Clever Ways to Earn Money

posted in: Personal Finance

Even though the economy is improving, money is still tight for many Americans.  If you’re struggling to pay your bills on time or save money for a rainy day, here are my favorite ways to earn a little extra cash. 

Referral fees

You’re probably already telling your friends how much you like this app or that platform – why not get paid for it? Check your favorite platforms to see if they offer such bonuses. Info can usually be found in your profile or you can Google the name of the platform + “referral bonus”. As an example, Mint Mobile customers can earn between $45-$90 in credit with a successful referral. It’s a win-win – You’re already getting high-quality/low-cost mobile service and earning additional credit along the way.  Many credit card carriers offer bonuses, as do some coupon sites, wine delivery services, rideshare services like Lyft & Uber, and more.

Earn with interest and cashback

If you’re saving money, where you save your money is really important, like not under your mattress or in a jar! If your savings are in a high-yield savings account or a Certificate of Deposit (CD) you’ll earn interest on your savings. For example, Bread Financial has a High Yield Savings account with a 5.15% Annual Percentage Yield with a $100 deposit. You can also set up automatic withdrawals with this account, which is one of my favorite ways to stay on track with your saving.  If you don’t need access to your savings for a while, consider a CD. Bread has 1-year CD’s with a 5.5% Annual Percentage Yield. 

I use coupon sites all the time. Why? Because they offer a simple way to earn cashback. The easiest way to do this is to install the browser extension of your favorite deal site(s). Once installed, you’ll see a pop-up alerting you to available cashback offers (and coupons!) as you browse online.  Two of my favorites are PayPal Honey and CouponCabin (I’ve linked my referral codes here). They both have lots of offers, plus they have referral bonuses, like I mentioned above! If a friend uses your referral link to make a purchase, you’ll earn somewhere in the ballpark of $5 for each new user.  

Sell your stuff

Just in time for Spring Cleaning, selling your stuff is easier than ever, thanks to platforms that are dedicated to peer-to-peer selling.  Check out Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Craigslist for local sales, or eBay, DeCluttr, and Depop for sales through the mail. Of course, there are always yard sales, but you’re likely to make more through these platforms if you are selling anything of value.

Using loyalty programs 

If you have not joined the loyalty programs of your favorite retailers, you are leaving money on the table! Not all retailers have a loyalty program, but those that do often will offer exclusive access to sales and discounts, and ways to earn cash back that can be used for future purchases. Some of the better programs include Best Buy, CVS, JCPenney, Kohl’s, REI, and Sephora. 

Mystery shopping

Mystery shopping can be a fun way to earn some extra money. Google “mystery shopping” and lots of companies pop up, like Sinclair Consumer Metrics, Marketforce Information, and Mystery Shopping Service.  They all function a little differently, so it’s good to look at a few.  You can also earn free food by mystery shopping at restaurants through a firm called EyeSpy, which is one that I’ve been checking out lately.

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Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.