My Two Cents: 7 Ways To Make Extra Money In Your Free Time

No matter how frugally you learn to live, there are still going to be some things you’ll want to splurge on, and that’s OK. I mean, this is a recession, after all, not a potato famine. You don’t have to give up all your luxuries or switch to low-cost everything; you just have to get savvier about making extra money for those treats you enjoy. But I’m not talking about getting a second job or really working that much harder; a true recessionista knows how to make extra cash for little luxuries while leaving plenty of free time to enjoy them, too. After the jump, seven ways to make more money without taking a second job …

1. Become a focus group participant: An old co-worker turned me on to focus groups about eight years ago and after I made 75 bucks giving my opinion on a series of coffee ads, I immediately went home, opened the phone book (remember those?), and called dozens of market research companies to get my name added to their databases for future groups. Over the years I’ve made thousands of dollars telling people what I think about ads, product concepts, packaging, services, and the taste of food and beverages. Once, I even made $200 tasting vodka for an hour. Talk about easy money! Check the “Etc.” section of Craigslist for current focus groups in your area, or do an online search for market research recruiting companies and then call and have your name added to their databases.

2. Use your blog: If you have a blog — and who doesn’t these days? — you’re sitting on valuable real estate. Depending on the size of your readership, you could make anywhere from enough money to buy a magazine and a latte to enough to support your entire family (à la Dooce). There are lots of different ways to make money on a blog, from virtual tip jars to product reviews, but the most popular is through running ads. In the past, I’ve recruited sponsors directly for a niche blog I used to write, but I currently use an advertising program on my personal blog that basically takes care of everything so all I have to do is post regularly and collect my check at the end of the month. Free money for writing about my cats and husband and favorite TV shows! What could be easier? There is a host of ad programs open to anyone, so do your research to find one that’s right for you.

3. Sell the stuff you no longer want: When I moved to New York from Chicago two years ago to be with my significant other, I used the opportunity to unload all the crap I no longer wanted or needed. I sold furniture, home goods, clothes, accessories, and my car (no need for one in Manhattan!). In addition to hosting a yard sale where I made about 200 bucks for candles, pots and pans and old Halloween costumes, I used the hell out of Craigslist and eBay, both before my move and after I arrived, when I realized I still needed to unload quite a bit to fit into my boyfriend’s one-bedroom apartment. I honestly don’t miss anything I got rid of (and can’t remember what most of it even was), and the money from the sales paid a big chunk of my moving costs. Now that I’m settled in, I like to go through my belongings each season, selling a few items and making room and money for new stuff, like dresses and cute shoes.

4. Make money from your hobbies: From hawking your crafts on Etsy to selling produce from your garden to playing piano once a week at a local restaurant to reading tarot cards at a party, there are innumerable ways to make cash doing the activities you love. The key here is to convince yourself you have a product or skill someone else wants and then search out those people or companies who can pay you for them.

5. Host a bake sale: Remember when we were kids and our parents used to make cookies and brownies and stuff for school bake sales to raise money for a new flagpole or air conditioning in the gym? Well, why not do the same thing now that we’re grown-ups and need to raise money for our vacations to Barcelona? I say get a few friends together, bake up a storm, and then sell your goods at a local market, a festival, or even online at a place like Etsy. If you love baking, this is another great way to make money from a hobby … without inhaling all the extra calories eating the goods yourself!

6. Shop and sell: What recessionista doesn’t like shopping, right? So instead of giving it up or cutting back, start making money off your great eye and awesome buying skills. Whether you live in an area with fantastic sample sales or a town with the best thrift and antique stores, chances are you’re able to score stuff your recessionista sisters in other parts of the country can’t. So make your next shopping spree a moneymaking one and sell your finds for a profit on eBay, or open a vintage shop on Etsy (can you tell I’m a fan of the site?).

7. Pet sit: If you know people with pets, volunteer to watch them — for a small fee, of course — the next time they leave town for a few days. Sure, they could kennel them or hire a professional, but most people feel better when they leave their beloved pets (not to mention their house keys) in the hands of someone they know and trust. And, hey, if they have cable and throw in a bottle of wine for your trouble, you’ll score a bit of a vacation yourself … and make money for a pedicure, to boot.

Got financial advice of your own that you want to share with your fellow Frisky readers in a My Two Cents column? Email us at {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”} and put “MTC” in the subject line!

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