When Kate and I make investment decisions, our true North is “Will this increase our personal cash flow?”
Because our cash flow status is the most important metric to get us to early retirement.
We need money flowing into our bank account each month that we can use to support our lifestyle. Money to buy lunch, to pay the utility bills, to go on vacation. My 401k can’t take me on vacation because that money doesn’t end up in my bank account.
These cash flow ideas can.
And in order to be on this list the idea has to be repeatable. So shoveling your neighbor’s driveway for $50 or pickpocketing don’t count. We’re only interested in strategies that are legal and will continue to bring in money month after month.
So let’s get to it.
There are three methods to increase cash flow:
- Decrease your recurring expenses
- Increase your recurring income
- Create a new source of income
Each of the 50 ideas listed below will fall into one of these categories.
When you’re trying to brainstorm ways to improve the cash flow situation in your own life, the most powerful thing you can do is open up your bank statements and begin identifying the things you spend money on every month.
Then look at all the ways you make money.
It sounds simple, but see if you can amplify the money coming in while lowering the money going out. Once you’ve done that it’s time to look for new streams of income. If you want guidance creating new streams of income, you can check out the Investor’s Handbook. It’s a software suite I created to help walk new investors through their first few investments.
Here are 50 ideas to get you started increasing your personal cash flow.
1. Pay Off Debt
Paying off debt is absolutely the most reliable way to increase your personal cash flow.
Just about everyone has some debt with a monthly payment. Maybe it’s a car loan, maybe a home loan or student loan. Whatever it is, it’s taking money from you every month.
Whatever the debt payment is, it will disappear the moment that loan is paid off.
Many of the ideas on this list will take careful planning and strategy to actually make you more money. This one will work for everyone 100% of the time.
The problem is, paying off your debt can take a long time. So what can you do with your debt right now?
2. Consolidate or Refinance Debt
You can act on your debt right now even if you can’t pay it off. There are two options for you here.
Single Loan Consolidation
Option one is you can refinance your existing debt. Which is simply taking out a new loan with different terms in order to pay off your current loan.
So for example, you may have a $10,000 student loan with 5.5% interest and is set to be paid off in 7 years.
This would put your current loan payment at around $144.
You could use Lending Club to get a new $10,000 loan that has 4.1% interest and is set to be paid off in 10 years.
You use this $10,000 loan to pay off the old loan and the new loan has monthly payments of $102.
Now you’re making and extra $42 per month!
Multiple Loan Consolidation
So let’s talk about option two. If you have more than one loan payment every month you can apply the same principle by consolidating your payments into one big loan.
Let’s say that in addition to your student loan we just mentioned, you also have a car loan of $12,000 that has a 4.5% interest rate and is set to be paid off in 3 years. This would be a monthly payment of $357.
So you now have $22,000 of debt. To consolidate you need to get a new loan of $22,000 so you can pay off both loans you have.
You could get a $22,000 from Wells Fargo with an interest rate of 4.1% that is set to be paid off in 10 years. The monthly payment for this would be $224.
So you went from two payments totaling $501 to one payment of $224. You’re now making an extra $277 per month!
Here are a few more options for loan consolidation and refinancing:
Now it’s great that you’re making more money each month, but there is a trade off. Usually you end up paying more total over the life of the loan.
So is it really a good idea?
I wrote an article about deciding whether or not to refinance or consolidate loans.
3. Cancel Subscriptions
Usually subscriptions are charged every month, but some can be charged yearly.
Open up your bank statements for the last year.
Start looking through them to find charges for anything that is on auto pay.
It’s not uncommon to sign up for a monthly subscription and then you wind up slowly losing interest and not making use of it. These are the charges you’re looking for.
You don’t need to cancel your Netflix subscription if you use it several times a week.
But maybe you don’t need subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Disney+. Or perhaps you can cancel your $80/month cable and replace it with a $15/month streaming service.
Or you could only use Amazon prime around the holidays, but you’re paying for the whole year.
There’s no need to deprive yourself of services you like and use, but if you look through your bank statements, I bet you’ll find a few subscriptions you don’t actually use. Take the opportunity to cancel or modify these and increase your personal cash flow by as much as a few hundred dollars.
4. Get an Energy Audit
You’ll see a few ideas on this list to save on your utility bill.
Many cities (like mine) offer a free energy audit to anyone who requests it. An energy audit is just an inspection of your property that highlights areas where your home is wasting energy. They literally give you a sheet full of ideas to save money on your utility bills! And it’s free!
I found the information to help me get started with an online search of “[my city] energy audit.” We just scheduled a time and let the city employees in our house.
They provided us with about a dozen ways to lower our utility bills. Some were relatively expensive, but some were free or could be done ourselves for less than $20.
5. Negotiate A Raise
This one is pretty obvious, but if you’re making more money in your paycheck, then you’ve just improved your cash flow.
I’m no expert on this, so you’ll want to look elsewhere for advice on making this happen. I like this article about the do’s and don’ts of negotiating a raise.
I’ve worked a few places where it simply wasn’t possible to get a raise by asking for it. Nobody got raises.
If that’s where you are, then…
6. Start a Job Search
Find a new job! If your job has no flexibility to raise salary, then your best bet is to find a place that can pay you more.
All my biggest jumps in salary came about by finding a job with a new employer.
If you’re unhappy at your current job then I don’t have to convince you that it’s a good idea to find a better one. But if you love your job, or have a hard time thinking about leaving, then I say pick a job that’s a little out of reach. A current “dream job” if you will.
Maybe you’re happy with your employer but have always wanted to supervise a team. Or maybe you’ve wanted to make a pivot to a position or industry you have little to no experience in.
Very few people have actually reached the pinnacle of their careers. You may just need to reach a little higher than you think you’re qualified for.
Search for jobs that you couldn’t say no to if it were offered to you.
7. Start a Website
Creating a website is one of the lowest risk, highest reward ways to try and bring in extra money.
Like any business, there is a lot to learn and a lot of work involved. But if you manage to execute well and stick with it long enough, a website can be a great revenue stream.
Some of the most common ways to monetize a website are
- Affiliate marketing
- Sell a physical or electronic product
There are other more nuanced ways to bring in money, but the list above are the big ones.
The secret sauce of creating a money maker online is to offer real value to your visitors and then learn to align that value with getting yourself paid.
8. Buy a Website
Starting a website is a lot of work. So why not let someone else do the hard work of creating a profitable website and then buying it from them?
The hurdle here is money up front. If you don’t have at least a few thousand USD to dispose of, then you’ll find it nearly impossible to find a website that will bring in any money. If you don’t have the money, then you’ll need to build your own site, or find another source of positive cash flow.
And also, it’s a good idea to know how to make a website profitable before you buy one.
Once you know how to make money online, buying a website becomes a great option for you.
Here are some of the most respectable places to purchase websites:
And one last thing.
Much like purchasing a house, you need to go through many steps of due diligence to ensure the website you’re purchasing is actually making money as advertised. It’s possible to get scammed.
9. Long Term Rental Property
One of the most tried and true methods to increase personal cash flow is by leasing out a home or property that you own.
This was our first step towards financial freedom and there are countless others who say the same.
The model is like this:
Purchase a home, duplex, or any other size complex with 15-25% down then get someone to sign a lease to live there for a year or longer.
To put it as simply as possible, if the rent your lessees pay you is greater than the cost of the mortgage and all expenses associated with owning the property, then you’ll make money.
NOTE: The actual analysis of a prospective rental property is much more sophisticated but we won’t delve into that in this article.
That’s the cash flow piece, but there are several other benefits to this type of investment.
- The value of the home appreciates over time, increasing your net worth
- There are some great tax benefits which means the money you make on this investment is generally taxed at a very low rate. Sometimes completely tax free!
- Your mortgage payments also increase how much of the home you own (called equity), which increases your net worth.
- Banks like loaning money out for the purchase of real estate, and this means your money goes farther and grows faster. It’s called leverage.
Rental property can be a great first investment, but the cost of entry is relatively high. As stated previously, you will generally have to put down 15-25% of the cost of the home you purchase.
It’s worth noting that a large percentage of the world’s wealthiest have made their fortunes in real estate.
The Investor’s Handbook: This tool will walk you through the purchase of your first real estate investment
10. Short Term Rental Property
Short term rentals are another category of real estate investment that deserves its own bullet.
It’s nearly the same model as the long term rental property and has all the same benefits (leveraging, tax perks, home appreciation and equity).
The difference is this, instead of signing a lease for a year or more, you rent your home out like a hotel or bed and breakfast. This is generally done by listing your home on a website like Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO.
In my experience, you can make more “rent” money from a short term rental, but it is more work.
You must furnish the home with beds, chairs, couches, tables, kitchen supplies, toiletries, towels and more.
You have to pay the utility bills (including internet).
And the home must be cleaned after each guest.
One of the most exciting opportunities here is that you can turn part of your own home into a short term rental.
Kate and I turned our basement into an Airbnb listing and, within a month, it was nearly covering the mortgage of the house we live in!
Again, I think a short term rental is an excellent first investment.
Create Cash Flow By Going Shopping
Sometimes you can save money or make money by looking for better products or services.
And if you can’t save money, you might be able to get more benefits for the same price.
The four list items below are some examples of this.
11. Shop For a Better Credit Card
Credit cards offer lots of features. Points, miles and cash back are the most common.
When is the last time you thought about shopping for a credit card that maximizes your cash back?
You can often double the amount of cash you’re getting out of your credit card if you haven’t looked for a while.
Kate and I switched to the Citi Double Cash card which earns 2% on every purchase. Now we’re getting more cash back with no effort at all!
12. Shop For Better Insurance Rates
Insurance is one of those recurring expenses that many people just forget about.
Car insurance, home insurance, rental insurance, life insurance and more. Again, if it’s been a few years since you’ve looked at your rates it’s probably time to take a look around again.
A tool like insurance.com can at least give you an idea of what insurers are available to you and help you get some quotes.
It’s not uncommon to save $50 or more per month after switching insurance providers.
13. Shop For Internet Rates
Not everyone has a choice for what internet provider they use, but if you do, here’s another opportunity to lower one of your recurring expenses.
Allconnect.com is one tool that will show you the options you have based on your ZIP code.
Often, you can find options allowing you to save $10-25 per month.
14. Shop For Phone Service Rates
Phone service can be tricky. Switching providers sometimes means you have to buy a new phone or pay a fee for terminating your contract early.
Make sure you do some research before switching.
However, if you play your cards right (especially if you have a family) you can save $50 or more per month on a new plan.
15. Start a Business
Starting a business is a super broad topic, so I won’t even attempt to cover it. I’ll just say that starting a business is the process of creating a lawful system of making money that usually depends on having customers.
When you dive deep into the core of how to make money, there’s only one problem to solve– how to offer a product or service that will entice someone to give you their money.
There are a million ways to do this and a lot to learn along the way. Ultimately, if you can figure out a way to systematically get customers to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for something they value– you’ve cracked the code!
The Small Business Administration gives us a great 10 step list of how to start a business.
16. Purchase a Business
Maybe creating something of your own and working tirelessly to make it profitable doesn’t sound feasible to you right now.
Well you can always find a business for sale that is already profitable and buy it!
Kate and I are the type of people to jump head first into something without a complete understanding, but we wouldn’t purchase a business without a working-knowledge of how to keep it running profitably.
Unless you already know what you’re doing, it’s advised to look for businesses where the current owner will get you up to speed and help you learn the ropes. Many sellers will offer their assistance for a few months, a few years or on an as-needed basis.
Like any investment, it’s extremely important to do your due diligence for a business you want to purchase. Make sure the financials are solid, the business is in good standing with the law & the tax man, and verify that the current business model is still viable.
The Investor’s Handbook: this tool will help walk you through your first business acquisition
17. Create a Budget
One great technique to improve cash flow is by getting rid of recurring expenses. But there is one additional consideration with this approach.
You have a lot of expenses that are not considered recurring, like food, entertainment and other normal living expenses.
But it is absolutely possible to improve your cash flow by cutting back on those types of purchases. Awareness is key & the best way I know to be aware of my spending is by tracking and budgeting.
As the saying goes, you manage what you measure.
You can use all kinds of tools to do this, from pen and paper to full-service accounting software.
The idea is to look back at your bank statements and list out every type of expense you have, then categorize those expenses and begin setting spending limits on each one.
If you can change your regular spending habits over time in a positive way, then you can positively affect your cash flow.
18. Dividend Yielding Stocks
One of the most passive types of cash flow is dividend yielding stocks.
These are usually long standing profitable businesses (like Microsoft) that no longer need to reinvest all profits to promote growth. Instead they return company profits to the owners!
Payouts usually happen once per quarter, and the yearly dividend returns are usually below 5%.
The low return on investment is the trade-off for having an almost completely passive investment that actually puts money in your bank account and can support your lifestyle.
19. Commercial Real Estate
Commercial real estate investment is similar to the long and short term residential strategies in that you own property that someone else pays to use.
The big difference is that commercial real estate is not intended to be lived in unless it is coded as “mixed-use”. Your tenants would be retail business, restaurants, firms, etc.
The most common strategy is to buy a piece of property in a commercial area, like a downtown area or shopping center, and then have a business sign a lease to operate in your building.
Many of the same principles that are used for residential real estate investment can be applied to commercial.
Commercial real estate investment is generally reserved for those with lots of money to put down. Properties in the downtown area where we live are generally 10-15 times the price of the residential homes. So it takes a lot of money, creativity or both to get in this game.
20. Sell E-books or E-courses
If you already have a website, then creating your own E-books or E-courses is a great way to provide more value to your users and bring in more money for yourself.
If you don’t have a website or you want more potential for people to see your product, then you can sell books or courses on established online marketplaces.
You can create an E-course and put it up on sites like Udemy.
And you can sell E-books on sites like Fiverr or Amazon.
21. Sell Digital Goods
Much like E-books and E-courses, you can create other digital goods like calendars, checklists, and invitations.
You need only design the assets and put them up on a site like Zazzle who will print and mail your designs to whoever buys it.
Your only job is to create and promote your products. Zazzle will handle the inventory and shipping, and then pay you your commission when your products are sold.
You can also create digital downloads and sell them on a variety of marketplaces like Etsy or Shopify for your customers to print themselves.
22. Track Tax Deductible Expenses
It’s easy to forget that the biggest expense in life for most people is not housing or food– it’s taxes!
And very few have taken the time to have any understanding of the federal and state tax laws.
If that’s you, then the first step is to figure out how your money is being taxed and what steps you can take to reduce your tax burden.
Most people are only aware of W-2 income taxes and typical deductions because those are the only categories that affect them. There are lots of ways to make money that are taxed in a completely different way.
Income taxes have some benefits. You can deduct donations, some interest payments, and some losses and expenses. The more you are aware of these deductions, the better you can track them, deduct them and ultimately pay less on taxes each year.
Money made outside your W-2 job can have lots of benefits. Businesses and real estate investors can deduct things like business operating expenses, depreciation of property, transportation costs, etc. from their taxable income.
This generally ends up meaning more money in your pocket.
Bottom line: learn your tax codes enough to take advantage of their benefits and/or hire a CPA that can help you maximize your deductions.
23. Move to a Cheaper House
When Kate and I bought our first house we weren’t in the investing mindset.
We looked at our finances and asked “How much can we afford?” What we should have been asking is “How much can we afford while keeping a healthy cash flow?” or even better “How can we purchase an asset?”
Purchasing a house at the top of your budget can really slow down your financial growth. Mortgage payments stick around for a long time and if you bought at the top of your budget, you’ll have a hard time saving money to reinvest.
Sometimes those payments can be so debilitating that the only reasonable course of action is to downsize to a house you can afford. This will put you in a better cash flow situation and allow you to save and reinvest the money you free up.
24. Eliminate Recurring Fees
One of my favorite methods of improving cash flow is looking back through the last few months of bank statements and trying to find things I don’t really want to pay for.
I mentioned subscription fees earlier in the article. Things like Amazon or Netflix.
But you can find other, more unique fees. It could be a bank fee or a free trial you signed up for and forgot to cancel.
I recently found charges for an application I had been building as a side project then abandoned. Although I had forgotten about it– the hosting service hadn’t forgotten about me! I was still incurring charges every month. It only took me 10 minutes to delete the project and stop the charges.
25. Build an Application
Speaking of programming side projects, online applications can also become a good way to increase your personal cash flow.
From phone apps to web tools, you can build something that people need and charge a modest fee for it.
And it can often be something relatively simple, like a free app that tracks daily habits and serves a few ads here and there.
Speed round – 25 more ideas to increase personal cash flow
- Cross Sell – If you have a business with existing customers, look for ways to sell them another product your company sells.
- Lend Money – You can lend money to a friend or use an online tool like LendingClub.
- Rent Your Car – Just like you can rent a room in your house, you can also rent your car with sites like Hyrecar and Turo.
- Rent Other Stuff You Own – Homes and cars are great to rent, but why stop there? You can rent just about anything you own on sites like Rentah.
- YouTube Channel – There are minimum requirements to monetize your videos, but once you do, your channel can provide some relatively passive income.
- Buy a More Efficient Toilet – It costs money to use water, and old toilets use lots of water. You can buy a new toilet and go from 6 gallons per flush to less than 1.5 gallons per flush.
- Replace Old Light Bulbs – Same story here. Old light bulbs use significantly more energy. Switch out your old light bulbs with LEDs and save on your electricity bill.
- Buy a Modem and Router – Most internet providers charge a monthly rental fee if you use the modem and router they provide. You can buy your own and they’ll waive the monthly fee, which is typically 10-20 bucks.
- Increase Business Rates – Sometimes raising your business’ rates a small amount can move the cash flow needle in a meaningful way. We occasionally experiment with our Airbnb nightly rates to try and increase cash flow while keeping our customers happy with the value they receive.
- Advertise/Find New Customers – If your customer base has plateaued, then it may be time to think up a new advertising campaign or look for networking opportunities to reach more people.
- Sell Artwork – You can sell your artwork online with websites like Etsy or Zazzle.
- Royalties – You can purchase the rights to artists’ royalty income on Royalty Exchange.
- Invest in a Home Gym – If you have a gym membership you may be able to save considerably on that expense by purchasing equipment to use at home or a virtual fitness class subscription instead.
- Solar Panels – Putting solar panels on your house can result in a significant reduction in your electricity bill. Also, lots of cities offer tax benefits and special loans to purchase and install solar panels.
- Mine Cryptocurrency – Set a computer to work mining cryptocurrency.
- Sell Music – If you have a following for your music you can monetize using a service like TuneCore that submits your music to all the major players such as iTunes and Spotify.
- Buy an ATM – I bet you didn’t know you could own an ATM! When you own and operate an ATM you make money off the fees from transactions and services. Check out ATM Brokerage to buy ATM businesses or individual machines.
- Buy a Vending Machine – Believe it or not vending machines can bring in some decent money. You just need a machine and a place to put it. Here’s a pretty good guide on getting started.
- Eliminate Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – When a house is purchased for less that 20% down banks will require mortgage insurance. Those payments will die out on their own eventually, but you can request that the payments cease once you reach the 20% equity mark. Sometimes you can cross this threshold faster if you believe your home has increased in value and you have it re-appraised by your lender.
- Bike to Work – If you live close to work, bike to work and save money on gas and the cost of wear on your vehicle.
- Meal Planning – Every time I decide to plan all my meals for a period of time I end up saving money on food. You can buy in bulk and you waste less food.
- Replay/Buy Old Games – New video games are expensive. If you’re a regular gamer consider replaying games you already own or looking for games on older consoles instead of trying to keep up with the latest releases.
- Software Security Bounty Hunting – Sites like Hackerone offer hackers the opportunity to find security vulnerabilities for a bounty.
- Stream Activities – If you’re a natural entertainer or just really good at something, you can probably earn some money streaming your activity on sites like Twitch.
- Antique Booth – If you’ve curated a lot of unique items or nice clothes and don’t want to sell them cheap in a garage sale you can find your local antique store or flea market and open a booth. You’ll be able to create some positive cash flow as long as you have great items to sell.
There are far more than 50 ways to increase your cash flow, but the ideas listed here will show you many applications of the basic strategies of decreasing recurring expenses, increasing recurring income, and creating new income.