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09/18/17 Work # ,

How Much is Your Time Worth?

How Much is Your Time Worth?

My time is worth more than $1.25 an hour. Everyone’s time is worth more than that.

Yet that’s how much I was paid to go through a jury selection process at my local courthouse a few weeks ago. I didn’t get on the jury — for a murder trial that’s still taking place — or the pay rate of $7.50 a day for six hours of jury duty each day would have turned out to be less at an hourly rate.

I was only at the courthouse for two days, earning $15 for jury service and $2.38 for mileage. Others had been there for a week before a jury was selected. Some received full pay from their employers for their time in court. Others, like me, are freelancers who don’t earn money if they aren’t working.

I don’t mean for this to be a rant on how to improve the jury selection process or the importance to society of volunteers for jury service. It’s a key part of a working democracy.

Value your time

What it got me thinking about was how we value our time. I’ve written here about how to set rates as a freelancer. It’s not rocket science. If you want quality, you pay for quality.

The same goes for jury service, I believe. Again, without going too far on a tangent about jury selection, do you really want jurors who are in a jury box against their will because they can’t get out of jury duty? Who have employers who can pay them for a month or more to miss work? Continue reading

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09/06/17 Sharing Economy , Work # , ,

Week of Lyft Doesn’t Offer Hope for Sharing Economy

Week of Lyft Doesn’t Offer Hope for Sharing Economy

I’m a fan of the sharing economy. After a week of riding Lyft, however, I’m not so sure about it — at least for those doing the sharing.

The service was great and I was happy with the cost and speed of the trips I took. But from the standpoint of the drivers and the money they make to push driving for Lyft into a viable job — even part-time work — I don’t see it as a long-term solution to helping people improve their incomes much.

I used Lyft regularly for a week because my car was hit by a hit-and-run driver and it needed to be in the repair shop for a week. My insurance company offered me a rental car or up to $200 in free Lyft rides, with more money for Lyft rides available if I needed it. I work from home so I only needed it to run a few errands, and I only used about $100.

Here are some of the surprising things I learned about Lyft and the sharing economy from drivers, and from a ridesharing expert I interviewed:

Fulltime driving isn’t enough

My first driver was a DJ, about college age, who told me he drives 60 to 80 hours a week for Lyft. He didn’t earn much money, he said, and the driving takes away from his passion of making music.

This led to a college-age discussion about how much money you need, and if working in a job that doesn’t fulfill your passion is worthwhile. His goal was to find ways to turn his musical interests into earning money, and to drive less.

The value of a driver’s time didn’t seem to be computed on many levels by Lyft, though I got differing opinions on the value of driving for Lyft when working 40 hours or more per week.

Bonuses are key

Another driver, a former fulltime taxi driver in San Francisco, told me that working 40+ hours per week only allows him to earn money to live on if he meets Lyft’s bonus goals. The more trips a driver makes, the closer they can get to earning a Lyft bonus. That makes short trips more profitable, he said.

Lyft explains its Power Driver Bonus in detail on its website. It has various requirements, including giving rides at peak times, having a 2011 or later model car, a high acceptance rate and bonus tiers.

For people who driver 40 to 50 hours per week for Lyft, the bonuses are accessible and equate to providing 60 rides per week, says Harry Campbell, owner of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and podcast about ridesharing and a driver for Lyft and Uber. Continue reading

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08/30/17 Personal Finance , Work #

The Biggest Thing Holding Electric Vehicle Sales Back

The Biggest Thing Holding Electric Vehicle Sales Back

I bought a used electric vehicle (EV) three years ago. My Nissan Leaf has been a great car, and one of my top concerns when I first got it — range anxiety — hasn’t turned out to be so much of a problem.

Instead of worrying if I’ll have enough juice to get home, I’ve found that two other concerns have been more troublesome. One I don’t have much control over unless I buy a new car, and the other is a frustration that electric vehicle companies should deal with if they want to see more people buy their cars.

The first issue, which some car companies such as Ford and Tesla are dealing with well, is creating a better battery for electric vehicles that gets longer range. When I bought my 2011 Leaf in 2014, it had a range of about 80 miles on a full charge. That’s now down to 60 miles, according to the car charger, though in reality it’s closer to 40 miles.

EV batteries lose charging abilities just as phones and other electronics do. They can only be charged so many times, and eventually they’ll die.

Forty to 60 miles per charge is fine for me because I use my car for local-only trips: Picking up my daughter at school, going to the grocery store, and other errands. For trips outside of our immediate area, we use my wife’s internal combustion engine car.

But someday the Leaf’s battery will get so low that I’ll either have to charge it at least once a day, or buy a new battery or car. A new battery costs about $8,000. For now, I charge the car about twice a week.

The bigger issue

Losing range and being unsure if your electric vehicle will have enough power to get you to a charging station or home to charge are big enough problems that can stop potential EV buyers.

The bigger problem is a lack of charging stations. And I don’t mean charging stations along roads — though those are welcomed — but charging stations at everyday places people drive to: Continue reading

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08/21/17 Children , Work # ,

7 Easy Ways for Teens to Make Money

7 Easy Ways for Teens to Make Money

Editor’s note: This post on how to make money as a teen is written by the daughter of the owner of CashSmarter.com.

By Emma Crowe

Growing up, children depend on their parents to feed their bellies, clothe their bodies and give them a roof to sleep under. Although teens require that as well, parents are less likely to provide them with candy, Starbucks drinks, money for the mall, CDs, electronic devices and other unnecessary items.

Parents push their kids to earn their own money to spend on those kind of things. For young teens finding out how you can make money without getting a real job (like working at at fast food restaurants) is difficult. Some want to earn their own money, yet are too young to get real jobs. I’m 13, and am trying to earn my own money.

Here are my top ways for teens to earn their own money:

Make Money by Babysitting

For some teenagers, babysitting is a walk in the park. Playing with kids all day, what could be better? For others, however, it’s annoying and irritating to deal with children’s every demand.

Some requirements for a good babysitter are:

  • CPR certified
  • Likes kids
  • Can cook meals for them
  • Energetic
  • Can handle temper tantrums

Most teen babysitters earn about $7 to $12 per hour, depending on the number of kids.

Advertise your babysitting services using flyers around your neighborhood.

About me: When I babysit, I usually do it when their mother is around, because I am not old enough to babysit them by myself yet.

Mother’s helper

If your child is not quite the age to be babysitting on their own, a mother’s helper is a great alternative. It teaches her or him how to care for a child while also having mom or dad around if anything goes wrong.

Same criteria as a babysitter.

Teens will earn about $3 to $6 an hour.

About me: When I do this, I don’t get paid because I like to do it for free. Continue reading

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08/11/17 Personal Finance , Travel # ,

Avoiding ATM Headaches in Europe When You Need Cash

Avoiding ATM Headaches in Europe When You Need Cash

With free lodging, many things already paid for and a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, our vacation to Europe in July didn’t require having much cash on hand. Still, it’s smart to always have some local currency in your pocket when traveling, and a local ATM is the best way to get it.

Or so I thought.

ATM fees added up during our trip to nearly $200, mainly because I erred in figuring out which banks in Europe had a relationship with our bank in the U.S. That’s not a ton of money lost in fees, but it’s annoying because I thought I could get away without paying much in ATM fees.

ATM fees added up

Before getting into the ways I learned to get around ATM fees — beyond just using a no-transaction fee credit card during the entire trip — it’s worth quickly explaining how they work. There are different charges by different parties when you use an ATM:

  • Your U.S. bank will charge a flat fee of $5 or so each time you use a foreign bank’s ATM. This can be avoided by using a partner bank.
  • The foreign bank will charge a percentage fee on the amount withdrawn. I was charged from 3-8% in transaction fees, though when using a bank affiliated with my U.S. bank, the fee was 3%.
  • The foreign ATM sometimes charged a $5 fee also.
  • A $5 fee was also charged when using my U.S. debit card at a grocery store.

Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.