"One person's trash is another person's treasure" should be a mantra of our times. Have you ever seen what some people leave on the curb in Chicago? I've seen like-new leather couches, stylish artwork, and a variety of other perfectly usable housewares. Are these folks not living in a recession like the rest of us? Regardless of their reasons, this is one opportunity for you to save on household items or make some easy, extra cash. But if cruising your neighborhood for "treasure" isn't your style, consider these options instead.
1. Sell Stuff
The best way to generate quick cash is to take inventory of all closets, drawers, and cabinets in your home and round up any items that might sell. Don't set the bar too high - you'll be surprised what people are willing to pay money for. When I was a rookie reseller, I listed an outdated three-megapixel digital camera on Amazon, not really expecting it to sell. But within about a week, it was purchased for $30.
You can list items free of charge on Craigslist to sell locally, which means you don't have to worry about incurring any shipping or handling hassles. This is especially nice for larger, heavier items. If shipping is not an issue - and you don't mind paying the modest fees - list your items and sell on eBay. You'll have a larger audience, though you need to package items securely and ship quickly once your items sell to avoid problems or negative feedback.
2. Donate Stuff
For items that may not be sold easily online - such as used clothing, toys, or outdated appliances or electronics - consider donating them. Although you won't immediately see a profit, you'll receive a tax deduction for charitable contributions, which will leave more money in your pocket come April. Donate to a qualified charity recognized by the IRS, and request a receipt each time you donate for your records.
3. Fix Stuff
If you're a DIY type, put your talents to use beyond the confines of your own home. When I have a problem with my computer, I don't call the Geek Squad, I call my "computer guy." When my car starts making funny noises, instead of taking it to the shop, I call my "car guy." If you're good at repairing things, advertise your talents on Craigslist or create a Facebook page. You can also post videos displaying your work on YouTube. Just be sure to clearly state whether you're licensed and what kind of guarantee you offer.
4. Resell Stuff
One of the keys to being a successful reseller is to frequent garage sales. You can find many "diamonds in the rough" if you're willing to invest the time. I once found a brand new world globe for $5 that I resold for $40. And just recently, I bought a used Playstation 3 for $50 that I listed on Amazon and sold for $120 three days later. Remember to test any electronics before you buy, and keep in mind that most people will haggle on their prices.
5. Move Stuff
Whether they're leaving a house that's being foreclosed upon, or getting a great deal on a short sale, many people are on the move. If you have a strong back and a knack for packing items securely, helping people move on a budget might be a great way to make a few extra bucks.
Advertise your services on Craigslist for free, and if you own a truck, you can charge a higher rate. I once posted a listing on Craigslist entitled "Professional Moving Service." My rate was cheap ($15 per hour), and over the course of one summer I made more than $1,000. Just make it clear to customers that you're not liable for damaged items - hence your low rate.
If you need to generate more income, you need to be creative. Start by simply opening your eyes to the wealth of opportunities that surround you. Do you have a garage full of stuff you don't know what to do with? Sell it. Does your neighbor have a garage full of stuff they don't know what to do with? Perhaps you could sell it for them and take a commission.
That said, be prudent with your time. If it takes you two hours to haul an old entertainment center to the dump and you only make a few dollars, you're better off spending that time on something else.
What other ways have you used to make money with stuff?