The Side Hustle Snowball: How to “Erase” Your Expenses with Extra Income Streams

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

I want to introduce a concept I call The Side Hustle Snowball.

If you’ve heard about Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” framework, this may sound familiar.

Here’s how The Side Hustle Snowball works:

You itemize out your expenses and then aim to come up with side hustle income to cover them, starting with the smallest and working your way up.

Once you reach the bottom of your list, you don’t need your job anymore!

The reason I like this framework is setting out to replace your income with a side business can be a daunting task. The Snowball approach breaks it down into mini-victories and lets you celebrate your progress along the way.

And just like a real snowball, it picks up steam, size, and momentum as it gets rolling.

The Side Hustle Snowball in Action

Let’s look at some real-life examples of how you can make extra money. These are some of my actual monthly expenses*.

Dollar Shave Club – $3.29.

Gotta keep this dome smooth and shiny.

shoulder rides

Like father, like son.

I can sell just one gig on Fiverr and cover this one. In June, my Fiverr efforts brought in $136.

fiverr earnings

Netflix – $9.99. 

Hardly an essential expenditure, but something we enjoy in those rare moments of downtime.

One easy way to mentally cover small expenses like this is to buy shares of dividend paying stocks, like AT&T. With a current dividend yield of 4.6% and a share price of $42, it would only take 62 shares to cover your annual Netflix habit.

Looking for better yield? Here are some interesting alternative investment options.

Life Insurance – $13.86.

Even though I fully trust Bryn will be just fine financially without me, I did set up this policy before our little guy was born.

Do you have something lying around in the garage or attic? I bet it’s worth $14 to someone on Craigslist or eBay.

I just listed a little Weber BBQ for sale. Hasn’t been used in years but still in perfectly good shape!

Gym Membership – $17. 

I don’t get the gym as often as I used to, instead opting for more efficient home-based workouts (or — if I’m being honest — none at all). But I like to go to yoga class there when I can, so I keep the membership.

One interesting way to get this covered might be with mystery shopping apps like Field Agent, which pays $3-10 for jobs like taking pictures of product displays in certain stores.

Cell Phone Bill – $50.00.

With Ting, our average bill is around $50 a month (less than half what it was at Verizon!).

To cover this, you would need to sell about 25 Kindle books at $2.99. That’s less than 1 a day.

kindle sales chart

These sales numbers are a little low, but it’s been a couple years since I’ve had a “hit” book. (I’m working on a new title this summer!)

Gas – $50.00. 

Thankfully working from home limits my expense here. Still I’ve somehow managed to rack up 80,000 miles in 8 years!

Side note: Just realized I’ve been a full-time side hustler for 8 years!

But if you rely on your car to commute for work, why not put it to work for you — at least enough to pay for itself. I bet you could drive with Lyft one or two nights a month and cover your monthly vehicle expenses.

If you don’t want other people in your car, there are a dozen different delivery services that have popped up as part of the “gig economy.”


(image source)

Internet and TV – $80.91. 

People like to hate on Comcast, but they’ve generally been pretty reliable as an ISP and I depend on them to be able to run my business online. We’ve got the basic cable package and Internet service.

One way to cover this would be to write a freelance article or two. I don’t do a lot of this, but have been paid $75 + traffic-based performance incentives for articles I have written the last couple years.

My guest Gina Horkey even turned her freelance writing side hustle into a full-time business and now charges up to $250 per article!

Car Insurance – $82.71.

Because we drive old, inexpensive cars, and have safe driving records (knock on wood!) our insurance is pretty cheap. And yes, 15 minutes actually did save us 15% by switching to GEICO :)

I covered this last month with book sales through CreateSpace:

createspace royalty balance

Surprisingly, my bestselling paperback title is actually Volume 1 of The Side Hustle Path series, which is free to download on Kindle.

Here’s some more info on why you might consider giving a book away on Amazon and how to get it done.

Utilities – $120.00. 

For us, this includes gas and electricity, water, and garbage service. During the summer it’s a little higher due to running the air conditioning.

In May, I was able to cover this through consulting calls on

clarity earnings

If you’re not familiar with this cool by-the-minute consulting platform, here’s my guide on getting started.

Groceries – $400.

We spend about $100 a week to feed our faces, mostly from Costco and Trader Joe’s.

For most of the last year and a half, I was buying groceries with proceeds from online course sales on Udemy and Skillshare. But for the last couple months my Udemy earnings have taken a hit, so I’m looking for some new “grocery money”:

udemy earnings post pricing changes

Child Care – $800.

This is the biggest new additional expense our bundle of joy has brought us. Since I work from home, I have to ask the sometimes-challenging question: “Did I at least make enough to pay for daycare today?”

daycare expense

Some days the answer is no. In fact, a lot of days the answer is no — because these days I tend to spend most of my hours on stuff that’s indirectly monetized, chasing that elusive passive income :)

But now we’re getting into the big ticket items. How to pay for this one?

On the podcast last year, Travis Scott shared how his Amazon FBA side hustle went from $500 a month to over $4000 a month, so the “buy low, sell high” business model is definitely one option.

A new income stream for me this year is podcast sponsorship. Lately the show has been directly earning about $300 a week (after production costs), which is a nice way to cover our little hustler’s daycare.

Rent – $2200. 

Ahh the big one. If only we could make this disappear, right?

make rent disappear

One creative guest of mine actually did just that by renting out some spare space on Airbnb, but if that’s not a viable option for you, I think this one is going to take some time to tackle.

On The Side Hustle Show, you’ve heard dozens of ways to earn $2200 a month or more, but in my case the process usually looks like this:

  1. Build some unique and helpful asset.
  2. Market the crap out of it.
  3. Figure out a way to monetize it.

The assets and marketing methods have varied (and will continue to), but one consistent monetization method — at least for me — has been affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is a fancy way of saying “helping other companies sell their products or services online.”

As an example, I wrote a post early this year promoting Udemy’s New Year’s Sale. It was a pretty blatant affiliate play, which I openly admitted, yet I had people thanking me in the comments.

Why? Because it was helpful to them!

But I didn’t call it “Udemy’s New Year’s Sale”; I called it the much more clickable and content-heavy “The 101 Best Udemy Courses for Entrepreneurs, Freelancers, and Side Hustlers“.

Then I marketed the crap out of it.

When the dust settled, the post netted almost $7000 in affiliate earnings.

But here’s the thing. I don’t know if I could have pulled that off on a brand new site without two and a half years of Side Hustle Nation under my belt.

The projects that cover my rent took months and sometimes years to build. The good news is they’ve been really fun, inspiring, and educational to work on.

Wrapping Up

Again, that’s just what my Snowball looks like. Yours might be bigger or smaller or feature entirely different income streams.

In fact, for the sake of simplicity, you might be able to cover ALL your expenses with ONE business. But don’t aim to bite off the entire expense list all at once. Celebrate covering the little costs and work your way up to the big ones.

I hope you can make use of The Side Hustle Snowball framework along your own journey to financial freedom.

Your Turn

Did you find this post helpful? If so please consider sharing it!

*Sticklers will note that I’m paying for these expenses with after-tax dollars, so really would need to earn a bit more to pay for them. But you get the idea.

side hustle snowball pin

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43 thoughts on “The Side Hustle Snowball: How to “Erase” Your Expenses with Extra Income Streams”

  1. Such a unique way to look at it – it takes a scary and unattainable-looking amount and breaks it smaller, manageable goals.

  2. I really love this concept, Nick! I also try to think of my spending in terms of side hustles. One expensive dinner might equal one more freelance article I have to write or a few weeks of social media consulting services. It’s helped me even out some of those pesky impulse buys!

  3. Chock full of goodness is this article, Nick. You know I’ve been dancing around the edges of blogging and affiliate sales for more than 10 years now. I’m familiar with the snowball idea, just getting that first few dollars a month coming in is critical towards getting started for real and for building momentum.

    Yet even thinking I have a good grasp of what’s going on I have to admit I completely missed the idea over the years of piggybacking on a sale like your Udemy success story. What an eye opener. Thanks for that.

    And for those before tax and after tax wanna be CPA’s, think about this. Instead of living in California (or some other huge tax bite state), one could always move to the Philippines, like me, reduce monthly costs drastically and eliminate ALL state taxes and shield the first $100k of earned online income from the IRS … legally.

    It’s always a profitable thought, guys and gals.

  4. Great post! Let’s assume that you live in an area where things like Gigwalk, Airbnb, Uber, etc are not viable ways to earn income, and you’re just starting out. You have no blog and no readers to promote to. Then what would you do?

  5. What a neat idea! I don’t do things quite like this, but I do have a daily income goal that I want to meet in order to make sure I pay all the bills each month. It helps me to break it down into a daily goal.

  6. Awesome Nick! I haven’t thought about breaking down my monthly expenses this way but I’m definitely going to do that now. I’m working on a side hustle to sell on Amazon and a private chef service too. Thank you for introducing me to The Side Hustle Snowball, Thank you!

  7. Nick, this is really inspiring and so well explained! Great to hear that the podcast is now holding its own! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Loved this post! Thanks Nick for sharing. Have been a constant listener of your podcast. I gotta get started with this side-hustle snowball. Such a good way to encourage us to start small.

  9. I LOVE this idea. I am trying to start more side hustles, I have three, but I keep getting bogged down with the amount of money I need to cover expenses. This way of looking at it is perfect!
    Enjoy all your posts btw!

  10. This is great! I realized that my small pots of passive income are actually worth something. What a difference a mindset can make! This may just be the push I need to start another side-hustle. I don’t need to make it big, just big enough to cover a few of my bills!

  11. All the little ways we can tackle our needs in life. Thanks for writing this. It really does take years to build up the snowballs you need in life, but, once you have them, they maintain themselves so nicely.

  12. Wow! Great, resource-filled post. We are using side hustles to pay off debt right now, but this is a perfect way to think about our future. We plan to semi-retire in a few years, earning just enough to pay for our low living expenses (no debt) and let the 401k grow. We’re going to use flexible and part-time hustles to cover expenses just like you’ve outlined above. It can be done!

  13. Interesting. I’ve always been looking at ways to increase passive income via dividend stocks, rental real estate, etc. I hadn’t considered this mental mapping of income to expense.

    It does make the final accomplishment feel more attainable, and make you more aware of adding any new expenses. But with a non-sleeping baby at home, this kind of overhead will have to wait til we’re both getting more sleep!

  14. Love the article and the concept of showing how easy it is to cover the costs of each individual expense by side hustling. It shows that a little hard work or hustling on the side can make a huge difference and can result in covering a lot of your expenses! I just clicked searched to check out the potential hustling opportunities!

    Take care and thanks for taking the time to write this!


  15. Awesome article! I’ve applied this same approach when I look at my total dividends each quarter. I basically say, hey, this payment covered X, Y and part of Z. It is a surreal feeling to see more and more of my small bucket items be covered by an automatic portion of my portfolio.

    More recently, I’ve truly created a side hustle and its crazy to see how within 4 months I’m generating more on this than in the ~4 years it took to develop my portfolio. Building that dividend was sloooow compared to the results I’m seeing today.

    Thanks for putting this post together!

  16. My blog. Not sure I’d consider it a business yet, or more of a healthy outlet so my girlfriend doesn’t have to hear me talk about personal finance all the time. :)

  17. I have been reading your blog for a long time but somehow missed this post. This is a wonderful post and I am looking to do this but a bit different. I recently lost my rental home due to it being sold and was in the middle of starting my freelancing business so I had no money to get another. So, I moved into an Airbnb and am selling a lot of my possessions. I am going to be adding expenses as I afford them instead of trying to find income for expenses that exist. Obviously, I do have some small expenses but I am starting over in many ways.

    I just to have to say – $2200 for rent? Where do you live? $2200 rent or mortgage would get you a half million dollar house which is huge. The house in that picture would be half that here in Kansas City.

  18. I love this way of looking at earning a second income. It also makes it more concrete than when people say they’re aiming for six-figures or they want to retire (but have no idea of what they need to retire on).

    Reminds me on the Your Money or Your Life book principles.

    As for me, I’ve got quite a few income streams including Udemy (similar income to yours), ongoing affiliate income and a few others. One funny one is a bookstore (not Amazon) where I signed up to their program more than 5 years ago and my link must have been picked up by a library because they often have orders of $500+ and I earn 5% on the sale. This happens weekly and is a little blessing when I get paid each month.

  19. Thanks for a great show Nick! I’ll give this a try starting with my smallest expense. I buy about one postage stamp per month, which costs 58 pence. That’s about 75 cents. Do you have any suggestions for how I can find 75¢ per month?


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