We've been working really hard over the last few years to eliminate all our debt (mortgage is next on the list, I think) and increase our savings for retirement and other long-term goals. We've trimmed all the fat from the budget--and some would say we've gone beyond that into sacrificing. Now, we're on to finding avenues to help us increase our earnings so we can meet our goals even faster.
Find Professional Development that is Free or Pays You
I've gotten in the habit of only accepting professional development opportunities that are free that sound fabulous, or ones that pay me. For example, NCCAT (the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching) offers seminars to teachers for free. You have to pay your travel, but they help with sub cost, and house and feed you like royalty. This is a great way for me to get a little R&R on someone else's dime, while also getting some great PD that keeps my license current.
This past summer, I was accepted into the Governor's Teacher Network, which pays me a significant stipend for producing professional development for other teachers. I can get some credit for completing their online course, while also getting paid. The NEH has great summer opportunities for teachers all over the country and world, and they pay you to go. I'm applying for one of their workshops this summer. If I get accepted, it will be great because we have family in town, which means less money will be pulled from my stipend check since I won't stay in a hotel.
Now, I realize that you may not always be able to implement this strategy, and it may not work for all fields, but for teaching, this has been great. It also helps me to make sure that I'm not giving up valuable time with my family for mediocre PD.
Ask for a Raise
As a state worker in a non-union state, I can't exactly do this, even collectively with other workers. However, it is a strategy that works for people in other sectors. I was blessed this year that with pay scale adjustments, I received a raise of about $150 per paycheck. (Though I know others with different levels of experience actually had their pay reduced, which is another discussion entirely...) If you work in a job where you can ask for a raise, and you haven't had one in a while, consider if you could request one. Or maybe you need to work a bit harder, develop your skill set more over the next six months, get the boss's eye, and then ask for one after he sees how hard you're working.
Work a Side Gig
I recently accepted a job tutoring a younger student after school. It will take a significant portion of my planning time, but the extra pay was worth it. I tried to be reasonable with my fee, knowing that not all families can afford professional rates, but also knowing that my skill is more than just babysitting. If this tutoring continues, it will add almost an extra $200 to our monthly income, which will really allow us to pay down the home equity line faster.
Many people could work a side job like this in whatever your field of expertise might be. Maybe it's teaching music lessons, or doing yard work for someone who hates it, offering a design consult to someone who lacks color sense, babysitting, or something else entirely. What could you do to make an extra $20-$50 each week?
Sell Your Stuff
Or someone else's... We're not shy about taking people's cast-offs. We find that we'll either put them to good use, or we can make a little extra cash by selling the stuff on eBay or Craigslist. It's important if you're going to do this that you know your product. You can't mark stuff up too much, otherwise it'll never sell. You also won't make much if you sell it too cheaply, and it won't be worth your time. I know some people scour yard sales and thrift shops for stuff to resell online, and have made a business doing it. We're not to that level, but it is a strategy that has helped us pay for the "extras" we'd like, but aren't necessities, like our CSA share or new bedding.
Sell Your Space
We've rented an upstairs bedroom in our home for several years now and will begin renting our basement apartment soon. There have been lots of benefits to this arrangement outside of finances, but the primary reason we did it was so that we could use the rental income to pretty much cover our mortgage payment each month. I realize that not everyone may be comfortable with renting a room in your home, but we have found that it's led to some wonderful relationships that we never would have found otherwise. As long as you're selective about where you advertise, and about who you interview for the space, then we've found it to be a great bonus in more ways than one.
All in all, I figure our extra income streams actually amount to about $800 or more per month, which is pretty impressive, since a few of them (like rental income) are pretty passive.
What could you do to increase your earnings? Here's to living and saving green! I'd love to hear from you!