Sometimes the things I spend my time on leave me shaking my head.
This post from Accidentally Retired on how you don’t need multiple streams of income to become wealthy hit me between the eyes a bit.
He also tweeted:
You don’t need multiple income streams to become wealthy. You ONLY need to spend less than you earn and invest. That. Is. It.
My start in chasing pennies
I started “trying to make a buck on the Internet” shortly after I got married. One of the first books to this end shares a title from the tweet above: Multiple Streams of Income by Robert G. Allen.
I figured out how to get a website up and pieced together some articles — in HTML! — until I found the wonders of WordPress. In the meantime I learned about affiliate programs and Google Adsense, which got some of the money flowing.
That was a good use of time.
But somewhere in there I got into these things called traffic exchanges. A script loads a website from the hopper, and you (pretend to) view it for 10-15 seconds, then you do some kind of I’m-a-human puzzle to view the next one. In turn, other random users of the same traffic exchange will occasionally pretend to view yours. (These methods of driving traffic are very much frowned upon by the search engines, and they’ve been able to detect such “unnatural” sources of traffic for upwards of 15 years now.)
In short, using these things were a giant waste of time and attention. And I was a member of dozens of them at one point, and spent hours a day sometimes surfing them. And I never made any real money because I was trading effort linearly (visit for visit) instead of building something up that was passive.
I still chase pennies more than I’d like
I’d like to say that this kind of time-wasting was a thing of the past, but it isn’t.
I spend quite a bit of time on get-paid-to (GPT) sites and apps. These sites pay out small amounts of money (or cryptocurrency) for doing tasks, usually signing up for something, or filling out a survey, or searching the web, or watching something that contains ads.
Or, in blatant cases, simply watching ads.
Yeah, I watch ads for money. And as you might expect, they don’t pay much at all.
One particularly abusive app that I’ve gotten sucked into involves buying plots of virtual land that earns “rent” each second. Rent for the first plot of land accrues at a rate of four ten-thousanths of a cent per hour.
That’s $0.000004 per hour. (Don’t spend it all in one place, I’m sure you’re telling me.)
The minimum cash-out is $5, which if I did nothing else, I would accrue in a mere 142 years.
Since this is an awfully long time, they offer me opportunities to earn more. In exchange for watching an ad, I can boost this princely sum by 30x for one hour, which brings it up to a little over a hundredth of a cent per hour. So you can reach payout after about 5 1/2 years of watching 24 ads a day, every day.
Five and a half years is still an awfully long time, so they let me purchase more virtual plots of land for 100 coins apiece. The main way to accrue these coins (aside from paying for them, which is really dumb!) is to …. watch more ads! Watching fifty more ads will give enough coins to buy another plot of land that earns a small fraction of a cent per hour.
So … yeah, I’m working my way toward payout, but in getting there I’ll be watching literally thousands of ads to get there sometime during my lifetime.
To earn the maximum for one plot, which is about a quarter of a cent per day, I’ll need to watch two dozen ads. More likely I can watch between 15-20 ads per day (it only lets me accrue six hours of boost at a time).
(If you’re still with me and want to see the carnage for yourself, you can sign up here. Just PLEASE don’t pay any real money into this app!! Spending time with it is very little payback honestly, but paying money into it is like flushing it down the toilet. Just watch the ads and things will get better, very very slowly, haha!)
One percent can be a powerful concept.
James Clear in Atomic Habits makes the observation that 1% improvement each day for a year makes you over thirty-seven times better at that thing.
Gary Keller in The One Thing applies the Pareto Principle three times to observe that doing the crucial 1% of the tasking gets you halfway there.
I have my own 1% observation about these silly money-making activities, but it’s more incriminating than it is powerful.
If I break down all of these active money-making endeavors, the time I spend on the least profitable part is too much. My main job takes 40 hours/week and accounts for 93.6% of my earned income. My primary side income as a church music director takes maybe 5 hours/week and accounts for 5.4%.
Everything else, including what I just described, consumes 15 hours a week or more, and accounts for only 1%. It’s an outsized effort for a grossly undersized reward.
This isn’t the way fortunes are made, haha!
So what’s my (non-essentialist) excuse?
It gets down to energy levels, I think. And the more kinds of things we try to do, the more effort it takes managing them all. This means we have less energy we have to accomplish anything substantive after putting in a full workday.
So we (or at least I) end up doing simple things that give a little dopamine hit in exchange for a small fraction of a penny, if that. Then we go back for another little hit, and another small fraction of a penny.
The easy things anyone can do, but the rewards are common, and nothing extraordinary.
A lot of the money-making activities I do aren’t the essential ones. I need to change that.