Wise Bread gives the 10 worst ways to make extra money. The scary thing is, I’ve actually looked into most of these, and tried some. And they’re mostly right. Most of them are just a waste of time. Here’s what’s wrong with them, and the caveats with the ones that are halfway useful, for a limited time.
Safe ways to make money
First, let’s talk about ways I’ve actually made extra money successfully. It’s possible to make money blogging. Early on, what I made was a pittance, but what I make now is worthwhile. With my tips, you don’t have to struggle as long as I did. Selling books on Amazon can also be reasonably profitable. Or if you don’t know books but you know other valuables, you can sell on Ebay.
There is startup cost involved in any of those things. So what I recommend, if you’re going to try any of these 10 worst ways, is to take any money you make doing them and ladder it into things that are more successful but take longer or require more startup cost. Otherwise, you’re mostly wasting time.
1. Online surveys.
I did this for a while, around 2005 or so. The most lucrative surveys dried up really fast. For a while, my wife and I made enough to make it worthwhile, but the more people started doing it, the harder it became. And we got a lot more unsolicited phone calls while we were doing this. Today, I’m not sure we’d be able to make $10 a month doing this, and if we tried, it would distract us from other things.
2. Investment schemes.
Stay far, far away. Only 5-10 percent of people beat the market average. I don’t like those odds. Buying penny stocks is like buying lottery tickets. If you find it fun, do it with small amounts of money you don’t mind losing. If you use too much and/or you don’t find it fun, all you’re doing is stressing yourself out and losing money. Here’s the right way to invest.
3. Medical testing.
That’s one thing I’ve never tried or looked into. I once had a coworker who did. Perhaps it was less risky than working as a contractor in the Middle East–something else he looked into doing–but that’s not saying much.
4. Selling body fluids.
For years, I walked past the Alpha Plasma Center on my way to class. And for four years, I intended to sell plasma once, for the experience. The problem is, I hate needles, so I never got around to it. The last time I was on campus, it was gone. I did do the math, and I figured that if I did it, and wrote a story about the experience and published it, it was worthwhile. Otherwise, I was better off just working that 90 minutes or so at my part-time job instead. I guess a lot of people figured out the same thing, because the last time I was on campus, the Alpha Plasma Center was gone.
That said, there is a plasma center near where I live now. If I needed $30 and didn’t have anything else to do with 90 minutes of my time, it would be an option. It’s better than medical testing. These places tend to pay more the first time than on subsequent times. But as long as you don’t need to do this often, this may be the least bad option in the list.
5. Spinning signs.
I’ve never tried that either. So I can’t speak to that. Sorry.
6. Renting out stuff.
I have a neighbor who rents out rooms in her house, and the rest of the neighborhood is really getting sick of it. As is the local police department, because her renters are causing problems. She’s piling up more resentment than money.
Renting out real estate is very profitable, but you need to go in knowing some things.
7. Recycling scrap metal.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a feature on scrappers this past week. The reporter retraced a scrapper’s steps one day, and in about five hours, he made around $80. He said that was a good day. The trouble is, not every day is a good day, and he didn’t say what he makes on a bad day, or a typical day. And I’m sure that now that the story ran, a bunch of new people spent a chunk of their weekend trying it.
My wife and I used to walk the neighborhood and pick up aluminum cans, then we’d cash them in when we had a couple of garbage bags full. At the time, the cans were worth about a penny apiece, so we might have made $20 a year. I think the bigger benefit was that we got some exercise and we cleaned the neighborhood up a little. And we funneled the money into selling books, so that was good.
But if you’re going to go beyond picking up cans on your daily walk, the chances of legal trouble aren’t worth the risks the guys who make $80 a day have to take, if you ask me. And this works best when the value of scrap metal is high. It isn’t always.
8. Treasure hunting.
My dad bought a metal detector. As far as I know, he never found anything worthwhile with it. It sounds like it should work, but I think it’s the same problem as #7: too many other people doing the same thing. This isn’t a bad hobby, because you can indeed find interesting old things this way, but the things you find won’t necessarily be valuable, because being buried in the ground for decades isn’t the best thing for metal.
There are people who do make money doing this, but generally, the best way to do it is helping people find lost wedding rings when they have a general idea where they lost it. But even then, business is sporadic. The people who do this seem to do it more for the thrill of helping someone than the money.
9. Work at home schemes.
I think the word is out on these, because I don’t see nearly as many advertisements for them as I used to. But generally, the one thing all the schemes I’ve looked into have in common is a high up-front cost that you make back slowly over time. Making extra money should be all about low up-front costs, if any.
I’ll also lump network marketing schemes like Amway into this. I know dozens of people who tried them, and they tried to recruit me. I’ve also overheard amusing conversations where people were trying to recruit others. None of the people I know stayed in it more than a couple of years.
10. Playing video games.
One of the laws of the universe is that nobody’s going to pay you very much to do something you’d do anyway.
Now, if you’re good at it and you’re articulate and you enjoy video editing and are good at it, there is some potential to make money doing this making Youtube videos or livestreaming. So I won’t write this one off entirely, but this does take more than just being good at playing video games.