Pandemic Finance Diaries, Part 3: Travel and COVID-19 scares

Welcome to Part 3 of the Pandemic Finance Diaries! Part 3 will review my gig job income from Sep 1 to Nov 30, 2020. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 or are wondering why I’m tallying my gig economy income during the pandemic, I suggest first reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Although I didn’t work much for almost the entirety of October (spoiler alert: travel and COVID-19 scares were to blame) I was able to pull in the highest pandemic quarterly income yet. Much like last quarter’s post, my excitement is tempered by the fact that new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are at their highest levels ever and daily deaths are at the highest levels seen since April 2020. A recent survey of DC mortgage holders found a third had difficulty paying their mortgage in October. People don’t have enough money for food, nor for the roof above their heads. Therefore I enter into this diary with the knowledge that my family and I are extremely fortunate to have the financial wherewithal to support ourselves. That being said, I continue to post my earnings in the hope that this information could be informative or helpful to anyone that is struggling financially or looking to increase their income through side hustles.

Here’s an outline of my financial journey from September – November 2020.

Pet sitting

Pet sitting was, by far, my largest source of income during this quarter. September and November were both busy, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday time, but October was a blank calendar for me. This was partially due to the fact that I visited my parents in October and, while I couldn’t quarantine due to my job as an essential worker, I did refuse all pet sits two weeks prior to my trip to visit my family in the vein of minimizing exposure. In essence, this equated to half of the month where I blocked my pet-sitting schedule.

Further, November would have had a few more pet sits had it not been for a slight COVID-19 scare. As an essential worker I go into the office twice a week. My coworkers are not immune to the virus and unfortunately our office saw a spike in employee infections in November: 4 in a 14-day period, to be exact. Anytime an employee tests positive an email is sent out to any other employees who had interacted with the infected person while they were potentially infectious. I have received these emails twice – once after my road trip at the end of October and again in November. While both exposures had been deemed low-risk, when I woke up a few days after the second exposure with a headache, both my boss and healthcare provider agreed it would be best for me to get tested for COVID-19 just in case (Leave a comment below if you’d like to hear the story of how I administered my own COVID-19 test – without any medical training whatsoever). Luckily my test result was negative – and I tested outside of the window period for the virus so I know it wasn’t a false negative (#publichealthnerd), but I cancelled several pet sits while awaiting my results in an abundance of caution.

It is worth noting that this quarter included an overnight pet sit – my first during the pandemic. The sit involved a lovely dog and cat whose owners were out of town for one night. The owners left home around 6am and I didn’t enter the home until almost 11 hours later. In their absence the windows were left open, the ceiling fan on, and an air purifier running. I also wiped down high-touch surfaces before de-masking (and made sure to wipe them down again before leaving). All in all, I was in their home for about 17 hours. My overnight stay was something I would certainly consider doing again as long as all parties were in agreement and I felt reasonably comfortable about transmission risks.

Income: $397.97*

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

Surveys on the Go is an app that provides payment for surveys and users are able to obtain their payments once their balances reach at least $10. I was able to cash-out of Surveys on the Go during this quarter for $10.25.

1Q (referral link) is another survey app I use, however I do find it to have significantly less surveys than Surveys on the Go. That being said, payment is immediate since there is no minimum balance needed to be obtained before cashing out. I was able to make $1 this quarter.

Income: $11.25

Secret Shopper Phone Apps (Field Agent)

Field Agent was a new player in my repertoire of phone apps. I have gotten most of my suggestions from Financial Panther’s Side Hustle reports, although I am somewhat limited in the fact that my phone is very old (circa 2014) and its operating system cannot update any further due to the fact that the manufacturer no longer supports updates for the model. Since the phone itself has no problems (lest you count a phone memory availability more cramped than a college bar on Thirsty Thursdays pre-pandemic) I continue to use the same phone. Many phone apps are therefore incompatible with the operating system, but I was able to get around this issue by using an old wi-fi only phone I have on hand with a newer operating system to download Field Agent.

Field Agent is more of a secret shopper app in that users are sent to a store to try a product or observe product placement. My first venture into a Field Agent job was to a nearby supermarket during my lunch break one work day. Since it was my first job I took my time to read and re-read everything, and from start to finish the process took 45 minutes. To be fair, this included the 15 minute round-trip walk, answering some questions, and toasting and eating waffles to provide product feedback. While I made a purchase (the aforementioned waffles), this purchase amount was refunded to me in addition to the job payment of $4. Since then I have done several other Field Agent jobs and these have taken significantly less time – usually 5-10 minutes. I’ll only select nearby jobs and don’t mind walking 5-10 minutes one-way if I feel I need to stretch my legs a bit. Below I’ve detailed the amount of money I made this quarter for jobs, excluding any reimbursements for products purchased.

You may notice that my job criteria has morphed a bit from my first pandemic diary – while I am still taking all recommended steps to ensure my safety and the safety of those around me, I am accepting short trips to local stores as gigs where I remain masked the whole time, socially distance whenever possible, and hand sanitize often.

Income: $17


Unfortunately I paid $25 during my first quarter of the Pandemic Finance Diaries for a TaskRabbit background check (required to perform tasks on the app) that I still have been unable to recuperate. I updated my calendar availability ahead of time for several weekends of the quarter, but from the very few requests I have received (I was unable to accept one request and another was cancelled by the requester before I could respond) it seems that most people look for help the day-of the task. TaskRabbit is set up in that each day a Tasker must opt-in to receive same-day task notifications, and that a Tasker’s desire to receive same-day notifications is reset at 12:00am the day after. What this means is that I would have to log into my TaskRabbit app each day I want to work to turn on same-day notifications, which I honestly have not been able to remember to do. By forgetting to opt-in eacdh day I’m precluding myself from receiving what I believe is likely a good chunk of task requests.

Income: $0

Selling Trash Finds

As I mentioned in last quarter’s finance diaries, Craigslist sales had held fairly steady for me, but August saw a significant dip in interest. I’m unclear as to the reasoning, but I wound up dropping the price for several items to $0 for several weeks and still did not receive any interest. By the time the end of September rolled around it had been almost two months that a large pile of trash had been sitting in a small a studio apartment shared by two people, so it was time for a different strategy. I was eventually able to sell an indoor bench and a dehumidifier on OfferUp and a kitchen table on Craigslist. The rest of the items were given away to a local Buy Nothing group, so I am happy to report that the pile is now (mostly) gone. Honestly, the whole experience has me a bit hesitant at the current moment to continue selling items I find, but this may change in the future.

Income: $100

Total income from September 1 to November 30: $526.22*

This period brought my highest quarterly earnings to date, but I foresee the pet-sitting spike I saw in September and November to fall off, as it rightfully should if travel restrictions are followed, through the December/January holiday season. Once again, I feel fortunate to be in the position I’m in financially. This holiday season is a reminder to me of that financial privilege, which I plan to reflect on and use to my advantage to give back to the community in such a time of dire need.

Stay tuned for Part 4

*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.

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