Life Updates – It’s Been a While

Hi, friends. I hope you’ve all been well. I took a bit of an impromptu sabbatical from the blog, but I’m back now.

When I started this blog, I meant for it to be a place where I could journal about my financial adventure.  Read more about why I started this blog here.  I never meant to force myself to write posts on a regular schedule if I had nothing to say.  The plan was always to only post when there was something financially interesting to write about.

Here are some updates on what’s been going on in the last 9 months or so.  There are 2 kind of downer sections, and 2 really good sections, so read on!

WHY I TOOK A BREAK

Around September of last year, I found myself in a rut.  I had a new job.  I had moved into a big, new apartment by myself.  I started driving for Uber to pass the time.  And life became very monotonous.  My savings were doing well and my debt payoff was steady at about $1,000 per month.

I don’t like to throw around the word “depressed” lightly, but I guess maybe I fell into that category.  I felt actively uninspired all the time.  My life was dull.  My work wasn’t challenging.  My coworkers were mildly annoying.  My boss was not doing a very good job.  She was stressed and overwhelmed all the time.  She was in way over her head with this role, and her stress was contagious.  I felt pretty down almost every day.

THE MONEY:

I earned

$4,000

driving for Uber from mid-August to the end of the year.

THEN I GOT SOME BAD NEWS

In early December, I went to the doctor for my regular routine yearly checkup.  I had no symptoms, felt totally fine.  But the blood-work came back with some very strange results.  My doctor referred me to several specialists, who were initially stumped, too.  I’ll tell you what.  When a specialist is stumped by your blood-work results and [lack of] symptoms, it’s pretty nerve-wracking.

I’ll spare you the details and I won’t leave you hanging.  I’ve had blood-work done a few more times since then and everything is under control.  I feel the same.  They always ask me, “How are you feeling?  Better?” and I have to remind them I had no symptoms before.  Anyway, enough of this.

THE MONEY:

Even with stellar insurance, I spent

$480

in copays for doctor’s visits and testing.

NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS: MICHAEL

wp-1469037144651.jpgMy husband, Michael, is still in school full-time in New Orleans.   He’s graduating in December 2016 and he’s doing great.  His professors love him, and even awarded him a fancy math award.  I invited his parents to the ceremony and I really enjoyed celebrating this with him.

We started planning our summer, and he decided to apply for an internship at VW, here in NJ.  He was going to spend the summer with me anyway–we figured, might as well get a job and some good references.  More importantly, I wanted him to get a taste of corporate life.  For as long as I can remember, he’s wanted to be a high school math teacher, but lately, seeing the work I do and the money I make, he’s been saying he might want to work in industry.

There are about 400 internships available at VW each summer for undergrad and graduate students.  Thousands apply.  There was only 1 listed as a Data Analytics position.  Michael applied for that one and got through 3 rounds of video interviews before he found out the position had been listed incorrectly.  It was not, in fact, a Data Analytics position, but a Marketing one.  Having no experience in Marketing, he was skeptical, but decided to move forward with his application, while being candid about his inexperience.  After his 4th interview, he got the job!

I knew there would be a high probability that he would hate it.  He’s really not into being politically correct or climbing the corporate ladder.  Turns out, he loves it.  His coworkers are all really smart and his projects have been good, challenging uses of his skillset.

THE MONEY:

He’s earning

$22/hour, and got a $5,600 signing bonus.*

For a 10 week internship.

*Yeah.  More about this later.

MORE GOOD NEWS: ME

Around March, one of my peers on the Executive Relations Analytics team took a lateral move.  She got a 10% raise, which I heard was unprecedented, but her previous base was really low, so I think that’s why they were able to offer her so much.  I was happy for her.  Normally, lateral moves get 0-5%.

She and I talked, and she thought I would be a really good replacement for her.  I like data analytics way more than what I was doing, and her position got really great exposure.  I thought career-wise, it’d be great for me, plus, I’d get to do work more in line with what I enjoy.  Added plus, the boss over there is super awesome.  I knew we’d work well together and I’d learn a lot from her.

I interviewed, and got the job!  Then… they offered me a 2% raise.  With no option for overtime.  And a 1-year commitment.  I was crushed.  In my current job, I was working tons of overtime, so even this 2% raise would have been a pay-cut if there was no overtime.  I really wanted this job and really struggled with how to respond.  I asked for 5%.  This, too, would have been a pay-cut, but not as bad.  They said they couldn’t do it.  I turned it down.  What I thought was my dream job… poof!  Gone.

It took a lot of courage to turn the job down.  I had never done that before.  I thought I’d feel great after, but I didn’t.  I’d wake up in the night almost daily wondering if I had done something really stupid.

I finally decided to let it go, and keep looking.  In mid-May, I saw a job that looked interesting to me.  Marketing Manager of Data Analytics.  Okay, it sounded perfect.  I applied, and emailed the hiring manager my resume.  Because I was on the wireless side, and this new job was on the landline side, none of my bosses knew anyone over there to put in a good word for me.

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My cute new office.

I had one phone interview, and got the job!!  I couldn’t believe it.  The hiring manager said he was still working with HR to put together my offer.  I was nervous, but more confident about being able to turn it down if it didn’t make sense financially.  I had done it once before, and I could do it again if I had to.

Because it was a promotion, I was told to expect 10% at most.  Remember, when I started my current role last summer, I had already accepted less than I wanted, in exchange for opportunity for growth.  Then, while Michael was accompanying me on a work trip to Indianapolis, I got the offer call.  A long conference day had just ended, and I was glad to be relaxing in the hotel room.  My hiring manager was so proud of himself, and what he had negotiated for me.

 

THE MONEY:

I was offered a

54% RAISE with a 20% bonus.*

You read that right.  And… I accepted.

*More about this later.

I started the new job about a month ago, and I couldn’t be happier!  Michael’s considering working at VW after he graduates in December.  Meanwhile, we’re having a blast together this summer, travelling a lot, and enjoying life.  All is well in my world.  :)

 

How are you?

 

My Big Empty Apartment

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My big, empty apartment. Living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom.

I’ve been having a bit of financially-instigated personal crisis as of late.  I might have mentioned I moved into a new apartment on Sept 1.  I love it.  It’s huge, not too far from work, and most importantly, about $300/mo cheaper than what I was paying for before.

But some of its perks have also been my downfall.  That is, it’s huge.  And empty.  Because I thought I was staying at that furnished place for a while, I didn’t move any furniture up from New Orleans with me.  Also, my husband is still living in our NOLA apartment, soooo… I can’t exactly empty it out from under him.

What to do?

Our money’s being super carefully monitored these days, and I’m working really hard at my job and my side-hustle.  I feel like every penny is a dear friend, and I’m not about to let my pennies leave me easily.  Should I suddenly up-and-furnish this place all in one go?  I couldn’t possibly.  Not only because this would be a daunting and overwhelming task, but because I’m feeling inclined to only purchase the super-necessary essentials.

Also, I’m not sure if I should leave it empty until Michael moves up here next year with our furniture… Or if I should just sell my furniture in New Orleans and buy new things here?  We talked it round and round, and decided to sell our furniture back home and buy new things here.  But what to buy?  Nice things that will last?  Cheap things, because, who cares?  What if we move again in a couple of years?  Are we going to want to haul cheap furniture all over the country?  Are we going to get into a pattern of selling and buying, selling and buying, as if furniture were somehow disposable?  What if we stay here and eventually buy a house?  I’d want to have nice things in said house, so should we just get the nice things now so as to not buy double?

Ooof.  It’s been tough, emotionally.  I essentially slept on the floor for 3 weeks because I don’t know where I’m going to be in 5 years.  Ridiculous, I know.

So yeah, I slept on the floor for almost 3 weeks (in the “dining room”) while I tried to make up my mind about all this.  No air mattress, no blankets, just sheets, a pillow, and the floor.  It was fine, really.  I only bought the bare necessities to get me started.  My friend Sadie gave me a coffee table she was going to throw out.  I bought a shower liner, $2.  A $6 toaster.  And that’s it.  I mean, who needs a trash can when you’ve got copious Walmart bags, am I right?  (Ugg.)

My apartment is so big.  I’m only ever in one corner of the living room.  All the rest of the space, well, I don’t want to fill it with stuff, just because.  For 3 weeks, I never even entered the bedroom.

When I went home for Labor Day, I brought up a lot of kitchen stuff–pots and pans, dishes and silverware that Michael wasn’t using anyway.  I brought my can opener and kitchen towels.  I brought a soft kitchen rug.  (I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.)

And then I continued to sleep on the floor.  Still torn.  I’d go to Target, HomeGoods, Bed Bath and Beyond, Century 21, Ikea and just wander for hours, torturing myself.  I’d take pictures of a few things I liked, but I’d never buy.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Sure, this whatever would look nice, and would be practical, but do I need it?  Nope.

I was super proud of myself for assembling this bad boy.

I was super proud of myself for assembling this bad boy.

And so it was, until my friend Mindy announced she was coming to visit, and we should go see the Pope together, in Philadelphia.  I was overjoyed that she was coming, but suddenly panicked about my depressingly empty apartment.  I was embarrased to have her see it that way.  And I certainly couldn’t expect her to sleep on the floor.  And so all of a sudden, I bought a bed.  Online.  From Target.  It was originally $500, but it was on sale, and I used my RedCard, and got free fast shipping and a total price of around $380.

Because my mailbox is tiny at my apartment, any package would have to be picked up at the post office, and the post office is only open when I’m at work, except for Saturdays, which defeats the purpose of the fast shipping soooooo I got a bed shipped to my work.  You heard me.  The very nice guy in the mailroom had me bring my car around to the loading dock and he helped me do the Jenga to get the two big boxes into my little car.  I drove my clown car home very slowly that day and pushed and pulled the boxes up the stairs by myself.

Once home, I decided to assemble the thing.  But I don’t have an overhead light in the bedroom.  Or a lamp (because my phone has a flashlight, and that’s basically the same thing, right?).  So I had to wait til morning for the natural light.  I woke up early, and assembled the sucker before going to get Mindy from NYC.  And you know what?  I feel so much better about owning a bed.  And it’s unbelievably comfortable.  I don’t regret this purchase for a second.

Mindy helped me figure out that the real reason I’ve been so reluctant to furnish my apartment, is that I’m afraid to put down roots here.  She’s right.  To be honest, I don’t love it in NJ, and even the remote possibility of being here for many years is upsetting.  But she’s also right that I have to take care of myself, and love myself enough to get a few more basics.  She dragged me to Century 21, and like a little miracle out of heaven, a beautiful dresser called our name.  It was on clearance from $900 to $150.  I told her I’d think about it and come back for it, but she wouldn’t let me leave it behind.  We did the Jenga again and got it kind of into my car, and slowly drove back to my apartment.

She helped me carry it up the stairs, and I pulled my clothes out of boxes, and put them in the dresser and in the closet.  I threw the boxes away.  And suddenly, not living out of boxes made me feel so much better.

Here's dear Mindy helping me with the dresser.

See dear Mindy (above) helping me with the dresser.

Baby steps.  Next I think I’ll get a desk or a table of some kind.  I have this coffee table which is serving me just fine, but sitting on the floor so much kind of makes my back hurt.  But… I already have this table, so convincing myself to buy another table might take some warming up to the idea.  But I am, in fact, warming up.

In other news, I sold our couch in NOLA on Craigslist for $400!  It had been a hand-me-down we reupholstered, so we hadn’t spent much money to get it.  I was thrilled when it sold.  Now Michael only has two loveseats to lounge on, but little does he know I’m working on selling those, too!  Muahahaha.

Baby steps.

Small Victories: Speak Up For Your Money!

I have two small victories to report–and one of them is from a reader–which makes me oh-so-excited.

SMALL VICTORY: FREE DISHWASHER REPAIR

FINANCIAL IMPLICATION: $362

Remember my post about the financial benefits of calling Executive Relations?  Well, a few days after I posted it, I got the most wonderful email from dear Kara at The Daily Whisk.  Here it is:

Hey Chela,
After reading your post about executive relations teams and your experience with your Mom’s airline tickets, I had a light bulb moment. We bought a new dishwasher just over a year ago and it completely died in July. They quoted us $362 to fix it / warranty it for another 3 years, and we were dragging our feet and washing our own dishes for the last two months because we didn’t want to spend the money, but figured we’d eventually have to!
After reading your post I decided to email the CEO of Frigidaire (I was polite, but honest in my disappointment). Anyway, they called me today – they are fixing our dishwasher for free!
I never would have thought to email them if it wasn’t for your post. Thank so you so much for sharing!!!

This totally and completely made my day!  Thank you for sharing, Kara!

SMALL VICTORY: NEW BED PRICE ADJUSTMENT

FINANCIAL IMPLICATION: $18

Okay, I know.  $18 is nothing compared to the massive savings Kara described above, but, I’m really proud of myself for the way this came about.

I moved into a new apartment at the beginning of September, and had no furniture (more on this later).  Last week, I finally decided to buy a bed.  I think because I had been browsing the Home section of Target’s website a lot, they started sending me 10% off coupons almost every day.  I finally bit the bullet and ordered the bed online.  I got the 10% off, and used my Red Card to also get another 5% off and free shipping.

Well, don’t you know, as soon as I ordered that sucker, I got an email for 25% off Home goods.  I couldn’t believe it!  Damn marketing algorithms!  I was thinking, worst case scenario, when it comes in, I’ll return it and re-buy it with the new coupon.  This thing ain’t cheap!

But before doing that, I emailed Target’s normal customer service folks, explained the situation, and before you know it, they replied that they were refunding $18 to my card!  It’s not much, but it’s something.

If you don’t speak up for your money, no one else will!

When’s the last time you spoke up for your money?

A Cost Saving Trick I Probably Shouldn’t Be Sharing

So, as you might recall, I have a new job in NJ.  I work for one of the big cell phone companies.  My new job is to audit/coach/develop the Executive Relations team.

I had worked for this company for 6ish years before getting this job, and had never even heard of the Executive Relations team.  If anything, I had heard rumors of their aloof existence.  To most people on the field, Executive Relations is super secretive and mysterious.  Now I know all about them.

Basically, if a customer calls, writes, emails, or faxes one of our executives (regional presidents, area presidents, company vice presidents or higher), that correspondence gets routed to the Executive Relations team.  How do customers find these phone numbers/mailing addresses/email addresses?  Google.  Wikipedia.  LinkedIn.  Blogs.

For being such a large company (175,000+ employees), the Executive Relations team is surprisingly small.  Only about 120 or so–and there are maybe 40ish executives they represent.  They get slammed with about 7000 cases per month.  They are an incredibly hard working team.

What I’ve learned is that they have the utmost power to resolve whatever the customer’s issue may be.  They are instructed to do whatever is necessary to make the customer happy, and repair our relationship with the customer.

The first call I listened in on, this woman was crying.  She had gone to a store to get an upgrade, and only some of her pictures were transferred from her old phone to the new one.  She was very upset, and the Executive Relations person explained that if the pictures were no longer on the old phone, and if they hadn’t been backed up anywhere, they were probably gone.  But, in order to repair the relationship, and as a gesture of goodwill, she was going to give this lady 3 months of free service.  That amounted to a credit of over $900.  My jaw dropped.  The lady sniffled and accepted.

Examples of other complaints I hear our Executive Relations team deal with:

  • I didn’t know I had to pay for this iPad.  No one told me.
  • I was assured my contract wouldn’t be extended when I upgraded.
  • I need more time to pay my bill.
  • I don’t like that you use animals in your commercials.  That’s cruel.
  • The store rep/customer service rep was rude.
  • The wait time was too long.
  • I didn’t know that I would have to pay extra for using my phone abroad.
  • I lost my phone and I don’t have insurance and I don’t have an upgrade and I don’t want to pay for a new phone.  That’s not fair.
  • You should put a cell tower by my house.

Not every single one of these is handled with courtesy credits.  The point of the interaction should be to repair the relationship, and regain the customer’s trust.  The Executive Relations team is entrusted to use their best judgement.  They take into consideration the customer’s tenure, how much they spend with us monthly, and how often they call in to Executive Relations when they decide how to best handle the situation.  Sometimes the solution is a matter of changing a contract end date; sometimes it’s discounted equipment; sometimes it’s really just an apology, and a promise that we’ll coach back to the field so that won’t happen again.  But, these are almost always accompanied with a “goodwill gesture” of bill credits.

Now, let me be clear.  I am utterly torn here.  On the one hand, sure.  This is a Fortune 15 company with money out the wazzoo… What’s $900 when it comes to keeping a loyal and profitable customer?  Sure.  I’m with you.  But on the other hand, man… Just because this lady found the magical phone number to call, she got almost $1000 credited to her.  I assure you if she had just called normal Customer Service, they would have told her, sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.  Why are we treating these customers so differently–just because they googled around and found a good phone number to call or email address to write to?

I still don’t have a good answer.  But I wanted to tell you.  You know the little old ladies who say, “I’m going to write to the president about this!”?  Well, if they do, in fact, write to the president, they’ve basically hit the jackpot.

And so I got to thinking–as a consumer, why wouldn’t I go straight to Executive Relations when I have an issue with some other big company?  Chances are, they’re equally powerful.  I had been mulling this over in my mind, whether or not it was the right thing to do…  And then I got the chance to really do it.

My mom booked tickets to come visit me, but instead of booking NOLA to Newark, she accidentally booked it backwards, Newark to NOLA.  She was devastated when she learned of her mistake.  United Airlines charges $200 to change flight reservations, in addition to whatever difference in cost from one flight to another.

I had paid for her tickets, and quite frankly didn’t want to spend $200 more just because of a simple error.  I decided to email one of the United executives.  I googled around, and an email address was very easy to find.  In my email, I included all the key words/phrases that companies love/hate to hear.  “My mother is a senior citizen and disabled.”  “We’ve been long-time loyal customers.”  “This was a simple mistake that happened only a day ago.”  “We know some of your competitors don’t charge change fees.”  “Please restore my faith in your company.

Within 2 hours I got a call from their Executive Relations team.  A nice lady booked my mom on the correct flights, waived the $200 change fee, waived the $75 difference in price, upgraded her to first class, and thanked me for being a loyal customer.  LIKE MAGIC.

It was amazing.  And so I had to share this with you.  Is it abusive?  I don’t think so.  Companies have budget money allocated for the lucky people who find the magic number, so… why not be one of those lucky people?

I certainly don’t plan to call companies’ Executive Relations teams every time I book a flight, or have to pay for something expensive.  In fact, I rarely ever call anyone’s customer service to complain about anything.  I’m really not a complainer at all.  But, if something has really gone wrong, especially if I know it’s going to be costly to fix, I don’t see what harm there is in contacting the office that has the authority to help more than anyone.

What do you think?  Is this wrong or somehow immoral to do?  Have you ever contacted a company’s Executive Relations team?  What happened?

How To Get Free Airport Parking

So!  As you might know, I recently moved to New Jersey, despite the fact that my husband is stuck in school in New Orleans for about another year.  Yeah… long distance marriage = lots of flights home to visit.

I caught a good sale on Southwest a few weeks ago, and booked my flights for the rest of the year.  I’m going home once a month, so this was 4 round-trip tickets.  I was pretty pleased to have gotten that big expense out of the way.  My first trip home was scheduled for the long Labor Day weekend.

About a week out from the big day, I decided to start researching parking options.  When I was in Houston, I learned 1. Ubering it isn’t always cheaper, 2. that park and ride places are wayyyyy cheaper that parking at the airport, and 3. park and ride places are wayyyy cheaper if you reserve online in advance than if you just show up (and there are often coupons, too!).

I started Googling around, hoping for some good coupons.  I found that, like in Houston, parking at the airport costs about $20/day, and parking at a park and ride costs about $10/day.  Roughly.  But then I stumbled upon FlightCar.

WHAT THE HECK IS FLIGHTCAR?

On the one hand, it’s a park and ride place.  You drop off your car with them, they keep it safe, and shuttle you to and from the airport.

On the other hand, it’s a rental car place.  They rent out your car and pay you for it.  #what

What’s the benefit?

  1. Parking is free!
  2. If your car gets rented to someone, you get paid!
  3. Before you return home, they wash and vacuum your car for free!

It’s a pretty cool tech startup that seems to be very popular on the West Coast.  They’re only at 17 airports nation-wide currently, but I’ve read a ton of good things about them (Forbes, New York Times, Huffington Post, etc).  And they insure your car for $100,000, so you can feel at peace knowing your car is well taken care of.

How much do they pay?

10c/mile.  When I first read this, I was in disbelief.  That’s ridiculously low.  Remember, I calculated it costs me 12c/mile for me to operate my car, and break even.  I read and read and still couldn’t believe FlightCar was getting such good reviews, and no complaints about the low pay.  Then! I discovered the 10c/mile they pay doesn’t include gas.  So if you turn in your car with a full tank of gas, they return it to you with a full tank.  Plus the 10c/mile.  Now it makes sense!  Of those 10c/mile it costs me to operate my vehicle, 8.5c is gas.  It’s only about 3.5c in everything else.  My point is, 10c/mile isn’t a whole lot, but it’s definitely profit, and you get to park for free, and you get a free car wash/vacuum, too!

So, how did it go?

Very well.  Per their recommendation, the day before my trip, I emptied out my glove box and trunk of any personal belongings.  The morning of my trip, my flight out was at 6am, so I arrived at this place at 4:30am (groan).  A nice, young, Californian guy took my info, emailed me copies of my receipts, and personally drove me to the terminal.  He explained that their Newark office only opened 3 weeks ago (I had no idea) so their volume of business is not very high yet.

When I got to New Orleans that evening, I got an email from FlightCar saying my car had been rented out.  Monday, as I was packing up to head back to NJ, I got another email that my car had been returned.  The renter used 170 miles.

I arrived back in Newark just past midnight (groan) and the same cool dude picked me up.  We chatted, and he brought me back to my car.  It was in perfect condition–and cleaner than when I dropped it off.  He deposited $17 into my checking account and I went on my merry way.

Simple as pie.  Will I do it again?  You betcha.

Have you ever used FlightCar?  Would you rent your car out if the pay was right?

My First Month of Uber Results and August Update

Well folks, here comes the onslaught of cliches:

Better late than never…
I’m fashionably late to the party…
I’ve been really busy…

Okay, that last one is true. August now feels like ages ago. Michael went back to NOLA at the beginning of August, my mom came up to visit me for almost two weeks in the middle of August, I moved buildings at work, and moved to an apartment. Oh, and most of my “free time” has been spent side-hustling, aka, driving for Uber.  The month flew.

I’ve missed y’all.

Though all that packing and unpacking had my stress levels maxed out, it’s incredible how having my own apartment, my own space, feels so freeing. I was hoping that shared-house situation would work out, but this place is bigger and cheaper, and not too far from work, so moving was kind of a no-brainer.

Before I get into my month-end results, I want to share with you my first month of Uber earnings.

  • In August I drove for Uber for 10 days.
  • I averaged 5 hrs 17 minutes and 131 miles on the road each day (though that’s pretty skewed because on weekends I’d drive much more than on weekdays).
  • Uber paid me a total of $807.98, and I netted $552.21. (My net is my gross minus the cost of gas, oil changes, tires, and tolls, plus any tips I received.  Read more here.)

Not bad if I do say so myself. My goal going forward is to net $1000/month, and I think that’s pretty do-able. I’ll also mention I have a 4.93/5.0 star rating!:) I think that’s mostly to do with the awesome Pandora station I play for my riders.*

My August wasn’t too financially wild. I paid off about $1000 in debt, and aside from using some of the tuition savings for my husband’s tuition (duh), I more than doubled my emergency savings (mostly thanks to Uber, see above). I’m super excited about this.

So here are the numbers:

DEBT BALANCE CHANGE
CC3 $4,747.83 $73.19
CC4 $7,355.44 -$93.35
car $6,302.24 -$266.83
unsub3 $5,250.00 $0.00
unsub2 $5,250.00 $0.00
401k 1 $8,023.40 -$254.17
401k 3 $20,337.18 -$508.96
sub $3,500.00 $0.00
unsub1 $6,000.00 $0.00
TOTAL $66,766.09 -$1,050.12
SAVINGS CHANGE
401k $30,402.66 $527.90
emergency savings $1,588.02 $864.19
tuition savings $8,000.00 -$4,000.00
TOTAL $39,990.68 -$2,607.91

*The Pandora station is based off of one of my favorite bands, called Paris Combo. I’ll leave you with these:

How was your August? How do you manage a job and a side hustle and still have time for the internet? What am I missing here? How are you?

What It’s REALLY Like To Drive For Uber

Dear friends—many of you have asked me what it’s really like to drive for Uber. I’m here to tell all.

moneyWHAT I KNOW YOU WANT TO HEAR
You want me to say it’s amazing and I’m making so much money I’m practically swimming in it, and I feel free as a bird with my scheduling, and all of my riders have been incredibly kind, and this is the magic bullet to kill all your debt.

THE TRUTH
It’s not bad. It’s definitely a job. The money isn’t great (more on this below), and it is really nice to only do it when I feel like it. My riders, for the most part have been teenagers. This has been surprising to me, because well, I’ve used Uber exclusively when travelling, and I’m not a teenager. Haha. It never crossed my mind that teens use this as their alternative to designating a driver when they’re going to be drinking. Maybe this varies based on what part of the country you’re in, but this has overwhelmingly been my experience. Driving for Uber is by no means a magic debt-killer, but having a second job sure does help put extra money in the bank.

THE DEETS: SIGNING UP AND PREPARING
It’s very easy to sign up to drive. (Considering it? Tell me in the comments below and I’ll email you a referral code—we’ll both get extra money!) You use your existing Uber account (or create a new account if you’ve never been a rider) and go to partners.uber.com.

They make everything pretty easy. You’ll consent to a background check. You’ll need to upload pictures of your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. (They email and text you incessantly if you’ve forgotten one of these, or if there’s a problem. For example, my insurance card still had my maiden name on it. They informed me I’d have to get it updated in order to be approved. I got it changed and re-uploaded the picture, and I was good to go.) You also have to give them your checking account information—they direct-deposit your earnings every Monday.

I would recommend starting all this about a week before you want to start driving. The approvals take a little time.

mountAlso, I ordered a dashboard mount for my car online. It’s not required, but it’s recommended, and it certainly comes in handy. That bad boy only cost me $9.99 and I love it.

Uber then sends you ONE video (which you can watch on YouTube here) that you are required to watch. That’s it.  You download the app and “go online” (which means you’re available to pick up riders) and hit the road.

Did I feel completely unprepared when I started? You bet. But I started anyway, and quickly got the hang of things.

THE DEETS: PICKING UP MY FIRST RIDER
I was so excited about my first day. It felt like the first day at a new school or a new job (duh, because it was)! I got in my car in the driveway and turned on the app, and… nothing happened. That one tutorial video said the app would beep at me if a rider wanted me to pick them up. I was confused. Why wasn’t my app beeping? I drove to the next town over. Still no beeps. I pulled into a parking lot and re-watched the dang video because I thought for sure I was doing something wrong. Nope. The video said to just drive around and wait for a beep. At this point I was about 30 minutes in.

I decided to head toward the airport. Surely people would need me there.  Aha!  Then I finally got a beep! It was loud and clear. I accepted the request and the app navigated me to where my rider was waiting. A nice lady was at the front door when I arrived, and got in my car. The app already knew where she was going. We exchanged hellos, and I confirmed her name, and we headed out. She had headphones in with loud music so we didn’t talk. I didn’t want her to know it was my very first ride. It was about a 35 minute ride. I arrived at her destination, she thanked me and got out. I heaved a sigh of relief.

I decided to try heading to the airport again. More beeps. The evening progressed.

THE DEETS: THE SUBSEQUENT RIDERS
I’d say my first ride went beautifully. My second ride, not so much. I picked up two teenagers at a Burger King. They talked the whole time, mostly about how much weed they had on them and how much they were about to get… I felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but obviously, didn’t want to have illegal substances in my car either. They verbally navigated me to an address other than what they had put in the app. This also made me nervous. Would Uber know where I was? I was happy to drop them off quickly.  I must say, this was an anomaly.

It was a Wednesday, and the rest of the evening progressed without incident. After each ride, I’d head toward the airport, but would end up pretty far away based on rider pickups and drop offs. The rest of the riders were young people. Teenagers, or maybe early 20s. They were invariably going to parties or dinner. None of them talked to me. I’d have quiet music on in the background. They’d talk to each other or on their phones.

Around 11pm, I was tired. Fortunately, a rider had been dropped off pretty close to my house, so I turned the app off and went home.

I’ve driven after work almost every day since then. As you’d imagine, some nights are busier than others. Some riders are rowdier than others. Some want to talk to me a lot—I don’t like giving a lot of personal details. Some want to know all about Uber—I’m happy to oblige. Some tip, some don’t.  I really have not had any rude riders at all. On weekends I drive all day just outside of NYC, in Hoboken or Jersey City. Here, I pick up mostly young tourists. People are usually very thankful. I almost always turn off around 11pm or so. I find this is when passengers start to get rowdier, and I’m just not in the mood for that.

THE DEETS: BEING IN TOUCH WITH UBER
Being in touch with Uber post-signup sucks. Here are two examples:

I started driving on a Wednesday. The following Monday, I got a text message saying that because I drove 18.5 hours in my first week (which apparently ended on Sunday), I qualified for the $250 bonus, so they were putting $3 in my account. I was like, “huh?” I emailed their support team, and was told that there had been a signup bonus when I started. If I drove 10 hours, they’d guarantee me $250. I made $247 in that first week so they gave me the extra $3 to get to the promised $250. Here’s the kicker: If I had driven 20 hours, they would have given me $500, and if I had driven 40 hours, they would have given me $1000. I was furious. I would have been happy to drive another 1.5 hours to get to the $500 bonus. None of this was ever communicated to me in advance. I can assure you I read everything head to toe. When I emailed them to say I was upset I didn’t know about this, their response was basically, “don’t worry, we do promotions all the time.” Grrr.

My driver’s license expired on my birthday (last Friday), and I applied for a renewal online. I got a confirmation—a legal document issued by the state of Louisiana as proof that my license has been renewed, and that my new expiration date is in 2021. This serves as a temporary license while I wait for my new one to come in the mail (can take up to 30 days). Uber won’t accept the temporary license, so my account is now suspended. I’ve been back and forth with their support team, and they won’t budge. I guess I just have to wait til my new license comes in the mail.  Grrr.

As far as the level of detail available in my account online, everything you could ever want is there. Maps and times of my trips, how much I earned, how much I paid and was reimbursed in tolls, my rating, etc.

Also, at the end of every week, they email me a summary of my week that looks like this:

wpid-2015-08-25-20.52.36.png.png wpid-2015-08-25-20.54.09.png.png wpid-2015-08-25-20.55.59.png.png

This is all very helpful. What’s not helpful is their customer service/driver support staff.  Grrr.

THE DEETS: THE MONEY
This is what you’ve all been waiting for, I know! As a rule of thumb, you receive 80% of what the rider was charged.  I’m keeping very careful track of my earnings.  Being the meticulous-Excel-lover that I am, I haven’t let you down. I’m including real numbers from my first week, below.

I have a detailed spreadsheet in which I make note of how long I was on the road, how many miles I drove, how many trips I took, how much I earned. I also break it down by how much I earned per hour, per trip, per mile.

Date minutes miles earned trips $/hr $/mi $/trip
8/5/2015 203 83 $34.59 6 $10.22 $0.42 $5.77
8/6/2015 170 91 $34.21 4 $12.07 $0.38 $8.55
8/7/2015 245 120 $67.73 5 $16.59 $0.56 $13.55
8/8/2015 545 206 $106.63 16 $11.74 $0.52 $6.66

But what about wear-and-tear on my car? I’ve taken that into account, too. I figured out it costs me about $0.122/mi to operate my car. This is based on:

  • gas costing $2.50/gallon (it’s usually less than that)
  • my car getting 25 mpg (I usually get more than that)
  • needing new tires ($400) every 50,000 miles
  • needing a $70 oil change every 5,000 miles.

And so I have my net-earning per day and per hour calculated as well.

Date earned trips $/hr net net $/hr
8/5/2015 $34.59 6 $10.22 $24.46 $7.23
8/6/2015 $34.21 4 $12.07 $23.11 $8.16
8/7/2015 $67.73 5 $16.59 $53.09 $13.00
8/8/2015 $106.63 16 $11.74 $81.50 $8.97

What am I doing with the money? Every Monday, Uber deposits the money into my account. I take only what I’ve calculated to be my net-earning, and I move it into savings.

IN SUMMARY
I’ve felt incredibly safe. What I hadn’t thought about is that there is a certain barrier to entry. To be a rider, you have to have a smartphone, be relatively tech savvy, and have a credit card. This weeds out a lot of people, and has left me with (for the most part) extremely pleasant passengers.

I really like driving. I might have mentioned a long time ago that I used to deliver pizzas for Domino’s back in college? This was more than 10 years ago, before smartphones and GPS. How I ever got around, I don’t know—but I remember loving it. The open road, the freedom, my music, time to clear my head, and just think. This is very much the same, but with the added plus of occasionally getting to chat with interesting folks.

Though it’s kind of unpredictable to a certain extent, the money is attainable. The good thing about a normal job is that you know if you work this many hours, you’re getting this much money. With Uber, you could drive around for an hour and not have any passengers (this has happened). That kind of sucks, but it’s the trade off you make to get the other perks, I suppose.

All in all, because the hours are totally flexible, it’s perfect for me. My mom was in town recently (for my birthday!) and on those days, I just didn’t sign in, didn’t drive, and it was totally okay. I’m going home one weekend each month. No worries about getting my shift covered or vacation time approved. If I’m tired or don’t feel like driving, I don’t have to. There was one day that after one rider, I came home. I was in a bad mood and just didn’t feel like it. How often can you go to work, and then go right home if you don’t feel like being there? Yep, it’s pretty cool.

What else do you want to know? Would you ever consider driving for Uber? Have you ever been an Uber rider? I want to know!

Frugal Fun in Philadelphia!

While Michael was still here we decided to take as many little weekend roadtrips as we could.  First, we went to NYC and had a blast.  The following weekend we went to Philadelphia.

From where I’m living, Philly is only about 1.5 hrs away, so we decided to go early and come back in the evening, so as to avoid hotel costs.  I went to Philly once when I was a kid with my parents, but hadn’t been there in maybe 20 years.  Michael had never been.  We naturally wanted to do all the toursity/historical stuff. Continue reading

You Are My Sunshine

Did you know that Louisiana’s state song is “You Are My Sunshine”?  It’s true!  This is only one of so many quirky things I love about my home state.  Also, Michael and I are big fans of the Big Easy Rollergirls and, at the start of each bout, instead of singing the national anthem, they sing You Are My Sunshine, and Michael and I love singing it to each other.  All the time.

_you_are_my_sunshine__by_katherinebaker

And so it’s a great honor to have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by my dear friend, Kay.  She’s an absolute burst of sunshine in this corner of the internet, and I feel lucky to call her my friend.

Here are the questions she asked me: Continue reading

July Update and What’s Going On

It feels like it’s been ages since we last talked! As you might recall, this new work program we’re launching was supposed to be standing by the end of July, and while it was, we’re very much still testing it now… so work’s been fast and furious!

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten a second job side hustle! As of this week, I started driving for Uber after work. I think I really like it and I’m making decent money. More about this to come.

And before Michael left to go back to NOLA on Wednesday, we found me a new apartment! But you thought the house/roommate situation was working out nicely? It hasn’t been bad. But remember, it’s $300/mo more than what I was expecting, and well, that’s a lot of money! I’m moving to a new more reasonably priced apartment on Sept 1, thankfully.

All this to say, a lot has been going on. Continue reading