Make money, not debt

By Mir
February 9, 2009

I post lots and lots of shopping deals, here, but Want Not is supposed to be about overall budgeting (even if it may not seem that way, some days) and living well within your means. It seems like with the holiday shopping season and then subsequent post-holiday belt-tightening, it’s kind of been all deals, all the time, lately.

Let’s change that.

The very pretty Kristy writes:


I love your websites and I enjoy all the deals you post on Want Not! You’ve helped me start a gift closet and I’ve saved quite a bit of money along the way thanks to you! Oh, and you’re so very pretty that I feel prettier just reading your posts!

My stupid, er rather, less new and inexpensive townhouse has broken all kinds of major things (roof, furnace, exterior walls) and I’ve racked up a lot of debt fixing it. I’ve been as smart as I can be about the debt (0% interest for a year) but now I’m taking a hard look at it and how fast I can make it go away.

Saving money is one half, but the other half is how to make a little money on the side. My husband and I work full time, but we do have nights and weekends. You’re so smart and pretty and web-worldly, I thought you might have some ideas on supplementing a paycheck. Do you have any tips for me?

First and foremost, Kristy gets 10 points to Gryffindor for her excellent powers of flattery. You’re pretty, Kristy!

Second, how about it—are there good ways for “regular” people to make money from home, tucked into the bits of time between work and life?

I have to be honest here and tell y’all that I sort of hate the whole “Make Money At Home!” rallying cry—which is a little ironic, considering that I work from home. Many, many of the places that want to hire you to lick envelopes or sell timeshares are not legitimate organizations, and I encourage anyone looking into such things to be very wary.

On the other hand, there are valid and legitimate ways to supplement your income on your own time. Let’s examine the options.

Sell stuff online. Craigslist and eBay are full of people who want to buy your junk, er, treasures. I used to do a lot of children’s clothes resale on eBay, years ago, and I made a nice profit picking up stuff for pennies at Goodwill and reselling it. Nowadays eBay’s rules (and high percentage of numbskulls) make it a lot harder to turn a buck that way, but it can still be done if you’re very patient and remember never to accept money orders from Zimbabwe. Craigslist is also full of people who really want to buy your kitchen table, but who can’t seem to remember to actually come pay you for it… but, again, it can be done. Do you have stuff laying around that you don’t need? Sell it! Do you have a local thrift or antique store where you could potentially find items others would pay big bucks for? This is an option to consider if you’re very patient and have a good eye (and source) for items in demand.

Sell stuff in person. I’m not a big fan of yard sales as money makers (to my mind, it’s a lot of aggravation for not too much profit), but again, if you already have stuff around you’d like to rid yourself of, it’s not a bad option. Another very flexible “selling” idea is anything you can sell via home party; Tupperware, Lia Sophia, Pampered Chef, Arbonne, etc. This sort of option is not for everyone, but I know a few women who make a nice side income this way.

Unskilled services. Anyone who’s enterprising (and trustworthy) can build up a little business doing things like dog-walking or house-sitting. And you’re probably thinking, Hey, does anyone hire someone over the age of 15 for this stuff? And the answer is Yes, people do, when they want someone more reliable than a teenager. The bad news is that you won’t make a ton of money this way. The good news is that it’s a fairly low-stress, small-time-commitment kind of thing. If you decide to do this, print yourself some free business cards and let people know you’re looking for gigs. Easy.

Skilled services. What can you do that other people can’t? I write; my husband takes pictures. Both of us freelance in our fields. But I have friends who teach classes in various things, who do interior design, who make art or clothes or jewelry on commission, who cook for others. Surely there’s something you can do that others can’t; that’s your skill, and now you just have to figure out how to capitalize on it. Even something as pedestrian as babysitting—if you love kids, of course—is a way to make some extra money.

What I don’t have for you, Kristy, is a list of get-rich-quick schemes. But I’m guessing that I’m overlooking some other options, and the rest of the pretty readers here are going to let us know. Right? Readers, please tell Kristy and me what I’ve missed!


  1. Good post, Mir! I do alot of the things you mentioned. I sell things on Ebay and Craigslist (more so Ebay) and I make a decent profit. My husband does estate clean outs and I generally sell some of the items he collects from that. From time to time, we get that buried treasure (like gorgeous wedgewood pottery, waterford crystal, etc). I also just began the venture of making jewelry and I’m about to start selling it on There are some great sites that WAHMs (work at home moms) chit chat quite a bit about their business ventures on. You can check out or . Both of those sites have a high population of WAHMs (who happen to practice attachment parenting/cloth diapering/babywearing/breastfeeding) who are more than willing to give you more info about there business ventures!

  2. Wow. I wish we could edit comments. Sorry about all the grammatical errors and repetitiveness. I’m sick…and my kids are sick, so I didn’t sleep much last night.

  3. I would love to be able to make some extra money. I’ve not had much success on ebay, I’m sure it is my lack of “good stuff.” Which is my question – where do you find the stuff to sell on ebay?

  4. There’s always a part-time job outside the home as well – night and weekend availability is perfect for restaurant and retail work. Just make sure that you don’t lose all the money you make by bumping yourself into the next tax bracket (not that I’ve ever done something like that… oh, look – something shiny!)

  5. I’m trying the “Medical Transcription from Home” thing…I have one more course to do before I can work! THe school I’m working with helps you set up a resume & interviews – you just have to land a job. I hear it is slow going at first (getting paid per word) – but I do have a friend-of-a-friend (for what it’s worth) who actually turns down jobs as a transcriptionist. Anyone else do this line of work from home??

  6. Elizabeth,

    Sometimes you can (as Mir said) get some good ebay items at local consignment stores and thrift stores. Also, shopping off-season at stores like Walmart and Target can be good. For that, though, you make the initial investment and you have to wait (say you bought clearance Christmas stuff this year, you’d be waiting until next fall to sell it). Always go through the clearance racks at those stores, especially in the baby section. I found a Hotsling baby carrier at Target — normally $40 marked down to 9.98. I sold it on ebay for $20.50 plus shipping!

  7. I happen to be a WAHM (design), but a long time ago in a land far far away, or I guess it was the same land I’m in now actually . . . Hubby was in school nights and we didn’t have our 2 rugrats yet, so I got a part time job at the local bookstore. I worked maybe 12-15 hours a week and didn’t make a TON I admit, but I loved it (getting paid for a hobby was my rationale) but better, I got 45% off books which meant my gift closed runneth over after that, so I saved that way too . . .

  8. I also do freelance photography gigs here and there, it may only be $150 to $300 here or there, but it adds up.

    Speaking of garage sales, it had been years since I had a garage sale, and since we made our final decision to not have any more kids, I really wanted to clear out our attic of baby stuff. We had a garage sale last weekend and cleared over $500 in two days. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe the SWARM of people that showed up over an hour before we were going to start. I think more people are trying to save money and buy gently used items instead of shiny new items. We advertised for free on craigslist, our local paper online, and the local site for our area. Again, SHOCKED at the amount we made.

  9. Re: “good stuff” to sell on eBay… I’ve had more luck selling things like clothes and shoes on eBay than items I might think were more eBay-ish (like all those collectible figurines I cleared out of my grandmother’s house, ugh.)

    I’m sure a lot of us have things we’ve bought and never worn. Any item of clothing that is new and still has tags, or new shoes in their original boxes, should be pretty easy to sell on eBay. Clothing or shoes that have been worn but are in good condition can be sold, too, but I think it’s easier to sell items that have higher-end brand names if they’ve been used.

    The really good thing about selling clothes and shoes is that you don’t have to worry about them breaking in transit.

    Full disclosure: out of all the things I’ve sold on eBay, the easiest items to move were bras. Seriously. I’m a weird size, so I’ll buy bras online and resell them on eBay if they don’t work. I just always make sure to try things on before I take off the tags!

  10. A good part time gig is delivering pizzas. I know it sounds crazy but you would be very surprised out how quickly those $2 tips can add up!

  11. If you have a degree in anything or a skill in a school subject, tutoring or private lessons are a very good dollar-per-hour way to make some money. If you have any kind of art or science gear there are homeschool groups who might hire you for a workshop. Some schools allow folks to give fliers to the teachers if you go and help out for a day in the related classroom or something like that.

    Make your own fliers and post them where moms/students roam. For the lessons themselves you might want to find a semi-public space, like a library study room or a coffee shop, so you don’t have to get into home commercial liability insurance issues. But then, I’m a little paranoid about that stuff and I know a ton of folks do teach from home.

    I like the previous person’s point about finding something you regularly spend on (books, home improvement, etc.) and snagging a part-time job to get those things at a discount.

  12. I sell my children’s clothes at local consignment sales in the spring and the fall. Here they are ususally run by churches. I have chaired my church’s sale for a few years. Our sellers make 70% and we get 30%, In addition, I get to write off the 30% as a donation. Also, I donate my unsold items for a donation credit. While I buy his new clothes there each season, I usually always come out a little ahead and get SUPER clothes for him cheap! It takes work …clothes that sale are clean, pressed, in style, etc.

  13. I’ve worked a lot of entry level jobs, and one thing I’ve found is that practically every “open evenings/weekends” store is looking for people to actually WORK those hours. The people who are available to work evenings/weekends tend, as a group, to be a little…unreliable. So if you ARE reliable, you can quickly be everyone’s sweetheart. When I needed an evening/weekend gig a few years ago, I found not only could I find those hours, I could generally pick up extra hours practically anytime I wanted them, just by offering to be on call if anyone called in sick on an evening/weekend shift, and offering to cover other employee’s shifts if they suddenly got a date or whatever. For awhile there I was working 40 hours a week, just doing evenings and weekends.

  14. Someone mentioned part time jobs in retail or restaurants. I think this is a great idea especially if you can get one in a place that has something that interests you (bonus, you may get a discount!). So, if you love to read and buy books frequently, a bookstore that gives a discount might be a double good thing. Craft store if you like to knit. Your favorite clothing store. A sports arena/concert venue in your area. Target, oh my God, Target! I don’t know if they do employee discounts but worth looking into. I always really liked waitressing and did it even after I had a full time nursing job (before full time kids redefined the phrase full time). I would definetly look for something that would be at least as much fun as work if it is supplemental.

  15. Here’s an idea for dog lovers. Take a dog or two into your home for a week or just a weekend. In my area there are lots of people who are willing to spend top dollar on their precious poochies and don’t want them to be locked up in a kennel. I have friends that have used this service and paid $30.00-plus a night. There’s some nice cash for walking the dog! I prefer to pay someone to come and live at my house when we travel as we have three cats and three dogs but I am too embarrassed to admit to how much I pay for that.

  16. I recently started putting stuff for sale on Its like craigslist but it allows you to post on your social networks too, like facebook and myspace.
    I think its pretty cool but I haven’t linked it to my facebook yet. And another thing I just learned is you can also post your ilist listing on craigslist from the ilist site.

  17. YAY! Thanks everyone!
    I agree with the oh-so-pretty Mir. I always avoid those ads, “Get Rich Quick! Earn Money Fast! Make Thousands at Home the Easy Way!”

    I know there’s no fast way to getting rich, but these are some good solid ideas to bring more dollars into our budget. I’m going to start checking these out right away.

    Thanks again!

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