Four years ago, my wife and I were weighed down by student loan debt ($25k) and credit card debt.
Despite working 12+ hours a day as a research scientist, we were just sinking into more and more debt.
Every morning I would wake up at 5 am. I would cycle through the dark and wet streets of Seattle, Washington to get to my underpaid job.
My boss seemed to have some kind of mental illness and she made my life miserable by being demanding and unreasonable.
All we could afford was a 1-bedroom unit in the moldy basement of an apartment block.
We knew something had to drastically change
I started to suffer from depression because of the struggle just to make ends meet. I am a driven, hard-working guy, but nothing I could do seemed to change our financial situation.
One cold, dark and wet winter morning, I arrived at work and decided that I was done. I started to Google for ways to make money without a job. I came across several ways to make money from home without having a boss. I was sold!
After much research, I realized that the answer to getting ahead financially was to start our own businesses. I was finished with working for other people at my own financial expense. It was time to pay myself first and escape the financial trap that I had found myself in.
5 ways we earned more money with side hustles
Learning to make more money and shift to an investor mindset was key to improving our finances. Here are the top 5 ways that we were able to use to go from broke to financially independent. They are in chronological order from the first side hustle we started (stock trading) to the most recent.
#1 Stock Trading
My wife (Maleah) had a friend on Facebook that was always bragging about how he made $1,000 to $10,000 trading stocks that day. She knew this guy from her school days, so he wasn’t a complete stranger.
His claims seemed extraordinary. We were skeptical but decided to learn stock trading and see what it was all about. It turned out that this guy actually ran a subscription service where he would teach you his trading strategy and even send out alerts to your phone, email and in a chatroom when he bought or sold a stock.
We paid for his stock alerts service and started to learn the basics of stock trading. It was an exciting rollercoaster journey as we started to make big wins and some losses with our trades.
As we improved, we started to look for more stock trading mentor services. We subscribed to different premium educational services and started to actually make some good money trading stocks.
One guy we follow is called Jason Bond. He is a multi-millionaire stock trader that specializes in low-cost stocks. He was a school teacher but gave it all up to get out of debt and makes a lot more money trading penny stocks.
We followed his stock trading strategy. Basically, you buy stocks that cost $1-$10 per share and usually hold them for a few days. Typically, we are able to make 10% to 20% profit per trade. Jason Bond teaches three trading patterns that deliver pretty good profits if you trade them correctly.
Stock trading is risky, but the rewards can be worth it. You will understand why it is so fun when you wake up to thousands of dollars in profit overnight! You have to learn risk management and how to control your emotions. The earning potential from stock trading is unlimited, making it one of our favorite side hustles.
#2 Earning Extra Money With Cashback Websites
We started to save extra money in a passive way by using apps like Ebates. These cashback apps gave us a way to make extra money by giving us cash back on purchases that we normally make anyway. Typically, you receive a few percentage points (up to 40%) back if you purchase through Ebates.
Most major online stores are partnered with Ebates There are over 2000 stores including major name like Walmart, Amazon, Groupon, Macy’s, JCPenney, Starbucks and so many more.
The cash back can really mount up over time and it is so easy – why not do it? There is no downside to making your online purchases through Ebates. These type of small but clever habit changes can really make a big difference to your finances over time.
Read Also: 20 Cashback Sites That Pay Pay You to Shop Online
After our success with stock trading online, we were addicted to making a relatively simple recurring income online. It is like stock trading opened our eyes to unconventional ways to make money. Many of the stock traders we met in chatrooms also ran blogs to discuss their trades and make some extra money.
So we started a blog where we would review the stock trading educational products that we had found helpful. We would partner with the stock trading companies and receive a commission for every sale that we made through our site.
As we started to make some sales, I started to work extremely hard to build our income streams from the site. It took 3 years of hard work with early mornings and late nights but eventually, we started to make a full-time income from the site.
We went from $300 per month to $15,000 per month over the course of a few years. I had quit my full-time job at this point, so I was able to work hard on building our blogging income.
There are many ways that people make money from their blogs. People make money from sponsored posts, ads, or by selling their own products.
This is our fourth year blogging and in 2019 we have averaged about $17,000 profit from our various blogs. The freedom that blogging has given us allows us to live wherever we want.
We move around a lot, usually just trying different locations for a year or two before moving on to the next location. Maybe one day we will settle down in one place!
Read Also: How to Make Money Blogging (for Beginners)
# 4 Real-estate: how we made $100k in 3 years
After we started to pay down our debt, we started to save some money to invest in real estate. Investing your extra money is so important to growing your income and building wealth. We saved some of the money we were making from blogging to use as a down payment for a rental property.
Eventually, we were able to buy a 4-bedroom house in Bozeman, Montana. We rented out three of the bedrooms and lived in the master bedroom. We were lucky in that the housing market was booming in Bozeman so we were able to rent out the rooms for twice our mortgage payments!
We rented out the entire house for a couple of years when we moved to Los Angeles. As housing prices increased in Bozeman, we were able to sell the house for about $100k profit.
We had only invested $12,000 so you can really see how your money can start to snowball very quickly if you make some good investments. With the rise of sites like Airbnb, it is easier than ever to turn your primary residence into a cash-generating asset.
Related: 35 of the Best Trusted Online Money Making Sites
#5 Options Trading
Options contracts are basically financial vehicles that can be used to make a lot of money. The idea is that you can purchase an agreement that gives you the right to sell a stock for a set price within a given time frame. So if you think you can predict the price of a stock, you can buy a contract ‘betting’ on where the price will be within a set time frame.
We started buying options to make money online. The risk is quite high with options trading because if you are wrong you can lose your entire investment. But if you are correct then you can make up to about 300% on your investment.
Clearly, options trading is a high risk but high reward investment strategy. We learned our strategy from a millionaire options trader called Jeff Bishop. Jeff is extremely good at options trading and it is so important to learn from a great mentor.
Options trading can be quite a passive way to make money that doesn’t require you to be glued to your computer all day. You just have to buy a contract and then keep an eye on the underlying security. It is probably one of the most lucrative and relaxed trading strategies that we have used.
A brief summary of what we wish we had done sooner
I just wanted to wrap this article up with some of my thoughts on what we have learned over the last few years. If I could go back in time, I would take these steps much earlier in my adult life to try and set myself up for a more stable financial future.
- Saving and Investing is so important. Most people in their early twenties don’t think much about money and in my opinion, this is a mistake. Getting started building wealth early in your life is the key to becoming financially free. I wish that I had spent less time playing video games and drinking alcohol as a younger man.
- Passive income is important. Exchanging time directly for money is not an efficient way to make money. We all only have so much time and it is important to set up ‘systems’ that generate money for us while we do other things (like sleeping!). Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas about how to do this.
- A conventional job is unlikely to ever make you wealthy or even financially comfortable. A job has a very limited income potential compared to a business (unlimited income potential).
My goal in this article was to tell you about how I was able to go from debt to financial freedom by implementing a few simple ideas (side hustles) into my life. I am not special and trust me if I can do it you can too!
Russell and Maleah own Unconventional Prosperity, a personal finance blog that aims to help people make more money. They also own a blog about stock trading (Stock Millionaires). They are passionate about helping other people become financially free and live the life of their dreams.
Wow! This is so inspiring Russell and Maleah. I always admire couples who do business together because two are better than one. Thank you Virginia for always sharing excellent and motivating content.
Hi Hildah, thanks for your nice comment! Maleah and I love working together and it makes life sooooo much easier to have a partner on these things!