Everyman’s Guide to Increasing Income

by Mr. Cheap

Mike and I often post about how to manage your finances to get a little bit of extra return from it (whether it be through leveraged investing, real estate, dividends or asset allocation). That’s the stage of “financial life” we’re at. Some people comment on personal finance blogs and say “that’s all well and good for you, but what about those of us who don’t have any money to invest?”.

With that in mind, I thought it might be useful to do a post about how to make extra money if you’re poor and unskilled. I’ll apologize in advance, but most of these boil down to “get a second job”. When you don’t have any money to invest, unfortunately your labour is what you have to earn money with. I’ve done most of these myself (and am happy I don’t have to do them any more).

I’m not going to post any “get rich quick” ideas like setting up a vending machine route or doing “no money down” real estate deals. These are all ultra-low-risk, very reliable ideas to get some extra cash in your pocket. As well, some things people suggest like blogging for ad revenue clearly have a spectrum of returns they offer. Probably most blogs pay the people who start them FAR less than minimum wage. These all should be fairly close to “sure things” (which is why they don’t pay all that great).

  1. Get a second job. Yes, I’m sure that you work hard and I can understand at the end of the day the last thing you want to do is head off and work somewhere else. Jobs like delivering newspapers, product samples, phone books, working retail, working fast food, or telemarketing are usually available (I’ve done each of these except for telemarketing). Like everyone, you have to decide which you want more: money or free time.
  2. Work overtime at your current job. If you’re not on salary, see if there’s the opportunity to work longer shifts or extra shifts. Many companies have trouble getting staff these days, so your manager might be very happy to give you extra work. If you get any sort of over-time pay all the better!
  3. Start a cleaning business. Most people like to live in a clean house but hate to clean. You can earn $10-15 / hour pretty easily by just putting up some fliers around your neighborhood with your phone number and rates. Eventually you can bring your own cleaning supplies and charge more (probably $20 / hour). Any healthy adult can wipe dusty surfaces, scour tubs and vacuum. Clean freak customers will be delighted to give you pointers to make you a better cleaner.
  4. Do semi-skilled work. Can you surf the Internet, write e-mails and use Word? Post a flier offering to teach elderly people basic computer skills. Have you passed many high school subjects? Offer in-home tutoring on any subjects you did well in. Can you do minor repairs, cut grass or paint? Post a flier offering to be a “rent-a-husband”. Do you have a car? Get a job that requires one (like delivering pizzas) or offer things like getting groceries for shut-ins.
  5. Help people clean out basements / garages. Post a flier saying you’ll help people clean out their garage or basement if they let you take anything that they’re going to throw away. It amazes me what perfectly good things people will toss. Take their garbage and sell it on EBay or Craigslist. A digital camera may eventually be useful (maybe one of your clean up jobs will give you an old one). A truck would be useful as well (then you could take furniture / appliances as well). Eventually you’ll learn what will sell and what really is garbage.
  6. House sit / Baby sit / Pet sit. Check in on people’s houses while they’re on vacation or walk their dog while they’re at work. Requires you to be trustworthy and responsible (they’re trusting you to take care of their beloved homes, children and animals), but once you’ve proven yourself there’s a good chance of repeat business and referrals. An added benefit is that you can walk multiple dogs at once, or check on many houses on the same day – you get paid multiple times for the same time commitment!
  7. Do some small scale farming. If you live in a rural area, grow plants you can sell or raise small animals (such as rabbits or chickens). Get a book from the library or find someone already doing something along these lines and learn from them. You can even offer the plants / meat as “organic” (since you’re not going to use pesticides or anything, right?). Rabbits can thrive on day-old bread (bakeries will sell you a ton of it cheap) and weeds and greens you can pull from anywhere. Chicken feed is dirt cheap. A fun article about raising chickens was posted on kuro5hin. Don’t bother trying to breed dogs or anything like that – the market is saturated with people doing it for fun and you won’t be able to make any money. If you end up not being able to sell what you’ve raised – eat it yourself and cut your grocery bill!

Pretty much any of these can be expanded to something that pays significantly more if you like it and are good at it. Do you like doing minor repairs or painting? Start a flooring or painting side-business. Got more cleaning customers than you can handle? Raise your prices and hire someone to help part-time. An aunt of a friend of mine house-sits full time. When people go on extended vacations, she moves in and lives in their place – no need to pay rent! As you get more skilled or expand your operations, the pay will increase as well. When I was doing contract programming, I was basically doing the computer skills idea at a much higher level (and was able to charge $50 / hour to do so).

More information

104 ways to save extra money – Great list of ideas to save money.

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