What Alternative Investments Can Provide You With A Steady Income Stream?

If you're looking to diversify your source of income, but don't have the appropriate risk tolerance to live on dividends or bond returns and are leery of purchasing rental real estate, you may be wondering whether you have any other options. Fortunately, there are several alternative investment types that can provide you with a relatively low-maintenance stream of income safe from most major market fluctuations. As a bonus, some of these have a relatively low barrier to entry, helping you launch your side business without necessarily having access to a substantial amount of cash. Read on to learn more about two specific ways you can help increase your monthly income without increasing the amount of work you perform (by much).

Automated teller machines (ATMs)

Whenever you swipe your credit or debit card at a retailer, this retailer pays a small fee to the the credit card company in exchange for this convenience. For businesses with fairly low profit margins, like restaurants and grocery stores, even a relatively small swipe fee can be enough to cost the business money on a small transaction. As a result, many businesses have begun offering cash discounts or setting a minimum purchase amount for credit card use.

This setup can provide a great opportunity for the use of an independent ATM. Although many ATMs are associated with a specific bank and offer free transactions for that bank's customers, there are also unaffiliated ATMs that can provide all users with cash -- regardless of where they bank -- for a small additional fee. These ATM machines for sale or rent can be installed just about anywhere, as long as you own the location or have permission from its owner.

If you know of any businesses in your area that already give cash discounts or seem to be burdened by the use of credit or debit cards for small transactions, you may want to speak to the proprietor to see if making an ATM available to customers could help improve sales. You may be able to negotiate a deal in which the proprietor charges you a small amount of "rent" or a portion of your monthly profits. And if your ATM is fairly portable, you shouldn't rule out festivals or other cash-heavy events that could provide a booming business from passersby. It's estimated that at least 3 to 5 percent of those who pass your ATM will use it, so getting your machine into a high-traffic location can mean instant money.

While you'll need to perform basic maintenance tasks on your ATM and check it periodically to ensure it has funds available to customers, the fees you collect from customers should more than cover this cost -- and with fairly little work required on your end.

Vending machines

Another potentially lucrative investment option with low up-front costs is the world of vending. In a world that seems to constantly be on the go, inexpensive snack foods or beverages are often quickly snapped up by hungry patrons -- and when these patrons are unable to leave their current location without some difficulty, you're also able to charge a premium for these products.

By renting or purchasing a vending machine and placing it in a high traffic area, you can help feed the masses while filling your pockets. You'll need to make similar connections with area merchants to determine whether a vending machine is feasible for their location -- but waiting rooms, youth sports facilities, and even employee cafeterias or breakrooms can provide you with the stream of potential customers you'll need.

You'll generally need to stop by your machine at least once a week or more to replenish stock and empty the till. You should be able to purchase vending items at wholesale cost by providing documentation of your vending machine lease or ownership to the vendor company.