I made $120 for one hour of work last week.

On Tuesday, I participated in a neuroeconomics study at a nearby university. For sixty minutes, I lay inside an MRI scanner while answering questions about money. When I had finished, the researchers paid me $120. In cash.

I admit that with the four hour round-trip and the half hour of wait time, my hourly rate drops to something nearer $20, but that’s still not bad. In fact, the experience made me wonder if there might not be similar opportunities closer to home.

Maybe I can’t make $120 an hour, but might it be possible to supplement my income by volunteering for studies at schools in Portland? After all, I work from home now, and my schedule is flexible.

Giving blood and watching porn
My research turned up an article from my colleague Donna Freedman in which she writes about earning extra cash by giving blood and watching porn (though not at the same time):

Medical studies, whether through universities or drug companies, are always in need of test subjects. Personally, I don’t do the “investigational medication” trials, but I’ve donated blood and filled out questionnaires for studies on a number of subjects, including female sexual response (see “porn”, above), Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and airway ailments. I find them through Craigslist and through college bulletin boards and newspapers.

Freedman’s article also includes a short video segment that documents one of her actual trips to participate in a medical study. “It’s pretty good money,” she says. “Thirty dollars for fifteen minutes work.” Plus she gets cookies and juice.

Show me the money
Out of curiosity, I checked Craigslist to see what opportunities were available. I found a wide variety in the miscellaneous jobs section. Here are a few (note that these links are sure to die in a few days):

In June I shared a tip for subscribing to Craigslist search results to grab great deals. I could use the same method to keep updated on available medical and marketing studies.

When searching for studies, take care to avoid sales pitches and scams. University research projects are presumably safe, but it’s best to google information about marketing firms before agreeing to participate in their research. A quick search reveals, for example, that The Gilmore Research Group (which is conducting the study in the image above) is perfectly legitimate.

Anything for science
Obviously, this is no way to get rich (slowly or otherwise). But participating in these studies can be a fun way to make a little extra cash. Flexo from Consumerism Commentary says that before he graduated from high school, he participated in a number of studies at Princeton University’s cognitive psychology lab. “It was just baseball card money for me at the time,” he says. “But it was fun.”

My study was fun, too. I wish I could tell you more about the experiment (because neuroeconomics is certainly an aspect of personal finance that fascinates me), but I’m sworn to secrecy. Maybe in a few months.

“We’re conducting another experiment soon,” the research assistant told me as he counted out six $20 bills last Tuesday. “Your spouse would have to participate, but it is more lucrative. Are you interested?”

Anything for science, I thought. And for cold, hard cash.

This article is about Money Hacks, Odds and Ends