Make money online - no, really
Scams and bogus 'opportunities' abound, but legitimate money-makers do exist. You probably won't get rich but you can certainly boost your budget.
Need a few extra dollars? Look for them online.
Scams abound and so do "opportunities" that bring minimal bucks for maximum effort. But some legit money-making tactics do exist -- ways you can earn while working in a cubicle, taking the train home or waiting for soccer practice to end.
You're not likely to get rich this way, but why not boost your budget by listening to online radio, using a search engine or putting an affiliate link into some of your Facebook posts?
Watch yourself out there, though. "There are far more scams than there are legitimate sources of income," notes Andrea Eldridge of MarketingNerds.com.
"Beware of any offer that requires you to supply a credit card, pay for 'training' or fork over a membership fee. Avoid doing a Google search for 'make money online' unless you want to test your ability to sniff out a shyster."
One of the easiest ways to find legitimate online opportunities is to use the right search engine. Sites like InboxDollars, Qmee.com and Swagbucks can turn casual research into cash money sent by check or PayPal. (Both InboxDollars and Swagbucks have other ways to earn, including online games, surveys and watching short videos.)
The Bing search engine pays in points that you can trade for gift cards -- which are as good as cash if you use them to buy things you were going to buy anyway. (Note: Bing is owned by Microsoft, which publishes Smart Spending.)
If you're a music fan, why not get paid to appreciate it? Radio Loyalty rewards those who listen to online radio. Tricia Meyer of Sunshine Rewards notes that you do have to listen to a few commercials but the variety of music choices makes it appealing to almost anyone.
In fact, she herself listens while at her desk, earning about $2.50 a week. "It really isn't any work," Meyer says. "Ten dollars a month isn't a lot, but for doing something so easy it's definitely worth it."
If you've got a job with periods of down time (e.g., long stretches between calls), bring your tablet to work and take surveys. Some of the better sites include Harris Polls, ZoomPanel, Pinecone Research, Toluna and Synovate.
You can take surveys anywhere you have a few minutes to focus plus an Internet connection, including during your carpool or train ride to work. I've interviewed people who do them while keeping an eye on their kids in the yard, while waiting for the spin cycle at the laundromat, or while watching TV with a spouse in the evening.
A company called VigLink lets you earn from blogs or social media posts. It's an obvious match for deal or fashion bloggers. But it's also a good fit for non-bloggers who just like to share their finds with Facebook friends.
VigLink gives you an affiliate link that attaches to any URLs you provide. When a friend/reader clicks through, any purchases earn you a small commission. Rich Menga, a professional blogger whose focus is music, says it's the only consistent way he's found to make money on his site.
Although he won't reveal specific earnings, VigLink revenue brings in more than enough to pay for blogging expenses and promotions. He cautions users not to be "spammy" with the social media links, i.e., not to treat one's friends and acquaintances like clients. "Sprinkle in a few (links) every now and then," the Florida writer says.
A few more ways to cash in:
Capitalize on your knowledge through sites like Just Answer and ChaCha. You'll earn more if you have a specialized skill set, according to the Money Saving Mom site, but anyone with good research skills can bring in some extra dollars.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is a "microtask" site that pays anywhere from two cents to $2 for doing fast jobs like tagging photos or basic data entry. A focused individual can do up to three tasks a minute, "earning a decent amount if you put some time into it," says Robert Farrington of The College Investor. (He made extra money himself this way while in college.)
A site called Viggle awards points for watching television, answering trivia questions and playing in fantasy sports leagues. Jason Selss uses a number of rewards sites but Viggle and Swagbucks are his two favorites. Thus far he's earned enough gift cards to pay for an HDTV, a new printer and a laptop.
Selss, who works in Internet marketing on the East Coast, spends no more than an hour a day cruising for these rewards. Generally that's multitasking, such as surfing the Internet while keeping an eye on the television. This relatively limited time investment means slow earning; it took 10 months to save enough points for the television, and nine months to get the laptop points.
"It takes time, and patience is key," he says. "But once you get (free electronics) in your hands it's a nice feeling."
More on MSN Money:
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.