9 Ways to Earn Extra Cash When Money Is Tight
Even though I’m self-employed full-time, I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to make more money.
Earlier this year, I wrote a Wise Bread post on websites that can help you earn extra cash. More recently, I came across a blog post on Zaarly titled, "10 Ways to Make Money Without a Job." After reviewing the latter post, I thought it was time to revisit the topic and let you in on a few more ways to get paid.
The ideas that Zaarly presents are perfect for the unemployed or those who just want to pad their pockets a little more. In addition, there are moonlighting jobs that I do that I thought you should know about. Thus, if you’re without a steady paycheck or you just want to build up a rainy-day stash, here are some of your options. (See also: 4 Reasons Why Everyone Needs Side Income)
1. Offer Experiences to Strangers
I recently learned about a new site called Vayable, which allows people with specialized knowledge and talents, local info, and time on their hands to create experiences that others can purchase. It’s basically a touring and activity company without the company. Anyone can join the site and set up an experience. For instance, the Kan Brothers offer motorcycle tours of San Francisco — which include helmet rental, a drink at a local hotspot, and a city map — for two to four people at $75 per person. In New York City, Kim G. is offering a personalized painting lesson for groups of two to six for a flat rate of $300; the experience includes acrylic paints; canvas board and supplies; studio space; wine, cheese, and crackers; and Kim’s undivided attention. Consider this tip if you’re interested in joining Vayable — browse the site to see what other people in your area are offering. By creating a unique experience that no one else has established, you have a better chance of getting booked.
2. Become a Mystery Shopper
Mystery shopping gigs have always been elusive — until now. I had to pass a written interview to be accepted by Goodwin & Associates Hospitality Services (and you will, too), but I’m enjoying the experience so far. The company maintains a database of available shops from which to choose and allots a dollar amount for each shop. Last week, I accepted an evening shop at Heartland Brewery for the amount of $60. Between my guest and me, we had to purchase one beer and one other drink, an appetizer, two entrees, and a dessert. The $60 fee may not seem like much — and it isn’t (you’re not going to walk away with much cash) — but if you purchase the cheaper menu items and your bill (plus tip) comes in under the allotted fee, you pocket whatever’s left over when the company pays you. After dining, however, shoppers are required to detail the experience on a questionnaire and provide a receipt in order to receive the fee. As I mentioned, you won’t make much money unless you’re thrifty, but at least you’ll receive a free meal.
3. Seek Out Odd Jobs on the Internet
So long as Craigslist is around, so too will there be part-time gigs like walking dogs, house cleaning, babysitting, yard work, and more. If you have the skills to accomplish these tasks, by all means get in touch with the poster. Depending on the nature of the job, you can make anywhere from $8 to $60 an hour, usually all cash and under the table. (See also: The 6 Best Lawn Mowers)
4. Have a Garage or Yard Sale
Every one of us has a storage unit, attic, basement, or garage piled high with things that we no longer want or need. So why are they sitting around collecting dust or rotting away? Take a day to clean out the clutter and put them up for sale, whether it’s on your front yard or on the Internet. If you have items that you think are more valuable than what you’ll get for them at a yard sale, take them to a pawnshop. Pawnshops are great for electronics, musical instruments, jewelry, and tools.
5. Turn Your Space into a Microsublet
I’m always singing the praises of microsubletting — that is, renting out your spare space to travelers — because, in my opinion, it’s the number one way to make a lot of cash with relatively minimal effort. We list our guest bedroom on Airbnb and Roomorama, and we’re consistently booked. In fact, we’re booked up every day until early January 2012. What that means is that travelers are paying us a nightly fee (ours averages $88 per night, but you can set your own) to stay in our home instead of in a pricey hotel. These cost-conscious travelers want a local experience for an affordable fee, and that’s what we give them. We also provide an immaculately clean home, free Wi-Fi, HD cable TV, a mini fridge, linens, coffee service, and more.
Now you’re probably wondering — doesn’t having guests in your home all the time bother you? No (though it does take a certain kind of person to do this), because the guests didn’t come to see me. They’re here to explore the city. They leave early in the morning and come home after dark. All I do is make sure the house is clean, provide them with welcoming hospitality, and watch my bank account grow.
6. Register for Focus Groups
I’ve participated in a few focus groups over the years, and it’s an extremely easy way to make money fast. Most groups will require you to fit a certain criteria, depending on the focus, but if you fit the bill, they’ll hand you some crisp ones in return. I’ve made anywhere from $50 to $125 per session, which usually last from one to two hours. That’s a pretty good payday just for offering my opinion. To search for focus groups for which you may qualify, check out the aptly named Find Focus Groups website.
7. Perform on the Streets
In New York City, there’s no shortage of street performers. Even the mother of Academy Award-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe sets up shop in the subway, singing for cash. While you may not make enough money to pay the rent, someone is always willing to drop change in that hat. Besides, if you don’t have anything else to do, you might as well entertain pedestrians.
8. Collect Recyclables for Cash
Every Sunday evening, there’s some person or another rummaging through the recyclables outside my building. They’re there to claim cans, bottles, and scrap metals before the city can whisk them away. And why not? Depending on where you live, you can earn up to 10 cents per item for turning in recyclable materials. This means of making money has become so popular in NYC that there’s a self-service recycling station at the end of my block. Collecting cans isn’t going to make you rich, but it will certainly help buy groceries.
9. Sell Your Body to Science
You don’t have to sell the whole thing, but certain parts of you are quite valuable to the medical community. Sought-after specimens include plasma, hair, eggs, and sperm. But before giving your goods away for a profit, you should consider the moral and ethical ramifications of such a decision. Donated sperm is sometimes used to fertilize donated eggs. If the prospect of having a biological child in the world that you don’t know about is too much of a burden to bear, don’t do it. A lifetime of wondering is not worth the quick cash you’ll receive.