I don’t know about you but every time I get the thought that I should be trying to make extra income I go to google (the best website) to solve my problem. Inevitably suggestions always seem to be the same thing, “sell your stuff on craigslist/ebay/garage sale”, “Tutor some folks for some extra cash”, “Use bank sign-up bonuses”. Here are four idea’s that I’m pretty sure you haven’t tried. Now many of these require some actual effort on your part. For that reason I expect about no more than 10% of you to actually make any money from this article. But the rest of you can dream about what it would be like if you were willing to make an effort, right?
- Buy a candy/gumball machine.
- The machines sell for the low 100’s of dollars. You can buy the gumballs for about $35 per 850 (same site dudes). If you sell each one for $0.25 that means that you earn about $200 on that 850 gumball unit. Your profit margin is over 80%.
- Here are the other bits that matter: what is your time to refill and repair the machine worth? Figure each refill takes an hour charging $50 per hour (including drive time etc). Figure another hour every other refill spent performing maintenance. This works out to subtracting $75 off of our refill revenue of $200. This leaves us with a gross profit of $90 per refill. Assuming that each machine will last 5 years (depreciation of $27 per year), our question becomes can you do at least $40 of profit per year. In other words can you sell all your gumballs once every 2.25 years? Generally the answer is that you can do far better than that.
- The Hard Part: You need locations. I assume that you aren’t selling these out of your home. You need to convince some place with a waiting room to let you set up a gumball machine. You can’t pay anything remotely resembling a reasonable fee. It’s not like you can offer them $20 a month for the space. That’d eat your profits alive. One suggestion I’ve heard is to tell them that you donate a portion of your revenue to charity. Say 10%? Your margins are great, so you can definitely afford this. You’re going to get shot down a bunch of times. Such is life.
- Offer to do long distance deliveries.
- Some businesses are occasionally would like to make a substantial delivery somewhere quite distant. Maybe they’re new, maybe they offer catering services of some sort. The value you can offer here is pretty substantial. Just make sure you charge enough (at least 60 cents per mile, more in the city).
- The Hard Part: Again you need to talk to actual human beings. Ideally you print up some business cards and offer the service to them before they actually need it. Do this for enough businesses and just wait for one of them to get in a bind. It’s best to look at newer businesses/restaurants and ones that sell a unique food or product. This is never going to work out if you hand your card over to the dominoes guy.
- Buy Half-Dollars
- I’m probably cheating with this one. You’ve probably heard about doing it, but its such a neat thing I can’t help but mention it.
- Ask the bank teller if they have any Roosevelt half-dollars. Later, at home, you go through them. You are looking for coins dated before 1970 (and ones marked 1976 S!). These have silver content, and they are worth ~$3-6. So you get $100 worth of them and you might get a couple, netting you 2-4% on your money.
- The Hard Part: The amount of money from this is tiny even though the return is good. This all comes down to how quickly you can check 200 half-dollars. If it takes you more than ten minutes, this is a bust. As far as banks go, I’d check in on ones while you’re on vacation.
- Vehicular Arbitrage
- This I’ve never tried but I’d be interested to hear the experience of folks. Buy a truck at an oilfield auction. It may be that oil-fields are pushing their fleet a little harder than usual with oil prices being down, so this may not be quite as common anymore. Keep in mind you are essentially buying a seat and a heater, these are no-frills trucks.
- Drive this truck to a State where trucks are more expensive, California comes to mind, but you may find something better nearby.
- The Hard Part: I have no clue. There are a lot of moving parts here. Get to an auction. Verify that prices are lower at auction than where you plan on selling it. Account for sales tax. Account for all of the little registration fee’s etc that are going to eat into your profit. The bonus here is that you get a subsidized road trip. I bet you’ve got to double your money on this before costs for it to be worth it.
These things all sound like a big pain in the neck, but they seem like they might lead to a fun story too. I don’t know, maybe you should just eBay all the crap you bought yesteryear like every other blog tells you to. It’s certainly easier, and you don’t have to have a conversation that gets you rejected. (Though I’ve always found the fees and shipping on eBay to make my life a little difficult, but your mileage may vary, and it’s got to be less of a pain that digging through quarters.)
Adam Woods is a physicist. His research interests include building software to run and build geomagnetic models. Adam got interested in personal finance in the great recession when it became obvious an interest was necessary.
After harassing his friends and family (and a short intervention) he took to the web where he blogs about finance, investment, politics, and economics.
Adam is currently located in Boulder, Colorado where he can generally be found hiking, biking, or running a D&D campaign. He can also be contacted at email@example.com.