Sometimes the money ends before the month ends. And, at this time of year, we’re all confronted with extra expenses – gifts, parties, family meals and, depending on where you live, higher heating bills. How can you bring in extra money to pay for it all — without selling your plasma? Luckily, you have options. Here are a few ideas to start you on the road to a balanced budget:
Seasonal change. Some companies take on temporary workers during the holiday rush. The jobs have an end date, although sometimes employers will approach stellar workers with permanent job opportunities. As a temporary worker, you will not receive employee benefits, and you may have to pass a background check and drug screenings. Other seasonal jobs can be found at Christmas tree lots, pop-up holiday stores, mall kiosks, flower shops, retail stores and restaurants. Don’t wait to read a classified ad for a position — approach local businesses in person with a résumé and a request for employment. A face-to-face connection makes an impression and will put you ahead of email applicants.
Build your own pop-up business. Are you a whiz at wrapping gifts? Do you shop with lightning speed and have a unique ability to choose the right gift for a person? Consider hiring yourself out as a shopping elf. Determine an hourly wage and a list of services. Create a checklist for your clients, outlining gift-buying budgets, guidelines, descriptions of recipients, payment methods, etc. Post a notice on your Facebook page to let friends and family know you are offering the service, and place an ad in the local newspaper and on local websites including Craigslist. If you are a DIYer, ask friends if the need any help with home repairs or chores done. If they are not handy or procrastinate when it comes to household chores, offer to clear that “honey-do” list for a fee.
Dirty pieces of silver. We’ve all been there. We rummage under sofa cushions, in little-used jacket pockets, and under car seats. The coins can add up. Take them to Coinstar and turn them into paper. There is a fairly hefty fee for the exchange, 11.9% according to the website. But the service offers full value for your money if you choose to trade your coins for a gift card from participating businesses including Starbuck’s and Home Depot. If you want the cash, call your bank first. Many banking institutions will no longer accept large quantities of coins from customers, but a few still offer that service for no or low fees. Call ahead and ask for requirements.
Spin the bottle — and can. Every state has its own guidelines, but 10 still have “bottle bill” regulations. These states require a deposit be paid for bottles and cans. Many people don’t bother to return the containers for the refund, so creative money-makers gather those unwanted containers and head to a recycling center to cash in. Clear your home of your own returnables, and ask your neighbors and coworkers to save their cans and bottles for you. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and grab a garbage bag to collect dollars with the cans you pick up on the edge of the road.
Consign it. Is your basement full of furniture you inherited from Grandma? How about the cellphone you threw into the drawer in favor of a newer, shinier model? Do your closets bulge with clothing that is not quite the right size? Are there unused skis languishing in the garage? Take them to a consignment shop. These places are busy during the holidays, so your stuff could sell fast. The shops keep a percentage of the sale, but it can be worth it. Don’t dismiss pawn shops; most are clean, well-managed shops. A caveat: When you pawn an item rather than sell it, you are basically getting a loan using the item as collateral. You can come back to retrieve it by paying off the loan plus interest. If you don’t return within a specified amount of time, your item goes up for sale in the store or is sold to another vendor. Check out this fun blog for more info on consignment and pawn shops.
Return trip. Search your home for those items you bought but did not use. Did you do a DIY repair on your plumbing and buy parts you didn’t need? Take them back to the hardware store for a refund (if you kept the receipt) or a store credit. Observe return policies: Don’t abuse the process by taking back products you’ve used.
Become a local tour guide. Do you know all the great places to view Christmas lights in your city? Have you mapped out all the independent bookstores? Create a tour that lasts one to two hours and advertise in specialty groups or online. Some cities require you to be licensed as a tour guide, so check your local guidelines. Some other tour ideas: snowshoe trails, birding locations, pub crawls, literary walks, or ghost walks.
A rose for the lady? You may need a license, but roadside or special-event sales can be profitable. Consider buying flowers from a wholesaler, or make a deal with a local florist to sell street-side for a profit. Keep your bouquets small and affordable; drivers will be more likely to buy on impulse. Other possible profit-makers are bottles of cold water or other beverages,candy, baked goods or boxed lunches. Follow the laws in your area, and always pick out a safe place to hawk your wares.
Help out at parties. How many times have you wished you had an extra hand for a party (or the horrible clean-up afterwards)? Rent yourself out to party-makers. Offer to make runs for extra ice, act as a server or bartender, or handle the kitchen duties. You can also contact catering companies to see if they hire extra help over the holidays.
Watch the kids. Yep, that old high school stand by is a win for adults, as well. Parents need time away form the kids to shop or unwind at parties. Responsible babysitters can make $20 per hour or more, and overnights bring in extra cash. Advertise early for New Years parties.
Sleep on it. There is more cash in that couch than you might think. Consider renting it out through AirBnB or other similar websites. Complete deals and payments through the site, which charges a fee for the service. You can rent couch space or extra bedrooms for a night or longer. You can choose the days your space is available for rent. If you don’t mind a roommate, you can offer it for a longer period of time. But make sure you create a legal and binding lease agreement, and take precautions to ensure your own physical and financial safety. Another option: Offer garage space for winter storage of boats, convertibles and other vehicles. In my city, residents are not allowed to park on the street after the end of October, and parking spaces are at a premium. An extra spot in the driveway or garage could bring in a few extra bucks over the winter.
Will you boss me again? Talk to your employer about opportunities to make extra cash. Will he let you put in a few extra hours during the week? Think creatively: Is there another non-exempt part-time job opportunity within the company for which you qualify (or, maybe, over-qualify)? Perhaps you could share hours in a flex-time arrangement with another employee who needs extra cash. This could save your employer the hassle of hiring and training someone new. But he will have to follow federal and state guidelines for employment and overtime hours, as well as breaks and worker’s compensation. If a second job within the company is not possible, ask your employer for recommendations for temporary part-time work. He may have networked with someone and can put in a good word. If you are an exemplary employee, your boss will be happy to help you through a financial pinch so he can keep you on his regular payroll.