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Earn Extra Money—Fast!

Whether it's to splurge on a nice dinner or pare your credit card debt, another source of income can bring much-needed cash when times are tight. "I'm busier than I've ever been," says Pamela Tossounian, a consultant for Southern Living at Home, a company that hires independent salespeople to sell home accessories. "The people who sell our products all seem to need that extra cash infusion that this kind of work gives them." You can do it, too. Some entertaining ways to earn extra money:

1. SELL FROM HOME
Potential Payoff: $100 to $400 per party

Companies such as Avon (cosmetics), Party Lite (seasonal home decorations), Simply Fun (games), and the above-mentioned Southern Living at Home let you sell their products in the comfort of your home or your friends' homes. One get-together can net $100 to $400 (plus free gifts)—and more parties and sales can mean more money. Kathy Lazear, 49, works full-time for an insurance company in Gainesville, Florida, but also conducts eight or so parties a month for Tastefully Simple, which sells gourmet seasonings and desserts. Her clients come mostly from referrals and previous partygoers. The money she earns—typically about $3,000 monthly—has helped her pay off her bills. "I like the friendships," she says. "And I have flexibility about when I work."

2. PAMPER PETS
Potential Payoff: $10 to $60 an hour

Animal lovers are purr-fect candidates for in-demand jobs such as dog walking and pet sitting. As an employee of the national company Fetch!, Tina Beer, 67, of Sarasota, Florida, makes $10 for a 30-minute dog walk, and more for day boarding. Working no more than two hours a day, the retired college dean earns $600 to $800 a month. The company provides insurance and bonding, does all the booking, and collects the money. If you walk dogs or pet-sit on your own, you could get $15 to $20 per walk and $40 to $60 for a sleepover at the pet's house. Check with your insurance agent about any extra coverage you might need. Another option: part-time dog grooming. Employees of the Sammamish, Washington, franchise Aussie Pet Mobile make as much as $225 a day. If driving a van isn't for you, bone up on opportunities at brick-and-mortar grooming shops.

3. TEACH A SKILL
Potential Payoff: $20 to $50 an hour

Conduct a workshop or course in a subject you love, from computers to crafts to Chinese cooking. Check for opportunities at your local community college or adult-education school, church, YMCA, or recreation center. "Adult-education programs are wonderfully receptive to good ideas from people with practical skills and experience," says Barbara Winter, 66, who lives in Las Vegas and has taught many adult-ed courses. The pay is either by the hour, often around $20, or a percentage of enrollment fees, which can amount to as much as $50 an hour.

4. TUTOR KIDS
Potential Payoff: $20 to $60 an hour

If you enjoy kids, love to teach, and are truly knowledgeable about your subject, try tutoring. Advertise online or in a school newsletter, or go to sites such as myngle.com, which matches language tutors with students from around the world. English is the language most in demand.

5. RENT OUT ROOMS
Potential Payoff: $400 to $700 a month

Extra rooms can mean extra cash. Lee Simon, 58, makes $700 a month renting out her son's old bedroom. She posts on craigslist.org, and since she lives just outside Boston, she often finds interesting roommates. Nationally, the going rate for a furnished room is $400 to $550 a month, more with a private bathroom, says Jackie Grossman of the National Shared Housing Resource Center, a free service that matches homeowners with renters. The rent includes utilities, plus kitchen and laundry privileges. Prices vary depending on the area. You can also reduce the rent in exchange for help with chores (such as gardening or cooking ). Whatever the arrangement, "make sure you're always in charge," says Grossman, "and be cautious if you don't have an agency doing the screening." Check references, get proof of income, and have a signed month-to-month contract.

6. GIVE YOUR OPINION
Potential Payoff: $40 to $100 PER SESSION

Getting paid to be opinionated? It's a good gig: market research firms pay as much as $100 for feedback in focus groups on everything from products to shopping habits. Lauren Traub Teton, 52, of Pound Ridge, New York, enjoys participating. "You get to talk, someone actually listens to your opinion for a change, and at the end they pay you." Look in the classified sections of newspapers and magazines under "Focus Groups." Or go to marketsdirectory.com, click on "Focus Group Facilities," then select your state. "Never pay a firm that claims it can get you into a focus group," warns Michael Printz, the site's publisher. Another website, greenbook.org, includes survey and focus groups in your area, and mysurvey123.com lists companies that pay, but it also lists scam sites. Legitimate companies will never ask for private information such as your credit card number.

7. RUN SOME ERRANDS
Potential Payoff: $15 to $25 an hour

Use your free time to help those with no free time. Roz Jacobi, 61, of North Miami Beach, Florida, buys groceries, waters plants, drives customers to the airport—"anything someone wants," she says—for $25 per hour. (Personal-assistant rates range from $15 to $25 an hour.) She does have to purchase additional auto insurance to transport passengers. Jacobi advertises in her synagogue newsletter and at local shops, though she is always careful about taking on unfamiliar clients. Some websites, such as domystuff.com, feature jobs in your area to bid on.

8. TAKE TICKETS
Potential Payoff: $9 to $12 an hour

Want a paycheck and a free show? Consider ushering at theaters, arenas, or concert halls. Work at a museum gift shop or health club and you can get a free or reduced membership. Richard Fisher, 63, a former accounting-department supervisor for the federal government, works ten hours a week at an Arizona multiplex. "It gets me out of the house, and I get to see free movies," says Fisher. Movie-theater workers usually earn about $9 to $12 an hour.

9. SELL YOUR STUFF
Potential Payoff: Pennies to the sky's the limit

Decrease your clutter and increase your cash flow by selling items you no longer want. Secondhand and vintage stores tend to pay cash on the spot, while consignment shops pay, generally, 50 to 60 percent of what they sell your item for, after the sale. Susan Kubes, 64, and her husband, Tom, 67, not only sell their own stuff; they scour yard sales every weekend. Once the Largo, Florida, couple paid $1 for a ribbed vase that had a slight chip but was made by a famous glassmaker. It sold on eBay for $435. (They disclosed the chip.) If online sales are the way you want to go, consider craigslist.org, ebay.com, and marketplace sites such as bonanzle.com, where sellers set up virtual booths and bargain in real time.

10. WORK AND WANDER
Potential Payoff: $7 to $12 an hour

Combining work with recreational-vehicle camping is a growing trend for those who love the open road. There's even a name for it: workamping. People who workamp travel all over the country in their RVs to take part-time or seasonal jobs at resorts, amusement parks, and theme parks. They can earn $7 to $12 per hour, depending on the job. Frank Banker, 69, and wife Mary, 56, have been workampers in ten states since they sold their Pennsylvania home and bought their RV 11 years ago. Between the two of them, they've worked at a variety of jobs from dishwasher to gardener to electronics service technician. Go to workamper.com to see a list of jobs, and sign up for e-mail updates for positions as they become available. Also, check out work-camping.com or work-for-rvers-and-campers.com.

Sally Abrahms has written for numerous magazines, including Time, Newsweek, Parade, and AARP The Magazine.

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