Stupid ways to make money, Vol. 1

I’ve already talked about how my deeply-rooted scarcity mindset leads me to make decisions that are at odds with my long term goals of starting a business and creating a lifestyle entirely of my choosing.

One good example of how this manifests itself in my life is the weird things I will do to make an extra buck. After all, an extra $200 can buy me a few priceless days of freedom, right?

A few months ago I discovered the not-so-lucrative technique of opening new checking accounts at banks which are offering sign-up promotions. Generally, they range from $100 – $300 and require some kind of direct deposit to both get the bonus, and avoid monthly fees. Websites like NerdWallet and Doctor Of Credit will periodically publish lists of current offers and which are the easiest to get.

So far this year, I’ve made $900 in cash bonuses though these promotions, by signing up for new checking accounts from four different banks. Not bad, right?

Well, if you consider the amount of thought and effort that has gone into it, it becomes a lot less attractive. Each bank has different terms for the offer, so I had to do my homework and make sure I knew exactly what I was signing up for and didn’t accidentally pay fees that would negate the value of the bonus. Filling out the account applications took some time as well. I also had to micromanage my direct deposits, adding and adjusting the value of the deposit flowing to each bank from my biweekly paycheck to ensure the requirements of each offer were met.

On top of this, the worst part is yet to come—closing the accounts. Most of them require you to keep the account open for six months to avoid early closure fees, so in a few months I’ll have to start closing them so I’m not stuck with an account I don’t want to use. One of them requires a notarized letter, but there is no address provided to send the letter to. Some of them don’t have any instructions about how to close the account, so I’ll probably have to wage war with customer support to do it.

Was it worth it? I don’t know. It has been a tedious process, for sure.

But to relate this back to my initial point, these choices were driven by my scarcity mindset. I looked at these offers and thought “free money!” and there was no reason not to do it. Whether it was worth my time and effort seemed irrelevant.

Suppose I’ve spent 20 hours over the past few months orchestrating this thing. What could I have done for my business ideas in that time? The scarcity mindset will answer:

Maybe a lot! But… maybe nothing. It might have ended up a total waste of time. You just don’t know. On the other hand, look at what you got from those bank account bonuses: $900 in cash! That’s a sure thing, in your pocket right now. Isn’t that worth way more than the uncertain and dubious outcome of spending time on your crazy business ideas?

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