Frugal NationFrugal Nation

More money from the same workday

A second job may not be possible or even desired. Instead, get paid for something you're already doing.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 11, 2012 4:53PM
Image: Money (© Corbis)Advice for improving the bottom line usually takes two forms: Earn more or spend less. I'm all for careful spending -- I believe frugality is the right life choice, remember? -- but earning even a little extra can speed you toward financial goals.

Getting a second job isn't always possible or practical. But with a little creativity you might get paid for something you're already doing.

I once interviewed a woman who walked neighborhood kids to school along with her own children, earning $5 per kid per day. Smart: She found a need and filled it. (Post continues after video.)
Suppose you're an at-home parent. Why not offer child care on teacher planning days or school snow days? If you've got the stamina, offer it during winter or spring breaks as well.

I work at home. When repairs are scheduled for the apartment building, the owners pay me to let in an electrician or painter because they'd have to drive almost an hour to do it themselves.

A couple of months ago Seattle got a few days' worth of snow. The owners hired me to shovel, which I considered getting paid to exercise.

Find your own niches

Speaking of exercise: If you've vowed to take a daily walk, advertise your availability for dog walking. If you've got a dog of your own, offer to walk someone else's pooch at the same time.

Or how about getting paid for something you're not doing? If you're too broke to go out, let friends and relatives know you're available to baby-sit. I did this while getting a midlife degree and looked at it as being paid to study once the kids were in bed.

Maybe a vacationing friend, neighbor or relative needs a house sitter. You've got to sleep anyway, so why not get paid to do it somewhere else?

A former neighbor who took occasional three-day weekends would pay me to look in on her cat once a day. It was an extra $20 to walk up one flight three times -- and it was entertaining, because her cat was a big goofball.

Put up a note in your building. Stopping the mail can be a big pain; a neighbor might pay you to collect and hold it. Houseplants are expensive; a neighbor might pay you to step in and water the greenery a few times.

Look aroundfor niches and figure out how to fill them. The money you earn can go toward an emergency fund, student loans, an accelerated mortgage payoff or any other financial goal. Or spend it on something special that's not in your budget right now.

And if your neighbors and friends are as frugal as you are? Offer to house-sit or walk their dogs for free. That way, you won't have to pay someone the next time you go home for Christmas.

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.