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10 Ways to Make Money Right Now
My oldest son, Matthew, called me a loser the other day. He is 16 years old. Well, he didn’t call me a “loser” specifically, but he was talking to a nurse in the emergency room about how he thought about going into politics when he got older. He wants the president, he said.
“Hey,” I told him after the nurse left, “I’m going to be president when I grow up.”
I really was going to be president. I had every intention of going into politics when I was between the ages of 14 and 18. My intention was to finish college, maybe go to law school and then run for office – with the White House in full-view. To make a long story short, I went to college in DC and in essence found that I liked writing about politics and being an activist more than I wanted to run for office – and as I pointed out to my son , which looked into. I am very sorry – I still have time to run for an office if I so choose. At 34, I’m not yet eligible to run for president… although the clock is ticking faster now than it once did.
“I know, mom,” he said. “But I’m actually going to do it.” The way he said it, stung a little. He said this with such disdain, as if I had thrown away my dream. Does he just see me as a wife and mother – without any other achievements under my belt? Did he think I somehow failed because my dreams at 14 or 15 were not the dreams I realized?
It made me sad. He did not say it to be cruel, I knew, he just stated it as a matter of fact. I chose a life he considered “normal,” but if he really looked, he would see that my life was anything but.
My path down the “road less taken” has forced me to think creatively about income from time to time – well, most of the time. After trying life in the suburbs as a family with two incomes – each with a steady “regular” job, I quickly learned that a regular job is not all it’s cracked up to be. Aside from the added burden on your time and income, steady jobs aren’t so steady anymore. Although I left my newspaper six months before it folded – it folded. And I should put out. My husband, a computer guru and expert in his field, has seen jobs come and go as the “Internet bubble” shrinks and expands. He has worked for small companies and large corporations that all fall under some sort of merger, consolidation or reduction pressure.
Tired of living paycheck to paycheck, we sought a simpler life – and we found it on my childhood farm in Vermont. Vermont abounds in beauty, solitude and quiet. What is not abundant in is job opportunities. In order to make money for the lean time when I write does not pay very well, or consulting my husband is going through a recession, I learned that there are many ways a person can make money right away. And some of these things can become business if you like them enough. Each one that I suggest can be done with minimal cash costs – because if you need cash, you usually can’t invest in a business opportunity … they can also be done with children in tow. I’m a stay at home mom and I’m happy to be one – but I’m also smart and creative and I don’t think one has to replace the other. You can do something enjoyable and stay home with your kids (which is also enjoyable). Plus, I’ve made at least a week’s supply with each of these suggestions at some point in my life…and some of them were my income for that year.
1. Used books. Do you have a large collection of books? Even a small collection? People are always looking for books. And used bookstores, eBay, and your local classifieds are a great way to make some cash and clear out a shelf or two as well. I know several country families who support their financial needs by selling used books. I would not invest in a storefront, but if you have a large collection of books, particularly in a specific area or two, you should have no problem starting on eBay or with a regular website. If you don’t have your own books to sell right now, you can usually find great books at yard sales, local thrift stores, or libraries (throw them out, don’t walk away with them). Many times, people want to practically give books away, if only you will take them out of their homes.
2. Extra garden vegetables or fruits? Why not set up a roadside stand or get a booth at a local farmers market? You don’t need to be an official grower to sell your vegetables. If you have tomatoes from your ears, but no cash for the canned goods, set up “shop.” You’ll be surprised how many people will stop by and be grateful for your efforts at home.
3. Bake bread or other pastries. Are you a good cook? You don’t have to, anymore. But with some effort and a desire to bake you can keep your city in cookies, brownies, Whoopie pies and homemade bread. I did this when I was down to my last $5 a month! I had a ton of flour, but very little else. I baked all kinds of bread – cinnamon buns, sandwiches, round grass buns – and asked the local farmers market if I could sell what I baked. I sold before the market closed that day – and made enough to put gas in my car, buy food for the week and more flour and other ingredients so I could go back again the next weekend. I supported myself and my three children for a while with my bakery business – a business I enjoyed very much.
4. Quality. Can you type? I don’t mean fast. You don’t need to type 100 words per minute to make a few dollars typing. You just have to be willing to spend the time typing when someone else isn’t. I had no idea how to type when I put a notice on the paper saying I would like to type resumes, term papers, business proposals and what have you. But I knew another girl who charged $2 a page. I charged $1.50 per page and even though I’m sure my hourly rate was terrible, I made a lot of extra money, typing away…and I was able to stay home with my new baby and listen to NPR all at once time!
5. Tutors. Were you brilliant at Algebra as a kid? Well, I didn’t, but I was the local grammar. I was a whiz at English Grammar, spelling and history and made $10 an hour helping local high school and college kids study for the SATs, edit papers, you name it. This is a great way to feel useful and make money at the same time! And again, all you need is a flyer and your phone number. Offer tutoring at the local public library or local YMCA.
6. Give lessons. Play the piano? Know how to use a spinning wheel, embroider or decorate a cake? Secure a location (a church basement, community center hall or library is a good place to start) and put some ads and flyers around town. You’d be surprised how happy some people will be to pay $25 or $30 to learn what you know! You could hold a class or a series of classes. Be sure to investigate how much others are paying for similar classes in your area, don’t discount yourself, but unless you have a lot of teaching experience, don’t overcharge – particularly on your first go around.
7. Write and publish a booklet. This can easily complement your class or lesson, or work well on its own. While most people are in favor of finding initial information on the Internet – myself included – writing a small book on your subject of expertise and then marketing it in appropriate publications could be your neutral – not many millions, but a nice fixed income. Remember, in this type of writing, the more precise the better. Don’t write a booklet on “how to fix your car.” Write the authoritative guide to “repairing 1970’s Volvo station wagon.” Or whatever. An alternative – or extension to publishing the booklet is to write it and publish it as a .PDF – which interested people can download from your website. Of course, they should pay $5 or whatever you consider your booklet worth, in order to get the download. Offering these types of services is easier than I thought at first. PayPal is a great source for this type of transaction.
8. Run errands for people. This is so simple, I was surprised I did not think of it years before – particularly when I was in high school and got my first car. This service would be great no matter where you live – rural, urban or suburban. Place flyers, place ads in the local newspaper. Run all kinds of errands – pick up dry cleaning, buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, drop off movies, take a dog to the groomer. You would be shocked at the kind of things people will pay you to do. I once paid to walk two children to school every morning! This is also the type of service you could offer at a local nursing home or senior center. Seniors may need someone to travel for them – or they might want to go along for the ride. Obviously you’ll need to make a fee schedule – if you’re just picking up a prescription, you might charge $5 or $10, but a full grocery list will be a bit more. Make an “hourly” rate (how much it’s worth for you to do the errand, taking into account time spent, gas, etc.) – and make sure you can combine errands. And keep your cell phone handy (if you have one, I didn’t and did just fine).
9. Dog walking, pet sitting, house sitting, babysit. Do all four – or just one or two. These are self-explanatory – but there is always a market for them. Now I’m not saying open a daycare at home. If you are not sure this is what you want to do for a career – then don’t do it. But how many of us babysat as teenagers just for extra money? You can do this too. Put your name out there and babysit for an evening or a day or two. Housesitting can almost be like a paid vacation and my kids loved the work I took on as a petsitter – cleaning cages, feeding dogs and cats – it was like having pets without having pets!
10. Do something. Before fleece home accessories were readily available at Wal-Mart, I made a good living sewing baby blankets, booties, pillows and other items from fleece fabric. Now, if I had to, I would knit a bunch of cufflinks (fingerless mittens) and take them to my local craft fair, gift shop or consignment store. Are you good at doing something? Maybe you make the best tartar sauce in the world. Or you make cute baby hats. Or wooden spoon. Whatever it is – I guarantee that if you make it right and offer it at a fair price, someone will like it and buy it. Be creative. I started with baby blankets because I made some for my first two babies and my friends started asking me to make one for them. Wristies arrived the same way and although I don’t sell them now, I do make them as Christmas gifts and save myself the shopping!
There you go: 10 things you could start on right now to make yourself money. Would Matthew be proud that I did all this to make money – instead, as he would say – to achieve my original dream of becoming president? Probably not. But he’s 16 and doesn’t have much to impress his parents about now! But you know what? I am proud of myself. I’m proud that I used my creative skills to make money when I needed it – or when I wanted a little extra, or when I just wanted to try something new. Matt might be scornful, but he’s never hungry either – and considering some of the tough times we’ve been through, that’s another thing to be proud of. I never had to work for someone else if I didn’t so choose, which not many people can say in this day and age.
But am I President? Well, no… not yet, anyway.
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