Side Hustles To Keep Your Family Finances Afloat

Besides having a solid emergency fund, one of the best ways to hedge against financial ruin while surviving a layoff is to have one or two (or three) side hustles. Side hustles are a little different from traditional part time jobs in that they generally involve you starting up something on your own. They can range in complexity from selling yard sale finds on eBay to starting your own small business.

1. Dog walker. On the way to work each morning I pass a lady walking five or six dogs, usually three leashes in each hand. She carries a small shovel like a sword strapped to her waist, and has quite a few plastic grocery bags stuffed in each pocket. I’ve never seen them in action, but I assume these tools are for performing the neighborly deed of removing dog poop from lawns along the way.

Pros: You are getting exercise; your own dog can tag along and get exercise
Cons: Clean up (need I say more); untangling twisted leashes

2. “Date-night” sitting service. This is an idea we kicked around a few months ago when we were looking for ways to boost our income, without being away from the kids. A date-night sitting service is basically a Friday and/or Saturday night in-home service where neighbors and friends drop off their kids for a few hours while the parents enjoy a “date night.” Hosts charge a little less than a single babysitter would, but make a little more because they have more than one child to watch. Kids can play games, watch movies, and hosts usually order up some cheap pizza, or grill hotdogs and hamburgers (always a crowd favorite).

Pros: Your kids can participate in the fun; hourly earnings typically higher than retail job
Cons: Liability issues; five extra kids running around the house; no date night of your own

3. Survey participant. Anyone who has been on the web any length of time knows opportunities abound for participants to earn money completing surveys. What is less known is that there are only a small handful of reputable companies offering this service, in a space crowded by many scams. I have personal experience working with CashCrate, where I used to net $40-$60 a month working surveys a few minutes each day. Over time, I’ve managed to take advantage of their lucrative referral system and I now make a couple hundred dollars a month. It won’t make me rich, but it does add a little to the grocery budget.

Pros: No costs to participate; can be done from home
Cons: Email box full of offers (use a separate email account if you sign up)

4. Blogger. I’ve been writing for nearly a year now, but if I read this myself this time last year I wouldn’t have believed being a blogger could actually become an income-earning opportunity. The money comes very slowly, but for those with patience it can actually add up to become a nice supplemental income. It is not completely passive income though, as there is a lot of writing, editing and behind-the-scenes administration that goes along with being a blogger. Still, if there is a subject you are passionate about it is worth a try.

Pros: Work at your own pace; minimal startup costs; interacting with readers and other bloggers
Cons: Time consuming; requires mental effort tough to conjure up at the end of a long day

5. House sitter. I have family member that recently graduated high school. He is headed into one of the military services, but his enlistment was delayed. Instead of hunting down a place to rent, he got the opportunity to house-sit for a couple that would be away from their home for a few months. While this job doesn’t pay an income, money saved is money earned. Rather than shelling out several hundred dollars for a half-year lease, now he gets to live rent free and pocket earnings from his job.

Pros: Free rent; take advantage of amenities (pool, home gyms, etc.)
Cons: No place for your own things; wondering when you’ll be asked to move out

6. Lawn painter. No, that’s not a typo. Painting houses has always been a nice way to make a few extra bucks, but in times of dry climate and numerous foreclosures, greening up lawns with paint is in high demand. Realtors would much rather show a “green” home than one with a brown yard. But the benefits of a green lawn don’t stop with curb appeal. A green lawn makes the house looked lived in, lessening the chances of the home being vandalized, or squatters taking up residence.

Pros: High demand (especially in winter months)
Cons: Product costs; green legs and shoes

7. Holiday Decorations Installer. This one is seasonal, obviously, but with the holiday season approaching I’ve heard of many enterprising people advertising their services to install decorations. Many homeowners enjoy adding icicle lights and yard decorations, but don’t have the time, energy, or know-how to set them up themselves. That’s where you come in. Charge a flat fee based on the amount of decorations the owner wants displayed, and offer a discounted fee to come back after the holidays and take down the decorations and pack them away for next year. Who knows…you might earn a little extra Christmas shopping money by helping out your neighbors!

Pros: Minimal equipment needed (maybe just a ladder, scaffold, etc.); set your own schedule
Cons: A lot of patience needed (ever try to unwind a 100ft strand of tangled Christmas lights?)


  1. My partner does dog walking. She handles it fine 9even with two dogs its still worth her while). The thing that I personally would not be able to handle would be the picking up off the doggy droppings! Or at least not twice daily…

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. On the topic of dog hustles, I think there’s even a market for cleaning up people’s own yards. If you had some sort of good system (maybe a vacuum of some sort?), I think a lot of people would pay to avoid having to do that themselves.

  3. We had never seen a “green” lawn until we moved to our current location. I thought my family was going to crack up. The funny thing is that it’s all the rage in the uppity neighborhoods but us middle class folks think it looks like a bald guy with a bad toupee (you know, one that comes with a chin strap).

  4. I have tutored for several years but have always refused pay. Now that we are trying to become debtfree I don’t think I will take anymore non-paying students.

  5. @Msphillyorganic: Check out the article I linked to in the post “lucrative referral system” for more details on CashCrate–what’s involved, things to watch out for, etc.

  6. Ever since I started my own blog, I started re-evaluating the blogs I visit regularly and paying more attention to their advertisements as a way of giving back. After all, I’m using their services!

  7. We are doing the blogging thing and now I am working on securing freelance writing jobs and beefing up some advertising so that we can maximize our profit from it. My blogging is our butter on our bread so I have to do what I can to help with the finances, particularly with the holidays coming up!

  8. Another side biz on the dog business is pet sitting. For many years I watched a neighbor’s dog at his home when he traveled. It was like a mini vacation – I got to stay at his beautiful home and hang out with his cuddly sweet dog. It was a wonderful arrangement and I made a fair amount of money, but charged far less than a kennel – and I watered the plants. Then he got another hyperactive crazy dog and I had to start to pass, but it was good while it lasted!

  9. I’m trying to use my extensive knowledge of the Spanish language in translating, but I find it difficult getting anyone who needs anything translated.

    Anyone know of anything? Or how to start?

  10. @Renato: In terms of side-hustling I would think any opportunity that requires translation could be lucrative. Perhaps look into something like an at-home call center looking for bilingual staff (they usually pay a differential for those able to handle calls in English and Spanish). Perhaps tutoring is an option for children with English as a second language. You might ask around places like Sylvan Learning Centers, schools, etc. for some leads.

  11. The cons of Holiday Decorations Installer only patience? Hardly. People pay others to install Christmas lights for them because they do not want to risk a fall from the ladder or scaffolding that you mention as requirements. Installing Christmas lights to earn a few extra bucks while risking disability is a bad idea. Most people who do pay are probably going to have needs for higher light hanging which only increases the risk.

    Try something else that does not threaten your ability to do your day job.

  12. Thank you for the side hustles idea’s. Being disabled makes it difficult to make extra money. Its really hard to shretch my money til the end of the month.can’t wait to try some of these! One idea I just heard of today is that some cities pay you to give plasma.( only if you are in good health.)

  13. Nice list of ideas. I have been trying to increase the number of sponsored posts that I have been writing to get a little extra cash in case we need it. I am actually starting to see some positive results for writing articles on eHow which I hope to grow in the future.

  14. I love these. Side Hustles are what enable me to be a stay-at-home mom. I babysit, sell homemade bread, and just started my own blog. We’ll see how that goes 🙂 My husband also does the survey thing. We live in the northeast. Another great idea is to walk around with a shovel and offer to shovel walkways and driveways right after a storm.

  15. Renato- I’m with Frugal Dad on the English as a Second Language or Sylvan opportunities. I taught ESL for 4 years and teaching the kids was a challenge because there was no one to explain anything to the PARENTS. What a gift to have expertise in a second language.
    Frugal Dad! This morning my blog is about Fractured Finances (I’m writing Halloween/Musician’s advice blogs) and I am going to mention your blog! The downturn in the economy usually hits musicians and artists FIRST!
    So I’m offering ideas for alternative income. Thank you again for these wonderful ideas and for keeping people motivated.

  16. Great! I’ll see if I can find anyone who is willing to take me on as a teacher’s aid or something.

  17. Thanks for the great ideas. I have two friends who Mystery Shop. They are supplementing their entertainment budget by taking restaurant shops only, but you can do all sort of different things. One friend has a farm and she caters to homeschoolers; she does big business in the spring when the animals are having babies but she also holds classes in art and other things. I belong to something called Consumer Opinions where I am paid money to come and just give an opinion on something (they have to qualify you first by asking you lots of survey questions every time they call you).

  18. I wanted to mention to Sheila that there is a work-at-home company that hires ONLY those with a disability. I can’t think of the name offhand, as I was not eligible to work for them, but if you search on Google you’ll find it. Just another suggestion for you!

  19. You’ve been tagged!

    Check out my blog to see what you have to do next. I am a newbie blogger and I had alot of fun playing this tag game…I hope you do too!

  20. I have tried surveys, blogging and house sitting from your list. The surveys have been so-so, the blogging is starting to pick up and the house/dog sitting has been reciprocal with our next door neighbors during family vacations. Good post, thanks.

  21. Some of the survey programs don’t seem to pay out. I have joined 3 survey groups, completed a half dozen surveys and have never seen a dime.

    I am sure that some of these survey programs work and I would imagine that the ones that do will be affiliated with reputable companies.

    iBuxRocks69 – Pays consumers to complete offers

  22. I’ve done the house sitting, babysitting and blogging. I’ve been able to make some change with the blogging so far and the house sitting has been good too. This is a good list to start with. I’ve been thinking about the surveys but not so sure after reading the horror stories of different sites.

  23. Fun list — I definitely have number three down, and I’m working on number four!

    Lawn painter is crazy — I would never have thought of that. Putting up holiday decorations is also pretty clever, too, I have to say.

  24. You know I thought about going door to door and offering to wash windows in my spare time. Apparently, a kit with all the tools you need (Cleaner, Ladder, Buckets, Squezge, Etc.) only cost about $75 to put together. Besides, many ppl don’t wash those high up windows on 2 and 3 story houses so it is a good selling point!


  25. Our kids, 10 & 8 earnt themselves a cool Aussie $50.00 each over the last school holidays – walking & feeding ex-neighbour’s doggies with a lil’ help from their Mum!

    Looks like this could be a regular gig!

    Near the end though, the novelty had pretty much worn off. However, they didn’t know they were going to earn that much, so it was a wonderful SURPRISE for everyone!

  26. Great ideas! Dog sitting has become quite popular with a friend of mine. She grosses around $80K, but drives around 8K miles each month. She has recently brought on board 3 part-time helps to cover designated areas of town.

  27. Could someone give me some insight into this blogging stuff, I would love to “blog” or freelance write but am unsure what all of this is about or where i can find real, reputable sites. Thanks for the input

  28. I start to become a blogger too. I know it is very time consuming but i am looking it as my long term goal. I believe my current and consisitant effort will be paid back in return someday in the future.

  29. I know I’m late to the game but, I was interested in the “side hustles” so I checked out CashCrate, thought it would be interesting, signed up, earned a few dollars and in the process filled out an auto insurance quote form and cut my rate in HALF!.