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Supplementing income


Supplementing Your Income

You have worked hard to finish your training or education so that you can get a good-paying job.  But what if that job still doesn’t pay the bills?  While maintaining a frugal lifestyle and keeping an eye on your spending is important, sometimes cutting expenses only goes so far.  And if you are straddled with student loan debt, a car loan, or a credit card balance, you will need to consider ways to add to your income

But how?

Start with where you work now

The first place to start is with the job that you currently have.  Consider how long that you have been there and what additional skills you have developed since you started.  If you can make the case to your boss that you are more valuable to the company, you might be able to ask for and get a raise.

Also, look at your current employee benefits package. Some people don’t pay attention to benefits forms when they start a job and then forget about them.  Pull these forms out along with your pay stub and look at them again.  Are you taking advantage of all of the benefits that your company has to offer, like a match to your retirement plan contributions or a flexible spending account?  Using a 401(k) match might mean that you can save a little less from your earnings while adding the same amount to your retirement account.  That’s more money in your pocket.  A flexible spending account (FSA) allows you to pay for certain medical expenses tax-free throughout the year. The money is tax-free because it’s taken from your gross pay and put into an FSA before your employer takes taxes out of your salary.

Also, review your withholding numbers on your W-4.  A lower number generally means that you have more money taken out of each paycheck, while a higher number means that less money is being taken out.  Some workers will choose to have more tax taken out of each paycheck in order to enjoy the windfall of a big tax refund each spring.  But, if you are having trouble meeting your financial obligations from month to month, it might be wise to have more money in your paycheck now so that you can pay your expenses and debt obligations.

After taking a long hard look at your current job you may realize that it is not compensating you at the rate at which you are worth.  It may be time to go back out in the marketplace and start looking for a new job.  Changing jobs is sometimes the most effective way to get a sizeable pay increase.

Get another job

After a long day’s work, you may long to sit on the couch and binge-watch your favorite shows. But, if your budget is coming up short, you may need to consider another use for your free time. A second job on nights or weekends can bring in much-needed cash, and in addition might even help you develop your professional skills.  If you have a skill that you can charge for by the hour or by the project then you might consider freelancing in your field of work.  You might possess a special skill that you could sell or teach, like cooking, playing a musical instrument, speaking a foreign language, or doing algebra.  Are you crafty by nature?  Sell the things that you make at local fairs or on a site like Etsy.  If you own a car and you like to drive, then you might consider driving for a ride sharing service.  Do you like to share your opinion?  Participate in paid focus groups or earn some bucks through online reviews or writing a blog.

Sell (or rent out) your stuff

Many Americans have more stuff than they need.  As you look around your home, you may notice items that you are no longer using.  Ebay, Craigslist, and yard sales are ways that your unused stuff can find a new home and you can put some extra money in your pocket.

If you have a car, you may notice that there are times when you do not drive it, and instead it sits in your driveway or at your curb.  Websites are being developed to connect you with people nearby who are willing to pay you to borrow your car so that they can pick up their groceries or do other errands.  While this can be a nice income stream, make sure that you check your car insurance policy for any liability you might have for renting your car to strangers.

Likewise, if you are a person who travels frequently, there may be days during the month when your space is empty.  Airbnb is a website that offers short-term rentals of people’s private homes.  Again, check your lease and/or your renter’s insurance policy to learn what you are allowed to do.  If you own your own home or condominium, make sure you have the right coverage for this type of activity.

Don’t forget public benefits

Sometimes, despite your best efforts you cannot generate enough income to cover your expenses.  This is where public benefits come in to the equation. Public benefits were created to help people when they need it most.  Many communities operate a 2-1-1 service, both online and over the phone, to provide information on the benefits that you might be eligible for, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) or fuel assistance.


Common benefits and community resources

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What You Can Do Right Now

Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Consider your current job and income. Is there a way to make more money from what you are already doing? Look at your employee benefits package, your IRS withholding, and even consider asking your boss for a raise.
  • Look at your free time and the skills and interests that you possess. Is there a way to turn what you already enjoy doing into income? Or do you have stuff that you no longer use that you can sell?
  • If you cannot generate enough income to meet your monthly financial obligations, look into public benefits or community resources for which you might qualify. Remember that they exist to serve the people who need them.