Saving for stuff you want can be hard going - a new car, travel, or that gorgeous handbag you've had your eye on for ages. By the time you pay mortgage or rent, utility bills, buy food and cover transport costs and put some money aside for infrequent bills like car registration, there's often not a lot left over.
You can cut back on non-essentials like take away coffee, lunches and outings to create a bit more of a surplus in your budget - but you've probably done that already, and your savings are growing way too slowly. Wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy way to earn a little extra money?
Well, there's no need to sell a kidney. I'm going to share my top three money-earning tips for helping to reach your savings goal quite a bit sooner.
1. Paid market research. Guys, there are companies out there who will pay you cold, hard cash for your opinion on their product or service. HOW GOOD IS THAT? There are all kinds of opportunities: online surveys, testing products or apps, taste-testing food or wines (I am so up for that!), interviews and focus groups.
Over the past three months I have participated in two focus groups, done a one-on-one interview and tested a new phone app, and have been rewarded with $450 for what amounts to about six hours of my time. As a bonus, they were also a lot of fun.
Just do a search for "paid market research [your city]" - there are heaps of market research companies to choose from. Register with as many as you can, and they'll email you when something is available in your area. If it sounds interesting and you're available on the day and time specified, you fill in a brief questionnaire and you may be selected to participate. You won't always be in the demographic they're looking for, but don't give up if you get a few knock-backs. I have to add that there are a lot more opportunities if you're in a capital city (sorry, country folks).
I also do online surveys for e-rewards. I don't get paid for those, but I do accrue points, which I can convert to gift cards or hotel points once I get to a certain total. It won't suit everyone, but I'm happily accruing Hilton points so I can score a free night or two of accommodation on a future holiday.
2. Sell your old crap. This is an obvious one, but I'm amazed at the number of people who throw out/give away perfectly good stuff because they can't be bothered listing it for sale.
eBay is my preferred platform, but some folks tell me they have good results with Gumtree too. I get up to 100 listings per month free of charge on eBay, so only pay commission if my item sells. Local Facebook buy/swap/sell groups can be OK, but my experience is that because buyers have no accountability, they frequently change their minds and reneg on a sale, or are intolerably difficult about when they can pick items up. Still, it's an extra option.
What kind of stuff sells well?
-Women's clothes, especially if they're well-known brands and have been worn only a few times. My black Anthea Crawford suit, worn 4 times, sold super-fast, but I've also had success with items from Sussan and even Target.
-Kids' clothes can be a big seller. I found selling bundles of my kids' clothes worked well - for example, 2 pairs of boys' shorts and 4 t-shirts, all in the one size. Listing 4 t-shirts for $3 each is a mug's game, but my bundles sold quickly for between $25 and $50.
-Shoes and handbags, in new or almost new condition. Grab those shoes at the back of your wardrobe that you've never worn and turn them into cash!
-Furniture and household items. I've sold beds, a desk, a couple of vintage pieces I've restored, lamps, kitchenware, Mum's souvenir spoon collection(!), and more.
-Books, particularly textbooks. They need to be current, so don't leave them sitting around for years; sell them at the end of the school year, when cash-strapped parents are looking to save on next year's booklist.
-Bikes, gym and sporting equipment. Want a new bike? Sell your old one to help fund the purchase.
-Plants, pots and garden ornaments. If you're good at propagating plants, this is practically money for nothing.
To maximise your chances of a sale, search for similar items and see how much they're selling for. If your starting price is too high, you won't get a bid. Take clear photos, from all angles. Dark or out of focus images aren't going to entice buyers. Write a fairly detailed description: for clothing, brand, size, type of fabric and some measurements will help potential buyers decide if it's right for them. For furniture, detail any defects (close-up photos are helpful) and provide measurements for height, width, depth. Think about what you would want to know about the item if you were considering buying it and include that information. Don't forget to add postage costs, or you could end up out of pocket for low-value items.
3. Do some extra work. I know what you're thinking: You don't have time for an extra part-time job. How about a job that only takes a day of your time now and then and pays a few hundred dollars? If you have some experience dealing with the public, are literate and reasonably intelligent, consider signing up with the Australian Electoral Commission and your state electoral authority for work at elections.
There's a federal and a state election every 3-4 years, as well as local council elections. Councils in Victoria mostly do postal votes these days (I'm not sure about the rest of the country), but someone still has to process and count those ballot papers, so there may still be some jobs available.
As a polling official for a state or federal election, you'll be expected to do some online training beforehand (easy!), and on election day you'll work from 7:30am until the votes are counted at your polling place, usually somewhere around 9:00-9:30pm. It's a long day, but it's not difficult work and the pay is OK. I've been doing it since 1984 and I keep going back, so it can't be too bad, can it?
You can register with the AEC here (click the link that says "apply for temporary employment"), and the VEC here. Other states should be easy to find - I'm sure you're smart enough to do a Google search yourself.
There you go: My tried-and-true methods for making extra cash. Do you have any hot money-making tips?