What I know about Wise Bread’s 10 worst ways to make extra money

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.

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.

5. Spinning signs. I’ve never tried that either.

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 enough. 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.

To me, the chances of legal trouble aren’t worth the risks the guys who make $80 a day have to take.

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.

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.

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.

2 thoughts on “What I know about Wise Bread’s 10 worst ways to make extra money

  • May 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    A few years ago my wife got involved with one of those “secret shopper” outfits. They asked for our area code and based on our location they assigned us a single fast food chain.

    Secret shopping was a lot of work — they wanted an unbelievable amount of detailed information. For example, they wanted to know how many seconds did it take from the time the drive-thru beeped to the time someone spoke to you. There were probably 10 different things that they wanted measured in seconds. I really don’t see how you could even do the shop without a phone or a stopwatch.

    For the shop, she got her meal paid for plus about $10. What we ordered was also dictated, so sometimes she had to order items we didn’t want to eat.

    The problem became that they were calling us somewhere between 10-15 times a week, and you had about 4 hours to respond. I suppose if you really, really liked eating from this particular chain it would have been a good deal. Also, the vast majority of the calls we got were during weekdays, so it didn’t work very well for someone who was already employed. For someone with a flexible schedule willing to eat at the same chain 10-15 times a week, it would have been a great deal.

    I haven’t tried any of the schemes you mentioned in your post. All of them sound like more trouble than they’re worth. If I ever got hard up for money I would either copy edit people’s documents for money, or do a bit of computer repair work on the side. I would think one job doing either of those things would make you more money than all of those other jobs combined in a week.

  • May 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    That’s a good point, Rob. Those couple of times I’ve had gaps in my employment, I’ve been able to make enough doing computer repairs to pay the utility bills.

    There are pitfalls with that too, but 1-2 computer repairs probably netted what all those surveys did, in the end. And of course, it’s pretty easy to make more than $80 a day fixing computers, and with less overhead than scrapping.

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