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. I thought it was time to revisit the topic and let you in on a few more ways to get paid. (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.

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Meg Favreau's picture

I've had great experiences with the focus groups I've participated in. The company I did my focus groups with even had evening sessions, so I was able to do a full day of work and get an extra $75 in the early evening.

Guest's picture

Our investment model is led by an objective and clear approach.

Guest's picture


its just shows what you can do when you get creative. When you even really explore the nine options you gave, you will actually find more.., We live in an abundant world.

Guest's picture

I'd give most of these a try except bringing someone into my home for safety reason - like you said it does take a certain person to do this.

I have friends who are talented photographers and graphic designers that use their skills to make extra money. Using your hobbies to make extra cash is the best!

Guest's picture

Focus groups are an easy way to make money. Although I don't always qualify for each interview, I've been getting an average of 1 every month since December 2010. One month I was accepted in 3 focus groups. The amount of money you receive depends on how long the study is but based on my experience it can range from 20$-200$. Focus Forward is my top focus choice; my last study was an hour phone interview about Kraft Cheese Slices hahah. I talked about which size I usually buy, what I use it for, and even how long it takes to finish a pack. I posted a link to Focus Forward below if you want to join!


Mikey Rox's picture

Excellent info, Brandon! Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

Not sure what your policies are on this blog but the link Brandon posted is a referral link .

Lynn Truong's picture

You are right, we do not allow affiliate links in our comments. It has been removed.

Guest's picture

Hmmm...not sure about all of those money making ideas working for me, but I am all for the mystery shopping and garage/yard sales. I believe that the more income avenues we each have the more security you bring to your future.

Guest's picture

Here is a shameless plug but an easy way to make money. Ever try getting your money back from the Govt? The Govt. has $32 Billion in people's money and most people don't know about it. You could have 100s or even 1000s of dollars with the govt.

I built an app to search govt. databases. It is called FindMyMoney and is available on the iPhone/iPad. ( http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/findmymoney/id456829247?ls=1&mt=8).

Mikey Rox's picture
Mikey Rox

Ooooh, you prolly gonna get deleted by the Wise Bread deities - but thanks for the tip.

Guest's picture

Market Research companies are always a fun way to make some extra cash (and try out new products).

I'm still a fan of writing articles on revenue sharing websites (they share the advertising revenue with you) although this isn't a quick way it can be long term if the article becomes popular.

Then there are places like fiverr where you can do any silly thing for $5.

Great tips.
Tracey :)

Guest's picture

I have been doing pretty well with zip nada zilch. It is a free trial site but you can make $60-$80 per referral with the Big Cash option, or $20 per referral with the One option. Check it out. Easily making an extra $5,000 per year.

Guest's picture

I used to donate plasma during high school and college. You can make about $200 a month or more and it only takes about an hour plus you feel like you are giving back to the community in a weird way. However you do have a needle in your arm for awhile, so it's not for the faint of heart.

Guest's picture

Cash crate is a good way to earn a little extra cash, it's helped me out a lot and I just started.

Guest's picture

Half of these suggestions also appear on your top 10 ways NOT to make money on the side. I was, in fact, directed to this article from that one. That's just lazy writing.

Meg Favreau's picture

Hi Guest! Our site features articles from several writers, each one dedicated to frugality and personal finance and offering his or her own expertise. The writers don't always agree on their approaches, but we like being able to offer readers a variety of opinions and techniques.

Guest's picture

Every one of us has a storage space space, basement, underground room, or garage area stacked high with factors that we no more want or need. So why are they seated around gathering dirt or decaying away? Take a day to fresh out the mess and put them up on the market, whether it’s on your entry or on the Online. If you have products that you think are more useful than what you will get for them at a garden purchase, take them to a pawnshop. Pawnshops are great for gadgets, musical technology equipment, bracelets, and resources.

Guest's picture

I work online as a tutor and it has worked very good for me. This are all good ideas. Thanks for Sharing!

Guest's picture

Excellent article, I made $65 on Cash Crate filling out surveys, completing free offers, watching videos and more. Some members make over $200 per month. Thats pays a bill or two. Its really great for students looking to make extra money for books and stuff. Cash Crate is an awesome site to make that extra cash. Check out www.cashcrate.com/3818278 sign up for free and start making money.


Guest's picture
Mark H

Binary Options is one of the easiest and newest ways to make money online now.
Here’s how to start: If you believe the price of Gold, for example, will increase in the immediate future, you should invest in a “call” binary option on Gold. In order to do so, you simply select your asset – in this case: Gold. Then you select the direction you think the price of Gold will move – in this case: Up. Finally, select the investment amount and execute your trade. If the price of Gold is higher at the time your binary option expires than it was when you invested in it, you’ve made money.

Payouts on successful binary option investments can go up to 85% so a successful trade can yield a return of hundreds of dollars in as little as 15 minutes time.

You can check out some strategies on how to make money with Binary Options Here. http://www.makingmoneyworkingfromhome.org

Guest's picture

I sell fashion jewelry for Azara Jewelry, I'm also a part-time hair stylist. Both gigs allow me to make a decent monthly income. If I did not have a full time job, I could live off of either one alone.

Guest's picture

I have been in a good amount of focus groups and have earned some easy cash. That would probably be one of my favorite ways to earn a little extra. What can be better than providing our opinions for cash? We all know that everyone has opinions, so get paid for them!

Guest's picture

This article was very insightful. I think that everyone should use their talents to make extra money on the side. Take me for example, I enjoying creating care packages for military, school, family and special occasions. I love it so much that I have started a business out of it. That way I am doing what I love to do but also making a profit out of it as well.

Guest's picture

These are some great tips! The busy lives that we live may only allow for one or two extra income options.

Something to consider is starting a blog. You can earn money through advertisements if you create enough traffic. A good article to read: http://www.financialfixers.net/the-real-costs-of-running-a-blog-business/

Guest's picture
Lara B.

Great article. Just a short comment regarding "Seek Out Odd Jobs on the Internet" or Cash Crate. I agree that nowadays taking online surveys on your spare time is quite interesting but some of them are scams. As a starter, I check survey review sites like ratethissurvey.com in deciding if a survey site is good and it helps me a lot. I hope this helps.

Guest's picture

this method makes money over and over again..

Guest's picture

Wonderful ideas! If you are creative enough and you're serious about making some cash, the world is your oyster!

There are so many ways to make money nowadays - from surveys to doing errands to selling crafts online, that anyone who wants to make bit of change can do so.

Of course the higher incomes will only happen when you go beyond running errands and actually build a business of some sort.

There are many of businesses you can start even on a shoestring budget. You have to be willing to do what it takes to succeed.

Great article Mikey!


Guest's picture

I've been doing Swagbucks and have made over $1400 so far.

Guest's picture

sell online

Guest's picture
Cynthia roberts

House or pet sitting walking dogs rides care for seniors.

Guest's picture

There are some useful points to making income in this article however it won't work in big cities which are more expensive and tend not to tolerate these amateurish hoppyist types of petty cash approaches. Articles which I have read on this topic tend to be very naive and written by people who come across as never having a very real struggle. I would also suspect they have always had a certainty of keeping clean a warm meal and a bed. From one to ten, ten being the best I give this article a three where as most get only one.