All In

My adventure as I jump into life all in!!

Shop Your Cupboard + Aldi Haul 5/16/18

We have been trying to save money and groceries is always a good place to start. I always find myself picking everything up at Walmart because it seems cheap and it is on my way home from work. But I have been to Aldi a few times and I’m always surprised at how cheap their groceries are. I needed to get groceries because we were out of a few things like milk, yogurt, etc. But first, I decided to “shop my cupboards” which is exactly what it sounds like. You go through your pantry, fridge, freezer and wherever else you store your food items. Make an inventory of what you have and try to come up with some meals to utilize what you already have.

Here is what I found in our cubpoards/freezer/fridge:

  • spaghetti & pasta sauce
  • a suddenly salad mix
  • box of macaroni & cheese
  • ramen
  • taco mix
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • green onions
  • enchilada sauce
  • BBQ sauce
  • stove-top stuffing mix
  • dirty rice mix
  • long grain rice
  • A freezer meal (SCORE!!!)
  • kielbasa sausage
  • 1 rack of ribs
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • cream cheese
  • mozzarella cheese
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sliced cheese
  • muffin mix
  • Eggs
  • half a loaf of bread
  • 5 small tortillas

Next I brainstormed meals that I could make with just these items and here’s what I came up with:

  1. Sauteed kielbasa with potatoes & onions.
  2. The freezer meal
  3. Dirty rice
  4. Spaghetti with pasta sauce
  5. Breakfast quesadillas (eggs, cheese and onions)
  6. Grilled cheese
  7. Macaroni
  8. BBQ ribs
  9. Muffins for breakfast

I also noticed that some of what I found just needed a few more things to complete a meal. Here’s what I could make with a few purchases:

  1. Chicken enchiladas (Use: enchilada sauce & cream cheese; need: chicken, more tortillas)
  2. Bruschetta Chicken recipe from the Stove Top stuffing box (Use: Stove-top stuffing, mozzarella cheese; need: chicken & tomatoes)
  3. Nachos (Use: taco mix, burger, cheese, onions, green onions; need: lettuce & chips)
  4. Suddenly salad with chicken add-in (use: suddenly salad; need: chicken)

I’m sure there are even more ways to stretch what I had, but that is what I came up with. Then I looked at the Aldi ad (Omaha area) for this week to see what it would cost me to stretch my meals:

  • chicken breast ($1.69/lb, 5lb average package)=$8.45
  • tomatoes, 24oz pkg $1.49

There were no tortillas, lettuce or chips in the ad, but I knew Aldi carried them so I added them to my list. I also checked the ad for other items on sale to see what was at a good price point and could be used with what I had.

  • Broccoli 16oz (2 heads) for $0.99
  • Zucchini or yellow squash, 20oz for $0.79
  • Organic strawberry lemonade, 64 oz for $2.29
  • Chicken Sausage, 12oz for $4.89

So far, my total is $18.90 to round out my 13 meals!! (14 if I buy buns and use the chicken sausage as its own meal with some of the nachos from taco night). I’d say that’s pretty good. I would definitely encourage everyone to “shop their cupboards” and make a meal plan before they go grocery shopping to make the most out of your grocery budget.

Of course, once I got to Aldi, a few more deals caught my eye because they were cheap, not because they were “on sale” but they were just normally priced that low. I also bought a few things that we go through often, like snacks, fruit, orange juice, etc. We also bought some hot dogs to put in the freezer and found some even cheaper chicken sausage & tomatoes. I’m hoping after this grocery trip, we won’t have to go to the store again for over two weeks!

Here’s a few items that are just regularly cheap at Aldi that I thought I would mention:

  • Individual flavored greek yogurt – $0.69 each
  • Individual flavored non-greek yogurt – $0.39 each
  • white bread – $0.85
  • hot dog buns – $0.85
  • 10ct medium tortillas – $0.99
  • 20ct small tortillas – $1.99
  • Tortilla chips – $1.49
  • Turkey stock – $0.99
  • Potato chips – $1.79
  • 2% milk gallon – $1.50

And that’s just the items that we bought!!

Below is a copy of our receipt. We ended up spending $74.94 on various necessities & probably a few splurges, but that’s what I love about Aldi, even with splurges, you are saving money!! I still think it’s pretty awesome that if I would have just bought the necessary items to finish my meals and milk, my total would have been under $25!


Have you ever “shopped your cupboards”? Do you have an Aldi or other discount store near you? How have you tried to stretch your grocery budget?

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Gifts She Actually Wants for Valentine’s

Off to buy your wife/girlfriend the usual Valentine’s flowers or box of chocolates? Does she even like those things? This year, I’ve come up with a list of things that she may actually want for Valentine’s Day. I know I’d be happy if my man bought me any of these things!


Spa day or gift certificate, Bath Bomb, comfy robe, bath scrub – Every woman wants to be pampered! Get her one of these items to help her relax.

Comfy blanket – Perfect for you both to stay in, Netflix and chill!

Favorite Candy – She may be sick of getting a box of chocolates, but you know she’d love some of her favorites! Have you been paying attention? Some of my favorites are M&M’s, Snickers, and Reese’s)

Dinner at her Favorite Restaurant or a gift certificate to one of her favorite places or someplace she’d like to go. You could even get a certificate to your favorite local place!

A cup of her favorite coffee (or other favorite drink)!

Something for her hobby

Take a class together for a new hobby

Book or DVD: Something that means something to her or both of you….a classic that she loves… from one of your first dates?……something from her favorite author, director or actor/actress. Or maybe a kindle or tablet to read/watch these on.

Something she needs (Has she been complaining about something breaking or getting worn out or lost? Get her a new one! Umbrella, lip gloss, phone case)

Something she’s been thinking about buying (If she’s like me, she may be wanting to buy something but doesn’t feel it’s worth the expense or that the money is in the budget. If she’s been saying she wants to buy something that she wants, find a way to get the money for it and buy it for her!!)

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully they got your mind thinking about what to get your woman! Even if you don’t buy any of these things, I hope I got your mind thinking about something that she might want so you can go out and spoil her this Valentine’s Day!


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Goal Progress – September

The month is almost over and I just remembered that I haven’t tracked my goal progress yet!! I have done better than last year by just keeping up with tracking my goals, if nothing else, lol! Here goes:

Financial Goals:

Start a Side Hustle – Fail. – As our debt seems to loom into eternal payments, I am seriously considering making some time to purge stuff from our home. We have extra strollers, way too many clothes and some junk. I just need to set aside a time to get it done!

Earn $100 extra each month – Pass – Although I’ve been slacking on a side hustle, I got barely enough overtime last month to bring in $100 extra dollars.

Pay down vehicles so they aren’t upside downFail – Our bank account was just too low this month, so I only sent in an extra $10. It’s something, but not where I want to be with paying down our vehicles.

Grow our Net Worth by $10,000 (20%) – Fail – Our net worth hardly moved last month. We ended up charging a bit too much on our credit card, so I think this had something to do with it. How are we ever going to become debt free if we keep up like this!?

Personal Goals:

Read the Entire Bible – Fail – I am still struggling to remember to make this a priority.

Write at least two blogs post per month – Pass – I did my usual goal update, as well as start a series on our foster parenting journey.

Read 13 books – Pass – I took a break from the Christian reading list I had been going through and read a fiction book. I also finished reading the Christian book I was in the middle of reading.

Grow Deeper in my relationship with God – Work in Progress – Definitely something I need to focus more on, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “fail” this month either.

Keep Our House Tidy – Pass – Still a continual work in progress. I feel like we did a little better last month, but we also had a few case worker visits, so we made sure to keep the house clean.

Well, there you have it. Not too shabby and still chugging along.

What about you, how are your goals or resolutions doing? If you are hitting your goals, great! If not, don’t get discouraged and keep pushing towards those goals! The best way to stay accountable is to share you goals and progress, so feel free to comment below.

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Foster Parenting Series: First Placement

In my last few posts, I talked about what led us to becoming foster parents and the process we went through to become licensed. Today, I will talk about our first placement.

When we got licensed, we could chose an age range of children we would prefer to have in our home. (We could have limited gender and race as well, but we chose to take both genders and any race.) Because we don’t have our own kids, we chose to foster children from age 0 to 2. We figured that would be a good place to start and assumed that children this age wouldn’t come with some of the severe behavioral issues and defiance that older children sometimes have. (I’m not saying those children aren’t worth our time, quite the opposite, but we wanted to start out parenting younger children so that we could be more prepared to eventually take on older kids; I hope someday we feel confident enough to take older children because there is a huge need for homes for older kids)

You also get to choose how many children you are willing to take at a time (as long as you have the necessary space for multiple children). At the time, we had one spare bedroom, so we got licensed for two.

Then the calls began. Because there aren’t as many babies in foster care as there are older children, we got calls for kids of all ages. Most of the calls we got were for children age 3 or over. We got a few random calls for babies, but we either missed the call, or said yes but the child went to another family instead. (The process our agency goes through is to call families and get a handful of yes’s, then they give those family’s names over to the placement agency and they set up the placement, so we just weren’t the family picked by the placement agency I guess.) This only happened a few times, mostly we got calls for older children and said no. But even the amount of calls we received outside of our age range wasn’t super often.

I always heard about how foster parents are needed and there are so many children and not enough homes, and I had heard of families that got licensed one day, and the next day had 3 or 4 kids in their homes. We thought a placement would happen almost immediately like that, but for whatever reason, it didn’t.

Finally, after about 6 months or so, we finally said yes and got a placement of a sibling set. Two girls, aged 2 years old and 11 months old from a different town in our area. I got the call on my way home from work and I picked up the girls that evening. My husband was working so I went to get them alone.

They both took to me pretty well (as well as they could at their age, not really understanding what was going on). The next morning, we all just hung out and I let them watch cartoons. They weren’t too sure about my husband, but by the end of the day, he had won them over. I had gone to bed on Friday a nervous wreck. I was thinking “Oh my gosh, this is really happening! There are two kids in my house who expect me to know how to take care of them….Can I do this? Am I doing okay?” I later realized this was probably a normal ‘new parent’ freak-out moment, but in the moment, I was terrified of what we had worked so long to do, actually being a parent.

The older girl was underweight, and basically all she would eat was pediasure drinks. We tried to be firm, yet loving and get her to eat more food, but the most she would eat was a few chicken nuggets, which worried us. Kids need to eat real food, right? At the same time, we were also struggling to line up day care, since we both work full-time. We called all the places on the list of state-licensed daycares and no one had an opening.

While I had been having my ‘new parent freak-out,’ my husband kept assuring me that everything would be okay and that we were doing fine. I finally started to believe him, but as soon as I became calme, he hit the ‘new parent freak-out.’ He was concerned about the older girl’s eating habits and our inability to find daycare. I ended up taking the following Monday off since we still had no daycare, but after calling all day Monday, we still hadn’t lined anything up.

We reached out to the girls’ case worker about this and they said the girls’ grandmother was willing to take them and could do so immediately, if needed. We decided that since that was a possibility, that we would go ahead with that. Plus, it is in the child’s best interests to be with family, it just took the state a little time to get in contact with family.

After they left, I experienced a range of emotions. I cried, because I missed them; we had bonded in just those few days. I also cried because I felt like we failed as parents because we got so stressed in the span of the few days. My husband was so overwhelmed by the struggles we had with the older girl not eating, that he wasn’t sure how well he could parent. We actually ended up closing our foster license for a few years. But I still felt called to help kids in this way, and we both agreed there are children out there that need love. So, last year, we got re-certified and chose to only take 1 child at a time, hoping we wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if there was only one child to worry about.

In my next post, I will talk about our first long-term placement.

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Foster Parenting Series: Paperwork

In my last post, I talked about what led us to becoming foster parents. In this post, I will talk about the process we went through to get licensed as foster parents.

In 2012, we decided to look into becoming foster parents. We attended an informational session that was a sort of overview of what becoming a foster parent entailed and a bit about being a foster parent. After the session, we signed up to take the classes required to become licensed.

We attended classes for three months, once a week for 3 hours in the evening at our local community college. The classes were provided free of charge. There were about 10 to 15 other couples in the class with us, all of different ages and different reasons that led them there. The class was taught by a current foster parent and someone from the licensing agency. Throughout the class we talked about issues that foster children may have, the circumstances that may lead them to foster care, and tips on parenting them and correcting behaviors. It was highly stressed the corporal punishment (spanking or hitting) was a no-no, so we talked a lot about other ways to correct behaviors, and how some of their behaviors could be caused by their previous environment or their lack of control over their current environment. After all, the children don’t choose to leave the only home they’ve ever known, and they usually aren’t happy about it.

After the class, everyone was given the choice to continue and become licensed, or decide that foster care isn’t for you and leave it at that.  We chose to move forward and become licensed. Thus began the barrage of paperwork and home visits.

I cleaned our house like it had never been cleaned before and we filled out mountains of paperwork. I swear we even filled out the same papers twice because it was misplaced by the licensing agency. I felt like I filled out my name, birth date, and address hundreds of times by the time we were done.

People are often curious of what a home visit entails. What is the agency looking for, why so many visits, etc.? They are not looking into every nook and cranny of your home, they will not dig through your underwear drawer or the back of your closet or anything crazy like that. They simply want to make sure you have a clean home and that you have things necessary to take care of children, like a bedroom with a bed and dresser for them (and a certain amount of square footage per child, including your own), a bathroom, and functioning kitchen, and functioning fire alarms and CO2 detectors. They also want to make sure there is nothing in your home that is dangerous for a child, and that your cleaning supplies are locked out of reach of children as well as any firearms (if you own any).

As for the mountains of paperwork, they want to fingerprint you, learn about your past and how you interact with children in your own life (the licensing agency in our state asked for references and then ask those references for more references about us). They also need to do a background check, and they want to make sure you make enough money to take care of the child(ren) placed in your care (although you get paid by the state, they want to make sure you can function without it, so you aren’t just ‘doing it for the money’).

After what seemed like an eternal mountain of paperwork and multiple home visits, we finally got the news that we were licensed in the Spring of 2013.

In the next post, I will discuss what it was like to get our first call and placement.

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Foster Parenting Series: Our Story

Today I am starting a blog series on foster care, specifically our journey with foster care. I always hear people say “I could never do foster care” and “you’re a strong person, I could never do that” about being a foster parent, so I thought I would share our journey so that you could hear from a real person’s experience with foster care.

I have always been interested in adoption. When I was in elementary school, my best friend was a girl who had been adopted from Seoul, South Korea so I have almost always been aware of the idea of adoption.

When I was in junior high, one of my other friends had some experience with foster care. She had 2 cousins that were removed from their parents. My friend’s parents did what was necessary to become licensed and have the children move in with them, so that was my first introduction into the idea of foster care. Her cousins ended up living with them for nearly ten years.

We also have a sister-in-law who was in the foster care system as a child and was adopted, along with her brother.

My husband didn’t have as much direct experience with foster care or adoption as I did, but we talked about kids and adoption before we were even married. He agreed with my view that there are children all over the world who need homes. We decided that after we got married, we would have a few children and adopt a few children.

When we got married, we were in college, so we put off the idea of kids until we were done. He graduated in 2011 and we settled into married life outside of college. In 2012, we decided to look into what it takes to become foster parents.

That is where we will end for now, and we will pick up where we left off in the next post.


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Goal Progress – August

Still plugging away and tracking my progress. I seriously think this is the longest that I have stuck with a New Year’s Resolution or yearly goal!!. I have been sticking with a general goal of becoming debt free for years now, but I think that’s the only other thing I’ve been able to stick with, plus I haven’t hit it yet, so I needed these other goals to keep me on track.

Here’s the update on my goals:

Financial Goals:

Start a Side Hustle – Fail. – I would still like to have a side hustle, but I have yet to really follow through on any of my random ideas like selling on Ebay, Amazon, facebook swaps, or craigslist….. But I’m still tracking the goal! LOL!!

Earn $100 extra each month – Fail –  I just was not able to get in the overtime necessary for this, and obviously didn’t have a side hustle.

Pay down vehicles so they aren’t upside downPass- Our budget barely scraped by last month, but we still had enough that I sent $50 extra dollars with one of our car payments.

Grow our Net Worth by $10,000 (20%) – Pass – The year is more than half over and we only have $5000 left. You would think we should have less left, since that is half of the goal, but we did lose a little in net worth when we sold the truck and bought another, so we made that up as well as getting halfway to the goal at this point.

Personal Goals:

Read the Entire Bible – Fail – It is still hard for me to remember to make this a priority. Maybe I should put a sticky not on the television or something.

Write at least two blogs post per month – Pass-ish- I did my usual goal update, and wrote most of a post about traveler’s notebooks. But I didn’t end up finishing and uploading the post until August 1st.

Read 13 books – Fail– I need to kick my but into gear if I’m going to hit this goal, but I really do want to spend more time reading. I waste so much time in front of the television that it should be easy to find time to read, but alas, I forget my plans to read and get sucked into the television.

Grow Deeper in my relationship with God – Work in Progress – Definitely something I need to focus more on, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “fail” this month either.

Make a point to do something special for my husband once a month – Fail – Seriously, this year of tracking this goal has made me realize how little we truly take time to focus on one another. We may be in the same house or watching the same TV show, but are we truly focusing on one another? I did spend some time praying for him and our relationship during my commutes to and from work, but we still didn’t focus much on each other, even though our 10 year anniversary was in July!!! (We did go out to dinner that night, but our budget didn’t allow us to do much else….we are planning a trip in October, though)

Keep Our House Tidy – Pass – Still a continual work in progress. The dishes never seem to be done!

Well, there you have it. Not too shabby and still chugging along.

What about you, how are your goals or resolutions doing? If you are hitting your goals, great! If not, don’t get discouraged and keep pushing towards those goals! The best way to stay accountable is to share you goals and progress, so feel free to comment below.

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Have You Ever Heard of a Traveler’s Notebook?

Recently, I was watching the Young Wife’s Guide YouTube channel and one of her videos caught my eye. It was about traveler’s notebooks and using them as a planner. She had heard about these notebooks from various friends of hers and had finally started using one. She raved over the fact that it was customizable. You could have a monthly planner, weekly planner, recipes, grocery lists, and even such random things as sermon notes and prayer journal (and more!!) all in one place, but organized separately. I loved this idea and subsequently went down a rabbit hole of traveler’s notebook YouTube videos (seriously, just search traveler’s notebook on youtube and you will find tons of videos or how to organize and decorate them).

If you are wondering how it all works, here is my explanation: The traveler’s notebook is actually multiple notebooks within the same binder. The binder comes with elastics down the spine and each notebook loops into one of those elastics to be held into place. (You can see an example in the YWG video I linked to above, or just search traveler’s notebook on Pinterest or Youtube) The reason they are called “traveler’s notebooks” is because they were originally created (by the Midori company) as a way to log your travels. For example, you could have a notebook for each country you visit or each year that you travel and fill it with pictures or thoughts from your travels.

But some people have taken the idea of a traveler’s notebook and used it to create their own planner. You can have a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily planner in there as well as various other journals or trackers. The possibilities are endless!

I have never been one to stick to using a planner, but lately, I have truly been needing somewhere besides my phone to write down appointments and various dates for our foster daughter’s appointments and court dates, as well as just general notes. When I heard about the concept of the traveler’s notebook, it peaked my interest.

So, I ordered this one from Amazon with a gift card that I had and hoped that I would stick to it!

When I got my notebook, I was excited to put it together. I found a free monthly planner printable on Pinterest to use as the first insert. The second insert I am using is a weekly planner, where I can breakdown more of our weekly plans and things I want to focus on at home (shopping, cleaning, etc). The third insert I have is important dates, notes, and developmental milestones of our foster daughter. And my last insert is currently my ‘random’ notebook. So far I have Christmas gift ideas in it, as well as financial goals and eventual home purchases we will need in the next year or so (our washing machine is on it’s last legs!! Also, we could use a few more hampers since we only have one!)

I think I may eventually add one more insert as a prayer journal, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. I also want to eventually set up a prayer closet, so I’m not sure whether to have the prayer journal always in the prayer closet or to carry it with me in the traveler’s notebook so that I can add prayer requests whenever they arise.

So, what do you think? Is the idea of a traveler’s notebook as a planner something you would try? Or is it just too much and you’d rather stick to a simple planner? Let me know your thoughts! Comment below!


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Goal Progress – July

I am proud of myself for sticking with my goals longer than half the year this time. I may not get these updates up close to the beginning of the month, but I’m still sticking with it and getting them posted. Plus, posting them helps me stay even more aware and re-focus on my goals. Here’s the update on my goals:

Financial Goals:

Start a Side Hustle – Fail. – I would still like to sell on Ebay, but I haven’t gotten around to that. Also, I pretty much fell off the wagon of selling It Works products (My mom, who got me into the business, also stopped selling recently so that didn’t help my motivation). I think if I was more passionate about the products, I would have stuck with it or tried harder, but I mainly got into it to help my mom while earning a little extra. Since Mom quit selling, I lost my motivation as well.

Earn $100 extra each month – Pass – I did earn $40 from It-Works but I believe that is my last payout because I’m no longer commission qualified. I also worked some overtime in June so I was able to barely exceed my goal of earning $100 extra this month.

Pay down vehicles so they aren’t upside downPass- We had some other bills and stuff, but were still able to pay $50 extra dollars towards one of our vehicle loans. I would like to put more towards our cars, but we are also working on paying down credit cards from our trip to Hawaii.

Grow our Net Worth by $10,000 (20%) – Pass – We got our travel reimbursement from our trip, so that helped our net worth get back to where it should be at this point. We haven’t hit this goal yet, but we still have the other half of the year and I think if all goes well we should be on track to hit this goal by the end of the year.

Personal Goals:

Read the Entire Bible – Pass – I did spend some time reading, but I’m in no way caught up to where I want to be.

Write at least two blogs post per month – Pass- I did my usual goal update, as well as a post about a unique way to earn extra income.

Read 13 books – Fail– I didn’t finish the book I was reading, but I am getting close. I’ll need to read more than a book a month to stay on track at this point, but I think I can still do it.

Grow Deeper in my relationship with God – Work in Progress – Definitely something I need to focus more on, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “fail” this month either.

Make a point to do something special for my husband once a month – Fail – Guys, this year of tracking this goal has made me realize how little we truly take time to focus on one another. We may be in the same house or watching the same TV show, but are we truly focusing on one another?

Keep Our House Tidy – Pass – We have been able to keep the house picked up, except for the dishes. I just can’t stay on top of them (plus I hate doing dishes). But even with my hatred of dishes, if there are any that aren’t done, it has usually been enough to fit in the sink, so that is progress!

Well, there you have it. Not too shabby and still chugging along.

What about you, how are your goals or resolutions doing? If you are hitting your goals, great! If not, don’t get discouraged and keep pushing towards those goals! The best way to stay accountable is to share you goals and progress, so feel free to comment below.

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Earning Extra With A Referral Bonus

We could all use a little extra money once in a while, right? Well today I’m going to talk about one small way that some people can bring in a little extra: a referral bonus.

A referral bonus is a bonus that you receive when you refer a friend to work at your job and they get hired and stick with it for a certain amount of time (usually six months or one year)

Of course, this sort of bonus isn’t something that everyone can earn. Perhaps your company doesn’t offer signing bonuses, or perhaps you are self-employed. But, if you work in the corporate world, there is a good chance that your company will pay you to refer people to work there as well.

If you aren’t sure whether or not your company does this, talk to your human resources representative and find out whether or not it is offered and what the stipulations are.

Obviously, this sort of extra income is not an immediate cash-flow, and is only a one-time bonus (per employee that you refer). And of course there are other factors, such as if your friend even gets hired, or if they stay with the company the amount of months needed to earn the bonus.

Also, you should try to refer people that would truly be a good fit for your company. It is sort of a win-win, your company can gain a good employee, and you get a bonus as well as the pleasure of working with a friend/helping a friend get a job.


Have you ever earned a referral bonus? What are some other unique ways that you have earned extra income? I’d love to hear from you, so be sure to comment below!

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