Pay yourself first. Set financial goals. Automate your savings.
It doesn’t matter which version of this personal finance mantra you’ve heard, it all means the same thing: saving money is an important part of your financial health.
But with the millennial generation dragging a weight of debt behind them and some boomers still licking their wounds from the fallout of 2008, plenty of people scoff at the idea of saving.
In fact, it’s a major stress in their lives.
Instead of taking a defeatist attitude about how hard it can be to save when you’re already struggling, focus on increasing your income.
It may sound easier said than done, but in this new freelance economy, it’s become simpler than ever for people to increase their earning potential right from the comfort of the couch with a side job (and without jumping into a risky pyramid scheme).
How to Start a Side Hustle
Millennials have appropriated the term “hustle” with less of a salacious undertone. Instead, it now refers to an intense drive to accomplish goals, entrepreneurialism, and creating several sources of income.
Alternatively, a side hustle is a legal, above-board way to earn money in addition to a full-time job.
Some people bring in extra income with a specific goal in mind.
“I started a side hustle to help save up extra cash for a house,” explains Lauren Bowling, founder of L Bee and The Money Tree. “I continued to do it while I renovated, which helped fund the projects that went grossly over budget.”
Others start bringing in more money in order to pursue career goals, like acting, or to pad existing bank accounts just to feel secure. Some just like being able to earn with side jobs from home so they can spend more time with family.
“When I started my side hustle I was earning an extra couple hundred bucks each month,” says Stefanie O’Connell (@stefanieoconnel), author and founder of the site Stefanie O’Connell. “A year later, it’s grown into a full-fledged income stream.”
How to Find Your Side Hustle
Finding a side hustle isn’t much different than finding a day job. You have to seek out opportunities through networking, job applications and pitches.
Back then, she found job boards useful and got in the habit of cold emailing hundreds of website owners and business. She also began to build her own brand at the same time.
Brand building can be one of the most passive and yet lucrative ways to earn extra income. Developing a blog or other resource to showcase your work can easily turn into job offers.
“Most of my work has come through referrals and people finding my blog on Google, social media, etc.,” says O’Connell. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that potential for side hustle income can come from anywhere and everywhere, so I’m always keeping my options open and on the lookout for new opportunities.”
Freelance writing isn’t the only way to bring in some extra income. Check out this list of over 80 unique ways to start a side hustle.
What to Do With Your New Income
The first thing to do with new income is figure out taxes.
Far too many people get into the side hustle game, spend the money and forget that Uncle Sam will come calling.
If you’re earning a significant amount of money, you may need to be paying quarterly, estimated taxes (aka freelancers taxes).
Put aside at least 40% of each paycheck for taxes owed.
Once you’ve tucked away money for the IRS, figure out the best use for the rest of your funds.
Are you struggling with debt?
Your increased income can be used to pay down debt faster, which will of course reduce the overall interest you owe and save money in the long run.
Trying to retire early?
Don’t just let your money sit in a 0.01% interest rate savings account. You need to be investing your money and make it work for you.
Whatever amount you’d like to keep liquid should be put into a savings account earning at least 1.00%.
It may not sound like a big difference, but $10,000 at 0.01% earns you $1.
At 1.00%, you’ll get $100.
Some people even see side hustle money as a way to launch a new career. Alford did just that when she took the leap to become a full-time freelancer back on January 1, 2014.
“I saved a large emergency fund, got as many clients as I could, and braced to take the leap,” says Alford. “So far, I’ve been self-employed for 15 months, and I don’t see myself ever going back.”