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Category: Earning & Managing Money

Guest Post: Earning Money With a Bag of Balloons and a Balloon Pump


Guest Post by Irina Patterson from

I know way too well myself how to live on a limited budget. Raised in Russia, I grew up with a few possessions. And when I came to America in 1992, I had a hard time to find my first job.

Looking back, I wish I knew what I know today. If my story inspires at least one person to create a job for herself, I will be very happy.

For the last four years I have made my living as a balloon artist and event entertainer. I work mostly weekends and I set my own schedule and my pricing. Depending on the area and experience, a balloon artist can make from $50-300 per hour. (I wish someone told me about this opportunity when I was working at $5 per hour at a copy shop, night shift in 1993!)

Granted, being an event entertainer is not for everyone. You can't be shy and you have to be somewhat good with your hands and enjoy interacting with people. Still, it is a good opportunity to know about. If you are in great need of some cash quickly, you'd be surprise what you can overcome.

Believe it or not, I had never even seen a balloon animal until about four years ago. I don't have children and I don't go to the malls so I saw balloon animals for the first time at a private party and totally fell in love with the process and found the bright colors of the balloons not only cheer me up, but cheer many others up as well!

I studied art in my teens and those balloons just awoke a sleeping artist in me and showed me a way how to be a practicing artist and make a living at it. I couldn't believe how easy it was to earn by twisting balloon art. If I didn't experience it myself, I would not believe it!

When I first started doing balloon art on the side, I was working in a good-paying job at a public relations firm. I found balloon art was so much more exciting that after six month of doing balloon art as a side gig, I left my day job for good.

My ballon art business was profitable from day one. I think I spent $100 on supplies and administrative fees. When I started, I practiced at home for about a week. Then I went to a mall and paid a $75 monthly fee in order to do balloon art there for tips. I ended up making that $75 in tips right back on the first day!

I only paid that $75 fee for two months because I quickly learned you can find places where you can make balloon animals without rental fees. In fact, many restaurants will pay you to entertain their customers. Where I live, in Miami, restaurants usually pay $50-100 per 3-4 hours on a weekend most customers will give a tip. So you can easily expect to make about $150 for about 4 hours as a restaurant balloon artist.

However, the best part is this: while you are entertaining at a restaurant, you are also marketing your private party entertainment. Private parties will always give you better return on your time. In Miami,
on average, a balloon artist can earn $100-200 per hour at a private event. And you are usually booked for more than one hour.

If you are just starting out as a balloon artist, you'll want to invest a little money in balloons and a small balloon pump. I recommend you take a class, if there is one in your area. If not, make friends with someone who is already an established entertainer. They are usually very friendly. You can find an
entertainer in your area by searching for your zip code .

Start out by volunteering to do balloon art at community events. Get some practice under your belt and get comfortable with working with people and creating balloon art and then start calling local restaurants and offering your services as a balloon artist for tips. Have business cards handy and make it known that you're available to do private events. Pretty soon, you'll likely have plenty of good-paying business!

Many people think that to be an event entertainer you need to go to a circus school or have some other special training. But all you really have to do is want to do it. The cost of minimum supplies is $10 and you can learn the basics in about two hours.

If you want to learn advanced balloon art, all the power to you. But if you have bills to pay and need money now, grab a bag of balloons and a pump and get busy!

Irina Patterson, aka The Russian Queen of Balloons, is based in Miami. She twists balloon art at events worldwide. She finds her job enjoyable and financially rewarding. To learn more, visit her blog,

A “credit card crisis”?

Earlier today, my husband and I were listening to a local radio station and a bit of news caught my attention. The broadcaster was stating how America is facing a "credit card crisis" because credit card companies will no longer be sending out loads of credit card offers. Instead these offers will be "slowing to a trickle", according to the report.

Excuse me? We call that a "credit card crisis"? I think that I would instead refer to that as a "welcome change of pace". Call me old-fashioned, but I think anytime we can discourage people from buying stuff they can't afford with money they don't have, it's a good thing, not a national crisis.

Of course, I happen to be one of those weird people who pays with cash almost 100% of the time, doesn't own a credit card, hasn't ever had any debt, and isn't living paycheck-to-paycheck.*

*Note: All of this is only by the grace of God, the wise example of my parents, inspiration, and a commitment to "live like no one else"! By the way, if you are struggling financially and feeling in a helpless situation, do not despair. Read more about our own personal financial journey and lessons we've learned along the way here, here, and here. And then check out my Top Four Tips for Those in Financial Despair.

Tips for having a successful garage sale

A few of you asked wrote and asked for tips on having a successful garage sale since I mentioned our crazily-busy sale day yesterday. While I don't consider myself the "Garage Sale Queen" by any means, here are a few of my recommendations for holding a successful garage sale:

1. Collect stuff. Now I know this is a no-brainer, but a successful garage sale often begins months in advance by saving stuff to sell. Before you think I'm advocating the pack-rat mentality, let me tell you what I do: I keep a box in the garage or in an out-of-the-way place to toss things into as I come across them in the months leading up to a garage sale. As one box fills, I seal it, and start another.

I've been amazed at how much stuff I can collect by doing this! In addition, it gives me a set place to put said "junk" instead of having to walk by it repeatedly for months thinking "I'll sell that in our next garage sale." It also gives me an incentive to constantly be on the lookout for items which we are no longer using or loving and to free myself from this clutter.

2. Plan ahead. I know this should also be a given, but I learned the hard way with a garage sale I did a year ago that you can never plan ahead too much. At the last minute, I had so many loose ends left to tie up and ended up overdoing it as a result. So, at least a few weeks before you have your sale, start pulling things out of boxes and organizing them, start pricing things, and start thinking about how you will set everything up.

This is especially good to do if you are in a new location or have never done a garage sale by yourself before. A few days before the sale, make sure you have everything priced and organized in tubs and bins and boxes. The day before the sale, set up as much stuff in your garage as you can. Figure out what you will be using for signs, where you will put them, make sure you have plenty of cash on hand, and so on.

The more organized you are, the easier it will be when you actually have your sale, and it will mean that you are not scrambling around on morning of your garage sale. Plus, it will make it easier for your customers to buy things if you are organized and ready to go when you open your sale.

3. Price things to sell. When I go to a garage sale, I expect to pay garage sale prices. I always try to price things at what I feel would be a good bargain if I were buying the item at someone else's garage sale. I'd rather that someone pay me and actually buy my item, then 25 people pick up the item and put it back down because it is too expensive.

Also, be sure to price everything. Not only will those coming to your sale appreciate it, it will keep things more simple for you. As an added bonus, it will increase sales because people will know how much (or little) something costs! I try to have variety in pricing with plenty of $0.25 or less items.

4. Pick a good location. Make sure that wherever you hold your sale has a sizeable amount of traffic throughout the day. If it doesn't, consider holding your sale at a friend or relative's home. There's no point in having everything organized and lots of great stuff to sell if you don't have any traffic!

5. Pair up with a friend. This is one of the best ways to have a successful garage sale–join ranks with a friend or two! Not only will you have more stuff and more variety, but you'll also have lots of fun and fellowship in the process. Plus, you'll have more help in pulling it off.

6. Advertise well. Make sure you put up plenty of nice signs in conspicuous places which easily lead to your home. Also, consider advertising in your paper or a free local newspaper. In different areas, advertising in the paper is very helpful. Other times, it is not necessary if you have good traffic and good signage. Experiment and see what works best. Above all, have very presentable and attractive signs–a sloppily-thrown together sign is not very inviting!

7. Don't forget the cookies and lemonade! What better way to teach your children entrepreneurial skills and let them earn a little money in the process than to have them set up their own little cookie and lemonade stands at the sale? Or, if it's cold outside, try selling hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh cinnamon rolls. One garage sale, we even set up a pancake griddle and sold pancakes hot off the griddle on Saturday morning.

There are a few of my tips for having a successful garage sale; I'd love to hear from you all if you have any great ideas or thoughts to add.

Guest Post: My Journey to Cloth Diapers


Guest Post by Andrea from

Cloth diapers? Get real. Next you’ll
be telling me to install a butter churn in my kitchen. I hear you. But
you wouldn’t be on this website if you didn’t have a little voice
in your head that urges you to at least look into any viable money-saving
possibility there is.

While I can’t speak for butter churns, I can
tell you my diaper story. I made the switch to cloth, and it has been
surprisingly painless.

First off, as money-conscious, optimistic
expectant parents, my husband and I decided we’d do it. Seeing the
cost of a large pack of diapers at Sam’s Club made us start calculating
the tremendous output we were facing. I mean, we were already tearing
paper towels in half and reusing plastic baggies; cloth diapers just
made sense.

I was thrilled to hear about the “Cloth
Diaper Seminar” offered at my local Babies “R” Us, complete with
free food. So I went and sat in the glider rocker section with about
fifteen other women who were also great with child.

The woman conducting
the seminar began her speech by admitting to the room that she had no
clue how to pin a diaper. In fact, she had called her friend earlier
to get the scoop on pinning. This was disconcerting. To me, pinning
was the hard part. If she couldn’t explain that, what good was she?

She proceeded with her sketchy explanation of traditional, pre-fold
diapers—the one’s I thought of when I thought of cloth diapers at
all. It was glaringly obvious that she had no experience whatsoever
in this arena. On top of that, Babies “R” Us sold nothing to accommodate
those opting for this method—except the pins. Pre-fold diapers, apparently,
have become burp rags. I didn’t know that. And diapers snap, not pin,
these days

But then the keynote diaper seminar
speaker really got going as she moved into territory that was
her forte. Ladies, cloth is cool. I mean, your kid can wear diapers
that look more like sweaters than anything else, you can get diapers
with dinosaurs on them, you can get diapers with flushable liners, the
possibilities go on and on.

So, I was intrigued. But the price
of getting started was prohibitive in my mind. The sweater variety,
she told us, would set you back about $80–for one diaper! Okay,
I realize you can eat up $80 in a hurry on disposables, but let’s
just face it, one diaper is not going to cut it. We’re talking at
least two. And that’s if you want to wash it three times a day. Which
you can’t because the sweater kind takes three days to dry.

As the time got closer, I started really meditating on everything that
was about to change. I meekly asked my husband if we could use the disposables
from the baby shower exclusively until I got used to the whole baby
idea. Then we could think about cloth. He was, as always, very understanding.

Besides, I was working. I worked part
time until Paul was 4 months old. He was in a great day care on the
campus of the university I worked for in a building next door to mine,
but cloth diapers were not welcome. No surprising!

So, four months passed, during
which time we used up all the diapers from the baby shower (and from
the grandmothers) and had to put up our own funds for, I think, something
like three packs of diapers. We weren’t really seeing the budget crunch
yet, but we knew it was coming.

Then I went to Ashlyn’s house for
someone else’s shower. See, Ashlyn uses cloth. That’s what did me
in. I decided I could do it when I saw a real person’s diapers and
talked with her about how she cleans them and where she buys them. That’s
why I’m writing this. Perhaps knowing a real story will encourage
you to take the plunge yourself. Thanks, Ashlyn.

Here’s what I found out from Ashlyn
along with some of what I’ve learned in the last ten or so months:

Where do you get them? . I haven’t looked at every single site
out there, but of the ones I’ve perused, her prices are the best.

What did you buy?
I started with 12 terrycloth diapers, 6 covers, 2 all-in-one diapers,
and a few doublers. She threw in some wipes with that order.

when the baby outgrew the covers, I ordered 8 more larger all-in-ones
because I realized that (with Bella Bottoms anyway) an all-in-one is
a cover with a pouch. So I use the all-in-ones without the inserts as
covers and with the inserts as diapers. The terrycloth diapers are one-size,
so he’ll wear those until he’s trained. 12 is all I need (since
I’ve got the all-in-one option to fall back on) because, regardless
of how many you’ve got, 2 or 3 days between washes is their limit.

What do they cost? It was about
a $200 initial investment for us. The next order (of all-in-ones) was
more like $90.

How do you store them until washing?
Ashlyn puts them straight into her washer filled with water (after emptying
them). When she gets enough for a load, she’ll start it. I use a trash
can with a springy pop-up lid (again, after emptying them). No water
in the trash can. Just wet and dirty diapers.


Washing Tools

How do you wash them? Lots of water. That’s a drawback, but I’ve got to do it this way
to keep them smelling fresh. I do a hot wash/cold rinse with nothing
else. Then a hot wash/cold rinse with a tiny bit (2 tablespoons?) of
detergent and ¼ cup of baking soda. Then a hot wash/cold rinse with
½ cup of vinegar. I dry them all on low heat, remove the vinyl covers
from the dryer, and finish drying the diapers on high heat. No fabric
softener, of course.

Do they work? Yes. Even at
night (with a doubler) once Paul stopped nursing in the middle of the

Are they gross? Well, yes.

Do they stink up your house?
No. Not even the room with the pail.

What about wipes?
You know how baby washcloths wear out really fast? I cut old ones in
half (so as to distinguish them from the non-wipe washcloths mostly)
and stack a bunch next to the diaper station. I’ve got a squirt-top
bottle (a spray bottle works too) filled with water and a smidge of
baby shampoo/soap. I wet them down on the spot and wipe. Think about
it. Where would you put a disposable wipe if you’re using a cloth
diaper? I actually prefer the cloth wipes straight up over disposables.

Can your kid wear them out in public?
Yes. Just pack a grocery bag in your diaper bag. Hand sanitizer is nice
too. (To date, I’ve never changed a dirty cloth diaper away from my
house. Odds are, it’s coming though.)

But I have so much fun getting
free diapers at CVS!
Never fear. You’ll still need diapers. I
buy about one pack a month. I think the church nursery workers appreciate
my not springing cloth on them.

Will they really save me money?
Depends on how many of your diapers are free, I guess. Besides the cost
of the diapers, you do need to consider the water output. I wash about
2½ times a week. Here’s how we look at it. I think we will
come out ahead on Paul. However, chances are, Paul’s not the youngest,
and the cloth diapers are still going strong.

There you have it. If you know anything
about butter churns, I’d love you hear your story.

Andrea desires to bring honor to her Savior as a wife to her wonderful
husband Jon and mother to their 14-month-old son, Paul. She am thankful to
be able to stay at home full-time. She and her family live in South Carolina and minister their local church while seeking God’s direction concerning missionary
service in Latin America. She blogs at

From Crystal: If you would like to learn more about cloth diapering, Tammy has written extensively on her blog about how she does it. Check out her posts , , and . Also, I found to be extremely helpful and informative.

I used almost exclusively with my first child and loved those, though I know everyone has their own preferences. My advice, if you’re new to the idea of cloth diapering, is that you do lots of research. Ask around and see if any of your friends use cloth diapers and get their take on what works for them. Secondly, give yourself a few months to adjust to being a mommy of a newborn before attempting cloth diapering–especially if you are a first-time mommy. Lastly, don’t invest hundreds of dollars without first trying cloth diapers out on a small scale and determining what works for you.

I’d love to hear from other moms out there who have cloth diapered. What are your favorite brands of cloth diapers? What advice would you have for someone who is considering switching to cloth? Also, if you’ve blogged on the subject of cloth diapering, please do leave the link to your post in the comments section. I know many moms would appreciate that!