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What would you do for a buck?


What would you do for a buck?Yesterday, I was walking to the Portland State University library to do a little blogging and saw a big van with a sign “We’ll Pay You $1.00 to Watch This 4-Minute Video.” How could I say no to that? A volunteer led me to one of the 10 video monitors installed and I spent 4 minutes watching a segment of the Farm to Fridge video.

Vegan Outreach promotes cruelty-free eating and the video showed how animals are mistreated in modern day farming. It started off quite grisly with a clip of male chicks being ground up. Apparently male chickens on egg farms are not a viable product so they just get rid of them as soon as they hatch. The video continued with more disturbing videos of chickens, pigs, and cows. After 4 minutes, I was a bit queasy and quickly took the offered $1 and a “Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating” (how to eat vegan) pamphlet.

Anyway, I was wondering, what you would do for a buck? I think 5 minutes of unpleasantness for a buck is about the limit for me. I wouldn’t watch an hour of disturbing video for $12 though. We have been trying to eat more vegetarian meals already, and the video was still very disturbing.

Here is a short list of what I have done to make a buck or two

  • Pick up coins from the fountain – Once in a blue moon, the city drains the fountains for cleaning, and I say coins are fair game then.
  • Mystery shopping – A few years ago, I watched several movies for mystery shopping assignments, and that was about it. There weren’t a lot of assignments in our area. If I ever have more time, I probably would try mystery shopping again.
  • Sell used stuff – It’s easy to sell used stuff on Craigslist. It’s a great way to make a few bucks instead of throwing things away or just locking them in storage.
  • Tutoring – I did some tutoring when I was in college. I’m not sure I can do it now since none of these subjects are fresh in my mind anymore.
  •  Focus group/surveys – Mrs. RB40 used to fill out surveys by mail, and received a few bucks in return.  Most of these questions were about infant formula, and did not take a lot of her time.

Here are a few things that I would like to try when I have more time

  • Medical experiments – I haven’t done this yet, but when I have more time, I probably would sign up for some assignments. Here is a local study to predict glaucoma development. It pays $50 for one visit. This is a perfect assignment for me because my family has a history of eye problems. Maybe I’ll try to get on board after I turn 40 (the eligibility age.)
  • Baby sitting – I wouldn’t mind baby sitting at all. I think having another kid around for a few hours wouldn’t be a big issue, and Baby RB40 would love it. Most parents probably trust a woman more, though. Isn’t that a little sexist?
  • Yoga – At one point I considered getting a yoga teaching certificate. I love practicing yoga and this would be a great way to do it regularly and make a little money on the side.
  • Focus group/food tester – How about tasting new food and getting paid for it? I just found the Food Innovation Center while researching side hustles.

The lack of time is a huge factor here. Even now that I’m not working a full time job anymore, I rarely have time to do anything extra. When Baby RB40 goes off to school, I’ll have more time to try to make few extra bucks.  Another factor is that I would be doing this more for fun rather than serious earnings, though if I do make any extra, it would feel like a bonus!

What about you? Have you done anything to make a few extra bucks lately? Please share some ideas. 

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • CL July 24, 2013, 8:20 pm

    I’m pretty late to this party, but I will say that I really, really love Beyond Meat. If you just hop in to Whole Foods and try the buffalo animal-free chicken…it’s awesome. I’m getting hungry thinking about it. Mark Bittman, the author and NYT writer, wrote about how it’s pretty much indistinguishable from real chicken. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/opinion/sunday/finally-fake-chicken-worth-eating.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    “When you take Brown’s product, cut it up and combine it with, say, chopped tomato and lettuce and mayonnaise with some seasoning in it, and wrap it in a burrito, you won’t know the difference between that and chicken. I didn’t, at least, and this is the kind of thing I do for a living.”

    The cafeteria at work serves locally sourced, humanely raised meat/organic vegetables and the like, so I don’t mind eating it. But I will say that when I lived in Indiana, I reached for the Beyond Meat a little more often. (I was also vegan at one point, so there was that, too.)

  • SB @ One Cent at a Time May 25, 2013, 5:17 pm

    I have this little green house in my patio. And, I have 20+ varieties of garden vegetable seeds. I can sell seedlings for a buck, that’ll be still cheaper than Home Depot price.

  • Mrs. Bookworm May 24, 2013, 7:45 am

    I would probably have tried many of the items on your list when I was still in grad school and desperate for money. Now, it’s different because the skills and experiences I’ve gained since then can be utilized to earn larger amounts of money. I agree with Pretired Nick above – if you can get 100x or more from consulting, you shouldn’t be wasting your time on these activities. Unless you really, really love watching disturbing videos or filling out surveys. 🙂
    Great blog btw!

    • retirebyforty May 24, 2013, 10:07 am

      These side gigs are mostly for people who have too much time on their hands. Or a few minutes here and there.

  • Jim May 24, 2013, 5:26 am

    How many mystery shopping companies did you join? I live in a very small town in PA and there are tons of mystery shops available to me.

    • retirebyforty May 24, 2013, 10:06 am

      I joined just 2. I’ll have to try them out again.

  • Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa May 23, 2013, 7:13 pm

    I’ve tried many of the methods you have listed. Its been my experience that these things are almost never worth the effort… especially the ones on the internet. There are just too many scams out there.

  • Retired Syd May 23, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Well it’s not much, but it makes me feel better about eating out: Make as many of your reservations as possible on Opentable. We’re going out on Sunday night and using a $50 dining check from our accumulated dining points. Getting paid for eating, I like it!

  • [email protected] May 23, 2013, 8:14 am

    I’ve done paid medical experiments back when I was in college. They were psychological research studies…stuff on behavior, memory, etc. They were painless and kinda fun. Easy money. Now that you mentioned it, I might look into it again.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2013, 8:59 am

      That’s the kind of studies that I would sign up for.

      • Gen Y Finance Journey May 23, 2013, 12:17 pm

        I once did a psych study that earned me $12 and a wireless keyboard/mouse. That was the most lucrative study I ever did, most pay $5-10. Then there are the more invasive studies, where they’ll give you an FMRI or some such. They pay much better, and are fine to do occasionally, but you shouldn’t get into the habit of having an FMRI a week. 🙂

        • retirebyforty May 24, 2013, 10:04 am

          I would never do MRI for pay. That’s too invasive for my taste. I don’t need the money that much. 🙂

  • Little House May 23, 2013, 6:53 am

    I’ve done surveys before, like taste testing drinks. It paid about $20 an hour. Not bad, since I had a little spare time. I’ve also tutoring in the past and would do so again if need be. As for that video, that would disturb me. I’ve pretty much cut most red meat out of my diet and eat a lot of chicken and turkey. I don’t think I need to know that they grind up baby male chicks right away. Yuck!

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2013, 8:59 am

      The video was disturbing, but I learned a few things. I’m sure many people eat less meat due to the shock value.

      • Deborah M February 3, 2016, 5:34 am

        Why not put your money where your values are & help the push toward more humane & sustainable animal husbandry and meat-raising, such as buying locally raised from small farmers, or at least buying only pasture-raised beef, and free-range chicken?

  • Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance May 23, 2013, 1:14 am

    A dollar a day increases our emergency fund in a better way. What I have done to make an extra buck or two? Clean tables in a fast food chain, tutor high school students, babysit, sell used items, write articles and research papers, and a lot more.

  • [email protected] May 22, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Selling used stuff on craigslist or ebay also has the added benefit of those items being used productively, instead of just sitting around.

  • [email protected] May 22, 2013, 11:37 am

    I saw money through the window on an envelope once – opened it to get the $2, but then didn’t do the survey.
    I did an online survey to get a $25 gift card for Dominoes Pizza. Went through the survey and submitted – submit button didn’t work. Probably all that happened is they got my email address, which they then turned around and sold for a buck to spammers.
    I let a friend use a wet tile saw – I let him use it for free – he gave me $20 anyway for the use for a couple weekends.
    I have a nice carpet cleaner and pressure washer – if anybody is in the Corona/Riverside area and wants a rental 🙂 I didn’t like the rentals Home Depot had, and I usually carry projects over several weekends, so rentals become too much work/cost in that way.
    I know a few that give blood, and I think they get paid, but I don’t know how much.
    I wouldn’t watch a couple minute video for a buck, but ironically I’ve watched a few documentaries about the current happenings on animal farms for free.
    Went out of my way for a timeshare sales pitch once – was supposed to get one of several gifts for it. I wanted the $100. I got the free hotel in Hawaii or Vegas (I forget which) – had to pay for airfare, so I never went.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2013, 8:57 am

      I like the renting tools idea. Isn’t there a website where you can register for that kind of thing? I hate the timeshare sales sessions. It feels like such a waste of time because I would never buy it.

      • [email protected] May 23, 2013, 10:30 am

        If there isn’t a site, maybe one could be useful? I don’t see a ‘for rent’ section on Craigslist. Might be a way to bring in some bucks in retirement as well – have somebody develop the site, and then just manage it and host it somewhere.
        And that brings to mind another area – the online freelance project type sites – http://www.elance.com, http://www.freelance.com and http://www.guru.com – places to bid on projects. Many of the projects are technical or creative (programming, graphics, etc…) but they have additional types of projects as well. I’ve looked a few times for projects, but never found one that matched what I was wanting to do. I’ve used them for buying services, though – mostly graphical work for a web app I developed.

  • krantcents May 22, 2013, 10:56 am

    Your question is different than your title! I doubt I would do it for a buck, but a few bucks is a maybe. It may seem like I am splitting hairs, but a buck is $15 an hour. A few bucks is closer to a reasonable number. Once upon time, I did things for $150-300 per hour, time is important.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2013, 8:56 am

      That’s because you are so busy now! What about after retirement? You’ll have a lot of time on your hand then.

  • Well Heeled Blog May 22, 2013, 10:10 am

    I’ve done a few focus groups – those are pretty fun because you learn about new products and you get to make $80-$200 for a few hours of work. Haven’t graduated to medical studies… not sure if I ever well.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2013, 8:55 am

      That sounds good. I’ll try to find a few focus groups in my area.

  • Pretired Nick May 22, 2013, 10:04 am

    What, you haven’t started selling your plasma or semen yet? (:
    This is where I’m not very efficient with my funds. Aside from selling crap on Craigslist, I’m not very good about looking for small bits of money like this. I guess it’s since I can make up to $100/hour consulting, it’s hard to justify investing time in making smaller amounts. I probably should be looking for ways to be more efficient like this. I wouldn’t do medical testing myself. You never know what the side effects will be.
    Good meeting you the other day!

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2013, 8:55 am

      I draw the line at bodily fluid. 🙂
      I wouldn’t take experimental medication either. I would pick the ones that are observations based.
      It was great to meet you too.

  • Brittany May 22, 2013, 8:43 am

    One of the things I do sometimes is Mechanical Turking through Amazon. I blogged about it awhile back: http://www.prosouppropaganda.com/2011/12/mechanical-turking-and-making-some.html I haven’t done it lately, but I think I’m going to start up again. Work has been really slow lately and I might as well be doing something that earns me a little extra money while I’m sitting in front of a computer!

    I also do some MDC Research group stuff every several months. They usually pay between $40-$100 for less than two hours’ worth of time!

    Everything else I do to make money is an official side hustle. ;o)

    • retirebyforty May 22, 2013, 9:36 am

      I checked the Mechanical Turk thing on Amazon, but the pay is so low. Is it worth your time?
      Can you tell me a bit more about MDC research group? How do I sign up? 🙂

      • thepotatohead May 24, 2013, 4:20 pm

        I was looking into Mechanical Turk as well. You have to find the assignments that are worth your time, basically something you can do really quickly and just bust out tons of them, or one of the writing gigs that actually pay decently but requires more effort.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules May 22, 2013, 8:41 am

    Wow, it’s a good thing that lasted four minutes. I’ve done a few things on your list over the years. Lately we have been selling things on Craigslist to make little extra money off our junk.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor May 22, 2013, 7:45 am

    I think I’d try a paper route. I do a walk daily anyway–might as well get a little money for it!

    • retirebyforty May 22, 2013, 9:35 am

      There will be too much stuff to carry, right? I think most paper delivery folks drive now.

      • Kurt @ Money Counselor May 23, 2013, 9:33 am

        Yes, many do. But I’d get one of those little carts seniors use to haul bags of groceries. Would be good practice for my ‘golden years’ too. 🙂

  • SavvyFinancialLatina May 22, 2013, 7:07 am

    I’m very frugal, and as long as it doesn’t put me out of the way, I could do a lot of things for a buck. Love me a dollar!

  • I tried online purchasing surveys for almost a year. The rewards were grocery gift cards but just when I was about to receive my first card my account disappeared and they had no record of me. I think it was a scam.

    I would do a lot for a buck but I know what happens at animal processing facilities and you would have to pay me a lot more than a buck and I can’t guarantee that my eyes won’t be closed.

    • retirebyforty May 22, 2013, 9:34 am

      I should put online survey on my list of thing to try too. It sounds quick and painless.
      Yeah, the video was quite graphic.

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