Tuesday, April 17, 2012

5 Ways To Make Money With Your Computer As A Stay At Home Mom

In my experience, most of us stay at home moms want to make a little income from home. Sometimes it out of pure necessity: we need that money! Other times, it's just nice to have something that's not "kid related" that's your own thing. Let's face it: after a while, peek a boo isn't so stimulating. The good thing is, there are lots of neat opportunities for stay at home moms. I've been a stay at home mom for over 5 years, and I've always scoured the Internet for non-phone jobs that I could do with my computer, that were extremely flexible. It's a tall order, as many work at home jobs are customer service call center types. Luckily, I've found a few that work for stay at home moms of young kids:

1. uTest 
uTest is a software testing company. The good news is, even if you've never tested software a day in your life, you can get in with this company. I started in October and I've been able to make the best money I've ever made online before. There is a bit of a learning curve, but luckily, there are plenty of resources both on their website, and on the internet in general that can get you started. Basically, I find problems in websites (like a link that you click on goes to a 404 error page), or in smartphone apps (like when the app closes unexpectedly, or if you tap on one thing and it takes you to a totally different thing than you expected). This is not an hourly job: you get paid by the bug, so your success or failure depends on your skills and how much you work.

2. eBay
Yes, it's been around forever. And yet, it took me years to get up the nerve to sell some stuff on eBay. If you're the type of person who knows the value of things, you can make some money using this site. Here are a few tips:

  • Know how much something will sell for. Use the completed listings feature on eBay, and you'll see what sells, what doesn't, and how much it sells for.
  • Don't buy junk. It doesn't sell.
  • Describe the product very accurately. 
  • Take good pictures and include them in the listing.
  • If you screw up and the buyer is unhappy, do everything in your power to make it right, up to and including a full refund and let them keep the item.
3. Leapforce, Lionbridge, or Appen Butler Hill
My husband is able to stay at home as well, thanks to this opportunity. There's a lot of stuff that I can't disclose on here about what this job entails, but basically you're helping make certain search engines better. The hours are flexible, and in some cases, unlimited. Check into this one. Sorry, NDA means I can't tell you how much it pays.

4. Blogging
I have two blogs, and I occasionally will include affiliate links in them. If you have a passion for writing, and you can figure out natural ways to include recommendations for various products, you can use affiliate links. I always use Amazon for my affiliate links: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
Here are my personal rules:

  • Don't link to products you don't truly recommend
  • Make it obvious that you'll get a commission off any purchases the reader makes by clicking that link
  • Don't cover up your blog with affiliate links. It's annoying.
You can also put google adsense on your blog. I'll warn you that for both of these, I've not made much money at all. I generally blog because it's a nice release for me. I've read in several places that if you want to get really good traffic coming to your site, you need to do the following:

  • Blog every day. Every day. Some even recommend multiple times a day.
  • Use keywords to your advantage. Label each post with 3 to 5 good keywords that sum up the key topics in your post. Try to use phrases in your blog post that people would search for in a search engine. For example, in this post I've used the phrases "work from home" and "stay at home" and "make money". But don't be that blogger that overloads her blogs with keywords. It's just not pleasant for the reader.
  • Write about what you know or what you're passionate about. You're going to lose interest if you blog based on what gets you the most hits one day. (Use google analytics as a handy tool which will show you what keywords people entered to find your blog.)
5. Scriptlance
Now, I do not have personal experience with this company, but I do know people in real life who have used this site and made money with it. If you know how to program computers, then this might be a neat way to make some money. I do know it is legitimate, and that you can make decent money if you have the skills required.

So there you go: 5 ways to make money as a stay at home mom. If you've found legitimate opportunities to make money from home, please share them in the comments section!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Using Your HSA to Pay For Labor and Delivery

My husband and I are both independent contractors, which means we are self-employed. One of the big challenges with self-employment is you have to deal with the things employers normally take care of, like taxes and health insurance. When you're shopping for health insurance, you're going to find that premiums skyrocket when you look at plans that cover everything. So you have a choice: you can either pay really high premiums, or you can pay lower premiums and have a higher deductible.

We chose to go with an HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan) with an HSA (Health Savings Account). An HSA is basically an account you contribute to that is much like a regular bank account, only with special rules. You can contribute money to the account, but once it's in, it is in. If you withdraw it for anything other than a medical expense, you get hit with high taxes and fees from the government. If you have an eligible HDHP, you can then open up an HSA and contribute up to $6,250 annually for families, and $3100 for individuals. Now, of course, it would be more fair if families got to multiply the individual contribution by the number of members of the family (say, $12,400 for a family of four), but that's a matter to take up with Congress. 

Back to paying for babies with your HSA. Now, the reason we decided to forego maternity coverage was that the premiums were so much higher: we pay $170 a month with no maternity coverage, but had we opted to get it, it would have been about $600. Now, let's do a little math: 

Let's say I have a baby every 3 years. If I have maternity coverage here's what I would pay:
$600 premium per month x  36 months = $21,600 


$170 premium per month x36 months = $6,120 

The worst part of this equation is that even with maternity coverage, the deductible is so high on the $600 plan, you would still be responsible for basically paying for the entire labor and delivery charge.

But it's scary to think of paying for the whole shebang out of pocket, isn't it? Well, the first thing we had to learn to do was to shop around. We do it for everything else; why aren't we Americans shopping for health care? You would be shocked at how much variance there is, even for something like labor and delivery.

The first thing you can do is to call several doctor's offices, and ask them how much they charge. Explain that you have a High Deductible Plan, and that your insurance won't cover maternity costs. Tell them you'll pay quickly, and ask if they offer a discount. We are being given a 25% discount just for paying within 30 days. Doctors offices love it when you pay them quickly! 

You need to be aware that you'll be responsible for both your doctor/midwife fees, and then the hospital fee.  Call the hospital and ask for the billing department. They will be able to give you a rough estimate as to how much the final fee will be. Again, do not be afraid to ask how much everything will cost. Don't be afraid to ask for discounts either. To show you what a difference this makes let me tell you what we encountered when talking to two local hospitals:

Hospital A: I called the billing department and asked how much they would charge for a normal vaginal birth with no complications. At first I got the run around, with them telling me it would be better to just wait till closer to delivery and sit down with their billing person. Finally, I was given an estimate of over $8,000. That was just the hospital fee. The doctor's fees can be a couple more thousand.

Hospital B: My husband called the billing department and explained that we had an HDHP. How much would it cost for a vaginal birth with no complications? About $5,000. We told them we would love to get out of there in 24 hours. Oh, that would be even less! What if we paid quickly (within 30 days)? Bigger discount! What if we just paid at the counter on our way out? Even less!! 

Now, since I haven't given birth at this hospital yet, I cannot guarantee you that we will end up paying what we were told it would be. I do plan on overcommunicating with the billing department of the hospital before delivery, just to keep everything fresh on everyone's minds.  

So take heart, even when you have a high deductible plan, paying for labor and delivery isn't impossible!

If you have paid cash for your labor and delivery, please leave your story in the comments section below!