4 Essential Outdoor Oases

Listen to crickets, feel the cool breeze, bask in the warm sun, and enjoy the scenery. It’s summertime, and there are countless reasons to spend time outdoors. Transform your outdoor space into your go-to spot. Here are five creative ways to create functional outdoor oases.

Outdoor Living Room: Add comfortable patio couches and chairs. Set out end tables and a coffee table so people can prop up their feet or put down their drink. Buy outdoor lighting fixtures in case you want to read outside under the stars. If you are revamping your backyard, consider adding an outdoor fireplace. It’s the perfect place to gather around for a night of spooky stories and s’mores. Worried about bugs? Place a few insect repellant candles in your yard.

Outdoor Dining Room: Dine alfresco! Set up a patio table and chairs. It’s important to choose patio furniture because it is weather-resistant. Add a string of lights for a romantic (and practical) touch that will literally light up the room.

Outdoor Kitchen: If you are remodeling your outdoor area, add a small island counter with a fridge and cabinet space so you can prep your meals outdoors. Now all you need is a grill and, in a dream outdoor kitchen, a brick pizza oven.

Outdoor Bedroom: Buy a bed frame and set it up in a flat section of your yard. Keep a bookshelf with your favorite reads nearby. Add a nightstand, lots of pillows, and a light. Just make sure that this room is covered so rain doesn’t interrupt your reading!

We have a hunch that these hideaways will be your new favorite spots for spring and summer.

Source: century21.com

How to Make the Leap From Side Hustle to Full-Time Dream Job

Learn real tips from real side hustlers who are now thriving full time.

For Michelle Schroeder-Gardner it all began with a blog. When she started Making Sense of Cents in 2011, a chronicle of her journey paying off $38,000 in student loans, it was a fun way to make money on the side while maintaining her full-time job as a financial analyst. Fast forward two years and she’s left her day job to focus on the blog exclusively. Fast forward another five years and she’s earning more than $1 million annually from her site.

If you too are looking to turn your side hustle into a full-time job, experiences like Schroeder-Gardner’s prove that just about anything is possible. And you’re not alone. Nation1099, an online resource for freelancers, published a 2018 report to summarize data from various career studies and concluded that approximately 11 percent of the working adult population in the U.S. is working primarily as full-time independent contractors in the gig economy. Gig workers, also known as on-demand workers, function with a non-standard work arrangement and without a long-term employment contract.

Some, like Schroeder-Gardner, have ditched a traditional lifestyle and are working while on the go and whenever they’re most productive (she travels around the world in an RV and sailboat and writes when motivation strikes). Others are logging full-time hours at home or in a coworking office space.

With a thriving gig economy, it could be the right time to turn your side hustle into a full-time job.

Although figuring out how to turn your side hustle into your dream job requires hard work, with patience and persistence, you can succeed.

Learn from the experts themselves and consider these steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business:

Educate yourself

The first step for turning your side hustle into a successful business is building the right skill set so you can stand out in your field. Research industry best practices and in-demand skills, speak to successful professionals and read about others who’ve made the leap from side hustle to full-time job.

The first steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business are doing your research and developing skills to make yourself stand out.

When Jill DeConti, founder of the blog The Luxe Travelers, decided to leave her finance job to devote all of her time to her side hustle as a travel blogger, she knew that knowledge would be instrumental to her success.

“I began researching, reading books, soaking in knowledge,” DeConti says, adding that she also focused on learning marketing best practices and how to generate revenue from her blog.

Reading about the steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business proved useful to DeConti not just for the practical tips she gleaned, but for motivation as well.

“This made me realize that my dreams were actually possible,” she says, “and made me feel less alone in pursuing them.”

“Even though I was earning a good income from my side gig before I turned it into my full-time career, I was terrified to leave my day job.”

– Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, founder of the blog Making Sense of Cents

Take baby steps

Schroeder-Gardner says one of the most challenging parts of turning your side hustle into a full-time job is building a business framework and believing in it.

“Even though I was earning a good income from my side gig before I turned it into my full-time career,” she says, “I was terrified to leave my day job.”

Growing her gig on the side to make sure that it actually worked—and would generate income—helped her gain confidence while she still had the security of her day job’s salary. When she was ready to make her side hustle full time, she knew the framework for a blog that could make money from affiliate marketing was already in place.

“I knew it was time when I was earning enough from my blog to live off of,” Schroeder-Gardner says. “I was earning around $5,000 to $10,000 a month from my side hustle at that time.”

Build an emergency fund

If you’re thinking about how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, be prepared for business—and earnings—to not go exactly as planned.

“Build an emergency fund,” Schroeder-Gardner says. “This way, when you turn your side gig into your dream job, you’ll have money set aside in case you have a not-so-good month.”

Sunny skies are the right time to save for a rainy day.

Start an emergency fund with no minimum balance.

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You could also dip into your emergency fund to help manage daily expenses and pay your bills while you turn your side hustle into a full-time job. It may also come in handy if you need to finance upfront business costs (new equipment or office supplies, anyone?).

Outside of work, an emergency fund can provide a cushion for other expenses that may not be baked into your budget (think a trip to the doctor’s office or a home repair that came out of nowhere).

As you work on creating an emergency fund as a step for turning your side hustle into a successful business, note that most experts agree that it should include at least six months to a year of expenses.

If you're wondering how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, you'll need an emergency fund to help protect yourself financially.

Invest extra time upfront

You may find that it takes a lot of time to turn your side hustle into a full-time job. There’s networking, promoting your business and accepting new opportunities to build your portfolio—and that’s likely on top of your already packed schedule.

If you’re wondering how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, you may need to carve out time after regular working hours. That was the case for DeConti, whose day job kept her occupied from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In order to get her name out there as she built her travel blog, she looked for freelance social media jobs and worked on her own blog “after work and late into the night and on weekends,” she says.

Putting in the time upfront really paid off. These days DeConti can make her own schedule and work remotely, which is key for someone who has made a career out of her passion for travel.

“I’ve been able to travel to Bali for an extended period of time, spend a month traveling around the Greek islands, swim in the cenotes in Mexico, chase waterfalls around Iceland, eat the best pizza I’ve ever had in Italy, take a camper van around beautiful New Zealand,” she says. “As long as I have my laptop with me, I’m good to go.”

Join the side hustlers who have gone full time

If you’re contemplating how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, take comfort in knowing that you’re in good company. Others are now living their dreams, and you can too with some careful planning and confidence.

So, what are you waiting for?

Source: discover.com

15 Things Only People With a Budget Truly Understand

My husband and I have had our written budget in place since November 2008.  Before that, we were more of a “well, I have a list of the bills I need to pay” type of couple.

Our budget helped lay the framework to help us dig out from more than $35,000 in debt in a little more than 2 years.  It truly was the jump start we needed in order to reach our goal to be debt free (outside of our mortgage).

what people who budget have in common

what people who budget have in common

As we look back at the way we looked at money both pre and post budget, it is amazing the difference.  The way we look at money and how we handle it has changed greatly!

I recently found Dave Ramsey’s post about 19 Things Only budgeters understand.  As I read the list I chuckled and nodded as I read through them.  I decided to create my own list of things only those with a budget will truly understand.  Let me know which ones you can relate to.

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Things Only People With a Budget Truly Understand

1. You don’t hit the grocery store without a list in hand.  And your list was created from your menu plan. No more random tossing of groceries and hoping that when you get home there is a meal in there somewhere.

2. No more buyer’s remorse.  You saved for it. It is in the budget.  No worries that you can’t pay the mortgage because you went shopping.

3. This year’s vacation has already been paid for and you are planning out next years.

4. January is your favorite month of the year – because you don’t have to worry about bills coming in the mail and can instead update the budget because of an income adjustment.

5. You get giddy when you see your budget hits zero.

6. Sales emails go into your trash can.  Who gets tempted to shop every time you see a “free shipping” or 50% off deal?

7. Your friends ask you for help with their own finances.

8. You enjoy infomercials for the entertainment value only. I mean, if they really did what they promise, it might be fun to buy them….oh, who am I kidding.  We’d never buy that stuff!

9. You know how to walk away and think twice before you buy.

10. Within two weeks your toddler floods the upstairs toilet (which ruins the kitchen ceiling), the garage door needs to be replaced and the air conditioner goes out.  You just roll with it because it is life and you have emergency savings for this reason. (Yes, this is a true story).

11. Date night doesn’t mean a fancy dinner out, but pizza and your budget.

12. You know, within a dollar, how much money you have in all of your accounts.

13. You hate your car, but you hate car payments more.

14. Overdraft fees?  You mean they still charge those?

15. You say “not in the budget” and your kids know what it means.

So, which of these do you relate to?

things people with a budget understand

things people with a budget understand

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

DC’s Most Instagrammable Apartments

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The Instagrammers Guide To DC Apartments

the-instagrammers-guide-to-washington-dc-best-apartments

One of our favorite things about Washington, DC is finding the hidden (and not so hidden) gems that are just begging to be photographed and shared all over social media.  We love bringing you the most Instagram-worthy locations throughout the District.  Since Washington, DC is where we call home, we thought it would be appropriate to continue this series with a roundup of our favorite apartments with the ultimate photo-ops that you should consider for your next home.

Ready…Set…SHOOT!

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Agora Apartments

Three words: rooftop infinity pool. The backdrop and views provided by Agora apartments make even the most amateur photographer’s photos Instagram gold.  With panoramic views of the DC’s most iconic monuments, there’s enough material to last you your entire lease. Not to mention the countless other luxury amenities like the player piano, demonstration kitchen with monthly chef demos or the woodburning pizza oven!  

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Hecht Warehouse

Ivy City is still somewhat unexplored territory for many DC dwellers but it is Instagram Heaven.  From the gorgeous architecture in Hecht Warehouse to the jaw-dropping street art around the neighborhood, not to mention delicious offerings at Ivy City Smokehouse and your choice of distilleries. Mark this neighborhood as your next must explore local!

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The Apollo DC

From the moment you set foot inside Apollo on H Street, you can tell that every piece of decor was artfully curated. There is literally eye candy everywhere you look. Don’t take our word for it. Peep all the amazing photoshoots happening in their Conservatory.

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Norwood Apartments

A departure from the other buildings on this list, instead of a bright shiny new building, the Norwood is a historic, rent-control building in Northwest D.C.  The Norwood is located on Columbia Road NW between the colorful neighborhoods of Adams Morgan and Kalorama.  The molding, columns, and beautiful bay windows throughout the apartment community make this apartment building a fabulous backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot. 

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The Apartments at City Center

So, besides being neighbors with The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and foodie bait restaurants like Momofuku, living at City Center also gives you front row access to ever-changing installations at Palmer Alley. Enough. Said.

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Source: blog.apartminty.com

Here’s How to Grow a Garden Indoors

Summer is coming to an end and fall is right around the corner. But that doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying gardening. According to a study in Psychology Today, there are multiple benefits of having house plants. They have been found to lower blood pressure, increase attentiveness, lower anxiety, and improve well-being. Furthermore, a NASA study found that plants purify the air. Need another reason to grow plants inside? Pasta, pizza, and other delicacies taste better with fresh ingredients. Ready to get started? Here’s how to grow a garden indoors.

Give yourself some space: An indoor garden can take up as little or as much space as you are able and willing to use. Most plants (even something like tomatoes) can be grown on a windowsill. Consider using a table, bench, or shelves designated for your little garden.

Pick your plants: Choose wisely. Smaller plants that require less direct sunlight will do better indoors. Here are some good choices: carrots, lettuce, kale, peppers, onions, beans, parsley, basil, oregano, lavender, cilantro, rosemary, chives, strawberries, blueberries, and citrus.

Let there be light: Some of your plants will survive in a sunny window, while others will need more help from special lighting. There are several types of lights you’ll have to choose between, including: incandescent, fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and High Intensity Discharge bulbs. The wattage needed will vary based on the size of your garden.

Keep up with maintenance: Tending to your plants indoors involves regulating temperature, humidity, and water. Plants generally prefer a temperature range of 65-75 degrees. Look for signs like the tips of the leaves turning brown, plants losing their leaves, and plants looking withered. To counteract this, mist plants regularly or run a humidifier. Plants grown in containers may dry out more quickly and require more watering.

Move things around: If you decide to move your plants outside, give them about a week to prepare. Leave them outdoors for a few hours each day, gradually decreasing their time indoors to get them acclimated. And if, at the end of the growing season, you decide to move plants from your backyard garden indoors, give them the same acclimation period.

Go ahead, get growing!

Source: century21.com

11 Ways to Save Even More Money at Costco

Costco Wholesale
ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock.com

Costco is filled with ways to save, but it is easy to overlook some of the less-obvious perks.

So, if you are thinking about joining Costco — or if you are a member who simply isn’t versed in the lesser-known bargains to be found when warehouse club shopping — the following tips will help you wring more savings from your membership.

1. Know the return policy

Costco membership desk
dennizn / Shutterstock.com

Costco has one of the most generous return policies around. So, if you’re ever unhappy with a purchase for any reason, at any point, you generally can and should ask for a refund or replacement.

There are a handful of exceptions to the policy. Check them out at the Costco website.

2. Fill your prescriptions

Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

You don’t have to be a member to use Costco pharmacies, as we detail in “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership.”

So, check out the Drug Directory on the Costco website to see whether Costco pharmacies stock the medications you or other members of your household take. If they carry a medication, call your nearest Costco pharmacy for prices.

You may find lower prices than what your local pharmacy chain store charges for the same medications. For certain generics, you might find that Costco’s prices are even cheaper than your insurance copay.

3. Buy booze

seniors dining
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Buying liquor at Costco or most any other warehouse club is generally a great way to save money. In fact, savings on alcohol are among the best reasons to purchase memberships at one — although you don’t necessarily need a membership for that.

As we note in “10 Best Buys at Warehouse Clubs“:

“The best thing about buying alcohol at a warehouse club is that, in some states, you don’t even need a membership. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to walk in and buy discounted libations without paying an annual fee.”

4. Use Ibotta

grocery shopping
Stokkete / Shutterstock.com

While Costco does not accept coupons, the free mobile app Ibotta offers cash back on purchases from Costco.

If you don’t already have the app, download it and select Costco from the list of retailers to see what cash-back offers Ibotta is offering for Costco purchases currently.

5. Scope out the ‘warehouse savings’

Costco deals
Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

Costco offers periodic discounts — on top of its already low prices. The retailer refers to them as “warehouse savings,” but they are essentially sales.

Costco offers a new batch of warehouse savings roughly once a month. So, always check out the retailer’s Warehouse Savings webpage before driving to your local club or buying anything online.

You will also find warehouse savings marked on shelves in your local club, as pictured above, although you will have to hunt for the deals if you don’t look them up online.

6. Buy discounted tickets and gift cards

Discounted gift cards on display at a Costco
melissamn / Shutterstock.com

Check out Costco’s gift cards and tickets webpage. You will find a swarm of savings on everything from restaurant meals to video gaming.

7. Purchase new tires

Tires
Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

My family buys all of our tires at Costco, and we love that they throw in free balancing and rotation. Plus, instead of drinking stale coffee while waiting in a stuffy room for our cars to be serviced, we can grab a cheap bite to eat and cross several items off our shopping list.

8. Feed your family dinner on the cheap

Costco food court
Helen89 / Shutterstock.com

The Costco food court is a great place to grab an inexpensive bite to eat. Where else can you get a hot dog and refillable soda for a mere $1.50? My family of four likes to head there on Friday nights to enjoy a large pizza — it’s only $10.

9. Book a vacation

relaxed retirees
goodluz / Shutterstock.com

Members can rack up savings when they book their getaways through Costco Travel. It offers discounts on:

  • Vacation packages
  • Cruises
  • Hotels
  • Rental cars

Executive Members at Costco can save even more, earning an annual 2% reward on Costco Travel purchases.

10. Get free health care screenings

blood pressure
Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

Usually, Costco offers free health care screenings to make sure your family remains in tip-top condition. Available screenings include those for:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart health
  • Diabetes

However, screenings have been suspended due to COVID-19. So, you’ll need to be patient to cash in on this perk. When screenings return, you will be able to find a schedule of upcoming screenings on Costco’s website.

11. Buy gas

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

Being a Costco member also pays at the pump. Many locations have gas stations that offer competitive prices. Some people buy a Costco membership for the gas savings alone.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How the Knack Tutoring App Became a Booming Startup

Samyr Qureshi and his friend Dennis Hansen turned an idea they had in their early 20s into an app that matches college students with student tutors on campus. The app, Knack, turned into a start-up that landed them on the 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 list, which highlights the country’s top innovators.

Knack is now used on more than 24 college campuses around the country. It became even more in demand as students went online during the pandemic and is being used for K-12 education as well.

“COVID definitely accelerated the need for campuses to provide this sort of service,” Qureshi said recently in an interview.

Initially students paid for their tutors, who set their own price, and Knack took a 2.9 percent cut. But as the app spread to more than 60 college campuses, leaders at a few universities were so impressed with the help students were gaining through Knack, they wanted to make it accessible to everyone at no charge.

The colleges started paying Knack an annual fee and paying tutors an average of $15 an hour. Having fewer big payors proved better than taking a cut from thousands of individual tutors. So, the company changed its business model. Most students at all partnered campuses are using the platform for free.

As it has grown, Knack is now valued at 20 times more than at its 2015 founding.

Qureshi, 28, knows about the benefits of tutoring from both sides of the desk. He attended St. Petersburg College in Florida and entered the University of Florida with 73 credits. He excelled, worked as tutor himself and landed jobs at Apple, then Gartner, Inc. after graduating.

While at Gartner, a leading information and technology research company, he learned from his mother that he had actually struggled with learning as a young child. English was his second language since he moved to the United States at age 6 from Dubai. She had found tutoring to help her young son.

“When she told me this, it helped me understand the value and benefit of one-to-one tutoring,” Qureshi recalled. “At the same time Uber and Airbnb were really taking off.”

He talked with Hansen about how college students should have easier access to tutors. The idea of connecting students who needed help with students who were successful in the same course was born. They called their project Knack and set about creating an app.

The Knack App founder poses for a portrait against a painting depicting the magic school bus.
Samyr Qureshi, co-founder of Knack app, was reminded of the importance of tutoring after his mother told him the story of hiring a tutor to help him learn English as a second language when he was a child. The Knack app allows student tutors and students needing help with a course to connect easily. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Qureshi quit his job and joined Hansen at UF’s Gator Hatchery, an incubator that offers students workspace, office support, mentors and other resources for startups.

“I was living off of my savings and pretty much poured everything I had into Knack,” he said.

David Soker, who had a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering and knew how to build apps, joined the team. He’s also a co-founder and now Chief Technology Officer at Knack.

“We intentionally put our team together to have engineers,” Qureshi said. Paying an outside company to build the app would have easily cost six figures.

They launched the beta version of Knack in late 2015. Students using it at UF and the University of Central Florida in Orlando proved the founders’ belief that there was a high demand for student-to-student tutoring. The users also offered critiques and tips for making the app better.

In 2016, Knack won first place and $25,000 cash in UF’s Big Idea Business Plan Competition. It was time to really launch the business and move out of the Gator Hatchery. They won a few grants and got investments from friends and family. These efforts plus the $25,000 prize gave them about $75,000 when they started Knack in office space in downtown Tampa. Qureshi worked part-time delivering cookies and some of the other co-founders had full-time jobs while also working at their startup.

They ran digital ads and started marketing the app to students on numerous campuses to recruit tutors and clients. The most effective way to do this was to hire campus ambassadors to represent Knack at college events around the country and gather small groups to learn about it.

“We recruited them cold from job postings and interviewed them then hired them,” Qureshi said. “We gave them $300 to $500 a month and a list of tactics that we had tested at UF: ‘Go buy pizza and entice some students to come hear about it.’”

An Indian woman with long brown curly hair poses for a portrait in front of a sign that says grow together. She's a tutor who found tutoring jobs on Knack, a mobile app.
Sonia Duraimurugan is an MBA student at the University of South Florida who used the Knack app to make money as a tutor. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

At the same time, they were expanding the app, they were finding more people to invest in the company.

“The (Big Idea) contest put us a bit on the map,” Qureshi said. “There were really great judges who said we should come out to San Francisco and meet some folks.” They did, and secured some West Coast investors.

In Tampa, Qureshi joined a downtown business incubator he found by searching Google. A mentor in the incubator invested in the company and connected him to Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team. Vinik has also headed successful investments funds and is a philanthropist who has given millions of dollars to education. He invested in the company as did others.

“We initially raised about $1 million in capital from the Tampa Bay area,” Qureshi said.

His advice to college students or recent grads who have an idea that could turn into an app or a business, is to “go for it.”

“We were pretty naive and that gave us some pause. I was a pre-law student so I didn’t have any business experience. The majority of our team did not study business,” he said. “We learned a lot from mentors. We were srappy, scraping up dollars where we could.”

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Turn an Idea Into an App

The CEO of Knack does work on his laptop at the office's headquarters. A light up Knack signs is hung on the wall behind him.

Samyr Qureshi is CEO of Knack, an app that connects college students with tutors at more than 60 college campuses across the United States. Qureshi co-founded the app in 2015 with Dennis Hansen and David Soker. Qureshi was photographed at the company’s headquarters in Tampa, Fla, on February 2, 2020. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Samyr Qureshi and his college friend Dennis Hansen had an idea for an app that would match students with student tutors on the same college campus. That was 2015. Six years later their company, Knack, has secured more than $1 million in equity investments and is worth 20 times more than when it started. It also landed Qureshi, CEO, and Hansen, Chief Product Officer, on the 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 list, which highlights the country’s top innovators.

The steps they took to make Knack a reality offer a game plan for anyone with a viable idea and the drive to turn an idea into an app.

1. Find a Need and a Solution

Qureshi was tutored as a young child and then was a tutor himself in college. He and Hansen knew tutors helped with academic success, but realized it wasn’t always easy to find one. Through research they learned the “near peer” concept was successful. The more recently someone has taken a class and learned a concept, the more effective they are at helping someone else understand it. They decided to create an app that would match students at the same campus, one needing help in a course and another who has had recent success taking the same course.

2. Do your Homework

Airbnb and Uber were taking off so Qureshi and Hansen learned all they could about how these apps got started and why they were a success. They also researched how people were finding tutors on Craigslist, Wyzant and other resources, and what was working and what wasn’t. They decided what they wanted their app to offer and researched what it would take to create it.

3. Build a Team with the Variety of Talent Needed

The friends asked David Soker, who had a master’s in electrical and computer engineering and knew how to build apps, to join their team. He’s also a co-founder and now Chief Technology Officer at Knack.

“We intentionally put our team together to have engineers,” Qureshi said. Paying an outside company to build the app would have easily cost six figures.

This is a portrait of a woman who finds tutoring gigs through the Knack app. She has long curly dark hair. Behind her is a painting of the magic school bus.
Sonia Duraimurugan is an MBA student at the University of South Florida who used the Knack app to make money as a tutor. Before using Knack, she relied on food banks for groceries. “I was literally strapped for money,” she said. The app provided a way for her to earn as much as $12 per hour. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

4. Take Advantage of University Incubators

Qureshi and Hansen, both graduates of the University of Florida, secured a spot at UF’s Gator Hatchery, an incubator that offers students workspace, office support, mentors and other resources for startups. There are hundreds of University Business Incubators (UBIs) across the country at schools of all sizes. Some offer grants or stipends to help support students financially while they create their business or product. Others have relationships with banks that provide special loans to entrepreneurs. Most UBIs are adept at creating networking opportunities for students to gain access to potential funders, often alumni. They also have media relations teams that get publicity for students and their endeavors.

5. Get Feedback

Whether it’s a product, service or app, testing a beta version with a wide audience (beyond your mom and next-door neighbor) is essential for understanding what works and what doesn’t. Knack launched a beta version at the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida to work out the kinks.

6. Enter Contests, Apply for Grants and Raise Equity

UBIs keep students informed about competitions and grant applications. But even if you aren’t in a UBI, there are many competitions for entrepreneurs and college students launching an idea as well as grant opportunities. In 2016, Knack won first place and $25,000 cash in UF’s Big Idea Business Plan Competition. That led to more interest from investors. A few family members wanted to invest in the company to help it get off the ground. The Knack co-founders sold them shares in the business in exchange for equity. They priced their stock by comparing their company to the market value of similar existing startups.

7. Get Your App in Front of Users

To reach an audience of users and tutors, they ran digital ads and marketed the app to students on numerous college campuses. One of the most effective marketing tools was creating a network of ambassadors on college campuses to represent Knack

“We recruited them cold from job postings, interviewed them and hired them,” Qureshi said. “We gave them $300 to $500 a month and a list of tactics that we had tested at UF: ‘Go buy pizza and entice some students to hear about it.’”

8. Have a Side Gig or Full-Time Job

Qureshi, who had been working professionally about two years, quit his job and lived off of his savings after joining the UF business incubator to create Knack. Later, when the company moved to Tampa, he worked for a cookie delivery business on the side to make ends meet.

Final Advice: Go For It

Qureshi’s advice to college students or recent grads who have an idea that could turn into an app is to “go for it.”

“We were pretty naive and that gave us some pause. I was a pre-law student so I didn’t have any business experience. The majority of our team did not study business,” he said. “We learned a lot from mentors. We were srappy, scraping up dollars where we could.”

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Bimodal Spending: Say “Hell Yes!” or “No”

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I had a creative brainstorm this week. An idea—that I’ve dubbed bimodal spending—overtook my mind. And now I want to convince you to adopt it in your life.

Bimodal?

First things first, let’s define bimodal.

Out in the real world, it’s common to see normal distributions. They occur when most data clumps around the average, and few data are dispersed at the extremes. A normal distribution looks like this.

Image result for normal distribution

Many of us are also familiar with uniform distributions, where data is spread evenly among a range. A uniform distribution looks like this:

Image result for uniform distribution

But a bimodal distribution, as the name implies, has two (“bi”) modes. It has two distinct peaks, which often occur at opposite ends of the range. A bimodal distribution looks like this:

Image result for bimodal

What is Bimodal Spending?

My creative conception is that we should apply a bimodal distribution to our spending.

Bimodal spending asks you to say either hell yes! or no! to major expenses. Go whole-hog, or go not at all. No middle ground. Keep in mind: the significance of hell yes! fades if you say it too much. You can’t just say hell yes! to everything.

Think of all the things you enjoy. If you’re like me, the list is long. Food, travel, hiking, sports, music. Oh, reading and blogging! Spending time with friends and family. Fostering dogs. I like lots of things!

If I’m not careful, my “passion graph” would look like this:

I love everything! passion graph

I could spend $1000’s on each of these pursuits. I could buy lots of stuff, go on lots of adventures. But is this stuff worth it?

I say no. It’s not all worth it. Only some are worth it. We know that luxurious spending brings less fulfillment as we spend more. Why? One limiting factor is time. I don’t have the time to devote to each of these pursuits.

If I try everything, then I’ll spread myself too thin. Being spread thin is not enjoyable. It’s not optimal.

That’s why I’m reimagining my “passion graph” to look like this: a bimodal distribution.

Bimodal spending passion graph

If something is hell yes!, then I’ll devote time and money to it. But if it’s only “kinda fun” or an “occasional pastime,” then I want to prune it from my budget and schedule.

From Bimodal Passions to Bimodal Spending

I want to focus my “fun money” on my hell yes! passions. I want to “rout all that was not life”…or eliminate that which doesn’t light my fire (thanks HDT!). So how does that translate into a bimodal spending distribution?

I want my dollars to either go towards:

  1. Basic life needs
  2. Hell yes! passion activities

It should look something like this:

Bimodal spending graph

Either the bare necessities or the true marrow of life. Not much in between.

Anything in the middle of the graph will bring me little “fulfillment per dollar.” I want the dollars I spend to do good. Sometimes that’s through charity, giving to others, contributing to group activities, etc. But if I’m spending on myself, I want to squeeze out as much fulfillment as I can.

Here’s a gentle reminder:

Look at the stuff all around you.

That stuff used to be money.

And that money used to be time.

I don’t want to spend money (a.k.a. my time) on average stuff. I’ll pay for the necessities. And after that, I want my spending to make me say, “Hell yes!

Bimodal Spending = Pareto Principle

Bimodal spending is a rehash of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule. Focus 80% of your fun spending on your favorite 20% of activities.

Or you can push the ratio even further. Spend 95% of your fun money on your top 5% activities.

The other 95% of your “fun” activities? Spend as little there as you can. They aren’t hell yes! They’re milquetoast. They’ll only pull resources away from the activities you truly enjoy.

Whatever the ratio you choose, it’s amusing that Pareto rears his insightful head yet again!

Ramit’s Rich Life

Bimodal spending is reminiscent of Ramit Sethi’s “rich life” idea. To quote Ramit, living a rich life means having the:

“Ability to spend my time and money on the areas that are important to me.”

Ramit Sethi

How does Ramit suggest you pursue your rich life? Simple. He tells you to “spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.” 

That’s bimodal spending!

Categorize your pursuits as “things you love” and “things you don’t.” Or create a bimodal passion graph!

Spend extravagantly on the right side of your passion graph. And cut mercilessly on the left end of your passion graph. Ramit Sethi is a bimodal spender!

Anecdotal Examples of Bimodal Spending

Friend-of-the-blog Martin loves travel and fine dining. It’s one of his passions. That’s why it made sense for him to spend two weeks in Lima, Peru, and plan a meal at Central (considered one of the best restaurants in the world).

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The memories of the trip still bring him joy today. That’s a hell yes!

But I contrast Martin’s love of travel against my interest in golf. At one point in life, I had enough time to golf 3-4 times a week. I practiced putts for hours. I could draw and fade the ball. I wasn’t great, but it was a serious pursuit.

But now I only have time to play once a month. I’m constantly out of practice. I don’t have time to regain the skills I once had. I still like golf, but it’s not a hell yes! anymore. That’s why I’m making it a no.

I’m not going to spend $500 for a new set of golf clubs. I’m not going to spend $1000 for a membership at a golf course. For me, those things aren’t worth it.

My hell yes! spending lies elsewhere. I’ll buy $200 hiking boots and a top-of-the-line laptop to support the Best Interest. But not new golf clubs (even though I do like golf).

But Mark (another friend-of-the-blog!) absolutely loves golf. He plays as much as he can. He’s traveled to Ireland to play historic courses. He plays in the rain and snow (because you’ve got to make the golf season count in Rochester!).

New clubs and a course membership help Mark live his Ramit Sethi “rich life.” Golf is a hell yes! for Mark.

Different strokes (get it?!) for different folks. We each get to create our own passion graph and plan our bimodal spending accordingly.

Bimodal Spending in Everyday Life

Even down in the “bare necessities” categories (food, housing, etc.), I’ve found that bimodal spending helps me feel more fulfilled.

Cars: I don’t love cars. I don’t want or need an expensive car. I want to spend as little on cars as I’m able (here’s the Best Interest’s breakdown of car expenses). I plan to drive my Toyota into the ground and then continue to pay for efficient function over form.

Groceries: I love cooking and baking for people. I want to spend extra money to make sure my pizza has the highest-quality cheese. I want to spend money on imported vanilla extract.

But for most meals, I’m spartan. All I need for breakfast are a couple eggs and a slice of toast. 95% of my meals are simple. 5% are extravagant. That’s mostly no and a little hell yes!

My laptop: This example is meta. I’m writing this post on a 5-year-old HP laptop whose cooling fan sounds like a weed-eater. RNGGG-RRNNGGG.

It’s a $250 model that’s way past its prime. But the Best Interest is certainly one of my passions. To support the blog—and soon-to-be the Best Interest Podcast!—I’ve been saving up for a new MacBook.

I’ve waited and waited on buying a new laptop because I didn’t have a hell yes! reason to spend that much money. But now I do! I’ve been budgeting for the laptop for a few months, and now it’s time to pull the trigger.

Dining Out: My girlfriend loves dining out. And I certainly enjoy it too. We’ve started saving our dining-out dollars for hell yes! dining experiences (COVID notwithstanding).

We forgo a few “average” dining-out experiences and save those dollars for unique and memorable experiences.

I’ve had my fair share of $10 burgers. They’re great. But I’d rather save my dollars to widen my palate’s horizons.

The Second Peak

Is bimodal spending such a cool concept that it will take over the personal finance blogosphere? Or will it fade like a wispy cloud lost in the Andes Mountains?

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Source: bestinterest.blog