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In today's challenging economic times, most people have the need for some extra money – whether it's to help pay the monthly bills or to afford a few indulgent purchases. It is also the preference of a large number of us to earn extra money from the comfort of our own homes as it allows us to fit it in around other commitments, be it family, other work or studying.
No matter who you are, where you live, or what your main role is in life there are a number of benefits to staying at home and earning money:
There are a myriad of ways you can earn money at home – so choose what suits your circumstances and interests best. The more time and effort you put in to earning, the more you'll get back from it – it's as simple as that! It's also worth trying out a few different options which will help you understand what you may enjoy and what may yield the best results.
Before looking at ways of adding to your bank balance, first take a good look at how you can save money in the first instance. Saving essentially has the same effect as earning as you'll have extra cash to spend as you like. It can sometimes be scary diving deep into your financial situation – we all sometimes don't like to look when we've splashed out on something unnecessary – but taking a long hard look will help in the long run.
There is also no sentimentality with money. Don't save money in a savings account in one place earning very small levels of interest while paying high levels of interest on an overdraft somewhere else.
So where do you look? Look at your bank accounts and see what you're paying for utilities, council tax, phone, broadband and television (Sky, Virgin, etc.) and other direct debits (such as magazines, gym membership, online subscriptions, etc.). Then go online to comparison websites and see if you're getting the best deal. There's almost always a better deal to be had if you take the time to do your research and then follow up with the service provider.
You can also take this a step further and check whether you're using the best credit cards for your purchases – some give you cash back or vouchers for your favourite shops. Then there's also cash back websites such as Quidco or Top Cash Back which give you cash back on online purchases with a huge number of popular online retailers.
We've all at some point signed up to a direct debit – whether it was for a magazine we now rarely read, a charity donation, the national lottery or a gym membership in January. Review all your direct debits and see whether they still fit your priorities and lifestyle.
Finally, it's not too late to reclaim old bank or credit card charges. For example, the Office of Fair Trading declared that credit card charges before 2006 were unfairly high and can be reclaimed. If you think you've paid out in the past, it's worth checking previous statements because just a handful of charges can add up to a considerable amount.
Once you've fully reviewed your current state of play there are many many ways of actually earning more money.
We're all familiar with eBay and the ease with which we can sell our non-used items for cash. However, most people will also admit to having a number of items that they no longer use or want sat in cupboards, lofts or garages that could be sold – from unwanted cameras, iPods or computers to garden equipment, furniture and ornaments. In fact, baby clothes and accessories are also one of eBay's most popular categories.
eBay is heralded as one of the best websites to sell your unwanted goods because it often delivers the best returns. It also does frequent deals on the costs to put an item for sale and operates an excellent feedback mechanism. Finally, it's probably the largest website operating in this field so it will be featuring your possessions to the widest possible audience.
All this said, with some items, people would prefer an easier, quicker and simpler transaction. For common, everyday items such as books, computer games CDs and DVDs there are alternative sites (including Music Magpie, We Buy Books and Trade Your Games) that will quote you a price online, send you a box to post them back to the company and will pay money into your chosen bank account – as simple as that.
Amounts per item can vary dramatically from a few pence to a few pounds but if you're not using them and have large quantities, you can earn a considerable amount.
This isn't setting up a market stall in the street! If you enjoy going to car boot sales, second hand stores, garage sales or even charity shops and have an eye for a bargain, then you could earn money by buying old goods and reselling them for a profit.
However, it could be even better if you have the time, skills and inclination to improve or 'up-cycle' items first. This could mean sanding and revarnishing or painting an old table or dresser or stripping an old bicycle and adding some new or second hand parts. If you focus on what interests you as well as items that you can clearly make a profit on then you win both ways.
You can also do some research on eBay first so as to understand what similar items can yield in terms of price. Fill in the search box and select “completed items”. If the price is green, it means someone paid the stated price.
Of course, 'up-cycling' and restoration also represents an excellent saving opportunity – so the money you save on not buying a new wardrobe or kitchen table can go on other things.
Online surveys are an excellent source of extra money and you get paid for simply logging your opinions and being yourself!
Why will companies pay you for your thoughts – is there a catch? The simple answer is “No, there's no catch”. Consumer companies in particular value the thoughts and opinions of the people in their target markets so they can develop products and services that are aligned to what people want, now and in the future. Companies also use consumer insight to enable them to develop effective marketing campaigns to entice people to buy their goods.
Some survey companies also enable you to test and keep consumer products – an added advantage as you will get paid for your time and get a free product as well.
There are a few hints and tips when considering online surveys however:
There are a whole host of genuine survey websites available, such as:
A twist on online surveys is focus group participation – albeit in the main it's not strictly done from home (although some are held on the Internet, on the phone or in your home). However, focus groups are very popular with companies and research companies for the same reasons as online surveys (except they are seen as more rigorous and in depth) and as such there is a good chance there will be focus groups local to you.
Focus groups also have the added advantage of paying better than online surveys – up to £150 per session. The catch is you're only usually allowed to do one or two a year by agencies. See focus4people.com or Saros Research
Companies are driven by data. They generate huge amounts that typically needs 'feeding' into a computer in some way. Data can come in many forms but most companies will have a need for some sort of data entry. The positive thing is that entering data from home can have benefits for both you and employers alike:
In terms of looking for work, there are a number of credible websites that offer data entry jobs – sometimes for set fees and sometime they offer a forum that allows you to bid for work against others. Try Working Mums or People Per Hour.
As aforementioned, most companies have data entry needs so if you have contacts from previous employers or have employed friends, then ask if there's anything you could do. This has the advantage of you already being known which may mean you could command better rates. Before you approach a business, it's a good idea to consider updating your CV and writing a cover letter summarising what you could offer.
Be aware that some data will be confidential and some companies won't allow non-employees to view or enter it. Financial data almost certainly will fall into this category – but companies will be open about what they can and can't do.
This is an ideal option to earn extra money using your property – but not going to the lengths of renting out a room to a lodger. In recent times, websites have been created to match people who have available parking in prime locations with people who need parking. Websites such as Park At My House or Parklet.
If you live near an airport, a train station or a sports stadium, it's likely that commuters or event goers would be in the market for guaranteed, cost effective parking, and in turn you could make a regular income by doing very little.
Be aware that websites charge a fee for their services and some local councils don't approve (and hence charge a 'change of property use' fee) so it's worth checking.
All in all, with a little creative thinking and some initial time and effort taken to work out your best options, you could find that working from home provides a welcome supplement to your current monthly income.