New Year, Mo Money

That’s what they say, right? Okay maybe not, but it’s definitely the mindset I’m trying to channel walking into 2021. Aside from the constant stress of a global pandemic; the lack of work for us creatives in 2020 was big challenge to say the least, and I think we all understand that those challenges are going to spill over into 2021. What this past year HAS taught me though, is that I am resilient and resourceful. (and if no one has told you yet today – you are too!)

If you’re looking to make a little extra income to ease the cost of groceries, that Starbucks run, Amazon order, whatever…here’s a list of my ten favorite (unconventional) ways to earn and save.

Hopefully they help you as much as they have me.

  • Receipt Pal: my friend turned me on to this app over brunch (Hi Jordan!) – it’s super simple, snap pictures of any receipt, and earn points towards Amazon or retail gift cards. I’ve been using it for a few months and I’m on my way to a $25 Amazon gift card. Not a ton of money, no, but it truly takes 3 seconds to use, the app is free, and there are no ads.
  • Curion: a taste-testing research group, located in Deerfield, IL. Sign up to create an account online and get notified when surveys become available to see if you qualify for specific studies. I’ve done market research before, but I’ve never had a company keep me as busy as Curion. I’ve been in at least once a month since signing up, often going in twice a month or more. I’ve tried coffee, popsicles, candy, trail mix, pasta sauce, and more. Each study is 30-60 minutes, but if you get done early you’re released early. I’ve made between $35 and $80 per study in the form of prepaid Visa cards. All staff wears full PPE, your temperature is checked upon arrival, and you’re separated from other people while testing products. They have other locations across the US as well – so non-Chicagoans can participate too!
  • PK Testing: identical concept to Curion, located in northwest Chicago. The only difference? They pay on the spot in cash, as opposed to prepaid cards. I’ve worked with them quite a bit through the winter and fall. They often have multiple-day studies too, which can earn you up to $120 for a few days of consistent testing. If you’re interested in learning more and want to help me out with a little kick back (they’ve got a great referral program, which you too can benefit from once you become a member!), use my contact link to send me your full name, age, number and email, and I’ll send you a referral link to get set up.
  • Virtual TV Audiences: another strange side effect of COVID-19, is that talk shows are no longer allowing in-person audiences for the taping of their shows. In comes Virtual TV Audiences – they pay or offer prizes as incentives to be a virtual audience member, through a free platform similar to Zoom. You fill out a form to see if you qualify, and you’ll need business casual wardrobe and a plain wall to film in front of. I’ve sat in on two tapings of the Dr. Phil Show and have earned $75 total in Amazon gift cards. You essentially get paid to watch TV and clap on demand. Not a bad deal.
  • Backstage.com: I struggled with whether or not to cancel my Backstage membership this year, as the majority of castings came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit. I decided to keep it, and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the industry began to adapt and start posting castings for virtual work. Through Backstage I’ve been connected with an influencer campaign, found out about Virtual TV Audiences, and done a few at-home hair product tutorials. I didn’t make a ton of cash, but I did make enough to cover the cost of my membership and then some. I’ll consider that a win this year.
  • Coinstar: If you’re like me you probably have a big change jar or two somewhere in your house. My fiance and I have gotten into the habit of keeping change jars for a year or more before cashing them in and we usually rack up a surprising amount of money. The downside here is that almost all banks now charge a fee to take coins, so here’s where Coinstar saves the day – no fees when you turn your coins in for gift cards. Our families typically make Christmas easier by creating Amazon lists where we can shop for each other – this year I turned in two mason jars full of coins, which totaled $218 in Amazon credit. Sort of feels like free money because those coins weren’t going to use anyway.
  • Advanced Opinions: I’ll be honest, I recommend this one with a grain of salt. I have worked with them in the past and had only good experiences, BUT the surveys they have you take to qualify for studies are much longer and more in-depth than Curion or PK Testing, (you never get paid for taking the pre-screener surveys) and I find they don’t call nearly as much – like a few times a year as opposed to the others having opportunities monthly. The pros? Their studies typically pay $75 minimum, often much more, and they have lot’s of online focus groups, for those who don’t want to leave their houses.
  • thredUP: I was an avid Poshmark user for a couple of years, and I still think it’s a great app – IF you have the time to photograph each item of clothing, set the price, barter back and forth etc…if you’ve got a lot of clothes to get rid of, Poshmark becomes overwhelming IMO. I prefer thredUP now because they do all the work for you. It’s just like a virtual Plato’s Closet (tell me ya’ll were teenagers in the mid 2000’s and remember Plato’s Closet too!?) – they go through your stuff and decide what to keep or donate. The keep items get listed on the site, they set the price and set your commission. My commissions per item have ranged from 20 cents to $20+, and overall (4 bags of clothes and a couple more pending), I’ve made a few hundred. You can either transfer that money to your bank, use it to shop their site, or use it as shopping credit elsewhere. I usually cash mine in for Athleta shopping credit and pick up new workout gear. Good for your wallet, good for the planet, it’s a win-win. If you sign up with my link above, you’ll get $10 shopping credit!
  • Apps, apps, apps: Did you know if you download the Dunkin Donuts app you can get a free coffee every Wednesday with no additional purchase required? They also have free-donut-Friday, but that requires the purchase of a coffee. ALSO – if you download the Starbucks app and load all of the gift cards you’re racking up from Curion onto the SB app, you’ll earn points with every transaction that eventually add up to a free bakery item, drink, whatever. Can you tell how excited this makes me? If you’re as passionate about free stuff as me, you get it.
  • Cash Back, 10x points incentives and more: If you scroll back to my “Playing for Points” post, you’ll be reminded how much I love our Chase Sapphire Reserve card. If you don’t have a travel card or at least some sort of point-earning card, I highly recommend. I log into the Chase portal a few times a month and have the option to add short-term offers to my account, for things like 5% cash back at Starbucks, or 10x points when I shop at certain online retailers. I’m also a huge fan of Groupon+ – you sign up with your credit card and add cash-back opportunities to your card. The “cash back” money goes directly back on to the card you used to pay. Over the last year+ we’ve made over $150 back with Groupon+.

Thanks so much for reading!

Do you have another great money-saving or money-making hack I didn’t touch on here?

Any questions? Let me know!

Stay safe out there babes,

XO Katie

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