The holidays are finally over, and as employees around the US start heading back to the office this week, many might be feeling a little more broke than usual. Comscore reports that US online holiday spending reached $35.3 billion, up from 15 percent from last year. This massive spending, coupled with the still staggering unemployment rate of 8.6% (which doesn’t take into account the underemployed or those who have fallen off unemployment altogether), means many Americans may currently be feeling financially strained. However, there are dozens of ways you can quickly make a little more money this month, whether by turning to your professional talents, utilizing extra time on the weekends, or even digging through your garage for old media that you no longer use. Here are seven ways you can make more money by the end of this month.
Ask for a raise.
If you’re employed in a salaried position, asking for a raise is one of the fastest and easiest ways to start making more money instantly. If you have not been working in your position for very long, this approach may only lend itself to a small raise, or perhaps more flexible hours so that you can utilize some other options discussed below. However, if you have been with your company long enough to demonstrate success and a positive attitude, consider asking your boss for a raise. The approach you take should depend on the environment (and policies) of your company, but you should always ask for a higher salary than you think you may receive.
Work on the weekends.
If you aren’t able to make more money at your current 9-5 job, consider working at a retail job on the weekends, or at another company during second shift (if you aren’t too tired from your primary job). If you don’t have to drive too far to work at the local mall, the benefit of working a few shifts during the weekends, even at minimum wage, can help pay down your debt much faster, or even allow you a few luxuries such as coffee, date night, or a new video game. You may find it easiest to get a job at a large, big box store, which seems to be typically always hiring. If you’re offered an interview at one of these stores, be sure to approach your potential new job with the same degree of professionalism as your current job — especially if the second job will make or break your ability to pay bills or even buy groceries.
Whether you’re employed by a company or work for yourself, you may find that you have talents that can be contracted out to other individuals or companies on a freelance basis. Many writers, marketing strategists, developers, and designers may work a 9-5 job, but may also work with other clients occasionally for some extra cash. If you have a skill set that can be used not only by your current employer, but also by another non-competitive business or individual, consider becoming a freelancer and using your evenings and weekends to work for others. Two great sites to look for leads on contract work are Elance.com and oDesk.com. Your success with freelance sites may vary from others, but you may secure a well-paying contract gig as quickly as within 24 hours from applying for the job, and often you will be paid immediately after the first completed week of work.
Turn your hobbies into work.
Do you love cabinetry, gardening, or even cleaning? While your day job may require sitting at a desk in front of a computer during the weekdays, consider turning your hobbies into something that your community pays you for on the weekends. You may not realize it, but many of your neighbors may not like manual labor, weeding, or even cleaning their own homes. Consider asking around if anyone needs a low-cost housekeeper, or perhaps help with a bathroom remodel. A small project on a weekend may not amount to much — especially if you are helping a close friend — but once your community knows that you’re a great gardener, you may find yourself with quite a bit of extra cash this spring. If you live in a small town, you may also want to consider posting a few flyers or business cards on bulletin boards at your local coffee shops and restaurants to help spread the word even faster, so that you can make extra money even sooner.
Sell old media (books, CDs, DVDs, and games).
Are you sitting next to a bookcase full of books you’ve already read, CDs you never listen to anymore, and old DVDs you never watch? Your collection of old media can quickly be turned into cash as soon as tomorrow. Half Priced Books has locations nationwide that will buy your books on the spot, and other stores, like Powell’s, will offer to buy them from you online and actually pay the cost of shipping. However, don’t expect to get rich for selling your books. Unless you are selling recently published textbooks, you’ll likely only receive $2-3 for popular titles. Other types of media, such as CDs, DVDs, and games may also be able sold to your local independent music distributor. Best Buy and Amazon also offer trade-in programs that won’t actually give you cash, but will give you a gift card to help you buy something you actually need. (And if you’re that desperate for cash, you can always turn that gift card into cash using a service like Plastic Jungle.)
Sell electronics or collectibles on eBay.
Are you still hanging on to an old lunchbox from your childhood? Or perhaps you have an extra, unused smartphone lying around? Instead of auditioning for A&E’s show Hoarders, consider cleaning out your closet and selling these valuable items on eBay. If you don’t already have an eBay account, you may want to leverage a friend or family member’s established account to sell your electronics or collectibles for you. (Many buyers trust older accounts with high ratings more than a brand new account — though everyone has to start somewhere.) Take a quick look at the price for which others have sold the same item, and then either offer users to buy yours for around the same price, or allow other eBay users to bid on your item starting at a low value. (Tip: A three-day auction is sufficient time — there’s no need for an auction to last longer.) If you’re afraid of letting go of your item for a low price, be sure to set a “reserve” price, which will allow you to decline to sell your item if no one bids higher than that price. Once your item sells, eBay users can pay you automatically via PayPal, which means you’ll have access to funds anywhere from immediately to within just a few days if you transfer the payment to your bank account.
Cancel or downgrade subscriptions.
Making more money is not just about adding more income, but also about reducing how much you spend so it feels like you have more expendable income. You may not realize just how many automatic subscriptions you have enrolled in, but when finding ways to make more money, it is critical to find ways to save money. Click on over to your online banking account and peek at your last month of transactions. (You may also want to visit PayPal for this reason.) I went through this process late last year and realized I was paying for duplicate credit report monitoring services, a premium Spotify membership for mobile access that I never used, a subscription to a FreshBooks add-on I didn’t need, and a Wi-Fi account for my commute that I also no longer needed. (See a pattern here?) After canceling each of these services, along with a few others, I ended up saving over $100 the following month. If you need to find a source of extra income this month, consider cutting these unnecessary expenditures first. You may find you don’t actually need to look for a second job after all. (Other sources of unnecessary spending include eating out instead of cooking, paying for cable TV, paying too much for your cellphone plan, and buying clothes and things for your house that you don’t actually need.)
Have you looked for other ways beyond your primary job to make extra money? Feel free to share your tips and ideas in the comments.
CC image of bookshelves shared by balise42