What is an Emergency Fund? Here’s What You Need to Know

I can’t tell you the number of times my emergency fund has saved me.

And my bank account.

There was that time my dog got sick and I ended up with thousands of dollars in vet bills. And the year when my trusty old Subaru went on the fritz. And let’s not forget the day I quit my job.

Okay, that last one might have been a choice.

Still, each of these situations could have been detrimental to my personal finances. Without an emergency fund, I would have been carless, thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and probably living in my parents’ basement because I couldn’t afford to pay rent.

But none of those happened. I was able to fix my car, pay for those vet bills in cash, and sustain myself long enough to find another source of income. All because I had emergency cash on hand.

The peace of mind from having an emergency fund kept me calm in the face of some serious financial stress. And it’s important that you have that peace of mind, too. So let’s talk about how you can build your emergency fund to get that same feeling.

Table of Contents

  • What is an Emergency Fund?
  • 3 Benefits of Having an Emergency Cash Fund
    • 1. It reduces your money-related stress.
    • 2. It protects you and your loved ones.
    • 3. It helps you escape the debt cycle.
  • Emergency Fund FAQs
    • How much emergency cash do I need?
    • Where should I keep my emergency savings?
    • When should I use my emergency fund (and when shouldn’t I)?
  • How to Build an Emergency Savings Fund
    • Make a budget.
    • Start small.
    • Prioritize your savings.
    • Cut expenses where you can.
    • Increase your income.
  • Don’t Wait to Start Your Emergency Fund

What is an Emergency Fund?

An emergency fund is a savings account set aside specifically for those “just in case” situations.

Just in case your car breaks down, or someone has to go to the emergency room. In case the heat pump stops working and you have to get it fixed. Your dryer quits drying and you need to replace it.

I like to think of it as a buffer against Murphy’s Law. If you’re not familiar, the concept of Murphy’s Law is that whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

We’ve all had those months where everything seems to break or needs repairing all at once. That’s Murphy’s Law in action.

With an emergency fund in place, you don’t have to stress out when Murphy makes an appearance. You can smile, wave, and approach him with confidence knowing everything is under control.

3 Benefits of Having an Emergency Cash Fund

There are numerous benefits, both financially and mentally, to having an emergency savings fund.

1. It reduces your money-related stress.

Studies show that money is one of the leading causes of stress in the U.S. A recent CNBC survey found that 30% of Americans are “constantly” stressed about money.

If you’ve ever faced a financial emergency — job loss, the heat going out in the middle of winter, last-minute travel to a family member’s funeral — then you can probably relate.

While these are never particularly joyous occasions, they are far less stressful when you have money set aside to deal with them.

2. It protects you and your loved ones.

Unexpected life events often leave us feeling financially vulnerable. However, when you’ve planned for them in advance, you can rest assured that you and the people you care about will be safe and taken care of.

3. It helps you escape the debt cycle.

When you’re getting out of debt, it can feel like no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get ahead. Just when things are going well, something pops up and you have to use your credit card, continuing the cycle of debt.

Your emergency fund helps break this cycle. When something unexpected happens, you can use your emergency fund to cover it, then rebuild your savings cushion before you go back to paying off debt.

Emergency Fund FAQs

As a financial coach, I field a lot of questions about saving and managing money. Here are the most common ones I get related to emergency funds.

How much emergency cash do I need?

This may surprise you, but you don’t necessarily need thousands and thousands of dollars in emergency cash set aside. The size of your emergency fund depends on your lifestyle, goals, and current circumstances (e.g. paying off debt, kids vs. no kids, own a home vs. rent, etc.).

If you’re single, rent a home, receive a steady full-time income, and are focusing on paying off your debt fast, then you can probably get by with an emergency savings of $1,000 to $1,500.

On the other hand, if you own a home, have kids, or rely on freelance work for the bulk of your income, you’ll want to aim for the $5,000 to $7,000 range, at a minimum.

Whatever your circumstances, aim for at least three months’ worth of basic living expenses — things like your rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and gas. If you have dependents or are self-employed, you should consider doubling that to a six-month emergency savings fund.

To better visualize what that may look like, try out the emergency fund calculator below.

The more you can stow away for a rainy day, the better prepared you’ll be when that day comes. Ultimately, a 12-month savings cushion should be the goal. However, don’t let that discourage you if it seems far away. Even a few hundred dollars can be a serious budget saver.

Start small, and increase your savings as you can

Although you’ll eventually want three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund, you need to start somewhere. Most of us can’t drop thousands of dollars into a savings account in the beginning. But most of us can aim to save $500-$1000 in a few months’ (or weeks’) time. Not only does this small amount allow you to handle most small-scale emergencies without incurring more debt, it allows you to continue the momentum of saving.

The last thing you want to do is pause your savings to pay off debt.

Where should I keep my emergency savings?

The point of having an emergency fund is to have cash available when you need it. Therefore, you’ll want to keep it in a place where you can access it quickly and easily.

However, you don’t want it to be too easy to access. Consider keeping your emergency fund in a separate bank from your other accounts. That way you’re less tempted to dip into your savings for non-emergency situations.

High-yield online savings accounts and money market accounts are good places to store your money for safekeeping. These accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 and allow you to earn interest on your savings.

When should I use my emergency fund (and when shouldn’t I)?

When deciding whether or not to dip into your emergency money, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it necessary?
  2. Does it need to happen now?
  3. Did I see this coming?

What’s necessary for someone else might not be for you. For example, if your car breaks down, but you could easily take public transportation to work and wherever else you need to, then you might not need to repair it right away. You could take a couple months to save up the money instead.

Here are some situations that would justify using your emergency savings:

  • Your pet gets sick and needs a $2,000 operation to live.
  • A family member passes away unexpectedly and you want to travel to the funeral.
  • Your car breaks down and you need it to get to work.
  • You get laid off from work.

Situations like these do NOT qualify for emergency fund access:

  • Gifts for holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions.
  • Expenses you can plan for (insurance, taxes, tires for your car, etc.).
  • A great deal on something you really want.
  • Spontaneous trips and vacations.

These types of expenses aren’t emergencies and should be worked into your normal monthly budget. Rather than relying on your emergency savings, use sinking funds to work them into your monthly budget. Save a little each month and by the time the expense rolls around, you have the money set aside to cover it.

How to Build an Emergency Savings Fund

Let’s state up front that there’s no wrong way to save money. However, there are a few steps you can take to build your emergency fund faster and without sacrificing your sanity.

Make a budget.

You can save money without one, but creating a budget will help you accomplish your goals much faster.

When you have an overall picture of your finances, you’ll be able to see how much money you can contribute to savings each month. From there, you can set a monthly savings goal and develop a timeline for when your emergency savings will be fully funded.

Start small.

This is advice I give to all my financial coaching clients. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and feel like you don’t have any money left over at the end of the month, start with a few dollars when you can. You’ll be surprised how quickly $5 or $10 adds up.

Prioritize your savings.

You may have heard the term “pay yourself first.” The idea here is to treat savings as a necessary expense, just like rent or utilities. Make it a non-negotiable.

Every time you get paid, set aside a designated amount in your emergency fund. It doesn’t have to be much if the budget is tight right now. The most important thing is to get in the habit of saving first. Once you’ve set aside your savings, budget from what’s left.

Cut expenses where you can.

Cutting expenses doesn’t necessarily mean selling your house or canceling your Netflix subscription. Instead, look for quick wins in your budget where you could save some extra money. Subscriptions you don’t use, the “eating out” budget, and negotiating regular bills (cell phones, cable, etc.) are all quick and easy places to start.

Apps can help. Trim, for example, is a free tool that will track your spending and look for places in your budget where you can save money. It can also negotiate bills on your behalf, cancel unwanted subscriptions, and offer cash back when you shop. Learn more about the Trim app here.

Increase your income.

Last but not least, one of the best ways to build your emergency fund quickly is to look for an easy way to make more money. You could pick up a part-time job, work overtime at your current job (if that’s an option), start a side hustle, or sell a few things you don’t need.

Put all the money you make into savings (with the exception of taxes, of course) and you’ll reach your savings goal in no time.

Don’t Wait to Start Your Emergency Fund

Now that you know what an emergency fund is, what it can do for you, and how to set it up, it’s time to start saving. Don’t wait around because you think you don’t have enough to save now. Start small and increase your savings over time.

You can use apps to make saving, tracking your spending, and cutting expenses easier. Prioritize saving today. The next time life throws you a curveball or Murphy stops in for a visit, you’ll be glad you did.


Should You Pay Off Debt or Save Money? Here’s How to Decide

Our number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Debt is almost inescapable in America where, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts survey, around 80% of households reported they hold some form of debt.

From home mortgages to car loans and credit cards to student debt, there are times when borrowing money is necessary. Few people have the cash to pay for a home or college education. With so many Americans in debt, a major question arises: should you pay off debt or save?

Carrying debt can put a damper on the future, and the statistics about Americans’ futures look bleak lately. A 2017 GOBankingRates survey reported that 57% of American adults have less than $1,000 in savings, while 39% have no savings at all. Being in debt isn’t ideal, but obviously, neither is having no savings.

If you’re facing the question of whether to pay off debt or save, the answer isn’t a straightforward one. However, there are some good financial lessons you can apply to decide which is more important right now.

Table of Contents

  • Is it Better to Pay off Debt or Save Money? Two Approaches
    • 1. The Mathematical Approach to Debt Versus Savings
    • 2. The Emotional Approach to Debt Versus Savings
    • Do You Have to Choose to Either Pay Off Debt or Save?
  • How Do You Calculate Whether to Pay Off Debt or Save?
  • A Step-by-Step Plan for Debt Versus Savings
    • Step 1: Put Your Maximum Matched Savings into a 401(k)
    • Step 2: Build an Emergency Fund of Savings
    • Step 3: Focus on Paying Off Debt with High Interest Rates
    • Step 4: Decide Your Savings and Debt Priorities
    • Step 5: Stick to Your Spending Plan and Keep Building Your Savings
  • Pay Debt or Save Money? It’s a Personal Choice

Is it Better to Pay off Debt or Save Money? Two Approaches

There are two different approaches to handling whether to pay off debt or save money, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

1. The Mathematical Approach to Debt Versus Savings

The mathematical answer to whether to pay off debt or save says that you should put your money wherever it will work hardest for you.

If you’re debating whether to pay down student loans or put excess cash into a retirement saving account, look at it this way: If the student loan interest rate is lower than the return rate from the retirement account, pay the minimum on the debt each month and put extra money into the retirement account.

Conversely, if you have high-interest debt that’s costing more than you could make on the returns from investing extra money, you should focus on paying off the debt before saving.

For example, say your only debt is a student loan with a 4% interest rate. If you can reasonably expect a 6% return from your retirement account, the mathematical solution would be to pay the minimum on your student loans and invest the rest. However, if you have a credit card balance with a 19% interest rate, it makes more sense numbers wise to work on paying off the high-interest debt.

If you need help comparing debt to savings, there are online calculators that can help determine which is a better priority for your excess income.

2. The Emotional Approach to Debt Versus Savings

Many people have a negative emotional reaction to being in debt. Therefore, when looking at whether to pay off debt or save, they decide to tackle debt first, even if the numbers don’t necessarily support that decision.

Focusing on paying off what you owe before saving creates greater peace of mind for some. The truth is, money is about far more than budgeting and simple math.

There is a great deal of emotion that impacts our everyday financial decisions. If that wasn’t the case, we’d all spend less than we make, no one would have debt, and there would be no money problems to speak of.


Do You Have to Choose to Either Pay Off Debt or Save?

When asking whether to pay off debt or save, is it necessary to choose one or the other? Of course not.

It’s possible to put part of your excess income toward paying down debt and another part of it toward saving for your future. That does, however, require that you have a fair amount of extra income.

Related: 74 Money Saving Tips You Can Use to Save Money Each Month

How Do You Calculate Whether to Pay Off Debt or Save?

Most of us believe our money should go where it has the biggest positive impact on our overall finances, and for that reason, you might be leaning towards the mathematical approach.

But if your debt is spread out across multiple loans, like a mortgage, a car loan, and student loans, and your investment opportunities are diverse with varying rates of return, the calculation becomes a little more complex than just comparing your interest rate on a loan to the interest you can earn from an investment account.

When you consider compound interest, things get even tougher to calculate. Certain accounts may not have the best return this year, but their potential to earn you money over time with compound interest is unmatched. You’ll lose that potential by not contributing to compounding accounts as early and as often as possible.

A Step-by-Step Plan for Debt Versus Savings

If you’re feeling a little lost right now, that’s okay. It’s because there’s not a definitive right or wrong answer to whether you should pay off debt or save. However, this step-by-step plan is what we would recommend for people who have debt but want to start saving for the future.

Step 1: Put Your Maximum Matched Savings into a 401(k)

If you have an employer who matches your 401(k) contributions, your first step is to put as much as they’re willing to match into that account every single month.

For example, if your employer matches up to 2%, then you get a 100% return on 2% of your salary. That’s free money for your future.

Even if your employer only offers a 50% match, a 50% return is better than any interest rate, however subprime your loans may be. There is nowhere your money will be more beneficial to you, so this is your first step.

Step 2: Build an Emergency Fund of Savings

If you’re wondering whether to pay off debt or tackle your emergency fund first, the answer is to build an emergency fund. The last thing you want is to have to turn to credit cards and take on more debt if you have some kind of emergency, like a medical bill, car repair, or home maintenance need.

The amount you’ll want to start with depends on your situation, like whether you own or rent a home, if you have children, and job security in your industry. The more financial responsibility you have, the more you’ll want to stash away just in case.

If you rent and are just starting your career, you can probably get by with a mini emergency fund of $1,500 to $3,000. If you own a home or have children, you should try to have three to six months worth of income in your emergency fund. That way, you can handle just about any emergency that comes your way, even losing your job.

Step 3: Focus on Paying Off Debt with High Interest Rates

Now that you’re contributing to your 401(k) and have a small emergency fund, turn your attention (and excess income) toward your debt. Any debt you have with subprime interest rates, or rates higher than 9%, is first to go.

Interest rates this high will likely cost you more money than you would make on most investments. Paying these debts off as soon as possible means you’ll pay less in interest.

If you have high interest debt and know that it’s going to take you a while to pay it all off, you may want to consider refinancing with a personal loan. The idea here is to replace a high interest debt (like credit card debt) with a lower interest rate loan. For instance, if you are paying 24% APR on a credit and you take out a personal loan at 12% APR — and immediately use your loan proceeds to pay off your credit card debt — you’ll be left with a more manageable debt to pay off. In this example, 12% still isn’t ideal, but it’s a lot better than 24%!

Related: How to Get Out of Debt (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 4: Decide Your Savings and Debt Priorities

At this point, your finances are in pretty good shape. You have an emergency fund and you’ve wiped out any high-interest debt. Should you pay off debt or save more at this point? It’s up to you now.

If your debt interest rate is below the average rate of return for the stock market — roughly 7% — then it probably makes more mathematical sense to invest your money. Interest rates above the 10% mark are considered high-interest debts and will probably be worth it to pay off before you start investing.

Having some low-interest debt remaining isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can start working on that next, or if you have other financial priorities, start working toward those. It all depends on your debt tolerance and financial priorities.

Maybe you’ve been wondering whether to pay off debt or save for a house down payment. If buying a home is one of your goals and you’ve paid off your high-interest debt, it might be time to start saving toward your down payment. On the other hand, if getting out of debt completely is your top priority, you could keep throwing your extra income towards your remaining debts.

Step 5: Stick to Your Spending Plan and Keep Building Your Savings

The beauty of personal finance is that’s it’s just that — personal. You don’t have to dedicate all your extra income to paying off your debt or saving. You can do both.

Keep working toward being debt free, and keep contributing to your retirement savings, too. With the financial foundation you’ve built, you should be able to pay down your remaining debt while continuing to plan for the future.

Related: How to Track Expenses in 3 Easy Steps (And Never Fail at Budgeting Again)

Pay Debt or Save Money? It’s a Personal Choice

At the end of the day, the decision to pay off debt or save is a choice each individual has to make for themselves. Every situation is different. For some, it may make more mathematical sense to put the minimum payment towards debt and any remaining income towards investing. However, the desire to be debt free may sway them to do the opposite.

The key takeaway is to figure out what makes mathematical sense for your situation as well as what aligns with your saving goals and values. From there, you can make an informed decision and create a plan that inspires you to take action.


How to Get Out of Debt: A Step-by-Step Guide for 2020

ur number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

We all know the basic principles of how to get out of debt.

Whether you’re broke and have no money, a low income or bad credit, the steps are all the same.

Spend less than you make and put any extra cash towards paying off your debt.

In practice, though, organizing what you need to tackle first, and knowing how to get started, can be overwhelming.

It can leave you feeling trapped and prevent you from getting started altogether.

To help you on your way to financial freedom, we’ve put together this simple, step-by-step guide to help you build a debt payoff plan and eliminate your debt.

It doesn’t matter if you have no money or your income is low. Even with bad credit, you can still put this step-by-step debt payoff guide to good use.

Let’s walk through the steps and help you get out of debt once and for all.

Table of Contents

  • Step 1: Find Out How Much Debt You Owe
  • Step 2: Choose Your Approach: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche
    • Debt Snowball Method
    • Debt Avalanche Method
    • Decide Which Debt You Will Tackle First
  • Step 3: Make Some Big Changes
    • Get Rid of Your Credit Cards
    • Sell Your Car
    • Stop Investing (For Now)
    • Cut Cable
    • Sell Your Unused Stuff
  • Step 4: Create a Monthly Budget
    • How to Make a Budget
    • Use Trim to Lower Your Monthly Bills
  • Step 5: Lower Your Interest Rates to Save Money
    • Refinance Your Student Loans
    • Negotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates (or Consolidate)
    • Consider a Balance Transfer Credit Card
  • Step 6: Improve Your Spending Habits
    • Save Money on Food Each Month
    • Learn How to Say “No”
    • Give Up Your Expensive Hobbies
  • Step 7: Increase Your Income
    • Ask for a Raise
    • Start a Side Hustle
    • Start a Low-Overhead Online Business
  • Putting it All Together

Step 1: Find Out How Much Debt You Owe

You can’t develop a debt payment strategy until you know exactly what you’re up against.

It’s time to mentally gather up all your debts – from that $40 store credit card balance to your $30,000 car loan – and put it all in one place.

Write down the debts you have, how much you owe on each, the interest rate, and the minimum payment.

If you aren’t sure on the interest rate, take the time to open your accounts and find the exact number. High-interest rate debt is a bigger drag on your success than low-interest debt, so you need to know which is which.

Totaling it all up in black-and-white may be scary, but you’re getting ready to cut that number down! Promise yourself that is the highest your debt number will ever be.

Now, let’s get to work.

Step 2: Choose Your Approach: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche

Once know exactly how much you owe, it’s time to put a plan together for how you’re going to get out of debt.

Throwing money at a different debt every month, without tracking your progress, is a surefire way for burnout. You’ll feel like you’re spinning your wheels and give up too soon.

The best way to pay down debt is to focus on one piece of debt at a time, until that one debt is entirely paid off. In the meantime, make only minimum payments on the other debts.Click to Tweet

This gives you milestones to celebrate, motivates you to keep going, and keeps you organized along the way.

So the question is, how do you decide which debt to pay off first?

There are two main philosophies when it comes to making this choice, the “Debt Snowball Method” and the “Debt Avalanche Method.”

Debt Snowball Method

In a nutshell: Prioritize your debts from smallest to largest, ignoring interest rates.

Remember making snowmen as a kid? You would start with a small snowball, then roll it along the ground, picking up more snow until you had a massive snowman belly. That’s the concept behind the debt snowball.

With the debt snowball, you start by paying off your debt with the smallest balance, regardless of interest rate.

While you pay off that debt, you make minimum payments on all the others.

Why is it called the debt snowball? Because the amount you put towards principle (your balance) snowballs every month. You keep putting the same amount of money towards your debts, even as you pay each one off, increasing the amount that goes towards principal over interest.

Debt Avalanche Method

In a nutshell: Prioritize your debts from highest interest rate to lowest, ignoring size.

The methodology of the debt avalanche is similar to the debt snowball, except with this method your goal is to minimize interest costs. No extra profits for those greedy creditors from you!

With the debt avalanche, you start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rate, regardless of size.

Then move on to the debt with the next highest interest rate.

Why an avalanche instead of a snowball? Because, by eliminating high-interest costs first, you put more of your cash towards actual principal over time. This means getting out of debt somewhat faster (and cheaper).

Decide Which Debt You Will Tackle First

What’s more important to you? Getting quick, early wins by paying off small debts, or paying the least amount of interest?

Both the snowball and avalanche methods have their benefits. And while the debt snowball isn’t mathematically the cheapest way out of debt, it is one of the most effective. Pursuing a debt-free life can be a long process, depending on where you are starting, and paying off a few debts early on can really get you excited to keep going.

ACTION ITEM: Choose whichever method sounds best for you, then organize your debts in that order. You’re ready to start making payments.

Step 3: Make Some Big Changes

While small, day-to-day changes matter, a few big changes can fast track you to getting out of debt. Consider these ideas and decide whether the expense they represent is truly worth it to you.

Get Rid of Your Credit Cards

Are credit cards burning a hole in your pocket? It may be time to cut them up.

If credit card debt is part of your problem, sticking to cash and debit cards can help you reset your spending mindset. Nothing is more discouraging when you’re paying off debt than realizing you increased it accidentally with an impulse credit card purchase.

Once you are officially debt free, and used to spending less than you make each and every month, you can revisit the issue. In the meantime, credit card rewards don’t offset interest charges.

Sell Your Car

Have a hefty car payment? Consider selling your car for a cheaper used model to eliminate the debt and reduce your insurance costs.

Look for good used car deals outside of new car dealerships. You’ll have more room to haggle with private sales and at independent used car dealers. Just be sure you have a good mechanic look over the car before you buy.

Don’t have a car payment? Decide whether your family can get by with one car instead of two. Dropping your spouse off at work in the morning might feel like a hassle, but if that extra 15 minutes saves you $500 a month, it might be worth it.

Stop Investing (For Now)

Saving for the future is essential, but when you have expensive debt that is holding you back, you need to set your priorities. Pulling back on investing in the short-term can put you in a better position to invest adequately in the future. View each dollar you save in interest cost as a dollar wisely invested.

Note: We would never recommend cutting your 401(k) contributions to a point where you don’t receive your full employer match. That’s free money, and the instant return is more than worth whatever you are paying in interest.

Cut Cable

It’s 2020. You can watch most of your favorite shows online, and even notable sporting events are offering free streaming options.

We watched the Super Bowl last year via Amazon Prime.

If you haven’t cut the cord yet, it’s time! Traditional cable packages run over $100 a month and can be a major drag on your goals.

Sell Your Unused Stuff

We could all do with a bit of minimizing. But instead of heading to the dumpster with your kids’ old toys and that ice bucket Aunt Marge sent you, list them for sale on Decluttr, letgo, or Craigslist.

On average, people have over $1,000 worth of stuff in their house that they don’t use. When we went through our minimizing process, we sold over $1,200 of books, toys, extra kitchen gear, and more.

The fringe benefit of this exercise? You realize how many things you’ve paid good money for that you didn’t really need. That tough reality makes it easier to say no to spending in the future.

Step 4: Create a Monthly Budget

Want to know how much you can put towards debt each month? You’re going to need a budget.

A reasonable budget helps you understand where your money is going. It alerts you to where cash is leaking out to things that don’t really matter to you. And it clues you in on how much you can afford for the things you do want.

By building a budget thoughtfully and allowing yourself some flexibility, you can reduce money stress by knowing there is always money in the bank for the things you need.

How to Make a Budget

Before you dive in, remember one thing:  the budget you create today is not set in stone.

Your categories, spending, and habits will change over the first few months. And that is perfectly fine! It will take time to adjust to tracking your expenses and creating awareness of your needs.

1. Figure out how much money you make.

Look up exactly how much you get paid each pay period. This is what you have to work with.

2. Define your core expenses.

Housing, utilities, groceries, insurance – These are the nonnegotiable expenses and must be covered first.

3. Write out your debt payments.

For now, assume you only make minimum payments on all of your debts since that is the amount required.

4. Create categories for regular expenses and assign reasonable spending limits to each item.

Don’t be afraid to have many budget categories. It will help you have a greater understanding of where things are going. Some regular expenses include internet, cell phone, household goods, medical costs, pets, haircuts, car repair, and home repair. Not every item will have an expense every month, but by setting some money aside for those irregular expenses, you’ll be ready when they hit.

5. Allocate remaining money between debt paydown and quality of life expenses.

The money that is left over from your income after completing steps 2 through 4 is what you have to contribute towards your goals and fun. In addition to debt paydown, you may want to allow for dinners out, gym memberships, gifts, etc. Divide the money in the way that best works for you.

Tip: While you may want to run at your goals full speed, always have some pocket money budgeted. Even if it only covers one Starbucks coffee a month, those little treats will keep you sane.

If you have very little money left over after Step 4, you may need to review your core and regular expenses. Without big lifestyle changes you may be stuck treading water, finding it difficult to ever fully get out of debt.

As you get accustomed to your budget, don’t be afraid to shift money from one category to another. There is no such thing as a normal month. Don’t go on a spending splurge and completely fall off the tracks just because you didn’t accurately predict the cost of a house repair.

Use Trim to Lower Your Monthly Bills

Want to cut your bills without ever having to talk to a company ever again? Trim has your back.

Trim is one of our favorite money-saving tools. The free app sends you updates on your spending via text, finds unwanted subscriptions and cancels them for you, and can also negotiate your cable or internet bill (seriously).

Step 5: Lower Your Interest Rates to Save Money

The less interest you can pay to your creditors, the faster you’ll be able to escape your debt. Check out these top ways to lower your interest rates.

Refinance Your Student Loans

Student loans dragging you down? You may be able to refinance to a lower rate and shorter term.

Reducing the term of your loans, even with a lower interest rate, will likely increase your current monthly payment. But with fewer years of payments to handle, you can save a bundle over time. SoFi, a top student loan refinancing provider, offers one such service. With no prepayment penalties and no hidden fees, it’s an easy way to save thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of your loan.

Negotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates (or Consolidate)

Credit card interest rates aren’t set in stone. It is a competitive market out there for credit card companies, which means they have to be flexible to keep customers.

If you’re a long-time customer and in good standing, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask for a reduction in interest rates. More often than not, they will be willing to make a cut to keep you as a customer.

Things to mention to get them on your side? Let them know how long you’ve been a loyal customer and that you would love to stick around. But, also share that other credit card companies are offering you lower rates, even 0% introductory rates for balance transfers, and that you can’t ignore the interest savings. Usually, they swing into customer retention mode, and they may be able to pull some strings.

If that’s not an option, consider a debt consolidation loan. If the average APR on your cards is 24% and you take out a personal loan at 12% APR — and immediately pay off your credit card debt — you’ll be left with a more manageable debt to pay off. It won’t solve your debt issue completely, but there is a time and place where debt consolidation makes sense. To see what rates you might be able to get, check out our loan comparison page.

Consider a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Can’t sufficiently lower your interest rate? Consider a balance transfer, which lets you move debt from one credit card to a different card with a lower rate – sometimes even 0%.

Effectively, you are paying off one credit card with another. But if the rate difference is wide enough, it could save you money. Just make sure you get all the details before starting a transfer. Many balance transfer cards charge a transfer fee of 3% to 5%. And they may have limits on how much you can transfer.

While 0% interest sounds fantastic, only undertake a balance transfer if you are serious about paying down debt. Make sure you can pay off the balance during the 0% offer period. Otherwise, you’re just playing hot potato with your balance.

Step 6: Improve Your Spending Habits

Embracing a frugal mindset will reduce your spending and allow you to pursue your goals more effectively. Not sure where to cut? Start with the big stuff.

Save Money on Food Each Month

The average Americanspends 10% of their budget on food, one of the most significant categories after housing. We have to eat, but do we have to pay so much doing it? Here’s how you can cut.

Stop Eating Out

Not only is eating at a restaurant more expensive, but it is also harder on your waistline. Meals at restaurants cost more and include larger portion sizes and more fat than the average dinner cooked at home.

Over 4% of the American budget (so 40% of total food spending) goes to food away from home. Eliminate dining out from your budget, at least until you are debt-free.

Avoid Impulse Buys in the Grocery Store

Before heading to your weekly grocery store shop, take the time to make a list. Check your grocery store’s online circular and take a look at Ibotta, a free app that gives you cash rebates on grocery store purchases, to see what’s on sale. Then, build a meal plan and list around those items.

Once you’re in the grocery store, stick to your list! To avoid extra purchases motivated by hunger, have a snack before heading to the store.

Learn How to Say “No”

Nights out on the town, drinks with coworkers, and shopping trips with friends are tempting. But when it doesn’t fit in your budget, you’re sacrificing your future for a little fun today.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to any event you can’t afford. You don’t have to isolate yourself in your debt-free journey, just be willing to offer an alternative. Suggesting a game night or potluck at your place could mean more quality time with your friends for a lot less money.

Give Up Your Expensive Hobbies

Spending $100 a month on yoga classes just isn’t realistic when you’re hustling to get out of debt. Trade in your expensive hobbies for lower cost options like free YouTube classes or a monthly book club.

Step 7: Increase Your Income

Frugal living is powerful, but it has a limit. You can’t save more than you make. So, to take your debt-free journey to the next level, it’s time to bring in some more dough.

Ask for a Raise

If you’ve been working hard and providing value to your company, it never hurts to ask for a raise.

Don’t just drop the request in your manager’s lap though. Ask for feedback, develop your skills and take on more responsibility. Along the way, proactively let your superiors know what you’ve accomplished. You want your manager to know you deserve a raise before you even walk through the door!

Start a Side Hustle

Commit a few spare hours in your week to something you’re good at, or a task you enjoy, that can be monetized online. Since the average person watches five hours of TV a day, I’m willing to bet you can make the time.

Related: 40 Legit Ways to Make Money

Start a Low-Overhead Online Business

The internet has made it easier than ever to start an online business with close to zero up-front costs.

Set up shop as a freelance writer, proofreader, or virtual assistant, and offer your services to other companies who want outside help with hiring a permanent employee. You can work as many or as few hours as you want, with some people turning their businesses into six-figure full-time jobs.

Get your first clients by reaching out to local businesses, posting about your new business on Facebook and LinkedIn, or listing your services on Upwork.

Putting it All Together

Whether you’re broke and have no money, you’re living on a low income or you have bad credit, just stick to these steps to become debt free once and for all.

Once you have an action plan for how to get out of debt, achieving debt freedom just requires time. Stay focused on your goal, stick to a budget, trim fat from your spending, and find ways to bring in more income to speed up your journey. Just don’t forget to celebrate all the little wins along the way!

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Is There Really Such a Thing as Good Debt vs. Bad Debt?

Is There Really Such a Thing as Good Debt vs. Bad Debt?

Our number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

While living debt free may not be feasible for you just yet, there’s a difference between good debt vs. bad debt.

One helps you increase your net worth and leverage your assets to build wealth. The other leaves you owing money on depreciating assets with little to no hope of getting a good return for the money invested.

The best advice about debt is to be conservative. Even if you’re taking out a loan for something that falls in the “good debt” category, don’t spend more than you can afford. Unexpected events can make it more difficult to make the payments on your loans. The less money you owe, the less you have to worry about being able to pay your bills.

With that said, debt can offer great leverage for advancing your career or increasing your net worth. Don’t be afraid to make an investment that will pay dividends down the road. Here’s what you need to know about good debt vs. bad debt.

Related: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Get Out of Debt

Table of Contents

What is Good Debt?

Good debt is taking out money for something that will have a positive impact on your net worth. It can help you grow your earning power or purchase an appreciating asset that will ultimately leave you better off down the road.

Good Debt Examples

The following examples are considered good debts. Even though you may currently owe money on these debts, they can ultimately improve your net word over time.


Many people can’t afford to pay for their education without taking out a loan. On top of that, the price tag for a college degree has increased by 213% in the last 20 years. However, taking out a loan to pay for college is considered good debt since those with college degrees may earn more over their lifetime than those without one.

An important factor to consider is the type of degree that you receive upon graduation. For the loan to truly pay off with a higher earning potential, you should focus on degrees that make it easier to find a position. If you get a degree in a field where you can’t find a job after college, you’ll be stuck paying tens of thousands of dollars back without reaping the benefits of your higher education.

For parents considering taking out a loan for their child’s education, this can be a good option if the alternative is raiding your retirement accounts. While you can borrow money to pay for college, no one will give you a loan to pay for your retirement. Taking on good debt like a student loan can help you afford college costs.

Related: Overwhelmed by Student Loans? Consider Refinancing Today

Real Estate

Most real estate will appreciate in value over time, increasing your net worth and leaving you with a tidy profit when you sell. However, buying at the height of the market can erode your earning potential and leave you upside down on your loan. Don’t stretch yourself to buy a bigger house or more expensive real estate than what you can afford to pay comfortably every month.

Before the real estate bubble burst in 2007, investing in real estate was considered a safe bet. While taking out money to buy a house or invest in income-producing real estate assets is still considered good debt, be careful not to take on too much.

Save for a sizable down payment before purchasing a house to avoid paying private mortgage insurance. Get a mortgage that fits well within your budget and the payments are not a stretch for you financially every month. If you follow these criteria, owning a home can be good debt for you and help you increase your net worth over time while giving you a roof over your head.

Small Business Loans

Borrowing money to start or expand an existing business usually falls in the category of good debt. Business owners tend to make more money than employees, provided they have a lucrative business model.

Small business loans are more difficult to get because they usually represent a higher risk for the lender. While 80% of new businesses survive past their first year, roughly half don’t make it to their five year anniversary.

This is why it’s important to be careful when taking out a small business loan. Make sure you do the appropriate market research and keep your overhead low in the beginning stages of growing your new business. If your business grows and thrives, it’ll add to your net worth and offer higher earning potential, putting any business loans in the good debt column.


What is Bad Debt?

If you take on debt to buy a depreciating asset, that falls squarely into the bad debt category. Unlike good debt, loans taken out for something that decreases in value over time put your finances in a vulnerable position. When considering taking on bad debt, go through all different options and try to find an alternate solution.

Bad Debt Examples

The following examples are considered bad debt. These debts will not improve your net worth over time and will almost always lose significant value before you’ve finished paying them off.

Car Loan

A car starts to lose its value the moment you drive it off the dealership lot. Many people find themselves upside down on their car loans shortly after they purchase their new vehicle. Being upside down on a loan means that you owe more on something than that item is worth.

This can be especially problematic if you find you can’t afford the payments down the road or need to sell or trade in your car before it’s paid off. Additionally, if you get in a car accident that totals your vehicle, you’ll only receive enough money to cover the current value of the vehicle.

If the check is less than what you owe on the loan, you’ll be responsible for the difference even if you no longer own the car. To avoid this issue, look into getting gap auto insurance.

If you’re in the market for a new car, look at used cars as a good alternative. Cars that are a few years old have already taken a hit in terms of depreciation. They are often less expensive as well, so you may be able to get a better car for your budget. Of course, your best option is to avoid taking out a loan altogether, if you can.

Related: Should You Lease or Buy a Car? Here’s How to Decide

Credit Cards

The average household has $9,333 credit card debt, with 41.2% of households contributing to that debt. Owing money on a credit card is considered bad debt. Credit card companies make money by charging high interest rates. If you aren’t able to pay off your balances each month, you could end up paying way more than the price tag for items you charge to these accounts.

Don’t put everyday expenses on your credit card unless you can pay it off in full every month. Those monthly payments will haunt you long after you’ve eaten the pizza and drank the cocktails you charge on credit. With the average credit card rates hovering around 16%, those interest charges can add up quickly.

If you do have credit card debt, pay it off as quickly as possible. Making just the minimum payments will dig you further into the debt hole. Don’t pay a hefty price for the privilege of using someone else’s money.

If you know that it will take you some time to pay off your credit card debt, consider refinancing at a lower rate with a personal loan. Everyone’s circumstances and eligibility are different, but if you can borrow at a lower rate than your current debts and use what you borrow to instantly pay off the high interest balances, you’ll be left with the same amount of debt — but a lower overall interest rate. Use our loan matching tool here to see if a personal loan makes sense (i.e. to see if you can get a lower rate than your current debts).

Most personal loans will carry higher interest rates than mortgages and some other types of debt, but they can still be better than credit card interest rates.

Payday Loans

When it comes to bad debt, payday loans are one of the worst kind. Sometimes you need cash in a pinch but getting a payday loan is often a detrimental financial mistake. The average interest rate if compounded annually could be as high as 400%. That’s four times the value of the money you borrowed.

There are always better options for helping get through a rough patch when you’re short on cash.

Debt is Still Debt

No matter which kind of debt you have — good or bad — each carries its own set of risks. Homes do not always increase in value, especially over the short term. Taking out student loans to pay for the cost of higher education may be a bad choice if you can’t find a job or find one that offers low pay.

Other good debt such as starting a business draws a very fine line between a good and bad investment. If you take out a loan to start a business but you don’t have a good business plan or you face steep competition, your business may fail. Don’t let the good debt halo effect cause you to make a decision that will put your finances at risk in the long term.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt: Know the Difference

When it comes to good debt vs. bad debt, the important distinction to remember is that good debt helps you build wealth while bad debt sinks your finances. If you’re planning to take out a loan, ask yourself if it will advance your career or increase your net worth.

Taking on debt to pay for a depreciating asset such as a car is a bad idea. You may end up upside down on the loan and risk owing money even if you no longer own the car. Other bad debts such as credit cards or payday loans leave you paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars in interest for getting an advance on your paycheck.

By knowing the difference between good debt and bad debt, you can protect your finances and put yourself in a better position down the road.


How to Track Expenses in 3 Easy Steps and Never Fail at Budgeting Again

Our number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

If you’ve tried budgeting before and failed, you’re in good company.

In fact, I’d argue it takes most people 3-6 months to learn how to track expenses, stick to a budget, and plan achievable goals for the future.

In other words, no one is born knowing how to track expenses and budget. It’s something that you have to learn, and it takes trial and error.

I’ve tried just about every method out there from budgeting apps to a pen and paper to cash envelopes. While there are many different ways to manage your money, one thing is true about all of these methods: you have to track your expenses or your budget will never work.

Why Should You Track Your Expenses?

Keeping track of expenses is important for so many reasons. First of all, it’s impossible to budget your money if you don’t know where it’s going each month.

Tracking your expenses also gives you insight into some of your behaviors around money. For example, you might notice you spend more money on the weekends or tend to order take out on Thursdays when you don’t feel like cooking anymore.

Tracking your expenses gives you good information. It shows you where you excel when it comes to money and places you can improve. It also lets you know your priorities. All you need to do is see where you spend the most money to find out what is most important to you.

3 Steps to Track Expenses

If you’re ready to become a champion spending tracker, there are three steps you need to take. First, create a budget. Then, decide how you will track your spending (with an app, spreadsheet, etc.) Lastly, schedule weekly check-ins to keep yourself on track.

1. Create a Budget

People usually cringe when they hear the word budget because it sounds like a fun suck. After all, don’t people who budget live boring lives? Not so!

The first step to creating your first budget is to set goals for your spending. For example, is it your goal to spend less than $50 a month on takeout? Write it down.

Then, after your first few months of using a spending tracker, you can measure your goal with your reality. If you come up short, that’s ok. That’s why it’s so important to track your spending. We usually spend more than we think on certain categories. Tracking that can help cure some bad financial habits.

2. Decide on a Spending Tracker

Once you have a basic budget in place and a list of your spending goals to go along with it, it’s time to start tracking. There are many different spending trackers out there. Here are a few of the most common ways to track what you spend.

Best Budgeting Apps for Personal Expense Tracking

In the modern, digital age, budgeting apps are taking the market by storm. It seems every time you turn around, there is another one out there. Below are some of the best budgeting apps we’ve tried and like.

Personal Capital

First and foremost, Personal Capital is an investment advisory firm. This means Personal Capital employs financial advisors to help their clients with their investment choices. In order to work with them as an advisory client, you have to invest a minimum of $100,000 with them.

However, even if you don’t have $100,000, Personal Capital offers free budget tracking software. Connect all of your accounts to their free platform, and you can see your net worth, track your spending, and more. You’ll get emails every week telling you how your portfolio is doing.

Keep in mind that the overall goal of Personal Capital is to eventually acquire clients, and offering free tracking software is one way to spread awareness of their services. However, before you sign on the dotted line as a client, take the time to compare their fees with other brokerage firms to make sure you find one that’s the best fit for you.


Tiller is similar to an expense tracker worksheet that you would create yourself, except it’s so much more sophisticated than that.

Tiller pulls information from your bank accounts and then automatically populates a spreadsheet for you. You still get the same great spreadsheet magic that you love except Tiller does all the heavy lifting and data entry for you. You can try Tiller free for 30 days, and then it is $59/year to keep.

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Tiller at a Glance:

Tiller is similar to an expense tracker worksheet that you would create yourself, except it’s much more sophisticated. Tiller pulls information from your bank accounts and then automatically populates a Google spreadsheet for you. So, you still get the same great spreadsheet magic that you love except Tiller does all the heavy lifting and data entry for you. You can try Tiller free for 30 days, and then it is $59/year to keep.

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YNAB stands for You Need a Budget. YNAB offers a comprehensive online budgeting software that is based on the principle that everyone should budget one month ahead. YNAB does come with a monthly fee, but you can try it for free for 34 days.

Full disclosure: After trying many different budgeting apps, YNAB is the one that works best for me personally because I also adhere to the philosophy of starting the month with the full amount of money I need for that month.

However, it really took some time to learn how to use the software. I actually tried it once before, got frustrated, and stopped using it. Then I got an email from YNAB inviting me to try it again.

The second time I tried it, I spent more time watching the videos and understanding how it worked. That did the trick. I’ve been using it faithfully for over a year.

Also, even though YNAB isn’t free, it is ad-free. So you won’t be faced with ads for insurance or phone companies or other financial products while you’re using it. This allows you to focus on your own budget without distractions.

Related: An Up-Close Look at You Need a Budget (YNAB Review)


Mvelopes is a budgeting app that helps you track your spending through the use of digital envelopes. What makes Mvelopes so cool is that you can actually get the help of a one-on-one money coach if you choose their upgrade feature.

A basic account is $4 a month, but for $19/month, you can get a quarterly check-in from a money coach. They also have an option to pay for a monthly phone call, too. If you think accountability will help you reach your financial goals, this is the app for you.


Mint is one of the most popular budgeting software systems out there. They were one of the very first companies to help consumers digitally track their budgets, and it’s free to sign up.

Connect your accounts, categorize your spending, and then find ways to customize Mint to work for you. You can even set up reminders to notify you on your phone to pay your bills.

You can also add alerts to let you know when you’ve gone over budget. If you happen to find out you’re over your grocery budget, you know it’s time to open up the pantry and start using those cans of tuna you’ve been avoiding.

Of course, part of what makes Mint free is that they earn money from different recommendations like credit cards, life insurance, and other financial products. If you don’t mind the ads, this is a great, free product that many people have enjoyed using for years.


Wally is a relatively new budgeting app that’s recently hit the financial tech scene. Based on reviews of the app, Wally is still in its beta phase but with room to grow.

The way Wally works is by keeping you hyper-aware of your spending. Rather than automatically importing your credit and debit transactions, you manually enter what you spent.

Wally can, however, use GPS to see where you are when you spend money. So if you are waiting for your coffee in line at Starbucks, Wally should be able to know you’re there and suggest that vendor as the one to enter.

This system of entering in your spending after you just had the transaction keeps you aware of your day-to-day transactions. This would be excellent for someone just starting out budgeting who really needs to understand their behaviors around money in real time.

Pen and Paper

You can’t go wrong with a good, old fashioned pen and paper. This is a very low tech and inexpensive way to track your spending. I used to do this when I lived abroad and didn’t have a smartphone.

I had a little pad of paper I’d keep in my purse. When I bought something to drink or eat, I just jotted it down. After a few weeks of doing this, you can notice spending patterns. It’s also a very active way to track spending that really makes you think before you buy something. After all, if you buy it, you have to write it down so you remember!

Expense Tracker Spreadsheet

Many people love using their own expense tracker worksheets, which you can create in Excel or Google Sheets.

The reason this works is because you can really customize an expense tracker spreadsheet to your own budget and spending categories. It’s free, and now you can share a google doc spreadsheet with your spouse and track your spending together.

3. Set Weekly Check-Ins

Once you’ve found an expense tracking system that works for you, it’s important to set weekly check-ins. This can be something you put on your own schedule and stick to if you’re single or it can be something you do with your partner.

The reason weekly check-ins are so important when it comes to expense tracking is that it allows you to adjust your spending for the following week. That way, if you bought too much wine because it was on sale at the grocery store, you know that you might be having a pantry challenge the following week to make up for it.

Track Expenses: Your Budget Will Thank You

If you’ve struggled with budgeting in the past, tracking your expenses every day is likely the missing ingredient to budgeting success.

Remember, creating a budget and sticking to it doesn’t mean your life will be full of restrictions. Instead, you can feel more control over your money, learn how to allocate funds to your priorities, and cut back on the things that don’t really matter to you.

Be patient with the process, and switch up your expense trackers if the first one you tried doesn’t work for you. Try this for a few months, without fail, and tracking expenses will become a part of your daily life. Soon, you won’t know how you lived without knowing exactly where your money goes each and every day.


How to Make a Budget in 7 Easy Steps

This guide is going to walk you through, step by step, how to make a budget that you can actually stick to.

You’ve got money goals. Whether you want to get out of debt, save for retirement, or afford that luxury vacation in Cabo, there is one thing you know you have to do:

Get control of your spending.

Creating a budget doesn’t have to be scary or overly restrictive. In fact, a good budget is flexible! It knows that your life is ever changing and helps you prepare for that reality. The only requirement of a good budget is that it helps you get conscious of your spending — and live within your means.

Here’s how to make a budget that works for you, so you can stress a little bit less about money.

Table of Contents

  • Budget Template
  • Step 1: How to Make a Budget Plan – Find the Best Method for You
    • 50/30/20 Budgeting Method
    • Envelope System
    • Zero-Based Budget
  • Step 2: Decide How You’ll Track Things
    • Use a Budget Worksheet
    • Use a Budget App
    • Write It All Down In A Bullet Journal
  • Step 3: Figure Out Your After-Tax Income
  • Step 4: See Where You Are Currently Spending
    • Allocate 50% of Your Income to Needs
    • Allocate 20% of Your Income to Debt Repayment and Savings
    • Allocate 30% of Your Income to Wants
  • Step 5: Set Your Priorities
    • Build an Emergency Fund
    • Pay Off High-Interest Debt
    • Get a Full Employer Match on Your 401(k)
    • Set Up Automated Saving for Retirement
  • Step 6: Track Your Progress
  • Step 7: Re-Evaluate and Make Adjustments

Budget Template

Make sure to download our free budget template below to help set your finances straight. Our budget worksheets include everything you need to start budgeting the right way.

Step 1: How to Make a Budget Plan – Find the Best Method for You

There are many budgeting methods, each of which has its merits. We’ve summarized three of the most popular methods below that will teach you exactly how to make a budget plan. Consider your personality and choose the one that sounds most attractive to you. Don’t worry if it takes a little trial and error!

50/30/20 Budgeting Method

Best for: People who want a budget, but also want to keep things simple.

The easiest budget rule, the 50/30/20 method is indifferent to your exact spending on electricity versus your cell phone bill this month. All that matters is your spending stay within three main categories: Needs: 50%, Wants: 30%, Savings: 20%.

The benefit of the 50/30/20 rule is that no one category is expected to be static. The composition of spending can be different every month. But as long as your spending fits into the limits set by the broad categories, you’ll continue moving towards your goals.

This is DollarSprout’s preferred method of budgeting. It is simple, yet powerful. You are always saving for the future, but you don’t get bogged down in the details.

Envelope System

Best for: Habitual over-spenders who need to more discipline built into their budget.

Meant for those who really struggle with overspending, the cash envelope method is rigid.

Originally a cash-based method, you would withdraw all the money you planned to spend that month in cash, then split it into individual envelopes for all your expenses — cell phone, groceries, gas, clothes, and so on. If you run out of money in an envelope before the month is up, you’re out of luck. You either need to move money from another envelope, or just wait until the following month.

Luckily, there are now apps to help you create an envelope method while still using debit and credit cards. However, there are some big-name proponents (like Dave Ramsey) of continuing to use cash over an app. They believe it fosters greater awareness and good habits.

Zero-Based Budget

Best for: People who want full control over the purpose of every dollar in their budget.

A zero-based budget operates under the idea that any dollar not tracked will be spent — and probably on something silly.

With a zero-based budget, you assign every dollar a job. If you have $4,000 of income and only $3,500 of expenses in your budget, you aren’t done. You must give the remaining $500 a task. Are you saving $200 for retirement? Putting aside $50 for you daughter’s college? Create budget categories and assign values until your income minus your assigned outputs equals zero.

This method takes time. It requires that you look at every single expense in your budget. But practiced well, users find they have less unexpected expenses and more confidence that their spending expresses their values.

Step 2: Decide How You’ll Track Things

Creating a budget once won’t change your financial life. To have an impact, you need to continue budgeting consistently. Which means, we need a way to track your budget.

Here are some popular options:

Use a Budget Worksheet

The pen and paper method isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done.

Especially for beginners, tracking expenses has the benefit of making you carefully consider where you stand, in a way that more automated budget systems don’t.

Use a Budget App

If you prefer to operate in the 21st century, there are numerous apps to help you track your new budget.

Personal Capital is the one of the best budget apps for those following the 50/30/30 rule (and it’s free!).

It allows you to set a spending target and alerts you to progress throughout the month. It also automatically breaks expenses down into categories for you, so you can easily see where your money is going.

Other popular free options include Mint and PocketGuard. Alternatively, I’ve been using You Need A Budget since college, but it does have a monthly fee – unlike the other options listed here which are free.

Write It All Down In A Bullet Journal

Can’t find a worksheet or app that works for you? Or just love being creative?

Bullet journals allow you to bring organization and beauty to your budget tracking.

Get a quality notebook, check out some bullet journal layouts for inspiration, and design your unique budget journal.

Now, choose your tracking method, and let’s get to work.

Step 3: Figure Out Your After-Tax Income

You can’t determine your budget until you know how much you have to spend.

To figure out how much you have available to spend each month, you need to determine your after-tax income. This is the amount that comes in on your paychecks and that you have available to spend.

Add up all your sources of income in a given month. Your job, your spouse’s job, any side hustles or passive income. This is your base.

Note on bi-weekly paychecks: If you get paid every two weeks, you know there are some months you get a lucky third check. Don’t try to add that payment in and create an average month. Build your budget around a two-check month, then use the little bonus to fuel your savings goals.

Bonus: Want more spending money? Check out these side 25 online money-making ideas.

Step 4: See Where You Are Currently Spending

Hold on tight. It’s about to get real.

Before you can finish your budget, you have to reflect on where your money is really going. And if you’re starting a budget because you know you’ve been overspending, this can be tough. Just remember not to beat yourself up for past spending. You’re making positive steps to be more financially responsible. That’s all that matters!

Review your last two to four months of expenses and break them down into spending categories. Look at bank and credit card statements to help you get a sense for where you are at. In places where you use cash, try to make a best guess at your spending. Also make note of any minimum payments on debt, as that also has a white-knuckled claim on your money.

Have your list of categories, along with what you are spending on average, on hand. Now you can build your 50/30/20 buckets.

Allocate 50% of Your Income to Needs

Your most significant and crucial budget category is needs. But what are needs?

Needs are comprised of living expenses and essentials. Items like your rent or mortgage, utilities, home and auto insurance. These are expenses that you can’t forgo without a major inconvenience. (Your cable package and yoga classes don’t count.)

You’ll also want to include any minimum payments on debt. These are required expenses and should be treated as “needs” instead of debt repayment.

Make a list of all the items in your needs list with their associated expenses. If the total is more than 50% of your income calculated in Step 3, find places to cut. If you can’t get to 50%, the overage will have to dip into your 30% “wants” budget for a while.

Allocate 20% of Your Income to Debt Repayment and Savings

After needs, the 50/30/20 budgeting method prioritizes savings. You need to save for your future, every single month.

Calculate 20% of your monthly after-tax income from Step 3. If you aren’t a math whiz, just open up your phone and multiply your income by 0.2. This is the amount you need to contribute to saving money in your emergency fund or retirement accounts.

However, if you still have debt, you can also include extra principal payments in this 20%. Getting out of debt is an investment in your future, and the 50/30/20 rule knows that.

Related: How to Save $5,000 with the 52-Week Money Challenge 

Allocate 30% of Your Income to Wants

What is left over after your spending on “Needs” and “Saving” is the maximum you can spend on wants. This is your quality of life spending, like your cell phone’s data plan, date night, Chinese take-out, and new clothes.

You’ll want to reflect on the spending categories you compiled earlier from your last few months of spending. What items were left after removing the needs? Does the sum fit in the remaining 30% of your budget? And if not, where can you cut?

Remember that you also need to set aside cash for longer-term wants, like your annual family vacation.

More than any other, this step can be tricky. You’ll have to make choices. Unfortunately, we can’t do everything we want. But if we understand our own priorities, we can do anything we choose. Reflect on which of your “wants” is most important to you, then skip the things that don’t bring you joy.

Note: For “Needs” and “Wants,” 50% and 30% are the max you can spend. Spending less, in support of greater savings or debt repayment, will help you reach your financial goals faster.

Step 5: Set Your Priorities

What do you want to achieve with your money?

While your ultimate goal might be saving for a big vacation or new house, you first need to build a solid financial base. By getting the necessary foundation right, your security won’t be thrown off by one unexpected expense. Setting your priorities is key to ending financial stress.

These are a few key money priorities you want your budget to tackle:

Build an Emergency Fund

If you’re still living paycheck-to-paycheck, your first goal is setting up a $1,000 emergency fund. Because we all know life loves sneaking up on us.

We recommend saving your emergency fund in a high-interest online savings account that provides safety plus guaranteed returns. This will ensure that you don’t spend that money, while allowing it to continue to work for you while it waits on the sidelines.

Once you’ve tackled your $1,000 starter emergency fund, you’ll want to continue to add to it. Depending on your job, a three- to six-month emergency fund is ideal. This will protect you from more considerable financial surprises, like a job layoff or health issue.

These online banks are all great places to build your emergency fund:

Pay Off High-Interest Debt

Debt is an anchor on your money goals. Particularly high-interest debt like credit cards. Every dollar you pay in interest is a dollar you can’t spend on your real month goals.

If you are still forking over part of your budget to lenders every month, you’ll want to start paying down debt. Organize what debts you have, decide which you want to pay off first, and start attacking your balance.

Get a Full Employer Match on Your 401(k)

Who doesn’t like free money? If you aren’t getting the full match on your 401(k), you’re missing out on the easiest free money you’ll ever get.

An employer 401(k) match is your company paying you to save. It’s an instant return on your retirement savings, and you should never leave that money on the table.

If you aren’t sure what your company’s 401(k) program offers, reach out to HR. Then adjust your contributions to maximize your match (a.k.a. free money).

Set Up Automated Saving for Retirement

Covered the basics? Good! Now you need to start getting serious about preparing for retirement.
If you don’t already have one, you’re going to want to open an IRA, or Individual Retirement Account.

These accounts offer excellent tax benefits to incentivize you to save money for the future.

Determine how much of your monthly 20% savings allocation will go towards retirement. Then, set up an automatic deposit into your account each month through your IRA provider (most places nowadays have this functionality). With automated investing, you’ll be building a nest egg without even thinking about it.

Step 6: Track Your Progress

It’s official: you’re all set up! But you’re far from done.

Budgeting is a long-term game. You need to check in on your spending regularly to ensure that your needs and wants aren’t creeping beyond their 50% and 30% income designations. Plus, you’ll need to add new budget categories and delete others over time.

We recommend reviewing your budget on a weekly basis at the beginning.

Checking in every week will allow you to make course corrections before things get too far off track. Make note, if you’re budgeting with a spouse, you both need to be involved in the review. Having one person in a relationship dictating the budget isn’t a recipe for long-term success.

Eventually, you’ll get a feel for your spending habits and will be able to extend the time between meetings. However, always try to review your budget at least once a month. Even the most practiced and thoughtful spenders see money slip through the cracks when they lose focus!

Step 7: Re-Evaluate and Make Adjustments

One of the biggest mistakes new budgeters make is not sticking with the budget long enough. They get frustrated when they overspend in a category or an emergency expense sets them back on their goals. Not understanding that there is no such thing as a normal month or a static budget, they conclude that they are “just bad at budgeting”… and then they give up.

These are the moments to power through!

The first budget you make won’t be your last. You are new to tracking your expenses, so you are going to get things wrong. The important thing is to continue monitoring, review where your weak points are, and adjust your habits and budget accordingly.

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The 50/30/20 Budget for People Who Hate Managing Their Money

Our number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

We all know someone who loves numbers. 

They’ll spend hours poring over budgeting spreadsheets, examining the finer details of their investment accounts, and organizing the cash in their wallet by denomination. For someone like that, offering basic budgeting advice is like preaching to the choir.

For the rest of us, there’s the 50/30/20 budgeting system.

Whether you’ve struggled to budget consistently in the past or you’re looking to find a less time-intensive method, the 50/30/20 might be the approach you need to finally make it all click.

Table of Contents

  • What is the 50/30/20 Budget?
  • Is the 50/30/20 Budget Right for You?
    • It’s Vague but Flexible
    • It Puts Savings and Debt on the Back Burner
    • It May Not Be a Long-Term Solution
  • How to Use the 50/30/20 Budget Spreadsheet
    • Step 1: Figure Out Your Take-Home Pay
    • Step 2: Calculate Your Percentages
    • Step 3: Adjust Your Spending and Saving
  • The 50/30/20 Budget Simplifies Managing Your Money

What is the 50/30/20 Budget?

The 50/30/20 system was designed to make budgeting more accessible to people who get overwhelmed by complicated spreadsheets and budgeting apps. It was popularized by Senator Elizabeth Warren in her book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.

The beauty of the 50/30/20 budget is in its simplicity. It’s designed for people who want to track their spending without dividing each expense into a dozen separate categories.

Users of the system divide their transactions into just three buckets: needs, wants, and debt payments/savings. Spending is broken up into 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings and debt. Groceries would be in the needs group, makeup would be a want, and student loan bills would be a debt payment.

Here’s an example of what kinds of transactions might fit into each category:

Needs – 50%

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance, maintenance, and gas
  • Public transportation
  • Health, life, disability, and other insurance
  • Daycare, school tuition, etc.
  • Groceries
  • Utilities, phone, and internet
  • Medical bills and prescriptions

Wants – 30%

  • Eating out
  • Movies, sports, and concert tickets
  • Clothes, shoes, and accessories
  • Makeup and hair products
  • Cable TV
  • Netflix, Spotify, and other subscriptions
  • Home decor and furniture
  • Gifts
  • Charitable donations
  • Travel

Savings and Debt – 20%

  • Retirement contributions for your 401(k) or IRA
  • College savings
  • Short-term savings goals
  • Student loans
  • Personal loan payments
  • Credit card bills

Is the 50/30/20 Budget Right for You?

If you’ve tried to budget before and never quite got the hang of it, a 50/30/20 budget might be right up your alley. It’s like starting a fitness program. Jumping straight into a powerlifting routine might leave you sore and unmotivated, but starting with some light yoga will allow you to build a consistent exercise habit.

With the 50/30/20 system, you can start with the basics and get more complex as your financial literacy improves. It’s less of a specific system and more of an overarching philosophy.

It’s Vague but Flexible

The 50/30/20 budget has become popular with people who struggle to categorize their spending. If you have separate line items for household goods and groceries, for example, a simple trip to Costco for saran wrap and cooking oil forces you to separate individual items from your receipt. With the 50/30/20, that kind of fussing is unnecessary.

The upside to this broader approach is that you spend less time figuring out how to budget each shopping trip. The downside is that you don’t really see where your money is going. If you need to cut some expenses from your “wants” category, the 50/30/20 budget won’t show exactly where you’re overspending.

It Puts Savings and Debt on the Back Burner

One of the reasons the 50/30/20 budget is popular is because it allows for 30% of a consumer’s income to go toward discretionary spending. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave as much room for savings and paying off debt.

If your student loan payments make up 20% of your budget and you aren’t saving anything for retirement, the 50/30/20 approach could give you a false sense of stability. In reality, you’ll just be forced to play catch-up in the future.

Anyone who uses the 50/30/20 budget while paying off a significant loan balance should still try to save between 10-15% of their salary for retirement, even if that means shifting the spending ratio to allow for more saving.

It May Not Be a Long-Term Solution

The 50/30/20 is often suggested for beginners because it’s easy to use and set up. It also leaves a lot of room for variation, as long as you’re staying within the correct spending ratio.

But as a long-term budgeting strategy, the 50/30/20 budget might not hold up as well as a traditional line-item budget. That’s because the 50/30/20 split makes less sense above a certain income bracket.

When you’re making an entry-level salary, the 50/30/20 ratio is perfect. It allows you to enjoy your life and live comfortably while still prioritizing debt repayment and saving for retirement. But as your career progresses and your income increases, spending 30% of your income on discretionary items can be frivolous, and it can hold you back from reaching significant financial milestones.

Under the 50/30/20, someone making $80,000 a year after tax would have $2,000 a month for discretionary spending. That may be reasonable for someone with a robust social life and multiple hobbies, but many people would have to go out of their way to spend that much. As you approach upper-middle class, it makes more sense to follow a personalized budgeting system and devote more of your income to building a nest egg.

See Also: How to Make a Budget (With Wiggle Room): A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Use the 50/30/20 Budget Spreadsheet

There are three simple steps to creating and implementing a 50/30/20 budget spreadsheet.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Take-Home Pay

The first step in creating a 50/30/20 budget is to figure out your net income since that’s the figure you’ll be dividing from. Your net income is how much you take home after payroll taxes are deducted.

Look at your most recent pay stub to see what your take-home pay is. Even though your health insurance and retirement contributions may be deducted from your paycheck, you want to count these expenses as part of your budget.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll want to figure out your take-home pay after federal and state self-employment taxes. These will vary depending on your income and business expenses, so just use your best estimate.

People with irregular salaries, like salesmen working on commission or those with seasonal income, should use a realistically low figure when calculating take-home pay.

Step 2: Calculate Your Percentages

First, make a list of all your transactions from the past month:

Category Amount
Rent $775
Electric bill $50
Water/gas bill $60
401(k) Contributions $100
Car payment $250
Car insurance $65
Restaurants $150
Groceries $350
Health insurance $95
Gas $115
Cell phone $45
Internet $55
Lyft/Uber $50
Student loan payments $250
Netflix/Hulu $30
Clothes, shoes, and accessories $100
Makeup/haircare $35
Pets $40
Total: $2,615

Then divide them into needs, wants and savings/debt categories. Divide each of the three categories by your take-home pay to calculate your percentage, then compare those percentages to the ideal amounts. For this example, let’s assume a take-home amount of $2,700 per month.

Needs 50% Wants 30% Debt/Savings 20%
Rent $775 Restaurants $150 401(k) Contributions $100
Electric bill $50 Netflix/Hulu $30 Student loan payments $250
Water/gas bill $60 Clothes, shoes, and accessories $100 Car payment $250
Car insurance $65 Makeup/haircare $35
Groceries $350 Pets $40
Health insurance $95 Lyft/Uber $50
Gas $115
Cell phone $45
Internet $55
Total: $1,610 $405 $600
% of Income: 60% 15% 22%

Step 3: Adjust Your Spending and Saving

Like most people who create a 50/30/20 budget, you’ll probably discover that your percentages are out of alignment like the example above. Maybe you’re spending too much on your needs and not enough on your savings, or your wants category might be out of control. Don’t beat yourself up – it’s normal to find out your spending is a little off.

Examine where you need to make a change and explore options for how to save money in those categories. In this example, you can clearly see that the needs category greatly exceeds the 50% goal. To cut back, this person could reexamine their utility usage, negotiate with their cell and internet providers, or find a less expensive apartment.

You can also see in this example that student loan and car payments are mostly responsible for exceeding the 20% debt payment/savings category. In that case, it could be wise to make a faster debt payoff a goal or try to pick up a side hustle.

If a spreadsheet isn’t your preferred tracking method, try out a 50/30/20 budget app like Personal Capital. The dashboard shows all your purchases in one place so you can easily see where your money is going without tracking every individual transaction.

See Also: Personal Capital vs. Mint: A Side-by-Side Comparison

The 50/30/20 Budget Simplifies Managing Your Money

Overall, consumers who like and stick with the 50/30/20 budget do so because of how simple it is. There’s little doubt on how to categorize expenses, and evaluating your spending can take just a few minutes each week.

The 50/30/20 budget has stuck around because it helps people who want to be responsible with their money but don’t like the restrictive nature of most budgeting systems.


24 Best Work from Home Jobs for 2020

Work from home jobs have become extremely popular.

115% more popular according to a recent study by Flex Jobs and Global Workplace Analytics.

As such, it’s no surprise that the 1.8 million Americans that left their jobs between 2005 and 2017 cited greater flexibility, increased happiness, and better pay, as primary factors in their decision to ditch the traditional 9 to 5 grind and work from home.

Statistics from Tecla.io’s blog on the global state of remote work.

If you are self-motivated and consider yourself a go-getter, a work from home career may be a great option for you.

From customer service reps and social media managers, to travel agents and transcriptionists, legitimate work from home jobs provide stay at home moms, college students, and digital nomads alike, the opportunity to earn a living on the go.

Table of Contents

24 Legitimate Work From Home Jobs for 2020

There are opportunities for everyone regardless of your schedule, age, or home-life responsibilities.

Determine where your interests lie and determine which of these home-based jobs (or companies) might be a good fit for you.

High-Paying Work from Home Jobs

1. Facebook Ads Jobs

Think about how many local businesses are in your area (not giant retailers like Walmart or Dick’s Sporting Goods, but local coffee shops, chiropractors, law firms, etc). Chances are, most of them are not taking advantage of Facebook advertising.

These businesses may have a Facebook page, but most are not using them effectively to attract more clients or drive more sales via paid advertising. That’s where you can come in: the Facebook ads specialist. The best part about this work from home job is that learning the art and skill of Facebook ads isn’t impossible — anyone can pick it up and secure their first client within a month.

What do Facebook ad specialists do? As you might expect, Facebook marketers help businesses secure more customers and generate more sales. Specifically, Facebook ads experts help local small businesses:

  • Create Facebook ads based on business goals
  • Reach their target audience/clientele
  • Manage advertising budgets and monitor ongoing campaigns
  • Split test ad variations to get the highest possible ROI (return on investment)

How much do Facebook ads jobs pay? This depends on the results you deliver for your clients. Most Facebook ad agencies — and even one man shows —  will usually charge a monthly retainer as their “management fee” for managing the ads.

It’s industry standard to charge anywhere from $1,000-$2,000 per month per client, and you don’t need previous website or marketing experience to get started. As you bring on more clients and build a reputation in your community for delivering outstanding results, your income can quickly increase. It only takes a handful of clients to start building a full-time income.

How to become a Facebook ad specialist: The easiest way to get started with this work from home job is to take a course that teaches you basic (and advanced) Facebook ad strategy. One such course, the FB Side Hustle Course, will show you how to start managing Facebook ads for local businesses, step by step.

Bobby Hoyt and Mike Yanda, two world-class Facebook marketers, created this course to teach you everything you need to know to go from “I don’t know how to do any of this” to “working with clients and making a great income”. Instead of piecing together an education on your own, and wasting a lot of time and money, this course brings together everything you need to know into one consolidated place.

The course helps you quickly master the three phases of building your own work-from-home Facebook ads business:

  1. Learning how to set up a Facebook ad system for a local business
  2. How to find prospects who will pay you for this service
  3. How to convert those prospects into clients

If you want to learn more about Bobby and Mike’s backgrounds, and how they’ve built their own Facebook ads business, check out their story here.

Related: 16 Online Business Ideas That Anyone Can Start 

2. Virtual Assistant Jobs

Virtual assistants, commonly referred to as VAs, come in all shapes and sizes.

Many companies will hire VAs if they are looking for help with online administrative tasks (email, calendar management, data entry, technical support, etc.), but don’t necessarily want to hire a full time employee just yet. VA jobs are the perfect work from home job for busy people that may need to drop their work at a moments notice (or have very sporadic availability).

Virtual assistant job tasks include helping with:

  • Social media management
  • Transcribing conference calls
  • Responding to emails or setting up email lists
  • Calendar management
  • Presentation preparation
  • Answering support tickets
  • A variety of other customer service oriented tasks

How much do virtual assistants make? Gina Horkey, a professional virtual assistant and work from home jobs coach at HorkeyHandbook, says virtual assistant jobs pay between $35.00 and $50.00 per hour. Christine Durst, founder of the International Virtual Assistants Association, says virtual assistants can make between $25,000 and $75,000 annually.

Because this job title covers many skills, the income one can earn may vary widely.

How to become a virtual assistant: Start by taking a training class that’ll teach you the common skills needed to become a virtual assistant. Classes are typically work at your own pace, cost between one and three hundred dollars, and can be completed in just a few short days — a pretty reasonable trade-off for a job that can earn upwards of $70,000 per year.

After your initial training, the real work begins. You’ll need to scour popular sites such as Upwork and Freelancer looking for work from home job opportunities and new job leads. Also, be sure to completely fill out your profile and list all pertinent skills. Potential clients can search for qualified remote workers and proactively contact them about potential job opportunities.

3. Blogging Jobs from Home

Bloggers are typically people who enjoy a particular topic and enjoy writing about it on a semi-regular to regular basis. If you have something you are passionate about, or are an expert in a particular area, consider starting a blog. Blogs are a great way to teach people about a particular skill, entertain, or share your life experiences.

Bloggers can make money through a variety of different methods including but not limited to: affiliate marketing, accepting paid advertisements, and by selling digital (or physical) products.

Here are some popular (and profitable) topics bloggers write about:

  • Cooking
  • Fitness and health
  • Relationship
  • Money
  • Parenting
  • Travel
  • Fashion
  • Sports
  • Self-improvement
  • Crafts and DIY Projects

You really can blog about anything under the sun. What do you love reading about? Enjoy talking to your friends about? Browsing through the most on Pinterest? These are all possible blog ideas.

How much do bloggers make? Highly variable. Bloggers can make anywhere between $0 and $150,000+ per month depending on experience level and direct competition.

How to start a blog for beginners: HostGator is one of the most affordable options to get a money-making blog up and running. They make it simple and easy to get started (and have everything you need all in one place), which is why we recommend them to ambitious new bloggers.

No experience or technical knowledge needed; check out our step-by-step tutorial to get started.

Want to see how we built a $1,000,000+/year blog?

In this FREE 7-day email course, you’ll join 50,000+ other readers in:

  1. Seeing the exact steps we took to earn our first $1,000 blogging (and beyond).
  2. Starting your own blog (and learning how to write epic, money-making content).


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Course delivered courtesy of Breaking The One Percent.


4. Freelance Proofreading Jobs

Freelance proofreading jobs are work from home jobs where a person spends time identifying errors in printed content. If you’ve got a knack for grammar, can spot typos, or can easily fix egregious misspellings, proofreading may be the thing for you.

In 2014, Caitlin Pyle made over $43,000 by working as a freelance proofreader, in her spare time. After she had a ton of success doing that, she decided she wanted to teach others how to do the same thing. That’s when she launched her course Proofread Anywhere.

How much does a freelance proofreader make? Pay typically depends on the time a proofreader is able to commit and their experience. According to Salary.com, the median salary for a freelance proofreader comes in at $49,729 per year — a respectable figure when considering that no college degree is required.

How to become a freelance proofreader: The easiest way to land one of these work from home jobs is to start out by signing up for a free workshop that teaches you how to become a proofreader. There is no commitment and you’ll learn more about the tools and skills you’ll need to be an effective proofreader (if interested, there is an option to purchase a paid course at the end of the workshop).

Related: How One Woman Made $43,000 Proofreading in Her Spare Time

5. Freelance Writing Jobs

Freelance writers can more easily be thought of as a “writer for hire” or someone who is contracted out to write about a particular topic. If you have some writing chops, but don’t want to deal with all the extra work that goes into running a blog, you can hire yourself out and write for newspapers, large online publications and even other bloggers.

How much do freelance writing jobs pay? Between $30.00 and $500.00 per assignment, depending on difficulty, a writers experience level, and the length of the material. Veteran freelancers and other remote workers can charge on a per-word basis for lengthy articles that earn them well over $1,000.00.

How do you become a freelancer? Start by taking a course that teaches you basic skill required to pursue freelance writing jobs. Holly Johnson, a professional freelance writer at the Earn More Writing School offers one such course. She makes over $225,000 per year freelance writing and shares everything you need to know to get started for less than a few hundred dollars.

After you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll want to create a portfolio of writing samples that you can show to prospective clients. If you want to get a freelance copywriting gig, for instance, start by collecting samples of amazing copy that sells a product. Offer free work to clients to build up your portfolio, if needed.

Finally, once your portfolio is complete, you can start to find work on Upwork, Freelancer, or any number of similar websites.

Related: 51 Best Freelance Jobs Sites to Find Paid Gigs

6. Online Teaching Jobs

Every industry is adapting to changes brought on by the internet, and teaching is no different. If you are a (licensed) teacher, you can now start teaching classes online. Classes are usually taught via Skype or pre-recorded sessions.

Demand is really beginning to grow for online education solutions as either a supplement to in-class schooling, or sometimes even as a total replacement. Subjects in the highest demand are English, Science, and Math (the core subjects of any education).

How much do online teaching jobs pay? Average salary for first-year teachers is $30,000-$40,000. Some subjects pay higher than others.

How to get a work from home tutoring job: One of the hottest work from home jobs out there right now for online tutors is teaching Chinese children English through VIPKID. The service is super flexible, you get to set your own hours, and there is no lesson planning involved.

VIPKID provides the lesson plans and communicates with the parents, all you need is a laptop and a desire to help teach  children. Tutors typically earn anywhere from $14-$22 per hour according to their website.

K12 is another option for the online teaching space. One of the great things about them is the fact that your job will likely include health insurance, retirement savings accounts, and paid time off. Since you’ll be working with kids (even though it’s online), you still need to go through the typical hiring process for a teacher: background check, reference check, interviews, etc.

Related: 25 Online Jobs that are Easy, Flexible, and Profitable

Immediate Hire Work from Home Jobs

If you’re looking to land a work from home job fast, consider looking into immediate hire jobs that you can do remotely. These may be independent contractor jobs that you can do on your own schedule, but there are plenty of apps and websites that will help you find work doing something you love.

Another benefit of home-based immediate hire jobs is that there’s often low-barrier in terms of signing up and getting started. You probably won’t need much experience or credentials if you’re looking to perform basic tasks. These jobs are also quick-pay, meaning you can get paid as soon as you perform the task often via PayPal.

7. Online Survey Jobs

Most successful companies want to get inside the heads of consumers. They want to better understand potential customers so they can improve products and target their audience better  To do that, sites pay people to take surveys. It’s one the easiest work from home “jobs” out there, and it requires zero experience.

How paid online surveys work: There are many different types of surveys you can take. From opinion polls, to answering questions about shopping habits, companies will typically ask users fairly in-depth questions so they can improve their marketing tactics. Survey takers are usually paid in cash via PayPal, or with points that can be redeemed for gift cards.

How much do they pay? Between $50.00 and $200.00 per month, depending on eligibility and how many surveys you participate in.

How to get paid to take online surveys: Signing up on survey-taking websites is very easy (and free). In our experience, the best survey sites to use are:

  • Swagbucks (free $10 signup bonus)
  • Survey Junkie

8. App and Website Testing Jobs

Similar to taking surveys for money, companies will also pay regular people to give feedback on their website (how it looks, how easy it is to navigate, how things “flow”, etc.) Companies want to know how easy their websites are to use and the information you give them about the process is extremely valuable.

Here are some places you can apply for this type of work:

  • WhatUsersDo – Pay is $8 (or more) per test. Tests take around 15-20 minutes (you need a Mac or PC + mic).
  • Enroll – Get paid to test websites before they are published. Earn cash rewards.
  • Userfeel – This company pays around $10 per test.
  • Analysia – Tests take around 15 minutes to complete. Pay is $10 per test.
  • TryMyUI – Tests takes around 15-20 minutes to complete. Pay is $10 per test.

You generally won’t make a full-time living from a website testing job, but they are an excellent way pull in some extra income on the side.

Related: 14 Best Places to Test Websites for Money

9. Offer Web Design Services

If you ‘speak’ computer and have a good eye for design, you can make $1,000 (or more) each month by designing websites for small businesses.

Business owners want professional looking websites for their space on the internet. If you know some basics behind web design, you can start offering those services to small business. For example, we paid a designer over $10,000 to build our website theme. From branding and color schemes, to ease of use and user satisfaction, web designers help bring a website to life.

Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are essential pieces of software you’ll need to master (and proficiency in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are a must). Upwork is a great spot to start finding gigs, or you can do things the old fashioned way: cold call or email every small

10. Join TaskRabbit

Do you like working with your hands and helping your local community? TaskRabbit might be a great way for you to make money working from home.

TaskRabbit is a service based app that connects customers with people who can help them around the house. Customers might ask for help doing things like mounting a TV, moving furniture, or cleaning. Workers can also build furniture, help people move, and do home repairs.

To work with TaskRabbit, you need to submit an online application and attend an informational session in your area. After you’ve completed the registration process, the TaskRabbit app will notify you of jobs in your area.

You choose your rates and negotiate job details with the client. Once you’ve completed the job, you can submit your invoice via the TaskRabbit app. Jobs pay $50 – $130 per task, on average.

11. Do Micro Jobs

Along the same lines as TaskRabbit, micro jobs sites are great for anyone who’s short on cash and can only work in 1-2 hour increments. Micro jobs won’t make you rich, but they’re generally pretty easy, and they often pay immediately.

Plus, if you’re spending time on things like browsing the internet, or scrolling endlessly through your phone, you might as well give them a try. For example, Amazon Mechanical Turk will pay you to do light research, process data, and locate images and videos across the web.

Additionally, sites like Swagbucks and InboxDollars will pay you to perform small tasks like watching videos, taking surveys, trying out offers, and searching online.

12. Become a Dog or Pet Sitter

Have a heart for animals? Getting paid to spend time with those furry friends may sound like a dream job then. Rover makes it easy for people to sign up to become a dog walker or pet sitter in their area.

This site will allow you to create your own profile so you can set your rates and availability. You can communicate with prospective clients via the site and book paying gigs.

Normally, dog walkers on Rover can earn $20-$30 per walk and anywhere from $20-$40 for overnight pet sitting services. Rover does collect a 20% service charge which is deducted from your earnings, but you get to keep 80%.

Related: How to Launch Your Own Dog Sitting Business

13. Child Care and Babysitter Jobs

Before all the internet job and app sites started gaining popularity, you could always earn money from home by providing childcare services…and you still can.

Decide what age group of kids you’d prefer watching, and create a profile on Care.com or Sittercity.com to help you find clients. Also, feel free to ask around because friends or neighbors are often the easiest clients to get.

You can offer morning care services to help kids get ready for school, keep an eye on them as parents go off to work, or cover parenting duties while mom or dad runs errands. Something worth keeping in mind is that child care centers are often closed during evening and weekend hours. If you have availability around those times, you may be able to charge premium rates, as there are often less sitters available.

Virtual Work From Home Jobs

Virtual home-based jobs typically require that you do all your work from the computer so you don’t have to worry about leaving the house for anything.

These jobs may require that you own a laptop, have internet service and have other materials (like a headset) if you’re going to be talking on the phone. So long as you can type and have basic computer skills, you have a good chance of qualifying for any of these virtual work from home jobs.

14. Virtual Call Center Jobs

Virtual call center agents do everything from sales, telemarketing, customer service, and customer support. It’s just like a traditional call center role, only you can do everything from your computer at home.

You may have to handle incoming calls or make outgoing calls depending on the nature of the job. Some companies that hire virtual call center reps may prefer some call center experience but most will offer training as well. According to Glassdoor, you can expect to earn a base salary between $30,000 and $40,000 per year to start.

If you don’t mind talking on the phone and helping customers, this can be a solid part or full-time work from home job to consider.

15. Transcription Jobs

Transcriptionists take audio and video clients and turn them into text. It sounds simple enough, but this work requires a certain level of skill. You’ll need to know how to type efficiently and accurately. Some transcriptionists even use special equipment like a foot pedal to start and stop audio recordings.

Still, there are so many unique opportunities to land remote transcription work. If you’re a beginner, your best option is to sign up with transcription job sites like Rev and Scribie to find paying jobs that you can do on a contractor basis.

You can also offer your services on Fiverr or reach out to companies and entrepreneurs to pitch them for your services. For example, if you like a specific podcast, see if they need someone to transcribe episodes.

16. Medical Coding Jobs

Medical coding is a popular career field and you can actually do this work from home. Remote medical coders are tasked with translating a provider’s medical record and services to the correct code for the diagnoses and procedures in order to bill the patient for the correct amount.

It’s a slight technical job that anyone can learn with the proper amount of training either via an online program or through your local community college. Most medical coders are certified which can help you land an entry-level role. Some companies hire remote medical coders on a contract basis or even as a part or full-time employee.

You can search job boards like ZipRecruiter and Indeed to see who’s hiring. The average salary for a medical coder is around $60,000 per year.

17. Virtual Nursing Jobs

Have a nursing degree? You can work as a virtual nurse and help people over the phone or via internet. Virtual nurses use the internet to monitor vital signs, connect with virtual command centers to communicate with doctors, advise patients online, and perform other similar duties.

You can find these jobs at hospitals and health centers and apply just like you would for a traditional nursing job.

18. Search Engine Evaluator Jobs

If you ever want to know something, you can just hop on Google, Bing or any other search engine to find more information. Search engine evaluators help search engines continue to be a credible place to find the information you’re looking for fast.

This is a non-phone work from home job where you’d spend your time evaluating different search engine results to help improve the experience for users overall. Companies like SYKES and Appen hire search engine evaluators, and you typically need to pass an exam before coming on board.

To do this job well, you do need to have excellent:

  • Web research skills
  • Analytical abilities
  • Great written and communication skills

This is a non-phone work from home job that allows you to evaluate and help improve the search engine’s results so users can find what they’re looking for online easily. After applying, you’ll need to pass an exam in order to work with most companies but this isn’t a super technical job at all.

The hours are pretty flexible, and you can expect to work around 35 hours per week.

Related: 6 Google Jobs That Are Worth Your Time to Apply to Now

Flexible Work from Home Jobs For Moms

For busy moms, the word ‘flexible’ is a must in terms of scheduling certain responsibilities. When it comes to working from home, moms might enjoy jobs that allow you to set your own schedule (so you can work when it’s most convenient for you). That may mean when the kids are at school or going down for a nap.

Fortunately, there are several stay at home mom jobs that focus on deadlines instead of imposing a set schedule. So long as you get your assigned tasks completed by a certain date, you can do the work whenever you like.

19. Work from Home Data Entry Jobs

Data entry is a common flexible work from home job to start at the entry-level. Companies may hire you to input data to a software system, transfer information, and update records.

It helps if you’re a good typist, have strong organizational skills, and place a premium on accuracy. Sites that may hire you for data entry work include SigTrack, Capital Typing, and DionData Solutions.

Related: 7 Best Places to find Data Entry Jobs You Can Do from Home

20. Social Media Manager Jobs

Browsing social media doesn’t have to be a complete waste of time. In fact, if you know the ins and outs of social media, you can actually get paid to:

  • Create and schedule posts
  • Manage private messages
  • Run ads
  • Create promotions
  • Post videos and other promotional graphics
  • Monitor online groups

Where finding (or creating) content to share on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is an exhausting and time consuming task for many businesses, it comes as no surprise that they may try to outsource the task altogether. It’s often cheaper to hire an “expensive” freelance social media manager (you) for 20 hours per week, than it would be to hire a 40-hour per week employee with benefits.

If you favor one platform over the other, focus on become an expert in that area so you can offer a specialized service. For example, some people choose to become Pinterest virtual assistants, and specifically help clients grow their presence on the site.

Related: How to Become a Social Media Manager

21. Become a Travel Agent

Travel agents have a fun job because they get to help clients find the best deals and experiences for their trips. If you enjoy traveling and helping people brainstorm their dream vacations, you’ll enjoy a job like this that you can do from home.

Some travel agents become certified, which is not required, but does help. If you complete training through a program like The Travel Institute you’ll learn more skills that can help you better serve clients.

Typically, working with a travel agent is free for the client. You’ll get paid a commission when they book accommodations through you and your partners. Travel agents tend to offer pretty competitive deals for travelers so it’s not hard to convince interested clients to do business with you (so long as you prioritize serving their needs).

22. Customer Service Representative Jobs

If you know you want to work from home but have no idea where to start, customer service is a safe bet. Most companies need customer service representatives and a lot of them are leaning toward hiring remote employees to perform this role.

Major companies like Apple, American Express and U-Haul hire work from home customer service agents. Training is usually provided and you get will have to agree to a set schedule but you can expect a variety of shifts to choose from especially if the business is open around the clock.

If you don’t mind using the phone and have a desire to help people whether that involves solving a problem or answering important questions, consider applying for a home-based customer service job.

23. Become an Amazon Remote Employee

Amazon is an enormous company, which means hiring thousands of workers to make their business function. If you’ve been looking for legitimate part-time work from home jobs, now is a good time to be on the market.

Amazon recently announced plans to add 5,000 remote customer service jobs over the next year. They’re hiring for a variety of positions ranging from customer service agents and technical support, to data entry, all the way to supply chain managers.

With job responsibilities and requirements varying widely, you’ll have to look through Amazon’s listings to get accurate job description and reimbursement information.

How much does Amazon pay? $10.00 per hour to $50,000 per year, depending on your position and experience level.

How to apply: For salary information check out Amazon’s Virtual Locations jobs page.

24. Direct Sales Consulting

One of the more common work from home jobs, direct sales consulting, also known as multi-level marketing, has exploded in popularity over the past ten years.

This is the stuff like Plexus, Avon, Beachbody and Thirty-One that you see littering your Facebook feed on a daily basis. If you want to get a taste of working from home and want to sell products you already use and love, this may be an option.

It is worth noting that nearly all of these programs require an upfront investment for purchasing your initial inventory. They’re not our first choice when it comes to work from home jobs for this reason alone. We don’t like seeing users getting stuck with thousands of dollars in inventory only to realize they’re trying to offload their LuLaRoe into already saturated markets.

Related40 Easy Ways to Make Money Fast

Watch Out for Work from Home Job Scams

‘Work from home jobs’ has become a huge buzzword over the past few years and we definitely understand why. Working from home sounds super appealing. You can work from your bed while in your pajamas, avoid a hectic daily commute and possibly have more control over your schedule. 

However, some people have taken advantage of the common desire to work remotely. For each legitimate work from home job out there, there is just as likely a scam to match it. Jobs that ask you to post ads online, stuff envelopes, or assemble products and crafts from your home are all likely scams.

It’s important to know how to weed through these work from home scams so you don’t waste your money or time. Realize that if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. 

Avoid Work from Home Job Ads that Claim:

  • You can get started today with no experience (unless it’s for a micro job or a site like Swagbucks, it’s probably a scam).
  • You can earn $500-$1,000 per week ‘guaranteed’. Avoid these jobs especially if the role seems super easy. If it were that easy to make a ton of money every week, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
  • You need to pay for a start-up kit or training. There are plenty of real work from home jobs that may require an upfront purchase, but spend a little extra time vetting these opportunities. 
  • You’re asked to send or collect money orders or deal with Western Union. This is a huge red flag.

To crank up your scam meter when searching for the ideal work from home job, make sure you carefully assess the credibility of the job offer and the company offering it. You can do some research on the company to see how long they’ve been around, or look for honest reviews of the position online. 

You can also check to see if they are accredited through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and have a good rating. Even if they aren’t accredited, you may be able to see their rating and if they’ve received negative complaints. 

Finally, don’t ever pay someone money to start a job.

Legit Work from Home Jobs Are Everywhere, But Be Careful

The rise of the internet has created opportunities that didn’t even exist just a few years ago. A high demand for remote workers, especially in the tech industry, has led to the largest voluntary exodus from the in-person workforce in almost twenty years.

Virtual assistants, social media managers, online support specialists, and work from home data entry jobs are but a few of the high-paying digital positions that didn’t even exist just a short while ago.

If you’re not thrilled about hustling to the workplace each morning, or you’re looking for part-time work outside of your normal job, there has never been a better time than now to get started with one of these legitimate work from home jobs.


24 Real Ways to Make Money from Home

In a pinch and need a little extra cash? Looking for easy ways to make money from home?

You are not alone.

In fact, Google logs nearly 250,000,000 (that’s 250 million) searches each year by people just like you.

Whether you’re a broke college student who needs a little extra spending cash, or you’re actually an adult now and looking to eliminate credit card debt or increase savings, most of us could benefit from a little more take home pay each month.

And whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, our financial situations have an enormous impact on almost every facet of our lives. The misuse of money can have devastating effects on our collective mental, social and emotional health.

Being short on cash often means being late on a utility bill, foregoing holiday gifts for a loved one, or missing out on activities with friends. Worse yet, some of us continue to spend and rack up debt. Even a few hundred dollars is often the difference between making it till the end of the month, or falling flat on our face.

If you feel like you are a part of this group, there is good news — we live in a pretty incredible age. The rise of the Internet makes earning money from home a legitimate option for those of us who could use a little extra cash. From getting paid to do online surveys, to opening an online store, there are hundreds of ways to make money at home.

Below, we will share with you the 24 best ways to make money at home in 2019.

24 Best Ways To Make Money from Home

Not all money-making opportunities are created equally. Because of that, this article is broken down into four sections. You can click to jump to a particular section.

» 5 Easy Ways to Make Money from Home
These items all require little to no effort, and are good for helping you find a few quick financial wins.

» 5 Jobs and Gigs that Allow You to Earn from Home
If you are looking for more meaningful income and want a relatively quick payout, this is the section for you. The gigs listed in this section can sometimes pay as much as a legit part time job, and there are even cases where people earn a full time income from home.

» 6 Full-Fledged Businesses You Can Start from Home
If you are looking to make a quick buck, this is not the section for you. The items listed here will not have you making money overnight, but they all have very high ceilings for income growth. If you want to eventually leave your 9 to 5 to work at home instead, one of these might be suitable for you.

» 8 Other Ways to Make Money from Home
A catch-all section where we will continually add new ideas as we come across them.

5 Easy Ways to Make Money from Home

1. Take paid online surveys

What does it pay? $0.50-$3 per survey is normal. Some survey takers make over $100 per month.

Best sites:  Swagbucks  |  InboxDollars  Survey Junkie

Market research via paid online surveys is a booming industry right now. Companies all over the world are looking for any competitive edge they can get, and one way they’re doing that is by investing time and money into understanding consumer behavior. Their thinking is, “If we can understand our market better, we can find new customers, serve our existing customers better, and make more money in the long run.”

An example: Let’s say McDonald’s wants to know if they should expand their coffee menu to compete with places like Starbucks.

To guide their decision making, McDonald’s might hire a market research company to conduct an online survey of coffee drinkers.

If you are selected to participate in this survey, you may be asked questions like:

  • Do you drink coffee?
  • Do you prefer making your coffee at home or grabbing it during your morning commute?
  • How often do you order food at Starbucks?
  • Are you single or married?
  • What is your monthly net income?

After compiling hundreds (or thousands) of responses, trends usually begin to appear. So, rather than spending millions of dollars in building out an entirely new menu and marketing it — without knowing if the investment will be worth it — companies like McDonald’s would much rather do their research up front for a fraction of the cost.

As a participant in these surveys, you are compensated for your time and answers.

You won’t get rich from them, as most surveys pay less than $1, but it’s possible to earn upwards of $100 each month taking online surveys for money. Some survey sites even offer sign up bonuses as high as $10 to entice you to join.

If you are interested in making money with online surveys, here are three of the most reputable sites:

Swagbucks: Perhaps the most well-known and trusted of all the survey sites, users earn “Swagbucks” (also known as SB’s) for each survey they complete. Swagbucks currently offers a $10 sign up bonus to new users who join their rewards program.

$10 Sign Up Bonus:  Claim Here

InboxDollars: This site was recently acquired by Prodege, LLC, which is the same company that operates Swagbucks.

$5 Sign Up Bonus: Claim Here

Survey Junkie: This is among the most straightforward survey sites we have come across. Once you complete a survey, you’ll earn a predetermined number of points that you can exchange for cash, paid directly to a PayPal account, or you can redeem your points for free gift cards.

Free Sign Up: Register Here

Note: There are dozens of other survey sites out there. These just happen to be the more well-known ones that have a reputation for paying out in a timely manner and having reasonable standards for cashing out. As always, be careful with your personal information. We recommend using an entirely separate email address for survey sites so they don’t clutter your inbox.

2. Negotiate your bills to make room in your budget

What does it pay? Variable. It’s not uncommon to save $1,000 or more per year.

Best sites:  Billshark Truebill  Trim

Before you get carried away hustling day and night for a few extra dollars, try taking a step back first.

Are there any serious leaks in your budget that are holding you back?

Sometimes it’s easier to make a fix in your existing budget than it is to carve out time for an at-home side hustle — especially if you are already strapped for time.

Even if you don’t think there is any room to spare in your monthly budget, consider checking out some of these done-for-you services:

Trim: This financial “assistant” communicates with you via Facebook Messenger or text; there is no app. Trim can negotiate your cable, internet and/or phone bill with any provider, and claims to be able to lower your bill by up to 30% (their cut is 33% of yearly savings). Trim will also analyze your transactions so you can quickly and easily understand where your money goes and provide personalized recommendations for the right financial accounts for you.

Start saving with Trim

Billshark: This service specializes in negotiating common monthly bills. While they don’t claim to be perfect, Billshark says that they have an 85% success rate negotiating bills for cable and satellite TV, cell phones, internet, satellite radio, and home security. Pricing is simple: whatever they are able to save you via negotiation, they take a 40% cut. If they can’t lower your bills, you don’t pay them.

Lower your bills with Billshark

Truebill: Once you’re done creating a free account and connecting your bank and credit card accounts, Truebill goes to work and analyzes your finances. It will find subscriptions you may want to cancel, negotiates bills on your behalf, tracks and categorizes your spending, and automates saving to help reach your goals. The app is free to download and use, but premium features come with a price. Similar to BillShark, Truebill’s negotiation commission is 40% of savings.

Lower your bills with Truebill

3. Go on a cleaning spree

What does it pay? It depends on how much — and what — you are able to sell.

Best sites:  Decluttr (electronics) |  BookScouter (textbooks) |  thredUp (clothes)

One of the quickest ways to come up with a couple hundred dollars is by getting rid of some of the stuff laying around your house. Between clothes, books, shoes, electronics, and all the other stuff we hang on to for too long, there is money to be made by selling the things we no longer use.

Aside from the monetary benefits of selling stuff you don’t need anymore, downsizing can also be liberating mentally. Studies have repeatedly shown that a clean and minimal space can lead to higher levels of happiness. Less stress and a bit of extra money never hurt anyone, right?

Here are some of the most popular apps and sites for selling your stuff and getting the best deals:

Electronics, DVDs, CDs, Video Games: Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, games, books, LEGO®, and technology. Select your technology or scan the barcode on your media items for an instant valuation. Once you accept an offer, Decluttr will send you a free shipping label. All you have to do is pack a box and drop it at your nearest UPS location or schedule a pick-up. Read our Decluttr review here.

Textbooks: BookScouter

Instead of being at the mercy of your local bookstore to offer you a good deal on your textbooks, BookScouter lets you instantly compare book prices across 44 different vendors. You pick the one that offers the best price and voila. Book sold.

Clothing: thredUp

thredUP makes it easy to sell clothes online. To sell your items, order a free “Clean Out Bag” on thredUP’s website. Then send in your shoes via FedEx or USPS. Once they arrive, thredUp will inspect your items before listing. Their site says they accept less than 40% of items in the average Clean Out Bag. Make sure your items are clean, name-brand, less than five years old, and in excellent condition to increase your chances. Depending on the popularity of the clothing items you send in, you will be paid either after processing, or once your items sell.

4. Install a few cell phone apps (or allow ads on your phone)

What does it pay? Most people can expect to make $50-$100 per year.

Yes, companies will pay you to install apps (or place ads) on your cell phone and leave them there. These apps often run in the background and track your spending/purchasing habits. If you’re not one to care who knows what groceries you’re buying that week, then this is an easy way to a few extra dollars each year, for free. Here are some of the best money making apps that we have found:

Get paid to (anonymously) share your internet usage Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel

Nielsen (the same company that creates TV show ratings) has a research division that is similar to what survey companies do, which is gather information to help companies better market themselves to customers. Instead of having you take surveys, though, their computer and mobile panel is focused on gathering information pertaining to your “unique internet usage with people like you to build a picture of internet behavior.”

What it means: Nielsen will pay you to download their app to any of your eligible devices. After you’ve installed the app, you will slowly start earning rewards just for using the internet as you normally do. According to their website, Neilsen gives away $10,000 each month to members.

Sell ad space on your phone’s lock screen S’more (Android only)

S’more is straightforward app that rewards you for allowing content and ads to show on your lock screen.

How it works: Simply swipe up, down, left or right to unlock your phone. If you’re interested in what you’re seeing on your lock screen, just tap the “learn more” button. In exchange for allowing S’more to rent your lock screen, the apps awards you points every day. You can redeem those points for gift cards to places like Amazon, Google Play, Starbucks, and more.

Other similar lock screen apps:

  • Screenlift
  • Slidejoy
  • Fronto

5. Don’t buy anything without first using a cash back app

What does it pay? It depends on how much you shop. $100-$200 per year is reasonable.

Best apps:  Rakuten  |  ShopAtHome  Dosh  Drop

If you’re going to shop, why not get money for doing it? Technically you’re not making money, but you’re getting money back (cash back) on purchases you would have made anyways. Best part is, this is on top of any discounts or coupon codes you may already have.

There is no reason not to do this — it’s probably the single easiest way to earn extra money at home. You need an email address to sign up. That’s it.

Even if it’s $100-$200 per year, the savings start to add up. And it comes at zero cost to you!

Here are some of the most popular cash back apps that DollarSprout readers use everyday:

Rakuten: With over 2,500 stores to choose from, Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is a leader in the cash back industry. To date, Rakuten has paid its members over $1 billion in cash back. You can shop directly through Rakuten by visiting the website and choosing your store, or you can install the browser extension in your browser.

Read DollarSprout’s Rakuten review here.

Join Rakuten and get a $10 signup bonus

ShopAtHome: This site bills itself as “your personal shopping assistant.” Automatically get cash back, discounts, coupons and deals. Simply install, and start shopping. Your cash back savings are paid out via check, free Amazon gift cards or PayPal deposits. 

Join ShopAtHome and get a $10 Amazon gift card

Dosh: An up-and-comer among cash back apps, Dosh is quickly earning a reputation for offering some of the strongest cash back offers in the space. Pay with your linked card at 1,000s of stores and restaurants, and get up to 10% cash back automatically in your Dosh Wallet. Refer your friends to Dosh and get $5 for each one who signs up and links a verified card.

Read DollarSprout’s Dosh Review here.

Link a card to Dosh and get a $10 signup bonus

Drop: The rewards app may not be offering a signup bonus currently, but it is one of the best cash back apps on the market. And since each app has its own unique offerings, signing up for more than one will help ensure you get the best deal available. Read DollarSprout’s Drop Review here.

5 Gigs That Allow You to Earn from Home (Or On Your Own Schedule)

Simple survey and cash back apps are great for making a few dollars here and there, but there is a limit to how much you can realistically expect to earn from them. If you are looking for something that’s going to make a more meaningful dent in your monthly bills, these opportunities might be a better fit.

6. Food delivery gigs

What does it pay? $8-$25 per hour, depending on factors like location, demand, and efficiency.

Best sites:  Postmates  |  Instacart  DoorDash | Uber Eats

Postmates’ slogan is very straightforward: “Anything, anytime, anywhere. We get it.”

Being a courier for Postmates is a great way to earn extra money, especially if you like not having a set “work” schedule. Your tasks include delivering things like groceries, take out food from restaurants, and even alcohol. Even if you don’t have a car, you can use your bike for deliveries (plus you’ll get a nice workout).

There are no startup fees or time commitments with Postmates; you can work as much or as little as you’d like. You’ll take home 100% of what you earn every time you complete a delivery, and you’ll be able to see an exact breakdown of how your commissions are calculated.

Here’s how to start making money with Postmates:

✔️ Create your account  This just requires your basic information, a profile photo and proof of identity.

Get a welcome kit – Once Postmates verifies you are a real person (and not a serial killer), they will send you a delivery bag and prepaid card in the mail that you will use for your deliveries.

Get the app, go online – Link your prepaid card to the Fleet app, then go online and start accepting delivery offers and get paid!

While there are a lot of factors that will affect your exact pay, Postmates claims that “experienced couriers” can make up to $25 per hour. You probably shouldn’t expect to make quite that much, but this is certainly more lucrative than some other items on this list.

» Read DollarSprout’s Postmates review here.

Instacart is another food delivery app that gives people a cost-effective way to get groceries delivered to their homes. It’s a service that connects people who need to buy groceries with people who will purchase those groceries and deliver them to the person’s door.

That means that people who don’t mind grocery shopping can make money and help people by shopping for Instacart.

If you’re looking for a flexible way to make extra money, becoming an Instacart Shopper may be a solid option for you.

» Read DollarSprout’s Instacart review here.

DoorDash: One way DoorDash keeps pay enticing and fair for Dashers (as compared to other apps) is by showing a guaranteed amount for completing each delivery before you accept it. The guaranteed amount is based on factors like the size of the order, whether you have to place it in-person, driving distance, traffic, etc.

That means you can be selective with the deliveries you choose. Liz Eischen, a Dasher in Portland, Oregon, says “It varies, but for me, I consistently see $9-$12. I often only pick up deliveries in the double digits.”

As a DoorDash driver, you keep 100% of customer tips.

» Read DollarSprout’s DoorDash driver review here.

These days, driving with Uber is a popular side hustle. But if your vehicle doesn’t meet Uber’s requirements, you can still make money on your own schedule by delivering food with Uber Eats.

Depending on where you live, you can deliver food with your car, bike, or scooter. You can deliver day or night, for however long you’d like. Once you are approved with Uber Eats, you can sign onto the app and start accepting delivery requests right away (and making money).

And just like other delivery gigs, at the end of each delivery, you’ll be eligible to receive a tip.

7. Teach English from home

What does it pay? Up to $22 per hour with VIPKID. Most teachers make between $14-$18 per hour. 

Best sites:  VIPKID EF Education First

In China, there is a pressing need for qualified teachers to teach English to kids via online classes. If you have teaching experience, you can now start teaching classes from home. There are several companies specializing in this niche, and they are all eager to onboard fresh new teachers:


VIPKID needs thousands of teachers to teach English online to kids in China. While they do require a Bachelors degree, VIPKID does not require that new teachers need to know any foreign language or have formal teaching experience. Teachers can earn as much as $22 per hour hour working on the VIPKID platform.

The application process is broken up into five parts:

  1. Ensure you meet the basic requirements, then fill out an online application.
  2. Participate in a one-on-one interview with a VIPKID recruiter or record yourself teaching a demo lesson so a recruiter can evaluate you.
  3. Take the introduction class and learn the ropes of the VIPKID platform.
  4. Perform a mock class using what you learned in your training.
  5. Sign your contract, upload some documents, complete a background check and you’re a full-fledged VIPKID teacher.

EF Education First

New teachers can earn up to $20 per hour (to start) while teaching kids online with EF Education First. Teachers with EF are able to choose their own schedule, so you have total control over your time.

Education First is the oldest brand in the private language teaching space. In addition to that, EF is one of the only US based online teaching companies (VIPKID is based out of China). Teachers with EF have been helping people around the world learn English for over 50 years, and the company isn’t showing signs of stopping any time soon.

8. Pet sitting and dog walking gigs

What does it pay? You set your own hourly rate. Some people charge up to $50 per hour. 

Best apps:  Rover  |  Wag! 

Do you love dogs? Rover is a resource for busy pet owners, and they are always looking for new gig workers. They offer sitting, boarding, and drop-in visits for dogs and cats, as well as doggy daycare and dog walking services.

Sign up with Rover now

Caretakers set their own schedule, rates, size limitations, and whether they want to watch pets in their homes or those of the pets. All payment is done through Rover, so the only thing to collect in person are the snuggles. Read DollarSprout’s Rover review here.

Wag! is another pet sitting and dog walking site worth checking out. It’s common for people to sign up for both sites so they have maximum visibility in their area.

9. List an extra room in your house (short term rental)

What does it pay? Depends on your location and what your listing offers. Some are able to cover their mortgage from their Airbnb earnings.

Best apps:  Airbnb  |  VRBO 

Have an extra room in your house? Going on vacation for a week and interested in turning your home into an extra income stream while you are gone?

Another great way to make money online is to consider putting a room (or the whole place) on sites like Airbnb or VRBO.

Ultimately, you can make money from your home. It involves very little to no work on your end, and you can get started without any investment.

Here’s how making money via Airbnb works:

Create a listing by filling out a description, taking and uploading photos, and setting a price. Your listing helps guests get a sense of what your place is like.

Then, set the availability and house rules for your listing. Once your listing is live, guests can book their stay at your home, and you start earning money.

To up the “trust” factor for both the host and the guests, Airbnb does require some verification information, including phone numbers. After a visit, everyone gets the chance to write a review. Reviews keep guest accountable for treating hosts and their homes with respect, and helps ensure hosts make their space as welcoming as possible.

Sign up to make money as an Airbnb host here.

You can also read our in depth Airbnb hosting guide.

10. Rent your car out while you’re not using it

What does it pay? It depends on your location. Getaround claims their average owner earns $1,000s per year.

Best apps:  Getaround Turo

One of our newest tips for how you can make money from home: Let other people use your car when you don’t need it.

These two companies are leading the charge in this new market:

Getaround: The vehicle sharing app lets you post your vehicle and automatically connects you to people in your area who need a ride. Renters can access and book your car straight from the app, so you don’t have to mess around with scheduling to exchange keys.

List your car and start earning with Getaround

As a Getaround car owner, you get access to premium parking as well as a $50 monthly rental credit. And with $1 million insurance coverage, you can rest assured your property is in good hands.

According to Getaround’s estimates, car owners that routinely lend out their car can earn “$1,000s per year actively sharing your parked car”. Considering there is no effort needed by you, it’s a pretty good way to make money. That being said, your car will likely depreciate a bit faster by virtue of lending it out to other people. If you have a big car loan or are underwater on your loan, putting your car on a site like Getaround might not be a great idea.

To get started, just sign up and name your car, set the location and availability, and enter a description.

Rental earnings accrue on a monthly basis and are paid on the 15th of the following month.

Turo: The coolest part about this app is that it uses an algorithm to set your car’s price based on market value, location, time of year, and other data (to make your listing as competitive and lucrative as possible). If you prefer, you can manually set your own daily price.

List your car and start earning with Turo

Turo pays you via direct deposit within five days. According to their site, you’ll earn “65% to 85% of the trip price, depending on the vehicle protection package you choose. If you have commercial rental insurance to cover you, your car, and your customers and would like to waive vehicle protection provided via Turo, you earn 90% of the trip price.”

6 Full-Fledged Businesses You Can Start from Home

The items in this section of this list are the heavy hitters. Most of these ideas usually start as a simple side hustle, but they all have unlimited growth potential. If you find something here that you fall in love with, there is nothing stopping your from turning it into a career.

11. Start a blog

Did you know that the site you are on right now is considered a blog?

DollarSprout is a personal finance blog with articles primarily focused on money topics, but you can start a blog on just about anything.

People often have very unique reasons for wanting to start a blog and make money from home. Some blogs, like this one (DollarSprout), are meant to be informative resources for readers. Other bloggers may opt to share personal sides of their lives. For instance, many people will start a blog to document their fitness journey and inspire others along the way.

No matter your reason for wanting to start, with the right strategies, your blog can:

  • Connect you with millions of people.
  • Get your ideas out into the world.
  • Make you more money than you could ever make at your 9 to 5.

While it will likely take a considerable amount of time before you start to make money blogging (think at least 6 months), there is no limit on the amount it can ultimately make.

For inspiration, here is a list of some elite bloggers who are pulling in over $10,000 per month:

  •  $111,926 – Alex and Lauren at Create and Go (watch their YouTube video below)
  •  $57,686 – Lindsay and Bjork at Pinch of Yum
  •  $23,620 – Greg and Holly at Club Thrifty
  •  $22,931 – Rosemarie at The Busy Budgeter
  •  $10,168 – Alexa at Single Mom’s Income

And those are but a few of thousands of bloggers who are able to fuel their lifestyle with jobs working from home making five, and even six-figures a month. Bloggers will often use a combination of methods to make money including sponsorships, product sales, or even coaching for their audience.

If you’re new to blogging, and want to learn how to make money at home but aren’t quite sure where to start, consider starting a WordPress blog (like DollarSprout) with HostGator. It’s a low cost way to start your own online business (less than $5 per month) and HostGator offers a 45-day money back guarantee if you decide blogging just isn’t a good fit for you.

Here’s a great step by step tutorial for those of you who are interested.

Want to see how we built a $1,000,000+/year blog?

In this FREE 7-day email course, you’ll join 50,000+ other readers in:

  1. Seeing the exact steps we took to earn our first $1,000 blogging (and beyond).
  2. Starting your own blog (and learning how to write epic, money-making content).


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12. Start a Facebook ads business

Think about how many small businesses are in your city (not giant retailers like Target or Walgreen’s, but local restaurants, dentists, law firms, etc). Chances are, most of them are not taking advantage of Facebook advertising.

These businesses may have a Facebook page, but most aren’t getting anything out of it (i.e., they aren’t getting more customers or sales). That’s where you can come in: the Facebook ads specialist. The best part about this home-based business is that learning the art and skill of Facebook ads isn’t impossible — anyone can pick it up and secure their first client within a month.

What do Facebook ads experts do? As you might expect, Facebook ad agencies help businesses get more customers and increase revenue. Specifically, you would help local small businesses:

  • Create Facebook ads based on their goals
  • Gain exposure to their target market
  • Manage advertising budgets and ongoing campaigns

How much can a Facebook ads agency earn? This depends on the results you deliver for your clients. Most Facebook ad agencies — and even one man shows —  will usually charge a monthly retainer as their “management fee” for managing the ads.

It’s industry standard to charge anywhere from $1,000-$2,000 per month per client, and you don’t need previous website or marketing experience to get started. As you bring on more clients and build a reputation in your community for delivering outstanding results, your income can scale up quickly. It only takes a handful of clients to start building a full-time income.

Bobby Hoyt and Mike Yanda (featured in the video above) are two world-class Facebook marketers who created a course to teach you everything you need to know to get started. Instead of piecing together an education on your own, and wasting a lot of time and money in the process, this course puts everything you need to know in one place.

The course helps you quickly master the three phases of building your own work-from-home Facebook ads business:

  1. Learning how to set up a Facebook ad system for a local business
  2. How to find prospects who will pay you for this service
  3. How to convert those prospects into clients

If you want to learn more about Bobby and Mike’s backgrounds, and how they’ve built their own Facebook ads business, check out their story here.

13. Become a freelance writer (or proofreader)

Along the same lines as starting your own blog, another one of the best ways to make money from home is writing quality content for viewers. How much money? To the tune of several hundred dollars for a 3-4 page article.

If you’re still reading this article, odds are someone would have paid you over $200 for something of similar (or hopefully better) quality.

The better you are at writing, the more your content is worth. Even part-time freelance work can add thousands to your monthly income. Holly Johnson from Club Thrifty makes over $200,000 a year from freelance writing! And she has a course that teaches others how to do the same.

If writing isn’t your thing, do what Caitlin Pyle did:

In 2014, Caitlin made over $43,000 by working as a freelance proofreader — in her spare time. If you’ve got a knack for spotting typos or naughty grammar, this legit online job might be right up your alley.

When she wasn’t working, she even had time to go on several fun vacations.  After she had a ton of success doing that, she decided she wanted to teach others how to do the same thing, so she started up Proofread Anywhere.

Sign up for one of her free workshops to learn more about how to make money as a proofreader.

14. Become a virtual assistant

If you’re interested in a career that will allow you to make money from the comfort of your own home, becoming a virtual assistant is a realistic, flexible option that may be suitable for you.

Virtual assistants are responsible for helping businesses manage some of their basic day-to-day tasks. Things like posting to social media, managing incoming email, etc. By offloading some of these task to a virtual assistant, a small business owner can put more focus on the bigger picture.

If you want to fast-track your learning, there are several reputable courses available online:

30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success – This course is taught by Gina Horkey, who started her virtual assistant business in 2014. Within 6 months of starting, she was making over $4,000 per month.

$10K VA – Kayla Sloan is a well-known virtual assistant who turned her VA work into a 6-figure career, and she recently put together a course teaching others how to do the same.

In Kayla’s course, you will:

  • Learn how to land your first client
  • Get swipe files for pitching to potential clients
  • Learn how to set your rates so you get paid what you’re worth
  • Create a system for efficiency so you can maximize your billable hours
  • Join a community of other virtual assistants

15. Become a graphic designer

Whether we want to admit it or not, most people will judge a book by its cover. It’s human nature.

We also subconsciously judge businesses by how they visually present themselves. Graphic design is something that virtually every business needs, but it often gets neglected or is seen as unimportant. That’s where you can come in as a graphic designer.

Graphic designers are in charge of bringing to life the visual “feel” of a brand. Whether it’s creating images for an Instagram feed, designing a restaurant menu, crafting a logo, or anything else, the work that graphic designers has a large impact on how a customer and the general public feel about a business.

16. Design and sell t-shirts

Everybody wears t-shirts, which is a trend that probably won’t end any time soon. That means there will always be ways to make money in this industry.

Teespring.com is a site that allows you to design and sell t-shirts, without paying any money up front for inventory.

You basically create your own “store” with different t-shirt designs, and once you hit a certain number of orders, Teespring will create your shirts in one batch and ship them all for you.

8 Other Ways to Make Money from Home

If you still haven’t found “the one” yet, do not despair. Here are some more ideas for legitimate ways to make money from home:

17. Become a real estate investor

Andrew Carnegie famously once said:

“Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate. More money has been made in real estate than in all industrial investments combined.”

Real estate can be a very profitable investment opportunity, but many people don’t know how or where to start. It’s also common for aspiring real estate investors to be scared off of the idea because of the upfront capital requirements. While it’s true that you do need some money to make money from real estate, technology has made it easier for investors to get up and running without much startup capital.

Fundrise ($500 minimum)

If you don’t want to deal with the learning curve that comes with hands-on real estate investing, you can start with with as little as $500 by using a platform like Fundrise.

Fundrise allows investors of all types (beginners and experts alike) to invest directly in a real estate portfolio that’s managed by a team of professionals.

By using a platform like Fundrise, you don’t have to deal with the headaches of being a landlord and dealing with tenants. With 8-12% annual historical returns, this is an excellent opportunity to potentially grow your wealth.


If you prefer the challenge of buying individual properties yourself, but aren’t quite ready to do it 100% solo, consider looking into a site like Roofstock. Roofstock lets you buy properties with as little as 20% down that already have tenants living in them, which means you start getting paid from the first day of your investment. Since everything with Roofstock is still done online, you don’t even have to physically visit the properties!

This could be a smart strategy if you live in an area where real estate is outrageously expensive, or you don’t want the hassle and expense of traveling all over the country visiting potential properties. Plus, if you are new to single-family real estate investing, letting a place like Roofstock guide you through the process is a great way to get your feet wet.

18. Profit off your own weight loss

HealthyWage is a website that allows you to make a bet on your own weight loss.

The idea is simple: If you accomplish your weight loss goal within a given time frame, you win your bet. If you don’t accomplish your weight loss goal, you lose your bet.

For example, if you use their bet calculator, a $30 monthly bet to lose 20 lbs in 6 months will win you between $200-$529.41.

Check out our HealthyWage Review to learn more.

19. Start investing (no matter how small)

If you want to set yourself up for long term financial success, it all starts with the choices you are making with your money today.

That means that if you have extra money just sitting idle, either in a checking account or a low yield savings account, you might be better suited to put those funds into something that can grow faster.

Depending on your age and how much risk you are willing to take with your investments, you should be netting around 7% growth per year with a balanced portfolio. Of course, there will be ebbs and flows (and you won’t make money every day), but investing over the long term is one of the best ways to build long-term wealth.

Here is an app that make it very easy to get started, even with a small amount of money:

Acorns – $10 Signup Bonus

With an app like Acorns you can get started investing in just a few minutes on your phone.

Acorns works by essentially “rounding up” the spare change from your everyday purchases (to the nearest dollar) and then invests the difference into the stock market.

For example, if you spend $3.45 on a cup of coffee, Acorns will round the purchase up to $4 and invest the extra $0.55 into your portfolio.

If you’re new to investing and don’t fully understand how the stock market works yet, Acorns is a great way to get your feet wet. You can read our full Acorns Review here.

Acorns is now offering a $10 signup bonus for new accounts opened. After completing your account registration, Acorns will deposit $10 into your account to help you get started.

$10 Bonus

$0 Account minimum You’ll need $5 to start investing.

$1-$3/mo Monthly Fees


DollarSprout Rating

How Acorns stands out:

The Acorns app is very easy to use, which is perfect for new investors who are learning the ropes. Users’ everyday purchases are rounded up and the change is invested, which makes investing a daily habit.

Show more

20. Switch banks and earn more interest

Do you still have the same savings account you had when you were a kid?

If so, chances are good that you are not earning as much interest on your savings as you could (and should) be earning.

At the time of this writing, the average annual percentage yield (APY) on a savings account in the United States is 0.09%. That means that $1,000 sitting in a savings account will only earn $9 in interest if it sits there for an entire year. Not ideal.

By moving your money into an online savings account, though, you stand to earn far more on your money. Many online savings accounts today offer somewhere in the neighborhood of 2% APY — about 20 times more than the average.

Right now there are several competing banks offering premium rates on high-yield online savings accounts. This is great for the consumer [you] because they’re in constant competition to see who can offer the best interest rate [to lure in new customers].

21. Invest in fine art

When the word “investing” is mentioned, most people think of the usual: stocks, bonds, real estate, currencies, etc.

As it turns out, there are assets classes beyond these that can give investors additional diversification. One such asset class is fine art.

Up until now, it wasn’t possible for most ordinary people to buy famous and original works of art from artists like Picasso, Monet, or Rembrandt.

Masterworks is a new company that is making it possible to buy “shares” in a painting, just as you would buy shares of stock.

Click here to request an invite

Here’s how it works:

  1. Masterworks purchases a piece of artwork using their own pool of money
  2. They will then file the art with the SEC
  3. Once the SEC qualifies the filing, investors can purchase shares
  4. After time, Masterworks sells the art and shares the profit with shareholders

22. Rent out things you’re not using

You know that super nice Nikon DSLR that’s sitting in your closet collecting dust (that you can’t bring yourself to sell because you still use it from time to time)?

Or that Trek mountain bike that goes unused for 300 days out of the year that’s just sitting in your garage?

We all have something like that just laying around that could help us make some extra money through a neat service known as Fat Lama.

Think of Fat Lama like Airbnb, except you list everyday items for rent, instead of your house. Some users are earning upwards of $3,000 per month renting out a wide variety of things — from TV’s and high-end sound systems, to simple things like bikes and scooters, you can list just about anything and turn a profit.

Better yet, they even offer comprehensive lenders insurance. If an item is lost, damaged and/or for some reason never returned, they’ll cover the full value of the item. It’s an insanely easy way to passively make money at home and have someone basically pay off your item for you.

Renting out items isn’t the only way you can earn, too. New users automatically get a $20 bonus applied to their account and you can an earn an additional $10 for each member that you refer than ends up placing a rental order. This is a good way to make money fast while your items to get the use they deserve.

23. Help Google and make money at home

Want to earn $100 per year in rewards for changing nothing about your life?

With Google’s Opinion Rewards app, you have the opportunity to install apps that collect information to help Google improve their products. According to the site, users can earn an estimated $100 in rewards each year.

It works in essentially the same way as the phone apps that were mentioned earlier. If you don’t mind having Google know what you do on a daily basis (anonymously), you can make money by letting them monitor your Internet usage. They use the information they gather to help them market and increase the functionality of their advertising programs when targeting users that are similar to you.

24. Put your digits to use

Not your phone number. Your fingers.

You can earn up to $24 per hour simply by transcribing audio to text. Speechpad pays speedy typists to make written versions of audio and/or video clips.

At up to $.40 per minute, you can rack up some serious cash for those insanely fast typing skills you never thought would come in handy.

Additional Resources (and One Last Recommendation)

While there are hundreds of ways to make money at home, that doesn’t mean you need to be doing all of them.

Those who tend to find the most success with side hustling find a one or two things they really enjoy, and they stick to them.

Here’s how that might look for someone:

  • James has a job that he unhappy at, and he wants to eventually start his own business (from home)
  • James loves surfing, and decides he wants to start a blog about surfing
  • Every morning before work, James gets up at 5 A.M. to work on his new blog
  • Some nights after work, he delivers for Postmates to earn a little more
  • After 16 months, his surfing blog is starting to earn a respectable income and his savings are starting to build up
  • James decides it’s time quit his job and go all-in on his blog

This is a simple example, but it goes to show how someone can leverage multiple side hustles to eventually accomplish their end goal — whatever that may be.

But, if James didn’t truly enjoy the work he was doing on his surfing blog, he would have never stuck around long enough to make it to that point. He would have quit after a few weeks (or less!).

So, find something you’re passionate about doing. If you’re going to be doing something to make money at home on top of your 9-5, when you’re already tired from a day’s work, it should be something you really enjoy.

And that’s it. With some hustle and dedication, you can figure out how to make money at home. Many people reading this can add an additional $1,000 in income to their take-home pay each month — you just have to go out and make it happen!

Additional DollarSprout resources:

» Passive Income Ideas

» List of Best Micro Jobs Websites

» Best Freelance Jobs Websites


21 Best Stay-at-Home Mom Jobs to be with Your Kids

Stay-at-home mom jobs make it easier to be with your kids and still contribute financially to the household.

When my daughter was born, I wanted nothing more than to stay home with her. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option for me. Debt and other expenses meant that we needed to be a two-income household. As time went on, I discovered some options that allowed me to leave traditional employment and work from home.

Thanks to the rise in the gig economy and online jobs, there are more non-traditional work-from-home options that afford moms the opportunity to stay home with their kids and earn an income.

Table of Contents

21 Legitimate Stay-at-Home Mom Jobs

You don’t need a college degree or lots of work experience to find a job where you can work from home. There are plenty of options available that will give you the freedom to be home with your kids while earning money.

What you choose to do will depend on your talents, interests, and experience. There are many jobs that don’t require any specific education or past work experience.

Online Jobs for Stay-at-Home Moms

If you prefer to work while your kids sleep or during odd hours, these jobs are solid options to consider.

1. Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is a great way to earn money working from home. There are tons of jobs available, and you have the opportunity to use your unique skills and experience to find the right niche for you.

As a freelance writer, you’ll create original, creative, and informative content for online and print publications. This can include blog or website content, newsletters, email marketing campaigns, white papers, or marketing copy.

The more versatile you are with the type of content you can write will expand your opportunities to make money, but if you’re just beginning, it’s best to stick with one topic or one kind.

It can be hard to find clients and build a portfolio if you don’t know where to begin.

Holly Johnson, a six-figure freelance writer who’s written for Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Lifehacker, offers a free workshop for new freelance writers. Her paid course is a great place to start if you’re interested in freelance writing as a career.

2. Blogging

Blogging is one of the best online stay-at-home mom jobs today. It combines the writing aspect of freelance writing without searching for clients and writing about things you don’t like. By starting your own blog, you control how much work you do and what kind of content you create.

You can write about what you’re passionate or knowledgeable about including cooking, travel, personal finance, parenting or books. Focus on creating useful, helpful, and well-written posts, and post regularly.

On the surface, blogging doesn’t seem like a very profitable venture. But you can earn money on your blog through affiliate marketing, display advertising, and sponsored posts or ads.

Blogging allows you to turn your passion into a source of income, and if you work hard at it, you can make some serious money. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, check out our guide on getting started with your own blog.

Want to see how we built a $1,000,000+/year blog?

In this FREE 7-day email course, you’ll join 50,000+ other readers in:

  1. Seeing the exact steps we took to earn our first $1,000 blogging (and beyond).
  2. Starting your own blog (and learning how to write epic, money-making content).


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3. Social Media Marketing

It’s more important than ever for brands to have a strong social media presence, and they need people to manage it. Many companies hire social media managers to run their social media pages or to help them build their brand online. And there’s a lot more to establishing an online presence than just creating a Facebook page.

A social media manager ensures brands have up-to-date posts that engage fans and consumers. They create online profiles, post pictures on Instagram, curate collections on Pinterest, and respond to questions on Twitter. They can even moderate comments, edit videos, or manage Facebook ads.

Since the tasks are so varied, social media marketing allows you to turn skills you already have into a flexible work-from-home job.

4. Graphic and Website Design

If you have an eye for design and color, are creative, and can put together eye-catching logos or other graphics, working as a graphic designer is a great stay-at-home mom job to consider.

The hours are flexible, you can set your own rates, and decide how many clients you want. It also has a low start-up cost, with many graphic design programs offering free options. You can also deduct these expenses on your taxes.

You can also use these design skills to create websites for clients. While there are free themes and designs for website owners to choose, many still opt for custom designs. You would work with your clients on unique layouts and color schemes along with logos and other images, as well as provide website maintenance.

5. App and Plug-in Development

If you have strong coding skills, you can use them to create apps and website plug-ins for others. Most of this work is freelance, which means you have the freedom to choose how much you work and how much to charge. You can even create custom apps or plug-ins for clients who hire you.

6. Virtual Assistant

An increasing number of business owners are hiring virtual assistants or VAs to complete tasks like booking travel, answering customer emails, sending invoices, or editing website content. It’s a cost-effective solution for business owners to focus on other aspects of their businesses.

Most VAs work as freelancers, giving them the flexibility to earn money while staying home with their kids. How much you earn depends on your rates, the hours you work, and how many clients you’re able to take on.

You don’t need a degree or certification to work as a VA, but a course like 10KVA, run by successful virtual assistant Kayla Sloan, can help.

7. Selling Photos Online

Do you love to take pictures, even just on your phone? Then selling photos online might be a great way for you to stay home with your kids and still make money.

There are websites that will pay you to use your photos as stock photos. It’s easy to get started with these sites – just upload your photos. When an individual or company selects your photo, you get paid.

You have less control over how much you make because the site you’re using is responsible for promoting your pictures. It also depends on the type of photo licenses you’re selling, and the commission or royalties structure of the site.

Some of the most popular places to sell your photos include Shutterstock, iStock Photo, and Etsy.

8. Proofreading

Do you have a good eye for detail and a knack for spotting spelling and punctuation errors? Then freelance proofreading might be the perfect work-from-home opportunity.

Proofreaders check over documents and transcripts to ensure there are no mistakes. Many proofreaders are self-employed and have the freedom to choose when and how much to work. You can work anywhere from a few hours per week to 40 hours and work as a general proofreader or in a specific industry.

Veteran proofreader and entrepreneur Caitlin Pyle offers a free workshop for those considering proofreading as a career. Her workshop covers five signs proofreading could be a good fit for you and how to start booking clients.

9. Online Teaching or Tutoring

The online education field is growing quickly, and there are tons of jobs available for those looking to teach or tutor online. Even if you don’t have a teaching certificate, you can still find work as an online teacher.

One way to get started is by teaching English to kids in other countries online, especially in China. There are several companies that are always hiring teachers. VIPKID is a reputable growing company that hires English speakers to work with kids in China one-on-one via the internet.

You do need a bachelor’s degree to work with VIPKID, but teaching experience isn’t required.

10. Online Customer Service Rep

As a way to manage overhead and provide 24-hour support, more companies are moving towards hiring work-from-home customer service representatives.

This position is great for stay-at-home moms because it allows you the ability to work overnight when your kids are sleeping or during the day when they’re at school. You can also work part-time or full-time hours, giving you the flexibility you need.

You can work as a call center agent, online chat agent, or technical assistance.

11. Health Coaching

Health and wellness coaching is a growing industry. With more people looking for ways to get healthy and fit, there’s a need for coaches who can help guide them on their fitness journey.

An online health coach gives advice, checks in with clients, and provides encouragement. In most cases, all you need to get started is a passion for health and a desire to help others. Check with your local laws and regulations to make sure you don’t need any certifications or licenses to work as a health coach.

As a health coach, you can choose to work for a company or on a freelance basis. There are several companies that offer health coaching services online. On the other hand, you may want to work as a freelance health coach so you can have more freedom in setting your own hours.

Offline Jobs for Stay at Home Moms

If you like getting out of the house with your kids or want to include them in your work, consider one of these jobs.

12. Fitness Instructor

Working as a fitness instructor is one of the most flexible and versatile stay-at-home mom jobs. You can do anything from leading group exercise classes at a local gym to working as a personal trainer. You can even start a parent and child fitness class to get moms or dads and kids exercising together.

You might need special certifications to work as a fitness instructor, so do some preliminary research before choosing this option.

13. Babysitting/In-Home Childcare

If you stay home with your kids, you can earn income by watching other people’s children at the same time. You can offer before or after-school care for older kids or full-time hours for parents with young kids. Extra services can include transportation to and from school or weekend hours for parents who do shift work or want some kid-free time for date night.

You can advertise your services on Facebook, on community bulletin boards, or by signing up with a service like Care.com. Make sure you check with local and state regulations that might apply to watching kids in your home.

14. Pet sitting

People need someone to care for their pets when they’re away from home. If you’re looking for an easy work-from-home job you can do with kids in tow, pet sitting is a solid option.

You can offer dog walking or boarding services, cat feeding and litter box changing services, or even small rodent care. It’s up to you what services you provide and to what kinds of animals.

What makes this stay-at-home-mom job great is that you’ll earn money and teach your kids how to care for pets and how to grow a business at the same time.

You can use a website like Rover.com to find clients or you can advertise your pet care services locally or through social media.

15. Mystery Shopping

Working for a mystery shopping company means you’ll get paid to pretend you’re a customer at a retail store or restaurant. Generally, you’ll have to purchase something (for which you’ll be reimbursed) and provide feedback on things like how friendly the sales associates were or how clean the store was.

If you choose this kind of job, make sure you’re using a legitimate company. An easy way to tell if a mystery shopping company is a scam is if they ask you to pay to join their company or if wire money to a third-party company. Legit mystery shopping companies are free to join and never ask for money upfront.

16. Laundry Service

Most people don’t like to do laundry or have the time to do it as often as they’d like. You can provide a valuable service by washing, drying, and folding their laundry for them. You can even offer alterations and ironing to earn additional income.

This works as a great in-home job, especially if you don’t have a car or limited access to public transportation as you can have your customers drop their laundry off (and pick it up) directly at your house. You can do the work at any time, and you can have your kids help you with the task.

Word-of-mouth is best for advertising this kind of service, but you can use social media, Care.com or other job boards to promote your washing and folding business.

17. Sell Crafts

Selling homemade crafts like quilts, picture frames, T-shirts, and jewelry is a fun way to make money as a stay-at-home mom. There are a number of places to sell your wares such as Etsy, craft shows or your own Facebook business page. You control everything from inventory to price to how many hours you spend working.

If you want to make it easier and don’t want to manage any inventory, you can use a dropshipping site like Shopify to host your store and send products to your customers.

You can have your kids help you make your crafts or give them their own section to sell their crafts. It’s a great way to spend time together and make money at the same time.

18. Bookkeeping

If you like to work with money and are organized with your finances, working as a bookkeeper is a stay-at-home mom job that might be a good fit. As a bookkeeper, you’ll do things like invoice your client’s customers, record receipts, process payroll, issue payments, or create financial reports. You can do this from home or part-time in an office.

You don’t need a degree or certification to work as a bookkeeper, but if you have one, you can charge higher rates for your services.

Other Ways for Stay-at-Home Moms to Make Money

The careers we’ve listed here are great stay-at-home moms jobs for those who want or need a full-time setup. But what about moms who just want to earn a little extra money on the side?

There are plenty of good jobs for stay-at-home moms to make money without the commitment of a new career. You won’t make as much money, but these ideas can help you get extra cash.

19. Participate in Market Research

Market research companies need to know what consumers think and they find out by conducting research through paid online surveys. You can sign up to take these surveys and earn cash and rewards. It’s a quick and easy way to make money from home.

There are lots of sites that claim to pay you for taking surveys, but many offer very low pay or are just plain scams. Survey Junkie and Swagbucks are both reliable companies that actually pay you to take surveys.

For instance, Swagbucks offers rewards for taking surveys, watching videos, doing online searches, and shopping online. They give you a free $10 just for signing up.

Survey Junkie is another good survey site. Users sign up and can start taking surveys right away. Sure, it’s not one of the typical full-time or part-time stay-at-home mom jobs that pays all the bills, but you can still make some extra cash on the side with Survey Junkie.

20. Convert a Spare Room into an Airbnb Rental

Airbnb is a great way to save money on hotels when vacationing, but it’s also a great way to make money without leaving the house.

If you have a spare room and are comfortable with strangers staying in your home, you can turn it into an Airbnb rental. Guests will pay to stay there, and you’ll get extra income from a room you weren’t using anyway.

Earning potential varies widely with Airbnb. Guests will pay more for rooms with added features, like a private entrance or bathroom. You’ll also earn more if you live in a place where tourists visit, like a major city or a resort town. You can also charge more during big weekends or holidays.

For more tips on this side hustle, check out our complete guide to making money as an Airbnb host.

21. Food Delivery Driver

If you have kids in school and access to a car, you might be able to make some money during those hours by delivering food for Postmates or shopping for groceries with Instacart.

The money you earn depends on how many orders you accept, any tips you receive, and the hours you work (ex., peak delivery times pay more than off-peak).

Make sure you read the requirements and payment schedule for each program before you apply, and factor in expenses like gas and car maintenance.

Where Can I Find Stay-at-Home-Mom Jobs?

If you’re looking for work as a stay-at-home mom, knowing where to start is the first step.

Freelancers Sites

Sites like Upwork, FlexJobs, and Fiverr offer an easy platform to start finding work-at-home jobs. Each site has its own requirements for posting and finding jobs, so make sure you read each one carefully to see if it’s a good fit for what you’re providing.

Start Your Own Business

The easiest way to find work as a stay-at-home mom is to start your own business. You’ll have to follow all of your state and local regulations and file the appropriate paperwork, but you can start finding customers or clients immediately without worrying about using a third-party site or service.

Word-of-mouth referrals and online advertising through social media posts and Facebook ads are good sources for finding clients.

Register with an App or Agency

If marketing isn’t a strength of yours or it makes you uncomfortable, signing up with a site like Rover or Care.com is an excellent way to find clients for your business. All you need to do is complete a profile and people will find you.

How Much Money Can A Stay-at-Home Mom Earn?

The amount you earn depends on how you price your services, how much you work, and what you’re offering. It also depends on your goals and how hard you’re willing to work to reach them.

As a stay-at-home mom, you still have the ability to earn money even if you’re not working outside the home or putting in 40 hours a week. Although you have to put in the hard work to build a business and make it successful, there is no shortage of legitimate work-at-home jobs for moms.