Sometimes, you just need to make more money

Ramit Sethi

Dee writes in:

I just wanted to let you know that I MADE $156 last week thanks to your advice. I have been on the frugality stuff for a while now, but your words that at some point, you just need to make more money finally echoed in my head enough to urge me to apply for a part-time job…after my full-time job.

I’m not making much per hour at the side job, but it’s more than I was making just sitting at home. It was tiring to race from my regular job to the side job, but I still have enough time to sleep (and read blogs, apparently).

Lots of frugality people complain that they can’t cut costs any more. They’re right, of course. When you’ve cut to the bone, there’s only one thing to do: Earn more money. Take a part-time job. Freelance. Babysit. Whatever it takes.

The tough part? There are no pithy to-dos on how to earn more. You just have to think hard and try different things. A very unsatisfying answer…but also true.

[Update]: Here’s a detailed post I wrote on how to earn money by freelancing/consulting on the side.

[Update]: Here’s another great blog post with ideas on earning more

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  1. Green Panda

    While I have been job search, I’ve been taking odd jobs to keep the income coming. We can pay our bills on one income (we try to keep it simple), my extra money helps pay down debt.

  2. Joe

    I am always thinking about picking up part time work on the side, or perhaps weekends. My wife and I are both fortunate enough to have jobs at the moment, and we do just fine with bills and whatnot, but who couldn’t use a little bit of extra cash? Just 10 extra hours a week or so, and it could be pure spending money… or saving money… or just something for a rainy day, ya know?

    Now I just need to find something that’ll let me work a couple nights during the week. If I could find something Mon-Thurs it’d be perfect! Any thoughts of where I should look?

  3. Robin

    This is really great to hear others putting in the effort to pull in some extra cash. I’ve believed in this for years – I’ve usually supplemented a full time job with a ‘freelance’ – for awhile it was tutoring HS students in bio/chem/math (making between $20/hr and $35/hr) which was rewarding but very time consuming. I usually pulled in an extra $200-$300 a month. That was great. My current situation is even better, though. I recently decided to take a career boosting (but low paying) position in research, and knew I needed to supplement my income if I wanted to have *any* sort of ample discretionary spending. I’m putting in an extra 15 hours a week (which is difficult, as I’m working about 60 hour weeks consistently) but the 2nd job is *purely* telecommuting, which makes it more than tolerable. But here comes the great news – I’m pulling in up to an extra $1000 a month! That adds significantly to the paycheck I bring home each month from the research job. Without this ‘2nd job’ I, essentially, would not be paying off debt nor be allowed to do anything fun. And being 25 and living in San Diego, that’s just ludicrous.

    The “second job” sounds intimidating, perhaps even inglorious to some, but only if you look at is as so. I think a lot of people look at the second job as only something to pursue when no other options are viable. But take it from me, it’s much more worth taking those few extra hours out of your week so you don’t have to worry about being able to go out for your best friend’s birthday, or affording that plane ticket home for the holidays. I work hard, but it’s only because I want to allow myself to play hard, as well. It wasn’t easy to get used to, but in the end, is completely worth it.

  4. Sonia

    I used the be the queen of part-time job, then I got burnt out. With the economy, and the need to refinance out of an interest only home loan, I couldn’t avoid getting a part-time job any longer. I just got my second paycheck and I can’t believe the sense of freedom that comes from having a little extra money in the bank. My first priority are bills, then savings, then me. The great thing is now there is money for me. I’ve already done my holiday shopping and didn’t use the credit card once.

    With having to prioritize my time now, I find I get more done in my spare time and still have time to spend quality time with friends and family.

  5. Who Cares...

    What I actually do is somekind of subversive part-time job.

    I’am a software developer, so a I always need to keep in touch with the last technology trends. Take all my free time would be somehow like professional suicide or rotting. So what I do is to start some personal project that makes me research what is around. This gives more knowledge, which makes my work more valuable.

    In short: I take my free time to keep my proficiencies sharp, with makes me ke get more income from who hires me.

  6. A

    For the past 2 years, I have been working promo gigs to help make extra money. I once worked an event promoting Knicks basketball and another promo gig at the NYC Marathon promoting a new tv show. On another occasion, I worked at an import car show promoting an energy drink. Many of these jobs pay as much as $25/hour. Many of them take place on the weekends, so it is a great way to make money if you work 9-5 during the week. I’ve worked with a few agencies, www.encorenationwide and You can pick and choose which jobs you want to work, depending on your schedule. The only downside is that it can take up to 2 months to get your check in the mail.

  7. Mark

    Of course there is always the possibility of making money from writing your own blog 😉

  8. Rob Slagle

    I was working out at the YMCA, paying $45 a month.

    I obtained a teaching certification to teach a spin class, my fee dropped to $15 per month and I got paid $15 per class to teach. For the most part I’m not out any extra time, because I teach at the time of day that I usually worked out.

  9. Carla

    I am currently working on getting some freelance projects that I can do from home – even if it doesn’t pay a whole lot. I spend enough time outside the home at my day-job as it is!

    I love all of the suggestions here so far!

  10. Moneymonk

    Thankyou Thankyou thankyou

    I always give that advice, not the deprivation advice

  11. Lucy

    I have been doing the same. Where I live there is a job website for students, that businesses and individual post one-off or ongoing jobs on. I have made quite a bit, often earning more per hour than i do in my normal job, and I have alot of spare time on my hands due to summer holidays so it has been working out quite well, as well as picking up more work experience in certain areas which is great for my CV!!!

  12. Writer's Coin

    I think I’m going to follow this advice with a twist: Make A LOT more money. $20–$30/month is nice to start off with, but after a while you want to grow that somehow (preferably, organically). That’s my current challenge…making a lot more side money than I do now.

  13. Matt

    I’ve been trying to push my free time into personal projects, that I could eventually maybe sell. I’m a programmer, so if I spend enough time coding on a game, maybe I can sell it. iPhone app games are probably a good way to go if you’re half decent cause there is no iphone killer app game, just a ton of shovelware.

  14. Steve

    Get the most out of a part-time job. Think of the job as career development, or preparation for a second career. For example, teaching at a community college in your career field. You make the needed money, but your resume is enhanced. You now can show classroom experience for a position as a trainer or speaker. Teaching skills also translate well into sales skills for sales jobs that require a methodical presentation. Adding to your resume while you’re making additional money is highly motivating.

  15. Sara

    I actually have four jobs right now. The highlights are: 1) I got all of them through networking and word-of-mouth. 2) My schedule is so full that I have no time to spend any unnecessary money! 3) Having a constant flow of money coming in made paying off my debt, and now bulking up my savings, a much easier task. I had $5500 in credit card debt, and I paid it off in under 10 months. Debt is evil, NEVER AGAIN!!

  16. Studenomics

    I always hear people worrying about saving money and granted it is very important. However, if you are earning little amounts of money then it simply doesnt matter how much you save. The first goal of saving should be to increase your earning potential (education, training, etc.)

  17. Jennifer

    FYI, If you want to save some money on necessities/toiletries and want to get some free items, I’ve got the lowdown on a huge CVS sale Dec 21-22nd! Check it out!

  18. Prime

    “I always hear people worrying about saving money and granted it is very important. However, if you are earning little amounts of money then it simply doesnt matter how much you save. The first goal of saving should be to increase your earning potential (education, training, etc.)”

    I agree with you there studenomics. I ofteh hear people complaining that they cant get another part time job nor freelance. The thing is, they never bother “investing” in themselves . They don’t upgrade their skills: they don’t like atrending even company sponosored workshops (much less pay to attend a skill trainng seminae). They’re too lazy to read useful stuff (like tis blogsite) or they go to graduate school without any idea why they went there in the first place. In fact, my view is, unless you know how to harness your income potential, then you’e better off just being frugal.

  19. escapee

    Good, I’ll be in the position to hire some more good people soon.

    How the book going- is the current financial crisis causing you to rewrite any of it?

  20. Jeff@MySuperChargedLife

    It is fantastic to hear a real person take action to better their situation. We often sit around waiting for good things to fall from the sky. This is not the way the world works!

    It sucks to have to work hard, but often this is the only way to make our desires a reality.

  21. RT Wolf

    Sometimes you just need a catchy tagline. Author of Brip Blap provides it:

    Spend less than you earn is the wrong way to think. Earn more than you spend!

  22. Steve @ brip blap

    Thanks so much for the mention (and thanks for the nice comments, as well)! I am walking the walk even more these days as I have finished a four-year-transition from employee to contract consultant to entrepreneur. It’s not always easy to think about more ways to earn money but in the long run – after you’ve saved where saving is possible – earning more is how we become rich.

  23. Mary

    My full-time job is in the non-profit field, and not particularly lucrative. I often get asked how I can afford my lifestyle, which is not outrageous, but I do have nice things. Generally people assume my parents help me out. Because I find these questions rude, the answer is generally “Actually I work my ass off, and from the looks of it you should do the same.” But seriously, I have a weekend job and play music gigs many evenings on top of that. It’s no mystery. A lot of people just don’t want to admit that they actually have to work for things.

  24. Ramit Sethi

    Mary: I love it. But take it easy on others…it’s easy to ask the question when they only see the surface (non-profit job).

  25. Sean H

    I work 60 hrs a week as a Police Officer and I agree with the ‘earn more than you spend’ philosphy. While I am mindful of my spending, I have a network marketing business ( on the side that takes very little of my time and consistently makes me over $1,000 per month. I’m surprised that I didn’t read more comments regarding home businesses. Warren Buffet is investing in these businesses more and more. It really is fun, a great way to meet new people, and can be done on your time.

    Trust me, if it was too time consuming or difficult, I’d be working a part time job but I like choosing when I’ll be home and when I’m not.

  26. Mary

    Ramit: I understand that and was joking. But actually, the comments I get are generally more accusations than questions, and that is what bothers me.

  27. Dennis

    I’m a full-time German teacher, but I also speak French, Russian, and Romanian. After I finished my undergraduate degree and found my first teaching position, I immediately began tutoring/teaching on the side to pay down student loans and college debt.

    In some US cities, especially the Northeast and the Great Lakes region, there are people willing pay more than $30/hour for this kind of service.

  28. generation millionaire

    Another great way to make money is surveys. Companies are always wanting to test thier products, have focus groups and are willing to pay. Look for a local marketing company and give them a call and get on the list. If you qualify for a test you can make any where from $20 to a few hundred dollars for a few hours work.

  29. Jon

    Great advice! One thing I’ve been doing for the past couple years is valeting one night a week. It’s an easy and enjoyable way to make $20/hour cash, plus you get a good workout! I’ve also been able to profit from the networking opportunities valeting provides, and it’s so low-stress it’s a great change of pace from my day job.

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  31. Jenny Blake

    I wrote a blog post on how to make extra money by using craigslist as an “extra income dartboard” if it’s of use to anyone:

  32. Tiffany

    I weighed the benefit of getting a second job, and have decided to just do some over time at my current job. While it can be rough (doing the same job, just more of it), I have found the “easy” stuf to do for the OT (usually at home). In addition, if I were to get a second job, I probably wouldn’t be making too much more then minimum wage at it, while every hour of over time at my current job pays time and a half.
    And if I work holiday’s, it’s time PLUS time and a half.

    Same ol’ job, just more of it. Whatever it takes. 😉

  33. Debtor

    I agree with that reader. Being frugal sometimes isn’t enough. For me it’s more than that. I’ve been doing everything to try and make some extra income on the side. It’s been a little slow though.

  34. Mark

    After awhile you run out of expenses to cut and have to generate more income. You have to develop multiple streams of income.

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  36. Barbara Saunders

    When I was younger, I dismissed (perhaps was made uncomfortable by) the “new-agey” books I read that suggested that underearning is a matter of self-esteem. I’ve changed my tune.

    The concept is prone to oversimplification, but: I spent the past two years working at two nonprofit organizations after two years working with a company that consulting to the Fortune 500. I found that my self-esteem was actually too high to fit in, and that feeling I deserved more money was a part of it.

    I felt that my coworkers and I were simply undervalued, relegated to “hired hand” status by the management and paid accordingly. (“Hired hand” being one coworkers words for her own level.) Without even thinking that my skills are extraordinary, my position is that ANY college graduate with 20 years of work experience is more than a hired hand and should not be treated or paid as such – unless the person truly has some personal problems!

    So, I think it’s important that people who are struggling consider the possibility that they are earning at the level of an old – and diminished – conception of themselves.