There’s cash and then there’s fast cash. When you need that extra money to pay the rent (or anything else) on time, you can’t afford to wait for it to come through. So, although advice about opening a savings account or selling things on eBay (Stock Quote: EBAY) is great if you’ve got the time, we’ve compiled a list of eight ways you can make cash – fast.
1. Throw a Garage Sale
Chances are, you’ve got old furniture or toys lying around that can make you some money at a garage sale. It’s the perfect opportunity to de-clutter your house and make a few extra bucks. Even people without garages or front lawns are finding ways to hold a sale. Apartment dwellers are holding “yard” sales in the parking lot, or borrowing the common area for a day to throw a bazaar. If you live in the city and don’t have access to open space, Gary Foreman of TheDollarStretcher.com suggests participating in a local flea market.
“You’d be surprised as what you can find in your home that can get you a few dollars,” he says.
2. Participate in Studies and Focus Groups
Hospitals and universities often require participants for research studies and focus groups, and many of them will pay. Recent listings at Columbia University have offered ten dollars for something as simple as filling out a stress survey, to $200 for an experimental treatment program for addiction. Just make sure you read the terms and conditions, and keep in mind that not everyone qualifies for participation. (Check out a recent MainStreet story on volunteering for research studies.)
Some focus groups, which solicit opinions on subjects as varied as political parties and deodorant, also offer compensation. Check out FindFocusGroups.com for a list of groups in your area.
3. Car Pool
If you’ve got a car handy, offer to drive colleagues to work in exchange for a few dollars or a share of the gas money. Toronto resident Vincent Tam made driving his full-time gig, after he was laid off from his office job. He drove house-bound seniors to appointments and errands in his minivan, charging them $5 a trip. He later expanded his makeshift car service to include trips to and from the airport. The $20 he charged passengers was still cheaper than most taxi fares, and Tam was able to attract a sizeable client base. Keep in mind you may need a special license and liability insurance, but if you’ve already got the car then the big expense is out of the way.
4. Sell Your Books and Clothes
Students have known for years they can make good money by selling their old textbooks. (Hence the rush to the campus book store after the semester’s over.) But children’s books, reference volumes and novels continue to be popular buy-back items as well. And you don’t have to live near a book re-seller either. Portland-based Powell’s Books offers an online buyback program where customers enter the ISBNs of the books they’re interested in selling and receive store credit or cash through PayPal. The company pays for shipping and generates a shipping label for any books they wish to purchase.
Selling has picked up tremendously in the last six months, says Jon Guetschow, Powell’s director of used books, and online selling has more than doubled since January.
"We bid on and buy a couple thousand books a day from people all around the country,” he says, “and most days, 400 to 500 people sell books in person to one of Powell’s locations.”
Similarly, there are dozens of thrift shops across the country that pay for gently worn clothing. The largest of these is Plato’s Closet (Stock Quote: WINA), which has more than 240 locations across North America. The stores accept clothing, accessories, footwear and home goods such as picture frames and lamps, and will offer the customer 30 to 50% of the used retail value depending on the demand and condition of the merchandise. The most popular brands for buy-back right now include Abercrombie and Fitch (Stock Quote: ANF), Banana Republic (Stock Quote: GPS), and J. Crew (Stock Quote: JCG).
Plato’s parent company Winmark also owns Play It Again Sports, Music Go Round and Once Upon A Child, which offer cash for used sporting equipment, musical instruments and children’s goods, respectively.
5. Offer a Service
Experts say this could be a good time to audit your skills and see what simple services you can offer to make some cash. Not all services have to involve manual labor either.
“Try typing resumes, or doing research for a college professor,” says Tawra Kellam, editor of LivingOnADime.com. “If you’re handy around the kitchen, offer to make meals for working families. They buy the supplies and you fix up their favorite recipes.”
6. Cash In Those Coins
It’s been said that the average U.S. household has about $90 of spare change just sitting around. Who knows if that's true, but you probably have a few bucks' worth in your own home. Turn those coins into cash by rolling them and turning them into your local bank. Most banks will give you cash for no fee.
That said, rolling takes time and some patience. Another option is to visit a coin counting machine. Coinstar (Stock Quote: CSTR) has thousands of locations across the U.S. They offer free coin counting, when the coins are redeemed for gift cards, and charge an 8.9% fee if you convert to cash.
Although these ideas could make you a few extra bucks, there are simple things every family can do to save money.
“Make sure you cut everything that’s unnecessary,” Kellam says. “You would not believe the number of people who come whining about how they have ‘no money for groceries’ but have cable, a cell phone, two or three cars, a health club membership, buy junk food with the grocery money they do get and have the heat or air conditioning turned up too high.”
Above all, remember that sometimes, the best way to make money is to be smart about using the money you have.
“People hate the budget word,” says Foreman, of TheDollarStretcher. “But sometimes it’s the most important thing you can do.”
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—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.