When you need some extra cash, work smarter, not harder.
“When I barely had a dollar to my name, managing bills required a lot of creativity,” recalls former magazine editor Amy Mangan of a time when both she and her husband found themselves without jobs in the wake of the 2008 recession.
Whether you’re saving for a specific goal like starting a business, trying to beef up your emergency fund or putting money away for a big purchase, instead of stressing about drastic measures, use these simple tips to discover “found” money right under your nose.
1. Clean out to find cash
The principle behind “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” can become a significant — and relatively simple — money maker. Pieces of furniture, books and decor gathering dust, clothes and accessories cluttering your closet, tools and appliances can bring in extra funds with a yard sale.
Katy Harrison and a few neighbors in her Atlanta, Ga. townhome community have a joint annual sale, netting each participant anywhere from $100 to $200. “While making a little extra cash is part of the goal, it’s actually a great excuse to clean out my closets and get rid of housewares I’m not using,” she says. “Plus, it’s a nice excuse to spend time with my neighbors. It ends up being equal parts work and fun.”
Don’t feel like having a physical sale? Sites like Poshmark (for clothes, shoes and accessories) and eBay make it easy to list your items online. If you’d rather stay local to avoid shipping costs and hassle, sites like NextDoor and Craigslist are searchable by geography, so purchasers can retrieve their items directly from you.
With so many automated payments and monthly subscriptions, you might not fully realize what you’re spending and where. Take a hard look at your credit card and bank statements and review, line by line, each recurring bill. Do you have a gym membership, but haven’t pumped iron in months? Are you receiving magazines that go straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin?
Use this saving exercise as an opportunity to reevaluate those recurring expenditures and cancel what you’re not using. Then, set up an automatic draft from your checking account to your savings account for the exact amount you were spending. You’ll be surprised at how fast $30 here and $50 there can add up.
3. Savings is just a phone call away
Some things, like mobile phones and at-home Wi-Fi, might be non-negotiables in your world. Still, take a look at what you’re spending, do some competitive research and see if a phone call to negotiate with your current service provider can net you a lower rate.
Often, all long-time customers have to do is ask and they can receive promotional rates that can be 20 percent or more off regular prices. Calculate exactly what you’re saving and send that money directly to your savings account.
4. Change cents to dollars
You probably have a stash of loose change or a jar of coins sitting around your house—it’s the adult version of a piggy bank. While it can take some time to build up enough to make a dent in a big purchase, every bit helps. According to Coinstar, a company that offers kiosks that change loose coins to cash or gift cards, their average coin-to-cash transaction is $44.
5. Trade time and talent
Bartering may sound old-fashioned, but it can save you some serious cash. Mangan, who chronicled her financial journey in a new memoir, “This Side Up: The Road to a Renovated Life,” found bartering essential to keeping her kids in the activities they loved while the family’s cash flow was at its lowest.
“When my daughter’s volleyball team tuition was due, I offered to write the team’s newsletter in exchange for tuition,” she recalls. Instead of having her son sit out of school field trips, she got creative and honest. “I spoke to my son’s teacher about my family’s financial hardship and volunteered to work on class projects from home. Turns out I had quite a skill for cutting hundreds of construction-paper circles!”
6. Here to serve
Creating a quick side hustle doesn’t have to mean developing a high-tech skill or spending a bunch of time and money marketing. Think of things you already know how to do like yard work, baking for special occasions, babysitting and running errands, and let friends and family know you’re in the market for those kinds of jobs.
Or, if you have a specialized skill — like accounting — and can offer it on the side (without any conflicting interest with your day job), it’s a great way to sock away some extra funds. Author and blogger Lauren Bowling adds, “With the gig/app economy there are now dozens of ways to earn money right through your phone [or computer].” She recommends taking online gigs like transcription or taking surveys through reputable websites.