I posted recently how we’ve been cutting monthly expenses, so I figured I would post a compliment to that showing some of the things I’ve done to bring a few bucks into the household each month as well.


Clinical Trials/Studies

I sat down and added up the clinical trials and other items studies I’ve been a part of, and up until now it’s only amounted to about $800. But $800 is $800. Just last week, I was selected for another clinical trial. This one will amount to about 50 “work” hours and it will pay $1,325. Not bad, and it will help to cover about what we need to cover a months of expenses (including Nicole’s income).

The same facility I do the clinical trials does other studies and food taste tests as well. Their taste tastes pay between $20-$30 for about a half hour of your time. Couple some of the other studies and taste tests with the higher paid clinical studies and this has been a decent way to add some money each month for me.

Unemployment Compensation

This isn’t so much a side gig, but it is a way to have monthly income while you’re out of work. This should be a given if you lost your job. Regardless of if you were laid off or terminated for cause, apply for unemployment regardless. The worst they can say is “no”. Here in Illinois, you can collect for unemployment for 26 weeks, you just need to certify every two weeks that you looked for positions etc.


Perusing the Gigs section of Craigslist, you can often find a few side gigs that are just a few hours or a day. Best part is that they’re pretty much all cash. Some may be odd jobs like cleaning a yard or tossing stuff out of a garage. Depending on your skill set, this can include some computer work such as networking or hardware repair. If you’ve marketed yourself well enough, you can make a couple or few hundred bucks a month just from this and word of mouth. Don’t discount a little effort into checking Craigslist postings to generate some few extra dollars each month especially if you’re good with doing some manual labor.


I was able to get a few gigs doing some home networking/audio/video work as well. If you have an area of expertise or something you’re good at, it’s likely someone will pay you to help them. I was able to get about $50/hour for this type of work. It would be awesome if I was able to get this amount full-time, but it definitely helps supplement what is coming in, albeit inconsistent.



Since my unforeseen departure from my job in February, we’ve done a pretty good job (IMO) at cutting as many of our monthly expenses as we can. I thought I would outline the things we’ve done to accomplish that.



Okay, I’m taking a little latitude with this one since we switched to Magicjack a while ago, but it deserves to be mentioned! For less than $4 a month, it’s hard to beat unless you do away with a landline altogether. We could just cut the landline totally, but for me, having the comfort of a landline is worth the few bucks a month.

Car Insurance

In the category of it doesn’t hurt to ask, Nicole called our auto insurance agent and basically said, hey we’re driving much less now because Joe is out of work and I don’t drive much and we can’t afford what we have. What happened? They were able to drop our insurance by about $80 every 6 months. Call and ask, it doesn’t hurt!

Cell Phone

We switched to Ting Wireless back in April. Switching to Ting Wireless has by far been the best cost savings thing we have done so far. I wish we would have done it long ago. We used such little data and voice back in August, our bill was just over $30. That’s for two smartphones for a month! Compared to our $135/month AT&T bill, it makes me feel like I was getting robbed by AT&T. Check out Ting Wireless here.

Those are the ones that come to mind first. There have been several others which have definitely helped us save a few dollars over the last few months. We’ve wrote about several other things which may not add up to much right away, but they do contribute to our “blow” money. We use different reward programs such as Discover cashback, Shopkick, Bing, Swagbucks and survey places like Harris Polls and Pinecone research.



I remember when I was growing up – I had a passbook savings account. Some of you may not be old enough to remember those “passport” like books which you used as your savings account. I would collect $10 or $20 and go with my mom or dad to the bank so I could deposit my money and have my passbook updated showing my money grow. Of course then I didn’t have the appreciation for saving money, or money in general for that matter. But I can still remember how cool the feeling was to see my money in the passbook increase. That little nugget of a feeling still helps me today.

I’m not sure the options that were available back then to get a kid started with saving or investing. The passbook and savings bonds were all I had. They taught me some valuable lessons about interest and saving for things you want down the road.


Read More →


I’m not sure about you guys, but this month just flew by for me. The beginning of September marks 6 months I’ve been out of work. I’ve been able to get a few side gigs for a few bucks here and there to help supplement my unemployment compensation. Mostly in the form of surveys and market research studies. I’ve been getting more aggressive with my job hunt lately as well as making changes to my resume in order to try and help bring in more interest.


I’m kind of ready for autumn, my favorite time of the year. The cooler weather, the fall colors, football, and hockey too! It also means we’ll be able to keep the windows open more frequently saving some money not running the AC or heat.

Here’s a recap of postings we had for August:

Garage Sale – Recap

It’s Not A Treat If You Have It Every Day

Social Security Numbers

College Costs

Joe’s Top Movies


I was reading this article on employers helping to repay student load debt over at Y! yesterday. Pretty cool that companies are starting to realize student debt is a huge burden which is an issue that is only growing.


While I think this is a huge help to those college students entering the workforce, to me it’s just a kind of band-aid on a bigger issue – the expense of going to college. My youngest started at the local community college just this week. He’s taking a full class load and tuition for the semester was just over $2.6k. A deal actually as far as college tuition goes. In contrast, the four year school he is eyeing to go to after his two year stint at the community college is just under $15k a semester. Maybe I’m out of the loop on college costs, but $15k a semester?!? Now I understand this is an exceptional school for his career focus, but wow, $60k for two years of schooling!

The more I thought about it, aren’t we as a society, hurting ourselves? Forget for a minute the student and his or her mounting debt that will follow them to their grave. If the cost of education it putting off potential students, who is that really hurting? For example, with the Affordable Healthcare Act and a larger portion of the population aging, we will have a need for more doctors. We’re already seeing the affects in the South with a shortage of doctors. So while schools continue to be increasingly expensive to attend, our country as a whole will suffer because of a lack of interested students.

I mean, who can blame students these days? The average student load debt is about $30k. And that’s just for a four year university/state school. The debt increases if it’s a private college. I don’t feel a little debt is necessarily a bad thing – there are other lessons to be learned with having the accountability of a student loan – but when you read about doctors having $100k+ in load debt, something is seriously flawed with the system. Who’s at fault? I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet the schools hold a good portion of the blame. Some hiding behind a thin veil called “non-profit”, bah.



A little venting here about Social Security Numbers (SSN). Your SSN should be coveted and protected – seriously, it should be. In this day and age of identity theft and the importance of having good credit, you and I need to be unwavering in the attention we give in protecting it.

As I work through my job search it really amazes me the number of companies (I’m looking at you Ulta) who not only require your SSN for the online application process, but actually tell you that it won’t be used unless an offer is extended to you. Well then, why not ask me at that point? I wonder if these companies realize that all this does is turn people off from even bothering to apply. They’re losing qualified applicants because those that are in demand can easily apply at a company who doesn’t treat your SSN as if it were no big deal.

I have no problem giving it at the proper time, but to give you my SSN on the mere chance I’ll get an interview, let alone an offer? Please, no recruitment process couldn’t be changed so that your SSN isn’t obtained until the employer needs to run a background check, which they won’t do with 95% of their applicants. So now they have all these people’s SSNs, which can be stolen, just sitting in a database and god only knows how secure those are.

Just as bad are doctors offices which ask for your SSN when you first fill out the new patient paperwork. I’ve even seen a nurse or receptionist write it down on a piece of scratch paper. Scratch paper?!? You don’t know where that piece of paper will end up. And guess what? The majority of the time they don’t need it, so don’t give it to them. I never do. These days even medical insurance companies have moved away from using them as primary identification.

The only institutions who need your SSN is the government, banks/financial institutions, and employers (read: not prospective employers). It’s time we all should take a stand and make sure businesses understand how important your SSN really is.



There is much debate about whether the latte factor can really make or break you when it comes to finances. For the record, I think it can result in “death by a thousand cuts” (a phrase I just saw someone use in the comments on another blog), but what I really want to focus on is how in addition to it affecting your bottom line, it’s wasteful and detracts from your overall enjoyment.

Something isn’t a treat if you’re enjoying it on a regular basis. Is anyone really savoring their morning Starbucks (or Dunkin Donuts) if they get it every single day? Doubtful. It’s just routine at that point. So in addition to blowing $4 a day, you’re not even getting all that much enjoyment out of it. If instead you got your iced coffee once a week (or less), you’d be saving money AND you’d really enjoy the experience. You just have to be willing to try it.


A comment made on one of our earlier posts inspired this one.

As you know, the general wisdom is you should have x number of months worth of expenses saved for emergencies so if you lose your job you won’t go into debt before finding a new one. Perhaps I gave the impression at some point that we didn’t have money set aside for such things, but of course we do!

We have always lived below our means not just so we could save for retirement, but also to save for the unexpected. We could have spent more extravagantly over the years and saved less but we both feel more secure with money in the bank. There’s something to be said for that peace of mind. It’s certainly more important to us than a bunch of material possessions.

While it would have been easy to continue spending money as if nothing has changed, and we’d be fine for awhile, we didn’t feel comfortable doing so. We have no idea what the future holds, and I’m not being negative when I say that, just realistic. I’ve seen too many people remain unemployed (or underemployed) for years, and would rather plan for the worse case scenario than assume things will work out, not reduce our expenses, and possibly find ourselves in a bad situation. Not to mention the fact that it took us 15 years to accumulate our savings and we don’t want to burn through that in a fraction of the time.

That’s not to say we aren’t having fun, however! It’s just a more frugal kind of fun, like seeing movies at the discount theater instead of going on a big vacation. That being said, we’ll still go to Indiana Beach this year and spend $100-$200 for the day. And that’s ok, because that annual event is totally worth it to us. We’re being cautious with our money, but not cheap to the point of not enjoying ourselves here and there.

I hope that clears up any misconceptions regarding our current state of financial affairs.