I haven’t made a post on my travel blog in about 3 weeks. It’s that infamous Q4 time for online shopping, so I’ve been spending A LOT of time focusing on getting my side gigs preparing for the season. I’m losing my mind a bit with so much focus on that, so I figure now might be a good time to take a break and give you all some insights for how I make side money to afford traveling more.
It’s worth noting that I live in Los Angeles which is an extremely expensive city, and I also just got my student loan debt down to under $100,000. I say that because I’m hoping it is some motivation that even someone with insane bills like me without a six figure salary can still afford to travel the world. Since my bills are so high, I took to side hustles to fund my travels. I never dip into the money from my job to pay for travel, so I basically figured out how to travel with no money coming out of my regular income.
Some of the things I do to make extra money are now basically passive income. It took some time and effort to get set up, but I can ignore them completely and still continue to make money from them.
So here are some tips for how to find some extra travel funds. Hopefully there is something you find helpful and dive in yourself. Please feel free to leave some comments on the page with any questions and I’ll be happy to give more details.
Merch by Amazon
I wish I found out about Amazon Merch earlier. This is the easiest way to make money online with zero investment needed.
Merch by Amazon, aka Amazon Merch, is a program Amazon runs where they let people upload designs onto their platform that Amazon prints on shirts and gives you a split of the sales. I’m not a designer in any way possible, but I’ve found this such an easy place to make money online. Most of the shirts that I upload are just text based designs with funny or political sayings on them.
The most I ever made on Amazon Merch was $2,500 in a month. I may have pressed my luck a bit much and ended up getting my account banned for copyright infringement. Since then I got my mother to sign up for an account and she “pays me” to run her account for her. Now I’m making about $300-$500 per month after my split with her. The best thing is that I can just stop uploading shirts and they’ll keep sending
me my mom checks.
Amazon has expanding this over the years to include more products, like Pop Sockets, and international distribution. There is a waiting list, so just go sign up now and get started ASAP.
Below is a screenshot of the last 7 days of earnings. The royalties are my cut of the shirt sales.
Etsy and Printful
When my account got banned on Amazon I was devastated. I had built up this collection of designs and wasn’t able to make that money on them anymore. In the Facebook groups for the Amazon Merch community, I found out about an integration between Etsy and Printful. Printful is a print on demand company that puts your designs on shirts, mugs, towels, socks, etc.
I used my Amazon designs on Printful and started a little Etsy side business. There is actual customer service involved with this, unlike Amazon which is 100% hands off. I actually got lucky a month into the business last year around Christmas time having 2 products go somewhat viral making me a couple thousand dollars in December. Currently I’m making around $200-$300 a month and I’m REALLY looking forward to Christmas sales this year.
Below is a screenshot of the last month or so of earnings from my Etsy stores. A small portion of that comes from shirts that I put on my Shopify site and a few mugs I sold on Amazon.
My Shopify Site
Don’t worry, there are other things coming up that don’t involve selling shirts. I just so happened to find that it is a pretty easy way to make some good side cash.
This is another project that I’ve been working on for the last year. I put a lot of time into it, but it honestly isn’t converting that well. I tried to make a teacher gift website using my Etsy/Printful designs. The site gets some traffic, but I’m only selling enough to make anywhere from $20 up to $100 per month after Shopify fees and such. I really like the idea of having my own business so I’m going to keep at it with trying to grow that site.
If the Shopify site ever takes off, it might be my meal ticket to becoming a digital nomad which is my ultimate goal over the next couple of years.
Other POD Sites
POD aka Print on Demand. There are a lot of sites that work like Amazon Merch, but their websites are dedicated 100% just to selling these items unlike Amazon that also wants to try and sell you toilet paper. I’ve once again started recycling the designs from my original Merch account and my Etsy stores to put them on these other POD sites. The best performing site by far is Redbubble that I’m making an average of $100 per month. Next is Spreadshirt that is usually around $40/month. Cafepress and Teespring make a little bit, but is really sporadic. I also upload my designs to Sunfrog, Inktale, Fine Art America, and Zazzle.
This is another thing that I’m really anticipating a good payout for the fourth quarter holiday shopping season.
I know I’m going to be kicking myself in a few months for not focusing enough on this recently. Retail Arbitrage, aka RA, uses a lot of different strategies that different people use. Basically you find discounted products in stores or websites then sell them on other websites. Some people will buy things like sneakers at Marshall’s and flip them for a huge profit, but my bread and butter is getting clearance items from stores like Target and selling them on Amazon.
Earlier this year I got really into it and made a few thousand dollars, but it was a real time suck. A lot of people make a decent living doing just this, so there is something to it if you can figure it out. Right now I have about 40 products on Amazon, mainly toys, so I’m assuming they’ll all sell around Christmas.
Another version of this that is a much lower cost of entry is flipping books on Amazon. I only did this once, but it worked out really well for me. Find used books at places like thrift shops or garage sales, then sell them on Amazon. The one time I did this I bought $30 worth of books at a Goodwill and so far I turned that into $200. There are still a few books that haven’t sold, but that’s not bad for that investment and 2 hours of my time.
My ultimate goal with this travel blog is to get it to start making some money. I have made lots of blogs in the past with different niches and made good money from it. Years ago it was way easier to make money by posting shitty websites, but now it takes more work to build out a real site that earns money. I’ve held onto my old sites that make me about $20 a month with Adsense ads and affiliate links. I’m currently building two other sites in different niches that are starting to get enough traffic that I think I can start monetizing them soon.
Airbnb Affiliate Credits
I’m not exactly making money with Airbnb, but I am getting enough credits to have a free place to stay when I travel. I share my Airbnb coupon code on my site which gives people $40 and some other Airbnb discount hacks.
When someone uses that code, I get $20 put into my Airbnb account to use for future stays. Sharing the code helps me bank some funds that give me free stays. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb yet, go sign up with my code to get that $40 credit then start sharing your code to get $20 per person. It adds up fast and can get you free travel accommodations.
Selling Journals on Amazon
This is what has taken up the majority of my time the last few weeks and I’m really hoping it pays off. It is another thing I learned about from my Amazon Merch Facebook groups that I can recycle my designs with.
KDP is an Amazon owned company that let’s you create books that you can sell as an ebook or as a paperback. I’m not writing books. I’m just taking my tee shirt designs and uploading them for the book cover, uploading an interior full of lines or bullet journal dots, then selling them as journals.
I was shocked that you can sell these books for so cheap and still make some money. For example, a journal listed for $5.99 makes you $1.44. I’m listing them anywhere from $5.99 to $9.99. I’ve only had the journals up for a week but already sold a few!
Credit Card Points
Again, this is like the Airbnb credits where I’m not getting money deposited into my bank account, but I’m getting credits and deals to make it so I don’t have to spend money to travel. When I started to make some money with my Etsy/Printful business, my “tax guy” said I really should start an LLC and also get a business credit card to track the money in the business. I got my LLC set up and signed up for a Chase Ink Business credit card (affiliate link). It’s surprisingly easy to qualify for a business credit card once you have a business set up.
That card gave me 80,000 bonus miles after using it for the first 3 months with my business. That paid for flights and some hotels on my trip to Europe this past April. The miles I’ve been earning since have paid for my flights to Orlando next week and my round trip flights to Hong Kong in November.
In addition to my business credit card, I also have an Amazon Prime credit card. I think this card is good for me since I buy so much stuff on Amazon and Whole Foods. Both places give you 5% back, so every month I’m getting a good amount of credit. The points can be used for buying stuff on Amazon, so I ended up using some of my points to buy all of my travel gear for my European backpacking trip like my awesome backpack, merino wool socks, GoToob shampoo/soap tubes, and compression cubes. I bought more than that actually, but it all came from points I earned with my card.
Some people know how to really hack credit card miles and points. I’m not exactly doing that, although I should learn, but I am getting enough rewards back to fund my travel.
Future Side Hustle Plans
I’m always looking for new schemes to make money. I try a lot of things out, not everything works, but some stick. My ultimate goal is to take my side hustles and turn them into my real income so I can travel as much as I want and not have to go into an office to work for somebody else. Barring something new coming up, I’m planning on getting into these plans next.
Amazon Private Label FBA
Selling stuff I find in stores on Amazon made me realize how easy it is to sell on Amazon. You send them products then they sell it and ship it to their customers. My brother actually has his own business that does very well selling products on Amazon that he sources from China and sells on Amazon. I’ve been looking into what I could sell on Amazon, but I think I need to stop and really take this one seriously since it requires a real investment and some time to figure out. The potential for money is insane though so it is at the top of my list.
Sell a Book
Yeah I sell other people’s used books on Amazon and I sell my journals on there too. From doing that I realized how easy it is to actually have the product online to sell and at zero cost to me. I also noticed there are a ton of people selling thin books without a lot of information or strange fiction that somehow gets a fan base. I’m not sure if I’d write a nonfiction book or write a story, but I will have a book for sale on Amazon in the next 3 years. Putting that out in the world! If even one person buys it, that’s going to be a pretty cool feeling that someone bought my book. If a lot of people buy it, then that’s amazing since I’ll also be making money!
Get Paid to Travel
This is another reason I started this travel blog. I have a goal to leverage this to find how to get paid to travel. I know other travel bloggers are making well over 6 figures getting paid to travel around the world in different ways. It will start with getting free hotel stays, meals at restaurants, and other free travel perks. In time that should become paid sponsorships and bigger money making opportunities.
Pin these to help me get some traffic and live that travel dream sooner 🙂
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