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Slide Show | April 2014

25 Ways to Earn Extra Cash

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Coming up with extra cash to pay the bills, cover unexpected expenses, boost savings or perhaps even finance a vacation isn’t as hard as it seems. Plenty of legitimate moneymaking opportunities are out there for you to capitalize on at your convenience, with no long-term commitment. Consider these 25 strategies to get extra cash. Some are good for a fast buck, while others could turn into consistent streams of income.

Find out which cash-generating ideas could work best for you.


25 Ways to Earn Extra Cash

Be a Mystery Shopper

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You can get paid up to $20 per shopping experience if you agree to shop at a store and provide detailed feedback on customer service, merchandise, and various quality-control metrics. Start by visiting the Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s Web site to see a database of jobs with legitimate companies, and be sure to see the association's tips for avoiding mystery shopping scams.

Be a Mystery Shopper

Sell Unwanted Electronics

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Don’t leave smart phones, tablets, computers or game consoles you’re no longer using in a desk drawer or the back of a closet. You can easily cash in on your unwanted electronics -- even damaged items -- by selling them online.

Sell used smart phones and Apple products at Gazelle.com and get paid by check, PayPal or an Amazon gift card. BuyMyTronics.com pays cash for smart phones, digital cameras, tablets, game consoles and more. You can sell smart phones, tablets, laptops and video games to NextWorth.com for cash or take items to one its partner stores, such as Target, and get store credit. At uSell, you can sell smart phones, tablets, game consoles, video games and textbooks. You get paid by check or through PayPal. Shipping with all of these sites is free.

Sell Unwanted Electronics

Search for Unclaimed Property

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Federal and state coffers hold billions of dollars’ worth of unclaimed property. Some of it could be yours, but it's up to you to track down the cash.

The feds hang on to tax refunds that are returned to the IRS because of mailing-address errors or that are never claimed by taxpayers because they didn’t file returns. The government also holds on to forgotten savings bonds, government-guaranteed mortgage-insurance refunds and government pensions that were never claimed. There's no central database, so you'll have to check with individual federal agencies about missing funds.

State governments hold onto uncashed dividend checks, returned utility deposits, unclaimed state-tax refunds and uncollected insurance benefits, among other things. (If a bank or other payer doesn’t have your last known address on file, it will turn over your money to the state in which the institution is incorporated.) You can search for unclaimed property held by states at Unclaimed.org and Missingmoney.com.

Search for Unclaimed Property

Adjust Your Tax Withholding

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If you got a big tax refund for 2013, you’re not alone: The average refund is about $2,750 this year. Why wait until next spring to get the money you really need now? If you’re a refund-receiving taxpayer, you’ve already overpaid your taxes via your initial 2014 paychecks -- banking at least a small refund next spring. Fix your tax withholding now to stop that refund from growing by delivering more of your money to you as you earn it.

Simply ask your company’s payroll office for a W-4 form to claim extra allowances, and your take-home pay should rise on your next payday. To see how many allowances you should claim, try our easy-to-use withholding calculator.

Adjust Your Tax Withholding

Teach Lessons

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If you have a special skill -- whether it’s the ability to play an instrument well, paint like Picasso or explain calculus in a way anyone can understand -- you may be able to make money sharing it with others. For example, you could earn about $15 to $30 an hour tutoring individual kids or college students if you speak a second language or have great math, science or writing skills.

Or teach a full class. For example, stay-at-home mom Allison Millet, from Bowling Green, Ky., has transformed a passion for fitness into a business to help pay family medical bills. The certified fitness instructor created Backyard Bootcamp and charges $100 per student per six-week session.

Advertise your services on school, campus and community bulletin boards or on online classifieds site Craigslist. And take advantage of social media sites, such as Facebook, to let people know about the lessons you’re able to teach.

Teach Lessons

Be a Tour Guide

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If you know a lot about the city where you live, you may be able to profit from your knowledge by guiding tours. For example, travel guide site Vayable lets anyone list a tour or experience that tells a unique story about a destination – from its art to its history to its food -- and earn money from bookings through the site. U.S. tours that are promoted on Vayable -- such as a San Francisco street-art tour or a Washington, D.C., White House tour led by a member of the White House press corps -- range in price from about $25 per person to $200 per person, though more-upscale experiences are priced even higher. Vayable takes a 15% cut of whatever you choose to charge travelers and provides online tools to manage reservations, accept credit-card payments and securely communicate with customers.

Be a Tour Guide

Get Paid for Your Opinions

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Market-research firms are hired by big businesses to get inside the heads of consumers. Participation in an in-person focus group led by a moderator, such as those run by Delve, can earn you between $50 and $200.

In exchange for taking online and phone surveys, firms such as Harris Interactive and Schlesinger Associates offer rewards points redeemable for gift cards and merchandise. Beware scams, though. Legitimate firms won’t charge a fee or ask you to cash a check and wire back part of the money.

Lawyers are getting in on the act, too. “Online jurors” can earn cash for giving their opinions on legal cases. EJury.com pays $5 to $10 per case. You’ll need a PayPal account. At OnlineVerdict.com, where fees start at $20, payment is made by check.

Get Paid for Your Opinions

Sell Gold and Silver for Scrap

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If you have gold jewelry that isn’t valuable as an antique or a designer piece, consider selling it for scrap. Keep in mind that most gold jewelry isn't pure, say 14-karat or 18-karat, so you’ll need to calculate the melt value to get a better sense of its worth as scrap. The melt value reflects the actual amount of gold in the jewelry; a dealer will offer you a percentage of that value. Quotes will vary widely, so get several. See Smart Ways to Sell Your Gold to learn more.

The same goes for silver. Maybe you inherited a few sterling trays you never use. Assuming the trays hold no particular value to collectors, sell them for scrap rather than trying to sell them at a consignment store or online. Check with several metals dealers, both online and at storefront locations, to get quotes. Expect to receive about 85% to 90% of your silver’s melt value.

Sell Gold and Silver for Scrap

Sell Gently Worn Clothing

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If you or your family members have brand-name clothing, accessories or shoes that are in good condition but no longer being used, turn them into quick cash by selling them on consignment. Research the consignment shops in your area to find the right match for the types and styles of clothing you have to sell. Most consignment stores will price items at one-third of their retail value, and you’ll likely get 50% of the price at which your items eventually sell. To learn more, see How to Sell Clothes on Consignment.

You might be able to get more for your used clothes by selling them online. For example, you can earn up to 80% of the resale value of women’s and kids’ clothing, shoes and handbags at fashion resale site thredUP.com. If you have high-end men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry, watches and accessories, try your luck with luxury consignment site The RealReal. You earn up to 70% of the resale value in cash. Or skip the middle-man and sell your used clothing on eBay, which will require more effort on your part but could result in a bigger return.

Sell Gently Worn Clothing

Join a Street Team

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Street Team Promotion

Street teams need energetic, outgoing helpers to promote products, films, albums, events and more by handing out samples, interacting with people on the street, or dressing as mascots. To get a job earning $20 to $25 an hour, sign up with a company such as Street Team Promotion which handles promotions in big cities nationwide. Make sure you get a contract that specifies when you’ll get paid.

Join a Street Team

Be a Babysitter

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Babysitting can be a fun way to put money in your pocket if you like kids. In big cities such as New York and Washington, expect to earn up to $20 an hour as a babysitter or nanny. (In small and midsize cities, the going rate is closer to $7 to $10 an hour.) Advertise your services on Craigslist, community bulletin boards, the public library or houses of worship.

Be a Babysitter

Sell Excess Furniture

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If you have an attic, garage or storage unit filled with furniture you’re not using, unload those items for cash by selling them on Craigslist. (You might even end up saving the monthly cost of your storage unit.) You can list large items (free) on your local Craigslist classifieds, and buyers will come to you. Just be sure to insist on cash to avoid bounced checks. Take good photos, share key details and provide a concise description of what you’re selling.

If you don’t want the hassle of selling items yourself, take furniture and home accessories you no longer want to an upscale consignment store that gets a lot of traffic so that you can get top dollar for your items. Expect to split the profit 50/50 with the store. For more information, see What to Sell -- And Not to Sell -- at Consignment Shops .

Sell Excess Furniture

Sell Collectibles Online

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Perhaps you collected baseball cards (or stamps or coins) when you were young, and now they’re just collecting dust. But they might be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. One place to get top dollar for your collectibles and small items of value is eBay. Click on the “register” link in the top left corner of the homepage to create an account. Then visit the site’s “Seller Center” to learn how to sell. You can list 50 items every month for free, and you’ll pay a 10% fee on each item when it sells. Research prices for merchandise similar to what you plan to sell so that you can price your wares competitively. For more tips on how and where to sell valuable items, see 6 Things You Should Know About Collectibles.

Sell Collectibles Online

Redeem Rewards Points

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You could be sitting on an untapped source of cash if you haven’t bothered to redeem your credit card rewards points lately. One-third of all rewards -- everything from airline miles to cash back -- worth a total of $16 billion go unredeemed each year, according to a study by marketing research firm Colloquy. Per household, that averages out to $205 worth of rewards a year that aren’t redeemed.

The next-best thing to getting cash-for-points is a general-purpose gift card. At American Express, for example, 5,000 Membership Rewards points earns you a $25 AmEx gift card that’s good in more than a million places. You can get more bang for your points by selecting a retailer-specific gift card -- often $50 for 5,000 points.

Redeem Rewards Points

Sell Used Books

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Stop letting your used books collect dust on a book shelf, and start selling them online. BookScouter.com makes it easy for you to get the best price for you books. Simply type in the ISBN from your book, and BookScouter.com scans prices from more than 40 book-buying sites to show you which ones are offering the most. For example, the highest price offered recently for a hardcover edition of The Goldfinch, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was $8.75.

College textbooks can fetch a lot more. For example, some vendors recently were paying as much as $129 for Trigonometry by Ron Larson. Most other textbooks in good condition sell for $20 and up. ExtraBux.com, a price-comparison site, has found that Amazon.com offers the best buyback prices -- about 20% more than runnerup AbeBooks.com. (However, Amazon pays with gift cards only.) For more information, see Get the Best Price When Selling Back Textbooks.

Sell Used Books

Walk Dogs

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Why not get a little exercise while you earn anywhere from $15 to $30 an hour? Working folks will pay plenty for you to take Rover or Scruffy on a daily stroll while they’re at the office. Or consider pet-sitting for people while they’re on vacation for a daily fee of $50 or more. Advertise your services in veterinarians’ offices and on Craigslist. You can also team up with an existing dog-walking operation that handles client recruitment and scheduling. To find one, ask other dog walkers you encounter whether they're part of a group or check Craigslist.

Walk Dogs

Get Freelance Editorial Work

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Sorry, Kiplinger.com isn’t hiring. But plenty of media, corporate and nonprofit Web sites are looking for freelancers to write, edit or design content, for about $15 to $30 an hour. Freelancewriting.com and Freelance Writing Jobs provide a long list of freelance writing opportunities culled from several top sites. For $21 a month, you can join Mediabisto’s freelance marketplace to post your qualifications and be contacted by media managers for work. Krop is a useful site for developers and designers; Freelance Photo Jobs consolidates listings for photographers; and DoNanza provides information on jobs for artists and other creators.

Get Freelance Editorial Work

Sell Baked Goods

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There are those who can bake. Then there are those who can’t even make a cake from a mix without messing it up. They’re the ones who have to rely on others to make treats for their special occasions. If you can create tasty baked goods, then you can profit from others’ lack of skills in the kitchen.

Laura Haley of Bowling Green, Ky., started making cupcakes as a way to keep herself occupied while staying with her dad when he was undergoing chemotherapy. She posted a picture of her cupcakes on Facebook and instantly received several orders from friends. Now she makes about $200 a month making cupcakes for others who hear about her through word of mouth or see pictures of her cupcakes on her Facebook page.

You also can find clients for your baked goods by volunteering to provide treats for your children’s school functions or for church or other religious gatherings, or by selling them at a farmer’s market, flea market or local festivals.

Sell Baked Goods

Participate in Clinical Trials

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If you're willing to be a human guinea pig, you can pad your pockets by participating in clinical research trials. Compensation depends on the nature of the trial and the amount of time involved, but payment can range from $50 to more than $1,000, according to the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation.

Legitimate studies are sponsored by medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies. You’ll be required to undergo a health screening to determine if you’re eligible to participate. Come-ons for clinical trials litter the Internet. Many are scams. The safe play is to peruse studies that are actively recruiting participants at ClinicalTrials.gov, a database run by the National Institutes of Health. Search by location to identify local trials.

Participate in Clinical Trials

Cash in on Unused Gift Cards

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About $44 billion worth of gift cards has gone unused over the past six years, according to gift card resale site Gift Card Granny. So grab the unwanted cards you have lying around your house, and turn them into cash by selling them online at sites such as Gift Card Granny, Cardpool and Junkcard. You won't get the full value of your card (up to 92% at best). But if you have no intention of using the card, it's like getting free money. Cards for gas stations, grocery stores and retail chains (such as Exxon, Safeway and Walmart) often bring the best offers.

Cash in on Unused Gift Cards

Amend Your Tax Return

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Consider amending recent years’ tax returns to claim missed deductions. For example, if you have a child in college, did you forget in any year to take advantage of the American Opportunity credit, worth up to $2,500 per student for each of the first four years of college? See The Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions for more breaks that might be worth amending your return to claim in hindsight.

For same-sex couples, if you were legally married anywhere that sanctioned such unions in 2011 or 2012, you have the option to amend your federal tax returns from those years to file jointly rather than as two single filers. It’s worthwhile to calculate whether you’d come out ahead as joint filers, especially if there’s a big difference in your incomes. For more information, see Amending Tax Returns for Same-Sex Couples.

Amend Your Tax Return

Find a Roommate

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Get cash in hand on the first of every month: Recruit a roommate to share living costs and/or rent. Just be sure to first consider 8 Reasons Roommates Fight About Money.

Not interested in a long-term houseguest? You might be able to take advantage of a special event in your area by renting out a room -- or entire apartment or house -- to people who don’t want to pay high hotel rates or can’t find a hotel room because they’re all booked. For example, rental booking site Airbnb had a page dedicated to places travelers could stay in Austin, Tex., for the annual South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival. Private rooms were listed for as little as $24 a night, and some homes and downtown apartments listed for more than $200 a night. You can list your space free on Airbnb, then pay 3% to the site when you receive successful booking. (Airbnb will reimburse you up to $1 million for damage to your property.)

Find a Roommate

Join a Direct-Sales Company

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These days, Avon isn’t the only direct-sales opportunity. You can start a side business selling anything from cookware to clothing to home decor to, yes, Tupperware. Popular possibilities include The Pampered Chef, Jockey Person to Person and Willow House. Internet Based Moms keeps a long list of direct-sales businesses.

With direct sales, start-up costs are usually low (figure $200 or less), your work schedule is flexible and earnings are commission-based (typically 25% to 30% of sales). Generally, you can increase your take by recruiting others to the sales team.

Join a Direct-Sales Company

Profit From Your Garden

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If you grow your own vegetables or raise chickens in your backyard, you might have an overabundance of produce or eggs that you hate to see go to waste. So profit from it, instead. Kiplinger’s office manager, Glen Mayers, sells eggs from his 12 hens to colleagues for $3 a dozen, on Craigslist for $4 and at a farmer’s market for $5. He also sells honey from his bees for $9 per 1-pound jar. He puts the cash he earns in a jar at home, and his family uses it for fun outings together.

Profit From Your Garden

Be a Blogger or YouTube Star

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If you like to write, or think it would be fun to share your knowledge about a particular subject, start a blog. WordPress.org and Blogger.com offer free blogging platforms. You’ll need to pay a small amount (as little as $4 per month) to have your blog hosted. Try GoDaddy.com. Turn to Google AdSense for a free way to display ads on your site to earn money.

If you have a camera and something unique to share, you can cash in on YouTube. A reasonable goal for amateur filmmakers is to score viral fame with a YouTube channel. That means making a series of videos, each of which can run a little longer than three minutes. Highlight a specific skill or theme -- say, cooking or standup comedy. Your videos will drive traffic to one another while you perfect your craft and earn “subscribers.” To generate views, reach out to media outlets and bloggers with a link to your video. You can earn cash with YouTube advertisements, which can run about $2 per 1,000 views.

Be a Blogger or YouTube Star

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