Times are tight. Most of us can only expect a marginal increase in our wages this year - if we get anything at all - and yet the cost of living is still on the rise with inflation (consumer prices index) currently at 2.5%. So what can you do to boost your income?
Well, look around you, the bricks and mortar you are sitting in could be turned into a goldmine with a bit of work and imaginative thinking. And instead of sitting back and hoping house prices will rise in order to boost your coffers, how about making your home bring in some income now? Here are 10 ways to mine gold from your home.
1 Get a lodger
If you've got a spare room, rent it out. Under the government's 'Rent a Room' scheme you can earn up to £4,250 a year tax-free from letting out a room in your main home. That means as long as you aren't charging more than £354 a month in rent you can take a lodger without having to worry about filling in any odious tax forms.
If you earn more than £4,250 a year, you will have to fill out a self-assessment form and pay income tax on the rent over that amount.
Renting out a room doesn't have to be a difficult affair either. If you live in a suitable spot you could get yourself a commuting lodger who only wants the room on week nights through a website such as mondaytofriday.com. That way you get extra cash in your pocket but also have your house to yourself at weekends.
2 Turn your spare room into a boutique hotel
If the idea of having a stranger living in your home long term doesn't appeal, you could consider letting out your spare room to tourists. You can charge more for short-term lets and only rent out the room as and when it suits you.
Wimdu.co.uk is a website where you can advertise your spare room to tourists around the world. You can specify who can stay (no students, for example) and set the price. For anyone with a spare room it can be a great way to make some cash, and even if you don't have a spare room you could rent your whole place out while you are on holiday and recoup the cost of your own trip.
Juliet Pound, 46, lets out the spare room in her Edinburgh home via the site. She estimates that in low season she makes around £200 a month but during the Edinburgh Festival that figure rockets to £1,000. "I initially joined Wimdu as a way to fund my own trips away, but now it's a way to help pay off the mortgage," says Juliet.
Guests - and hosts - are reviewed on the site after each stay so you can make sure you get someone reliable, who isn't going to trash your home. And to give you greater peace of mind, Wimdu insures your home contents against damage by your guests up to a value of £500,000.
"I think it feels safer than just putting a B&B sign up outside," says Juliet. "I also really enjoy meeting people from all over the world, as most of my guests are from outside of Britain - it's a really interesting experience for me and my family."
3 Rent out your drive
If you aren't prepared to let strangers into your home in order to make a buck, how about letting them park on your drive? Depending on where you live, there is plenty of money to be made from renting out your driveway. For example, Paul Barrington, 55, lives near City Airport and rents out three parking spaces through parkatmyhouse.com.
He charges £10 per day, compared to the £30 a day people would have to pay to park at the airport, and he offers a transfer service. He believes he has made more than £2,500 from the scheme in the past year.
"My daughter is at university, and although she is living at home while she studies, we still have to cover her tuition fees. I use the money from renting out our driveway to pay a chunk of those fees. It has been a great help," says Paul. "It's such a simple idea and the website is easy to use. It used to be business people that booked the spaces, but now you can fly to Malaga and Ibiza from City airport, so we've started receiving bookings from families as well."
4 Rent out your car
Car-sharing website whipcar.com allows you to rent our your car to your neighbours when you aren't using it. You set your own prices and get to approve every rental request. Also WhipCar insures your car when it is being driven by its users so your own insurance shouldn't be affected by the scheme.
Chris Jones, 28, joined Whipcar in 2010. Since then his BMW 1 Series has been frequently rented out from his home in south-east London. He charges around £30 for a 24-hour booking. "I realised I didn't need a whole car, only about 10% of one. I now make up to £400 a month, renting out my car, which covers my running costs and means I have a bit of cash left over," says Chris.
"The first few times you rent your car out it feels a bit strange but the car always comes back just fine. People seem to treat it well, since they are dealing with a real person, not a faceless company. I think it helps that I keep the glove box stocked with bottles of water, wine gums and mini eggs - they always go down well."
5 Turn your home into a set
There's big money to be made from opening your home up to film crews or photographers. It can pay anything from £500 to thousands of pounds per day - although the higher fees tend to go to those with houses in popular areas, such as Edinburgh or Notting Hill in London, or quirky homes.
The crews tend to start early, around 8am, and leave before you get home from work and they should leave your home as they found it, including paying for any repairs.
Three years ago, Juliet Cunnington, 48, let the BBC use her home in Abbots Langley as a set. "We got paid about £800 per day as they wanted to use the whole house," says Juliet. While the crew didn't redecorate her home, they did remove all her downstairs furniture and bring in their own for the duration of filming. "During filming days, we had to be out of our house from 8am to 9pm but we didn't mind as they were only filming for four days and we were earning so much."
As for hassle, Juliet was impressed by the level of effort put into returning her home to normal. "The art department photographed my house before they removed anything so they could put it all back exactly as it was - even down to the magnets on my fridge! The only hiccup we had was our carpets got very dirty but the BBC sent a carpet-cleaning firm in to clean them.
"I would recommend it if you aren't too precious about your house and strangers traipsing in and out of it - on filming days there were about 40 people in my house. Also make sure you let your neighbours know what's happening as it will have a knock-on effect on them." You can register your property through amazingspace.co.uk or film-locations.co.uk. It will then appear on their listings page and they will take around 20% commission if your home is used.