As the shaky economic situation continues and more jobs are lost, many people are finding it difficult to make ends meet. The mortgage payment is often the largest non-discretionary expense in a family's budget and it can take some creative juggling to ensure that it gets paid every month. Here are five ideas for making your house help to pay for itself.

TUTORIAL: Mortgage Basics

1. Take in a Renter
If you have an extra room or a portion of your house that you can partition off, renting the space can cover a significant portion of your monthly mortgage payment. Before choosing to rent part of your house, be certain that you are ready for the task of being a landlord- and neighbor. Every state and municipality has its own rules and regulations for rental properties. Make sure that your rental space complies with all bylaws and that you understand the legal contract you will enter into with a renter. Also consider the potential disruption that a renter may cause through noise or even just coming or going. Renting out a part of your home is not for everyone, but it is a useful way to help with the mortgage. (For related reading, also check out Can You Make Money Renting Your Property?)

2. Rent out Storage Space
Even if you don't want to rent part of your home to people, you can still rent out your extra storage space. There are always people looking for space to store a car, a boat or boxes of household items. If you have an empty garage, you can provide safe, locked storage space for vehicles. A few shelves in the basement can offer space for boxes or for excess inventory for a local company. Before renting out space, check in with your insurance provider as you may not be covered for other people's contents. You may have to take out a special policy rider to cover the rental space.

TUTORIAL: How To Buy Your First Home

3. Put Your Oven to Work
A more hands-on way to pay your mortgage is through your kitchen. If you enjoy cooking or baking, you could take orders and sell ready-made meals or cakes and pies to customers in your local area. The ease of the internet allows you to take orders and payments electronically and you can have customers pick up the goodies at your house or you can set up a table at your local farmer's market. Check your municipal bylaws to ensure that you can operate such a venture without a licensed kitchen.

4. Grow Plants
Having a large property to maintain and care for can be a big expense. Why not make that land work for its keep? Turn it into a garden space with a rototiller and compost. Once a month, you can have a plant sale and earn extra income to apply to your mortgage. The best time to have a sale is Saturday morning when all of the yard-salers are out on the streets with money in their pockets looking for things to buy. Consider growing unique plants that are not offered in the local garden store. Once again, check with your local ordinances to make sure that you do not have to purchase a business license to have recurring sales.

5. Start a Community Garden
If gardening isn't your thing but you still want to put your large yard to use, consider renting out garden plots. Urban gardeners without space of their own pay a monthly fee to come and garden on your property. Each lot is usually 10 X 10 feet or 12 X 12 feet and gardeners can visit and work on their plot whenever they choose. Sign up gardeners for the whole season to ensure a regular inflow of cash to apply against your mortgage.

The Bottom Line
Keeping up with your mortgage in difficult financial times takes creativity and initiative. You can make your house and land work for you instead of the other way around. (For additional reading, also see 9 Signs You Can't Afford Your Mortgage.)

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