Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moving to Hawaii: How I Pay My Mortgage and Other Things

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Part of our planning process when we moved to Hawaii was focused on how to pay the bills.  We accepted the fact that our earning power with local employment would be about 50% of what we earned on the mainland (Northern California) and reduced our expenses to match those reduced earnings as much as possible.

The budget is very tight and does not have much room for the little things.  I am talking about some needed things and some wanted things.  I have a penchant for Japanese stationary items as well as art supplies.  Additionally, I expect to purchase a new iPhone some time in the next 12-24 months.

Our basic living expenses are covered by our daytime jobs, but the budget is too tight for too many other expenses right now so I do a little bit of work on the internet mornings and evenings to get some cash I can spend on myself without guilt. Additionally, I can save for the emergency fund and home repairs.

How do I do it?

Right now I use to methods.  Both require little to no training and do not take much time:

Complete Surveys Online
I signed up for and take 10-15 minute surveys.  I usually do a survey in bed before I get up in the morning.  I use my phone or my laptop, whichever is handy.  You earn points (anywhere from 15 to 150 per survey) by answering questions or providing your opinion of new products.  For every 625 points earned, you can get a gift card for $5.  Typically, I earn between $5 and $10 a week in Amazon gift cards.  Or Starbucks -- guilt free (well, except for the calories).  I know it doesn't sound like much, but an extra $50 bucks a month to spend guilt free with very little work sounds good to me.  Looking at it another way, you could earn an extra $500 a year.  That's enough for an iPad.

Become a User Interface (UI) Tester
Back in the fall, I read a great article on about ways to make extra money. If you haven't heard of Trent Hamm's site, I heartily recommend it.  The site is loaded with great actionable tips on saving money, getting out of debt, and making money. 

The article mentioned sites like and where you can sign up to be a website tester.  I signed up for about five of these companies and have had the most success with the two I listed.  Most UI tests take about 20 minutes and you are paid $10 for each test.  $30 an hour for sitting at home talking?  Yep.  

What's the catch and why am I not doing it full time?  Most websites are built for certain demographics and to make sure to get the right testers for the right sites, you have to answer a pre-test questionnaire.  If you are not the right fit, you can't user test.  What this means in my experience is that typically, you fit about one test a day and you can expect to make $100 to $200 a month if you are logged in for several hours each day.  The companies pay via paypal and you are sent a 1099 annually for tax purposes.  You need a microphone (I use my iPhone earbuds), reliable internet, and need a quiet, distraction free place to test.

With these two simple ways to make additional money, I can earn about $2000  extra per year to either save or spend as I like without dipping into the family budget.  

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