Paying the Bills: Your Responses


As expected, I received a flood of responses to Monday’s question on paying the bills. In addition to hundreds of site comments (I posted at least half that came through, but it’s tough to keep up from the road), we also had hundreds of additional suggestions come in through Facebook and Google+.

You guys are so productive! And so smart, too.

Naturally, I outsourced the sorting of responses to my furry assistant Libby, now working back at home while I’m on location in Asia. (Anecdotal reports indicate that when her assistance is virtual, she slacks off even more. I’ll get back to impose discipline as soon as I can.)

Suggestions ranged broadly, and included everything from selling various bodily fluids to begging on street corners. Others suggested prayer or “manifesting” the money. Personally I am more of a “take action” kind of guy, but it’s all good. If manifesting money from the sky has a proven success rate for you, let it rain.

Here are a few interesting comments from our group:

Andrea said:

I’m a former math teacher. With a bit of hustle I can make $300 – $500 tutoring in a month. Particularly since it’s currently August and the next round of SATs are coming up.

Austin Bishop said:

Troll the “gigs” section on Craigslist to match someone’s need with your skills. Especially if you have creative talents (e.g. graphic design, photography, copywriting) it’s easy to make quick money doing something you enjoy. The beauty of this is that some of these gigs will lead to more consistent jobs with that customer, generate referrals, and build your portfolio. I’ve done this with photography–it’s a terrific way to make some supplemental income.

A.J. Parker said:

Focus groups! (seriously) have made as much as $400 a pop just for my humble opinion on stuff. Research and Development departments in companies pay well for your thoughts and ideas.

Tracy said:

I would take my camera to the park and offer to take portraits of people’s kids. I’d give them my card, which shows the url of my photography blog. At $15.00 per digital image, I could easily email them a proof online and send them a PayPal money request that afternoon.

Sarah Russell said:

I’d head over to the Problogger Job Board and respond to a few of the postings there. I’ve been doing that for the past few months, and it’s put *much* more than $300-500 in my pocket lately.

Karen said:

I’d go straight to my travel journals (I have several years’ worth) and write a few travel articles. Before I get told that there are no travel markets that pay up front and have a quick turnaround, I’ll share a few faves I’ve sold articles to that fit the bill: Transitions Abroad, BootsnAll and the Matador Network.

Kate Courageous said:

I’m a runner, so I’d contact locally owned athletic stores and ask them to sponsor me, with my promises that I’d run through downtown San Francisco, during morning rush hour when everyone’s getting coffee, wearing their brand. I’d have to commit to a certain number of miles per week to get decent sponsorship, so there would also be the win-win of keeping me really in shape.

Steven Petersen said:

Try Gigwalk. They pay $4-7 for you to walk around your neighborhood and verify business information and take panoramic photos of the business locations. If I were to do this in my neighborhood I’d earn $500 in roughly two days.

Felix said:

Here is something I actually did during my student years. I walked into the city park and picked up tree seeds. I went to a supermarket and bought exotic fruits and got the seeds out and dry them.

I packaged them in small portions about 10 – 25 seeds per pack and sold them on ebay for $1.50 to $3.50 and mega-packs for $9.99. Customers usually bought for $6 on average to save on shipping. This turned out to make me between $400 to $600 per month.

Eric Walton said:

I purchase used vintage mechanical watches, restore them and sell them on Craiglist. You can easily make $100+ with each transaction doing this if you know the value of what you’re buying (many don’t know the value of what they’re selling).

With the economy as it is people are rediscovering the value of quality craftsmanship right now and appreciate these older wristwatches. These can be maintained for a lifetime of use vs. throwing a cheaper watch away and buying a replacement.

Jodi said:

I’d offer high tech support to low tech people!

1. Go around to local boutiques in town and offer to set up their Facebook business page. Offer extra small fee for taking digital photo of business or their product.

2. Offer to take flattering profile pictures of friends and local business owners with my iphone, upload to their Facebook page and/or LinkedIn page.

3. Create a HOW TO USE YOUR IPHONE class, $15 for 15 minutes. Set up private lessons at the local coffeeshop.

Sarah in Prague said:

Offer some small group tours of Prague’s literary pubs and cafes. I had a column in the English language newspaper here for several years in the early ’90′s and wrote the first English language pub guide to Prague in ’91, so I can legitimately claim some expertise. Advertise on various tourist and expat oriented sites and in English-language newspapers.

Leah said:

My husband and I had this situation when we first bought our house and I was 6 months pregnant with our son. He had just lost his job, but happened to have a box truck, so we printed up a few cards which he handed out to all the local furniture stores, antique dealers, etc. offering his services delivering furniture. It worked so well he had to get a business license, insurance, etc and it is now his full time job.

If you are willing to do work (labor especially) that other people don’t have time for or don’t want to do, you can make a few hundred the first week easily.

Nathan said:

When I really need cash and I’ve already squeezed my monthly bills, I do this: first I post on Facebook to tell everyone I know that I am available for odd jobs (fixing computers, babysitting, help with yard work, etc) and wait for responses. If you have a network of 100+ Facebook friends you will definitely get some bites. After that, I go on eBay and sell off items I am no longer using.

Finally, Sandy R had a good idea:

Bookmark this comment thread and come back here and select the best fit suggestion for my current circumstances.

“It’s So Easy…”

A number of people said that making extra money is easy. I have mixed feelings about this sentiment. In some ways, I agree. Whenever I need money for something, I find a way to go out and make it.

However, I also think we sometimes skip steps in explaining what’s involved in a project, and therefore cause people to feel bad about their own financial difficulties for no good reason.

I’m not sure that most people could easily earn $300-500 in a short period of time from busking, for example. Some can, certainly, but it’s not widely replicable. That’s why I prefer suggestions that don’t rely on special skills or access to existing contacts.

(Like manifesting money, if you can busk your way to the bank, don’t stop on my account.)

The $100 Bounty

I promised a $100 bounty to one smart commentor. Naturally, there could have been many winners. You all win! But the cat and biased judges could only choose one person. Following much angst, a split decision was awarded to DARLENE.

After first posting an idea on Monday about renting out a spare room to a student and taking public transportation for a few weeks, here’s what she had to say on Wednesday:

So here’s an update — I posted an ad for our room for rent and just rented it for two months and $1200!!! I actually DID it. And it didn’t take 30 days, it only took two.

I know that not everyone has a room they can rent, but I liked the spirit of her suggestion-followed-by-immediate-action. As promised, I just sent Darlene her $100 winning bounty by PayPal.

My congratulations (and my hundred bucks) go to Darlene on her big payday. And for those who said the question was highly relevant to them, well, now you have some ideas.


As you might expect, I have a business project behind all this brainstorming. However, I’m not nearly as strategic as I sometimes get credit for—the business project is indeed in development, but with no target launch date. Sorry. In the meantime, you all have 300+ recommendations on what you can do if you find yourself in need of extra cash to pay the bills.

I’m in Singapore this weekend and heading on to East Africa shortly. I hope you have a wonderful week, wherever you are.

– Chris


Image: NTR

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