It can be tough to have cash left over for saving and splurging after the bills are paid. But thankfully there are ways to bring in extra money that don’t require much time or work.
Renting out your things, taking on a roommate or answering questions about your views can be simple ways to bring in additional income. The cash may not be substantial — each of these moves could net anywhere from a few extra bucks to a few hundred dollars. But the money may still be enough to create a little wiggle room in your budget, says Sarah Newcomb, a behavioral economist and author of “Loaded: Money, Psychology and How to Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind.”
“We spend money little by little and it all adds up. It’s the same with income,” Newcomb says. “That could pay for your online video subscription. It could be a dinner out.”
If you’re looking for easy ways to supplement your regular income, here are some money-making strategies to consider.
Rent out your stuff. New apps and websites make it possible to rent out cars and random appliances that would otherwise be sitting dormant around your home. By having other people pay you by the hour or the day to use your lawnmower or car at times you wouldn’t be using it anyway, you can turn your items into an additional income stream, Newcomb says. Getaround, Turo and FlightCar are websites where people can list their cars to be rented by others while they’re at work or while they’re on vacation. On Zilok, people can list a range of belongings, including power tools, video games and home appliances, by the day. The amount of money you’ll generate will vary based on the item you’re renting out and the time of the rental. Cars can be rented for $5 to $9 an hour or for $30 to a few hundred dollars for a full day. The rates on appliances and tools vary widely, but recently a ladder was advertised on Zilok for $15 a day and some bikes were listed for $35 a day. The sites will usually take a cut of the rental fees.
This approach won’t work well if you are constantly driving or if you don’t want to take the time to meet up with someone who wants to rent your chainsaw for a few days. But the step can help people cover some of the costs of certain belongings such as cars, which tend to lose value over time. You’ll have to do the math to make sure the benefits will be greater than the potential costs. For instance, car owners who use Getaround need to pay a $99 fee to install technology that lets renters unlock the car with their smartphones, along with a $20 monthly fee. And although the companies will typically offer insurance for the times the car is being rented out, some drivers may still want to ask their auto insurance companies how their coverage might be affected.
Take on a tenant. People with an extra room or part of the house that isn’t getting much use can think about clearing out the clutter so they can rent that part of their home to a guest, says Kimberly Palmer, author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom,” a book being released in June about how mothers can improve their finances. There are different ways to go about it. Some people may be comfortable renting out an extra room to different guests on a website such as Airbnb. Other families might prefer to host an exchange student, which might earn them a stipend. And some people might prefer to rent out an entire house or apartment while they’re away on vacation through Airbnb or other websites such as VRBO.com. Single rooms or small apartments can be listed for low rates, say $50 a night, but some larger apartments or houses can sometimes be rented for hundreds of dollars a night.
Becoming a host requires a little bit of setup. You’ll have to clean up before and after a guest arrives, although some of the websites make it possible to charge a fee for hiring cleaners. And before you rent out your place, you’ll want to clear it with your landlord or your neighbors. Some homeowners associations have rules that restrict short-term rentals. Certain cities or states also ban the practice or require hosts to get a license. And people should check their home insurance policies to fully understand what is covered if something is broken, stolen or damaged while the home is rented out, Palmer says. There are also some costs to using the popular websites to list your place. Airbnb charges 3 percent of the rental rate and VRBO charges hosts for listing the advertisement on their website, which is either 10 percent of the booking or an annual fee of $349.
Sell your old clothes. Chances are you have shoes, bags and
clothes you haven’t worn in months, or maybe years. Instead of donating them or throwing them away, you may be able to make some extra money by selling items that are in good condition at a consignment shop or online. “You can use your current wardrobe to basically upgrade your wardrobe,” Newcomb says. If you don’t have time to take the clothes to a store or to snap photos of them so you can sell them online, you can look into a service that will handle those steps for you.
For instance, thredUP, a startup based in San Francisco, sends people large bags that they can fill with clothes and other items they want to sell. The company will sort through the bag and post ads for the clothes it thinks it can sell, and send the seller a check for their portion of the proceeds. (Items that are listed for more than $60 won’t be paid until the piece sells, while thredUP will pay people up front for items that are listed for less.) Clothes that are too worn or that the company thinks it can’t sell may be recycled or sold to a third party, but people who want to keep those clothes can have them mailed back for a fee.
Become a part-time coach. Some people
may be willing to pay to learn about your experiences. You don’t need to make this a full-time side job, but if you have an expertise — say you used to be a college athlete or you’re pretty good with Facebook and Twitter — you can become a consultant, Palmer says. The role may require little more than talking about how you do things to give your clients ideas for how they can improve. Other times you might help someone come up with a workout plan or guide them on ways to build their brand. Still, some people can make extra cash as a coach by committing a few hours a month after work or on weekends, she says. It may help to set up a website that explains your experience and your skill set, Palmer says, but it doesn’t have to be a major expense. For instance, Squarespace offers website templates for businesses and consumers that start at $12 a month.
Get paid for sharing your opinions. Companies are looking for insight on how consumers feel about their products. Becoming a mystery shopper for a store or restaurant might be a good idea for you if you’re happy to earn one free meal a month or so by answering questions about your experience, says Jennifer Martin, a business coach with Zest Business Consulting. But some people might make more cash by joining focus groups. Research firms in different cities will hold events or conduct online studies, paying people a flat rate for sharing their views. For instance, Martin says she recently received a few hundred dollars to spend an hour talking about her views on banking and investing. Another time, she was paid to try out some cookies.
The key will be to find jobs that pay enough for you to feel that it is worth your time, Martin says. “If somebody wants to pay me what I normally make to talk about cookies, why would I not?” she says. But some people may not think it’s worth it to join a focus group that pays less than what they’re already earning by the hour at their day job, she says. Consumers should vet the research companies and check reviews before signing up to avoid falling for a scam. It may help to look for a company in your area that does research for a number of brands you recognize, she says.