How To Earn More Money

I was chatting with one of the kids recently and he pointed out that it seemed that most people pursuing FIRE were on really good salaries. He said that for them it was really just a question of pointing it out to them that they should save a big chunk of their earnings and they’ll be there in a few years. It should be easy for them as they can cover their basic needs with a tiny percentage of their salary, still have some fun money left over and then save the rest without too many problems.

First of all it’s nice to know that he’s been paying attention over the years when I’ve been banging on about money and FIRE. Is he right though? Well, certainly up to a point yes. It’s not rocket science that if you’re earning good money you have a much bigger capacity to save. Of course lifestyle inflation can all too easily creep in, and you might find yourself earning good money but with even bigger commitments. You can always do something about that though.

Although it can be frustrating to read about the big hitters in the FIRE community on fantastic money and being able to save a huge proportion of their salaries, there are plenty of us out there on much more modest income still doing our FIRE thing. Within a FIRE context I’m definitely on a low salary, and yet is that really the case in a wider context? A very quick google shows that the average UK income last year was around £30k, and I would imagine that would be down this year. I’m on about £32,500, so actually a little bit above average. Add in the extra perks I get, such as a base rate mortgage then I’m probably quite a bit better off than the average UK worker. I’m guessing if we averaged out the salaries for people striving for FIRE then I’d be very much near the bottom.

I’m not moaning about my salary, quite the opposite. For me this is the most I’ve ever earned. I’ve always valued time over money and have never gone for the sort of jobs that would have required me being “on” all the time. Compared to what I was earning seven years ago, this is a great salary for me. I’ve gone from £17k to £32,500 in seven years, which has definitely taken a lot of pressure of me as the sole bread winner in the house. It’s allowed us to have some fun money, which is always much appreciated.

I guess the next logical step would be for me to start earning more money. There are a few ways I could go about this:

  • Move companies and get a new job
  • Stick with the same job and be so good at it I get a pay rise
  • Keep the same job but develop some sort of a side hustle
  • Get a new job within the same company

Of these options a couple of them have some drawbacks associated with them., so let’s have a look at them in a bit more detail.

Move Companies And Get A New Job

If I join a new company I’m going to be penalised on my defined benefits pension. Although it was capped when I was working part time on a much lower salary and so isn’t still a full final salary pension, it’s still pretty attractive and there are some reasonably severe penalties for leaving the company early. It’s not that I couldn’t go down this route, but it would have to be a pretty spectacular job with a really good salary/benefits to make up for what I already have. Lots of the benefits I have now are typically still available to long standing staff, but aren’t offered to new starts. So if I went to a new company in the same industry I’d likely be losing quite a few perks.

I think if I was going to move companies then it would be because I decided to do something completely different. If there was something I was definitely decided on (there isn’t!) then it would be worthwhile to jump ship and accept that I might be slightly worse off for a period of time, but hopefully better off long term. I could retrain, and I have looked at some courses, but it’s a question of the costs involved and whether I would be working long enough to recoup those costs and make it worthwhile. The jury is still out on that. If I had a burning passion to do something then it’s quite likely I would just go for it, but in the absence of that conviction there’s a lot to be said for sticking where I am and keeping the benefits that I already have.

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Be So Good At My Job They Give Me A Massive Pay Rise

In terms of keep doing the same job but managing to get good pay rises, it’s a good theory, the practicalities of that not so much so. First of all it’s very hard to control pay rises, and I certainly don’t work in an environment where you can negotiate your salary. A few years ago I set myself an objective of getting a particular rating which would impact my pay rise and bonus positively. I worked my butt off all year, creating roles that didn’t exist and shoehorning myself into them. It was a time in my career when anything seemed possible. I got the rating I wanted and the pay rise that came with it. The issue is that there’s a limit to what the pay rise can be, and I’m limited by the grade that I am.

Nowadays we don’t even get ratings. It’s all down to what your manager thinks of you and what proportion of the pay rise pot they think you deserve. Of course you can be the best at your job possible, but without a formal rating system, it’s very difficult to judge how you’re doing. I regularly volunteer for additional duties to try and raise my profile within the department, but it does sometimes feel that you’re banging your head against a brick wall. We are so busy this year that I am regularly working for free just to manage my cases, so the thought of doing additional work on top of this to help with my development is sometimes too much to contemplate.

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Side Hustles

I could keep doing what I’m doing on the grounds that it’s not a bad job. On a good day I like talking to customers about their money and I’m good at what I do. Extra money would bring me closer to FIRE though, and I could keep doing any side hustle after I stop work, which reduces the amount I would need to save to live on. That’s a win win in my book. I’ve tried a few different side hustles so far, with varying success.

I like to get ideas from customers I speak to about how they earn their money, and my ears always prick up when I hear about potential side hustles. It’s always good if you can hear about it from someone who’s actually doing it already and making it work. One day I talked to someone who was self-employed. I probed a bit about his business. He sold things and was an author. Sounded intriguing, so I asked him to tell me more. All strictly work related, not at all to see if it could help me with FIRE. Obviously. Turns out he was making a fortune selling stuff on eBay and had written a best-selling book about it. On my next break I was straight on Amazon ordering his book.

I think it’s fair to say that side hustle wasn’t exactly an unqualified success. I think I was maybe a wee bit half-hearted about it. Probably the key to building an eBay empire is to source your goods from somewhere other than just your bookshelves and DVD collections. I made a bit, and I quite enjoyed it, but it most definitely did not make my fortune.

I then moved on to matched betting. I did better with this. I made a few mistakes, which I think is normal, but I soon got myself organised. I made a reasonable amount with this, but nothing earth shattering. I found the amount of time I was spending on it was difficult to justify based around the amount of profit that I was making. I may well revisit this at some point in the future to see if I can make it work for me.

My thoughts just now are thinking about ways that I can make use of my house to make money. In two year’s time both my kids will be off at university. That is going to leave me an awful lot of room in the house. Renting a room out may be something I look into. I’m really not keen on that whilst the pandemic continues, but hopefully at some point in the mythical future the world will be virus free again. I probably wouldn’t want to have a lodger all the time, but maybe students from abroad staying for a period of time might be a possibility. It’s something to think about anyway.

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Same Company, New Job

Probably a more realistic option to earn more is to move roles within the company. This is definitely something I need to work on. Up till now I’ve been somewhat restricted with what I can do hours wise because of the kids. I have a lovely fixed shift of 8am-4pm. I work every second Saturday which I could do without (although I guess as parkrun is not on just now it’s less of an issue!), but apart from that it’s a pretty sweet shift. This shift has been essential up till now because of the whole single parent thing, but now I definitely have more flexibility with them being older. Saying that, it’s not all about the kids. I have running clubs I want to go to on an evening, and you know, a life I’d like to live.

I used to worry that going for a different job would mean I’d need to add a commute into the mix. Just now I live a ten minute drive from the office. A lot of the other jobs are likely to be over in Edinburgh, which whilst not horrendous, would probably mean a 45 minute each way commute on the train. You’ve got the travel costs and the extra time out of your day to think about. In the current Coronavirus world though I’m guessing most of those jobs will be home working for the foreseeable future. That makes the thought of a new job a lot more attractive.

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My thought was always that when my youngest goes to university in two year’s time I’d be happy to go for a new job at that time. Which probably means that now is the right time for me to start to explore my options and work out what would be a good fit for me. I’ll start to build up some evidence of skills I have that I can use in interviews. I’ve just started a one year talent programme, which should give me lots of opportunities to get out of the comfort zone that I’m well and truly stuck in and build up some experience and new skills.

So really it looks as though I either look for a new job within the same company and/or develop a lucrative (ish) side hustle. Either way some extra money in the kitty is going to help with me reaching my FIRE targets. I know I’ll get there one way or another, as it’s something I’ve set my mind on, and once I’ve decided on something then it gets done one way or another.

Matched Betting Is Finally Happenng

So after much prevarication, I have finally stopped being so pathetic and given Matched Betting a go. I had a week’s holiday, so had thought that this would be a good time for me to get cracking with it. I honestly think I was putting it off for so long because it seems that this is going to be the thing that’s going to be key for me in reaching FIRE, and I was afraid to start in case that turned out not to be the case. I’ve pretty much got myself to a point where I will have my mortgage paid off by the time I’m 60 and should have enough with my defined benefit pension and dividends to live reasonably well until the state pension kicks in to top things up for me. Really though I don’t want to be working until I’m 60. If I could get myself to the point where I could afford to cut back on my working around the age of 55 then I think that would do me just fine. So that gives me just over six years to get my mortgage paid off so that I can afford to live on a lot less than I do at the moment. I figure if I can make about £400 a month on top of my salary then I’ll be rid of my mortgage in seven years, so not quite on target, but that gives me something to work towards.

So how did I get on with Matched Betting then? Well honestly, it was a bit of a rocky start. I heeded some advice and set up a separate email address and bank account. The latter was particularly important as my bank is also my employer, and whilst I’m sure they’re not allowed to be poking around in my bank account, I’d rather avoid any questioning around my newly developed betting hobby! I signed up to OddsMonkey, as I was pretty sure I was going to need a fair amount of support to get going with this. I have to say OddsMonkey is working well for me, and it’s definitely something I’m going to continue to subscribe to. For £17.99 a month I would say it’s money well spent.

So I was really nervous to get started, but realised that I just needed to get on with it. So I followed the tutorials to the letter on OddsMonkey, it really does talk you through things step by step. I was able to get use TopCashback when setting one of the bookie accounts up, so that was a nice little bonus. So I managed to do some qualifying bets without too many problems. It takes a bit of time to register for the accounts, but you know it’s effectively just putting your personal details in to a form. Not exactly riveting stuff, but if it’s going to bring some cash in for me I’m happy to tap away.

The problem came when I was looking at different events to compare the odds and ended up with multiple tabs open on my laptop. I then inadvertently managed to back and lay different races. I was finding it a bit difficult to navigate my way around the different websites to check what I’d bet on, so I ended up thinking I’d done everything ok, but actually I hadn’t. So rather than gaining twenty odd pounds I ended up being £82 down. You know when you just can’t believe how stupid you’ve been? There was part of me that just wanted to chuck it all at that point and say that this wasn’t for me. This was exactly what I was afraid would happen, and I’d been proved right.

I then had a bit of a word with myself and realised that yes I’d made a stupid mistake, but it wasn’t the end of the world and that I was pretty sure I could make the money back. I know myself pretty well I think and it always takes me a while to learn new things. I’m always worried about making mistakes and ironically this makes my brain freeze and I mess up. I always get there in the end though, and once I’ve got something I’m usually pretty good at it.

So I’ve pressed on. I’ve now successfully managed to make my first lot of profit of £24 (well, you know obviously I’m still down the 80 odd quid – but I’ll just keep chipping away at that)  so I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve got more qualifying bets settling today, so once the free bets are credited I’ll get some more bets placed. I’m quietly confident that before too long I’ll have made back the money I lost and covered the OddsMonkey subscription and can start thinking about putting the profit towards extra mortgage payments.

I’ve spent a bit of time getting myself organised to hopefully avoid any more cock ups. I’ve set myself a spreadsheet up where I can keep track of the bets that I’ve placed and what the special offers are. And the key learning I’ve taken from the whole experience has been not to have multiple tabs open. So the process I now follow is:

  • Go into OddsMonkey and check the OddsMatcher.
  • Click the event information button and use the calculator to work out the amount I need to      lay and how much the liability will be.
  • From there I click the link to take me directly to the bookie site and also the exchange site.
  • Set up the bets on both the bookmaker site and the exchange site, double checking that I am both backing and laying the same event and team
  • Make sure I have enough money deposited in both accounts
  • Confirm both the bets.
  • I then go straight to my spreadsheet and log the details.
  • One final check of the open bets in the bookie and exchange sites gives me confidence that I have in fact done things properly!

I’ve already had an email through from one of the bookies offering me a follow up offer, so I’ve just done the qualifying bet for that today. It’s taking up a fair bit of my time, but I think that’s mostly because I’m double and triple checking everything now. I’m sure it will become much more second nature for me. But honestly I’m not minding the time that I’m spending on it. Saying that, when the sun was shining last weekend I was out on the sun lounger rather than on the laptop, but considering I live in Scotland I’m not sure that’s going to curtail my Matched Betting activities all that much. We had hailstones today for goodness sake!

So I’m really happy that I’ve made a start on Matched Betting. It will be interesting to see how I get on with it moving forward. I’ve still got plenty of the sign up offers to do, so hopefully there’s plenty of profit to be made from those. I think it probably is something that I can just fit around my normal life when I’m just pottering around the house. I’m a bit of a home body, so I quite like just faffing about the house, so I can’t see any reason why I can’t just grab the laptop every once in a while and make some money. Hopefully I’ll get in the habit of doing a little bit every day, although to be honest I’m not sure how much I’ll be doing on nights where I have running clubs. I guess though as I get quicker at it I’ll just be able to grab a few minutes here and there to place some bets.

So I feel like I’ve made some real progress in my journey towards FIRE. Although I’m actually a little bit worse off financially, I’ve got the potential there to make a great difference to my finances. I’ve been focussing a lot more on the income growing mind set since I started the Matched Betting rather than just sitting starring at my net worth figures and hoping that they’ll miraculously improve.

It’s useful to track your figures, and it certainly is motivating to see your situation improving. It gives you something to aim for and keeps your mind on keeping your expenses as low as possible. At the same time though I don’t want to become obsessed with my net worth and how long I’ve got to go until I reach FIRE. I want to be out in the world living my life to the fullest. I want to enjoy spending time with my friends and family and experiencing all that the world has to offer.  So my plan is to keep monitoring my expenses, bring in extra income from Matched Betting, get my mortgage cleared as quickly as possible, keep investing and most importantly live the most fabulous version of my life.