There came a time during the unemployed season where I would sit in my car, grip my steering wheel, close my eyes and smile, thinking only this:
I truly cannot wait until I’m back in the place where I can buy a grande mocha without worrying that it means I may not be able to pay my phone bill.
I wouldn’t buy the mocha on those days. I would grit my teeth, hold the steering wheel tighter in my grasp, and dream of that day instead. The hope that it would be there at the end of the dark tunnel called “Being Broke Off Your Ass” was enough to keep me going most days.
Some of us dream of that moment and don’t have to wait long before it comes true. Maybe a week until we get paid again, a couple of weeks until we get that tax refund, a couple of months before we find a new job, or it’s our birthday, or some other special holiday in which we may receive money to get that damn mocha. TO GET ALL THE MOCHAS. Then again, some of us will have to wait much, much longer…some of us worry that we will never see that blissful day that will afford us gratuitous caffeinated drinks and weekends filled with day-mimosas and brunch. Some of us will live hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck for quite a while.
I’m fond of saying that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, but it seems to buy freedom. It can feel like a prison when we are weighed down by our debt, by our too-small paychecks (or none at all), by our savings dwindling away, by the cost of living in our city. We find ourselves asking, Will I ever get out? How long is this sentence? Is there anything I can do to make it shorter…if so, what?
I had to get that kind of creative recently, trying to stretch every dollar to make it all work as I said good-bye to my robust savings and waved at unemployment income as it passed me by on the road without even stopping for so much as a hello. Did you know that there are a ton of different ways to afford that mocha–or, more often than not, make sure your bills are paid in full every month? So here I am, bein’ frugal and showin’ you some interesting ways to make some extra cash:
- Moonlight. Get a second job–or a part-time first one, while you wait on that new career! I had a little extra cash from teaching acting classes a few times a month. Maybe your local coffee shop is hiring for a late night shift (FREE MOCHA, WOMAN!) or a small pub that could use a hostess or extra set of serving/busing/dishwashing hands. Call centers almost always have night shifts. Part-time canvassing jobs are always open as well. Remember that no matter how much of a Career Girl you are, humility is a huge asset. Don’t feel like you are too good for any part-time gig…yes, you may end up with a FABULOUS full-time career if this is only a temporary thing, but money talks. And your landlord likes to have a monthly conversation with it. Take on that extra part-time work and let it broaden your horizons and build more character. You never know who you could meet or what kind of further opportunities it could lead to.
- Consumer Research Panels. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you probably have access to a lot of these. If not, chances are there are one or two companies like this located near you. Sign up to be contacted about new surveys that are being done. Some will be online, take 15 minutes, and be worth $1 (you get to redeem once you hit a certain amount.) Some will want you to come in for an hour or two of your time to do taste-testing or opinion research…these pay good money. My food, gas, and fun money were saved a few months in a row because I received anywhere from $75 to $200 at a time from these panels!
- Mystery Shopping. There are plenty of companies that you can find online that employ mystery shoppers; one of my favorite is BestMark. Sometimes, these require having some extra money to spend at first, but they reimburse you AND pay you later! I’ve received both a free oil change and a free tire rotation in the last month, plus another $50 for filling out a survey and letting the company know how their employees did. Some shops will be just phone calls, some you will have to take time for…some will even have you go to happy hour on the company’s dime just to let them know about your experience!
- Freelance. I’ll be honest. For me, the “free” part of “freelancing” has often resulted more in what I was getting paid and less about the schedule flexibility, but I digress. It can still be a way to utilize your already-marketable skills and get some kind of cash flow for it! What kind of skills do you have? Check out this article from TripWire Magazine to find 30 websites where you can peddle your skill-wares. Places like Fiverr.com allow you to sell whatever skill you have for $5 each, Sittercity.com will set you up with a babysitting/petsitting/tutoring profile, Etsy.com gives you the opportunity to sell your crafts! Whatever you feel like you’re good at, start monetizing that bad boy now.
- Sell/Rent your stuff. Of course, sometimes this is a last resort for people, but could be really therapeutic and fun. Let’s be honest, you don’t need everything you own. What are you tired of or have no need for anymore? There are several sites on which you can list it, including tried-and-true Ebay and Craig’s List. Now, of course, there are places like AirBnB where you can rent out your living space, or RelayRides to rent out your car periodically.
I know that being strapped for cash can feel like you are living in your own personal hell. Make it a little bit easier to climb out by taking advantage of these opportunities. Shoot, if none of these suit your fancy, you can still always sell plasma ($40-$60/visit!) Don’t worry about where your next meal is coming from anymore. Take advantage of all of those hours that you are not working, save some of that profit up, and we hope that soon, that dream day will come…and you can have all the mochas in the world–just leave one for me.