Best side jobs for extra cash

Photo illustration showing one of the best side jobs for extra cash photography

Who doesn't want a little extra money each month? The best side jobs or "side hustles" are popular ways to earn cash quickly, but it's also a fact of everyday life for many Americans now. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.1 million U.S. workers are "involuntary part-time workers" or those who would prefer full-time employment but can't because their hours have been cut or they can't find full-time employment.

To find the best side jobs you need to be armed with enough information to avoid scams but also a sense of whether its a match for your particular skills and situation. For example, if you have small children and care is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, things you can do from home in the off hours (nap-time, evening) is essential. To help, we've researched gigs that offer flexible hours, a reasonably simple way to get started, and what appears to be a fair wage. Our methodology is a subjective look into the benefits of each side job using the three factors we deemed most important:

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The secret to making extra money with eBay

Once upon a time, I decided it was high time I sell some of my stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. Since it was just after the holidays, I decided to get the ball rolling with a new shirt I had just received for Christmas.

Even though it was cute, the shirt fit a little small for my taste. And even worse, the store it was purchased from was out of state, which meant no returns. So, after taking some pictures and crafting a snazzy description, onto eBay it went. Priced at $6, the shirt sold right away.

Off to a Good Start, Until...

Unfortunately, the buyer later wrote to say the shirt had a hole in it and demanded a refund. I asked for a picture and, when they wouldn't produce one, denied their request for their money back.

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How much does it cost to start a side gig?

So you're thinking to start a side gig. Congratulations! Whether you are trying to pay off debt or just trying to fully fund your savings account, a side gig can help you reach your financial goals.

But be aware: There is a grain of truth to the old adage, "You have to spend money to make money." Exactly how much money are we talking?

The cost of starting a side gig depends on several factors, so let's explore some of the costs you are likely to encounter regardless of your new business focus.

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More about...Planning, Side Hustles

Recognizing economic seasons: Recovery and growth

(Since April is Financial Literacy Month, a number of articles will be devoted to more educational topics. This is Part II in a four-part series about how understanding economic cycles could inform your financial decisions. Part I is Understanding economic cycles: An introduction. Part III is The fall and winter seasons of the economic cycle. Part IV is How to profit from economic cycles.)

In Part I of this series, the introductory post about economic cycles, we discussed the fact that the economy, while growing over the long term, moves in up-and-down cycles and that each cycle can be broken down into four phases that mirror the four seasons of nature. In this section, we will explore what we identified as the spring and summer seasons of the economic cycle by considering two fictional crop farmers (Farmer Fred and Farmer Claude) whose livelihoods depend on how well they manage their work each season.

Farmer Fred is a successful farmer; but his neighbor, Claude, less so. (We'll just call him Farmer Clod.) But let's dive into the seasons and see what each does that causes them to be successful or not. Nature programs always begin with the newness of spring, so why don't we start there?

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How to interview a prospective employer

Speaking about building wealth, J.D. Roth felt that he could never make this point emphatically enough: "Frugality is important, but if you want to make real progress, increase your income." It's in this context that being able to ace an interview becomes a very important skill. And certainly part of the interview process should include your asking questions of a prospective employer to make sure that the job and the company are right for you.

If you are early in your career, though, it is natural to approach a job interview as if it's a test that you might or might not pass. But this perspective could lead to some undesirable results:

  • Firstly (and ironically), it may prevent you from highlighting your strengths.
  • Secondly, it may keep you from finding out the things that you need to know in order to properly consider a job offer if they do want to hire you.

Here are three more ways having a test mentality can affect how you conduct your interview and some strategies for how to avoid potential missteps.

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What is the last day to ship before Christmas?

What is the last day to ship before Christmas? Well, that depends, actually. Traditionally — that is, say, prior to 2008 — the last day to ship was around the second week of December. These days, it really depends on how much you are willing to spend. FedEx offers same-day shipping on Christmas Day. Yes, the FedEx SameDay department is open seven days a week, 365 days of the year. And they deliver “door to door within hours, depending on availability” according to their website. Think something in the neighborhood of $48/pound for the SameDay City service plus any surcharges. Wow.

But seriously, what this means is that, if you have been super busy at work or you're just a full-on procrastinator, you still have (expensive) options. Check their websites for all the particulars, but here's how they actually lay out from now until Christmas for the major shippers and retailers:

United States Postal Service

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A better way to calculate the value of your time

It's both fascinating and useful to calculate the value of your time. Financial freedom gives you options and flexibility. But without time, that means nothing. Time is a precious resource that we should spend wisely.

Knowing the value of your time is helpful for a variety of reasons:

  • If you're a freelancer, it can help you decide on gigs.

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More about...Career, Economics, Frugality, Planning, Side Hustles

The 9-to-5 job: Challenging how we earn a living

(This is Part III in a series about challenging traditional measures of financial success. Part I was The “Ivory Tower”: Reconsidering the college investment. Part II was Challenging traditional measures of financial success: Homeownership.)

It was the first semester of my first year of college. My friend and I were driving around our small town, looking for something to eat. But we didn't have much money, so our options were limited. Chili's sounded good, but neither of us could really afford it.

"It's weird to think one day we won't have to worry about this," my friend said. "In a few years, we'll graduate, and we'll have jobs that pay us like, $30,000 a year and we can go to Chili's whenever we want."

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How to negotiate when you hate negotiating

In an ideal world, you wouldn't need to go negotiate. In an ideal world, the weather would be perfect, there would be no war, and your employer would simply say, "Hey, your value to our company has increased. Here's ten thousand dollars."

If only, right? When it comes to earning more, negotiating is usually a necessary part of the equation. The negotiating masters among us have a serious leg up.

I do not have a leg up. In most circumstances, I dread negotiating. I'd rather watch paint dry than negotiate. I'd rather eat a chard smoothie. I'd rather give someone a ride to the airport at 8am on a Monday.

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More about...Career, Frugality, Psychology, Side Hustles

One year later: The benefits and tragedies of self-employment

Almost exactly a year ago today, I quit my full-time job to pursue my passion -- writing. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, but it was also terrifying. I had spent the last six years working alongside my husband, a mortician, in the funeral industry. My job certainly wasn't perfect; but it was stable, well-paying, and sometimes fun. I also loved the people that I worked with and was extremely attached to a few. On the other hand, I knew it was time. I had been working full time and writing on the side for so long that I no longer knew what a "real life" was like. In fact, my "real life" was a mess.

Everyone talks about how lucrative and exciting having a "side hustle" can be, but no one talks about the toll it can take on your life. Since I worked 9 to 5 and had two small children, the only time I could write was at 5 a.m. before work or at 8 p.m. after the kids went to bed. This meant that I was working 16 hours a day at times -- actually all the time. And the weekends? I worked those too.

But, like I said, one year ago today was the day I finally snapped. It was a Saturday afternoon and I had worked over 70 hours that week, yet I was stuck working late at my job … again. I called my bosses and asked if I could talk to them. And when I showed up at their home, I nervously put in my three weeks' notice and hoped they would forgive me. Then I called my husband. Continue reading...

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