Monday, April 27, 2015

In My Opinion: Amazon Mechanical Turk

Lately I have been having more discussions about how people are earning money online and in every discussion Amazon Mechanical Turk would pop up. Amazon Mechanical Turk, or Mturk is a website where companies post small simple jobs or tasks with a small payout after finishing the task. This money can eventually be either put straight into one's Amazon account or be given by Direct Deposit. I decided that I would take spend an hour on Mturk and decide after the first review if I would go ahead with a 30 day challenge to see if it really is something that people could make reasonable money off of.

I first created an account in only a few minutes, but was told to wait up to 48 hours for my account to be authorized before I could start looking at the small jobs called hits. Fortunately only 2 hours later I received an e-mail stating that I had been authorized! That was good since I may have forgotten about this challenge all together after 2 days. 

0:00 -I first just decided to go for the first hit that I was qualified for. This happened to be a transcribing task where I typed a few originally handwritten numbers for $0.02 cents each. It didn't take much thinking and I whipped out about 6 in 5 minutes. However these were quite easy,  and $0.12 cents in 5 minutes or a $1.44 an hour didn't seem quite worth it.

0:06 -I then decided that maybe I would take a shot at the great abundance of survey hits that were available. My first survey asked to respond to a few News headlines for $1.00. This only took about 4 minutes. Much more worth my time.

0:10-My second survey I actually enjoyed very much. It was a decision making survey worth $0.75, however I clicked because it said that I had the ability to earn up to an extra dollar. In this survey I was given certain amounts of virtual money and was given options of giving, investing, or taking money from others. It felt sort of like a game. It took about 8 minutes and I earned an extra $0.44 bonus. Not great, but not bad either.

0:19 - I continued for the next 20 minutes working on surveys. I did a $0.50, $0.80, $0.50, and $1.00. A tip for the surveys: most of the surveys are very short and don't even get close to the 30 minute or 45 minute allowed time to take. For the short amount of time, I found these to be satisfying. 

0:40 - While looking at what my next Mturk adventure would be I noticed that there were quite a few tasks that required a qualification or qualification test. I made a mental note to look deeper into these for further explanation, but didn't want to spend the time to take tests that were unpaid at the moment.

0:42 - I chose to do a few more lower paid tasks just to see what they were like, and chose a task where you search for a given word in the screen's search bar that brings up an array of youtube videos for $0.05 each. In the videos you just clip it to a scene where it was describing the original given word. After doing the first video, I was able to churn out another 8 of them in less than 5 minutes. $0.45 in that time frame is ok. 

0:43 - Wasted one minute being frustrated that I messed up one of my videos clippings by not clicking on "submit" before clipping the video. Make sure to always click "submit" before doing any work!

0:45 -  By sorting the hits by cost, I was able to avoid the small paying hits altogether. This saved quite a bit of searching time, and knowing I would be getting better pay (at this moment I just put the search at $0.50 or higher). 

0:46 - Sorting was a godsend, because I found myself on a task where I look up a restaurant on a company's website and write a 50 word review for $1.50. Not only did this only take 5 minutes to complete, but the task allowed for double submission if you reviewed a completely different restaurant. $3.00 in 10 minutes? I would thumbs up that!

0:57-I started to slow down and looked at my overall success (if you want to call it that). To my surprise I already had $2.44 worth of approved hits and $1.32 paid into my account! (I will mention that you are not allowed to transfer any earnings until ten days after your first approved hit)

Altogether I found that I earned a total $8.49! This amount is however pending approval and payment from all the hits. 

What do I think? I found that you can make ACTUAL money on MTurk. Is it enough to live on? Probably not. I wouldn't go quitting a day job or any job for that matter to sit and fill out surveys all day. Although if you want to earn a few extra dollars here or there while watching TV, then go for it! Mturk looks like it could be a useful way of filling up small spaces of time, however I would recommend getting a part time position if you find yourself with large spaces of time that need to be filled in money-making opportunities. 

I decided that I will be continuing the goal of either doing one hour or $5.00 worth of Mturk every day (whichever comes first) to learn the bells and whistles so I can write an update post of tips and results. I feel that I will better answer a lot of the qualification questions you all may have or how to benefit even more from Mturk! Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Top 7 Tax Mistakes: Information Can Go A Long Way

As I do everyday, I was on CNN Money when I found myself on an article that showed and explained the top 7 mistakes that citizens make on their tax returns every year. To look at the original article, please click here. Let's take a look at the seven mistakes and how to prepare to not make one when you are ready to sit down and do you own taxes this year.

No Signature

This is one of the mistakes that many people would look at and say, "I would never." Well people, never say never, because everyone is subject to forgetting to sign something at one point or another. It just happens that many people's time is during tax season! I conclude for myself that I may be so worried about the more complicated areas of my taxes that I just don't worry about it or pass it and assume later that it has already been done.

How to fix: Before you push a pen onto your tax return get a sticky note or colored tape and mark all the places that if not filled out will result in an audit (we sure love to be audited!). That way when you are finishing up your return, you will have to remove the sticky note any way and remember that maybe that area needs a second looker.

Wrong Social Security Number

I must say that if one is at the age where they are filing a tax return that maybe they should have their SSN already memorized, however I do realize that husbands, children, etc also come into play during this time. 

How to fix: Remember those Pokemon or baseball card holders? Well who knew they work very well with holding important smaller documents like social security cards! Just slide all of those into one of the folders and then put it into the area where you keep all your important documents (binder, file, etc). Come tax season pull out you will be able to look at all of the cards at once and keep them organized.

Wrong name
This another area where one was probably just a little absent minded while filing. It can also be a little difficult if you or a member of your family goes by a different name than what is on their social security card.

How to fix: This can be fixed as easily as double checking or making sure that the names match those on your social security cards. Don't rush or those simple little mistakes will go overlooked.

Wrong Filing Status
This is a quite understandable mistake if your status has changed since you previously filed your taxes. Common reasons for your status changing is: marriage, divorce, death, etc.

How to fix: Understand what would cause for you to change your status and be aware if any of these events happen to you. For information about what each status's qualifications are click here.

Mistakes Claiming Credits and Deductions
Deductions may be one of the most "fun" parts of filling out your taxes right behind receiving your tax return. Credits and deductions are grant such as the Child and Dependent Care Credit and the Education Credits.

How to fix: Make sure you have a list of all the credits that take place and see if you qualify for them. If you are unsure if you qualify for a certain tax credit please take a look at this link or access your state website to see where there can be further assistance for your questions.

Wrong Bank Account Number
I will be quite honest that I am not even 100% sure of my own bank account numbers. This is a very important step to having your tax refund being deposited into your account. This is a big reason for filing your taxes correct?

How to fix: If you are unsure of what your bank account number is that you would like to have refund or tax expense to come from or go into then look at your previous bank statement.

Math Errors
Everyone isn't amazing at math. Even the smartest mathmaticians probably have been caught messing up simple calculations every once in a while.

How to fix: Having a calculator if you are filing your taxes by hand is probably a must. Modern times is making it even easier to file electronically and even doing all your addition and subtraction for you! Just make sure in the end to double check every entry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Money Knowledge You Wish You Knew In College

1. Make Your Own Food Think about how much that coffee mocha latte from Starbucks costs you. Now think about how much brewing your own cup coffee with cost you. Want to know the numbers? 4.50 vs 37 cents!!! If you buy your own groceries and make your own food, you WILL save money than going out.

2. Buy grocery basics at the cheapest place where you can also use those coupons or rebat

This way you can save on what you buy all the time

3. Buy expensive periodically than cheap oftenIf you make a plan and save for a more expensive item, then you know that you have thought through the purchase and am not splurging all the time

4. Apply for a credit Card for one reason and one reason only, to build creditWhen you apply for a credit card make sure to research which card you would like. I would recommend getting the Discover it card because it works really well with students and you earn cash back with every purchase!

5. Pay off any outstanding bills before they start dragging your credit down. I have heard horror stories about a decades-old $36 hospital bill dragging a credit score down 100 points.

6. Observe the 50/30/20 budget (after taxes). This handy ratio was dreamed up by Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard bankruptcy professor and the author of All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. Immediate living expenses (rent, utilities, automobills) take up 50 percent of your earnings. Wants (vacations, clothes) take up 30 percent. The Future (savings) takes up 20 percent. Helpful guideline, even if your individual budget is slightly tweaked to meet your specific needs.

7. Having very little savings during your first post-college years is normal. In fact, you will look back on the days of trying to make a decent dinner of frozen vegetables and one egg rather fondly, if you can believe it.

8. But having savings in yo
ur later 20s will make you feel so much safer and give you an opportunity for a nicer lifestyle. Even if it seems implausible right now, having a small fraction of each paycheck automatically transferred into a savings account is really effective over time. We're talking like $50 bucks, if that's all you can manage.

9. Don't be resentful of friends with wealthy parents who can rely on their financial support. It may be frustrating to see them be so cavalier about money that haven't even earned while you're obsessing over ways to save and barely getting by, but they undoubtedly have their own insecurities about being supported by their parents. And it feels so much better to be independent, even if you have to skip a few restaurant dinners to do it.

10. Don't rely on a significant other financially. It makes sense to adjust rent to scale if you live together (e.g., if you're making $30,000 a year and he's making $60,000, it's reasonable to want him to pay slightly more), but winding up totally fiscally dependent, like day-to-day, on the person you have sex with is a bad idea.

11. Don't be afraid to upgrade your lifestyle according to your financial capabilities. Say you get a new job where you're making twice as much money as you were. It's OK to want to move to a nicer place, or eat out more, or treat yourself. It feels weird at first if you're not used to it, but TREAT YO'SELF.

12. Taxes! TAXES! They're so horrible. In some cities you take home like half of your paycheck. I'm serious. Don't forget to factor taxes into every decision you make. Just pretend your official salary doesn't matter, and add up your actual real world paychecks monthly to get your post-tax salary.

13. If you're salaried, enrolling in a 401(k) will help with your taxes a little bit. Because the taxes are done after the deduction, which will make them slightly less.

14. It's not tacky or annoying of you to ask a new boss about the company's expense policy. That's what they're there for. Just remember how much money the company has!

15. Never carry over debt from month to month. If you're not going to be able to afford it that month, don't buy it. Exceptions for things like cars and houses, obviously.

16. Set up automatic payments on your student loans. If you miss a payment on those things they charge you like crazy.

17. Never ever get store credit cards. I had a Nordstrom card once. It almost ruined my life. The interest is really high, and they rope you in with a slight discount the first time, but then you are HOOKED.

18. If you have a bank or a credit card with an app, download it. It will help when you forget until the last minute to pa
y that credit card bill.

In My Opinion: Ibotta

What is it?
Ibotta is an app that you can buy at the iTunes store in which you get rebates for buying certain products at grocery or retail stores. After a certain amount one can have their rebates deposited into the Paypal account or trade it in for certain gift cards!

How does it work?
It's pretty simple! Scroll through the products by category that are eligible for rebates then you click to unlock. Unlocking is achieved by taking a poll, looking at a fact, or watching a video. (They have to make a profit somehow right???) Then you go shopping! After you are done shopping you take a picture of your receipt and then way for the rebates to be credited to your account.

What do I think?
When I first downloaded the app I was pretty excited, however I did realize that I was not going to be stacking my rebates in a fast time frame because I was only unlocking rebates on products that I always buy anyway. After time the couponer clicked within me though and the numbers started to run and I found that you up to double your deals. For example, let's say you were going to purchase NAKED juice and it was on sale $2/5, you have a coupon for a dollar off AND now with Ibotta you have a $1.00 rebate. Add it all up and you are getting that NAKED juice for only 50 cents!!!  I do love getting products for almost nothing or even free.
My only main comment that I will make against the app is that they do not offer as many products as I would want. I hope that as the app progresses that it will be able to add even more rebates for products to choose from.

All in all I would give the Ibotta app 4.5/5 stars!

Monday, April 13, 2015

5 Tips for Test Anxiety

Although being a little nervous during a test is normal, when a person has a certain fear of failure that nervousness can escalate to test anxiety. I suffer quite often from different types of test anxiety. I will quite often know the material very well but during the test find myself going blank, perspiring, or starting to breath unevenly and heavily. Test anxiety is an overwhelming fearful, stressed emotion towards and exam or quiz. Test anxiety can have many causes such as loss of sleep, lack of preparation, lack of organization etc. However sometimes test anxiety's cause cannot be explained. How can test anxiety be conquered? I learned that it is all a mind game, and if I can switch certain thoughts then I can improve my overall feelings and performance.
5 Tips for Test Anxiety:
Give Yourself Time
I find that if I start my studying at least a week before the test I will overall have a better score and piece of mind. Giving yourself enough time before an exam can help with organization, understanding, and planning. Plan out what you are going to study, where you are going to study, and who you are going to study with. Also give yourself a day that is during the professor's office hours to go in and ask questions or grab a better concept of certain areas that are troublesome.
Get Into A Study Group
I never really realized the benefits of a study group until I entered my first college Microeconomics class. The intro to the material was very difficult for me to understand, but found that if I was in a study group with others, I would walk away with a much higher understanding. Study groups have two main benefits in my opinion: First would be having someone that understands the concept better than yourself; so they can explain it to you. Second is that if someone doesn't understand a concept you can explain it better them and resulting with you both gaining understanding of the material.
Make A List
Many times anxiety has a strong correlation with feeling overwhelmed. Making a list or schedule with times to study and also all the other events that are going during that period can help one feel more in control of what is taking place. Having a list will make you not feel so "scatter-brained" and be able to focus better.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
In college sleep is sometimes hard to come by however, during an exam period it is very important to get a full night's rest. When I lose sleep, I find that I lose my patience and focus on concepts and will give up a lot easier than if I am well rested. Recharging will help the brain be able to focus and retain new knowledge better.
It's Only One Test
When it comes down to it, remember that it is only one test. When the test is turned in, you can just put it behind and move forward. Know that you prepared as much as you could have prepared and take a learning experience from it. Future employers will never ask what your score was on your intro to philosophy midterm.