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By Pam Leibfried
When we try to balance our budget, many of us fall into the trap of focusing on just our expenses. After all, for most people, it’s easy to see a few ways to trim expenses by eating out less, spending less on clothes or cutting back on entertainment and other social activities. And it is certainly true that taking a hard look at your expenses and then reducing – or eliminating entirely – non-essential expenses is one of the first steps you should take to get your finances in order.
But don’t forget that there’s another side to the budget equation: your income.
When we talk about balancing a budget, it’s not just a figure of speech. The goal is to have your income and expenses (including adequate savings) in balance. So if you’re not satisfied with your progress toward reaching your financial goals, but you don’t want to cut spending any further, try to think of ways to increase the income side of the budgeting equation. Increasing your income will help to balance your budget, and for those in debt already, it can be a way to step up your efforts to pay down your debts. Below are five ways to increase the amount of money you have coming in.
If your employer offers the possibility of overtime hours, make sure that your boss knows that you are willing to work overtime hours when they are available.
2. Part-time second job
This may not be an option for some due to time commitments related to their full-time job or family, but for others, a second job on weekends, at night or in the early morning hours can mean the difference between a balanced budget and debt. A neighbor of mine used to deliver our local newspaper before she went to her regular job. A former coworker got a part-time sales job in the mall near our office during the holiday season. She was able to save extra money for her baby fund; plus, she used her employee discount on holiday gifts for her family and friends. If you have a hobby that has specialty stores for its supplies – fabric, yarn, woodworking tools, etc. – see if weekend sales jobs are available; they will appreciate having a sales clerk with knowledge of their products and customers, and you will be able to purchase supplies for your hobby at a discount. But be sure that you don’t go overboard with your purchasing so you negate the benefits of the extra income!
3. Tutoring or teaching
You need to have a marketable skill in order to be paid to teach it to someone, but many of us have knowledge, skills or a hobby that we could teach. If you’re a math whiz, you could tutor neighborhood teens prepping for SAT/ACT exams. If you crochet, knit, quilt or scrapbook, check at your local yarn, fabric or scrapbooking store to see if it needs teachers for the classes it offers. Are you a skilled photographer? Many libraries or community centers offer courses and need instructors.
4. Make your hobby pay
If your hobby is woodworking, make and sell furniture or other wood items. If you quilt, sell quilts, quilted bags or quilted kitchen items. If you crochet or knit, sell afghans, sweaters or Christmas stockings. Although it’s not easy to make a living producing these types of products, if you love it and would be doing it anyway, it’s a way to bring in a little extra money – or at least to offset the expenses related to your hobby.
5. Declutter at a profit
Do you own skis, skateboards or other sporting equipment that you no longer use? If so, try selling them through a local equipment resale shop like Play it Again Sports. Or perhaps you have some shoes or purses you don’t use anymore and not enough closet space to house them all. Sell them at a local consignment shop. Or sell your equipment or clothing via a Facebook garage sale group or your own garage sale.
Maybe your family has outgrown the available space in your house and you’ve decided that it’s time to get rid of your old baseball cards, comic books or Disney figurines. When the items you want to get rid of are collectibles with resale value, try contacting a collectors club (locally or online) or a local shop that sells secondary market collectibles. Or sell them on eBay or Craigslist, where you may get more for them because other collectors who are willing to pay a premium for the items can more easily find them. I have a relative who collected scale models of Oliver tractors, and he recently sold them to another collector at a tidy profit.
If you have any ideas about income sources you’d like to share with your fellow Alliant members, share them with us via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
A group of Alliant employees teaches financial literacy classes as part of Alliant’s support of the Operation HOPE Banking on Our Future program. We go to two middle schools near our Chicago headquarters and teach lessons on budgeting, banking, credit and saving/investing. The first lesson in the program is The Basics of Budgeting, and the first thing I do when I teach that lesson is to define the word budget. Operation HOPE defines budget – and describes a balanced budget – as shown below:
A budget is a written plan for managing your income and expenses to avoid debt.
Balance is the bottom-line difference between your income and expenses on your budget worksheet. A budget balance can be positive, if you spend less than your income, or negative, if your expenses exceed your income.