I was recently at a business breakfast in an affluent city, filled with what most would consider very successful business people in that community. During the course of the conversations, many people were talking about pursuing or exploring “side hustles” or finding extra income streams to help achieve their financial goals.
Here are 5 relatively simple, quick income streams that can add to your take-home pay, your monthly budget, and your bottom line. The best part is… you can start them today!
1. Leverage your Companies 401(k) Match
Most companies that offer a 401(k), offer to match your gross paycheck contribution up to a percentage limit. For example, a common percentage match would be dollar for dollar up to 3% of your gross income. You contribute 3%, the company matches with 3%. If you are making $80,000 per year, that means your company would contribute up to $2,400 per year into your 401(K) account. That is free money that you are leaving on the table if you don’t contribute to the match. It may seem difficult to increase your contribution at this time, but make it a priority and take advantage of this income stream. Remember, this is free money. Increasing your contribution by 1% could mean the company kicks in that 3% match (for example), adding an additional income stream to your qualified plan.
2. Take Full Advantage of the Life and Disability Insurance Through Your Work
Dollar for dollar, the group life insurance and disability insurance plans offered by most companies are the best deal in town. The same amount of coverage outside of work is usually more expensive. You can add to your monthly disposable income by saving what you would have spent on the more expensive premiums. Two important notes – 1) there are limits to coverage on most group plans, so don’t assume that what the company offers is the total amount you may need to replace your income. Do some research and talk with a professional about what you need. 2) Read your companies’ group plan carefully, and understand how coverage applies, the differences between Life and Disability, and Accidental Death. Also, add your spouse and children if coverage is offered. Check out a life insurance calculator to see how much you may need.
3. Monetize Your Hobbies
A former colleague of my husband’s has just “retired” from his career as a manager to pursue his hobby, nature photography, full time. After some experimentation, he adopted a time-lapse technique that produces spectacular photos of cityscapes, starry nights, and mountain ranges. He began posting his work on various photo sites, and the demand has exploded into a full-time business. While you may not have that same talent, don’t sell short on what you can accomplish through what you love to do, and will spend time doing already. An income increase of just $200 per month for a person earning $75,000 per year is the equivalent of a 3% raise, after taxes.
4. Sell Things
It sounds so simple, right? Let’s face it, though, we tend to accumulate stuff. Our kids, our homes, our cars, our garages all need a new gadget or tool. My husband and I recently made a goal to empty out a small storage unit packed with things we “couldn’t live without.” Forcing ourselves to unpack and put our eyes on these “treasures” made us realize that about half of these items we really could live without. E-bay, Amazon, second-hand shops — all are outlets to sell stored past treasures. And in the process, you may be helping someone else. One of the items we let go was a Trek bike our son had as his first without training wheels (that was a long time ago). Not only did we gain a decent price, the family who purchased it got a great deal on a clean, solid bike, and the smile on their little boy’s face was priceless. A word of caution. Don’t … DON’T sell anything you’re unsure of. If it has personal value and you sell, most often, you don’t get a do-over.
5. Shopping Clubs & Points
Isn’t it a great surprise when you open a letter or envelope to find unexpected money? A few weeks ago I opened what I thought was a statement or bill from a warehouse club we belong to only to discover a check for $100. We’re all familiar with merchant rewards programs. But so much of the time we’re busy with life and it’s just another detail we don’t have time to pay attention to.
Pay attention. If you’re not, you’re missing an income stream that is again, free money. And the net might be greater than what you expect.
Pay close attention to the reward points your credit card offers. Many times they offer incentives and cash back rewards for short periods of time on certain kinds of merchandise. For example, one of our cards has been offering a 5% money back on all grocery shopping. If used properly and paid off every month, this could be a nice incentive. an income stream.
Another story using credit card points. I have a cousin and his wife who travel extensively. Much of the time, it’s free. Or parts of it. Like hotels, airfare, etc. They use their credit card points strategically and combine that with their card’s travel incentives and the result is amazing free to mostly free vacations.
For my family, we leave most of the earned rewards on our cards until the end of the year and use it for Christmas shopping.
However, you determine to use it, if you’re not strategic in your planning, it’s an income stream you’re passing up.
Today, look at your cards and find out if and what your card offers in the way of rewards or cash back incentives. Total your purchases, do a little math, and see what your potentials are.
At the very lease, it may pay for this month’s soccer shoes for the kids. Or in our case — basketball.