Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Finance and Budgets

5 Different Ways to Make Money Online

I think as writers we assume that everyone realizes they can make money by selling things online from their websites or by finding freelance jobs online. But I don’t think people in other professions think of it as often. When this contributed article came across my inbox, I thought it had some good ways to make money online. So here it is: 

If you’ve seen that there are a range of different ways to make some money online, you may be wondering if it’s really possible. Because if it’s really that easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, that’s a good question. Although nothing is ever really easy, per se, if you’re in a financial slump and you want to be able to change your life, you can definitely do that by doing something online. Because it doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult for you. While a lot of the ways that you can make money will take time and effort, they’re often incredibly worth it. Because making money online can top up your existing income, or even replace it. So let’s take a look at some of the standout options.

Selling Products

One of the most classic ways of making money online is to sell products. You don’t have to have an offline shop, or even have been in the business of sales before; that’s the beauty of doing this online. You can really learn along the way. You might like to setup an Amazon shop selling products or even do something on eBay or Etsy. Whether you sell items you’ve made or source items to sell yourself, this can be a great venture if you’re willing to put the work in to set it up. You could also look to sell on your own site in the future, too.

Affiliate Marketing

Up next, there’s affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is a way that you can earn money by recommending products and brands. To do this, you will need a website or blog on a certain topic or a range of topics. You’ll then share specific links that are given to you by the affiliates. If your site visitors go on to make a purchase through that link, you will earn a set percentage of the sale. It can be a simple way, once set up, to generate a stream of income.


From here, there’s blogging itself. And yes, you can make money through affiliate marketing as a blogger, but it’s not your only option. Instead, you can generate income from advertising, sponsorship, advetorials, contributed articles, and even your own product sales. So this could be an idea that takes you a step above affiliate marketing alone.


Then, there’s always investing. A lot of the time, people think that this is something that only financial experts can do. But that’s not the case. You just need to read up, using things like stash review, on the best ways to do it. Then, with a bit of knowledge, you can start off on your own investing venture.


If you have a particular skill, such as writing or graphic design, you could then look to sell that on a freelance basis. Sometimes, this could be something you do alongside your day job, or something that you move into full time. You could even consider consulting in this kind of format, too.

Have you made money online? Do you have any tips to share?



Overcoming Your Financial Slump: A Single Parent’s Guide

(contributed article)

Even though this article was written for a single parent in mind, I don’t think it’s bad advice for anyone to follow…

The wonderful thing about being a single parent is that you don’t have a partner to argue with over your family finances and spending; you are in full control of all of your own money. This can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes, though, especially as you may have to make your money stretch even further. There’s always an extra cost popping up, and this can often set you back a few steps. Over time you may find you have taken so many steps back that you’re on the edge and close to falling flat. Your little girl wants ballet lessons and your boy is pleading to let him go to karate. It can be an uphill struggle for single parents, as we want to give our children everything we can, but we have to remain realistic.

Whether you have overspent at Christmas ,are racking up credit card debts, or need to find a better paying job, you can get yourself out of your financial slump. There are a few nifty ways you can boost your money, without making too many changes to your family life. Stay positive and try not to  let the little things get you down. Be grateful for your health and beautiful family, and let’s look at how to get out of your uphill financial struggle.

The Daily Squeeze

You might believe you’re living a frugal life and cutting costs where necessary, but are you doing the best you can? Are you still swinging by the local coffee shop for your morning caramel latte? Your caffeine addiction could be setting you back over a hundred dollars a month, so try and be mindful when buying food and drink when you’re out and about. Most of the time, you will save money if you cook and eat at home instead of in a restaurant.

Consider cooking bulk meals to save money on food, too. You can cut down on food waste by preparing meals that freeze well, and you might find that your groceries go much further. Try not to buy unnecessary items when you’re out shopping, too, especially if you find yourself buying sugary snacks or the food item that you just sampled in the grocery aisle. Kids grow out of clothes far too quickly, so chat with local moms and head to a nearby secondhand store to pick up any essentials you might need. Be completely aware of every penny you’re spending, and you will soon be able to start saving a small stash and pay off those bills.

Help Is At Hand

If you’ve found yourself in a tricky situation when it comes to credit cards and debts, you might feel daunted at the thought of paying it all off. Look into some reputable debt consolidation companies, who can help you to organize and eliminate your debt. These companies will give you a helping hand in managing all of your debt. If you have multiple credit cards and bills, to pay off they will be able to merge it into one larger loan. By amalgamating everything together, you will be able to come up with an action plan to pay it back each month.

You can get yourself out of the slump you’re experiencing–just find the correct help and alter your lifestyle for a short time. There will always be someone who can advise you, so try to remain positive and don’t ignore the problem. Prevention is better than cure, so get one step ahead with your financial planning this year and you will finally find your feet again.


Overspent this Christmas? Now What? 5 Tips To Help

(contributed article)

If you fear you might have overspent this Christmas and worry you might not be able to pay the credit card bills that will soon be coming your way , it can understandably be tempting to want to bury your head in the sand; however, it tends to be much better to know where you stand, so that you are in the empowered position to nip any issues in the bud rather than let them spiral out of control.

Here are a few pointers to help you get your finances back on track, as the majority of the world nurses their financial hangover after overspending in the festive period.


Many people have things lying around, or even in draws or the attic, that they don’t use anymore.  If you are willing to consider selling these items, you could sell them online via sites like Craigslist or eBay, or even have a more traditional garage sale, depending on the weather this season where you live.  If you have gift cards that you don’t plan to use, you could sell these too; and if you have any unopened gifts that are unwanted after Christmas, then consider taking them back to the store and receive a store credit in return.


Depending on your schedule, consider getting a part-time job for a few months, or perhaps setting up some freelancing or small business, like dog sitting, opportunities.  Investing a few hours each day in either activity could give you sufficient earnings to pay off your debt at a much faster pace.


It can be heard to cut back after such exuberance in the festive season; however, you’ll be joining the majority of people as they tend to their financial hangovers after spending so much during the holidays.  Indeed, January is one of the quietest times of the year for restaurants and hotels.  


Focus on paying credit cards that have the highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR) first. You might find that you can’t realistically repay your credit card balances. In this scenario, consider getting a credit card that levies no interest on balance transfers for 12 – 24 months. Pay the nominal transaction fee (approximately three percent of the amount transferred). You will be able to save more money on this card. Remember that your existing card will charge you interest once you cross the interest-free period.


Until you repay all your bills, avoid making any further purchases on your credit card; and try to pay in cash for making purchases, as this makes you feel more connected to the amount you are spending.  Doing this will ensure you avoid adding to your existing levels of debt.

That said, if you find that your credit score has been compromised with your overspending, once you have paid off your outstanding debt, try using financial products available specifically for the purpose of rebuilding credit.  

As an example, there are plenty of rebuilding credit cards available for people that have a poor credit score who are looking to improve their financial position.  These credit cards often charge a reasonably high rate of interest, but they are a great way to help rebuild your credit; and presuming you pay off the balance each month, they are a worthwhile investment in repairing your credit.

In summary, please know you’re not alone if you’ve overspent this Christmas, as there are plenty of people who will be nursing their financial hangover this New Year.  The trick is to get back on track as fast as possible, and to do that, you need to focus on getting more money in and spending less–even if just for a little while.



Great Parenting Needn’t Be Expensive

(contributed article)

The start of the new year is a lean time for many as we awaken, bleary eyed from the excess of late December and face the challenges of the new year. The trouble is that the view can be pretty grim through the lens of a New Year’s hangover (literally, metaphorically, or all of the above). After what seems like an eternity of seasonal spending, your bank balance aches, and your credit score looks grimmer than your father-in-law when he unwrapped yet another pair of socks for Christmas. Maybe you maxed out your credit cards to pay for the Christmas season; and though the memories will last a lifetime, they certainly won’t pay the bills. Soon the kids will be back at school and a whole new avenue of expense will open itself up to you.

If you’re recovering from the spend-a-thon of the festive season, it can feel like your personal finances simply won’t allow you to spend money on quality time with your children. For all their wonderful new Christmas presents, eventually they will grow tired of them, and you will be hearing, “I’m bored.” While there are lenders out there who specialize in personal loans for bad credit, your parenting needn’t go hand in hand with your expenditure. Sometimes, the most meaningful gifts you can give your children involve no to little expense whatsoever.

Be forthcoming with your affection

All the iPhones, xBoxes, and designer shoes in the world amount to nothing when you are comparing them to your child feeling loved. While your kids are unlikely to ask for hugs and kisses, they crave them far more than the superficial trappings, which they’re far more vocal about. Tell them that you love them and you’re proud of them. Kiss and hug them every day. If you don’t engage with them on this level (despite their protestations), it’s one of the ways to impede their interpersonal development when they grow up.

Nourish them

Nourishment is one of the most important duties of a parent. This means not only giving them the emotional nourishment they need but ensuring that they eat a balanced diet. While they’ll never thank you for it, a good diet is one of the most important gifts you can give a child. It will ensure that they grow up as healthy and nutritionally aware adults who lead long and healthy lives. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to load up on cheaply made pre-packaged foods just because money’s tight. Filling your fridge with fresh veggies and researching nutritious and delicious recipes that enable your kids to actually enjoy them is not only great parenting, it’s surprisingly easy on the household budget.

Treat them like an adult

Maybe don’t offer them a cigarette and a shot of vodka before sitting down to your favorite zombie flick 🙂 HA! HA! , but treating your kids with the same respect and transparency as you’d treat, say, a work colleague, is tremendously empowering for them and is likely to engender maturity.

While it’s perfectly fine to spoil your kids over the festive period, it’s important to remember, especially in the thrifty aftermath, that the most meaningful gifts you can give your kids won’t cost you a penny.


Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying A (nother) Baby Product

If there’s one thing that women do while pregnant, it’s shopping. Shopping and expecting a baby seem to go hand-in-hand, and admittedly, most of those purchases are necessary. You’re going to have to fill your home with equipment and supplies you have never needed before so that you’re ready to welcome your new baby.

However, if you read enough guides, you will find yourself with a shopping list so long that it feels you will never complete it. How can a baby need so much stuff? The demands are endless, and naturally, every product manufacturer absolutely insists that their product is completely necessary. Of course, you want the best for your baby, so you buy… and then find yourself joining the ranks of parents who don’t use half of those so-called “essential” items.

Before your next purchase, it’s worth running a few questions through your mind to see if a product truly is needed, or if it’s one you can skip.

“Can I Envisage A Scenario Where I Will Use This?”

Many products will pass this question with ease; it’s simple to imagine when you’re going to use a breast pump or a toy that can also monitor your baby’s breathing while they sleep. More esoteric products, however, will fail this test, helping to shorten your shopping list in one fell swoop.

“Does This Product Fix A Problem?”

The majority of products will pass this test as well. Concerned about your baby rolling over while sleeping? There are plenty of baby pillows that can help fix that issue. Worried your baby is going to struggle to adapt to their new environment? Then you can look for the best baby sound machines to help meet that need. A huge number of baby products are expressly designed to meet the needs of parents, so this test is relatively easy to pass.

What won’t pass is decorative and novelty items. These items are nice, of course, and there’s no harm in having a few, but you don’t want to go overboard and stretch your budget as a result.

“Is This Something That Will Be Used Frequently?”

The most important products to buy are those that will be in constant use, such as baby monitors, strollers, highchairs, and car seats. These are the items that should command the majority of your budget.

However, if an item is only designed to be used in certain, infrequent situations — such as when your baby has a cold — then it’s wise to leave these products on the shelf for now. You can always purchase them in the future, when you’re experiencing the problem that these products are designed to ease.

In Conclusion

There’s enough shopping to do to meet the essential needs of your baby, so it’s important to avoid making life even more difficult by buying additional items that may not be necessary. If a product can pass the three questions above, chances are it’s a good purchase; if a product fails, then you might want to leave its purchase until a later date or not at all. With less shopping to do, you can focus on enjoying being pregnant, and look forward to greeting your bundle of joy!



Improving Your Finances at the End of the Week

Raising a kid is expensive. Being a single parent can also be challenging, even when both parents are working together to pay for kids’ doctors bills, child care, and activities. I’ll admit it–my strong suit is NOT budgeting, and I like to provide fun experiences for Katie and myself. I also want her involved in sports and other activities, so I have been trying hard to stop eating out so much and THINK before we spend money. When this contributed article came in to me, I thought it had some good tips, especially during the holiday season and when personal property tax is due in Missouri! Here you go: 

Finances are a big part of our lives: they dictate what we can and can’t do; and despite plenty of people declaring that “money isn’t happiness,” it is stability! Everyone can understand how good a little bit of leftover cash at the end of the week can feel.

It can often feel like you’re spiraling out of control when it comes to keeping your money in line, but it doesn’t have to. We could all do with a helping hand from time to time, so here’s some tips for you to consider when it comes to making ends meet.

Rethink Your Goals

Maybe you’ve been thinking  over your fiances over for a while, strategizing and planning in the spare minutes you have, but your money situation still doesn’t make any sense. However, setting yourself some good money goals is the first step in making sure you can improve on your current standing, as you immediately have something to work toward instead of floundering blindly.

Add up all your expenses for every week, including groceries and bills and any extraneous prices you’ll have to fork out for, just to give yourself more of a realistic view. Then, budget accordingly! Write down a budget that you think you can stick to with your finance goals included. 

Contact Your Service Providers

So your internet bill has raised again, and it’s the most useful asset in your modern household; you’re tearing your hair out. It’s time to contact the broadband man and make sure you have the best package to fit your family’s current needs and internet use. 

If your area has more than one gas or electric company, you could very well find a better rate or deal with another company; there could always be another option when it comes to your utilities! This is something people don’t often think about and just accept the bill they have to pay as is. These packages often aren’t advertised, and companies never want to lose a customer to a competitor, so they’re likely to accommodate you if you query it.  Your current provider can also give you some options on budget and consistent billing as well as ways to save on the power you use.  It doesn’t hurt to call and find out your options. 

Get Yourself a Piggy Bank

Yes, it sounds a little childish, but this is often a key component to getting a little extra cash when you need it. Save up all the pennies you have, and drop them in the slot, and then open it up at the end of the month. We’re often surprised at how much spare change can turn into real money that can go towards us and our families.

Even the idea of a piggy bank makes us unlikely to go spending money that we don’t really have. When the pennies are out of sight and thus out of mind, we’re more likely to save.

Buy Off the Bottom Shelf

We can’t always wait for deals or coupons to come for all products we need; and a lot of the time, companies get us to buy things we don’t want or need. That means it’s bottom shelf buying time. It’s not quite a well-known fact, but stores put the stuff they want us to buy at eye height, meaning the most expensive stuff goes there. That means we need to be aware of their crafty ways and work around them.

Search both the top and bottom shelves in the aisles for the best deals and the store’s own brands, as they’re so much cheaper. There really isn’t much difference between the ingredients and quality in the store’s brand than in the bigger food companies. It also means you can bulk buy and not feel guilty about it.

Look into Loan Options

So if you have some experience with having a lack of money, then you’re probably looking at this option with a quizzical eyebrow. Yet, this is an option if you really need the extra help to get yourself out of a bad financial situation in the short-term, and you think you could manage the payment at the end of the loaning period.

You’ll need to check your credit report before securing a loan and making sure any paid debts aren’t still lingering around on there, as that can pull down your score; often, they aren’t removed automatically.

You can find bad credit secured loans all over the place; you just need to know what to look and ask for. First place to start your research is the internet, as that has a lot of the information you will need for your task. Whilst it can be quicker to just find a lender and apply online after this, you don’t want to be too hasty and make sure you understand what the terms are. Take the idea to your bank if you’re looking for a more traditional loaning method; they too often have advice that’s invaluable and on a more personal level. It’s always worth a try after all!

Do you have a tip for budgeting or saving money? 


Cutting The Cost of Parenthood

contributed post

From the moment you first find out you’re pregnant and that initial flush of joy fades, all moms-to-be find themselves asking the same question, “How am I EVER going to be able to afford this?” The good news is that nobody’s ever ready for the trials (and joys) of parenthood; and while of course some expectant parents are financially better off than others, it’s worth remembering that parents of all kinds of incomes have been getting by for as long as the human race has been around. That said, there’s no denying that a child can put pressure on your domestic finances. With the average cost of raising a child to the age of 17 approaching $240,000 , it’s enough to make any parent-in-waiting balk.

The good news is that the cost of parenthood can largely be ameliorated by a combination of ingenuity, thrift, invention, and common sense. While the default setting for many new parents is always “worry”, cutting financial costs is one of the many ways in which moms and dads can make life easier for themselves. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Never replace when you can repair

We live in a culture of disposability, where the pervasive logic is that when something breaks, it should be replaced rather than repaired. This is a shame because with a wealth of knowledge available to new parents through digital means, you can learn to fix just about anything from torn clothes to broken toys. While kids grow out of clothes quickly, you can learn to make alterations that can significantly expand their lifetime, and it’s worth looking into different types of embroidery machines. At a younger age, when kids grow emotionally attached to their clothes yet haven’t learned to be fashion snobs, this is particularly useful.

Plan your meals and batch cook

Whether you’re a parent or not, one of the surest ways to waste money is over-reliance on takeout and restaurants. Sure, everyone loves a treat after a hard day’s work, but a home cooked meal can rival anything bought at a restaurant at a tiny fraction of the cost. You can make a family night in just as special with candles and music without paying ludicrous restaurant prices.

You can also make substantial savings at the supermarket by shopping smart and avoiding impulse purchases. You can plan your week’s meals and shop accordingly, plus save time and effort by cooking in batches and making a bolognese or curry sauce, chili, or lasagna that will last the family for several meals. Reducing meat and dairy and upping the veggies will ensure that your weekly shop lasts longer, too.

Get creative with vacations

Family vacations are often perceived as way more expensive than they need to be. A great family vacation requires only three things; fun, family, and love. Everything else is bells and whistles. Taking a road trip not only saves on expensive flights, but allows your family much more freedom and control over your vacation, reducing the risk of stress and things that can go wrong.

Mom and son photo at the top of the post found here