Your options to make more money range from work-at-home jobs to one-time efforts to raise cash to simple budgeting hacks. Here are a few ways to turn what you currently have (stuff, skills, un-skills) into extra cash.
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Plug your money leaks
An obvious way to help your budget is cutting back on expenses. Start with some easy ways to stop bleeding money.
1. Refinance your mortgage
Interest rates are at an all-time low and many families are considering refinancing their home to save on monthly mortgage payments. Determine whether refinancing will save you money in the long run using a refinance calculator.
2. Switch providers
Don’t assume that your cable, cell phone and internet bills are locked into a slow but inexorable climb. Once you reach the end of your current contract, get on the phone or into an office and negotiate your bill down — or at least get a few perks thrown in for free. If that doesn’t work, shop for another provider.
3. Get rid of cable
Cable can rack up a hefty bill over a year, especially when you keep pay-per-view, premium channel and miscellaneous costs in mind. Opt for online providers like Netflix or Hulu Plus that let you stream shows directly onto your computer, mobile device or TV.
4. Use credit cards with the best rewards
The best things about credit cards are the perks and rewards. Using a card with shoddy rewards or no cash back does your budget a disservice. Find a credit card that rewards the categories you spend the most on, whether that’s travel, gas, groceries or supporting your shoe habit. This credit cards comparison tool gives you personalized recommendations based on your own spending patterns and credit profile.
5. Invest wisely
You’re never too young to start investing — in fact, the time to have an aggressive profile (high risk, high reward) is when you’re younger and you don’t plan to use the money for a few decades. But there’s no reason to pay top dollar for actively managed mutual funds. Despite the prestige and high fees, 80% of actively managed funds underperform market-indexed funds and exchange-traded funds. You’re better off with an index fund, which has much lower fees and will probably get you a better return for your money.
6. Pay off your debt
Speaking of investing, paying off high-interest debt is the best investment you can make. It’s virtually impossible to get a guaranteed 12% return on your money — unless you’re getting rid of credit card debt. Check out this in-depth article on getting rid of debt for guidance.
7. Improve your credit score
This one’s a no-brainer. Your credit score determines how much you’ll pay for any type of credit. There are multiple online sites, including NerdWallet, that will give you a free credit score. After finding out where you stand, work on improving your score. Once you make some progress, contact the issuer of your credit card, personal loan or other debt to negotiate a lower interest rate.
8. Maximize your tax refunds
Tax time brings an opportunity to boost your income. Scrutinize your last tax return to discover ways you can maximize your long-anticipated refund check and optimize your tax strategy.
9. Use rewards malls and cash-back websites
Little-known fact: You can earn cash back for the money you spend online anyway, just by clicking through another website first. Your credit card probably has a rewards mall that offers cash back or points on everything from Expedia to Macy’s to Zales. Even if it doesn’t, you can use straight-up cash-back sites like Ebates to get an automatic discount on online purchases.
10. Take advantage of price guarantees and deal finders
Stores often advertise that they’ll beat the lowest price offered by any competitor. Many credit cards also give price guarantees, paying you the difference if the price drops below a certain amount after you’ve made the purchase. Check your card’s fine print for details. Also, use tools like this DealFinder to score quick bargains.
Turn money into more money
Before you try to add a side gig, make sure your main job is doing all it can for you.
11. Ask for a raise
Saving money is all well and good, but making more money is even better. Try negotiating a raise — even in a tough job economy, sitting down at the bargaining table with politeness, confidence and respect for yourself and the organization can have its benefits.
12. Max out your IRA and 401(k)
Put the maximum allowable amount into your 401(k) and IRA contributions every year. The tax benefit may boost your refund now, but the real payoff comes at retirement. A 22-year-old who invests $5,000 in an IRA and never invests again will enjoy $137,000 at retirement, compared with just $101,000 if the money were invested in a regular savings account. And you’re much better off putting your money in the markets than sticking it into a savings account that doesn’t beat inflation. It doesn’t matter how old you are — unless you’re paying off debt, the time to start saving for retirement is now.
13. Consider a flexible savings account or health savings account
Your employer may offer an FSA, which allows you to use pretax dollars to cover medical expenses that aren’t paid by insurance, tax-free. This can include a range of things — out-of-pocket costs, prescriptions and dependent coverage, for example. Because the contributions get taken out of your paycheck before taxes, it’s like saving up to 30% on medical expenses. Keep in mind, though, that you lose any funds you haven’t spent at the end of the year, so you need to budget wisely. If you have a high-deductible insurance plan, you can also contribute to a health savings account, which doesn’t lose money at year-end.
Convert clutter to cash
Let’s be honest: Chances are, you have too much stuff. If you can identify high-value items and present them well, you can have a cleaner, simpler living space as well as money to spend on what you really want.
14. Sell some stuff
Wipe off the dust, clear out the storage closet and set up a garage sale. Put some effort into presentation: Items lovingly arrayed on a table will sell better than those chucked into a cardboard box. If you don’t have enough clutter to warrant a garage sale on your own, rope a few neighbors into a group sale.
Another option is selling online through sites such as Craigslist or Nextdoor. If that takes too long or you don’t want to deal with buyers in person, be aware that pawnshops don’t just lend, they also buy items outright. You’ll probably get less than with a private sale, because the pawnshop has overhead to cover, but you’ll get your money faster.
15. Value your antiques and collectibles
Dig into storage, sell off what is valuable and throw away the rest. Before you sell indiscriminately, double-check eBay and similar websites to see if you have a collectible, antique or valuable heirloom on your hands. If you think you might, spring for an appraisal. Otherwise you risk selling rare and valuable items below market rate.
16. Free and flea market flipping
Buy interesting items both online and at your local flea market and restore them and resell for a profit. Flea Market Flip offers some great ideas for trash-to-treasure projects.
17. Sell old phones, electronics and unused gift cards
Given the rate at which we churn through cell phones, tablets and other electronics these days, you probably have some old stuff lying around. You can sell your phone on sites like Swappa and NextWorth, and some sites also take other electronics. Check out Amazon’s trade-in site and eBay, too. And if you’re in a rush for cash, try an ecoATM. If you have unused gift card balances you don’t want, some online sites and Coinstar Exchange will buy them.
18. Turn in printer cartridges
Take part in the share economy
If you have an extra anything, chances are there’s someone who’d like to use it. As the so-called share economy grows, you have increasing opportunities to get cash for your idling machines and empty space.
19. Rent out an underused parking spot
Parking spots can be a hot commodity, particularly in crowded cities. If you happen to be holding onto a coveted spot that you do not use all the time, put it up for rent. If your landlord or building offers you parking at a discount rate, consider seeing whether you can rent the space out for a higher price — assuming you’re allowed to do so, of course.
20. Rent out a spare bedroom
If that guest bedroom in your midtown Manhattan walk-up is left unused, consider renting it out on Airbnb or other vacation rental sites. Make sure that everything is kosher with your rental agreement beforehand.
21. Get a roommate
If you really want to free up money, a surefire way to do it is to split household expenses. Take the usual precautions: Ideally, choose someone known to you or trusted friends. If you rent, make sure your lease allows additional occupants. Be clear on expectations around timely payment, personal space, and noise and cleanliness habits.
22. Rent out your car
Turn talent into a paycheck
Look to your hobbies and current or past job skills to mine useful ways to generate income.
23. Crafty? Crochet away!
Have a penchant for crocheting, jewelry-making or embroidery? Sell your goods on Etsy, the go-to site for artisans and impassioned folk selling home goods, art and knickknacks. Offer to make personalized products — not only does it establish a connection with the customer, but it often brings in more income.
24. Become a freelance writer
Many websites, like eHow and Livestrong, will pay by the article for content on such topics as business, tech and how to bake bread. Check each outlet for details on its requirements and pay structure, so you don’t end up doing a lot for a little.
25. Take up a skilled freelance gig
Websites such as TaskRabbit, Updesk and Craigslist offer opportunities to avid freelancers to pick up programming, design and marketing jobs on the side. Working on a per-project basis lets your balance your side job with your current one. Sites like Freelancer.com can also offer a leg up.
26. Sell your photos
Stock photo websites like iStock purchase images from everyday people. Even if you aren’t Ansel Adams, the most commonly requested (and often overlooked) photos include images of stop signs, coffee cups and other routine objects.
27. Be a virtual assistant
Websites such as VirtualAssistants.com list jobs ranging from bookkeeping and accounting to writing and editing. Or go to a local site such as Craigslist to advertise your skills or seek ads matching them.
28. Small-scale catering
Fancy yourself the next Iron Chef? Take those skills to the marketplace by running a catering business out of your kitchen on the weekend. Cook for dinners, birthday parties and friends’ events; or just bake a bunch of cookies and stand outside the nearest bar at 2 a.m. Heads up: Be careful to comply with food safety laws.
29. Become an online travel agent
Have a knack for finding the best deals on Expedia? Hawk your services as a low-cost alternative to full service travel agencies. Be careful with this one, as scams abound. Thoroughly vet any lead generation or host agency before signing up. Be skeptical of offers to sell you a license or credential, and avoid anything that pressures you to recruit other agents below you.
30. Bartend or wait tables
The great thing about nightlife is that it doesn’t conflict with day life. Pick up shifts bartending or waiting tables at catered parties. Websites like Indeed.com list opportunities. You can earn some extra income without sacrificing hours at your current job or studies. Note: Check your state’s rules; you may need a server’s permit for bartending.
Were you an SAT wiz? There’s a big market of competitive parents and children looking for private tutors. Join a large company like Kaplan or Princeton Review, or tutor on your own schedule by going private through a site like Care.com. If you’d rather work with adults, look into tutoring ESL learners.
32. Try affiliate marketing
Maybe you already have a website or blog. If so, you might be able to make some money through it by joining an affiliate network (Amazon has a good one) and delivering traffic to your new partner. Affiliates get paid when someone clicks through from their website to the partner site and/or buys something there.
Fluent in a second language? Advertise translation services on local job or listings sites. Check online at sites such as Gengo or One Hour Translation; or you may find better pay through a membership service such as Proz.com.
Turn lack of talent into a paycheck
You don’t need to be a master craftsman or wordsmith to earn supplementary income. Here are some income boosters that don’t require specialized skills. But do your due diligence. Check out any website by searching its name plus “scam” and read online reviews. Be wary of any “opportunity” that asks for an upfront fee, wants you to pay for certification, or requests your Social Security number or bank or credit card information.
34. Get paid to be a website or app tester
Websites such as UserTesting.com pay for your thoughts on websites and apps. You’ll have to pass a short test to be accepted, then will be paid $10 for each 20-minute test.
Services as diverse as your cable company and your orthodontist sometimes pay a nice little gift for both referrer and referred. Small businesses and companies just getting off the ground are often the most likely to give referral bonuses. Your employer might give referral bonuses too, so scour your personal networks to see if you know a good fit for open positions.
36. Survey websites
Although those posters on the side of the road may overstate how much you can potentially make by simply answering surveys online, generating a side income from online surveys is still possible and profitable.
If you have an affinity for children, get yourself registered on a reliable sitter website like Sitter City and get to work. Baby-sitting has the advantage of dovetailing well with a 9-to-5 job. To make yourself more marketable, look into a child-care safety course from Red Cross or a similar organization.
Most pet owners cannot afford a luxury weekend for their pet at the kennel. Price your rates competitively during your stint as a pet sitter, and make sure your place allows for multiple pets if you intend to board them with you. Many sites, such as Care.com, offer job boards for pet sitters and those looking for animal care.
If you don’t care for either kids or animals, you can look for house-sitting gigs through personal referrals, Craigslist or websites like Mind My House. You may be able to double up the income by renting out your own place while house-sitting.
40. Engage in market research
Market research is the bread and butter of advertising agencies. To better tailor their strategies, many large ad agencies hold focus groups and offer a stipend to participants. Contact a local or larger market research firm and secure your spot in a future group.
41. Get on a test jury
Sites like VirtualJury.com and JuryTest.Net recruit people to serve as mock jurors who help attorneys test their cases and arguments. Payment and time commitment vary.
42. Become a tour guide
If you know a bit more history concerning the old town square than the average resident (or if you can put in some research time), consider running your own personal tour guide business. Walking tours are en vogue, and you can advertise your services on TripAdvisor for tourists looking for an insider’s perspective. Note: Check your city’s regulations; some guides work for tips only if their city prohibits or heavily regulates tour guides.
43. Find seasonal work
Snow shoveling, amusement park work, holiday staffing and lifeguarding are all seasonal work options that are low commitment and can be done sparingly according to your schedule. You want flexibility, employers want flexibility — it works.
44. Become a part-time helper
With the baby boomer generation retiring, older folks in your community may need someone to help them around the house and with chores. Make a side income at a job that helps you contribute to your local community.
45. Admin and data entry
Pick up administrative and data entry jobs that can be done by telecommuting; look on Craigslist or at the career center at a local college campus.
46. Become an on-site manager or landlord
Earn a spot to live rent-free while making a side income as an on-site manager for apartment building owners who live out of town.
Turn your passion for all things green into a side business by offering landscaping and gardening tutorials to fellow flower aficionados.
48. Become a mystery shopper
Yes, they really do exist. Market research firms and companies doing internal audits often want to see how their stores perform from a customer’s perspective, so sign up to become their eyes and ears.
Services such as Amazon Mechanical Turk connect businesses with a cohort of individuals looking to make a little cash on the side (e.g., you), in order to crowdsource small tasks. You can walk away with a nice check or gift card for a few hours of work. Other services put you in jobs right away for pay at the end of the shift: Labor Ready, LaborWorks and Labor Finders are among them.
50. Join a car service
The taxicab industry used to be limited to a handful of licensed professionals. Now, companies such as Lyft and Uber allow anyone with a license to perform the same functions as a taxi driver, but with greater flexibility.
Updated Aug. 15, 2016.