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Funny Money: 5 Desperate Ways to Scrounge Up Extra Cash

Desperate ways to earn extra money: Man donating plasma.

When money gets tight, standards get loose, and any and all options for scooping up more cash become viable possibilities. The desire to sacrifice your dignity for some easy cash extends to those of all social backgrounds, which is why you’ll see Tony Siragusa pitching man diapers and Bruce Willis continuing to appear in Die Hard movies, long after even his most ardent living fans have softened on the tired franchise.

Since diaper commercials and Die Hard sequels aren’t options for most of us, here are some desperate ways to earn extra money to consider when you are desperate for cash, have exhausted more sane ways of earning more money, and you are willing to swap your better judgment for rent money.

Donating plasma

Ignore the fact that everyone else in the waiting room appears to be either homeless, a junkie, a homeless junkie or someone, like you, who is trying too hard to appear to be neither homeless nor a junkie. After passing a screening to ensure you are indeed not a junkie, you hook yourself off to a vampire-like machine that sucks out the liquid portion of your blood while letting your red blood cells remain. The plasma harvested is both sold for profit on the open medical market and funneled to Bon Temps, Louisiana, where it becomes the delightful, vampire-satisfying True Blood soft drink.

Expect the process to take two or three hours, to haul in about $60 for your efforts, and to only be allowed to do it once a week. Curiously, that $60 is the same sticker price for new video games, which are released weekly. So really, what many people are doing is swapping their plasma for chances to spill virtual plasma in multiplayer matches.

Becoming a pawn star

While it’s costly and time-consuming to open up your very own pawn shop, you can still use entrepreneurial  lessons gleaned from keeping abreast of the 4,500 pawn, storage, dumpster-diving and garage ande estate sale-shopping reality shows. All those shows make it look easy to scoop up other peoples’ garbage for next to nothing and selling it off for a healthy profit. In the real world, it’s not so easy, but dedication and a willingness to resell low-profit-margin trinkets via online auctions can help you eke out a profit.

While TV-worthy big scores are rare, it’s simple economics that people part with items for below market value at garage sales and especially garbage receptacles. Whether you can make enough to justify all the legwork is another matter, and will probably depend on whether or not you can supplement that income by scoring a reality show deal.

Partaking in lab experiments

Everyone knows college is a time for experimentation, but the experiments don’t have to stop after you earn your diploma. Or drop out. College lecture hall bulletin boards, as well as newspapers and online bulletin boards such as craigslist, are lined with sketchy-seeming requests for human guinea pigs to participate in a number of studies. For a nominal fee, grad students will mess with your mind and body for the good of science. While lab experiments tend to pay you something close to minimum wage, they also pay off in amusement, the satisfaction of being part of the scientific process, and weird twitches and side effects that emerge from your bizarre exposure to professorial prodding.

Renting out a room

As many movies and TV shows set during the Depression show you, taking in a boarder is right up there with selling chicken eggs on street corners in terms of tried and true ways to scratch up some extra income. While renting to hobos is not recommended, it makes perfect sense to render an extra room useful by bringing in a roommate. Sure, the relationship is bound to end with you painting a line in the middle of the living room floor and accusing one another of drinking the other’s orange juice, at least you’ll have someone around to alert the authorities if you start to choke on your pretzels.

Crowdsourcing projects

Judging from the obscene amounts of cash hauled in by fund-solicitation sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, the majority of people who make too much money at boring desk jobs spend all day going through project after project, picking which ones to dump their cash into. I, too, spend much time scanning crowdfunding sites, but not to pick out which ones to donate to. Instead, I just get jealous that people are hauling in six figures just to create a series of YouTube videos. And I get even more jealous of the people who started Indiegogo and Kickstarter and get to sit back and take commissions off of all the donations.

The key to a successful crowdfunding venture is to become insanely jealous of kickstarter thousandaires just like I do, then travel back through time and steal their idea for them before they can get started. Better yet, go back and invent Indiegogo and Kickstarter before the people who invented them did. And then give me a commission, because I’m the one who thought of the idea.

What’s the most dubious way you’ve earned extra money?

Published or updated on June 21, 2013

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


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  1. Brian Diehl says:

    No dumpster diving for scrap metal?

    It must be profitable.

    Every apartment I’ve lived at has had multiple trucks come through during the week and families get out to go through the dumpsters searching for tetanus covered cash.

  2. Mike says:

    I literally just met a woman whose full time money making job is medical experiments. Was introduced through a friend while she was visiting here in PA. Anyway, she claims to travel from state to state when she finds the highest paying “experiments”. During her best month she was paid $7,000 and all living expenses while she lived on a hospital campus for the month. Not really for me, but she did earn a little more than me that month all things considered!

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