How to make a quick $50

If you're jobless, underemployed or just looking at a paycheck that won't stretch as far as it needs to, odd jobs may be your answer. You might be surprised at what's out there now.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 7, 2013 9:59AM

Logo: Man with empty pockets (Digital Vision/Digital Vision Ltd.)Given that the economic "recovery" is being fueled by lower-paying and/or part-time jobs, you might be in the market for some extra money.

Yes, that stinks. Debate the politics another time, though; right now you need to find ways to pay the bills.

A good place to start is an article on the Wealth Informatics blog. The author, Suba, lists nearly 70 ideas. In addition to the usual suspects like babysitting, plasma donation and selling stuff on Craigslist, she's come up with some creative ways to make a buck. For example:

Grocery shopping. People are willing to pay supermarkets for delivery, so they should be willing to pay you -- especially if you tack on extras like coupon matching and meal-planning based on that week's loss leaders.

Laundry schlepper. Suba once knew a student who picked up clothing, delivered it to the laundry or dry cleaner, and then returned the finished products. It took half the weekend, "but covered his living expenses for the rest of the week."

Professional loiterer. She didn't call it that, but that's what it is: You get paid to wait for the electrician or the cable guy.

But do such jobs pay enough? And how do you find them?

First, the pay: It can be mediocre or it can be pretty great, depending on what you're signing up to do. (It also depends on what you like to do; more on that later.) I've seen ads on sites like TaskRabbit and OddJobNation for gigs as simple as: 
  • Participating in a two-hour social media/fashion focus group ($100).
  • Taking several loads of laundry to the laundromat and returning it clean and folded ($23).
  • Removing and discarding packing materials from 30 small boxes, flattening the boxes and putting them in a recycling bin ($29).
If you're underemployed, a home-based worker, a retiree who needs to bring in extra or an at-home parent, then odd jobs can be a good fit. When I went broke in midlife (think: divorce, college) I was always on the lookout for extra cash. I babysat, house-sat, pet-sat, participated in medical testing, and did light housework and personal-care chores for a senior citizen.

The most unusual gig? Watching a short pornographic film, part of a psychology student's project on women and sexuality.

Can't find a job? Make one

Consider making your own "job" by focusing on what you like to do and/or what you're already doing anyway. Suppose you do three long training runs per week. Offer to take your busy neighbor's dog along; Fido will get needed exercise, and the extra bucks will make up for your having to carry poop bags on the trek.

Is gardening your passion? Offer to create and/or maintain someone else’s landscape. Live in a high-rise? Put up a sign letting neighbors know you'll collect their mail while they vacation.

Do you walk your kids to school? Offer to take other people's children along. If you work at home, let neighbors know you're willing to sign for packages or let in the plumber.

Not all fast-cash options are odd jobs as such. How about: 

  • Find and fix. If you're a good tinkerer or can turn a beat-up bookcase into a colorful accent piece, start searching for stuff to repair and sell. Check curbs on trash day, the areas beside apartment-house Dumpsters and the "free" section of Craigslist. (I once talked with a guy who picked up "broken" yard equipment for free, then tuned it up and sold it).
  • Mystery shopping. Two things you need to know: Never pay for leads (sign up for free at Volition or the Mystery Shopping Providers Association), and ignore scam emails (no reputable company would look for shoppers this way). The more work you do, the more likely you'll land the higher-paying "shops."
  • Short-term rentals. If having strangers in your house doesn't creep you out, sites like Airbnb and Roomorama can earn you thousands. Living near an exciting city or beautiful countryside is a plus; one couple's D.C.-area home earned them $37,000 in a year.
  • Game shows, either onstage or watching. Check your favorite program's website for contestant info. A woman I interviewed makes extra cash as a "super-excited, cranked to maximum capacity" paid audience member. She also auditions for game-show pilot episodes. If you don't get selected, an upbeat attitude might snare you one of those paid audience member gigs.

All right, so that last one is a long shot. But plenty of people live near where game shows are filmed, and some game shows do regional tryouts. (In the early 1990s I was on "Jeopardy!" -- and they found me by coming to Alaska.)

Finding the right job

If you have a specialized skill (writing, editing, medical transcription, data entry, virtual assistant), check out sites like eLance, PeoplePerHour, and


Companies like Fiverr and Gigbucks let you post your unique abilities (serious or silly) for hire. Browse their listings, because you may have a saleable skill (writing quick satires, imitating Darth Vader) you never thought to try and sell.

Part-time gigs can be found at the online sites mentioned above, on Craigslist (yes, legitimate gigs are regularly advertised there) or on bulletin boards at the supermarket. Obviously you need to exercise caution when accepting a job, no matter where it's listed; if something feels wrong, don't accept it.

Or simply put the word out among friends, either informally or through social media. Suba suggests advertising in your own neighborhood. People you know are likely to feel more comfortable with you "instead of trusting complete strangers." Once you've done a few jobs, you'll have references that will likely lead to complete strangers trusting you.

According to Abigail R. Gehring, author of "Odd Jobs: How to Have Fun and Make Money in a Bad Economy,"  short-term employment has its charms.


"The variety of people you will meet, places you'll find yourself and skill sets you'll discover are sure to keep life interesting," she says.

What's the oddest odd job you ever did?

More on MSN Money:


Aug 8, 2013 10:07AM

When I was 11 or 12 years old, the neighbor's son (he was early 30s) paid me to go visit his mom on Saturday mornings (he'd come after lunch). Her health was not good, wheelchair bound - I'd dust her house, run the vacuum - but mostly just listen to her. We looked at old picture albums and such. Once she asked me to take some dresses out of the closet - she just wanted to look at them again. I started going on Wednesdays after school - on my own, no pay - just because I liked her and I knew she was lonely.  I learned compassion - something money just can't buy.

Aug 7, 2013 1:39PM
Make a job?  I had a great Idea, something everybody needs done, went door to door one day placing 160 flyers for this service....not one call.  So much for that.  People are not spending due to the economy.
Aug 8, 2013 1:02PM
When you need $50 bucks extra per month disconnect your cable service.
Aug 7, 2013 1:40PM
Yeah, some of these might work if you lived in a big city.
Aug 8, 2013 1:53AM
Temp agencies. That got me by when I needed cash, I worked 3 PT jobs at one point. A factory for a temp agency for 32 hours a week, housekeeping for a church pastor for 10 hours a week, and 8 hours on the weekend for a human services agency at a home for disabled children. The housekeeping job led to a full-time position, the factory job ended, but I still worked for the agency on weekends if needed.
Aug 7, 2013 9:25PM
One problem,  commander..............none of these are actual happening jobs that a person can really get.
They are just BS cooked up by a writer to fill space.

Aug 8, 2013 7:43AM
Yeah, it's always great how the authors of these types of articles write as though everyone lives in the city.
Aug 8, 2013 11:52AM
What happened to the "recovery" and all the good news of jobs?

Aug 7, 2013 2:16PM
Yes, gameshows are a good option for people that dont have a job.
Aug 8, 2013 12:03PM

Become a sports referee or umpire.

I work as a soccer referee only on Sundays and can make anything from $40 to $70 per game and I do at least three. I could do Saturdays and weekdays for the highschool season but I have a fulltime job and would not be able to get out of bed if I was doing 7 or 8 games a week. It is also a great way to get fit and meet people. I know quite a few teachers who supplement their income by being baseball umpires, soccer, basketball, fottball referees and so on.

Aug 7, 2013 3:00PM
giving blood would be the quickest, sure way to make a quick 50
Aug 8, 2013 12:07PM
The problem is CraigsLust or CreepsList is full of sketchy people posting sketchy "jobs."
Aug 7, 2013 3:20PM

Want to not need to make a quick $50 bucks?  STOP voting Democ rat.

Aug 7, 2013 7:43PM
This has to be one of the dumbest articles ever from MSN.
What's next? Asking illegals to show up and get free food off from trucks?

Aug 7, 2013 5:55PM
I checked out one of the sites and quite frankly Gigbucks was not not very reliable. many of them can barely spell the word free ance let alone be one. NOT one of your better suggestions. If you have a seemingly professional delusioanal belief about your own capabilites that accepts substandard work rates then you might as well stick to the work-for-free scams on Craig's List.
Aug 8, 2013 11:11AM
This article is rubbish! People need real jobs making real money. You may as well donate blood plasma, for crying out loud!
Aug 7, 2013 2:49PM

You were on Jeopardy!  Wow!  Love that show. Some great ideas here. 


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