Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Making Ends Meet

Well, after today tax season will be officially behind us (except for those folks who filed for extensions) and I've been pondering some of the information I got out of doing my taxes. For example, I made $11,000 less in 2008 than I did in 2007. I know that most of this difference was due to being laid off in 2007—All my accrued vacation time was paid out and I collected several weeks worth of severance pay all with no real break in gainful employment because I was at a new job the day after being laid off. In essence I was receiving 2 full time paychecks for a couple months in 2007.

I also discovered that most people in my tax bracket earn about 7-times more in interest than I do. So I've resolved to save more this year and have already set up some automatic deductions to make sure this happens. They also make about 15-times more income from personal business. In 2007, the full time job I had while collecting severance was freelance work and it fell on this line of my return. It was the first time I had ever reported personal business income, and it felt pretty good.

In 2008, I still had a bit of income here, but nothing to get excited about. I was actually pretty peeved at myself for not earning more here, but hey, I was working full time, had health insurance and a 401(k), and I really like my day job. Obviously I'm not going to quit my 9-to-5 and go start my own business, but since we're looking at no raises at work for the foreseeable future and Scoob is taking a pay cut, I've been trying to think of ways to absorb the difference.

Lately I've been finding lots of articles about making residual income in your spare time, or from a hobby or interest, or starting your own business. Some things on the list I read today are clearly more involved than spare time projects.

The freelance work I've been doing the last couple years has been minimal, assisting with the escrow of the company I used to work for. Not so much because I was looking for extra income, but because I used to do the work in question and was already familiar with the group of contacts—their personalities, special requirements, and financial history with the company (not to mention the fact that I still work with several of them at my current job). It made no sense to for the employer to hire someone else, so when the work was offered, I accepted.

It quickly became apparent that this was not the type of work I could do in my spare time as banks, lawyers, and accountants were calling during business hours. Luckily, my day job doesn't have to be completed on a 9-to-5 schedule and if my side job cut into my work day, I would either stay late and make up the time missed or take my work home with me. Not an ideal situation, but not inequitable either. The fact that I like my day job helps :)

Ideally, I'd like to find more of a spare time/hobby project that could generate income. I've thought about monetizing this blog, and I'm still open to that idea, but at the moment, I don't feel as though I've hit a stride with tone, content, or frequency of posts, and I don't really think I have enough of an audience to warrant adding ads. But I did take a look at Etsy today.

Etsy is an online marketplace for buying and selling handmade items. Kind of like an online arts and crafts fair. Most things are one-of-a-kind. You'll find everything from glasswork to acrylic painting to furniture making. I've never felt that I'm terribly artistically inclined, but that's probably due more to my lack of self-confidence than anything else. When I look at some of the projects people post on Etsy I think "hey, I could do that," or "dude, I want to learn how to do that."

I know several people who could easily put things up on Etsy—Mom with her psycho bird garden ornaments, flower pressings, and concrete sculptures; Mom and her crocheting; my sister and her painting; and a friend of ours designs purses for her friends and makes some truly amazing cards.

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