Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Extra Ways To Earn and Save

If you weren't paying attention, beginning January 2nd and continuing on for, oh, about the next 128 days or so, some of the most boring days of the year take place.  Superbowl (which we all know really is actually an American Holiday) was last weekend, and Valentine's Day gets tossed in (yesterday, which I enjoy mainly because all flower deliveries for the 500+ people who work in my office have to stop first on my desk, where some remain even this morning!), but other than the party-holiday (St. Patrick's Day = green beer) and Easter (I usually make an agreement with myself that I can handle the idea of spring fashion after Easter), absolutely....nothing....happens.  My biggest purchase this week was an electric heating pad for under my bottom sheet (amazing....and on sale at Walmart right now for $24.95!!!)  As you can see by the space between blog entries here, I'm pretty uninspired this time of year!  After holiday spending, it's hard to justify spending more, especially when it seems a little self-indulgent being stuck in the house because of the cold, always a little bit bored surfing the internet for stuff to spend money on when the savings account could use a bit of a boost right now anyway, right?

I was wracking my brain for something to write about, something that we could all relate to, and realized that not only do I shop second hand stores because I love the bargains I find, but also because that frees up my clothing allowance for other things (like shoes!!!).  Over the past couple of months, I've found other ways to save money and make money that I thought might be useful to some of you, as well.

Lately we talked about how retailers are blowing out their winter inventory this time of year to make way for spring items and all the steals you can get this time of year, super-good swag for up to 80% off what you'd normally pay, not just for fashion and shoes, but for makeup and beauty products, too.  The re-sale shops are also doing the same thing.  I took a week of vacation the beginning of the month and drove to a neighboring town to visit a huge resale shop I'd seen in passing a few months ago.  For about $60, I bought practically an entire new wardrobe (including a gorgeous Old Navy wool pea coat for $3.50 that was in perfect condition...), as these stores also begin to get rid of their winter wear.  Last Saturday, this same store had a sale, all sweaters for $0.99!

Another trend I'm seeing is online retailers offering free shipping with no minimum purchase.  This is the perfect time to stock up on accessories.  Forever 21 had a sale on jewelry, and with no minimum purchase to take advantage of the free shipping, I stocked up on accessories to a tune of less than $10 and it didn't cost me any more than it would have to walk in the store!  Actually cost me less considering I didn't use gas to get there, or take time away from what I would be doing otherwise!  Bonus, bonus, and bonus!!

Another really cool and easy money maker I found recently that has had all sorts of added benefits is doing online surveys for money.  I was skeptical about this until I was referred by a friend who had actually received a check from the company for whom she'd done the surveys, proof that it was not a scam. 

So here's how it works:  basically, companies need to know what the general populace thinks.  At different stages of product development, marketers or the companies producing the product themselves want to know what we would think of a new product if it was available.  What would we be willing to pay for it?  Where would we expect to buy it?  What would we want it to look like?  What would we use it for?  The surveys are usually interesting and can take anywhere from 3 to 35 minutes.  Each survey is worth points  Once the predetermined point level has been reached, a check is issued.  The one that I'm using right now pays $50 for every 1000 points accumulated.  It took me about a month of surveys to reach my first check.  Essentially, my day job has a bit of down-time in that I have to be at my desk the entire time, but may not have enough actual work to keep myself occupied for my entire shift.     I received the invitation from my friend, filled out the application and took some introductory surveys mostly answering questions about my demographic (part of the country in which I live, my age, nationality, social status, etc.), and within 24 hours, a survey was sent to my inbox.  But the way I see it, if I'm sitting at my computer anyway and can't leave, why not make some extra money doing it?  And $50 is $50...that's my electric bill, or a couple of tanks of gas!  The surveys are interesting, always confidential, and it's fun to get to be a part of something before it's introduced to the masses.  The surveys I've taken have ranged from my opinion of the marketing ideas for a new coffee a major company was introducing, to which magazine cover would make me most likely to buy the magazine if I saw it on newsstands.  It's fun to walk up to the cash register a few days later and see the one you voted for sitting on the stand, or turn on the TV and see the coffee introduced for the first time in packaging you'd seen before anyone else.  Everyone is different and therefore offers marketing companies a different demographic for every need.  There are times that you will be screened from a survey because you haven't met the marketers' specific audience.  In this instance, my particular survey company has daily and quarterly sweepstakes for fairly significant cash prizes (thousands of dollars) for which you are given up to three entries for those surveys you screen out of, just so you don't feel you've wasted your time.  Just last week I put in for my first $50 check which I'm told will take 6-8 weeks to arrive.  I'll keep you posted.

A little side benefit that came with the survey site was a personal invitation from a company for whom I did a survey who is putting together a social-type network as a focus group for their own products.  The only requirement is that you take 10-15 minutes a week, participate in their own short surveys, or interact with other members to help grow the community.  Because the site is based around food, a passion of mine, I've found this to be a really fun enterprise, one that I have no problem spending time on each day.  As part of this site, I've already received gift certificates to Amazon just for participating!  This one is by invitation only, not referral, but I wanted to share this with you as an opportunity that opened up by taking part in the survey website mentioned above.  Free stuff is good!

I'd be more than happy to share an invitation to the survey site if anyone is interested.  Please comment here, or send me a private email ( and I'll send you an invitation to the survey site I've described above.

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Something else that I was recently introduced to is paid clinical trials.  The company I work for develops medical equipment.  Throughout the development process, human participation is required to test the equipment at the various stages, working out the bugs as they go along.  This can be very lucrative, and not at all in a science-fiction sort of animal-testing-freaky sort of way, either!  For instance, the equipment they're testing now is a gadget that clips loosely to your finger and reads the oxygen content of your blood.  For those of you who've been to the doctor recently, you know that these pulse oximeters are the farthest thing from invasive as you can get.  Participants are asked to sit in a room with this little gadget clipped to their finger while diagnostic studies are run on the equipment.  The gadget has to be tested in various conditions (hot room, cold room, while the person is active, standing, lying, sitting,,,etc. etc.).  For approximately 30 minutes of your time spent as above, a check in the amount of up to $175 is given to you that same day!  These types of tests are run all over the country, and are generally advertised on Craig's List!  An 'invasive' study here is one in which they draw blood ahead of time, and a doctor is present for all testing.  You can choose which tests you want to participate in, and the company pays for a screening physical before hand.  Unfortunately I am excluded from participation in these studies at my office because of conflict of interest, but what a fast and easy way to earn a significant amount of cash!  Something to definitely check out if you're interested!

I've decided to take a break from shoe purchases at the moment (unless I see something that truly blows my mind, of course), and am considering putting that $50 check into a savings account for a rainy day.  I'd love to hear your favorite way to save, your best bargain so far this winter, or the creative way you've found to earn some extra cash. 
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Until next time, I hope the next 127 days until something interesting happens are full of lucrative ventures and the best bargains of your life.  :D