How to Decide Your Offer Price in a Strong Seller’s Market

As a buyer in this intense seller’s market, you may have experienced this unfortunate scenario: You find the perfect house, make what you believe is a strong offer, wait on pins and needles to see if it was accepted, only to find that you haven’t won this round of bidding wars. It begs the question: how do you choose your offer price so you know it’s competitive right out of the gate?

What the Current Market is Demanding of Buyers

As cash offers have risen sharply and multiple offer situations have become the norm, buyers are having to bring more to the table, employ strategic tactics, and work with an experienced, full-time real estate agent. But one of the biggest questions buyers are navigating these days isn’t merely how much they’re willing to offer; they’re having to decide how much they’re willing to offer over list price. And while there isn’t a perfect formula to help a buyer decide, there are several things to consider when creating a purchase offer that could help it stand a chance of winning a bidding war.

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How Much To Offer On A Home

The median existing home price is up over 17% from March 2020, and what this means for buyers is that they will need to pay substantially more than they probably want to pay and more than they would’ve paid just one year ago.

In some markets, offering a few thousand dollars over list price might be all it takes to win a bidding war. But in other markets, offering $50,000 over still won’t get the job done. Since real estate is a local endeavor, it’s critical to work with an experienced buyer’s agent that has a pulse on the current trends of your market.

Tips when deciding on the offer price:

  • Have your buyer’s agent pull the localized data on recent home sales to determine what percentage of the list price the previous sales received.
  • Determine if the local comps support a higher purchase price than the current list price.
  • Evaluate how much liquid cash you have to pay over appraisal value if need be.
  • Before you agree to an escalation clause, make sure your agent fully explains how they work.
  • In most cases, you don’t get to know what others are bidding on the home. You are blindly bidding against someone else, so in this market, offer your best right out of the gate, keeping in mind that the highest isn’t always the best if it means you’ll wind up “house poor.”

Other Ways To Strengthen Your Offer

There’s a reason real estate contracts are several pages long, and price is only one small section in the offer. While presenting a strong purchase price is critical, there are other factors that make up a home purchase contract — which means there are other ways to strengthen an offer in this seller’s market!

Remove Contingencies

One of the biggest ways buyers weaken their offer is by including contingencies. The most common contingency is the home sale contingency—the purchase is contingent upon the sale of their home. While needing to sell in order to buy is common and reasonable, in this market, sellers are just not wanting to entertain these offers if they can avoid it.

Buyers should consult their lender to see if they can safely purchase without having to sell. In addition, work with your real estate agent to determine a reasonable list price and sale price to get your home sold quickly. And while it’s not ideal, buyers should consider selling first and living in temporary or month-to-month housing while they search for a home to avoid having a contingency offer. If a home sale contingency is necessary, buyers can strengthen their offer by adding a kick-out clause.

Remove Requests

If you’re considering asking the seller to pay for your closing costs, you should rethink it depending on your local market. A strong offer these days means that it’s “clean” and over list price, so sellers won’t be likely to consider requests for concessions, personal property, or any others. Before buyers begin their home search, they should educate themselves on the upfront costs of purchasing a home, and become familiar with loan programs available to buyers that assist with some of those upfront costs.

Forego Repairs Or Offer A Repair Threshold

In this market, sellers are doing less and getting more. They’re not wanting to spend thousands on repairs, especially when there’s plenty of buyers who would purchase it “as is.” That said, offers that forego inspection and repairs or offer a repair threshold stand out among the crowd.

While waiving an inspection altogether can be highly risky (and is often not recommended), it is happening in many markets. But, if you still wish to have the comfort and protection of a professional home inspection without sabotaging your offer, consider an offer that specifies there will be no requests for repairs, or that you will request repairs only if they meet a certain financial threshold. This tactic gives buyers the protection of an inspection discovery while also reassuring the seller that they won’t be nickel-and-dimed on repairs.

Include An Appraisal Gap

In years past, the appraisal price was the dominant factor in the transaction and one of the biggest protection for buyers. Now, however, buyers are readily agreeing to pay well over appraisal. By including an appraisal gap in a purchase offer, buyers can substantially strengthen their offer. An appraisal gap is when a buyer agrees to pay all or some of the shortage between the offer price and the appraisal value. It’s important to remember that banks will only lend on the appraised value, so any appraisal gap is the out-of-pocket responsibility of the buyer.

What NOT To Do In A Seller’s Market

The best way to get your offer accepted? Submit an excellent offer and keep it ethical. Submitting a subpar offer but including a buyer love letter is no longer the way to win a bidding war. Not only is it risky, but it can also potentially violate federal law. So forego the love letter and instead submit your strongest, cleanest offer for the best chance to stand out from the crowd. It might not be the most convenient scenario, but if you’re really wanting to buy, it could mean all the difference between getting that coveted house or staying in the search pool!

Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.


13 Good Side Hustles From Home You Can Start This Weekend

If you’re looking to increase your income and you’re ready to take action, the side hustles covered in this article could all be started this weekend.

Some side hustles allow you to start making money immediately and others involve building a business with excellent long-term income potential.

Regardless of your situation, you’re sure to find something that’s a good fit for you.

Good side hustles from home

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make an extra $500 per month, and that’s realistic with a blog.

The downside to blogging is that you’ll need some patience. Growing a blog from scratch takes time, and most bloggers make very little money in the first 6-12 months. However, once you’ve gained some momentum, it’s a great way to make money online. 

Why You Might Want to Start a Blog:

  • Unlimited income potential.
  • Flexibility to work around your existing schedule.
  • You can start a blog on the topic of your choice.
  • Potential to make money on your own without the need for client services.
  • Easy and inexpensive to start.

How to Get Started

The first step is to decide what you’re going to blog about. While you don’t need to be passionate about the topic of your blog, it helps if you at least have some interest in the subject. Working on the blog will be a lot more fun if it’s something you enjoy.

Next, you’ll need to sign up for a web hosting account to get your blog set up. I recommend Bluehost for new bloggers because their prices are among the lowest in the industry, and it’s straightforward to get set up. The article How to Make Money Blogging as a Side Hustle is a great guide you can follow.

2. Start a YouTube Channel

Starting a YouTube channel is another enticing option that offers many of the same benefits as blogging. It’s a flexible opportunity that offers significant income potential. The difference is, you’ll be creating content in video format instead of written format. If you enjoy being on camera more than you enjoy writing, YouTube may be a better opportunity than blogging for you.

The highest-earning YouTubers are making tens of millions of dollars per year, and the numbers keep growing each year. As the amount of video content consumed by the average person continues to increase, the earning potential for YouTubers will also increase.

Like starting a blog, growing your YouTube channel will take time, and you aren’t likely to start making money right away. The most common way to monetize a YouTube channel is through the YouTube Partner Program, which allows you to make money from ads on your videos. You’ll need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours to be eligible for the program. Those numbers may seem high, but many active YouTube channels can reach that level within a few months.

Why You Might Want to Start a YouTube Channel:

  • Unlimited income potential.
  • Surging demand for video content.
  • Less competition than blogging.
  • Can be a lot of fun.

How to Get Started

YouTube for Beginners is a course from Skillshare that was created by an experienced and successful YouTuber. It teaches everything you need to know to start and grow your channel.

3. Online Surveys

The first two options I’ve mentioned offer excellent long-term income potential but will take some time before you start making money. Taking online surveys is the exact opposite. You’re not going to get rich by taking surveys, but this is a highly flexible side hustle, and you can start making money immediately.

If you’re looking to make an extra $100 per month, or maybe a few hundred dollars per month, taking surveys could be a good option. There are several survey websites and money making apps you can use to start making money right away. Some of the best choices include:

Surveys are appealing because anyone can do this side hustle. You don’t need any particular skills or experience to make money in your spare time.

Why You Might Want to Take Online Surveys:

  • Extreme flexibility: take surveys whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
  • Anyone can do it. No specific skills or experience required.
  • Start making money right away.
  • Sites like Swagbucks offer lots of ways to make money in addition to surveys.

How to Get Started

Getting started is quick and easy. Create a free account at the top sites like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie, complete your profile, and begin taking surveys. Each site will have different rules regarding the amount of money or points you need to earn before withdrawing the cash or redeeming points. Swagbucks allows you to redeem points as soon as you have enough for a $3 gift card, making it one of the best options.

4. Flea Market Flipping

Good side hustles from home - flea market flipper

If you enjoy finding amazing deals at yard sales, flea markets, auctions, estate sales, or thrift stores, becoming a flipper could be the right choice for you. This side hustle involves buying underpriced items and reselling them for a profit.

Finding valuable items at places like yard sales and flea markets is pretty easy with a little effort. Many people are simply looking to get rid of their stuff, and you can find some great deals. Most flippers resell the items online through eBay, the Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or other similar sites and apps. 

Flipping is a flexible side hustle you can do whenever you have the time or need to make some extra money. It’s also possible to start earning a profit very quickly.

Why You Might Want to Become a Flipper:

  • Can be fun if you enjoy finding great deals.
  • Good income potential.
  • You can learn the skills quickly.
  • Great fit for people who don’t want to spend all of their time online.

How to Get Started

To get started, all you need to do is head out to some yard sales or flea markets this weekend and look for underpriced items to buy. It’s best to start with products that you know well. With a little bit of experience, you’ll get more familiar and more comfortable with a broader range of products. See this list of the easiest things to flip for profit as a guide for getting started.

5. Furniture Flipping

Most of the items you buy at yard sales or flea markets to flip will involve minimal work to get them ready to sell. You might clean up an item or make minor repairs, but in most cases, you’ll be making money primarily by finding things that are worth more than they’re selling for. 

Flipping furniture is different because it requires putting in several hours of work to restore the item before selling it. The idea is to find a low-priced (or free) piece of furniture that has the potential to be much more valuable if it is restored or refinished. Solid wood furniture is ideal because you can increase the value simply by painting or staining it. Upholstered furniture can be reupholstered for a completely new look, increasing the value relatively quickly.

If you enjoy working with your hands and turning something old and unwanted into something valuable, this could be the perfect opportunity for you. Learning how to repair or restore furniture is not that difficult, and there are plenty of YouTube videos that will teach you for free.

You can find items to flip at yard sales or drive around and look at pieces out for the trash. Once your item is ready to sell, the Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are ideal for reaching people in your local area.

Why You Might Want to Flip Furniture:

  • Work whenever you have time or whenever you need money.
  • High demand for restored furniture.
  • Anyone can learn the skills.
  • Start making money quickly.

How to Get Started

To get started, you’ll need to find your first piece to flip. Take a look around your home or apartment, and you may already have an ideal item. Working on a piece of furniture you already own is a perfect way to start. It means that you won’t have to spend any money buying an item, and it gives you a chance to make a profit quickly. If you don’t have anything, head to some yard sales this weekend and see what you can find.

6. Investing

Over the past year, investing as a side hustle has become increasingly popular. Stories of part-time investors making huge sums of money have been in the news a lot. Of course, the stock market’s trajectory over the past year made that more manageable, but this is a side hustle you might want to consider if you enjoy personal finance and investing.

It’s critical to remember that investing comes with risk, and you shouldn’t invest money that you can’t afford to lose. However, there’s also a substantial upside if you have success with it.

Platforms and apps that are ideal for new traders include:

Of course, investing in the stock market isn’t the only option. You could also invest more passively in real estate or other types of alternative investments. Some platforms you might want to consider include:

You can also find plenty of alternative investment options here.

Why You Might Want to Start Investing:

  • Excellent long-term potential.
  • Opportunity for exponential growth.
  • Valuable skills to learn.

How to Get Started

To get started, decide which type of investing you want to do. This beginner’s guide is a good resource for anyone who wants to get started with the stock market.

7. Photography

Good side hustles from home - photographer

Are you a hobbyist photographer? Would you like to start making money from that hobby? 

There are several different ways to make money with photography, but we’ll look at two great options for getting started as a side hustle: client photo sessions and stock photography.

No matter where you live, there are people in your local area looking for a photographer. You could take photos of families, engaged couples, high school seniors, sports teams, and much more. 

Making some part-time money by offering photography services is relatively easy. Scaling it to a full-time income is much more challenging. If you’re looking for a way to make a few hundred dollars per month on the side and you have some photography skills, consider offering your services to others.

Another option is to upload your photos to stock photo websites like Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, and many others. You’ll be able to earn money every time a customer downloads one of your photos.

The stock photography market is highly competitive, so it’s not easy to make a considerable amount of money. But if you’re looking for a way to make a few hundred dollars per month, it’s very realistic. To have success, you’ll need to upload many photos and keep taking and uploading new pictures all the time. 

Why You Might Want to Become a Photographer:

  • Monetize your existing hobby.
  • Variety of ways to make money.
  • Potential to grow into a full-time business.

How to Get Started

Choose whether you want to offer services to clients or upload your photos to stock marketplaces (or both).

For client work, the best way to get started is with friends and family. Talk to everyone you know and offer a low price to begin to get some business. With a little bit of experience, you’ll get to build up your portfolio and benefit from word-of-mouth advertising.

To get started with stock photography, choose a platform you want to use. Ultimately, you’ll want to upload your photos to several different sites to maximize your income potential, but it can be helpful to start with just one, so it’s not overwhelming. Each stock photo site will have an application process to become a contributor. You’ll probably need to upload some samples, so get ten of your best photos ready to go.

8. Freelancing

You can offer many different services as a freelancer, including writing, editing, proofreading, web or graphic design, coding and development, marketing, and more.

Freelancing is a great way to make money because you can use the skills you already have to start making money quickly. You’ve probably developed some skills at a previous job (or maybe your current job), or even through a hobby.

The income potential with most freelance services is also outstanding, making it ideal for growing to a full-time income if that’s something you want to pursue.

Why You Might Want to Start Freelancing:

  • Lots of possibilities and many services you could offer.
  • Monetize the skills and experience you already have.
  • Excellent income potential.
  • Flexible working hours.

How to Get Started

My article How to Make Money Online for Beginners covers the steps to follow if you want to start as a freelancer.

9. Virtual Assistant

Working as a virtual assistant or VA is one of the best opportunities available in 2021. Many businesses are looking to outsource more work, and as a VA, there are numerous different services you could offer.

Many VAs do things like general administrative tasks, blog editing, moderate forums or Facebook groups, management of social media profiles, and much more.

Working as a VA is a very flexible side hustle that fits around your existing schedule. It’s something you could do part-time or work on growing your client base and turn it into a full-time business.

Why You Might Want to Become a VA:

  • High demand for talented and reliable VAs.
  • Work as much or as little as you want.
  • Monetize your existing skills.
  • Good income potential.

How to Get Started

Gina Horkey’s Fully-Booked VA is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to make money as a virtual assistant. There’s training for all aspects of running your business, and you’ll be able to learn from an experienced and successful VA.

10. Self-Published Author

Good side hustles from home - self-published author

If you like to write, you might want to consider becoming a self-published author as a way to make some extra money. With print-on-demand platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), becoming an author has never been easier. There’s no need to send your writing to a bunch of publishers hoping to hear back.

Through KDP, you can sell e-books and paperbacks without the need to spend any money on inventory. The paperbacks are printed as they’re purchased, and Amazon handles all of those details.

You can write whatever type of book interests you, covering any topic or genre you choose. You probably already have some experience you could use to write a book that others would buy.

Why You Might Want to Become a Self-Published Author:

  • Make money doing something you enjoy.
  • Making money as an author has never been more realistic.
  • Completely flexible. Work whenever you want.
  • Potential for passive income.

How to Get Started

From First Draft to Bestseller is a detailed and thorough course that teaches how to make money as a self-published author.

11. Sell on Etsy

If you’re crafty, you might enjoy selling on Etsy. You could sell handmade or vintage items, or even design and sell digital products like printables. 

Selling on Etsy is a side hustle that may take some time to become profitable because you’ll need to work on getting exposure and growing your shop. The long-term potential is solid, but you’ll probably need to put in a lot of work early on. 

Why You Might Want to Start an Etsy Shop:

  • Monetize your crafty hobby.
  • Work around your existing schedule.
  • Excellent income potential.

How to Get Started

The course Building an Etsy Shop That Sells is an excellent starting point. Beginners will learn all of the necessary details related to getting started on Etsy.

12. Microtasks

The opportunity to make money with microtasks is very similar to taking online surveys. You’re not going to make a lot of money per hour, but what it lacks in income potential, it makes up in terms of flexibility.

Several websites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Clickworker pay people to do small, simple tasks that take no more than a few minutes. Some survey websites like Swagbucks also offer a variety of tasks you can do for money or rewards. 

You can work on microtasks whenever you have some spare time, as much or as little as you want. And like surveys, anyone can do the work. You don’t need skills or experience, aside from fundamental computer skills.

Why You Might Want to Do Microtasks:

  • Extreme flexibility. Work whenever you want, as much or as little as you want.
  • Anyone can do it. No skills or experience needed.
  • Start making money right away.

How to Get Started

To get started, create a profile at a microtasking site like MTurk or Clickworker. The signup process is easy, and you’ll be able to start completing tasks very quickly.

13. Rental Business

One of the more overlooked side hustles involves renting out your stuff. There are many different things you could rent, including:

  • Tools
  • Baby gear
  • Car, truck, or bike
  • RV
  • Storage space 
  • Room or unit in your home
  • Parking space

With a rental business, you’ll be making money because of your assets, not because of the amount of time you’re working. If you have things that people are willing to pay to use, you might be able to make a decent amount of money on the side without working many hours.

Why You Might Want to Start a Rental Business:

  • Turn things you’re not using into income-generating assets.
  • Make money from your assets, not trading your time for money.
  • Lots of different things you could rent out.

How to Get Started

Take a look at the things you already have. Try to find anything that might have value that you’d be willing to rent out. You can use a website like Fat Llama to list just about anything for rent or use a specialized platform like RVshare to rent out a specific type of item. Use Airbnb to rent a room or vacation home.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in making some extra money outside of a job, why not take action right away? This article covers 13 good side hustles you could start this weekend, and most of them involve minimal startup costs or no cost at all.

Pick one that seems like a good fit for you and commit to taking action this weekend!

good side hustles from home to make extra money

13 Good Side Hustles From Home You Can Start This Weekend13 Good Side Hustles From Home You Can Start This Weekend


5 Stress-Free Tips to Settle Into Your New Home Build!

For the last 6 months we’ve watched as our new home build was brought to life from the ground up. Seeing the floor plan and all our design choices come together was such a fun part of the process! As the house crept closer to completion, we packed and prepped for our big move.

The week before closing day, we met with the builder and walked the home looking for any items that needed to be fixed, drywall that needed patching, ensuring appliances worked, etc. The day of closing we walked the house again to make sure all the things we found were fixed and taking note of any items that still needed to be addressed (for example, our shower glass was delayed). Finally, we signed the papers and this long-awaited new home build was all ours! Now that we’re moving in, here are the 5 tips I’m practicing as we start settling into living in our new home. 

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Gorgeous gift from our sales agent.

Expect Controlled Chaos on Moving Day and While Unpacking

I find no matter how well you mark the boxes and have a plan for moving in, the process can still be overwhelming. This is especially true for a new home build. In my head, I already had an idea of where I wanted things to go and how I wanted things to function. But, once we started moving our stuff in, I realized that while we gained space in a lot of areas, we actually lost a few key things we were used to in our prior home, like a junk drawer. But it was ok! I came up with a creative solution simply by moving the junk drawer to another location. 

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Getting the moving truck loaded up.

Keep a Punch List

With a new home build you may have a few follow up meetings with your builder to review things you find that are either broken, not working as they should, are missing, etc. We opted for a 2-week meeting, 30-day meeting, and 11-month final meeting.

Until those meetings happen, keep a list of anything that you find that needs attention. For example, we found a missing piece of shoe molding in the girls bathroom, our outdoor flood light isn’t working correctly, and our kitchen range is acting sort of funky. Keeping this list will ensure we don’t forget anything in those key meetings. 

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Missing shoe moulding on the floor next to the cabinet.

Unpack One Room at a Time

I know this kind of goes hand and hand with the first tip, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Your first instinct might be to unpack a little here and there in each room, but that can actually be more stressful because it makes it harder to achieve that motivating satisfaction of a completed space.

We chose to unpack the kitchen first since it’s the hub of our home. Seeing all the boxes everywhere made my head spin, but I found that if I focus on one room at a time, it kept me from spiraling and getting overwhelmed. We then unpacked the girls rooms because it was super important that they get settled in and start feeling like they’re home. Everything else next fell into place. 

Save Decor for Last

I designated a non-bedroom closet to hold all our pictures and decor items so I could focus on getting the furniture and other major items in their place. Once all that’s done, it makes it so much easier to start decorating because nothing will have to be moved again. The visual clutter can be overwhelming, but by keeping the decor items out of the way it allowed my brain to realize I didn’t need to keep looking at those stressful boxes. Plus, it was an incentive to get unpacked so I could get to the fun part of moving! 

(READ MORE: Why We Build a New Home, and What We Learned Along the Way)

Give Yourself Grace

Thankfully, we have a bit more space where we need it in this home compared to the home we moved from. However, we opted not to have the wire closet systems installed in the bedrooms and instead purchased a closet system which will function more efficiently. Unfortunately, there’s a shipping delay which means the closets will take a lot longer to unpack.

Bottom line: life happens, and it’s much easier to just roll with the punches. Moving into your new home build is exciting, but it doesn’t have to be unpacked in a day. We’re taking our time and thinking through how we really want the house to function, which will hopefully eliminate needing to redo anything in the future. This closet pause is temporary and a year from now won’t even matter. 

Without clear expectations, moving can certainly be frustrating. But remember, everything will eventually find a place to live in the new home. We’ll establish a natural function and flow as we continue to live in our home. And in the meantime, we’ll get to watch this house turn into the home we envisioned in our minds on a piece of paper so many months ago!

Advice For Your New Home Build!

If you’re considering a new home build, check out’s “How to Build” guide, a comprehensive look at what goes into new builds. From financing to finishing touches, it’s your one-stop resource for all your home building questions!

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


3 Things to Know About Duplex Apartments

One less than a triplex but one more than a house.

A duplex is a building containing two, likely identical, housing units arranged in any way as long as each has its own entrance.

Duplexes only have two units contained in a single building, even if the units are pseudo-detached. Buildings with more than two residences have other appropriate terms attached to them.

Here are three things you need to know about duplex apartments.

1. Duplexes are not always side-by-side

One of the most common misconceptions about duplexes is that they must be contained side-by-side. Though it’s a common arrangement of duplexes, not all duplex buildings have separate entrances side-by-side on the ground floor at the front of the building.

Some duplexes may have entrances that are on opposite ends of the building and some other duplexes may be stacked one on top of each other with a separate entrance on each level. However, duplexes will always share at least one wall or ceiling between the two units, which can be trouble in the case of noisy neighbors.

2. Duplexes are more in-demand that other apartments

Because of their unique features, duplexes are in high demand. They often have ground floor entrances and are shared by fewer neighbors. Because of this high demand, it can be harder to find a duplex to live in than a standard apartment rental.

High demand also equals a higher cost meaning you might get less bang for your buck in a duplex — though for many it’s well worth it.

3. Living in a duplex comes with some added responsibility

Because duplexes are frequently detached from other rental units, they can come with some added responsibility. Whereas apartment communities probably handle much of the landscaping and upkeep of exterior features and the yard, in a duplex, much of that responsibility will fall on you.


Is a duplex right for you?

A duplex rental isn’t right for everyone, but maybe its a good fit for you. The ideal renter for a duplex apartment is someone who doesn’t mind some added responsibility, values their privacy and is looking for a home with easy ground-floor access.

Additional resources


Turning Your Vacation Destination into Your Permanent Residence

We take vacations as a means to escape reality, kickback, and relax. We head off to places that differ from our normal day-to-day. We love the views, the attractions, the food, and the way we feel when we’re at our destination. What happens if you fall in love with the area so much that you decide to live there instead of just visiting? This exact situation happened to my family nearly six years ago.

A tall, white building reminiscent of classic Charleston architecture.A tall, white building reminiscent of classic Charleston architecture.

The charm of downtown Charleston, the history, and the culture is what drew us in.

My husband and I knew that we always wanted to retire to the Carolinas, but a life changing situation had us question our need to wait that long. After much discussion, we decided to make the big move from Ohio to Charleston, SC, a place we had visited friends twice in one year.

Unsure of exactly where we wanted to plant our family, we decided to rent for the first year. Much like buying a house, we searched for spaces in the location and school district we wanted since that was our top priority. Renting gave us the chance to live in the city and explore other possibilities without the commitment. We expected a different feeling actually living in our vacation destination, especially in the off season, instead of just being visitors.

A large, blue, multi-story Charleston home with a Palmetto tree in the yard.A large, blue, multi-story Charleston home with a Palmetto tree in the yard.

Our temporary home had all the charm of Charleston, including the Palmetto Tree.

Living in a coastal town for a whole year made us realize that our priorities had shifted from when we lived in Ohio. We desired to live close enough to the beach, but far enough from the activity during peak tourist season. Staying in our current school district was a definite must because our girls absolutely loved their new school and so did we.

A scenic view of a Charleston beach at sunrise.A scenic view of a Charleston beach at sunrise.

Catching a beach sunrise whenever I want is a perk of living on the coast.

While we didn’t need to have a pool in our backyard, we did want a pool in our neighborhood. We surprised ourselves when we actually wanted a smaller house than what we typically purchased in the past. The best part, you can highlight which items are a “must have” on your search to help find the best houses that match your needs. Narrowing the search helps to save you time when you actually see the house because you’ll know it has all the things you desire.

Sunset at a boat pier in Charleston.Sunset at a boat pier in Charleston.

Nothing can beat a Charleston sunset.

Once we started looking at houses, we learned that to get the size house we desired, it may cost more because of the area we chose. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the property taxes were about a third of what they were in Ohio. On the other hand, because we were now in a flood zone, property insurance would cost more than what it did in Ohio. Having a Realtor knowledgeable and familiar with the area you’re considering, can make a huge difference in explaining all the things you need to know when purchasing your home.

Here are a few other things to consider when deciding to move to your vacation destination:

Jobs and salaries: We were lucky in that my husband found a job and my job transferred. If you’re going to need a job once you get there, are there any jobs available and if so, will you make enough income to cover your living expenses?

Crime rates: Often, when we’re in new cities we have blinders, but when deciding if your new town is going to work for you and your family, your safety also needs to be a priority.

Weather: Obviously, we love Charleston for the longer hot seasons, but then there’s this thing called hurricanes, which was a new experience for our family. Check out the average temperature and types of weather the area receives. Develop an emergency preparation plan for your family.

Cost of moving: Out of state moving can be expensive and may require you to hire a moving company where the price is by the poundage and not just amount of stuff you’re moving. When we moved, not only did we have to decide what would make the move, but also where we would store things during our temporary housing.

Not able to move far away, but still love the charm of the houses in your vacation destination? A great tool to utilize is the “Snap & SearchBETA feature on Simply take a picture of your favorite style of house and the search will find houses in your area for sale that match the same or similar exterior architectural features that you love. For us, we fell in love with the Charleston Single-style for our first home and found one in the area that we loved, which was actually 30 minutes from downtown Charleston.

Aa single-style, yellow home in Charleston.Aa single-style, yellow home in Charleston.

We were able to find the Charleston Single style we fell in love with when we purchased our first home here in Charleston.

Whether you’re thinking about or just starting to plan a big move to your favorite vacation city, or you want to stay local and have the vacation vibe, having the right tools can better prepare you for your next home. Thankfully can provide you with all you’ll need in one location to make this transition enjoyable for your family.

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


Falling Into The Best Time To Buy Your Home

Timing is everything in the world of real estate. From locking down the lowest interest rate, to when to list your home for sale, and especially when it comes to buying a home. Believe it or not, there is a difference between the most popular time to buy and the best time to buy.

The natural influx of homes coming onto the market happens as the weather is turning from winter to spring. Many will start looking in hopes to find a new home, move and be settled before the start of the next school year. The transition tends to be easier on the family as a whole, not to mention the fact that there are just so many homes available. What this also means, is that sellers are not as willing to budge on the price since the demand is so high. Basically, the likelihood of you finding the steal of a home during this time period is not in your favor. If you’re flexible and patient, there is actually a better time to consider when starting your home buying journey.

Houses that don’t sell during the spring and summer boom usually linger to the fall. Sellers often will leave their homes on the market with hopes to still sell before the full holiday swing in late October through the New Year. Typically during the holidays, sellers are actually more likely to pull their homes off of the market until the next Spring swing. What this means for the buyer is that you’re now in the driver’s seat and can often negotiate a price in your favor. Sellers are wanting to move on and you are ready to move in, making the fall and winter the best time of year to consider buying your next home.

Even if you’re a buyer with children who have already started into the new school year, buying in the fall and winter shouldn’t deter you from making your move. I know this because I’ve done this three times during three separate school years. Once three days after Christmas, the second two weeks before Christmas, and the last towards the end of September. Here are a couple of steps we took that made moving an easier transition and we would recommend for you and your family:

  1. Keep them in the loop. Be upfront and honest that you’re looking for a new home and that it may happen when they are in school. If you are thinking of changing schools completely, like when we moved from Ohio to South Carolina, definitely tell them as soon as you can so they can also have time to process the information.
  2. Get their input. Ask your kids some of their wish list items to have in the next home. Maybe they would love their own room, a pool, or a room that could be their playroom. You can place all these items as must have’s when doing your search.
  3. Have them pitch in. When it comes time to pack up the house, get their help too. It will make them feel like they are a part of the team and may even ease fears about their stuff possibly getting lost in the move. I gave each of my girls a box they could decorate so we all knew which box was their stuff once we arrived to the new house.
  4. Pack the kids last and unpack them first. Kids thrive on structure and want a place that feels familiar. Their world has been disrupted and if they’re in school, they’re trying to stay focused on that as well. Packing their rooms last gives them a chance to not live in disarray and unpacking them first helps the settling process to start immediately.

When thinking of the best time to buy, remember this: when the temperature rises, the market is hot. The market may be flooded with houses, but it’s also flooded with buyers. When the temperature cools, the market is chill. The more flexible and patient you are may help you find a home that’s priced right or even something you can negotiate in your favor. As another side note, moving in a less busy part of the year could play in your favor when it comes to booking movers or any other services for that matter.

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


Buying a Home Without Maxing Out Your Budget

There are several situations that signify your arrival into adulthood and buying your first home is definitely one of them. While buying a home can be very exciting, understanding the financial responsibility of buying a home is extremely important. Not only will buying a home affect you now, but it can definitely impact your financial future too. When you take the first steps to speak with your bank and you have your pre-qualification letter in hand, there are a few things to consider before you start looking at homes.

The bank takes into consideration your debt-to-income ratio when determining the maximum loan amount you qualify for. Buying a home on the upper-end of your budget will leave you with a larger house payment and as your home appreciates, which is always the hope, your house payment may also go up to accommodate the cost of your property taxes and insurance, even with a fixed interest rate loan. Let’s not forget the normal operating costs associated with your utilities, maintenance, and HOA fees. These costs can and usually will increase over the years, also cutting into your monthly budget.

When we bought our first home, we were pregnant with our first-born. We purchased a home well below our maximum budget and were comfortable with the payment. What we didn’t account for was the high cost of daycare for an infant. Adding that expense on top of our current bills and our mortgage was a real eye-opening experience. Having children and the costs associated with it was not something we even thought about, even while being pregnant. We were so excited about bringing a baby into our new home, we didn’t consider exactly how much it would impact our monthly budget. Even if a baby is nowhere on your radar, are you due for a new car? Do you have pets and no pet insurance? The list could go on, but unexpected situations will come up. The question is, will your budget be ready to handle them?

Two hands are outstretched with keys in them.Two hands are outstretched with keys in them.

Aside from your bills and your mortgage, what about your other financial goals? Are you trying to pay off a school loan, a credit card, your vehicle? Are you trying to save up for vacations? Investments towards your future retirement? Being able to have money to achieve those goals as well as maintain your current financial obligations are just as important. You don’t want to find yourself living paycheck to paycheck. You want to be able to afford a life outside of your home.

Blue beach chairs aligned in the sand.Blue beach chairs aligned in the sand.

The bottom line is that you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are considered “house poor.” This happens when you have dedicated so much of your monthly budget to just your house payment that it leaves little room to even cover the cost of your other monthly obligations, let alone anything additional. Not only does it create unnecessary stress, but puts you at risk of losing the home you worked very hard to qualify for in the first place. Staying well below the maximum amount that you qualify for in a loan not only gives you the cushion you need, but will allow you to work towards increasing your maximum budget for the next home when the time is right.

If you’re looking for a home on a budget, look no further than these great cities!

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


10 Best Cities to Get Out of Credit Card Debt

Best Places to Get Out of Credit Card Debt – 2021 Edition – SmartAsset

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The Federal Reserve says that revolving consumer credit debt – including debt from credit cards, home equity lines of credit and personal lines of credit – increased to $974.4 billion in February 2021, marking a 10.1% annual rate increase from the year prior. This is almost one-third of all consumer debt – which also includes student and car loans – and adds up to a grand total of $4.2 trillion. With so many people trying to pay off credit card debt, SmartAsset crunched the numbers to identify and rank the best cities where it’s easiest to do so.

To do so, we considered unemployment rate, median post-tax income, lower-quartile rents and disposable income to find where debt could be paid off the fastest, assuming average interest rates and a total debt of $7,935. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s 2021 study of the best cities to get out of credit card debt. Read the 2019 version of the study here.

Key Findings

  • Timelines can vary widely. Debt in the top 10 cities of our study can be paid off in just over 10 months, while the average for the bottom 10 is almost 18 months. Frisco, Texas is the city where debt can be paid fastest – under nine months. And Arlington, Virginia takes more than four times longer – a little over 36 months.
  • Residents in smaller cities can pay debt faster. Small and mid-sized cities in this study can pay debt off quickly. All of the top five cities have fewer than 250,000 residents. Affordable rent and a sizable disposable income (which is the money you take home after taxes) are key factors for residents in these cities to pay off debt.

1. Frisco, TX

Frisco, Texas residents can pay off a credit card debt of $7,935 in 8.59 months. The post-tax income for high-school graduates in this city is just over $37,000. And with a lower-quartile rent (the most affordable unit one could reasonably acquire) of $1,126 per month, residents can afford to make monthly debt payments of $979.

2. Reno, NV

Reno, Nevada residents can get out of $7,935 debt in 9.43 months. The post-tax income for high school graduates is around $31,000 and the lower-quartile rent is $787 per month. This means that if they apply 50% of their disposable income after rent to paying down credit card debt, they can afford a monthly payment of $896.

3. Gilbert, AZ

The median post-tax income for high school graduates in Gilbert, Arizona is $35,463. Residents in this city can pay off a credit card debt of $7,935 in 9.60 months. And with a lower-quartile rent (the lowest number under which 25% of renters pay for rent) of $1,192 per month, monthly debt payments of $882 are possible.

4. Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, Alaska residents can pay off a credit card debt of $7,935 in 10.04 months. The median post-tax income for a high school graduate is $30,650 and the lower-quartile rent is $863 per month. If a resident applies half of their disposable income to paying down debt, they could make monthly payments of $846.

5. Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake, Virginia residents can pay a debt of $7,935 off in 10.11 months. The median post-tax income for a high school graduate is $29,087, Furthermore, the most affordable rental unit, at the lower-quartile mark, costs $744 per month. With just over $20,000 in disposable income after rent, residents can apply half to monthly debt payments of $840.

6. St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, Missouri’s median income for high school graduates is just under $26,000 and the lower-quartile rent total is $519 a month. If someone with that income and rent adopted a relatively aggressive repayment strategy and put half of their disposable income towards paying a credit card debt of $7,935, they would be free of credit card debt in 10.37 months.

7. Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, Indiana’s median post-tax income for high school graduates is $24,881 – the lowest in the top 10 of this study. The lower-quartile rent (the most affordable unit one could reasonably acquire) in this city is $496 a month. Someone with almost $19,000 in disposable income after rent could pay off a total credit card bill of $7,935 in 10.81 months.

8. Lincoln, NE

The median post-tax income for a high school graduate in Lincoln, Nebraska is $25,828. And the lower-quartile rent in this city is $589. If residents were able to afford to put half of their disposable income after rent towards repayment, they could pay down a credit card bill of $7,935 in 10.91 months.

9. Tulsa, OK

Residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma could pay off a credit card debt of $7,935 in 10.98 months. This is based on a median post-tax income of $25,038 and a lower-quartile rent payment of $532, which means that they could afford a monthly debt payment of $777 using a relatively aggressive repayment strategy.

10. Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is the most-populous in the top 10 of this list and it has a median post-tax income of $25,125 for high school graduates. The lower-quartile rent payment is $558 a month. Using a relatively aggressive repayment strategy, a resident who puts half of all disposable income after rent towards debt could pay a credit card bill of $7,935 in 11.12 months.

Data and Methodology

In order to find the best places to pay off credit card debt, we created a credit card debt payment model for 56 cities. To determine our list of cities, we excluded cities with a population smaller than 200,000 and those with a below-average unemployment rate.

To complete the analysis, we first calculated the amount of disposable income a high school graduate could have in each city, assuming he or she earned the median salary for high school graduates with no further education. Using SmartAsset’s income tax calculator, we found the after-tax income for local high school graduates. We then subtracted the annual lower-quartile rent to get how much disposable income the average high school graduate would have. Lower-quartile rent is the lowest number under which 25% of renters pay for rent.

We then assumed that high school graduates would dedicate half of their disposable income to credit card payments. Using that figure, we calculated how long it would take to pay off $7,935 of credit card debt, determined by dividing the estimated outstanding credit card debt by the number of households in the U.S. in February 2021. We also assumed consumers would be paying interest of 15.91%, which was the estimated average credit card interest rate, according to the Federal Reserve.

Data for population, median income for high school graduates and lower-quartile rent comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey. February 2021 unemployment figures come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are measured at the county level.

Credit Card Tips

  • Consider consulting an expert. A financial advisor can help you plan so that you don’t find yourself in debt. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with advisors, get started now.
  • Budgeting can go a long way in minimizing or even preventing debt. A budget is another way to make sure you don’t end up with too much credit card debt. Use SmartAsset’s free budget calculator to plan how much to spend on various categories so you don’t end up owing more than you make.
  • Choose the right card for you. If you do use a credit card, use SmartAsset’s Best Credit Cards rankings to find one that is best for your lifestyle.

Questions about our study? Contact 

Photo credit: ©

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees

fizkes /

For myriad reasons, many seniors and retirees are staying in or jumping back into the job world. Money Talks News reports that by 2028 nearly a quarter of people 65 and older will be working.

Reasons include staving off boredom and loneliness, saving for big expenses, paying off debt or simple financial necessity.

As “8 Signs That It’s Time for You to Unretire” explains, a job also has value for retirees who are losing social connections, getting sedentary or have come up with a great business idea.

But many older workers don’t want the 40-plus-hour weekly grind and are looking for part-time employment.

Here are some of the best part-time options for seniors.

1. Private tutoring

Professor and assistant working on a laptop
Samo Trebizan /

Many retirees and seniors spent decades learning and training in their fields, and they are in a prime position to pass that knowledge along and get paid for it., Flexjobs, ASAP Tutor and are some websites where you can find part-time tutoring gigs that, depending on your experience and education, may be open to you.

2. Uber or Lyft driver

Prathan Chorruangsak /

Driving is a good part-time gig for retirees who can set their own driving schedules and have more flexibility during the day than the average 9-to-5 worker.

In 2019, when ride-sharing industry blogger Harry “The Rideshare Guy” Campbell surveyed reader-drivers, 43% of Uber and Lyft drivers said they were older than 61, and 10% were over 71.

3. Accountant

Dragon Images /

Seniors and retirees who are experienced accountants could be attracted to this occupation, which has many short-term assignments available all over the country for a wide variety of employers.

AARP says that accounting jobs are highly sought-after part-time jobs. Check FlexJobs for accountant gigs that suit you.

4. Dog walking, pet sitting

Fotokostic /

Pooch care company Rover gives reasons why dog walking is particularly good for the 50-and-up set:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Extra income
  • Control over your business

See if you have what it takes to be Fido-friendly at these nationwide companies: Rover, Wag and Barkly Pets. At you can sign up to do not only pet care but also senior care, housekeeping and child care.

5. Deliveries

kurhan /

The article “4 Ways to Earn Money Making Deliveries in Your Car” has ideas for seniors and retirees who have flexibility in the hours they can work each day.

Postmates and Shipt are two companies that seniors and retirees can consider checking for part-time delivery gigs. FlexJobs has other types of driver and delivery jobs — even pharmacy deliveries.

If you’re not comfortable driving people around for Uber, you may prefer driving food, for Uber Eats. It’s one of a number of companies hiring food delivery drivers. Instacart, a grocery shopping and delivery service, is another.

6. Concierge

Robert Kneschke /

Older residents can use their long knowledge of their city to help hotel guests find good restaurants, family attractions and other activities.

Seniors and retirees can also find concierge jobs at resorts in high-demand areas like Florida and Arizona, where the snowbirds swarm during the cold-weather months. FlexJobs listed part-time and seasonal concierge jobs when we checked.

7. Holiday jobs

mariakray /

Holidays bring long lines of shoppers, fitting rooms littered with tried-on clothes and lots of inventory work.

Cashiers, sales associates and customer service workers are typically in high demand by retailers during the winter shopping rush in the hectic weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This a good option for retirees looking for some part-time excitement and end-of-year cash. Retail giants such as Amazon, Kohl’s, Michael’s and Target are among stores that traditionally hire many new workers for their holiday rush. These tips will help you get hired.

8. Consulting

Consultant woman
fizkes /

This part-time gig — delivering expert advice to companies — is one of the most lucrative part-time jobs for seniors and retirees and allows them to use their decades of experience.

You don’t need an Ivy League MBA to become a consultant. If you have a wealth of knowledge and training in your field, there may be a company willing to pay for it.

Consulting gigs are among hot jobs that can be done from home, we report. Two companies that show would-be consultants first steps or offer training are Udemy and Learn How to Become.

9. National Park Service jobs

Zion National Park
Fotos593 /

The National Park Service has a wide variety of seasonal job listings, including positions as a ranger or a park guide for a few months each year.

Aramark, which operates resorts, recreational activities and lodges at several state and national parks and scenic destinations throughout the United States, lists many possibilities for those looking for seasonal and part-time jobs.

Another option for older workers is being a campground host. Seniors and retirees can interact with the camping public while enjoying nature and getting compensated for it.

10. Sports coach

sirtravelalot /

We are a country full of athletes of all shapes and sizes in every sport imaginable, and many seniors share their sporting passions by working with kids at schools, community centers and youth sports organizations.

It’s a terrific gig for seniors and retirees who can coach on a seasonal basis: football in the fall, baseball in the spring, for example.

11. Blogger

LTim /

Websites like Grey Fox, ElderChicks, Senior Planet and The Senior Nomads explode the prejudice that seniors don’t do tech.

If you have a way with words, visual creativity and a lot of great stories and ideas to share, think about starting a blog or a video blog (also called a “vlog”).

Blogging Basics 101 and Pro Blogger have tips and tricks to get you going.

12. Mentor/coach

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Plenty of young entrepreneurs and professionals have great energy, ambition and ideas, but need an experienced person to help mold all of that into success and help them avoid costly pitfalls.

Retirees and seniors who have built their own businesses can become professional trainers. Or volunteer to help early-stage entrepreneurs get on the right track.

13. Personal assistant

Jacob Lund /

These professionals deal with the routine stuff so that their bosses can focus on high-level projects without getting bogged down. Duties can include returning emails, screening calls, running errands and scheduling appointments.

This can be a desirable job for seniors and retirees, affording flexible hours and decent wages without stressful responsibility.

14. Translator or interpreter

Black Translator
fizkes /

In our increasingly multilingual world, translators and interpreters are needed more than ever in all sorts of places including government offices, social service agencies and customer service centers.

Bilingual and multilingual seniors and retirees who get certified can pick and choose among a wide variety of possibilities.

15. Substitute teaching

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Senior and retired teachers can bring a lifetime of experience, knowledge and training to the classrooms as substitutes. They know how to handle a room full of curious, energetic and sometimes rowdy kids, who often are very interested in the new adult in the room.

Depending on the state you live in, you might or might not need a teaching license or a substitute teaching license, the National Education Association says, in this state-by-state summary. It’s likely you will need to have a bachelor’s degree.

16. Security guard

Aaron Amat /

In your younger years, maybe you were a cop or gained policing experience in the military.

Those are great backgrounds if you want to pick up some extra bucks as a security guard. These jobs aren’t necessarily in a mall or at a bank. Industries that use security include:

  • Construction
  • Health care
  • Mining
  • Ports
  • Business
  • Condominium management

Security Guard Training HQ is one place to start finding out about training and employment possibilities around the country.

17. Golf course marshal or ranger

manzrussali /

After spending lots of time on golf courses over the years, seniors and retirees might relish the idea of giving back to the sport and making a little money doing it.

Golf course marshals keep fans quiet for players’ shots, look for stray balls, help spectators and generally help make sure things are running smoothly all over the course.

Search for golf course “marshal” or “ranger” jobs at Indeed and ZipRecruiter.

18. Tax preparers

A senior couple goes over paperwork with a professional in their kitchen
Andy Dean Photography /

Thanks to the seasonal nature of tax season — roughly December until Tax Day — this is a great job for retirees. You can enjoy the summer months and early fall with family and on vacation, and then earn extra bucks in the dark, tough-weather time of the year when being inside is the best option anyway.

Learn your tax chops by getting trained to be an IRS volunteer providing free tax help for qualifying taxpayers

Or enroll in one of many tax preparer training programs across the country.

19. Librarian assistant or aide

Senior worker in a library
LightField Studios /

You love books, and you love helping people. What better place to work than a library? Duties can include shelving books, sending out overdue notices, data entry and helping patrons with all manner of library requests.

Working in the library offers a mellow, air-conditioned environment with lots of learning going on.

20. Greeter

Lisa F. Young /

Wear a smile, welcome customers, get paid.

It’s a decent gig for older workers who can’t or don’t want to perform physically arduous tasks in big box stores, restaurants and hotels. Of course, an outgoing personality is absolutely essential to wearing a happy face for hours.

Check for listings at job board sites like Indeed, CareerBuilder and ZipRecruiter.

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


Billable vs. Nonbillable Freelance Work – What Hours Can You Invoice?

When you first start a career as a freelancer, it can take a while to get your bearings. From managing your own schedule and attracting new clients to determining your pricing and doing your own bookkeeping, there are a lot of things to figure out and get used to.

One aspect of freelancing that many independent contractors struggle with is what to bill for. Do you charge for a five-minute phone call with a client? What about if they booked an hour of your time but only used half of it?

Before you start sending out invoices, make sure that you have a good understanding of what your billable and nonbillable hours are to keep your records clear, consistent, and clean.

Billable Tasks Freelancers Can Include in Invoicing

Billable work is made up of the tasks you take on and complete for clients that you expect to get paid for. In general, this work is directly tied to a specific client’s project instead of comprising general tasks like your own freelance accounting or marketing.

Here are some of the most common billable tasks freelancers charge for.

1. Scheduled Meetings, Phone, and Video Calls

If a client schedules an in-person, video, or phone meeting with you, that time is typically billable.

It doesn’t matter how much you participate in the meeting. If a client requested your presence, even to observe a brainstorming session between employees or to watch a presentation, you can absolutely charge your hourly rate for the time you blocked out to attend it.

If the client only booked you for an hour but the meeting turns into two, bill them for the entire amount of time you were required to attend.

The only time that you wouldn’t want to charge for a call or meeting would be during an initial consultation or a quick, unscheduled call to confirm information or ask a simple question.

2. Professional Tasks

Professional tasks are the skills and abilities you have centered your freelance career around — for example, writing, software development, social media marketing, or graphic design.

These skills are directly related to why a client hired you and how you will contribute to their project. And they’re arguably the most obvious work items to bill clients for.

You should charge for professional tasks any time you use your time and skills to contribute to a client’s project, including:

  • Designing a logo
  • Editing a document
  • Updating HTML or CSS for a website
  • Drafting a social media post

Think of these tasks as the bread and butter of your working hours. They’re what should make up the bulk of your invoices and directly impact your profitability as a small business.

3. Project Planning

Project planning is the first phase of almost any new contract. This can involve:

  • Determining any required resources
  • Creating a timeline with projected milestones
  • Building a suggested plan for meeting a specific goal

Project planning shouldn’t be confused with drafting a quote or proposal. Actual planning takes place after a contract has been signed and you and the client both have a strong understanding of a project and its goals.

It’s made up of building out a strategy for the work you discussed during your initial consultation or contract negotiations.

For example, if you were hired to build and implement a monthly social media schedule, planning could mean creating an editorial calendar of posts for each month including how to handle holidays, which hashtags to use, and which topics to cover based on the client’s overall marketing goals.

Not all projects will require planning, but for those that do, make sure you get paid for the time you spend devising a strategy to help the client meet their goals.

4. Revisions

Most projects come with at least a little back and forth. Sometimes, revisions will be simple changes like adding a link or changing a color, while other revisions will be more intense and involve major updates.

Regardless of size, when a client requests a revision, the time you spend making adjustments to a piece of work you already submitted counts as billable work.

However, make sure to review how you agreed to handle revisions in your contract. For example, if you previously agreed to include one revision in your rate, you wouldn’t charge the client unless they asked for additional adjustments after the first revision was handed in.

5. Travel and Commute Time

Most client communication can be done virtually, but when it can’t, figuring out how to bill for your travel and commute time is challenging.

Although you may not bill a client for the 15-minute drive it takes to get to their office, what should you do when it’s two hours away? Or when it’s far enough that you need to fly?

A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you have to block out time for a client in order to attend a face-to-face meeting at their request, you can bill for it. Otherwise, you could be using that time to earn money by working for another client.

However, make sure to discuss your pricing and billing guidelines with a client upfront. Charges for travel and commute time shouldn’t be a surprise on your invoices. When a client asks you to travel a significant distance, let them know that it will be an additional cost on your next bill.

Giving them a head’s up also encourages clients to prioritize their time with you. If they really need you to travel, they’ll be willing to pay for it. And, if they don’t, they’ll schedule a video meeting instead once they understand your travel comes at a price.

6. Client-Specific Research and Learning

If you need to conduct research or learn a new skill to complete a project for a client, you can usually bill for it. For example, if a client requests that you use certain software to accomplish a task or that you learn about a new topic to inform a piece of writing, include your invested time in your invoicing.

This can also include tasks such as:

  • Interviewing an industry expert to learn about a product or process
  • Learning how to use a company’s internal project management system
  • Attending a client-requested conference or professional event

It should be noted that this only applies to research and skills directly related to a client or project. General learning that you do on your own to expand your skill set or freelance services shouldn’t show up on a client’s bill.

7. Client-Requested Time Blocks

Sometimes clients request to block out a chunk of your time, either for a meeting or because they want to reserve your time through a retainer. When a client books an hour of your time, but only uses 30 minutes of it, how should you bill?

If a client booked your time in advance and requested that you be available to work exclusively for them during that time, you can bill for it regardless of whether they use the full amount. It all comes back to whether you could have been using that time to work for other clients or not.

If a client tells you in advance that they want to cancel a meeting or cut it down to a shorter length, you can try to fill that hole in your schedule with other client work or administrative tasks.

But if they book you for a full eight-hour day and only end up needing you for half of it, whether you bill them for the total hours they requested in your schedule is up to you. Typically, it depends on the client and your relationship with them.

For larger, higher-paying clients, you can typically bill for the full amount. With smaller clients who are budget-conscious, you may consider only billing for the time you spent with them.

Alternatively, you can inform the client that they still have additional time with you they’re paying for and offer to use it up. It could be the perfect time for them to ask project-related questions or have you provide some professional insight. It’s a win-win for you both because you’ll be billing for what you expected and they won’t be paying for unused time.

Nonbillable Hours During a Freelance Workday

Nonbillable work is part of every freelancer’s schedule. Unpaid tasks like accounting, consultations, and learning can take up a lot of time, but they’re part of what helps you to run your business and hone your professional skill set.

Here are some of the most common nonbillable tasks in almost every freelancer’s schedule.

1. Accounting and Administrative Tasks

Unfortunately, you can’t bill clients for the time you spend taking care of your own accounting and administrative work, such as:

  • Preparing quotes and invoices
  • Tallying expenses
  • Ordering office supplies
  • Setting up your home office
  • Sending emails

All these tasks are on you, but they should technically be calculated in your hourly rate. So, although you can’t include them as line items on your invoices, you should still be getting paid enough for your billable time to cover for them overall.

2. Quick Emails and Phone Calls

Brief emails and phone calls with clients typically aren’t billable. While you should get paid for the time you spend working for your clients, you should also have a little give when it comes to answering simple questions or providing basic information.

If a client gives you a quick call or sends an email with a straightforward question, building a relationship is often worth more than what you’d get paid for the few minutes it takes to respond.

Although you want clients to respect your time, it’s also important to respect theirs. Only bill for phone calls and emails when they require a significant amount of time or additional work on your part.

For example, if a client calls you every day just to chat for an hour, you may need to let them know you are going to have to start billing them for your time in the future.

But if a client only reaches out once per week through email asking for a basic progress update, it’s probably not worth billing for.

3. Initial Consultations

Most freelancers offer initial consultations at no cost. Although they can be time-consuming, they provide you with a lot of information about the client, their project, and whether you want to work with them.

To save time, consider creating a questionnaire or email form for potential clients to fill out upfront. This will cut down on the unpaid time you spend reviewing possible projects and streamline your client vetting process.

4. Business Marketing Tasks

Marketing your business and building your client roster counts as nonbillable time. For example, you can’t charge clients for:

  • Updating your own social media pages or website
  • Writing blog posts for yourself
  • Sending cold emails to prospective clients you want to work with
  • Creating print or digital ads for your freelance business
  • Attending a general networking event or professional conference

The time you spend advertising and building your small business isn’t something that you can bill your clients for.

However, even though you can’t bill clients for the time, it does pay to put effort into finding future projects because it will help to keep your schedule full and paychecks coming in.

5. Recruiting and Hiring

Any time you spend recruiting, hiring, or looking for subcontractors for yourself is considered nonbillable time.

However, once hired, you can incorporate an employee or subcontractor’s rate into your own or include it separately on your invoices, depending on how they contributed to a project.

If a client project requires freelance work outside of your area of expertise, you can bill the client for the work separately. For example, if you’re a software developer and the client asks you to cover copywriting as well, you can bill for hiring a writer and include their rate on your invoice. Just make sure you let the client know you’ll be hiring the work out.

6. Developing Proposals

Often, you’ll send a proposal or quote to a prospective client after an initial consultation. Sometimes drafting a proposal takes a lot of time and involves a variety of different tasks, such as:

  • Competitor research
  • Market research
  • An industry analysis
  • Learning about new tools or trends
  • Reaching out to subcontractors
  • Multiple client meetings

And, typically, all of these tasks are nonbillable. Your proposal is what you use to entice and “hook” a client after you know enough about their project to understand what it would take for you to complete it. Just like a clothing store won’t pay you to try on clothes, a potential client won’t pay you to draft a proposal.

Base the information you provide in a proposal on the individual client and their needs. If you know you’re competing with another freelancer for the contract, put in more time and effort. If the project is straightforward and you’re confident a proposal is a simple formality, keep it basic.

7. Fixing Errors or Mistakes

Revisions to a project at the client’s request are one thing, but flat-out mistakes on your part are another. If you make an error because you misunderstood instructions or missed an email, it’s typically your responsibility to fix it on your own dime.

The best way to avoid mistakes is to make sure you have all the information you need before you start a project. If you need clarification, schedule time to go over any questions or issues early on. Take notes, request resources, and ask follow-up questions to get as much insight as possible.

If you do happen to make a mistake, fix it, learn from it, and move on. Just don’t bill your client for the time you spend correcting your error.

8. Professional Development

Professional development is an ideal way to hone your experience, learn new skills, and increase your competitiveness as a freelancer. But, if you’re doing it for your own sake and not because a client requested it, add it to your list of nonbillable activities.

Nonbillable professional development includes:

  • Enrolling in courses, programs, or workshops
  • Attending seminars and conferences
  • Participating in professional organizations

Even though you’ll have to work on professional development in your free time and on your own dime, it may well be worth it. Professional development and the education and networking opportunities it provides can help you to get better clients, charge a higher rate, and build a reputation in the future.

9. Networking

Meeting other freelancers and growing your network is essential to growing a strong freelance business, but it’s not something your clients are going to pay you for directly.

Attending meetups, summits, and conferences will help you to build a useful network of professional connections and even help you to find new clients. Although you can’t include it in your client invoices, networking does pay off in the end.

Focus on attending networking events that are either free or targeted to your interests and profession to keep costs low while still adding to your skill set.

Keeping Track of Your Freelance Hours

One of the best ways to separate your billable and nonbillable hours is to track your time. From distinguishing between paid and unpaid work to detailing the number of hours you spend on a particular client project, using time tracking software is an ideal way to get a handle on your time management.

There are a number of platforms you can use to create time logs for yourself in real-time, including:

  • Harvest — free for up to two projects.
  • Bonsai — $19/mth for invoicing, contracts, time tracking, and more.
  • Clickup — free for the basic version or $5 per month for unlimited.

Final Word

At the end of the day, what you charge for and how you bill clients is up to you. But if you don’t try to strike a balance in how you differentiate billable and nonbillable hours, your freelance business may suffer. It won’t take clients long to sour on being billed for time you’re spending answering quick emails or traveling to conferences they didn’t request you attend.

By managing your time wisely and creating billing guidelines for yourself to follow, you can forge stronger client relationships and work smarter, all while developing your professional skills, taking care of administrative tasks, and turning a profit.