Getting by without a job, part 2--boost income
[Editor's note: If you recently lost your job, take a look at Wise Bread's collection of tips and resources for the recently laid off.]
If there's one fundamental rule for financial success, it's "spend less than you earn." That rule applies whether you have a job or not. But, if you're used to having a job, the adjustments to getting by without one are going to be huge. It can be done, though. I suggest a three-pronged strategy, the first prong being to boost your income.
This is part two of a four-part series. Part 1 was on the first things to do if you lose your job. Parts 3 and 4 will be on cutting expense and getting what you need without money. Look for them here over the next few days.
There are countless ways to raise your income, besides the obvious one of getting a job (which I assume that you're already applying yourself to in a workman-like fashion). Here are a few categories, and a few suggestions.
The most obvious option is working--just outside the framework of a regular job. Some kinds of work are traditionally structured this way and others are freelance versions of work that is just as often done by employees. Either way there's a long list of possibilities. Here are just a few:
- house cleaner
- house painter
- web designer
- massage therapist
- dog walker
- bicycle messenger
None of these are likely to be well-paid and all are likely to be facing a drop in demand (because the potential buyers are also suffering in the economic crunch) at just the same moment that there'll be a surge in supply (as all the other unemployed folks try to pick up a little extra cash). Still, an income above zero is better than an income of zero.
Seasonal and temporary work
This category covers everything from detasseling corn to being a department store Santa. Although in many cases people are technically hired as employees for these sorts of jobs, I'm including it because it's not like having a permanent job.
There are seasonal jobs for every season. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, stores hire extra sales help and delivery companies hire extra package loaders and sorters. There is agricultural work at almost any season except the dead of winter. These sorts of jobs are usually very hard work for not much pay.
Especially early in hard economic times, temporary work tends to dry up--temps are the first to be let go, during the phase when employers are still hoping to avoid layoffs. But there continues to be some temp work right along, because companies always need some things done and don't want to hire employees when they can't offer long-term employment. In particular, as a recession winds down--but while companies are still waiting to see if this is really a lasting increase in business--they often hire temps in large numbers.
Seasonal workers are usually hired directly. Temporary workers are more often hired through a temporary agency.
Some people already have a small business that they were running on the side while working at a regular job, in which case ramping up the small business to bring in more money can be a great option. Other people have always wanted to run a small business, and losing a job can give them the freedom to take a chance on doing so sooner rather than later.
If you don't already have a small business--or at least have some kind of small business in mind--this may not be the best choice. Starting a small business requires capital, and unless running a business is what you really want to do, you might be better off just investing the capital in something that pays interest.
Another place to get some money, at least for a while, is to sell stuff that you've got that has some value. Sadly, it's probably the case that most of your stuff is worth only a tiny fraction of what you paid for it, but a lot of it will nevertheless be salable. Depending on the item, consider:
- vintage clothing stores
- consignment shops
- pawn shops
- used bookstores
- garage sales
- internet classifieds and auction sites
This is a limited source--you've only go so much stuff--but you can pick up some money here.
More sustainable than selling your used stuff is selling stuff you make. Almost any hobby that produces an actual thing (quilts, sweaters, mugs, earrings, jam) can produce some cash income--sometimes quite a bit. Even when it isn't particularly profitable--when the selling price barely covers the cost of materials or maps to a ridiculously low hourly wage--it can still be a way to turn stuff you bought back when you had a job (fabric, yarn, beads) into more money than you could make trying to sell the raw materials.
Stuff you make is also good for bartering, something that I'll talk about in part 4 of this series.
Other hobby-related income
Related to selling things you produce, many hobbies also provide other ways to pick up some extra cash by teaching, writing, speaking, and so on. I wrote about this a while back in Make your hobby pay its way.
Rent out assets
Some assets can be rented out in a way that produces a sustainable income rather than the one-time cash payment you'd get from a sale. Your savings earns some amount of interest (until you spend it). A spare room in your house can be rented out to a boarder. There are legal issues involved--if you rent your car to someone, you're probably taking on considerable liability if he gets into an accident--but if you've got stuff that people will rent, it's worth considering.
Not a complete solution
For most people, the sort of money you can pick up through casual labor or by selling crafts will never match what you could make at a regular job. That means that, if you want to get by without a job, you're almost certainly going to have to cut your cost of living--the topic of the next post in this series: