10 Ways to Invest $1,000 Dollars, Without Putting a Dime in the Stock Market

Until late 2008, most adults were more than happy to dump their investment cash into the stock market. However, financial upheaval ripped the rose-colored glasses off most investors. It’s not that the stock market can’t make money when times are tight; it’s that most people just don’t understand enough about stocks to ride the tumultuous waves all the way to clearer skies.

Luckily, if you have a spare $1,000 to invest, here are ten ways to make a strong return without putting a dime in the stock market.

1. Win the Grocery Game

As of fall 2010, financial experts are extremely concerned about significant inflation. While you can easily cut back on incidental expenses, you still have to eat. Putting your $1,000 into long-term food storage could be one smart move if things keep going downhill. Focus on big ticket staples like butter, milk, meat, canned goods and dry goods. Buying a side of beef and a freezer big enough to hold it will easily pay off if food prices go through the roof.

2. Give Social Lending a Try

My small, but growing, portfolio of hand-picked investments at Lending Club is currently averaging a 10.92% net annualized return. Not too shabby, considering “high-yield” cash accounts are averaging about 1.30%, and even 30-year treasuries are only offering 4.25%. Be sure to check out my recent Lending Club review for a few secrets to success.

3. Seal the Holes

After food, housing and utilities are going to eat up a huge chunk of your monthly budget. If you need creative ways to spend $1,000, plug the leaky gaps around windows and doors, which is one of several ways to prepare your home for winter. Upgrading windows and doors should be your first step if you don’t already have double-pane energy efficient models already in your home.

4. Beat the Bad Job Market

Nobody is secure in their employment these day, it would seem. However, you’ll have a much tighter handle on your cash flow if you are in the driver’s seat. Start a side hustle with low overhead and invest that $1,000 to get it off the ground. Having a second income is great for supplementing your income, and a nice hedge against periods of unemployment.

5. Solar Solutions

You won’t be able to change our your whole house’s electrical system and live off the grid with $1, 000 . However, you can add some solar components that will give you lighting absolutely free. Start with your outdoor lighting, as that’s the easiest to upgrade to solar. You can also add components like a solar attic vent.

6. Get Self Sufficient

When times are tight, those who can rely on themselves will have dozens more options. Investing in self sufficiency is a smart move. Buy chickens and build a coop with your $1,000 and you’ll benefit from almost free eggs and meat. Start a square foot garden; dig a well; install a root cellar; buy a milk cow.

7. Educate Yourself

It’s not rocket science that people with degrees make more on average than those who don’t have credentials. These discrepancies are going to get even more obvious. Spend your $1,000 on some classes that can give you the leg up on the competition.

8. Appliance Appeal

Swapping older appliances for newer models can be a great way to invest that $1,000 . New appliances can cost as much as 40-50% less to run than models that were sold just seven to ten years ago. If you swap out several appliances, the savings can really add up over time.

9. Maid to Order

Spending cash for household help might seem a bit over-the-top. However, if you use the time savings to focus on other money-making goals, it can really pay off. A few hours that you don’t have to spend scrubbing floors can be turned into a part-time venture or money-making hobby that yields way more than the maid’s wage.

10. Invest in Their Future

Charitable ventures aren’t necessarily direct money-makers, but who’s to say what priorities your money should be spent on? Choose charities that truly provide a leg up. Buying a goat for a poor African family can give them a long-term way to get ahead.

You also might to consider investing in a micro-lending program such as Kiva.org that gives loans to overseas small business owners; the default rate for this truly leg-up investment is astronomically low, and imagine the lives you could change.


  1. For now, I’m going to use that money to invest in a side business, and some of the first few funds I get from that, I’m going to get into social lending. I’m excited about it!

  2. I haven’t done the social lending. I think I will look into it this season.
    We don’t store frozen items. When our electricity was out for a week in an ice storm- we ended up having a neighborhood “freezer” barbecue!
    The best milk in a pack? Carnation. When cold our children didn’t complain ( we lived in Hong Kong and milk was $8 a gallon). Best canned chicken? Swanson’s white chicken breast.
    Great tips!

  3. Nice ideas! I especially like the one about getting some household help, but I suspect that has more to do with the massive sneezing attack I have when dusting than the desire to save money by using the time more wisely. Maybe I’d save on Kleenex though!

    • I have horrible grass allergies, and have thought long and hard about hiring someone to cut our grass. So far, I just can’t bring myself to do it, but if the allergies get worse, I might have to consider it. The two days of sneezing and wheezing aren’t worth a couple of hours of fun in the yard.

  4. I did the work to see what the default rates on Lending Club are by Amount Borrowed. This is the frequency of charged off and defaulted loans against the frequency of fully paid and current loans by amount borrowed. So, for loans made by lending club in the $1 – $1000 range, there were 15 charged off and default loans. There were 151 current and fully paid loans. 15/(15+151)= 9.04%

    1 – 1000 9.04%
    1001 – 2000 5.11%
    2001 – 3000 5.97%
    3001 – 4000 4.52%
    4001 – 5000 5.46%
    5001 – 6000 4.95%
    6001 – 7000 5.09%
    7001 – 8000 6.97%
    8001 – 9000 4.44%
    9001 – 10,000 5.04%
    10,001 – 11,000 8.17%
    11,001 – 12,000 5.28%
    12,001 – 13,000 2.45%
    13,001 – 14,000 4.10%
    14,001 – 15,000 6.41%
    15,001 – 16,000 5.34%
    16,001 – 17,000 2.24%
    17,001 – 18,000 3.42%
    18,001 – 19,000 2.80%
    19,001 – 20,000 5.94%
    20,001 – 21,000 10.00%
    21,001 – 22,000 2.90%
    22,001 – 23,000 8.11%
    23,001 – 24,000 8.82%
    24,001 – 25,000 8.88%
    Usual disclaimers: YMMV. seek professional advice. etc. My statistics professor would be quick to point out the amount borrowed doesn’t determine if the loan will be paid back or not. I haven’t proven that. I have just provided a snapshot in time of the frequency of the charged off and defaulted loans by amount borrowed against the frequency of the fully paid and current loans by amount. This was on 13,427 loans.

    • Interesting…looks like there are a couple sweet spots in the $12k – $18k range, I typically stick to loans in the <$10k range, because for some reason I feel like they are less risky (someone only needs $8k to consolidate debt instead of $18k). Of course, the statistics say otherwise.

  5. Tip # 11 – Pay down your high interest second mortgage for a guaranteed return on your money (8.25% in my case). That’s what I’m doing with every spare nickel I find.

  6. I always liked the idea of using a side business (like chickens) to subsidize my retirement income with. I’m a way’s from retirement so I’ve got a decade or two to plan and scheme.

    I’ve never tried social lending. Interesting. I must learn more.

  7. Great ideas for alternative uses of that $1,000, Frugal Dad.

    I’d like to point out though that while the stock market did take a big hit in 2008, it also had one of its best performing years from the bottom in March of 2009. What goes down must also go up, when talking about the overall stock market and with index funds available for owning the entire market (or virtually any other sub-section of the market), it’s easy to capture that upswing… I only wish I had more cash available for such opportunities 😉

  8. Hi Jason.

    You have some good tips here. I would like to add that I invest in a maged forex account and the returns are fantastic. Its worth checking out. I hope to retire in several years on the back of it.