Growing up I earned money by babysitting and working an after-school and summer job. It was traditional work and paid by the hour. Mostly. Lady down the street paid me to babysit out of whatever was in her pocket. Sometimes that was a coupon for a McDonald’s ice cream cone and a bunch of change.
Since then, I’ve done a few less traditional things to make a dollar.
In 2006 the line-ups at the passport office were record breaking. The US was about to require Canadians have passports for entry (previously you just needed a drivers license) and a lot of people needed them that previously had not. One morning I got up at 5:30am and met up with my sister to get in line and renew my passport. I was one of the first dozen people in line and by 8:00am there were a few hundred people behind me in line. I was unemployed at the time and my sister suggested I see if I could sell my spot. A disgruntled person from the back of the line had come forward to see where the start was and I offered him my spot for $60. Easy enough, right?
For a few weeks I used my early rising skills, developed from years as a rower, for cash. Two hours standing in line brought me $50 – $70 and every time I told a friend why I had to get to bed so early they laughed.
Eventually my younger sister got in on the act and one of us would ‘save’ the spots while the other would go to the back of the line to sell them. It was stressful but exhilarating. And, while I consider myself an introvert, I got a nice kick out of the selling part.
All good things must come to an end and the passport office cottoned onto our gig. We weren’t alone in the game by that point. Our colleagues were a mix of students, street people and entrepreneurs that, like us, lined up at the crack of dawn to make a few dollars before most peoples day had even begun. The passport office started issuing numbers to people in line and there was talk of people being arrested if they were found selling the ticket. I wasn’t about to go to jail for my part-time job so I decided to retire. It was good while it lasted.
In more recent years Chris and I have done a few things to bring in extra cash. We own a part-share in season hockey tickets. We sell most of our share of tickets to a broker for a bit above cost. Chris gets to go to one or two games for free and then we make a bit of money selling play-off tickets (Go Canucks! Go!).
I’m fairly risk averse but Chris is not. Last year a friend of Chris’s wanted to start a small business but needed about $1500 start-up money. I wasn’t really game for it but Chris knew his friend and the risk involved better than I did so I trusted him. We’ve now made back our investment plus some.
If you’re in debt find extra ways to make money.
Actually, you don’t even have to be in debt to find extra ways to make money. Maybe you want to build an emergency fund or save for a vacation. Whatever the reason, finding a few ways to earn an extra few hundred dollars a month is a good skill to have.
It doesn’t have to be a traditional part-time job.
In fact, in my mind it’s preferable to work for yourself instead of committing 10-20 hours a week to a formal job. It creates flexibility in your life because I assume, like most people, you already have a fairly full schedule. Creating extra income should be something you can pick-up and let go of as your life and motivation level demands.
Most of the extra income I have earned in the last year has been from selling our things. Yes, it is a finite way to make money but we’re paying off debt and I consider debt finite too. Selling furniture, our car and getting a table at a Swap Meet have been easy and flexible ways to make money.
If you have children flexibility is key. Ideally you don’t want to pay for a sitter while you work. Find something you can work on for brief amounts of time like putting up a for sale ad while your child is napping or otherwise occupied.
It should be something you enjoy.
Don’t take up flipping antique furniture if you know nothing about it and, more importantly, don’t like it. Ideally this small part-time income is part of a hobby. Maybe you craft or knit and decide to start a small business buying supplies wholesale and selling them to friends.
Katy of The NonConsumer Advocate bought a jar of marbles at a garage sale for $3. She sorted them and listed them on eBay. Some of them will sell for up more than $10. Katy obviously likes eBay and knows a thing or two about antique marbles. Great way to make a few dollars doing something she likes.
You could babysit, house sit, sell things, make things, you name it. Think about things you like to do, are good at, and if you have a market around you to sell those goods or services. Don’t overlook your own skills. If you’ve been blogging for three years and keeping up a Twitter or Facebook account you have a skill. Think about anyone you know with a small business. Any of them not web savvy? Consider offering your services to help them start a company blog or Twitter account.
My sister was recently asked by a friend to write copy for a website. Does Katy have any formal copy writing experience? No. But she has written and edited formal business documents and has now kept a blog that she has written on 2+ times a week for six months. Her friend liked the style of her writing, needed someone quick and below cost, and Katy fit the bill.
The most common way I see people making extra money is by flipping an item. Buy low sell high as they say. If you are into buying used goods, and know the market for them, you’ve probably seen some smokin deals on things. When I went to a Swap Meet I learned that most of the people that bought tables do so as a small business. They buy items at garage sales for pennies, clean them up, and then resell them for a profit.
The other way to flip is buying new items that are in hot demand. When Apple released the iPhone there was a huge market of iPhones being resold for above cost. Why? There were only so many units being released each day and most people had to line up overnight or early in the morning to get one. People want the latest thing but they don’t want to run all over town finding who has it in stock or line up for it. If you’re savvy on the latest gadgets this might be something to consider.
One flip I am interested in right now is gift cards. On my local Craigslist a lot of people sell gift cards at greatly reduced costs – they want the cash, not credit at Starbucks. There’s a new site called cardswap.ca (many US equivalents if you search them out) that buys back gift cards for cash (they also sell them below cost – check it out if there is something on your 30 Day Buy list that you must have). I’m doing a bit of research at the moment and will at some point make a test run of flipping a gift card. The key is to find cards for stores that have a high rebuy value from cardswap.ca. Example: I buy a $100 department store giftcard on Craigslist for $65. Cardswap.ca will give me $90 for it. My profit would be $25.
Note: be very careful buying gift cards from people. Meet them at the retailer, ask the retailer to verify the balance and then transfer the balance onto a new card before you purchase the card from the seller.
But I thought Minimalists wanted to work less?
Yes! That’s why I’m not back at a 50-60 hour a week job. And one of the reasons I can not be at that job is because we’ve reduced our living expenses and found flexible ways to earn extra money.
What about the Internet?
If you have a fool proof way of making money online please share. The only people I know that have successfully created an online business, and passive income from that business, put a lot of work in before they made any money from it. It can be done, and if you have an idea or passion that is based around an online business I say go for it. But I caution you to beware of thin promises of easy money made online. Courtney had a great post up about creating a small business and her line here is dead on: Prepare to work more before you work less.
More on making money:
- Jenny at ExConsumer has a thread of posts on how she generates extra cash. Jenny will be non-mortgage debt free by November of 2012 – correction: make that November of this year! – if all goes as planned. Keep an eye on her – she’s very motivated and creative. I predict earlier success on her debt pay down.
- The Saved Quarter has a helpful list of how she saves $115/week. Her method is a combination of savings from her budget and earning extra money. She babysits, secret shops and takes surveys to name a few things. Great ideas here if you are home with kids and need things you can do without hiring a sitter.
- Find a New Career in the Junkyard: I wouldn’t recommend getting into flipping furniture unless you have some solid skills and knowledge to start (and space!). Think you have what it takes? Check out the Modern Thrifter’s list of thrifting basics. If that list is old hat to you, you have an empty garage, a truck and know how to refinish or reupholster a piece of furniture – go for it!
Do you have any tips or ideas for making extra money? Please share – I’m interested in adding to my debt reduction/money making arsenal of ideas.
Like what you read here at The Minimalist Mom? Sign up by RSS or Email to get posts delivered to you. You can also find The Minimalist Mom on Facebook(I’ve deleted my personal account but have a page for this blog). Comments are always read, appreciated and responded to – even if we don’t agree on the subject at hand.