So you’ve stumbled onto The Dollar Stretch and are now frantically hitting the back button on your browser hoping to get back to your task of avoiding doing actual work at work by searching out the latest Lady Gaga epiphany or attempting to confirm that you are all set for this weekend’s Fantasy Football draft. But stay a while – you’re amongst friends. At the very least stick around for this article – we both know your bank account could use a few (and I’m offering 10!) income boosting ideas.
Many of us are enthused by the notion of getting out of debt quicker (hence the ever growing legion of self appointed purveyors of personal finance advice such as myself), but for most that enthusiasm dwindles when we realize the effort required to get our respective financial houses in order. That said, the simple truism touted thousands of times over in financial blogs, TV programs, radio shows, and books holds true: to get out of debt and start building wealth requires but a single step:
SPEND LESS MONEY THAN YOU MAKE
Ahh … the groans begin as visions of budgets and financial discipline dance in your head.
But there are two fairly straightforward approaches to this most basic financial commandment:
1) Earn more money
2) Control your spending
We’re going to tackle the “Earn More Money” approach because let’s be honest – more money may not result in more happiness, but it sure doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to pay off that nagging credit card bill or those student loans you’ve been making minimum payments on for the last decade.
Here you’ll find no great get rich quick scheme, no blueprint for a late night infomercial with yours truly shouting ‘no money down’ philosophies with a snake oil salesman’s fervor. The following ten suggestions are nickle and dime suggestions for increasing the amount of money you earn each month. But as with the accumulation of your debt, so to with tackling its elimination: any of you that are facing financial difficulties know how quickly $5, $10, $20 purchase can quickly snowball into a “WTF” moment. So let’s reverse the process and look at the many opportunities that exist to supplement your income in small, but meaningful, increments (and still leave you plenty of time to vote for your favorite America’s Got Talent Contestant and review your most recent eHarmony matches).
1. For the altruistic among you: donate plasma. Barring any medical conditions (other than shear laziness – which hasn’t been officially recognized as a disorder just yet) this is an easily accessible earning opportunity for most of us. Many blood/plasma donation centers allow you to visit two times a week and you can expect to earn $25-$30 per visit. Here’s a website that allows you to search for donation centers by zip code – www.bloodbanker.com
2. Participate in online surveys. Yes dear reader, there are many less than reputable peddlers encouraging you to quit your job and fill out survey/opinion polls from home. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t genuine opportunities to engage legitimate public opinion/survey companies to your benefit. Here are two that I have actually used and consistently resulted in additional monthly earnings of $15-$30: Cash Crate – www.cashcrate.com and American Consumer Opinion – www.acop.com
3. Sell your “stuff”. And I’m not talking about great grandma’s wedding ring or your wife’s collection of romantic comedy DVD’s starring Jennifer Aniston or Kate Hudson. I’m talking about the stuff sitting around in your closets, the garage, the attic and all those other storage grounds for the lost or never realized hobbies, interests, and impulses buys that we’ve all been guilty of. Admit to yourself that your days as serious fisherman over and that the Bow-Flex you purchased has been waiting patiently for years to reach its potential as an actual exercise machine instead of a clothes hanger. Once you’ve identified this “stuff” that is undoubtedly causing unnecessary clutter in your home, familiarize yourself with eBay, post the items on Craigslist, or drop them off at Aunt Mildred’s for her annual end of summer garage sale. You’ll feel better (unless of course you’ve recently been featured on an episode of Hoarders) and put money in your pocket.
4. Ask for a raise. Hey, it can’t hurt! While companies may not be hiring new employees (a very costly process), they may be willing to invest in talented people that have been key assets in weathering the economic storm of the last couple of years. Are you one of those people? If so, take some time to outline your case (added responsibilites you’ve taken on, successful projects, how you’ve saved the company money, industry data about salaries for professionals in your field, etc.). Remember – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
5. Turn an interest or a hobby into an earning opportunity. Here’s an example from my own life. I’m an amateur saxophone player. Yes, over the years I’ve invested countless dollars and hours into private music lessons, college courses and individual study. And while I’m not going to quit my day time job and move to NYC to tour the jazz scene, I am fully capable of teaching beginner/intermediate students. So I posted an ad in a local publication geared towards elementary/middle school parents – “Give your child the gift of music. Woodwind lessons starting at $20/half hour. Available evenings and weekends. Call now.” I currently have 3 students a week and earn an extra $240 a month for doing something I enjoy. How about you?
6. Get a part time job. I know, I know … working an extra day or two would severely cut into your ‘doing nothing’ time, that portion of the day between the end of your full time job and the time you go to bed. But come on readers – Eye of the Tiger when it comes to tackling your debt. Use the part-time job as a two-fold tool: 1) an additional income stream and 2) an opportunity to network in your current field or develop a new skill. For the creatively impaired, two more examples from yours truly. Example 1: My full time gig is sales management and I also happen to be a fan of classical music. Ludwig’s No. 9, my favorite Rocky Patel, and cup of tea are how I prefer to spend my down time (I warned you in another post I was a pretty cool guy!). So I picked up a job two evenings a week selling season long subscriptions to the areas Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the pay, I also got free tickets to each new performance. Example 2: Seasonal Tax Preparer at H&R Block. A few years ago I decided it was time that I learn a little bit more about taxes and stop paying somebody else to do them. I figured it was something I’d be doing every year until I’m called to my Great Reward and there are plenty of tax offices in my hometown. So I took an H&R Block tax course (Jackson Hewitt is another option) and now I usually work a few nights a week during tax season. The pay isn’t great, but it adds up and I learned a new financial skill.
7. Get a NEW job. No examples here otherwise I’ll never get to number 10. While newspapers and media outlets are quick to highlight high unemployment numbers and lax hiring, that doesn’t mean companies aren’t hiring talented people. The best time to look for a new job is while you currently have one. So look, send out resumes, interview, and see what happens. It doesn’t cost you anything to go throught the process and it could pay off in a higher salary.
8. Rent it! I live in a city of over 500,000 people, a few college campuses, a busy down town, limited parking, and ample rental opportunities. So I monetized my extra ‘space’. I’ve got a three car garage and a two car household – meaning I have an extra space. I live in busy area of the city where parking is at a premium (and street parking you pay for a city permit) so I placed an ad “Off street parking, garage space, $40/month”. I’ve been renting that garage space for off and on for the last 4 years. I did the same thing with my finished basement (including bedroom and bathroom) and rented it out to a graduate student in the area for $450/month. It was space I wasn’t using, he was rarely going to be there, and the finished basement had it’s own entrance. Now these suggestiosn may not work for all of you, but for readers in higher density metropolitan areas consider monetizing your unused space.
So there’s my list. Have you tried any of these or do you have ideas you think should be included on this list?
A parting note: I think you’ll see that there is an understandable correlation between the amount of time/effort required for each of these suggestions and the anticipated income potential you can expect to generate. The point in coming up with this list is to highlight the fact that there are ample opportunities to boost your current earning power. We all have spare time – how we use it is up to us.
We can whine about our financial systems, feel powerless, point our righteous little fingers at those overpaid corporate CEO’s, tap our heels together three times, and hope that financial freedom comes knocking at our door. Or we can take financial baby steps, those small but meaninful actions that can amount to significant improvements in our financial fitness.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – the same holds true when it comes to improving your financial health.