Earning An Extra $500 A Month As A Stay At Home Parent

When I asked for reader feedback on what you wanted me to write about, I got this comment from Kaytee:

Any tips on being a basically SAHP (my husband will be a SAHD once our baby is born) but also earning a little income on the side? To have a reasonable chance of surviving on just my income, I’ve told my husband if he really needs to make $500/month. It’s just an estimate at this time, since I have only SWAG as our budget will change when he no longer works out of the house (no more $500/month in gas!)

Congratulations on the soon-to-arrive little one!  I love this question, and I think it allows for a lot of creativity in terms of solutions.  $500 a month isn’t a huge amount, and I think it’s a very reasonable goal for a stay at home parent to have.  One thing to keep in mind is that if you file taxes jointly (which most married couples do), the additional income will be lumped in with the income of the primary earner for tax purposes.  So if you need to clear $500/month, he might need to earn 25% or so more than that to account for taxes.  When I had a part-time job at the local library before our son was born, I had them withhold an extra $50 in federal taxes from each paycheck to account for this.  Otherwise they would have withheld very little money, as my income there was quite small.

Now for some ideas…  I’ll share thoughts that I have as well as things that have worked for people I know who needed to earn a bit of extra money.  I assume you’ve already cut expenses as far as you can, since that would be my first suggestion.  As far as ways to earn a little extra money, here are some possibilities.

  • What does your husband do now?  That’s where I would start.  Can he take the skills and knowledge he has in his current job and capitalize on it in a very part-time capacity after your son is born?  Depending on the nature of his job, he might be able to set up a system for providing as-needed assistance (from home, preferably) to his current employer or someone else in the same field.  If he’s a highly skilled worker, on-line and/or telephone consulting might be an option.
  • He might be able to be a virtual assistant, especially if he has good phone and computer skills.  For our own business, we’ve been utilizing an answering service for the past 3.5 years, and they’re fantastic.  If we can’t answer the phone, clients who call our business get a real person on the phone, 24 hours a day, instead of voice mail.  The person who answers the phone takes a message and emails it to us immediately.  I believe that the company we work with has operators who are in a call center, but I’ve read that a lot of virtual assistants work from home.  You need a quiet place to work, which isn’t the easiest thing to come by when you have children.  But $500/month doesn’t require an awful lot of hours.  Naptime and some evening/weekend hours (when the other parent is home) might be enough.
  • Does your husband have strong computer skills?  He might be able to start a service helping individuals or businesses who need help setting up/maintaining a blog or website, but don’t have the budget for a high-end web designer.
  • If he’s a dog person, he might be able to set up a part-time dog walking business.  I take our two boys and our dog for a walk every day, usually for at least an hour.  Juggling kids and dogs does require a lot of focus (no cell phone conversations these days during my walks…), but it’s great to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Blogging might be an option, if he enjoys writing.  It’s definitely not a get-rich-quick plan.  I’ve been blogging for five years now, and my blog makes about $300 a month.  Over the last four years or so, my income from the blog has varied from about $100/month to about $400/month.  Granted, I only post once a week or so now that we have children – posting more often would definitely help if my goal were to increase my income.  So if there’s a topic that he’s passionate about, there is definitely money to be made with blog advertising, affiliate sales, and possibly your own e-book sales (although it seems like everyone and their cousin has an e-book now… my opinion is that e-books are a good option if you’re a really great writer and the stuff you’re saying is truly valuable to people).
  • Is a part-time job outside the home an option?  With the current state of the economy, he might find employers are more willing to consider a very part-time employee, since they wouldn’t have to spend money on benefits.  Perhaps he could work a few hours a week outside the home, either in the evenings or on weekends, when you’re home with your son.
  • As a blogger, I get lots of pitches from freelance writers who are writing for all sorts of businesses as part of their web marketing.  A lot are spammy, but some represent truly reputable sites.  If your husband writes well, he might be able to make some money as a freelance writer.  I have no idea what percentage of freelance writers are successful at earning money, but it’s definitely a job that can be done from home during the baby’s nap.
  • I have a friend who spent a summer working very part-time for the government (BLM? Fish and Wildlife?  Something like that) to determine whether sheep had been killed by predators (wolves or bears).  The government would reimburse ranchers who lost sheep to predators, but they would send people out with gps coordinates to the location where the ranchers reported the carcass, so that the kill could be verified before payment was made.  This job basically involved a lot of hiking (and some unpleasant stops along the way to examine sheep carcasses), and I think my friend earned something like $75 or $100 per sheep.  This was several years ago and I have no idea if the program is still active, but it’s an example of thinking way outside of the box when it comes to earning money.  Another person I know – who was a full-time teacher – earned some extra money on weekends and during the summer by counting grasshoppers on public lands.  The government wanted to determine how bad the grasshopper infestation was, so they paid him to hike around and count grasshoppers.  Again, I don’t know if this program is still active, but both of these examples are things that a person could do while carrying a small child in a sling.
  • This is another idea that might have been easier before the market got saturated, but reselling items of value has the potential to earn a few hundred dollars a month.  Yard sales, low-end thrift stores (the high-end ones have mostly caught on to the fact that some things have quite a bit of value in the resale market), and even the free section of Craigslist might yield things that could be sold for a profit.  I recently sold a 1980s Schwinn bike for $150.  I bought it for $5 several years ago, and it had been gathering dust in my garage ever since I got my cruiser bike.
OK readers, it’s your turn.  What ideas do you have for Kaytee and her husband?  How can he bring in an extra $500/month while being a stay at home dad?

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  1. FrugalBabe says

    I put this out on Twitter too. @BudgetorFudget (http://budgetorfudget.wordpress.com/) suggested one-on-one tutoring (online might be best for a stay at home parent) or babysitting. Childcare is quite challenging, so he might want to wait a while until he’s got it figured out before adding another child as a paid position, but it could be a way to earn some extra money.

  2. FrugalBabe says

    Another response from Twitter: This one from @LittleHen33, who writes “our local Uni offers data entry work which can be done from home. A friend is an appointment maker for a solicitor.”
    Data entry could be a great option, since it doesn’t require the quiet work environment that a phone-based job needs.

  3. says

    My S.I.L. works from home part time editing personal shopper reviews for Bestmark. Another friend of mine’s husband does something involving checking (picking up?) cable boxes so he drives around the city with the kids for part of the day and loves it.

  4. Kaytee says

    Yay! Thanks for the shout-out! We don’t actually know what our little bundle of joy is yet, but we’ll find out in February when it arrives. Currently, my husband is a carpenter. Technically, he’s self-employed and I’ve been doing our taxes jointly for 5 years now (which I actually enjoy doing).

    He is barely functional with a computer (I do his book keeping now), but will be learning before too long. He’s planning to return to school in 2013 with night classes, so he’ll have to be able to use a computer. However, he is a good writer. Before dropping out of college, he had been majoring in English with a minor in Psychology. This was in 96-99 when colleges were transitioning to computers.
    He’s good with people, but doesn’t like to admit it. He loves the outdoors, so I love the locating sheep carcass idea.

    Some of the things we have been talking about:
    -Babysitting/childcare – we can often gluten free, type 1 diabetic friendly care (he’s both), but the big unknown is with him figuring out care of our infant.
    -Fixing up scavenged stuff and reselling. Not sure what the market is for this, but also seems a bit unreliable.
    -Ads for handyman services in the area. – our area has neighborhood email lists that he could post on.
    -Nights or weekends part-time at some minimum wage job. – this would be ok in the short term, but it would be nice to spend time as the three of us as well.

  5. says

    Would he be able to do carpentry on the weekends? My brother works fulltime and then occasionally does roofing jobs on the weekends. Of course, that could leave very little together time for you guys as a family.

  6. FrugalBabe says

    Oops, sorry Kaytee… I see that your question said “baby” and I’m not sure why I read that as “son.” Well, maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by little boys :) Hopefully some of the ideas that my other readers are coming up with will be helpful to you and your family.

  7. Jaime B says

    Definitely I would leverage his skills as a carpenter. As a new(ish) home owner, I would kill for an inexpensive, yet quality and experienced person to do odd jobs around my house. Shoot, I’m networking now just to get someone to put one of those attic-access kits in my hallway! (Whoever thought it was ok to put a TINY square in a linen closet is crazy! As if I want to unload my entire closet plus the shelves just to get my bedroom wired for lighting. :/) Anyway, I would guess that if you can spread word of mouth through friends, and assuming he does quality work and is a reliable worker, he might have to turn away business. This is especially true in this economy with so many people looking to spruce up the places they have. Is he in a union/trade association? Would doing freelance work interfere with that status in some way?

    LOL, he could even market himself as a “honey RE-do” specialist. ;) So many DIYers out there now, I bet there’s a market for fixing someone’s inexperienced mistakes. Especially in carpentry. ;)

    If he doesn’t mind moving furniture and you have a truck, he could go around to used furniture stores and market his services as a mover. One of the consignment stores here in town does not deliver, but they keep a couple of numbers on hand. One is just a guy with a truck who has proven reliable so they give out his info when customer ask. Like with freelance carpentry, this would involve driving around and doing jobs when you’re off work to watch the baby so that might not be too helpful.

    My company is a teleconferencing firm and we employ some work at home staff (locally) who answer phone lines for us. It’s more structured than your standard call center environment in that you’re answering incoming calls for scheduled conference calls (people don’t just pop into your headset, you have to actually choose to answer the line). Our at home staff simply sign up to answer on available calls – whatever is on the schedule 24/7 (no set hours = pros AND cons). Most of our at home staff are stay-at-home parents, who just need some extra cash and the flexibility of working whenever. If you have any conferencing companies in your area, it might be worth checking out. You do use a computer, but it’s fairly basic stuff. We pay between $10-12/hr (no benefits, 17hrs or less per week), I believe. The difference is that one of our old executives left to start his own at home, temporary worker firm and he staffs some of our work at home positions – he takes his cut so their per hour is a bit lower than the work at home staff we employ directly.

  8. says

    I would definitely have him leverage the carpenter work! I think that’s the best way to make some money, especially if he can put the work into his Saturdays while you have a day alone with the baby. My parents have hired a guy in a similar position lots of times — it’s always little things like fixing the deck railing or hanging a new door. My dad CAN do most all of it but doesn’t have the time due to his job right now. Especially if your husband has, or can develop, some handyman skills beyond carpentry like basic plumbing or electric work, I think he could be super useful. If he charges $20 an hour and just does weekends and evenings (or whenever you’re home), I am sure he can find $500 a month, especially after word gets around.

    I’m a teacher back in school for licensing, and I pick up extra money by proctoring the SAT/ACT, finding part-time teaching gigs, and subbing. It’s fairly sporadic, and I don’t think any of these would work for you. I make an extra $1-2k per year doing these things, so it’s enough to pay for my health insurance premiums. But that’s how I leverage my skills into earning a little extra income to supplement my meagre TA pay (I teach two lab/disc sections at the university where I’m getting my license).

  9. Kaytee says

    Jaime – I love the idea of a honey re-doer, it’s cracking me up! He often uncovers homeowner DIY mistakes or contractor corner cutting on the job. We may never buy a house because of this.

    My husband is an excellent carpenter, but he’s not finding it to be as much fun the older he gets. The guy he usually works for has been accepting nothing but roofing jobs for several years. The recovery time from full time carpentry work increases with age and he is constantly in pain. As are most carpenters! I bet if he just did side and odd jobs, it might bring back some of his enthusiasm. Particularly for in-door work. He is a rare carpenter indeed – polite, knowledgeable and well spoken.

    He also does have basic plumbing and electrical work. I’m not sure about HVAC.

    Based on these suggestions, it does seem like side carpentry jobs and childcare (once he gets his feet under him) might be his best options. I mentioned a blog to him and he’s considering it, but I think that would take time to manifest.

    He still loves the sheep carcass idea though.

    FB – thanks again for mentioning this on your blog!

  10. says

    Great ideas, everyone!
    I have been wanting to take on some part-time work but on my time! You ladies have some awesome ideas! I love it! Thank you!!

  11. Jaime says

    What he might try is seasonal work – working a lot of evening and/or weekend hours to make an average of $500/mo for the whole year but only working for a month or two at a time.

    So, he could pick up retail jobs in the fall/Christmas season. As you know, these generally don’t pay much above minimum wage, but if you’re strategic about it you can leverage the employee discount to have a good impact.

    Also, if you have an IRS office in your area he can apply to help during tax season. Here in KC, they usually open the jobs up around Nov/Dec and actually start working in Feb. They have weekend only hours as well as regular weekday shift and they pay something like $10-12/hr. You’re not actually processing the returns I think, it’s more like sorting/mailroom type work though they do have data entry positions that pay a bit more. Similar to the sheep, but not outside. ;)

  12. Cynthia says

    I am also looking for some extra cash to make ends meet! Single mom with 5 kids…2 in college. Very interested in blogging. Consider myself a decent writer. I currently work full time and part of my job is a website editor. So I think I have the experience to get started. Where would you suggest I look for opportunities??

  13. Cynthia says

    Sorry, I hope that you don’t mind that I wasn’t a stay at home parent. But all very good ideas and blogging is something that I have been researching.

  14. FrugalBabe says

    Cynthia – My only experience with blogging has been on this site and on the website for the business that my husband and I own. I have no experience with being a paid blogger or freelancing for money. If you want to start your own blog and monetize it, there are lots of resources out there to help you. Leo Babauta (the guy who runs Zen Habits) runs a blogging boot camp that you might want to check out – I’ve seen positive reviews of it from other bloggers I read, although I have no experience with it personally. If you’d rather be a “staff writer” for one of the big blogs that already exists, you could try contacting all of your favorite blogs (they’d probably have to have pretty large readerships in order to be able to hire a writer) to see if they’re interested in having an additional writer on board. It might help to already have your own blog to show them before you do that, so that they can see that you write well and are consistent. Above all, make sure that the topic you’re blogging about is something you’re interested in – otherwise, you’ll run out of ideas for posts very fast! Best of luck. And of course you’re welcome in the discussion! I only included the stay-at-home parent part because it was specific to Kaytee’s situation, and because I wanted the ideas submitted to be something that a person could do while also taking care of a child.

  15. Felipe Garcia says

    Check out ValetWaste.com.  Is a job done at night, 8pm to 10pm or so, from Sunday through Thursday.  It still gives you the weekends free.  He must have a truck to do it.  I have a truck and been thinking about contacting them for a night part-time job.

  16. Felipe Garcia says

    I’ll share some other ideas that I have had in my mind for some time.  Obviously, where I live there is a lot of competition so I have not done anything with these ideas but they may work for him.  He can have his own tool rental service that he can run from home, as a carpenter he can use the skills to build storage sheds and either sell them or offer them as rent to own units.  Something else he could do is build giant jengas (just google it) and price them based on the type of wood and finish. 

  17. Feilpe Garcia says

    As a carpenter he me know some contractors in the area.  If he has a truck he can ask them if they would let him take all the scrap metal (i.e. old water heaters, wiring and plumbing scraps for the copper, etc).  I have a friend that makes $300 to $500 per month recycling scrap metal.  Other ways to recycle scrap metal is through Craigslist free section.  Many people give away old washers, dryers, etc.  I’ve done some recycling myself and only wish I had more free time to do even more.

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