My 2016 Budget Challenge: Job Creation

[Editor's Note: This is the latest episode in Max Wong's journey to find an extra $31,000 this year. Read the whole series here.]

If there's one aspect of my personality that defines me as an American, it's my ability to convert desire into employment. I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, so I started making a film and got a grant to complete it. I wanted to become a beekeeper, so I got bees, and now I own a tiny but profitable honey business. I am obsessed with brutalist architecture, and my pure, sincere love of misunderstood concrete buildings has led me to paying work as an architectural photographer.

Every job of value I've ever had, I invented. (This includes my job as a staff writer for Wise Bread!) The main reason why I have all these weird side jobs and businesses is that I am really good at finding solutions to problems. This is what people pay me for. This is why my editors challenged me to solve my $31,000 budget shortfall publicly, as a serial writing assignment. They know I will find a solution or, worst case scenario, provide a gruesome, yet entertaining, spectacle for readers.

You Can Be a Job Creator, Too

Although politicians constantly talk about job creation in the context of big business or big government, they never talk about the legions of babysitters, gardeners, anonymous YouTube stars, eBay antiques dealers, graffiti artists, cake decorators, breast milk dealers, and other everyday people who have quietly created income streams for themselves and others through talent and sheer force of will. There are so many niche jobs that need to get done everywhere. It's all about asking to be paid to do something that you are good at and already doing for yourself. Here are my two invented jobs of the week.

Invented Job of the Week #1: Car Parts Finder

Currently, two out of our three cars are in the shop waiting for parts. Because our mechanic is fantastic and he's so popular, there's always a wait time for him to get jobs done. A parts search only adds to the wait time

Here's a short list of what my mechanic likes to do:

  1. Work on cars.
  2. Drive cars.
  3. Go to classic car shows.
  4. Read Swedish crime novels.

Here's a short list of what my mechanic does not like to do:

  1. Spend hours scouring the Internet for car parts.

After waiting weeks for him to find a reconditioned mass air flow sensor for less than $765, I had an epiphany about how to speed up the repair schedule on my vehicles: Although I cannot control the popularity of my mechanic or accelerate his workflow, I can speed up the hunt for replacement parts.

I called my mechanic and told him to email me a Most Wanted list of parts that he suspects I will need to replace in the near future. From now on I am going to source all my own parts, in advance, to prevent my current situation of three simultaneously broken cars from ever happening again. I am banking on the idea that buying reasonably priced Volvo parts in advance, as I come across them, will keep me from paying emergency prices for car repair down the road.

I "Earned" $720 on My First Car Parts Hunt

The local independent parts dealer has a reconditioned mass air flow sensor for $765. My mechanic and I agree that, even in my bad car situation, this amount is highway robbery. So I am very pleased that in just a few hours of searching online, I found a new-in-box mass air flow sensor from an overseas eBay seller for $45.

Not only did sourcing my own parts save me $720 in parts costs, but it gave me a possible new side gig idea — my mechanic was so impressed with my parts hunting ability that he told me that I should advertise my parts finding service to his vintage car collecting customers. While I'm not sure if I want to operate a boutique car parts emporium for the rich and famous out of my house, this self-sourcing of car parts ensures that I will get faster service from my mechanic and potentially save me a lot of money.

(At this point in the story, I must give a big thank you to friend and Wise Bread reader Bob who found me a new EGR valve for our Volvo station wagon for $285.07. Thanks, Bob!)

Invented Job of the Week #2: Photographer's Assistant

My mentor, the very fancy architectural photographer whom I occasionally assist, was shooting a job in Los Angeles last week. Although there was no money in the job budget for an assistant, I offered to work for free so I could have the opportunity of observing his workflow up close, especially since I have no experience using a digital, tilt-shift lens. I spent four sleep-deprived days lugging equipment, moving trash cans, fetching coffee, breaking parking laws, and generally living in fear that I was going to forget a key piece of equipment at a location, get us lost in the hills of Los Angeles, or run down my boss with the rental car. I constantly worried that I was screwing up the workflow I was supposed to be observing.

Apparently, I didn't suck at the job as much as I'd thought. At the end of the weekend, my boss loaned me his old camera body to use for my first professional architectural photography job.

The loaner is a 21-megapixel camera, which is far from the current professional architectural photography standard of 50 megapixels. However, 21 megapixels is vastly superior to what I am currently shooting — the eight-megapixel camera on my iPhone. Also, the 21-megapixel camera fits the same lenses as my dream camera, so I can immediately start practicing with a tilt-shift lens, a piece of equipment that has a steep learning curve. A full $4,000 of the $31,000 I'm trying to find this year is earmarked to purchase the 50-megapixel camera body of my dreams, so this camera loan will not save me from buying a camera. But, this equipment loan will save me $180 per day in camera rental fees, and allow me to start my first pro job with a lot less financial stress. I won't have to buy my camera package on credit in one fell swoop.

Progress So Far

While I wish that my two invented jobs of last week had provided me with an income, my sweat equity resulted in, at the minimum, $1000 in savings on car parts and camera equipment. A little house-sitting job for a friend netted me $100 in cash and a $100 Trader Joe's gift card. I used the gift card to purchase groceries for the month of March and used the $100 in cash to replace worn out equipment for our vegetable garden. My cash contribution to the $31,000 budget challenge: $0.

My husband, however, managed to save $1000 during the month of February from his paychecks and earn an additional $700 from a DJ gig. (Good job, cutie.)

Due to the broken cars we spent $373.07 on car parts and $56.75 for work-related Uber rides and $10 for work-related metro tickets.

Goal: $31,000

Amount Raised: $8,800.00

Amount Spent: $3741.82

Amount Left to Go: $25,941.82

All my savings aside, it's obvious that we will not make my $31,000 Budget Challenge if I don't start earning more income immediately. As it stands, we will have to make and/or save an additional $2889 per month to make our goal by the end of the year. It's time for me to start inventing jobs that pay me up front, and not down the road. I'll keep you posted.

What's your best job creation story? Tell us about it in comments.

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My 2016 Budget Challenge: Job Creation

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Guest's picture
Mary Ellen

Bob loves being written about, especially is it's positive! We're glad he could help!

Max Wong's picture

Mary Ellen--so happy I could give Bob a shout out for his help!

Guest's picture
Patricia Clark

As always, Max, you are an inspiration! Now I've just got to move from inspired to active!

Max Wong's picture

Patty-- I am so glad you are inspired! Thank you for your nice comment.

Guest's picture
Kelly H.

This is great! I am currently mulling over an idea for my own invented job. You've inspired me to go for it!

Max Wong's picture

Kelly--Go for it! I hope you get your invented job.