Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Two Unusual Ways I've Made Extra Money

Greetings from snowy Maine. I have been enjoying the winter months and a slower pace. We have been back in Maine seven months now, and I while I have not yet committed to a full time job, I have been trying to pull in some extra cash each month. I discovered a couple unconventional ways to make a buck, so I thought I would share them with you! 

I accidentally happened upon medical research studies while searching for locations where I could have a colonoscopy completed near my home. I found two different companies that were offering payment via gift cards to take part in research trials regarding colon cancer screening. I signed up for both of them. One entailed getting a blood draw, and for the other I had to send in a stool sample. For both, I needed to meet certain criteria (age, health history, etc) and I needed to have the colonoscopy already scheduled. Neither company actually pays for the colonoscopy itself, but my insurance covered this. 

The first is called "the colon screening study," and they sent me a kit about 2 weeks before the colonoscopy was scheduled. I had to collect and return a stool sample via Fed Ex overnight delivery, so I did have to make sure I could send it on a day that was guaranteed to get it there within 48 hours. They paid $50 when I returned the sample and another $150.00 after they got the results of the colonoscopy. There were dozens of choices for gift cards, which was really nice. Here is the link if you are interested. 

The second company is Science 37. They actually sent someone to my home to collect a blood sample about 2 weeks before the colonoscopy. The man who came was an EMT and was very professional and fast. No issues at all. I am still working with the surgeons office to get the results faxed, but I have no reason to believe I won't be paid. They are giving $250.00 in gift cards. Here is the link.

A second unconventional way I am making extra money is signing up for bank and credit card accounts that give you a bonus for opening an account. I have done this periodically in the past, but found this channel on youtube, which took it to a whole other level! (John, who creates these videos, is taking a little break, but I am hoping he returns soon.) In the last 10 months, I have made over $3000.00 signing up for different accounts. Most banks require you to do a direct deposit and some want you to complete a number of transactions and keep the account open for a certain period of time. Most can be completed online. Banks are always changing these bonuses, but you can always search "what banks have the best sign on bonuses" to see what is currently available. I opened accounts with both Chase and Citi. 

While I was living internationally, I focused on credit cards that gave good travel bonuses, but now that I am home, I am all about the cash! I recently signed up for the Capital One Quicksilver card, which gave a $200 cash bonus for a $500 spend (then I used my referral link to sign my husband up for the same card to get an extra $150!). I also signed up for the Chase Freedom Card, which also gave a $200 bonus for a $500 spend. Neither has an annual fee. Here are my referral links if you are interested:

I have also: collected bottles and cans along the roadside (these are returnable for money in Maine), completed several online surveys, done some mystery shops with this company, sold some items on facebook marketplace and ebay, and taught first aid and CPR classes as an instructor with the American Red Cross. 

I'd love to know what you do to make extra money.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

MERRY CHRISTMAS from MAINE! (a 2021 recap)


Greetings from Lakeville, Maine, our now permanent home as of June 2021. It's been quite a year for everyone it seems, and we are no exception. One of my goals in 2022 is to post regularly on this blog, going back to my frugal roots, but I woke up this morning and thought, "Why wait?" So here I am!

As most of you know, we spent the last nine years living in Hong Kong. In the fall of 2020, our contracts were up, and we had to make a decision as to whether or not we would sign again. We loved our jobs and our life in Hong Kong, but there were several factors that led my husband and I to mutually decide it was time to "come home." Our children were all back in the US and grandchildren were/are coming, the situation between Hong Kong and Mainland China was/is changing and Covid changed so much about being able to travel--that is to say, it basically shut down travel for us. So, we shipped 7 boxes, packed up 6 suitcases and headed back to Maine!

Here's a visual of our last few months in Hong Kong, because pictures say so much.

The wet market where I shopped regularly.

My last pineapple bun (no pineapple used!)

Saying goodbye to our school.

Frangipani flowers--so fragrant!

Trail behind our apartment that led to the mountains.

Our farewell dinner with beloved colleagues. 

I do miss Asian cuisine. Spring rolls at Ruam. 

A hike to our favorite beach.

Ham Tin Beach

Tea at the Peninsula Hotel with my fellow school nurse. 

A view of Victoria Harbor from the 103 floor of the Ritz Carlton.

Afternoon tea at the Conrad Hilton.

Chinese New Year lanterns on Lee Tung Avenue.

While there are things we do miss about Hong Kong, we have not regretted our decision to move home. Mike is currently working part time (every other day) at East Grand School in Danforth, about a 45 minute drive. I am doing a little bit of "per diem" work as a nurse while I figure out when/where I want to go full time. We are looking forward to having the whole family together for a week at Christmas.

So until the new year, I leave with some more visuals that made coming home wonderfully easy:

One of the first snows.

Looking out the cabin window on Thanksgiving day. 

Impromptu trip to Myrtle Beach to visit a friend.

I'd never seen the loons with autumn colors.

My beloved camp, Living Waters, where I volunteer as a nurse each summer.

Home sweet home.

Our road.

Duck Lake

Foraging Comb's Tooth and Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms.

A drive along Some's Sound.

My husband and son at the Smash Up Derby/Springfield Fair.
Riding in my Father in Law's Model A on a visit to Michigan.

Family Reunions

I was able to work for the Maine Army National Guard youth camp this summer.

Sunset at the cabin.

This is what it's all about.

Tell me what you've been up to

I'll be back in 2022! 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Shelftember: Or How I shopped at Home and only Spent $104 (810 HKD) for Groceries Last Month.

I love a good challenge, and during this travel-less school year, I decided that I would make it a goal to save as much as possible, so when one of my favorite frugal bloggers (Jordan Page @ Fun, Cheap or Free) announced her Shelftember challenge for the month of September, I was all in. The basic premise is that you "shop" from your shelves first (pantry, freezer, fridge) to see what you have available before going to the grocery store. This ensures that items are not getting lost in the back/bottom and that you are actually using what you have on hand, before it expires or starts to mold. As a bonus challenge, you are only supposed to spend $25 USD a week on groceries, no matter the size of your family. Not gonna lie: it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be! Hong Kong groceries are quite a bit higher in general for items like meat, dairy and baking supplies. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables can usually be found for less at the local markets. 

I began each week writing a menu (nothing new) based on what we had and then ONLY buying the few fresh things I needed. It was not a month to "stock up." I ended up baking more than normal-bread, bagels, muffins and cookies, to name a few. I'd never tried bagels before; it wasn't that difficult, but it was time consuming. I used sesame seeds and a Mideastern spice mix that I had on hand for toppings.

I also tried a couple of new recipes, including this Thai Pomelo Salad, which was delicious. Pomelos are like giant grapefruit. Check out the thickness of the skin!

I should also note that we did spend one night at the Conrad Hilton (on a free night voucher), and because of my Diamond status, a perk of my Amex credit card, we were upgraded to a large suite, which came with TWO fruit plates and a box of 12 handmade chocolates. NICE. That was 14 pieces of fruit that you can bet came home with me. 

During the month, the school provided breakfast, lunch and snacks for 2 Pro-D daysWe also didn't give up our Friday night date night, but we still ate the majority of our meals at home. We had people over for 3 different meals and I provided food for another family for one meal. We also ate at friends' houses for 3 meals. 

Will I participate next year? If I remember, I probably will. It was a worthy challenge and one I would recommend. I didn't quite make the $25 a week, but $26 wasn't too far off. 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Masks, Germs and other Covid Thoughts from an American Nurse Living in Asia

Photo Op for the Ronald McDonald House of Hong Kong
This post is especially for my US friends who have messaged me with questions about masks, quarantines, and other Covid questions. I haven't been compelled to write a post about this because 1) who needs yet one more virus article? and 2) I am no more qualified to give an opinion than any other average Joe on the street. But here goes.

The main reason we are asked frequent questions is that we have been working from home since February 3, or "dealing with this virus mess" longer than most of the world, and we are in Hong Kong, which, as most of you know, has an amazing track record of dealing with the virus. Our first confirmed case was January 23, and as of today, there are just 1040 cases and only 4 deaths. This is a city of 7.5 million people that shares a border with mainland China.  To put this in perspective, New York City has 8.4 million people, 170,000 cases and 13,168 deaths. They are also 8000 miles away from China and didn't have their first confirmed case until March 1. (I realize it is likely both cities had unconfirmed cases before then.) In other words, NYC had a big "heads up" regarding this. So why the differences? Here are my observations.

Back around the end of December/ (beginning of January?), I was at work--I'm a school nurse at an International School--when I saw an article about a strange new virus in China. Back then, it was believed to only be connected to one market in Wuhan and wasn't thought to be spreading person to person. Didn't seem so serious to me, but guess what? Within a week, Hong Kongers were wearing masks even more than normal during flu season. My colleague in purchasing asked me about our mask supply. When my husband asked his students about it, mentioning that the new virus was not believed to spread person to person, the students all said, "Nobody trusts China."

We already had plans to fly home to Maine for Chinese New Year, and we left Hong Kong January 22, the day before Wuhan closed its borders. When we returned to Hong Kong a couple weeks later, the whole city was wearing masks and there was a major run on them, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies, even though at the time, the government here, trying to thwart panic buying, told us masks were not necessary unless we were symptomatic. Again, Hong Kongers said, "We don't trust the government," and they wore their masks anyway, lining up for hours to buy them.

You also need to realize that in 2002, SARS hit Hong Kong in a big way, and that is in the collective memory of most of the city. They don't mess around. As I mentioned, even during a normal year, you will see a good portion of the population wearing masks during flu season. They are diligent about using hand sanitizer (they have little bottles hooked to their bags) and they use a tissue or their keys to push the elevator buttons. (They don't, as a rule, wear disposable gloves though.) Public areas like escalators and bathrooms are sanitized every hour or two. Temperatures are checked upon entering buildings. When the city had only a handful of cases, the decision was made to close schools (they still haven't reopened). All non-essential government agencies closed, and private businesses were encouraged to allow employees to work from home. No one had to tell them twice. The streets were pretty much empty for a month or so. But here's an interesting bit: parks, beaches, restaurants, hair salons, grocers, retail shops and public transportation were never shut down. Granted, these places were pretty much empty, because even without a mandatory "shelter at home" order, hardly anyone went out. What I'm trying to get at is this: Hong Kongers did on their own what most governments had to force upon their people.

So what happened? Through mid March, our cases remained very, very low. People got out and about more, and perhaps became a little less careful. But then as city residents, especially students, who were living abroad started coming home because cases were getting worse around the world, they brought a lot of imported cases with them, and our numbers rose. This brought on stricter measures: restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity, nail salons and bars are closed and groups of 4 or more are not allowed in public. (This is a tricky one, because public places have way more than 4 people, but I guess they aren't technically "together?") Most shops remain open and only those coming from abroad are quarantined.

Finding someone without a mask it not easy. A street in Mong Kok last week.
So that leaves us where we are now. For the last two weeks or so, we've had many days of zero or single digit new cases. People once again are out and about more. There is talk of possibly allowing some students to return to school by the end of May. It's looking good.

So what's my biggest take away? Hands down, I believe the biggest difference here is that everyone wears masks. They wear them because they don't know if they are silent carriers and they don't want to infect you. They wear them because they don't know if you are a silent carrier and they don't want your germs. They wear them because it is now a cultural norm and it is considered rude if you don't--not to mention the risk you run of getting the major side-eye (or worse) from a Cantonese grannie half your size. Wearing a mask is not a moral issue, so even though I have mixed feelings on the efficacy of them, I wear one, because, well, it can't hurt. 

I know that you can find scientific studies that say that masks aren't 100% effective in viral spread, and that is absolutely true. Viruses are tiny, tiny, tiny, and they can get through all but the most industrial grade N95 respirator masks. Even these are ineffective unless they are worn properly. (We had to have special training on how to wear these at the hospital where I worked in the US before we could care for isolation patients.) But let's face it, masks at least help somewhat or doctors and nurses wouldn't wear them. And any type of material will minimize the spray of a cough or sneeze; this is what we are going for. Viruses can be airborne, but they also are in droplets when you cough. It's the reason we teach little kids to "cover your cough;" germs spread more easily if you don't. Looking at Hong Kong, I have to believe that the vast majority of the population wearing masks before the virus really took hold, along with early social distancing measures, played a major role in keeping the numbers down.

We are not mask Nazis. We wear them when around people, but not when walking in open spaces. 
So these are my thoughts at the moment. I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time (trust me, it happens often)...and if your opinion is different, I still like you!!