IT’S A DOG CIRCUS! I could not possibly be more excited about this month’s Case Study if I tried. We are headed under the big top to chat with Jana and Dextre, a married couple who run their very own circus along with their adorable rescue dogs!!!! Jana is a longtime Frugalwoods reader and she very sweetly mailed me a Christmas card last year featuring a photo of her family circus and I was in love! When she approached me to serve as a Case Study I about rolled off my exercise ball (which is what I sit on to read email, in case you were wondering) with excitement. The opportunity to help a circus out with their finances is just about the coolest thing ever, I hope you’ll agree. And this is not just any circus–it’s a rescue dog circus!!!

Case Studies are financial and life dilemmas that a reader of Frugalwoods sends to me requesting that Frugalwoods nation weigh in. Then, Frugalwoods nation (that’s you!), reads through their situation and provides advice, encouragement, insight, and feedback in the comments section. For an example, check out last month’s case study.

I provide updates from our Case Study subjects at the bottom of each Case Study several months after a Case is featured. You all have requested an easier way to track Case Study updates and I have heard your pleas :)! Here’s list of all the Case Studies that currently have an update provided at the end of the post (and a hint that if you’re a past Case Study participant who hasn’t sent me your update yet, send it on over–your fans want to hear from you!):

I probably don’t need to say the following because you all are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but, please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not to condemn.

With that I’ll let Jana, this month’s Case Study subject, take it from here!

Jana’s Story

Jana, Dextre, and two of their dogs

Hi frugal friends! I’m Jana (age 36) and I’m excited to participate in Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Case Study series. My husband Dextre (age 52) and I have a small family circus called Circus Stella. By “small,” I mean it’s just the two of us along with our five rescued dogs: Stella, Louise, Adrian, Mabel, and Clarice. We definitely need your advice!

We live in a giant tiny house (884 square feet) just outside of Charlotte’s suburbia in North Carolina where subdivisions give way to farms. Purchased in 2007, right at the peak of the market, it is just now valued at what I paid for it! We live here for six months of the year because the other six months are spent on the road at county fairs, campgrounds, and renaissance events as we tour the circus show in our 5th wheel trailer.

Circus Stella!

I’m sure by now you’re wondering: How did you guys get into circus? This is our most frequently asked question and I’m glad to tell you that the answer is: juggling! Juggling is the gateway to circus. Want to join a circus? Learn to juggle. Don’t want your kid to run away with the circus? By all means, ban juggling. In addition to juggling, Dextre performs rope-walking and balancing and I perform acrobatics on trapeze and aerial silk.

Dextre and I started dating when I was still in college and he was already an established touring act. Seven years later, in 2008, we got married. Our methods for handling money were at two different extremes, so we maintained separate finances into our marriage. Even now, although we’re more on the same page and have been married for ten years, the majority of our finances are still separate. We do have joint checking and joint savings accounts for mutual bills, expenses, and goals, but the rest of our money is divided into his and hers and we’re both happy with that arrangement. There aren’t any secrets, we can see each other’s accounts, and we prefer it this way.


Jana demonstrating mad skills

Our income varies wildly month to month. Generally, we make no money from January to March. Most of our income comes from April to October, with some additional income over the holidays. We have a few side hustles beyond the circus that we’d like to develop further. Dextre is working on becoming a certified dog trainer to pick up additional work and I became certified as a personal trainer three years ago and make a little extra money working at a local gym in our off-season. I help with the gym’s social media accounts year round, but I haven’t been paid for that. Each winter I open an online store to sell my knitting, matching scarves and dog sweaters, but our main source of income is our circus show.

It may seem like we have a lot of extra time in the winter, and while that’s a little bit true, it’s not enough time to pursue traditional jobs as the circus requires A TON of labor in the off-season. Dextre spends long hours working on the maintenance and creation of props while I handle promotions, media, and contracting. We both have to practice and keep the dogs exercised and happy.

The circus itself is very expensive to maintain. I feel like we make a solid income, but the majority of that income is spent in service of keeping the show on the road. In calculating our finances for this Case Study, I was blown away by just how much we spend in order to work. I mean, I knew it was a lot, because we can deduct most of these expenses on our taxes, but I’d never really focused on it before, and I’m boggled by how much we spend in order to work.

The Vehicle Situation

Dextre on unicycle!

We recently purchased a brand new Nissan NV 3500 hightop cargo van. I know, brand new was not very frugal of us, but research indicated it was our best option. This is the only van in its class with the tow capacity we needed, and used models were all commercial fleet vehicles, which we studiously learned to avoid. This vehicle is our first step towards downsizing the circus. Our current set-up involves a one ton diesel truck and a huge 5th wheel toy hauler trailer plus a smaller truck and a cargo trailer. Eventually, we won’t need any of that, as this van will tow a smaller house trailer and has enough cargo capacity that we won’t need the second trailer.

The other enormous benefit of this van is that it will allow us to bring more dogs into the family. We travel with our dogs safely crated in crash-tested Ruff Tough Kennels, and only five of these kennels can fit in our truck. So we were maxed out, but now, we easily have more space to safely transport more rescued dogs! We hope to hold onto this van for 10+ years and eventually have more dogs.

Here are the vehicles we own to make our circus travels possible:

  • Diesel Chevy: hauls our big trailer.
  • New Nissan Van: this will tow the cargo trailer, but it won’t tow the big trailer. We can spend the night in this van while on the road.
  • Big trailer: we live in this while on the road and want to replace it with a smaller trailer that our new Nissan van can tow.
  • Cargo trailer: small trailer with no living quarters. This only hauls circus materials (we never take both trailers, it’s one or the other depending on the distance).
Jana & Dextre’s new van

The Chevy is a big one ton diesel dual rear wheel monster of a truck capable of hauling any trailer on the market. It does, indeed, tow our current trailer; an antique 2007 5th wheel toy hauler, which is a HUGE trailer. You may think I’m joking about antique, but really, trailers age so fast when you’re living in them full time (and by full time I really only mean part time, but even dragging it around for 6 months of the year is more than what the manufacturer had in mind for these units).

This trailer has been the best we’ve ever had in terms of holding up under harsh conditions, but it will need to be traded in and replaced with something newer soon. Until we trade this trailer in, we cannot sell the truck. When we trade in this trailer, we can sell the truck, but then we will need a second vehicle for when we’re not on the road. We can share one car just fine while on tour, but when we’re home I go to the gym nearly every day and I don’t want to feel like I’m trapping Dextre to my gym schedule.

The new Nissan Cargo Van is capable of hauling a trailer but not the trailer we currently have. We knew our next vehicle would be a cargo van, and we bought it when we did because the old second vehicle (a gas engine chevy truck) had 260,000+ miles on it and the check engine light came on. I realized it could be worthless at any moment, so we fixed it and then traded it in while it still had some value. I think that was a good move because it definitely helped us in negotiating for the new van. The new van will pull the next trailer, which we’ve already picked out, we’re just not sure if it would be wise to make that move right now (we could) or to pay off the van first, then trade out trailers. It’s a risk, because our trailer could literally fall apart at any moment and be worth nothing as a trade. Or it could hold up another 5 years, who knows? My best estimate is that we should be able to get $8,000-$10,000 out of it as a trade in if we do it soon. Trading in the trailer will set off a chain reaction that’ll cause us to sell the Chevy truck and buy a less expensive, smaller vehicle with better miles per gallon to use at home.

Jana & Dextre

You’ll see that hotels are listed on our expense report because last year, we didn’t own the van and I used 2016 and 2017 data to compile my budget for this Case Study. Without the van, we often needed hotels. Campgrounds cost just as much (and sometimes more) for a trailer of our size and are hard to get into and out of, plus we don’t really have the time to set up the trailer for one night when we’re trying to get from point A to point B quickly, so we stayed in hotels with semi truck parking (which is what we needed when hauling the big rig to an event). When hauling the little rig (the cargo trailer with the old gas truck) we needed hotels because the cargo trailer is an uninsulated box on wheels full of circus equipment and not conducive to sleeping in overnight. Now, when we have closer gigs that we don’t haul the big trailer to, we take the little trailer with the van and sleep overnight in the van. YAY! All in all, the cargo van should reduce our on-the-road expenses.

We haven’t paid for a single hotel room yet this tour season! Was that confusing? I hope not. The logistics of moving 2 people, 5 dogs, and an entire circus is kind of ridiculous. We really are trying to simplify.


Our hobbies include spending time walking with each other and the dogs. We’re both avid readers and go through lots of Kindle books. I admit I’m a gym rat and attend five workouts/week during our off-season and try for three/week while we’re touring. I generally start a garden every year and then abandon it to its fate each summer.

Dextre likes to go to the local juggling clubs and ride his motorcycle. I like to write. We find plenty to do, but should probably shift our focus toward the hobbies we enjoy that happen to be free.

Where Jana and Dextre Want To Be in Ten Years:

Lifestyle and Career:

  • We still see ourselves performing Circus Stella in ten years, as we both love what we do, but it would be ideal to be in a position where we could afford to turn down events we don’t enjoy. Dextre will be 62 in ten years, and I’ll be 46. I dream of the day I won’t need to wear a leotard to work, so in ten years, I hope that day will have arrived because…
  • The plan is to eventually retire our own (human) acts and become exclusively a dog show (a route not uncommon for aging acrobat dog lovers!). This would be great, because then we can rescue MORE DOGS! You really need more than five dogs to carry a 30 minute dog show, and some of our friends have 15-20 dogs in their shows. We plan on maxing out at 8-10 dogs and adopting every 3-4 years so that their ages will vary. We adopt mixes of high energy working breeds who desperately want to have a job and thrive in our weird lifestyle. We have the dog’s best interests at heart at all times.
  • We also want to move! Much like the Frugalwoods, we’d like to have our own woods. We love hiking with the dogs, and our goal is to have acreage of our own to create trails and enjoy. Also like the Frugalwoods, we’d love to be in New England. It’s too hot for us in North Carolina and Dextre misses the Minnesota winters. If not New England, then we’d at least like to be in the mountains of North Carolina at a higher elevation.


  • Ideally we’d hold onto our house in North Carolina as a rental, although with only two beds and one bath, its rent will be modest.
  • We’d love to buy our next property in cash. We won’t qualify for a mortgage because despite perfect credit scores, our taxable income is quite low. We spend so much of our income on the circus, it’s all deductible, and we’ve been deducting it. I considered buying a second house in North Carolina to use as a rental in the fall of 2016 and couldn’t qualify for a mortgage, even with a 30% down payment.
  • Our goal is to ramp up our savings and increase our earnings. I’d like for Dextre to be able to retire at 65, and I’d like to semi-retire with him (I’ll be 49). This is wildly ambitious considering our current savings, but we have 13 years to work towards this goal, so I’m hopeful.
  • Dextre has finished paying off some old debts and we’re on the same page about saving for these goals. Our cost of living should dramatically decrease when we’re no longer working since so much of what we spend directly supports the circus. Speaking of that, we’d like to “frugalize” the circus as much as possible without sacrificing the show’s quality so that we can save a higher percentage of our income.

Jana and Dextre’s Finances

Side note: Neither of us has ever used a spreadsheet, so after I compiled all the necessary information, my father was kind enough to teach me how to enter it all.  Here is a photo of my record keeping through the years, and this isn’t even all of my notebooks!

Jana’s record keeping

Net Income

Item Annual Amount Notes
Circus Stella LLC $93,275 After-tax income
Personal Training $1,500 After-tax income
Credit Card Churning $1,500 After-tax income
Side Hustles $600 After-tax income
Monthly Subtotal: $8,072.92
Annual Total: $96,875

Monthly Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Circus Stella Supplies and household items $649 This category blew my mind! Just a sampling of what’s in this category: ring curb, paint, microphones, cloths, props, cables, wire, aerial fabric, hoses, lumber, clamps, ribbon, straps, winches, poles, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Nissan Cargo Van payment $575 That’s the minimum. We plan to pay it down aggressively. It’s at a 2.36% interest rate.
Home Improvement $541 Average from the last 3 years, which is so frustrating! 2015: new roof, 2016: moisture issues in crawl space requiring replacement of a large section of subfloor and the addition of gutters, 2017: Surprise! You need to drill a brand new well. Ugh.
Mortgage $540 The interest rate is 5.75% and the actual minimum payment is $363, but we choose to pay more every month.
Diesel Fuel $353 Truck gets 16 mpg hwy and about 10 mpg towing. When we move the circus, we weigh close to 30,000lbs. Yikes.
Dog Vet Bills and Medications $330 Includes annual check-ups and vaccinations plus dental cleanings, heart worm preventative, and flea and tick control.
Food: Dextre $304 Might be a little higher, Dextre doesn’t track this as accurately as I do, so this is an estimate. Includes groceries and eating out.
Savings: Jana $300 My longterm savings account has a 1.5% interest rate
Hotels and Campgrounds while on tour (see notes above under “The Vehicle Situation” for a detailed explanation) $298 Not all of our gigs provide the hookups we need to make the trailer livable. Some do, which is great, but for those that don’t, we’ll set up in a nearby campground for the duration of the gig. I currently type to you from Lake Anna State Park campground which we are in while working at the Virginia Renaissance Faire. I just got bit on the butt by some bug on our morning hike, so hopefully that’s not fatal. Time will tell.
Food: Jana $293 Includes all groceries, supplements, protein powders, and eating out.
Cell Phones/Internet $242 Verizon, the only provider that offers unlimited data and has service at all of our old locations. Now that we don’t work in several of those spotty locations, we may be able to find another provider. Please recommend!
Dog Food $220 We have been feeding Blue Buffalo Wilderness using 12-18% off gift cards purchased from online resellers, but too many recalls have lead us to switch to Taste of the Wild.
Roth IRA contribution: Jana $200 Goes into money market and sits there because I’m afraid to invest it.
Circus Stella Payments to Crew $188 Payments to people who help us set up and tear down the circus, also sometimes we hire additional talent when we have shows going on in two places at the same time. We’ve decided not to split the show anymore, so this expense should go down.
Auto Insurance $178 Paid in a lump sum annually for the discount. Our vehicles have to be insured commercially. This also covers the trailer.
Office Supplies/Circus Stella Promotion Materials $143 Includes the phone Dextre bought last year that represents $54 of the monthly total though it was paid all at once. Also includes all of our shipping supplies and actual shipping. We send about 60 press kits out each year to potential events.
Medical Insurance: Jana $142 Through the ACA with a subsidy. Terrified of what will happen if the ACA/subsidies are repealed.
Electric Bill $139 This was high because we didn’t realize the well pump was running ALL THE TIME for months. Apparently we should have drilled a new well much sooner. (We chose to drill a new well rather than fix the old one because the old well wasn’t on our property and would make resale of the house difficult.)
Truck repair/maintenance $108 Everything costs more on the big diesel trucks.
Roth IRA Contribution: Dextre $83 Usually $1,000 annually, would like to increase this.
Gasoline $74 For the old gas truck. Might go up with the new Nissan.
Property Tax $73
CrossFit Jana $56 How I workout when we’re on the road. At home I work at a gym so I train there for free, but on the road I pay to attend class with other people. Sacred Cow. I LOVE exercising with a group and HATE exercising alone. Someone ask me how much I can bench!
Gifts $51 Average of Christmas/birthday/wedding spending from the last 3 years.
Public Liability Insurance $48 Required for the Circus
Entertainment: Dextre $47  Kindle books, Audible, movie tickets
Medical $46 Prescriptions, chiropractors, massage therapy and over the counter drugs
Entertainment (DVDs from Amazon) $37 WOW, didn’t realize this. We don’t have cable/netflix/hulu or anything so what we watch is whatever I buy from Amazon. Now that we have unlimited internet, I should cut this.
Research $36 Tickets to other circuses. We sat front row for Ringling’s last tour for both blue and red units. Met the first and only woman ringmaster.
XM Radio $30 We’re on the road a lot. Loosing stations every 30 minutes sucks.
Term Life Insurance $27 Dextre’s policy for Jana, expires soon and will be expensive to get a new one.
Laundromats while on tour $27 No washer or dryer when we’re touring.
Tolls $27 Unavoidable, we need access to truck stops, the trailer is huge and hard to turn around.
Term Life Insurance $20 Jana’s policy for Dextre, good for another 25 years!
Acorns $20 My only “aggressive” savings account.
AAA $12 Additional towing insurance as regular insurance doesn’t cover vehicles as heavy as ours.
Entertainment: Jana $10 Jana’s Kindle Books
Medical Insurance: Dextre $10 He is a resident of Minnesota and their ACA exchanges are better than the policy I have access to in North Carolina
Monthly Subtotal: $6,477
Annual Total: $77,724


Item Amount Notes
Jana Savings $39,347 Online bank savings account at 1.5% APY
Roth IRA Jana $18,672 $6,000 in CD Ladders, $3,000 cash, $9,675 ETFs
Joint Savings $9,126 Online bank savings account at 1.5% APY
Jana Savings $8,063 In CD Ladders from 1.6-2.4%
Checking/Cash $7,000
Roth IRA Dextre $5,062 Mostly VTI (Vanguard’s total stock market ETF)
Jana Investments $4,749 Investment Account, mostly VTI (Vanguard’s total stock market ETF)
Total: $92,019


Vehicle Valued At Notes
2007 Chevy 3500 $15,500 own
5th Wheel Toy Hauler $12,500 own
2017 Nissan NV 3500 $11,000 Still owe $23,575 at 2.36% (Vehicle valued at $37,000)
2001 Toyota Tacoma $5,000 Own outright. Dextre’s son has been driving this but doesn’t need it anymore so we will be selling it.
Cargo Trailer $2,500 own
1998 Suzuki Bandit 600  $1500 Own. This is Dextre’s motorcycle.


Item Amount Notes
Equity $50,050 Still owe $38,950 at 5.75% (house valued at $89,000)

Jana’s Questions For You:

  1. Is 13 years a reasonable timeframe for us to retire and how do we best use this time to set ourselves up for a frugal retirement? I’m wary of the stock market. Would rental properties in the affordable southern markets be a good strategy for us? Dextre has big ideas about possible business ventures like a touring big top circus tent, a training facility for both dogs and people, or moving the circus to indoor theaters. Are our goals attainable by continuing what we’re already doing, or do we have to make big changes?
  2. Do you have any ideas for how the circus could generate more income? We’re paid a daily rate to perform at events and make a little extra by selling souvenirs. We’d love to expand our show season by working indoors, but we don’t know how to pursue this without an agent. Other dog acts have sponsorships and we’d like to know more about that, but have been too shy to ask. We have a decent social media presence and perform for thousands of people each year. We would be thrilled to promote some of the products we espouse like Ruff Tough Kennels, Kong, Sport Dog, or Taste of the Wild. I don’t know how to approach companies with what we could offer them.
  3. When should we downsize our vehicles? We have a heavy 5th wheel trailer and a one ton truck (both of which are paid off). Now that we have the new cargo van, we could get by with a smaller house trailer and a car. If we sold/traded in our current vehicles, we’d likely make enough to buy either the next trailer or the car outright, but we’d need a loan for the other. Or, we could wait to make this transition until we’d saved enough to pay cash for both. I’m all for waiting, but I’m curious if it’s truly the best financial decision as our travel costs would decrease significantly with the lighter fleet (10,000 pounds lighter). Trailers are not made for full time living and moving every week, so they tend to wear out. We cannot keep our current model indefinitely–it will fall apart, that’s inevitable. So should we trade it in now while it still has value, or hold onto it and hope for the best?
  4. What should I be thinking about that I’m not thinking about? I’m open to all advice on this front as I feel like we need to make some changes and I want to make sure we make good decisions for our future. Thank you!

Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Jana, Dextre, and a pup

Oh wow, this is just too cool! Not only are Jana and Dextre living the life they want to live, they’re also in really good financial shape!!! Too often, these two things do not go together, but in their case, they’ve found a way to pursue a very unusual dream career path AND be financially stable. I’m not gonna lie, I was terrified that their finances might be a literal circus, but they’re not! Jana and Dextre are doing an awesome job of living within their means and being strategic about how they deploy their resources. They are dog circus rockstars!! Very few people can say they do their dream job and have retirement savings and minimal debt and own their own home. It’s a rare thing and I am so thrilled to hold Jana and Dextre up as shining examples of making it work!

Big Top Big Picture

I want to start with the big picture (as I see it) of Jana and Dextre’s situation. They have undeniably awesome day jobs and they are making it work financially. However, as Jana sagely noted, they spend a lot of money in service of keeping Circus Stella up and running. Almost ALL of their expenses are geared towards the care and maintence of the circus and their dogs. This is not a bad thing by any stretch, but it does mean that as long as they’re running the Circus, their spending will be higher. This is very similar to the decision Mr. Frugalwoods and I made to spend more money in order to live the life of our dreams–which happens to be on a homestead in Vermont. We spent less living in the city, but it wasn’t our dream life. Similarly for Jana and Dextre, they spend more in order to facilitate their passion of running Circus Stella. Jana is already fully aware of this, but I just wanted to mention it at the outset.

Retiring In 13 Years?

What I’m mostly wondering about here is Jana’s mention of their desire to retire in 13 years. I want to dig into what they mean by retire. At this point, it won’t be possible for them to fully retire with no revenue-generating jobs in 13 years. However, I think it’s likely very possible for them to retire Circus Stella and instead augment their current side hustles into more full-time income. Jana also wrote that they’re interested in scaling back the human acts of their show and advancing the dog portions of the show and, while I totally get that from an aging human body perspective, I wonder if more dogs would, in fact, mean that Circus Stella’s expenses would be higher? I don’t know exactly how to do this, but if Jana could calculate how much each additional dog will cost them (in terms of food, medication, and vet care), that might be very illuminating. I LOVE that Jana and Dextre are so mindful of only having the number of dogs that they can manage and afford. And I ADORE that these are all rescue dogs who are obviously enjoying circus life and are so deeply loved and well cared for. Given that, I am certain that Jana and Dextre won’t scale up the number of dogs without first considering the expense ramifications.

I think this is going to boil down to a question of whether Jana and Dextre want to continue touring Circus Stella or want to scale back to a non-touring, non-circus lifestyle, which would equal dramatically lower expenses. However, there also might be a way for them to have it both ways if they can focus on…

Goal #1: Increase Circus Stella’s Income

See Circus Stella live!

I think Jana and Dextre’s real opportunity is in the arena of increasing the revenue that Circus Stella generates. We’ll review their expenses in a minute, but there honestly isn’t much for them to cut. The growth area for Jana and Dextre is on the revenue side of things.

Goal #1 should be securing sponsorships. Jana mentioned that they’d be delighted to promote brands that they use and believe in and I wholeheartedly encourage her to do this. She said she’s been too shy to approach colleagues about their sponsorships, but she needs to. In fact, she must! And, I’m happy to tell her that it’s very likely her colleagues will be thrilled to introduce her to their sponsors because, often times, there’s a finder’s fee associated with bringing in new business. In other words, if another circus introduces Circus Stella to their sponsor, it’s highly likely they’ll get a bonus payment for doing so. Thus, it’s in the best interest of everyone! This isn’t always the case, but it often is. Approaching sponsors directly could be another avenue, but in my experience, if Jana can secure an email introduction to a sponsor from a colleague, that’ll be the best route to success. There are many formats that a sponsorship could take, from sponsored Instagram/Facebook posts to branding at the Circus itself to ads featuring Circus Stella’s adorable pups (and probably a lot of other stuff I’m not thinking of!). I’m obviously NOT an expert on dog circuses, but these types of sponsorships are common these days as advertisers are looking for native branding and marketing.

Since, as Jana noted, there’s a cap on how many events they can do a year and how much they’re paid for each event, I see sponsorship as their real growth opportunity. I cannot encourage her strongly enough to pursue this. The opening conversation with a circus colleague can be as simple as: “I noticed that you’re sponsored by Taste Of The Wild. That’s what we feed our dogs too and I love that stuff. I’d love to promote them through Circus Stella. Would you be willing to introduce me to your contact at Taste Of The Wild?” That’s all she needs to say to get the ball rolling.

Who wouldn’t want to sponsor these pups?

Collaborating with her colleagues on how they’re securing sponsorships is vitally important and I also encourage her to discuss with colleague what else they’re doing to make their circuses more profitable. They’re all in the same boat and so they’ll be the best sources of information for each other. Jana will share her expertise and her colleagues will share theirs and it’s highly likely they’ll all come out of it earning more income and with new ideas. I know it’s awkward to talk about money, but people are usually SO excited to share what strategies have worked for them. Over the years, I’ve been in several different mastermind groups for writers/bloggers, which have helped me tremendously with my work here on Frugalwoods and in writing my book. My mastermind groups met by Skype for a hour every few weeks and we’d share stores, swap best practices, and more. This might be something Jana could strike up with her colleagues as well, which would open the door for even more ideas on how to increase Circus Stella’s income.

What I’ve found in working for myself is that I’m very grateful for the broader community of writers/bloggers that I’m part of. We have Facebook groups, we have conferences, we talk by phone… all of this collaboration is really key for people who are running a solo show. Unlike in a traditional office, we have to seek out our mentors and colleagues and it is so richly rewarding when we do. I get the sense that Jana is already very well connected in the circus circuit, so I imagine starting these conversations and relationships won’t be too difficult.

Jana also noted that they might be interested in booking more events by working indoors. Here again is an area where her network of colleagues should be able to offer her excellent advice. She should ask folks who’ve already done this if an agent is necessary and if so, how much they should expect to pay their agent and finally, for recommendations of agents to speak with. Again, I highly recommend asking for introductions to people in the business who book indoor acts as perhaps all it takes is a word-of-mouth recommendation from existing indoor acts. Networking is important here as Jana can (and should) get the inside scoop on how these bookings transpire from colleagues. Then, she and Dextre can make an informed decision about whether or not an agent is needed. And if they do need an agent, that very well may be an excellent business expense if it means they’ll be able to generate more income. No harm in spending money to make more money!

Bottom line: making Circus Stella more profitable should be a top goal for Jana and Dextre.

Circus On Wheels (aka The Vehicle Situation)

Trailers Jana & Dextre have known and loved

I’d never before considered the tremendous logistics of a dog circus moving around the country and I am blown away at how organized and efficient Jana and Dextre are at maneuvering their operation around. I love that they own most of their vehicles outright and I agree with Jana that simplifying sounds like a great plan at this stage now that they’ve purchased a new cargo van.

Jana is wondering if they should hang onto their current vehicle line-up or downsize now and my inclination is that they should go ahead and downsize now. As Jana wisely notes, all that vehicles do is depreciate. Unlike a fine wine, cars do NOT get better with age. The longer Jana and Dextre hold onto these vehicles, the less valuable they’ll be. Plus, the economy is in a good place right now for consumers, which means it’s a good time to sell cars. Translation: don’t try to sell your cars during a recession because people have less disposable income. Sell when the economy is good!

I suggest that Jana first price out trade-in versus private sale prices for each of the vehicles they want to get rid of. Sometimes a trade-in is a better deal, but more often, you’ll get more money if you sell a vehicle yourself through Craigslist. Jana should start tracking what similar vehicles are selling for on the used market and an easy way to do that is to set up a few saved searches on Craigslist. She should also speak with a dealer and see what sort of trade-in deals they’d be able to offer her. Ideally Jana and Dextre can translate the money from the sale of their extraneous vehicles into a new-to-them fleet. As far as I understand it, Jana and Dextre are looking to sell:

  • Chevy
  • Tacoma
  • 5th wheel trailer

This would leave them with: the new Nissan cargo van, the smaller trailer, and Dextre’s motorcycle. Then, they’d replace the vehicles they sold with a smaller house trailer and a car. Jana mentioned that they need two cars while they’re at home (not on tour), but I’m wondering if Dextre’s motorcycle could serve as their second car? If not, then I recommend they look into a small, fuel-efficient car (which is what Jana mentioned getting) such as a used Honda Fit or used Toyota Prius. I highly recommend they buy this car used and in cash if at all possible (see my posts on used cars here and here for more details). Also, if they don’t need the second car until this coming winter 2019, they could focus on saving up to purchase it until that time comes.

Bottom line: consolidate and sell the extraneous vehicles now before they lose any more value. 

Retirement, The Stock Market, And Rentals! Oh My!!

I commend Jana and Dextre for thinking broadly about how to increase their income. Let’s address each idea in turn.

Idea #1: Southern Rental Properties

Both of Jana & Dextre’s houses

Jana illuminated an excellent point that all non-W2 income people know: it’s hard to qualify for a mortgage on self-employed income. It just is. Given this, I’m not sure how profitable it would be for Jana and Dextre to pursue owning more houses. Jana and Dextre don’t have enough cash to swing buying a bunch of properties outright and, I also don’t think it would be a great use of their liquid assets to tie them all up in rentals that might not see a profit for years.

Jana mentioned the possibility of renting out their current home and that might be a good idea, but I don’t know the market where she is well enough to offer advice. Rentals do NOT always generate a profit and it’s important to do your due diligence before diving in. Jana could start researching what similar homes rent for in her neighborhood and looking into landlord/tenant laws and property managers in her area. I recommend the site BiggerPockets for more information on real estate investing.

Idea #2: Circus Expansion or Dog Training Facility

I think this is largely a question of whether or not Jana and Dextre want to continue life on the road. The dog training facility idea might be great if they’re interested in no longer touring. Conversely, the circus expansion ideas could work if they do desire to continue touring. My best advice here is to speak to friends and colleagues who’ve done similar projects. I don’t know anything about the margins for these businesses, but someone does–likely someone Jana and Dextre already know! The dog training facility does strike me as something that would be a capital-heavy expenditure with loads of overhead: renting the space, insurance (!!!), and trainers to help with the dogs.

Other Revenue Generating Ideas

Jana should be getting paid to manage the social media for her gym.

Do not do this for free, Jana! Depending on how many hours per week she’s putting into this, I’d work up a proposal with her hourly rates as a freelance social media manager. Jana’s time is too valuable to be giving this away!

Invest more aggressively in the stock market.

Dextre & Adrian the dog

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I totally get that Jana is wary of the market because it does–by its very nature–fluctuate up and down and yes, you can 100% lose money in the market. However, the key is to remain invested for decades since historically speaking, the market has–historically, mind you–returned around 7% annually. I recommend the book The Simple Path To Wealth for an excellent overview and intro to investing.

Jana, despite her protestations, is already more savvy about investing than your average bear as she’s already invested at Vanguard. I recommend she move her money into more aggressive, and potentially higher yield, index funds. One of the only ways to steadfastly grow your wealth is to invest it. Money sitting on its own in a low-interest rate checking/savings account isn’t doing anything for you. Conversely, money invested in the market has the potential to return many times its original amount. Check out this compounding interest calculator to understand this potential.

Jana has a gigantic amount of money in cash (she said in an email to me that she knows she hoards cash like a dragon and I have to agree–also it’s hilarious to picture a dragon standing atop a pile of coins…). At any rate, Jana already knows what I’m going to say about all this cash.

Between their various savings and checking accounts, Jana and Dextre have a whopping $63,536 in cash. Whoa buddy! That’s a lot of cash. The only reason they might want to keep so much cash on hand is if they’re planning on buying a car for cash or putting a down payment on a house in the near future. Since they are likely to purchase a car soon, it makes sense to keep liquid the amount they’ll need for their car. However, beyond that, I recommend Jana invest the rest. Jana’s already on the right track with investing in VTI through Vanguard as this is a low-fee index fund. I recommend she add to this account and perhaps translate the whole thing into Vanguard’s VTSAX, which has a minimum investment of $10K, which she can easily meet.

How much cash does she need on hand? On top of the amount for their new-to-them car, Jana and Dextre should ensure they have an emergency fund held in cash. An emergency fund is typically three to six months’ worth of expenses, which you hold in an easily-accessible checking or savings account. At their current rate of spending, Jana and Dextre should target $19,431 (three months’ worth) to $38,862 (six months’ worth).

Rent out their home while on the road.

I’m not sure if Jana and Dextre have already explored this, but, since their house sits empty for half of the year, I wonder if there’s an opportunity to rent it out? Since it’s such a consistent and long period of time, I wonder if they might be able to find long-term renters. Alternately, I’d explore serving as a corporate rental. Another option could be renting it out through AirBnB. What might make the most sense is a managed AirBnB situation whereby they pay someone else to clean and manage the property while they’re on the road.

Start a dog training side hustle!

Look at these well-behaved doggies!

I think Jana and Dextre should leverage their tremendous expertise in dog training by working as dog trainers when they’re home during the off-season. I like that they’re diversified in the side hustles they’re pursuing, but this might be a time to lean into their strengths. Jana and Dextre have five incredibly well-behaved, well-trained rescue dogs, so this is clearly a strength of theirs.

Hiring out as personal dog trainers, or perhaps starting a dog training class in a park, strikes me as a potentially very rewarding (and financially rewarding) avenue for them, especially if they’re interested in possibly opening a dog training facility. This would allow them to dip their toes in this field to help inform whether this is something they’d enjoy doing on a full-time basis post-Circus.

They pretty much already have the marketing materials assembled since they share pictures and videos of their well-behaved pack through Circus Stella’s social media channels. Just a bit of writing to explain their credentials, and how they could help you with your hound, should be all they need. Jana is a superb writer and so I have to imagine this would play well into how she might approach clients for this business. I’m thinking of something where Jana and Dextre go to people’s homes to help them out with their dogs on a one-on-one consulting basis since this would avoid the overhead of needing to own their own facility for training. I believe they could potentially charge A LOT per hour for this type of training since they are experts with dogs and people are often desperate to learn how to communicate with, and manage, their dogs. I would price their hourly rate quite high and see what the market will bear. Especially if they’re able to travel to the extremely affluent Charlotte suburbs, I think they’d have quite the market to work with! Sidenote: I do not know what type of insurance is needed for this type of business, so that’s something they should research ahead of time.



No Frugalwoods Case Study is complete without a perusal of expenses. Although I will go through Jana and Dextre’s expenses, as I already noted, almost all of their spending is related to the operation of Circus Stella and there’s not much discretionary spending for them to cut.

In every single Case Study, I like to point out that what you choose to save or not save is a very personal decision. Cutting every last expense is NOT the right answer for everyone and I am NOT an advocate for making yourself miserable in the process of achieving financial stability. I AM an advocate for values-based, goal-oriented spending. I think it’s important to assess whether all of your expenses bring you fulfillment and a good return on your investment.

Savings Accounts Side Note

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to keep it in a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources because your money is sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

  • Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
  • Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while sleeping. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

I think it’s also important to question if your rate of savings will help you to achieve your long-term goals. But what you spend on? That’s a very personal choice and one that you have to make for yourself. My job is to point out areas where you might be able to save, but only you can decide if that level of savings is right for you. If you’re struggling with where to save more and how to map out a longterm financial plan, I encourage you to take my free 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge.

Here are some areas where Jana and Dextre might be able to reduce their spending:

  • Food: at a total of $597 per month for both of them, this isn’t a terribly high total, especially since Jana and Dextre are on the road for much of the year. That being said, it’s possible there might be some opportunities for reducing this category.
  • Cell phones/internet: at $242, this is the one category that I do strongly encourage them to find cheaper alternatives. Jana already mentioned that they’re interested in reducing this line item and I concur. Jana and Dextre will want to find an MVNO cell phone service reseller that’s compatible with their phones and their current provider. A few low-cost carriers: BOOM Mobile, Ting, and Republic Wireless. I know our readers can recommend more!
  • Dog Food: I noted that they’re feeding their pups Taste Of The Wild and when our sweet Frugal Hound was with us, we fed her a generic version of Taste Of The Wild, called Nature’s Domain, from Costco. It was a lot cheaper than Taste Of The Wild and, from our research, had the same ingredients. Jana should check out the ingredients to make sure, but figured I’d pass this along in case it might help them save on doggie food.
  • DVDs from Amazon: not a terribly expensive category at $37/month, but not nothing either.
  • Entertainment: Dextre’s $47/month and Jana’s $10/month are, again, not major expenses but are some of the few discretionary expenses that could be reduced. In particular, I wonder if Jana and Dextre could get Kindle books from their library for free? I know that many libraries offer e-books for check-out, so certainly worth exploring.

All in all, Jana and Dextre are super duper frugal and there just aren’t many areas to cut from since so much of their spending is in relation to Circus Stella. As discussed earlier, I see increasing revenue as the area for them to focus on.


Here’s the quick rundown of what I advise Jana and Dextre do:

  1. Have a frank conversation about their wishes for the future of Circus Stella. Do Jana and Dextre want to continue touring for the long term? How much will it cost to add additional dogs to the act?
  2. Increase Circus Stella’s income. Pursue sponsorships and explore the possibility of doing indoor acts.
  3. Explore augmenting their side hustle income, possibly through starting a dog training business in the off-season, particularly if they’re truly interested in opening a dog training facility in the future. I’d start by doing in-home consultations so as to avoid the overhead of owning a facility.
  4. Investigate renting their home out while they’re on the road every year.
  5. If they’re serious about moving, I recommend they begin exploring how much their current home would rent and sell for. Additionally, it’s time to start researching home prices in the areas they’re interested in moving to.
  6. Consolidate the vehicle situation as soon as possible.
  7. Move their extra cash into low-fee index funds.
  8. Continue bringing people happiness and joy through their adorable dog circus!

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Jana? She and I will both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me ( your brief story and we’ll talk.

Update from Jana on 1/3/2018:

Jana & Dextre’s new wheels

Guys! I have so many updates for you! First of all, it was such an honor and absolute blast to be a Reader Case Study on Frugalwoods. I simply can’t thank you all enough, especially you Mrs. Frugalwoods, for all the the encouragement and advice. If anyone ever needs a circus, remember, I owe you one!

Let’s dive in. The jumble of vehicles had been sorted! We sold the big diesel truck that we didn’t need for more than expected and used the proceeds to pay down the van, bolster Dextre’s retirement savings, put in a gravel driveway AND buy a new car. Of course by “new” car, I mean a sturdy 2003 Honda CRV from my father-in-law that we got at a special family discount. Thanks family! I appreciate the many of you who suggested we try to get by with one car (which, let me remind you, is a cumbersome hightop 8 cylinder commercial cargo van) but it’s not a practical daily driver. We lead very separate lives when we’re home for 6 months of the year, and I don’t want Dextre to be a slave to my gym schedule, so we both needed wheels.

But wait, didn’t you guys have another other car? Um… okay yes. There’s also the 2000 Toyota Tacoma that we’d been letting Dextre’s adult son use. But that son moved to NYC and no longer needs it, so we kept that too. Wait, so you still have 3 cars? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but we totally do. Here’s the thing though, the old truck is paid for and practically worthless in terms of resale, so for the cost of insurance we can drive it around instead of the van, thus preserving the van for circus related transportation only. See? It’s useful. Only I can’t drive it, just Dextre. It’s a stick, which I never learned to drive. I’d be a crap zombie apocalypse partner, I know, I’m suitably ashamed.

Heidi the new pup!

Moving on. We traded in the giant cumbersome fifth wheel trailer for a smaller tow-behind unit the van can haul. We paid for the new trailer in cash and I feel so much safer in it. I swear the old one was going to fall apart on us in the middle of the highway. The new trailer is so pretty and the interior living space manages, in true Tardis fashion, to feel enormous, even though—get this—it’s 10 feet shorter and 10,000 lbs lighter. That’s right, 10,000 lbs! How’s that for downsizing? We’re so happy.

We aren’t finished yet folks because please let me introduce you to our new puppy, Heidi! We’re very serious about expanding and improving our dog act, because our dogs are ambassadors for shelter dogs everywhere, so we adopted Heidi from Mommy & Me Rescue in Mt. Carmel, PA. They specialize in pulling pregnant dogs from shelters then fostering the mother and the whole litter until everyone is ready for adoption. Heidi was the only puppy in the litter unspoken for and we’re very lucky to have her. She’s a cattle dog mix that looks a lot like our older dog Mabel. Heidi is our first deaf dog, so we’re teaching her hand signals. I’ve never seen a puppy sleep so good; being deaf has some advantages.

The new Circus Stella line up!

But wait, there’s more! Several of you were kind enough to compliment my writing which melts me into a goopy puddle of feelings. Thank you! I secretly wrote a novel I didn’t tell you or anyone else about back in 2017.

It got picked up by a publisher in my little niche genre and it’s gonna be a legit book you guys. A BOOK. Holy crap. It’s scheduled for release August 19 of 2019 under the pen name Lee Colgin. So if you’re into queer paranormal romance—I know, you’re not, lol—I’m your girl. I read Anne Rice’s super queer vampires as an impressionable youth and haven’t strayed from the genre since. So there’s that. It’s both crazy exciting and kind of embarrassing and none of my friends even know, but strangers on the internet? That’s totally fine, you guys can know.

Okay still with me team? Good job, that’s all of it! Thank you kindly for every single comment and all the well wishes you sent. You are the neatest tribe of people and I’m honored to be among you. Thanks Mrs. Frugalwoods, for everything, but especially for the pickles*!

*Note from Mrs. Frugalwoods: Jana and Dextre came to visit us on the homestead this summer and I sent them home with pickles!!! That’s what I do when people visit me: throw homemade pickles into their car when they’re not looking.


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  1. When I read this I noticed that they gain most of their income from April – October. I wonder if they could create a Christmas show that would allow them to do corporate Christmas parties. Those always seem like great ways to add income. I wonder if they could base in NYC or even SF to really blow it out with some of the companies out there to generate additional income and help move that much closer to retirement.

    1. What a great idea! Charlotte is a big city, I wonder if there would be an opportunity there. Perhaps network with event planners there and see what’s available. I know my (large company) had an holiday event using multiple rooms in a large hotel event space that had a similar theme a few years ago.

    2. We usually have some holiday shows over Christmas and New Years. We’d love to book more of them! It’s really January-March where we have literally zero shows and that’s just because I haven’t been able to book those months. It’s not for lack of trying. There are just so few outdoor events that we appeal to that time of year, which is one reason to move indoors. I’d love to break into that market!

      I really love living rurally out in the county. The thought of NYC or SF make me cringe and those markets are saturated with aerialists. I would die and hate my undead life. This is one reason county fairs have been such a wonderful venue, they’re usually further out of the city, they’re just not year round.

      Another consideration is that our off season allows for some chronic injuries that the show causes to heal. I didn’t think to add that. Maybe we could work on just booking the dog act during the off season so we still have some downtime for our delicate knees and hands.

      1. Working your dog shows on the off season is an excellent indoor business idea!!! It will also give you the word of mouth exposure that may help lead you into “retirement” of the circus and transition to dog show only in a few years. Another avenue of making money could be contacting acting agents in Charlotte. Animal actors (especially our beloved DOGS!) are in many commercials, movies, shows, mini movies, etc. Your dogs are professionals so might be the next dog in a taste of the wild or local commercial for the area’s favorite feed store or music video, etc!

        1. Thanks RJR! Our dogs were in a commercial for the Pennsylvania State Employee’s Credit Unit two years ago and it was some of the best fun we’ve ever had. They did a great job too! We would love to have more work like that. We were lucky in that someone recommended us to them, but I’m not sure how to seek out that kind of gig on my own. I mean, is it as simple as googling “acting agents in Charlotte?” That is definitely worth a try. Thank you for the advice.

      2. If you set some touring dates in the Southeast, where weather in those month is not bad, that may help! We’re in Florida and my kids would love your show!

      3. Have you thought about teaching children circus skills? Like beginning juggling? In my community we have a couple of people that teach circus skills to little kids. Right now in my community the schools are trying to work on social/emotional skills so if there was a way you could incorporate that in maybe schools would be interested in you. For example, maybe you could teach a certain grade level for one month until they could perform a little circus show? Or you perform a show that encourages they to learn skills to deal with stress or how to ask for help when they are having problems. I envision the dog act being involved in this. Also, our libraries have dogs come in to be read to by kids. I feel like you are such great performers that a little creativity would get you some work in those bleak winter/early spring months? Good luck!

  2. Wow it’s so refreshing to see a couple working outside of the 9-5 grind. Thank you for sharing your story and congrats on the success of Circus Stella!

    I think your budget is pretty conservative given everything you two have to purchase for your daily expenses and your circus. There are only a couple of things I noticed that could be cut:
    – Vehicles: I see that you two own a couple of vehicles. I think it’s important for your lifestyle and business. But if you could sell 1-3 vehicles that are not your priorities, you can save on gas, insurance, and space! Plus, you can earn some extra cash from it.
    – Movies: I see that you pay $37 for DVDs. I’d suggest getting netflix or Amazon Prime/Hulu to take advantage of their unlimited movies and TV shows.

    I really like that you have a rental property in North Carolina as well! 🙂

    1. Thank you for the kind words! You’re totally right, it’s time to sell the extra vehicles. And we’ve only recently acquired unlimited internet, so you’re right about switching to streaming content over the Amazon DVDs too. That category blew my mind, I didn’t realize I was spending that much. I nixed it right away!!

      We don’t have a rental property though, we’re just considering keeping our first home someday when we buy our second home to rent it out. Mrs. Frugalwoods made some good points about that I will need to consider. I may look into renting it our while we’re on tour!

      1. I believe that Netflix still has a subscription for mailing DVD’s as well that would allow you to rent and exchange at a lower monthly rate- and you could only keep it active for the 6 months of the year that you are traveling.

        1. I’m from Wisconsin, where we have an amazing selection of free DVD’s at the library, including all of the new releases. I don’t know about Charlotte specifically, but I lived in Raleigh, NC for awhile and was shocked that their library system does not offer a single DVD. Hopefully you have better luck in the Charlotte area 🙂

  3. As a person who lives in New England, I caution you about moving until you highly research the area you want to move. Housing costs are so much more here, and I am super jealous of your $89,000 house! Related, I wonder if you could refinance your mortgage to a lower interest rate? It seems you should be able to get at least 4.5%, although I understand the difficulty in getting approval might be the problem.

    1. Hi Susan! I bought that house just before the market collapsed. It went from being worth $89K to about $59K practically overnight. In ten years it has finally, barely, recovered it’s value. I’m super bummed about that. I also started investing for the first time right before the market collapse, which is why I’m so reluctant to do it now. I just had bad timing.

      Acquiring a mortgage with self employment income was easy as pie in 2007. They just looked at my credit score and gave me money. Now it’s hardly possible. I was told I wouldn’t qualify for the mortgage I currently have if I were to reapply now. I looked into refinancing as well, and it never even got as far as a company looking into my financials. My balance is below the threshold, at least that’s what I was told. I hadn’t realized there was a threshold.

      We’re taking the van and the dogs up to NY, VT, and NH to start researching properties this Fall! The van is a hotel room on wheels, and all five dogs can come with us. We work in PA in the Fall, so we’ll go on satellite trips between shows to see what’s out there. We both know its WAY too early for us to make the move, but I’m like Mrs. Frugalwoods in this, research, research, research! I’m hoping to be pretty savvy about the market before I make the transition.

      1. I think Mrs. Frugalwoods has a good point about renting your NC house in the off-season, and it might be good experience to help you decide if you want to sell when you relocate to New England or keep it as a rental. We’ve been thinking of picking up a rental property in our area, and we are constantly on Zillow looking at rents specifically, in order to help us estimate what we should expect to get as landlords. If you haven’t had the chance to do that research yet, I’d really recommend Zillow as a good place to start!

  4. Can you talk about why you avoid used fleet vehicles? We’re looking down the road to purchasing an NV or Transit Connect passenger model for a big family, and most of the secondhand ones appear to be decommissioned hotel shuttles and the like. They were appealing due to the low mileage.

    1. Sure! It’s not always a bad idea, you might be totally fine. I don’t want to discourage you. Upsides first! They’re often well maintained. That’s great news! Downside, they were very likely not driven by the owners of the vehicle, rather by employees and drivers are harder on cars they don’t own or aren’t responsible for. The kind of van we were looking for, an industrial cargo model with a high roof, are typically driven to within an inch of their lives before being sold off. I think you’ll have better luck with the smaller NV or Connect models in that arena.

  5. Is it me or does Dextre look like Howl from Howl’s moving castle?! Maybe it’s the clothes.

    I can’t believe you guys don’t think it’s a better idea to open up your own circus training school or gym for little kids. Those are big money makers. Parents love their kids getting into this stuff.

    Because of the intensity, older bodies get more weary so I think an early retirement would and should be in order. But it’s not too intensive to teach right? And that can fund more rescue doggies! You can offer private lessons or just general classes.

    Expenses wise, I see nothing glaringly wrong 🙂 running a circus is expensive.

    1. I had to google this, but you’re so right! He totally does. Dextre often jokes that he looks like a cartoon! 🙂 Howl is adorable.

      There are lots of awesome circus training schools for little kids (and big kids, AKA adults!), but somebody has to be out there DOING circus and inspiring those little kids to learn it. I am definitely the doer, not the teacher! Dextre, however, has been known to coach juggling and he’s very good at it! Teaching circus wasn’t the dream. Having a circus was the dream. <3 I totally get where you're coming from though. It would be a more stable future for us, but I didn't learn to eat fire* for the stability. lol!

      *Don't eat fire, it's bad for you.

  6. Former dog trainer here. I owned my own business for 11 years and taught group classes as well as doing in-home lessons and I loved every minute of it!

    First, join APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) as a professional member. Second, getting certified is completely unnecessary, with one small exception. Experience in working with dogs is far more valuable than “certification” (you have loads of experience!) and the outfits that “certify” through programs take money from rank beginners who want to be dog trainers and have no experience. (The exception is APDT’s certification program for the CPDT, which is a TEST, not an actual course…I never bothered to do it but I do think it’s an excellent certification test) Potential clients would occasionally call me and ask if I was “certified” but I think they were just trying to do their due diligence without knowing what that meant. I never had one refuse me after I explained (quickly!) the truth behind the scammy “certification” programs out there…I just explained that dog training is an apprenticeship, and told them who I’d mentored with.

    Finally, it helps to know what dog owners actually want when you’re working with them; the mistake I see so many dog trainers make is teaching what THEY think the dog should know rather than listening to the client’s complaints about the dog’s behavior. Hands down, the top three requests from my clients, year after year, were: get the dog to stop jumping up, get the dog to stop pulling on the leash and get the dog to come when it’s called. Even though you must have lots of proficiency in training animals, you’re actually working with the people and training them…and that’s the challenging part. Nicole Wilde’s books on being a dog trainer are especially useful (I loved her book, It’s Not the Dogs, It’s the People).

    Oh, one more thing: the best marketing tip I can give you is to get in with at least one veterinarian’s office. If you get a vet or group of vets referring to you because they trust you and your training, it’s GOLD. I never advertised my business once. The vets and subsequent word of mouth did it all for me! I brought them homemade cookies every time I dropped off my business cards and flyers so the office staff knew me and remembered me, and I gave talks at staff meetings to answer questions. Dog owners trust their vets, and vets like having someone reputable and professional they can send their clients to.

    Good luck! I can tell your dogs are all happy in their pictures, too…I can spot a stressed dog from a mile away and those are some happy, relaxed dogs. 🙂

    1. Amy!!! Thank you!!! Wow, this is some really wonderful advice and we appreciate it very much!

      So Dextre has already paid for both Kyra Sundance’s certification program and the (HUGELY EXPENSIVE) CATCH program and he’s working his way through both of them. Since he’s already paid, he may as well finish and he is learning tons of useful stuff. I tend to agree with you on this one, but Dextre is a perfectionist and it was important to him to be official. I support his decision, but I do think he’s knowledgable enough and talented enough to begin training dogs before finishing these courses. It would be a great source of income during the circus’s off season.

      I’ll bet he’s read that book. Hang on I’ll ask…YUP! He’s totally read it. It was required reading for CATCH!! He says, “It was very well done.”

      Again, thank you so much for the tips! I will keep these in mind while helping him grow his side business!

      1. I’m a professional trainer as well and just wanted to expand on and clarify what Amy said about certification. First, I think there IS value in becoming certified if you’re going to open a business. Our industry is currently completely unregulated, which is a shame since it allows people who do not have the necessary skills or experience and/or use outdated methods to practice without any accountability. Unfortunately anyone can hang out their trainer shingle and start training clients/dogs. So I am willing to put a hundred dollars or so a year toward maintaining my CPDT-KA certification. I think it adds credibility and I’m supporting an effort to have some standards in terms of knowledge and methodology until our industry is better regulated. I want to clarify that the CPDT certifications are the only ones that use an independent testing company to run an actual exam and they are NOT through APDT. Anyone can pay a fee and become an APDT member. CPDT certifications (CPDT-KA, which is knowledge assessed, CPDT-KSA, which is skills assessed, and CPDT-BCC, which is for behavior consultants) are through the Certification for Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CPPDT). Certification requires a passing score for a seated exam, as well as a certain number of hours of experience training and teaching, and an ethics agreement. You also must obtain a certain number of CEUs to recertify every 3 years. The initial cost, which includes the exam is higher, recertification is $190, or $63/year, a small price to pay imo.
        Anyway, that’s a bit of an aside, but wanted to throw in my two cents about that. Additionally, Mrs. Frugalwoods brought up insurance if you decide to start this as a business. Several of the membership organizations, including APDT as well as PPG offer packaged insurance policies. If Dextre were only planning to do private training or group classes, he could get a policy for around $500 year (and he’d want to set up an LLC first to give yourselves another degree of protection in case of lawsuit, which has some costs associated with it as well). If you were to have staff or run a boarding or day camp facility, you would need additional insurance.
        I can’t give much more advice on the other topics, but what a fun life you guys must have! I’ll have to keep an eye out for a local show sometime. Good luck!

  7. Definitely a unique situation! Going with a MVNO provider as Mrs. FW recommended should drop their cell phone bill by 80% or so. And I second the motion that Dextre’s Suzuki Bandit serve as the desired 2nd vehicle.

    It looks like Jana and Dextre are intending to pay off their new Nissan van aggressively. But I would recommend they shift gears and pay the minimum payment only on the van while throwing as much extra cash as possible at the mortgage, which is at 5.75% interest compared to 2.36% on the van loan. This strategy will save them the most on interest in the long run since they’ll pay less interest overall.

    As Mrs. FW pointed out, Jana and Dextre have a lot of money sitting in cash. And while they’re working the cash savings as hard as they can without investing (great cash interest rates and use of CD’s), the 1.5% – 2.4% they’re making can’t compete with the 5.75% they’re losing to mortgage interest.

    By my count, Jana is saving $520/mo. currently in the form of cash savings, Roth IRA contributions, and her Acorns account. In addition, the difference between Jana and Dextre’s annual net income ($96,875) and the sum of all monthly expenses and savings ($77,724) is another $19,151.

    I recommend taking that $25,391 in disposable income per year and using it to pay down the mortgage. Doing so would result in the home being paid for in a little under two years. They could speed up the process further by re-purposing some of their existing savings and making a large, lump-sum principal payment.

    This would have the added benefit of improving their current investment returns from the 1.5 – 2.4% they are receiving on their non-invested cash to an effective rate of 5.75%. This gives Jana and Dextre more time to formulate and come to grips with the risk of a long-term investment strategy which will enable them to meet their goals of retirement in 13 years.

    1. Thank you for pointing out these interest rate disparities between the van and mortgage! Totally meant to mention that and forgot :). Good thing you were reading closely. Always appreciate your excellent advice on the Case Studies :)!

    2. Thank you for this great advice! The interest rate on my mortgage is a constant source of irritation for me. It was a decent rate in 2007, but it’s awful now. I would love to pay it off sooner than later, but I am equally driven to pay off the van. It’s conundrum that mathematically suggests paying off the mortgage, but my finely tuned security instincts tell me to own the van outright first.

      A note about your calculations between the difference of our income and our expenses, just for clarity. It looks like disposable income, but it wasn’t. For YEARS Dextre’s been paying off a huge HELOC that originated before our marriage. He finally paid it off last year. We also had loans for the Diesel truck and the 5th wheel trailer, that were just paid off last year. So that extra money you see wasn’t really extra, it was all going to debt repayment. I couldn’t figure out how to represent that on the spreadsheets.

      You are correct, however, in that we should have that kind of extra money NOW and you’re also correct that we’d like to deploy it by continuing to pay off debt. The house is on my list, I swear. I want to pay it off, but I’m pretty sure handling the vehicle situation should happen first, just for peace of mind. You’re not wrong, I’m just as risk averse as they come, hence the weird cash hoard. My bad!

  8. My 11-yo daughter and I were vendors at an art show in PA where Circus Stella performed, and they were AMAZING. You guys brought such a fun element to the whole show. That was way back in October, and my daughter STILL talks about it. Putting your art out there takes so much guts, and I just want to encourage you and tell you that you’re touching people’s lives.

    1. Oh Anna, gosh! Thank you, you made an already fantastic day even better just now! We’re so glad your daughter enjoyed the show. Please bring her back this year so we can meet her! Tell her we said hello!

        1. Hurray! Thanks FrugalVal, it will be our first year at that event and we’re really excited about it! Please do come up and say hello, it would be exciting to meet another Frugalwoods reader in the wild! 🙂

  9. I have no advice, I just wanted to say that you guys have such a fun and exciting life! I love it!

    1. YES!!! I was really hoping someone would ask! 110lbs! Bench press is my favorite. Except for flipping the tire, which is my favorite. And rope climbs. And deadlifts. I need a workout.

        1. I hear you! It’s the difference between in being my favorite part of the day (group fitness) and a dreaded chore I have to make myself do (working out alone). I’ll try to cut expenses anywhere else, but working out with friends is the bees knees.

  10. I think there is a huge opportunity for you to make money in the quieter months. You may be able to do so as an extension of the circus, with one of your other side hustles or even just a regular W2 job. I can totally understand preferring to keep your time free instead, you’d just have to choose between having that time now or having more money sooner for an early retirement.

    I understand your hesitation to invest in the stock market. Yes, at any time, stocks can go down in value. Personally, I’m more scared of 1) the risk that the savings I have today lose purchasing power due to inflation if I kept them in cash 2) Not having enough money to meet my retirement goals due to not investing. Read the Simple Path to Wealth that Liz recommended. I think it will be eye-opening.

    It seems like making the car changes you want will save you some money and increase your quality of life. The suggestion to use the motorcycle as the second car is brilliant as it will give you both the freedom to travel without the added costs of a second car.

    1. Hey Jason! Thanks for the input. I do work part time at a gym all winter as a personal trainer, it just doesn’t bring in a lot of extra income. But I do get to workout for free, which saves about $150/month so that’s a nice added benefit. I may try to work at more than one gym next winter to get more hours. I’ve also considered becoming a certified CrossFit coach so I could work at a CrossFit affiliate.

      I also appreciate the advice about the market. I’m honestly hoping that if enough people tell me to do it, I’ll do it. I’ve read the Simple Path to Wealth, believe it or not. I know my fear is holding me back. Beginning investing and buying a house just before the huge market collapse was formative and I haven’t yet been able to overcome it. I realize it’s an excuse. I’m trying to keep an open mind.

  11. Your story is really interesting and the pictures of your dogs are adorable!

    I’m wondering if you have ever though about starting a YouTube channel? It would be another potential side hustle but related to your current work. You could feature the dogs. It would be a way to share your circus with a large audience, while getting ad revenue. The revenue would be small at first but you could build a larger audience (I would watch 5 minute or so videos of your dogs – they look adorable). This might eventually lead to sponsorships, and you could eventually even start a Patreon account, which is like a public radio funding model where people would give you a few dollars a month to support your work. It would provide you with work for the months where you aren’t traveling and, because it could mostly focus on the dogs, might be a good retirement option as you age. I don’t know much about starting YouTube channels but from what I have read it might be a viable side hustle given you are already good at social media and entertaining. You could start small by just using a camera you already own to video tape the training you already do with your dogs.

    Best of luck!

    1. Hey Chris! I’ve had a youtube channel for nearly a decade now. We have hundreds of videos. For a while it was monetized. I wasn’t really trying to make money though. Youtube recently changed the rules and now you need 1000 subscribers to have a monetized channel. We have 941… so close! Our channel is JanaJuggles and our most recent video is fun underwater footage of our dogs swimming. I’m hoping to meet the criteria to re-monetize my channel soon. If you’d be willing to subscribe, we’d be at 942! THANKS! I also recently posted a video of our Venus Fly Trap eating a bug, so if dogs videos weren’t enough, we also have carnivorous plants!

      1. My daughter & I each subscribed. Easy way to help out! Good luck & I loved reading about your life!!!

      2. Hi Jana,

        About getting subscribers. Just mention on FB, Instagram, You Tube or etc. that you need subscribers. You will easily obtain your goal.

  12. First I’d like to say I’ve seen Circus Stella and my family enjoyed your performance.

    I’d say I’d start by focusing on some of the reoccurrences: calls phones as noted above get a MVNO, entertainment options like Netflix, etc. increase income by Airbnb or rent your existing home and the aforementioned sponsorships.

    I might add one more from when I saw your show, it struck me you might have some additional merchandizing opportunity there. I vaguely recall you sell a dvd of other performances. There might be more there in the form of T-shirt’s of the dogs or such.

    1. Thank you, I’m so glad your family enjoyed the show, that makes me happy!

      All good advice, I appreciate it very much. And we totally have a line of t-shirts, two of which feature our doggos!! Depending on where you saw us, we may not have had them out. We should really make them available at every event, thanks for the extra push!

      1. Could you make T-shirts or fancy collars for dogs? People love to dress up their pets, and if they could look like the circus dogs do, I could see that being a big money-maker.

        1. I love that idea too. I am sure my daughter would buy one of those fancy collars for her dog in a minute if it was available. Unfortunately, I would not buy one since we once bought our dog a Christmas-reindeer-themed headband, (at Goodwill, I must add), and he hated it and managed to break in within two seconds of putting it on his head. Although, perhaps, something around his neck would be harder to destroy (but I doubt it).

      2. Here’s what I see alllllll the time. Enthusiastic owner has instagram for dog. Dog gets famous via instagram (probably cause the dog parents know their way around a hashtag). Dog parents make some sort of limited run socks or something with their dogs face on it, advertise via instagram and it somehow sells out immediately. I think this is worth researching. I love the idea of merchandising your show more. I’m not really sure of the demographic that comes to most of your shows (guessing suburban/rural families?), but some things that seem popular these days are enamel pins, snapback trucker hats are still a thing, also people are willing to spend WAY too much on baby onesies. People always seem to know someone having a baby. You could even do like a “when I grow up I’m joining Circus Stella” or something cute like that. Also, is there something featured in your show that you could sell? Like something that kids could play with immediately? sparkly hula hoops or something? Juggling balls? Just a thought. Strike while the iron is hot with the enthusiastic kiddos.

  13. Maybe someone said this above, but one interesting side-hustle could be shorter dog-only shows for corporations (or high schools). You could work up a talk track about teamwork, innovation, continuous learning etc., and present that while the dogs perform their tricks. It might take a while to really get started and build your credibility in that market, but it’s a way to give your bodies a rest while bringing in some extra income. An easier entry path might also be dog-only shows for corporate entertainment (like company picnics/parties) — planners are always looking for something unique and this definitely fits the bill!

    1. Hey Lindsey, thanks for the ideas! I’m not sure how to break into the school/corporate market, but it’s definitely worth a shot and sounds like fun!!

      1. Contact event planners in your area. I’ve been one for years, and it’s another arrow in my quiver to be able to suggest great entertainment along with caterers, linen rentals, emcees, etc. Your show is so unlike the usual offerings in the corporate market. I very much suggest Lindsey’s suggestion to work up a presentation about teamwork, balance, success, etc. that work with the tricks the dogs already know. I’d sure as heck rather see your circus than another motivational speaker 🙂

  14. Jana, Have you performed at the NY Renaissance Fair in previous years? I remember circus performance there which may have been yours but my memory is a little spotty.

    1. Yes, that was me! I was there from 2001-2013. When I first started there I had a solo acrobatic show, then for 5 years I worked with a magician in a magic show, then I performed the aerial show over by the chess board with my friend Colette. She’s still there doing a belly dancing show! Dextre worked there too doing his solo show. We are now at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire during that time frame. If you ever have a chance, you should come. It’s not that far away from Tuxedo and it’s a great event, we love it there!

  15. Wow, you are living your dream and I can see you are doing really well financially and personally. My comments are:
    1. Mortgage, I agree with Mr Financial Freedoms take, I would pay this off either now or when you realise your money through selling the excess vehicles. This is your highest interest rate therefore the debt to get rid of.
    2. Vehicles, re getting a run around car, you appear to already have one your son / step son uses. I guess you only need it for a few months of every year so would this do? I also agree re using the motorbike as your second car unless the weather in your location doesn’t work for this.
    3. Future selves, there is a lot of money to be made in pet care and party type events. You both have amazing skills with animals and people, just a thought – if you were to purchase a lifestyle block, could you turn this into a dog kennel (holiday stay for pets while owners are away or a day stay while owners are at work), dog training site (though I love the in home option which is more tailored and personal), dog grooming, kids parties venue (big money in hosting small events for kids parties while still running a dog show and with the potential to have more dogs as you won’t need to transport them). Not sure my words used make sense, I am from NZ and our words are different, but hopefully this all makes sense. I know in NZ people pay $60 per hour for someone to walk their dogs in a group walk! With your skills you could make a nice living:-)

    All the very best!

    1. Thank you Trace, we really appreciate your advice! I’m itching to get that mortgage paid off, the interest rate kills me slowly.

      So Dextre’s extra truck, the one that his son Jivar was using before he moved to the big city and didn’t need a car, is a stick shift and I don’t know how to drive it. (I’m embarrassed to admit that!) I mean, I suppose I should learn. It would be a useful skill for if the zombies come, and generally in life, but I’ve never learned. Bad Jana. I’m thinking we’ll sell all of it and buy a small used car with cash that gets better mileage than the trucks of our past. We might could make it with just the motorcycle, but the time we need a second vehicle in the middle of winter. And driving the huge van around isn’t very efficient. I’m actually torn.

      I’m not sure what a lifestyle block is, but it sounds super fun. We’d love to see New Zealand someday. I mean, they filmed Xena there. XENA! I’m envious of your glorious hiking trails!

      1. A life style block is a what kiwis call a hobby farm — so a piece of land say 4ha /10acres (but of course varies a lot). Typically not big enough to produce enough to be the main source of income (but might if you did something out of the ordinary).

  16. It’s small, but it’s SOMETHING: You should be able to get XM radio cheaper. Are you on the more expensive/higher # of channels package? I thought it was less than $30/mo for the standard package. It may not be if you’re on an “old” rate, though.

    If you call when it’s about to auto-renew, they WILL give you a lower rate. They make it a pain to call, but they WILL do it. We are paying for 5 months at a time now, at a total cost of $31 for those 5 months.

    Again, not a HUGE savings in your life, but worth the time!

    1. Thank you Nate! I will absolutely do this! The $30/mo is for both vehicles, the cheapest package. But you’re right, I’ll bet they’ll lower it if I let them know it’s no longer in my budget and we’re considering cancelling it. This is a great idea, and I’ll get on it right away. Thanks so much!

      1. My husband tried a free sample period and then canceled it. They offered to make him a deal, which was still too high. He then negotiated and just last week got a year subscription for $60.

          1. Definitely do this. We had XM for our cars and lifestyle changes with our driving made it not worth it anymore. Cancelled over a year ago…they pursue us still. Easy to get it down to $5/month/vehicle. Every dollar counts.

            Also, what about a smaller solo act with a dog or two for birthday parties and such? We live two hours south of you, and i am amazed what people pay for princess parties, superhero appearances, exotic animals shows, etc. for children’s parties. Seems like something quasi-circus-y with a couple smaller dogs could fit this niche. Between social media and word of mouth your advertising costs would be very low, and you could schedule whatever works with your schedule now, especially in those off months. Worth considering.

            Just loved your whole presentation here. Living your dreams….bravo for what you do and how you do it!

          2. Nancy, thank you! That’s definitely a good idea worth trying. People sometimes ask if we do birthday parties and we always say yes, but it hardly ever works out because our price point is rather high for a private party, or it’s on a weekend we’re already booked…But it’s a great idea for winter and we should endeavor to come up with a more affordable package for people!

  17. As a dog owner, I would *love* to have a dog trainer like y’all! Be sure to emphasize the uniqueness in the training possibilities – that would seriously get me to sign up. (I have a Catahoula who LOVES to work and LIVES for fun, and learning the sorts of things that y’all do could help her overcome her reactivity.)

    Also, i wonder if you could get a sponsorship with Taste of the Wild (what I also feed my dog) that would lead to free food? My understanding is that’s pretty common.

    1. A sponsorship with Taste of the Wild would be amazing! I’m hoping to figure out a good way to reach out to them soon. Just covering the cost of food would be a huge benefit.

      We think Stella might be a Catahoula mix. Or maybe she’s just mixed with the same types of dogs that came together to create a Catahoula? We don’t know, but we love the Catahoula spots!

  18. Oh my, what a fun job! I love that you’ve found a way to combine two of your passions and make it work. Our two very sweet dogs are very excitable and make our lives feel like we’re living in a circus, but you’re actually living the dream. Maybe it’s the coffee or maybe it’s the cool job, but my mind is racing with ideas this morning. Here are a few of them:

    – How do you track your business expenses? If it’s via notebook, it might be worth paying for the basic version of Quickbooks. We used this for my husband’s old business and it was well worth the money as it helped keep us organized and we never lost a receipt/opportunity for a write-off. The basic version is $15 or so per month, which would pay for itself if you lost a gas receipt or two. It also saved us a few hundred dollars when we had our taxes done because we were so organized and our accountant was able to get the info he needed so quickly.
    – Sell your camper now! Gas prices are up and if the economy takes a dive, it will be nearly impossible to give away. We sold our much beloved travel trailer last week on Craigslist. We had kept in really good shape (the buyer said it was like brand new) but ended up selling for slightly under value because it wasn’t worth hanging on to it for an extra $500 considering it would be harder to sell at the end of summer. We bought this camper new and will never make that mistake again.
    – You have a delightful writing style and a story to tell. Could you write a book that’s part dog training and part circus adventures? Even if you didn’t want to go the traditional publishing house route, then you could format it as an e-book and have some printed on demand to sell at your gigs.
    – Could you take your personal training business online? You could meet with local clients during your off season and then check in with them digitally when on the road. You could also work with non-local clients. No idea how this works, but everyone seems to be doing this on the Instagrams.
    – A few other caffeine-generated ideas: if you wanted to slow down your touring and be in one place more often, offer a summer camp for kids/teens to teach them how to work with rescue dogs and come up with an act. Offer circus classes for adults!

    1. Oh you’re so sweet, I just love you! Thank you for all of these good ideas and the kind things you had to say!

      Tracking expenses; I’ve had Personal Capital for several years now, but just this January began manually cataloging everything to my specifications instead of their auto categories to make it easier to track things. So far it’s been really useful. I use Quickbooks when helping out at the gym where I work, so I’m familiar with the program. You’re right, that may be a good idea for Circus Stella. I have been thinking I need to separate the business expenses out better for a while now. Time to get on that!

      We were just waiting for someone to tell us to sell the camper. We’re on it. Likely at the world’s largest RV show in Hershey which we attend EVERY YEAR!

      I secretly wrote a novel last year, and then another, and now I’m working on a third. Just submitted the first to a publisher. Expecting rejection on that front because who gets picked up by their first submission? It’s in a super tiny niche market where you can submit without an agent and there are about 9 publishers I can try. If that doesn’t work, I’ll eventually self publish. Literally like only 8 people know this so I suppose it was time to tell the internet. I circus/dog related book is a great idea, thank you! I’m mostly into writing about vampires….I blame Anne Rice.

      Online Personal Training…This is what I had in mind when I decided to pursue the certification. But now that I’m actually doing it, I’m not sure it’s fair to the client or even in the client’s best interest. You really need to be on top of you client to make sure their technique is safe. My boss, who owns the gym where I work in the off season, is a really talented trainer and the absolutely best mentor I could possibly have, and even he doesn’t do online training. I’m not saying no, I’m just not sure I’m ready. I usually still get his help when writing programming for workouts too, as that it truly an art. Maybe someday! It’s a terrific idea, I just wonder about my quality of execution.

      I’m actually super happy with our touring schedule. I love touring. And we’re home during the winter when jobs are rare and out during the summer when jobs are plentiful. We have some friends who teach circus summer camp type stuff. Neither of us are very interested in heading that direction with our lives, but we’re so glad other people do it! It’s great to have so many young people enthusiastic about circus!!

      I really enjoyed your comment and your ideas, thank you kindly for chiming in. I dedicate my next cup of coffee to you!!

  19. Regarding the Mortgage- look for a mortgage broker or an online thingy- seems like those are options. Never stop trying – does not take that much effort, maybe just a few online applications, but the savings is pretty high. Just remember to not add more years to your mortgage though – you’re trying to save on interest -not pay more in the long-run.

    That said with a great credit score- you may be able to just refinance your mortgage thru a credit card balance transfer – and credit churn your way to lower interest. (just don’t put anything else on those credit cards). Lending Club, Sofi and other online peer to peer would offer enough capital.

    Seems like the Nissan Van is “underwater” (purchased for $37k, and valued at $11k). I agree that these types of vehicles may be driven rougher- but figure at least you wouldn’t be making payments on them – just drive them to the ground – considering that its a business expense anyway. I would suggest not paying down the Van if you choose to keep it and pay the mortgage down if you’re trying to knock down the mortgage and be debt free on that since the Car payment interest is lower than the house loan.

    Also – if you are afraid to invest and want to take a more conservative approach (and it seems like you want to go that route for the security) – just go ahead and pay off the home – you would make 5.75% return. I’m not a big fan of the “emergency fund” view of 3 months. Its too much to have sitting around. Considering a good credit score – I think there are options out there where you could get a loan for low interest (ie Lending Club).

    Consider large auto-dealerships for indoor events (I know…random right? but I know of a couple of dealerships that host customer appreciation events for their customers in the winter months).

    Now that you have unlimited Internet – consider getting rid of XM radio too. Also – perhaps one of you should have the Unlimited phone (assuming that you two are usually together all the time). TMobile has unlimited everything for half that Verizon price. You could get a plug in hotspot for the vehicle and just have bare-bones plan for your phones. Consider going to just one phone too if that is the case. (spotify, pandora has free radio)

    For food costs- consider eating and getting all your food from large grocery stores instead of restaurants. They have some pretty decent options these days – and should be considered as better nutritional options when you’re on the road. Here in the midwest large hotbars are available all hours of the day. But sometimes you just want a yogurt and fruit. All cheaper than restaurant.

    1. Thank you Monty,

      So the Nissan isn’t underwater. It’s valued at $37,000, was purchased for $36,000 and we put $11,000 down. So $11,000 is our equity in the vehicle. We’ve since converted it to a camper van (full insulation, solar power, beds, vents, roof exhaust fan, the works…. all documented on our youtube channel) and because we did this work ourselves, the van is probably worth more than we paid for it at the moment. We could probably sell it for 45k as #vanlife is on a HUGE upswing right now. I didn’t explain all of this because I thought my post to Mrs. Frugalwoods was already complicated and wordy, so I decided not to mention the entire van conversion. I’m sorry if that was confusing. We’re definitely keeping the van, it’s in our longterm game plan. Hoping to have it for 200,000+ miles at least!

      Thanks for the auto-dealership tip, that’s a unique idea and we love it. Plus, they have TALL ceilings perfect for aerialists!!

      Will check out T-Mobile, thank you!

      We spend very little at restaurants. It’s not line-itemed out, but it’s between $35-45/month. It could be less though. Most all of our food is from Aldi, we love Aldi! I also include our protein powders and supplements in that category, which can be kind of pricey but with our lifestyle we need the extra protein and can’t always eat that much, it’s easier to drink it. Plus whey isolate is readily available immediately after a workout whereas chicken/beans/lentils etc take too much time to be digested before your muscles get their essentials. I’m pretty sure we can trim this category, but probably only modestly. Every little bit helps!

  20. Was thinking that while you’re doing those Cross-Fit things on the road to promote your act as well – circulate flyers for the events and get social media views/likes.

    Should create your own youtube channel as well – dog training tips, Cross fit tips, juggling tips…you guys are talented! keep promoting

  21. Oh you’re so sweet, I just love you! Thank you for all of these good ideas and the kind things you had to say!

    Tracking expenses; I’ve had Personal Capital for several years now, but just this January began manually cataloging everything to my specifications instead of their auto categories to make it easier to track things. So far it’s been really useful. I use Quickbooks when helping out at the gym where I work, so I’m familiar with the program. You’re right, that may be a good idea for Circus Stella. I have been thinking I need to separate the business expenses out better for a while now. Time to get on that!

    We were just waiting for someone to tell us to sell the camper. We’re on it. Likely at the world’s largest RV show in Hershey which we attend EVERY YEAR!

    I secretly wrote a novel last year, and then another, and now I’m working on a third. Just submitted the first to a publisher. Expecting rejection on that front because who gets picked up by their first submission? It’s in a super tiny niche market where you can submit without an agent and there are about 9 publishers I can try. If that doesn’t work, I’ll eventually self publish. Literally like only 8 people know this so I suppose it was time to tell the internet. I circus/dog related book is a great idea, thank you! I’m mostly into writing about vampires….I blame Anne Rice.

    Online Personal Training…This is what I had in mind when I decided to pursue the certification. But now that I’m actually doing it, I’m not sure it’s fair to the client or even in the client’s best interest. You really need to be on top of you client to make sure their technique is safe. My boss, who owns the gym where I work in the off season, is a really talented trainer and the absolutely best mentor I could possibly have, and even he doesn’t do online training. I’m not saying no, I’m just not sure I’m ready. I usually still get his help when writing programming for workouts too, as that it truly an art. Maybe someday! It’s a terrific idea, I just wonder about my quality of execution.

    I’m actually super happy with our touring schedule. I love touring. And we’re home during the winter when jobs are rare and out during the summer when jobs are plentiful. We have some friends who teach circus summer camp type stuff. Neither of us are very interested in heading that direction with our lives, but we’re so glad other people do it! It’s great to have so many young people enthusiastic about circus!!

    I really enjoyed your comment and your ideas, thank you kindly for chiming in. Just added your blog to my To-Be-Read list! I dedicate my next cup of coffee to you!!

  22. I know next to nothing about running a circus, but another option might be just to throw it out there at shows that you’re thinking of expanding the circus to include more dogs and that you’re putting out a donation box for that very purpose in X location. If people love your show and are passionate about animals (which I’m sure many that come to your shows are), they might be interested in dropping in a few bucks, which could add up a lot over multiple shows. Just an idea!

    1. Hey Torrie! I love your idea, but this is almost always covered in our contracts. Either an even just doesn’t allow donations/tips/hat pass, which is fine, that’s their right, or they do, which is cool. We almost always have merchandizing privileges, and often phrase that in donation type speak. For instance encouraging patrons to buy a t-shirt because it supports the circus rather than buy a t-shirt for the sake of having another t-shirt. Sometimes an event will “buy our hat” in addition to our daily rate, which is our favorite solution. We estimate what donations would have been and the event pays us this rather than have us ask their patrons for a donation. We like this better too because we don’t love asking the audience for money. We’ve both worked hat pass shows for decades and have a good idea what a show will bring in. I’m kind of a nerd about it. I think it’s all super interesting. And you’re right, it does add up over multiple shows. A good $10K of our annual income is hat pass donations.

  23. I absolutely loved your post. Thank you for the transparency! I live in Virginia Beach and will come see your show!!

    1. Thank you Meghan, that would be so cool of you! Please come and say hi either before or after the show, I’d love to meet another Frugalwoods reader! We’ll be there in just a few weeks. That is actually the hardest gig we do all year, so it will be nice to have a friendly face to pass the time more quickly! It’s on the street and we have to set up and tear down each day, plus try to stop people on the street who weren’t planning on seeing a show and convince them they want to stop for a 45 minute show. I wish we could do shorter sets there, but 45 minutes is the rule!

  24. Ariel classes around me have become really popular (and are spendy). Maybe with your skills you could teach classes in Ariel during your off time or open a studio/fitness training center when you decide to stop traveling.

  25. Have you considered South Florida for the January to March months? It’s high season here, great weather, and when most tourists are here.

    1. Funny you should say that, I used to work at the Florida Renaissance Festival during February and March. We’re just priced out of their market now, it’s no longer viable to do the show for that pay scale. There are county fairs and such, but they are saturated with circus artists working cheaply because literally everyone that does this for a living is vying for those jobs and it drove the prices way down. Bummer. Florida is the winter quarters for a huge sector of the circus community. Isn’t that neat?

  26. You note that the income from Circus Stella is “After Tax Income”. To me, this means it is the total of your revenue minus the related expenses.. If this is correct, then you are duplicating your expenses in the Expense section of your summary for your business related expenses. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you mean by After Tax Income.

    1. I could see how this would be confusing. Perhaps I’ve even labeled it wrong. I meant everything we made excluding only the income taxes we paid. So I didn’t duplicate expenses, but I also didn’t give you our net income after expenses that we end up with on our taxes. It’s low!

  27. Cell phone recommendation: Total wireless. They use Verizon’s network, so your phones should be compatible and you’ll get the same map coverage. You’ll just need to purchase sim cards from them and switch them out (easy to do, just need a needle pin). My spouse and I pay about $50 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 15 gb of data. It was such a huge no-brainer when we did this- went from $85 a month with 2 gb of data to $50 with 15 gb. We actually jumped further and went to Sprint for their free unlimited plan for 1 year (I think this promotion is gone) but once that year is up we will go back to total wireless.

    1. Justine, thank you very much for this recommendation. I will look into it right away. I’m flabbergasted by how much our phones cost and I know we need to find a better alternative. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  28. How fascinating and inspiring to read your story, Jana! You’re living an amazing and frugal life! I’d recommend:
    1) You and Dextre each get a library card and then can load up your Kindles with FREE e books. They are perfect for a trip bc you could fill up your Kindle at the start of the trip (my library lets you take 30 ebooks at a time) and then they just expire off the device when the lending period is up.
    2) I like Lily’s idea of a circus school for kids – or adults! Circus arts for adults (aerial silks, trampoline, burlesque, etc.) would be a neat class or a camp. There might be a good corporate angle here too – “Tap into your Inner Circus Performer” or something.
    3) Dog Food – I know you have five performance dogs but have you considered making your own dog food? I make it for my two dogs and it’s quite a bit cheaper than buying good kibble.
    4) Dog Training – You two are PROS at this and could definitely generate $ from this. A friend of mine owns a pet store and started a puppy school – $100 a puppy for 8 X 1 hour sessions of puppy socialization and basic training. Specialty clinics like tricks, fetch, stop pulling on the leash, etc. would also be good.
    5) Stardom – Have you two ever considered trying out for some sort of America’s Got Talent or other reality show? You are amazingly talented and have a unique act; could be a great way to get more recognition, gigs, sponsorship and maybe even win some $$$!
    – Side note: My mini goldendoodle Winnie, as you say “desperately wants a job!” Any tips for jobs/new tricks I could teach her?

    1. Thank you very much! We should definitely have library cards, your absolutely right. Sometimes you have to live in the county the library is in in order to have a library card but at the very least this would be useful for use when we’re at home. Great advice!

      We would rather be the circus than teach the circus and we don’t carry instructor insurance. I do like coaching adults on their fitness journeys but I’d rather teach squats and deadlifts than juggling and trapeze. It’s not a bad long term plan if we decided to stop touring, I’ll give you that!

      I’d love to know more about the dog food you make!

      Funny you should mention it. I’ve been on America’s Got Talent. I’ve also been on the Ellen Show twice. Both were cool experiences and you get a daily stipend and your expenses covered, but tv shows don’t pay. It is nice to use on our promo though. They all seem to film in LA now.

      Winnie is the cutest name!! Most dogs love agility type challenges like jumping through a hoop/over an obstacle, weaving through poles (garden stakes work great!), and balancing on boards. Mental games are fun for them too. Dogs love hide and seek! Kyra Sundance has a good website with lots of resources for fun times with your dog. Also the YouTube channel DoggyU is a friend of ours and she has wonderful free tutorials!! Have fun with Winnie!

      1. Just a really minor comment – you do have to live in the county/city/state of the library you want to join, but you don’t need to be physically there to use it. Since I am based in NYC, I can access my NYPL e-account from anywhere with an internet connection (you just use an app – Overdrive or Libby are the most common ones). It’s such a great resource!

      2. Hi Jana,

        To follow up about Kindle books from the library: once you have a library card, you can do it from anywhere (in the US at least)! Overdrive is the most popular library ebook service, and it looks like North Carolina has a service for the entire state: Here’s Amazon’s help for that:

        Plus, I’m always trying to spread the word about two other free ebook services: Project Gutenberg and Open Library. Project Gutenberg is digitized versions of out-of-copyright books (anything pre-1923; you mentioned vampires so think Dracula, but also Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, etc., and lots–LOTS!–of obscure and wonderful books). Here’s their help for Kindle: . There can be some typos but it’s usually not too bad. Open Library has a lot of mid-20th century books but unfortunately the vast majority are only in ePub format (this is why I have a Nook and not a Kindle). Still worth knowing about just in case!

        Finally, not about ebooks…. do you already sell those adorable circus collars your dogs are wearing? And if so, do you also have tiny versions for kids’ stuffed animals? Seems like that might be a great low-price-point souvenir!

        Loved this case study–thank you!

  29. Am I the only person who thinks this woman should be blogging?! Awesome day job and a real knack for the written word…Jana, you’d be amazing!

    1. I was just about to make this comment. Jana has such a unique life and perspective that is definitely under represented. PLUS the blog could function to provide more sponsorship opportunities. She could blog about rescue dogs, frugality, life on the road, AND being a circus performer. I mean the opportunities are endless!!

    2. Ah!!! I love you both for this! I just started a blog in April. My first post is a poem about poop bags! The blog has already made $32, and I didn’t start it to make money, but I figured, why not monetize and see what happens!?! You can click on my name above this comment to check it out. And thank you for the encouragement!

  30. Definitely enjoy reading what you wrote Jana. You have style 🙂 In my area, which borders an upper income area, people can make a very good living doing dog walking, training and boarding. I think more than your net right now. With your expertise you’d both be a shoe-in for this type of business. Not sure how appealing it is with its lack of showmanship/performance, but might be a good option for semi-retirement. Also, not sure that it matches up with living on an acreage as your clientele would be more limited than in a more urban area.

    1. Thanks totoro! I appreciate the compliment! You’re right, I definitely want a more rural and less (read no) urban setting for my life, that might make dog walking tricky! Definitely something to consider though, I appreciate the input.

  31. I don’t see a line item for an aerial silks studio so I was wondering where you train/practice. And then wondered why you aren’t teaching!! Perhaps you could hook up with a studio or trapeze school to teach classes in the off season. In addition, perhaps create videos of silks routines for both entertainment and exercise? My sister loved her silks classes so much she installed a set at home. There probably aren’t a lot of people like her but those out there would probably watch the heck out of instructional or inspirational videos! And I’m excited you have a blog because I was going to suggest that as well! Your story seems tailor-made for some sort of serial documentation!!

  32. Hi Christine! I learned aerial acrobatics quite a long time ago after a career in competitive gymnastics. Switching from the more demanding sport of gymnastics to the comparatively easy sport of aerial silk/static trapeze wasn’t difficult for me. I’m very grateful for my early experiences that lead to the correct musculature and flexibility for a career in circus. I have my own free standing rig and train on that. I have never paid for a class or studio time, though that is exactly what I would recommend for beginners.

    I’m not teaching because I don’t want to. I want to do circus not teach circus. I admire all the incredible and terrific aerial coaches out there, they are the coolest and I’m so glad they’re teaching the next generation. I love enthusiasm for circus in all it’s forms, but I’d rather teach squats and deadlifts than juggling and trapeze! Just personal preference. Dextre sometimes coaches juggling! He’s a great teacher.

    Thank you for being excited about the blog! I’ve always wanted to start one and I don’t know why I waited so long. So far it’s been really fun and a new creative outlet for me. I hope you like it. Thank you for all the encouragement. I hope your friend has fun pursuing the silks. You should try it!!

  33. What an interesting case study. Just to expand on the side hustle idea around dog training – it could be worth investigating online programs. A series of videos and supporting tools that puerile can rub through with their own dogs. That way this hustle could make money all year round rather than just in the off season when there is physical availability. Also with Jana’s PT qual and mad circus skills this could be another online avenue/program they could look into.
    Best of luck guys.

  34. Maybe you could also host some events with dog agility clubs. That’s an audience that’s very invested in their dogs’ training and loves to learn new skills, and might lead to some regular clients.

    I have a cattle dog mix with a chronic hip injury, so I’m always looking for new tricks for him that don’t require jumping, and your youtube channel is a great inspiration!

    1. Thank you Lynley, that’s a great idea! We actually have all the stuff to make an agility course too! The little white dog you see in the photos is Mabel, our cattle dog mix. Aren’t they the best? Have you tried hide and seek games with yours? Ours love hide and seek!

  35. Whoo hoo! What a kick to have such an interesting subject to ponder. I won’t ponder too long on your travels as I don’t have a clue on the best way to handle that.

    However, here are a couple of ideas that popped in:

    Definitely do the Air BnB while you are on the road. If you are in the right location I think you could make more money with folks only there part time than trying to find someone who wants to rent for only 9 months. Even after the expenses of an agent, the income from an Air BnB given the daily rental price (similar to hotels) would be substantial. You could plop this cash on your house and use your other saved income for the new vehicle. Two birds with one stone.

    Vampire books have already reached the top of their popularity, but who knows, if yours is unique it could be a winner. Trends come and go quickly these days. The Circus/Dog theme sounds like a sure winner. You could do a series of children’s books that would never end. The next “little house” series? If all else fails, do an E-book and put it on Amazon. Lots of folks are doing this lately and while it may be less profitable than a known publisher, steady bunches of cash will show up in your account from time to time. It will just sit there for as long as you (and Amazon) wants. You will have to have an agent to get to a major publisher. Mrs. F was unique in that the publisher came to her. That happened because of her blog. Just something to bear in mind. It takes a long time to reap rewards from a blog or a video. You have to consider this as a long term project.

    Monitize those t-shirts and whatever else you are marketing that is pertinent to anyone even if they can’t make one of your shows. Advertise on your Facebook page, E-Bay, ESTY, your blog and wherever else you can think of. Just carry a supply with you at all times. For the t-shirts, the post office will give you free mailers that are the right size for t-shirts. Just fold them in a plastic bag and put them in these mailers and add a shipping label to the front. You will need a drop location for returns (if any) if someone needs to send one back. Everything else (questions, payment, return approval, etc.) can be handled over the internet. Check out some of the videos on You Tube to see other folks doing it. Check out scrappers, homesteaders, etc. It’s very common. Just need a scale for anything other than shirts so you get the right postage on (prepay postage in your machine) and you can mail at any post office wherever you are at the moment. Stick a list of everything else you sell including pictures, prices and e-mail address to order. Who knows, you might become the queen of circus memorabilita.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you luck and fun in your futures.

    1. Well thank you Soggysuzzi! I’m a soggy Jana at the moment myself. It just rained all over my yoga mat here in Virginia!

      Renting out the house is an interesting prospect. I’m all for a new source of revenue, but all of our things (valuable and sentimental) are in that house. There is no extra space to lock them away somehow. I wonder if the cost of a storage unit would eat away at the profit, or if it would be worth it. Also we’d have to move that stuff in and out twice a year. Definitely something to consider.

      I love that you read the comments enough to suss out my vampire novels! I read Dracula on the beach (ironically) when I was a kid and have been hooked ever since. Anne Rice and Jeanne Kalogridis are my favorites. I don’t care for some of the newer (*cough* glittery) vampires very much. Thanks for the encouragement.

      You’d be shocked how much space a full inventory of t-shirts take up. To downsize the truck and trailer situation, we will also have to carry less t-shirt stock, not more. We could try a print-on-demand service, but the profit margin is lower by more than half! Might be better than nothing. Thank you for the input.

      I appreciate the well wishes. Thank you for your time and thoughts! My best wishes to you as well!

      1. OMG! I love the idea of circus dogs and possibly vampires book. I love the genre, as well, but I’m old school vampire.

      2. Jana,
        I’m certainly not an expert on the topic, but perhaps you could sell your merchandise through Zazzle on your blog/other social media too?

  36. One suggestion: sign up for Amazon Prime. With your unlimited data you can use it to replace a couple of your entertainment categories– first, those DVDs. Downside is you can’t get everything. However, you can always find something to watch! There’s so much on there for free. And you can rent digital videos rather than buying DVDs if there’s a new release you’ve just got to see. Second feature: Prime Music. There are so many good playlists and stations that are included. Any genre you want, plenty of variety. That can replace your Sirius radio subscription for music– if you are driving through a data dead zone, you can download the music to your phone. Part two of replacing radio: download the Audible app and log in through Amazon, and you can access a whole bunch of comedy, radio type shows, and full audiobooks that are available free to Prime users. Part four: if you have a Kindle device (rather than app on a phone) you can access the Prime users lending library through the device store, and download one free book a month, from an enormous collection. You should also download Overdrive and sign in with your local library card, you’ll be able to find a large variety of free ebooks and audiobooks to borrow. Also check into podcasts. Netflix and Hulu and such are good, but if you want bang for your buck, Amazon Prime is where it’s at. Tons of movies and shows, music, audiobooks, and ebooks included. And depending on what protein powder and toiletries you buy, potentially good savings there through “subscribe and save,” you get 20% off when you get five items in a shipment so that’s a great way to save on supplements and things like that.

    Some friends of mine make good money with their side hustle as dog boarders. They use the Rover website I believe– but there are several! I think they make about $20 per day per dog, and the owners supply them with food of course. And their dog loves the company. Since you are home for the holidays this would be a great side hustle to look into, lots of people need pet care over Christmas when they travel. In our area, cat sitters typically charge $20 for a one hour visit, where they play and snuggle, feed and refill water, scoop the litter box. Another good potential avenue for income as animal professionals.

    1. You are full of fantastic advice Kel!! Thank you very much. Lot’s of good stuff for us to try. Subscribe and save is tricky as we don’t always have an address, but worth a shot. We don’t really have any extra space to board dogs for people. Our house is quite small and our dogs aren’t all that friendly with other dogs in their space. That’s really cool that your friend has developed it as a side hustle though. We love that!

      1. Hi Jana! Just wanted to chime in and mention that Rover has options for you to check in at the owner’s home as well, but depending on how rural your location is, it might not be as worthwhile. Still worth checking out, however, if you haven’t already. We use it pretty often for our own pup, and you can choose when to be available, set your prices, and it would work with your seasonal availability.

    1. Haha, one person did but I can totally see how you could miss it in all these lovely comments! Thanks for asking, I can bench 110lbs, wahoo!! Bench press is my favorite.

  37. Thanks, Jana, for responding to my post. I appreciate your feedback. I tried to access your You Tube Channel but it came up as not in existence. Could their be a mistake in the earlier post here. I’d love to subscribe (every 1 counts) .

    Could I ask if you are willing to think outside the box? Let me explain:

    I know of some folks who bought a condo in Maui for vacations and they rent it out when they are not there. They use a property manager. It is a two bedroom condo and they have all their stuff stored in one bedroom and put a dead bolt on the door. In order to accommodate more than two people they have a sofa bed in the living room so they can advertise the space as suitable for 4 people. Either a sofa bed or a murphy bed in the living room would solve your space problem. I wouldn’t even consider a rental unit for your things. Personally I would want to test this out before I committed to that expense and hassle of moving stuff. The real decision here is do you want to figure out how to make this work to make more money or do you want to maintain the privacy of your own space? Only you can make that decision.

    You are on track with your vampire book. It will either land at one of the companies you are contacting or it won’t. If so, super, if not, try something else.
    Here again I feel that it is a question of priorities. Is your priority writing, or vampires, or making money. Only you can decide this. I was kind of hoping to see a version of doggie “Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Puddleduck” of B. Potter fame. Ah well, what will be will be.

    Is there someone you can trust to do the shipping and returns for you? You won’t make as much as you will have to pay them something on each shirt shipped but some money earned is better than none. The money will still be credited to your account. That solves your space problem when you are on the road. The more you work to create a brand the more successful monetarily you will be.

    So much for grandma’s lecture on thinking outside the box. I look forward to receiving your You Tube Channel title so I can tune in.

    1. Hi Soggysuzzi, thanks again for these great suggestions! It didn’t even occur to me that I could deadbolt off one entire bedroom! You’re totally right, that would solve the problem. You know what’s funny? I’d have to deadbolt off the closet too, because the closet from the first bedroom leads into the closet for the second. I’ve always loved that. It’s my escape from burglars plan because burglars would not know about the secret passageway!

      You’re right about priorities as well. My priority with my novel writing is to have a creative outlet that’s for me and doesn’t have the end goal of revenue in mind. So much of my life is a beloved hobby/passion project turned job for income. I’m not complaining, that is the coolest and I’m very grateful for it, but I don’t think I want to prioritize income when it comes to my writing. Not that I wouldn’t happily monetize it, just that it’s more to please me than to please a broader audience at the moment. Thanks for helping me suss that one out!

      The youtube channel is JanaJuggles, I’m not sure why it wouldn’t show up in a search bummer. You could also try a search for one of my more popular videos and then head to the channel from there. I’m not sure if I can include links in this comment, but I’ll try. If it doesn’t work, “Circus Stella Promo” as a search should get you there. Thank you kindly!

      I very much enjoyed your lecture. Please feel free to lecture me anytime!

  38. WOW! I love that you are living your values and dreams 🙂

    A couple of quick thoughts:
    1. Offer half day dog training classes in conjunction with the locations where you are performing. Advertise ahead of time and offer a discount coupon to anyone who sees your show. I’m thinking more about training the people on how to be better owners 🙂 If you are performing on a weekend, have the training on Monday for example.

    2. Create a promotional card to use when soliciting sponsorships. It will do two things: make you appear extremely professional and well-organized and provide quick answers to the questions a marketer is looking for. I would suggest including:
    # of shows per year with annual attendance
    # of hits on your website plus other web stats like page views, time on site, bounce rate, locations where visitors are from, etc.
    how long Circus Stella has been in business
    bio about each of you and each of the dogs
    ethics statement
    links to videos on line
    list of all social media platforms

    3. Are there any performance opportunities to tie into regional dog shows?

    4. A little corny, but can you sell photo opps where people bring their dogs and get to pose with the circus? With a Santa circus for holiday cards? The Valentine’s Day photo on your Instagram is super cute.
    states/regions covered in shows

    5. Using your Instagram account, post photos feeding the dogs, of the van, etc. and use hash tags with the brand name to try and attract the attention of potential sponsorship companies.

    6. I would expand the sponsorship targets to include trailer companies, van companies, etc.

    7. Your promotional photography is GORGEOUS!

    1. Oh wow Libby, I’m pretty sure you’re a genius. This is some great advice, thank you! I especially appreciate how actionable it all is! Coupons for dog training for our audience members is brilliant, I’ll talk to Dextre about that right away. I’m not sure he feels like he’s ready to begin training clients yet, but when he is that’s a wonderful idea. I also love the idea of the promotional card for potential sponsors and the handy list of info you’ve suggested. I will put that together right away.

      We’ve always let the audience take pictures with us for free. I like that because it feel disingenuous to me to charge for that experience. They do have the opportunity to purchase the nice promotional photos, and many do. Whether or not people can bring their dogs to the show is out of our hands and often what we can or cannot charge for is also a part of the contract. It’s actually easier for us if the audience doesn’t have their dogs, but we do love to meet everyone else’s dogs, so either way there’s a plus side!

      I’m so glad you like out promo photos! Ron Tencati Photography did the ones where I’m in the mostly black onesie, and Paws Pose and Play did the shots of just the dogs, both wonderful photographers to work with and I love their creative vision. We’re lucky to know them!

  39. I agree with paying off the highest interest rate debt first (the mortgage). From a numbers perspective this just makes sense but I know emotions and past experience can play a factor in decisions (been there!). Beyond that I want to say way to go in crafting the life you want, and also making it work financially. As someone who has followed my own unconventional path (maybe not as exciting as a circus though! lol) I love hearing about other people’s unique stories! 🙂

    1. I hear you! I know that mathematically is the best move, and that interest rate burns, but I’m concerned about having too much money tied up in the house. I’m paying it off as fast as I can, but I feel more secure paying the van off first. I know it’s kind of dumb, but if the poop hit the whirling dervish, the minimum van payment is $575/mo and the minimum mortgage payment is only $362. Would rather knock out that larger payment for peace of mind. I just want it ALL gone ASAP, haha! Don’t we all?

      I’ve put your blog on may to-be-read list. Looking forward to it!! Thank you for the kind words and best wishes to you! 🙂

      1. This is the best case study ever! Well done Jana and Dextre, creating the life you want for yourselves. You’re both an example to us all of what is possible beyond the usual 9-5. I’ve sent this case study to my adult daughter, I hope she reads it. You’re a very creative person with an amazing capacity to come up with novel ideas to earn income and the financial/frugal skills to address expenses. I’ve also enjoyed reading the comments, some great ideas there.

        It’s fantastic that you have cash, and are struggling to decide how to use it. What a great problem to have! Personally, and I know this is not a very popular opinion, I would rather live in a fully paid off house. If “the poop hits the whirling dervish”, I have a roof over my head (subject to paying rate and taxes) so we could remain in our home, the nest we have created for ourselves. Here in Australia we can pay down the house but not discharge the mortgage so can call on that money if needed but in the meantime it sits ‘against’ the mortgage principle so no interest is paid on the outstanding amount. Not sure if this is possible in the US.

        1. Thank you Frugal Aussie friend for your warm words and practical advice! It’s so cool that you shared this with your daughter, I’m honored. I’d love to pay off the house, I’m way ahead of the 30 year mortgage schedule, but I’m not quite ready to throw all disposable income at it just yet. That interest rate is a huge bummer. We’ll make as much progress as we can, I promise!

  40. I mentioned this in a comment above but thought I’d put the idea out there as a post of it’s own. Charlotte is is big city so I’m sure there must be acting agencies there. Animal actors are in EVERYTHING these days – commercials (local and global), ads for print (local and global), movies (local and global), etc! Your dogs are already professionals so breaking them into modeling and acting through an agent there in Charlotte during the off season may be a good thing to do financially plus give your busy and energetic dogs a nice winter job. My pets are certainly the CUTEST on the planet but would be fails for acting or photos because they are not trained for that stuff like yours are 🙂 Think about it – how many animals (DOGS) are in print and commercials these days? LOTS because dogs are just that awesome and draw people in to the ad. With the circus and any off-season modeling/acting jobs the dogs have and also your training (in-home or otherwise) courses you offer, your skills will spread by word of mouth for sure! This could definitely lead to getting sponsors. Especially if you have your own website where folks can go to hire you and your dogs’ and the circus. If you are shy about approaching your colleagues in depth about how to make more money from your and your dogs’ skills, chat up someone who does marketing professionally outside of the circus industry. If you get your dogs into modeling/acting, you will most likely learn a lot about marketing there. The local university might have a marketing student who may also take you guys on for their project! Oh, man – you and your dogs working together to do what you love is soooo AWESOME – the circus looks like an AWESOME act! All of your skills (dogs and humans) could branch out in so many ways to make extra money in the off season while you humans take a well earned and needed break. And, in doing so, set you guys up for that retirement down the way in a few years. Best of luck!!!

  41. Hi Jana! I loved your post! Kuddos to you for living your dream! A few thoughts:
    – I totally agree with the idea of selling doggy circus colllars and perhaps other circus props for dogs. (Dog shirts? Dog Halloween costumes? Mini Jana chew toys??)
    -Have you ever considered downgrading to a tiny house? I think this could have multiple advantages: no more mortgage, for longer trips you could potentially just bring your house with you, and you don’t have to worry about having well problems again (unfortunately I think water shortages are only going to become more common in the future).
    -As scary as it is, you should really invest in the market. Otherwise you’re losing money to inflation. Your biggest risk is not a downturn in the market, it’s running out of money. Lots of great blogs and books out there to help you find the courage.

    Good luck to you! Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi CV, thanks for your awesome suggestions. Particularly “mini Jana chew toys” which totally cracks me up. I’m sure my dogs would be all over this one. Seriously though, dog related gear is a great idea, thank you!

      So we already live in a tiny house technically, though at 880 square feet, it is a large tiny house. Ha! Tiny houses are absolutely not as transportable as people are lead to believe. Trailers are actually meant to be hauled around the country and lived in, Tiny houses can be moved, but are designed essentially to stay put. And they are MUCH heavier than travel trailers and would require us to keep the big diesel truck we are trying to downsize. I adore tiny houses and love the movement, but we’re pretty happy with our home base/satellite trailer situation. I don’t think we’d save any money trying to move a tiny house around. Sometimes we move as often as every week!! Also if we go any tinier I’m not sure where the dogs will wrestle. And Doggy Wrestlemania is definitely a keeper. 🙂

      You’re totally right about the market. Thanks for the extra little kick in the booty to make that leap. The more I hear it, the more it sinks in. I’ll report back with an update in a few months and hopefully by then will have convinced myself to transfer some of my cash hoard into the market. Thanks!

  42. Hello Jana! I love your circus. If you came to Houston, I would totally see it. We do have the Texas Renaissance Festival…just saying. Anyways. I love dogs. I love aerial. I love it all. I also just started following your IG account based on this post.

    A few things and maybe they were stated before, but I’m not reading through 109 comments. Good luck to you on that though. LOL.
    1. I see that your blog is not a domain name for your circus. I would definitely get it out of blogspot and have your own domain name as I notice that people who make money in blogs (which you can totally do since you have a niche blog) have their own domain name and not (like I used to have). It’s an upfront expense, but it will definitely get you more exposure and make you look more professional when approaching sponsors. My husband would say to add tags to everything.
    2. Work with Rescue Dog facilities/companies (if you aren’t already) to do more events, get more exposure, and then eventually more jobs outside of the circus. Just a thought. Go to fundraisers. See what events at local breweries are doing with rescues (NC has a lot of breweries, because we just went there). I go to a lot of K9 Angels fundraisers ( can put you in touch with some people there) at breweries and bars here in Houston. So, it’s a thought.
    3. I haven’t looked at your site yet, but set up a youtube channel and do videos of the dogs and the circus, which could help with the sponsorship.
    4. I agree with Frugalwoods about starting a side hustle dog training service and maybe even add dog sitting/walking services too. This could definitely help. People like dogsitting/walking instead of boarding their doggies.
    5. I agree with Frugalwoods on that you should make them pay you for the marketing material in some way shape or form.
    6. I agree with Frugalwoods that you should be Airbnbing your place when you are gone.
    7. Someone mentioned on the first comment (really the only one I read) about doing shows on the off season as a special for Christmas. I think this is a great idea. Every year at this aerial / trapeze gym called Vault here in Houston, they put on the Valentine’s Day Special event. It sells out every year and I have been a few times. I love it. It’s called Valentine’s Day Burlesque Show. So, they do the aerial arts with sexy music and maybe even some sexy clothing. It’s not for everyone and may not be your thing, but it does sell out. And it’s like $50 a ticket at the door. So it’s a thought to maybe do a Valentines Day Love fest for the rescue dogs. You can get a lot of exposure through the rescue companies, especially if you go to the same one to get your dogs.
    8. Speaking of other aerial companies, could you maybe set up workshops with other aerial companies. Vault always had special guests. I think it would be awesome to tour those companies, put on workshops on how to perform with your dog. If you don’t do this already, then, I would go with this type of outlet.
    9. I agree with Frugalwoods, you need to talk to your colleagues. Get out there. Don’t be scared.
    10. Write a book could be an option. You seem to have an interesting life and it would be awesome.

    Anyways, this was long. Sorry. I can’t wait to see what y’all do. And seriously come to Houston.

    1. Hi Kristi!

      Sorry for the late reply, we drove out of internet range for a bit. I was able read your comment, but I didn’t have the connectivity to send replies. It was killing me because you have some great ideas! Thank you! Also I appreciate the instagram follow, that was kind of you. What’s your handle? I’ll follow back from our other account!

      So we do own, and that goes to our professional website that’s designed to impress potential employers. I don’t necessarily want the blog to be the first thing they see. I chose blogspot because it was free and easy. I’d been telling myself to start a blog for over a year without actually doing it. It was my fear of not being able to understand the website design/code/hosting/etc. that was holding me back. Blogspot lowered that barrier for entry and allowed me to get started. You make an excellent point though. What I’m thinking is that I’ll have our web designer add a “blog” tab on our main site so people can find it there for now. Perhaps in the future I’ll buy it its own domain. Thanks!

      We’d love to come to Houston someday! Many of our friends work at the Texas Renaissance Festival. It overlaps with the one we do in Pennsylvania, which you’d have to drag me away from kicking and screaming (I love that faire!). But I believe it extends several weekends beyond the event we do, so maybe someday we could do a partial run of the TRF! That would be awesome.

      Mrs. Frugalwood’s encouragement to reach out to my colleagues was just the impetus I needed to make it happen. I’ve already had two wonderful conversations with women I admire in this business and they’ve given me some great leads. I was nervous to do it, but I shouldn’t have been. They were both very kind and generous and now I have some actionable steps to take to begin seeking sponsorships. Yay!

      Thank you for all of your advice! Best, Jana

      1. runkwrun is my IG name.

        Yes, definitely set it up to have a blog tab. I didn’t get that far into studying everything when I made the comment (probably not my finest hour. LOL). And I know exactly what you mean. I started with blogspot, because it’s free and easy. I didn’t know anything about blogging. I do not blog anymore, but that was for personal reasons. I just notice that the bloggers I follow all have their own blog name and not linked to a free site.

        YAY! I’m so happy that you made contact with your colleagues. That is amazing and it will totally work out for you in the end.

        Yes, TRF is pretty much the whole month of November. It usually is 3-4 weeks. I hope to see you there.

  43. Have you considered either dog walking or dog boarding? Since you guys are highly trained with dogs I bet you could charge quite a bit. People with “problem” dogs like me are willing to payquite a bit to board a dog with someone who is experienced! My dog trainer just takes in 1 dog at a time into her home as a side business. Her other dogs seem to be fine with it and my dog loves the experience. She is quite popular in our small town. I pay $40 per day but honestly would pay her more.

    1. Hey Krista, those are great ideas! Thank you! Good luck with your “problem” dog. We have one reactive dog as well, and it can be quite difficult to manage her exercise because she’s really not a fan of other dogs. Or cats. Or People. Or anything really. At least she still loves us!

  44. I did not have a chance to read all the comments, so apologies if it has already been mentioned, but what about launching a line of doggie products and trying to get into doggie boutiques around the country when you’re touring?

    People will spend crazy amount of money on doggy accessories- especially if you are touring in a economically well-off area.

    1. Hello Heidi! Yes, a few people have mentioned it and I agree that is a wonderful idea! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I actually knit matching dog/people accessories (dog sweaters with a matching scarf for the owner) and put them up in easy each winter. I’ll brainstorm some other ideas too. I appreciate the encouragement! 🙂

  45. A couple other ideas: birthday parties or assemblies for schools. If the dogs can handle kids, you can one or two dogs, do a mini show with juggling and charge by the hour or a flat rate. It might be a way to make some income Jan- Mar, still have downtime and do shows where only one person and 1-2 dogs are necessary.

    Also, you are really witty and could guest post on blogs if you don’t have yoit own.

    1. Thanks so much Cat for the good ideas and for the kind compliment! Performing at schools in the winter would be so rad. I’m not sure how to break into that market, but I will begin to ask around. I’d love to guest post for blogs, I enjoy writing very much. It was sweet of you to suggest it. Thanks!

      1. Contact the PTAs. Typical going rates for assemblies are $250-$500 and should include some type of educational component: physical fitness seems like it would be a natural fit, but I can see there being a performance arts angle too that would be more interesting to my active boys than some of the music assemblies they have.

  46. I apologize if this was mentioned, but you should approach the company that makes the dog food your dogs eat as I think they would be thrilled to sponsor you. In terms of entertaining Christmas events, you might want to team up with some of your local college or university a cappella singing groups as they often do gigs at corporate events and I think they would love what you do and might be willing to partner with you all. I wish I lived in the Charlotte area as I would have a holiday party just so you all could perform. And the fact that you are giving these wonderful dogs a home and meaningful work is just so heartwarming! Thank you for sharing–it made my day!

    1. Hi Susan! Yes, I want to approach our dog food company SO BAD! I’ve been holding back because I didn’t want to do it “wrong.” I’ve now spoken with some of my peers in the business and have a better idea of how to go about it and also a bit more confidence. I’m drafting the initial letter this week! Thanks so much for all of your kind words and encouragement, we appreciate it!!

  47. So many details! Only two things come to mind that I didn’t read already:

    1) Since a lot of your year is flexible, what about selling the house now and spending your winter months renting/RVing/visiting friends/etc in locations you are considering retiring to? You could spend 3-6 months in one locale and get to know it at a slower pace than just visiting. Also, if you loved it, it could give you a chance to scope out neighborhoods, make connections, etc. in between touring seasons.

    2) My husband and I are your exact age difference, only 10 years older. (I’m 46 and he’s 62). He’s super active (used to commute 13 miles by bike just a few years ago, each way to work. Up hills and in the snow. Seriously.) BUT… his health has changed in the last year or two. I personally think it’s stress catching up but his genetics have the men often dying in their early 60s or younger. So, we finally have had some “hard talks” about how I could handle things should things end sooner than later. He’s the one whose advice I would want the most and who knows me the best, but obviously awkward to stand at a headstone asking for his opinion later! So just throwing this out there at you as something that *might* be worth thinking about or discussing. It helped when we looked at the hard numbers and we realized that some change would actually be necessary (either a move or a job change) but I could easily take a year or more to make that transition. It meant he got more on board with savings and meant I stressed less when I realized I would have time to make some deliberate choices.

    Good luck with all the decisions!

    1. Thanks for your great advice Malenksha! I hear you about the age difference and the statistic that men generally die younger as well. My grandmother was worried about that for me on her deathbed, but then she also said Dextre had great hair so I’m pretty sure she was on board. I’m such a practical planner and longterm thinker that we’ve been having these conversations for years. We have modest life insurance policies for each other which should help the remaining partner to be able to take a bit of time to grieve. Of course I hope we both live to be old and gray and then die some epic death together saving the world from the zombie apocalypse or something, but you know how the best plans work.

  48. I have zero advice, but just wanted to say this is the best reader case study ever! A dog circus! All the best Jana and Dextre, keep us posted.

  49. You are now at 971. I even rang the bell! 29 to go! The capital J’s is what got me. I forgot to remember that this computer communication stuff requires ALL SMALL LETTERS. Every time they make things easier it gets more complicated. I am gradually learning to fix my own screw ups. Thanks to Sabrina for her help on this also. I look forward to more videos with those great doggies. Is it possible to get away with announcing at your shows that folks could follow the doggies if they like on your You Tube Channel and give them the post?

    Be well, be safe, and be happy always!

    1. You are simply the BEST, thank you! I should probably see about changing the youtube channel from the old JanaJuggles handle to the newer Circus Stella handle anyway, so this was just the kick in the pants I needed to figure that out!

      I ask every audience to find and follow us on social media. I have a cutesy little speech about it and even give away a DVD every show to a new instagram follower which was recommended to me by a millennial juggling phenom, Juggling Josh! Smart kid!!

      Are you on instagram/twitter/facebook? I’d love to follow you as well and stay connected. I’ve appreciate all of your advice and would absolutely love to keep in touch via whichever platform you prefer. 🙂

  50. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this already but you could possibly do smaller shows in nursing homes and children’s hospitals. Many facilities like to have entertainment for the residents or children who will be in the hospital long term to keep them entertained. I would contact the activities director or a child life specialist at area nursing homes or hospitals to see if this is feasible. It may also be a way to help you break into corporate work as hospitals are often owned by larger corporations these days.

    1. GREAT IDEA! And I super super love nursing homes. I’m all out of grandmothers and I like to adopt as many as I can. Thank you kindly for suggesting these venues to us!

  51. There’s a lot of replies – I didn’t quite peruse them all to see if anyone mentioned a few easy income generators that we use. These are not for long-term financial solutions or anything of epic revelation, but we have found that Rover and AirBnB have been two extra very easy sources of fun money for us. (This money is actually what we put aside for travel). But both of these are relatively passive. Any time we’re going out of town I open up the dates on AirBnb. To do this while you’re away you would just have to have someone in the area you trust and could pay out a little to maintain the home between rentals. During your home months you could dogsit. Rover has been a surprising hit for us. I’m choosy with the dogs I accept, so I only take ones that will seem to fit within our household well. This gives us an extra $200-$600/mo. (!)

  52. 1. Do look at taxes and city regulations on putting your home up on something like AirBnB – those seem to be becoming more prevalent?

    2. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned one of your best potential January-March audiences: College students!! A huge number of students are pining for their pets and are active in rescue operations. .Send a promo letter to the directors of student activities in your area at colleges and at boarding schools, the people who handle contracting events.. If you had a meet-and-greet with the dogs, (or took them over earlier in the day for a therapy-dog-like-visit/I don’t have the exact wording), you would be very popular. The months between Christmas holidays and spring break are just deadly dull and stressful on campuses. And good acts in the higher education activities world get a lot of word-of-mouth publicity from each other, including by being a vendor or presenter at their conventions- NACA is one.

    3. I tried to think of grants that could help you, but I don’t know the language of that field. Anyone? Maybe even get a grant from a foundation that you would publicize? (Murky thinking here). Or when you get a new dog, get a specific sponsor for him/her?

    1. Hello Louise! I love your name so much that I named one of my dogs Louise. I’m sure you know the song, right? Birds in the trees seem to whisper Louise….I love that song. Thank you for the ideas, we’ll look into your suggestions. A few years ago we did some research on arts grants based in Minnesota (where Dextre is from) and would have loved to pursue it but hiring a professional grant writer was prohibitively expensive and I was too daunted to undertake it myself. It’s worth revisiting. I may be able to do it now. Thank you!

      1. Only old people know that song, and we’re not that!
        The most important part of grant writing is to follow the directions. If they want certain information in a certain format, provide exactly that. You might not need a professional writer.
        I’ve enjoyed reading your replies for your enthusiasm in them for your work and your family. Best to you all!

  53. So happy you guys are adopting fabulous rescue dogs and incorporating them into your show. They get to use their doggy talents and have a purpose in life while spending time with their humans. I have two rescues of my own who bring us joy every day. Just wondering how you budget for any emergency vet bills? I see you proactively maintain their health with vaccinations, parasite prevention, buying quality food, etc. which is great. I know with my own guys, we’ve had a few health scares which cost some unexpected ($$$!) dollars at the vet clinic. How do you plan for/manage these, especially with your senior dogs? Have you thought about having a separate account for doggy emergencies? I’ve always found that having some extra cash set aside lessons the stress if something unexpected occurs. You may already use your regular savings for this purpose though. Just thought I’d put it out there.

    1. Hi Mary! Rescue dogs are the best, aren’t they? I just adore them. You’re right, when we have an unexpected vet bill I usually just pay for it with whatever is in my regular checking account, and if it’s particularly expensive, I pull it from savings. We’re considering pet insurance going forward with each new dog we adopt. We’ve been looking into the cost and it may very well be worth it in the long run.

  54. I think it sounds like you already know a lot of the things you should do and just need to do them! That seems to be a running theme between investing your retirement account, approaching people about sponsorships, and researching how to get involved in indoor performance and.

    1. Haha, Meghan, you are so right!! I needed Mrs Frugalwoods to affirm my ideas for me so I’d have the confidence to get them done. This is a running theme in my life. Do you remember the Suze Orman show? She had a segment called “Can I Afford This?” and viewers could send her their predicament and she would either approve or deny the purchase? That segment was made for wishy washy decision makers like me!! She totally approved the diesel truck/5th wheel trailer purchase back in 2011. LOL.

  55. Hi Jana, have you considered a year-round roommate? I know under 900 sq. ft is small, but you would also offer someone a place that is actual home, with a yard etc. Plus they will be around to handle house problems when you are not there, collect mail, even mow the yard.

    Prior to moving in with my fiancé I did this with a traveling nurse. Our place was home-base for her and six months of the year she took assignments elsewhere. As I work in the museum field (e.g. non-profit salary) it was the only way I could afford a decent place. I paid utilities when she wasn’t there and we split 50/50 in the months she was. We did this for nearly four years. I am thinking Charlotte may have non-profit professional who are somewhat stable in their life plans but would like not spend 50% of their paycheck on rent.

    Also, subscriber 992! Almost there.

    1. Rebecca, WOW, 992! Thank you! The roommate idea is an excellent suggestion. I did have a roommate the first 5 years or so I was in the house and it was great fun and an enormous help. It would be tricky now that Dextre lives in the house too. We were married back then but he still lived in Minnesota. I know that’s weird, but it worked for us. Now that we live together (hurray!) there’s really no room. We actually need both bed rooms because we need two sleeping places or neither or us gets any sleep. We totally going to see about using it as an airBNB rental while we’re gone though, so hopefully that will work out! 🙂

  56. For Vanguard, you might look at their ETFs instead of index funds themselves. I am invested mostly in VTI, which is an ETF designed to track the stock market as a whole. There are others designed to track the S&P 500, but I don’t feel it’s always an accurate barometer of the market. The main difference is that the ETFs have a lower expense ratio and no minimum balance (only the price of the ETF).

    1. Actually what little money I have entrusted to the markets is already in VTI. Great minds think alike!! 🙂 I am going to put more of my cash hoard in the market, scout’s honor.

  57. You are a born writer! Best case study yet. And while I’m sure it had something to do with your fun subject matter, I have a sneaking suspicion it would be nearly as interesting if you just worked in a toothpaste factory. Thanks for sharing! Also, total wireless cut my phone bill in half while giving me more data. They’re on Verizon’s network. I’ve had excellent coverage.

  58. So many comments yeah for Jana and Drextre
    But just on a general note, when you said you hadn’t used a spreadsheet before, what I might recommend is spending some time devoted to analyzing your business as a whole.
    You’re obviously tracking everything with all your notebooks, but are you calculating how much each event is making you? What if some weekends cost more then they earn?

    The other thing that the numbers will do is set you free to be more confident and aggressive with your negations. If say the last month of PA festival isn’t actually profitable, you will feel more confident in negotiating better contracts. Saying things like “I’m sorry (Event Organizer Person) last year this show cost us, if you can drop the performance fee to 1/2, we can attend but otherwise we are a No” Also go to your vet and ask if we do some publicity can we get a $500 credit may be a local commercial? you know we are loyal customers”

    Just lots of really small things to up your negotiation skills will also drive your income via “found money”
    We have a saying around our office “The answer to every unasked question is NO, so you have nothing to lose by asking”

  59. How about running some after school programs in Jan-March? Our school district runs these almost every day – usually 4-6 week sessions. You could do a circus theme, or just stick with juggling and unicycle. Elementary kids love these types of things and parents that work love them more.

  60. Jana, I only have e-mail. Tried to get on Facebook and a whole bevy of strange people descended on my computer. Scary! I started dumping all these strangers and Facebook had a hissy fit. Turns out that there is at least one other “me” somewhere in the vicinity. They dumped my trial of getting on – oh well. It was about the time that Facebook was under fire for releasing personal info so I said forget it. Facebook would only let me keep my current handle if I sent them a bunch of personal stuff which I choose not to do, or change my handle since “someone else had my handle” – which was me? It appears it is impossible to phone anyone there and their answer to anything appears to be a canned response. I didn’t want to deal with their plan “x”.

    Liz, please send Jana my e-mail. Thanks.

  61. As a former Charlottean I was delighted to find that the public library has all the new dvds, book downloads, audio books, ebooks, etc you can borrow for free. That would save you a tiny bit of money, but it adds ups. Have you contacted Charlotte Motor Speedway or the city about performing at their festivals? There are tons of festivals in the Charlotte area and you need to contact the chamber of commerce and of the surrounding cities – you could probably perform a lot of weekends during your off-season to make some money. You do need to invest in a mutual fund to start really saving some money toward retirement – if you want to retire in 10 years you need aggressive money making funds. I don’t advise trying to buy more property, it is a huge hassle dealing with tenants and renting out short term. There are tons of off-brand wireless carriers – just google cheap phone companies and a lot will come up. Most of them run on the Verizon or AT&T networks but charge you a lot less. Since you already have Verizon look for one that runs on their network so you can keep your same phones – AT&T and TMobile networks require phones with different technology. You have saved quite a bit so that is impressive in your IRA and savings accts. I think it’s a huge task taking those pets on the road and you guys are certainly keeping busy! Make sure you investigate cost of livings, taxes, etc before pulling up stakes and moving to another state.

  62. Hello,

    In NC, there are a year round schools (I live in Durham) – and so parents have to deal with a few weeks of holidays several times a year. A lot of people use very short camps (1 – 5 days) for their kids. Could you do something related to the circus, fitness, knitting or dogs for very brief periods of time? Here, the city rec department offers some of these types of camps, so maybe there is already a system to plug into near you. There are also short courses targeting senior citizens.

    Also, is there something that you could teach via recorded video that could be downloaded for a fee or membership? For example, I belong to – and their videos are very wide ranging. (I’ve seen lots of videos there for cookies – but no dog biscuits yet:)) I know there are workout sites like that as well.

    Good luck!


  63. I tried reading through comments to see if this has been covered but I like the idea of selling information. I’m not sure if someone suggested creating courses or ebooks or video training. It could be on teaching your dog tricks, juggling, dog training, lifestyle design (how we do what we love for a living), or dog care.

    You can use affiliate links to your favorite products and write about them on social media. That’s passive income that you can get while you’re doing other things.

    For sure get sponsored posts for your social media. For sure get more subscribers and stay learning how to market on YouTube. You could do a whole series there. But to make money you’ll need to invest time and apply what you learn.

    Hire out your dogs for photo shoots, movies, etc. You could even start social media accounts for your dogs and maintain them instead of doing it for the gym because it will help your dogs get gigs. Since they’re well behaved they’ll be an asset. Start by asking local photographers and videographers. You can even let influencers use your dogs in photos on exchange for a tag or shoutout.

    I like making money online, can you tell? Use the downtime to develop Ivonne that doesn’t depend on you being somewhere else.

    Hope this helps. I really think this lifestylw would make a fun book.

    Have fun,

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