Whether you are new to your career or an industry veteran with 20 years of experience, it’s likely that you want to increase your take-home pay. Although we can’t guarantee you a raise this year, there are some ways to increase your income in 2021 — and you might not even have to leave the house to do it.
Figuring out how to make money means using a three-pronged strategy: Reducing the percentage of your income you’ll need to pay taxes on, lowering the amount of money that goes to essentials — such as utilities — and earning extra money through your primary job or a secondary source. Luckily, technological advances and the rise of the gig economy mean that there are now easy ways to make money both online and off.
Last updated: July 12, 2021
1. Ask To Work From Home
Commuting to work every day isn’t just time-consuming; it can be incredibly expensive. In fact, research from Citigroup found that commuting costs Americans an average of $2,600 a year. That works out to about $216 per month — a significant chunk of change you could save if you reduced or eliminated your commute time.
Save on commuting by asking your boss if you can work remotely, either full time or a few days per week. Skype, Slack and other networking apps make remote collaboration easier than ever, and the Harvard Business Review reported that working from home can actually make employees more productive.
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2. Work Out at Home
Staying fit is crucial for maintaining your quality of life — and staying healthy can help you save money in the long run. Still, a gym membership can be pricey. Statistic Brain reported that the average health club membership costs $58 per month, and that number can jump to more than $100 if you live in a pricier area, like Astoria, New York.
Increase your take-home pay by ditching the gym membership to work out on your own. Take brisk walks and runs around your neighborhood, and spend an hour cycling on the weekend. You can strengthen your muscles with bodyweight exercises, like push-ups, which you can do at home.
3. Deduct Business Expenses
If you have business expenses that can’t be reimbursed, they might be tax-deductible, said Josh Zimmelman, founder of Westwood Tax & Consulting. Allowable expenses might include tuition you paid for continuing education.
If you plan to use this money-saving tip, make sure to keep your receipts. You’ll need to demonstrate that any purchases were legitimate business expenses if you’re ever the subject of an IRS audit.
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4. Upcycle and Sell
If you have an eye for design or you’re the crafty type, consider upcycling and selling goods on Etsy or eBay or through local boutiques or consignment shops. Sometimes, a little sanding and a fresh coat of paint are enough to turn old, abandoned furniture into someone else’s treasure.
Get the hang of selling online by cleaning out your home and listing the goods you’re ready to part with. Many communities have online “garage sales” run through Facebook. If you develop a knack for photographing and selling your own items, offer to manage the listings for other people in your community — for a commission, of course.
Don’t hesitate to think outside the box and sell unconventional goods, too. Jeff Neal, for example, says he takes home $800 per month in profits, on top of the salary from his full-time job, by running his online store, The Critter Depot. His product? Feeder crickets.
5. Rent Out at Room ― and Maximize Your Taxes
If you live in a pricey city and travel often, consider renting out some or part of your home on a room-sharing site, such as Airbnb. Even renting your space for a weekend occasionally might be enough to net you a few hundred dollars.
Rent your property for 14 days or less, and you don’t need to declare the money as income, said Aaron Lesher, a CPA based in Washington, D.C. And if you pass the 14-day threshold?
“Make sure to file using Schedule E, which results in a significantly lower tax rate, since you avoid the 15.3% (federal) self-employment tax,” he said.
6. Work on the Holidays
Of course, working more can increase your paycheck. However, you don’t necessarily have to log more hours to make more money. Depending on your employer, simply choosing the right shifts could help you earn more.
If your employer offers time and a half or double-time payment for working on the holidays, consider signing up for an extra shift or two to increase your take-home pay. The extra work doesn’t necessarily have to get in the way of your holiday fun, either. Consider celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday or Sunday instead of Thursday, for example, to pick up some extra cash.
7. Capitalize on Employer-Sponsored Child Care
If you’re fortunate enough to work at a company that offers child care — Google runs four care centers near its Mountain View, California, headquarters — these on-site perks can make a big difference in your take-home pay. Child Care Aware of America reported that full-time care costs an annual average of $12,781 in Massachusetts, and still rings in at $3,997 yearly in the least-expensive state, Mississippi. So getting free or heavily discounted child care could be a big boost to your paycheck.
Even if your company doesn’t offer daycare on site, you might be able to receive benefits that can increase your take-home pay. Yahoo, for instance, offers employees $500 to spend on items for a new baby.
8. Pay Off Your Debt
The idiom “you need to spend money to make money” wasn’t written with debt repayment in mind, but it could have been. A whopping 47% of Americans carry at least $25,000 in debt, excluding mortgages, according to a 2017 study from Northwestern Mutual. And 45% spend half their take-home pay on repaying their debt.
If you’re dealing with consumer debt, especially higher-interest credit cards or lines of credit, work on paying them down faster. Paying off that debt could put the hundreds or even thousands you’re paying annually in interest back in your pocket.
9. Claim Charitable Deductions
If you’re generous with your time and money, you might be eligible for tax breaks that can help lower your liability, thereby increasing your take-home pay. According to the IRS, you can deduct donations to qualified organizations — for example, a charity like the American Red Cross, a nonprofit school or hospital.
You can also deduct out-of-pocket costs you pay to do charity work with qualified organizations. These costs include uniforms worn while volunteering as well as your mileage for traveling to and from a volunteer site.
10. Monetize Your Vlog, Blog or Website
If you have a website or YouTube channel, you might be able to make money by monetizing it. One quick way to earn money online is to place ads on your site — you’ll earn money anytime someone views or clicks the ad.
How much you earn depends on your platform and your contract with the advertiser. But if you run a YouTube channel that receives 1,000 views a day, you might be able to earn an extra $1,440 per year, according to SocialBlade, a research and consulting company specializing in social media marketing.
11. Claim the Home Office Deduction
If you’re setting up a side gig that’s run out of the house, and you’re using part of your home exclusively for your business, you might be entitled to a home office deduction. The IRS allows you to claim a portion of your home expenses, such as rent, electricity, water, gas, internet and phone bills, for business purposes.
The home office deduction also might allow you to deduct a portion of your home maintenance and essential renovations, as long as they’re relevant to your business. So you’ll get an extra pay boost on top of the other benefits of upgrading your home.
12. Automate Your Savings
The key to increasing your take-home pay is being smart with your money, and setting up automatic savings withdrawals can help.
“The average savings rate in America hovers between 5% and 6%, which is far too low to actually get ahead. Investments don’t just grow in value over time. Many also pay income,” said Brian Davis of BiggerPockets Inc., a resource for real estate investors. “You can raise your income by investing more of your paycheck in yield-producing investments, like dividend-paying stocks and mutual funds and bonds.”
Additionally, other types of savings, such as an IRA, might make you eligible for a tax credit, which effectively increases your income by lowering your liability.
13. Sell Your Influence
If you’re already active on sites like Facebook and Twitter, take a tip from social media masters Tony Robbins and Kim Kardashian and earn money online as an influencer. Not only is social media its own legitimate side gig, but using it to build your reputation in an industry related to your main job can raise your profile, making it easier for you to secure a raise.
You can also earn money directly by partnering with brands to use and review specific products or simply let a brand pay to place sponsored content on your profile.
How much you’ll make per blog or social media post depends on your following. Morgan Timm, a full-time blogger and blogging coach, writes on her website that even beginning bloggers should charge at least $100 per post.
14. Update Your Window Dressings
Paying utility bills can significantly eat into your take-home pay. And, surprisingly, updating your window dressings can help you save money. Hanging drapes can lower the amount of heat lost through windows by up to 25%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Drapes can also help you control how much natural light filters into the room, so you can open or close them to warm or cool your room, respectively. Window films can also help insulate your windows and lower your utility bills.
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15. Adjust Your Utility Usage
Signing up for cellphone, cable and internet service is a balancing act between buying enough to cover what you need and not paying for services you don’t use. Look over your recent statements for those services to make sure you’re not paying for extras. You should also consider switching to an alternative cellphone carrier or check out television streaming services and call providers to negotiate better rates on the features you truly want.
Look over your electricity use, too. Some suppliers charge less for energy use later in the evening, so simply making dinner later in the day could help you save. And if you live in a sunny state with a high electricity cost, renting solar panels might save you even more money.