Is having multiple income sources the way of the future to earn a decent living?

There’s one secret that more and more people are discovering that people who are in the arts, especially in music, have known for a long time: that you need multiple income sources to make a decent to comfortable living.

With the outsourcing of many high paying jobs across oceans to countries with lower employee costs in the last 25-50 years, the remaining jobs often paying around minimum wage, heavy competition for many of those minimum wage jobs, and in certain types of business ventures (such as music teaching on popular instruments and selling real estate), heavy competition for clients, it seems that the only way to make a decent to comfortable living for most people is to have multiple sources of income. Including government benefits if you need them and qualify, because you need some money to make more money!

Between my husband and I, our sources include performing for social functions, performing in senior’s homes, subbing for church services, working as a real estate assistant, selling our compositions and arrangements online, teaching private lessons, selling non-sheet music related products, doing focus groups with multiple companies, academic tutoring, editing student papers, babysitting, accompanying students of other instruments, participating in online surveys to earn rewards, among other things. All that has helped us significantly, especially the last 1 1/2 years when my husband lost his church job through no fault of his own due to cutbacks, and just recently able to get a 2 month interim position, which hopefully leads to the permanent position there, which they said they really want him to stay beyond that time. In most months our extra income sources gave us a few hundred extra per month to live on, but occasionally it gave us up to $3000 extra to survive on for two or three months in addition to the government benefits we were receiving. Government benefits alone only give us about $1800 a month, with over half going to rent, then paying for utilities and our cellphones (which are on the lowest priced plans on a non smartphone that is suitable for us), leaves us about $500 for monthly living expenses (most going to groceries) with just government benefits. With current food costs, even for two people, it is challenging to live on that much a month. But the extra sources of income give us typically an extra 300-500 dollars a month to survive on, which we are usually okay, especially since we cut our cable and internet, and rarely turn on the TV, the main power usage being the radio and our energy efficient computers after the normal lighting, and we turn off lights we are not using to save on hydro.

However, many of these income sources have the chance that they could expand the amount of income they bring in, as in sales of sheet music could eventually bring in a few hundred a month, or a sudden influx of students. Or the real estate assistant job could get to the point that even working part time I’d bring in a few thousand per month and even be able to buy my first home.

Therefore, to survive and even thrive, it’s possible that people will need multiple sources of income to live on. The days of a single employer with a single paycheque may be going the way of the dodo, and could even disappear in two or three generations.

And yet, owning a home isn’t everything to some people…

Including me. It can be significantly cheaper to rent (and more space!) in a sought after neighbourhood with lots of amenities you like, such as steps to transit, near a 24/7 grocery store and a 24/7/365 drug store, walking distance from a library, walking distance from work. To own a home the typical mortgage payment would be a few thousand dollars in that area, while to rent in the area may be a third to a quarter of that. And there is the ease of moving out and not having to worry about selling a property if you have to move.

I happen to live in Toronto’s #2 of approximately 140 neighbourhoods in a neighbourhood rating in Toronto Life magazine from 2013. In my neighbourhood, the real estate prices, for a condo that is half the size of mine and my husband’s apartment, are often over 300K, with larger units coming to 450K. And then you pay high maitenance fees on top of that which is like half a mortgage payment in some cases. I COULD live in a neighbourhood which my mortgage payment is around what my rent payment is now, but it would be far from amenities, far from transit, far from downtown, not really walkable (important when you don’t own a car and don’t drive), far from a transit subway station, far from where the fine arts thrive, in the middle of nowhere, a long commute to work in a city that’s rated among the worst for traffic congestion in Toronto just to build my personal equity and worth?

Forget it. My sanity is worth more than the financial gain you’d get from owning a home in a few years. Sure, I would LOVE to own a home for other than equity building reasons, but it would have to be pretty much where I live now or in one of the neighbourhoods nearby I regularly visit that offer comparable benefits. And to own a home in Toronto and even in many outlying areas, you need a household income of 100-150K minimum to afford a decent home, and often not in a great area for amenities and transit, which most people are making far less than that! I remember a time when you could eventually buy a starter home with a smart financial plan on a blue or even a pink collar job, like my parents did in the 1990s and my aunt and uncle did in the 1970s or early 1980s. Now many white collar workers can’t afford a tiny condo on their earnings, or if they can, it’s almost like a shoebox!

Could working as a real estate assistant be right for you?

If you have strong computer skills, strong research skills, strong literacy and numeracy skills, know how to use publishing programs to a high level to create professional looking materials, that pays very well for part-time work (starting pay is usually around $20/h, almost double minimum wage in Ontario), are creative, detail oriented, quickly learn new things, enjoy taking self responsibility to complete tasks, and don’t mind somewhat odd work hours (though almost never past about 9 pm!), then you may want to consider trying your hand at working as a real estate assistant. Basically, this is a job that pays pretty well for you to use your head in solving all kinds of challenges.

I got my first job as a real estate assistant around 2001, which gave me a lot of hours and being somewhat above minimum wage. I was responsible for many of the smaller tasks that realtors sometimes don’t like doing, such as preparing offers on a home they showed, making appointments for showings of homes, writing the listings to go online, faxing offers and counteroffers to another real estate office, writing ads for various print publications, among other tasks. I did this for about 5 years for 2 different realtors, which after that I met my husband and my musical career seemed to start flourishing.

Or so it seemed. For a long time I had at least a few students going, and my husband had two different consecutive church jobs, the second he lost in mid 2012 due to cutbacks of only wanting to keep the cheaper co-music director, which was NOT my husband. The students kept diminishing due to potential students and parents wanting super-low lesson fees and teachers willing to take them at those fees, plus many music schools, many of questionable quality, and knowing at least two of them which produce notoriously poor results with students, popping up in many neighbourhoods, despite my consistent production of high quality playing students, even among those who had disabilities, who enjoyed playing, plus some students going on to perform in the top youth symphony in Toronto in 7 years, two who won their age class in different years in less than a decade in the province wide finals competition, and some who went on past high school to study music, with large scholarships and placed in a higher ensemble than first year students in that ensembles don’t usually get accepted on their major instrument.

After searching for work while living on government benefits for over 1 1/2, nearly 2 years, (which we didn’t really make it past the third week of the month) I got my break and an improved lifestyle with a job that is across the street from home (therefore, no commuting costs for work!), with a really great person who just got his real estate licence in July 2014, and who offered the TOP of the pay range I requested! And, with the advent of new tech tools and my having already learned to use Microsoft Publisher to a high level, we have been enjoying working with each other. And getting paid every week too.

Two tips on how to make audio CDs from your computer that work in CD players…

(from someone who has burned lots of audio CDs that work in CD players)

I’ve seen this question asked on various music discussion forums, most often piano ones, and it seems that many people who give responses don’t really know how to do it the right way. As someone who’s done it many times successfully, there are two tips that apply to any CD burning program from a computer on Windows and Mac platforms.

In your program that you are using, make sure you select the feature that says something like “Burn Audio CD” (usually the only other option is something like “Burn Data CD”, which the Data CD won’t work in a CD player. The only option that actually makes an audio CD player is Burn Audio CD.

To get the tracks in the order you want, name them as Track 01, Track 02, Track 03, etc until you have reached the maximum capacity of the tracks or have done all the tracks you need. The 0 in front of the track number until after track 09 is very important, otherwise tracks 10-19 will be first and the track you wanted to be first will not be playing until later in the disc.

A miracle among my female cats…

One of my female cats gave birth almost 2 weeks ago, which the kittens are 12 days old as of the date of posting. However, the birth mother seemed to either be too scared to feed her babies or may not have had any sort of milk supply. Her younger sister by several months, was also pregnant at the time, but somehow was able to produce milk for her sister’s 2 kittens while pregnant herself, who gave birth November 29th. Those two kittens of her sister are not just surviving, but thriving, and opened their eyes at 5 days old, a little younger than most kittens.

It seems that unlike humans, pregnant cats usually produce a milk supply while being pregnant or a week or two before giving birth, so these kittens were able to survive a situation which they might have otherwise been left to die within several hours!

Some possible creative gifts you can make for gifts for friends and family (many costing $5 or less in materials, all under $10 in materials!)

  1. A favourite photo, whether of you with that friend or family member, or a favourite pet or item or plants in and around their home, framed in a nice but inexpensive frame.
  2. For females, making a braclet and necklace set, and optional earrings. One of a kind stuff is big with some people.
  3. A fruit basket, since most people forget to eat well during the holidays, with a nice basket, clear wrapping paper, and ribbon. Making it yourself costs $5-10 dollars, while commercially made much smaller ones cost $25-$30 or more!
  4. A set of mailing labels with their name and address, doing two or three different designs of things they like or favourite photos of pets, family, or their garden plants.
  5. If the person likes nuts and is not allergic to them, small jars of nuts in ones that seal tightly of their favourite kinds. Go unsalted to be on the safe side, buy the nuts in bulk to save more money.
  6. Knit a one of a kind hat, mittens, and scarf set with an image or images that are meaningful to the recipient. (eg: for a music lover, consider one with music notes and clefs or the instrument they play!)

Why I don’t participate in Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day shopping

(despite great bargains on stuff that I want or need even if I have the cash for them)

There are several reasons I don’t participate in these particular money-spending, potentially debt adding days (even though my only credit card is a prepaid one!).

First, I don’t like the stress of being cold, hungry, and tired waiting in line for many hours just to get one or two items.

Second, I find usually items that are usually at a major discount are usually out of stock by the time you get there, even if you get there early in the sale!

Third, I can’t stand large crowds of people. (and for this reason I do about 70% of my Christmas shopping online, and think of Christmas presents even in June or earlier!)

Fourth, AMAZON (US and Canadian sites) usually has better prices than what you’d find anywhere else, especially on hard to find or more unique items.

Fifth, violence is more likely to be serious in large crowds.

Sixth, I have the luxury of often being able to go shopping when I need to at times most people are at work because of the nature of my job.

Seventh, it distracts you away from jobs you really should be doing, like getting important things done like cleaning your home or music practice. (or being at work instead of playing hooky to go Black Friday shopping)

10 modern ideas that I don’t subscribe to, and in many cases, are actually wrong

  1. “The customer is always right”. Who’s the one with years of training and running a successful business? It’s almost never the customer.
  2. “Being nice is more important than being right.” If that idea was taken to engineers, a lot of devices used wouldn’t work, or work well!”
  3. “Family will always stand by you, and friends will leave you” Actually, in many cases, I’ve seen the friends stick up for you, and family cut off…
  4. “Free = good” Free usually means lots of omissions, limited range of uses.
  5. “Quit something when it gets tough.” And then kids end up not achieving much, especially in the fine arts.
  6. “You shouldn’t require or force kids to do their chores or music practice”. Yes, you should require them to do them, but sometimes subtle bribery may be needed in the first few weeks or months.
  7. “People should learn about only what they want and what they know”. Children especially need to be exposed to a variety of experiences, both modern and historical, and learn the qualities of good taste compared to poor taste.” (Increasingly I see this issue with teachers no longer teaching traditional instruments in low income schools, because the experiences are not part of their culture, and revert to world drumming—and yet, many kids from poorer areas learn the joy of music more from a traditional band or string instrument and learn about great masterworks that they might not have otherwise)
  8. “Technology should be used in learning as much as possible.” There is a growing body of evidence that too much screen time is bad for people, especially children, who can develop serious vision problems and strains on various muscles, particularly the neck and back.
  9. “Children should be free to hand in homework any time during the school year” For a FEW children, especially those who are seriously involved in athletics or the fine arts or have significant disabilities, some flexibility is needed. But to apply it to everyone, when the workplace and higher institutions of learning have enforced deadlines, makes it unsuitable for general use.
  10. “Blame the teacher when things are going wrong—especially in a class that is “supposed” to be easy and impossible to fail.” Believe it or not, even physical education and especially music education have certain aspects that can be graded and measured and certain standards for a particular level of development, and some students simply fall far below them. Now, even a kid who may be limited in natural ability but puts significant effort will often recieve a respectable grade for the class, like those who struggle with sports in physical education…

How many pet sitters does it take to change a light bulb?


(Gotcha on that one!)

They’re not contractors, electricians, or home improvement specialists—who generally need bonding and license.

This topic is one of the major hot potatoes of sorts in the pro pet sitting circle. So should you really believe the hype that bonding is the ultimate in safety and peace of mind?

Bonding is generally only useful (and necessary) for businesses with W-2 employees. It’s quite a flush in the toilet for sole proprietors. Here’s a site that explains bonding and insurance:

Read especially the bonding part. A bond works quite differently from insurance. Only the bond policy holder (the business owner) can file a claim, not the client. Bonding payment happens ONLY after the covered person is sentenced and the company goes after that person to recoup losses. Well, if you bond yourself, it doesn’t really make sense for you to chase after yourself…

There is also another discussion on the subject on my colleague Bella Vasta’s site:

I find it a bit funny that caregiving for humans (childcare, senior care, patient care) doesn’t require bonding, yet bonding for animal care somehow seems to be a must? Are we humans worth less? We sitters are technically doing the same thing–for different species, that is. Again, we’re care providers, not construction workers.

On the issue of license, it’s required only in certain regions for certain industries. Boarding or kenneling large numbers of animals may require a license. As far as I know, it’s not required for pet sitting on my Redlands/Riverside corner of the State of California. Some of the states that require a license are Idaho and Florida.

I’ve personally phoned Doug Foote, the webmaster of the aforementioned, a 22-year pet pro veteran with insurance sales and government clearance background. He still stands by his statement on the site and holds that bonding is a pure marketing propaganda. I ABSOLUTELY agree with him that the sitter’s reputation trumps them all. What’s your general first impression of the sitter? What’s his/her track record? Is he/she professional? Fun? Friendly? Dependable? Reliable? Responsible? Trustworthy? Likeable? Does he/she have good references? Do you sense good vibes from him/her? Go with your intuition. If you have a positive response, chances are that you’re in good hands—and paws too. :) Animals have that uncanny sixth sense, so they’re often the best judge of human character!

I had a meet-and-greet with some prospects, an elderly couple, who wanted to get a regular sitter since they’d been frequently out of town. They figured that they wouldn’t want to burden their friend with pet care responsibilities. Out of the sitters interviewed that day, I instantly won them over because the little pooches, all rescues with some fear issues, were instantly comfortable with me. A few of them even came up to me and sniffed my ankles. None of them did that to other sitters. They shied away. Even though the sitting arrangement ended up falling through (we lost contact for some reason), I was delighted to know that I really had a positive, calming effect on pets.

In short, let your word and deed be your bond. You can’t certify or license a person’s moral character and personality. Simply having those pieces of “formal” papers or credentials doesn’t really mean much. Just look at those crooks in high places, for example. (OK, let’s not go there…)

You get the point. :)

And oh, should you actually book a meet-and-greet or service with yours truly, your pet sitter in Redlands and Riverside, will be more than happy to supply references for you!


Pet sitting? WTF is that?

What the fur is that?

(Or feather, for that matter.)

Yep, I get that a lot.

It’s not exactly a popular career choice in certain Redlands and Riverside enclaves. So when people ask me what I do, after I give them an answer, I get a puzzled expression on their faces at best, or at worst, they look at me as if I had four nostrils with big fat half-slimy boogers hanging out of them.

But the truth is that the pet industry, while still in its infancy (circa early 1980s), is already a $55 billion industry. That’s nothing to sneeze at. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent about $45.4 billion on pets, raking in $2.2 billion increase over 2008, at the height of the Great Recession. As more and more critters become men’s (and women’s) BFFs, pet spending continues to be on the rise:–finance.html

But we pet care pros aren’t just in it for the moolah. You see, we’re in the business of making lives easier. We keep you safe and relaxed. No need to worry if your four-legged kids don’t have enough food or water. No need to worry if they get no chance to walk, play, and do their potty duty. No need to feel guilty for leaving them all alone. And last but certainly least, while at work, I’m pretty sure you’re probably thinking if your menagerie is OK and wondering if some punk jimmies your house door, either out of boredom (sure beats thumb twiddling!) or as part of a gang initiation ritual. (Even if you don’t live in a ghetto area. Hey, you’ll never know.)

We all already know that the hustle-and-bustle American lifestyle is the norm, especially if you come from immigrant communities. (Hey, if you’re in that number, you’ve adopted it yourself and taken it to the nth degree! :D Things aren’t like back home with the hour-long lunches, lounging with friends and family, and taking siesta all afternoon.) You typically pull an all-nighter, working two or sometimes three jobs, and a good number of you have 12-hour or even up to 48-hour shifts. Or you may have traveling assignments. Your job or business takes you to another city, state, or even country. The last thing you want to do when you get back home from work is do more chores. You don’t have the luxury of having a full-time live-in maid like back home (and you’ve got to have beaucoup $$$ to have one here in the States). You’re just too pooped out to scoop some poop and take out the trash. You’re too tired to prepare some pet chow, and then you have to deal with those sad puppy eyes when you just don’t have the energy for some mad fetch time.

That’s where we professional pet sitters come in. We take the load off your shoulders. No need to bug or inconvenience your friends or neighbors, especially if you’re gone for a long vacation overseas. That’s quite an imposition, if you ask me. They already have their own responsibilities and obligations. Chances are they bust their butts working as much (or even more so) than you do. I’m sure they also want to party and do their own thing, especially during the holidays, and the last thing they want to do is to take care of your household, even more so if they’re doing it pro bono (which I suspect is most of the time, anyway). And if you ask them to do you this favor more often, you’ll get the awkward feeling that they’ll probably try to exit stage left when they see you.

And contrary to popular belief, pet care isn’t exactly easy-peasy. It’s a lot like childcare. It’s a lot of work, and pets can and do get clingy. Not everyone goes goo-goo-ga-ga over two-legged kids, and not everyone is peachy keen on four-legged kids, either. It takes a special person to care for them—a sitter who genuinely loves animals and has a natural knack for bonding with them. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. A friend went away for vacation and had someone watch her two cats. This sitter wasn’t really a pet lover. Although this sitter was way far from an animal abuser and was a responsible person to boot, when my friend came back home, her boys didn’t seem to be very happy under this particular person’s care. She told me that she really wished we were neighbors!

Yes, I certainly take pride of being a pet sitting pioneer in the Redlands and Riverside areas. And I’m proud to offer services to simplify your life and make it better and easier for you and your critter family.


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