I'm going to have to start eating the roaches for protien.
November 30, 2005 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm a poor, nineteen year old college student in Washington, DC. Given my predilection for travel and my extreme aversion to actual (i.e. boring) work, I figure it's about time to start saving money and finding ways to make a little on the side.

The only problem is that I'm, well, poor and nineteen. Since I go to school full-time and don't have much time for a real job outside of work-study, I won't be able to put away much more than about $25 a month, if that. What kinds of things can I put my money into that have higher interest rates than banks, but a low initial investment? I'm not opposed to doing a little (or a lot of) research.

In addition, what can I look into as far as making a little on the side? I don't really have many qualifications, other than the fact that I know plenty about computers/the internet and the fact that I've, uh, traveled a lot. I don't have a lot of free time during regular work hours, but I routinely stay up pretty late and don't do anything productive while I am. I read this post and have considered things like that, and while I would consider myself competent with written English I have absolutely zero qualifications as a writer.

Essentially, I'm sick of being lazy and I'd like to find something productive to do in my spare time. I'd like to be able to get out of college and be able to pay of a fair portion of my loans without immediately having to get into the daily grind of accruing disposable income. Note that I'm not looking for ways to put off paying my debts, I want to get rid of them.
posted by borkingchikapa to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This quarter I took 15 credits and worked ~45 hours/week. Next quarter I'm taking 18 credits and working the same. What's stopping you from just going and getting a job at [retail store name] or [cafe/restaurant] like any other person would do?
posted by ryanhealy at 6:08 PM on November 30, 2005

If you have free time at night, I recommend getting a job as a waiter/waitress at a popular restaurant. You can make a lot of money in little time, and if you need extra money, just pick up a shift from someone else. I did this (and bartended) for years and routinely took home a hundred dollars or more night.

The upsides are that this is a job that takes little effort, offers a lot of flexibility and won't consume you with thoughts when you aren't there (i.e. you won't be "taking your work home.") Plus, you get paid in cash on a daily basis, so there is no waiting for a paycheck.

The downside is that you get paid in cash on a daily basis. I had to develop a very strict habit of going stright to the bank after work and depositing most of my money into a savings account that I vowed not to touch. Otherwise, the money will slip right through your hands faster than you can blink.

By the way, this is also an amazing way to meet a variety of fascinating people.
posted by Brittanie at 6:13 PM on November 30, 2005

ryanhealy, the only thing that's stopping me is that I don't want to. I LIKE having free time. I'm not looking to make a ton of money here, I don't need a full time job.

I probably should have made this clearer in the post, but I'm mostly curious about ways to save what little money I have. The part about actually making money was supposed to be a small aside, I'm less concerned about that.
posted by borkingchikapa at 6:18 PM on November 30, 2005

What you need to do here is to leverage your effort. Capitalism is not about working, it's about taking a (small or large, depending) cut of someone else's work. So finding something that you can do for money is good, but it's not the be-all-end-all. It's a job. It's the "give a man fish" model. And you have to keep doing it to keep on making money. What you need is a way to "teach yourself to fish" and get someone else to do the heavy lifting while you play matchmaker. It's a lot better to be ebay (no inventory! room fulla servers!) than it is to be Amazon. Ok, true, they also try to minimize inventory, but it's not like they have every single shopper boxing up his own stereo to ship out.

The only problem is that this is damn hard to start, even for people who are not busy, inexperienced, and poor college students. But think about starting a business, not just a job. Since you're well traveled, maybe you could write reports for businesses or others who need information on those cities. Maybe you know people overseas who can do things / buy things / make things that you could sell here at a mark-up. That might be purses and it might be PHP code, but think of something that you can outsource / crosssource / support that will only take a few hours per week.

This is a long shot, but what the hell, you can't be much poorer! And hey, you've got a lot of time ahead to think of more down to earth ideas...
posted by zpousman at 6:21 PM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Essentially, I'm sick of being lazy and I'd like to find something productive to do in my spare time.

ryanhealy, the only thing that's stopping me is that I don't want to. I LIKE having free time.

This IS a bit confusing. Are you going to have to eat the roaches or not? At any rate, I think bartending one night a week is a great idea.
posted by amro at 6:25 PM on November 30, 2005

That second comment was profound, ryanhealy. Profound.

I know fuck-all about investing, but how about this for some side-work:
If you enjoy your free time, why don't you try and get some sort of overnight tech job? I've got a friend who does IT for a bunch of suits at our university, and he mostly does homework, naps, or screws around (like what you would be doing late at night, only *on the clock* They know this--the idea is just to have him around). If something goes wrong, he fixes it, but this is a pretty small fraction of his time, daytime or night.
posted by hototogisu at 6:36 PM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Seriously, there's no magic pot of money somewhere- you just have to get a job.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

As for saving, it's another one of those things you just have to do- tell yourself "Every week, I will put x dollars into my savings account". Don't take it out. Watch it groooooow.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:39 PM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

What is your workstudy job? How much time do you spend doing it? I know there are a lot of different jobs available on campuses - from low paying ($5-6/hr) front desk staff and library study hall attendants to higher paying ($8-12/hr) athletics office, web design, TAs, etc. If you already have a job and it isn't giving you the best ROI for your time (or interest), maybe pick another job. I'm sure there will be a work-study job fair early in the spring semester, which would be a perfect time to change jobs. (I'm guessing I work at the same school you attend in DC. My office pays work studys $8-10/hr. I may be able to help you find something. Feel free to email me.)

As for saving, I agree with TPS. Create a savings account. Put money in it.
posted by clgregor at 6:46 PM on November 30, 2005

clgregor: You would hire someone who has twice expressed a desire *not* to work?

I don't get it.

At all.
posted by ryanhealy at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2005

I didn't necessarily mean I'd hire him, but maybe some other office here would. Sure there is an "expressed a desire *not* to work" but borkingchikapa has also noted that the aversion is to "boring" work. If he can find a non-boring job (of which there are many available - maybe even in my office, if PR isn't boring).
posted by clgregor at 6:57 PM on November 30, 2005

I think I've given the wrong impression to a bunch of people intent on teaching somebody "a lesson". Or something.

I am well aware that work = money and no work = no money. That wasn't the question, jesus. I'm not asking how to get rich, I'm not asking how to get money for nothing, I'm not trying to cheat anyone. I was asking specifically about methods of investing small amounts of money and whoa, maybe someone would have a suggestion as far as menial freelance work or something that I can do on my own schedule.

Thanks to everybody who has tried to give me a useful answer, you may be right in that the only way to save money is just to set it aside in small increments, but I'd like a little bit of information on funds and such that I could expand on after college.

I'd appreciate it greatly if subsequent posters ignored the second part of my question, it was a mistake to put it in there.
posted by borkingchikapa at 7:10 PM on November 30, 2005

You could do online database entry- that work is boring, but you can do it anywhere (as long as you have a computer), so you could hang out at your house with your TV and make a little cash.

And chill out, your initial question was less than clear.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 PM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Are you living on campus? If you are, move out. (Living on campus is usually way more expesive than living off.) Put your money into renting an apartment or a room with someone else. Cook your own meals instead of eating on campus. Buy cheap roasts, hams and chicken and cook it the begining of the week for use for sandwhiches and meals during the week. (Sandwiches, tacos, pot pies, and soup are a few cheap things that can be very tasty and easy to make and use the full amout of the meat.) Buy your clothes at secondhand thrift shops. Check out FreeCycle (a Yahoo group) for your area to find things that you may need to furnish your place. See if you can get in with housekeeping on campus to help clean the dorms at the end of the year - it is amazing what students will leave behind. Sell the finds on ebay. If you haven't already, get an old clunker of a car that you don't have make payments on. Also get a good car repair manual for the car so that you can fix it yourself.

Finally, decide what it is that you like to do. Start looking for people who will pay you to do it. Work can and should be fun and stimulating. If you like what you are doing then you will be less likely to resent the time you spend doing it.

Wife of 455supermag
posted by 445supermag at 7:16 PM on November 30, 2005

No attempts at teaching here; I don't care enough for that. I suggest visiting Motley Fool for some pretty sound investment advice. (Hint: They're going to tell you about something called a Roth IRA. Read that section closely.)

Don't make things any harder than they need to be. Want money? Get a job. Want to save money? Don't spend it. At 19, it doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.

You're welcome for the best advice anyone's offered in this thread.
posted by ryanhealy at 7:20 PM on November 30, 2005

Don't pay for live theatre tickets, volunteer there and you'll see the shows for free, and you'll be doing something productive in your spare time and making friends in the process. Don't rent DVDs, loan them from the public library or your school. Same with books, or at least buy them used. Get the cheapest possible phone plan. When you call home, get your parents to call you back so it's on their bill, not yours. Keep track of what's on sale when. Freecycle. Stop watching commercials/reading ads until you stop wanting so much extra stuff. Budget and stick to it. Don't buy lunches, make them. Buy clothes second-hand. Buy stuff off craigslist, not new. Figure out how little you can live on, and then live on that, regardless of what you have. Put the rest in INGDirect or something similar. Feel poor when you're tempted to buy something fun.

- Poor in DC Livejournal community
- Long-distance for 5 cents/minute to US/Canada
posted by heatherann at 7:34 PM on November 30, 2005

Well, as far as investing goes, there isn't going to be a way to make a lot of money off of a $25/mo investment - at least not in the short term, which is what it seems like you're talking about. Anything that can rapidly grow the investment will by definition carry an increased risk. You can put your money in a diversified index fund, and it'll have most likely grown well in 30 years, but in the short term you could lose money.

If you just want something very basic, there are a lot of online savings accounts that offer relatively great interest rates with little or no practical risk. I think ING Direct has a good plan, and I believe Emigrant Direct is now paying 4% interest. May not seem stellar, and it's not going to have a big effect on your lifestyle, but a few years ago that sort of rate in normal savings account would have been unheard of.

Other than that, I can't think of what you could do. If there was a secret trick to turning $25 into $10k quickly and reliably, everyone would do it. Your best bet is to think of some small low-overhead service/business that you could provide, and invest it in doing that. Lots of risk, but you at least can exert some influence by way of working your ass off. Which, of course, you may not want to do. It sort of leads into your second question.

BTW, as far as that goes, you said you were good with computers, right? I don't know what it's worth, but I've heard lots of anecdotal stories of people who did basic housecalls for network setup/spyware removal and got deluged with business pretty quickly. Might work well in a college/urban area.

Maybe the above will help. Sorry you're getting an attitude - I don't see what was so insulting in the initial question either.
posted by tirade at 7:42 PM on November 30, 2005

You might consider just calling up Fidelity's customer service line. I've had great success chatting with them about how to invest relatively small amounts of money, they're very patient and willing to talk to you about all the various methods out there. I had a conversation that must have lasted over an hour and started with me saying "I don't have much to invest and want to learn as much as I can about investing before I start. Can you walk me through the basics?" Also, if you ask they'll give you info on how to use Fidelity, which in the end is a good investment company, to manage your money and investments. My family uses them and we're very happy with the results, particularly because they're full service - they can take you from saving a little a year up to managing a family foundation.

Give them a call at the top phone number listed here. I'm sure they'll give you information without requiring you to be a customer, too.

(And no, I don't work for 'em, just have had uniformally good experiences).

At your stage... maybe a basic money market account would work well, investment-wise. Also, I think ING has good interest rates as banks go (I realize you asked for other options, but with $25/month I'm not aware of anything). I'll also second working at a bar or restaurant - quick way to pick up easy money and experience, and generally the schedules are flexible.
posted by lorrer at 7:43 PM on November 30, 2005

Seriously, this is why all those old people told you that "this is the best time of your life." Everybody knows being a teenager sucks in many ways, but the fact that you can actually believe that you can ask this question is what makes it great. Here's the sucky part about becoming an adult money=freedom but the catch 22 is that money also equals work which means less freedom. Somehow you have to figure out the balance. Do you work more, sacrificing free time and thus get more money? Do you wallow in poverty but have plenty of time to realize how little you can do with $1.50 and a fifty cent metro card in you pocket.

I'm not knocking or mocking you, I've been there. My only real advice to you is that truthfully, to make money you need to have money and the only way to have money is to get a job at this point. Waiting tables is a hard job, but one that requires no special education. The hours are flexible, usually, than your typical 9-to-5er and you can pick up more money/shifts when you don't have something else going on.

Hey, it sucks, I'm sorry, welcome to the fabulous world of adulthood. Just wait until you've got student loans, car payments and a mortgage to pay off not to mention mouths to feed and feet to shoe!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:56 AM on December 1, 2005

One night a week waiting tables or bartending can really make a big difference. Depending on where/which night you work, you could up that $25/month to $425/month or more. And it can be surprisingly flexible. If you want your normal night off, you just switch with someone or have someone fill in (there are always a couple waiters that are desperate for extra shifts for extra money). Also, you usually get a free shift meal and (if they're not sticklers for age requirements) a shift drink. That's one meal a week you don't have to spend money on, and that adds up, too.

It can also be fun.
posted by lampoil at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2005

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