How can I make a supplemental income?
November 29, 2005 8:22 AM   Subscribe

How can I make some extra supplemental income without getting a second job? I am the only income earner .. my wife is in school full time and does'nt work (no kids). I entered a state of depression yesterday after finding out that my best budgeting efforts havent even put a dent in my total debt!! If i'm being realistic, with my current income and my wife's tuition fees renewing every 6 months the next time I see black will be at my own funeral. Theres so many people making money hand over fist selling stuff I wish I had an idea to make some money on the side. I'm thinking e-bay or something. I thought about posting flyers and craigslist ads for services I could offer like I am extremely handy and I can also fix computers but i live in NYC and those ads are a dime a dozen. Help me people!! Give me some ideas or proven methods!
posted by postergeist to Work & Money (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What sort of school is your wife in? Is it possible she could take on a part-time job?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:33 AM on November 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

First, talk to a financial counselor about your debt. There's a variety of ways out of debt besides just paying on things.

To make a little extra income ... how about your garage? Is it full of "stuff"? What about your attic? Ebay it. Make organizing it and photographing it your full-time evening job for a few weeks ... spend 3 hours a night on it. Find things you haven't used in a few years and just get rid of them. The holidays are a great time to do that.

As far as services go ... I'm a programmer, so it's easy for me to offer services. I really don't know anything about handyman type stuff 'cept that one of my buddies makes good money as an unlicensed contractor (therefore cheaper) doing minor renovation work and handyman type stuff for a handfull of very very small apartment communities.
posted by SpecialK at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2005

Its true that the "I fix computer" flyers are a dime a dozen in new york, but ever notice that half the phone# tags are usually torn off?

Not just fix, but install software, show you how to use it, set up your network, install wireless passwords, etc.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:39 AM on November 29, 2005

The value of your skills is bundled in your reputation. You can distinguish yourself from the large pack of people able to construct, repair, and maintain computers by forming your own customer network through personal contact and existing networking.

For example: Do you live in an apartment building? Do the people on your floor or neighboring floors have computers? You can try two immediate things here:

1) Buy a small run of business cards from Kinkos with your contact information on it, and walk around and introduce yourself and your skills to your neighbors. The business cards aren't necessary, but it puts your name up on a magnet on their fridge, and when they're next infected with viruses or their hard drive dies, they'll call you right away rather than some stranger in the paper or some teenager at the local Best Buy.

2) Do you have a high bandwidth connection? Buy a wireless G router, and buy the 25.00 powered antenna boosters. Encrypt the network, and use MAC authentication. Then, walk around your building with a cheap wireless sensor to get a feel for how many people are reasonably within the range of your signal. If they don't already have a connection to the internet, show them a list of inexpensive wireless adapters, and offer your connection for a small fee (with a segment of a cable connection, for example, I'd charge 3.00 a month. Get 10 people on your little network, and you're probably paying for your cable connection. That's one bill down). If you can afford the initial investment, you could get a partial T1, and start to charge more -- maybe even boost your wireless signal.

In each of these ideas is the sense that you're building your network of clients from those people you know or have at least a passing acquaintance. If you treat those people well, and don't charge them too much, they'll end up telling their friends and family about you, and you can get some more steady work.

A small caveat is required here: Your typical home user is not technically savvy, and you'll spend the majority of your initial time with them in "educator" mode. The first time you clear off all the spyware and viruses from their computer, sit them down and give them the Safe Surfing lecture. Show them alternative browser choices. Introduce them to Anti-Virus and Spybot. The last thing you want to do is make them spend more money in the upcoming weeks after their computer gets re-infected.

Because of your role as educator, you'll need a lot of patience in doing this. Some of my troubling times being a friend and neighborhood computer expert were with the elderly, who not only have a lifetime of lack of the technology to overcome, but in general a certain reluctance to use said technology. They're honestly trying, but once they're angry at the computer, it's very easy to transfer that anger on to the guy who's just there to help them out.

Good luck!
posted by thanotopsis at 8:39 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: These are good suggestions but I should clarify a few things. Firstly, I live in a tiny studio apartment and grew up in NYC. Never had a garage or a lot of space so I don't exactly have that much to sell. Even if I did manage to sell the few things that have in the closet I might pull in a couple of hundred bucks. Not to say thats not worth it but it dosent even chip a flake off the old debt counter.

The good news at least is that I have near perfect credit and am very good at managing finances. I just moved 95% of all my debt to a 0% intrest card until Dec. 2006 so at least i'm not hemmoraging money into a black hole.

I am looking for something on the side anyone has had success with, possibly even with a small investment of up to $1000.
posted by postergeist at 8:41 AM on November 29, 2005

Don't know if this is the kind of answer you are looking for, but if you are a smart guy you can make some decent money tutoring for a company like Kaplan/Princeton Review. I did that all through college (in NYC) and made a good bit of money. They usually pay starting at $15 an hour, which can add up.
posted by BigBrownBear at 8:45 AM on November 29, 2005

The good news at least is that I have near perfect credit and am very good at managing finances. I just moved 95% of all my debt to a 0% intrest card until Dec. 2006 so at least i'm not hemmoraging money into a black hole.

You didn't say, but do you own or rent that studio apartment? If you rent, you're not getting anywhere positive on your life-long debt. Your credit rating implies that you've managed your debt well to date, so you want to start looking at owning a place of your own. Look for inexpensive condos or (if commuting is available) a small house in Brooklyn or Queens. The difference here is that debt (as opposed to your credit card debt) is tax deductable. Additionally, you tend to get a fraction of the interest you pay to credit cards on a home-loan.

I am looking for something on the side anyone has had success with, possibly even with a small investment of up to $1000.

For that amount of money, you'll find that the best you can get is possibly a 5% return over a year's time. The days of day-trading are past us now, so buying and selling your way to a fortune with a starting amount of 1000.00 is probably not in your future.

An IRA will help you with your taxes come year's end, but once again, the amount of money you'll make in the short term won't help your debt-load at all, and they'll be a great deal of penalties to pay if you withdraw your money prior to retirement (or the term of the IRA contract).

In general, make your money help you with whatever side-business or work you want/are able to do. An investment in a profitable business venture of your own means an easier time starting up and becoming profitable. With that kind of money, you could have a lawyer draw up papers for an LLC (to protect you in case of customer issues, to help you with taxes).
posted by thanotopsis at 8:51 AM on November 29, 2005

BigBrownBear- how does one get a ob with one of those companies?
posted by drezdn at 8:52 AM on November 29, 2005

If your wife cannot get a part-time job maybe there is something she could do on the side as well. Maybe she is crafty or has some sort of handy skill. Or maybe there is a part-time job that would incorporate a hobby of hers so it would seem less stressful than something she has no interest in. Or a job that was quiet, allowing for study time.

If you do the ebay thing you really need to find a niche there as well.

I think if you are handy in general and handy with computers that maybe really unique. Many people with computer problems may also need other stuff to be done.
I would look into getting bonded (I think that is what I mean, you know to be insured) and see if there are any professional organizations you can latch onto.
Good luck!
posted by TheLibrarian at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2005

You still haven't mentioned what your wife is going to school for? Is there no way that she can take a part time job for like 10 hours a week? I'm not sure what the minimum wage is there, but if it's even $6 an hour you're talking an extra 3 grand a year.
posted by antifuse at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2005

drezdn (and postergeist) -- call 1-866-TPR-PREP. That will put you in touch with your nearest Princeton Review office. TPR is almost always hiring in large markets, though the requirements can be strict. Rave reviews for teaching for TPR available in this thread.
posted by junkbox at 9:11 AM on November 29, 2005

Kaplan and Princeton Review both have websites--look there for info on applying for jobs. Both of them have a significant NYC-area presence. Warning on Kaplan: training is 5/hrs a session for 5 weeks at $7/hour with no guarenteed job placement afterwards.
posted by availablelight at 9:13 AM on November 29, 2005

(I meant, 5 weekly sessions at 5 hours per session.)
posted by availablelight at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: My wife is studying to be a nutritionist and does actually have a part time off the books job that pays $10/hr. It has actually helped but not enough. Her school work is top priority and its a very intensive program. The job she does is a personal assistant to a therapist who allows her to make her own hours which is perfect for her. But she only works like 3-5 hours a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
posted by postergeist at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2005

1. Craigslist. One out of every 100 posts in the "Gigs" section is solid under-the-table cash.

2. If you're at all handy, the Entertainment Biz. This is where I make my money in the city, and it's ridiculously easy to break into. Theater one-offs, industrials, commercials, and music videos all require semi-skilled bodies, and many of them load-in/ shoot overnight or on weekends. If that at all piques your interest, I can elaborate.

3. eBay. Whenever I needed just a little extra scratch in the city, I'd put aside $75 and hit the thrifts, looking for silly vintage t-shirts. That $75 could turn into $250 if I was lucky. 'Course, eBay is a harsh mistress, what with all the packaging, shipping, photography, and dealing with scammers and morons. And I haven't done it on a couple years, but it did work.

4. And of course, least appealingly: graveyard shift job. You can make good money during the holiday season doing warehouse night shifts. Jobs are advertised in the Daily News classifieds and such. Never done it myself, YMMV.

When seeking extra cash in the city, it's best to try to find the gigs or opportunities that relate to a specific holiday or event. You can make a killing on New Year's Eve as a bartender or "caterer" (event waiter). Again, craigslist has a lot of these kind of things, but you may want to send a Hello letter to a few event production agencies -- google for 'nyc event catering' and such things.

Wow, that was long-winded. Good luck.
posted by milquetoast at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Milquetoast this is really useful info. I'm particularly interested in what you say about the entertainment biz. Any leads I can follow to break into it?
posted by postergeist at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2005

one more post on the Kaplan/Princeton Review thing - if you just walk down to their office you can probably speak with someone. In NYC the main Kaplan office is next to the Village Voice building. Talk to them and they will set you up. I used to make 15 and 25 for private tutoring. People would also pay Kaplan 100 per hour for private tutoring so I know some people (of course I never did this) who would meet with people they were privately tutoring and offer classes for 50 an hour so both parties won. I am sure this is unethical and you sign something that says you cant do this, but it does give you a sense of how much money people are willing to pay for private tutoring.

Another thing, new yorkers, the Sci-Hi prep through Kaplan/Princeton Review really sucks and this is a great opportunity to do private tutoring as all the parents are probably rich and overbearing and the material wont be too complex.

There is a good niche for you.
posted by BigBrownBear at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2005

Oh, another NYC type thing. If an election is coming up you make a couple hundred handing out flyers.
posted by BigBrownBear at 9:35 AM on November 29, 2005

Oh, also, night paralegals can make a good amount of money. Find some legal recruiters.
posted by BigBrownBear at 9:35 AM on November 29, 2005

An occasional clinical trial. I made $700 on one for using an FDA approved nasal spray. So not only did I make money, I also got a free nasal spray (my spray did not seem to be the placebo) to help out with my allergies.
posted by TheLibrarian at 9:51 AM on November 29, 2005

I am going to make someone rich with this post.* I'd do this myself but I'm lazy.

See this Hello Kitty toaster?

Modify a regular toaster to do the same thing with Jesus' face. It's can't be all that hard. Some sort of ceramic Christified insulator would be easy enough to create.

A $10.00 toaster + an hour or two spent modifying it. I'm sure you'd get a decent price on eBay or elsewhere. You could do one or two a week. I'd buy the first one. How awesome would it be to serve Jesus-toast to your guests?

You can even use my slogan:

"Fill that Jesus-shaped hole in your toast. With butter!"

Remember where you heard it.*

*Unless it's already been done.
posted by bondcliff at 9:53 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: LOL!!!
posted by postergeist at 10:00 AM on November 29, 2005

new york is a city of people and their trash. rich, wasteful people! pick it up. carry it home. ebay it. rejoice in newfound cash money.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:23 AM on November 29, 2005

If you rent, you're not getting anywhere positive on your life-long debt. Your credit rating implies that you've managed your debt well to date, so you want to start looking at owning a place of your own.

This sounds like bad advice.

If you don't have enough cash available to pay at least a 10 percent downpayment, you should not consider buying a house. You'll wind up in a horrible interest situation as interest rates climb in the coming years. You'll probably have a bigger mortgage payment than your current rate, which will leave you more cash-strapped than you already are.

In many parts of the country, real estate prices are ridiculously high as people buy homes to live in and to rent. A glut of rentals, meanwhile, is driving rental places down. If you can afford to live in a nicer neighborhood than you could afford to buy in, why not ride the market out?

You're not making your debt problem worse by avoiding a mortgage you can't afford. You're not throwing money away by renting -- you're paying for a place to live.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:24 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: [soma] Ive done that actually! Youre right about people throwing away perfectly good stuff. 3 times now i've picked up furniture off the street, cleaned it, in one case repaired it and sold it on craigslist. Its a real nice feeling but its small potatoes.
posted by postergeist at 11:00 AM on November 29, 2005

If none of these ideas sound good to you, and hell even if one or two do sound good... It sounds like it is time to have a serious talk with your wife about your finances. Don't shoulder all the responsibility here, you need to tell her now before it gets worse that things are not looking good. She might need to take a break from school, or she might need to drop to part time in order to pick up a part time job. It isn't that you want her to, it is just that you need to have this talk with her so she knows what's going on with the two of you and can offer to help with the situation if necessary.
posted by pwb503 at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2005

I can't help but keep coming back to this question, because I sense that there's something off here. While the primary issue everyone seems to be dealing with appears to be how to make money on the side, I think the more significant question is how to climb out of the financial hole Postergeist seems to feel he's in.

First: Yeah, buying an apartment is a really bad idea. There's plenty of time for that, like when you've got two incomes. And besides, considering that you've got debt, then that means you probably don't have thirty or forty grand for a downpayment.

Second: When you say you want to make money, but you don't want a second job, you're only fooling yourself. It's *always* a second job. Whether it's ebaying or dumpster diving or Kaplaning, it's a second job.

Third: You say you and your wife are sticking really tightly to your budget and you still can't make a dent in your debt. I don't believe you. Your budget should allocate a portion of your monthly take-home to debt relief, and it should be a significant portion. Everything else is what you have to live on. End of story. If your debt isn't going down, then either you need to redo your budget to include major debt payoff or you need to stick closer to the debt payoff already there.

How old are you? What is your debt from? What's your work situation like otherwise? I ask these things because if you're young and the debt is school-related, like college loans, then that's totally understandable. I was dirt poor for a few years after college. Most people are. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, though, and you just have to be patient and it'll come around. Now, if you're in a job that isn't going anywhere and you aren't making very much money, then that's another story, and I'd look into changing jobs or even professions if you decide you'd like to start making some scratch. Second jobs and odd jobs will get you a little cash here and there, but if you want a real, significant boost to the old bottom line, your primary job will need to change.
posted by incessant at 11:19 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: [incessant] Youre right mostly. But without delving too deeply into personal stuff that I dont want to divulge to a large audience on the WWW here, the partial answer is that the debt is 30% school related and the other is that there were new charges which make the budgeting we're doing have an insignificant impact. One of these charges was basically just the shitty luck of an event like her brother (who lives in Europe) getting married during an expensive peak travel season. We both come from close tight families and there was no way we couldnt go. That ran me about 3 grand that I didnt have!

If i'm being honest here my debt dosent compare to some of the debt my friends are in (especially the doctor-lawyer married couple!) and in all liklihood once my wife graduates we should have no problem paying it off in 2-3 years. But I hate the idea of any debt hanging over my head and my first reaction, rather then to say hey no problem we'll be able to pay it off later, is to say where can I make some extra cash and do everything I can to pay it off now?

I work in the publishing business, my salary sucks but my job is awesome and the experience I am gaining right now can be cashed in for a 20k raise if I take it elsewhere but not for at least another year and a half.

Maybe I can pimp my wife...
posted by postergeist at 11:39 AM on November 29, 2005

I thought about posting flyers and craigslist ads for services I could offer like I am extremely handy and I can also fix computers but i live in NYC and those ads are a dime a dozen.

Just do it. What's the worst that could happen? No one calls, and you're no worse off than you were when you started.

I'm a web developer and hobby photographer, so to make extra cash I pick up freelance web projects and sell my photos as prints or cards. My boss loves animals, so she pet sits for extra cash. Find something you're good at, and get people to pay you for it. You'd be surprised what people will pay for.

Also, not tested (by me), but you could sign up for Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
posted by geeky at 11:41 AM on November 29, 2005

Maybe I can pimp my wife...

Maybe you can pimp someone else's wife?
posted by The Monkey at 6:45 PM on November 29, 2005

Postergiest, you essentially answered your own question. You have a good job that pays crap (tell me about it -- I spent years in the trenches in the entertainment industry until I finally made my way up and started pulling in some dough), you have debt, you have guilt about the debt. If you're in publishing, every last ounce of focus should be on networking, putting in every ounce you can into your job, going to parties, making connections, widening your circle, so that you'll start to move up. A second job will make a dent in your debt, but I think the better choice is patience and more work at your first job and the knowledge that you're investing sweat equity into your career now that will pay off later. If you were in a career that had a clear path of advancement, I'd say otherwise -- use your free time for whatever you want. But you're in an industry that demands a lot of its younger people and the only way to break through is to expend twice as much energy as the next person. Moonlighting won't help that.

Don't spend any more money you don't have. Yup, this means if a sibling gets married in Europe, they pay to fly you there or you don't go. And don't worry about all that debt right now (although I'm concerned that you say 30% is for school -- that means 70% isn't for school, and that's an awful lot of discretionary debt that I'm assuming is on credit cards, although again, I don't have all the information) because in time, you'll have the funds to pay it off. Two years ago, when I started pulling in the money, the first thing I did was pay off the debt. Since I was living essentially hand-to-mouth before that, I paid the minimums but that was it. You're in an industry that back-loads the cash, and so you just have to have faith it'll work out.
posted by incessant at 1:41 AM on November 30, 2005

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