how do you make extra money?

Student Barista makes coffee drinks for USF Students (Hunter Patterson, Foghorn)
Love my coffee but not up for being a barista .

Growing up I earned money by babysitting and working an after-school and summer job. It was traditional work and paid by the hour. Mostly. Lady down the street paid me to babysit out of whatever was in her pocket. Sometimes that was a coupon for a McDonald’s ice cream cone and a bunch of change.

Since then, I’ve done a few less traditional things to make a dollar.

In 2006 the line-ups at the passport office were record breaking. The US was about to require Canadians have passports for entry (previously you just needed a drivers license) and a lot of people needed them that previously had not. One morning I got up at 5:30am and met up with my sister to get in line and renew my passport. I was one of the first dozen people in line and by 8:00am there were a few hundred people behind me in line. I was unemployed at the time and my sister suggested I see if I could sell my spot. A disgruntled person from the back of the line had come forward to see where the start was and I offered him my spot for $60. Easy enough, right?

For a few weeks I used my early rising skills, developed from years as a rower, for cash. Two hours standing in line brought me $50 – $70 and every time I told a friend why I had to get to bed so early they laughed.

Eventually my younger sister got in on the act and one of us would ‘save’ the spots while the other would go to the back of the line to sell them. It was stressful but exhilarating. And, while I consider myself an introvert, I got a nice kick out of the selling part.

All good things must come to an end and the passport office cottoned onto our gig. We weren’t alone in the game by that point. Our colleagues were a mix of students, street people and entrepreneurs that, like us, lined up at the crack of dawn to make a few dollars before most peoples day had even begun. The passport office started issuing numbers to people in line and there was talk of people being arrested if they were found selling the ticket. I wasn’t about to go to jail for my part-time job so I decided to retire. It was good while it lasted.

In more recent years Chris and I have done a few things to bring in extra cash. We own a part-share in season hockey tickets. We sell most of our share of tickets to a broker for a bit above cost. Chris gets to go to one or two games for free and then we make a bit of money selling play-off tickets (Go Canucks! Go!).

I’m fairly risk averse but Chris is not. Last year a friend of Chris’s wanted to start a small business but needed about $1500 start-up money. I wasn’t really game for it but Chris knew his friend and the risk involved better than I did so I trusted him. We’ve now made back our investment plus some.

If you’re in debt find extra ways to make money.

Actually, you don’t even have to be in debt to find extra ways to make money. Maybe you want to build an emergency fund or save for a vacation. Whatever the reason, finding a few ways to earn an extra few hundred dollars a month is a good skill to have.

It doesn’t have to be a traditional part-time job.

In fact, in my mind it’s preferable to work for yourself instead of committing 10-20 hours a week to a formal job. It creates flexibility in your life because I assume, like most people, you already have a fairly full schedule. Creating extra income should be something you can pick-up and let go of as your life and motivation level demands.

Most of the extra income I have earned in the last year has been from selling our things. Yes, it is a finite way to make money but we’re paying off debt and I consider debt finite too. Selling furniture, our car and getting a table at a Swap Meet have been easy and flexible ways to make money.

If you have children flexibility is key. Ideally you don’t want to pay for a sitter while you work. Find something you can work on for brief amounts of time like putting up a for sale ad while your child is napping or otherwise occupied.

It should be something you enjoy.

Don’t take up flipping antique furniture if you know nothing about it and, more importantly, don’t like it. Ideally this small part-time income is part of a hobby. Maybe you craft or knit and decide to start a small business buying supplies wholesale and selling them to friends.

Katy of The NonConsumer Advocate bought a jar of marbles at a garage sale for $3. She sorted them and listed them on eBay. Some of them will sell for up more than $10. Katy obviously likes eBay and knows a thing or two about antique marbles. Great way to make a few dollars doing something she likes.

You could babysit, house sit, sell things, make things, you name it. Think about things you like to do, are good at, and if you have a market around you to sell those goods or services. Don’t overlook your own skills. If you’ve been blogging for three years and keeping up a Twitter or Facebook account you have a skill. Think about anyone you know with a small business. Any of them not web savvy? Consider offering your services to help them start a company blog or Twitter account.

My sister was recently asked by a friend to write copy for a website. Does Katy have any formal copy writing experience? No. But she has written and edited formal business documents and has now kept a blog that she has written on 2+ times a week for six months. Her friend liked the style of her writing, needed someone quick and below cost, and Katy fit the bill.

The Flip

The most common way I see people making extra money is by flipping an item. Buy low sell high as they say. If you are into buying used goods, and know the market for them, you’ve probably seen some smokin deals on things. When I went to a Swap Meet I learned that most of the people that bought tables do so as a small business. They buy items at garage sales for pennies, clean them up, and then resell them for a profit.

The other way to flip is buying new items that are in hot demand. When Apple released the iPhone there was a huge market of iPhones being resold for above cost. Why? There were only so many units being released each day and most people had to line up overnight or early in the morning to get one. People want the latest thing but they don’t want to run all over town finding who has it in stock or line up for it. If you’re savvy on the latest gadgets this might be something to consider.

One flip I am interested in right now is gift cards. On my local Craigslist a lot of people sell gift cards at greatly reduced costs – they want the cash, not credit at Starbucks. There’s a new site called (many US equivalents if you search them out) that buys back gift cards for cash (they also sell them below cost – check it out if there is something on your 30 Day Buy list that you must have). I’m doing a bit of research at the moment and will at some point make a test run of flipping a gift card. The key is to find cards for stores that have a high rebuy value from Example: I buy a $100 department store giftcard on Craigslist for $65. will give me $90 for it. My profit would be $25.

Note: be very careful buying gift cards from people. Meet them at the retailer, ask the retailer to verify the balance and then transfer the balance onto a new card before you purchase the card from the seller.

But I thought Minimalists wanted to work less?

Yes! That’s why I’m not back at a 50-60 hour a week job. And one of the reasons I can not be at that job is because we’ve reduced our living expenses and found flexible ways to earn extra money.

What about the Internet?

If you have a fool proof way of making money online please share. The only people I know that have successfully created an online business, and passive income from that business, put a lot of work in before they made any money from it. It can be done, and if you have an idea or passion that is based around an online business I say go for it. But I caution you to beware of thin promises of easy money made online. Courtney had a great post up about creating a small business and her line here is dead on: Prepare to work more before you work less.

More on making money:

  • Jenny at ExConsumer has a thread of posts on how she generates extra cash. Jenny will be non-mortgage debt free by November of 2012 – correction: make that November of this year! – if all goes as planned. Keep an eye on her – she’s very motivated and creative. I predict earlier success on her debt pay down.
  • The Saved Quarter has a helpful list of how she saves $115/week. Her method is a combination of savings from her budget and earning extra money. She babysits, secret shops and takes surveys to name a few things. Great ideas here if you are home with kids and need things you can do without hiring a sitter.
  • Find a New Career in the Junkyard: I wouldn’t recommend getting into flipping furniture unless you have some solid skills and knowledge to start (and space!). Think you have what it takes? Check out the Modern Thrifter’s list of thrifting basics. If that list is old hat to you, you have an empty garage, a truck and know how to refinish or reupholster a piece of furniture – go for it!

Do you have any tips or ideas for making extra money? Please share – I’m interested in adding to my debt reduction/money making arsenal of ideas.

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  • I have made money doing secret shopping and research panels. Last month I made $200 doing 2 surveys and that money will pay for our anniversary celebration. I also purchased 3 Ergo baby carriers at a sample sale and then sold them for a profit ($25 each) on Craigslist. This allowed me to cover the cost of my own Ergo.

    • Nice work! I think some people get too focused on finding something that will make them huge money. In the last year I’ve really noticed it is about finding a few things or opportunities to make an average of $200-$400/month. That number seems to be fairly easy for us to get to without getting into sweat shop type work.
      And yeah Ergo carriers! Love mine.

  • BTW, I just had a few eBay marble listings end last night. And I sold three particular marbles for $213! And I still have many, many more from that $3 jar of marbles.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

    • I need to learn about marbles. That is awesome. Even better that marbles are small. I’m calling it a minimalist flip =)

    • I know. Looking forward to a little recap post from her on it. Marbles, who knew?
      Your list is great. I am learning more and more that it’s about finding things you like and having a small stable of ideas and methods to make money.
      And I am always so impressed with how you get it all done, Kristen. Home schooling, home made everything and your great blog – inspiring!

  • I make cupcakes and muffins and sell them at the free craft fair and community yard sales in the area. Everyone loves a wholesome muffin while setting up their yard sale stuff! I usually bring home about double what I spend on ingredients and it’s fun and easy since I’m always cooking anyway! Sometimes I get orders for parties, which just adds to the pot :)
    Your passport line story is fun!

    • Baking is a great idea. Particularly if it is something you love to do anyways.
      I heard second hand that a few acquaintances thought my ‘hussle” with the line-up was in poor taste. Can’t please everyone I say!

  • I’ve made a ton of extra money editing and assisting with the writing of term papers for fellow students whose first language is not English.

    Most of the stuff I have purchased on Craigslist, I have been able to resell at the same or higher price after I’ve gotten the use out of it that I needed… like graphing calculators for school, school bags, textbooks (they typically go for less than I paid, but I save money vs. selling them back to the bookstore or renting the text).

    I have gotten furniture for free on various free exchange sites or on the sidewalk in my city and sold them on Craigslist for a few bucks here and there too.

    I help people with their taxes and get “a donation” for my assistance (or dinner or something else I need, in trade), though I make it clear that I am not an accountant nor am I licensed to provide such advice and they are responsible for the final result, but most of the people I help are friends, or friends of friends, who get my help on taxes simpler than my own, which are pretty simple. I always have repeat takers.

    In this economy, I’ve also helped people rework and rewrite their resumes and offered them mock interviews or interview skills. Usually, I get a little something after they’ve gotten the first paycheck once they get a job based on my work for them, or at least something in trade, like maybe some auto work or something equally useful to me.

    I’ve made and sold special custom jewelry, which helps me be creative without spending any money of my own and diminish my stash of beading supplies.

    And I’ve offered credit report gathering, reading and analysis and help in dealing with creditors to people for trade for auto repairs as well.

    If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know…

    Great post!!

    • Wow, these are fantastic ideas to use your skills to help friends and make $ at the same time. The assisting with taxes is a great idea. I like all of these ideas – well done!

  • I often see Etsy stuff and wish I was more creative. I have one that I follow that recently posted some Etsy tips.

    I’ve been meaning to sell Plasma and got some great tips from a friend about protein intake and hydration the day before… but I bet they won’t take me if I get pregnant (which I’d like to do).

    My mom used to buy renaissance style patterns on the big (99¢) sales at JoAnn and sell them for a big profit on eBay, but then it became more commonplace, she lost her niche.

  • We sold a bunch of stuff we had in our closets for years. Because of our move, we had to get rid of so many things. We ended up making $2,000+ from the things we didn’t use! We probably spent more than double on those things, but I’m glad we received the $2K! We didn’t even know we had that much in those closets. It feels great to make a little or a lot extra cash!

    • We are almost at $3000 in sale proceeds from our move overseas. I don’t even calculate what we actually bought things for – eek! Hurts too much. I just take the cash in hand knowing we are saving a lot of money by not storing the stuff.

  • Thanks so much for the mention and the vote of confidence Rachel! We’re actually planning to be non-mortgage debt free by this November, but I think I like your projection of next November better. That way when we do achieve our goal later this year I’ll feel like we really outdid ourselves. :)

    I’m so impressed with your innovative “space in line” selling business. That is incredibly creative! And Katy’s marble flipping endeavor sounds so fun.

    • Added a note in the post on your goal date. That is great work. I’m impressed with your “gazelle like intensity” on paying it all off. Our intensity comes and goes here – good month, not so good month is our pattern. We’ll get there eventually but it might take a while.

  • I’m surprised that no one has mentioned direct sales or network marketing yet.

    I’ve been self-employed in both since 1999 and it enables me to stay home and work from home.

    In 2009 I opened a coaching company (OrganizeNOW) that helps others achieve the same success that I have.

    While there are definite scams out there, there are also many legitimate companies with great reputations that you can represent.

    Dr. Laura

    • Need to read up more on both of those things. In my limited exposure to both of them I have found that friends that tried them eventually gave up. They found it was taking a long time for them to see income from it. Or they burned out their friends with sales pitches. I would love to hear more from you on how you made it work.

  • Wow, I have been secretly “flipping” for years and feeling a bit dishonest about it. I had no idea that there was an actual name for it. I feel a lot better about my flipping ways! I sometimes go to a $.25 sale and find great name brand kids clothes and toys and bundle them together and sell on CL.
    We have been selling our unused items on CL and averaging about $200 a month. This month we sold our living room couch and chair for $650, so we’ll be way above average. We thought we’d regret selling them, but we love the space to play with the kids. And now there is more space for their climber and trampoline…yes, in our LR (not minimalist, but very fun!).
    I don’t think I’m brave enough for the passport line idea, but I do clean a neighbors house every other week. I either bring the kids with me or my husband stays home with them.
    I look forward to reading more ideas on your blog.
    Be well.

    • Flipping has been around forever =) It’s the most common way I know of making a bit of cash. Good for you for being so resourceful!

  • I’ve always stayed home and worked 2-3 part time jobs. I started nannying when I found out I was pregnant and I use it to swap for everything from accupuncture, osteopathic services and date nights for my husband and I. To get my bookkeeping work done I swap daytime nannying with other mother friends. I sometimes have 3-5 kids in the house, but I get to stay home with my 2 kids and I only take kids that i can stay sane with!

  • I’m interested to know more from the person who earned $200 from surveys. I’ve done surveys in the past, but never made much money at all.

  • I do freelance work around my kids for some local non-profits, doing things like writing and editing newsletters and updating their website. It’s a few hours a week, so I don’t necessarily need childcare, but it pays reasonably well compared to most part-time jobs. :)

    • This is the kind of thing I am hoping to pick up as freelance work myself. Maybe I’ll be able to do something similar virtually when we move.

  • I love all the great ideas here! Particularly impressed with the marble sales – who would have thought that marbles were such a great collectable? :)

    A huge part of my “Great Decluttering of ’08” project was a spreadsheet I kept that included a list of the items I sold on craigslist, as well as the prices I paid for them (or if they were received as gifts) and how much they were sold for. I was curious to find out how much we would be out of pocket for all these baby related items because everyone is always telling “us” how expensive babies/kids are. It’s been an ongoing project (over two and a half years now!) and I’ve sold over $10k worth of stuff on craigslist and have made $3k profit! I’ve turned some of the unwanted toys and clutter into cash for the kids bank account, and I’m free from having to pick up (or store) all those extra toys and outgrown baby items. Oh, and I also did participate in a focus group a few months back that paid well ($225 for two hours), but I’ve found these are unreliable as predictable income as they are often hard to get into.

    • Also surprised about the marble resale value. Looks like a great minimalist flip – they’re so small!

      Focus groups: I tried getting into them a few years ago via Data Intelligence. Didn’t have the patience for it.

  • I think flipping is great if you have the time and patience for it. I do sell some stuff locally on kijiji (like craig’s list).

    This week I sold an ounce bar of silver on ebay for $50. It was a present from an old boyfriend decades ago:) I also sold a $1 canadian silver coin on ebay for $28, probably a childhood present. I have 2 other coins on ebay just now. I am interested in learning more about marbles. I have some that are from the 60s and then from the 80s or so???
    Selling stuff for $$$$ is one way to get my dd to actually agree to get rid of stuff she isn’t using.

    • Nice ebay sales! I too want to learn a bit about marbles.
      My husband has some coin sets that he is considering selling on eBay. Not sure they are worth more than the actual value. From the 70’s and 80’s.

  • Love it! Brian and I both have some odds-and-ends side gigs and hustles. He sells glow sticks on the beach during the fireworks every summer – surprisingly lucrative BTW. I do freelancing and mystery shopping.

    I definitely agree that being flexible and creative about ways to make money helps to support a more minimalist life.

    • Last year we went to movies in the park at Second Beach twice. I kept saying we should go buy a load of those back supports/low beach chairs to sell. We would’ve made a killing. I can see how glow sticks at the fireworks would be a great gig.

      Thanks for commenting and great to meet you on Twitter/your blog.

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