Even if you’ve always managed your money responsibly and worked hard, unexpected events can easily overwhelm your cash reserves and you might need some fast cash in your life.

According to Bankrate’s 2023 emergency savings report, less than half (43 percent) of American households would be able to pay a $1,000 emergency expense from their savings. It’s important to establish an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, but there are also some ways to find extra cash in times of need.

Let’s explore some of the legitimate ways to get cash fast.

How to get cash fast

Though the scramble to get extra cash can feel daunting, remember that money may be hiding right under your nose before you pursue drastic measures. Consider some of these strategies to consolidate your resources, sell unused items and rediscover wealth that’s already yours, helping you bridge the gap without breaking the bank.

1. Sell something

If you have anything sitting around your house collecting dust, then you could turn it into cash.

Whether you have old electronics, collectible items, furniture, household equipment or something else, you can list items for sale on several online marketplaces, such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Alternatively, you could hold an old-fashioned garage sale.

2. Pawn something

Don’t want to part with something that has sentimental and monetary value?

A pawnshop loan could be an option for you. You can pawn an item to put money in your pocket today. Then, you’ll have some time to come up with new funds to reclaim the item.

This is far from a perfect solution (there are finance charges, for example), but it could work in a pinch.

3. Sell unused gift cards

Do you have a gift card to a store you’ll never visit?

The well-intentioned gift could turn into some of the cash you need with the help of online gift card resellers like CardCash. Bear in mind that it may take a few days for the transaction to clear and for you to receive your funds.

4. Access your paycheck earlier

Receiving your paycheck a couple days early could help you solve a short-term liquidity issue. There are many apps that offer early payday features. Earnin, for example, is an app that will allow you to get early access to your paycheck without any fees or interest payments involved, though it does ask for optional tips.

Many banks, such as Axos Bank and Capital One, have also integrated early direct deposit into their accounts.

5. Take on a freelance gig

Freelancing is a type of side gig you can take on at your own pace and in your area of interest. Freelance gigs can include anything from writing blog posts to graphic design projects.

If you’re new to freelancing, you can connect with businesses or clients through a number of freelance websites, such as Fiverr or Upwork. As you build your portfolio, you’ll be able to take on higher paid gigs.

6. Pet sit

Pet lovers will find this option an enjoyable way to earn fast cash. Take advantage of the apps like Rover that are designed to connect you with pet owners who need your help.

With Rover, you can choose to watch the pet at the owner’s home or at your own. Either way, you can set your rates. You can earn up to $1,000 a month as a pet sitter, according to the Rover website. Note that the app’s service fee is 20 percent of earnings.

7. Babysit

If you aren’t a fan of pets, you could choose to babysit instead. Care.com is one site that makes it easy to connect with families looking for a babysitter. Babysitters generally make between $16 to $24 an hour, according to Care.com’s data. The average rate varies depending on location and how many kids you’re babysitting.

8. Ask for a loan from a family member or friend

If you are struggling to come up with the funds you need, it might be time to turn to family. Before diving into this route, make sure you have a solid plan to repay the loan in a reasonable timeframe. Otherwise, you run the risk of upsetting the relationship.

9. Become a food delivery driver

Food delivery services have become a big business in recent years. According to consulting firm McKinsey, the online food delivery market more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can join one of the many services as a deliverer to bring home some fast cash.

A few options include DoorDash, Uber Eats and Instacart.

10. Rent out extra space

If you have a spare bedroom, you can turn that space into fast cash with the help of a service like Airbnb. If you live in a popular location, this can be an especially lucrative opportunity.

Once the guest checks in, you’ll receive payment from Airbnb 24 hours later.

11. Consolidate your debt

If you have decent credit and several outstanding loans with high interest rates, you could benefit from debt consolidation. Although you won’t actually earn money from this strategy, it can help to reduce the amount you’re paying in interest, therefore leaving you with additional cash flow each month.

Explore the best debt consolidation loans with Bankrate.

12. Flip items

You can find free items on sites like Craigslist to flip for cash. If you’re handy, seek out things that have some inherent value but are in need of a little bit of some sprucing up.

For example, you might find a free bookcase that needs a bit of elbow grease. Take the time to make the free item more attractive, then sell it for a profit.

13. Look for paid research studies

You can find paid research studies, including medical studies and student surveys, in most locations. Many of these studies are offered by colleges and universities, so you could look up a university near you to find paid study opportunities.

You can also search for medical study options in your area through ClinicalTrials.gov.

Most clinical research studies pay around $17 to $35 per hour, according to the job marketplace ZipRecruiter. Some companies may pay in gift cards, such as an Amazon gift card.

14. Turn coins into cash

Consider taking your jar of coins to the bank for a deposit. You won’t become rich, but you might have enough to cover a minor problem.

Before you head to the bank, call ahead to see if the financial institution will charge any fees to deposit coins. Although some banks offer a free coin exchange, others will charge a fee.

Another way to trade in coins for cash is through Coinstar kiosks, which can be found at many supermarkets and retail stores.

15. Borrow against your life insurance policy

Borrowing against your life insurance to get immediate cash is relatively straightforward. You apply through your insurance company, specifying the amount you need, and if approved, the money will be deducted from the policy’s cash value. Notably, there’s no credit check or lengthy approval process since you’re essentially borrowing from yourself.

As for repayment of a life insurance loan, there’s no fixed repayment schedule. You can pay it back in installments, a lump sum or not at all. However, interest is charged on the loan amount, and if not paid, it compounds over time, reducing the death benefit your beneficiaries would receive.

16. Request forbearance on bills

Utility, phone and cable companies often provide forbearance options to customers facing financial hardships, though terms can vary significantly depending on the provider.

Reach out directly to the service provider and be upfront about your situation. Typically, the forbearance plan will allow you to either reduce or pause payments for a specified period. Note that this isn’t a cancellation of the debt, and in some cases, interest or late fees may still accumulate. But delaying payments can free up cash that’s needed in the short term.

Avoid these sources of fast cash

Not every option to obtain fast cash is a good idea. Here’s what to avoid.

Payday loans

Payday loans are unsecured personal loans that must be repaid by your next paycheck. Unfortunately, high interest rates and short terms can lead to a vicious cycle of growing debt.

Title loans

Car title loans use your car’s title as collateral for a short-term, high-interest loan. With that option, you are putting your vehicle on the line to access a loan that is often laden with fees.

Credit card cash advances

Bankrate’s emergency savings report found that about a quarter of consumers would pay for an emergency expense with a credit card. While credit cards can be handy in emergencies, cash advances should be a last resort. They often come with high fees and high interest rates, and the interest starts accruing immediately, with no grace period.

Bottom line

We all sometimes are faced with sudden expenses, and you might not have enough savings to cover them. There are many solutions for accessing fast cash — make sure you find one that’s feasible for your schedule and skill set.

While these solutions can help in the short term, it’s important to continually build up an emergency savings fund. That way, in the future, you can avoid the worry of not being able to cover certain expenses.

— Bankrate’s René Bennett contributed to an update of this story.