I have done all the cost-cutting that my family can allow. It is still not enough - I spend more than I earn. This is killing the credit card and is going to be bad news for us unless we can sort this out!

I am a programmer during the day, my girlfriend is a full-time mother and mother-to-be!

What ways are there for us to earn a little extra side money?

I know this is a pretty big question, similar to 'what kind of career should I follow' questions! I'm just looking for a little inspiration and avenues to follow for some cottage industry type work that anyone could do.

  • Congrats on the baby, if it is your first it will surely change you in a good way. I just started working on a side project, I was lucky and one of my ex-coworkers reached out to me for assistance. I would utilize co-workers as much as possible. Make sure everyone you know knows you are looking to do some side work. Surely others in your realm are getting their hands dirty somewhere else you just need to let them know you are looking to as well. I frown against free lancer sites as you will end up working for $8 an hour and at our pay range(assuming) it is not worth the time you will lose. GL!
    – Tony
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 13:32
  • I also agree with the Etsy idea posted by someone else, have your wife make some jewelry or other crafts on the side. You can also look for great sales in stores and resell on ebay. Mary K and Avon and other make-up/jewelry IBO type companies aren't to bad, your wife would have to be good at networking with others though. Check out the 4hr work week book as well it may spark some ideas for you.
    – Tony
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 13:36

8 Answers 8


For your girlfriend (congrats to you both on the coming new baby!), full-time mothers often become work-at-home moms using skills that they may have utilized in the outside-the-home workforce before they made the decision to stay home.

Etsy can be a place where some do this, but there are many articles out there pointing out that it also doesn't work for many people. I tried to earn some side money there and didn't make a dime. For those with a niche product, though, it can really work.

A book on working at home as a mother (from a Christian perspective with specifically religious overtones, so not the right book for someone who would not appreciate that aspect) is Hired @ Home. There are secular resources, such as the website Work From Home. From everything I've ever heard in researching the topic of becoming a WAHM (work at home mother), it's a challenging but rewarding lifestyle. Note that according to one WAHM I know, only contract work is reliable enough to be depended on for family obligations (this is true of any part time work). Freelancing will have so many ups and downs that you can't bank on it to, say, pay the mortgage unless you really get going.

Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich focuses a lot on Earning More Money with ideas that might benefit both of you. His angle is that of working on top of an existing job, so it may specifically help you think of how to take your programming skills (or a hobby you have besides programming) and translate them into a career.

  • Lots of excellent stuff here to read through, and some good food for thought for my girlfriend in particular! Thanks. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 15:50
  • I have benefited a good bit from getting into the Ramit family of products...I'm doing Earn 1k right now, and I'm about 25% towards making my course fee back (which is good). His stuff tends to SOUND like scams (to grab your attention), but they're really not. Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 14:52
  • Just a quick question, what is contract work? I live in an "at will employment" state.
    – user12515
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 7:01

I don't know what you program during the day, but you could always try your hand a programming for iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Just spend an hour or two a night on a simple but useful application. Find something that matches a hobby interest of yours and come up with an app that would be beneficial to people of that hobby.

  • 1
    I've been spending a year on my iPhone app now.. I think I missed out on the Simple part of your answer =(. Good idea though, I got the skills. Am inspired to think up something simple that I could perhaps push out before my master piece! Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 15:48
  • 1
    @Mongus My first Android app was a tipping calculator that is open sourced and accepts donations. It's a small trickle of money, but that's how simple of an idea I'd say (but a bit less common than a tip calc). A very specific tool for an everyday use. If you come up with quite a few of these, those little trickles will add up. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 20:46

You or your girlfriend might also consider one of the myriad home "franchises" available (Pampered Chef, Thirty-One, etc).

The real question, in my mind, though, is how much do you need to add to your monthly income?

Is it $50, or $500? Might moving to a smaller apartment/house work?

  • 5
    +1 for the downsizing suggestion, although with a new baby on the way it could be tough to do!
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 20:16
  • Those home franchises look interesting! I need to add about £500 (thats uk pounds) to be comfortable.. Its a lot, but anything extra will help really. Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 8:31
  • We have a great deal on our current house.. low rent and all bills included, so couldn't really make any savings there without seriously compromising.. Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 8:33
  • I don't know about UK-able (to coin a term) home franchises.. but I'm sure there must be some :)
    – warren
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 0:05

Congratulations to you and good luck and good health with the baby.

I had a friend in a similar situation, and I told him that he could do quite well by putting out the word to an upper-middle-class neighborhood that he was available to setup routers, home networks, etc. I suggested that he could start at a low enough wage that people would see the beneficial tradeoff to having him come over for a few hours versus doing it themselves.

After a few months, he hired someone to take the extra work he was receiving, and directed the more routine requests his employee. He had a full-time job plus all the extra work he wanted. Most people who hire him simply want someone they would trust in their home, and his service spread by word-of-mouth. He also got to meet many people who liked him and were impressed by his work ethic, resulting in many good connections if he ever wanted to pursue other employment.

My friend was an IT professional, the best support person at our tech-heavy firm, so he wasn't giving his time away. He did enjoy doing it, and he did enjoy the extra money. On an hourly basis, especially once he added the assistant, he was making more on the side than he did at his job. However, I believe he did start lower than that.

Good luck!


It depends on where you live and how you can think out of the box on earning little extra income on the side. If you live in North America and based on the needs in your city, you can try out these ideas.

Here is what one of my friend has done,

  • The family has two kids and the wife started a home day care as she was already taking care of two kids anyways. Of course, she had to be qualified and she took the relevant child care classes and got certified, which took six months. And she is managing 4 kids in addition to her two kids bringing in at least 2000$ per month in addition.

  • And my friend started a part time property management business on the side, with one client. For example there is always work on real estate whether its going up or going down. You have to be involved locally to increase your knowledge on real estate. You can be a property manager for local real estate investors. If its going down, you can get involved in helping people sell and buy real estate. Be a connector, bring the buyers and sellers together.


There are a number of ways and it all depends on your concentration and range of skills (or skills you're willing to develop).

  • Programmer for hire: definitely, start with eLance.com and similar sites; remember that you are going up against similar part-timers as well as full-time BPO places located in low-cost hubs like India - pricing is very sensitive for these services and you will have to lurk a bit to learn the ropes and what tenders you're interested in are settled for.
  • Freelance consultant: there is also the opportunity to act as an external consultant on small-scale programming projects, perhaps writing the project scope for BPO outsourcing; here concentrate on your network and use Meetup.com to find potential groups you could join to meet freelance employers.
  • Community odd-jobs: keep an eye on the local community notice-board; people are always looking for someone to drop something off, repair something, fix their pc's ... all sorts of stuff.
  • Tiny businesses: any business you wish to run from home must be both tiny and low-maintenance. You might find some ideas here that would be useful to you.

As for involving your wife ... things that can be done locally for neighbours is always a good idea.

The most important thing is not to spend too much time or cash on anything that will take a long time to pay off. That excludes writing your own iPhone apps, for example, which would take long hours of development and much marketing (and luck) to be successful.

Good luck and congrats.

  • 2
    Also want to suggest the site RentACoder.com.
    – awshepard
    Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 15:38

Have you considered doing some small freelance programming jobs? One site I like for this type of thing is eLance.com, but I am sure there are others.

Heck, you are soon going to be up all night anyway, why not earn some cash during those hours the rest of us foolishly waste on sleep?

  • 2
    Foolishly waste on sleep ? Reduced sleeping hours will cost you in the long run increasing risks of heart disease and others, so you are just paying the price later in poor health.
    – llkajdls
    Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 9:09
  • 4
    @Saravana Rajan - That was a failed attempt at sarcasm. I'm not suggesting people don't sleep.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 14:33
  • 2
    I'd say it was a failed attempt at reading your successful attempt at sarcasm. ;-)
    – Epaga
    Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 12:10

Your problem is one that has challenged many people. As you said there are two aspects to balancing a budget, reducing expenses or increasing income. And you state that you have done all the cost-cutting that you can find. Looking at ways to increase your income is a good way to balance your budget.

How big is your problem? Do you need to find another $100/month, or do you need $1000/month? There are many part-time jobs you could obtain (fast food, retail, grocery), you could obtain a sales-job (cars, real estate, even working for a recruiting firm) where you could connect buyers and sellers. If your need is $100/month, a part-time job on weekends would fill the gap.

  • Part time job - retail, fast food, grocery
  • Virtual assistant, concierge service
  • Can your girlfriend do errands for others?
  • Can your girlfriend (babysit) watch a neighbor kid for hire?
  • Rent out a room, or a basement to a friend
  • Bird dog for recruiters, real estate

When I was trying to solve my budget problems a few years ago, I thought that I needed to increase my income. And I did increase my income. But then I realized that my expenses were too high. And I re-evaluated my priorities. I challenge you to revisit your expenses. Often we assume that we need things that we really cannot afford. Consider a few of your (possible) expenses,

  • Can you sell your car, and buy a cheaper car?
  • Can you cut your home phone, cellphone, or cable bills?
  • Can you cut your utilities?
  • can you save money on groceries?
  • Can you share a house/apartment with friends?
  • Can you carpool?
  • How much debt do you have?
  • How much do you spend on restaurants?

My problems included mortgage debt, auto loans, high utilities, high car insurance, too much spending on kids activities, and a few other problems.

  • Cut car insurance from $252/month to $149/month, $103/month
  • Switched home phone+internet from $85/month to $52/month, $33/month
  • Switched gas provider to save about $100/month, $100/month
  • Traded a van ($482/month) for a sedan ($253/month), $129/month
  • Shared terrace apartment with friends, $400/month
  • Lowered thermostat, installed compact flouresent & LED bulbs, $50-100/month
  • Paid off car (with tax refund), $397/month
  • Stopped going out to lunch, $200/month
  • Eliminated second mortgage, $800/month

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