10 Ways to Supplement Your Income While Unemployed

My contract at work ended and I am now unemployed for the first time in my adult life.

Unfortunately, this coincided with my fiance’s hours being cut at his job, as well. We knew this was coming to a certain extent (as he’s still waiting to hear about a very promising new job opportunity) so we have been preparing, but we’re left in a less than ideal financial situation.

I’ve been enjoying the time off, but I haven’t been doing a very good of using my time wisely. I should be looking for new job opportunities, stepping up my side-hustling, doing stuff around the house, working on this blog, and starting to plan our wedding. Instead, I’ve been assuming I’ll be re-hired under a new contract at work (once the grant funding comes through), and have been treating my unemployment more like a vacation.

Considering the amount of debt I’m currently in and how expensive weddings can be, I can’t afford to just sit on my butt all summer. I need to be using this time to make money in one way or another. Therefore, (as the post’s title would suggest) while we wait for better news on our job-fronts, I’ve been looking for others ways to supplement my income.

1. Employment Insurance (EI)

I started off with the most obvious source of income for someone who has been laid-off and have applied for Employment Insurance. I know that not everyone likes the “rules” you have to follow while receiving EI (such as keeping detailed records of your job search, and not being able to leave the country), but I prefer to have this cushion. I am hoping that I’ll be re-hired before my EI runs out, but who knows? I could be unemployed for a long time, so I’m going to take whatever help I can get.

2. Work Part Time

While on EI in Canada, you are allowed to work under the “Working While on Claim” project. The math can get a little complicated depending on the specifics, but basically “you will be able to keep 50 cents of your EI benefits for every dollar you earn, up to 90% of the weekly insurable earnings that we used to calculate your EI benefit amount.” (Source) In other words, you can work and not be penalized for it.

I’ve been looking into a few interesting part time jobs as well as getting into babysitting again, as I really miss working with kids. Not only will working part time supplement my income until I am re-hired or find another full time job, but it also looks a lot better on my resume, gives me something to do, and could open new doors.

3. Blogging & Online Work

There are plenty of opportunities to work online. As a blogger/website owner, I can use this space as a way to make money.

For a long time I shied away from monetizing my blog, and only had a few referral links in my side-bar (which I’d appreciate you using if they are for things you need!). Accepting sponsored posts and putting up ads made me feel uncomfortable, but it’s never bothered me when other websites do it. So, I’m hoping I can find a compromise that allows to me make some money to support running this site, but doesn’t make me feel like a sell-out or alienate my readers.

As nice as passive income is, I’m really more interested in EARNING my money. Thanks to this blog and the relationships I’ve made through it, I recently picked up a small virtual assist-type job, and am a contributing writer for another website, Money Propeller. These are both small gigs, but I would love to find more like these! Hopefully my hire me page will generate some leads.

4. Other Side Hustles

There are some other side hustles that my fiance and I have talked about trying. He used to run a tattoo studio, and is considering buying the supplies needed to get back into it. We’ve also talked about getting a screen printer and/or a vinyl cutter and opening a little Etsy shop (or similar). The problem is that these ideas would require spending money upfront to get the supplies needed, which may not be the best move when money is already tight.

So while trying to think of other side hustle ideas that don’t have this upfront cost, I realized that I have a ton of drama and theatre lessons plans from my old job that are just sitting on a USB stick somewhere upstairs. With a little bit of formatting and ensuring my sources are properly cited, I can (hopefully) sell these online to teachers for a few bucks each time.

I’m sure there are similar side hustle opportunities out there that I just haven’t considered yet.

5. Earn & Redeem Points

I’ve carefully been using my credit card more often lately, and was able to turn my unused points into a $250 tax free savings account. I also have $60 worth of points at a grocery store and $85 in Shoppers Optimum points that can be used towards groceries, stuff for the house, or personal care items, if cash flow becomes a real issue. If not, we can keep on hoarding all the points for now!

I am also a sucker for sites like Swagbucks, Opinion Outpost, and Web Perspectives where I earn points through searching the web, playing games, answering surveys, and shopping online. (If you sign up with those referral links, I can earn even more!) The downside is that they don’t pay very much, take time, and can be repetitive, but it’s super easy and I’ve earned over $350 in cash and gift cards in only a few months.

6. Win Stuff Online/Freebies

Entering giveaways and contests can also take a lot of time and usually requires you to sign up for newsletters or to follow bloggers/websites/companies on various social media sites that you probably wouldn’t follow otherwise. But, if you are lucky (or just persistent) you can score some great prizes!

I’ve been lucky lately and in the last 6 weeks, I’ve won $50 in cash and gift cards, and filed my taxes for free. While it’s not as good as the $500 cash I won last September, every extra cent and prize helps.

If playing the odds isn’t your thing, there are tons of freebie and sample websites out there. I’ve received some free pain killers, laundry detergent, coffee samples, and lady products in the mail, and haven’t had to pay for toothpaste in years! There are also electronic freebies available (including games, apps, music, and books) that don’t require your mailing address.

7. Sell Stuff

I got rid of a lot of junk when I moved, but there is still more that I can purge. (Isn’t there always?) We live in a rental so I’m not sure that having a yard sale would really be worth my time, so I may just turn to Kijiji instead to list the few things that might turn a little profit. Can’t hurt to try, right?

8. Count Your Pennies

Although I use cash much less now that I used to, I still seem to have an abundance of change. My piggy bank is pretty full, and I while it’s mostly made up of pennies and nickles, I know there are at least a few quarters and loonies in there, too. It won’t be much, but will at least buy me a few loaves of bread, if not a tank of gas.

9. Cut Back Everywhere Possible

Okay, so this isn’t technically a way to supplement your income, but if you can cut back on your spending or expenses, you will be left with more money to spend on the things you need.

I’m already driving less because I’m not commuting to and from work. I’ve also drastically cut down on my fast-food/junk food consumption by not being on campus with easy access to an over-priced cafeteria and multiple vending machines.

I’ve also applied for the repayment assistance program with my student loan lender, which will give me an affordable monthly payment based on my current income. Once approved, my monthly payment should be about 80% less than what I’m paying now – and everything will go towards the principle. (YAY!) This will give me more flexibility with my money, but won’t ignore my debt repayment.

If I’m unemployed for longer than I hope, or if we get bad news about my fiance’s potential new job, I can also talk to my bank about switching my credit card to a lower interest one, and to my insurance broker to see if we can lower my payments. And if all else fails, I guess we’ll be eating a lot of ramen noodles.

10. Dip Into the Emergency Fund

This will only be used as a last resort or for a true emergency. But thankfully, we were preparing for my lay-off, and do have money in an emergency fund.

Although there is so much up in the air right now, I’m confident that things will work out. I just don’t know what it will look like, yet. Maybe we’ll both be back to working our full time jobs by the end of the summer, or maybe we’ll both be working somewhere new. Regardless of what happens, I’m glad that we do have a lot of options – even if it I do have to resort to answering surveys online.

Do you supplement your income? If so, how? If not, what sort of things might you consider doing to earn a few extra bucks?

Note: A version of this post was originally published in May 2014. 

Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.

26 thoughts on “10 Ways to Supplement Your Income While Unemployed”

  1. Hopefully the EI comes through soon. Internet earnings can be rather helpful for topping up income, I know some people make over $1K/month when it’s just a side hustle!
    Maybe there’s a different summer daycamp that is hiring part time?

    • Thanks, Anne. I would love to make that kind of money side-hustling online – I can’t even imagine making that much “extra money” in a month! I’m going to keep my eye open for daycamps and things like that – there was a a posting working weekends with the Boys and Girls Club that I wish I would have applied for!

  2. Chris and I were toying with getting a vinyl cutter as well, specifically to make stencils for the glass etching that he’s really taken to. Though if you bought one we could just get them from you!

  3. These are all great ideas! I hope the EI comes through for you soon. Since we moved, I’ve also been unemployed. I’m trying to get some writing/blogging gigs as well, and I’ll probably start looking for a part-time job soon. I’d really like to work from home, so I’m focusing on those opportunities right now. Good luck!

    • Thanks, E.M. Working from home sounds like an awesome plan! (Or a balance between that and working part time.) Hopefully we can both find something that works for us!

  4. I was really hoping that the job thing would come through and you would keep working there. Hopefully you get rehired. Sometimes the more time you have the more you waste. I’ve been very guilty of that in the past. Sounds like you have some great ideas to keep you all going through the tight months. Doesn’t the struggle to keep a roof over your head and keep yourself fed get really old sometimes? Hope the money situation improves again soon.

  5. Ugh, sorry to hear this is how is all played out for you. My fingers are crossed for you both though! Sounds like you’ve got plenty of great ideas though. One way or another things are going to work out for you!

  6. These are all great ideas! One thing that I have been slacking off in is entering giveaways. When I had my day job, I was entering tons of giveaways each and every single day and I was winning a good amount as well. I don’t even remember the last time I entered one!

    • Thanks, Michelle! The blogging jobs are all inspired by you and your massive success!
      I can only imagine how many giveaways you can enter because you live in the U.S.!

  7. I would love to see what services you have available with your hire me section when it goes live. I sometimes have need for extra help and so it is good to know who I can go to for certain activities.

  8. There really are plenty of ways to make money online if you’re willing to seek them out! People don’t believe it, but it’s true!

  9. Well it looks like you know all the avenues on where the money can come from. Hopefully EI gets straightened out, because an additional $500 per month is a lot! It would help to not dipping into the Emergency Fund for sure.

    Honestly you’re super lucky with the contests. I can’t believe how many things you win! If you’re looking for more things online that aren’t freelancing, have you looked into Checkout 51, SnapSaves (they’re coupon apps and you take pics of your receipt), or Leger Web for surveys? I make $20 here and there from those. It’s slow, but it’s nice when I get the cheque in the mail.

    • I wish I were American so that I could enter even more contest! Haha!

      Thanks for the recommendations! I will have to look into them ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I’m confused about your job situation… do all universities lay people off in the summer in Canada? I’ve heard of reduced hours in the summer (my uncle’s university (in NYC) cuts days for him and his library staff down to 4/week) but I haven’t heard of any office staff getting laid off for the summer, especially full-time salaried employees.

    I hope the unemployment is short and that you get unemployment insurance in the mean time! Good luck!

    • When I worked at a university before, I only worked one summer (out of three) and it was only for 10 hours a week. But the college I’m at now purposely avoids hiring “full time” staff so that they don’t have to pay people over the summer. They think this is a way to cut costs, but it’s really not because of how many people they loose each year. The woman I shared an office with was on her 14th contract position in 9 different roles! That’s SO much time/money spent on retraining her!

      Glad you’re back after your little blogging hiatus, too!

  11. I’ve worked from home for a while now. So, I guess I do supplement my income. It all started with my blog, now I own a content marketing firm that does pretty well. Thanks for the great ideas here!

  12. These are great ideas. Thanks for sharing this. Winning prizes online is a great way to earn those extras.

  13. Twenty years ago, I had a stable income but a spouse with an unstable income and spending habits that didn’t match. Several times I had to resort to selling things (weekly yard sales and once I sold his car when he was on an extended “business” trip to Australia to get rid of the loan payment and insurance premiums) and cutting back on things like meals out, cable, newspaper, and sometimes groceries (rice and beans for weeks, anyone?). And this was before everyone had smart phones, but if I had had a $100+ phone bill, I would have cancelled that and just used my home phone (or looked into smaller prepaid plans with a regular cell phone (no data) for emergencies. I know people think they have to have them so prospective employers can reach them, but they don’t need the data, so stop using your phone for anything but calls.

  14. Can you please expand upon #4? what is a screen printer and how do you make money with it?
    Also, what can be made with a vinyl cutter?


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