Summer’s almost over for us North Americanos (sigh). Most people will have taken a vacation or two, and spent more than they planned. It would sure be helpful to bring in a little extra income. Nothing permanent, mind you — enough to keep the credit card paid, and food on the table. A “side hustle” that pays off.

     Here are ten of them, to get you started:

*Sell bottled water.   Playgrounds, playing fields, parks and picnic areas…any of these would be a good place for an iced cooler, filled with frosty bottles of water. Check to see if you need a license (it’s usually quite reasonable), buy the bottles on sale, and go to it. People will be guzzling water into the fall. (Consider offering hot drinks by then, anyways, as well as packaged snacks.) More here, if you’re curious on specifics.

*Participate in a focus group.  Over the years, I’ve been in group sessions to discuss new cars, scrubbing tools for bathrooms, and even bath products. After each, I walked out with $50-125 in cash, plus an armful of goodies to try at home. Every single one of these opportunities came via Craigslist. Eventually I was on the database of the testing companies, then they called me.

*Eat a burger — or offer to.   Red Robin’s headquarters are in the Denver area, not far from where I live. They hold periodic “YUM University” sessions to test out new burger ideas, and other products. After signing up, I generally get an e-mail twice a year, offering a chance to attend the next session. It only takes about an hour, and we waddle out of there, full of great hamburgers — and clutching a $50 giftcard for our next stop at RR.

     Find out where your favorite restaurant’s corporate headquarters are, and make a pitch. If they don’t have group tasting sessions (and I’m betting they do), then offer to:

*Be a mystery critic.  You visit incognito: they get an extensive report on what’s going well — and what isn’t. You get a free meal, and a paycheck. (Yes, you can do this by mystery shopping — but I’ve had better results writing directly to the powers that be. One gig, for Traildust Steakhouse, lasted for more than seven years. That’s a lot of steaks!) At the very least, answer the surveys many restaurants offer. If you do it for the Outback chain, for example, a free ‘Bloomin’ Onion’ is your reward at your next visit.

*Babysit a senior.  It doesn’t mean changing diapers, either. Many older people just need a little company, while their regular caregivers take a break. Fix them supper, make sure they get their medication, and watch some television or play cards. It’s not difficult, but does demand a calm willingness to do what’s needed. Advertise your services, or talk to friends who are caring for elderly relatives.

*Do the wash — or just iron.  Although most people don’t mind doing their own wash, they loathe ironing. They’ve got a choice: let the drycleaners do it (and starch the heck out of the shirts, thus shortening their effective life), or have someone like you do the ironing for them.

     This was one of the traditional ways 1960s and 70s era women (including my mom, incidentally) made extra income. I’m not sure what they charged back then, but you could find plenty of work at 50 cents – $1 each item. I can iron a shirt in five minutes; do the math.

*Help a neighbor.   Offer to: make a meal or clean; shovel snow; mow the yard; weed their flowerbeds; feed the animals while they’re on vacation; water plants and pick up mail; take care of their children; buy fruit or veggies for them. (Particularly if you’re headed to an area that has orchards or truck farms, during harvest.) Whatever you generally need help withthey will, too. And often they’ll be willing to pay — or swap — for it.

*Sell your hair.  Wigmakers and companies who make hair extensions are looking for long, thick hair in good shape. It means a short haircut for you, but a good income: 17 inches of light blond hair sold recently for $1500!World of Wigs also buys hair, though they’re not doing so, at present. You could also be generous, and donate your flowing locks for people with cancer.

*Walk a dog — or take care of it overnight.  Dog-sitting has become a well-paid job, thanks to companies We know of one college student who’s paid her way through school by taking in dogs, generally at $25-35 a night each. If you already love and care for pets, this might be the perfect occasional job for you. (Go here to find out more.)

*Do a medical study.  Andy over at Tight Fisted Miser has been doing this for years; here’s one of his reports. (As of this summer, he was finishing up another clinical study.) You can make hundreds to thousands of dollars testing various things, or letting doctors treat your specific ailments. You’ll also be reimbursed for mileage and other expenses. Here’s a good starting point – if you live near a big city, Craigslist will often have notices for this, as well.

There are other unusual ways to make a buck, of course. (And here are even more.) Advertise yourself — or check for ads — on free sites like Craigslist or You’ll be amazed at how much these occasional jobs can add up to, in the long run. Every little bit truly does help.


Thrift Shop – And Save

thrift shop and save

Do you wish you could decorate your home in tasteful antiques, or follow the latest high-tech trend? How about your clothes closet — can you afford to fill it with classic, high-quality pieces? Want to give memorable presents (often still with price tags attached, or in original boxes), or thoughtful hostess gifts… And do all this for dimes, or even pennies on the dollar? Get thee to a thrift shop — FAST. Ms. Golightly in her basic black dress — from the Thrifty Chicks blog. Price: $8.99.     This summer, I traveled through several states, and had the chance to visit [...]

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What Do You Really Need To Live On?

what do you really need to live on

 It all started with Donna Freedman. This frugalist blogger spent years living on a less-than-generous income while she went back to college, managed an apartment house (for her rent), then began stints as a columnist for MSN, as well as Get Rich Slowly, both popular financial sites.     Now Donna’s in better circumstances, living in Alaska with her partner…and apparently more than willing to back the idea that you must be making more than $50,000 in order to live comfortably. No matter what. Or where. In fact, she makes fun of “wealthy people” (i.e., those living on $200,000 or more) for positing that [...]

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Pizza: The Perfect Food

pizza the perfect food

Here at Midlife Finance, we make sure we cover the serious issues in your life: money, retirement, kids, and much more. Here’s a look at an important issue we haven’t covered yet: Pizza.  It may just be the perfect food. Well-made pizza is easy on the budget. It can be a meal-in-one, and makes good use of fresh local ingredients. Best of all, good pizza is also easy to make.      The Internet’s full of recipes for this crunchy, garlicky delicacy. Few, though, make a pizza that looks, as well as tastes good. Some tricks help:      *Let your pizza dough [...]

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Financing a Fixer Upper Home

Financing a Fixer Upper Home

I’m searching for a new home and it’s been quite interesting. Our area has been a seller’s market for quite a few years now and the price keeps increasing. We looked at a few homes and the nice ones are priced out of range, so I’m considering a fixer upper. The prices of homes that need repairs are much more affordable, but some of them really need extensive repairs. One home we visited had the whole kitchen ripped out and I’m pretty sure our credit union wouldn’t finance that kind of property. Unless you have cash, it can be difficult [...]

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