When you need some quick cash, think twice about turning to payday lenders or booking a flight to Vegas to hit the craps table--neither offers a favorable rate of return.
But if holding a yard sale or getting a second job aren't in the cards, consider these less conventional (but still legal) ways to rustle up extra cash and pay off your credit card or boost your emergency saving account.
1. Sell books on Amazon
Start with the books and DVDs you have around the house that you don't want anymore, and list them for sale on Amazon.com. Once you've decluttered your own home, turn to other sources, such as family and friends who want to get rid of books, yard sales, thrift stores, and the clearance sections of both new and used bookstores and resell the books and videos on Amazon.
Quick tip: Make sure you know what an item will sell for before purchasing it. Familiarize yourself with the system and selling prices so that you don't lose money by paying too much.
2. Claim your missing money
Unclaimed or abandoned property can include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in certain states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.
Each state has laws that require companies to release unclaimed property to a state official, where it's held until the owner is located. To check to see if you have unclaimed property, contact your state's unclaimed property office.
3. Sell your hair
Yes, it's unusual, but it can be lucrative, as well, especially if you have long, untreated hair. The hair is used to make wigs or extensions. In a CNN interview, Marlys Fladeland of Hairwork.com said most hair is sold for about $300 to $900, though some have made more than $1,000 for their locks.
4. Open an Etsy store
If you're a crafty person, put those skills to use making money with your own Etsy shop. The caveat: Make sure you truly are good at what you do, otherwise you'll likely wind up sinking money into materials and supplies.
If you aren't crafty but you have a good eye for raw materials and vintage finds, you can set up an Etsy shop selling things like antique buttons, vintage clothing and yards of thrifted fabrics.
5. Donate plasma
Not for the squeamish or those afflicted with trypanophobia (extreme fear of medical procedures involving needles), donating plasma can help you make a couple hundred dollars a month if you donate as often as allowed. Larger cities typically pay $35 per donation and allow you to donate twice a week, yielding $280 per month.
6. Rent a spare room
For most people, the mortgage or rent payment eats up the largest chunk of their income each month. By renting a room or taking on a roommate, you reduce your housing expenses significantly and on a long-term basis. If you rent a spare room in your house for $400 per month, for example, you will make $4,800 a year. Just make sure you allow for increases in utility bills and that you draw up a lease agreement no matter to whom you rent your room. Or if you are open to renting to shorter term travelers, put up your room using a service such as AirBNB.
7. Sell your photos
You can do more at stock photo sites than purchase images--you also can sell them. Search for a few popular stock photo sites and read their list of requirements to become familiar with what will sell, and remember, you do actually have to be good with a camera to sell photos. Quick snaps of your dog using your iPhone camera aren't going to cut it.
8. Steal a job from a teenager
Okay, not literally, but think about the service jobs typically offered by high school and college kids--babysitting, mowing lawns, walking dogs, etc. Does your neighbor have a beloved dog, but works late hours? Offer to walk her dog when you walk your own. Do you work part-time to pick your kids up from school? Offer to take a couple more kids from your child's class and offer after-school care until their parents get off work. Got a great riding lawnmower? Make it pay for itself by mowing for your next door neighbor.
9. Be a billboard on wheels
Provided you are willing to use your car as a motorized billboard, you could make some easy cash through a site like FreeCarMedia.com, which will match you with an advertiser who will pay you in exchange for having your car wrapped with their ad. You can earn up to $900 a month, and most matches average three months.
10. Earn cash back when you shop online
Fashion blogger Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen made $700 in one year by shopping online for the regular purchases she would make anyway. She didn't need to install a taskbar, collect points, search for coupon codes, or purchase from stores she had never heard of. She simply logged into Ebates before clicking through to the online store and earned 1 percent to 20 percent cash back from participating vendors.