Of all the people I know and love, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t welcome a small income boost this month–or any month, for that matter. Whether you’re between jobs, figuring out how to cover an unexpected bill or hoping to stash more cash into savings, get your creative juices flowing with these ideas.
DON’T OVERINSURE. You need term life insurance (8 to 10 times the annual income of the single breadwinner; in a two-income family, insure each spouse for 6 to 8 times annual gross salary). But you can confidently cancel duplicate coverage: credit card life insurance, mortgage life insurance, accidental death and child life.
Caution: Get a term life policy first if you don’t have it, then cancel the duplicates. Don’t leave even a tiny gap between coverage.
The Boost: Add up what you’re paying for credit card life insurance, life insurance on the kids and the mortgage, plus any riders you have for accident insurance. What was offered to you for “just pennies a day” is probably more like $100 a month. Or more.
CALL YOUR AUTO INSURER. Has your teenage driver brought home a great report card? Most auto insurance companies will knock about 10 percent off the top if an insured teen maintains a 3.0 GPA. Is there an educator in the family? Mercury Insurance and others give credentialed teachers and educational administrators a discount. If you have a bachelor’s degree in an engineering or a science-related field (biochemistry, mathematics and more), Mercury offers a discount. Insurers also give discounts of 20 percent or more when you insure all of your cars with one company.
Caution: Don’t assume that discounts are automatic—you have to speak up. Ask to see a complete list. (Note that not all companies offer the same ones.)
The Boost: Insurers’ special discounts can be added together onto a policy. This can really add up.
FATTEN YOUR PAYCHECK. If you receive a tax refund, rethink it: that’s your money you’re lending to Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. To have less withheld from your paychecks, file a new W-4 with your employer, increasing the number of allowances you’re claiming.
Caution: Don’t over-adjust or you could end up owing the IRS next year. Get out your latest federal tax return, then go online to figure out how many allowances you should take (go to IRS.gov, then click on “Withholding Calculator” in the “Individuals” section).
The Boost: If you’re getting a $2,000 tax refund, adjusting your withholding will increase your net income by about $163 each month.
MOONLIGHT. Taking a second job at a crafts store made all the difference for Kathryn, one of my readers. “It was challenging to go to my second job, but I boosted our income enough to get us through a rough patch,” says Kathryn. Typically, food service, drugstores and some retail stores offer part-time work conducive to moonlighting.
Caution: Unless you’ve suffered a loss of income, taking on a second job could push you into a higher tax bracket. Run the numbers before you make your decision.
The Boost: How much you can earn depends on the jobs available. Kathryn worked 10 to 20 hours a week at her second job, earning a little more than minimum wage. This increased their household income by up to $400 net for each of the six months she moonlighted.
FREELANCE. Everyone has a gift, something that they can offer the world. There are three sites you should visit to get a feel for which one fits your abilities, talents and skill. Upwork.com is an online workplace where small businesses connect with qualified professionals to get work done. If you are a writer, programmer, graphic designer, marketer or have other skills to offer, you can bid on jobs and get paid for doing what you do best. Fiverr.com is a global online marketplace offering tasks and services, beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed, from which it gets its name. TaskRabbit.com is an online and mobile marketplace that allows users to outsource small jobs and tasks to others in their neighborhood. Users name the task they need done and the price they are willing to pay, and a network of pre-approved contractors bid to complete the job. Think of TaskRabbit like eBay for real-world labor. The internet is filled with reputable freelance companies in a multitude of industries.
Caution: Make sure your daytime employer, if you have one, has no restrictions on freelancing.
The Boost: At Upwork.com, jobs vary and can pay $500 per project for writers, $1,000 per project for programmers. Fiverr and TaskRabbit vary according to the work performed. Check them out for more information.