How to Make Budgeting Fun

The Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game Featured Image
Cody Berman
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The word “budget” often has a negative connotation because it limits or restricts. But what if I told you that a budget didn’t have to be this way?

For the past year or two, I have been playing what I call ‘The Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game’. This style of creative budgeting has allowed me to fully enjoy my life while aggressively pursuing financial independence.

If you’ve been feeling burnt out or deprived due to your self-imposed financial goals, the Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game is right for you.

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Let’s Play a Budgeting Game

Warning: The Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game will transform the way you think about spending money. Side effects may include lots of fun, diligent saving, and uncontrollable wealth.

The Rules of the Game

The first step in playing this game is to calculate your base monthly expenses.

Base monthly expenses = The total cost of your lifestyle minus discretionary spending.

Discretionary spending includes anything like going out to eat, entertainment, vacation, or anything else that isn’t “necessary”.

I personally use a mixture of Personal Capital and an Excel spreadsheet to track my monthly spending. After about a month or two of tracking, you will have a general understanding of how much money you spend each month and in which expense categories.

The goal of the Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game is to cancel out your discretionary spending with your side hustle income.

If you want to spend $30 this weekend at the movies, you have to earn it through some sort of side hustle. Lucky for you, it’s never been easier in history to make money.


“What are the best Side Hustles for the Zero-Based Budget?”

It all depends on your goals. Are you trying to earn an extra $5 today to cancel out that Starbucks coffee or $5,000 to wipe out that vacation in a few months?

The answer to that question will determine the best side hustle for your specific goals.

Side hustle profitability varies wildly depending on a number of factors including desirability, skills required, time involvement, market saturation, novelty, and more. You could literally stop reading this blog post and earn anywhere from $5 to $200 within the next hour.

Let’s dig into some of the best side hustles for the zero-based budget.


Survey Sites

Recommended: Survey Junkie, Swagbucks, Prolific, MTurk

  • These sites will literally pay you to take surveys about a specific topic. Surveys can range anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Payout depends on the type of survey and time it takes to complete. It’s not the most lucrative dollar per hour side hustle, but it’s something to do while you’re bored at work or mindlessly watching a movie!

Earning Potential: $0.25 – $20 depending on length and topic.


Completing Tasks or “Gigs”

Recommended: Fiverr, Freelancer, TaskRabbit

  • For online options, if you can speak, write, and understand English, you can pick up a “gig” in the freelance economy. People will hire you for ANYTHING, yes I mean anything. Tasks could include writing/editing a one-page paper, researching a specific topic, recording a voice-over, graphic design.
    • You can earn extremely high dollars per hour if you have a desirable skill such as web design, Photoshop, etc.
  • For more hands-on work check out a site like TaskRabbit where you get paid to complete physical services such as moving and packing, furniture assembly, home improvement, and any other general handyman work. Even if you’re not handy, you can easily get hired for things like shoveling, raking, heavy lifting, and basically any other household chores.

Earning Potential: Highly dependent on the task. Some pay $5 for an hour of work, others may pay $100.


Delivery Services

Recommended: UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub

  • Want to become a food courier with a flexible schedule? Join one of these services and work on your own schedule delivering food! These services are not just limited to car owners though. If you own a bicycle, moped, or any other type of vehicle, these delivery services could be a viable side hustle option for you (location dependent)! I did UberEats on a bicycle for 5 months in Australia and had fun getting paid to exercise.

Earning Potential: $6 – $15 per delivery.


Item Flipping

Recommended: AmazoneBay, Facebook Marketplace

  • Depending on your level of skill and expertise, this side hustle could earn you a few extra bucks or thousands and thousands of dollars per year. Basically, just find under-priced items to buy/acquire and then sell them for a profit! This could include scouring yard sales, checking the clearance section at your local department store, or just hunting for cheap deals online.

Earning Potential: Highly dependent on the item.


Ride Sharing

Recommended: Uber, Lyft

  • If you have a car that’s 10 years old or newer, you have a potential ride-sharing side hustle. However, profitability is highly dependent upon your location and hours of operation. If you live near a bustling city and have the flexibility to drive during peak traffic hours, you could make some serious money.

Earning Potential: $8/hour – $30/hour


Renting Out Your Car

Recommended: Turo

  • I know. I was skeptical at first too. Letting someone else drive your car can feel uncomfortable. However, these companies are highly reputable with solid insurance plans. My friend Craig had his car completely totaled while renting it out on Turo and the insurance company gave him more money than the car was worth! If your car sits in your driveway day in and day out, it’s time to convert it into a money-making machine.

Earning Potential: $30 – $100 per day


Accommodation Sharing

Recommended: Airbnb, Homestay

  • Do you have an extra room, detached apartment, or an entire second home that’s empty right now? You are leaving an insane amount of money on the table! If this is a viable strategy for you, seriously consider it. A friend of mine recently started renting out her detached apartment on Airbnb and averages $1,500 per month… it was sitting vacant for 3 years!!! That’s a potential $36,000 she left on the table.

Earning Potential: $20 – $200 per night


Starting an Online Business

Recommended Tools: Namecheap, SiteGround, WordPress

  • This side hustle is more of a long-term play. You may not be able to zero out your discretionary budget in the first few months (if you can, that’s awesome), but this type of side hustle will likely pay huge dividends in the long run. Make sure to check out my step-by-step guide to get started with your own online business.
    • Don’t get discouraged if you’re not instantly successful in the first couple of months. The goal is to build a scalable and profitable business that you can continue to grow and expand.

Earning Potential: Unlimited! Although you probably won’t make money right from the start.


Ready to Play the Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game?

You know the rules, now it’s time to play the game. “Cancelling out” my discretionary spending with side hustle income has honestly transformed the way that I think about and handle my personal finances.

The Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game Spreadsheet

I created this fun, free spreadsheet to help you track your progress and share your results with the rest of the community. If you want to try it out, feel free to download it here and click ‘Make a Copy’. I (and the rest of the community) would love to see how you crushed the side hustle game for your zero-based budget.

If you post a screenshot on any social media platform and tag me @flytofi, I’ll be sure to give you a shout out. Now get out there and hustle!

If this content helped you, please share! Website traffic helps to keep the lights on and allows me to keep producing helpful content.

Note: I am not a financial advisor or fiduciary. All the information presented in this article reflects my opinion. I am not liable for any financial losses incurred related to this content. My content is always written with the readers’ best interests in mind. I believe that my content is helpful and well-researched, but it is not professional financial advice. For more information, read our Privacy Policy.

6 thoughts on “How to Make Budgeting Fun

  1. what a good idea as a way to delay purchases, and to make sure you aren’t cutting into your regular budget. I try to think of extra purchases in terms of how much extra overtime I have to work, and then try to work it and set aside the money.

    1. That’s awesome! A little different than side hustles, but still a powerful way to budget, nonetheless. Glad to hear you handle your discretionary expenses with a similar mindset!

  2. I’ve been doing this in terms of side hustles however my eyes just brightened when I saw your Excel sheet because that’s what has been happening in my head. For it to be put on paper, it looks incredible Cody! Great Job!

    Surprised I found such a young guy that is doing this Fine lifestyle as well. I just turned 23 and started when I was 21 years old with Dave Ramsey’s program, then Mr. money mustache, and now ChooseFi where I was led here.

    I’ll be regularly checking in and adopting your podcast from now on. Please take a look at some of my posts and critique where I could improve. I’m sure you may even find a post or two that you’ll learn from. Savings rate currently is 85%>


    1. Hey Sam,

      Thanks for reading and I’m glad that you found my post useful. Glad to see another person my age who’s crushing this FI Game! Playing the Zero-Based Budget Side Hustle Game has really helped to curb my discretionary spending and makes me feel less bad if I spend some money at the bar on the weekend 🙂

      I also checked out your site and read a couple of articles. Good stuff!

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