Forget those „make money fast” spam emails. Whether it’s for shoes or savings, here are the simple and real ways to score extra cash.
By Sandy Fernández
When I told my husband last summer that I wanted to throw a big weekend yard sale, he took in the news with his usual stoic resolve. He’s seen my cockamamy moneymaking schemes before: the eBay store that quickly fizzled, the „resellable” cupcake stands from our wedding that are still moldering in the garage, previous yard sales where I mostly chatted with neighbors before lugging our stuff back inside. Expectations were not high. So this time, I really worked it. I advertised ahead of time on Craigslist and in local papers, put a sign in my yard days ahead, and prepriced everything so people wouldn’t have to ask. We made $700 in two days.
„Done right, yard sales can bring in good money,” says Chris Heiska, founder of the website yardsalequeen.com, where I gleaned many of my tips. Another yard-saler, Carrie Grindle, a mom in Oregon, OH, regularly clears $500 a day at her sales. Her strategy: Any time one of her kids outgrows a piece of clothing or tires of a toy, she prices it before tossing it in a box to await the next sale.
„Everyone needs a side hustle,” says Jason White, who started the personal finance blog frugaldad.com as a hobby that now brings in cash from ads. „In this economy, it’s risky to depend on one source of income. And for most of us, it’s the best way to pay down debt.” The secret, White says, „is to cultivate a business around something you’re already good at.” Learn from these five smart-cookie readers, who found ways to make bank without a lot of extra time.
Tonya Bice, 38, Geneva, IL
BIGGEST WEEKEND HAUL: $1,831
When Tonya, a former stock trader turned stay-at-home mom of four, saw a glorious wreath at Pottery Barn eight years ago, she was bummed that it was out of her price range. „I decided if I couldn’t buy it, I’d learn how to make it ” she says. Now the craft project is her full-fledged business, Twoinspireyou, which she started two years ago when she joined etsy.com, the online marketplace for handmade goods. „I had done craft shows before, but I wasn’t great at pitching the products in person,” she says. „Etsy really catapulted me to the next level. Thousands of people saw my work, and it spoke for itself.” During one of her biggest weekends, Tonya made $1,831 after offering repeat customers free shipping. For newbies looking to cash in, Danielle Maveal, Etsy’s manager of seller education, suggests joining one of the site’s „sale teams,” where like-minded crafters can connect online to get advice from successful designers. „They’ll offer tips, such as how to tag your product so it pops up more often when people search on the site. It’s all about making it easier for shoppers to find you. Once they do, it’s like sparks flying.”
Susan Jumonville, 42, Syracuse, UT
BIGGEST WEEKEND HAUL: $1,400
When Susan heard from a neighbor that Once Upon a Child, a child-oriented consignment chain, was opening up in her town, she decided it was time to sell all her daughter’s outgrown but carefully stored clothing and toys. Over three days, she dropped off five SUV-filling loads. Susan credits her success to the state of her goods. „Take the time to wash and iron old clothes,” she suggests. „They should look like things you’d buy yourself.” Susan was surprised when the store rejected brand-name items by Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley, only to accept stuff from Target But according to longtime consignment-shop owner Kate Holmes, whose site, howtoconsign.com, offers tips for resalers, „Store owners know their customers and what sells.” So before you lug bags and bags of stuff to your neighborhood thrift shop, stop in to see what the place usually stocks, and edit your giveaways to meet their needs.
Related: Crumbs Cupcakes are Selling on eBay for Hundreds of Dollars
Nanette Torres-De León, 33, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
BIGGEST WEEKEND HAUL: $1,300
Nanette first heard about Pure Romance when a friend invited her to one of the company’s Tupperware-style sex-toy parties at the end of 2009. „I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do. As a rep, you have to be confident in yourself and manage people’s inhibitions toward sex. When I talk to a customer, I try to figure out what this person needs but is too mortified to admit,” says Nanette, who works as an actuarial analyst during the week. Her initial box of supplies arrived in January 2010, and over the course of several parties she hosted the weekend before Valentine’s Day, she pocketed $1,300. (Pure Romance spokesperson Genine Fallon says reps usually take home between 30 and 60 percent of their sales.) „It’s never just about making a sale,” says Nanette, who keeps meticulous notes on her customers, including their birthdays and anniversaries. „I call them up and say, ‚Congratulations!’ and they always end up asking, ‚Got anything new?'” If you’re turning red just reading this, visit the Direct Selling Association at directselling411.com for loads of much tamer goods — from cosmetics to kitchenware — that you can sell simply by having a party.
Crystal Senter Brown, 36, Chicopee, MA
BIGGEST WEEKEND HAUL: $600
Crystal, who works for the American Cancer Society during the week, decided to become the marrying kind 10 years ago, when, as a Baptist marrying a Jehovah’s Witness, she had trouble finding a justice of the peace, or JP, to perform her own wedding. „It was harder than I expected to find someone who would honor both of our beliefs,” she says. So afterward she applied for a JP license, which cost $75 and required six letters of recommendation. States need only so many JPs, but Crystal lucked out because a JP in her town was retiring, and local officials accepted her application to take his spot. To date, she’s officiated at nearly 300 weddings, at roughly $150 a pop, including one couple who asked her to climb a mountain with them so they could get hitched at its peak. Brown’s best weekend of back-to-back weddings brought in $600. She’s also built a relationship with a wedding venue in her town, and now, she says, „I’m booked solid for the next five months.”
Christina Auer, 47, Lake Worth, FL
BIGGEST WEEKEND HAUL: $1,500
It’s the mother of all big-fish stories: In 2008, a friend of Christina’s told her about a new and different fantasy sports league, FLW Fantasy Fishing, in which participants guess the winners of 10 weekend fishing tournaments over a season. It’s free to enter, and the prizes, paid by sponsors, are big and plentiful: from $100,000 for winning the whole thing down to a $10 Walmart gift card for 50th place. Christina and her husband, leisure-time anglers who often took their then-13-year-old twin boys fishing, decided to try it. „My husband got into studying the players and looking up their stats. He was online for hours,” says Christina, a makeup artist by day. „I came in third in a tournament without doing any real research! One guy was competing on his home lake and had come in third the year before. I figured he’d really want to win this time, so I picked him to come in first.” The lucky guess netted her $1,500. Christina admits it was a fluke, but adds, „Anybody can do this, so just have fun with it.”