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?
I’m a stay at home mom too, but I’ve done a few little things to earn extra money. Last summer I taught swimming lessons for a couple hours a day for three weeks of the summer, and it earned enough to pay for the pretty, king sized bed we’ve wanted for a few years. It was hard to justify the expense when our other bed was fine, and money needed to be saved for so many other necessary things (401k, 529s, a bigger car, etc. the list never ended!) But “extra money” from swim lessons felt fine to use on this luxury that we really wanted!
I love my king-sized bed, too! We just got ours earlier this year and we are now wondering how we ever lived without it. It was a lot more expensive than we had initially anticipated, though. We forgot that a king bed means getting a king frame, duvet, duvet cover, not to mention pillows, shams, and a comfy throw for good measure. It’s nice to know these bigger purchases can be covered by “bonus” money! Teaching swimming lessons sounds like an awesome way to earn extra cash.
Great article! Very helpful (and fun to read 😉 )
Thank you! Should I pay you via PayPal or Venmo? 🙂
I love your money making strategy of flipping things you find at garage sales. I’ve been doing the same thing with things I find on the side of the road or in the trash. People moving toss out perfectly good furniture that other people can use. Last year, I made over $1,000 selling furniture I found in the trash of my apartment building. It was crazy. I think people really underestimate how easy it is to sell the stuff you no longer want. (and as an added benefit, I feel better by saving something that is perfectly fine from going to a landfill).
It didn’t even occur to me to look for stuff on the side of the road! Genius. And I would consider the trash idea, but I would definitely make TJ do the dumpster diving. I heard about a guy who checked the dumpster behind an elementary school once and found a ton of profitable textbooks in there! So he sold them all for some major cash. I will definitely look into that after hearing about your success, too. Selling stuff shouldn’t be as intimidating to people as they make it out to be!
You know, Mr. Picky Pincher wanted his own separate “slush fund” once we first got married, but it didn’t really work for us. I’m not a super judgmental person when it comes to that kind of stuff, so to me it didn’t make sense to have our money separated. I prefer the openness of having all expenses in 1 account. To each his own!
I’m not a SAHM, but I’ve also found that writing online is a great way to make some extra moolah! I don’t get to do a lot of creative/fun stuff at work, so side gigs are a great way to flex your fun muscles while doing something you love!
I totally agree about the writing! It’s so fun for me, it’s a creative outlet, it’s all on my own time, and I love it. A win for sure. And I can definitely see how mine and TJ’s method isn’t for everyone. He usually sees or knows what I spend my “special money” on anyway, since it’s Chick-fil-A 90% of the time. 🙂 But if everything is smooth sailing without small separate accounts, awesome. Like you said, to each his own!
I worked full-time up until I had my son 6 months ago – I knew I wanted to stay home with him, but I also knew I wanted to keep contributing to the family income. I make extra money by freelance writing, using apps and websites like Ibotta and American Consumer Opinion, and some freelance social media work.
I’ve heard great things about Ibotta! I need to get going on that for sure. And what a great way to use your skills and knowledge to contribute financially without needing to be on someone else’s schedule. That’s one thing I really love about doing things from home.