Just last week, the National Bank revealed findings that it will take the average Torontonian 8.5 years to sock away enough for a downpayment. In Vancouver, the average timeline is 28 years. But what if there’s a way to cut it down?
Enter the side hustle. Whether you’re running an online store, renting your room on Airbnb, driving an Uber or freelance consulting, there are a myriad of creative ways to boost your income and squirrel away some extra cash for your downpayment.
Shannon Lee Simmons is a best selling author and financial expert for CBC Metro Morning, the Globe and Mail and The Marilyn Denis Show. At The New School of Finance — her financial planning and coaching firm in Toronto — Simmons encourages her clients to pull side income levers to increase cash flow.
Simmons advises to start small. “Before you think ‘I don’t have time for a side hustle, starting a business is a huge deal,’ remember, you don’t have to bring in tons of clients or $50,000 in the first year. A couple hundred dollars a month can be a game changer and will help you achieve your homeownership goals faster.”
passionfruit apparel. Photo: Liz Bertorelli
In 2014, Shopify employee Liz Bertorelli launched an online store selling LGBTQ apparel called passionfruit, with the original goal of raising $3,000 for a French Bulldog. Three months in, Bertorelli brought Olive the Frenchie home and moved on to a new goal: financing a condo on Queen West. She ran the store from a rental apartment, socking money aside over a few years until the dream was a reality. This past summer, Bertorelli sold the condo and purchased a semi-detached home in the east end with her partner. Olive came along too, of course.
Working at Shopify and running her own business, Bertorelli has seen her fair share of merchant success stories. “If you have an idea for a business, just do it,” she says. “The worst thing that can happen is that you fail. Just don’t start a business while you’re buying a house because that’s a full-time job in itself.”
The perfect side hustle is flexible and brings you joy. Bertorelli has both — using a print-on-demand business model where she doesn’t pay for inventory up-front. “I just have to maintain social media, customer service and website updates and I can still focus on my career,” she explains.
The key is looking at your lifestyle and skill sets and then seeing what you can market and manage. In addition to selling your skills, you can also look to your home as a revenue generator — whether you become a landlord, rent out a parking space or list your home on a vacation rental site.
Simmons shares this example from her book Worry Free Money: “I had a client who would rent her house on Airbnb a few weekends out of the year. By the end of the year, she had accumulated over $1,000. That’s money my client didn’t have to do much for. It adds up over time and gets addictive. My tip is to always try it. If you hate it, you don’t have to do it again.”
The best case scenario is that your primary employment covers your basic living expenses, and your side hustle can be funneled directly into the home purchase. “Make sure you can afford your life without all these extra levers,” advises Simmons. “So that when you pull them, you have the option to back out if it isn’t working or it’s becoming too much.”
Simmons also advises funneling your side hustle money into an RRSP: “You don’t need to pay income tax on all the side hustle money and the savings can go directly into your first-time home purchase.”