Welcome to the Wealthy Nickel Extra Income Report! Each month, I share all the different ways we make extra income outside the 9-5 job.
In case you missed it, last month was the first installment, where I documented how we made $9,807 in extra income.
For a little background, I decided to share my side hustle income for a few reasons:
- To show you exactly how I make extra money while working a full time job
- To keep me accountable to my goals, and
- To inspire you to start your own money-making ventures on the side.
My family lives on a single income, and we are blessed that that income is enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. But we decided several years ago that we wanted to pursue financial independence and be able to “retire” (whatever that means) long before we hit 65.
In order to do that, we needed to supercharge our savings, which was not going to happen on a single income. We needed to figure out how to make additional income, but with 2 young kids we needed something that didn’t require a huge time commitment. Hence our first side hustle (real estate rentals) was born.
Since then, we’ve tried lots of different side hustles. As we experiment with new ideas, I will share our strategies here. None of this is rocket science, but my hope is you will be able to learn from our extra income projects and apply what you learn to your own projects.
There are a million different ways you can earn extra income on the side, and I certainly haven’t tried everything. There are a lot of good ideas out there that may be a better fit for you. If you want to get some more ideas, I have a Side Hustle Interview Series that documents creative ways others are making money on the side.
With that out of the way, let’s get to November’s income report.
Extra Income for November 2018
- Cash Back Apps: $71.90
- Credit Card Rewards: $0
- Realtor Commissions: $283.00
- Real Estate Crowdfunding: $769.24
- Rental Properties: $5,253.39
- Total Extra Income: $6,377.53
In total, we made almost $6,378 this month, which is $3,420 less than October. Over the long term, I expect our average to be around $4-5,000 so this was still a great month. Our side hustle income is generally very lumpy and depends heavily on when my wife pulls in a real estate commission check, or if we have a big repair bill on a rental property.
I just started sharing these a month ago, so it’s hard to see the long term average. Next month I’ll do a 2018 year in review and hopefully show you how we averaged out over a whole year.
Side Note: We’ve been building side income streams for over 5 years now, so if you’re just getting started, don’t get discouraged by the amount. Everyone has to start somewhere, and our first month we only made a few hundred dollars.
Cash Back Apps – $71.90
I have a goal to make an extra $500 per year from cash back apps. Since I only started in August of 2018, I don’t expect to hit that goal this year, but I have made over $100 so far in about 3 months.
$500 per year breaks down to about $42 per month, so November was a great month for cash back apps. I cheated a little bit, because I signed my wife up for a couple apps this month and got referral bonuses 🙂
The beauty of cash back apps is that they require almost zero work. It’s basically free money if you do any shopping with credit cards, and the cash back stacks on top of your credit card rewards. In this day and age, between credit card rewards and cash back apps, you should be able to make at least 3-5% back on every purchase you make.
I have downloaded dozens of cash back apps in search of the ones that pay out the most money for the least amount of work. Once I determine which ones work best, I get my wife to sign up (using my referral code of course for an extra $5-10 bonus). Since my wife does most of the day to day shopping and online purchases for our family, she’s really the one making most of the money.
Related: 3 Best Cashback Apps I Use Every Day
As of November 2018, here are the apps on my phone:
Drop is one of my favorite apps because it doesn’t require me to do anything at all. I just downloaded the app and linked my credit card. Now when I make purchases on my credit card, it automatically adds points to my account.
Drop lets you pick 5 stores where you get automatic cash back every time you shop. The 5 I picked are Trader Joe’s, Target, Walgreens, Starbucks, and Chipotle. I earn Drop points (1,000 points = $1.00) each time I use my credit card at these stores.
There are other offers within the app if you want to actually check it every once in awhile. I recently signed up for an offer to set up an account with Stash, an online savings app, that I had been meaning to try out anyway. I will get 15,000 points ($15) just for signing up for a free app through Drop. So these offers can be worth it if you find something you can use. You just have to be careful to avoid signing up for things you don’t need just for the cash rewards.
If you want to try it out you can sign up here and get a $5 bonus when you link your credit card (that is an affiliate link – I get a small commission if you join that helps keep the lights on around here).
Dosh is very similar to Drop – once you link a credit card you don’t have to do anything else but collect your cash. Where Drop let’s you earn cash back at a set of specific stores that you choose, Dosh gives you cash back at wider range of stores. I’ve noticed that Dosh tends to have a lot of local restaurants in its list (usually with 5% cash back). And right now you can get 6% cash back at Walmart (up to $10 per day) which is an amazing deal if you shop at Walmart anyway.
One of my favorite local restaurants that I frequent gives 5% cash back through Dosh. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s nice to see my cash balance in the app increase every time I take the family out to eat!
I pretty much ignore the online cash back offers through most apps because I don’t want to have to remember to go through the app every time (Ebates is the exception because they have a handy Google Chrome extension that does it for me). Now when you purchase online through one of Dosh’s partners, as long as you use your linked credit card, you will get the cash back automatically.
You can sign up to try Dosh through this link and get a $5 bonus (again, that’s my affiliate link).
Where Drop and Dosh give you cash back for local shopping, Ebates is all about online shopping. If you’re like my family, we buy everything we can online, and Ebates helps us save 2-5% on almost every purchase.
When I first signed up for Ebates a few months ago, I was able to get about $15 for booking a hotel through Expedia (which I was doing anyway). So not only did I get the lowest price I could find online, I got an extra $15 back in my pocket.
The only downside to Ebates is you have to start your shopping in the Ebates portal so that it can register where you are shopping and apply the cash back. So if you were buying socks on Amazon (yes I buy socks on Amazon), you would need to go to Ebates first, then click through to Amazon to get your cash back. Fortunately, there is a Chrome extension that automatically reminds you to do this, which is great because I always forget.
Ebates is probably the most well-known app on my list, and for good reason. It has relationships with a huge number of retailers, so you can get cash back for almost anything you buy online.
Ebates is currently giving out a $10 bonus when you spend $25 if you sign up through this link. (That’s my referral link. I get a small bonus in my Ebates account when you get a bonus.)
I am on the fence with Ibotta. I think it’s a great app to save money on groceries, and lots of people who use it rave about it. You can get cash back at almost every grocery store imaginable by selecting offers in the app on various products you buy on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, we do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi’s, which is like the one store not affiliated with Ibotta (but don’t feel too bad for me, Aldi’s is the best thing that’s ever happened to our grocery budget). We still do a little shopping at other grocery stores, and I make a few dollars here and there through Ibotta, but someone who shopped at a “normal” grocery store could make a lot more.
What I like most about Ibotta is that they consistently have offers for cash back on non-branded items. So you can get 25 cents off any carton of eggs, or 50 cents off any type of meat. You don’t have to overpay on name brand products just to get a discount. I’ll give it a few more months and see if it deserves a spot on my phone.
I do heartily recommend the app to anyone who shops at a grocery store other than Aldi’s. Ibotta advertises that their average user saves $20 per month ($240 per year) for a few minutes of work each week.
If you want to give it a try, you can get a $10 bonus when you start shopping with Ibotta here. (Like Ebates, I get a small bonus in my Ibotta account when you get your bonus.)
Credit Card Rewards – $0
As I mentioned last month, I debated how to track our income from credit card rewards for awhile. I decided to report the income when we actually cashed out the reward points. I think that is the best way to do it, but this is subject to change in future income reports if I have a better idea.
Since we didn’t book any travel this month, I didn’t record any income. However, we add about 3-4,000 points ($30-40) a month just from our normal credit card use, mainly on our Chase cards. We’ve got a balance of about 120,000 points right now, which at our average redemption rate of 1.5:1 is worth $1,800 toward travel costs. We try to open a couple new cards per year to get the sign-up bonuses. I don’t have the next one planned, so I need to get on that!
I absolutely love credit card rewards, as we haven’t paid for a plane ticket in almost 3 years now. I need to write a post about our strategy, but Physician on Fire has a great primer to travel reward credit cards here.
How to Get Started With Credit Card Rewards (And Earn $600)
For the newbie, I recommend the Chase Sapphire card as your starting point. I signed up for one in my name, and another in my wife’s name over the last year to get a 50,000 point sign-up bonus for each of us (100,000 points total = about $1500 toward travel in our scenario above!)
You have to spend $4,000 on the card in order to get the bonus, so if you want to try the same thing make sure you space it out so you can hit the spending requirement. There is also a $95 annual fee. When I reach the anniversary on my card, I plan to call Chase and get it downgraded to a no annual fee card.
NOTE: This offer has since expired, and the current offer is even better. You can now get 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months!
Realtor Commissions – $283.00
As part of our real estate investing side hustle (see below), my wife got her real estate license mainly to save on transaction costs for our own purchases. However, it costs a decent amount of money to maintain her license ($2-3k per year), so she takes on clients here and there. These are almost exclusively friends, family, and referrals. She doesn’t do any marketing to find clients.
My wife stays home with the kids (a much more than full-time job itself), but we’ve been surprised that she’s been able to net around $20-25k per year the last few years only working a few hours here and there. When she has a client, most of the work tends to be evenings and weekends, so I can watch the kids while she shows houses. I would say she spends less than 10 hours a month on this side hustle.
The realtor income is highly erratic. She might have a closing one month and make $5,000, and then not make any money for 3 or 4 months. This month, she helped a friend of ours find an apartment and collected a small commission check. For a lease, her commission usually ends up being about 40-50% of the first month’s rent, minus the cut that goes to the broker. It can sometimes be almost as much work to find an apartment as to close on a house, and she can make 10X more in commission from a purchase. Needless to say, she doesn’t purposefully seek out people looking to rent, but is willing to help out friends and family when needed and collect a small fee from the landlord.
Real Estate Crowdfunding – $769.24
Real estate crowdfunding brings in the holy grail of truly passive income. As we get busier with young kids and family life, we are trying to transition some of our gains from active real estate investing into more passive investments. Our real estate crowdfunding income represents the monthly income our invested capital is making for us each month.
If you don’t know what real estate crowdfunding is, you are basically contributing money to a large commercial real estate deal, either as a lender (debt) or as a part-owner (equity). The sponsor of the deal does all the work to find the property, negotiate it, fix it up, rent it out, and eventually sell it. You the passive investor just contribute capital to make the deal happen. You also get absolutely no say in how the property is run, so by far the most important aspect of my due diligence is looking at the sponsor and their past track record.
There are lots of platforms to get into real estate crowdfunding (RealtyShares – no longer accepting new investors, CrowdStreet, EquityMultiple, etc.) You can also find deal sponsors the old-fashioned way through networking with other people. That is how I’ve found most of the sponsors I’ve invested with.
I’m currently invested in a few different deals:
- A fund that invests in land deals and single family rental houses
- An apartment complex that happens to be 5 minutes from my house
- A fund diversified across multifamily, commercial, and industrial properties
- (New for November!) A fund that invests in Class C apartments in the Midwest
Over time, I generally expect my passive real estate investments to return 12-15% per year (IRR). They are all long term investments though, with the money locked up for 5-10 years. Some give me a monthly payment of the cash flow the property generates, and some don’t pay out until everything is sold off in 5 or 10 years.
This month, I got a few checks for $769.24 that represented my portion of the monthly operating profits. My dream is to one day replace my income with purely passive “mailbox money” like this. I’ve got a ways to go!
In November, I also sent in my capital to put to work in the latest fund I’m invested in. This fund invests in smaller apartments complexes in the Midwest. It is focused mainly on cash flow rather than appreciation, so I hope to get a regular check from this fund in the future. Out of the 4 investments I’m in, 2 currently give me a check every month. The other 2 are building equity and I expect them to start paying out soon.
If you’re brand new to real estate and don’t have a lot of money to invest, I would recommend starting small. Two platforms I like are Groundfloor and Fundrise.
- Groundfloor allows you to participate in loans backed by real estate (as little as $10 per loan last I checked). While I no longer contribute to my Groundfloor account, I got an annualized return of 12.5% over the past couple of years across all the various loans I helped to fund. If you’re interested in learning more about Groundfloor, click here. (get a $10 bonus when you open an account through that link!)
- Fundrise lets you invest in a diversified portfolio of real estate with as little as $500. Because it is a private fund and your money is tied up for 3+ years (unlike a public REIT) the returns tend to be higher, and the low minimum makes it a good introduction to crowdfunding. You can check out Fundrise here and see if it could help you meet your investment goals. (affiliate link)
Rental Properties – $5,253.39
Rental properties is where our side hustle journey began. We are now 5 years in, and currently have a small portfolio of 8 units. We aim to make about $300 cash flow per month per unit, which has gotten harder to do the last couple years as real estate prices have risen.
All but one of our rentals we self-manage (one rental is in a different state), so we market the property, pick the tenants, and answer the phone when there are problems. Most months nothing happens and there isn’t really anything to do but deposit the rent, but sometimes we get an emergency call that water is pouring out from under the house and we have to figure out how to deal with it. We’ve built up a good list of contractors we trust, which has helped tremendously in keeping costs down and tenants happy.
It was a pretty quiet month for our rentals with no major unplanned expenses. Here is the income and expense breakdown for the month:
- Rent collection: $10,060
- Late fees: $150 (our out-of-state tenant often pays late)
- Mortgage payments: $4,596
- Repairs/Maintenance: $91 (Keep trying to patch a flat roof – NEVER buy a house with a flat roof.)
- Insurance: $47 (I have one property where the insurance is not part of the mortgage payment.)
- Management fees: $223 (Property management fees for our one out-of-state rental.)
When all of our units are occupied, our properties bring in $9,410 in rent per month. Since we use cash-based accounting in Quickbooks for our rentals, what gets reported fluctuates month-to-month depending on when rents get deposited. This month we had 2 payments hit for one of our properties just due to timing of when the bank recorded it.
We also had a tenant move out last month, so we are no longer collecting rent on one property. We were planning to fix it up (it needs quite a bit of work) to re-rent it, but our contractor asked us if we wanted to sell it. I gave him a price we’d be willing to sell for, and now it’s under contract! It probably won’t close until January, so I’ll hold off on details until then. If everything goes through as planned, we will have some additional cash to deploy, probably toward real estate crowdfunding. It’s tough to find houses in our local market that make sense to buy as rentals these days.
I actually got a few affiliate commissions in November! No income to report until it actually hits the bank, though. Most of the affiliate networks require a certain minimum before they cut a check, so it might be awhile…
What do you do to make extra income on the side? Let me know in the comments!
Andrew Herrig is a finance expert and money nerd and the founder of Wealthy Nickel, where he writes about personal finance, side hustles, and entrepreneurship. As an avid real estate investor and owner of multiple businesses, he has a passion for helping others build wealth and shares his own family’s journey on his blog.
Andrew holds a Masters of Science in Economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University. He has worked as a financial analyst and accountant in many aspects of the financial world.
Andrew’s expert financial advice has been featured on CNBC, Entrepreneur, Fox News, GOBankingRates, MSN, and more.