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3 Ways to Earn an Extra $500 on the Side

3 Ways to Earn an Extra $500 on the Side

When I graduated from college in 2009 with a BA in French, I spent six weeks looking for a job.

Any job.

I needed to save money for my impending move to Paris, where I would spend a year working as a teaching assistant in an elementary school, frolicking in the City of Lights, and I needed to save money quick—$3,000 in the span of a couple months—in order to afford all of those baguettes and bottles of vin.

I don’t know if you recall, but the summer of 2009 wasn’t exactly the best time to find a job/graduate from college because of the…ahem…recession that had just hit the U.S.. Merci, economy! When June arrived and I still hadn’t found work, I started to panic. In my desperation, I posted an ad on Craigslist entitled “French Tutor: $15/hr”.

Two days later, I got an email and scheduled my first student: a Russian-American eighth grader with a deep love for David Bowie.

That, my dear reader, is how I got my first taste of how to earn money on the side. No, it wasn’t a ton of money (I eventually found a full-time job to save the money I needed for France), but I realized an important lesson: it’s just not that hard to get people to pay you to do things.

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In the four years since I graduated, I’ve become more and more obsessed with the idea that I can earn money without getting a real job. In fact, while living in Paris, I continued to grow my tutoring business and offered up my services as a nanny. I made bank. I even moved back to France in 2011 and spent eight months living off of my side hustle, earning money “under the table” or “in the black”, as the French say, by tutoring ESL, babysitting, and even continuing to tutor American students via Skype.

Now, I even teach new entrepreneurs how to land their first three clients and start earning money on the side. (My “side hustle” has become my main income).

How did I do it? More importantly: How can you start earning extra money (at least $500) on the side, too?

Lemon squeezy.

You just need to try a few of the following things (as many as you can, really). It’s fun. Just think of it like a game!

#1 – Teach someone something

You, my friend, are talented. You have knowledge and wisdom that others just don’t have. You have knowledge that they need. Stop hogging it all!

Maybe you have an academic skill, like tutoring French or Math or Biology. Maybe you’re an amateur auto mechanic. Maybe you have a knack for cooking tapas or sneaky vegan recipes that even meat lovers will love. Contact the local high school, library, etc to see if they’d refer you.

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Whatever it is, there’s someone out there who is willing to pay you to teach them how to do what you do best. You have to get over the unwillingness to earn money for doing what comes easy to you, because, well… it doesn’t come easy to them. (I, for example, would love to hire someone to teach me how to sew or do my taxes).

Make a list of 50 things that you know how to do. You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to know how to do it better than the person who hires you. (I am not the best French speaker in the world, but I know way more than my students and have diverse teaching experience, and they get an incredible value from my lessons).

Charge what you’re worth. Don’t do what I did and charge a measly $15. (My lessons are now triple that cost). If you do this right, this is the best and easiest way to make money on the side.

#2—Sell something (not your body, duh)

Don’t even try to tell me that you don’t own anything that you can sell. I’m a minimalist, for crying out loud, and I still have things lying around that I can sell.

Do you have:

  • Nice clothes that you rarely wear?
  • Shoes?
  • Furniture?
  • An instrument?
  • An old computer, phone, or other electronics?
  • A designer purse?
  • Books?

Walk around your house with a pen and paper. Make a list of items that you see that you might be able to sell. (Note: the best places to sell things are eBay, Craigslist, and at garage sales).

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I sold my piccolo from high school for $300. A few friends told me I was crazy—that I should keep the piccolo just in case. Just in case what?! The damn thing had been rotting on a shelf in my basement for eight years. Now that I’ve sold it, it’s actually going to get the love and attention that it deserves… and I made 300 bucks.

#3—Get a J-O-B.

Last spring, after my house was hit by a tornado (yeah, that happened). It was cra-zy. In the midst of the madness, I craved normality. I decided to get a part-time job at the local coffee shop (I’m actually writing this post from that coffee shop right now, sippin’ on my chai tea).

Getting a part-time job is great because (a) it’s easy (b) you get to meet new people (c) you spend your time doing something that’s earning you more money rather than spending it.

Most people complain that they don’t have enough time to get a part-time job, even for just a few hours on a Saturday morning. Or—they think that having a part-time job would suck just as much as it did in high school.

I don’t agree with either of these claims. I’m sure that you could wake up a couple of hours earlier on a Saturday or trade some of that time that you spend surfing Facebook to get out into the world. You need to think about the benefits the job gives you: more money, more freedom (eventually), and a more interesting life!

So, what’s it gonna be?

You can absolutely earn $500 a month this way, but you have to make a decision. The mailman is not going to drop the money off at your door, though. You must get up and take action to get started.

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In the comments, please do share… (I read + respond to all comments).

(1)   Do you have any other ideas for ways to earn money on the side?

(2)   What are you going to do this week to start earning some extra cash?

If you’d like some more ideas of ways to earn extra money, check out these articles:

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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