I was talking to a friend the other day about a new crazy entrepreneurial idea I had. He listened politely, but was probably rolling his eyes on the inside.
“Not another business idea to make more money!”
I seem to always have a new idea rolling around in my head (that I usually don’t ever execute on). But this got me thinking about all the different things I’ve done in my life to make money.
I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind, but was too shy/introverted/scared to execute on many of my ideas when I was younger. So what you won’t see here is the 5 year old kid selling chewing gum by the stick, or going door to door selling pet sitting services.
But when I look back, I’ve still racked up a lot of different normal and not-so-normal jobs and side hustles to make money outside of my full time career.
From big (real estate investing) to small (credit card rewards), I’m always looking for new ways to put a little extra money away. Here they are in mostly-chronological order.
1. Ironed My Dad’s Shirts
When I was grade school age, my parents took advantage of the fact that I had no idea what manual labor was worth on the market. I would iron my dad’s work shirts at 25 cents each. Even back then, that was a pitiful hourly wage.
Great idea from my dad’s perspective though. I think I will try this same thing with my own kids in a few years…
2. Asked for Money for All Holidays
This was probably my major source of income before I was old enough to get a real job. Birthdays and Christmas were major drivers of my adolescent net worth. $20 here and $50 there really added up when the only expenses I had were toys and candy.
Lest you think this was only something I did as a kid, I actually currently have a line item in my budget tracking for “Other Income – Gifts”. Between my wife and I, we consistently pull in a few hundred dollars a year just from cash gifts from family and friends.
3. Grunt Labor at a Summer Camp / Retreat Center
My first “real” job after turning 16 and getting a car was at a summer camp. They actually had a retreat center that hosted weekend events all year round. I would work in the kitchen and dining hall, setting up tables, serving food, washing dishes, and anything else they told me to do.
This was actually a great first job because I would work all day Saturday and Sunday a couple times a month, so it didn’t interfere with my weekday schedule. The pay was pretty close to minimum wage, but we got paid for a certain number of hours each weekend whether or not there was work to do. So sometimes we were getting paid to sit around and read books!
4. Mowed Lawns
I have never been much of a salesman, and going around knocking on doors to drum up business is not my thing. However, I know a good opportunity when I see it.
I had a friend who lived in a (much) nicer neighborhood than me, and I heard through the grapevine his parents were looking for someone to mow the lawn. I think they were offering $50. That worked out to about $25 per hour, which for a broke teenager was great pay.
I did this for a year or two on the side of my other jobs and it provided some nice extra income.
5. Cashier at a Grocery Store
Eventually I got tired of my previous job and missing out on the entire weekend because I was working. I applied to a local grocery store and got the job – bumping my income up to $7 an hour (and $8 on Sunday!) I was making bank.
I was able to prove myself and get the coveted position of cashier, which paid slightly better than being a stocker. I had to study up on all the 4 digit produce codes (banana – 4011!) and also learn what all the weird fruits and vegetables were. It’s a little embarrassing to have to ask a customer “what is this” when they drop something like this on the conveyer belt:
6. Sales Nerd at a Local Computer Repair Shop
Later in high school, I negotiated for the introverted nerd’s dream job – working at a PC repair shop. We also sold components, and built computers to order. For someone who had custom built his PC rig and toted it around to LAN parties, this was heaven (this was back in the days when monitors weighed 50+ pounds).
I think I actually took a pay cut to $6.50 an hour, but it was worth it. We played computer games when no customers were around, and “hard drive baseball” with dead hard drives from customers’ computers.
It was also fun interesting horrifying to find out what was on other people’s computers. There was one particular customer who came in pretty regularly for us to clean viruses off of his computer. He claimed he had no idea how they kept getting there, but a little detective work always uncovered folder after folder of downloaded, umm…pictures.
7. Math Tutor
In college, I worked for the math department of my university as a help desk tutor. I would be available to help students with math questions for a few hours a couple times a week, and if nobody showed up, I could do my own homework. (Notice a theme? Always taking jobs that have side perks or potential to get paid for doing nothing…)
I also picked up a private tutoring gig for a student in my Calculus class. I was in the same class he was, but I was able to stay one or two lessons ahead so I could tutor him as we went.
8. Credit Card Reward Junkie
Sometime after college, I fell down the rabbit hole of credit card reward optimization.
It’s actually not as hard as it sounds. Credit card companies are always looking for new customers, and often give huge sign-up bonuses as well as a small percent cash back on every purchase.
So how do they make money? For every over-optimizing finance nerd collecting their reward points, there are 5 or 10 others who are paying 20-30% interest on their credit card debt. Don’t be the latter, and you can reap the rewards.
I usually make $1500-2000 a year from credit card rewards, just by doing what I normally do. My two favorite cards right now are the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire.
If you want to take advantage of credit card rewards, here are the details and how you can get started. WARNING – if you don’t pay of your credit cards in full every month DO NOT GET THESE CARDS. No amount of credit card rewards are worth carrying a balance and paying the interest every month.
Reward Benefits: $150 bonus after spending $500, and 1.5% cash back on all purchases
This is my daily spending card. 1.5% cash back on every purchase is pretty darn good and adds up over time. Straight cash back makes things simple, and the minimum spend of $500 to get the bonus is nice.
Reward Benefits: 50,000 point bonus after spending $4,000, and 1% back on all purchases (with rotating categories up to 5% back)
We don’t do a lot of traveling, but we do regularly fly to visit my wife’s family. With this card, I have not paid for a flight in over 2 years. I just booked $900 worth of flights for Christmas for free with around 60,000 points. So in my case, 50,000 points is worth about $750 of travel.
9. Real Estate Investor
About 5 years ago, my wife and I bought a foreclosed duplex as a rental, and our real estate journey began. We now have multiple rental properties that bring in cash flow every month. We’ve also bought dilapidated houses, fixed them up, and sold them for a profit (i.e. flipping).
Real estate investing in the real world is nothing like the fix and flip shows on HGTV. It’s a lot of hard work, but it has also been the single biggest contributor to our net worth over the last 5 years.
10. Cash Back App Collector
In the last year or two, I’ve discovered cash back apps to help me earn a little extra money on top of the credit card rewards. I’ve experimented with at least a dozen different apps, and ultimately scaled back to only a few that give the best rewards for the least amount of work.
I’m certainly not getting rich with cash back apps, but surprisingly it adds up to $300-500 every year, just for doing my normal everyday shopping and linking my credit card to the apps. Most of them work on the affiliate marketing principle – the apps get paid by stores to refer customers to them, and the app gives you a cut of their commission (usually 1-5%).
Here’s what’s on my phone right now:
1. Ebates – Make Money on Every Online Purchase
Ebates let’s you get cash back on almost any online purchase. For example, if I’m buying $200 worth of clothes at GAP, I just click through to GAP on the Ebates portal, and Ebates will deposit $4 (2%) into my account. The nice thing is it stacks on top of any coupons or promos AND any cash back on your credit card.
You can get up to 40% cash back, but normally, I average anywhere from 2-5%. Right now Ebates is offering a $10 welcome bonus to join, so if you want to try it out, you’ve got nothing to lose!
2. Dosh / Drop – Make Money Shopping Locally
I put these two apps together because they work on basically the same concept. Whereas Ebates gets you cash back on online purchases, Dosh and Drop get cash back for shopping locally.
With both of these apps, all you have to do is download the app and link your credit card, and the app does the rest! When you make a purchase at one of their partner stores, it automatically recognizes it and puts the cash in your account.
One of my favorite local restaurants is on Dosh, so it’s a nice bonus every time I go in to see 5% back show up in my account. And Drop lets you pick 5 stores where you automatically get cash when you shop (mine are Target, Trader Joes, Chipotle, Walgreens, and Starbucks). Every time I spend money in one of those stores, I get a little kickback in my Drop account.
Since they are relative newcomers, both Dosh and Drop have sign-up bonuses to encourage people to join. If you sign up through the links below, you’ll get a $5 bonus on each!
Again, these apps don’t make me rich, but an extra $300-500 per year for doing nothing is pretty great in my book!
11. Facebook Ads Manager
As part of our real estate investing side hustle (see above) my wife got her real estate license. It gave me an excuse to play around with Facebook ads and learn how to run campaigns for realtors to generate buyer and seller leads. We also used them to help sell some of our fix and flip projects.
I also ran some ad campaigns for other realtors. For a one-week campaign advertising an open house, I charged $250. I’ve got enough other things going on that I don’t want to make a job out of Facebook ads, but I know plenty of people who make a solid income doing it. Almost any local business can benefit from Facebook ads, and if you’re good at what you do, you can charge a $1000-1500 per month retainer for each client.
What have you done to make extra money? Let me know in the comments!