Hands up if your one of your 2017 goals was to save more money. Since this blog is online I have no idea how many people raised their hands but I bet it’s a lot. Even if it wasn’t technically a goal of yours, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind saving a little extra.
I’ve been reading hints and tips on how to do this, and I’m finding that a lot of what I’m reading is starting a little too high. The articles (or listicles) are aimed at people who already make a lot of money, and who don’t need to care that if they stop buying their £4 latte every morning on the way to work they’ll save ~£1000 per year.
That’s not going to work for anyone who’s already pretty frugal. So instead of telling you to swap to supermarket brand cereal, or to soak your own beans for casseroles, I’m going to tell you how to make sure every penny you should be. So far, I have three ways in which I do this. Now, my chief source of income is my full-time research job, and I suspect it (or something like it) always will be. That doesn’t mean I should ignore potential secondary sources of income.
Every now and then science outreach work pays. Twice a year I get involved with the Science Startup Masterclasses funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and occasionally other similar paid outreach comes up. If I’m lucky I can get a paid science writing job. This stuff, obviously, is kind of rare and it’s not the kind of thing everyone can do, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t do freelance work.
I use Upwork (previously known as Elance-o-desk) to find freelance work. Mostly I do science writing, course notes, or proofreading of academic documents, especially when the authors don’t have English as a first language. Upwork makes it very easy to connect with employers, to assess their credibility, and to get paid for your work. In many countries, you don’t even need to sort out your own tax details and can just get Upwork to deal with that stuff for you (for a fee). Eventually, I might set up a minor business and do it myself, but in the meantime, it’s too convenient, and I’m doing too little, for it to be worth it.
Selling stuff I don’t need
I also sell things on eBay. I periodically sort through stuff that I don’t use anyway – some of it I throw out, some I give to charity and some I photograph and put on eBay. Now, that stuff sells slowly. At least, it does for me. I don’t mind, though. Once the listing is written, I can just keep hitting “re-list” whenever eBay emails me to tell me that the listing time is up, and when someone is eventually looking for what I’m selling, I pop it in the post. I only make a few pounds here and there, but it’s better than nothing.
One day, I’d love to think that I could sell stuff I’d made myself. I can be pretty crafty. At the moment, though, anything I wanted to make would require too much of an initial outlay to get me started, and I just don’t want to commit the time to it. If I did, I’d head straight for Etsy.
Finally, I use Topcashback (disclaimer: That’s a referral link, if you sign up through that I stand to make a small amount of money). I discovered the existence of cashback sites in early 2016 and it took me until about July 2016 to set up an account. I was an idiot. They work like this: Some websites will pay others for referrals and some other sites will hand a portion of those referrals back to you. Now, all I do is have a browser add-on, so if I’m shopping and I could be earning back a portion of what I pay, I get an alert and log in through their site before I go to the checkout. Again, it’s reaaaaaaaalllly slow, like 8-12 weeks slow, and because it’s a small percentage you’re getting on each purchase it’s usually quite small amounts, but you might as well have it.