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10 Ways to Make Money Right Now
My oldest son, Matthew, called me a loser the other day. He’s 16. Okay, he didn’t call me a “loser” specifically, but he was talking to a nurse in the emergency room about how he was thinking of going into politics when he got older. He wants to be the president, he said.
“Hey,” I told him after the nurse left, “I’m going to be president when I grow up.”
I really would 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. Long story short, I went to college in DC and basically found that I enjoyed writing about politics and being an activist more than I wanted to run for office — and as I pointed out to my son, who watched me with a lot of pity — I still have time for run for office if I want to. At 34, I’m not even eligible to run for president yet… although the clock is ticking louder now than ever.
“I know, mom,” he said. “But I will actually do it.” The way he said it stung a bit. He said this with such contempt, as if I had thrown away my dream. Did he just see me as a wife and mother – with no other accomplishments under my belt? Did he think I was somehow a failure because my dreams at 14 or 15 weren’t the dreams I achieved?
That made me sad. He didn’t say it was bad, I knew, he just stated it as a matter of fact. I chose a life that he viewed as “normal”, but if he really looked, he would see that my life was anything but.
My path down the “road less taken” forced me to think creatively about income from time to time – well, most of the time. After trying out life in the suburbs as a two-income family – each with a steady “regular” job, I quickly learned that a regular job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Aside from the added burdens on your time and income, permanent jobs aren’t so permanent anymore. Although I left my newspaper six months before it folded – it did fold. And I would be fired. 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, all of which are yielding to some kind of merger, consolidation or reduction of pressure.
Tired of living paycheck to paycheck, we searched for a simpler lifestyle – and found it on my childhood farm in Vermont. Vermont is abundant in beauty, solitude and tranquility. What it does not abound are job opportunities. To make up for the lean times when my writing wasn’t paying very well, or my husband’s consulting was going through a slump, I learned that there are many ways you can make instant cash. And some of these things can become businesses if you like them enough. Each one I suggest can be done with minimal cash outlay – because if you need cash, you usually can’t invest in a business opportunity… they can also be done with kids. I’m a stay at home mom and happy to be one – but I’m also smart and creative and don’t think one should trump the other. You can do something nice and stay home with your kids (which is also nice). Plus, I’ve made at least a week’s worth of groceries 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 vast collection of books? Even a small collection? People are always looking for books. Both used bookstores, eBay, and your local classifieds paper are a great way to earn some cash and clear out a shelf or two, too. I know of several rural families who support their cash needs by selling their used books. I wouldn’t invest in a store, but if you have a great collection of books, especially in a specific area or two, you should have no problems starting on eBay or with a regular website. If you don’t have your own books to sell right now, you can usually get great books at yard sales, local thrift stores, or at libraries (their junk, don’t walk away with them). Many times people are willing to practically give away books if you will just take them out of their house.
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 have to be an official farmer to sell your vegetables. If you have tomatoes coming out of your ears, but no money for the canning supplies, set up a “shop.” You’ll be amazed at how many people will stop by and be grateful for your homemade efforts.
3. Bake bread or other pastries. Are you a good cook? You don’t have to be yet. But with a little effort and a desire to bake you could keep your town in cookies, brownies, whoopie pies and homemade breads. I did this when I was down to my last $5 one month! I had a ton of flour, but very little else. I baked all kinds of breads – cinnamon, sandwich, round herb loaves – and asked the local farmer’s market if I could sell what I had baked. I sold out 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 come back again the following weekend. I supported myself and my three children for quite some time with my baking business – a business I enjoyed immensely.
4. Type. can you type I don’t mean fast. You don’t have to type 100 words per minute to type a few bucks. 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 in the paper saying I would be happy to type resumes, terms, business proposals and what have you. But I did know another girl who paid $2 a page. I charged $1.50 per page and while I’m sure my hourly rate was terrible, I made a lot of extra money typing away…and was able to stay home with my new baby and listen to NPR all at the same time!
5. Teacher. Were you great at Algebra as a kid? Well, I wasn’t, but I was the local grammarian. I was proficient in English Grammar, spelling and history and made $10 an hour helping local high school and college kids study for their 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 at the local YMCA.
6. Give lessons. Play the piano? Do you know how to use a spinner, knit or decorate a cake? Secure a location (a church basement, community room, or library are great places to start) and put up some ads and flyers around town. You’d be surprised how happy some people are to pay $25 or $30 to learn what you know! You could hold one class or a series of classes. Make sure you research how much others are charging for similar classes in your area, don’t undersell yourself, but unless you have a lot of teaching experience, don’t overcharge – especially on your first go around.
7. Write and publish a booklet. This could easily complement your class or lessons, or work well on its own. While most people are in favor of getting initial information from the web – myself included – writing a brochure on your subject of expertise and then marketing it in appropriate publications could bring you in – not millions, but a nice steady income. Remember, in this type of writing, being more specific is better. Don’t write a “how to fix your car” booklet. Write the authoritative guide to “repairing a 1970s Volvo wagon.” Or whatever. An alternative – or extension of publishing the booklet is to write it and then publish it as a .PDF – which interested parties can download from your website. Of course, they would have to pay $5 or whatever you think your booklet is worth to get the download. Offering these types of services is much easier than I initially thought. PayPal is a great source for this type of transaction.
8. Run errands for people. This is so simple, I’m surprised I didn’t think of it years ago – especially when I was in high school and got my first car. This service would be fantastic wherever you live – rural, urban or suburban. Put up flyers, put ads in the local paper. Run all sorts of errands – pick up dry cleaning, buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, drop off a movie, take dog to the groomer. You’d be shocked at the kinds of things people will pay you to do. I once got paid to walk two kids to school every morning! This is also the type of service you could offer to a local nursing home or retirement home. Seniors may need someone to travel for them – or they may want to go along for the ride. Obviously you’ll have to work out a fee – if you’re just picking up a prescription, you might charge $5 or $10, but a full grocery list will be a bit more. Work out an “hourly” rate (how much it costs you to do the task, taking into account time spent, gas, etc.) – and make sure you can combine tasks. And keep your cell phone handy (if you have one, I didn’t and I did fine).
9. Walk dogs, pet sit, house sit, 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 home daycare. If you’re not sure this is what you want to do for a career – then don’t. But how many of us babysit as teenagers just for extra cash? You can do that too. Put your name out there and babysit for an evening or for a day or two. Housekeeping can almost be like a paid vacation and my kids loved the jobs I took on as a pet – cleaning cages, feeding dogs and cats – it was like having pets without having pets!
10. Do something. Before polar fur home accessories were readily available at Wal-Mart, I made a pretty good living sewing baby blankets, booties, pillows and other items from polar fabric. Right now, if I had to, I would knit a bunch of wristbands (fingerless mittens) and take them to my local craft fair, gift shop, or consignment shop. Are you able to do something? Maybe you make the world’s best tartar sauce. Or you make cute baby hats. Or wooden spoons. Whatever it is – I guarantee that if you make it well 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. Wristbands happened the same way and although I don’t sell them now, I do make them as Christmas gifts and save myself the shopping!
Here it is: 10 things you could start doing right now to make yourself some money. Would Mateo be proud that I did all these things to make money – instead, as he would say – to fulfill my original dream of being president? Probably not. But he’s 16 and very little about his parents impresses him 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 more, or when I just wanted to try something new. Matt might be scornful, but he’s never been hungry either – and given some of the tough times we’ve been through, that’s something else to be proud of. I’ve also never had to work for someone else if I didn’t choose to, which not many people can say in this day and age.
But am I President? Well, no… not yet, anyway.
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