Side Hustle Report: How I Made $102,131 Last Year With Gigs

Welcome to my side hustle income report, where I document all the ways I make extra money. This report details exactly what I made in the previous year, from taking advantage of countless sign-up bonuses to utilizing various gig economy platforms.

The great thing about side hustles (or side gigs) is that every extra dollar you earn can help you in your personal finance goals – whether that’s saving for your next vacation, paying off those pesky credit card debt and student loans, or contributing to your retirement accounts.

I hope that these reports can help inspire you as you embark on your own financial journey. Let’s get started!

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Happy New Year, everyone! Financially, I hope 2024 will bring you guys many new opportunities to save and make money. Thank you for your continuous support last year, it’s great to write about a topic I’m deeply passionate about that helps my audience be better off financially at the same time.

I wanted to review the ways I made extra money in 2023. Long-term readers have no doubt taken advantage of some of the things listed here, but it’s still important to look back as a sanity check.

Note that I only count extra money as income earned outside of my primary job and stock investments, so W-2 wages (self-employment income) and brokerage/retirement investment gains won’t be shown here.

1. Babysitting Dogs and Cats: $9,883.80

I love pets, especially dogs. I’ve been close to buying or adopting one so many times, but our hectic work and travel schedule prevents this from happening. It wouldn’t be fair for the potential furry friend.

So in late 2022, I found the next best thing. I would babysit other people’s pets when I’m home with pet sitting apps like Rover, giving them love while making money at the same time.

Being a pet sitter is easy. You sign up for a free account and pass a quick background check. Then you select what type of pet you’re willing to host (breed, age, size, etc.) and what you’ll charge for your services. Insurance for both parties is provided by the platform.

My strategy was to charge a low fee at first since I didn’t have any reviews compared to other sitters and needed to build up my reputation. As I received more glowing reviews, I increased my fee over time and now have a steady flow of new and repeat customers.

Last year, I made $9,883.80 looking after pets. That number was due in part to a repeat client that loved the way I took care of her dog, she booked my service for an entire month during the holidays which brought in over $3,000!

Rover Earnings Summary
(Earning Summary: Rover App)

I only accept small dog breeds that don’t shed too much because we like to keep the house clean. To be honest, it’s not that much work besides taking them out for walks/bathroom breaks and playing with them around the house.

Plus, pets are mood boosters! They keep me company while I’m working. Take a look at this guy below, how can he not brighten up your day (and put money in your pocket):

Rover dog sitting on The Money Ninja computer desk
(Image of a Rover dog on my computer desk)

2. Bank Account Bonuses: $14,300

I made $14,300 by opening bank accounts that offer sign-up bonuses last year! As you may know, many financial institutions want people to try out their banking products and entice new customers with account-opening bonuses to do so. That’s why you should always check if there are promotional offers available and avoid opening an account directly with the bank.

The largest bonus I received was $3,000 from opening a Chase Private Client checking account. It was by far the biggest deal I took part in (it’s still available), but the deposit tiers will pigeon hole this to people who have a sizeable amount of money available.

The smallest bonuses I earned were $50 that were offered by both the Novo checking account and the Current checking account. They were super easy to do – I needed to fund my Novo account with $100 for 30 days and I had to make a direct deposit of $200 to my account to get the welcome bonuses.

Axos Bank Savings$300
Chase Business Checking$400
Chase Private Client$3,000
Chase Total Checking$300 Checking$50
Fifth Third Checking$350
SoFi Checking$325
TD Bank Savings+Checking$500
Upgrade Rewards Checking$100
U.S. Bank Checking$800

Astute readers may noticed that the total amount from the table above is only $7,150. The amount was doubled because we opened the same accounts under my wife’s name. She wasn’t added as a joint owner on my accounts, thus she’s eligible for the same bonuses.

There are hundreds of bank account promotions, and while some are state/region specific, most are available nationwide. Having said that, you shouldn’t open a bank account based solely on the welcome offer it provides. You need to look at its features and benefits to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Sometimes you need to try out several accounts before you realize which ones are a good fit. How can you gauge the customer service level if you’re not a client or maybe you didn’t appreciate receiving your paycheck two days earlier that some products offer as a benefit (e.g. Chime).

The bonuses are the cherries on top, but not the primary factor.

3. Cash Back Shopping: $12,803.34

Every time I shop online, I always check several cash back shopping portals to see which one is offering the highest cash back percentage for the place I’m buying things from. I earned $12,703.34 from this “side hustle” in 2023!

Cash back shopping portals give users a percentage back of what they spend on purchases. Legit cash back sites are pretty straightforward. Users sign up for a free account and then use the site to start their shopping. Instead of going directly to a store’s website, you first log in to a cash back site, click on a link that would take you to that store’s site, and then complete your shopping as usual.

After the cash-back site verifies your transaction, you’ll earn money back that’s based on the dollar amount of your purchase and the percentage of cash back offered at that time.

I cringe inside every time my friends buy things online and forget to use a cash back shopping portal. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Friend: Hey! Guess what? I’m going on vacation! I booked a week-long vacation at a Marriott resort in the Cayman Islands and I also bought a few nice tropical outfits at Neiman Marcus for the trip last night!
Me: Nice – you deserve it! Take lots of pictures. How much cashback did you get from the shopping portals?
Friend: Shoot – I forgot! What did I miss out on? I spent about $3,000 at Marriott and $500 at Neiman Marcus.
Me: Well, right now TopCashback is offering 6% cashback at Marriott and Rakuten is giving 8% back at Neiman Marcus, so that’s $180 for Marriott and $40 for Neiman. You missed out on $200.

Unfortunately, this is all too common. The hard part is remembering to use these portals, although if you make it a habit, it will eventually become second-hand.

After crunching the numbers from last year, here’s what I made across the various cash back sites:

Mr. Rebates$554.68

You can see that I earned the most cash back with Rakuten. They tend to offer high percentages back at the stores I shop with the most (electronics, software, cloud computing services, car rentals, and travel). Additionally, it’s the only site that you’re able to convert cash back into American Express Membership Rewards points.

Every cent of cash back is worth one Amex point, so $1.00 of cash back is equivalent to 100 Amex points. I value each Amex point conservatively at 1.5¢, which means I’m getting 50% more by electing to earn points instead of cash back.

Of course, this is only worth it if you have an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points and value them highly because you redeem them for travel. Otherwise, I recommend Rakuten users to stick with the standard cash back option.

4. Mobile Apps: $5,143.78

I’m a big fan of earning rewards on things you need to do on day-to-day basis. I think we can all agree that most people need to buy groceries, get gas for their car, and dine out at restaurants.

But did you know that there are free mobile apps that you give you rewards (all apps listed in that post offer a new user bonus) by simply using them to take pictures of your receipts? I earned a total of $5,143.78 worth of cash and gift cards last year doing just this.

Receipt Hog$440.00

For example, my Porsche Cayenne is a bit of a gas guzzler, but I use the Upside app to get as much as 25¢ cash back for every gallon of gas that I purchase. The fuel tank capacity of the Cayenne is nearly 24 gallons, so sometimes I get as much as $6 back when I refill my car!

Another app I use is Ibotta, which gives you cash back when you buy groceries at many popular supermarkets like Market Basket, Shaw’s, and Whole Foods. Ibotta paid me $751.40 for scanning my receipts with promoted items. I double-dip this with the Shopkick app, which you don’t even need to buy anything to earn rewards. You can literally scan barcodes at the grocery store and make some extra money.

Then there’s Seated, a restaurant reservations app that pays you back up to 30% of your dining bill. I took a bunch of family and friends to dinner at Savin Bar and Kitchen over the holidays and racked up a tab of $900.

Seated offered 28% back at Savin that night, so I got earned $252 in rewards for scanning the receipt. I redeemed those rewards for gift cards and bought myself a couple of nice things.

The only negative with Seated is the limited geographic footprint – it’s only available in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. for now, but they’re expected to expand to other cities soon.

I wouldn’t use these rewards apps with the expectation that you’re going to make a ton of money, but cumulatively, it’s significant enough to be worth your time.

5. Credit Card Rewards: ~$60,000

And finally, good ole credit cards. I can’t even begin to guess how much I made and saved since I was 18 years old, the age I got into the credit card game. It’s probably an understatement if I said I received less than $3,000,000 in value from doing so.

When I was a college student, I recall seeing people willing to sign up for credit cards in exchange for free t-shirts and BBQ sets. I was like, “Nooooo! Stop! Applying for credit cards is worth much more than a cheap Gildan-branded t-shirt!”

Credit cards are a huge business for card issuers and they’re willing to provide massive welcome bonuses to have you as a customer. Don’t settle for less. My minimum value threshold is $500 worth of cash, points, or miles to apply for card.

For example, I applied and got approved for the Capital One Venture X credit card. It offers a slew of benefits, but the most enticing aspect was the 75,000 bonus miles the card provides as a welcome bonus. My wife also applied for the same card, so we ended with 150,000 total miles.

We each transferred 70,000 miles to British Airways to fly business class from Boston to Maldives on Qatar Airways. Business class tickets on that route normally sell for $5,000 – $10,000!

That’s definitely worth getting a new credit card – flying on top of a bed (Qatar calls them Qsuites) for 16 hours ain’t too shabby!

Credit cards, when used responsibly (pay your monthly balance in full, don’t use it to go into debt, etc.), will open up opportunities that are typically reserved for the rich. Head over to my credit card portal to find the right card for you and the sign-up bonus it’s offering.

The Bottom Line

For 2023, I made $102,130.92 from side hustles. That’s crazy to even type it out and see how much everything adds up. Compare that to the median household income in the United States of $70,784. I make more money with part-time hustles than the annual income of half of the households in America.

I’m not stating that everyone can make this much from side gigs. I certainly didn’t make nearly as much the first year I started. Your finances may also limit you in pursuing some of the ventures I listed.

But if you’re willing to start and dip your toes in the water, it’s more feasible and less intimidating than you think.

A former co-worker reached out to me recently to ask for some money-making ideas. I suggested several options, like earning $300 just by opening a Chase Bank checking account and depositing $500. She scoffed (politely) at my recommendations and said these aren’t big enough to significantly impact her life.

And that’s part of the problem – so many people are looking for that home run or grand slam opportunity that doesn’t exist. They don’t realize that baby steps will eventually lead to bigger things, what we call the snowball effect. Success isn’t built overnight.

I made less than $6 at my first job bagging groceries for a local supermarket. Everything I’ve done since then has been incremental, picking up new skills and knowledge along the way that would snowball to bigger and better opportunities.

Start small. Think big.

About John Pham

John Pham is a personal finance expert, serial entrepreneur, and founder of The Money Ninja. He has also been fortunate enough to have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report. John has a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a Masters in Business Administration, both from the University of New Hampshire.

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1 day ago

Thanks for the info. You are an inspiration. I am a single mother/recent cancer survivor and have been doing credit card bonuses and bank bonuses for many years! I also turned my tool shed into an Airbnb, with these I am able to stay at home with my kids! You are correct, even though each may seem like a small amount, it all adds up!