Unconventional Things I’ve Done for Money

ways to make moneyBack when I was a young and eager college student, I was always looking for unusual ways to make or save a few bucks, in addition to working a part time job.  I would browse Craigslist gigs, search online, and take advantage of various opportunities that I heard about around campus.

I don’t really search out these types of opportunities anymore, since I’m focused on my family and freelance writing, but I’m always up for finding new, creative ways to make money. Here’s a few of the unconventional things I’ve done for money over the years:

Student research

College was great for research studies that paid cash. I can remember one research study in particular that essentially required me to spend about 15 minutes playing a computer game.  I think I got $20 for that, cash in hand.  It was a sweet deal!

Pay-per-click penny emails

This one is really sad. I don’t know why I thought that this was a good idea, but I signed up for a pay-per-click email site, and I earned one to three cents for each email that I clicked through.  I never made more than a few bucks with this, obviously!

Collecting Wendy’s cups for Southwest Airline tickets

Maybe someone out there will remember this deal that Wendy’s had going on one year? Wendy’s ran a promotion with Southwest Airlines. If you collected enough cups with codes on them, you would earn a free one way flight.  Well, I ate a disgusting amount of Wendy’s that year (lots of salads!), and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I actually took cups out of the trash and picked them up off the ground just for the codes! In the end, I did get to redeem them for a flight, which was great.

Sitting through a timeshare presentation for gas vouchers

I don’t even remember how this came about, but back when I lived in Orlando, I went to a timeshare presentation with my then-boyfriend just to get the free gas vouchers that they were giving out.  There were hundreds of other people there all doing the same thing, so I’m sure it’s pretty common in a place like Orlando.  This was not my idea, however. I was actually annoyed to have wasted a few hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for an awkward timeshare presentation, but I guess it worked out in the end. We did get the free gas vouchers. Ha.

Signing up for credit cards for free lunch

I think this is a practice that should probably be banned from college campuses, but back when I was in school, there were credit card offers all over the place.  In fact, it may already be banned in some places. People would approach you and offer you a free lunch for filling out an application.  I couldn’t pass up “free” Subway, so I applied. Hey, I was broke and hungry! Perhaps it was for the best that I didn’t qualify for the cards after all. Looking back, I see how stupid this was, since applying for cards dings your credit score.

Consumer focus groups

I can remember driving to a neighboring town to participate in a consumer focus group about restaurants and dining out.  There were some surveys and activities that I had to do from home beforehand, and then I had to attend the group meeting for an hour.  This paid about $150, which I put towards Christmas presents that year. I actually enjoyed this one!


I love MyPoints and have been using it for years now.  MyPoints is similar to Swagbucks. It’s a way to earn points for shopping online, taking surveys, and reading emails.  Once you reach a certain number of points, you can cash out for gift cards.  It’s really easy to earn just by doing emails and surveys, and I’ve received many gift cards over the years.

I also signed up for mystery shopping back in college, but never got around to doing it.  I’m sure there’s other things that I’m forgetting to list here, too.  Some studies that I was sorry to have missed out on due to my actual job included a beer tasting, and a pizza tasting at SeaWorld- can you believe people actually get paid to eat pizza and drink beer?  What a life 🙂

What are some unconventional things that you’ve done to save or earn a few bucks?

About Lauren

Lauren May is a freelance writer and full-time mom living her best life on a budget.

30 thoughts on “Unconventional Things I’ve Done for Money

  1. Pingback: Monday Monologue #15- Bubbles and The Home Stretch |
  2. oh man I was obsessed with Inbox Dollars for like 3 weeks. Penny per emails, 5¢ per survey, and junk mail up the wazzo! I got up to like 23$. You need to make 30$ before they will send you a check! LOL So much wasted time.

  3. I’ve done a few of these things before! Sitting through timeshare presentations is a small price to pay for some of the free stuff you can get! I am pretty picky with what I will sign up for a credit card for, though. I’m curious to know whether or not you got the free airline ticket?

  4. I think student research is a pretty cool way to make a few bucks. I did a few psychological survey/tests back when I was in college…they paid pretty well and it was pretty interesting. I’ve thought about going time share presentations but I always hear that they use high pressure sales tactics to get you to buy and I don’t really want to deal with that.

    1. At the one I went to, it seemed like the salesperson had dealt with people like us a lot, so they didn’t put on too much pressure. It would probably make me uncomfortable to do it again in the future, though!

  5. You’ve done some pretty funny things to save some money or earn some bucks, Lauren! We’ve done the time share thing too a few times to get the freebies only third time we actually caved and bought a time share!! Biggest money mistake of my life! Oh boy :O Do as I say, not as I do, folks!

  6. I think the only unconventional think I’ve done is knock on doors asking for cans. At $.05 a can, I’d pick up an average of $2 for every door I knocked on. I thought it would be more advantageous than dumpster diving and I was doing it as part of a charity…it was really a lot of fun!

  7. I sat through one of those timeshare presentations once too. I was on vacation and the other people in my party were interested, even though I was not. They put the sales pressure on pretty hard, but it wasn’t that bad. I think they actually paid us cash for that one. I think it all comes down to how much free time you’ve got vs. money. As a college student, I would have given most of these a try. These days, not so much!

  8. I just got an email from my employer to see if I would be interested in participating in a study for another department. It pays $100. It will take some time to complete but I’m pretty tempted!

  9. The student research and focus groups sound like the best use of time! I wouldn’t mind participating in those. I can’t really think of many unconventional things I’ve done for money. I guess I’m in the boring boat too!

  10. I was part of that rough crowd Holly was scared about selling my plasma. 🙂 I’ve done a few crazy things to make money – I’ve done some medical testing and doing inventory for companies. The medical testing was for some vision study, which is scary as I have horrible vision!

    1. Doing inventory doesn’t sound too bad. There’s a lot of medical testing at universities downtown here, but the compensation just isn’t worth the hassle of taking the train in.

  11. LOL @ sitting through a timeshare presentation — my parents do that ALL THE TIME for free meals and spa gift cards in Vegas. I think it’s too much work to tolerate such high-pressure sales for a few perks, but they don’t seem to mind.

    Not sure if I’ve done much unconventional work for money.. I’m pretty boring 😉

    1. I’ve never brought myself to sit through one of those time share presentations. They seem like such a waste of time I cannot bring myself to do it!

      1. It was actually kind of uncomfortable trying to feign interest when the salesperson when talking to us directly. I don’t think I’d do it again!

  12. I think that’s funny that they gave kids free Subway for signing up for a credit card. What a scam!

    One time we decided we were going to give plasma to raise funds for our wedding, but we totally backed out when we saw the line of people waiting. It was a rough crowd….and we were scared!

    1. Oh my! haha. I actually thought about doing that at one time, but it seemed like too much of a time commitment (they wanted you to make several trips in to donate) and the compensation didn’t seem worth it.

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