5 Creative Ways to Make Money on the Side

by Guest on March 21, 2012

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Howdy! I’m taking this week off to recharge, but my friends at Money Crashers were kind enough to write this post for all of you. The bolded points below may be ideas you’ve heard before, but keep reading because there’s a lot of great actionable advice. Enjoy!


Most people think the only way to solve personal debt is by saving money and cutting costs. However, they’re neglecting one key component: income generation. In fact, there are a lot of ways to bring in extra cash in your spare time, many of which take very little time. So instead of spending hours staring at the television or surfing the web, use that time to make money instead.

1. Complete Online Surveys
This industry is glutted with websites that offer little or no incentives, but with a little research, you can find some that will pay you real money to complete surveys. One site is eJury, where you are paid to render a mock verdict in a legal matter. The pay ranges from $5 to $10, and each case takes an average 30 minutes to complete.

Another option is Pinecone Research, where you are asked for your opinion on a wide variety of subjects. The payout is usually $3 per survey and they vary in length. Also, from time to time, you’ll be asked to perform actual product tests, where you receive the item (which is yours to keep), test it out for a short period of time, and then comment on your experiences. The compensation is slightly higher for these surveys.

2. Participate in Focus Groups
If you have more free time, you can sign up at websites such as Delve or FG Global, where you can get information on paid, face-to-face focus groups in your area. This idea is particularly enticing because of the payout. Although it varies, you can usually expect at least $50 for two hours of your time, and I’ve been paid as much as $100 in some groups. However, most groups only allow you to participate once every 90 days.

3. Take Advantage of Rebates
Another way to generate cash is to take advantage of free after-rebate products and sell them online. Office supply stores and some online retailers regularly have computer software products and other small items, such as Bluetooth headsets, which you can get for free after you submit the rebate. Just remember to accurately fill out the rebate form, submit all required information, and make copies of everything before you send it in. Start a seller account at eBay or Amazon and you can sell the items for a profit.

4. Start a Home-Based Business
There are many ways to do this, but one great way is to build upon reselling items online. Once you’re up and running with your free stuff, sign up for a few daily deal websites such as Woot! or FatWallet. Here you can find a wide variety of items at significant discounts. Just be sure to read the fine print for return policy information, and make sure you clearly understand the condition of the item you’re buying. At times, you’ll think you’re getting a new product when it’s actually been refurbished or remanufactured. This will significantly affect how much you can resell it for.

5. Effectively Utilize Cash Back Rewards
This strategy only makes sense if you can pay your balance off in full and on time every single month. Find yourself one of the best cash back credit cards, such as the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card. You’ll get a $100 cash back bonus after $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months. After that, you get 3% cash back at supermarkets, 2% cash back at gas stations, and 1% cash back everywhere else.

Once you get the card, charge everything. Some of your utility bill companies will even take credit card payments. When you receive your cash back, avoid the temptation to spend it on merchandise. Instead, take it in the form of a statement credit applied directly to your account. It truly is free money.

Final Thoughts
Regardless of which route you take, just make sure that it’s an effective use of your time. If an online survey takes 30 minutes to complete but is only worth $1 in cash, is it really worth it? After all, time is money. Do the research to make the most with yours.

Also, create a plan for the money you’ll generate – will you pay down your debt, or put a little away to pad or create a savings account? I’ve used all of these ideas at various points in my life, and the revenues I generated helped me get out of debt faster than I would have otherwise.

What other creative ways can you think of to generate income?

David Bakke is a full-time contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, an online website focused on helping people get on track financially and better manage their money.

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  • I secret shop also. The money is the greatest, but free stuff is always nice.

  • These are some interesting ideas. One tip for cash back credit cards is to use them to buy store gift cards at the supermarket. That way you can still get the higher cash back percentage that many cards offer in that category.

    Another way is to provide some kind of freelance service. If you are competent at things such as writing, web design, programming, marketing, data entry, etc, you can find someone online who is willing to pay you for your time.

  • Like Jeremy said, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at freelancing. As a student and full-time employee, with a blog, it would be near impossible to juggle right now, but when I graduate that’s on my list.

  • Hmmmm, I’ve not given a lot of thought to focus groups before, but that’s a great idea!

  • I made a little over $200 last weekend by selling items on Craigslist. Some of them had been in our basement/garage for years!

  • I’ve often contemplated ways to bring in a little extra money on the side, but I’ve never actually gone the next step. I may have to give some of these a try.

    Quick question: For those that freelance, how do you go about finding paying customers?

  • I signed up with AirMiles to complete surveys with them. They email me whenever there is a new survey that matches my profile and I get airmiles for completing them. I haven’t had much luck with paid surveys but have been loving the AirMiles surveys. It’s no hassle and barely any work and the reward miles have been piling up!

  • I live in the Washington DC Metro area, and I have done research studies on the side (via the National Institutes of Health), where MRI studies pay out nearly $200 to lay in an MRI scanner for a couple hours (and sleep!) or maybe do a functional test while lying there. One year I made a couple thousand dollars doing this.

    I also started my blog “Thrift Diving,” which, according to my AdSense account, I have earned a WHOPPING $7.83 so far in the last few months. HAHAHAHAH. But seriously?? I would do that for free :)

  • I love the eJury and after rebate ideas! And the focus groups. Geez, I’m gonna start getting to work….

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