Making Extra Money

by Katy on November 15, 2012 · 44 comments

You know that frugal tips and I go together better than monkeys and bananas, but you might not realize that I’m also an aficionado of making extra money. Whether it’s found money, (I came across a small pile of pennies outside the library just yesterday!) or odd side-gigs, I love, love, love me some money.

But wait, shouldn’t someone who calls herself The Non-Consumer Advocate be above the crass pursuit of the American dollar?


The money I make from my job as a labor and delivery nurse goes towards retirement, household expenses and the rather dull daily expenditures of life. But the money I make from all my hinky money-hacks, that money goes towards fun stuff. Which is in and of itself an incentive to bring in extra money.

All those trips to Japan this year? They added up to over $8000 and were paid for unconventionally.

Cleaning my mother’s guest cottages between rentals, selling thrift store finds on Craisglist, participating in a reality TV segment that thankfully never aired, (cough, cough, Extreme Cheapskates) and paid writing gigs. That money added up.

Now that I’m all done shelling out the Yen, my goofy side-gigs are starting to pad my sons’ college funds, which have never been able to receive the attention they deserve. I’m selling thrifted stuff on Craigslist (I just sold a girl’s bicycle and some American Girl doll furniture) and continuing to clean houses, accepting paid writing assignments and considering unconventional methods. (Should I try to get work as an extra on one of the TV shows that shoot in Portland?)

I’ve set a personal goal of putting aside an extra $100 per week for my 11th grade son’s college account, and although I know I’ll mostly fall short, I’m enjoying the challenge.

What do you do to earn extra money? And do you spend (or save) the money differently than regularly earned money?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie November 15, 2012 at 9:58 am

Oh my gosh, Katy, I just remembered that I dreamed last night about finding change on the sidewalk! Actually it was a beautiful boardwalk by the sea, and there were coins every few feet.


Katy November 15, 2012 at 10:16 am

What a beautiful dream!



Heidi November 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

Try mystery shopping. I make $25 each time I do a grocery store. There is a list of mystery shop companies at One company that I’ve had success with is MarketForce.


Katy November 15, 2012 at 10:17 am

Thanks for the tip. I’ve considered it, but don’t want to drive all around town.



Tina B November 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I’ve been mystery shopping for many years and, because I can choose whether or not to apply for a shop, I choose locations near my home or work or places that I frequent already. With the price of gas, they can’t pay me enough to “drive all around town.” I was just paid $10 AND reimbursed for the cost of my oil change, so I’m +$10 rather than out $30. It has provided great “fun” money over the years.


Heidi November 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

Same here. I only choose places that are already on my route. Best of all is doing the grocery store where I shop anyway! It’s rare that I’ll choose a place that is out of the way for me. If I do, I’ll ask for a little extra $ to cover the gas. If they say no, I might accept the job, or I might not. Sometimes it’s worth my time/gas if I get 2-3 jobs in the same area. This week I did a few shops (all grocery) that were about 20 miles from home, but I had a few errands up that way that I needed to do anyway, plus I did some Christmas shopping. Easy to batch errands/shops. It was well worth a few extra miles.


Tina B November 19, 2012 at 5:58 am

I think it’s absolutely golden when a purchase is required (and reimbursed) and it’s something that I can use for a gift! We have the same “shopping” style, Heidi!

Cheapchick November 15, 2012 at 10:23 am

My extra funds to to travel. Right now funds are really tight but we still have a travel fund with almost $300 in it. We will not go until there is enough cash (no exact plans now but hoping for a country we have not been to) made of rolled change (who misses it?), money received for selling off extra furniture, and refunds from deposits on bottles and cans. I currently have a large 1960s painting purchased for $20 at a garage sale in a consignment store. Whatever over the $20 I get goes into the travel fund. Cheers!


Katy November 15, 2012 at 10:25 am

Ooh . . . do you have a photo of the painting?



Amanda November 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

I rent our house out on Airbnb on weekends we’re not there. I’m using the money for much needed updates to our houses and travel.


Katy November 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

Great idea!



Susan Marsh November 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

For many years, while being a stay at home mom and eventually working part-time, I earned extra money by doing custom sewing. Now I am employed full time but have been thinking of again offering my sewing skills to make more money in my free time. I think I would enjoy teaching sewing and knitting. Thanks for inspiring me AGAIN Katy!


HomefrontSix November 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

I donate plasma – it’s easy, convenient, and the few extra $$ are a nice cushion. We aren’t saving for anything other than the sake of saving and paying off debt right now so that’s our goal. We travel plenty in this military lifestyle.

My husband is the king of thrift stores. He knows a good deal when he sees one and is adept at selling things via Craigslist and eBay. Most recently he bought an airsoft gun for $30 that is probably going to sell for 10x that on Craigs. He found our daughter a used saxophone (she’s been wanting to learn) at Goodwill for just $80. Even used, it will sell for 3-5x that when we decide to sell it.

I’ve done surveys on line (those can be sporadic in their payback), mystery shopping, and some minor tech support to help bring in money. Starting to do the tech stuff again (mostly just fixing people’s laptops when things go wonky) to help pay down some bills.

And, by following your example, I’ve only bought two new clothing items (save for undergarments) for myself this year – a pair of capris and a tank top. Everything else was either a thrift store find or a hand-me-down. In addition, I’ve purged easily 50% of what I used to own. My goal next year is to buy no new clothing for myself OR my children – thrift stores only. Then we’ll take aim at the household stuff. Thanks for the example!


Katy November 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

I sold plasma once in college and kept passing out. I had to get a liter of IV fluid to support my blood pressure enough to safely drive home. Never again for me.



Kelli November 15, 2012 at 2:43 pm

My husband has donated plasma for 5 years +– in fact, he’s on his way there now. I donated for about 2 years and but my veins are small and that’s a problem with the size of needle that is used. I eventually decided it wasn’t worth the anxiety to me and I switched to selling on eBay with thrift store/ auction finds. Now that my youngest is in kindergarten I am easing back into the workforce with substitute teaching– I work about 3-4 days a week.


Anna November 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

I posted this question earlier, but I posted it on the previous blog entry instead of today’s post. Oops! Anyway, does Ebay count in The Compact? Thrifting is sparse here in our rural area, so Ebay is my best option. I also sell items on Ebay for $ and then use those funds to purchase my kids’ clothing.


Katy November 15, 2012 at 11:46 am

eBay is definitely included in The Compact. 🙂



tna November 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Mowing lawns and doing light yard work, there’s always competition so you have to under bid. House or pet setting…I have a friend who makes a living just walking dogs. Selling art or craft work at the local farmers market. Many larger cities have organizations that hire people to do odd jobs for housebound or elderly or even cooking meals and light house cleaning. Tax season is coming up…some businesses offer free training and the job is temporary.


Poor to Rich a Day at a Time November 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I use swagbucks which is no a lot but it does get me homeschool supplies for free by using them for Amazon gift cards. I always use my swagbucks for homeschool materials at amazon. Last thing I got was a chemistry set for my son.

The best we do for side money is by Scrap Metaling, it can get addictive though 18 months ago it helped us get our truck when our car broke down and I can consitenty cash in at least $100 a month for not even trying.To make real good money it can be hard dirty work but I love the time I spend with hubby doing this and s very much like treasure hunting! This year we are using it to throw in a dream vacation jar.


Sarah November 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Love it – I sell used books (admission, they’re found at the dump!). I either sell them via or amazon. I’m currently selling magazine back issues on eBay. Yawn. Boring to list but fun to get the cash.

I’ll turn in old printer cartridges at Staples for a $2 credit. I rarely will shop at a thrift store and flip an item on eBay, but I only do this if I know it’s a great seller.

I also get credits on for reading emails but mypoints is also a reward for people who participate in product testing with In the past few weeks I got huge free samples of Burt’s Bees products (mmmmm), Benjamin Moore paint, Green Mountain coffee and a Perdue chicken! (I didn’t get a free chicken in the mail, just the coupon). When I write a product review, I get mypoints and will eventually turn those in for gift cards.

It’s not a lot, but it does add up.


alexandra November 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm

do you feel weird about them watching all of your activity on line? I was interested in this until I read their privacy policy. I’d love your thoughts on this.


Elaine in Ark November 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

I’m with you on the privacy issue.

Walgreens recently started a new points program that tracks all your spending. Without this card, you don’t get the sale prices on items (NatureMade vitamins, I’m looking at you!). I don’t shop at Walgreens any more.

And that My Lowe’s program just blows my mind! I cannot believe that people think it’s a good idea.

I’m turning into a real privacy freak. I generally pay for everything with cash, except for gas (I love pay-at-the-pump), prescriptions, and emergencies. I’m thinking about getting a prepaid credit card for online shopping, which I almost never do anyway.

Some things I’m just not comfortable with.


Lesley November 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Returning cans and bottles nets me a nickel apiece here in Iowa City. Of course, if I bought them originally, I’m only breaking even, but if I find them along the way … that’s pure profit.


A. Marie November 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

I make about $300 a year on returning containers for the deposits here in New York State (and these are containers I pick up, not ones for beverages we buy ourselves). Cha-ching!


charli November 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I do overtime at work sometimes and I usually spend on something I wouldn’t normally spend on in those weeks. Unfortunately my husband gets excited about the extra income too and may spend a bit extra on something too on those weeks! Communication is what we need! My husband is always buying and selling music gear on ebay and does regular gigs at a pub for extra money. It pays for our kids extra curricular activities- sports and music lessons.


Erica November 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Mostly, our extra money goes towards extra payments on our debt or a specific outside savings goal. Earlier this year we saved up a little extra for a car, a trip to go to his best friend’s wedding, and now we’re saving up for a new bed and hopefully a couch. Those two are the last pieces of furniture we really need, so after that I want us to focus entirely on paying off our debt. We owe enough to have a mortgage, without the benefit of having a house. 🙁


Erica November 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I have no idea why I forgot to answer the first part of the question. I, too, do some surveys and things online, but mostly I sell old things on CL or flip yard sale finds on CL. I like to pick up odd labor jobs involving gardening or helping out at a convention.

Mostly though the extra money comes from my husband. He has been pulling over time at work recently after one of his co-workers quit. He also does some freelancing projects.


Economies of Kale November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I do online surveys through several different websites – it took me a while to find the good ones here in Australia, which usually add up to around $25 a month. This month I have signed up to test out a new deodorant for a week and will be paid $20 🙂

We also live in an apartment, but have a lock-up garage that we don’t use because it’s a hassle to get in and out of, so we park on the street. Earlier this year we were able to rent the garage to one of the neighbours for storage for $40 a week, which was great.

I also have a whole lot of books lying around the house that I’m planning to sell online and hopefully make some money there. I am saving for a house (long-term) and a trip to Thailand (short-term), so any extra money helps 🙂


Kate in NY November 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I offer “before-school” care at my home from 7:00 am until the elementary school bus comes at 8:45 (we have staggered starting times in our district, and K-5 doesn’t begin until 9:15 – what a headache for working parents). I am here anyway with my youngest (4th grade), and so it has evolved into a sweet little side gig (plus it’s fun to boot). The kids (anywhere between 2 and 10 of them at a time!) pretty much just want to play play play. I mostly monitor to make sure everyone is safe, and I make lots of hot chocolate and do my own morning chores. It’s all cash (I charge $10 per day per kid, with a sibling discount), and in NY state you don’t need a daycare license if kids are only at the house for 3 hours or less per day. Perfect!

On another note – since you mentioned your 11th grade son (I have one, too) and his college account that has not received a ton of attention (I have one, too) – – – maybe you might do a blog entry one day on creative ways you and other readers have for approaching the whole college tuition conundrum? I would love to see something like that! I put a high value on education – but I see my friends going into debt for fancy 50,000 a year tuitions – and then their kids don’t even have jobs at the end (it’s all about unpaid internships these days, it seems). It freaks the heck out of me!


AFS November 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

read Debt-free U by Zac Bissonette


Pollyanna November 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I work for the Board of Elections come voting time to earn extra cash. It is just a stipend not a lot of money, but we do get paid for the mandatory training, and then for election day. When there are primaries, or run-offs, it could amount to several days of work over a year, so a few hundred dollars. Totally extra dough! (My kids are grown, so I don’t have any child-care expense).


Dusti November 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I’ve been looking for ways to make some money on the side since I became a SAHM. This is great because I’ve been leary about the ads for mystery shoppers, online surveys, etc. because so many of them seem like a scam. It’s nice to hear about them from real people.
I do like to flip thrift store items, but haven’t done it much. It always seems like I’m able to do it around the time someone else needs it, though. Recently, I flipped a very nice food processor I found new in the box at Goodwill for $15. It retailed to up to $600 (!!) and I sold it for $125 the day I put it on CL. I hadn’t decided what to do wiht it when a friend of mine who’s a single mom was going through a difficult time financially. I was able to help her out of a jam with this “found money” and it only set me back $15 so if she can’t pay me back, I’m not hurting for it. I’m not relating this to pat myself on the back, I was just excited to be able to help someone and not feel the pinch.


Happy Mum November 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Mystery Shopping — Katy, you mentioned that mystery shopping probably deosn’t work for you anyway, but here’s another thought: If the purpose of the mystery shopping business is ultimately to sell more stuff, maybe it’s inconsistent for the Non-Consumer Advocate to support that?


Tina November 16, 2012 at 5:47 am

Not neccessarily: I often do mystery “shopping” for the postal services in my country, mostly testing services that don’t produce or sell any tangible goods (eg they can ID you for online banking using your passport; I also test the service personnel handing out cards for the hotline you can call if one of your letters goes missing in the mail).


Tina B November 19, 2012 at 6:07 am

Sometimes mystery shopping is in retail locations that sell tangible goods, but I’ve done tons of customer service shops for places like banks, apartment rental companies, credit cards, mortgage services and lots of phone calls too.


jude November 16, 2012 at 6:20 am

Get a job as an extra on Grimm. I would if I lived in Portland.


Joyce November 16, 2012 at 10:03 am

I use my Upromise Credit Card exclusively for all my purchases and they give me 1% back on all charges. They market it as money for college, but you can request a check to use any way you choose. You just have to be sure you pay the balance of the card each month and not incur finance charges. They also give you a percentage at certain restaurants and for certain gas stations. It is free money.


Elspeth @ The Layman's Guide to Beer November 16, 2012 at 11:51 am

Definitely consider doing extra work. It often requires sitting around for a full day, which doesn’t really allign with your “I work part time because I can and I enjoy relaxing” philosophy, but a lot of those hours sitting around are off-camera, so not only can you read a book but you can eat the free food they provide you. 😉


emmer November 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm

we, too, use a rewards card that gives us 2% back. we charge life to it and never, ever miss paying it off in full every month.
we use craig’s list to sell unneeded stuff from antique furniture to sporting gear and clothing.
we upcycle interesting throw aways into craft show products. if i ever figure out how to set up on etsy, i’ll add all those bike tire inner tube/ frayed blue jeans/cereal box liner products to an etsy store!
we casually collect recyclable cans and bottles, tho this is mostly dh, who de-trashes whatever stream he is kayaking in.
i do alteration and repair of clothing, give sewing lessons, and do a little custom sewing. dh services bicycles and sharpens knives, scissors, rotary blades and tools.
altogether, we are not close to full time. we have chosen to trade money for time. we elected to retire early with a smaller pension, work a bit and spend modestly so that we have time to enjoy our lives now, rather than work ’til we are ancient and have large pension checks.
somehow the money i earn being self-employed and the money i save thru vegetable gardening/preserving food, trading labor, sewing family clothing and so on has always been more meaningful to me than the money i got in my pay envelope every other friday.


Diane November 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I placed an ad on craiglist to do tutoring and right away had 2 parents call me. I see the kiddos at the neighborhood library once a week for an hour. I also make handmade items to sell at a unique shop in the little town of Georgetown,TX. Everything is made by seniors and not the usual crocheted toilet paper covers! I also sell gently worn clothing at the resale shop every once in awhile. It all goes into my rent increase savings account.


Sarah November 17, 2012 at 6:35 am

At home I am always known to have cookies in the cookie jar. They are cookies I make, not buy. Anyway…I the cookies that don’t fit into the cookie jar I always took to work. The whole office building was coming to my little department for cookies. I am a military spouse and my husband has been deployed the entire year and so I have been super busy and the cookies are few and far between at work. I have been keeping the extras in the freezer so I don’t have to bake as often.This summer some co-workers were complaining they never get treats anymore and offered to pay me. This gave me an idea. I made a list of all the cookies I make. Took that list to work and offered a pint of the raw cookie dough for $5. This was a hit. It’s like those school fundraisers of cookie dough, but with my own homemade cookie dough. It is SUPER easy to mix up some cookie dough and freeze it. It doesn’t being in huge cash, maybe $100 a month, but that’s something. Plus, it’s something I have always enjoyed doing.


betsyohs November 17, 2012 at 7:19 am

Katy – I have a question about this, and I am really interested in your answer, not trying to be snarky or contrarian (sp?) or anything like that. I have a similar job to yours (part time by my choice), and I’m wondering why you don’t just work a couple of extra shifts here and there when you want extra cash. For me, I can make way more $/hr by working a few more hours than I could on any of these other money making schemes, and given what I know of your work, so could you. And my employer would actually be happier if I worked more hours, so scheduling them in is easy. So why do you make the effort for these other things? What am I missing?


Katy November 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

My husband works full-time and I only work on days when he’s off. We always done this in order to avoid day care and to simplify our lives. All my extra money making hacks can be done from home while the kids are at school.



betsyohs November 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm

aha! That’s it – I’m missing kids. 🙂 Noted for the future, when I do have them. Thanks!


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