If it seems to you that it's harder to make ends meet today than just a few months ago, you are right. According to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 1, the shaky economy helped decreased American's average personal income by six-tenths of a percent between December, 2008 and April, 2009. During that same time, according to the report, the cost of goods has increased by six-tenths of a percent. You're spending more but making less. And many economists expect costs, especially for the items on which you tend to spend the most - food and energy - to increase through the end of 2009 and into 2010. Clearly, we're all stuck in a bind.
The fastest way to generate more income is to rent out your unused space - an attic, spare bedroom, outbuilding or garage. People are desperate for storage space. The number of storage facilities in the US has doubled since 2000, according to the Self Storage Association. At the going rate of $2.50 per square foot of storage, renting out a 10 foot by 10 foot space in your attic will net you $250 per month. Don't have an attic? Then rent out your garage. A recent check on Craigslist shows that you can rent your garage for $300 or more, depending on the size and whether the space comes with electricity, heat or other utilities. And if you have the space available and need the extra income, consider renting out that spare bedroom on the third floor. Depending on the area of the country and your adjacency to public transportation, you might be able to leverage half the cost of your mortgage through a boarder.
Before you put a sign up in the front yard or start calling your neighbors to see if anyone is interested, consider these tips: Even when renting to your mother, draw up a formal contract. Make sure both parties understand when the rent is due and what expectations you have for them, in terms of late fees, cleanliness, visitors, etc. You should also set aside a portion of the rent every month in a rainy day fund for repairs or other problems that may arise.
The current recession won't last forever. But the toll it takes on your finances could last much longer than the downturn itself. With a little homework, a weekend of spring cleaning and a dose of enthusiasm, you can turn your unused space into a little money maker and be in a better position to ride out the economy until it turns around.