April’s Debt + Income Report: My New Side Hustle Helped Me Save $700 and Pay Off a Credit Card Last Month

7 minute read

I fully funded our starter emergency fund and paid off my first credit card since starting my public debt-free journey thanks to my new side hustle.

Paying off debt is a great feeling. When the year started, I was hoping to accomplish this by February. However, due to unexpected expenses, we didn’t get here as quickly as we expected.

But last month, I was able to fully fund my emergency fund and pay off a credit card. So how did I put $700 in savings and pay off my $801 Barclay credit card balance in one month?

My Passion

In March, I started a new side hustle. At my full-time job, I oversee marketing, communications, and branding for a national seminary. I love my work and have no intentions of quitting. The work is a lot of fun, and the people I serve with are outstanding.

When I initially started Money Untangled, earning extra money wasn’t my primary goal. I knew it had potential to produce revenue, but I expected it to be two or three years before we saw a profit. That’s the thing about starting blogs to make extra money. If you want quick extra cash, blogging is not the way to do it. If making money is your primary goal, you’ll quit within six months due to frustration and lack of progress. You have to love what you’re doing even when you’re not making money. We started Money Untangled to help people.

But over the last six months, I’ve become extremely passionate about honing my craft as a marketer. I want to be a leading expert in my field, so I’ve taken online courses, read books, listen to podcasts, and more. Marketing isn’t just a job — it’s my hobby.

My Background

I received my current position because I had experience in the field. I was co-founder and vice president of a relatively well-known website and podcast, which has garnered millions of views and thousands of downloads since their 2012 launch. This venture gave me a lot of experience and allowed me to learn through trial and error.

Later I worked at another popular website as a content strategist, which gets hundreds of thousands of hits each month. I also helped my wife build her website which averaged a thousand page views a day, has earned us extra income and has led to several speaking engagements and writing opportunities. But I can’t take too much credit for its success because my wife is pretty amazing. This experience combined with my current job and ongoing education set me up perfectly to be a consultant.

The Side Hustle

In February, I was approached by someone who wanted me to help them start a website, coach them on social media, and teach them how to craft a brand message. I was confident I could help, but I had no idea how much I should charge. After I did some research, I concluded that $750 was a reasonable price. The content is valuable and will save my client countless hours. Furthermore, my client would get one on one coaching, allowing us to tailor the content to my client’s brand.

I crafted a proposal and submitted it to the client. As a marketing guy, I believe that everything I produce and put my name on is a reflection of my authority and credibility as a marketer. For example, I’m always baffled when I visit bad websites by a company that builds websites. How can you create me a good website when your site is awful?

I viewed this proposal the same way and thought, “If I’m good at what I do, the client will be convinced what I’m offering is valuable and exactly what they need.” After two weeks and no response, I got worried. After three weeks, I was sure I wasn’t going to get the contract.

Ready to Roll

By week three, I found myself in Charlotte, NC, convinced that I had charged too much for my first consulting gig. I thought, “Maybe I should have charged a little less until I gained some credibility and then charged more once people began to take me seriously.” What a ridiculous thought! Nevertheless, I was sure I’d made the wrong move by charging what I knew I was worth.

Even though I possessed the experience, presented a solid proposal, and was confident I could help, I still doubted my worth. I decided to pick up my phone and check my email. At first, there was nothing, but then my emails loaded and there it was: “I got approval and am ready to roll on it!” The rest is history, and that’s how I got my first client and officially became a brand and marketing consultant.

Some Lessons Learned

Since I’ve landed another client who has agreed to a two-year retainer, and I’ve been approached a few more times by people interested in working with me. But I’m planning to limit the number of clients I take on. My day job is my priority, not merely because it’s my primary source of income and I have a responsibility to my employer, but because I love what I do.

Here are a few takeaways from my experience in my new side hustle that I hope will help you:

1. If you’re looking for a longterm side-hustle, make sure you pick something you enjoy doing.

2. Figure out what you’re already good at or are willing to get better at, and see if there is a way you can use it to serve others.

3. Get better at your craft so that you can be one of the best in your field and not just claim to be like many brands falsely do.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you believe you’re worth.

5. Don’t feel guilty for expecting compensation for your work.

I’m not saying you can’t offer your services for free to someone who can’t afford you or a mission you would like to support. I have a job on the table that I’m considering contributing to for free because I believe in the cause and they may not be able to afford to pay me right now.

But don’t feel guilty for expecting to be compensated when someone is asking for a significant amount of your time and energy. You’re not a superhuman and your time is limited, especially if you have a family and other obligations that take priority.

How Did I Do Last Month?

Total Debt in March: $63,267
Goal: $62,900
Results: $61,526

I exceeded my goal by more than $1,000.

Extra Income Expected: $?
Goal: $?
Results: $770.55

Again, last month I didn’t know what to expect nor did I have goals. Clients had shown interest, but those conversations were ongoing. We brought in $750.00 from my side hustle and 20.55 through Amazon affiliates.

Total Savings: $300
Goal: $1000
Result: $1000

Finally! A fully funded starter emergency fund.

Other Goals

Average 10:00 PM Bedtime (Fail)

I spent ten days on the road last month, so my bedtime was all over the place. I could have done better though.

Read 3 Books (Fail)

I didn’t read three, but I read one book. One book is an improvement, but I missed the goal.

Plan My Days (Fail)

There is room for improvement in this area.

Morning and Evening Routine (fail)

Routines was non-existent last month. Determined to fix this in April when I’m not traveling.

April Finances

Total Debt: $$61,526
Goal: $59,000

Now that my emergency fund is funded, I’m hoping to throw a lot of money towards debt. If I’m successful, I’ll knock out $2,500 next month.

Extra Income Expected: $1700
Goal: $2000

My side hustle should enable me to bring in about $1700 next month. I made my goal $2000 just to keep things interesting. We’ll see.

Total Savings: $1000
Goal: $1000

No need to add more money here. Everything extra goes to debt.


Average 5:00 AM Wake Time

Getting up at 5 AM is my new motivation for going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Read 2 Books

I failed again, so I’m going to try two books. I’m also planning to schedule reading times.

Plan My Days

I have to stay on top of planning. It’s essential to me getting more done during the day so that I can turn it off at home.

Work-Life Balance

My new goal is to make sure I’m resting and present at home. Therefore, I’ve created no work slots from 6-9 PM during the week and Sunday is entirely off limits. I’ve been doing some of this already, but I realize if I don’t make rules for myself, I’ll slowly fall back into a horrible work-life balance.

Morning and Evening Routine

Routines will be crucial to a successful April. I have a lot coming up this month, and I need to start every day early.

If you’re interested in planning your days, establishing routines, and more productivity tips, I highly recommend Productivity Untangled.

That’s all for March. I’m looking forward to updating you guys next month. What are your goals for March? Share them in the Facebook group.


About Phillip Holmes

Phillip is a seasoned writer and speaker who has worked with numerous clients to help them take control of their finances. Still digging his way out of debt, Phillip aims to speak and write with conviction, insight, and compassion. He is married to Jasmine and they have a little boy, Wynn.

1 Comment

  1. Joel Lee on June 11, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Love the post and your strategy to publicly write about your process to become debt free.

    Question: I’m wondering why you made your goal for an emergency fund to be $1,000? Is this in addition to non-emergency savings? I realize your biggest concern is becoming debt free, but “classic” financial advice is to have at least 3 months worth of living expenses saved so that in case of job loss or major medical accident, you would not be in a terrible place financially because of it, potentially wiping out years of debt payoff progress.

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