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Manage the family finances by cutting expenses AND increasing income

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Photo by Brittney Bush

Reader Melissa asks, “How do you cut back more when you have cut back to the bare minimum? I have a family of five to feed, and it seems to be getting more and more expensive. Any suggestions?”

I hear you, Melissa.  With the crazy economy, it’s pretty hard to budget, even if you budget one month at a time, like we do.  And if you stay at home full-time, a main part of your job as home manager is getting creative with managing the family’s money, stretching it as far as it can possibly go.

There are two sides to the money management equation – income and expenses. And if you’re doing all you can to manage your expenses – and by that, I mean possibly living on beans and rice for a season – then you might need to look at the income side of the equation.

In other words, you might need to increase your income in addition to cutting your expenses.

I know, easier said than done.

What’s a full-time home manager to do?  We all know you can’t just cut back working hours at home in order to work elsewhere. I personally think that if you feel called to stay at home with your kids, you can do it – God will provide for your needs.  But He might be asking you to earn money from home, while you also manage the home.

It’s a tough job, yes, and there are very few professions that log as many hours as a parent and home manager.  But if money manager is one of the hats you wear, then earning income from home is part of home management.

Options for Earning Income from Home

There is plenty written in the blogosphere about the myriad of ways you can work from home – and there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel.  So here are just a few of the most popular ideas:

Blogging

Let me put it bluntly – blogging is not passive income.  Blogging is a lot of work, and most people blog as a hobby rather than a profession.  But if you can find the right niche, you just may find ways to earn some money while writing.

Recommended Resources: Problogger, Blog Coach, Copyblogger, Blogging Basics 101

Craft and sell on Etsy

If you’ve got a knack for knitting, a penchant for photography, or mad sewing skills, you can make and sell your wares on Etsy.  And that’s just the start of it.  It’s admittedly difficult to rake in tons of dough, but if you’ve got the right know-how for your particular skill, you can do well.  I personally love the Etsy community, and I love supporting the shops there.

Recommended Resources: Craft Boom, the Etsy Seller’s Handbook, Quit Your Day Job

Buy and sell on eBay

This is nothing new, of course, but there are plenty of people who do very well buying items at places such as garage sales, then selling them for a profit on eBay.  I have no personal experience with this, so if you have, please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Recommended Resources: Sparkplugging, My eBay Method on Get Rich Slowly

Selling your stuff on Craigslist, Amazon, Half.com, or in a garage sale

There are multiple benefits to this, one of the most obvious being a more decluttered home.  I’m all about a decluttered home, as you might guess.  If you have a hard time parting with your stuff, justifying it with the thought that you might need it sometime in the future, think of your items as renting space in your home.  Is the space that they take up worth having less space and more clutter?

Recommended Resources: A Seller’s Guide to Craigslist on Lifehacker, How to Really Make Money With an Amazon Affiliate Site, and well, I’d be crazy not to recommend my e-book, Spring Cleaning for Normal People

Take calls through sources like LiveOps

Again, I have no personal experience here.  What you do is dedicate some time to your landline to taking calls for a particular company, usually a place where people order items from TV.  I hear this is a popular option among stay-at-home moms, and it’s fairly easy.

Recommended Resources: Work From Home Idea: LiveOps on Money Saving Mom

Work as a virtual assistant, online tutor, freelancer, transcriptionist, and who knows what else

You get the idea.  There are tons of jobs you can do from home, thanks to the internet.  Depending on your skills, experience, and interest, there’s a decent chance you can find something up your alley.

Recommended Resources: IncMoms, WAHM, Work Place Like Home

Thanks to the internet, we have so many more options than ever before to bring in income while staying at home with our kids.  We have opportunities our parents and grandparents never had.

So to answer your question in short, Melissa – if you’ve done all you can to make the expenses side of the equation as small as possible, then perhaps you can find ways to make the income side a bit larger.

Do you bring in additional income from home?  What works for you? Please share your ideas with us.

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Comments

  1. I appreciate all of your ways for a SAHM to help make some extra money. This thought has revisited my mind more and more frequently as of late. In fact, just last night I was telling my husband that I should start offering some of my own knitted wares and patterns on etsy.

    Your post was very encouraging because I feel like I’m not the only one who thinks about these things.

    Allison J’s last blog post…So Who Will It Be?

  2. I earn some extra money from home by making and selling custom photo jewelry. I probably make $150/month, with an increase around Christmas and Mother’s Day. I also clean my mother’s house a couple of times a month (obviously, I can take my boys) & that brings in a little.

    I had tried Live-Ops a few years ago, but at that time they didn’t support Mac users – I’ll have to look into that again (thanks for the reminder!).

    We are always looking for small things that we can do to bring in $50 here or there. It all adds up; they key for us is just to make sure that the effort (time, sacrifice) is truly worth the money.

  3. My husband and I bring in a ton of extra income using craigslist. We find things on the side of the road that people are throwing away and list them on craigslist, you will never believe some of the stuff people are looking to buy. We also enlist the help of family members. Our parents and grandparents find all kinds of stuff for us to sell. We paid for the majority of our wedding this way.

    Amanda @ SweetSimpleLife’s last blog post…Gift Cards, A Good Purchase This Holiday Season?

    • That’s very cool, Amanda.

      My MIL has decorated pretty much her entire home with things found on the side of the road, and her house is beautiful. My SIL tells a story of how embarrassed she was as a kid because one time, her mom went out running, and then a few minutes later, when my SIL was on the school bus, she saw her mom jogging while carrying an armchair over her head.

  4. Very good article. Thank you for doing this since I’m also looking for some extra income.

    Karen’s last blog post…Glorious Fall Leaves

  5. Great article! I’ve tried many of these methods in the past with success in each.

    Currently I work from home doing general transcription. It’s allowed our family of seven to weather many hard times over the past couple of years. The wonderful thing about it is that unlike medical or legal transcription, you can get started doing general transcription with no formal training. I recently wrote an article on my site about working from home in general transcription.

    I hope you’re okay with me leaving the link here. If it’s inappropriate, please feel free to delete it.

    Tara @ Deal Seeking Mom’s last blog post…EyeClops Night Vision Infrared Stealth Goggles Winner

  6. I’ve been working hard for a few months now trying to make a go of my blog http://www.HalfAssedKitchen.com. And I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into my personal blog http://www.AllAdither.com. But it’s nicheless, so it only gets 150 page views a day or so. I’d love to blog for some other sites/corporations and am trying to figure out how to compete with so many other talented bloggers.

    Half Assed Kitchen’s last blog post…Pulled pork sandwich

  7. I am a working mom right now, a high school teacher. However, our plan in to homeschool our children, starting with our daughter (now 3) when she starts Kindergarten. As a part time job, I have begun teaching online. This is my second year and I have been able to carve out a part-time place for myself when I do stay home in a part-time position. The money is excellent, although there is a long wait-list to get into virtual teaching. However, full-time is just like it sounds, full-time. Any teachers going to be staying at home with their kids would do well to look into working for virtual schools.

    Bryssy’s last blog post…Deals, Deals, Deals

  8. Great ideas! When I was first a SAHM (11 years ago), I tutored French and offered writing classes to homeschooled students. A few years ago I started freelance writing, mostly for parenting publications. It has been a great way to add to our income. In the last year since we became intent on living debt-free, the amount my writing has brought in has almost exactly matched the debt we paid off. This was very encouraging to us to see such progress.

  9. These are all great ideas, thank you for sharing.

  10. These are some GREAT tips!

    I currently sell my photography in the form of greeting cards, prints, and portrait services in my local area. So far it has at least been paying for my equipment expenses! But I hope I can bring it up to the next level…I have a few ideas up my sleeve!

    I did the eBay thing for about a year (I sold my mom’s collectibles for her and received a 25% commission). It was decent money, but a fair amount of work.

    Sarah H.’s last blog post…Four more ways to save on haircuts

  11. This may not be the most popular option, but I do direct sales via the home party plan. I work one night per week while my husband watches the kids and am able to bring in better than $100 per party ( closer to $200 average) after expenses. The key to doing any work like this is to find a product that you really like, keep your expenses low ( look for a company where you don’t have to stock product), and provide excellent customer service. This allows me to be the at home mom to my 4.

  12. Excellent post! These are great ideas for anyone who’s looking to earn a little extra. Especially if you’re paying off a debt, every little bit does count!

  13. I’m not a mom, but I do bring in a little income on the side. Signing up for sites like MySurvey, MyPoints or CashCrate is a way to get a little extra money. You could also become a guide at ChaCha (chacha.com) and earn $0.10 for each text message question you answer (it’s very flexible).

  14. I am a SAHM to four kids and I just recently started doing after schol care for a boy in my daughter’s class. After school care is not as demanding as all day as the kids are older and often can play with your own kids. We are putting the money I make as extra payments on our mortgage. Every little bit helps. On a different note, my husband can make excellent extra money on the side if I’m willing to continue our weekday routine with the kids with a good attitude during our weekend time together. I found that if I looked at it that I was allowing him to make extra money it made the time go faster!

  15. My daughter is in first grade, so I have some flexibility with my schedule. I work part-time mostly from home (with a few outside meetings) for an organization that supports public schools.

    I had a little papercraft business for a while; never made it to etsy, but I’m tempted to try. I’ve often thought about selling knitted things as well.

    One suggestion for those of you who scrapbook is to scrapbook for others – just be sure you charge enough!

    I’m hoping that my blog will eventually earn a bit of money, but I’m just getting started; Tsh and others are great inspiration, and she’s right, there’s nothing passive about it!

    Vintage Mommy’s last blog post…What is Open Adoption?

  16. as a new mama, i have recently started both a craft business and a blog in the hopes of being able to stay home with my little one. my blog is geared toward moms, especially new mamas. any advice on how to spread the word about your blog so that people find out about you? and any advice about the best ways to make money with your blog?

    Erin’s last blog post…baby gear 101…part 2

  17. Thank you so much for this post. I’m a newbie blogger, sahm, home manager, crafter, frugalista, well you get the idea. We’ve cut back our budget about as far as it can go (but just shy of a beans & rice month) so we can give our children a good Christmas this year. Dh and I have been trying to find other creative ways to bring in additional income, at least through the holidays so this article was EXTREMELY helpful.

    Jennifer’s last blog post…Sewing Week: A Holiday by Hands Festival Event

  18. I’m surprised you left out the idea of providing home daycare. When I was growing up, several of my friends’ mothers ran home daycare businesses. Not only were they able to stay home with their own children, but also provide a good solution for working moms. That’s what I did for daycare throughout my childhood, and I think my mom made a great choice.

    If you care for multiple families, you may need a state license, and would be actually running a business; but as Rachel said above, informal after-school arrangements with neighbors or friends are a simple place to start.

    Another good idea if you have sewing skills is to take in simple jobs like hemming pants or making curtains.

  19. As a SAHM and having cut back the budget to the bare minimum, I already started searching for ways to earn extra income. Going off to work isn’t an option with 3 kids under 5 and one with special needs. It is my hope to blog and freelance for money, but neither comes easy. I have yet to bring my readership over 10, though I’ve only been at this for 2 months as of today. So, we’ll see….

    Thanks for writing this.

  20. Thanks for such a great article! It’s so nice to hear some encouraging words for all us SAHMs, as well as the really helpful advice on ways we can help bring in a little extra income.

    Love your site…keep up the good work!

    Courtney’s last blog post…Sign me up!

  21. I am opening a daycare in my home. I currently keep children in their home but needed more money and decided to open daycare at home so that I can make more money and be at home. This is a great way to make more money if you love children!

    annette smith’s last blog post…More on the list

  22. Twice a year a participate in a local consignment sale. It’s very different from a consignment store. I make roughly $300 twice a year and spend about $60-$100 outfitting my 2 kids for the season. My expenses are low, less than $20 for printing my own tags. I declutter the house twice a year by getting rid of all the kids’ old clothes, toys and books. It ‘s a great way to make some money and keep things organized. The sale I participate in is called Pass It On Sales. I know there are others in the Portland, Or area and around the country. Check out some websites. I know the gal who runs the sale and she makes quite a nice chunk of money. She has expanded into advertising too. It’s a great resource for taking the “sell it on Craigslist” idea a bit further…maybe you can start your own sale where you live!

  23. I work as a youth leader. I run a youth program that involves doing an event one night a week. I do all the planning and contacting at home, and send out info to the kids via email, which I can do whenever I have the time. I shop for the supplies we will need for the weekly meeting (snacks, etc) at the same time as I grocery shop for my family. When my second son was a baby I used to bring him to the meeting and wear him (he went glow bowling at 3 weeks old), and now my husband looks after both boys.

    I think there are little niche jobs out there like this if you have a specialized skill set. I was a highschool teacher, so the job is not a stretch for me at all — its a little bit of what i loved about my former life. My friend who has an MA in music got her Kindermusic training and teaches two classes a week — her girls get to come and benefit from the classes too. Another friend with a BA in English does online editing and resume writing.

    jill’s last blog post…Works For Me Wednesday — Good Toy Edition

  24. Hey, I do this all the time and boy does it save. I can remember many of the things my mother use to fix when I was small. I fix them often such as fried potatoes (in olive oil) 2 small sausages each and a small bowl of cream corn. This is just one of the menus my mother used. We loved it. Of course you can substitute raw veggies to cut down on the starch the options are endless. I use google often and ask for simple menu in the 50′s. I give us smaller portions and if anyone is still hungry there is always a homemade cookie for dessert. Potato soup, egg salad sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, salmon patties, mom was good…..really good at making good food that stretched to feed us and we all enjoyed what we ate.

  25. I have been involved with selling children’s items on eBay for over 4 years and it can be very lucrative. When selling children’s clothing – you have to sell name brand to make much on your return… but, if you don’t have name brand clothing – it is easy to acquire without spending a penny! One of the things I tell my readers is to take their children’s clothes that they have outgrown to consignment stores and UPgrade to higher end clothing that will sell on eBay… Sometimes I’ll buy for my own kids at consignment shops – and once they have outgrown the outfits, I’ll either re-consign them (giving me 50% back in cash) or I’ll sell them on eBay (usually giving me at least a 300-500% return – but, it does take more time to sell on eBay). I love how flexible selling on eBay can be for a mom… you can do it anytime of the day… I think it is one of the perfect work at home jobs for a mom…

    Jenni

    • avatar
      KEITH KIDD says:

      I am a single mother and have been for 21 years and for my son’s entire life I have done surveys for one company only and they reward me every month with healthy vouchers and cash rewards. Amounts vary but I have never been disappointed and this company is recognised globally.
      would you like to join Shopandscan please get them to enter their details on our volunteers website http://www.volunteer4panels.com. Shopandscan has a rule to make sure that the panel is kept representative of all types of different people in the country.
      OPTION 2
      Work this week and paid cash next week
      influence products and services – and get paid for giving your views and experiences. Invite your friends to become a mystery shopper and earn commission fees when they sign up! Successful referral will earn you £1.00 in commission, paid to you by PayPal (they pay all fees) when your balance reaches a threshold of £5.00. http://myconsumerintel.co.uk/account.aspx?t=X&r=dbe8dc8f-9aa6-41bb-9740-e68eb5064695

  26. I think cutting expenses is more important than earning income due to taxes. If you cut out $100 a month – it’s tax free. If you earn $100 a month extra – guess what – you have to pay taxes on that amount. It’s also possible that you had to hire a sitter to watch the kids while you worked to earn that money.

    But earning extra money is still a good thing! A few more ideas include baby sitting and tutoring (either kids or college students depending on your degree and expertise.) Dave Ramsey has classes to certify people to become financial counselors – I have no experience with working with Dave Ramsey but am curious if others have done this.

    You could set up a web site as an expert in your field or niche and use it to advertise classes.

    I know a woman who supported herself well as a dog groomer. I love topics like this and like to see women become empowered to add to their family finances.

  27. I also wanted to mention that some of the parents I work with are desperate to find great baby sitters they can trust. My boss has tried to hire me to watch his son overnight so he and his wife could enjoy an entire evening alone (something they rarely get to do since their son was born.) I think this could be a great business for an experienced mom and something that could be done just one evening a month, one night a week or as often as you’d like. Some kids live too far away from their grandparents to visit very often and would love to have an evening with an older couple too. According to my boss, they aren’t interested in hiring a teen even if they could find one.

  28. On the subject of cutting expenses, if the letter writer was not embarrased to share her expense spreadsheet (or whatever she uses to track her spending) with someone else, possibly a friend in the same boat, it’s possible that other pair of eyes could come up with areas that could be pruned away. Sometimes we are blind to our own questionable spending.

  29. I simply make and sell baby slings. My profit margin is about $25 a sling and I only sell about 3 a month, but every dollar counts. I am thinking about also selling nursing covers, sets of burping cloths and taggies. All very popluar items that I can make and sell at competitive prices.

    Also, when my daughter turns 3 I plan on doing an in-home preschool and buying materials through http://www.funsteps.com, they make it affordable and fairly easy to do.

    Anyway, hope this helps someone!

    • I am looking for a baby sling right now! I work at home myself and have for about 20 years as a family childcare provider. My kids are grown now(25,24,&21). And miraculously my husband and I were able to put all three through college without any student loans. Something we both decided we wanted to do for our kids. It was a choice that we made for me to work out of the home. Yes a great deal of patience is needed as well as a head for business. But I have cared for some great families and wonderful kids.

  30. There are many blogs that I like to read and I just opened yours from my favorites list and I’m glad that I did. I was driving to work this morning trying to think of ways that I could make more money and lo, and behold, there is info on your blog about ways to make more money.
    Thanks for reading my mind and giving so much useful information.

    Rebecca

    Rebecca’s last blog post…Creative Journal – Paisley and Stripes

  31. Great article, mama!

    My sister is a single woman and an art teacher and is looking into starting a face painting business. She lives in a large suburb of Houston and the market there looks potentially really great. That might be an idea for particularly artsy mamas.

    My husband would prefer I cut expenses rather than try to bring in income which is good because he and both know I can hardly manage the two little ones and running the house as it is! A recent career change for him has caused some TIGHT times for our family, and we are just about to be on “rice and beans” status, but this post was really motivating for me. I need to get those cloth diapers listed and sold somewhere, as well as TONS of little girl clothes. Thanks again!

    Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog post…Grateful for Truth

  32. We’ve totally cut back to bare bones. Suggestions that I never read for cutting back more don’t help because we’ve already done all of it.

    My increased income sources haven’t worked out. Blogging..not enough readers, private practice business…no clients, teaching a class…not enough people signed up. Darn this is hard!!!

  33. These seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. I have 6 kidlets myself and am a SAHM. BUT – I am fortunate enough to do a little bookwork for a non-profit orginization, I also do preschool (not daycare) 3 mornings a week. Preschool is fun because it is only 2 hours each morning, and I don’t end up tied down to my house all day long. I spend one day a week prepping for the next weeks lessons. I just started last year adn only had 6 students (one of my own). I made up little flyers and sent to friends and people from my church. I aslo advertised on craigslist and got two children from there ! This year I have 11 kids (one my own) and it is going even better than last year. My husband enjoys sports, and got into refereeing on the side 5 or so years ago. He’ll do high school football games on Friday nights (I lose my date nights for a few months though), and youth football all day Saturday. No that football is over, he is starting to ref city league mens basketball, JV basketball games, and youth basketball on Saturdays. He gets to write in the days he is available, so we can really work it around our schedule. This can bring in anywhere from $50-$500 a month depending on how much you work! We have one rule though… no working on Sundays! It is our day to be together and worship together as families.

    Cathy’s last blog post…PhotoScape.

  34. I make extra money working as a Rater for Google. It allows me to work a little and stay home with my son. I make about $200 a week. It helps out quite a bit. We are working the Total Money Makeover plan so any extra helps pay off that debt at a faster rate.

    If you interested in the Rater job at Google, just send your resume to temporaryjobs@google.com and include Quality Rater – Referral – Temporary in the subject line of their email.

    Sporty Mama’s last blog post…Hubby’s Trophy From The Weekend

  35. Thanks for the advice. We just bought our first house and we’re really feeling anxious about money, especially with me staying at home with the kids. I’ll make good use of those links..

  36. I bring in between $60 and $120 a month by doing occasional childcare for a friend of mine who is a doula. She only does one birth per month and she doesn’t get much notice (obviously) so it was really hard for her to find someone. I’m more than happy to do it for her and our kids play well together. The nice thing is that while it may be a long day (sometimes 12 hours until her husband comes home) it is infrequent and doesn’t disrupt my own family’s routine.

    I’ve also been giving cooking lessons to another friend of mine and her homeschooled children. Twice a month alternating between a lesson for the mother and the children. I was trained as a chef and pastry chef and I started cooking for my family when I was 12. I haven’t been in the industry for 10 years, but it’s not like I’m teaching them the latest cutting edge in food trends. We’re doing things like cookies, muffins, rice (she seriously doesn’t know how to cook rice with out using Uncle Ben’s), roast a chicken, mac’n’cheese, pasta sauce, soup and bread. Really basic family food. And again, my son plays with her younger children while I’m teaching, so no costs for me. I even walk to her house.

  37. Very good tips! I have concentrated on the internet to provide me extra income.Cleaning the attic and selling the stuff on eBay can give quite a raise in the monthly income.

    Tom’s last blog post…Getting Paid To Do Surveys

  38. I have always extra money by working kids camps – Girl Scouts, high school science camps, etc. I can usually rope my mom into taking the kids for one or two weeks, and work these really fun (and lucrative) jobs during the summer. There is the added bonus of free tuition for my kids if they are the right age for the camp.

  39. I agree with you Brittney, blogging is a very active process. You really have to love writing to do it I think.

    I also agree with Kim, with direct selling you just have to love the product. I don’t wear make-up and don’t care much about clothes and I never considered direct selling until I thought about books. Now, there’s something I DO love. I guess I’m confessing to being a book addict :-) Direct selling can fit in well with the school and homeschool schedule and you can get a nice additional income without making it full-time. There are many, many companies out there from new green-type products, to very well established things like Tupperware and Mary Kay. Very few of the companies are anywhere near reaching saturated local capacity of representatives. The biggest challenges are getting to hear about companies and choosing! Of course direct selling is work too, you can start making money right away, but you don’t necessarily start with the contacts and skills you need to be successful.

    Anyway, did I mention I like writing, oh yes, and reading and talking! I’d better go and take care of cooking before my homeschooled kids start to pass out from late-lunch hunger :-)

  40. I worked from home as a Home Agent for West Corporation for 4 years. It was a great way to add to our family income while being home fulltime.
    When we moved to a state that had no openings I went to work with my husband in self storage management. It still allows us to homeschool our teenager and work from home.

    Rona´s last blog post…Everyday Food Cooking Magazine and TV Show – Yummy Recipes

  41. Wow! These are really cool tips on getting some extra money! Some people are all about cutting expenses, but being creative about increasing your income is just the next step!

  42. It sucks but sometimes it comes down to just having to make more money. I think you have given a lot of options here from blogging to selling on eBay. A side hustle is a great way to supplement the money you need.

  43. I think its a better idea to cut your daily expenses instead to kept your kids un-attendant.

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