I made £3,406 Free Money in 2021 – End of Year Review
2021 has come to an end before I even had time to realize it. Time has gone by really fast. I mean it feels like yesterday when I finally made up my mind and decided to document my Free Money Making Venture in the Cash4Nothing Blog. That is a year in the past now. At that point, I was not entirely sure as to where this Journey would take me and to whether or not I would experience the same gains as I did in the previous years leading up to 2021 (see post I managed to accrue £22,750 from Free Money Sources).
I said to myself that I just had to try and go for it. There is nothing to be lost and a lot to be gained and learnt. Today, I am truly happy that I did. Not only it has been an enriching experience from a personal point of view, but I feel proud of the fact that first, I have reached and comfortably exceeded the objectives I set at the beginning of the calendar year, and second, I was able to find the time, the self-discipline and the motivation to document my progress along the way so that it could make interesting reading for like-minded individuals out there.
My hope is that my Story can serve as an inspiration for you and others to collect low hanging fruit money and benefit from it. If I have somehow achieved that, my job is done. Anyhow, a long Journey starts with a first step and I believe I have successfully trailed the Free Money Path in 2021. But I rather let the numbers do the talking. Time for an End of Year Review.
The Free Money Making Method
Let me point out once again that I used a rather informal approach in the early days. I was selling the odd piece of clutter in any random online marketplace, getting cashback for the occasional online purchase or signing up on a whim to collect the promotion money. That was it for quite some time after one day I got curious as to how much money could be collected in any given calendar year. So I kept a ledger capturing all these transactions. Just a notepad where I would make an entry every time some free cash landed on my lap. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the earnings grew into the thousands. And I was not even trying…
However, if I was going to share my Story by making it available in the Public Domain, I was going to need a more structured process to tackle the Task. In this sense, I would first, commit myself to keeping and updating an online diary of my progress (this very Blog) and second, I would adopt a business-like mindset by setting up objectives, tracking progress against key indicators and conducting periodic reviews to assess my earnings against objectives set. Let me summarise this 4-step process below:
- Set Earnings Objectives for every Free Money Contributor at the beginning of the calendar year.
- Track and update earning indicators to quantify progress.
- Appraise earnings at set times during the year (quarterly) to understand performance gaps vs objectives.
- Develop projections and take action to bridge gaps if needed.
This methodology works. I only have to commit and be regimental about it. The results will come.
Step 1 – Set Objectives for every Free Money Contributor
2021 Objective: £1,000 Free Money.
Tools: bank rewards, cashback, decluttering sales, promotional sign-ups and interests on savings. Any other unexpected source of free cash/freebies is classed as a random occurrence outside of my circle of influence (always welcome but cannot be accurately predicted)
Free Money Earnings Objectives Breakdown:
- Banks rewards and interests: £250.
- Cashback: £250.
- Promotions: £200.
- No longer needed items sales: £300.
For a detailed explanation of the System and the identification of Free Money Sources, see post My Free Money Objectives & Plan for 2021.
Step 2 – Track and update earning indicators to quantify progress
If you don’t know where you are, it will be extremely difficult to arrive to where you are going. My compass is made out of indicators that I use to measure and record my progress over time. Similarly to a budget, I use a Free Money Earnings Spreadsheet to help me track and visualize the money in-flows by source. Once set up, all is required is to populate the earnings box at the end of the month. A line item total and the difference against objective will be shown automatically. Easy, simple spreadsheet stuff. As for the period January to December 2021, the numbers are shown below:
What information can we extract from these figures?
- Every single Free Money Individual Objective has been achieved.
- Free Money Earnings Objective for the Year 2021 has been attained with ease: £3,229 delivered vs £1,000 expected. Not only that, I made 3.2 times the Free Money amount projected.
- Earnings might be somehow inflated if we consider the fact that one third came from Freebies.
- Decluttering sales account for 33% of total earnings. By far the highest contributor excluding Freebies.
Step 3 – Understand performance gaps vs objectives
Figures say that all boxes can be coloured green but I need to measure how much more was delivered against objectives to appraise actual performance.
How can these numbers be interpreted?
- I made 1.5 times the Bank Rewards & Interest £250 objective: £376 or £126 more than planned.
- 4.5 times more than expected from decluttering: £1,352 vs £300, or a positive difference of £1,052.
- Just managed to deliver cashback earnings. I felt that I was being kept on my toes at all times. Really close until the very last month of the year.
- Same applies to promotions. It was not until the last quarter and within a single month that the earnings came in. Tight.
I have had an outstanding Free Money Earnings year overall with three overperforming contributors and two just ok performers. I am as happy as I can be. That’s it. No time for more. Curtains are drawn with an outstanding ovation (so I hope).
Step 4 – Actions to close Gaps vs Objectives
Not applicable at this stage. However, I can use the performance ratios as an input for a historic data set as well as a valuable piece of information to develop even more realistic and accurate objectives year on year.
2021 Wrap up
Last but not least, let’s not forget that I have placed all my Free Money Earnings in ISA vehicles to ensure Tax Free growths (see post Investing the Free Cash Fund for Growth). The Value of the Pot as of the 1st of January 2022 is £3,406. That is £177 more or an increase of 5.5% in value. Free Money on top of Free Money. Just my favourite Cherry on the Top.
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If I was to look back into the five years prior to the point Cash4Nothing was born (see table above), I would find this year’s earnings in alignment with that trend. The difference between the 2015-2020 period and 2021 resides in the fact that I did not use to have a method and I did have a nice pot of savings I do not enjoy of nowadays. I am not dwelling in the past though. You learn and you move on as nothing stays the same. Change is a given.
The start of a New Era looks really promising. I will keep going at it with renewed energies.