My Colossal $10K Mistake

mistakeBackground 

When I was 18, I went to college for the first time. I studied Social Service Worker, in hopes of working with people who had addictions, relationship rescues and job coaching. I had recently left my childhood home, and was on my own for the first time. I hadn’t really planned on it, as it was a sticky situation surrounding my move out. Like every other student, I applied for student loans, and thought, once I became an adult, I would be making lots of money to pay this back.

Oh, How Life Mocks Me!

I started working in a call centre to tide me over until I found that “real job”. I called out to those who had mail ordered pantyhose for three months, and then the campaign ended, leaving us out of work. A newer centre was starting up down the street, and I hadn’t found that amazing opportunity yet, so I applied and was hired on there.

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What I Didn’t Know Could Fill A Swimming Pool… 

Lessons in money were never my strong point when I was in my twenties. I lived like others did, I ate out, spent money quickly, and barely paid my debts. Rent was always paid on time, and I always had work, but never made much of a living. I thought I’d paid off everything that I owed.

After I had left the call centre world (which is a story unto itself), I had been married, separated, a home owner, a landlord, and went from having my life moving into the right direction to having it stop completely, and start a slow slide to the bottom.

Career Change, Life Change, Pocket Change…

It was time for a change, and so I attended college again, this time focusing on law studies. I received my diploma in Law Clerk two years later. I need to interject for a moment: my (ex)husband and I had discussed my return to school, and had thought that working as a law clerk would be something I would enjoy, and would supplement our income nicely. The position was never intended to be one that brought in a lot of money, as my (ex)husband was in IT, and was doing well.

Fast forward to the second month of school, and I was unemployed, and newly separated. I was in school fulltime, and the program required a lot of time and effort. It was rumoured to be the toughest at our school. I did what any student would do – I turned back to student loans to make it through the years.

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A Super Short History Of Student Loans 

In Ontario, student loans are divided into two sections: provincially funded and federally funded. The loans were structured very differently the second time I attended school, as the first time I had a bank I could walk into and discuss what the loan repayment structure looked like.

The second time around, I had no one to speak to, and received the odd piece of mail. I moved a few times, being a student without a home for a bit. Throwing myself into my new career, I started at the bottom of the ladder, making a measely $12 an hour. Not enough for a single person to live on, and to make payments of student loans when they wanted $400-$500 monthly. No sir, their payment plan nearly rivelled any rent I paid. So I did what I had to do to keep food on my table.

I Stopped Making Payments

Yes, today I hang my head in shame and think about all the things I could have done differently, and how I chose to not. I chose to stick my head in the sand and pretend that it would go away. My income rose, dollar by dollar, over the years, never really keeping up with inflation, and I changed employers like I changed addresses. I was looking for the right fit.

Eventually, the Canada Revenue Agency sent me some scary looking letters, and I arranged a payment plan with them. I had been paying for a couple of years by that time, when I received a telephone call from a collection agency. This collection agency said they had received my student loan from the government, and they were collecting on their behalf. Thinking it was fraud, I demanded a statement. The representative said they couldn’t provide me with one, and I hung up.

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Fraud or Not? 

This company continued to call me, and I continued to dodge them, as they were your stereotypical collection centre: give me money or you will be sued! Who wants to speak to those people? Not me. Finally, about six months after that, I answered the phone and told them again, I want a statement. The girl on the phone again said it was something they couldn’t provide, so I told her that I would not be willing to pay them money if they couldn’t prove what it was for.

September 2017, I Started Blogging 

Fast forward to the beginning of my blogging days here, about six months ago. I had started researching investments, and getting serious about paying off debt. My partner and I had cut back on services that we didn’t need, and we worked together to reduce our expenses. I decided to start blogging about my journey, as I had studied ways to save money, ways to make the dollar stretch, how to cut out expenses, but I had never looked at investing, or how much debt really costs. I wanted to share all of this with others in the same boat, as I was sure there were others.

If any of you recall, I had applied for a new bank account with a local credit union. I found out that I had been declined because of a collections on my credit bureau. Sure enough, it was this collections company representing the unknown portion of student loans.

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Yes. It’s True. It’s All Mine. 

What a depressing moment that was, to see that I was another ten thousand in debt than what I originally had thought. I cried. I don’t admit that too freely, but I cried. I got mad at my partner because I can’t fix it tomorrow. I felt guilty at spending money on anything, and felt guilty to the point of eating food because it cost money, and not eating food as waste costs money as well. I started telling myself I didn’t need the extras, and then I would swing to the other side. My husband is an enabler. He supports me if I don’t spend, and supports me if I do. He just floats along with the thought that we will always have debt, we will always have to work, and there’s nothing that we can do to change it.

I’m mad. Fired up! Angry!

I’m really angry at myself, and at the choices I made. Did I think I could just outrun this debt? Why did I accept so much? Why did I spend it all or try harder? What was I thinking, all those years ago?

I wasn’t thinking. Instead, I was thinking about new clothes, a trip to Las Vegas, paying my share of groceries and rent, adopting pets, etc. It’s embarassing to admit this to everyone, but I am hoping someone reads this and thinks twice: 

1. You can’t run away from debt.
2. Student Loans need to paid back.
3. Think twice about your lifestyle.

1. YOU CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM DEBT. 2. STUDENT LOANS NEED TO PAID BACK. 3. THINK TWICE ABOUT YOUR LIFESTYLE. Click To Tweet

In July of 2016, I quit smoking. I was a pack-a-day smoker, and more on weekends. Did you know cigarettes cost over $10 a pack for the brand I was smoking? Literally, I was wasting over $300.00 a month, for twelve years. I could have paid my student loans off FOUR TIMES. When I realized that smoking was costing me that much money, together with the fact that I don’t want to die a horrible death I may have been able to prevent, I quit. (Still smoke free, actually.)

mistake

Owning My Mistake.

This is my $10k mistake. Perhaps it’s more like a $50k mistake, all things considering, but the debt is around $10k. It’s time to annihilate this debt and to make my credit work for me, and not against me. It’s time to pay for my education.

Time to Hustle

So watch me hustle, spend less, do more, find freelancing work, find any work, write hard, blog harder, etc., because I really want this paid off in four months. Yes, four months. My current salary will not support even half of that, so it’s time for some hustling.

Are you hiring? Do you have any freelancing work for me?

Thanks for joining me on my journey. Get updates by jumping on the mailing list or follow me on Twitter.  

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase through these links. Please see my disclosure for more information. Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by providing links to Amazon.ca and affiliated sites. 

Direct Sales: How and Why It Could Be Your Best Money Maker

Money MakerI Believe In Opportunity 

Recently, I have witnessed a lot of distrust and dislike for certain side hustles or side gigs, namely with respect to direct sales and MLM companies. I share a different perspective, and I am going to tell you why. I believe direct sales and MLM companies can present one of the best side hustle or side gig for anyone who is interested in building their own business. But, before I do, I want to share a few things that you need to know. 

Background Info You May Not Know

MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing. Direct Sales and MLM companies have been around for over a hundred years, and started with door to door sales of knives, encyclopedias, and perfumes. This is how Avon started. It was a sales person who performed poorly at selling books, but every house he went to, he received praise for his fragrances and cosmetics that he made at home as a hobby. One of the original side gigs, if you will. He expanded on this side gig as he saw more promise in selling women’s products than the books that he peddled. Today, that company is still in existence, and is still a profitable way to earn money.  

Tupperware, Amway, Thirty-One Gifts, Scentsy, Norwex – these are just a few of the opportunities in direct sales or multi-level marketing.

The Details of the Business (Nitty-Gritties)

Opening shop with a direct sales company is much like opening a micro business of your own. Each company has a “buy-in”: usually it’s a kit of common items that a representative would sell in the normal day-to-day business. Sometimes the company requires a big buy-in, where you get a large kit of goods, and other times you can sign up for free, or a very small cost. Either way, the company doesn’t focus on this buy-in to make money. The range is usually between $10 – $300.00 to sign up. 

 

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I like to compare this concept to franchises. If you wish to operate a franchise, you have to purchase the rights to have that storefront. You pay money for the opportunity to hang out a well-known name, and to represent their goods. Think Subway, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. All of these places charge for start up, and there is a head company who controls all of the franchises. (Which is why the BigMac is supposed to be the same around the world.)

No Big Bills

The direct sales companies handle promotional advertising and marketing.

This is ideal for a few reasons:

  1. The independent sales rep pays for this from a portion of sales made, and doesn’t have to put out thousands in advertising.
  1. The company can control the quality and quantity of the advertising.
  1. The company has a marketing team of experts who know what works and what doesn’t.
  1. The independent sales rep is not required to test the market, pay for advertising, pay for experts, etc.

Direct Sales Responsibilities 

The biggest responsibility that falls to the rep is to keep herself (or himself) organized; and build a customer base. Keeping customers happy on a service level is within the control of the rep, and the company takes responsibility for the rest. 

How to Make Money in Direct Sales

In most situations, the representative has options on how to make money:

Sales

A representative makes a base commission (or a set value) on the sales. This is no different than a car salesman! As the representative builds her sales levels, she makes a higher commission.

Commissions can be based on the size of the order, the amount of sales over a period of time, or on the items ordered. Each company sets out their own earning structure.

The representative is responsible to obtain sales materials, like catalogues, and any other branded items that she wants to use. While this comes from the representative’s proceeds, it is still a business expense that can be written off at the end of the year. 

Branded items, like pens or car wraps, are not necessary, but are a great way to get the conversation started. I have experienced sales firsthand just by having a magnet on my car stating what company I was representing.

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Teams (like Affiliate Training!)

Some companies offer additional commissions or rewards if you provide support to other representatives.

Much like affiliate marketing and training, you find a product that you support, and the company will pay you to promote the product. If others purchase that product based on your recommendation (or link), you are paid for your services. The company wins with your promotion of their product and you win by being paid.

Building a team with direct sales is the same concept. It’s natural to talk about your business, and to find like-minded individuals who want to sell the same products. By supporting these individuals throughout their growth as a representative, they are more likely to succeed, which makes the company money. In turn, the representative is rewarded by receiving a commission of the team member’s sales. 

The Pyramid Scheme Plan

It’s the model of the “pyramid” that makes people believe there is a hidden and  nefarious intention, but in reality, it’s a smart marketing move. As a head of any company, if I can motivate representatives to take on a team, support them and encourage success, why wouldn’t I pay an extra 2-10% of the sales? That’s worth it! 

Be Passionate

Choosing the right direct sales company is always key. My personal rule of thumb is to choose a company when you are passionate about their products.

Ideally, choose a company that you already use products from. I chose certain companies because I knew I would be buying the products anyways, and saving some money with a seller’s discount just makes good “cents”.  

The success of direct sales is often tied into selling items that people already buy. In the general population, who doesn’t buy soap, gift wrap, clothes, food containers, candles, books… we all buy these items at one time or another.

 

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Misnomers, Myths and Lies

Some misnomers about direct sales companies: 

– The companies encourage representatives to spam products on those around them.  WRONG.

This is very false. Most companies frown on spamming. When you see a representative “spamming” groups online, feeds, fliers, etc., you are seeing someone who is very excited about their products and their business. It’s more of an etiquette issue than anything else, but it’s no different than that vegan over there that tells you she’s a vegan every day. Oh, did you know she’s a vegan? (No disrespect to vegans!)

– You have to sign up your mom, grandma, sister and neighbour, otherwise you will not make any money. WRONG.

Good companies do not force representatives to sign up others. It’s a big responsibility to run a team, and to encourage them to continue. Having your family as representatives for the same company does not fair well: it means everyone is buying at a discount, and everyone is getting the same thing for Christmas, (ha) but really, companies do not force you to do that. Again, it’s the individual representative’s enthusiasm that is usually behind the push. 

– Very little pay for a lot of work. WRONG.

Like any business, side hustle or investment, it’s like pushing a rock up a hill. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but eventually you will get up the hill. Keep at it. Then, when the rock crests over the hill, you know you’ve made it. It’s still going to be a lot of work to keep up with the rock, but you are finally seeing progress. 

You see, direct sales companies are modeled after bigger companies, and have many of the same traits. There’s payment for a job well done, and freedom to run your business how you see fit. Many people find their direct sales business fits into their life, as opposed to having their life fit around a business. 

Isn’t that the goal? 

When we naturally purchase these items as part of our daily life, it’s not unreasonable to seek out the best value. Prices are competitive everywhere, and depending on the product, they can be as readily available as if you had gone shopping at the store. The difference is customer service. You will never find a Wal-Mart employee who does house calls, or gives you fragrance samples with your purchase. Target doesn’t offer raffles, thank you gifts or camaraderie with the sales person, and you cannot rely that the same sales person will be there next week.  With direct sales, you have one person you are dealing with, and that’s what makes it special.

If you feel inundated with ads on social media, requests to host parties, or the office “pass the book around”, do not feel guilty by saying, “No, thank you.”

However, by buying from direct sales representatives, you might be:
– fundraising for a good cause
– helping a struggling mom fit her side business into her off-hours because she can’t get a second job with her schedule
– assisting a student pay for school
– enjoying a quality product!

Any side gig or hustle requires dedication and hard work, and some of these people work the hardest. I know some that have made a fulltime income from their home business. It’s very possible.

My intention today is to show you that direct sales are not what they used to be. They are simple, flexible, home-based businesses worked by people like us. They are not scams, and no more a risk of being a fly-by-night company than any other opportunity out there.

Watch the video below. Two people from Hamilton, Ontario launched a company selling tea mixes, and they pitched the Dragon’s Den. The investors jumped at the opportunity, and the expansion grew beyond anyone’s expectation. This is an example of a direct sales company. This could be yours.

I look forward to hearing what you think of direct sales companies, and if any of this was new to you, or changed your mind.  You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or join the community page on Facebook.

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How to beat procrastination

How to beat procrastination:
Prioritizing when life gets overwhelming

It has been much too long since I wrote a new post. I have been working on one of my resolutions or goals for the new year: to move my site to WordPress, which would allow me more functionality than the free host site I was using. In the process of doing that, I also re-branded, and changed the direction of some of what I am working on. Talk about an overhaul!

Where we came from

BendNeverBreak was started at the end of September, so I thought that there would never be a better time than now to change my blog to reflect what I am working towards. While BendNeverBreak reflected my love of all things ocean and palm trees, and the inner strength of the Palm Tree, it occurred to me that Xennial Blogger describes me, my audience, and the people around me so much more.

The Xennial is a child born (roughly) between the years of 1976 – 1985, and were raised in an analog world. Even the word analog isn’t heard much by the millennials these days, as it pertains to the life we lived without remote controls, cell phones (that were not huge!), and even portable calculators and hand-held games. As our childhood ended, and we were launched into adulthood, we discovered that the world had become automated by computers. It was almost an instant change, where we had our rudimentary skills put to the test almost instantly, and never stopped running alongside technology since.

This is the challenge that we face. We are too young to be true Generation X children, and we can’t relate to the Beta days and records as easily as they can. We don’t really understand Millennials and their choice of words (woke?) as easily as they do, as we are still old-school in our habits. However, we have been living between the two stages and finally recognized as Xennials. 

The change in the website doesn’t exclude either Gen X or Millenials, but embraces them. I want to speak to those who are new to understanding money – beyond the pay-cheque to pay-cheque.  I know you come in all ages, sizes, colours, etc… and we are all learning together. Trust me, not everyone has a 401k or RRSP started by the age of 30 or even 40, or even 50. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. So let’s not make it about not having the information, because this is the place to get it. 

procrastination
Cuban Turtle Illustrating Life At Its Best

Where we are now

Back to the topic at hand: PROCRASTINATION.

I love my Sunday mornings. On Sunday, I usually have most of the day to myself, and it’s a day for me. Much like many other families, I work on laundry, make food for lunches over the next week, write a post or two, play on Pinterest, watch a movie or simply cuddle with my dogs. It’s the day before my week begins again, so I just take it slow.

Today is no different. I planned to write, reformat the posts that did not convert well, do some reading, and just be productive. So far, I have started homemade soup, slow-cooking a rack of ribs for dinner tonight, had breakfast, cuddled with pups, napped… and it’s 10 am. I have not done a thing on my to-do list for today.

I’ve been procrastinating.

Many of us have found ourselves listening to the voice whispering that you should check on Youtube for the newest videos that you subscribe to, or it would be easier to start with something easy, and work your way into that room, or you can’t start a project without all the tools, so you must go shopping to get the tools first, and start after you get back.

So many excuses!

The biggest hurdle for me is right when I am in the beginning steps, and I look around and realize how much there is to do. I start to feel overwhelmed, and I step back. Further back. Like, another three steps. And then go work on something else.

NO MORE!

In order to beat this feeling, grab a pen and a piece of paper. Sit down, and take a breath. Write down all the things you want to work on. No matter how big or how small, just write it down. Is it down? Now stand up. Go work on one of those. Start at the beginning, and tell yourself – you can only go step by step, and bit by bit.

If you are overwhelmed by dusting your house – start in the upper corner of the left part of the room. Go to the closest piece that needs dusting. Keep going around the room. Only dust. Do not get distracted by the book you have to put away, or the fact that the shelf needs one more thing, or that the TV is angled weird. DUST. You will soon be done. When you are done, you will find it was not as bad as you thought, and that staying on track allowed you to get the dusting done.

One Step At A Time

Anything in life can be broken down into steps. By taking dedicated steps, you will always be able to accomplish your goals. The list is a reminder of what you are wanting to accomplish. You can accomplish anything, if you stick with it.

I’m also willing to venture out and say that it wasn’t as hard as you thought once you started, was it?

I have made it sound very simple. It really is. When you try this method, you will notice it works.

One more tip for today:

Reward yourself. After you have accomplished something on your list, be sure to mark it off (that in itself is rewarding) then make a cup of tea or a cold drink, and take ten minutes to relax. (Set a timer if you are afraid you will not get back up in ten.) Tell yourself how well you did, and how much easier the rest of the tasks will be, now that you have mastered beating procrastination.

 

If you have other tips or questions, I’d love to hear them! As always, please share this post with friends if you found it helpful, and be sure to subscribe below.