12 Things I’ve Learned Delivering Newspapers

newspaper-1648554_960_720Newspaper Update–

I am still delivering newspapers as a side job. I ended up with $140 more than I had estimated for my first month! Yay me! I have my route down to around 3 ½ – 4 hours per day. I was recently given 5 stores to deliver to as well. The store deliveries only added 15 minutes to my time. I can toss the papers to three of the businesses. Since the other two are open, I am required to get out of the car and pull the returns from the day before.

12 Things I’ve Learned

  1. Stop at the gas station / convenience store at least once prior to heading out of town for the rural deliveries.
  1. Be thankful for all the new construction in the subdivisions which usually mean there are port-a-johns available in case another potty break is needed.
  1. Dress warm for all those times when driving with the window down in between houses.
  1. The newspapers are rarely on time at the dock so get a little extra sleep.
  1. Pack snacks and drinks to prevent all the profits from being spent at the 24 hour convenience store. This is also a healthier option than eating convenience food on a daily basis.
  1. Make sure the fuel tank is full prior to starting that first delivery.
  1. Watch out for cats! The town I deliver in has an abundance of cats out and about in the wee hours of the morning.
  1. Watch out for wildlife. I saw my first real live skunk the other morning. It took me a little bit before I figured out what I was looking at since all I saw was the white stripe. When I pulled out next to it, I am pretty sure it was turning to spray the car. Thankfully, it was not one of the times I was driving with the window down.
  1. When the drive list says ‘Beware of Dogs’, beware of dogs. The house in question has a huge rottweiler that normally hangs out by the front door. I think he’s tied or something. One morning, he was not tied. He was behind the hedge where the newspaper box is posted. He scared the crap out of me as he came out of his hiding spot and started chasing the car. I’m so glad I am good at multi-tasking. I was rolling the window up as fast as I could while flooring it out of the customer’s driveway.
  1. Watch out for people. Once in awhile, depending how late I get started, there will be people out walking or running. They are hard to see in the dark and a lot of times I am startled when I realize they are there.
  1. Get as much sleep as you need. I try to get to bed no later than 8:30pm since I get up at 1:30am. I’m usually able to take a nap when I’m done since my day job agreed to let me change my start time to 11am. I also find I need to keep a supply of those little bottles of liquid energy on hand. I usually don’t get sleepy until I’m headed home after the last newspaper drop.
  1. I’ve recently signed up for an Audible Gold [Digital… account so I can listen to books while I’m delivering. I belong to a book club and rarely have time to read now that I’m working two jobs. I find Audible as an acceptable alternative.

© 2016 by Marge Fox

Saved $85 on Our Verizon Bill

texting-1490691_960_720Because Desert Husband works for the phone company, our landline, internet, and cell phone service are all bundled into one very large bill. All four members of the Desert Family each have a SmartPhone. Costs have been slowly increasing over the years because of the data usage. A lot of it has to do with heavy data streaming by Desert Son and Desert Husband..

Our overall bill is around $365 per month. The majority of that is for the cell phones. Since Desert Husband works for the phone company, we get a small discount on our internet and landline charges. Unfortunately our internet speed is not all that great in the desert. Doing something about that is a topic for another day.

We’ve been with Verizon for years because we love them. I’ve had it on my List to get a reduction in our bill for a few weeks now. Today, I finally made that call.

I found out we could get the same 12GB of shared family data, unlimited talk and text for $30 less than what we have been paying. We were also spending around $40 per line. In addition, any devices that were no longer on a 2 year contract could have their monthly access fee dropped to $20. My phone and Desert Daughter’s phone qualified. However, if we replace those phones in the future, the access fee would return to $40 per month.

In addition, I have a jet pack I had purchased awhile back for my bookkeeping service. It is still under the 2 year contract. Verizon cut the monthly access charge for it in half as well.

For several years, we’ve had usage controls in place on Desert Son’s phone which cost us $4.99 per month. Considering he is now 19 and out of high school, I had those removed.

All it took was a phone call to get this reduction. I’m sure there are better ways to save money on cell phones. But the Desert Family is happy with this savings.

© 2016 by Marge Fox

Newspaper Delivery–Is It the Best Route for Extra Money?

newspaperNewspaper Delivery – Is It the Best Route for Extra Money?

I decided to try delivering newspapers for extra income. I rode along with a substitute driver for the route I was going to be taking to see what it was like. She gave me a drive list to follow along with the stops she was making. Unfortunately, she didn’t start at the beginning. She started somewhere toward the end. Then we went to the beginning. Then we worked on the middle. It was all confusing, but I didn’t give up.

The next day, I rode along with a different substitute driver. Luckily I had the drive list from the day before since one wasn’t available on the docks when she picked up the papers. She explained how the bundles work and that we would get a top sheet which had important information like stops–customers that had stopped their newspaper delivery; starts–new customer homes we had to start delivering to; complaints–self explanatory; and requests–these were usually reminders of where they want their paper delivered (i.e. they had a box we didn’t know about, etc). On this day, we started from the beginning. It made a whole lot more sense to me. I took extensive notes as she drove.

About a quarter of the way through, she received a phone call from her son that his car had broken down. He was on another route. She decided to have me finish the route by myself and she took off to help him. I worked on the route for five hours until I absolutely had to leave to get Desert Son to class. She met me to take the remaining papers and finish up the route.

I went to the newspaper office later that day to sign the contract. My contract is for one year that can be cancelled with 30 days written notice. It had terms such as how much I would be paid per paper, that I would be charged for missed houses, and that I would forfeit any money I had earned if I abandoned a route. In addition to forfeiting any earned money for abandoning the route, I could also be charged a $250 fee. My rate for Sundays and holidays is a little higher than the daily rate. Oh, and newspapers needed to be delivered by 6am on weekdays and 7am on weekends.

The next day, which was a Saturday, the papers were late to the docks. I drove the route by myself. It took me about seven and a half hours, give or take. It was a long rural route. I had a lot of houses in subdivisions before I hit the back country roads. I was unfamiliar with these subdivisions so I spent a lot of time using the drive list and the GPS on my phone. I made even more notes on the drive list as I went along.

The papers were late again on Sunday so I didn’t get on the road until 3:30am. This time it took me six hours and forty-five minutes. I was getting a little faster. I was so exhausted when I got home that day. I contemplated whether it was worth it or not. I was putting a lot of miles on my car and filling my tank up every two days. On top of it, I had to continually add air to the rear passenger tire at least every other day. I talked myself into quitting and forfeiting the money I had earned from the weekend. If the route continually took me 6 hours, I was not going to make it to my day job during the week.

I spoke to the woman in charge of the newspaper carriers and let her know I wasn’t cut out for this. She offered me a different route that was closer to my house and was mostly in town deliveries. The miles on the new route were about half of the route I had been doing. If I would finish the week on the existing route, she would get somebody to split the route with me. And the kicker, the new route paid $300-$400 more a month! I agreed to switch.

During that week, I was able to get my half of the route done in 3 hours or less. I had plenty of time to get home before I had to be at work. A few days later, I was asked to train the man taking over the route. He rode along with me on Saturday. I assigned him to read the drive list to me. Unfortunately he was a talker and spent more time talking than reading the directions to me. Because I am not a patient person, I kept going which confused him as to where we were on the paper. However, we were still able to get the route done at a decent time. Not on time, but not as late as I had done the prior weekend either.

The plan on Sunday was for us to split the route. We met at the newspaper office to pick up the papers. I showed him around so he was aware of the route mailbox with any messages in it and where to get the papers. I finished my half of the route within 3 hours. I offered to help him finish his half, but he wanted to do it himself. I was very thankful as I just wanted to go home and take a nap.

On Tuesday (there is no Monday paper), I will start my new route. The new route has 50 more subscribers than the last route. My plan is to take the drive list and do a dry run during the daylight to get an idea. I am supposed to have somebody split the route with me during the week so I am not late for work.

I like delivering newspapers a lot more now than I did that first weekend. It does cause me to have odd sleeping habits but I am adjusting. I’ve been keeping diligent mileage records for taxes at the end of the year. I won’t know until the 5th of next month whether this is profitable or not. I believe it will be. I estimate I will be spending a third of the money on fuel. I’ll be giving Desert Son a small stipend for helping me. This is not a bad deal for him since he sleeps on the route most of the time. In the end, I should be netting half the contracted amount.  

Delivering newspapers seems like a quick and relatively easy way to bring in side income. I almost wouldn’t mind it becoming one of my main streams of income so I can give up my day job. I would much rather be self-employed than just employed.
© 2016 by Marge Fox

How I Spent My Accident Settlement


Almost four years ago I was in a catastrophic car accident which left me in the hospital for three days with broken ribs and lots of bruising. I ended up hiring a personal injury attorney to help me navigate the insurance companies. My attorney explained that the purpose of insurance is to protect their insured, not to pay my medical bills. Long story short, I ended up with a significant settlement.

Thankfully Desert Husband and I mapped out a strategy to pay off some of our debt. Even though the settlement wasn’t high enough to eliminate all of our debt, we did end up paying off the following:

2nd Mortgage:  $10,583.15

Auto Loan:        $  7,557.34

Student Loan:   $  4,552.58

Total                  $22,693.07

Although this helped put us in a slightly better situation, it only eliminated about a third of our outstanding non-mortgage debt balance. We still owed $51,229 in credit card debt.

In the fall of 2013 we enrolled in a debt relief program to help settle our debts. We were paying around $800 per month to this company to negotiate settlements with our creditors. I’ve read all the blog advice that this is something we could have done ourselves. However, we needed to outsource this to help alleviate some of our insanity and stress. We had 10 creditors that we turned over for the debt relief program to settle for us. They reached settlements with 3-4 of the creditors fairly quickly.

Late 2014, I ended up losing my high paying job of ten years. This put a temporary halt to our debt payoff goal. Desert Husband and I came up with a new strategy to eliminate as much of our monthly outgo as possible. There was no way we were going to be able to afford the $800 a month payment to the debt relief program. Desert Husband ended up taking a loan against his 401(k) to give the debt relief program a large amount to reach settlements quicker. They settled a couple more debts leaving three creditors remaining.

I took the opportunity of job loss to take on bookkeeping clients. Since I wasn’t making enough income from clients to keep us afloat, I ended up taking a position as the office manager and bookkeeper at a law firm in May 2015. Although I am grateful for this job and income, it is barely enough to make ends meet. We are still looking for ways to reach our goals of eliminating our debt and making our lives better.

After several status update requests with the debt relief program, we finally cancelled the three remaining creditors and decided to settle those ourselves. We ended up with a substantial refund of the money we had turned over the prior year. This provided enough to pay off the remaining creditors and to stay afloat for a while longer.

We know there is a lot of advice out there to not borrow against a retirement fund. However, we felt we didn’t have a choice since our goal was to keep our house and to stay out of bankruptcy. We also know that an accident settlement is not typical for most folks to have at their disposal for debt reduction. We are grateful that we were able to use the accident settlement to get us going in the right direction instead of just blowing through it. I am happy to say that our only auto loan was paid off. Our goal is to pay cash for any future vehicles. Actually our goal is to pay cash for everything.
© 2016 by Marge Fox