When TJ and I started our budget, I had a hard time accounting for every single purchased item. Coming home from a shopping trip started to feel like an interrogation, even though I’m sure TJ didn’t mean it that way. “What did you buy? How much was it? Did you use a coupon? Can I see? Do we really need a Tiffany blue casserole dish?” (Answer: yes, always.) I felt like I was suddenly on an episode of Law & Order every time I bought groceries. After an open and honest discussion about my feelings one day where I definitely didn’t raise my voice or cry hysterically, we created my own small account where a certain amount of money was deposited every month that was not accounted for on the budget. TJ has lovingly dubbed it “Ashley’s special money.”
My special money was really nice. I could spend a little cash each month on whatever I wanted, and TJ couldn’t say a thing about it. That giant 36-pack of Diet Coke from Costco was all mine at last, no questions asked. The thing is, while I liked having my special money, I didn’t like how quickly it ran out each month. TJ and I had agreed once I became a stay-at-home mom that anything extra I earned on my own could be added to my special money account free and clear. We still had our budgeted amounts for date nights, entertainment, and eating out, but because we were saving for a home at the time, those amounts were pretty much only high enough to warrant some Del Taco and a Redbox. (And even then, we used that “DVDONME” promo code with every credit card we owned, which as you know by now equaled many free movies for the Nicholes fam. TJ never really recovered when that promo code stopped working…) I began scheming for ways to boost my fun money funds.
I think it’s safe to say most stay-at-home moms wouldn’t say no to some extra cash each month. Maybe it’s out of necessity for your budget, maybe you’re like me and just want a little more freedom with your spending. Personally, in addition to not loving the straitjacketed feeling our budget gave me, I really missed working. I noticed the part of my brain that used to function as an educated adult was shrinking like a prune the more I watched Baby Einstein and jiggled keys in front of my kids’ faces. I love being a mom, but I wanted to find a way to exercise that part of my brain each day as well.
I had a master’s degree where the coursework had involved a lot of writing, not to mention all my undergraduate years writing term papers and creative essays (I took a course devoted exclusively to science fiction in college — nerd alert). Why not try my hand at writing? I started with textbroker.com and wrote for $0.015 pennies per word. It almost started as a joke between me and TJ. “Hey Ash, wanna write an article real quick so we can order a pizza tonight?” But after just a few months of doing that on the side, I had a not-so-shabby stash of cash to add to my special money account. Then one day I helped my husband write his end-of-year work review, which caught the attention of one of his coworkers. He ended up hiring me as a content writer for his web developing side business. After that, I opened up my own business account and had a decent amount of money coming in each year, all on my own time and from home.
In addition to writing on the side, I’ve tutored students in every grade in subjects ranging from language arts to algebra. Tutoring is an awesome way to make some extra money, and tutoring can command a high rate when you’re decent at it. I love working with kids anyway, so it’s a total no-brainer to pick up those jobs every now and again. Plus it gives me an excuse to talk about all things teeny-bopper without being mocked. Harry Potter and Divergent and One Direction? Squee!
Perhaps my favorite way to earn some side cash, though, is by going to garage sales and thrift stores. Why, you may ask, would I publicly wear a fanny pack stuffed with cash and drive around to 20 different neighborhoods on a Saturday morning? Other than to look cool, I find hidden gems and sell them online. There are many different platforms to sell used items, like yard sale Facebook groups, OfferUp, Craigslist, or eBay. Some charge a small fee, but it’s amazing the extra money you could make on an otherwise uneventful Saturday. I’ve picked up things like GPS watches, textbooks, Lego sets, and video games, all for just a buck or two each, and turned around and sold them all online for hundreds of dollars. It’s a pretty awesome way to quickly and easily pad that special money account.
Extra money gives me the freedom to get special gifts for my family, take friends out to eat, or buy that Sephora makeup I’ve been dying to have, all without any guilt that I’m robbing our kids’ college funds or 401k potential. I have a lot of fun with all my little side endeavors, too. Otherwise, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be doing it.
If you’re wanting to earn some extra money on the side, whether or not you’re a stay-at-home mom, I’d suggest tapping into the earning potential of your natural talents. What are you good at? What did you study in school? What skills and knowledge do you possess that others don’t and would pay money for? You may be surprised at what comes to mind.
Do you earn income from home, and if so, how’s it working for your budget?