There’s only so much that a person can cut out of their expenses before it starts to get a little ridiculous.

Over the course of a year, I’ve cut out a ton of stuff. I’ve also bought things that will save me more money in the long run, with a couple hits and misses through my experiments. So, now that I’m saving 70–80% of my income and dumping it into Betterment, I’m left with one question.

Where the hell do I go from here?

Is this worth it?

I suppose it’s time to start worrying about income, instead of expenses. Expenses were easy. I spent a year absorbing all sorts of media on financial independence and frugality. I’ve tried out many things that have worked well for me, and some that have not. I’ve really changed a lot as a spender. $20 is like gold to me now. So, with frugality under my belt…but definitely not forgotten, I’ve developed a plan for higher income for the future.

The goals

  1. I want to expand my income sources
  2. I want to make more passive income
  3. I want to earn a higher salary at my regular job or start a business

These are all goals that I think most people have. Also, each one of them could take you a lifetime to build upon. What’s more, they are very vague and have no defined end. Let’s see if we can improve upon that.

I want to expand my income sources

Ok, but from where?

  • Rentals — No. While I really enjoy the thought of owning half a block of my home town and becoming a full-time landlord, that’s just a passing feeling. What’s more, owning rentals will not help the other goals. I don’t consider rentals as passive income, while the closest you could get would be to hire a property manager…who is going to take 5–10% of your rental income from you. There’s also the high entry cost of providing a down payment, having mortgages over your head — and that’s just a hairy ordeal to me. Plenty of people make money in rentals, but it’s not going to be me.
  • Commercial real estate — Slightly better than renting to regular people, in my opinion. But, still, no thanks.
  • Side business — Maybe, but I don’t have an idea. I also have almost zero time thanks to going to work and school full-time while I manage my rental. If I were to create a business, it would have to be very hands-off for the most part.
  • Flipping, retail arbitrage, etc. — Eh. It seems like a lot of work to go around and source things to list. I know that it’s somewhat fun to do, but I really don’t want to be driving around town scanning items and listing them online. This also seems like it takes a ton of time.

I could go on and on here listing the usual suspects and why I don’t want to do them, or do them right now. I think the general theme here is that while I think most ventures are fun, you have to have a knack for certain things like picking properties, picking items to sell, or managing people. These are skills that I haven’t been keeping sharp…and some are tools that I haven’t even started to develop yet. How would I pick commercial real estate properties? I have no idea. I would have to start at the beginning. I really don’t want to develop new skills in my quest for passive income, when I have perfectly good skills that are begging to be sharpened even further.

What are my skills? Computer programming and technology.

That’s probably my best one. I’m not the greatest, but I’m getting better. So, I’m going to focus on that. First things first, I need to make sure that I’m keeping up on my skill. Most every book that you read on building skills is that you need to be consistently using it, consistently getting out of your comfort zone and working with people who are better than you. So, whatever my plan for passive income (aside from investments), it has to include programming or technology.

Beginning steps?

Go back to school and get a degree

…because the Post 9/11 GI Bill is going to pay me AND the school…to go to school. Free money lying on the table and I get a more formal education in my career. Win fucking win. This one was a no-brainer and I’m currently enrolled in Regis University’s Computer Science program, pursuing a bachelor’s degree. What’s great about them is that they are the only fully-online Computer Science program that is ABET certified. I’m almost halfway done with my first year and I’m having a great time there. It does soak up a lot of my free time, but I’m literally getting paid hundreds of dollars to go every month, so I’m not complaining. I feel like I picked up a second job, except this job is going to train me to be dangerous in my real career.

Start up a bazillion programming side projects (that hopefully turn a profit, but not necessarily)

The only way to get better is to make better things. Make harder things. Make things you’ve never made before. So, I’m going to start churning them out and I have a ton of ideas (which is good, if you’re shooting for a bazillion). Currently, I’m working on:

  • A Tumblr bot that interacts with Reddit, Imgur and Tumblr (right in my comfort zone)
  • An Amazon affiliate website using Ember.js (this is the one that’s out of my comfort zone)

I’ll give more details when I’ve hashed them out a bit, but these ones are currently making me think a lot more, do a lot more and the Amazon site specifically is forcing me to learn new things. What I really enjoy about these projects is that they are ridiculously cheap to start and play with. The total per month cost of keeping the lights on for both sites is $12/mo. If I can make that much back from them, I’ll be happy.

Even more fun is that with Digital Ocean and Namecheap, I can have an idea one minute…and maybe 10–20 minutes later have a new server spun up with my domain of choice. This website, my Tumblr bot and my affiliate site (thanks to some Apache configuration) are all running under one roof at Digital Ocean for a measly $10/mo. Not bad for having the perfect sandbox to try out new ideas and technologies!

Repeat until I get a bachelor’s (or master’s)

Yes, I’m kind of in a holding pattern. I love my current job, I love my current school…and in my spare time I can create tons and tons of projects. So, I’m going to hold here for awhile. Once I have my degree and I have more spare time, if I haven’t already gotten a better salary, that will be my next goal. Either that, or starting a real business. For now, I will continue to put out more and more projects that hopefully generate me a bit of income to at least pay for themselves…although I think they already will, in terms of future marketability for my skills.

Do you have a side-hustle? Pet projects? What are you doing on the side to get better?

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