Need Some Extra Cash? We’ve Got the Side Hustles for You!

The last few years have been rough for a lot of people, and we’re not just talking psychologically. The pandemic hit a lot of people right in the wallet, although there are some silver linings, including the fact that, according to some studies, some of us were actually able to save more money than expected, strangely enough. But if you’re not in that boat, know that there is a silver lining for you, as well: the boom in working from home has opened up plenty of opportunities for ways to make some extra cash with legit side hustles. 

What are the advantages to taking on a side gig? You’ll be making a little bit of extra money (how much will depend on what you choose to do, and how much time you’re willing to put in), which you can use to pay off debts, or put aside for a rainy day or retirement. Plus, most side hustles can be done outside the regular 9 to 5, so if you do have another job right now, or are just looking for some flexibility in your schedule, these gigs can fit into almost anyone’s life. Finally, while some side hustles are super simple (which can be great if you’re looking to shut off while you work), others can utilize your unique skills, allow you to be creative, or even help you to feel out an idea for a new business. 

So, without any further ado, let’s check out some of the best side hustles that will help get you to your financial goals this year!

1. Sell Your Stuff illustration of stuff piled together with a sales tag

One of the easiest ways you can make a little extra money on the side is to sell the stuff in your house that you no longer use. Sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Mercari are great for unloading furniture, collectibles, antiques, appliances, or anything else that is just collecting dust around your house. Or got a closet bursting with stuff you don’t wear? Mercari and eBay also have thriving clothing marketplaces, or check out apps dedicated to reselling your pre-loved apparel, like Poshmark or Vinted. 

2. Get Driving

When we think of the advent of the “gig economy,” we often think of ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber, and they remain solid ways to make extra money in your spare time. There are some requirements to hooking up with one of these companies. You have to:

  • Be 21
  • Own your own 4-door vehicle that can seat at least 5 people
  • Pass criminal and driving background checks

If you check all those boxes, you can earn around $15 an hour or more just driving people around. And the best part about it is that you can turn your availability on and off through these networks with the simple click of a button, meaning you can make money anytime you want – or take a break anytime you want!

3. Deliver It

People have gotten very used to having everything they want or need come right to their doorstep these days, meaning there are plenty of ways for you to make money delivering these things. This is especially true when it comes to food: for example, you can deliver for local restaurants through apps like Caviar, UberEats, DoorDash, etc, or you can deliver groceries through apps like Instacart and Shipt. person on a bike with food in their backpack

Delivering takeout is a super simple way to make some cash: you simply pick up the food and deliver it, and get paid per order plus any tips. For this type of gig, you’ll need a valid driver’s license, insurance, and the ability to pass background checks.

Grocery delivery is a little more labor intensive, on the other hand. You’ll have to essentially go shopping at the supermarket for each customer and then deliver their grocery order to their house, but you have the potential to make a good haul in tips. 

4. Virtually Assist

With all of the technology at our fingertips these days, you don’t need to even set foot in an office to become an administrative assistant. If you’ve got a lot of extra time on your hands, and are super organized, you can become a virtual assistant, handling administrative work like organizing workflows, scheduling meetings, and filing documents. You could even find yourself getting involved in some higher level skills, like graphic design, copywriting, bookkeeping, translation, and other services – and if you can offer skills like this, you can bump up your hourly rates. Look for these kinds of gigs on freelancing sites, like Upwork, Fiverr, and VA-specific job boards.

5. Spend Time with Some Furry Friends

Instead of scrolling through pictures of puppies and kitties on the internet, why not make a little extra cash dog walking or pet sitting if furry friends are your jam? You can go old school and do some meet and greets at the local dog park or put up flyers on a local bulletin board, or try apps like Rover or Wag. These apps work like many other gig apps, where you sign up, create a profile and get matched with people in your area who need their pets taken care of. You can choose what services you want to offer, like walks only, pet and house sitting, or pet boarding.

6. Write It Outhands on a laptop keyboard

If you’ve got a flair for the written word, you can try your hand at freelance writing. If you’re not sure where to begin looking for opportunities, you can start with general freelance marketplaces like Fiverr, Upwork and content mills, where you can offer to help out bloggers or become a ghostwriter for people in fields that you feel confident writing about. But if you can get a little success with your writing, try to move off general sites fairly quickly, and try things like pitching directly to publications and websites you’d like to work for. For less creative types, you can also consider offering your services as a resume writer on LinkedIn and other professional sites.

Not interested in writing your own stuff? If you’re a super detail-oriented grammar whiz, you can offer copywriting/proofreading services to bloggers, websites, or businesses. If you can establish yourself, you’ll end up being able to set your own rates and bill by the hour (and work from anywhere you can bring your laptop!)

7. Dabble in Design

Great at graphic design? You’ve got a few options. First, you can go the traditional graphic designer route and offer your services as a freelancer for small businesses that need brochure templates or logos, websites that need engaging graphics, restaurants that need menus, etc, and build up a portfolio while you hone your creative skills. But if you’ve got less time, and want to go a slightly more “fun” route, you can try your hand at selling your designs on shirts and other items. There’s very little heavy lifting involved in doing this: print-on-demand services like Merch by Amazon, Printful, Redbubble, and CafePress allow you to upload your designs and sell products without dealing with the hassles of inventory and shipping, you simply receive a commission when your design sells. 

8. Impart Some Knowledge

Again, living in the age of technology means we can do so many jobs from afar, including teaching! For example, you can offer your services as an online tutor for things like core K-12 subjects (math, English, science, reading, and social studies), as well as SAT/ACT prep and college-level courses – whatever your specialty is. This is a great summer or side gig for teachers looking to make extra money, all you need to do is hop on some tutoring websites, where you’ll fill out a profile that lists your subject expertise, education, experience, and hourly rates. Then, you can reach out to students or vice versa. Once you’ve gotten yourself out there, though, it’s a good idea to try and set up your own student base, and get away from the tutoring sites, so you can pocket all of your hard-earned cash.

Another option for online teaching? Teaching English online to people around the world. There is a particular demand for online English teachers in China, so if you’ve got some early mornings or late nights free, this is a great option for you. Most companies will require you to have a bachelor’s degree, and some will require a TEFL or TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate, but there are others who won’t.

9. Get Social

Every business needs a social media presence these days, but many small businesses simply don’t have the time or the expertise to be constantly posting on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. Take advantage of this and offer businesses your services as a social media manager, and a mix of help with branding and customer service, with prices way more appealing than an agency.

10. Get Craftyperson's hands making pottery

Love making stuff, and always getting “oohs” and “aahs” when you give your handmade gifts? You can try selling your crafts on sites like Etsy or Amazon Handmade, being sure to experiment with which site has the right customer base for your products. Make sure you also know what you’re getting into with seller’s fees, shipping fees, and cost of materials, so you know if you can actually make a profit. And here’s a tip for getting your name out there: try offering tutorials on YouTube or social media, or starting up a blog.

Being at the mercy of the economy can feel frustrating if you’re not hauling in the amount of money you need or want. But there are always options if you’ve got a little time, and some skills you can share or a passion for something – or even just a car and a willingness to work! Just don’t forget to leave some time for yourself to unwind and enjoy that little bit of extra cash!

Beware of ‘Lifestyle Creep’ and Its Effects on Your Budget

It’s a great feeling when you finally start to gain a little bit of financial independence. Your job is going well, you’re seeing more in your paycheck each year, your bank account is healthy, and you’ve got a little extra money to put towards the things you want, instead of just the things you need. That’s a good position to be in, but it can actually have it’s dangers, too. Making more money can lead to what’s known as “lifestyle creep,” which can end in a blown-up budget. So what is lifestyle creep, and how can you avoid it? 

What Is Lifestyle Creep?

bid beach house with pillars and a pool
It is no secret that as you make more money, you spoil yourself more, but it is important to not let it affect your budget.

Hey! What’s that behind you? Don’t freak out: it’s that extra money you’re making now that you’re more established in your career creeping up on your budget. You might be past the days of ramen, roommates, and happy hours (ok, maybe you’re not above a good happy hour), but if you take a close look at your finances, you might find that you’re somehow not reaching your financial goals, or saving as much as you thought you would be.

The culprit could very well be the phenomenon known as lifestyle creep, or lifestyle inflation. Simply put, lifestyle creep happens when an increase in your income leads to an increase in your discretionary spending – you’re making more, so you start spending more. Or maybe you’ve paid off a big debt and you feel a financial burden lifted, and are jazzed by those hundreds of extra dollars in your bank account. 

It might mean slowly acquiring a taste for the finer things in life, being more free with how you “treat” yourself, or an ever-expanding list of hobbies that suck money from your bank account. 

It can start small: you order better entrees when getting takeout (and you start treating yourself to takeout more often), you buy those shoes you’ve been eyeing up, you trade in your yoga mat and dumbbells at home for a gym membership, maybe even with some personal trainer sessions thrown in for good measure. You think, “Why not? I’ve been working hard, and I deserve it – and I can afford it now!”

Yes, we agree, you have been working hard and it’s great that your hard work is paying off, but here’s the thing. Before you know it, you’ll have every new gadget that you see, a subscription or membership to countless services, a higher and higher rent, maybe even a second car payment. But what you will also see is a dwindling emergency fund, an anemic retirement fund, and nothing saved for big things like a down payment on a house.

Is Your Lifestyle Creeping Up On You?

If you’re not careful, lifestyle creep can be the ultimate killer of building your savings, and your long-term wealth. But it can be tough to spot, as it tends to happen gradually (remember that one pair of shoes that wouldn’t make a difference?): “[Lifestyle creep] happens so slowly, people don’t even necessarily realize it’s happening until they stop and take a good look at their money,” says Allison Baggerly, founder of the personal finance site Inspired Budget. So what should you be looking out for?

  • Mindless rather than intentional spending – We’re not saying you can’t spend any of that hard-earned cash, but experts agree that, as Mary Lyons, an investment advisor and founder of the Benchmark Income Group in Dallas points out, “On the one hand, it’s only natural to increase your spending as your income rises. After all, we work hard to buy and do the things we love in life. It’s when that higher spending happens mindlessly, rather than intentionally, that it becomes problematic.”
  • Forgotten financial goals – You’re earning steadily more, but not saving steadily more, or, even worse, you might still feel like you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.woman taking out a credit card out of a black wallet
  • Budgets that are getting blown up – Maybe you used to have a pretty strict grocery budget, for example, but now you’re consistently spending $50-100 more on each shopping trip. And maybe you’re going hog wild with your food budget in other ways: eating out more often, or not blinking an eye at spending $20 a day on lunch – and forgetting that that $20 a day adds up to $100 a week just on lunch.
  • A “no going back” attitude to your lifestyle – If the things you used to think of as luxuries or as aspirational seem like necessities to you now, and you can’t imagine going back to the way you used to live, your lifestyle is definitely creeping up on you. “The telltale sign of lifestyle creep is the mental or audible reflection, ‘How did I ever make it on less?'” says Katie Waters, certified financial planner at Stable Waters Financial.

Avoiding the Creep

The tough thing about lifestyle creep (other than the slow, creeping pace of it, which can make it something you’re less likely to do something about) is that it can actually feel like progress. Like you’ve made it, you’ve reached your goals, you’ve arrived. And, like we said, no one is saying that you can’t improve your lifestyle, or spend some of your money on the things you want. In fact, some financial experts give you a full 30% of your budget for discretionary spending, if you follow the popular 50/20/30 budgeting rule (the other 50 and 20% go towards necessities and savings, respectively). The problem is that if you’re mindlessly spending in a way that outpaces your savings, you could end up in trouble further down the road.

So speaking of budgeting, and taming the creep, let’s take a look at some other ways you can avoid lifestyle creep and its effects on your financial future:

Open your eyes and take a good, hard look

The first thing you should do if you feel like lifestyle creep has gotten its claws into you is to actually confirm it. This first step might not feel great, but it’ll put you in a better position to move forward with intention. Start by auditing your monthly spending – you might be surprised by what you see, and might feel ready to do some trimming. 

So, next, you can actually start to do that trimming: we’re looking at you, 8 separate subscriptions to streaming services and unused premium gym membership. Finally, really have a think about how you’ve been spending, and what you’ve been spending it on. Back this up by gathering up all of that extra stuff, and doing some decluttering while you consider how spending on all of this (now unused) stuff hasn’t brought you closer to living your best life. Try selling what you don’t need, and thinking about ways you can downgrade, like to a car with payments you can actually afford. 

Stick to a budget

Sure, spending is fun and budgets are boring, but it’s got to be done. The simplest and most general budget you can stick to is the 50/20/30 budget from above; from there, you can break down the 50% you’re spending on necessities into a smaller budget. So, look at your rent/mortgage and utilities (things that aren’t likely to change much), and then figure out money for the rest, like groceries. 

Automate your savings illustration of a person's hands holding a cell phone with a bank on the screen

Not sure you’ll actually put aside that 20%? Hey, it’s 2022, and with digital banking literally at our fingertips, there’s no excuse not to automatically put money into your savings account each month.

Be aware of mindless vs intentional spending

As we said above, spending can feel good. In fact, you might be an emotional spender, and you’re not alone: our brains perceive shopping as exciting or new, which lights up our brains’ dopamine receptors, and certain things might trigger your responses more than others. Be aware of what your triggers are, and keep a list of your actual dream purchases on things or experiences, and ask if those impulsive, mindless purchases are helping you get there (or reach your other goals, or even actually making you feel good). 

And, remember, this doesn’t mean you should never upgrade, but be intentional with how you’re upgrading, and save your hard-earned money for upgrades that help you:

  • Feel less stressed
  • Improve your relationships
  • Save time
  • Be more genuinely happy
  • Improve your skills
  • Reach your health goals
  • Work toward long-term financial goals 

Plan ahead for your spending

This follows on the point above. If you want to make some big purchases or big lifestyle changes, don’t do it the moment you start earning more! Wait on that much bigger apartment, or luxury car: consider planning a big purchase at least three to six months in advance, then you can evaluate whether the purchase is still worth it as time passes. Doing this also gives you more time to save up for that big expense, and will mean you’ll have enough extra money for your other needs, too.

illustration of a man writing on a poster with graphs on it
It is important to set aside time to figure out what your financial goals are and how you want to prioritize them.

Set goals

We’ve talked a lot about dealing with discretionary spending, but what about those less fun ways to make your money work for you? What are your financial goals for the future? In order to get where you want to go, you have to have a plan, so set aside time to figure out what your financial goals are and how you want to prioritize them. Maybe you want to build an emergency fund, save more for retirement, set aside funds for a vacation, pay down debt, or save up for a down payment on a house. Whatever it is for you, once you’re clear with yourself, you can create a plan for how you’ll get to those goals as you earn more money, maybe by paying off smaller debts, or setting aside a percentage of your increased income.

Put your pay raise into your “wealth snowball”

If your pay raises have settled into the regular old standard 2.5% to keep pace with inflation, pretend you’re making the same amount you were before the raise. Take that “extra money” and save it, or put it towards something on your list that you need or want. 

Limit your revolving debt

Matching the pace of your credit card spending to the rise in your income is a great way to become a victim of lifestyle creep – it’s just too easy to overspend. Not only that, but having too much revolving debt can also hurt your credit, which will make it harder for you to recover from financial setbacks, and can make it harder to secure the best terms on new debt such as a mortgage or car loan.

Remember to treat yourself!

If we’ve been sounding pretty strict, it’s only because it sometimes takes some hard truths, and a serious plan, to get yourself back on track. But, don’t worry, you can avoid lifestyle creep without cutting everything that falls into the “fun” category out of your life. In fact, most financial experts agree that It’s important to enjoy the process of working toward your financial goals. According to Clarissa Moore, owner of the personal finance site the Budget Queen, “I don’t believe you should be sacrificing everything. Do what you want to do, but do it in moderation and always be mindful of those goals.” 

So yes, you can have those experiences that you couldn’t have when you were earning less money, and you can buy that pair of shoes or add an extra side of guac, we won’t tell. Just be mindful of your spending, and don’t let any fiendish financial surprises creep up on you down the road. 

Is your lifestyle creeping up on you? We want to hear from you!

Meeting Financial Milestones: What REALLY Matters

Staying on top of your finances is hard, and not just because it can involve a whole lot of math. It’s hard because we’re creatures who are actually built to live in the present, and we’re just not biologically wired to plan ahead or to save. According to Dr. Brad Klontz, a certified financial planner and financial psychologist, “It’s why we were able to survive as a species. We’re actually wired to enjoy the moment now and to consume as much as possible.” 

So it sounds like we’ve got a reason why it might be so hard to stick to our financial goals, but not really an excuse; after all, being financially responsible at all stages of our adult life is in our own best interest! And consider this: a recent survey by TD Ameritrade found that between 60% and 68% of respondents aged 40 to 79 would advise their younger selves to start saving money much earlier in life. The question is, then, how can you get yourself to focus on your finances and make smart choices that will help you save for things you need and want, as well as lead to greater security (and more fun!) in your retirement

Well, you can start by thinking about some of the financial milestones that many experts say you should be hitting as you go through each decade of life. But that’s not all: remember that there is no hard and fast rule for the way everyone’s finances are going to look at each stage, so it’s important to relieve yourself of the stress of comparing yourself to others, as well as look at some more creative, yet practical, ways to get you to your financial goals.

What Are Some Traditional Financial Milestones?

When financial experts talk about how to set yourself up for future success, they sometimes lay out financial milestones to aim for as you move through different stages of life, so that you have some concrete goals to motivate you. For example:

wallet with a black wrench squeezing it

  • In your 20s:
      • Create and stick to a budget
      • Save 3-6 months worth of expenses just in case
      • Pay down some debts, starting with higher interest ones (like credit cards), and then moving on to lower interest ones, like student loans
      • Start investing while you still have time on your side to grow your money
      • Try to have half of your annual salary saved by the time you’re 30
  • In your 30s
      • Think more seriously about your retirement savings. Many financial experts recommend putting aside 15% of your pre-tax salary towards savings; if that’s too difficult for you, contribute as much as you can, adding 1-2% each year.
      • Try to invest in real estate
      • Set up more specific savings accounts that are right for you, like a 401k, IRA, Roth IRA, or college savings accounts
      • Get a life insurance policy as another financial safety net for your family
      • Aim to have twice your annual salary in savings by the time you’re 40
  • In your 40s
      • Try to have 4 times your annual salary savedgreen plant in a pot with a money sign as the trunk
  • In your 50s
    • Pay off as many debts as you can as you approach retirement age
    • Make sure you are investing the maximum amount into your retirement account every year
    • Reduce the level of risk in your investment portfolio
    • Aim to have 6 times your annual salary saved

Should You Stop Worrying About Keeping Up?

All of the above is a lot to think about, and some of the figures might have you feeling a little stressed, or some of the goals, like investing in real estate, might have you worrying about whether you’re “keeping up” with everyone around you. And you know what? Not everyone agrees that your financial journey has to go in a certain order, or has to look the same for everyone.

Take, for example, Paula Pant, a financial podcast host, writer, speaker, and media commentator on financial independence and real estate investing. She feels that one of the things that actually keeps people in debt, and keeps them from building their net worth, is focusing too much on the idea that you should have certain things by a certain age, and that making financial decisions based on what people expect you to do next is not actually helpful to getting what you want from your money – and out of life. 

According to Pant, “…[P]eople think that money management is about money. It’s actually about life, you make the life decisions first, and then you use the financial planning piece, the money management piece to execute around that. Where people often go wrong is by doing those steps in reverse, by letting money govern their decision-making, rather than letting life be the leader. You know, I can’t answer for you what you deeply want.”

She advocates for thinking about what you really want, as well as not comparing yourself to others: “It’s natural to compare, but it’s not healthy,” according to Pant. “Imagine if we all started comparing our weight to one another? That is a recipe for some unhealthy thinking and unhealthy behavior because weight is not even a good way of knowing anything about a person anyway. And when you reduce a person’s weight to just a number and then start making comparisons, it leads to very unhealthy thinking. And yet we do that with money all the time.” woman sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees looking downStressing about money and comparing yourself to where others are in life is not going to help your financial health (and could be detrimental to your actual health). So, before you put yourself on a super strict budget (like you might unhelpfully put yourself on a strict diet if you were comparing your weight with another person’s), consider these creative, yet very practical, ways to stay on track to meet your specific money goals.

Ways to Get Where You Want to Go

Paula Pant, as well as some other financial experts, aren’t focused on robust retirement savings as the one and only financial goal to work towards, or even just the traditional route of saving for a house, college, and retirement; they allow for other lifestyle goals that you might want to add into the mix. That being said, whatever your financial goals are, you still need money to get there, and it will take some work on your part to make sure you’re able to fully fund everything you want and need in life, now and in the future. So what are some suggestions for reaching your goals? Here are two that you might not have thought of, but that make total sense and can be applied in very practical ways:

  • The “Afford Anything” tradeoff – Paula Pant’s philosophy is based on the idea that we all have a limited amount of time, energy, attention, and money, so we have to constantly make decisions about how we want to spend those resources – and when it comes to money, it effectively means that if you spend money on one thing, you don’t have money for the other thing. Makes sense, right? 
asian woman and man in wedding outfits hugging in the forest.
Making an emotional connection to your finances, such as saving up for a wedding, will help you with reaching your financial goals.

So the first step becomes, as we talked about above, thinking about what you really want and need to save for. Pay off debts, put aside necessary funds, but also make your goals for how you want to live your life, and make your money work for you by brainstorming everything you want/need money for. After all of that, do the math to see if and how you can realistically make it all happen. Pant gives an example of how this can work: She says, let’s say you want to pay for a wedding and an extended “mini retirement”:  “All right—wedding, $10,000…your six month trip, a little mini sabbatical mini retirement—you’re going to budget $15,000 for that, right. So start putting dollar figures towards each one of those and then put an ideal date, on each one of those goals. And then from there, it becomes a simple division problem, right? If you want $15,000 to travel and you want that trip to start 15 months from now, that’s going to be $1,000 a month. Right. And so you then start kind of dividing out how much money you would need to save every month in order to reach each goal. And what’s going to happen is that the savings rate is going to add up to an unrealistic, astronomical figure, but now you can look at every goal and its timeline. You’ve divided that out in terms of what that means per month. And now that you know that you’ve got two choices—eliminate or extend. The two E’s. So which of those goals are you going to eliminate? And then which ones are you just going to extend out the timeline so that you’d have to save a smaller amount per month on your way towards that given goal.” 

  • Make an emotional connection to your money – This one might sound a little weird, but hear us out – there is an actual study that backs this up! Dr Klontz, the financial psychologist we quoted above, conducted a study that found that people’s savings skyrocketed by 73% when they got fully and emotionally engaged in what they were saving for. Similar to what Paula Pant says, the point is that saving is just too difficult when it’s not for something that you really care about right now, or if you can’t actually picture what you’re saving for. And people who advocate for this theory of saving money mean that literally: keep an actual picture in sight that reminds you what you’re working towards, or create a digital board that you can keep adding to to get you excited about saving. It can be something small like a trip, or even your retirement; for example, you can have a picture of a couple in a hammock happily enjoying their retirement by the beach if that’s your long-term goal!

This more creative way of looking at your financial planning can then lead to more practical solutions. Once you’ve done your research about what you want, and have your picture in front of you, start the process of figuring out how you’ll get there: let’s say you need $5,000 for a dream trip and you’re giving yourself 5 years to plan. That means you’ll need to save $1,000 a year, so you’ll have to break that down to a weekly or monthly amount that you need to put aside, and make the necessary adjustments to your budget. 

Financial planning and budgeting are probably not your idea of a good time (or maybe they are! Who are we to judge?), but they are necessary to take you where you want to go in life, and they don’t actually have to be as dry and stressful as you think. Remembering that financial milestones and money goals might look different for you than for others, and remembering that it is ultimately you who gets to choose where you want your savings to take you can help keep you on track for both a comfortable retirement and a fulfilling present!