Family Finances: Side hustles

Amanda Gibson doesn’t just write columns so that she can inform all of us about fascinating money things. She also gets paid—it’s one of her side hustles. What can you do to hustle?

Photo by: spcbrass

My husband says one of my money super powers is my love of the hustle. Even though I am not technically employed, I bring in about a third of our household income. I’m proud that I am able to generate income to support our family while only doing things I love. And I know there are plenty more hustlers like me out there. Today I’m sharing my own hustle in the hopes that you will share yours (and give me some great ideas) or maybe be inspired to start your own.

A Graduate Stipend

I love history, and I love reading. When I quit my job to search for the next phase of my career, I spent a lot of time reading voraciously. I was taking our son to the library weekly and just couldn’t resist the shelf with the new books. Then a historian friend told me that if you can get into a history graduate program, your tuition is waived and you are paid a stipend. You can get PAID to read books all day! I couldn’t sign up fast enough. In truth, it took me eighteen months of hard work and some luck to prepare for and then gain admission to graduate school, but now I basically get paid to read history books. And it will hopefully lead to a career in which I more or less do the same thing. A bonus is that the health insurance we buy through William & Mary is about half the price of the insurance we used to buy on the private market.

Vacation Rental

I started renting our house out on the weekends in 2012. It takes a little bit of time to field inquiries and confirm reservations, plus we have to keep the house neat and clean. But this little bonus income has helped us pay for major work on the house and still smoothes out the lumpy income my husband receives as a freelancer.

This Column Right Here

I’ve always read about and studied personal finance. At the Federal Reserve I worked in Economic Education and Community Development. Now I research money and credit in seventeenth-century Virginia. Everything I do somehow comes back to money. I can’t get away from it (not that I want to–I love this stuff).

My purpose in writing this column has never been to give advice, but instead to start a conversation. Money is kind of a taboo subject in polite company, but I think talking about it actually goes a long way to keeping us each financially healthy. Imagine if you had some sort of health issue that you didn’t discuss with your doctor or your spouse. Better to work out solutions to issues health, financial, and otherwise, before they grow into big problems. I’m so lucky that the good folks at RVANews are cool enough to give me an outlet for the money thoughts that roll around in my brain. And the income it generates puts just a little more cash in our pockets.

Interest on Investments

Before we had kids, my husband and I lived super cheap. For years we didn’t vacation, do anything in the house, or even eat out much. The result of all that nonspending was cash, lots and lots of cash for investing. Today those investments produce pretty little dividends each year. Those dividends are automatically reinvested, so it’s like saving money we didn’t even know we had. This income belongs to my husband and me together, but I think of it as my hustle because I am the one who took the initiative to invest it. These days, expenses like daycare keep us from padding our savings accounts like we used to. But the passive saving that comes from reinvested dividends makes us feel a little better.

Business Partner

I am legally half owner of my husband’s graphic design business even though we both really think of it as his, especially since he puts in about 100 times more hours than I do. So I have a small but active role. I do the bookkeeping, communicate with the accountant, help with some internal project management, and contribute to the vision and goals of the business. I do what I consider the fun part while meaningfully contributing to the business and saving us the expense of a bookkeeper.

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All of my side hustles together don’t add up to what I used to make at my nine to five. But I’m OK with that because we make enough for us, and boy, am I having a good time. It’s a fun challenge to see how much income I can generate from things I do anyway or assets we already own. It’s also a great complement to my other hobby–figuring out how to creatively cut our expenses without cutting our standard of living.

I love to hear about others’ side hustles. My mom babysat kids when she was home with my brother and me. My aunt took in sewing to augment her full-time gig because she could do it in the evening when her kids were home from school. I know lots of designers who teach evening classes or do freelance on the weekends. How about you? What are you up to that adds to your family’s income?

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Amanda Gibson

Amanda Gibson used to teach folks about money at the Fed. Now she spends her days reading history books, raising kids, and thinking of ways to rule the world.

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