Last Updated July 26th, 2018

Coping With Boredom As A Stay At Home Mom

Coping with Boredom as a Stay at Home Mom

One of the biggest complaints stay at home moms have is boredom. Being a mom is rewarding in many ways for most moms, but it’s not always all that stimulating. Doing the same thing day after day with little interaction with other adults can wear you down. How can you cope with boredom as a stay at home mom?

You can’t just rely on that shower alone or that first cup of coffee to get you through the day. They’re important, but you deserve more.

Most moms don’t want to live the life of the perfect homemaker and mother, and there’s no reason why you should. Especially not at the cost of yourself.

How many of us really enjoy keeping an immaculate house while entertaining an infant or toddler, or even multiple children? It may be fun for a while, but eventually, most moms want more. Deserve more.

painting

Enjoy Your Hobbies

One of the most important things to do is not give up your old interests just because you’re a stay at home mom. Keep up with your old hobbies. You may have to figure out which ones can be done in short bursts rather than sitting and working for hours undisturbed, but some of your interests should still be possible.

If you don’t have a hobby, start one. Learn to paint. Work on crafts. Learn to solder. Build things. Get some books at the library and start reading.

Find something you enjoy doing, whether you’ve done it before or have to pick up a new skill. You’ll have fun, and the kids will see you as a more interesting person.

dragon-mom

Get Out With The Kids

Get out of the house, even if it’s only for a walk. This can be particularly difficult when you have an infant who always needs a nap, but it does get better as they get older. But remember that an infant will nap just about anywhere, and that includes the car seat and stroller. While those aren’t the best places for regular naps, there is nothing wrong with the occasional nap in them.

As kids get older, trips to libraries and museums make a nice switch from heading out to the park, especially if the weather is too warm or too cold. Many museums have kids free days regularly, so this doesn’t have to cost a lot.

If there’s a place that charges admission you like particularly well, see what a membership will cost versus paying for each time. A membership is often worth it, especially if it also gets you free parking in a place that charges for parking.

All these activities have one huge advantage when the kids are little – they’re likely to take a nap after. Hopefully, it’s more than just in the car, but tired kids nap longer. That means a better break for mom.

When the kids are older and past the napping stage, regular outings mean they’re happier about the fun things you’ve done as a family. You’re building memories together, and probably doing things that are more fun for you as well.

grocery store

To Take Kids On Errands Or Not?

As a stay at home mom, you may often take the kids with you on errands. It’s the easiest way to get things done most days, even though it can slow things down tremendously. But is it the best idea when you’re bored and maybe even frustrated with the stay at home mom routine?

That may depend on the errand.

When my kids were small, I would joke about how getting to grocery shop without the kids was almost a vacation, and how pathetic that was. You’re keeping pretty busy, after all, if running an errand with no kids feels like any kind of a break.

Some errands can be fun to run with the kids as they get old enough. My kids always love going on a Costco run with me because we usually get lunch out, and you never know what the free samples will be. Lunch there is cheap enough to be affordable on many budgets. Order a pizza before heading down, and there are even leftovers.

If you need a break – ANY break – from the kids, running an errand without them may be a great idea, at least until you can take a real break. It is a chance to catch your break and clear your mind for a little while.

date

Get Out Without The Kids

When I say to get out without the kids, I don’t just mean run errands. Doing that can feel like a break, but you deserve more.

Getting out without the kids should be about doing something you want to do.

Maybe you head out on your own. Maybe you go on a date with your spouse.

Whatever it is, the time is about you being you, or maybe you and your spouse. Try not to spend the entire time talking about the kids. Have fun just being you for a while. You’ll think about the kids some, and talk about them (I think we all do that), but do other things too.

It can be hard sometimes to figure out what to do when you’ve spent too much time being “Mom.” You’ll figure it out. You’re in there somewhere.

If you can’t afford a babysitter, get a family member or friend to agree to do babysitting trades. You watch their kids, they watch yours. Grandparents are also willing in many families. This can allow date nights with your husband or just time to get something done without interference.

mom friends

Make Friends With Other Parents

Take the time to meet up with other moms. Even if you only have an infant it’s good to get out and socialize. As your children get older this can get easier, especially if you get along with their friends’ parents.

My favorite parents to meet when my kids were younger were the ones whose kids’ age differences were similar to the age differences for my kids. It made getting the kids together so nice since each child had a friend their own age without having to make arrangements with a lot of parents.

Of course, having children of similar ages is not the only reason to make friends with other parents. It’s better yet if you have common interests. You’ll all have more fun then.

You do not have to be friends with every parent you meet, of course. There are some you simply will not get along with. The friendships your kids have may still make it worthwhile to be in contact, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be friends with that set of parents.

Your friendship with other parents doesn’t have to be just about the kids, of course. Get out together without them. Get coffee together, go to a paint and sip class together, exercise together, just do things together that aren’t all about the kids.

online friends

Make Friends Online

Get online! The internet makes it easy for even the most homebound stay at home mom to make friends.

Facebook has a lot of groups for parents to join, for just about any interest. You can be a nerdy mom, homeschooling mom, single mom, sports mom, or just about any other interest. Having something in common makes the groups more fun to be a part of.

Don’t feel bad about joining a group for a little while, then leaving if it’s not the group for you. No one will notice in most groups. It takes time to find the right group, and sometimes you’ll find that a group that sounded good from the outside is absolutely not a match for you once you’re in. No need to announce your departure in that case – just go.

Facebook isn’t the only place to meet other parents online, of course. You can find forums or use other social media sites. Just look around until you find the right group of parents to socialize with online.

exercise

Get Exercise

Taking time to exercise regularly is a great idea. You’ll be healthier. It gives your brain a break from focusing on the usual household stuff.

Join a gym or the local YMCA if you can and take classes. This can help you build a regular routine. It’s too easy to skip out on fitness if you don’t have a schedule.

If you can’t afford a gym membership, you can still exercise. There are lots of free exercise videos on YouTube, or you can walk or ride a bike around the neighborhood.

online learning

Improve Your Education

When you’re a stay at home mom, it’s a great time to update your education. Maybe you plan on being a SAHM until your kids are grown, maybe you plan on it for only a few years. Either way, make the most of this time to get a better education.

There are lots of legitimate online courses you can take. Many good schools now offer online degrees. You need to be careful, of course, to ensure that you are getting a quality education. There are too many schools that are essentially scams. Read up on any online schools you attend to ensure that you will get your money’s worth.

You don’t have to improve your education only in ways that will help your future career, of course. You can also learn things just because they’re interesting. Education can be fun. Try courses through sites such as Udemy. You can learn to do lots of things online.

wahm

Find A Way To Work At Home

You may have decided to become a stay at home mom so you’d always be there for your kids, 100%. It probably didn’t take that long to realize that you want more out of life.

I strongly encourage all stay at home moms to have some way to earn money from home, whether it’s a work at home job or a home business of your own. It’s a vital safety net, in my opinion.

Let’s start with the big reasons: divorce, death, disability, and unemployment. Any of these can impact your life when you least expect it. If you don’t have money of your own coming in, these reasons can spell disaster for your family. And they’re mostly out of your control.

But those aren’t the only reasons.

Working at home can be fun. I especially like working for myself on this site, but I started out as a medical transcriptionist at home. Working at home is a way to do something as an adult.

Succeeding as a work at home mom is an accomplishment. Being a mom is too, but it’s not the same.

Working at home can be especially important if you want to go back to your career someday. It removes that break in your resume due to being a stay at home mom. Given how difficult it can be for a stay at home mom to find work later, that’s pretty important.

If you want to start simple, start a blog. It’s not difficult or expensive to get started. Maybe you earn money from your blog, maybe it’s just a hobby. But it’s a good introduction to working at home if you set yourself a schedule and try to keep a good routine going.

depression

Be Aware Of Depression

Sometimes being bored as a stay at home mom is more than just boredom. Depression is a very real issue for people in all walks of life.

Depression in moms doesn’t always start with postpartum depression, although that should be considered if relevant. Sometimes it comes years later.

If you’re concerned that you’re becoming clinically depressed, get help. It’s not easy to ask for help, I know, but find a way to get help.

Clinical depression means you need more help than just getting out of the house. It’s best if you can talk to a psychiatrist about medications that might help, and a therapist to talk things out.

Your network of friends may be able to help to a degree, but not in the ways a professional can. Clinical depression is not something to mess with. Check sites such as psychiatry.org to find help if you need it.

Stay At Home Motherhood Isn’t Always Fun

You’re going to get bored occasionally as a stay at home mom. Sometimes you simply will not be able to do the things you would rather be doing. But that’s true even if you work outside the home.

Taking care of children is hard, repetitive work. Young children, in particular, have a love of repetition that can be very hard on a mother. But if you can look at how your children are growing and changing you may be able to appreciate even the parts of your life that are otherwise quite “boring.”

Find ways to keep on being you, not just “Mom.” It’s a great title, but it doesn’t have to come at the loss of the rest of yourself.

And don’t forget to complain sometimes. Babies and toddlers can be exhausting and boring to care for, no matter how much you love them. They aren’t great conversationalists. They’re messy. The fact that they’re also utterly adorable isn’t enough every day, and it doesn’t have to be.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 23rd, 2018

Don’t Feel Bad About Learning to Work at Home in the School of Hard Knocks

Don't Feel Bad About Learning to Work at Home in the School of Hard Knocks
Working at home successfully doesn’t come quickly to all of us. Many people have to try several opportunities, whether they are stay at home jobs or home business opportunities before they find the right match for their availability and income needs. Learning to work at home doesn’t come that easy for many people.

It’s often a school of hard knocks before you really get it. You may feel like a failure for months or years before you really get things moving the way you’d like to.

Don’t be Ashamed of Falling for Scams

Falling for a work at home scam is perhaps one of the hardest knocks you can take when you’re looking for the right way to work at home. It’s embarrassing when you realize that you’ve fallen for a work at home scam. It happens to lots of us. That doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail as a work at home parent. It means only that you made a mistake.

uncertainty cloud

The only way you fail by falling for a work at home scam is if you don’t learn anything from the experience. It may be painful, especially if you have to admit monetary losses to a spouse or other family members, but it’s something you have to do.

If you fall for a scam, look hard at what made it possible. There are a lot of different reasons why people fall for scams. Here are a few:

  • Greed – the money looked so good you had to try.
  • Deception – the scam successfully imitated a legitimate opportunity
  • Laziness – the work looked so easy!
  • Scarcity – you believed the marketing hype that told you it was limited.
  • Too trusting – you were too willing to believe.
  • Desperation – you need money badly.
  • Fear – the scam hits right on something you fear.

Some people find avoiding scams to be the most difficult part of learning to work at home. I once had someone contact me repeatedly, concerned that a particular opportunity was a scam. I confirmed that it was, and explained why.

The person then asked me if another opportunity was a scam.

Not only was it a scam, it was essentially the same scam. I explained the warning signs again. They sent me a third opportunity to look at for them.

You guessed it. Same scam.

Some people want so badly to work at home that they have trouble being sensible about it. They can’t see what’s right in front of them. You have to learn how to look at these things carefully so that you catch the warning signs.

The prevalence of work at home scams is why it is so very important to really think before signing up with any opportunity. Do your research. Ask around. This will help keep you from falling for scams.

You May Not Always Earn What You Hope to Earn

Whether you find a work at home job, do freelance work or start some other sort of home business, you probably won’t always earn what you hope to earn. It’s not a good feeling to come up short on your goals, but you have to be realistic. It takes time to get things to where you really want them to be.

Be realistic with your financial goals, and don’t give up on them easily. You probably wouldn’t make your dream income working outside the home right off either. Most of us have to work up to it.

Sometimes you may have to accept lower pay to get started. Don’t do this for too long, and don’t go absurdly low.

It amazes me how often people suggest doing online tasks that pay well under minimum wage. Sure, they’re saying to do it in your free time, but isn’t it better to find work that pays better even then?

Some jobs have a learning curve where you’ll earn less than minimum wage at first, but as you improve, so does your income.

Transcriptionists often face that problem. I remember when I first started out as a medical transcriptionist. It was difficult to earn more than a few bucks an hour. But I quickly improved to where I could earn $15+ per hour.

The learning curve was worth it in that case. If your pay won’t increase significantly with experience, the low pay won’t be worth it.

You Won’t Always Have Perfect Cooperation and Respect for What You Do From Family and Friends

Supportive family and friends are a huge help when you work at home. It’s hard to get everyone to take you seriously when so many people you know are certain that you’re getting scammed, or it won’t work out, or just don’t think what you’re doing is real work.

What matters is that you take it seriously.

The people you know will take their cues from you on how to treat your work. A few may never get it, but the more seriously you take your work, the more seriously most others will take it too.

Talk to your spouse and children about what you need from them. They’re the most important part of your support network, as they are the most likely to be in the house with you when you need to work.

Working at Home Doesn’t Always Mean Working When You Want

There’s the old bit about how you can set your own hours when you work at home. It’s one of the most appealing parts of working at home. The problem is that it’s not entirely true.

Many people are dismayed to find out how many hours it really takes to successfully work at home. It’s not easy. You may work more hours than you would have outside the home. You can’t always choose which ones you want, at least not if you want to bring in an income. Sometimes your work hours are set by the needs of the kind of work you’re doing.

trouble ahead

Working at home also tends to blend into daily life and family time. Your work is always right there. Learning to separate work and family time takes practice.

It’s even rougher when you have infants and toddlers who really need your attention. You may find their needs and the needs of your job or business don’t mix too well. Despite any intentions otherwise, many work at home parents do resort to paid childcare so that they can get work done. That’s not a failure. That’s dealing with reality.

Fortunately, you often will have flexibility. Be prepared, however, to deal with the times when you need to sacrifice some of the fun times to earn a living.

Self Discipline May Not Come Naturally

It takes a lot of self discipline to work at home. There are a lot of distractions. Little things eat into your schedule. If you don’t have the self discipline to minimize these problems, you will have a hard time learning to work at home successfully.

You can’t rely on feedback from your employer if you have a work at home job. It may not come in time.

Self discipline is even more important if you’re running a home business. Your success depends in large part on your self discipline. If you don’t have it, working enough hours to make money from home will be very difficult.

Setting up a comfortable home office is a huge help when it comes to self discipline. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it gives you a regular place to work.

Ideally, your home office should be quiet and have a door you can close. Closing your door when you need to work can close out a lot of distractions. Depending on what you do, you may or may not need to work in your home office every day. But it should be available to you.

But you need more.

You need the discipline to start work on time, and to work hard through the hours you need to work. Distractions abound, such as:

  • Television
  • Chores
  • Online games
  • Social media
  • Friends and family
  • Pets.

If self discipline is a challenge, set goals and rewards for yourself. Some should be relatively easy (but not too easy) to hit. Others should take steady effort over days, weeks or even months.

Teach yourself to work even when you don’t feel like it. You’d have to do that if you worked outside the home, after all. Take your work at home job or home business just as seriously.

Overwork Comes Too Naturally

If you have enough self discipline to work at home, you may find that you also have the tendency to work too much. Finding the right work-life balance can be difficult.

overwork

Now, this may sound like a great problem to have. And there are times when the ability and willingness to work long hours will be to your advantage. But there can also be too much of that.

When you overwork yourself, you become too tired to do a good job. This can impact your creativity, accuracy, and how fast you can work.

It also impacts your life outside work. What happens to family time when you work too much?

Boundaries matter when you work at home. You must learn to stop working and be a part of your family when your work day is done.

Sure, there may be times when those long hours are necessary, and even a benefit to your family in the long run. But they shouldn’t happen all of the time.

Expenses Catch You By Surprise

Working at home can save you a lot of money. You don’t drive to work every day. You can dress however you like most days. But there may be some expenses you haven’t considered.

Work At Home Job Expenses

Some work at home jobs will provide you will all the equipment you need. They may even help pay for your internet connection.

Others will require you to provide your own equipment. This is especially true if you’re considered an independent contractor rather than an employee.

If you provide your own equipment and need to repair or replace something, that’s on you. When it’s time to upgrade, that’s on you. If you don’t own a piece of equipment you need, you guessed it, that’s on you.

Some work at home jobs provide on the job training or will help you keep up your skills with ongoing training. Others will require that you get your own training.

These are some of the work at home expenses you might not be expecting:

You’re working at home, kids in the background. Over time, you come to realize that it’s just not working. They’re too distracting.

Trading childcare or having family members help out turn out to be not enough. It’s time to pay for daycare.

You may have to spend some money getting set up to your employer’s standards:

You have a nice home office setup, and a solid wifi connection. But your employer requires a wired internet connection. You have to pay to run a cable to your home office.  This may be as simple as finding a long enough cable for the job, or as expensive as having a professional set you up.

Home Business Expenses

If you are running your own home business, of course all of these expenses will fall on you. It can be a very good idea, in fact, to budget for training to improve your skills. You can improve your business much more quickly if you learn new skills from someone else than if you try to figure it out on your own.

You’ve tried your hand at social media marketing. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram… you’ve tried, but you just aren’t getting results. You’ve heard about the amazing results other people get from social media, so naturally you want to do better too.

Time to figure out which social media training course is right for your needs.

Don’t forget basic advertising expenses:

Social media marketing isn’t enough.  Time to buy some ads!

Home business expenses can add up, even though the basic costs of hosting your website are quite affordable.

Some things can wait on your budget, which is nice when you’re starting on a shoestring. But many of the things you can do to improve your home business a little more quickly will cost money. They also aren’t guaranteed to work, so your risk is increased.

Successfully advertising your site, for example, often has an expensive learning curve. You can take a course that will teach you to run successful ads, but you might not find the right mix right away.

Don’t Let Learning To Work At Home Get You Down

Learning to work at home can be frustrating, especially if you do have to go through the school of hard knocks to find success. You have to keep trying or you’ll never find the right way to earn money from home.

Don’t let the naysayers get you down. They probably mean well, but telling you over and over that you’re going to fail isn’t helpful. There may be a fine distinction between a naysayer and someone who sees something you don’t however, so don’t dismiss all criticism out of hand.

Don’t let your mistakes get you down. Learn from them. A mistake isn’t a complete failure if you learn from it.

Learning to work at home takes time. Not everyone succeeds at the first thing they try to do from home. Even if you start the perfect work at home job or home business right from the start, there are plenty of other mistakes to make. Give yourself time to make the progress you need to do better. You’ll get there.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 18th, 2018

Are You Falling Into Frugality Traps?

Are You Falling Into Frugality Traps?

I love being frugal. Saving money is a constant goal of mine. But there are a lot of challenges to this. Make sure you’re aware of these frugality traps as you try to live a more frugal lifestyle.

Most of these frugality traps relate to failing to think about the long term. It’s easy to say that this item costs less than that item. But does the difference really justify buying the cheaper item? Not always, and that is what you have to think about.

Trap 1: Cheap Or Better Quality?

There are times where being frugal means spending more rather than less. Think about how long you are going to be using the item. If you’re buying generic rather than name brand foods, in most cases that makes good sense, especially since sometimes the two are made by the same company. Just different labels.

But other times you are buying things that you want to last. Then paying a bit more now means you will not be paying more later.

A simple example would be the cheese slicer I bought a while ago. The wire on the old one had broken and we couldn’t find a replacement wire. So off to the store for a new slicer.

One model had replacement wires in the box with it, while another cost a dollar less but had no replacement wires or obvious way to replace the wire. The wires themselves felt about the same. So I bought the one with the extra wires so that we won’t have to buy another the next time the wire breaks. And in my experience, they do break.

pennies

Trap 2: Overbuying

This is the danger of the warehouse store and the really good sale. You buy more than your family can use because darn it, it’s just such a great deal! How could you possibly go wrong?

In a lot of cases stocking up isn’t all that bad. You just don’t want to stock up on things that will go bad on you or take up more storage space than you can spare for it. As you shop, pay attention to when the food will expire.

In the case of clothing, think about whether or not all the stuff you are buying will really be worn. It can be especially easy to overbuy for babies and toddlers, who just look so cute in everything. Just remember that overbuying is why resale shops have so many clothes available with the tags still on them or clothes that look like new.

I always balance how much I buy with how often I’ll have to drive a significant distance to get more. Regular groceries, I know I can get more easily, the store is less than a mile away. I don’t buy more than I need over a short time, usually about a week.

Great deals I may get some extras anyhow. When meat of one sort or another is on a good deal and I have space in the freezer, it makes sense to buy extra and freeze it. If there’s no room in the freezer, it doesn’t matter how good the deal is. I don’t buy extra because we can’t use it.

But if it’s something I can get a better deal by going to Target or Costco, I often buy more. They take 20-30 minutes to get to, and then the same back. That’s a lot of gas for the car and time for me. If I head out to those places, the goal will be to get enough that I can avoid another trip there as long as possible.

My storage for such things is planned accordingly.

I still pay attention to how much I buy on such trips. There’s only so much space in my pantry and other storage spaces.

Trap 3: “But It’s On Sale!”

Similar to overbuying, buying something just because it is on sale is a big mistake. Think instead about whether or not you really need it. All too often, you won’t really need it.

Buying things you don’t need at discount stores is the same trap as buying things just because they’re on sale. I go to my local 99 Only store regularly. The main thing I buy there most trips?

Produce.

Their produce department is almost as good as the one at the regular grocery store, but the prices are significantly better for many things. I can get a bag of bell peppers for $2, usually with a mix of green, red, orange and yellow bell peppers.

I belong to a Facebook group where people share their finds from this store. Many of the members shop daily, some more than once. Some even say their husbands or significant others have had to limit how much they spend there because they buy so much.

I get it. The deals are often amazing. But how much do you really need?

money peanuts

Trap 4: Giving In To The Wrong Things

There are a few ways to give in. One is to go shopping while hungry. It’s said that you will buy a lot more food if you grocery shop while hungry. Your hunger just makes it easier to give in to temptation.

But if you’re shopping with the kids, it’s easy to give in to their ideas. “But Moooooommy!” If you’re a mom, you know the rest of that routine. Just remember that you are the example for your kids and that if you buy everything that they want, they’ll never understand why you talk so much about spending your money wisely.

I don’t mean that you shouldn’t ever give in. There are better and worse times to do so.

For example, we love to take our kids shopping with us when we go to Costco, and we always try to go at lunchtime.

The pizza and hot dogs at Costco are extremely affordable, as are the sodas. The kids feel like they got a treat, but we’ve spent a fraction of what we would have at a fast food place.

And then there are the free samples to top things off.

When my kids start wanting to buy a lot of treats is when I start reminding them to bring their own money. Sometimes the treat isn’t worth it if they’d have to spend their own.

Don’t forget the occasional, reasonably priced treat for yourself as well. It’s much easier to maintain self control if you allow yourself reasonable treats. You won’t feel so deprived that you just have to splurge on the big one.

Trap 5: Repair Or Replace?

This is one that can be true torture. The washing machine breaks. Is it time to replace it?

The main reason this is difficult is because so many things are designed these days to be cheaper to replace than to repair. But I would always suggest looking at the repair costs, especially if they turn out to be minor. Not every breakdown means a huge repair. Just think of all the little stuff you have to take your car to the shop for.

Once you decide to repair, make sure that you get it done right. Having to get a repair done over again is guaranteed to increase the cost.

For your car, this means picking a really good mechanic. Ask around. You can generally find a friend or neighbor who knows a truly wonderful and affordable mechanic.

For other repairs, do your homework. Get quotes for really big repairs, and don’t ask for the shortcuts if it means the repair won’t hold up.

money umbrella

Trap 6: Focusing More On Saving Than On Earning

Saving money on the things you need or want makes sense. Know what makes even more sense?

Increasing your income.

In the long run, if you want to have more money saved up for the big things you want in life, a larger income may do more for you than being frugal. You still can’t overspend when you have a larger income, but it will give you more flexibility.

Earning a larger income also helps as the cost of things go up. Frugality won’t beat out inflation. Increasing your income might.

Let’s assume your family’s monthly expenses are $3,000. That may be low or high, depending on the size of your family and where you live. The average cost of living depends on a lot of factors. This includes mortgage or rent, groceries, insurance, car payment, phone, utilities and so forth. All the things you have to spend money on every month.

You spend some time bringing some of the individual costs down. You find a way to cut your monthly expenses by $400. It was tedious but feels really good. You now have a little more flexibility in your budget.

The problem is that once those expenses are cut, there’s nowhere to go.

If you want to have more money available to your family, you have to earn more money. You have a number of options to do this.

Improve Your Career

For parents who work, putting some effort into improving your career can pay off very well.

This doesn’t have to be at your current job, of course. If your current job is going nowhere, the improvement you need to make to your career is to get into a better one. It’s time to upgrade your skills.

But if you have good opportunities at your current job, find out how to make the most of them. Look into what it takes to get the best raises. Figure out which promotion opportunities interest you. Discover how to get from where you are in your career to where you want to be.

Sometimes you can stay in your industry, but change employers to improve your career. Current employers don’t always value employees as they should. If you should be earning more in your current job, or you aren’t getting the promotions you think you deserve, it’s probably time to move on.

Don’t quit your job to look for better opportunities, however. Most employers want to see that you’re currently working. It often improves your value in their eyes.

Have Both Parents Work

If your family has one parent working while the other stays at home, having the stay at home mom or dad start working can be a quick way to increase the family’s income.

This can be difficult when the kids are young enough that childcare is an issue. It’s not at all uncommon that childcare expenses will take up an excessive part of the family’s income, or even exceed the total of one parent’s paycheck.

Sometimes this means it’s not worthwhile to have both parents work outside the home. Other times it means you need to look at the long term.

If the income issue is short term, for example, it can be worthwhile to take the financial hit for a time, with the understanding that a future increase in income will take care of that problem.

Other times you may need to look at alternative arrangements. I know families where one parent works during the day and the other at night while the children are young. It’s hard on the marriage seeing each other so little, but it can be a worthwhile sacrifice to keep the family financially afloat.

You may also be able to find friends or family who are willing to help with childcare as needed at little to no cost. Don’t push someone if they aren’t willing – this works best when someone comes forward to offer and you discuss the arrangements in detail.

Or you could always…

Start A Side Gig Or Find A Way To Work At Home

Starting a side gig or finding a way to work at home is my favorite way to help out a family’s income. You may or may not need more childcare when you do this, but you can plan this out to deal with the fact that you have kids.

Some side gigs and work at home jobs really aren’t good if you must have the children with you. You don’t want to drive for Lyft if you don’t have enough time without the kids.

Customer service jobs and other jobs over the telephone can be problematic if you have children as well. Some of these jobs require absolutely no background noise, or you’re likely to get fired. You don’t want to lose your job just because the kids didn’t understand that they needed to let you work.

Fortunately, there are a number of side gigs and other ways to work at home that are flexible enough that you can do them even with the kids around. Fewer distractions are better for productivity, but not an absolute must for some of these positions:

  • blogging
  • transcription
  • social media management
  • website testing
  • software development
  • website design
  • babysitting
  • selling crafts on Etsy or similar
  • writing
  • mystery shopping

While having kids underfoot can make these jobs more difficult, they don’t make it impossible. That’s a huge help when you need to earn money from home and can’t pay a sitter.

Invest

The younger you start investing in things such as your retirement, the better off you will be in the long run. Even stay at home moms and dads should plan for retirement whenever possible.

It’s rarely easy to find ways to add to your investments when you’re on a tight budget. But do what you can.

If you have a job that offers a 401k, for example, make the most of it. This is especially important if your employer gives matching contributions to whatever level. If you can max that out, the money is out of your reach before it hits your bank account, and that’s often easier to deal with.

If you have the self control, consider contributing to a Roth IRA or Spousal IRA if you have a spouse who doesn’t work. This money will make a huge difference to you later in life.

I hope these tips help you to avoid the most common frugality traps. It’s sensible to be frugal, so long as you don’t take it to extremes. Be sure to balance it with progress toward a higher income so that you don’t run out of ways to save money when you need them most.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 16th, 2018

When Viral Marketing Works Too Well

When Viral Marketing Works Too Well

If you were paying attention to the news or social media at all around July 12, you probably heard about Build A Bear’s “Pay Your Age” day. Hordes of parents with children showed up for this amazing deal, waiting for hours for the bargain. Stores had to close their doors because the crowds were too big. Officials cited safety concerns in many places.

It was a huge case of viral marketing that worked too well.

Honestly, that they didn’t consider the crowd situation well enough surprised me. As soon as I heard about the deal, I knew the crowds would be unmanageable, which is why I didn’t tell my youngest about it. I knew she’d desperately want to go, and I am not the kind of mom who stands for hours in line for a toy.

All this was to promote their program that kids can get a pay your age birthday bear. The company also offered $15 vouchers to make up for the mess. Not the same as paying your age for most people, but not a terrible deal.

This kind of problem can hit you as an online business too. Going viral is a goal most bloggers and online business owners have. Not everyone is ready for what can happen.

My Experience With Too Much Website Traffic

I’ve been hit with an excess of traffic once myself. It was quite an experience. The timing was such that it was more difficult to deal with than it would have been at any other time.

You see, I had just moved. My site had been hit so hard that my host had shut it down for overusing the server.

And I didn’t know until the cable company connected my internet service.

In this case, it was a link to my site in an article that was shared on a few big sites. All at once, I had far more traffic hitting my site than my hosting plan allowed.

There were comments on the articles questioning my legitimacy because my site was down. Somehow I might be trying to scam people because my site was down. I’m not sure how that works, but some people were concerned.

Fortunately, my hosting company was very willing to work with me on a temporary upgrade to deal with the sudden increase of traffic. The increased income was worth the trouble.

Why wasn’t I prepared?

The interview I had done for the article had happened months before. I didn’t know where or when it would be posted. In fact, I had given up on anything happening with that interview. So naturally, things happened right when we had to move for my husband’s new job.

That’s how things work, isn’t it?

It was also my first huge surge in traffic. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I learned a lot about the kind of traffic that’s available in this niche that way.

Going viral is often hard to prepare for, no matter how hard you’ve worked at it.

thumbs up

What Is Viral Marketing?

People always talk about going viral. Most people can name things they’ve seen go viral.

It’s not just big companies that go viral. How many people remember “the dress?” Mentioning the dress can still make some people groan over the whole fuss about what color it was. I’ve seen a few other attempts at going viral over colors that people disagree on, but nothing like that.

The goal of viral marketing is to spread information by word of mouth. Many companies aim to get viral campaigns going over social media, as many people share freely on social media.

How the marketing campaign spreads doesn’t matter, so long as it spreads widely. You don’t see many campaigns aiming to go viral over email these days. This probably has to do with the frustration many people have over forwarded emails. They can get difficult to read as they get repeatedly forwarded, diminishing the effect over time.

Viral marketing campaigns can be entertaining. They can offer an exceptionally good deal.

Viral marketing does not have to spread out to everyone. You only need your marketing to spread to your target audience. People who will never be interested in what you have to offer are not your target for any kind of marketing.

Going viral will be different for every marketer. If your niche is small, you don’t want a viral campaign that appeals to the world.

Example:

Let’s say you’re selling a blogging course, as many bloggers do. You’ve had some success with your blogging, and you want to share your techniques with people interested in starting their own blogs.

While you may think of blogging as something anyone can try, the simple truth of the matter is that you need better targeting than that. Who do you think will be interested in learning to blog from you? Pick your niche.

Your target audience will probably relate to the kind of blogging you do. They’re the people you can give the best advice to. There are some differences, after all, in blogging about parenting versus running a blog for a charity.

If you’re trying to go viral, target the audience you know. A successful parenting blogger already has some ideas on how to attract people to that subject. You will probably have more luck attracting people in that niche who would also like to start a blog than in attracting people who aren’t in that niche. You already have a reputation and a following in your niche, which gives you a head start.

Target the people trying to start a blog for a charity, and they’ll see you as just some parenting blogger, not a real authority on their needs. An attempt to catch their attention and get them to buy your course will probably fall flat.

Going Viral Is Not Always Deliberate

Much as you might want control over when you go viral, it’s not something that happens on command, nor can you avoid it at times. Word of mouth marketing of any sort is impossible to control.

Just imagine having a business where you make something, and without advance notification, it gets featured on a huge site. You get slammed with business, plus criticism for not having enough of your product.

Yet all you did was run your business as usual. The discovery and word of mouth chatter wasn’t due to anything unusual you did, aside from offering an interesting product. Hopefully, you can make the most of it if that ever happens to you.

Is Viral Always Good For A Business?

Viral marketing attempts can go sour. Going viral in the wrong way can be damaging to your business. Too great a focus on going viral can be one of the biggest social media mistakes you can make. Viral marketing is only a part of your social media strategy. It shouldn’t be the whole thing.

Just think about how “switching” to IHOb went for IHOP. That attempt at going viral resulted in significant mockery for them. They also got attention to their new burgers, which may be a benefit, but overall most people weren’t impressed. But if getting people to talk about the switch was the goal, it worked. People now know IHOP has burgers, even if they didn’t like the marketing campaign at all.

On the other hand, it was a lot of fun for other restaurants to mock the switch:

Sometimes a company will go viral for something they did wrong. Think about some of the recent videos you may have seen of people being kicked off their plane flights.

Viral videos can also impact individuals. The video of the woman calling police on the little black girl who was selling water in front of her apartment ended with the woman resigning from her job.

Sometimes companies react well to negative viral videos. Starbucks closed their stores for a day of retraining after a video of two black men being arrested at one of their locations went viral. Starbucks has been very open about the changes they’ve made to hopefully avoid such racial profiling in their stores in the future. Hopefully it sticks.

fireworks

How To Prepare For When Viral Marketing Works

If you’re trying to figure out viral marketing, you need to consider what happens when it works out. You don’t want to be caught unprepared if things work out.

For an online business, that means high quality hosting. I’m currently using A2 Hosting, which I like quite well. I haven’t had the chance to test them on high traffic levels yet, but they have upgrades available, so if the plan I have right now isn’t enough, I can move to something better.

If you’re serious about going viral, the time will come that you will need a virtual private server or dedicated hosting. If you’re earning money, these become a good investment and will be vital to your success.

Unless you’re completely comfortable with controlling the server on your own, you would want managed versions of these types of hosting.

Any host will shut you down on a shared server if you’re using more than your share of resources for a period of time. That’s so that your traffic surge doesn’t take down other sites. You would want them to do that to any other site on your shared hosting if it were your site being taken down by a surge on someone else’s site.

A good hosting company will help you move your site FAST if you get clobbered by traffic. But they may or may not contact you to let you know that you need the upgrade if you want your site up.

If your marketing is going well, it will be worthwhile to stay on higher level hosting, rather than bumping up when the rush comes.

Make Sure Your Product Is Ready

One of the big mistakes Build A Bear made was in not having their stores and products ready. They knew there would be a surge of traffic. They vastly underrated how huge the surge would be.

Whatever your product may be, if you’re trying to go viral, make sure you have enough for the potential demand.

This is relatively easy if your product is downloadable. All you need are servers powerful enough to take the traffic.

It’s much more difficult if you’re offering a physical product. You may have to explain to disappointed customers what your production times are, or even refuse orders if you don’t have a way to increase product production.

There’s no point to trying to go viral if you don’t have a product, even if that product is simply the content on your site. Make sure you have a solid way to monetize your traffic if that’s the case, of course. You don’t want to pay for more powerful servers if you can’t earn anything.

Being caught unprepared is how viral marketing can go too well for a small business or blog. If you’re trying to go viral, make plans for if you succeed. Even if you aren’t trying to go viral, consider what you would do if you suddenly had more traffic to your site than you can currently handle.

It won’t hurt to plan ahead so you can move quickly should the situation arise.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 10th, 2018

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

How’s Pinterest working for promoting your online blog or business? Are you having a lot of success with it? Even if you aren’t sure how much you’re going to like Pinterest for marketing purposes, I strongly suggest setting up a Pinterest business account. It has a lot of advantages that you’re missing out on if you don’t bother with it.

A Pinterest business account in many ways is not that different from a personal Pinterest account. Your pins look the same to others. Pinning works exactly the same. It’s free. It’s the little extras that business accounts get that make it worthwhile to either switch your account over to a Pinterest business account or start an entirely separate Pinterest account for your business.

What’s The Difference?

It can be difficult to understand why you should make the switch to a Pinterest business account when you can’t see an immediate difference. It won’t give your pins preferential treatment or anything like that. So why bother?

The difference comes in what only you can see in your account. The tools you can use with a business account can help you use Pinterest in a much more effective way.

Take the profile or board widget, for example. You can use it to share your recent pins on your website. This could be useful in drawing more attention to your pinboards, hopefully to encourage more shares of your material on Pinterest and eventually drive more traffic to your site. After all, building your traffic is what it’s about if you’re a business.

The big deal, however, comes from the analytics you get with a business account. There are aspects that make relatively little difference, but some of the features of Pinterest analytics are essential to understanding how well your pins are performing on Pinterest. We’ll cover that shortly.

How To Convert To A Pinterest Business Account

It’s fairly easy to convert a new or personal Pinterest account to a business account. It only takes a few moments, in fact.

If you’re starting a brand new Pinterest account to use for business, go to Pinterest for Business and click Join as a Business. Follow the instructions there to set up your new account. It won’t take long. Pinterest needs a few details about your business and the person managing the profile.

You will also want to provide a link to your website and verify your ownership of it. Pinterest provides simple steps to do this.

If you plan on using your current Pinterest account, you can use this link to convert your account to a business account. Once again, it’s quite simple to do, and you will want to verify your website, just as you would if you had made an entirely new account.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin, the simplest way to verify your site with Pinterest is to go to the Pinterest tab of the Social menu of that plugin, and add the meta tag provided by Pinterest right there. This way you don’t have to mess with your blog’s HTML, which makes some people nervous. Pinterest provides instructions to verify your site other ways, but this is the easiest if you have Yoast SEO installed on your WordPress blog.

yoast verify pinterest

Should You Use Your Pinterest Business Account For Personal Pins?

If you’ve been using your personal Pinterest account for your business pins as well as your personal pins, you may want to consider whether you should continue to do the same when you move to a Pinterest business account.

Keeping your business account strictly business has the advantage of focus. Followers of your business account will know exactly what kinds of pins to expect you to share. This can be an advantage, as it also helps Pinterest to know what kinds of pins you’re sharing.

On the other hand, it can be easier to keep your Pinterest account super active if you do all of your personal and business pinning on one account. So long as you keep your boards well organized and optimized, this may not be the worst thing… so long as your personal pins don’t make your brand look bad.

Some of your personal pins may be interesting to your business followers, of course. This depends on your niche. If you blog about parenting and family life, for example, no one is likely to mind seeing your recipe pins as well.

If you’re truly concerned, but don’t want to have multiple Pinterest accounts to keep track of, you can pin your personal pins only into secret boards. This way you can still see the things you like while logged into your Pinterest business account, but your followers won’t see anything you don’t want them to see.

Enable Rich Pins

If you want Pinterest to show as much information as possible about pins from your site, you must activate Rich Pins. Once again, if you have Yoast SEO, this is simple.

Go to the Facebook tab of the Social menu of your Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure that ‘Add Open Graph meta data’ is enabled. Save the changes.

yoast rich pins

Now go to this page on Pinterest to validate your site for Rich Pins. Give it a link to a single blog post. Click Validate, and see if it worked. That’s all it should take. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to follow the documentation and try to figure out what went wrong. Most blogs shouldn’t have any problems at all.

Making The Most Of Analytics

Pinterest analytics are the big reason most bloggers love their business accounts. It’s a huge help to know how your pins are performing. Just make sure you’re looking at the right statistics.

Monthly Viewers

I consider the Monthly Viewers statistic that Pinterest puts right up there something of a ‘meh’ statistic. It helps you see if your pins are being viewed more, but views are nothing.

Most especially, views aren’t action. You want action.

The one good thing about seeing your monthly views go up is that most likely your other statistics are doing better as well. It’s not a lot of information, but it’s a little and can help alert you to changes that you need to look at.

Monthly Engaged

Monthly Engaged is the other statistic Pinterest puts right up in front of you. It has a little more meaning than Monthly Viewers, but not a lot. It simply means that someone interacted in some way with your pin. You don’t know which way with this statistic, but it’s still good to see this number get bigger.

To learn more, you need to click on the Analytics dropdown menu you see on you business profile, and take a look at the different sections.

pinterest analytics dropdown

Overview

The Overview section of your analytics gives you a quick look at what’s going on with your account. When I look at mine, for example, I see a drop at the moment. This is likely related to the Fourth of July holiday that we just passed as of this writing.

Events like that will cause significant drops in your traffic that have little to do with the quality of your marketing. They’re something to be aware of, but so long as your traffic recovers in an appropriate time, nothing to worry about.

There may also be seasonal drops. Many people find that they get less traffic from Pinterest in summer as a general rule.

A drop in traffic may be cause for concern if you don’t know why it happened. Take some time and find out what has changed so you can figure out how to fix it. Maybe you’ve been doing a little less pinning, or maybe your site is getting less traffic overall, leading to fewer pins. It’s good to know that you have to look, so you can figure out the problem.

Profile

The Profile section of your Pinterest analytics allows you to examine how your pins are performing. You can see how your top pins and boards are performing.

It’s a huge help being able to see which pins are getting clicks or being saved by other pinners. These are the actions you want to see. Lots of impressions are nice but only mean so much if you don’t get clicks and saves to go with them.

You can also check out your all time best performing pins.

These stats will not be limited to pins from your site. This can be frustrating when that’s what you’re most interested in, but also helpful. You might get ideas for topics you need to cover. Clearly your followers like that content – now make it your own and make it better! No copying, and give credit where credit is due.

People You Reach

The People you reach section gives you a little information about the number of people. It’s in the process of being replaced by the Audience Insights report, which is far more useful.

Website

The Website section allows you to see activity from your website on Pinterest. For example, you can see how often people have used the Pin It button on your website (you do have that, don’t you??).

This can be very similar to the information you get in the Profile section, but you will see data only for pins for your site. If there are a lot of other pins showing up in your Profile’s data, this will clear things up for you.

Audience Insights

As of this writing, Audience Insights is not in full release but looks great.

You can see the categories and interests of your audience and their affinity for various interests. I can see a lot of potential for this in terms of deciding what to blog about, and from there what to pin.

You’ll also learn about the demographics of your audience, where they’re from, and the kinds of devices they use to visit Pinterest. This is a lot more information than was available previously, and you should make the most of it. You can even learn about what the Pinterest audience as a whole is interested in.

Make The Most Of Pinterest Scheduling Tools

If you’re serious about using Pinterest for business, you should at least consider using Pinterest scheduling tools. There are people who prefer manual pinning methods as well, but I prefer scheduling, and I can tell you why.

Simply put, scheduling means even when life throws a great big obstacle in your way, your pins keep getting posted.

I’ve been dealing with a horrifyingly huge problem in my life. My father died.

That’s awful for just about anyone, but this case was complicated. I won’t go into too many details, as we’re hoping for legal action on the scam he fell for that completely messed up his finances, but suffice to say the whole thing has been a mess, and I’ve learned things about my father I wouldn’t want to know about anyone. And the finances weren’t even the worst mess we had to deal with.

I’ve lost many days of work time dealing with this situation, as have my sisters. But because I’m using Hootsuite to schedule my pins, they’re still being posted. All I had to do was keep up with reciprocating on the group boards.

Hootsuite has a fairly adequate Pinterest scheduling tool. I think it could be better. But it’s there and I use Hootsuite anyhow, so that’s what I have right now.

What I like about scheduling with Hootsuite, however, is that it’s easy to vary both the images and what you say for each pin. Pinterest is developing a preference for a greater variety of images per blog post and unique descriptions for pins, rather than recycling the same thing over and over. The way the Hootsuite scheduler works, it’s not that hard to switch things up regularly.

My next plan is to start using Tailwind as well. Most pinners who schedule love Tailwind, so far as I can tell. I’ve been too busy to give it a proper chance, but once things get better, I’ll test it as well. I understand its scheduling tool is far more powerful, which sounds great.

When you’re serious about using Pinterest to market your blog, you need the consistency that a scheduling tool can offer. Handling the entire thing manually takes a lot of time out of your day that could be better used elsewhere.

If you want to learn to make the most of Pinterest, don’t forget to consider taking a Pinterest course. Learning how to make the most of Pinterest is much easier if you get advice from someone who has gotten great, consistent results.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.