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  • Written By
    Christian Simmons

    Christian Simmons

    Financial Writer and Certified Educator in Personal Finance

    Christian Simmons is a financial writer who has worked professionally as a journalist since 2016. As an active member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning (AFCPE), Christian prides himself on his ability to break down complex financial topics in ways that Annuity.org readers can easily understand.

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    Lamia Chowdhury
    Lamia Chowdhury

    Lamia Chowdhury

    Financial Editor

    Lamia Chowdhury is a financial editor at Annuity.org. Lamia carries an extensive skillset in the content marketing field, and her work as a copywriter spans industries as diverse as finance, health care, travel and restaurants.

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  • Updated: June 27, 2023
  • 3 min read time
  • This page features 1 Cited Research Article
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How to Cite Annuity.org's Article

APA Simmons, C. (2023, June 27). Selling Crickets To Pay Off Debt: How a Unique Side Hustle Makes a Difference. Annuity.org. Retrieved June 15, 2024, from https://dev.annuity.org/personal-takes/start-side-hustle/

MLA Simmons, Christian. "Selling Crickets To Pay Off Debt: How a Unique Side Hustle Makes a Difference." Annuity.org, 27 Jun 2023, https://dev.annuity.org/personal-takes/start-side-hustle/.

Chicago Simmons, Christian. "Selling Crickets To Pay Off Debt: How a Unique Side Hustle Makes a Difference." Annuity.org. Last modified June 27, 2023. https://dev.annuity.org/personal-takes/start-side-hustle/.


Americans employ many different methods to reduce debt. From making investments to establishing budgets, there are many avenues to take.

But Jeff Neal, a man in Pennsylvania who provides cost estimates for industrial jobs sites, took an unusual, yet lucrative route: breeding and selling crickets.

“I’m a family of five and my wife’s a stay-at-home mom and I’m the sole provider for the household,” he told Annuity.org. “I was looking for ways to provide more income.”

The answer on how to come up with more money ended up coming from his children’s hobbies. Neal’s daughters loved owning reptiles as pets, ranging from bearded dragons to toads.

Pet reptiles are often fed live crickets, which made buying and having them in the house a must. Over time, Neal started looking for ways that he could breed his own supply to save money.

“After buying crickets so many times, I started looking deeper into how to breed them on my own. After a few trials here and there, I finally figured out a nice system.”

Six years later, Neal has built up his system into the Critter Depot, helping to regularly provide extra income for his family, reduce his debt and shine a light on the benefits of finding a successful side hustle.

The Interviewee

Jeff Neal Jeff Neal
Business Owner

Building a Cricket Business From the Ground Up

When Neal started breeding crickets, his original goal was just to avoid having to continuously pay pet stores to get food for his daughter’s pets. But when crickets breed, they breed a lot.

And Neal saw an opportunity to turn his crickets into cash.

He first started off by selling his excess supply to pet stores, but soon figured out that selling directly to consumers could be even more lucrative.

“I got tipped off that people buy online, so that’s when I started looking to offload them through an online store and through online solicitation,” he said. “A lot of reptile owners don’t like buying crickets from pet stores and there are only a limited number of cricket suppliers online, so it was really that easy.”

Pet stores often sell crickets for $0.10 each, meaning you could get 100 for $10. But given that Neal had fewer expenses, he realized that he could sell his crickets for essentially half that price, charging $25 for 500.

Neal was able to quickly build up a list of customers by using reptile forums and found that he had so many repeat customers that he didn’t need to continuously advertise there for long.

“It’s a food source, so you get a lot of repeat buyers,” he said. “If people buy from you once and you ship out your order timely and your price is reasonable, they generally just come back without having to keep finding new customers.”

Neal first began breeding and selling crickets in 2016, and it has grown into a sizeable chunk of additional income since. But it’s far from easy. He can hold as many as 300,000 live crickets at a time that require regular care and spends about 20 hours a week on his side hustle.

“It was definitely nice seeing that extra income coming in,” he said. “It’s by no means passive. You’re earning it.”

How Side Hustles Can Make a Difference

Neal’s cricket business was far more than a hobby or a chance to earn a little extra cash. He found that fully developing his side hustle led to significant changes in his family’s financial situation.

“I ended up saving enough where we were able to pay off our principal by about 10% on our mortgage,” he said. “In 2020, we were able to actually refinance for a lower interest rate, which really hacked our monthly mortgage down by about 25%.”

On top of the lower monthly mortgage, Neal’s family continues to benefit from the regular boost in income, allowing him to support his family of five a little easier.

Neal’s success highlights a growing way that Americans are working towards raising their income and achieving financial freedom — by developing side hustles.

2022 Insuranks study found that 44% of Americans have developed a side hustle to make ends meet or cover bills, while 26% of Americans have created one to help pay off debt.

With inflation rising dramatically, developing a secondary source of income is becoming a more common and potentially lucrative way to stay ahead of the country’s financial situation.

While working a single “nine-to-five” job was the standard for decades, achieving true financial freedom and building up your finances may require innovative thinking in 2023.

And side hustles don’t always have to turn into something that rivals a primary job. Neal thought about taking his cricket business to another level, but found he had struck the right balance.

“You’re at that question where you’re like ‘OK, should I do this all the time?’ But it’s a side hustle,” he said. “It’s certainly a means to an end and it’s been doing very well for that, so I have a lot of respect for it.”

Thoughts and opinions expressed in these stories are strictly anecdotal and should not be taken as financial advice. Views of the interviewee do not necessarily reflect those of the author, editor or Annuity.org.
Last Modified: June 27, 2023

1 Cited Research Article

  1. Insuranks. (2022). Side Hustles 2022: 93% of Working Americans Have a Side Hustle. Retrieved from https://www.insuranks.com/side-hustles-2022