Here’s How to Increase Your Income

Having a budget in place is wise but will only get you so far, whereas there are no real limits on your earning potential.

Written by Andrew Pentis / August 1, 2022

Quick Bites

  • No, there are no legitimate get-rich-quick schemes, so prepare for the fact that increasing your income takes time, effort and smarts.
  • From salary negotiation to switching departments, there are ways to increase your income considerably without leaving your employer.
  • To achieve the most significant upticks in wages, you might consider retraining or starting a side hustle or small business.

As any financial professional will tell you, budgeting is a great first step to organize or optimize your personal finances. Budgets (or spending plans, for the budget-averse) help you to control one side of your cash flow.

But what about the other?

Learning how to increase your income is perhaps even more important than decreasing your living costs, particularly in the coronavirus-era economy: Inflation caused the consumer price index to continued a four-decade high in May 2022, and that’s after decades of stagnating wages for American workers.[1, 2]

So if your budget has hit a brick wall, it’s high time to increase your income. As David Auten-Schneider, co-host of the Queer Money podcast, says, “No one becomes a millionaire just by cutting expenses.”

“Granted, living below your means will give you money to invest in the market or your business, but you have to take the steps towards growth,” Auten-Schneider adds. “Small or low-income side hustles should be testers [for] your future if you eventually want to make a living without having to work for someone else.”

Focus on your income once you know …

  • How to Create a Budget, and Stick to It

  • How to Inflation-Proof Your Budget

Though having and maintaining a budget over time is important, let’s review why it’s also critical to spend time increasing your income, plus strategies to accomplish exactly that.

Inside this article

  1. Why to increase your income
  2. Ways to increase your income

Why to increase your income (and not obsess over your budget)

Consider certified student loan counselor Rebecca Safier, who sought to increase her income so that she could skip typical employment. She ditched her full-time job in 2022, thanks in no small part to the passive income she built by monetizing her blog, Remote Bliss.

“Making more money means having the freedom and flexibility to do the things I want to do, such as traveling and going to restaurants, which is very motivating to me,” says Safier, who initially turned to side hustles in 2015 to pay off education debt for her master’s degree.

You might be rolling your eyes if you currently work in a relatively low-paying field, such as education. But it’s always possible to change your situation through retraining, hard work and goal-setting. A public school teacher, for example, could …

  • Pursue career advancement: Become an administrator, such as a school principal (which may require going back to school and/or getting a state license or certificate)

  • Start a side hustle: Teach online, tutor off-campus or write textbooks

  • Open a business: Create a teaching academy or tutoring program

None of those options are quick fixes. It could take months or years to increase your income, and there’s no universal approach for everyone to reach the heights they desire. But you can take meaningful steps in the right direction, one at a time.

And if you’re overwhelmed by the prospects, keep in mind that you don’t have to immediately or completely replace your current income.

“Start with something small and grow,” says Auten-Schneider, who works with income-strivers individually. “One of our coaching clients wants to grow organic hops to sell to local microbreweries but knows that the overhead and investment are more than he can take on right now. So, he’s starting with a garage and growing microgreens.”

David Auten Schneider headshot

Meet the Expert

In addition to co-hosting the Queer Money podcast, Auten-Schneider and his partner coach clients about how to get right with their money. They also run the Debt Free Guys website.

Here are the arguments for why you’re better off focusing on your income, once your budget’s in a good place.

Frugality can only take you so far: Reasons to stop obsessing over your budget Income is unlimited (at least, theoretically): Reasons to spend more time on ways to increase it
There’s only so much “fat” in your budget. We all have expenses, such as food and shelter, that can’t reasonably be trimmed. Reduce stress over routine costs.
Lowering or eliminating expenses can be a helpful Band-Aid solution, but it’s far less likely to help you get out of debt (and stay out) for the long term.Accomplish personal financial goals, such as buying a home or saving for a child’s college attendance, on a faster timeline.
Receive lower interest rates when you borrow, higher rates when you invest.

Ways to increase your income (once your budget is in place)

You might see advertisements for learning “how to double your income in 90 days” or “how to grow your income without working.” These can sometimes be clickbait, gimmicks or, worse, scammy. As mentioned, increasing your monthly income is a marathon, not a sprint.

To dramatically increase your income, at least over time, let’s focus on strategies that won’t …

  • Have limits (such as increasing your tax deductions)

  • Cause you to shuffle savings goals (such as lowering your retirement contribution to increase take-home pay)

  • Require you to have a lot of cash on hand (to start a big business or invest in a rental property)

With that out of the way, let’s review some typical and creative ways to increase income for a variety of situations.

How to increase income if you’re already employed

Whether you work part-time or all the time, enjoy your job or not, these strategies are worth considering.

Ask for a raise

If you haven’t received even modest annual raises or just feel underpaid at your current position, now is the time to request a bump. Before calling a meeting with your boss or human resources representative, though, do your research to determine the market rate for your duties and experience level. Use salary comparison websites like Glassdoor and Payscale. Applying for other jobs, or at least surveying job descriptions, can also help you set the bar for what you should be paid.

Once you have a salary number in mind, it’s time to prepare your case for it. Catalog your achievements for the company and show how they translated to helping your employer’s bottom line. You might also collect testimonials from co-workers that could speak to your value. Seeking out professional certifications could also add to your worth in the workplace.

Catherine Arnet-Valega is a Massachusetts-based Certified Financial Planner who routinely advises women “who have a bad tendency of not asking what we’re worth.” Her practical tips for salary negotiation include practicing uncomfortable conversations with a colleague and documenting your success.

“Toot your own horn,” Arnet-Valega says. “No one else will do it for you.”

If negotiating your salary doesn’t pan out, here are a couple of short-term solutions while you consider longer-term plans:

  • Ask to work from home, if that’s possible for your job type, to save on the cost of commuting

  • Take full advantage of employer-provided perks, such as reimbursement or financial assistance for transportation or child care

With strategies like these, your paycheck might not change, but you’ll get to keep more of it.

Ask for more work, or get it elsewhere

If you’re already working 40 or more hours a week, the idea of punching the clock again might seem unappealing. Instead of simply working over holidays or other overtime periods, which might be a good option for some people, ask your boss for more responsibility. Adding duties to your job could either put you in a position for promotion or help you prove to other employers that you’re ready for a bigger role, particularly during The Great Resignation.

Tip

“One of the easiest [strategies] is for folks to see if they can get one to two hours of paid overtime a week,” says Auten-Schneider. “One hour of overtime a week, paid at time and a half, will add an extra 3% to your income.”

If you work part-time, look into second jobs as a temporary solution.

How to increase income if you’re ready for a career change

Instead of taking on more lower-paying work, seek higher-paying work.

Seek out a new career opportunity

Sometimes you can increase your income by switching departments with your same employer. Find a mentor, or request to shadow a colleague who works in an area that you’re curious about. You could also inquire about tuition reimbursement or related benefits that could help you transition jobs.

“When your company offers training or education benefits, you always do them—even if it requires working harder or longer—that will get you ahead,” Arnet-Valega says.

Consider going back to campus

If you’re thinking of an entirely new career, your employer might not offer the education assistance you need or staff the role you desire. In these cases, investigate the best path forward into your desired field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is a useful resource to learn about what education, certification or other prerequisites you might need.

Of course, you can save a lot of money by taking baby steps before jumping to enroll in an expensive college degree or certificate program. Try out the subject matter via free or low-cost online education training programs like Khan Academy, Udemy or Skillshare.

How to increase income from home, if you have spare time or stuff

There are a lot of creative ways to increase your income that start with a strong internet connection.

Build a passive income channel

If you like the idea of creating content around topics of interest, consider starting a blog or YouTube channel or becoming a social media influencer. Through hard work and smartly applying best practices, these channels could be monetized. With affiliate marketing, for example, you could recommend products to your readers or followers, receiving a small kickback for every purchase.

There may be a low barrier to entry, but the ultimate reward—passive income—takes months, if not years, of dedicated effort. Unfortunately, too, success isn’t guaranteed.

Tip

“Invest in a blogging course upfront so that you understand the strategies behind blogging and don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t work,” says Safier, the certified student loan counselor, who earns money from her blog through affiliate marketing and selling e-courses. “It’s easy to feel excited and motivated when you launch your blog, but harder to keep working on it month after month, especially if it’s not taking off the way you want it to.”

Sell old or unused stuff

You don’t have to be a minimalist to open a digital storefront and discard your stuff. Sell new or used clothing on platforms like Poshmark, perhaps even upcycling as possible. Items of all kinds can also be sold via sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and eBay. Just beware of scams or suspect characters when selling items to people in person or out of your home.

Rent out your property, car or parking space

You might also have stuff that you profit from without selling. If that’s the case, consider joining the sharing economy. There are a wide variety of online platforms that allow you to rent out anything, from your house or spare room (Airbnb) to your car (Turo) and even parking space (Spacer). Not all platforms are created equally, however, so compare fees before signing up with one over another.

How to increase income online and off, if you have skills

If you want to know how to add income online, consider—or create—a side hustle.

Sign up for an established side hustle

If you don’t feel the urge to become an entrepreneur, or at least want to work up to it, consider taking on an established side hustle that allows you to work when you want. Some examples of such hustles include:

  • Ride-sharing: Driving for companies like Uber and Lyft could be a worthy option if you have wheels and are willing to drive during times of peak fares, such as weekends.

  • Food delivery: Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash are among companies that hire people to shop for or pick up and deliver groceries or food (though you might be at the mercy of tipping).

  • Odd jobs: If you don’t mind the physical labor of helping people move or are a handy person who can help with projects big and small, consider starting up a profile with outfits like Dolly and TaskRabbit.

Keep in mind the limited growth potential of side hustles like these. With that said, they could be a good shorter-term solution while you transition careers or work on your own small-business idea.

Turn your hobby into business

Ask yourself how you currently spend your time and then figure out how you could make a buck off it. Perhaps your existing interests line up with products or services that other people might want to buy. Sell the fruits of your woodworking or knitting via a website like Etsy, for example, or list your photography on platforms like ViewBug. There is no shortage of creative side hustles that could grow into small businesses.

“A big pitfall that many new online ‘wannapreneurs’ forget is to do the research before coming up with their brand, products and social media,” says Auten-Schneider. “All too often, we see folks creating something that is substantially similar to an existing brand or online entrepreneur, and they end up infringing on someone’s copyright or registered trademark. A cease-and-desist letter can end up wiping out an investment in branding, time in creating content and motivation to keep going.”

Leverage your expertise by teaching, freelancing or consulting

You can turn your institutional knowledge into cash by educating others. For example, Safier, the certified student loan counselor, used her experience as a student loan borrower repaying graduate school loans to eventually become an educator in the field. Look into your educational or professional history and think about topics you could lecture on or consult for another business. Then use it to start increasing your income.

Article Sources
  1. “United States Consumer Price Index (CPI),” TradingEconomics, https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/consumer-price-index-cpi.
  2. Benmelech, Bergman & Kim, “What’s Causing Wage Stagnation in America?” Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Dec. 2, 2019, https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/wage-stagnation-in-america.

About the Author

Staff editor Andrew Pentis headshot

Andrew Pentis

Andrew Pentis has used his journalism background to write about personal finance topics since 2015. His work has appeared in over 40 publications, including LifeHacker, U.S. News & World Report and Marketwatch.

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