Passive Income Ideas ala Babci

by Sandy L on March 24, 2011

I was reading a post the other day by Money Crush on Passive Income Ideas and it inspired me to write a little post about Babci’s little side gigs and how it’s helped her with her personal finances over time.   Money Crush’s article focused on the tech savvy readers and no matter how street smart Babci is, I don’t think she’ll be writing an e-book anytime soon.

If I think about most of Babci’s passive income examples, most of them actually fall under the category of “cost avoidance”.  If you’re a purchasing person, you’ll know that this stuff is not really hitting the bottom line, but sure would add up fast if it were added to the budget.

Passive Income – Snow Removal

Perhaps it’s just her utter cute little old ladyness, or the fact that we just lucked out on having great neighbors, but anytime people see Babci out in the yard trying to shovel her own driveway, there are at least 3 different neighbors who come over with their industrial sized snowblowers to do most of the work for her.

Babci is grateful and she pays them back with baked goods, sauerkraut, and veggies from her garden year round.  I think after this horrible winter, my neighbors deserve gift cards and a 12 pack as well.

Babci would never pay for snow removal, she’d risk breaking her hip first (much of why I think my neighbors run over to help).   She saves hundreds every season by not paying for a plow, but that is her way..why pay someone when you can do it yourself?

Passive Income – Gardening

Babci grows enough in her little garden to feed the whole neighborhood, all my friends and herself to boot.  Not only does she grow that much food, but she happily gives it all away to people.   This is usually returned in the form of labor.   Every year, we get a gang of people over in June to pick currants. In 2 hours, my friends pick enough currants to make 40 jars of jelly. It’s tedious and slow and would take one person a week to do it.  In addition to that, we always have helping hands when we need an able bodied person to lug a bathtub or help with a project.

I guess some people would think that it would be more efficient to get a stall at a farmer’s market, but giving things away is a much better way to build a sense of community.  She gives to people and people give back to her.

Passive Income – Foraging + Scratch Cooking

Wild Mushrooms go for about $16/# around here.  For years my mom and uncle went blueberry and mushroom picking annually.  Babci’s robo-knees have retired her from this past time but she is dying to go mushroom picking this year with myself and my children as her designated pickers.   Let’s face it, food is expensive and the less you have to buy, the better off you are.

The other area I think she excels is her scratch cooking. She goes through a ton of flour and eggs and I can’t believe how many things she can make with just a handful of ingredients.

Passive Income – Sewing

Babci made my wedding dress. She also made my prom dress and countless outfits for me growing up. Although I hated her for the bowl haircut and polyester pants that made people mistake me for a boy til age 12, I did start appreciating her sewing skills when I hit high school. I remember the style was a sort of skinny pant and I’d make her take in the ankles until I barely could get my foot through them.  She also sews all her own dresses and pants.   I imagine she’s saved tens of thousands of dollars by not buying clothing every year.

Savings is Cost Avoidance

If I think about all the things that Babci does that makes her completely self sufficient, it’s no wonder she could live comfortably on a minimum wage salary. I always say that if the apocalypse hits, I’d want her to be one of the people on my side. She can grow stuff, sew stuff and find wild food in the woods. Since she grew up with no electricity or running water, I’m sure she knows how to tap a well and start a fire pretty darn well too.

What are your favorite Passive Income or Cost Avoidance practices?

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole March 24, 2011 at 8:23 AM

Yay Babci!

Um… my favorite passive income is dividend-bearing stocks. My favorite cost-avoidance is living in squalor. Don’t judge me!


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:09 PM

Nicole – LOL. I’m sure you’re exaggerating about your home. Some of the most interesting people I know have messy houses because they are busy doing fun stuff.


Nicole March 24, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Even work is more fun than cleaning!


Cesar March 24, 2011 at 8:56 AM

My cost avoidance is yard work. I refuse to pay someone money to do what I can do. I also do all or most home improvements. The labor is so expensive!


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Cesar – yeah, we do most of our home improvements and yard work too and we still spend a fortune on fixing our homes. I can’t imagine what it would be if I farmed it out.


Cesar March 26, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Another good thing to do is to go to the Habitat for Humanity stores before going to the home improvement stores for items you need. You just might get lucky and find what you need for more than 50% off the cost of price of the big stores. I also find other items that turn into home improvement projects at a great savings.


Niki March 24, 2011 at 9:13 AM

We do most of these, besides the foraging. We have never had a garden either, but this year we are starting one. I am very excited to do it, even if most plants have heard of my infamous black thumb and have nightmares of being in my garden. Like Cesar, we do a lot of our own home improvements, now, since we paid way too much to get a few things done, labor is expensive. I always Google how to fix or do something, before looking for phone numbers to call.


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Niki – The last time I actually considered using a contractor was to put up a fence. He gave me a quote and then I calculated out how much it would cost per post hole..You want to charge me $150/hole, really? It wasn’t long before I had the shovel out. I mean that’s a lot money to dig a hole and run a straight line across my lawn.


Squirrelers March 24, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Great way to put it about savings as cost avoidance. One can look at that as sort of an income stream, in terms of money saved from what would normally, historically been spent. Living in a cost-cutting, cost-avoidance environment can make the need for income less onerous, which makes a big difference it itself.

By the way, I always used to do my own snow shoveling. Note I said shoveling. I wouldn’t ever buy a snowblower, as to me it was cheaper and better excercise shoveling. Then I threw out my back after shoveling following a good size storm, and learned my lesson. There are some things that it’s good to spend money on – whether directly or indirectly through exchange.


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Squirreler – I can’t imagine life without a snowblower after last winter. It would have been at least 40 hours of extra work using a shovel and probably more.


Molly On Money March 24, 2011 at 10:14 AM

I do everything on Babci’s list (I hope she would be proud). Snow removal has always double as my work-out for the day! Selling old books online is one we’ve just added to our passive income.


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Molly – that’s a nice idea. I sold a bunch of books last year (the ones that I didn’t sell at my tag sale). I did better than I thought I would on them. Yes, babci would be proud. You get snow in AZ?


Molly On Money March 24, 2011 at 11:13 PM

We’re in Santa Fe, NM (up in the high desert). We get several snow storms with 2-3 ft of snow. I have 200′ drive that we have to shovel out or it turns ice packed driving over it.


Sandy L March 25, 2011 at 2:33 AM

Wow. Cool. I didn’t realize you got 4 seasons where you live. Neat.


Linda March 24, 2011 at 10:58 AM

I need to learn to sew. I even have a perfectly good sewing machine I bought a few years ago when I was living as a DINK and blew lots of money at Costco every few months on stuff I didn’t need. (I also have a lot of camping gear that I never use; I think I’ll put that on Craigslist this year and get it out of the basement.)

I do all the rest of those things, too, but I don’t know how to identify mushrooms and only forage ramps in the Spring. I think it’s technically illegal to forage from the numerous forest preserves in Cook County, but I’m respectful and only dig up a bit here and there; I never wipe out an entire plot. I also have seen women picking grape leaves in the forest preserve, so I’m not the only one foraging on the sly.


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Linda – the picker’s rule on mushrooms is you don’t pick them but you slice them with a knife and leave the roots so that spores are left behind and can come back next year. My parents would also take a few mushrooms, crumble them up and throw them in new places to help spread the spores.

Email me the tent you have. I’m actually in the market for a used tent.


Mel March 27, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Mushroom picking is a national sport where I live – in early autumn every forest is full of people with baskets of them. There’s also a saying, something like: “A person with a mushroom field guide in their hand is on their way to the hospital”. Basically, if you have to rely on a book, you shouldn’t be doing it. Each family has ‘their’ mushrooms they gorge on every year, and won’t touch any others – regardless what anyone says.

General rule (very general – there are exceptions and I definitely wouldn’t trust it alone) here is if the underside is gills it’s poisonous, spongy it’s ok. Obviously button mushrooms are an exception!


Sandy L March 28, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Mel – our mushroom of choice around here (at least for the polish people) are the slippery jacks or king boletus. The general rule is a good one. The other general rule is that if it grows on a tree, you’re probably okay. Sure you probably wouldn’t want to eat a turkey tail because it tastes like bark, but it probably won’t kill ya. Where do you live?


Mel March 29, 2011 at 4:08 AM

I live in Czech republic. Mushrooming was a very new experience for me, so probably with the exception of boletus I only know the Czech names! 🙂 But foraging in the forest is something I now look forward to every year, and it’s a nice way to go for a gentle walk “in the nature” with my fiance’s grandmother.


retirebyforty March 24, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Sounds like Babci is really awesome at gardening. What a great way to build the community!
Fresh produce at the farmer market is quite expensive. I’m sure everyone really appreciate her fruites and veggies.
Heh heh, we don’t have to shovel snow up here in the Pacific Northwest.


Sandy L March 24, 2011 at 5:22 PM

RB40 – Must you rub it in? The farmer’s market is expensive here too. Good thing I have my own farmer. The trick is to get her to grow the things I want to eat, not the things that are easy to grow. I really don’t need 8000 zucchinis. I’m going to buy some flats for her this year of some oddball things. She cursed my broccoli because the bunnies were eating it all and leaving none for us and refuses to grow it now.


eemusings March 24, 2011 at 8:56 PM

It doesn’t snow here either 🙂

Haha, when i was younger flared pants were all the rage so I hated my straight up and down pants. But it’s much harder to create a boot cut out of straight legs than a skinny leg out of, well, anything, really.


Money Reasons March 25, 2011 at 1:04 AM

I use to get Money, Kiplingers and sometimes Fortune and Forbes magazines. Now, I just go to the library and check out the issues I want to skim. Not to mention all of the other great magazines. Not a big saving, but it still counts…

Funny you mention about not having a snow blower, mine broke this year. But lucky with my wife, son and myself, we made pretty quick work of it. My wife, while short is pretty tough! She looked like a snow blowing machine out there… I”m sure Babci would be proud of her.


Sandy L March 25, 2011 at 2:33 AM

Money Reasons – I used to get a few of those magazines too and then I found that after a while the content was recycled and I was reading the same thing over and over again, so I quit them. Oh do I hope my blog won’t turn into that.


Little House March 25, 2011 at 9:52 AM

She really is self-sufficient! I think I’d want to know someone like this too, or better yet: learn from them! I think it’s great that she gives away so much or her garden-grown produce in return for her neighbor’s being so helpful. Cost avoidance really is the key to accumulating wealth.


Invest It Wisely March 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM

A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned since every penny you earn gets cut several ways before it makes it to your bank account! The tax man wants their share and so do other people along the way. Saving money is a really great way to “earn side income”.

However, I’m not as independent as Babci. For something like shovelling the snow I would probably do it myself, but I don’t follow the same philosophy of “why pay someone when you can do it yourself” because of the opportunity costs. Many things really are chores to me and I could take that time and use it more productively for another purpose. If you enjoy the work though then I agree, why pay someone else to do it? We could all learn something from Babci.


Sandy L March 26, 2011 at 6:28 AM

Invest it – You are so right about dollars being split multiple times before they get used. Since Babci no longer works, she can’t really buy chores in exchange for doing other work, unless you count mending my clothes in exchange for fixing up her house.


krantcents March 25, 2011 at 8:12 PM

My wife is really talented when it comes to making things which we sometimes use as gifts. I am pretty good at stretching the dollar utilizing discounts, coupons and loyalty programs, etc.


Sandy L March 26, 2011 at 6:23 AM

Krantcents – good ones. Although I’m growing to despise loyalty cards. There are too many of them and showing up in the most ridiculous of places.


Financial Samurai March 26, 2011 at 12:02 AM

Those sound like some arduous passive income projects! I have a pretty strong view on passive income, and that is it doesn’t exist except for the interest you’re earning from a CD or savings. Have a post in the queue!

Cheers, Sam


Sandy L March 26, 2011 at 6:22 AM

Sam – You’re right. I think passive income is grossly misnamed. I forgot to add babci’s rentals. Those weren’t passive at all. Most passive income ideas need hard work at some point in the process.


101 Centavos March 26, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Hi Sandy – while I completely endorse the idea of a garden, I have to disagree with it being labeled as passive income. Growing your own food is most definitely active production, not passive receipt.


Sandy L March 28, 2011 at 7:55 PM

101 – for Babci, gardening is a way of life not necessarily a job. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but I really can’t picture her without a shovel in her hand and a green thumb.


Julie @ The Family CEO March 27, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Your Babci is inspiring! I’m glad her neighbors don’t let her shovel.

I agree that passive income is rarely passive. I do have some decent forms of residual income, however, which is a term I prefer.

As far as cost avoidance, the most success I’ve had in that area is cutting our food and household costs from $1000/mo to $500/mo. It takes me about 10 hours a month, so I consider that to be $50/hr in tax-free income.

Thanks for this post…it’s a good way of thinking outside the box.


Sandy L March 28, 2011 at 7:56 PM

Julie – yes, residual income is a much better term. I should have titled the article differently.


Julie @ The Family CEO March 28, 2011 at 8:08 PM

Oh gosh no. I wasn’t suggesting that at all. I think passive income is the term most people think of so your title is right on.


Sandy @ yesiamcheap March 28, 2011 at 5:04 PM

I am all over that garden. I have a small area but people are surprised at how much I get out of it. I plan that things that I use the most such as tomatoes and those little expensive baby lettuce things. I can’t tell you much how I’ve saved on the lettuce alone. Plus my coworkers enjoy a bag or two of them all summer long since it grows faster than I can eat it.


Sandy L March 28, 2011 at 7:57 PM

Sandy – I love the berries that come out of my mom’s yard. At $2.50 to $5 a pint for raspberries (depending on season), my kids and I must eat about $500 of berries a season.


Spruce Up Your Finances March 28, 2011 at 8:32 PM

Yap, I believe cost avoidance really means additional income. Any little thing helps and for my family, we’ve tried as much as we can to save money.


passive income ideas July 14, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Great job done by you..:)


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