Pandemic Finance Diaries, Part 2: Slow Growth

Welcome to Part 2 of the Pandemic Finance Diaries! Part 2 will review my gig job income from June 1 to Aug 31, 2020. If you missed Part 1 or are wondering why I’m tallying my gig economy income during the pandemic, I suggest first reading Part 1 of the series.

While I’m happy to report that during Part 2 of the Pandemic Finance Diaries my gig job income increased, I also need to acknowledge that I am writing this coming off a work week where five of my co-workers were let go from our company due to budgetary cuts directly associated with the pandemic. These individuals were working in a different department than I, and my boss has assured us that she feels our department is in a much better place financially than the department in which the employees were laid off. Regardless, it was a shock to many at our company and I can’t imagine the emotions with which my co-workers and their families are struggling right now. It’s a sad reminder that nothing in life is guaranteed and working a “corporate” job (even though I technically don’t work for a for-profit) is not necessarily more secure work than self-employment.

Keeping the above in mind, I’m continuing to work at increasing my gig job income, although it’s still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. I’m also weighing safety guidelines and my city’s stage of pandemic re-opening, so I tend to prefer to do most of my gigs from home.

Here’s an outline of my financial journey from June – August 2020.

Pet sitting

I am happy to report that quarter 2 is the first quarter of the Pandemic Finance Diaries where people slowly began to travel (which I fully support if done safely) and therefore needed pet sitters. While I am a through-and-through dog-lover, most pet-owners that have been contacting me are cat-owners. This makes sense in that in the past dog owners would usually recruit me for overnight stays in the owner’s home. I believe the thought of others staying in one’s home for extended periods of time (presumably mask-less) makes dog owners, and myself, a bit nervous, so I have yet to do any overnight stays and have been restricting myself to 30-minute visits with each cat once or twice a day.

While some of my cat sits have looked the same as pre-COVID-19, others look a bit different. Even though I am in the pet owner’s home with the pet, and no other humans have been in the home for several hours to several days, I continue to keep a mask on the entire time I am doing a sit. My pre-sit meet-ups where owners go over care and introduce me to their pet have moved to virtual platforms rather than in-person, and when I meet owners for key pickups I’ve done so outside and masked. Some owners have asked me to hand sanitize once I enter, which I think is generally good practice. Others have gone above and beyond to make sure I feel comfortable in their homes, setting up calls with me to detail their cleaning procedure prior to me arriving. Anyone who books me knows I work in healthcare, and while I haven’t had anyone cancel a booking with me after scheduling a sit due to my profession, I suppose there are some who have chosen not to book with me due to my job in healthcare.

Income: $102.4*

Survey Phone Apps (Surveys on the Go/1Q)

During Part 1 of the finance diaries I wrote about downloading the Google Opinion Rewards and 1Q (referral link) apps on my phone. After reading a few more of Financial Panther’s monthly side hustle reports I added Surveys on the Go to my phone app repertoire, which is the app that has wound up yielding me the most money as of date. Surveys on the Go allows users to cash-out once a $10 or higher balance is reached, so I wound up cashing out at $10.70. I also made $0.75 using 1Q. The surveys on these apps only take a few minutes of my time, so I see myself continuing to use them going forward.

Income : $11.45

Selling Trash Finds

This quarter was quite lucrative based on Craigslist sales, mostly because I sold a friend’s bike. A friend of mine had moved at the beginning of the pandemic and had mentioned she had a bike she thought would be good for me. I went over to look at it outdoors a few days before her move. It was rainy, and during the early days of the pandemic so I hadn’t quite mastered wearing a mask and glasses so my glasses were fogging like crazy. Her landlord was also giving us evil eyes so we tried to make the process of me examining the bike a quick one. While I’m not a bike expert it did look to be a bit small for me (she’s about 5’4″ and I’m 5’10” tall), and it was clear the bike needed a lot of work. She seemed to be in a moving-during-the-pandemic stress mode so I told her I’d take it anyway, hoping to help her out rather than having her finding a way to get rid of it a few days before her move. Once home I put some tires on the bike and tried to ride it around – this confirmed my suspicions that the bike was, without a doubt, too small in size for me.

I don’t know much about bikes so when I thought about its condition I first considered placing it on the street for random pickup. After giving it some more thought I decided to see if I could make a few bucks off of the bike from Craigslist. I was originally thinking of listing it for $10 or $20, but decided to try for $50. The flood of immediate emails I received was a tip-off to me I had priced the bike significantly below resale value, so I increased the price to $100. After doubling the price from $50 to $100 the same flood of emails I received told me I had once again underestimated its value, so I bumped up the price to $150. Once at $150 the emails from those interested in the bike came more slowly and several were negotiating the price down, so I recognized I had hit the sweet spot. I wound up selling it for $130 to a guy who refurbishes bikes as a side gig and was fixing it up for a friend.

I sold the bike fairly early on in the beginning of the quarter, and was able to sell a few other trash finds earlier on. To contrast June and July’s successes, the month of August was very quiet on Craigslist for an unknown reason, which meant I had a pile of trash finds sitting in my partner and my small studio apartment for most of August without anyone showing any interest. This held true even after I dropped the price of some items to $0; even then there was no pique in interest. Never to be discouraged, I pivoted (yet again!) and will explain how I did so in part 3 of the Pandemic Finance Diaries.

During the period of June to August I sold a bike, rug, cooking pan, wall art, and two counter stools.

Income: $200

Total income from June 1 to August 31: $313.85*

This quarter was certainly more lucrative than last quarter, and I only see my secondary jobs bringing in more money going forward, as September has been the busiest month for pet sit bookings since the pandemic started. Fingers crossed (for more reasons than just my bank account) that the pandemic conditions don’t take a turn for the worse in the coming months.

Stay tuned for Part 3

*One of my jobs does not withhold taxes from payments. What that currently means is I wait until I file my taxes the subsequent year to report my earnings and am then taxed at what I believe is a higher rate and/or am penalized. From what I understand there is a way to pre-pay these tax amounts quarterly to avoid the higher rate/penalty, which I learned about in 2020. However, with the pandemic it was unclear how much I would be making in pet care so I was hesitant to look into the quarterly pre-pay option. It’s something I plan to further research for 2021.

3 thoughts on “Pandemic Finance Diaries, Part 2: Slow Growth”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s