Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I should warn anyone reading regularly that for the next couple of weeks, my posts may be a bit brief, even disjointed. Why? Heading into finals, among other things, and studying comes first.

Which brings me to my topic for tonight. The other side of a frugal budget is income. If you're in debt or work in an unstable field (I spent a year working for a computer company where everyone expected to be laid off and have to job hunt every 3 or 4 years), want to build up your retirement funds, or just want to save up enough to take 6 months off to travel around the world, then being frugal with spending is only half the equation. Maximize income. 

I'm sure you're saying, oh, yeah, THAT'S easy. Well, no, but I didn't say it would be. But there ARE possibilities, especially if you're thinking in the long term. Some of these ideas will work for some people and not for others, it all depends on your circumstances, resources, and personality. 

First: take on a part time second job or seasonal work. This can be as little as babysitting for the neighbors on Saturday so they can go out together or as much as an extra 20 or 30 hours a week. Just don't take on something that will tire you so much that your performance at your primary job drops. That babysitting job may only get you $10 extra a week, but that's $520 a year. 

Second: Change jobs for one that pays better. This could be hard to do in the current economy, and I would recommend against it if you like your current job, and if you have family, consider quality of life in any job change. If the commute or required hours are too long, think carefully about any job change. If changing jobs isn't an option but you don't like your job, consider the next option.

Third: Get retrained or get additional training to improve your prospects. Even though the education system is under attack, community college technical training classes can be a bargain. But unless you're going back for a degree, aim for specific classes in job skills or to earn a certificate. My sister makes decent money as a paralegal, for instance. But be wary of claims about earnings for jobs-talk to people in the field. For those who are college educated but got a degree in a field that isn't doing very well, consider grad school or a certificate of some sort. There are online programs if you aren't near a good school. But if your goal is a better job, make sure you're getting practical job skills out of it. A masters in medieval French literature might be fun, but it will probably only help your prospects if you can find a school where they want that taught. Think like an employer. 

Fourth: Start a micro business or small business. The difference isn't very well defined, but I'd say a micro business is very parttime, and could be only a few hours a week, producing very small amount of income. An example would be someone who does custom cake decorating to order, maybe one cake every week or two or someone who translates documents occasionally. The idea is that it provides a small extra income stream. A small business might be something that's run in a couple of hours in the evenings or a couple of days on the weekend up to a business with no more than 10 employees. (I'd define anything bigger than that as a medium-sized business, but I'm sure many people would argue.) This is usually intended to provide a full time income to the business owner, eventually.

Fifth: make some extra money through a hobby if you can. This one can be tricky because people don't like to pay for quality work. If it's something that can be made relatively quickly and sell for the cost of materials plus at least $5 or $6 an hour, it could be worth trying. 

When asked if she was going to sell a beautiful shawl she had knit, a friend laughed and said that she'd make less than minimum wage if she sold it for $700. Time intensive ones aren't the most efficient, but in some cases they could be worth considering. I knit and crochet, and a lot of small baby items can be made relatively quickly from patterns simple enough that I can watch a movie while working on them. I suspect I'd make less than $4 an hour even for that work, but on the other hand, it's time I would not have been paid for at all, and I've considered doing this. I currently use part of my lunch hour to work on projects intended for gifts.

I've already written more than I planned, but I'll try to go into more detail on these ideas on other days...

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