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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Making Money”

I could give you 100 ways to earn more and it still wouldn’t matter

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All right…I want to proceed delicately with this one.

I was fascinated by an article I saw recently on The piece featured a struggling reader asking for ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month. This person was already frugal (eats at home, economizes on utilities, only buys on sale, etc.) but still needed ways to earn more.

The comments section (with nearly 400 comments) is absolutely FASCINATING.

Why? Because it mirrors how most of us think about earning money. It contains random “tips” and “ideas” instead of a framework, strategy, and set of step-by-step guidelines.

So for example, you’ll see comments like this:

“I use to make money from home. Check it out, there is a huge variety of things people do on there for $5 (the website keeps one so you get $4) but it can add up fast.


“I use survey spot…After doing surveys you can redeem your points for $10 to your paypal account, and then I put it right into savings. It is not much and definitely not the $1,000


“You could try buying things at yard sales and reselling them for $! You could definitely hit your $1000 goal! Good luck!”

I’d like you to go read the original blog post and some of the comments. Then I’d like to ask what you notice.

What’s different about the material on earning money that you find on that site, versus the material you find here at IWT?

Why do you think that difference exists?

Leave a comment with your observations here. I’ll analyze them in the next few days.

NOTE: This isn’t an invitation to bash people. Be respectful. Let’s try to figure out why different approaches work and don’t work.


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  1. I actually subscribe to both these blogs. It’s worth pointing out that many of the women reading Krystal’s blog are very right wing evangelical Christians, often affiliated the Quiverfull movement. This is an American subculture of mostly lower class, conservative Christians who believe, among other things, that women are not to engage in economic labor outside the home before or after marriage and that couples are to eschew contraceptives. Gender roles are highly traditional, male headship is encouraged, and men are to lead the family with total authority. Many adherents were homeschooled or are planning to homeschool their children and poverty and poor education are fairly rampant.

    Krystal herself is unusual in being highly entreprenurial in mindset and very organized and systematic in her thinking. But, while QF girls and women are often encouraged to build home businesses (there’s some Bible verses to back them up), the culture usually pushes women to do things that are minimally skilled. I believe this is partly intended to prevent the wife from usurping her husband’s position as the main breadwinner. Thus, systematically developing a truly profitable business or career runs counter to the Quiverfull movement’s main aims, which are explicitly antifeminist. Most Quiverfull girls and women have handicrafts businesses (appalling margins there), teach very amateurish music lessons, provide childcare, and other similar types of very low paid, low skill occupations. And that, by and large, is the point. In the Quiverfull world, domestic labor is very high status, and profitable economic labor is not. What incentive do women working in this cultural mindset have to develop a profitable, highly sought after, skill. That isn’t going to bring you attention and the respect of likeminded peers. Homeschooling six children while selling tea cozies (I am not making this up) on an Etsy storefront will. People crave status and validation, and once you commit to the Quiverfull lifestyle, it’s pretty difficult to switch to another subculture. If you marry young and have three small children by the time you are 23, you are necessarily going to be cut off from your more secular agemates, so you will retreat into a circle of likeminded peers.

    I’ve noticed this happening with my own behavior, btw. I married at 21, and even though I am not a conservative Christian, I’ve felt more comfortable hanging out with other people from conservative cultures, simply because I have more in common with them than with most of the people who went to elite schools with me. I have noticed a corresponding rightward shift in my worldview.

    • This is probably one of the most interesting comments I’ve ever read in nearly 8 years of running this site. Thanks for leaving it, Meg.

    • You are thinking of Proverbs 31:10-31 []

    • This is absolutely fascinating! Thanks for the amazing insight!

    • Yes – I’ll second Ramit’s comment here – such a rarity to read a comment on the Internet that is actually well thought-out and written. Thanks for the insight, it absolutely makes sense. I have been sort of fascinated in a horrible way with the QF movement since seeing the Duggars on TLC.

    • Your psychological analysis of the QF culture is interest, more-so because you’re noticing a parallel set of effects in your own life. I also like that you weren’t judgmental when you explained their views, as people (myself included, though I work hard to stay objective and find I’m often counted on for it) can often be at times! Thank you for giving us all a better perspective of where these women are coming from. Curiously, do you take issue with your choices altering your preferred company and thereby altering your viewpoints?

    • Meg,
      You mention providing childcare as a low skill occupation to provide and clearly this could be one of the few scale-able options for someone in this culture to serious earning power. However it is typically highly regulated if you will scale up to serious earnings. For women in this culture I assume they are heavily invested in their budgets, but are they prevented from dealing with regulation in everyday life (Tax preparation, DMV, school registration, Health Insurance all examples of having to deal with paperwork). This is a foundation they can use to overcome researching the regulation for a true business, or would that be discouraged because it’s not ok to know the rules? I ask this because in typical male authoritarian role societies you usually see some model of Ducal decree. In the QF movement does everyone just “know their role” and nobody speaks of whats allowable? Would this be a factor in all the naysayers that talk about the regulation in the barriers? Seems to me if there is serious regulation it makes it easier to start the business as all the rules are there, it might take a while to know them all but they are not hidden so you have some idea of the cost certainty of your business and what you would need to charge to cover that cost. It just seems silly to me that you have a tried and true scale-able business model that’s marketable to not only your peers but the outside society as well but for some reason there’s a barrier to prevent these women from pursuing it. Is this barrier the same barrier we all face in terms of getting off our butts to do it, or is it actually a society enforced barrier as you mention?

    • Meg the fact that you think handicraft, teaching music, and childcare are “low skill” fields is incredibly ignorant and reeks of elite classism.

  2. It all sounds VERY time intensive for the amount of money- I am guessing many of the people are excited by being able to make money in their spare time (not thinking about how much it actually is an hour). I would rather pay slightly more for items (and not worry about being so frugal) and make more. Wonder if people just have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea of charging more (esp for services) than what they would pay for an item- i.e. if they can’t imagine paying more than $10 an hour for babysitting, they might not realize that they could actually charge $20 an hour.

  3. Yes Meg very informative. You expressed that better than myself and I have a maters degree.

  4. What’s lacking overall is the voice of experience. “I do ChaCha for $30 per month.” Or if you have some qualifications: “I do JustAnswer for $20/hr.” That’s fine if you like it, but also too easy and poorly paid to take seriously, and someone with a broader vision is skimming lots of money off the top with those services.

    Rather, how do you put yourself out there, and what’s it like? Developing autonomy is a real emotional risk for someone who’s used to the idea of a “regular job”.

    Specific example: I see people asking an academic editor who charges $30/hr “How much do you charge per page?” It would be more useful to ask “how do you approach prospects?”

  5. I’ve done your freebie material and I have earned more.
    The psychological aspect of this all is very important but that aside, I dare you to post 100 more and see what happens.

  6. Thank you Meg. That is one of the top three blog comments I have ever read.

    Ramit, a post on status would be great

    • Thank you.

      I second this. Ramit, I’d love to see you write about how our choices push us into certain social groups and how maintaining group identity is an important determinant of how we act. This goes along with the stuff you’re already talked about re: invisible scripts.

    • Great point. The culture of my primary job strongly discourages side jobs–i.e., if you have energy for anything else, you’re not sufficiently dedicated and might not cut it. With so much competition and judgment from peers, it’s hard to give myself permission to entrepreneurial activities of any kind.

  7. For one obvious reason is that blog is for moms. Moms want to spend more time with their kids. They also tend to be more conserative with trying out new ideas. In other words they deem being entrepreniual is risky, unstable, and too much time. So anything that takes little time for some quick wins is in their bucket.

    Where as IWT’s core focus is on young people in their 20s and 30s. They not only have more time but these people are willing to go all out and try new things to claim their fame.

    • I’m not convinced. If anything, a (stay-at-home) mom might have more flexibility in trying new things because the other spouse could be earning enough for her to stay home.

    • “Perceived” flexibility is AT LEAST as important as “real” flexibility (whatever “real” means). This is a subtle point that is often missed in persuasion.

  8. Two things I notice right off the bat:
    1) The suggestions by and large are not systematic. Rather than testing ideas and failing quickly, there are a lot of ideas that are like, “Oh, you’ll have to spend a couple months building this up before you see any payoff” [like secret shopping or taking surveys], whereas IWT is about failing quickly so you can win big.
    2) Almost none of the suggestions are scalable. Assuming this person is able to make her extra $30 a month doing secret shopping/Etsy/surveys, there’s no way to systematically increase that rate so it can double, triple, and so on.

  9. Many of the comments propose a way to earn some amount of money as an exception. The thinking seems to be that if you need some cash, here is a way to get just enough to meet that need. However these comments do not discuss, and do not seem to envision, finding a sustainable way to increase income long term. They treat money as something to deal with once the need arises.

    This blog, on the other hand, focuses much attention on creating an ongoing, successful system for managing money. Perhaps the comments with the most similar mindset were those discussing how to scale a child care business that might be a long term activity.

  10. Since another commenter already tried daring Ramit to something, I guess I have to actually post about the question at hand. (And I already had the dare planned out and all…it involved peanut butter and a beer luge and pantyhose…nevermind)

    It seems to me that the biggest difference in thinking tends to be in their overall ideas about execution. While most of us realize that a good idea isn’t worth much without exhaustive preparation and careful execution, most of the comments seem to exhibit what I call “green blindness” where *any* money is good money.

    “Babysit or tutor or sell crap you find on the street!” All of those will make you money. Hell! Other people have done it before, but they seem to stop at that point, realizing their idea will make money, and accept the concept of money as its own success…rather than striving for the money itself or the lifestyle it would allow.

    I can do the same thing, rattle off hundreds of ideas that all make money, and on a certain level it is creatively satisfying to do, but it does nothing to actually answer the question at hand: how does she make an extra $1000 a month?

    I would work backwards. How much is she willing to work to make that extra $1000. If she says 50-100 hours a month, then babysitting is perfect, and I say go for it! If she wants to spend less time though she’ll need to spend more time focusing on what is unique about her. Uniqueness naturally drives prices. Can she knit, sew, sing, massage, design, build, translate, organize, etc? If she takes a single thing she’s good at and using the amount of time she wants to work a month for $1k, she’ll have a rough idea of the amount of differentiation she’ll need to do to reach that.

    Cheat sheet: The amount of time you want to work a month to earn a target amount is inversely proportional to the amount of differentiation you’ll need to achieve that.

    To me it seems like she doesn’t want to work much more than she is now, which means that she’s really going to have to break her own mold a bit and find something truly unique that she can offer.

    …barring that 100 hours of babysitting is always an option.

    • Like Meg, I also subscribe to both blogs. I’m a 36 year-old Mom of two but I’m 26 in my head – he he. I fit both demographics – I come to MSM for ideas on saving money and IWTY (or whatever the acronym is) for ideas on increasing earnings.

      What stood out to me about the original question is that the poster mentioned she already sold stuff online. I don’t have time to read all comments on both sites, but I’m surprised I have yet to see a commenter ask why the poster wasn’t already earning $1000 extra a month by selling online. Could she reach that goal by selling something different from what she is already selling? Is she selling products or services? Does she have her own blog or is she selling on ebay or craiglist? Would trying one over the other improve her profits? Does she enjoy selling stuff online or is it a chore for her? What are the poster’s interests and talents?