In this third in a series of articles on avoiding debt, Financial Literacy Advisory Dr. Bill Kirkemo presents some creative ways to generate extra income

You have done the hard work of developing a realistic budget, and have also looked at how to decrease your expenses to make sure your budget balances. Another option for balancing your budget is increasing your income.

If your fixed costs are the huge majority of your expenses and you really don’t have any room to cut, then for a season you may want to find an additional source of income. What might this look like?

For starters, you can sell your stuff. I’m amazed at how much stuff my family can get rid of year after year at our garage sales. I’m always amazed too at how much money we have made from stuff that no longer has value to us but does to others.

Another option is selling your stuff on eBay - everything from the clothes that no longer fit to items you find at garage sales you recognize as significantly underpriced (and that might sell for more on eBay). It takes time finding out what items sell well, but believe me, you can sell. You can become a direct seller of someone else’s products too. You need to be careful here, not to become a part of a pyramid scheme and especially if you are in active ministry, but selling Avon, Mary Kay, and other items can become a significant source of income.

You can be part of focus groups or online panels. For example, I’m on a mailing list for Barna Research where every few months they send me a survey to complete and then give me a $10 Amazon card. Now, $10 at a time, and even $50 a year is not significant compared to my annual income. However, you can buy anything on Amazon, and if you are part of a couple of online panels like that, you can have a significant amount of your Christmas gift-giving covered each year.

The old adage often proves true: time is money. So you need to decide if you are going to make money with your time or spend your money for someone else to free up your time. In ministry we often think we never have enough time. To even suggest we take on an additional job can sound ridiculous. However, if you have a specific goal in mind, oftentimes earning additional income can simply be a temporary sacrifice to reach that goal (like paying off a loan so you no longer have that monthly payment).

Finally, here are some things you should never do to increase income – take out a consumer loan. Finance Company loans are all over the place, and offer fast money. But the reality is that these payday loans or pawn shop loans or car title loans have huge expenses with them. Not only are they very expensive, but most of these companies make even more money by making you a repeat customer. They encourage you to roll the loan over instead of paying it off. Thus, the more you roll over the loan, the higher the expenses are and the harder it is to pay off the loan, get your car back, or get the item out of the pawn shop.

Another type of predatory loan that gets a lot of attention this time of year especially is a tax refund loan. These loans anticipate (and pay out) your tax refund amount. A lot of times, however, these companies will offer to loan you more than that anticipated refund, and their fees for taking care of your taxes can be hundreds of dollars. With just a little bit of research you can know all you need to know about how to fill out your own tax forms and avoid paying anyone to do it for you.

I hope you have found this three part series on How to Avoid Debt helpful. I sincerely believe that if you will take these small steps of making a budget, cutting expenses, and finding additional income, you will be well on your way to getting rid of your debt and finding financial freedom.

Bill Kirkemo is the Center for Pastoral Leadership’s Financial Literacy Advisor, adjunct professor at NTS and also serves as Lead Pastor at Harrisonville First Church of the Nazarene in Harrisonville, MO.