How I paid for our vacation without leaving the house!

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So this past summer my dear daughter got a scholarship to a week long summer camp that was taking place at the University of Michigan. I had enough vacation time finally saved up and we hadn’t been ‘home’ in two years, so I was excited! I was going to be able to see my friends and family and take a road trip with my daughter. But then reality hit and I thought “How am I going to pay for this?”.Road trip, traveling with daughter, enjoying the fresh air

I knew the first thing I had to do was come up with a budget, it was pretty basic since the main point of going was to see everyone and let daughter go to camp. After doing up my ‘dream’ budget, I had a total of $3540. I knew that wasn’t going to happen- we didn’t even spend that much when we went to Disney World ten years ago! So I did some finagling and reassessing and got the budget down to a doable $700.

Even though I cut the budget by 80%, that was still a lot of money when our household budget had no wiggle room. Since I had cut all possible expenses the next option was to bring in more income. This has never been a problem for me as I’ve always seemed to work two jobs- I don’t mind working hard! Since my husband works second shift and I’m in charge of daughter while he works, that made getting a job outside of the house almost impossible. I didn’t want to leave her alone at home at night and I didn’t want to ask family to ‘watch’ her multiple times during the week- that’s no fun for either party. I needed to find something that I could do from home preferably without a set schedule.

I subscribe to The Penny Hoarder newsletter and they are always featuring legitimate work at home jobs. In one of their articles they were talking about VA (Virtual Assistant) jobs. They mentioned Fancy Hands (FH) which is a virtual assistant company where you are a 1099 employee. The premise is FH clients post things they need assistance with like making reservations, research, writing blog posts, etc. You work on these tasks in 20 minute blocks. You get paid $3-$4 per 20 minute block so you can average $9 to $12 an hour as long as you are very diligent with your time. It’s not a lot of money but I like it because I can try to work whenever I want to and you pick and choose what tasks you want to do. There is no requirement for how much or how little you work. My other big rationale was that all I would be doing instead is watching TV.

laying in bed, watching TV, NCIS on TV

So I applied to Fancy Hands on May 15th by completing the application here. On June 6th, I received an email that I was accepted and that FH would pay me to go through a procedure walk through and complete a sample task. I completed that task and within a week I was claiming other tasks off the dashboard (where clients post tasks they need done). I would log on and do tasks after my daughter went to sleep or on my day off I would work throughout the day without interrupting my normal schedule. Sometimes there were a lot of tasks to choose from and other times there weren’t any. I was lucky and the week we went to Michigan I got a task that ended up taking a few hours to complete. Since daughter had to be at camp at 8 am, I would drop her off, go to Starbucks and work for a couple hours until I was supposed to meet one of my friends for lunch or a visit. By the end of August, I had made a total of $606 without sacrificing any family time and working just when I wanted to.

So Fancy Hands did pay for the majority of our trip, but we’re still about $100 short. How did I make up that difference? Swagbucks! I had read about Swagbucks for years on the blog Money Saving Mom where people had been using Swagbucks to save for Christmas. I finally decided to check it out and officially signed up on May 19th. (my sister’s birthday btw!) By the end of July I had earned $70 in gift cards that we used to pay for gas on our trip.

Working on laptop at Starbucks, drinking coffee

Swagbucks is a company that gives you points called Swagbucks (SB) for various tasks- watching videos, downloading apps, taking surveys, trying out products or signing up for freebies. You can also earn 10% referral points from anyone that signs up under you as they earn points.  You can redeem these points for gift cards to Amazon, Paypal, Walmart and more. I would recommend before signing up that you set up an email just for them because you have to use that for all the offers and you can get spammy emails. You also have to read the fine print/details on the offers. Some require you to stay subscribed to something for a certain period of time or there may be a delay in when you receive your points.

Swagbucks is good if you are looking for something easy to do in your spare time. The best way to earn on SB is with high point offers. Here’s one example of how I earned $30 in gift cards to WalMart from 2700 points. I got 2500 points for signing up with Hulu (one week free offer from them but I did have to provide my credit card info and if I don’t remember to cancel then Hulu will charge me for membership). And then I got the 200 points from answering a survey and downloading an app (which I then uninstalled). Normally, to get $30 in gift card you need 3000 SB. When I redeemed my points, Swagbucks had a sale on WalMart gift cards and for $30 worth it only took 2700 points!

Some final disclaimers about Swagbucks: there is some waiting involved- sometimes you have to wait a few days or weeks for your points to post to your account (it should tell you this in the offer description). You may want to keep track of the offers you did in case the Swagbucks don’t post to your account. Last thing is, you request the gift cards and then may have to wait up to two weeks to receive them electronically.

Come back for my next post and I will break down how I cut our vacation budget by $2800!

Interested in signing up for Swagbucks? Click here to use my referral link. It doesn’t cost you any points but I do earn points when you do.

Interested in signing up for Fancy Hands but don’t want to wait to go through the application process? Send me an email and I will give you some information about their cohort program!

Originally posted 5/9/17

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