Thursday, August 30, 2012

Creating Extra Cash

This week I have already introduced to you The Orange Bird and two doctors wives from my childhood as I ponder what a Doctor's Wife is. Today I'd like to write about other amazing women, some happen to be married to doctors in training. (Doctors in training = that long period of time when you both work harder than you ever have before and get paid less hourly than any other job you've ever had.)

Rather than naming the women - I am going to tell you about what they are doing with their talents, skills, and education to balance their desire to stay at home with their children and also provide income to fill in the gap between the doctor's salary and the expenses of life.

The difference between what our income is and our expenses are often just a few hundred dollars a month. Not enough to necessitate a full-time job, or even a part-time job, but enough to require some creative intervention. Maybe your income and expenses are balanced perfectly, but is so tight that saving for a vacation or Christmas is impossible without a little extra income. Sometimes the answer is getting a clock-punching job. Sometimes the answer is thinking outside the typical definition of working for a pay-check.

Keep reading to see how some spouses/significant others make the numbers "work" while doing what they love.

The Doctor's Wife Needs Some Cash!

Preschool - My daughter is now attending a home preschool run by the wife of a medical intern. She has a masters in Elementary Education and taught in public schools for 4 years. She loves teaching. She also has three small children. She has turned a room of their house into a preschool room, and it is amazing! Preschool meets for 3 hours, 2 days a week. Monthly tuition for this service is $100. She has 8 children enrolled this year. Do the math! That's an extra $800 month. That makes a huge difference. I am thinking a new van payment.

Dance lessons - both of my daughters are taking an introductory ballet class taught by another wife of a medical intern. She studied dance and choreography in college, and has a passion for it that started at a young age and continues to be a big part of her life. She teaches out of her home one day, 50 minute classes. She teaches 6 classes of varying levels in one day, with an average of 6 children per class. That's 36 students at $10 per weekly class for 12 weeks. She will average $1,440 per month.

Musical lessons - whatever your instrument of choice  (piano, voice, guitar, flute, violin, etc) there is someone who would like to learn. Leverage your skills and talents by teaching others. Depending on your level you could teach children, teens, or adults.

Direct Home Sales - if you have an outgoing personality, like real people, and have a product you love (as well as like an excuse to get together) home parties may be something that interest you. They have all sorts of products. Some that I am familiar with are: Mary Kay, Norwex, StampinUp, Gold Canyon Candles, Scentsy, Choffy, Uppercase Living, DoTerra, Lia Sophia, Silpada, Tastefully Simple, Pampered Chef, Thirty One, Stella Dot, and a zillion more. There is a home party business for just about everyone. A little online research will further prove that point. I am convinced there is a particular personality type that does really well in these endeavors - I am not one of them. I like to go, and there are lots of women who do!

Club Nights - a sister to the direct home sales that I have seen successfully done with creative products like Stampin Up! is the Club Night. You need to be a demonstrator to take advantage of this. It works as a guaranteed ordering pool each month. You recruit a number of your friends who enjoy stamping, and ask them to commit to a minimum order purchase every month over 12 months. You provide the supplies, project ideas and run the club night like a workshop. Everyone agrees to spend a certain dollar amount (and everyone always spends more) regardless of if they are able to attend or not. Each month has a rotating hostess who earns the benefits off the sales and provides the food/beverages. I belonged to a very successful club a few years ago. My obligated monthly order was $25, but it was always $35-$40. She had 24 members of the club and held two classes over a weekend each month. If everyone ordered the minimum, that months orders would be $600. Of course it will be more because spending exactly $25 is nearly impossible. You keep 20% of the sales which would be $120 profit each month. For the women attending it is just fun - they get to talk and be creative!

Beauty Services - the woman who currently cuts my hair now is a law-student spouse. She gives a great hair cut out of her home for $20 for adults and $10 for kids. If you already have acquired these skills, the amount of money required to start is really negligible. Haircuts don't require a huge investment of time and can be scheduled around just about anything. And if you are awesome you will be in demand. Who doesn't love a great cut at a great price. You can actually afford to keep that new short crop looking new all year long!

Mothers Day/Night Out - what a brilliant idea! I have seen this work twice already in our new city. A spouse of a resident posts one day a month when she will be open for a mother's day out. She sets the time and duration and number of children she will take. You commit to the full time, usually 3 or 4 hours. She also sets the price per child. By opening her home to multiple children at the same time she is maximizing her time and profits. I know I could use a day off, afternoon off, or evening off. I wish she would do it more often. Imagine if you only charged $3 per hour/child. You could charge more/less, you could take more children if you had help. If you had 4 children scheduled for a 4 hour block of time you would have made $48. If you did that every week that would be almost $200. I know my child have infinite more fun when other kids are around and it basically works like a big play date that has a fee associated and no reciprocation!

Technical Training - If you have a skill that others would like to learn, consider putting a class together and make some extra cash. I am planning on taking a photography class. It is a two week course, two nights a week for a total of 4 classes for $80. She had 23 people express interest in taking it. If each of those people actually schedule a class that is $1,840. I am thinking quick Christmas cash, or little vacation.

Photography - who doesn't love to have photographs taken? Digital cameras are amazing, but you still need a photographer with good editing skills to make them look professional. If you have a decent camera and some photo editing software this could be for you! How much would you pay for nice photographs. Twice in my life I have paid $100 for a session, and I thought that was steep. I love finding new photographers who are just getting started. Fall/Christmas time seems to be when everyone is wanting to have pictures taken. Stop practicing on your own family and jump in now! I would hire you:-)

Tutoring - are you good with math, reading, science? Depending on the grade level you might have just the skills to help another child with their studies through tutoring. Prices for tutoring can vary depending on area. Do some research and let people know you are available.

Accounting/Tax Services - if you prepare taxes there is a market for you. There is an entire country that needs to file their taxes before April 15 each and every year. I for one would rather have someone I know do them rather then the guy at the mall or paying for a fancy accounting firm to do them.

Catering Dinner - I have a friend who loves to cook. She likes it so much that she has turned it into a little business. She buys her groceries in bulk, makes a monthly menu, and offers to cook for others who might not have the time or energy to do it. She markets her services to working moms who want to feed the family home cooked meals, but doesn't have the time to do it consistently. The total cost to the customer is less than grabbing take out and is more wholesome. And my friend gets to do what she loves to do - COOK!

Sewing/Alterations - I can sew a straight line, but there are some things that I would never tackle. Hemming scares me, and I would never alter something myself. If you are good with a sewing machine, needle and thread you are set. Have you priced alterations lately? They can be pricey. Sewing or quilting unique one of a kind items are all the rage, you could be one of them.

Crafting - There are so many things that fall into this category! Jewelry making, card making, hair bows, home accents. Whatever you have a passion for there is a potential business there!

Furniture Refinishing - I recently met another resident wife who has gone into furniture refinishing. She finds old furniture at garage sales, off craigslist and even off the side of the road and fixes them up and sells them! Refinishing furniture isn't easy work, but it is amazing what a little elbow grease and paint/stain can do. People pay big bucks for stuff like this!

Think about the people you know and what services they need and use. Is there something that you can provide at a better value? Do you have a passion for something that people are willing to pay for? I like giving business to people that I know, or even better - people that are in the same situation as I am or have been. If I am going to spend the money anyway, I would rather it help a family - not just a business. Don't be afraid to network with those people.

As I have encountered these women I have often thought that I should have studied something more useful in college or developed marketable skills or at least excelled at a particular hobby!  And then I realized, I probably could have done something. At the time I just didn't possess the desire to do it. And I still don't! But if you do, maybe a few of these suggestions will make a difference.

If you are doing something other than what I have covered to contribute to your family finances from your home, leave me a comment and let me know what it is. I'll be sure to add it!



  1. Thank you for this post.
    I haven't found a job yet in my new city and I refuse to dip into my own personal savings account.
    I have thought about babysitting for other residents' wives, but I am afraid that they won't pay me because I'm supposed to be their friend.

    1. If they are going to spend the money on a babysitter anyway why shouldn't it be you:-) I actually wish I would have thought of the Mom's day out myself. I don't necessarily like watching other peoples children, but if I knew I only did it once a week same day/time I think I could have handled it. As a mom who would have appreciated a service like that I totally would have taken advantage of it. This road is long and hard and we forget to take care of ourselves! You would be helping them, they would be helping you.

  2. Please do not tell people that photography is an "easy" way to make money. It is not. PLUS - there are tons of things you need to have in order to be a legit business. Business license, paying the tax man, ect. It is not the occasional child care. Otherwise, it's tax evasion!

    Plus the hours of training and talent that go into photography is much more than most people understand. It is not snap a photo, boom you are done.

    The investment alone is substantial.

    Okay, climbing down off soap box. :)

    1. To clarify, I am a Surgeon's wife and a photographer. So while I understand looking at ways to contribute -- be prepared for the other challenges and things that will be included with that.

    2. A few links - as you can tell I am passionate about this...

    3. I hope I didn't give the impression that any of the items I listed were easy. They certainly aren't! But if someone has a talent, and isn't interested in going all out and committing to a business, these are some suggestions to help bring in some extra cash. Someone like me who isn't in a position to pay a lot to have professional pictures done, knowing someone who can take good pictures and edit them is a service I would pay something for. And if it could help out a struggling medicine family I can't think of anything better. Some people have a natural talent for photography, some don't. Some people want to make a legitimate business out of it, some don't. The purpose of the post was to get people thinking about what their talents are and how they might leverage them to help their families if they need to. There aren't any get rich quick ideas at work here.

      One day I hope to be able to afford really nice professional photography. Today I can't afford it, so I will be looking for a friend who loves photography to take pictures for Christmas cards this year. It's that or I can attempt to take my own. Have you see the published book of awkward family photos?

  3. One of the reasons these services are so cheap is that they are (I am assuming) cash only under the table. Also, a lot of the things you listed (childcare -- ahem) can be quite hard work, which is why you get paid to do it I guess!

    That being said, I'm all for promoting entrepreneurs.

    Other things that come to mind include:
    dog walking/pet sitting
    interior design (with the right training and portfolio)
    carpool master (actually I am serious -- we will totally be needing someone to do daycare pickups for us next spring)
    freelance writer

    Pay your taxes!! (Ok off soapbox) ;-)

    1. After spending an hour every day this week in the car pick up lane at my children's school there is a real market for that! Some people think child-care is easy but it is not something that I could do. I do not like other peoples children. People who do it, rank up there with saints in my book. You couldn't pay me enough to watch children on a regular basis. I am thankful there are people who do it AND like it!

  4. I think this is a good post but being a surgeon wife in a city with zero friends (non-medical folks) or family makes it COMPLETELY impossible to attempt any of the above (I have my own kids, pets, house to care for) IMO. Not to knock any of your readers who are not surgeon wives but I gotta tell you... I am very talented, speak 3 languages, have early childhood professional experience, babysitting, athletic skills people pay upwards of $70/hour for in a decent market...I could NOT pull it off while in residency. I tried when I had one child and it just didn't work. Trying to balance my husband's ridiculous and unpredictable OR schedule with only paid back up and the networking involved to get a business off the ground...not to mention the risk and liability one takes on when caring for other people's kids (trust me if your kid ended up dead at your friends house from choking on an apple it might take everything you have not to kill/sue them--of course that could happen under your watch but it's a different situation when things happen under a parents' watch v. a babysitter's watch) is too much for this resident wife. When hubs was in medical school and we were without child I ran my own tutoring company. After baby was born a few of my clients paid me my fee plus babysat my baby for free while I tutored their kids bc I was that good. Then residency hit and I've been behind the 8ball the entire time despite my many talents...and I know other wives who have their own kids (1-3) and watch other resident kids for $ and they are good friends. You couldn't pay me to leave my kid with those moms...not because they are bad people but because they honestly don't do a good job of caring for their own kids much less other people's kids. I know a wife who ran herself so ragged she was committed into the mental hospital for a month (had her own 2 kids plus watched 3 other people's kids in her home). After mental hospital stay she continued to watch too many kids and went onto get approved to adopt a foster child... there is no easy way to make it work and we all have to find our balance. I'm just throwing this ba-humbug attitude out there for anyone who feels sad they can't take any of this on. I think your ideas are great and I've tried some of them --- I just don't know how it would work (covering taxes, babysitting, transportation) on a surgical resident schedule with a resident salary in a city with zero help which is the case for a significant amount of residents. Playing devil's advocate here, not trying to be negative.

    1. Some people manage to make it work. As I already admitted, there were probably things that I could have done but our situation was very similar to yours in some ways - so I didn't. If people have a need AND passion these type of endeavors usually have happy endings. No one is happy (provider/receiver) when one person in the equation feels obligated to do something without desire and don't already possess the skills required.

      I have noticed some people work on their hobbies as a way to diffuse some of the stress of residency quite successfully. Finding an outlet to share those talents that also brings some additional revenue (even if it is just to continue their hobby) can keep some women stay sane! When I think about some of my hobbies, some add to my stress - others alleviate it. Watching kids would add to the stress, whereas doing something that allowed me to interact with other adults could alleviate it.

      When I look at the medical student/resident wives that I personally know who are engaged in some of these activities I marvel. They are happy people. I don't hear complaints about how hard things are for them (granted in many case they are just getting started, so it could change) they are living their life outside of the residency trap, which in all honesty can be rather depressing. They don't talk about residency! I find that fascinating!

      Every situation is unique, and should be considered from that perspective. What doesn't work for one may work for another - too many variables exist. I admire people who are able to continue working on the things they love and find ways to share their talents with others. It is too late to undo what has been done, but residency may have gone a little smoother if I had nurtured a talent that could have been useful to others, if nothing else to get me out of the house more. We will never know, that chapter is over.


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