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4 Side Hustles that Help you Stay Active

stay activeEveryone is trying to earn extra money these days. Thus, popular side hustles like freelance writing, graphic design and virtual assistant work are all becoming more competitive. While online side hustles can be very profitable and allow you to work location independently and have flexible hours, the one thing I dislike about having an online side hustle is being tied to a computer day in and day out.

If you work a full-time job at an office, then spend most of your spare time in front of the computer at home, you will have very little time to exercise and stretch your legs throughout the day. Staying active is important and very necessary the older you become. Establishing a side hustle that allows you to stay moving and make money may be the best solution.

Here are four money-making side hustles to consider.

Work as a Part-Time Mover

A lot of people dislike moving for various different reasons. However, if you got paid to help people move, would you feel different about it? If you don’t mind helping people move their belongings for cash, you can advertise your moving services online on sites like MoversCorp

This trusted site allows you to create an account and list your services free of charge, and choose your own service area and when you work. There are opportunities available in every state and you can set your own rates.
You can also see if any popular moving companies are willing to hire a contract worker or part-time employee to help on certain days. Of course the frequency of jobs you receive will be varied, but you’ll have the opportunity to make extra money by helping others through a busy time in their live and get a good workout in.

Become a Group Fitness Instructor

If you want to exercise for free or cheap and earn money at the same time, you should consider becoming a group fitness instructor. Group fitness instructors often have to undergo training and/or become certified, but the job doesn’t require any additional education and it can be a fun way to earn some extra money especially if you teach a class like yoga or Zumba.

Check with local gyms in your area, the YMCA, or the park district to see if they are in need of fitness instructors and ask how you can get started.


If you are a good swimmer, you can try lifeguarding. Lifeguards have flexible shifts, receive benefits and perks like free gym memberships – depending on who the employer is – and don’t just sit around all day. Lifeguards have to be trained and CPR certified.

Lifeguarding provides good seasonal work. While most work is available during the summer, there is also a need for indoor lifeguards year-round. If you’re interested in this type of side hustle, you should start looking now for a need in your community and securing connections before the busy summer season.

Coach or Referee

Another side hustle option that will help you stay active is doing anything involving sports. Coaching and refereeing first come to mind. Finding a coaching job may be tricky because most positions are for volunteers. Whether it’s basketball, baseball or hockey, the younger the division is, the more likely the position will be unpaid. To find paying coaching jobs, should look into higher-ed employers, traveling teams, and your local park district’s current openings.

Coaching as a side hustle can require quite a bit of time during days, evenings or weekends depending on the teams’ needs, but it’s a great option for someone who’s passionate about the particular sport and the idea of growing and improving a team.

When it comes to refereeing, it’s a bit easier to find paying positions. Referees can make anywhere from $12-18 per hour and are expected to know the rules of the game inside out and perform their job in the most ethical way. It’s an ideal option for someone who has free time during weekends which is when most games occur back to back. To find referee jobs in your area, check out sites like Indeed.com and Monster for job listings.


Have you had trouble staying active before as a result of work? What offline side hustles would you add to this list?

7 Awesome Ways to Make Extra Money This Spring


Extra MoneyWinter will officially be over in a few weeks. That means one thing…ways to make extra money this spring! 🙂 We’ve spoken before about making extra money in the summer as well as ways to make extra money before Christmas, but spring brings unique earning opportunities.

So, if you’re looking to make extra money for Spring Break, or simply want to make extra income this spring, hopefully some of these tips will help.

Great Ways to Make Extra Money This Spring

  1. Get Constructive – With the warming temperatures, many homeowners like to do things like build/repair decks, install new fences, etc. If you have some woodworking or handyman skills this can be a great way to make extra money this spring. You can charge either by the hour or per project and it can be a nice way to make extra income in the spring months. You can start by asking people in your neighborhood or advertise somewhere like Craigslist and see where it takes you.
  2. Take surveys – I’ve spoken before about making money taking surveys. You won’t get rich quick by any means, but is a great way to make a little extra cash. With a site like Swagbacks, you can make money taking surveys or through your normal shopping that can get you cash or Amazon gift cards. You can sign up for Swagbacks here and earn an extra $5 sign-up bonus as a new member. There are many other options to make money with surveys, including sites like National Consumer PanelVindale ResearchOne OpinionEarning StationSurvey JunkieVIP VoiceOpinion Outpost, ProOpinion,Opinion Outpost Canada, Mobile Xpression, Harris Poll Canada, Pinecone Research Canada and Nielsen Homescan Canada.
  3. Do Your Own Spring Cleaning – We do this in our home regularly. We go through the house and find the junk…err crap…we’re not using anymore and sell it. Yes, it’s a cliché but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Go through your house and find 5-10 items you don’t use anymore and go from there.
  4. Watch TV – Most like to spend time outside in the spring. You’ve been inside all winter and you want to breath in the fresh air. What about your downtime you spend in front of the TV? You can turn that dead time into a money making opportunity with Reward TV. Through Reward TV you answer a few questions about shows you watch and you can earn cash or gift cards for your time. You won’t get rich, but it can be a nice way to make a little extra money this spring.
  5. Get Behind the Wheel – We’ve spoken before about how to make money driving Uber or Lyft and springtime is a perfect time to do something like this. Spring is a popular travel time as people are looking to get away for Spring Break. If you’re 23 and have your own 4-door car then you’re good to go to make money driving for Uber or Lyft.
  6. Start A Blog – Starting a blog can be a great way to make extra money as there are so many opportunities out there to earn income. If I can start a blog, then I know anyone else can as well. There are a number of costs associated with blogging, main among that is hosting. Two great options are Bluehost or HostGator. You can open an account in minutes with Bluehost and pay only $3.95 per month, or similarly so with HostGator and pay only $3.96 per month.
  7. Open A Brokerage Account – I know opening a brokerage account as a way to make extra money this spring might seem a little odd, but hear me out. As you likely know, you can open and fund an IRA until April 15 and have it count towards your 2015 taxes. Online brokerages know this and is how the extra income aspect comes in as they offer promotions to earn your business. Some of these promotions even end on April 15th as a way to incent you further. Since investing in the stock market is such a big part of growing your wealth this can be a great opportunity for you to pocket a little extra cash.

Bonus Ways to Make Extra Money This Spring

  1. Clean Houses – Spring means one thing – spring cleaning. If you’re like my family then things just seem to accumulate a little bit more over the winter months. This is a perfect opportunity to make some extra income. The great thing about this idea is you need little to no skill to do it. If you can throw things away or know how to use a mop then you’re already an expert.
  2. Plant Something – Many people like the idea of a garden but either lack the time or desire to actually run one. If you have any gardening skills (and trust me if I can do it, so can you) this can be a good way to make extra income this spring. If you work it right you can set up some residual income for yourself by offering to maintain it throughout the summer and shut it down in the fall.
  3. Be A Yard Sale Planner – Yard sales are a common thing as the weather starts to warm up a little. The problem is many people don’t want to take the time to do the work or plan it. That is where you come in and can be a great way to make extra money this spring. The pay can either be a percentage or flat fee but you get to help clients get rid of clutter, make a little money and you get to make money – it’s a win all around.

As we’ve noted in other posts, this list only scratches the surface. There are many ways to make extra money this spring – you just have to be a little creative with it. That creativity should help encourage you to see that making extra income really can be a year-round thing to help further grow your wealth.


How will you try to make extra money this spring? Is there one thing you like to do this time of the year to make extra income? What’s one thing you’d hire out if cost wasn’t an issue?



Photo courtesy of: Stopnlook

7 Ways to Diversify Your Income

stock-624712_1280Want to save more, become more financially stable and stop living paycheck-to-paycheck? The best way to meet all these goals at once is to diversify your income. The days when people worked a stable job for 40 years straight then retired happily ever after are long gone.

If you want to earn more, it’s best that you diversify your income and develop some passive streams of income as well. Here are seven different ways to diversify your income.

1. Real Estate

Investing in real estate is a popular and effective way to establish an additional stream of income that can potentially become passive. If you like the idea of owning properties or becoming a landlord, you should look into real estate resources to help you understand the business better and how to make a profit.

You may have to make some sacrifices if you want to get into real estate and you’ll need plenty of savings to purchase your extra property and be able to afford repairs and maintenance. However, if you find good and loyal tenants, you may not have much work to do on a monthly basis and you can still look forward to collecting money each month after putting a limited amount of effort forward.

2. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing involves promoting a third party product or service through a review, link or advertisement in order to earn a commission from any sale that is made as a result. Mostly bloggers or website owners who have a solid following benefit from affiliate income because their platform reaches more people.

After writing the initial review or establishing and embedding the affiliate links into content or an ad, your active work is pretty much done and you can earn income from any sales that your affiliate links generate in the future.

3. Direct Sales

If you like to meet new people and interact in person, you might be interested in direct sales. Tons of companies look for independent sales reps including Avon, Mary Kay, Stella & Dot, Scentsy, The Pampered Chef and more.

If you find a product line that you truly support and believe in, you can become a direct sales consultant for the brand and earn some extra money by building your own side business in your spare time.

4. Sell Crafts Online

DIY and Etsy creations are trending right now. If you like to create unique and functional items, sell your products online and let the customers come to you. The best way to market your items is to promote something that people need or want that can’t be found in a typical retail store.

5. Write eBooks

Becoming a profitable author has become easier than ever with the introduction of eBooks. You can publish your eBook free and sell it on Amazon, through their Kindle Direct Publishing service. To publish an eBook that sells, first determine a topic that you consider yourself an expert on and find a way to solve someone’s problem.

Then, create an outline and a deadline for the completion of your book. Run your draft by an editor and consider purchasing a few stock photos to include within the pages along with creating a cover image. Once you complete your book and list it for sale, you’ll just need to promote it so you can earn royalties. To maximize eBook income, some people create multiple eBooks or develop a series.

6. Offer a Service Outside of your Main Job

Having a good-paying main job is great, but I find that 90% of the time, most people have skills and expertise that they can offer others on the side to earn extra income.

My duties at my main job includes working at web design company doing copy writing and adding content and cool features to the websites my company creates. Last year, I decided to start utilizing my writing skills by becoming a freelance writer so I could earn extra money.

The extra stream of income has been nice and allowed me to save more, pay off more debt and have additional money to cover any unexpected circumstances.

If you’d prefer to stray away from the duties of your main job, you can offer any other services or skills you have to others whether it’s tutoring, babysitting, giving lessons, writing resumes, designing graphics, photography, etc.

7. Investments

If you are willing to contribute the time and money it takes to build up a strong investment portfolio, you could earn passive income from years to follow. Investment income is not immediate income as it can take several years to get to the point where your dividend stocks, bonds and other investments are working for you, but you can always get started sooner than later.

Investment income is one of the best and most passive forms of income so it’s definitely worth the wait once you get started. Even if you’re starting with little money, don’t let that hold you back. You can open an account with Motif Investing, for example, for as little as $250 to begin building a portfolio.


What methods do you use to diversify your income? What goals do you tackle with your additional income? What’s your favorite way to make extra money?

How to Flip Items and Make Money Online

laptop-943558_1920When you need to make extra money or want to start side hustling, people will often tell you to start selling items from your home. That sounds great and all, but how do you actually do that? And more importantly, what do you do when all the items are sold and you have no more inventory?

Selling old clothes, children’s toys, electronics etc. either online or at a garage sale is a great way to earn extra money but it also can be very limiting.

If you’d like to make good money long-term from selling various different items online, you’ll need to start investing your money in inventory and flipping the items to make a profit. Sound easier said than done? Here are some practical tips to help you flip items and make more money off your online sales.

Determine a Profitable Category of Items to Sell

When you decide to flip anything for profit whether it’s a house, a car, a piece of furniture, or even clothes, the main idea is to spend as little as you can on something that will have the potential to sell well. You can do research online to see what items are selling best these days or you can poke around on popular websites like Amazon, eBay and Craigslist to see which items are being advertised most.

Jason, who owns the website, The Butler Journal, is an experienced eBay seller who flips items for profit online in his spare time. He suggests checking online to see if a particular item you are interested in selling has been recently sold by someone else. This will help you get some insight on how popular the item is and how much it sells for so you can determine a realistic price point.

“If I have an item listed and someone inquires about it, almost always provide a timely response. If someone is taking the time out to email you about an item, nine times out of 10 they want to buy it,” Jason adds.

I did a little of the research work for you and compiled a list of some of the best items to flip and sell online for a profit.

  • Clothes and shoes
  • Electronics
  • College Textbooks
  • Movies
  • Video Games
  • Toys
  • Sport-Related Items
  • Action Figures
  • Household Supplies
  • Art and Home Decorations

A few months ago, I decided to start selling clothes online to make extra money. I had quite a few clothing items I no longer wore or needed. When my inventory ran low, I decided to start shopping at local thrift stores in search of what I call ‘hidden gems.’ Thrift store gems include brand name clothing that is in mint condition and still in tact for resale.

Sure I could probably pick up 10 shirts for $1.50 and try to sell them online. But with name brand clothing, you can list less items and still earn good money because people will pay more for it. You probably couldn’t even imagine how many people donate their perfectly good designer clothing to thrift stores. It’s a shame for them, but an opportunity for me.

Use the Right Platform

When you invest in the right items to either fix up or sell, you’ll need to consider which platform you’d like to use. Most people sell items online through popular online resellers like Amazon or eBay. The only downside about these sites is that it may be competitive but I will talk about how to get a leg up on the competition in my next point.

Craigslist is also another site sellers use to connect with a wide range of buyers, but some are ‘iffy’ about. It’s usually best for local selling since you will have to meet the buyer in person to make the transaction and give them the product. They don’t offer any safe way to help sellers and buyers make transactions through the website, so your best bet is handling the business is person and creating your own receipt system. Craigslist may be the better option if you are selling larger items like furniture that is too expensive to ship and brings in more money per sale.

If you don’t want to go through the mainstream platforms, just try to find a legitimate website to use that is relative to what you’re selling. For example, if you’re selling used college textbooks, you might want to use TextbookRush.com or BookFinder.com since you would have more of a target audience there. If you want to sell clothes, you can certainly use Amazon or eBay, but you can also use sites like Poshmark.com

Use Descriptive Keywords

Keywords are very important if you will be selling items on Amazon or eBay. When listing an item for sale on either of these sites, it’s important to include a detailed description along with relevant keywords that will help your listing show up when shoppers are searching for something similar.

Great keywords include brand names, color, size and details about the condition. Make sure you don’t skip the description portion either. Adding a one to three sentence description for each listing may sound time consuming, but it will be a way to fit more keywords into your listing and help improve your chances of selling your item(s) online sooner.


Have you ever tried to sell items online before? What types of things would you be interested in flipping to make a profit?

How to Become a Mystery Shopper and Score Freebies


vinyl-records-945396_1920Have you ever wanted to earn extra money while you were out running errands or score freebies like oil changes, free meals and other services? Of course you probably have.

Mystery shoppers obtain all those benefits and more while working a flexible schedule and picking up hours whenever they please.

What is a Mystery Shopper?

A mystery shopper or secret shopper is an individual who is hired to perform market research on several different businesses and retail stores by posing as a customer in order to critique the shopping experience and observe and assess other specific aspects of the business and its’ employees. Mystery shoppers generally visit a location and make a purchase or talk to an associate in order to report a clear assessment of the overall experience.

After each shop or job, mystery shoppers enter in data or submit a brief survey to the marketing company who hired them elaborating on specific details like how clean the establishment was, how the employees were dressed, how they responded to questions, whether the associates were friendly and compliant with all the rules, etc. Most times, no one can tell the difference between a mystery shopper and a regular customer.

Why Become a Mystery Shopper?

A lot of people like the idea of becoming a mystery shopper because it sounds like an easy job and perhaps a little fun. Shoppers get to visit all different kinds of stores, restaurants and other businesses and make purchases that they will be reimbursed for along with receiving payment for completing each shop.

Shop opportunities are available on a first-come-first-serve basis with most companies but there is usually plenty of work to go around. Thousands of businesses utilize secret shoppers for market research and to make sure employees are performing their jobs accurately.

As a mystery shopper, you can choose where you’d like to work and how much you’d like to be paid based on the selection of available shops.

If you don’t want to travel more than 10 miles to complete a shop, you can just work near your local area given that opportunities are available. If you want to do a shop during your lunch break, you can schedule it in.
How much shoppers can make varies depending on the job, but most can expect to receive opportunities paying anywhere from $15-60+ on average.

Most companies will mail you a check for the work completed or pay you via PayPal every 30 days.

How to Get Started

To become a mystery shopper, you just need to find a legitimate company to apply and sign up with an account so you can start receiving notifications about different opportunities. Below is a list of some legitimate companies to get started with. When in doubt, always search for reviews about the company along with their status with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are legitimate.

Sinclair Consumer Metrics

Once you sign up with a company and fill out your interests and complete your profile, you’ll receive a Shopper ID and the company will send you email notifications when opportunities are available. You may want to sign up with a few different companies to maximize the results.

Most mystery shoppers work as independent contractors and are responsible for paying taxes on the income they earn. As an independent contractor, it will be your responsibility to keep up with all your receipts and paperwork and submit it by the deadline for each job in order to get paid.

Since you will always be reimbursed for anything you spend during shop assignments, all the required products and services you will be asked to obtain will all be free. That means free pizza, free coffee, free bowling, free auto inspections and much more.

If you’re looking for a low-stress way to earn extra money in your spare time, you might want to try our mystery shopping.


Have you ever been a mystery shopper? What tricks have you used to earn extra money doing so? What do you use your extra money from mystery shopping for?

How to Get Paying Clients for Your Side Hustle Without Much Experience


computer-472016_1920So, you’ve been inspired by a particular side hustle and you want to get started. The only problem is you don’t have a lot of experience or any leads as to how you can obtain clients and start earning money.

If you are considering starting a side hustle in a completely new territory, don’t get discouraged. You’ll have to immerse yourself in the role, build up your skills and establish new connections in order to find paying clients and build a thriving source of side income.

Here are five ways to help you find paying clients and turn your passion into profit.

1. Reach out to someone in your Industry who is Getting Paid

If you look up to anyone in particular or come across someone who seems successful at something you want to do, don’t be afraid to reach out to them with questions. Most people are happy to give advice and if they aren’t or seem standoffish, you can always move on to the next person.

Getting advice and helpful tips from someone who has been where you are currently and knows exactly how they were able to establish paid work can be very valuable. They might even have leads for you. You shouldn’t email someone you don’t know straight out asking for a job lead, but you should establish a connection with them first and stop looking at other people as competition.

If you know what you want your side hustle to become and can add your own creativity and flair to it, there will be plenty of opportunities for you and everyone else. Even with freelance writing – which is supposed to be an over saturated industry – there is plenty of work for everyone and successful writers are often more than willing to give newbies advice.

2. Start a Website or Online Portfolio

If you want to get paid for your side hustle, you’re going to have to look professional so people can take you seriously. In order to help market yourself to people who are willing to pay you a decent wage, you’ll need to create a website or online portfolio to showcase your work.

Having a website just automatically screams ‘professional.’ It tells people that you have a web presence other than Facebook along with some background information on your website and an easy way for people to get in contact with you.

Starting a website or blog doesn’t have to be expensive. You can get a free theme and even purchase a domain and hosting for cheap ($4 or less per month through Bluehost) so you can showcase all your work online.

If you don’t want to set up and maintain a website, you can always create an online portfolio to showcase all of your work so potential clients can reference it.

3. Do Some Work for Free

It may not always be ideal, but sometimes you may have to start doing work for free in order to build up some experience and work samples. Reach out to other professionals in your industry to see if you can help them out in any way or even start a no obligation trial.

When I first started freelance writing, I reached out to a blogger and offered to be a contributor on their very popular website. I wrote for free for about two months, then I stopped. Three months after that, she emailed me asking if I’d like to be brought on as a paid contributor.

When I wanted to start diversifying my skills a few months ago, I connected with a client who needed help transcribing his webinar videos. Even though I never did any transcription work before, I wanted to try it and I pretty much knew I’d be successful. I convinced the client to take a chance on me by offering a free no obligation trial for the first video transcription.

After finishing the unpaid trial, the client loved my work and we’ve been working together ever since.

This just goes to show you that you may not get paid for the work you do at first, but it can open the door for future opportunities or even referrals for even more work.

4. Build your Network and Start Telling Everyone you Know

When you first establish your side hustle, I know it might feel awkward to start marketing yourself to others but it’s something you need to do especially if you don’t have many client leads. Start telling everyone you know about what you’re doing and that you are looking for clients.

Choose your rates so you can be ready if someone asks you for a quote.

Most important, start introducing yourself to more people and building your network. Sites like LinkedIn are great for building up your network and you can also join private Facebook groups that cater to the industry you’re in so you can meet other people who have similar goals as you or are looking to hire.

If you take the necessary steps to build up your network, it will certainly pay off and you’ll have more people coming to you and referring you for work as opposed to it being the other way around.

5. Build Your Side Hustle Business

If you are still in the process of building up your network, sending out pitches is the most common way to try to secure clients when you are just starting out and don’t have much experience. Find out what all the hot spots are for leads in your industry. You can always search for client leads on sites like Indeed.com, Craigslist.org and Elance.com.

Cold pitching can be effective if you do it right. First off, when you send a pitch to someone who you like to hire you, make sure you are clear and to-the-point. You may want to establish some type of connection with them before you send your pitch though. Follow them on social media, share their work, comment on something they posted online to build up some type of background even though you’ll technically be sending a ‘cold pitch.’

Be sure to include past samples of your work and/or your resume in your pitch along with any ideas of ways that you could help simplify their tasks or be an asset to them. People love to hear about how you can help make their lives easier. Busy professionals, parents and entrepreneurs are also willing to outsource and pay people to take care of certain tasks for them so really try to touch on your value in your cold pitch.

Finally, check the grammar and spelling in your email before you press send. Follow up with the potential client a few days after if you don’t hear anything just to express your interest once again. Keep cold pitching again and again until you start hearing back from people. If you pitch enough, you will get a response.


How do you get paying clients for your side hustle? What challenges did you face in the beginning? What have you found that works when you cold pitch a potential client?

Scottrade Review: Get Up to $2,000 Cash Back!


ScottradeScottrade is a well-known player in the online brokerage space. My wife and I do a majority of our investing through Scottrade, leading me to do a Scottrade review to discuss what makes them different and how they can help grow your wealth.

In my Motif Investing review I discussed how I appreciated that they think outside the box when it comes to helping them meet their clients’ investing needs. The difference you’ll see in my Scottrade review is they’re more traditional in their offerings and services. Both are needed so investors can have the selection they need in order to find the best online broker for them. With that in mind, let’s get on with our Scottrade review.

How Scottrade is Different

Scottrade is considered one of the bigger online brokers. I have dealt with them both as a client as well as on the business side as a stockbroker. My interaction with them, overall, has been a positive one over the long-term. When deciding on an online brokerage you need to look at what makes them unique. Below are some of the things that sets Scottrade apart from the crowd:

  • Scottrade is known for their flat $7 stock trades. That puts them right in the middle of the competitive range for pricing. Some are cheaper, like Motif, but others are more expensive. The flat rate is a big winner in my book as you can count on that regardless of the number of shares you’re trading.
  • Scottrade has an extensive national branch network. They have over 500 branches throughout the country, which to my knowledge is the most in the industry.
  • Scottrade is an older online brokerage as they started business in 1980. Due to that, they are able to offer quite a number of products and services.
  • Scottrade offers access to over 14,500 mutual funds, of which more than 3,000 are no-fee mutual funds. This is more than any other online brokerage, that I know of, and if you invest in mutual funds you know how pricey they can get, with many charging upwards of $50 to trade.
  • For many years Scottrade did not offer dividend reinvestment. They changed that several years ago with the introduction of Scottrade FRIP. FRIP stands for ‘Flexible Reinvestment Program.’ Scottrade allows you to pool eligible securities to reinvest in up to five different stocks. I love this feature as it allows you to direct how you want to reinvest dividends – for free.

What’s Needed to Open a Scottrade Account

Whereas you can open an account at Motif Investing for as little as $250, you need at least $2,500 to open an account with Scottrade. If that amount is a bit too much for you, Scottrade has a $500 minimum requirement for retirement accounts.

This would make Scottrade a viable option for those who’re investing with $1,000 or less. Scottrade offers a wide variety of accounts from the standard IRA and non-IRA to Trust accounts, business accounts and more. If a minimum balance requirement is a concern for you, you can also check out TradeKing, as they do not have a minimum balance requirement and are at a level similar to Scottrade, not to mention with a cheaper commission.


I hate investment fees. There’s no reason why you should have to pay an exorbitant amount to do your investing and Scottrade does generally well in this area. Beyond the flat $7 trades, they do not have any hidden fees, account maintenance fees or anything like that.

This doesn’t fall under the fees category, but one thing that does stand out is that they offer a higher platform for those who have more than $25,000 invested in one account. That is their Scottrade Elite platform which offers increased charting and more tools than the standard Scottrade platform.

Honestly, I wish they offered this to all of their clients, but this is unfortunately a common trend within the industry. That being said, if you’re not an active trader then it won’t make much difference to you anyway.

Investment Options

One thing I do like about Scottrade is they offer a broad range of products. They, of course offer stock trading, along with mutual funds, options and the like. But, they also offer things such as:

  • Bonds
  • CDs
  • Treasuries
  • International trading in over 20 countries

The one area Scottrade is a little lacking in is their options trading offerings. As long as you only trade covered calls or buying a call or a put then you’re going to be just fine. If you want anything more advanced than that you have to open a second account through OptionsFirst, which is a sister company to them.

This brings a second account you must log in to which is sort of a hassle in my opinion. If you don’t trade options this is of no concern. If you do like to trade options and want one place to go for your investing then I would recommend looking at TradeKing instead.

Scottrade Review – My Take

I believe for many Scottrade is a great fit. They have a solid history and a wide range of investment options. I also like that they have their local branch network as it makes it easy to deal with someone face to face in the event you have any account related questions. I love their platform as it’s very intuitive and straightforward to use while also offering many of the tools most would need to manage their investment needs.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of requiring a certain account balance to get access to more tools or the increase in minimum needed to open a non-IRA account. I believe they should be available to all clients, but it’s the nature of the beast in this industry – money talks. I would also say the same thing about their options trading capability, though if you don’t trade them, it’s a moot point.

I have seen Scottrade work great for beginning investors and seasoned investors alike. If you’re more of a buy and hold type of investor and trade minimally throughout the year then Scottrade could be a solid option to consider.



Where do you handle your investing? How much do you pay for your trades? Are you more inclined to invest with a broker that gives you the ability to meet with someone face to face?



5 Simple Investment Tips To Do Prior To Year End


Investment TipsIf you haven’t looked at a calendar lately, we only have a couple more weeks left in 2015. Crazy, I know, but it’s a reality none the less. Amidst all your holiday planning and trying to get ready for the New Year there is one thing that far too many let slide by – their investments.

I generally advise a laid back approach to investing, though one that regularly checks in on the performance of your portfolio. Year-end is a perfect time to look at your investments as long as you don’t wait until the absolute last minute; after all, you need to give yourself enough time do what you want with your investments. The great thing is you still have a few weeks to implement some of the following year-end investment tips below.

Open An IRA

In my online brokerage days the same thing happened every year – without fail. Someone would call in on December 31st wanting to know if they could open a particular kind of IRA only to find out it wouldn’t be open prior to year end. The angry client simply didn’t realize it was a regulation we had to abide by, not an unwillingness to open an account. In my opinion, you knew about December 31 for 364 days, so I have little sympathy.

Likely the most important of my investment tips is to open an IRA today if you do not have one. That doesn’t mean you have to fund it right now, as you have until April 15th of next year to do that but you do need to have it open prior to year end for it to count. There are a variety of brokers that can help you open an IRA, but if you wait until the last minute, getting it done in person can save time. If that is something you want to be able to do, then a brokerage like Scottrade can be a great option as they have over 500 branches nationwide.

If you’d like to open an IRA, but have limited funds, below are some of the brokerages you can open an IRA with for $500 or less:

Look At Your Fees

I’ve spoken about investment fees before and hate them. So, it goes without saying that one of my investment tips for year-end is to analyze what kind of fees you’re paying on your investments. There are quite a few to look at, including:

  • Mutual fund fees
  • Account maintenance fees
  • Commissions

The point in all of this is you want more of your money working for you and not the person or firm managing your investments. You worked hard for your money so why give it to someone else?

Looking at fees only at year end though is only going half way. For this investment tip to work you need to stay on top of them throughout the year to keep them from becoming a drag on your portfolio. This can be a challenge if you have multiple investment accounts, or simply want something streamlined that gives a snapshot of your fees as a whole. For that reason, I love to use Personal Capital as it’s free to use and they have a fee analyzer that helps you to determine what fat can be trimmed. Sign up for a free Personal Capital account today and take advantage of the tools they have to offer.

Rebalance Your Portfolio

If you weren’t paying attention to the market this year, it has been all over the place. Thus, your investments have probably shifted some and are likely no longer lined up with your allocations. The last thing you want to do is ignore that at year-end and risk it not being lined up with your risk tolerance or where your goals are at.

This, again, is another reason why I like to use Personal Capital as it can help with that since I have multiple investment accounts. Different people suggest different intervals at which to rebalance a portfolio though I tend to recommend the once a year approach to keep it simple. If you have a 401(k) through your employer, check to see if they can automate this for you going forward as many 401(k) plans offer it at no charge.

Avoid Abrupt Decisions

The no-brainer amongst my year-end investment tips is to not act rashly. I saw it happen every year. Someone would freak out and sell everything to just sit in cash. I understand the emotion, but it displays little forethought. It goes without saying you need to keep a long-term view to your investing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take action. You just need to act wisely. Doing so will help you:

  • Avoid the wash sale rule
  • Harvest tax losses so as to mitigate any potential gains

If there is a taxable issue at stake you will, of course, want to speak with a tax professional. I spoke to far too many people who acted rashly only to get themselves up a creek for their taxes, so be aware of that before acting.

All These Investment Tips Involve Getting Started

As with most things related to investing in the stock market many of my investment tips for year-end are tied to one thing…getting started! Far too many discount the role of time and how it plays into growing your money. Getting started can mean many things. That could mean simply opening a brokerage account, putting some money in it and starting to invest. It can mean educating yourself and finding some investment books to help you wrap your mind around how to get started.

If you allowed this year to go by without investing, it might seem like nothing. But, a year can mean a lot. However, all of us have to start somewhere and we’ve all made mistakes (myself included…far too many times) so the key is to simply get started and the rest will take care of itself.


What are some of your investment tips for year-end? What is one thing you’d like to accomplish investment-wise in 2016? Have you opened an IRA yet? If not, what are you waiting for?



Photo courtesy of: Artotem

Are You Ready to Be a Landlord?



Becoming a landlord is a great way to earn some additional cash flow when you really need it, such as if you plan to retire early or send your kids through college. However, it’s not a step to take lightly, and it’s important to research it thoroughly before jumping in headfirst. After all, purchasing additional property is a huge investment that will keep a large chunk of your money tied up until you decide to sell.

For two years, my husband and I became landlords almost overnight. Right when the housing market began to crash, we bought a new house before we sold our old one, and that was not an ideal situation to be in. Looking back, we should have stayed in our old house rather than becoming the owners of two properties at once, but hindsight is 20/20. The problem was that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into due to our lack of research.

Becoming a landlord is a great way to diversify your income as long as you approach it with appropriate preparation and plenty of reserves to back you up. It’s also important to realize that it’s not exactly passive income since a lot of work goes into it. Here’s how to tell if you are ready to be a landlord.

Hire a Property Manager or Be Your Own Landlord?

Being a landlord is a lot of work. It means that if something goes wrong with your house, you are the one who gets to fix the problem, no matter the time of the day. If you don’t want to be the one who has to deal with a busted pipe in the middle of the night, then you may want to look at hiring a property manager. They will charge a fee for their services, but you may find that it’s worth it to you to not have to deal with last minute repairs and problems with renters, especially if your property is in another state.

Property managers can do everything from finding and screening potential tenants to collecting monthly rent to finding someone to fix repairs. Ultimately, you will still be financially responsible for the upkeep of your house, but a property manager can help smooth out the process if you are unavailable to manage problems at a moment’s notice. While it is spending money to make money it’s a valid question to consider before taking the leap.

Finding Tenants

Finding your own tenants isn’t as easy as posting a listing on Craigslist. If you go that route, your phone will probably blow up with inquiries from renters who aren’t exactly the cream of the crop. (At least that was our experience.) If you do opt to find your own tenants, plan to screen them before they move in. You don’t want to find out the hard way that your tenant has a bad history of paying their bills.

Require potential tenants to complete a detailed application, provide past landlord references and a current employer for you to contact, and sign a written authorization giving you permission to verify this information. Once you verify their income and credit report, you will have a pretty good idea if your new renter will be able to pay the rent on time. However, if they are unwilling to provide this information, you can be sure to steer clear and keep looking.

Maintain Cash Reserves

I cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain a separate account for reserves set aside solely for your investment property, particularly if you have a mortgage on it. Not only are you responsible for the mortgage payment on your property, whether you currently have tenants or not, but you are also responsible for taxes, insurance, maintenance, and repairs, many of which need to be immediately remedied. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways, but some form of savings account (checking is just as fine) with ready cash.

It is important to make sure you can continue to make the payments on your property if you don’t have a tenant for a few months. If you can’t afford to have enough cash in reserves for your property, then you need to reconsider becoming a landlord.

Rentals Aren’t Exactly Passive Income

The bottom line is that renting out property can be a great income producer, provided you are ready for the work and responsibility. But due to all the work that goes into it, it can’t truly be considered passive income. By finding and screening tenants, working on repairs and general maintenance in your free time, and dealing with other unforeseen problems such as renters who don’t hold up their end of the lease, you are still working for your money, so keep that in mind as you consider if being a landlord is right for you.

What are some other things you think need to be considered before becoming a landlord? Do you currently invest in real estate? If you do, how do you balance the responsibilities?

5 Ways to Make an Extra $500 by the End of the Year

ExtraThe end of the year flies by quickly often due to the rush and excitement of the holidays. Most people like to wind down, relax, refocus, and start preparing for the following year during the last few weeks of the year.

If you want to start your finances off on the right track next year, you can make one last push to earn an extra $500 before the end of this year.

Think about what you could do with an extra $500 in your pocket after the expensive holiday season passes. It may sound like a lot to earn in a short amount of time, but there are quite a few things you can do to earn this amount of money quickly.

1. Sell Your Unwanted Clothes

Going through all the clothes you no longer wear or need and selling them online is a great way to purge some unwanted belongings and earn some extra money by the end of the year. Re-organize your closet over the next week and put all the clothing items you don’t want or need in a separate pile. You can also gather unwanted clothes from other people in your household as well.

While you can trade in your used clothes for cash at nearby ‘buy, sell and trade’ stores, you can get more bang for your buck by selling clothing that is still in good condition online. Take well-lit photos of your clothing and post them on websites like Craigslist and Amazon with a description.

Selling your clothes online allows you to price them and determine how much money you will make off the sale as opposed to having a retail store tell you what they will give you for the clothes. Poskmark is another app you can use to sell your clothes online for a good price.

If you collect outerwear, sweaters, jeans, and gently worn shoes from everyone in your household and sell the items online, you can easily work your way up to earning $500 while decluttering your home at the same time.

2. Help Your Neighbors Out

Now is the perfect time of year to offer helpful services to your neighbors who may be preparing for a vacation or trying to wind down for the holidays and simplify some of their responsibilities. To earn $500, the key is to offer a variety of services to multiple people in your neighborhood.

If your area has heavy snowfall in December, you can offer to shovel some of your neighbors’ driveways a few times per week or babysit their children while they go on outings or attend events.

If you have an elderly neighbor, you can volunteer to shop for them when you do your shopping. You could also offer cleaning services for friends and neighbors who may be throwing holiday-themed parties or events. You can also earn money through your shopping by using sites like Swagbacks or TopCashBack that offer cash back bonuses if you shop through their online portals.

If someone you know is going out of town, you can offer to pet sit for them, check in on their animals regularly, or walk their dogs.

If you are a great cook, you can even offer to cater an event by providing a meal or dessert.

All of these tasks shouldn’t take too much time or effort and they are great ways to help your friends and neighbors relieve stress while earning some extra money.

3. Work as a Brand Ambassador During Holiday Events

Have you ever went to a store during the holiday season and stopped by a booth to try a food sample, taste wine, or watch a short presentation that promoted a product? The person you interacted with at the booth was most likely a brand ambassador representing a marketing company.

**Additional resource: Want to know other ways to make money before the end of the year? Here are 12 Great Ways to Make Extra Money Before Christmas.**

Brand ambassadors are often independent contractors who are employed to run in-store events to promote different brands and products. During the end of the year, people shop a lot more so companies are always looking to hire more brand ambassadors to work certain events at different stores.

If you like to interact with different people and share product features with them, you might do well hosting a trade show or an in-store event for a few days or a weekend.

The best thing about most brand ambassador gigs toward the end of the year is that they are contract jobs, meaning you agree to work for a few days and don’t have to make a long-term commitment.

Brand ambassadors get paid either hourly, by commission or a combination of both.

4. Offer Consulting Services

If you have any special skills or areas of expertise, you can always offer consulting services to others to help them meet a goal or learn a process that is new to them.

Time is money. When you have a specialized skill set and valuable knowledge and experience under your belt, you should be comfortable with charging other people for your time if they need to pick your brain for ideas and guidance. ‘Consultant’ is just a fancy word for a person who assists individuals and businesses with developing processes and strategies that helps them save time and money in the long run.

As a consultant, you can offer your services at a flat rate of $50 per hour and work only 10 hours to reach $500 by the end of the year.

5. Teach Someone Something One-on-One

Sit down and make a list of 25-50 interesting things that you know how to do. It might take a few minutes to gather your thoughts at first, but jot down anything that you know how to do well that makes people perk up in interest when you mention it. For example, I’m pretty good at baking, writing and I also know how to play the drums.

Narrow your list down to some of the most unique or most sought after skills that you have and offer private lessons to teach family, friends and associates over the holiday season. Some parents might need extra tutoring for their kids when they take a break from school or someone might want to learn how to play a new instrument.

People can even purchase your private lesson services as a gift for a loved one or friend.

These are five of the most flexible ways to earn extra money before the end of the year on your own time. There’s still a few weeks left.


What are some other possibilities to make an extra $500 by the end of the year? What do you look for in a side hustle? What’s your response to someone who says it’s difficult to make extra money?