In my short life as a millennial, I have read a lot of personal finance literature. Whether it is a personal finance blog, a book, podcast or magazine, I probably know it!
Along my own personal finance journey, I have found a couple of very interesting things. For instance, there seem to be a lot of recurring themes among personal finance writers.
A vast majority of personal finance writers seem to agree on the same things when it comes to developing financial literacy, with some difference of opinion here and there. Some may vouch for an emergency fund, others may drill in the importance of investing young, while some may simply tell you how to budget.
However, one thing they all seem to agree on is the importance of managing one’s income. In order to reach financial freedom, you have to spend less than you earn. That’s basically what we call ‘living below your means’.
Live Below Your Means… If You Can?
In theory, this idea is great because of its simplicity. Just spend less than you earn and you’ll be good!
In real life, this idea needs some work.
Yes, I understand the concept, and I’m sure that if she tried hard enough, my 7 year old cousin could understand it too. Say if my salary is $2000 a month, I should only spend $1800 and save the rest. How easy is that?
Now, let’s apply that to someone from a low income background, say a single student.
Let’s say that the student is at school full time, while making a living on less than minimum wage, or about $950 (half the Australian equivalent minimum wage). Is this person honestly expected to live on less than that?
To be able to objectively answer this question, let’s look at the average living expenses of a student per month.
Before rent, a student living in Australia can expect to spend on average $935 a month.
After rent, the average student would see their expenses almost double, reaching $1,827 (however for the sake of this exercise, let’s say the student is rent exempt).
Therefore, our starving student is making $950 a month and spending $935 before rent, leaving them with a whopping $15.
Now I don’t know about you, but $15 dollars doesn’t exactly scream purchasing power or financial independence. I know this from experience, as I used to live on even less than $800 a month.
How? I do not know.
What I do know however is that when you live on a small income, every dollar counts. You are already living well below your means. Actually, let’s call it what it is: you are struggling AND living below your means.
I remember the days when the thought of saving money wasn’t even an option, let alone a priority.
Every cent that I had went somewhere, whether on bills or school or food. At the end of the month, all the money was gone. I was this broke once too so I am all too familiar with the lifestyle of the struggling uni student.
Therefore, my question is this: How can someone that is already living below their means actually afford to save money?
The answer is by doing side hustles, of course!
Side Hustle and The Starving Student: A Love Story
This answer might be a bit surprising, as the obvious way to increase your savings is to increase your main income. This is easy to do if you have the luxury to either ask for a raise or to work more.
However, this is usually not the case for those who are in no position to negotiate or that work fixed hours. For example, when I was earning less than $800 a month, I was already juggling the maximum hours at work and university.
I knew that I wanted to be able to save more each month and actually be able to put some money away, but with my current earning situation this was impossible. I also knew that I could not change my main stream of income and couldn’t really increase it either.
In short, I wanted to be able to afford living below my means.
So what did I do to get myself out of that rut?
I started doing side hustles!
Finding the Perfect Match
This idea came to me after reading Scott Pape’s chapter on how to grow your income in his book, “The Barefoot Investor”*. He basically says that if you want to increase your income, it’s time to pick up a side hustle outside of your main job.
For me, I knew that my side hustle had to have the following:
- It had to be flexible because of my other commitments.
- It had to be lucrative and earn me some actual cash. None of this ‘do this survey for a voucher’ BS.
- It had to be something simple. I wasn’t about to start my own business or take a course on Amazon drop shipping, regardless of what the media was trying to sell me.
- It had to be something relatively low stress. School and work and just life in general ensured that I had enough of that in my life already!
- It had to be something I was good at and enjoyed doing. I mean hey, people were actually going to pay me for this, right?
With that, I managed to find myself a few perfect side hustles.
Let The Side Hustling Begin
My first experience with side hustling was doing website testing for UserTesting. UserTesting is basically a service whereby you, the user, test a website for a company and provide a detailed review on it. The tests usually run for about 15-30 minutes and you get paid $10 for each website you test.
The whole process is pretty straightforward, however after a while I just wasn’t getting enough tests to be able to make a stable stream of income. You have to qualify for almost all the tests you complete, as companies are often looking for specific people. Therefore, it can be sometimes hard to get tests. However, I still use UserTesting weekly and would recommend it highly!
My second experience was with pet sitting, which is something I still do today! I just love pets so much, which is why I have two at home.
Being a pet owner myself, I know just how hard it is to leave your loved one behind when go on a trip. In addition, I knew that this would be something I’d be good at, as I simply just love connecting with animals!
Now I won’t lie, pet sitting is not a get rich venture. It doesn’t pay that much and more often than not, they money you get for an assignment is barely enough to cover transport costs. However, some money is better than no money, and this is something is simply love doing! I doesn’t even feel like work half the time.
My last notable experience with side hustling this far has been with tutoring, which something I’ve only started doing recently. Luckily, being a nerd and opting to do extra summer school came with some perks, as it just so happened that my university was looking for summer tutors.
Let me tell you, tutoring pays well. Like, really well.
I’m going to be completely honest with you, if my hours weren’t capped per semester, I’d be rolling in tutoring money right now!
Unfortunately, they are capped at the moment and my earning capabilities through this venture are limited. However, again, tutoring is something my nerdy self really enjoys. Not only do I get to interact with people that want to learn, but I also get to make a bit of a difference in my community. Just wish they’d give me more hours!
How You Can Start Your Own Side Hustle
I suggest you start by fist making a list of ideal points you wish your side hustles to have, like I did above. From there on, you can try one of the side hustles mentioned above. In addition, here’s some other ideas:
- Affiliate Marketing
If you already own a successful blog or have a strong social media presence, you should totally try affiliate marketing. If someone buys a product or service through your affiliate link, you get a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to the buyer.
- Deliver Food
Companies like UberEats, Foodora and Deliveroo are always hiring people to deliver food for them. While the money isn’t fantastic, this side hustle is very flexible and even has the potential of earning tips! All you need is either a bike or your own vehicle to get started.
- Sell Things Online
No, I am not talking about drop shipping on Amazon! I simply mean that you should sell the stuff you no longer want or need online. This could be anything from books, clothes, to even old vintage ‘gadgets’. The opportunities are endless as long as someone in interested in buying your product!
That’s it! It’s as simple as that!
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and again, I truly hope you’ve gotten some value out of it.
I know I talk a lot about my personal struggles on this blog and that is because I want to be honest with you guys. I think it is very important to know where someone came from in order to understand why they are where they are now.
As usual, I want to know more about you. What is one side hustle you have tried or want to try?
Let me know in the comments below!
Being broke is temporary. Being rich is a journey.