In Naked With Cash, seven anonymous Consumerism Commentary readers publicly track and analyze their finances on a monthly basis. For almost a decade, I tracked my own finances on Consumerism Commentary; now I’m sharing the benefits of public accountability with the participants. I’ve partnered with financial planners who will offer some guidance along the way. Read this introduction to learn more about the series.
JW is thirty-one years old and a father of two. He works in retail and is underemployed, and his wife and kids are on state medical plans. Their household income is supplemented by SNAP (food stamps). Read his bio for more information about his family’s situation.
His goal is to be able to provide for his family while still tithing 10% of his income to his church. JW is on Team Neal, with Certified Financial Planner Neal Frankle. Get up-to-date on JW’s progress by reviewing his update from last month.
JW’s own analysis and comments are followed by feedback from Neal Frankle and budgeting expert Jacob Wade from iHeartBudgets.
JW’s comments and analysis
Money making efforts. I used Craigslist and eBay to sell some more stuff this month. I brought in $662 this month. It feels good to get rid of stuff you are not using and making money at the same time. I’ve identified some more things in the garage to post. I still need to pull them out, clean them up, take photos and get them posted. This month was a break between summer and fall piano lessons. This was right around the amount that normally comes in with piano so it smoothed out that budget gap. Knowing there would be no piano income this month helped prompt finding things to sell a few months back.
Top spending. The top spending this month was a 4th Birthday Party for the oldest. It was a How To Train Your Dragon themed party. We spent a total $385.19 on the party and presents over the last two months. We normally do $50 for a birthday for each immediate family member. My wife did all the planning and almost all the prep work. The party was over budget so part of the spending came out of our personal spending categories.
Job hunt. I had another interview for the main internal position I’ve been applying to at work. This one is in a location I had never considered before it was posted. The position is one I’m targeting. Neither position I interviewed for last month worked out. One was not the right fit for our family. The other I was not selected for.
I’ve enlisted the help of a couple of people to improve my interview skills. I had someone sit in on a couple of my interviews. For the positions I am targeting it is customary to have an initial or even multiple phone interviews before meeting in-person. Sometimes, the position is filled without ever meeting in-person.
These phone interviews make it easy to have someone sit-in on interviews. The first feedback stressed a few key points. This person also enlisted the help of a second mutual contact that was in a position to reach out and get more candid feedback. There were a couple easily spotted issues with my interview style that work against me. My answer content is good, but the way I deliver it needs work. The three of us are working on practice interviews.
Feedback from Neal Frankle, CFP
Thanks for the update. I am really happy that you used the window of down time to bring in some cash using eBay. I had this crazy idea. You seem to be pretty good at marketing on Ebay, and I was wondering if this couldn’t become a side hustle for you. Once you clean out your own house, would it make sense to do this for others? I can see two possible ways to do this:
- Print up flyers. Tell neighbors to bring you their stuff after they clean it. You will sell it on eBay and split the profits. I think lots of people would do this because they don’t want to spend the time and they don’t really know how to do it and they think it’s a huge hassle.
- Buy stuff cheap at yard sales and sell it on eBay.
What do you think about this? Would it work for you?
On the spending for the birthday party, first of all, how did it go? Did everyone have fun? Once in a while it’s OK to go over budget. When it comes to the kids and something memorable like that, it’s probably a wise choice.
On the interviews, that is really fantastic action. I love it. I think you are doing everything you can to climb that ladder at work, and I am thoroughly convinced that you’re going to ring that bell.
Feedback from Jacob Wade
It’s always the things we never think of that seem to fall in our lap. Would you be willing to move for this job if it works out? How much would it increase your monthly income? In the long run, $20,000 is not a huge sum of debt, and with a boost in income, could be tackled fairly quickly and get you out from under the burden of debt.
Nice work on selling junk; we did the same this summer. As you find more, I’d say keep at it. Most things do lose more value the longer they sit around, so maybe start finding things that haven’t been touched in a year and see if they have any value left. I know it takes some work to sell, so kudos to bringing in over $500 last month!
Feedback from Luke Landes
Nice work on your money-making efforts in August. Can you keep that up? Even if you planned to sell some of your stuff on eBay to cover a hole in your piano-teaching income, maybe this is something you can continue, at least in the short-term. (Eventually, you’ll run out of your own stuff to sell — and that’s why Neal’s idea is interesting.)
I don’t want to be critical, but your spending on the party is a little suspect. You’ve covered it but you’ve sacrificed something in order to do so. Maybe you can view it as the extra money you earned from selling items on eBay went to pay for the party. You can look at it from many different angles to give you the comfortable feeling you need, but every $300 you spend discretionally is $300 you have less to save or pay off your debt. Once you spend it, it’s gone — once you use it to pay off a loan, you’re saving more money than just the $300 thanks to interest.
It’s a personal choice, and having kids certainly influences decisions like these. I just want you to consistently make decisions that help you in the long run.
The job search continues. It’s great that you’re getting feedback on your presentation style. Keep practicing. The more comfortable you are, the more confident you will be and appear to be. Confidence combined with passion, eloquence, and demonstrable knowledge help win over hiring managers or other supervisors once you’re at the table.
Published or updated September 20, 2013.