These Free TV Apps Will Let You Cut Cable but Keep Content

As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.

Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.

Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.

And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.

Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.

12 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable

With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.

Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.

1. Crackle

One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.

For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

2. Tubi TV

A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.

Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 25 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.

The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”

Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.

3. Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package

There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.

If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.

The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”

Pro Tip

Got a library card? You have access to even more entertainment options (besides the obvious, books). Check out these library apps for free access to movies, TV shows and more.

Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.

Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.

4. NewsON

Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.

Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.

Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

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5. Funny Or Die

The go-to streaming app for comedy programming is Funny or Die. Founded in 2007 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from big names in show business.

Pro Tip

In 2018, the Funny Or Die began publishing on Vox Media’s Chorus and now uses the YouTube Player.

Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded.

6. PBS Kids

Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.

You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.

Pro Tip

Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.

Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets.

7. Xumo

Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.

Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.

But it also includes more than 160 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies — you can watch the Funny Or Die channel here, too.

Xumo is available on most smart TVs and Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.

Pro Tip

Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.

8. Crunchyroll

Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.

There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”

The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.

Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults).

9. Twitch

For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.

Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.

Pro Tip

You’re there anyway — why not get paid to play video games? Here are four simple ways to start earning real cash for virtual play.

While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV.

While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.

10. IMDb TV

Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.

The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”

The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.

It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.

11. YouTube

Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.

Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.

While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.

12. Peacock

NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.

Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.

If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.

Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.

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Chris Brantner is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started

Are you looking for a work from home job or some at home business ideas?

If so, then I have a great list of free resources, such as courses and guides, that will help you find the best option and learn how to get started. Plus, all of the courses and guides in this article are free!

home business ideasIf you’re looking to make extra money, or even a full-time income, working from home is a great option. There are lots of realistic home business ideas that allow you to work on a flexible schedule.

In fact, around 50% of U.S. businesses are home based, and that number is expected to grow well into the future.

But, many people don’t know what kind of options are available or how to get started with their in home business ideas.

This article is a good starting point because I’m going to tell you about 15 different profitable home based business ideas and link to free courses, workshops, and guides that will help you kick off each of these ideas.

There are lots of valuable paid courses out there, but if you’re not sure about an idea, you might not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a course. That’s why free courses and guides are a great way to start.

You can learn more about each of these small business ideas, learn some of the basic skills, how much money you can earn, and more. You get to test these ideas a little bit before you invest a lot of time and money.

No matter what kind of business you decide to start, I think you’ll really enjoy starting one from home. 

I have been working from home since 2013, and I wouldn’t change it for anything! I absolutely love and enjoy running a business from home.

It has allowed me to travel full-time, save enough money to retire early, love what I do each day, and more.

Many people love running home based businesses for those reasons, but it also cuts your commute, allows you to earn money in your spare time, be your own boss, work on a flexible schedule, and more.

So, to help you get started, today I will explain some of the best small business ideas from home and which free online courses can help you get started.

Here is a quick list of the free work at home courses and resources I’m sharing:

  1. Selling Printables on Etsy Ebook
  2. Sell on Amazon Starter Course
  3. How To Start a Blog Course
  4. Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse
  5. Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch
  6. Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business
  7. Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days
  8. General Transcription Mini-Course
  9. Become a Proofreader 76 Minute Webinar
  10. Court Transcript Proofreading Mini Course
  11. Podcast Virtual Assistant Workbooks
  12. Make Money Writing Romance Novels ecourse
  13. Pinterest Virtual Assistant Training Workshop
  14. Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business
  15. Self-Publishing Your First Book

Below, I will be diving deeper into what each option is like, as well as more information about each of those free resources.

Below are 15 home business ideas.

 

1. Sell printables on Etsy.

Are you looking for a smart home business idea that allows you to use your creativity? Are you wondering “What can I sell from home to make money?”

If so, I recommend checking out this option. See, creating printables on Etsy can be a great side hustle because you just need to create one digital file per product, which you can then sell an unlimited number of times.

Printables are digital products that customers can download and print at home. Examples include grocery shopping checklists, gift tags, candy bar wrappers, printable quotes for wall art, and patterns.

You can sign up for this free ebook that helps you figure out where to start when it comes to selling printables on Etsy.

Related content on successful home business ideas:

  • 12 Passive Income Ideas That Will Let You Enjoy Life More
  • 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside
  • 24 Of The Best Work From Home Jobs & How To Avoid Scams

 

2. Sell items on Amazon.

Yes, you can make money selling items on Amazon. Actually, this is one of the home business ideas with low start up costs because you can literally start selling items from around your house. Make money while you declutter your home, what’s not to love?!

The first year that my friend Jessica ran her Amazon FBA business, working less than 20 hours a week total, she made over $100,000 profit!

This free course shows you how to start a profitable Amazon business in a 9-part video course. You’ll learn:

  • The exact steps to follow to set up your Amazon Seller account
  • Two easy and affordable ways to find items to sell
  • How to choose profitable inventory that customers actually want to buy

Click here to sign up for the FREE Amazon FBA Starter Course!

 

3. Start a blog to work at home.

For obvious reasons, blogging is my favorite on this list of profitable home business ideas.

It is a business that allows me to travel full-time, have a flexible schedule, earn somewhat passive income, and more.

Blogging changed my life for the better, and it allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.

My blog was created on a whim as a way to track my personal finance progress. And when I first started my blog, I honestly didn’t even know that this was going to be one of the best small profitable business ideas out there. At least that’s been the case for me! 

You can easily learn how to start a blog with my free How To Start a Blog Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn:

    • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
    • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
    • Day 3: How to create your blog (in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress – my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog)
    • Day 4: How to make money blogging
    • Day 5: My tips for making passive income from blogging
    • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
    • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

 

4. Become a voice over actor.

A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons.

In 2014, Carrie Olsen replaced her salaried day job to become a full-time voice over actor. People are constantly asking her how she got her start and how they can too.

So, she created Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse — This free course will help you learn about becoming a voice over artist, even if you’re brand new!

 

5. Run Facebook ads for local businesses.

Did you know that you can make a living from Facebook? With Facebook advertising, you can help businesses expand their reach.

And, yes, this is a skill that you can learn without any prior experience in marketing or advertising.

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client.

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads. This is expected to continue to grow, and it is one of the largest advertising spaces that exists.

My friend Bobby Hoyt knows a lot about this topic. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

Bobby has a free webinar on this topic too. His webinar, Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch, will teach you how to start this business even if you’re brand new, how to find paying clients, and more.

 

stay-at home business ideas

6. Start a bookkeeping business.

A bookkeeper is someone who tracks the finances of a business. They may handle payroll, billing and invoicing, etc.

These are all skills you can learn without being an accountant or having any previous experience.

Ben, from Bookkeeper Launch, helps people get started as bookkeepers even when they don’t have any experience. Ben is a CPA who founded his business after realizing that many businesses needed better bookkeepers. 

Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business will teach you more about running your own virtual bookkeeping business. You’ll learn:

  • Is a bookkeeping business for you?
  • What exactly is a bookkeeping business? What kind of work do they do?
  • How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?
  • How do you find clients?

 

7. Search for items to resell.

Have you ever found something that you thought you could resell to make a profit?

Melissa’s family earned $133,000 in one year by buying and selling items that they’ve found at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Some of the best flipped items that they’ve sold include:

  • An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later
  • A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later
  • A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day

This is one of the home business ideas that anyone can start because you can start off selling things in your own house — I know we all have lots of stuff in our house that we could stand to get rid of. Then once you get a feel for the work, you can start purchasing items to resell.

Melissa has a great free webinar, Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days, that will help you learn how to make money by flipping items.

 

8. Transcribe audio or video content into text.

Transcription is when you turn audio or video content into a text document. You listen to what’s being said and type it up.

There are many businesses looking for transcriptionists too – since general transcriptionists convert audio and video to text for virtually any industry, there really isn’t a typical client. Some examples include marketers, authors, filmmakers, academics, speakers, and conferences of all types.

Beginning transcriptionists earn around $15 an hour and it goes up from there.

You can learn more in the Free General Transcription Mini-Course. In this course, you will learn what it takes to become a transcriptionist, how much money you can earn, how you can find jobs, and more.

 

9. Become a general proofreader.

Proofreading is one of the most flexible and detail-orientated home business ideas that work. All you need to work as a proofreader is a laptop or tablet, an internet connection, and a good eye for finding mistakes.

Proofreaders look for punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, lack of consistency, and formatting errors.

You take content that other people have written and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. You might be proofreading blog posts, print articles, academic articles, website copy, ad copy, books, student papers, emails, and more.

In one year, Caitlin made slightly over $43,000 by being a freelance proofreader.

Caitlin put together a FREE 76-minute workshop, where she answers all of the most common questions about becoming a proofreader, and she even shows you how to use the most popular tools used by proofreaders around the world. You can sign up for free here.

 

10. Become a court transcript proofreader.

Becoming a court transcript proofreader is a more focused version of the last idea.

Here’s what it’s like:

“Court reporters use digital stenography machines in combination with computer-aided transcription software to write verbatim records of various legal proceedings. They report depositions, trials, hearings, arbitrations, case management conferences, compulsory medical examinations, examinations under oath, and pretty much any other type of legal proceeding. Because of the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, it’s imperative that as many errors as possible be eliminated from transcripts — an especially major error could ruin an entire trial!”

Due to this, many court reporters also use court transcript proofreaders.

There is more training that goes into becoming a court transcript proofreader, and that is why I separated it from the general proofreading job above.

Caitlin, mentioned above, also has a great FREE 7 day course just for people who are interested in becoming a court transcript proofreader.

 

Home business ideas with low startup costs

11. Become a podcast virtual assistant.

There’s a big demand for podcast virtual assistants right now.

This is because there are over 800,000 podcasts out there, and that number just continues to grow. Podcasts are still a pretty new area, and that opens the door for lots of home business ideas that help out with all of these podcasts.

While the podcast host is responsible for recording themselves, other tasks like editing and publication take time, so many podcasters outsource their work to freelancers or virtual assistants. Also, some podcasters may not know how to do those things, or they may choose to focus their time on other areas.

Some of the different services you can offer as a podcast virtual assistant include:

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

You can sign up here for free information that will tell you more about how to become a podcast VA. In this free resource, you’ll learn exactly what a podcast virtual assistant is, the services you can offer, and starting rates.

 

12. Write romance novels.

My friend Yuwanda Black has found one of the most interesting home business ideas – she writes romance novels, and in one month, she was able to make over $3,000!

With her free Making Money Writing Romance ecourse, she teaches you how to make money writing and self-publishing romance novels.

It is taught from first-hand experience, which Yuwanda has because she’s written and self-published 50 romance novellas since 2013. And, she continues to publish today.

 

13. Work as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

Working as a Pinterest virtual assistant is a growing field as more and more business owners are using Pinterest to grow their business.

Pinterest VAs help businesses improve their reach by doing things like:

  • Designing Pinterest images for a website
  • Helping business owners set up their Pinterest account
  • Scheduling pins because this can be time consuming for the average business owner
  • Brainstorming a marketing plan

Click here and click on “Free Training Workshop” to learn how to become a Pinterest virtual assistant and find your first client. In this free course, you’ll learn what you need to do to get started, what services to offer, and how much to charge as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

 

14. Work as a virtual assistant.

If you’re looking for home business ideas with low startup costs, then virtual assisting is a great one!

Virtual assistance is a field that is growing very quickly and it is one of the very popular stay-at home business ideas.

Not only does the internet allow us to complete more of our daily tasks online, more and more people are working online. This presents a good opportunity for more virtual assistants.

Virtual assistant tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing content, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business, but doesn’t need to be done by them.

If this is one of the home business ideas you’re interested in, I recommend checking out Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business. In that link, you’ll receive a free worksheet and workbook that will help you decide what virtual assistant services you can offer (there are over 150 choices!).

 

15. Write your own eBook for work from home ideas.

Writing your own eBook is a great way to make money from home, and there is probably something super helpful that you could write about (even if you think otherwise!).

In fact, my friend Alyssa self-published her first book and has sold more than 13,000 copies.

She is now earning a great passive income of over $200 a day from her book ($6,500 in one month alone!).

Learn more at Self-Publishing Your First Book. This free series will teach you what it takes to publish a book, including the strategies used to launch a book, writing tips, and more.

 

What is the best home business to start? What are the most successful small businesses?

As you can see, there are plenty of different home business ideas out there, and this list is only scratching the surface. There are full-time home based business ideas, and then there are part-time business ideas.

The best business home based ideas are going to be different for everyone. For example, some people are naturally good proofreaders, while others will have a knack for finding the right items for reselling.

I would think about what kinds of things you’re good at, what interests you, the skills you already have, etc. That may narrow the choices down some. 

But, what I love about the home business ideas on this list is that the free courses and guides listed mean you can learn more about any of them without a big investment. You can explore ideas without feeling like you’re wasting your money.

What home business ideas are you interested in?

The post 15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19

Woman looking at computer valentinrussanov/Getty Images

The gig economy has blown up in the past few years, with more and more people choosing to work as freelancers, either by starting their own businesses, or by picking up nonsalaried jobs from bigger companies.

According to the Freelancers Union, over 50 million Americans worked this year as freelancers, a number that represents roughly 35% of the country’s workforce.

While freelancing undoubtedly has its perks, helping you get a mortgage is not one of them.

Since COVID-19 started tearing through the country in March, we’ve heard reports of freelancers having an even harder time getting approved for mortgages. Here’s the latest on what to expect when applying for mortgage as a freelancer in the post-coronavirus era.

Getting a mortgage as a freelancer (pre-coronavirus)

Before diving into what’s changed for freelancers applying for mortgages in the COVID-19 era, let’s back up to what it was like before the pandemic.

According to Todd Huettner of Huettner Capital, the two most important things self-employed borrowers (which includes freelancers, independent contractors, business owners, and sole proprietors) historically needed for mortgage applications were: two years of tax returns, and proof their business was in operation.

“Depending on timing, if you were more than six months into the following year, you may have also needed an unaudited profit-and-loss statement for the business,” says Huettner.

That’s exactly what it sounds like: a financial statement that records all the losses and gains of a business over a period of time.

Besides tax returns and proof that your business was up and running, lenders also had basic requirements for any borrower (self-employed or otherwise), which included things like a minimum credit score and maximum debt-to-income ratio.

“Most people don’t realize this and think there are totally different rules,” says Huettner. “But the main difference is that as a freelancer, you just had to document the income.”

What’s changed

The main thing that’s changed for freelancers applying for a mortgage is that the need for documentation has increased—by a lot.

Because of the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, lenders are being extra careful when it comes to determining who actually qualifies for these mortgages, and whether they can realistically repay them.

“In the past, we could simply use the prior year’s tax returns,” says Todd Wells of Sinberg Capital Lending.

“There’s more documentation required post-COVID for self-employed borrowers. Now, we need a year-to-date profit and loss statement, as well as business bank statements to support the profit and loss statement.”

In other words, lenders need a lot more proof that you’re in a good position to take on that mortgage, and providing that proof could be a major pain, to say the least.

How to increase your chances of getting approved

Beyond doing all the usual things to increase your chances of getting approved (like boosting your credit score and improving your debt-to-income ratio), freelancers should also be prepared to jump through a few extra administrative hoops to that prove their income really is what they say it is.

This will include things like getting those profit and loss (also called P&L) statements ready, and possibly even pulling some bank statements to back them up. And while some lenders might allow you to get by with just an audited P&L statement, that may not be any easier.

“Most people don’t have a clue about the time and cost of obtaining an audited financial statement,” says Huettner.

“Most CPAs don’t provide this service—it’s a very specific process with a lot of requirements. The result is that it can cost thousands of dollars and take several weeks or months to finish.”

In today’s hot seller’s market, taking weeks or months to get approved would be simply out of the question.

That’s why many freelancers (when given the option by their lender) are choosing to prepare unaudited P&L statements as well as bank statements to prove their income.

Since this can take several hours (and plenty of fishing around in your various accounts) to complete, it’s a good idea to have these things ready before you need them.

“Have complete and accurate documentation going back as far as you can, 24 months if possible,” advises one former banker, Karen Condor of ExpertInsuranceReviews.com.

“This will prove that you can consistently afford loan payments. The higher your FICO credit score and the more robust your income documentation, the higher the chance of loan approval.”

The final word

Is it harder for freelancers to get approved for mortgages in the COVID-19 era? Yes and no. If your business has been consistently doing well and you have the documentation to prove it, you might be just fine.

But if you’ve recently hit a slowdown, or are having issues producing the extra proof of income, then getting that mortgage for your dream home might be harder than you thought.

The post Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Build a Photo Scanning and Digitizing Side Gig

You can offer photo editing if it’s something you can handle. Hughes uses a very simple process in Adobe Photoshop. “You can also do it as you are scanning them,” she said. Adding, that many scanners have color correction options.
“There’s a certain point when I’m not doing anything you can’t figure out on your own,” she said. “A college student or really anyone could do this to make extra money.”
Warn your clients that digitized videos won’t look so great on a TV, especially if it’s high definition, because the videos were filmed with lower resolution. They look best viewed on a phone or a computer screen.
Hughes started out charging by the hour, but found clients were spending so much time “pre-organizing” their photos themselves to save money, it would take them six months or more before they were finally ready for her to start archiving. So she switched to a flat fee of ,222 for unlimited archiving of slides, photos or videos. To do all three formats, she charges ,777. She also offers small projects a-la-carte based on the amount of work.
A high schooler or college student might charge to an hour, or approximately 0 to 0 for 200 photos. Allow an extra hour for computer glitches, labeling files and calling the client with questions.
Determine ahead of time how many photos you can scan in an hour. If you are sorting and scanning, that may be harder to estimate, but it probably adds another 30 minutes onto each hour of scanning. Say you can scan 40 photos an hour, then it would take you five hours to digitize 200 photos that don’t require sorting.
To organize and select from loose photos overflowing shoe boxes or laundry baskets, Hughes hand sorts them into piles based on the clothes people are wearing, the backgrounds and the time of year.
Five years ago, professional photo curator Sabrina Hughes decided she could make a business out of helping people organize their photos, videos and slides. Her company, PhotoXO, has a compelling slogan: “Show your photos the love they deserve.”
Next, create a storage system for clients’ photos and video tapes while your work is in progress. Of course clear boxes that stack are great, but they come with a cost. Cardboard shipping boxes work just as well. Place white adhesive labels on the ends with the name of the client and the date the work started. You can place new labels over these when one project is done and the next client’s photos go into the boxes.

Get the Right Equipment

  • Scanner. There are hundreds of scanners out there, but she prefers the Epson v600, which sells for $229.
  • Video adapter. Hughes uses the Elgato Video Capture for digitizing VHS tapes. It can be bought online for $87.
  • Storage. “When I first started out, I was giving everything back on hard drives,” Hughes said. “I was trying to get away from DVDs, since most computers don’t even play those anymore.” She then offered flash drives filled with the photos. Though they are also becoming less common, this is still probably the best tool for beginners. Hughes now uploads everything to her website, which offers permanent storage.
  • Software. Hughes uses Adobe Lightroom ($119), which enables her to label photos so they can be searched and has photo editing functions. Software isn’t required to organize unlabeled photos into folders, however.
A stack of old black and white photographs sits on a person's desk.

Develop and Perfect Your Process

The first step to starting your photo scanning business is setting aside a space in your home. It can be as small as a corner of your bedroom or a desktop if an actual office or spare room isn’t possible.
You might have to offer to digitize photos for one or two friends at no cost first to get an idea of how long the process takes and what you will charge.
Her years as a photographer, plus a graduate degree in art history and experience as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla., combine to make her an astute photo archivist. But all of this expertise and experience is not required.

Hughes offers a self-paced online class called Disaster to Done for 7, which includes lifetime access to course materials. But she’s also sharing her tips with The Penny Hoarder.

To digitize photos and slides, scan each one with the scanner to upload it to your computer. Make files for certain years or topics such as “1970s beach trips” or “kids’ birthday parties.” Drag and drop the photos into the appropriate file.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
For videos, they have to be played the whole way through on the camera that originally filmed them and the adapter will transport the movies to a computer. If you don’t have the camera, you can play them on a VCR connected to the computer with the adapter.
It’s smart to charge by the hour when you start out, and give an estimate of how long the project will take.

FROM THE MAKE MONEY FORUM

Deciding What to Charge

Here’s how to make photo scanning and digitizing your new side hustle.
Well, anyone armed with a 9 scanner and a computer can make searchable digital files of photos and slides. To turn videos into digital files, it takes the original camera they were filmed with or a VCR, an adapter and a computer.
Digitized photos make a great Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas gift. Promote your business online and in emails during these times and throughout the year.

A woman looks off into the distance toward a window with an old photograph on a television screen behind her.

As simple as it sounds — and actually is — most people are overwhelmed by the thought of taking hundreds or even thousands of photos and organizing them into searchable, digital files.

How to Attract Clients

“Sometimes it’s easier for a third party to make the decisions in narrowing things down,” Hughes said. You can pick what you think is the best of the three or four repetitive photos.
Perhaps the most daunting version of unorganized photographic memories are slides. Once the butt of so many jokes about boring dinner parties, now they are covered in dust with no hope of ever seeing the light of a projector again.
You may have to limit the number of photos to digitize if the client wants to save on time and your fee. If the photos are organized in albums, ask the client to mark which ones to exclude with sticky-notes. If they are loose in boxes, suggest you select which ones to use.
Then spread the word on social media. Give an estimated price of how many photos you can do for a certain price. Ask your early clients to share something about how wonderful it feels to finally have photos organized and saved forever.
Then there are the videos filmed on various versions of clunky cameras over the decades.

How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
  • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
  • How a person can find their first freelancing job
  • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

And much more!

He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

Check out the interview below for more information.

How to become a freelancer.

 

1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

I’m Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn’t take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren’t always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That’s when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

 

2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

This seems like a basic question, but it’s very worthwhile. There’s a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

It’s also worth noting you don’t only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don’t have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you’re responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It’s quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

 

3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who’s in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

 

4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

Not having a boss!

The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I’m making plans with friends and family, and people say “I’ll see if I can get the time off.”

This makes me shudder, because it’s SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I’ll be at their sports day or nativity play.

When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it’s rare to find people who’ve given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

So that’s a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

 

5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

It’s always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I’ve said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I’d advise people to think about any contacts who’ve already seen the kind of work they’re capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife’s best friend’s brother” or something like that!

Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it’s crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

 

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

This is a question I’m asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don’t just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

It’s a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I’m happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client’s geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

But there’s much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There’s a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it’s an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

 

7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they’re capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

  1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
  2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
  4. Establish a personal brand. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it’s wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
  6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
  7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

 

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that’s not to say it’s free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you’re switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

A good computer is a must, as it’s often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn’t covered by tax payments.

When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you’re a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

 

9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

I’d say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we’ve covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn’t immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you’re going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

It’s wonderful to have the choice.

 

10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

I have many!

The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

Another thing I’m like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you’re boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

And let’s face it, many people don’t feel that way about their jobs.

 

11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I’ve touched on here, and many others. It’s intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it’s not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

To be brutally honest, I don’t want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it’s a more than viable option for those willing to do what’s required.

The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

The next lessons cover finding clients, and there’s a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she’s cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she’s been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

I’ve also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I’ve kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don’t know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

I set out to create the course I wish I’d had! I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

 Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

The post How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

RVing on a Budget: The Biggest Costs and How to Save

What you may know about RVing: It’s a great, cheap way to travel, or even a low-cost alternative for living full time.

What you may not know: RVing costs can stack up, and even eclipse the cost of traditional car-and-hotel travel, or living in a sticks-and-bricks home.

Here, we’ll detail the primary expenses associated with the RV lifestyle, with tips to help you reduce them.

How to Go RVing on a Budget

As someone who’s traveled extensively by RV, and even lived in a travel trailer, I know exactly how much of a burden RVing can be on your budget. Here’s what I’ve learned.

The Vehicle Itself

The first thing you need to go RVing … is an RV. And depending on how you source it, this first purchase can be very pricy.

First-timers are more likely to rent than buy, but if you end up falling in love with the lifestyle, you should know that even modest motorhomes cost tens of thousands of dollars. Super luxurious ones go for over $1 million. (Yes, seriously.)

Travel trailers tend to be less expensive than motorcoaches for a comparable level of quality, from entry level all the way up to the top. Keep in mind, though, that you need a vehicle capable of towing the rig around.

A young man sweeps out an RV

But let’s go back to the rental option. Expect to see per-night prices of $250 or more, which can easily outstrip a moderately priced hotel room. Additional fees for mileage and insurance can push your bottom line even higher.

Consider looking at peer-to-peer RV rental marketplaces, like RVshare or Outdoorsy, where you can rent a rig directly from its private owner, which often means lower rental prices. (Think of it like Airbnb for RVs.)

You may also be able to find super-cheap rentals through RV relocation deals, in which you serve as a rental company’s courier, delivering RVs to destinations where they are in demand. In return, you get use of the rig for a steal — but keep in mind you’ll be limited in your ability to personalize your itinerary. You’ll have to stick to the company’s route and timetable.

As far as buying is concerned, shop around — and consider shopping gently used. RV does stand for recreational vehicle, after all, and although the loan you take out might look more like a mortgage than auto financing, you probably aren’t going to be building equity. You don’t want to go too old, because maintenance starts to become a problem, but something three to five years old could save you a nice chunk of change.

A motorhome travels through Arches National Park, Utah.

Fuel

The appeal of RVs is simple: You get to bring everything along with you for the trip, including the kitchen sink.

But all of those accommodations and extras are weighty, which means that all but the smallest RVs are pretty serious gas guzzlers. Case in point: The largest Class A motorhomes get as little as 4-6 miles to the gallon.

If you’re hoping to save at the pump, consider taking a vacation closer to home or narrowing down to a single destination. Not only will you spend less money on gas, you’ll also spend less of your time driving.

Campsite Accommodation Costs

Many people think you can load up into an RV, hit the road and just pull off to the side when you’re ready to catch some sleep.

But in most cases, that’s not true. Although some rest stops and big box store parking lots allow overnight RV parking, many do not. Besides, do you really want to spend your vacation sleeping under the glare of 24/7 floodlights?

The most comfortable campgrounds — the ones where you can hook up to electricity, water, and sewer connections — can cost a pretty penny, especially in highly sought-after destinations. Malibu Beach may be an extreme example, but during peak seasons, you’re looking at about $100 per night for a basic site, and up to $230 for a premium location. (Remember, that’s on top of your rental price. And fuel.)

A woman makes coffee in her travel trailer.

But you can find resort-style accommodations for $35 to $50 per night, often with discounts available for veterans, military members or those staying a week or longer. There are also a variety of camping discount clubs that can help you score lower-cost campground accommodations.

You’ll also want to look into state parks, which often offer RV sites with hookups for prices much lower than privately owned campgrounds (though they may not have a cell signal).

Finally, there are places you can camp for free (or super cheap), but even in an RV, you’ll kind of be roughing it. On BLM-managed land and in certain other wilderness locations, you can do “dispersed” camping, otherwise known as “boondocking” or “dry camping” — basically, camping without any hookups.

But you need to check ahead of time to make sure that cool-looking space is actually okay to park in and not privately owned. There isn’t always appropriate signage, and if you accidentally end up in someone’s backyard, you may be asked to move or even ticketed. Some great resources for finding spots include Campendium and FreeCampsites.net.

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Maintenance and Storage

If you buy an RV, you should be prepared for costs associated with maintenance — and, if you can’t park it on your own property, storage. In Portland, Oregon, I pay $75 a month to keep my travel trailer in an uncovered lot. More desirable, secure storage is almost $200.

Then there are the maintenance costs of both the vehicular and household systems of an RV, which need regular upkeep. Doing it yourself may be time intensive, but even a minor trip to the repair shop can mean a major bill.

It’s best if you already have a place in mind to keep it — and the initiative to learn some DIY mechanics. There’s a YouTube tutorial for most RV repair and maintenance basics.

Overall, the great thing about RVing is that the expenses are easily modified to fit almost any budget — you may just have to rethink which RV you drive, where you’re going and how you’ll be staying once you get there.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Flexible Spending Accounts: Rules, Regulations, and Uses

clear piggy bank

Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, are special savings accounts offered through some employer benefit plans. They allow the account holder to pay for certain out-of-pocket medical and dependent care costs with tax-free money.

However, “tax-free money” is a phrase that’s not used too often in personal finance articles—at least not legitimate ones.

So it’s no surprise that FSAs come with a decent number of rules and regulations, which limit the application of this special, tax-favored savings vehicle.

For instance, FSA rules cap the amount of money that can be placed in the account each year ($2,750 for 2021), and also dictate which types of expenses qualify for an FSA distribution.

Still, FSAs can be a powerful tool for taking care of unavoidable medical costs that frequently wreak havoc on American finances, even with the rules that keep them in check.

Flexible Spending Account Explained


We’ve covered flexible spending accounts in depth elsewhere on our site, but as a quick refresher, FSAs are savings programs offered through employers—which means that self-employed people, like freelancers, aren’t eligible.

(Psst: if that’s you, buying a healthcare plan on the market might be an option to consider, though you may also be able to get coverage through an employed spouse’s plan.)

FSAs are also sometimes called flexible spending arrangements, and there are a few sub-types, such as dependent care FSAs (DCFSAs) and limited purpose FSAs (LPFSAs).

However, for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the account rules that govern plain old healthcare FSAs, whose funds can be used to cover you, your spouse, and your dependents.

Flexible Spending Account Rules: An Overview

IRS Publication 502 .

From acupuncture and alcoholism to birth control pills and psychological counselling, many services do count as qualified medical expenses.

Along with being the right kind of medical expense, services paid through FSA funds must be applied to the right people in order to be covered. Eligible beneficiaries include:

•  The account holder
•  Their spouse
•  Dependents claimed on their tax return
•  Children age 26 and under

Keep in mind, too, that FSAs generally work in conjunction with other types of health benefits and coverage, and funds can’t be used to reimburse services that are covered under other health plans.

It might be a valuable exercise to write out all of the expected medical expenses you’ll face as a family at the beginning of the plan year in order to decide how much to contribute, including additional coverages, in order to avoid overcontribution. While nobody can predict the future, some routine expenses can be foreseen—and a little bit of planning might save a lot of forfeited funds in the end.

Taking Distributions from an FSA


The process for taking distributions from an FSA may vary based on the plan. In some cases, distributions are made from an FSA to reimburse the account holder for medical expenses they’ve incurred. Some FSAs also have a debit, credit, or stored value card that can be used to pay directly for qualifying expenses.

Fair Health Consumer , would set back an uninsured person living in Portland, OR more than $20,000. Although that cost varies depending on location, it’s clear to see that additional coverage is necessary for most.

Furthermore, although the tax-free nature of FSAs is attractive, the prospect of forfeiting parts of a paycheck is definitely not—and there are other ways to save cash for medical expenses and other emergencies which offer not just flexibility, but growth.

For example, the average savings account earns 0.50% APY in interest, and up to 0.80%, per the latest FDIC rate cap information, which isn’t a huge return, but is more than the 0% you’ll earn on an FSA. That said, the value of tax-free dollars could easily eclipse the interest rate if the funds in the FSA are actually used.

While an FSA can be a beneficial tool, especially for those who know they’ll spend a decent amount out of pocket on healthcare, a SoFi Money® cash management account can add additional help in this instance; there are no account fees and account holders can earn cashback while they save and spend.

The Vaults system allows you to set money aside for specific savings goals—including medical expenses as well as more exciting objectives like vacations or home renovations. The tax benefits of the FSA can make them an appealing and useful tool. But if you’re not sure you’ll use the funds saved in an FSA, SoFi Money could be an alternate solution. Those that will definitely use funds saved in an FSA may consider using SoFi Money as a complementary tool to work toward other saving goals.

Want to learn more about how SoFi Money might help you get your money right? Signing up takes minutes.


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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The post Flexible Spending Accounts: Rules, Regulations, and Uses appeared first on SoFi.

Source: sofi.com

5 Online Learning Platforms to Help Bolster your Resume

Yale also makes numerous introductory classes accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Last year, Yale made one of its most famous courses, the Science of Well-Being, available for free on Coursera. This class dives into the meaning of happiness.
Hundreds of public libraries across the nation offer Udemy courses for no cost with just a library card. And if your public library doesn’t have a connection with Udemy, you may be able to get a digital library card elsewhere and still take part in all that Udemy has to offer.
Being a lifelong learner is one of the best ways to stay engaged in your job, whatever field you’re in.
Udemy is an online learning platform specifically designed to help you bolster your professional skills. Although Udemy courses can range from to 0, one resourceful way to access these classes is through your public library.
And, with LinkedIn Learning, the classes are taught by top leaders from diverse backgrounds: Guy Kawasaki, Ben Long and David Rivers are just some of the highlights.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

1. Coursera

Quirk advised putting the skills you gain from a course in the top part of your resume, but putting the actual course certifications lower down along with any other educational achievements.
Stanford is another university offering public access to many of its courses for free. The university breaks down its offerings into four main categories: Health and Medicine, Education, Engineering and Arts and Humanities.
Coursera also gives you the opportunity to see how a particular course benefited other students, breaking down what percentage of past students either started a new career after taking a course or got a tangible career benefit from it.

2. Google Skillshop

One of the good things to come out of 2020 was the abundance of college courses made available for free online. While some universities have always offered a select few classes for no-cost online access, institutions like Yale and MIT expanded their libraries last year.
Google Skillshop is one of the classic online learning platforms. The technology behind Google Ads, Google Analytics and more is powerful, and mastering it can benefit nearly any line of work.
Quirk noted that digital classes and certifications are some of the best ways to boost your resume and grow in your current position. Here are some of her topic picks for online learning platforms.

3. LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning provides thousands of programs covering topics such as marketing tactics, mobile app development and how to use Photoshop. The courses are generally self-paced, with a LinkedIn Learning certificate awarded on completion that you can display on your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) offers a free one-month trial before charging a month as part of a larger LinkedIn Premium subscription.
Coursera is free to join and nearly all of its courses can be accessed at no cost. The catch here is that to take a course for free, you’ll be using the “audit” function, which means no grade and sometimes no official certificate is offered — but all the knowledge and coursework is. Some classes on Coursera are paid-only and will generally set you back about per month.

4. Online College Courses

MIT offers free online programming not just on computer science, but also biology, race and ethics, accounting and more.
It’s important to note that very few of these courses offer an official completion certificate or degree, but they’re still impressive to complete and are a strong addition to a resume. Other prestigious institutions like Harvard and Dartmouth also offer free online classes.
Google Skillshop provides learn-at-your-own-pace courses to help you become an expert in Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Marketing Platform, Google My Business, Google Ad Manager, Google AdMob, Authorized Buyers, and Waze. All courses in the skillshop are free.
Most options are videos, slides and quick quizzes that build into a final assessment. A certificate is awarded to passing students and is usually valid for 12 months.
Quirk offered some final advice about positioning these certificates and course completions on your resume: “Recruiters skim really fast,” she said. “Make it as easy as possible for recruiters to see the skills you have so they can line them up with the job description.”

FROM THE MAKE MONEY FORUM

5. Udemy

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Be sure to use keywords on your resume so screening software doesn’t pass you over.
When a course is complete, the student receives a digital badge and certificate they can affix to their LinkedIn profile (and that should be included on their hardcopy resume, too).
It has become more accessible and easier than ever to take courses to elevate your professional expertise. There are endless online resources to peruse, so it helps to be deliberate before diving in.

Shine a Spotlight on Your New Skills

Udemy offers more than 130,000 classes (boasting the world’s largest selection of courses) on topics like Python coding, piano playing and digital marketing.
There are a lot of ways to exemplify curiosity and a penchant for learning new skills: meeting regularly with your boss, attending professional development days and taking classes to hone a professional skill.
“Look at the skills needed for your industry and the jobs you’re interested in,” said Quirk. “I recommend starting by first doing some research about what will actually be impressive to people in your career field, and then seeking out professional education opportunities from there.”
Coursera works with over 200 leading institutions and companies worldwide to provide courses on topics ranging from data science to personal improvement. Partners like Yale University, IBM and Google provide outlines for more than 3,900 courses.
Julia Quirk, SPHR, a 10-year veteran of the HR industry and senior HR manager for TriSalus, recommends being practical and strategic about honing your professional talents.