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How to Add to Your Income When Money is Tight

Generate more income by checking out these extra income ideas.

At a time when the economy is sluggishly recovering in the wake of COVID-19, many of us are actively searching for ways to make a little extra money. Dave Ramsey often says that “the most powerful wealth-building tool is your income.” It’s no surprise that a little extra income can help you reach your financial goals faster, and in some cases, it can give you a creative outlet.

The great news is that there are plenty of opportunities for adding to your monthly income. It just takes a little creativity, a lot of grit and hard work, and knowing which “side hustle” will set you up for success. Here are some insights into how to determine what side hustle to pursue, plus concrete ideas to help you generate additional income. 

Create a budget & reduce expenses

Simply taking a close look at your own finances, creating a budget, and cutting out the excess is a great way to increase your income. It may not seem like it, but seeing how much money you have coming in and going out every month, and then eliminating things you don’t need or use is essentially increasing the amount of income available to you each month. 

You’ll probably be surprised at what you can eliminate or cut down on or find better rates for (i.e., extra subscriptions or memberships you aren’t using, making your grocery expenses a little less burdensome, finding better rates for insurance). Doing so will give you a little or even a lot more wiggle room in your budget every month. Plus, creating a budget and sticking to it will take the guesswork out of your finances and discipline spending habits. 

Follow your skills, talents, and interests 

When considering how to add extra income, think about the skills, talents, and interests you already have. Think about the degrees you have under your belt, the experiences you’ve had, and the skills you’ve honed in the past. Now think about how you could use those skills, talents, interests, and experiences to provide a valuable service to others. 

Your side hustle doesn’t have to require much buy-in or initial investment at all. (In fact, if it does require a high initial investment, it’s probably NOT a reliable source of extra income.) You don’t have to go back to school, buy expensive equipment or products, or invest heavily in order to start a successful side hustle. 

Instead, look at your talents and consider what marketable skills you have. Identify a need in the communities or marketplaces you already occupy, and consider how your skills could respond to that need. For example, if you have a math or science degree, you may be uniquely qualified to tutor students in math and science. If you work in graphic design or illustration, you have the exact skills necessary to be a freelance designer or start an Etsy shop selling your art online. 

Add skills if necessary

This is not to say that you shouldn’t add to your skill set. If you have an interest in a particular side hustle but need some degree of education or certification in order to pursue it, then consider the length of time and financial investment it will take to get there.

For example, if you’re an athlete and want to start a personal training side hustle, you may need a certification to do so. Certifications like this can typically be completed in a few months for a reasonable cost. Consider the investment of time when looking at adding additional skills or certifications, as well. 

A few specific ideas 

Ready to generate some extra income? Here are a few specific ideas to consider! 

Sell what you don’t need or aren’t using. 

Clearing out your closet, garage, or basement can be a surprisingly effective way to generate extra income. Sell online the things you don’t use: clothing, electronics, books, or anything that is still of some value. There are a number of places for this kind of commerce,  including Ebay, Craigslist (be careful with this one!), as well as clothing-specific resale platforms like Poshmark and Thredup. 

In addition, don’t underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned garage or yard sale to bring in a little extra money! 

Tutor students in your area of expertise. 

Tutoring is an especially lucrative side hustle, especially now that parents are scrambling to find help and guidance for their children doing more virtual learning during the pandemic. This is a great option if you’re a certified teacher or have any experience working with children. If you have a degree, you can leverage your knowledge and abilities to provide valuable tutoring services to students in your field of expertise. 

What’s more, thanks to platforms like Zoom and Google Hangout, tutoring can be done either in person or virtually. Advertising your services on social media, in community Facebook groups, and by word-of-mouth can be particularly helpful in connecting with students looking for your services. It might be helpful to create a concise flyer outlining your experience, tutoring areas, rate, and contact information that you can quickly and easily provide to those who may be interested.

Dog-sitting, house sitting, and babysitting. 

Every community has homeowners and families who need one of these three services from time to time. Whether you love caring for animals or prefer to look after children, offering services as a dog-sitter, house sitter, or babysitter can be lucrative — and you don’t need to look any farther than your own neighborhood for work. 

Local Facebook groups, community bulletin boards, and referrals from family and friends are great ways to build your client list for these types of services. Be sure to have references on hand that can attest to your skills and responsibility! 

Use your skills to become a freelancer or start a small business. 

There’s quite a bit of money to be made as a freelancer if you have certain marketable skills that are valuable to business owners. You can be a freelancer providing writing, graphic design, web design, virtual assistance, photography, social media, or bookkeeping. 

Owners of both local and online businesses are busy providing the service or goods that constitute their own enterprise — they often don’t have the time or skills for some of these ancillary tasks. You can use platforms like Fiverr or Upwork to find and apply for projects, but these platforms take substantial fees and a lot of time away from actually providing a valuable service. 

Instead, start a simple website or Facebook page to market your freelance services. Network among family and friends and in Facebook groups that business owners frequent. You could even begin cold-emailing business owners in your local area inquiring about their need for the service you’re offering.

Start an Etsy shop. 

Are you particularly artistic or craftsy? If so, you may have just the skills and talents that would make for a successful Etsy shop. Hundreds of artists — amateur and professional — create prints, digital downloads, crafts, and more to sell on Etsy. Instagram is also a great place to promote your work because it’s a primarily visual platform. 

To find an effective way to generate extra income, follow your skills, talents, and interests. A side hustle requires extra time and energy on top of the work and family commitments you already have, so ensuring it’s something you’re interested in doing will keep you motivated and engaged. 

Grotto quote graphic about extra income ideas: "How to boost your income when $$$ is tight: create a budget & reduce expenses, follow your skills, talents, and interests, add skills if necessary. A few specific ideas: sell what you don't need or aren't using, tutor students in your area of expertise, dog-sitting, house sitting, and babysitting, use your skills to become a freelancer or start a small business."

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