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.