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All Contents © 2016The Kiplinger Washington Editors
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... and with that comes extra expenses. But, coming up with extra cash to cover holiday gift giving or take the family to Grandma’s house isn’t as hard as it seems.
Consider a seasonal job for the holiday season. 2015 is shaping up as a great year to find work for the holidays, as employers are planning to hire more seasonal workers this year than last.
Even if you'd rather be your own boss, there are plenty of other legitimate moneymaking opportunities for you to capitalize on at your convenience. Some are simply good for a fast buck, while others could turn into consistent streams of income after the holidays. Find out which cash-generating ideas will help you fatten your wallet this season.
By Cameron Huddleston, Online Editor
Rebecca Dolan, Online Community Editor
| November 2015
Since you're going to be holiday shopping anyway, this one kills two birds with one stone! 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 MSPA North America to see a database of jobs with legitimate companies.
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. GameStop.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.
If you want to buy electronics for a gift, however, check out our best tech gifts for the 2015 holidays.
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. 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.) It's like a gift you can give yourself!
Anyone can search a state’s unclaimed property database (go to www.naupa.org for links) or go to www.missingmoney.com to search 39 states’ databases at once.
If you got a big tax refund for 2014, you’re not alone: About 110 million taxpayers will received checks or direct deposits totaling over $300 billion. Why wait until the 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 2015 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.
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.
If you know a lot about the city where you live, you may be able to profit from your knowledge by guiding tours -- especially during the holiday travel season. 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.
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 focusgroup.com, can earn you between $50 and $200.
In exchange for taking online and phone surveys, firms such as The Harris Poll and Inspired Opinions 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.
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.
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. And, with people looking for discounted attire for holiday events, you may have a good chance of making a sale. 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.
The weather outside may be frightful, but street teams still 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.
Babysitting can be a fun way to put money in your pocket if you like kids, and considering it's the season for holiday parties, you may be in high demand. 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.
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 .
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.
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.
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 your 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.
College textbooks can fetch a lot more. Most 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.
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 away for the holidays 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.
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.com is a useful site for developers and designers; Freelance Photo Jobs consolidates listings for photographers.
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 the gingerbread men for their holiday party. 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.
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.
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.
At Fiverr, an online community of freelancers, you can advertise your proficiency in skills such as writing and translation, video and animation, and advertising. As Fiverr’s name indicates, your services sell starting at $5 a pop, and you have the option of adding ancillary services to make more money. Fiverr keeps 20% of customer payments, meaning you earn $4 from every $5 in services you sell.
For more intensive jobs try joining TaskRabbit. If you live in or near one of 19 cities currently served by the site, you can perform tasks such as waiting in line for someone, running errands or lifting heavy items. Or maybe even setting up a Christmas tree. Set your own fees with TaskRabbit, which will keep 15% to 30% of the transaction.
If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a quick ride, you may have turned to Uber, the anytime, anywhere ride service that has gained popularity over the last several years. But have you ever considered becoming an Uber driver? If you are at least 21 years old, own a car made after 2000 or 2005 (depending on the city), and pass background and driving checks, you could earn cash by driving people around in your free time. And, as this is holiday party season, it shouldn't be hard to find plenty of business chauffeuring those who have had a little too much eggnog. According to Uber, drivers’ average earnings per hour are about $19. But don’t forget to factor in the costs associated with using your own car, such as gas, maintenance, insurance and cleaning.
Uber’s competitor Lyft says its drivers earn up to $35 per hour. Like Uber, Lyft has age, vehicle and background-check requirements for drivers.
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