community/other moms. This is specifically for green products and services, and there is a listing on the right hand column of previous products.
- In-Home Product Testing: You can become a member of this company’s panel which will allow you to both share your new ideas for products as well as test products in your home.
- BzzAgent: This website is all about giving people free products so that they will spread the word on social media, and among family and friends. The higher up in the tiers that you get, the more products you will have access to. To give you an idea of the types of free products you could be testing, some current products include Café Escapes, Lysol foam cleanser, Green Giant Veggie Snack Chips, Bed Head by Tigi, and Fage yogurt.
- SheSpeaks: If you are a woman (sorry guys!) then you can register for this community. You fill out an initial survey and then are entered into a database. If you are active in the community, they will match you with products. You get to keep the products if you agree to fill out a survey or review for them.
- Amazing Products: Have you ever stayed up late and watched an endless stream of television commercials offering a gadget for everything that ails you? Well, now you can become a product tester for these “as seen on TV” (or rather “before seen on TV”) products.
Become a Product Tester of Your Favorite Brand
If there is a particular brand that you really love, then you might just want to email the company and ask to become a product tester. You never know what the response may be. Even if you are turned down, you can share with the company things that you like about the products and suggestions. Who knows, you may just end up with a coupon or two for some of your favorite products!
Brands with beta programs for you to join include:
- Nike Shoes: You can become a Nike Product Tester for footwear or apparel.
- Utz Potato Chips: Join the Utz Tasting Club in the event that new flavors need to be tested by an audience.
- Microsoft Video Games: Do you like playing video games, and do you live near Redmond, WA? If so, then fill out the online application as well as “like” the Microsoft Playtest site on Facebook in order to be notified of upcoming games to be tested.
If you like to try new products as well as share your opinion to help shape these products, then product testing may be for you.
Do you have any product testing experience? What companies do you like to use?
The following is a staff writer post from Amanda L. Grossman at Frugal Confessions. She covers how to live a frugal decadent life where saving and living in the present are both held in high regard.
My husband and I love to travel. It’s one of those priorities that will always be in our budget, because life is much sweeter for us with travel in it. For our honeymoon a few years ago we decided to go all out and plan an 11-day trip to Austria. Because we did not have the thousands of dollars to do so we set a goal in September 2009 to come up with $2500 towards the trip with money sourced from outside of our paychecks. By March 2010, we had accumulated $2100 from other sources, and $252 of this came from extra cash I earned online through surveys and research studies.
It took time to produce this money, and we certainly did not get rich doing so. But without having to apply for a second job or leave my home, I was able to pull in pocket money towards our honeymoon. I wanted to share some promising companies for making a little extra cash online to put towards your own fun goals, whatever they may be.
Make Money on Your Smartphone
If you have a Smartphone, then there are ample opportunities to make extra money using it. Perhaps you could earn while waiting for the bus, instead of perusing Facebook and Pinterest, or while watching television. Each of the following apps is free.
- Tapporo: This app is for Android and iPhone users. You can earn money or rewards by doing things like by watching videos, downloading free apps.
- GigWalk: This iPhone mobile app is used by over 200,000 people to earn money. The types of gigs that are available include photography and data collection, retail audits and mobile app testing. You can earn from $3 all the way up to $90 after you earn “street cred.” You must cover the PayPal fees when you are paid.
- Field Agent: Over 240,000 field agents (i.e. you!) make between $3 and $12 for various types of field work. You might do work like price checks on items or take a survey. Field Agent will handle the PayPal transaction fees for you.
Get Paid to Answer Other People’s Questions Online
Do you enjoy answering questions for people, or possess a specific knowledge set? You can get paid to answer questions using ChaCha.com. You certainly will not get rich: Vetters earn $0.01 cents per completed task, Expeditors earn $0.02 cents per completed task, and Transcribers $0.03 per completed task. Generalists earn between $0.10 and $0.20 per completed task, based on the Category of the question. But you could earn a little on the side.
Make Money from Surveys, Reading Emails, and Viewing Ads
Surveys can be a little frustrating because if you do not fall into the category of the type of person they are collecting information on, then you will not be given many opportunities. However, you should give it a try and see. Everyone can read emails and view ads for extra cash.
- MyPoints: You can cash your earned points in or trade them for gift cards using this website. Points are earned through completing/attempting surveys, opening emails, or purchasing items. To give you an idea of the reward amount, I have been a member since July 12, 2008 and have earned a total of 22,800 points (or approximately $125 in cash to a PayPal account). A good way to prioritize your time when reading emails is to go through all of them once a week. While watching television, I search my email for “MyPoints” and get all of the previous weeks’ emails lined up. Then I click on the “read” button, delete the email and immediately go to the next one. The only real downfall of this website is that it seems to take several weeks for your “pending” points to be redeemable.
- SendEarnings: This website allows you to earn money by reading emails, completing surveys, purchasing things, etc. The number of emails and opportunities you receive is based on your activity level. Active members could receive up to 3 per day, and unactive members may not receive any.
- Companies that I have not personally tried but have heard good reviews about are: Inbox Dollars, Opinion Outpost, SurveySpot, Surveyhead, ClixSense, and YouData.
What are some paid online opportunities you have tried? Were they successful?
It’s been a while since I talked about our rental income. I’ve written about how we currently rent out a spare bedroom in our own home to a couple of our friends. And I mentioned that we spent about $750 on fixing up our first house to get it ready to be moved into for November. Here are our most recent updates on our adventures in landlording.
The $750 we spent on getting our last house move-in ready seems to have paid off. Our tenant moved in November 9 and only has had a few issues to fix. The first one was that the side gate to the backyard wouldn’t open without manhandling it. I had forgotten about that, but our neighbor over there offered to check in on little stuff like that, so I gave him a call. He fixed it within a couple of days and wouldn’t accept anything but gratitude.
When it became apparent that there was also a little leak under the kitchen sink, he also popped in for 5 minutes and tightened a loose connection. I dropped off a 24 bottle pack of his favorite beer as a thank you for both little jobs. He seemed super happy and I am too, so yay for great neighbors!
The only other thing that popped up was that the garage door opener’s battery started dying and beeping, so I replaced it ($25) last week. All future batteries and light bulbs will actually be our tenant’s responsibility. But, in my opinion, it is only fair to at least have them all working when she first moves in…
That said, we received $880 for November 9-30 and she paid her $1200 for December a week early. So far, so good!
Covering Our Responsibilities
We’ve started an ING side fund to cover any big breaks like the air conditioner that is 8 years old, but overall, that house is very low maintenance. It doesn’t have a gas line, so everything is electric, located in the garage or at the attic’s opening, and is all pretty easy to get fixed or replaced. Costly, but easy. Our biggest responsibilities are to make sure the air conditioner, heater, water heater, and house itself stay in good repair.
She is taking care of all of the interior and exterior maintenance except for having the lawn mowed for a year. I agreed to cover the lawn guy biweekly from April-October 2013 and she could take it from there. That will run us about $280 total at $20 a pop, so I didn’t mind the concession to have her move in as early as she did.
Our tenant seems to be great about letting us know about issues without acting like it’s the end of the world. I’ve been able to handle them all within a few days. Plus, she has paid her first full month’s rent early and sent me a few text messages on how awesome she thinks her house is. So if that keeps up, we both should stay super happy.
Spare Bedroom Rental
A couple of our boardgamer friends have lived with us since May 2012 (well, he board games and she likes the Sims). They are a very sweet couple – two college kids earning their degrees. She is in her mid-20′s now and is becoming a teacher for special needs children since she already had nanny experience in that area, and he is in his early 20′s and is becoming an EMT.
In our old house, all 3 bedrooms were upstairs and they rented the spare bedroom and full bath that was at the end of the hall. In our current house, they had a choice between the bedroom and full bath downstairs or upstairs. The main difference was that the one downstairs had a long closet good for hanging clothes but they would have to keep the bathroom super clean for guests. The one upstairs had an average walk-in closet better for shoes/storage and the bathroom would not have been shared with visitors. They chose the downstairs option since taking the stairs all of the time didn’t sound like fun and they do have a lot of clothes.
Overall, living with another couple is pretty easy. And they always pay their $600 at the beginning of the month.
But there have been some downsides recently that were not as annoying in our old house:
- This is a brand new house that I am trying to keep super clean. That means I do nag more. Especially about the bathroom and kitchen. I feel like I am training kids that were never taught properly the first time. But they listen and learn eventually, so at least the training is working…
- The young man never had stainless steel appliances before and didn’t know that he couldn’t use the dark green, scrubby side of the sponge on our stove top. Now my stove top has permanent surface scratches. I was pissed and had to be talked down the afternoon I noticed. It isn’t super noticeable, some scratch-be-gone may work, and they’ve offered to pay for the scratch remover or even a new stove top down the road. But it has been the most memorable bad thing thus far.
- His old truck leaks fluids. Not a lot, but it does leak. So our driveway has some spots in two areas and now there is a container kept under his truck to catch the crap. When they move out, I will be having the driveway power washed and maybe resurfaced depending on my mood. I’ve thought about having it painted since that cuts down on weeds in the cracks too. (Money Beagle, I know this one is going to hurt you the most since you have a thing for nice driveways…I almost didn’t want to write about it because it may bring up bad memories for you, lol).
- I’ve been parked in a couple of times. They left, forgot about his truck in the driveway, and I was forced to use hubby’s car or stay in. I sort of lost my mind the most recent time since I was already running late. They understand if it happens again, they will be in search of a new place to stay.
- When they move out, we will probably replace the carpet in their bedroom since it is already very lived on. We’ll probably also repaint their room.
Still Worth It
But despite some annoyances and a couple of really bad moments (the stovetop and being parked in), the $600 a month is still worth it. Overall, we live well together. They stay in their room the majority of the time that they are home unless they are cooking or using the living room while we are out. Sometimes, we hang out talking at home or walk out to the duck lake/pond with a bottle or two of Arbor Mist. They are both extremely nice people who really want to make everyone happy and they are always super apologetic when something annoying pops up. More importantly, they have been fixing the issues so they don’t happen again.
For example, there is a drip pan under his truck right now even though it’s parked in the street. When he moves the truck in at night, he replaces the drip pan underneath the problem area. It’s been about a week so far, but it feels long-term. I’m even happier they will be getting rid of the truck next year. He’s also learned the hard way that only paper towels, microfiber, and soft sponges are used in the kitchen. And they have been way better about cleaning up after themselves, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. I rarely even know when they’ve cooked.
So, in the realm of roommates, I think all four of us are pretty lucky. Is sharing a house for everybody? Nope. But it is working well for us and I sincerely like hanging out with them on the evenings we just want to chat. Right now, this makes sense for us. And they plan on finding a place of their own in a year or two anyway. They are just aiming to graduate and save a bit in the meantime.
So there you have it, so far the adventures is landlording have been more positive than negative. I’ll update you again if that changes.
Have you ever rented out a spare room? Or do you have (or have had) a rent house? Any adventures you’d like to share?
I was telling you yesterday that Mr. BFS has started filling in some of his free time with working at the local bowling alley. Not to be outdone, I started looking into part-time jobs that I thought would be fun. I decided I want to be a cow.
Specifically, I decided to try myself out as a Chick-Fil-A cow mascot. Since I am only 5’2″ tall, I technically auditioned to become a Chick-Fil-A Kid Cow. My try out was last Friday but I don’t know if they will end up using me or not.
I think I was the only adult over 18 at the audition other than the Marketing Director herself. The kid cow head of the mascot did not fit on me as well as it seemed to work for others. And I didn’t really have time and wasn’t able to see well enough thanks to the head’s fit to truly play around while I was the cow, so now I feel deflated. I know that is silly, but I actually feel bad for not putting my best foot forward on being a mascot. I hate to fail.
I Might Have the Job
All of that said, since I am not a high school or college kid, and I do work from home, I might be one of the few people that could be scheduled for day-time events. If she does end up sending a scheduling email my way, I have a plan.
- I will get a sports band to hold my glasses onto my face while the mascot’s head is placed over me.
- I will also make the head work for me whether I can see perfectly or not. Even if I end up running into stuff sometimes when I try to move too fast without checking, I could make that part of my schtick.
- I want to have fun with this. Part of what makes me think I would make a great mascot is that I love to make people happy. That is why I volunteer for the local hospice. If I can make a dementia patient smile, I can make a room full of already-happy preschoolers smile too.
So I hope I am contacted again. At this point, I have something to prove, oddly enough. Plus, this will be a fun way to get out of the house more, make some side income, get some exercise, and get to eat discounted Chick-Fil-A. That’s a win-win-win-win in my opinion.
Have you ever gotten worked up about something most people would consider silly? Is it weird for me to want this little 5-10 hour a week job so badly?