Personal finance is simple, right? Spend less than you earn, invest the rest wisely, and grow rich. It does not get much easier than that. So why are we not all millionaires living life on our own terms?
Often, people get caught up in misconception that success is extremely complicated or requires great sacrifice. While it does take some discipline to reduce monthly spending and tuck more money away, it’s well within reach for anyone who wants it badly enough. It’s easy: just build a high savings rate and invest your money wisely, and you’ll be on the fast track to financial independence and early retirement.
The key here is accomplishing these things while keeping it simple and requiring as little sacrifice as possible. So how can you do that when your career doesn’t allow you to earn more right now, or things like student loan debt prevent you from saving as much as you’d like? Enter the side hustle.
What is a Side Hustle?
A side hustle refers to doing something in addition to your primary job, in order to get ahead financially. Perhaps you’re a salaried employee who cannot just log more hours to earn more pay, or maybe you’re a military servicemember who isn’t eligible for a hard-earned raise.
A side hustle can help. Side hustles are often based on existing interests or hobbies. Things that you would likely do anyway, even if no pay were involved. They allow you to experience or acquire the things that you already want, need, or do. Any money earned is not only a bonus to your bank account, but was acquired while doing something you enjoy.
Isn’t that everyone’s goal anyway? We’ve all heard the wise advice to find a job we would still wake up for, even if we didn’t earn a paycheck. While this seems impossible (and amusing) to most, it’s exactly what you’ll find with a side hustle.
I currently have two side hustles. I teach a rock climbing class at a local university and also do freelance writing. While these are very different jobs, they demonstrate common ways that you can use a side hustle to improve your life and your bottom line simultaneously.
Get Paid to Get Access
A few years ago, I was excited to learn that a university located mere minutes from my house had opened a rock climbing wall. My wife and I climb, but previously had to drive at least an hour for any decent practice. When I contacted the university to inquire about using the wall, I was informed that the facilities were open only to students, faculty, and staff. The only option I was given to use the climbing wall was to take a class for nearly $1,000 a semester.
That didn’t work for me. I stepped back from the situation and looked for a different way to get what I wanted. I reached out to the university and offered to volunteer my skills to the class, in order to get a foot in the door. When the instructor later left the university, I was offered his job.
A few years ago, I also started writing a personal finance blog after having a terrible experience with a financial advisor. I wanted to voice my experiences, share what I was learning, and become a consumer advocate. It received very positive feedback from the few people that actually read my work.
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However, I found it extremely time-consuming to create regular, solid content while trying to grow my readership. Of course, this is required to be a successful blogger. I began to look for different ways to reach a larger audience. When Dough Roller announced on a weekly podcast that they were looking for new freelance writers, I jumped at the opportunity.
These side hustles gave me access to things that I already wanted. I use my instructor job to get greater access to the climbing wall than I could have by paying to use it. My writing gig allows me access to a much larger audience with far less effort than I could reach with my own blog. I now make money doing what I was already doing for free (writing), or would have actually paid money to do (climbing).
Think of things that you either cannot access or cannot afford right now. Then, find ways that a side hustle could allow you to obtain them, without an added hit to your budget.
Get Paid To Learn
It’s easy to think that you need to be an expert at something in order to get paid doing it. I am not an expert climber or writer, nor am I a personal finance guru. I am an average climber at best, which is why I wanted to use the wall to train. Writing also does not come easily to me. I got into personal finance blogging precisely because I was not an expert. I wanted to share the massive investing mistakes we made, with hopes of preventing others from repeating them.
The internet provides resources to teach yourself virtually anything. You can get better at almost any skill simply by practicing it regularly. You don’t necessarily need to pay for expensive instruction.
I focus on providing value in some way, such as sharing my experience and expertise on climbing safety procedures or the experiences and knowledge I continue to accumulate with personal finance. I then leverage my strengths to be paid to practice the skills — such as climbing and writing — that I already want to improve. That way, I can continue to develop my knowledge without added expense.
Is there anything in particular that you’ve always wanted to learn, or an existing skill that you’d like to hone further? Find a way to gain access to instruction, experience, mentors, and even certifications while utilizing a side hustle.
Get Paid for Accountability
As stated in the introduction, personal finance is pretty simple at its core. The same could be said for fitness, weight loss, and most other things that people tend to find difficult. The problem is not that we don’t know what to do. The problem is that life tends to get in the way of doing what we know needs to be done.
In order to become a better rock climber, I know that I need to climb more often. In order to become a better writer, I need to write regularly. In order to be competent as a DIY investor and financial planner, I need to continue to educate myself.
That does not mean that I always want to do what it takes. It is far easier to sleep through an alarm in the morning, or plop on the couch and watch TV in the evening, than to do the things that are needed to improve.
Through my side hustles, I have built up accountability. I have a class one night every week, which requires me to be at the wall. In order to stay sharp, I must continue to read personal finance books and learn new money saving strategies like travel hacking. Often, I have to wake up early in the mornings to write. There are deadlines to be met and people counting on me. My side hustles provide accountability, which insures that I will do what needs to be done to progress toward my long-term goals.
Are there tasks that you know you need to do, but struggle to actually complete? Think of ways you could utilize a side hustle to earn money while getting them done.
Get Paid to Build a Social Network
There is a lot of truth to the statement, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” So how do you get to know the right people? You can use a side hustle as one way to build a social network.
Social networking is a huge benefit of my writing hustle. As I have studied early retirement, I have realized that few people truly retire in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, most use their newfound freedom to pursue things that most interest or challenge them.
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What interests me as I approach my early retirement is being an educator and consumer advocate. I enjoy sharing all that I have learned over the past few years related to personal finance. As such, I use my writing to promote and build connections with others who have been influential in my own journey to financial independence.
These people that I am connecting with through my writing have experience doing things that I am interested in doing. Many of them write blogs or books, publish podcasts, create online lifestyle businesses, and coach others.
Social networking is also a huge benefit of my teaching job. For years, we have struggled to meet other climbing partners in our hometown, and most of our best climbing friends live over an hour away. Through this job, I am able to identify people with an interest in climbing, who I can trust with my safety. Many of them become both climbing partners and friends.
Think about the social networks you would like to build, and those that might be useful to your hobbies, lifestyle, and goals. Then, find ways a side hustle could provide these for you, or at least open the door to new connections.
Get Paid to Get Discounted/Free Stuff
This is a very small benefit of my current side hustles. I have been thinking of ways to take advantage of this more often, though. It could be of great value. Getting free or discounted items through a side hustle can even be more beneficial than focusing on earning more money.
For example, in my situation I already max out all tax-advantaged investing. Therefore, I pay approximately 40% tax on every additional dollar I earn, between medicare, social security, federal and state income taxes. I then pay an additional 6% sales tax on any dollar I spend.
I tallied it up to see what I take home after Uncle Sam gets his cut. The answer? Every additional pre-tax dollar I earn gives me only about fifty cents’ value. However, getting things for free (or at a discount) gives me full value for every dollar saved.
This is a far less beneficial approach if the things that you are offered are not of great use or interest to you. If you find a way to obtain the things that you already wanted or needed, though, it can translate to great savings, and allow you to tuck more money away each month. Utilizing the aforementioned social media network can be very helpful in this instance, as well.
Will You Start Hustling?
This list of ways to use a side hustle is certainly not exhaustive. Your options are limited only by your imagination. Hopefully, my examples will provide you with a framework and encourage you to look at your own opportunities. Then, find ways to reap multiple benefits from side hustles, that will allow you to increase your income and decrease your spending while improving your life.
Using a side hustle does not have to mean sacrifice and hard work. Often, you can find ways for them to simply compliment your existing interests and lifestyle. Doing so can make life better right now while accelerating your path to financial independence.
Do you use a side hustle to make more money? Have you found similar success with these strategies or do you have any of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments.