You love what you do for a living, but you’re not making an adequate living doing it. Sound familiar? Then you’ll appreciate this week’s reader question.
Hi! I am a 33-year-old mental health program manager for a crisis stabilization program for at-risk youth. I love what I do. However, I have major student loans, and my salary does not align with my payment. Any suggestions?
Desperate … Nicole
As with all people who find themselves with more month than money, Nicole has two choices: Make more or spend less.
How to make more
The two obvious ways to make more money are to ask for a raise or switch to a higher-paying job. Unfortunately, both will probably prove problematic for Nicole.
Nicole says she loves her work. And nothing’s more important than spending your work life doing something fulfilling. Like true love, it’s rare. So when you find it, switching jobs becomes less appealing.
As for earning more at her current job, Nicole should definitely try to earn as much as possible by seeking a raise. But work in the mental health field is not typically high-paying. Jobs are often through government agencies or nonprofits, neither known for fat salaries or Wall Street-sized bonuses.
What does that leave her with? A side hustle.
Earning money on the side
One of the most common questions I get is how to earn extra money. The ways to do it are limited only by your energy and imagination. From bartending to freelance writing, there’s something for everyone. And that’s especially true now that we have the Internet, the greatest source for extra income ever devised.
For example, check out articles like “How I Made $50,000 Selling on Amazon Last Year.” As the title suggests, it’s about someone who claims they made 50 grand on the side simply buying things cheap from various retail sources, then selling them on Amazon. From the author’s first article about how to do it:
Essentially, you buy retail items at dirt-cheap prices. Think Target clearance, Kohl’s 30 percent deals, and any other deals you find on Slickdeals or FatWallet. Then you box it up and ship it off to Amazon. The strategy has earned the name “retail arbitrage.”
And that’s just one of countless Internet-enabled ways to earn money on the side. Here are some of the stories we’ve done over just the last year:
- “How to Turn Your Love of Cooking Into Extra Cash“
- “Got the Drive to Make Extra Money? Rent Your Car to Strangers“
- “Making Extra Money: 7 Steps to Start a Pet Sitting or Dog Walking Business“
- “9 Tips to Starting an Online Teaching Business“
- “Get Crafty: 7 Steps Anyone Can Use to Make Money Online“
- “How to Make Money Buying Locally and Selling Globally“
- “Can Ride-Sharing Provide an ‘Uber-Lyft’ to Your Income?“
I could go on, but if you’re interested in more ideas, just do a search here or elsewhere for “side hustle” or “making extra money.” There are literally hundreds of ideas out there. Just avoid any that require you to pay them before they pay you.
How to spend less
For decades I’ve been approached by people complaining they can’t make ends meet. The first question I always ask: “Are you tracking your expenses?”
No matter what your situation is, the best way to squeeze more money from any budget is tracking where your money is going. In pre-Internet days, this was a laborious process. Now it’s not, thanks to free online services like those provided by one of our partners, PowerWallet.
Once you see where your money is going, you can start finding ways to save. Some will be obvious, others may require some thought, and still others, sacrifice. But if you’ve never really looked at exactly what you’re spending money on, doing so will almost always reveal some ways to spend less.
And don’t ever pay retail. Check out stories like “How I Paid $4.75 for a $25 Item” for tips on cash-back sites and other ideas to save.
Dealing with student loans
We know one place where a lot of Nicole’s money is going. She says, “I have major student loans, and my salary does not align with my payment.”
What Nicole needs to do is get some advice on her student loans to see if she can get a lower rate, lower payment or potentially even forgiveness of some of her loans.
- There are programs that offer income-based repayment of student loans.
- There are programs that offer loan forgiveness for those in public service.
- There are ways to consolidate loans to get a lower payment.
If she finds the process of dealing with her student loans overly complicated and wants professional help, she can find it right here in our Solutions Center.
Got a question you’d like answered?
A great way to get answers to just about any money-related question is to head to our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth and, most important, post questions and get answers. It’s also where I often look for questions to answer in this weekly column. You can also ask questions by replying to our daily emails. If you’re not getting them, fix that right now by subscribing here.
I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and over the years I’ve also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate. Got some time to kill? You can learn more about me here.
Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.