Coffee heat rising

Four Quick and Easy Ways to Generate Income In Your Everyday Life

by John Garber

If you want to improve your financial situation, you have two options. The first and easiest is to cut expenses. There are plenty of articles on our site and elsewhere with great advice on how to do that.

What’s rare is good advice about the other option: how to make more money. Adding more cash to your bottom line will improve your financial position. Below are our four favorite ways to do that.

Note: These Are Not Second Jobs

Some ways to earn extra income amount to getting a part-time job or starting a business that becomes a part-time job. These are great ideas for people with extra time and energy, but they’re not the only option.

This list has four solid models for you to bring in extra money without devoting significant time to it. You have a life to live, people you love to spend time with, and a career. These ideas will help ease financial stress without spreading yourself too thin.

Four Personal Income Generators You Can Start Using Today

1. Purge and Profit

This income generator combines the benefits of making your home tidier with bringing in extra cash, usually for a one-time or short-term money infusion. There are many variations, but they all follow the same basic framework:

  1. Clean your house, using a box or bin to accumulate things you can live without. Move stuff too big to fit into the box to a special place in your house.
  2. Identify which of these items has a monetary value.
  3. Sell those items on Craigslist, eBay, or similar websites or have a garage sale to sell lots of items at once.
  4. Bundle up items that didn’t sell the first time and re-list them together. Often, people will see the value and buy them during this second round.
  5. Donate what’s left to Goodwill, and get a receipt for tax season (you can deduct charitable contributions if you itemize).

Whether you do this with a single collection you once loved but now don’t interact with, or by pulling stuff out of every room in your house, it’s not hard to make several hundred dollars from this method. It’s even easier if you follow a few of these best practices:

  • Clean the items first, so they look as attractive as possible
  • Take high-quality photos to include in your listings
  • Write detailed, compelling descriptions for each entry
  • Answer potential buyers’ questions quickly and professionally
  • Set prices according to what similar items sell for
  • Don’t hesitate to haggle and bargain to sell as much as you can in as little time as possible
  • Publicize your sale on social media and other venues

2. Monetize Your Hobby

You likely have a hobby or interest, something you enjoy and you do well. There are ways to make money off the skills and expertise you’ve accumulated from it. Examples include:

  • Creating an Etsy account to sell the product of your crafting hobby
  • Writing articles for magazines associated with your hobbies and interests
  • Pet-sitting or dog walking if you’re an animal lover
  • Offering personal services, such as cleaning if you’re an organization junkie
  • Coaching or teaching people who want to learn more about your hobby or interest
  • Creating online content, like an e-book or video course
  • Putting your photographs on image clearinghouses like Getty Images or Flickr
  • Selling your artwork in local galleries and cafes

These are just some of the ways people turn their passions and interests into cold, hard cash. For some, it’s a way of helping the hobby fund itself. For others, it’s a route to a better financial situation.

Start by considering your hobbies. What do you love doing so much you’ve become an expert at it? How might you turn that skill and expertise into something other people want or need? From there, put together a plan.

3. Find Part-Time Work Online

You don’t want the demands of a traditional part-time job, but you can make money in small sessions of flexible work using a number of different online sources. As with monetizing your hobby, there are dozens of ways to do this. Here are nine you can get started on right away:

  • Log in to Mechanical Turk to do small jobs that add up to big money.
  • Get paid to fill out market research questionnaires on sites like Focus Pointe Global and Delve.
  • Participate in paid surveys from Survey Junkie, Pinecone, or Prolific.
  • Set up an account at Fiverr or Upwork to do simple design, editing, and writing tasks.
  • Review websites for UserTesting.
  • Google “Get paid to _______”, filling the blank with tasks you might find fun to perform, like “write,” “watch TV,” or “play games.” Log in to the sites that best match your needs. Read the fine print carefully.
  • Deliver with services like DoorDash and Deliveroo.
  • Review music at Slicethepie.
  • Become a mystery shopper through any number of sources. (Just Google “mystery shopper” plus your location.)

You can choose one of these options and pursue it heavily, or work on several options over the course of a month to generate a substantial income stream. Either way, the opportunities are real, as is the difference they can make for your finances.

4. Flip Products

This is the riskiest item on this list, but if you have the expertise and a little cash available, it can become a reliable and easy way to make extra money.

  1. Find items for sale at well below market rate. Books, furniture, power tools, yard equipment, and watches are good candidates for flipping.
  2. Clean them up and research their potential full value.
  3. List and sell them on eBay or Craigslist.
  4. Use some of the profit to scale up the project by buying more items to list.

The key to success is finding reliable sources of goods at well below the price people will pay for them. Research how much certain items are selling for on eBay and Craigslist, then look for them in locations such as:

  • Estate sales
  • Garage sales
  • The clearance rack at stores you frequent
  • Lots and bundles sold on eBay
  • Thrift shops
  • Craigslist giveaways
  • Flea markets

Also, let friends, family, and acquaintances know you’ll take their items to the dump or Goodwill when they clean out their homes. Make it clear you plan to sell things you think you can flip. Most people won’t mind if you’re upfront about it.

Final Thought: The Real Question

When deciding which income generators are right for you, ask yourself how you want to earn your extra money and what you want to use it for.

Do you want to earn a one-time lump sum to pay off credit cards, afford something you need, or make a single change to improve your life moving forward?

Or do you want to earn a little extra money on a regular basis, so your monthly financial life is a little easier?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but knowing your goals will help you pick the strategies that will make the biggest difference in your financial life.

John Garber lives on the West Coast, where he works in technology and currently has a few side hustles in play.


My goodness, it’s nice to be able to loaf in the sack until after the sun comes up! All of the paying work got done toward the end of last week. And now the house is cleaned (and cleaned again), the bookkeeping done, and the mountain of paper shoveled off the desk.


Cassie the Corgi has been blowing her coat for the past month, an activity that did not help the predicament caused by my failing to clean house for two months. Vast quantities of dog dunes have been shoveled up and dumped in the trash; the floors vacuumed, mopped, and steam-mopped; the sheets washed and pillowcases ironed; the bathrooms cleaned; the kitchen cleaned; the caked-on grease scoured off the stove; the nonfunctional stove burner repaired. YES!

What could be better?

It looks like the magazine writing course will not make. An enrollment of twelve is required to make it go. A week or so ago eight students had signed up, but since then a couple have withdrawn, and only six remain. And that’ll be fine — I can do without having to wrangle two online courses this semester. The Eng. 102 section will take up the slack if the writing course doesn’t materialize; otherwise income from said wanna-be Writers with a Capital W will come under the heading of “pure gravy.”

At any rate, until such time as I can believe that section will fly, I’m not putting in any more unpaid hours in course prep. LOAF!

Today’s income-inequality rant at The New York Times holds forth on the alleged upward skew of consumer spending — theoretically, as the rich get richer, fewer mass-market appliances and low-end restaurant meals are getting bought, presumably because the rich are getting a whole lot richer and the rest of us are getting a whole lot poorer. “Those consumers who have capital like real estate and stocks and are in the top 20 percent are feeling pretty good,” the reporter quotes a Price-Waterhouse-Coopers exec.

No kidding? If you count the savings drawdown and the Social Security and the teaching income as “earnings,” I’m in the top 50 percent, and I’m feeling pretty good.

O’course, that’s not counting the outrageous amounts the investments earned over the past several months, during the recent rabid bull market. Add  just three months of those proceeds into the AGI and you push me into the top 25 percent of US earners. Precious little of that is coming into reach of American Express and its retailer customers, of course — it’s banked against old age. Nor is it to be imagined that those are real figures: I think of that kind of thing as pretend money, easy come-easy go, poker chips on the craps table.

But for the nonce, at least, having made the 2014 drawdown before the hot air started to seep out of the stock market, I’m feeling moderately confident. In 2014, there should be plenty to live on, even if the current spate of outrageous unplanned expenses continues for several more months. Now, 2015 may be a different story. But we’ll get to that when we get to it.

At any rate, this year, thanks to the chair having come up with the online 102 section and my having volunteered serendipitously to take a summer section, teaching income will be more than normal even in the absence of this spring’s maga-writing course.

How on earth does that man do it? He seems to just BE there, every time I need a new way to earn a chunk of money. This has happened time after time. Someone upstairs must have appointed the guy to be my guardian angel.

So…what to do today?

1. Bill the two major clients, a project that will take a while since I haven’t kept up with billing.
2. Update the imaginary map for the novel and ship that off to the artist.
3. Organize the cookbook recipes in a sane sequence.
4. Delete images from Word recipe files; track down the jpegs and save them to a new subdirectory with numbered filenames that will make them appear in the order in which they need to be inserted in the layout.
5. Call the vet; arrange appointment to inspect new pup (just a month or so to go!) and get new shots for Cassie.
6. Figure out a way to ask the vet about how to feed real food to a pup, or when to start.
7. Go for a dog-and-human walk.
8. If any time remains, continue chapter 1 of the novel’s sequel.

Huh. I suppose this means I’m going to have to get up and do something, eh?

When It Rains…

Wow! The sheer amount of work that’s pouring in the door defies belief!

One pair of clients, co-editors of a collection of original essays, is ready to send their (really wonderful!) MS to University of New Mexico Press. Naturally, we prepared it in APA style — most of the contributors are social scientists or in businesses or professions that use APA. UNM wants, much more naturally, Chicago style. So tons of reference sections have to be completely reformatted, creating a monster headache. The press has a number of other idiosyncracies that will require reformatting the body copy for every damn essay, too — morphing what is normally a large job into a ridiculous job.

I’m now halfway through one of three books emanating from another client. This also is an extraordinarily interesting collection of his own essays, well written, unusual, and engaging.

Yet another client is having a good time rewriting chapter after chapter and sending them back for new reviews.

Another Singaporean graduate student showed up at the doorstep, begging for help on her English-language dissertation in an arcane subject. Foisted that project onto the associate editor, being beyond maxed myself.

I sent off a proposal for the novel — 53 pages, all told — to the agent who was advertised (ahem…last October) as being in the market for adult fiction. Naturally after I’d e-mailed it I spotted a typo. Never fails. Anyway, that was a huge job: to write the narrative outline required me to synopsize 79 chapters. Short chapters (average length is around 2000 words), but still…79 of them. Then I had to tighten and blend all that copy into the most compact form I could come up with and try to do it in an engaging way. And add a query, and a table of contents, and a new bio and on and on and on. As you can imagine, by the time I finished that, I was whipped.

Then the division chair at Heavenly Gardens pounced: asked if I would teach an online section of English 102. Welp…online is the only circumstance in which I would agree to do such a thing (and even then, it’s iffy). But he sounded like his back was against the wall, and besides, I can always use some more spending money.

In the new simplified bookkeeping regime, teaching income does not get hoarded, as was the case in the cookie-jar scheme. I’m now using drawdowns from Fidelity and the S-corp plus Social Security to cover base costs of living, and the teaching income will cover short-term emergencies and small indulgences. That’s assuming I can get said drawdowns: the bank rejected Fidelity’s attempt to deposit 15 grand, claiming the name on the account didn’t match the account number. Lovely. So I had to spend part of yesterday morning hassling with that, as if I didn’t have enough to do.

The North Scottsdale Chamber has folded and melded itself into the Greater Scottsdale Chamber. For moi, the result has been that the North Phoenix Chamber has been actively soliciting me to come over there — and really, I’d rather, because they do meet at venues a lot closer to where I live. The weekly trips to Scottsdale for the Scottsdale Business Assn meetings provide about enough junkets to the east side, thanks.

And finally, just to put the frosting on the cupcake, I’m getting another cold. Damn it. I wasn’t over the last one! I’ve already missed three weeks of choir…I may have to drop out for the rest of the year, since I can’t sing while I’m coughing and gagging. Went to bed after 11 p.m., having wrestling with copy for something over four hours, and then spent most of the night awake choking and gasping for air. The first stage of a cold often causes a throat spasm for me — so far they haven’t killed me, but I’ll tellya, last night’s was damn scary. Oh well. There’s usually only one…hope that will be it.

And so…to feed the dog and then get started writing that 102 syllabus. Ain’t retirement grand?


Planning to Live on Irregular Pay

Not much time to write today: I’ve worked from dawn to well after dark the past three days on a big rush project. It’s an index of some heavy-duty scholarly work — a mind-numbing job! — and it came along just as a nasty little cold hit. But pay will more than meet The Copyeditor’s Desk‘s minimum monthly revenue goal, and that’s on top of several other projects that came in this month. And it doesn’t count the jewelry sales, which I consider a bit of a fluke.

If I finish this thing today, which I probably will, I’ll earn almost as much in four days as the community college pays for two weeks of work. Think of that… 🙄

When you’re working on a contract basis, it’s important to bear in mind that some months no work will come in. And some months, you’ll have more work than you can handle. That means you have a fairly large kitty from which you can disburse a regular “paycheck” to support your monthly budget.  What made it possible for me to quit my day job, as it were, is the amount that has accumulated in the S-corporation’s bank account, plus the remains of my “survival fund” of emergency savings that I had when I was laid off in 2009.

I’ve spent most of the latter — a fair amount of it went to shoring up the house’s defenses after the late, great garage invasion — but after replenishing with the last Heavenly Gardens paycheck, about $7,000 remains. A year’s worth of living expenses resides in the S-corp. Those two bank accounts taken together (the S-corp’s and Survival Savings) will serve as the kitty to bankroll my future of glorious planned unemployment.

Or rather, “self-employment.”

The plan is to draw down about 3 percent from retirement savings, in quarterly chunks, and at the same time disburse quarterly payments from the corporation. These funds will go into the Survival Savings account at the credit union, from which each month I’ll transfer enough to my checking account to cover regular budgeted expenses and the several self-escrows required to pay insurance, car registration, and property tax.

To avoid impoverishing the S-corporation, The Copyeditor’s Desk will have to earn a set amount per month to pay its bills and support me. But because I live so penuriously, that amount is surprisingly little. Just a couple of halfway decent assignments a month will do the trick.

This month more than a couple have rolled in the door. The amount billed in December is  more than twice the minimum revenue the corporation will need for me to pull this off.

That means next month I don’t have to earn anything. As a practical matter, the S-corp can float along for a month on what it’s earned this month, pay its bills and me, and still not eat into the fund that was in the bank when I quit the teaching job.

Living on irregular pay means finding a way to gather all sources of income into a single kitty from which you can disburse only enough to cover your month-to-month bills. At the outset, you do need to hold on to the day job until you can accumulate a fairly substantial base fund to start with — at least a year’s worth of living expenses, preferably two years’ worth, plus a short-term emergency fund for unexpected expenses. But once you have that, the trick is to regard the “kitty” as something that accumulates its funding on cycles that are longer than your budget cycle.

So, if you budget from month to month, as most of us do, the money from which you fund that budget should be accumulating funds on a quarterly or annual basis. This smooths out the demand for immediate income: if more than enough pay arrives in January, it will reduce the amount that absolutely has to come in February. Assuming your enterprise earns more in March or April, at any given time there should be enough in the larger account to fund monthly expenses.

In theory, you could have one big fund from which you draw for all day-to-day expenses and into which all dribs and drabs of income irregularly flow. Personally, I want to see a bottom line that tells me how much is left to spend in any given month, and I don’t think a large fund would easily allow me to do that. It’s a function of my weak math skills, no doubt. That’s why I have a checking account for expenses and a money market account for the kitty that collects the several forms of irregular pay that come my way. Doing that actually converts the irregular pay to something like “regular” pay: you pay yourself a monthly paycheck out of the collector account.

To make your escape from the rat race, then, you need…

One or two years’ worth of savings
One or more sources of self-employment or retirement income
An account in which to accumulate that income; we’ll call that the “kitty”
A checking account to hold disbursals for monthly bills

Irregular income → Kitty account → Monthly budget account

From month to month, the kitty account, which is substantially larger than the monthly budget account, will grow and shrink according to how much comes in at any given time. But it’s not on a monthly cycle: it’s actually on a quarterly or yearly cycle. As long as enough comes in over a quarter or a year to cover monthly disbursals, you’re cool.

Gotta get going: more things to do today than there are hours to do them!

More on the Great Escape

OMG! The searchlights are off, the guards are dozing at their watch stations, and the way is cleared to go over the wall! Spent the better part of today plus the two hours of free time yesterday studying The Numbers, trying to see if my plan to escape from teaching could actually work. This is amazing. I’ve gone over this stuff several times and think I’ve got it right. Check this out:

After I wrote that cri de coeur the other day, bemoaning my hatred of teaching freshman composition and announcing a decision to QUIT IT, I realized I’d never done a budget for the little corporate entity. Its needs always seem to be more modest than its means: whenever I’ve wanted to spend money on the business (sometimes quite a bit of money, as in buying a fancy new iMac), the cash has been there. Within a month or two, whatever is spent replenishes itself. So I haven’t felt much impetus to add still more budgeting headaches to an already crabby-making personal finance routine.

Clearly if I’m going to try to live on what The Copyeditor’s Desk is earning rather than just using it as a reservoir to buy electronics and pay the cell, DSL and web-hosting bills, I’ll need some clue as to how much its overhead is. Quaint idea, no?

So far, in the first eight months of 2012, the S-corp’s overhead has been $10,700. That notwithstanding, it has shown a profit of $7,260.

If I teach two sections of Eng. 235 (Magazine Article Writing) in 2013, I will need to draw a net salary of $6,000 from the corporation. So, already, we see that by the end of the third quarter it has earned enough to cover four quarters of expenses. This assumes the business will perform at the rather sleepy pace we’ve seen in 2012; since I will have a lot more time and energy (and motivation!) to market it more vigorously, 2013 revenues very well may outperform 2012’s.

Now, in this scenario, about $3,840 pours into my personal coffers from the community college, and a small drawdown from retirement savings makes up the difference, providing enough cash to pay the bills when combined with Social Security and a “salary” from The Copyeditor’s Desk. Assuming inflation doesn’t rise unduly next year.

What if I teach NOTHING, yea verily not one course? 🙂

Then I would need to pull more money out of retirement savings. I’m already doing that to cover my share of the mortgage on the house M’hijito and I are copurchasing. In order not to exceed a 4 percent drawdown from savings, the maximum I could withdraw to cover my own living expenses would be $12,785. Actually, though, about $10,785 would be preferable; this would keep the total drawdown (for the mortgage plus my living expenses) safely in the 3 percent range.

Heh heh heh…. That, we might add, is 3 percent of what remains after I’ve raked 20 grand out of savings to buy a new car.

WhoEVER would’ve thunk it?

After much speculating and calculating, here are the numbers for 2013. Except for the teaching income, disbursals will happen quarterly, since revenues do not yet flow into The Copyeditor’s Desk in a steady month-to-month stream. Over three months, though, enough should accumulate to fill the bill. As it were.

How amazing is that?

I gained insight from this exercise. First, it’s costing more to run the S-corp than I realized. Overhead includes contracting pay for a variety of helpers whose functions run from keeping Funny about Money afloat to editorial, design, and project management. Not counting the one-time expense for the iMac, average monthly expenditures so far have been $965 a month; add it in, and that average jumps to $1227 a month. Yipe!

Second, to keep a grip on large expenditures, I’ll need to self-escrow about $200 a month into an emergency  & out-of-the-ordinary savings account, just as I do for my household finances. This will provide for unusually large expenses, for the cost of the annual report to the corporation commission, for tax preparation, for computer repairs, and for the Costco membership, and still leave something for the various little surprises.

Third, the largest contributor to CE Desk’s revenues is editorial work. Funny about Money runs a distant second; it pays for itself, but just barely. In the near future, I’ll need to revisit this issue and decide whether to continue trying to operate the site as a money-making venture or to demonetize it and treat it as a hobby.

By the time fall semester is over—obviously, I can’t walk now, because I’ve signed a contract (but there are now only 12 and a half weeks left!)—there should be enough cash reserves in the corporate bank accounts to easily carry me through 2013, and, if these figures are right, enough cash flow to support me permanently.

Mwa ha ha! I’m outta this place!

Business Starts a-Poppin’

Wow! The corn is popping hereabouts! It’s almost 11 a.m. and there hasn’t been enough time to pause long enough to add a post, either here or at Adjunctorium. We have two clients in hand, both with projects they think we’re going to do right this minute, and a third on the phone inquiring about our services.

None of these folks appears inclined to pay us a living wage. Can’t blame them: I try to bargain service providers down as low as they’ll go, too. Maybe we should be asking absolutely ridiculous prices and then, when people beg us to come down, offer “bargain” rates that really are what we need to pay the overhead and put food on the table.

Naturally, the business shows signs of life moments after I sign up for a voc-ed course designed to get me into a new line of work.


As I mentioned a couple of days ago, in these parts the sole perq adjuncts get is a tuition waiver. This will make it possible for me to take the two courses and the half-credit seminar required to get a real estate license, without having to pay more than about $45.

The first course runs from March 20 to May 5. Unfortunately, it meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and of course my classes meet T/Th, from 12:30 to 3:45 p.m., and of course my business group meets at 7:00 a.m. Thursday mornings. So during those seven weeks, I’ll have 14 Days from Hell (especially on Thursdays: on the fly from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Ugh!). But I can put up with it, especially if I can pick up the second three-credit course over the summer and be ready to take the exam in the fall.

Bleagh! I really don’t look forward to taking any more college courses. With a Ph.D. in hand, I feel I’ve had quite enough of those. However, really…I do need to earn more than I’m making at the community college, and for sure, there’s just no way I’m going to keep teaching after the legislature finally pushes through its guns-on-campus bill. Even a part-time job as a gofer in some real estate office would pay more than I’m earning now, probably with a great deal less annoyance.

Drat it. Almost 11:00 a.m. and I haven’t even had a minute put my clothes on to go do the running I have to do today. And M’hijito took the bag of dog food I bought for Charley on Friday.

He’s been feeding the dog a fish-based kibble, which makes him stink to high heaven and which Charley has decided he won’t eat any more (goood dog!). So I bought a small bag of blander stuff to see what he would do, and lo! He scarfed it right down. M’hijito is irked because he has 80 pounds of the fishy stuff in house. He’s not the return-it type, and so he thinks he’s either going to have to force it down the dog or throw it out. I told him I would take it back, but of course he thinks that’s mother-martyrdom and will not go along with any such scheme.


Just to make life perfect I just spilled an entire cup of cold, stinky, stale coffee down into a file drawer, all over the floor, and even managed to splash it onto this computer.

ahhh shee-ut. This is gunna be another Day from Hell, isn’t it…