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All Contents © 2018The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance
| February 26, 2017
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.
Updated for 2016, our diverse list is packed with more tactics to earn extra cash than ever — 30 ideas for you to consider, along with resources and pointers to get you started. 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.
You can cash in on our right to vote on Election Day (and it should be a very interesting one in 2016). Many localities need election officers, especially those who are bilingual. And while the hours may be long, the pay isn’t bad for a day’s – in some cases 6 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. -- work.
For example, in Fairfax County, Va., which needs 3,500 election officers, election officers are paid $175 for a full day. In Monterey County, Calif., election officers are paid $135 (for clerks) and $185 (for inspectors).
Generally, to qualify, you must be at least 18 years of age and a registered voter in the state, be a U.S. citizen, read and write English, and have transportation to the polling place. You'll likely also have to devote time to attend a training class.
This one may require some creative workarounds with your full-time job – but that’s the case with most moonlighting work. In the case of coaching youth teams, it often means late-afternoon, evening and weekend availability, plus knowledge of the intricacies of a sport – soccer, hockey, softball, you name it -- and how to teach it to others.
Many recreational youth sports clubs, especially travel teams, around the country pay their coaching staffs. The pay scale for youth soccer coaches on club teams, for example, tops out at around $2,000 per month at the highest level, according to Job Monkey, a job-search website. But note: You have to be certified at various levels to pull down that pay scale and also have safety certifications, which may or may not be paid by the organization.
Some high schools around the country also rely on outside individuals to coach teams if teachers aren’t interested in taking those positions. (I coached high-school soccer and a club team for a few years while also working my full-time job as a journalist.) Pay varies. I received $2,500 per season for coaching high-school soccer. Of course, from pre-season to post-season and all the daily practices and games in between, that’s not a lot – but it was a lot of fun.
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If you’re a professional, colleges and universities are always on the lookout for adjunct professors. Some may require a master’s degree; others just a college degree and professional experience to share with students. I taught visual and print journalism at two esteemed schools – one required a master’s degree, which I have -- for a number of years while holding down a full-time job. The gigs added several thousand dollars to our annual household income and, more, it was richly fulfilling to work with students eager to learn. How do you get an adjunct teaching job? Reach out to community colleges, colleges or universities where you live. Depending on your specialty – say, accounting – reach out to the department head in that particular school and inquire about becoming an adjunct.
How about substitute teaching? Grade schools and high schools nationwide are looking for people to substitute teach – and some have outsourced the hiring process. Source4Teachers, a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based K-12 educational staffing firm, works with more than 220 school systems across the Northeast to fill substitute teacher and other staffing positions.
“We fill a lot of nonteaching roles that don’t require certification, filled by people who are maybe getting their feet wet, seeing if they want to pursue a teaching career,’’ says Owen Murphy of Source4Teachers. It varies by state and school district, but some don’t require substitutes to have teaching certification. Pennsylvania, for example, allows people with a bachelor’s degree to apply for one-year emergency certification to substitute.
Pay varies by district, but substitute teachers can make between $90 and $120 per day. Teaching-certified substitutes make about $20 more per day than non-certified subs, says Murphy.
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 sites including Vayable let 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. 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.
If you live near an historic site overseen by the National Park Service, you could become a licensed guide. 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 $55 to $120 depending on group size, with prorated fees of $27.50 to $60 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 13 (and counting) U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., and Honolulu. The company offers personalized or group tours. Tips aren’t required, but permitted.
"Our tour guides make on average about $20-$25 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 Kiplinger.
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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. 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. Or bring your video games, smart phones, digital cameras, tablets, game consoles and more to GameStop to earn cash or store credit without the shipping hassles.
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.
SEE ALSO: 30 Ways to Waste Your Money
If you got a big tax refund for 2015, you’re not alone: The average refund is about $3,034 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 2016 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 $15 to $60 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.
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Modeling is another great way to earn money – and you have several options. If you’re comfortable posing nude in front of artists and are capable of holding poses for as long as 30 minutes, consider life modeling. Artists want to draw bodies of all shapes and sizes in order to hone their skills. Typical sessions last three hours, and pay is about $12 to $13 per hour. During sessions, models start with short one-minute gesture poses, then transition to longer poses lasting from five to 30 minutes. If you’re interested in becoming a life model, contact local colleges, art organizations and community centers. You can also check Artmodeltips.com for a list of life drawing sessions in the U.S.
If you’re unsure of or uncomfortable with nekkid life modeling, you could take other routes. How about modeling just part of your bod? Fashion magazines, TV shows, commercials and movies are always in need of attractive hands, feet, legs, even beards, unique ears and that perfectly shaped bald head. Body part models earn anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a day of work. Contact local modeling agencies.
—Meilan Solly and Bob Niedt
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 Focus Pointe Global, can earn you between $65 and $200. Focus Pointe Global also has opportunities for telephone or online surveys.
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 range from $20 to $60, payment is made by check.
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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.
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. Another option for designer clothing and accessories: Tradesy, which pays 88.1% of the resale value if you receive earnings via PayPal 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.
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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.
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 community bulletin boards, the public library or houses of worship. You can also place a listing or search for jobs on sites such as Care.com and Sittercity.
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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 — if you're comfortable with that. 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.
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% of the resale value, or AptDeco (only available in New York City and surrounding areas as well as the Washington, D.C. market), which helps you sell used home furnishings and earn up to 86% of the resale value.
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 40 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.
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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.
Looking for the best rewards cards? You've come to the right place. We bring you the Best Reward Cards for Your Wallet.
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 All the Light We Cannot See, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was $6.50.
BookScouter.com is also a good place find who’s doling out the best prices for selling college textbooks. For example, we plugged in the ISBN for the textbook, “The Practice and Policy of Environmental Law” and found Textbookrecycling.com would buy it for $50, a few bucks better than a host of other sites (but still not the original $133 price). For more information, see Get the Best Price When Selling Back Textbooks.
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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, on Craigslist or on sites like Care.com.
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 websites are looking for freelancers to write, edit or design content for an average of $25 per hour. Freelancewriting.com and Freelance Writing Jobs provide a long list of freelance writing opportunities culled from several top sites. Freelancer.com offers a wide variety of freelancing jobs in categories such as design, media and architecture or writing and content. For $21 a month or $145 for a one-year membership, you can join Mediabistro’s freelance marketplace to post your qualifications and be contacted by media managers for work. Krop is a useful site for developers and designers, and Freelance Photo Jobs consolidates listings for photographers.
Budding photographers can earn extra cash by selling their photos to sites such as iStock and Shutterstock. At both sites, you must apply to be a contributor by submitting samples of your photos, illustrations, videos or audio. If approved, you’ll earn royalties when your files are downloaded by paying clients. Shutterstock says the typical download generates $0.25 to $0.38 for the photographer. iStock pays a premium ($0.34 versus $0.28 for subscriber downloads) if you agree to contribute to iStock exclusively.
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If you have a knack for creating anything from baked goods to intricate art designs, you can profit from your talent.
It happened to Stacy Brown, founder of the Auburn, Ala.-based Chicken Salad Chick restaurant chain. Brown’s personal quest to create the perfect chicken salad morphed into a small side business where she was selling her creation from her house – until the health department informed her she couldn’t sell food from her home kitchen. Voila. A restaurant was born from whence a chain sprung (sprung chicken?).
So you’re an excellent baker (according to all your friends). You 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 art and design are more your speed, consider selling your creations at local craft shows – my 85-year-old mother does this with her intricate German scissor-cutting art – or on Etsy, DeviantArt or Zazzle. Etsy and Zazzle feature products like jewelry, quote posters, vintage clothing and even pet supplies. DeviantArt, which has a large following associated with its popular Tumblr, mainly sells art prints.
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.
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About $44 billion worth of gift cards has gone unused over a six-year period, according to gift card resale site Gift Card Granny ($750 million in 2014 alone, according to advisory company CEB TowerGroup). 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 Wal-Mart) often bring the best offers.
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.
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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? Websites including Airbnb make it easy to rent out a spare room, a wing of your house or a backyard cottage.
Beth Everett and her husband, Glenn, built a cottage in their backyard in 2014 for their son Jordan to live in when he’s home from college. But while the studio sits empty, visitors to Portland, Ore., can rent the cozy space through Airbnb for $99 a night.
Fox Lair, as it’s known, offers heated floors, a small sitting area decked out with guitars and bongos, and plenty of eclectic artwork. Everett estimates that in 2015 they earned about $9,000 from a steady stream of visitors, money she used to help pay for editing and cover designs for her self-published books, the Lee Harding mystery series. “It was the easiest money I ever made,” she says. “And it was fun.”
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.)
SEE ALSO: Rent Your Home for Fun and Profit
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 Mary Kay and the Pampered Chef. Internet Based Moms keeps a long list of direct-sales businesses. See our slide show 5 Great Ways to Make Money in Direct Sales.
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.
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.
SEE ALSO: 12 Ways to Go Broke in Retirement
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 for domain name registration, as well as website building, hosting and security. 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.
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. 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.
SEE ALSO: Ways to Get a Ride When Uber Is Not an Option
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 19 cities currently served by the site, you can perform tasks such as waiting in line for someone, running errands or lifting heavy items. Set your own fees with TaskRabbit, which will keep 15% to 30% of the transaction. The company says it has an intensive vetting process.
(Read more about Fiverr and TaskRabbit in 15 Outsourcing Services to Make Your Life Easier.)
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