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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| September 20, 2018
Summer is barely over, but already retailers are getting us revved up for the holidays with cheerful spreads of toys and décor on display. You know in your heart it’s an expensive time of year. And if you haven’t budgeted for it, those costs will eat into your usual monthly expenses or, worse, add to your credit card debt.
What to do? There are plenty of legitimate moneymaking opportunities for you to capitalize on at your convenience as 2018 winds down. If you can squeeze in a side hustle, some major retailers right now are offering generous incentives to lure seasonal workers. But there are other ways of making a quick buck, some also dangling the possibility of consistent streams of income beyond the holidays. Find out which cash-generating ideas will help you fatten your wallet by Black Friday. By how much depends on your level of motivation, but an extra $1,000 is within reach if you try one or more of these fast ways to make extra cash.
If you live near an historic site overseen by the National Park Service, you could become a licensed guide with the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides. For example, the Licensed Battlefield Guides of Gettysburg, the Pennsylvania site of one of the greatest battles of the American Civil War, are licensed and regulated by the National Park Service and are the only individuals legally allowed to conduct visitors around the national park for a fee. Rates for a two-hour basic battlefield tour range from $63 to $132 depending on group size, with prorated fees of $31.50 to $66 per hour for additional time. Tips are not required but often given.
Are you a runner? Consider earning extra bucks as a running tour guide. City Running Tours – “sweat and sightsee simultaneously” – is one company offering “sightrunning” (it’s a thing) services in 14 (and counting) U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., and Honolulu (and two cities in Canada). The company offers personalized or group tours. Tips aren’t required, but permitted.
"Our tour guides make on average about $20-$40 per tour plus incentives based on seniority, type of tour, distance, number of participants, referrals and positive reviews," Michael Gazaleh, president and CEO of City Running Tours, tells us.
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; you can also use one of ecoATM’s mall kiosks and get instant cash. You can sell smart phones, tablets, and wearables (think “smart watch”) to NextWorth.com and get paid by PayPal or by check. At uSell, you can sell smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and more. You get paid by check or through PayPal. Shipping with all of these sites is free. Or bring your video games, game consoles, smart phones and tablets, and accessories to GameStop to earn cash or store credit without the shipping hassles.
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 (even me) can understand -- you may be able to make money sharing it with others. For example, you could earn $10 to $75 an hour tutoring individual kids or college students if you speak a second language or have great math, science or writing skills.
Advertise your services on school, campus and community bulletin boards, or tutoring web sites such as Wyzant and Tutor.com. And take advantage of social media sites, such as Facebook, to let people know about the lessons you’re able to teach.
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.
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.
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 85% of the resale value in cash. Another option for designer clothing and accessories: Tradesy, which pays a 19.8% commission of the resale value of items $50 or more. You receive earnings via PayPal, debit card or a bank account. (Note: Several of these sites require that you register before you can enter.)
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.
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 — if you're comfortable with that (some people I know who sell on Craigslist meet the buyers at a neutral, very public location just to play it safe). 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 online furniture consignment, try sites such as Chairish, which lets you sell your used or vintage furniture and home decor and earn up to 80% or more (if the item is over $2,500) of the resale value, or AptDeco (only available in New York City, New Jersey and coming soon to Boston and Philadelphia), which helps you sell used home furnishings. AptDeco retains between 19% and 29% of the sale price. Listings for both sites are free.
Perhaps you collected baseball cards (or stamps, coins or Beanie Babies) 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 (lower in some cases) 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.
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 a few hundred dollars to $4,000 per study.
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.
The amount of sold-but-unredeemed -- or “closed loop,” to use retail industry parlance -- gift cards in the U.S. each year totals $1 billion, according to CEB Global. So grab the unwanted cards you have lying around your house, open the loop 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. According to GiftCardGranny, gift cards to Safeway in 2017 yielded the highest return rate: 92% of face value.
If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a quick ride, you may have turned to Uber, the anytime, anywhere ride-hailing service that has gained enormous popularity over the last several years. But have you ever considered becoming an Uber driver? I checked on requirements for being an Uber driver in Washington, D.C., where I’ve used the service: You must be at least 21 years old, own a four-door car 10 years old or newer, and pass background and driving checks. If you meet the requirements, you could earn cash by driving people around in your free time.
Uber at one time said drivers’ average earnings per hour are about $19; some observers have estimated it’s far less than that. And don’t forget to factor in the costs associated with using your own car, such as gas, maintenance, insurance and cleaning. Also, your earnings depend upon how much you work and how many rides you give, among other factors.
Surf over to Fiverr, an online community of freelancers. There, you can advertise your proficiency in skills including 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 47 U.S. cities served by the site in 2018, you can perform tasks such as waiting in line for someone, running errands or lifting heavy items. Set your own fees with TaskRabbit, which keeps 15% of the transaction. The company says it has an intensive vetting process.