5 passive income ideas that are almost FREE to start

By Gina Freeman

Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter

May 13, 2024

Read time: 3 min

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Lately, it seems as though there’s a constant buzz about the importance of having more than one income stream—especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Since the cost of basic living has increased in recent years, it’s not uncommon to feel like your money just isn’t stretching as far as it used to. 

But if you’re already working 9 to 5 (or longer), how can you create more income streams that won’t take another 30-40 hours out of your week? Simple—you can focus on passive income.

Passive income is money that you don’t have to go out and earn. For example, income from rental property, dividends from stocks, or royalty checks from an acting job you did in the past. But most of us don’t have those things and can’t easily whip them out. That doesn’t mean you can’t start creating passive income opportunities for yourself now.

Bringing in more money could help you get rid of debt sooner. If you don’t have debt, extra income could help you reach even bigger goals. So how do you make it happen? Are there low-cost to free passive income opportunities—or does it really “take money to make money?”

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You don’t need a lot of money to make money

Many passive income opportunities may interest you:

  • Invest. There's no minimum amount of money required for investing. You can start with small amounts and grow them into larger balances, even with big-name stocks. Major brokerages like Charles Schwab and Fidelity allow you to buy fractional shares in whatever amount you can afford. At Schwab, the minimum is $5. At Fidelity, it’s $1. And through your brokerage account, you could take advantage of property rentals without buying real estate by purchasing shares in real estate investment trusts (REITs).

  • Rent space. Whether you own or rent your home, sharing it could be a way to generate cash. If you rent, be sure to check your lease for rules about housemates.

  • Lend money. Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is essentially a crowdfunded loan. Investors pool their money to make the loans. Lending opportunities start at just $5. 

  • Create and sell. You could create graphic designs, online courses, lesson plans, ebooks, apps, articles, posts, photographs, memes, animations, or videos. There are online platforms where you could sell them or generate advertising revenue. 

  • Automate. Earn through services you set and forget, like dropshipping. Dropshipping is when someone buys something from a retailer that doesn’t have the actual product in hand. Instead, the customer receives their goods directly from a manufacturer, wholesaler, or another shipper.

For instance, you could create a custom hat website and take orders online. When someone purchases one of your hats, you forward their order to your hat wholesaler, who sends the product directly to the customer.  

Get help from an app

You can also use investing apps like Acorns that round up your purchases and invest the change, and from apps like Achieve MoLO (Money Left Over) that help you save more and develop good money management habits.

Related:

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Earn extra bucks doing what you love

Some would say that creating content isn’t exactly passive. It’s work. But it’s possible to earn passive income from your creations with minimal maintenance by doing something you already do for fun, or by teaching other people how to do something you’re good at.

Whether it’s blogging, selling your photography online, making TikTok or YouTube videos, publishing an ebook, creating an online course, or licensing your designs, the internet has made it easy to market your talents worldwide and earn while you sleep. 

Related: 4 simple steps to start your path to financial freedom

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Lend your stuff

Chances are good that you own at least a few things that others would pay to use. Or if it pencils out, you could borrow to purchase something that'll more than pay for itself as you bring in rental income. Some items might be worth buying because their rent potential is high compared to what it costs to buy them. Some of the most profitable rental opportunities include:

  • Bounce houses, which can be bought for $500 and rented for $100-$250 per day

  • Cars ($40-$50 for not-fancy cars)

  • RV ($100-$200 per day)

  • Trailers ($100-$150 per day)

  • Recreational gear ($20 / hr)

  • Short-term property ($50-$800 per night or more, depending on location)

  • Garage and storage space ($25 to $500 per month)

  • Specialty tools ($50-$150 per day)

  • Baby gear (varies)

It’s a good idea in all of these scenarios to also invest in a conversation with an attorney who can help you understand your insurance needs and potential liability. And let your homeowners or auto insurance carrier know what you’re doing, because not all policies allow renting.

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Income streams for life

The more income streams you have from varying sources, the more secure your finances‌ will be. A job loss or financial hardship won’t be as shattering if you’ve got other sources of money. And one of your side gigs could turn out to be more profitable and less work than your current job. These low-risk, low-entry opportunities are ready and waiting—all you need is enthusiasm and creativity. 

Gina Freeman - Author

Gina Freeman has been covering personal finance topics for over 20 years. She loves helping consumers understand tough topics and make confident decisions. Her professional history includes mortgage lending, credit scoring, taxes, and bankruptcy. Gina has a BS in financial management from the University of Nevada.

kim rotter 2022 2

Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

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