Hustle Harder: How I made extra money to pay down my debts and save for the future


Hustle hard and then hustle harder. One of the reasons I was able to get out of debt quickly and save so aggressively is I had good incomes.

Notice that’s incomes, plural.

I am highly doubtful I would have made the progress I did if I hadn’t cultivated multiple sources of income over the past few years.

It’s for this reason that the single best advice I can give any twenty something is this:

Hustle harder. 

Make as much money as you possibly can. Use it to pay your bills, kill your debt, and save for the future. 

I think twenty-somethings are way too short-sighted when it comes to generating income. They’re all looking for 1 job to launch their career and pay all their bills, when realistically the best choice might be to work some extra part-time hours even if you have landed that first career role. Here are some ways I hustled during university and after graduation:

I tutored Chemistry

I tutored chemistry for $20 to $30 per hour beginning in my third year of university and continuing through my first year of professional work. Seriously, I would schedule tutoring sessions on my lunch break or after work, and even on weekends — even though I was employed full-time at a salary of $50,000. I did this to kill my student loan debt. Obviously the income wasn’t consistent, but it often translated to an extra $300 to $500 per month during the academic year. Almost all of that income went to debt repayment. When I received my annual raise at the 1 year mark in my professional job, I gave up tutoring but I love knowing that if I need extra cash and have a few hours to spare, all I have to do is post an ad for tutoring on a college bulletin board.

I taught Chemistry labs

Getting A’s can pay off financially in more than just scholarships. I taught the laboratory sections for two organic chemistry courses every spring and summer for 3 years — including the session after graduation! I could have packed up once I had my degree, but I was paid about $1,800 each session (10 days) and I taught 2 every year for a total of about $3,600 each summer. One year I even got a bit extra for helping write questions for the laboratory manuals. To accommodate TA-ing I simply booked vacation or got people to pick up shifts at whatever other job I was working (serving tables or fixing iPads) and dove in.

I did inventory for large department stores

To this day this remains one of the most random and most profitable short-term side hustles I’ve ever found. Looking for extra work, I found an inventory service advertising on Kijiji that they needed extra hands for a few contracts. I was hired and scanning barcodes within 1 week. The work was mind-numbingly boring and I had to wear a really ugly shirt, but I remember being paid $14 or $15 per hour and all I had to do was scan the price tags on pillows and comforter sets in The Bay. Once I had a few successful jobs under my belt, the company would email me whenever extra work came up. My schedule got too packed for this to become a regular source of income, but at the time it was great to help with the bills.

I worked part-time at the Apple store

There are few things as unglamorous as working a retail job at age 25 just like you did at age 15, but I did. I picked up this gig when my graduate student stipend ($24,000 per year, minus tuition!) proved insufficient for my financial plan. I’m not a fan of standing on concrete floors all day, but this job was so good for my bank account, I can’t even think where I’d be without it. When I decided to drop out of my MSc., the Apple store filled a gap giving me full-time hours until I found my first professional job.

I was a babysitter/nanny

One of the best jobs I ever had was nannying full-time in the summers and then part-time between classes during the school year. I organized my class schedule with that of the family I worked for, and this became a regular sources of extra money for me. In the evenings and weekends when I wasn’t babysitting, I served tables. Being a nanny gave me almost full-time income at great hours. Additionally there was a non-monetary pay off of becoming lifelong friends with a great family!

I wrote (and wrote, and wrote, and wrote)

Once Money After Graduation started to really grow, my Google AdSense and affiliate income started to become a regular thing. After I had been featured in MoneySense Magazine and a few newspapers, I started to get some freelance writing contracts. As many of you know, I’ve been writing for American Student Assistance on their SALT Money blog for two years. That’s a monthly paycheque that’s been helping out for a long time!

What about now?

I never stop hustling. I can’t — I like money too much! Thankfully, an internship came through so you won’t find me folding yoga pants or serving beer in a cowboy hat, but my side hustles were at the ready.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, pay off your debt, or save for a particular goal, you might just be one side hustle away from making it happen.


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11 Comments. Leave new

  • You’ve had a lot of great side hustles. I wish I could land a tutoring gig, but living in a college town with university students means lots of competition for that. Currently I freelance, babysit and run an active online sale job. In the future, I’d love a new opportunity, but for now my side jobs are really helping as is.

  • Preach it! I’ve definitely done some side hustling even though I’m fully employed now (e.g., babysitting, working elections and the Toronto marathon, etc.) but nothing as regular as you did. Even though I don’t have any debt to repay, it would be really nice to have a bit of extra cash for saving/investing or “fun money” to treat myself some more.

  • Love it! I love the side hustle and it has always come through for me. I sell on Etsy, host on Airbnb, write online, work full-time, started a cleaning biz, bought a website, among other things lol. There’s never a reason to NOT side hustle. Multiple streams of income are the way to live!

  • Part of me would still love to work part time at lululemon. Great employee discount and they would pay for my yoga! Too bad there isn’t one where I live. No shame in folding yoga pants post degree.

    • Me too!! But I just don’t have the hours with full-time internship + school =( I’m at work all day then have class 2 nights per week and I’ll just burn out if I try to do anything else!

  • I do the same thing. I have a great paying professional job currently, but I also love making money. I’ve been dog sitting for people for three years now. It started out with one person, who then gave my name to another, who then passed my name along to another friend, and so on. Now I’m at 6 customers, and made enough to buy a used car cash – among other things – for doing something I adore – hanging out with animals!

  • I side hustle a bit, but not as much as you do. Side hustle money feels great. It’s a just a bit more in cash. I’m saving up all my side hustle cash money to see how much it amounts to and what I can do with it at the end of the year. It’s really easy to immediately transfer my side hustle money to the main checking account and spend it on bills. I think it would be cooler to see the end amount and see if I can meet a big goal.

  • forfundssake
    June 6, 2014 1:07 pm

    I now have Ace Hood stuck in my head for what will probably be the rest of the day… Great post! I’m working full time in a construction job as of right now, while trying to hustle a few things of my own on the side. The savings are huge! But come September I start school. I know I’ll have to hustle harder on my various side projects, and maybe take on a part time employee role.. I don’t want my savings to widdle away.. You also gain the benefit of experiencing a variety that broaden your skill set and improve your abilities.
    Hustle. Hustle. Hustle hard! Closed mouths don’t get fed on this boulevard!

  • I also love to hustle! I have over 5 income streams and it helps me payoff debt and sleep well at night!

  • I babysat, I sold stuff, I wrote and wrote, I got creative and also paid off my debt thanks to all the side hustling. Now, my side hustle is a jobby that is helping me save for a down payment on a house

  • I have no hustle. I need a hustle. My husband hustles, but he fits that in while I’m still at work. I need to find a hustle. Ugh.


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