Follow these money-making tactics to keep your wallet full this Christmas season.
Crystal Paine, the blogger behind Money Saving Mom and author of the new book Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference, likes using Amazon's Trade-In Program, which allows you to send in (with free shipping!) used textbooks, books, electronics, and video games in exchange for Amazon gift cards. Other options for trading in books include ebay's Half.com and, in most midwestern and western U.S. states, Half Price Books.
Care.com and Task Rabbit can match you with odd jobs (think: miscellaneous errands and house-sitting), while eNeighbr allows you make money accepting packages for neighbors who aren't able to stay home and wait for them to arrive (but also don't want them to be stolen from their doorstep!). If you have a more specific skill to offer, create a profile with ProMatcher or Zaask, companies that match customers with professional experts. (For example, holiday decorators on ProMatcher can charge from $45 to $80 an hour.)
Paine's number-one rule for a successful yard sale is to team up with friends and neighbors. Hosting a multi-family garage sale attracts more customers and entices them to stay longer, since there's more to browse. Increase your visibility by posting an ad on Craigslist the day before; be sure to include the hours, location and big-ticket items that will be for sale.
No, we're not talking about the type of clandestine spending that gets you into trouble with your spouse. Customer-experience measurement firms like BestMark and Secret Shopper hire mystery shoppers to secretly scout out their clients' companies. This may require having a meal at a restaurant, getting your car's oil changed, or inquiring about a new TV at an electronics store. Each assignment can pay between $20 and $30, not including perks like free meals or oil changes. Need cash fast? Apps like Gigwalk let you get started almost immediately, handling simple tasks that take a few minutes to a few hours to complete and pay from $3 to $100.
Note: To avoid scams, make sure the company you're working for is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Never participate in tasks that involve money transfers, check cashing or Western Union.
Are you the type of person who'll strike up a conversation with anyone? Market research firms need you—and your opinions! Get paid to taste new foods and beverages, weigh in on upcoming marketing campaigns, and take surveys. Focus groups take anywhere from a half-hour to a half-day to complete, and participants are usually paid same day, with a check or Visa gift card. Search FindFocusGroups.com and GreenBook.org to find opportunities near you.
The obvious go-to here is Craigslist, which Paine prefers for selling furniture and electronics in good condition, but there are some newer players in the space, too. AptDeco is an online furniture marketplace that picks up and delivers seller's pieces, for a cut of the asking price. For clothing, sites like Poshmark and ThreadFlip allow users to sell directly to customers without the dreaded bidding/auction process of eBay. "Be sure to look into the pricing of similar items and always make smart decisions when making transactions," advises Paine.
With the holiday travel season in full swing, lots of people are looking for reliable caretakers to watch their pets while they're away. If you're sticking around town for the holidays, sign up with Care.com or Rover to become a sitter.
DIYers can easily parlay their skills into gorgeous holiday ornaments and gifts. Search craft fair directories like Craftlister and FestivalNet to find vendor opportunities coming to your area. Not crafty? Try setting up a gift wrapping station and charging $5 to $15 per package. (Watch this nifty gift-wrapping hack first!)
Catering companies are in high demand this time of year, thanks to an abundance of office holiday parties, and they need temporary staff to help with the workload. Try searching "temporary event staff + (your city)" on Google, or look for smaller, yet highly ranked, catering companies on Yelp.
Did you upgrade to a new tablet after scoring an amazing Black Friday deal? Consider selling your old model to a site like Gazelle, which offers free shipping and pays cash for old cell phones, tablets, iPods and Apple computers. There's also GameStop, for used video games, consoles, and gaming accessories, and big-box stores like Target and Best Buy let you trade-in electronic items in-store and online for gift cards.