How to Significantly Increase Your Income Without Working Harder (Part 1)

Many times, I’ll receive emails from people saying how they wish they could be in the financial position we’re in but it’s just not possible because they only make $20,000 per year. Not too long ago, making $20,000 per year would have been a significant pay increase for us as we were barely eeking by making $600 to $1,000 per month.

We knew that we needed to increase our income if we were ever going to get financial traction, but we decided to go about it in non-traditional way: instead of focusing all of our time and energies on getting a better job with better pay, we looked for ways to build additional income streams outside the 8 to 5 traditional job. This has been the key to our financial success. The 8 to 5 jobs have helped to pay the bills, but the nontraditional income streams have allowed us to save aggressively and give generously.

In this series, I’m going to share some things we’ve learned over our eight and half year journey of entreprenuerial endeavors and failures. My hope is to help you see that you’re not stuck, no matter how bad of a financial situation you may feel like you’re in right now. There is always hope–especially if you’re willing to think outside the box.

So, let’s dive in with what I feel is a foundational principle for increasing your income and achieving financial success:

1. Set Big Goals and Break Them Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

By now you probably know that this is one of the core facets of most advice I give. And there’s good reason for that: I believe that strategic and specific written goal-setting may well change your life–and your finances.

If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you know when you’ve gotten there? If you don’t live with purposeful intention, aimlessness will be the default.

One thing that has been amazingly effective for us is to set specific goals for our businesses: from the income we hope to generate in a week, month, or year to detailed projects we hope to accomplish in a specific time frame. We don’t just set big goals, we also break these down into bite-sized chunks.

For instance, I remember many years ago when I had an online book business, I set a goal to make $200 each week. This meant that I had to make $40 each week day. Once I had this goal on paper, then I started to brainstorm every free advertising option I could contrive. Some of them worked, some of them flopped, but had I not had that very specific goal, I doubt I would have been as driven to be creative.

Our business goals propel us to constantly be tweaking our processes so that we’re more efficient in running our businesses, they motivate us to look for out-of-the-box marketing ideas, and they challenge us to not be content with the status quo.

Where do you hope to be financially in a year from now? How about three years from now? What about five years from now?

Choose three to five specific financial goals for the next few years and start thinking of practical ways you can get there. What can you do outside of your 8 to 5 job to build additional income streams? What can you cut from your current expenses to allow you to save and invest more? How can you increase the return on your investment of what you’re already doing right now?

(By the way, if you have consumer debt, I recommend paying it off as quickly as you can. It’s a heavy chain around your neck that will bog you down and keep you from making much traction. In addition, if you are not on a written budget, make that your highest priority–far above and beyond increasing your income. You’ll probably find you give yourself an instant raise when you do so. Plus, if you can learn to live on what you make now, as your income increases, you can continue to keep your expenses low and increase your savings and giving instead.)

Once you have your big goals written down on paper, break them down into bite-sized monthly and weekly chunks. Don’t be afraid to be very specific. Even if you don’t come close to hitting them every week and month, you’ll be much farther along than if you didn’t try at all.

…to be continued next Wednesday

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for writing this series. I can’t wait to read the rest. (I wish it was like a book where I could read ahead. :)) My husband and I are working hard to increase our income so we can pay off our student loan debt and begin saving for a house down payment. Thanks for your inspiration!

  2. says

    Yay! I’m very excited for this series! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I have to agree that once I set a budget it felt like we got an instant raise. Using Mint.com was a great way for us to keep track of it too.

    Thanks again and I look forward to the rest of the series!

    Michele

  3. Janelle says

    “Save aggressively, give generously”… Love that phrase!!!
    That is our philosophy too.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. says

    You’re so right about goals – this applies to so many area in life! If there is no goal, there’s no direction, no way to track progress, and no way to get anywhere!

    I’ve found this to be so true in my blogging ventures, as well, and is something that I stress to my blogging students. It’s taking the big goal and breaking it down into “bite-sized” pieces (what am I going to do TODAY to get me one step closer to my goal?) that helps to make dreams a reality! That, and God blessing the increase!

  5. Dawn says

    I have been working on our September budget this afternoon and we are extremely close to finishing baby step #3. For at least an hour I was brainstorming ideas of how we could make it happen this month. As excited as I am to complete this step, I get a little discouraged when thinking about what is next. I would love to attack our mortgage and pay it off within 5 years, but with my 3 young children and 1 on the way I don’t feel like I can keep up the intensity we have had the last couple of years getting to this point. I could break it up into smaller chunks but also would love to just slow down and enjoy my children while they are young. I also would like to spend a little more time with my husband! Finding the right balance has proved to be very difficult for me. I am really looking forward to the rest of this series!

    • Ann says

      Dawn,

      I was so encouraged to read your post regarding this series. I can really appreciate where you are right now as I think it identifies where so many of us find ourselves – trying to get it all done ~ being so close~ and so tired at the same time.
      I know it’s a dime a dozen – but if I could just encourage you somehow.. Spending time with your husband and kids – you can’t buy that. If you can – make that your first priority even if it delays your mortgage a year or two (or three or four)…And as someone who used to work with money managers -it’s always hard to say that – but it’s true. Now that I’m a bit older – I look back and realize that- just for me – balance was an elusive lofty goal. It seems it is ideal when you have one priority. But when you’re a wife and a mom – You’re priorities are changing daily – sometimes hourly! Balance can then seem unapologetic – setting us up then for disappointment…for me at least. I finally learned (ok….I’m trying to learn) contentment is a much more obtainable or at least peaceful goal for me. I don’t mean content to stay where I am financially or otherwise….but contentment in the moment….
      Of course we do need those plans and goals – I really appreciated the blog and how setting the weekly goal pressed more creative thinking to meet that goal. That is huge!
      Don’t mean to be too melancholy – but it encouraged me to see that you have a desire to spend more time with your husband. How cool is that! And your kids- Foster that today because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

    • Liz says

      Hi Dawn,

      I hear you and I second your emotions COMPLETELY. We have one child and our second is on the way, and have been working very hard to keep on track with our budget for this year and to hit our big financial goals. It looks like we’ll only hit 2 of the 3, but as I discussed with my husband, hitting those 2 out 3 in light of all the unanticipated things this year brought us is really something we should be proud of.

      I too wish we could just “slow down” and have it a little easier for a bit. Speaking personally, we are in the midst of a very tough phase of life right now in terms of time and financial resources. We have one child and our second is on the way. We have some close family weddings coming up, we’re in the midst of a medical situation in our immediate family, and we were just displaced (briefly) by this most recent hurricane. When the medical situation arose, my husband and I sat down and tried to prioritize what we really needed in our lives right now, what obligations we had to fulfill, and what we wanted. Personally, I think that we’ve gotten so wrapped up in working hard on our financial situation and keeping house and home together that we’ve (unintentionally) expended less effort on some of the most important things.

      It’s only been two weeks since we started this, but we dropped a couple of things that (probably) didn’t need to be on our calendars, and we gave each other pep talks for getting through our upcoming obligations. Finally, we chose to prioritize our family time, and mark it on our calendar. The plan is that once we choose some time for us — be it family time or husband-wife time — it’s sacred. We’ll see how this works out!!!! :o)

      I’m also trying to come up with some creative ways to have family time. For instance, my husband gets together every now and then with some friends for pick-up volleyball. My son and I started going along for part of the time, so he can watch Daddy play. We bring a ball and he and I play on the sidelines so he can be like Daddy. (I know, it’s easier with only 1 child!!)

      Knowing that I don’t know the ins and outs of your situation, might I suggest definitely celebrating all that you and your husband have financially accomplished for your family? I’m sure that you’ve accomplished much, and perhaps even more than it looks like on the surface. You note above that you’ve made progress, and then you add the dreaded “but …” Goals are great motivation, but remember that you’ve come so far and if you don’t stop to celebrate the progress made for it’s own sake (not necessarily in light of the distance to the end goal), discouragement is not far off.

      In the meantime, be patient with yourself. Keep working, by all means, but remember that it’s okay to cut yourself some slack now and then and be kind. Without some slack, we get so tense and tight we may snap.

      I wish you all the best and will say prayers tonight for all you have going on (at the moment, I can’t even imagine 3 children with #4 on the way!!). Hang in there! I’m sure you can do it!!!

  6. says

    Seriously, Crystal. Between your quotes and posts, I swear you are writing a “Blog for people named Brandy”. This is, once again, such a timely series for me since this is exactly what my husband and I are trying to do right now. I am so excited to continue with this!

  7. ALaina says

    This is why I love 43things.com!! It’s the largest goal-setting site in the world (little bit of a plug there) and it has helped me lose 145 pounds through the support and encouragement of others! I also join in on fun goals like picture scavenger hunts–they make life interesting :)

    Writing down goals is sooo importnat. You are right Crystal!!

  8. Kristin says

    Thank you so much for doing this series. I was just fired from my job of over six years and am wondering at this point how in the world we are going to make it. Hopefully I can put some of your tips to work for us.

  9. says

    I’m so excited about this series!

    One of the shocks of my adult life when I entered the workplace at age 22 was that everyone–and I mean EVERYONE–had a business on the side–from the Starbucks baristas right on up to the attorneys at the law firm where I worked. And sure enough, a few years later, my husband and I both have our own side businesses, too!

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say on this topic!

  10. Sarah says

    Crystal,
    Just wanted to take the time to let you know how much your website has meant to me! While there are many great deal blogs out there, it is articles like this one which set yours apart. I began reading your blog in 2006/2007 (I believe?) at the beginning of my marriage. Back then I did not track my expenses since we always had a nice buffer at the end of the month. Looking back, I have no clue where all our money went!
    When you introduced me to Dave Ramsey and wrote articles about planning your finances I listened. This last year I used the principles you wrote in this article (taking a big goal and breaking it down into smaller chunks) to help my husband & I purchase a Toyota RAV4 free and clear. We are in our mid-20s and imagine the surprise of the dealership when we could write a check for our car! This was by the grace of God & his providence. We just answered the call to be good stewards of what he had already provided.
    This year our main goal is to get ourselves out of the black on our mortgage, we bought several years ago not at the peak of the market but not far from it. Our home is currently worth $30,000 less than what we owe on it. I’m sure our situation is not uncommon. My husband and I discussed the situation together and made a plan. We found that with planning & some sacrifice we will be able to at least break even in less than 2 years. After that, we focus on building equity! Hopefully our dream home won’t be too far away.
    Thanks again for all you do here. Keep these kind of posts coming. They are my favorite thing about your blog. May your family be blessed this year!

  11. says

    Love this series! I’m glad that you have so many helpers on MSM so you can focus your time on content like this. Your series posts are so informative and well written. Thank you and I look forward to reading the upcoming posts!

  12. jennyandcompany says

    Thank you for this! We are a family of 6 living on 25,000 a year. I have a lot of potential for extra income since I have my own business, but sadly can’t seem to get motivated between homeschooling and my “money saving” efforts to really start bringing it in.

  13. Heather says

    Not so sure about the title of this post. Makes it sound like a get-rich-quick scheme. Having read this blog a while, I assume that you mean “increase your income without working more at your TRADITIONAL day job.”

    • says

      Hang with me for a few weeks and I think the title might make more sense. Following the principles I outline in this series should allow you to work the same–or less–and make more. :)

    • Wendi S says

      That was my same thought, that the title is misleading. You describe a lot of work in this post, like searching out all those book-selling advertising opportunities. I saw what you said about hang with it for a few weeks, but as a loyal reader I also felt that the title was not typical for this blog and was somewhat misleading. I love the content though, and look forward to reading the rest.

      • says

        I think it will make sense over the next few weeks. :)

        But to explain more (as I’ll be sharing more in the next few weeks), the end result will allow you to work less and make more. For a season, you will definitely have to put in a lot of effort. There’s no such thing as “get rich quick” but there are many principles that will allow you to have a much greater return on your investment of time.

  14. says

    Great post! We set ourselves a high goal of paying off our student loan (which we kept very minimal through 7yrs of my husband’s schooling, but it’s still there) in the coming year. So that when he graduates next Spring, he will be graduating debt-free! We’ve sold things, done bake sales, earned extra here and there and I’m amazed at how much we’ve been able to save towards the student loan already! I think we’ll get to pay it off way faster than we planned. All by setting a goal that seemed unrealistic. :) Thank God for blessing our efforts!

  15. says

    Crystal, I’m so excited about this series. I just finished reading “The Other 8 Hours” and it was very, very good. There was an idea in there that my husband is looking into for him and if it works out he will eventually be able to quite one of his jobs (he has 3) and work from home doing what he loves and getting paid for it. If nothing else, the ideas in that book have created some excitement in our home. My husband is a minister and for the last 3.5 years has not had a full time job. He has worked construction and now works as a Hospice chaplain 3 days a week, does counceling at our church 2 nights a week and works for a petroleum products company 2 days a week doing manual labor. To say it has been a long and trying 3 years would be an understatement. But looking at ways to get rid of the third job and still support our family of 8 has been exciting. Thanks!

  16. says

    Thanks for the encouragement and tips. Keep it up; I’m looking forward to learning more from you to help us apply the principles we recently learned in a Dave Ramsey seminar.

  17. Becky says

    Amen, sista! I’m so glad that you’re explaining to everyone how YOU & JESSIE created your own opportunities rather than being handed them which is what is sometimes implied when people are being “Eeyore–ish” about their situations. It’s the U.S.A., people, you reap what you sow!

  18. says

    Thank you for this. I currently work in very high pressured environment (a film production studio) with extremely long hours and a very demanding schedule. My husband also works here. While we are able to keep up this pace now, we know once we have kids, it will not be possible for us to both be working these 12 – 14 hour days. Our conversations lately keep coming back to “how can we make money elsewhere to set us up for a calmer life?” This idea has totally encompassed our lives lately, as we are both feeling exhausted. Financially, we are pretty well off for people our ages (29 and 33) but this is not a lifestyle we can sustain. I am very much looking forward to this series as I hope to put some of my many ideas into action.

  19. Debbie says

    YES!! Thanks for this new series and encouragement! That last paragraph about even if you dont come close to hitting your goals every week at least you had a target and tried. Well, after SEVERAL attempts at using cash only I finally did it this week and didn’t use my debit card even once!!! Its very hard with three teenagers who suddenly remember they need _____ (graph paper, etc.) for this class or ______ for a sport (mouthpiece, etc) but finally after trying and trying and failing and failing and feeling terrible about it, expecially after reading how so many people are successful at it, I did it!! Now lets just hope and pray I can do it again this week!!

  20. says

    We just finished reading “The Other 8 Hours” and have been very inspired to figure out a way for my huband to be able to stop one of his jobs (he has 3). There was some great ideas in the book. I can’ wait to get more ideas from your series. Thanks!!!

  21. says

    I LOVE this post! My husband and I have done lots of crazy things to increase our income so that we can be debt-free when we’re 30. We’ve paid off over $60K in 2 years while moving, switching jobs A LOT, and now we’re expecting our first baby in January! We’re excited to be debt free in 2012 and all of the options it will afford us – buying a house, working less, spending more time as a family, etc. Thanks again for this awesome post – you are always so inspiring!

  22. Betsy says

    I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series also. Can’t wait to see what tips/advice you give. We are just trying to stay afloat right now. We got behind a couple of years ago and can never seem to catch up. Hoping I can glean some tips/ideas from this series. Keep up the good work, Crystal!

  23. Sam says

    So excited for the rest of this series! Do we really have to wait til next Wednesday??? My husband’s business has been dwindling in this economy so we are aggressively looking for ways to expand and pick up new income sources. I’d like to chip in also so this is perfect timing!

  24. says

    Thanks for all of your series – I’m looking forward to this one! I’ve been a reader for awhile, but we just (finally) set up a real budget last month and got started on Dave Ramsey’s plan. We have good incomes, but with 3 kids, the money was evaporating into thin air. In just the first month, we were able to pay 6x the minimum payment towards my car loan, and expect to have it paid off in 6 months – and my husbands 6 months after that. Wahoo!

  25. mary says

    I am a stay at home mom and things have been BEYOND tight lately — but me being at home with the kids is something we both feel strongly about — so I recently started watching 2 little boys in addition to being home with my two little girls. The girls LOVE having kiddos to play with, and I LOVE being able to help out with the bills and actually start out each month ahead instead of in the red! It amazes me what people are actually willing to pay me for taking care of their youngsters!

  26. says

    Can’t wait to keep reading! There comes a point when there are just no more pennies to pinch, and there needs to be more income coming in. Hubby’s been blessed with a lot of overtime lately, but we’d both love to have more streams of income coming in. I’m glad I’m able to help a tiny bit with my blog, but I’d love to bring in more. It’s been a bit discouraging lately as thing after thing has taken place – ER, car trouble, etc., and we can’t even finish our emergency fund, much less start paying our mortgage down like we’d hoped to be doing by now. Looking forward to the next post!

  27. says

    Really love your site. It is a daily reading for me. The different kinds of series are impressive and very helpful. In this series you mention being able to get free advertising. Would you be able to expand on this? Thank you

    • says

      There are a hundred different ways to get free advertising–writing articles for other sites (with my byline/site link) as well as networking with other sites and working out and cross-promotional situations were two very successful advertising I’ve done that was free.

  28. says

    Thanks for a great post! I’m really exciting about the upcoming post and can’t wait to put more of the ideas into place. I already work as a fashion director for a jewelry company in addition to my full-time job. So, I guess I should keep it up and set more goals. Thanks again!

  29. Joan says

    You are so right on the goal setting! We are successful Dave Ramsey Financial Peace graduated having dug our way out of debt. But now the challenge on goal setting for the future and gifting generously! Thanks for the reminder that we won’t know when we get there if we don’t have a plan!

  30. says

    Thanks so much for this post and I’m looking forward to the series! I always get a lot out of your writing and experience, and I especially thank you for your honesty about the difficulties we all experience in life (especially in financial matters) but don’t always share with others. I have recently forayed into trying to make a little extra each month by mystery shopping and was helped along by a recent post you did on it and the comments people made. Thanks everyone! It’s easy to get swept away with obsessing over money but I am learning also to be contented with where I am now and knowing that I am working toward my goals. Thanks Crystal!

    • lori says

      Crystal, can you please direct me to this post as this was something I wanted to look into…thanks!

  31. says

    I love the idea on big goals in bite sized pieces, I am trying to increase my readership and facebook likes, so I set my goal small 3 new likes or readers each week day, so far so good, and my numbers are climbing, it feels good to be reaching my goal.

  32. Katie says

    Thanks for this post! After reading your blog for a few months now, I just began writing down goals. I look forward to reading the rest of this series!

  33. Tia Robertson says

    Thank you so much for this! We are trying to prepare for a job loss in about a week, and living off of $12-15000 a year that I make with my job will be the path we take if we don’t try something in addition! We are keeping our heads held high, and hopefully this setback will not affect us for too long, I can’t wait to hear more!