Hello, everyone! In an effort to bring more good ideas your way, I’ve decided to start interviewing other people who are on the FIRE track. I’m naming this series “The Moose Interviews”.
My first interview is with J, a friend and former colleague of mine. She works in finance primarily but recently decided to begin driving as an Uber/Lyft driver to help meet her financial goals.
BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front
- side hustles are powerful tools to pay off debt
- Uber/Lyft are not an all-or-nothing deal; drive as much as you want
- the setup for Uber is much easier than expected and insurance is cheap
- drive at times and in areas that you’re comfortable with
Now, to the Interview!
M: Hi J, thanks for being my first interviewee! What made you look into the FI lifestyle to begin with?
J: Like most folks, I’ve lived with debt for most of my adult life, just as a given part of life. But it was only a couple birthdays ago that I realized I was in about a 6-figure hole, made up of credit cards, student loans, and a car note. I realized it would take me at least a couple years if I wanted to pay it all off, including my student loans (the balance of which exceeded my annual income, straight out of school), and several more years to save for a house in the crazy expensive LA area – and that was if I was super disciplined with money. Then I stumbled upon a few FI podcasts and the juices started flowing.
M: What are some of your favorite resources, ie blogs, podcasts, etc?
J: I like listening to anything inspiring related to money. I frequent the blogs and podcasts of Afford Anything, Mr. And Ms. ONL (short for Our Next Life), Mr. Money Mustache, The Mad Fientist, Mr. And Mrs. Frugalwoods, and even the Dave Ramsey show (while I’m in my get-out-of-debt phase). I also watch out every Friday for your 5 For Friday posts on MSoLife, those are always solid reads and micro-bursts of inspiration for readers like me.
M: Which concepts have been the most powerful for you, so far?
J: Compound interest amazes me. So when I eventually have cash to invest – once I’m out of debt – I’m really excited to see that in action. But for now, the biggest, most real concept I’ve noticed has been paying for things in cash. It doesn’t work for all your bills (like rent), but for things like groceries, gas, and entertainment, paying in cash just makes you really check yourself – do I really want to pay for this? Is it really going to add to my happiness enough to make it a worthy purchase?
M: Paying in cash is definitely a useful tool. For me, paying with a card always felt like “funny money” but cash is real and tangible. When and why did you decide to start a side hustle? Why did you decide to drive for Uber and Lyft?
J: When I realized I wanted to be DONE with debt – I wanted to stop throwing away my paycheck to Sallie Mae – I took stock of how I spend my time and I realized I could find time to start a side hustle. But since I’m also super lazy (sometimes), I wanted something I could set my own hours for, as opposed to having set hours outside my normal 8-6 day job. So in that sense, Uber and Lyft just seemed like a natural and easy way to get started – basically all you need is a car. And since the application process is basically identical between the two, I figured I might as well sign up for both at the same time!
Would I love Uber or Lyft? Who could know? But on one of the guests on an episode of Afford Anything was the founder of Side Hustle Nation the website, and he made a comment that really stuck with me: It doesn’t matter what you do – just pick something, just get started. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to stick with it. It’s not forever, it’s just what’s next.
M: Good point, nobody’s forcing you to choose a particular side hustle. How often do you drive for Uber and what’s your typical Uber routine?
J: I try to drive for an hour or two after my normal day job if I’m not exhausted, but usually I’ll stick with driving on the weekends. I typically drive between 5-10 hours a week, depending on the week.
Uber has these weekend goals that are fun to try and hit for an extra bonus, but it really comes down to how quickly the ride requests come. It’s easy to drive several hours if the requests are steady! Harder when they’re slower-coming. My “routine” would be to eat a good breakfast, and head out for a few hours somewhere that’s usually busy. Downtown, or by a college area, are usually solid starts. Then from there it’s wherever the rides take me!
M: How easy was it to start driving for Uber, what did you have to do?
J: It was super easy for me. I applied online; be careful though, you could jeopardize your sign-up bonus if you don’t enter a referral code when you sign up (learn from my mistakes, people!) – which takes about 15 minutes max to do. You’ll also have to pass a background check, which Uber will initiate and pay for.
Then you have an on-site inspection for Uber to see that your car is in decent condition, that also takes about 15 minutes and is super easy to find a location. Then you wait for the decals in the mail, or in some cases you can get them directly upon completing the inspection. For me, start to finish, I think the process took about a week to complete before I got to start driving.
M: Did you have to get some sort of special car insurance?
J: It’s not required, but I did add Rideshare insurance to my car insurance coverage. It just covers you for the period between pick-ups, and mostly (for me) is for peace of mind. With State Farm it’s an extra $17 per month.
M: That’s not bad at all, I figured it was much more expensive than that. Which goal(s) is this side hustle helping you meet?
J: Oh man, my side hustle helps me stay focused on spending less because it is a real reminder that, depending on the day, it can be TOUGH to earn money! So it just reminds you the value of a dollar, and how much work it is to earn in the first place.
I think having a day job can make you (me) a little soft and make it easy to forget just how hard some people really have it out there trying to feed their families. But the side hustle game reminds you real quickly how much you have to want to it, in order to make a little bit more! So it definitely helps me spend less. And by doing that, it’s helping me stay focused on my main goal – getting out of debt as fast as possible.
M: What are the main expenses of driving for Uber?
J: Gas (honestly depends on how far and frequently you drive), QuickbooksSE ($12/mo for the first 6 months), and the extra insurance for Rideshare coverage ($17/mo). I like having the QuickBooks on my phone to make things easier come tax time.
M: Roughly speaking, how profitable is it for you per week or month?
J: For me, it’s about cash flow – I’d say I bank an extra ~$400 a month, which, when that’s more than your food budget, can be a huge help towards paying down debt each month!
M: What has your experience driving an Uber been like? A lot of people might be afraid to do it, especially women. Does it feel safe?
J: It feels safe driving during the day, which is mostly when I drive. I’ve driven a few times at night that didn’t feel so safe, but each of those times, I was completely fine and nothing bad happened.
In a way it makes you face your biases about people and realize everyone is human and should be treated with dignity and not prejudice. But I would suggest anyone concerned with safety do what I do – don’t drive super late, if you can avoid it.
M: Any memorable Uber stories or passengers so far?
J: You get some fun stories of people having a great time! And you see some that just refuse to talk and would rather transport themselves home immediately. For better or for worse, I don’t have any real crazy stories, yet!
M: Do you have any tips for anyone else considering driving for Uber/Lyft?
J: I’d say go for it! Just prepare to be patient waiting for riders and waiting in traffic. If you don’t like it after your first few rides, you can just say “not for me” and never do it again!
M: Based on your experience so far, do you think you’ll keep doing this? Will you keep at it once you’ve met your goal?
J: I’ve always thought I’d do it just until I’m done with my debt. I’m down to one last student loan (it’s a big one) so I’ll probably be driving at least another year while I work to pay that off. But once I’m done, I’d like to ditch the Uber/Lyft for a more technical/rewarding side hustle. Plus we all know uber and Lyft are moving towards driver-less cars… But you never know!
M: Are there any other side hustles you’re considering?
I’d love to start a personal finance podcast or blog. But to date I have not yet got comfortable with the idea of constantly having to create content that’s meaningful and substantive. But maybe someday!
Many thanks to J for being the first to be interviewed by me! This was a great discussion and I learned a lot about a fairly popular side-hustle. You can be sure I’ll link to J when she does start her own blog (you know it’s a matter of time, accept your fate!)