By Alexis Read
Since before I could remember, it was always my dream to live in New York City. Every time I visited the city the bright lights, loud sirens, and fast-moving people fascinated me. As they say, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” and my life plan was to make it there.
When I did finally move to NYC in November 2015 to take on a dream job at a bank, I figured I had made it. I was doing fine financially, but was surprised to find I wasn’t saving as much money as I would have hoped. It turns out that with rent as high as the skyscrapers that surround us, generally expensive cost of everything, and a sizable student loan debt payment each month, the salary didn’t offset the high cost of living as much as I had hoped.
You don’t have to live in an expensive city like NYC or San Francisco to feel the financial struggle that many people, especially millennials and those with student loan debt, experience nowadays. Even with a decent-paying job, you might feel you’re still not saving enough to reach your financial goals and secure a strong financial future. It isn’t in your head either — studies show that millennials are being paid 20% less than Baby Boomers did at the same age, and student loan debt has increased 58% in the last decade.
The solution I found to start saving some extra cash: side hustling. As in taking on side jobs or making additional investments to increase cash flow to supplement your paycheck. I’ve found that if you prioritize your schedule, you can make time for additional money-making activities. You might sacrifice some things that previous generations didn’t need to, but you’d be joining the 50% of millennials that have at least one side hustle. Here’s a list of additional jobs I’ve taken on since graduating college, and maybe some of these will work for you:
This is my favorite economic miracle to talk about. Airbnb is an online platform that allows users to essentially set up hotels in their homes or spare bedrooms. The appeal to guests is that you get to “live like a local” while typically paying less than you would for a hotel. The appeal to hosts like me is that if you set it up in the right location at the right price, it can be exceptionally lucrative.
Although regulations are quickly tightening around short-term rentals, due to the economic implications it’s had on the hotel industry and rent prices, there are still ways to get around it and set one up. For example: to do it in NYC legally, I signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment by myself with the intent of renting out the second bedroom as a “Private Room” listing on Airbnb. Although it’s nerve-racking to take on the responsibility of the full rent amount (usually it would be split with a roommate), it ended up being incredibly worth the risk. I actually am technically living in Midtown Manhattan for free now because the income from it offsets the full cost of rent, even after taxes.
Not all cities provide such a good opportunity as NYC does, but it still might be worthwhile to set one up in your city. Even if you just open up your home on Airbnb when you go on vacation, you can possibly cover all the vacation costs! I was able to take the extra money I earned on Airbnb in NYC to buy a house in Richmond, VA where my family lives. I also rent it out on Airbnb there, and although it’s not quite as lucrative, it is still more profitable than having long-term tenants.
And to address the question I regularly get, “Have you ever felt unsafe as a woman renting out a room in your apartment to strangers?” No, I thankfully have never felt unsafe. The Airbnb community is typically a friendly one, and you can always screen them by their reviews. Although nothing is risk-free, so far it has been perfectly fine for me and has made a significant positive impact on my life financially.
Upwork is an online hub to connect remote freelance workers with employers in need of some additional resources. This platform can offer some great opportunities to make extra cash in your free time, especially if you have coding or writing skills. Better yet, it’s all remote, so you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.
I primarily worked on coding projects through this website — mainly in Python, SAS, and VBA. I also did some writing for a stock market news source which paid per article. Getting started can be a bit slow, and you might have to lowball your initial offers to win out against competition. However, luckily it’s very common to get repeat work from clients if you do a good job on their first project.
You can get paid directly through the platform, and it’s priced either by the project or by hour depending on the type of work. If you’re doing hourly pay, the platform will take a picture of your work every 10 minutes so that the client knows you’re actively working. In exchange, Upwork does take a cut from the freelancers to keep the platform running, but the cut gets smaller the more work you do for each client.
3. Refereeing sports
Side hustling became a focus in my life at a very young age. I began refereeing soccer when I was only 12 years old and was making about three times the minimum wage at the time. I ended up stopping for a few years because I got more serious about actually playing the sport, but I started it up again in college to help pay for school. I continued refereeing after work and on the weekends until a few years ago.
I can’t speak to other sports because I’ve never officiated them, but I can say there is definitely a shortage of soccer referees in many parts of the US to the point that you can get almost as much work as you have time for. Since it generally requires a lot of physical endurance and the occasional dissent from crazy soccer parents, you generally get paid quite well for the job. If you get games at the higher levels, it can pay a few hundred dollars for a half day’s work.
This might be a great side job for you if there’s a sport you love and you’re physically capable/willing to do it. There are negatives to it, such as the physical strain and mental strength required to deal with the criticism, which eventually led to me stopping. But if you can handle it, then it can feel like you’re getting paid to work out!
Finding a side hustle that works for you
These are just some ideas that worked for me, but there are plenty of other ways to earn some extra cash outside of your full-time job. It could be tutoring, babysitting, dog walking, becoming an Uber/Lyft driver, ticket reselling, or even launching a new company from one of your great business ideas. You could even start your own blog and make money in less than 24 hours! As long as you’re still able to strike a balance between work and personal life, side hustling can bring new meaning and happiness into your life while alleviating some financial stress.