Unlike your paycheck, which you earn for actively working, passive income is money you can make while vacationing on a beach. Earning a passive income can require you put your talents to work, make either a minimal investment or a large one, or simply offer to share with people — for a fee — property you already own.
Although age-old strategies like real estate investing continue to lead countless investors toward financial independence, the digital age has opened the door to new ways of generating passive income streams, including publishing an e-book and even blogging.
With today’s inflation rates, your household budget likely is shrinking. You could be looking to make some quick money and asking yourself questions like these: What is the easiest source of passive income? How can I make $500 a month? How can I make $1,000 a month? Keep reading for 20 ideas for earning passive income right away and some longer-term strategies.
Sources of Passive Income
In most passive income streams, some work and a financial investment will be required up front, but some take very little active work. Here are some tips for earning passive income this year.
1. Open a Savings Account
Virtually anyone can open a savings account, and — through the process of compound interest — earn passive income on their deposits. Savings accounts don’t come with the potential for big earnings like stocks, but they also don’t come with the risk since they’re FDIC insured. The average interest rate on a savings account is 0.30% right now, according to the latest data from the FDIC. Make sure to shop around to ensure you get the best interest rate for your money.
2. Open a CD
Financial institutions issue certificates of deposit for terms ranging from a few months to 20 years. When the term is up, you cash in your CD for the principal plus interest, which you can use to invest. Like savings accounts, CDs are insured so they’re virtually risk-free, but they usually pay higher rates, making these a great option for making passive income. The downside is that there’s a penalty for pulling out your money before the end of the full term. Nationally, average CD rates pay 1.07% for a 12-month CD, but some online banks pay much more.
3. Get a Cash Back Credit Card
The best cash-back cards literally pay you to shop. You can earn passive income by putting purchases you’d make anyway on the card; just make a payment with each purchase you make. You’ll collect points that you can use for purchases, pay your balance or even convert them into actual cash. Depending on your card, you might get as much as 5% back on certain spending categories.
4. Sign Up for Cash Back Sites
When you shop through sites like Rakuten and Swagbucks, you can buy the things you would ordinarily purchase at the stores where you normally shop. The difference here is that you earn points, gift cards and even cash — all of which can be applied to future purchases or just stashed in the bank.
5. Rent Out Your Stuff
When you own something in demand, you can choose to rent it out to someone who needs it for a project or special event but doesn’t want to buy it — like an expensive tool that a DIYer will need for just a few hours or baby gear that a traveler will use for the week. That’s where sites like Sparetoolz and Babyquip come in. You photograph and list your rentable item, and then sit back and collect the cash when someone needs your tile saw or portable crib for the weekend.
6. Wrap Your Car
You can earn hundreds of dollars a month to pay bills if you’re willing to turn your car into an advertisement. Sites like Wrapify pair drivers with major companies that will pay big bucks to turn cars into moving billboards. No upfront investment is required, your car won’t be harmed — as long as you don’t have prior damage or rock chips — and Wrapify estimates that if you fully cover your car, you can earn approximately $264 to $452 a month.
7. Offer Your Bike for Rent
Don’t let your perfectly good bike sit in the garage and gather dust. By signing up for Spinlister, you can rent your bike to somebody who needs two wheels but doesn’t want to buy a bike of their own, such as tourists who want to see your city by bike. Spinlister takes a 17.5% fee on the rental, but you can set your prices to attract renters and make out reasonably well. The site claims you can make up to $500 a month renting your bike. You can also list your surfboard, stand-up paddleboard, snowboard or skis.
8. Rent Out Your Car
Sites like Turo let you rent your car for a daily rate. Consider signing up as a car host if you own a reliable car that you use infrequently. Turo provides insurance and says you can make about $10,500 a year renting your car. Your old clunker won’t bring that much; a newer model with all the bells and whistles has a better chance.
9. Rent a Spare Room
Owning an investment property is out of reach for many, but if you’ve got an extra room, the space can become your ticket to a reliable stream of passive income. Don’t worry — the days of rolling the dice on a creepy roommate with a classified ad or a post on Craigslist are over because of services like SpareRoom and Airbnb that help you advertise your space and screen tenants. Once you find a match, you can take some or all of your tenant’s rent and put it toward paying off debt — like your mortgage — or invest it in other passive income streams.
10. Buy a Rental Property
What is the most profitable passive income? Buying an investment property and renting it out. While the goal is to turn a profit, even if you just break even on your monthly expenses, the renters will still be paying down your mortgage and building equity for you as the value of the property appreciates over time.
11. Sell Your Photos
Instead of wasting your photo-taking talents on Instagram, make your hobby pay by selling your photos online and generating passive income that streams in when people buy them. Major photo distributors like Shutterstock and Alamy accept submissions; just be sure to follow all the guidelines.
12. Start a Blog
Starting a blog is easy. Making it pay, not so much. But it is possible if you’re willing to put in the work, and that work could eventually lead to a steady stream of relatively passive income. The basic steps are picking a topic you love, choosing a platform like WordPress and creating interesting, funny, useful or otherwise compelling content so that your blog can generate cash through revenue streams like ad sales or subscriptions.
13. Start a YouTube Channel
If videos, not writing, are your thing, make money from them. You can create a profitable YouTube channel and monetize it with advertising, merchandising and other ways to earn passive income.
14. Publish an E-Book
Several competing companies offer writers the chance to publish their own e-books, but none have the reach of Amazon. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service allows authors to self-publish digital and paperback books and provides the platform to sell the finished product again and again. That scenario begins with you downloading the free KDP self-publishing kit. You can earn royalties of up to 70% of the selling price on Amazon, but you could incur some fees along the way.
15. Start a Podcast
If you have a lot to say — and access to interesting guests — you can start a podcast for just a modest investment of a good microphone. You’ll monetize your podcast through sponsorships and affiliate sales. Of course, just as with a YouTube channel, you’ll need to create the content and link to it on your social media sites to create traffic, but you can earn a passive income on things your listeners buy that you advertise on your podcast.
16. Publish and Sell an Online Course
Perhaps you have skills such as writing code or constructing a backyard deck. Platforms like Digital Chalk and Click4Course offer the tools you need to sell your knowledge by helping you develop and publish your own online course. Create your tutorial, publish it and get paid — over and over.
17. Create an App
Some apps you buy and others you download for free — the catch with the latter is that they usually come with ads. To make some passive income, you can sell your own app or give it away for free and then use it to sell ad space. Technical know-how or coding experience is clearly a plus, but it’s not necessary. Sites like Bubble make it easy for anyone to create professional apps.
18. Buy Royalties
One of the benefits of being a rock star or movie star is that royalties pay dividends for as long as the public consumes your work. But even if you didn’t create the movie or song, you can buy royalties on sites like Royalty Exchange, which lets anyone purchase the rights to someone else’s intellectual property and reap the steady payments associated with it.
19. Buy a Vending Machine
Vending machines are one of the only recession-proof investments in the world — and if you own one, they can also be a fantastic stream of passive income. Sites like Gumball.com can hook you up with your very own vending machine. Just keep it stocked, and watch the money roll in as the hungry and thirsty insert cash all year long.
20. Flip a Website
Go beyond blogs by buying a fully functioning e-commerce website and then resell it. Sites like Flippa offer marketplace websites. If you have the savvy, improve upon it and flip it for more.
Passive Income and Tax Liability
As with any income you generate, you will incur a tax liability. But if you decide to set up your passive income opportunity as a business, you can route the passive income funds you make into a retirement account, such as a solo 401(k) or a SEP IRA, which both offer tax breaks in the year you contribute. The first step is to get an employer identification number for your business. Then, visit your financial advisor to learn about your options and open an account.
The more passive income streams you can successfully initiate and manage, the more money you’ll have streaming in — no matter if you’re in bed, at the beach or working dutifully at your 9 to 5. The best ways to generate passive income are the ones that make the most sense to you — and that yield the most profits for your effort.
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Information is accurate as of Jan. 6, 2023.