Money

Forget Budgeting To Death. Get Ahead With A Side Hustle You Won't Hate.

You can only scrimp and save so much.
10/18/2018 05:45am ET
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Dog sitting is just one way to bring in side income each month.

You say no to Starbucks runs and happy hours. You slash expenses to the bare minimum. And yet, at the end of the month, you barely have any breathing room in your budget after the bills are paid.

It can feel incredibly defeating, but you’re not the only one facing this struggle. Not by a long shot. According to a study by CareerBuilder, 78 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck, including 10 percent of those who earn $100,000 or more.

The problem is there’s only so much scrimping and saving you can do. There are certain expenses that you just can’t eliminate. Nobody should have to choose between paying the rent on time and going to the doctor. And you might actually want to watch a movie or drink a latte once in a while.

Fortunately, unlike spending less, your potential to earn more income is technically limitless. Increasing your income can be a lot more effective ― and rewarding ― than whittling your expenses down to the last dollar.

An extra $100 a month can make a huge difference.

The idea of working even more than you already are to earn extra income might sound daunting. The truth is that you probably don’t have to pick up the graveyard shift or take a second job at the mall to increase your income. In fact, a few hours a month might be all you need to make a big difference in your financial life.

Still unsure it’d be worth it?

Perhaps you’re one of the 44 million Americans with student loan debt. Say you have a $20,000 loan at 5 percent interest and 10 years left to pay it off. Your monthly payments would be $212. However, imagine you earned an extra $100 each month and added that to your regular payment. You’d knock 3.8 years off your loan and save $2,353 in interest.

Or maybe you’re lucky enough to be debt-free, but you’re not exactly on track for retirement. You could take that $100 a month and add it to your 401(k). In 30 years, assuming an average annual return of 8 percent, you’d have an extra $140,855 in your account. And that’s not even including any contribution matches that your employers might offer.

Try these creative ways to make money.

If you’re interested in starting a side hustle but aren’t sure where to start, the good news is that Ubering drunk college kids home at 2 a.m. isn’t your only option. Here are some creative ideas, recommended by professional side hustlers:

Flip items for cash. Dustyn Ferguson of the personal finance blog Dime Will Tell said that flipping secondhand items on websites such as eBay or Craigslist is an underrated side hustle. “The things from our childhoods are often worth a lot of money these days and can be picked up for pennies on the dollar to then be resold for a good profit.” The best part? You don’t need any special skills or much money to get started. “Just head out to a yard sale or thrift store and bring along the eBay app to see what is worth money. Once you find something that’s well below what it’s worth, buy it and list it,” Ferguson said.

Turn your passion into a business. If you have a hobby, there are plenty of people out there willing to pay you for your skills. Whether you’re a photographer, guitar player or know how to fix computers, “turning your hobby into a money-making machine is an easy, low-barrier entryway to make some side money,” said Ferguson. He suggested starting by checking out the gigs section of Craigslist for ideas.

Become a mystery shopper. Jen, the blogger behind Smarty Pants Finance, is a big fan of mystery shopping as a way to earn income and cut expenses at the same time. “For example, last month I got my oil changed. I made a little money, and the cost of the oil change ($70) was reimbursed,” she said. Jen added that she also eats at restaurants as a mystery shopper four to five times a week, which allows her grocery budget to be less than $100 a month. “Next month I am taking my first trip to Asia, and it will be at no expense to me!” she said. She gives details about mystery shopping on her blog.

Rent out your home. Whether you use a service, such as Airbnb or VRBO, or go about it independently, your home can be a lucrative path to earning more income. In fact, you can rent out a single room or your whole place. Veronica Hanson, who teaches homeowners how to leverage their homes for income, began using Airbnb in 2017. “I rent my house out for about $500-$1,100 per night and sleep at my parents’ house,” she said. “Sometimes I get a hotel (for $125-ish) or tag along on my husband’s work trips. There was even a week I was on a free trip to Cabo from another side hustle.” In her first year, she generated $41,331 in revenue.

Take care of other people’s fur babies. If you’re an animal lover, pet sitting can help you pull in extra income and barely feels like work. “If you already have pets, you’re already doing the work,” said Jon Nastor, creator and host of the Hack the Entrepreneur podcast. “Adding another one to the mix is almost like passive income.”

Become a virtual assistant. Working remotely is a trend that’s only getting more popular. In fact, 3.9 million employees do it. According to Ashley Patrick of the blog Budgets Made Easy, “You can find local businesses that may need data entry, remote customer service or social media management.” Often, these jobs are part time. Even better, you don’t have to put on pants to do it. Patrick suggested searching sites such as Upwork and Freelancer for virtual assistant jobs.

Teach English. Teaching English abroad is a great way to make money while traveling the world. But if you don’t want to spend a year or longer in Asia or the Middle East, you can also teach English from the comfort of your own home. You can find work online through VIPKID and other companies that pay you to teach English online,” said Patrick, who did it for about six months. “It is easy, and you get to make your own schedule. The hours are late at night and early in the morning,” Patrick noted.

Launch a drop-shipping business: Todd Kunsman, who runs the blog Invested Wallet, suggested giving drop-shipping a try. This essentially means becoming the liaison for companies with products that you buy at a fixed cost, then sell through your own store at a 15 percent to 25 percent markup, according to Kunsman. “This requires a bit more work setting up a tax ID number and LLC, and making friends with companies. But there are tons of options. I have two friends who started one 10 years ago and now do over $1 million per year in sales.”

Start a blog. As you probably noticed, side hustling and blogging often go hand-in-hand. It’s a crowded space, but if you’re able to garner a niche audience through your writing, it can be a significant source of income. “I started a music blog back in 2010 and was able to do some brand partnerships and other advertising that would make me a few hundred bucks every now and then,” Kunsman said. “Now I run Invested Wallet, which is starting to do the same for me and also has the potential to make great passive income or become a full-time gig in the future.”

Just don’t forget about taxes.

Here’s the not-so-great part about earning more income: You also have to pay more taxes.

When tax time rolls around, you should receive a 1099 form from any business that paid you $600 or more during the year. But even if you don’t get one, you should still report all the income you earned. And if your tax liability is $1,000 or more, you’ll need to pay quarterly estimated taxes in order to avoid a major bill in April.

Despite making your tax situation a bit more complicated, earning more income is one of the best ways to take control of your financial situation. You can choose to spend as much or as little time on earning extra income as you want. And, most important, creating additional income streams means your well-being will never lie solely in the hands of your employer.

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