Your feelings about money might be a bit like your relationship status—it’s complicated. So, before we jump into how to make money while in college, let me ask what is money to you? Turns out young people have a lot of thoughts on the matter…
Today, the average college student, without support from financial aid and family resources, would need to work 48 hours a week at a minimum-wage job to pay for her college classes—a feat that would require superhuman endurance, or maybe a time machine…
Unless, of course, there was another way.
Fortunately, for you broke college students, there is. In fact, there are numerous ways to make extra money while going to school full-time. I elaborate on each of them in this post, so keep reading if you’re strapped for cash.
How to make easy money in college
Claim what’s already yours
Missing Money is a cool website where you type in your full name and it spits out a list of any entities that owe you money you may have forgotten about.
Examples include utility deposits, money you forgot in a bank account, or an old check from a former employer.
Get paid to take online surveys
Companies want to know what you think, and they’re willing to pay you for your feedback, hence the rise of websites like Swagbucks, which pay you to take online surveys.
Simply register for the sites below, complete your profile, and do the opportunities that come your way. The sites will notify you when there’s a survey that matches your profile.
This is probably one of the easiest ways to earn a couple hundred dollars extra each year.The best paid survey sites
Get paid to review websites and apps
If you love to judge websites, as I do, then why not get paid for it?!
Companies pay websites like UserTesting to get people to visit their website, complete a set of tasks, and answer a few questions about their website or app.
They do this because they want to see how easy their website is to navigate and how they can improve it (increase conversions, i.e. customers).
Not bad for just giving your opinion.
According to its FAQ, testers (for this specific website) earn $10 for each completed test and ~$60 for a live conversation with a customer. Tests consist of a 20-minute recording and up to four written questions. Live conversations require users to schedule a video conference call with a customer.
UserTesting pays testers daily for tests completed seven days earlier.
The catch is that not everyone gets approved. First, you must do a pre-screen test. If your sample test is approved, you’ll start receiving email notifications featuring available opportunities. New tests are posted daily.
Before you take your test, UserTesting will show you an example of a good video. They’re looking for testers who do five things, which are listed in the screenshot below.
If I piqued your interest, and you want to increase your monthly income with this tactic, consider trying out similar sites (see the list of below).Resources
- UserTesting: You’re paid $10 for every 10-15 minute test you complete. No webcam required.
- Intellizoom: Get paid $2-10, depending on whether it’s a standard survey or a study that requires you to record think-out-loud audio or video.
- Userpeek: Get paid $10.50 per test.
- Enroll: Get paid to test websites before they are launched.
- UTest: Multiple opportunities.
- UserFeel: Get paid around $10 per test.
- Analysia: Get paid $10 per 15-minute test.
- TryMyUI: Get paid $10 per 15-20-minute test.
- Testing Time: Get paid to conduct user testing studies and earn up to $50 per test, paid via Paypal.
Sell stuff you already own
My mom buys new furniture like it’s her job. Then, instead of making a quick buck selling her old stuff, she gives it to my brother who says he’ll use it.
My brother never actually uses it though. Instead, he sells it on Offerup and turns a profit for no investment, aside from 30 minutes of his time.
Maybe you don’t have a mom who loves to shop, but I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff you already own that could bring you extra cash pretty fast, like this broke med student did. She made a whopping $2,400 in four months selling a wide-variety of things she didn’t use anymore.
Before you say you don’t have anything valuable to sell, let me remind you of a little proverb I love: “Many small streams make a big river.”
The 28-year-old mentioned above lived by this exact mantra in order to earn $2,400.
She told CNBC that a lot of her profit wasn’t even from pricey items, but rather from $10 items, like kitchenware and clothing.
“Say you sell something for $10. After shipping and the seller fee, you’d maybe have $6. If you sell one item a day, after 10 days, you have $60 in your account that you would not have had before. After 15 days, you’d have almost $100.”
Try to keep an open mind, she adds.
I can’t tell you how many things I’ve sold that I literally thought, ‘Nobody is going to buy this.’ I had athletic shorts that had paint on the side and somebody bought them. I don’t think people realize that somebody will find value in things that you don’t find value in anymore. Plus, you have nothing to lose other than a minute of time from uploading it, and potentially $5 to $50 to gain.
When wondering what to part ways with, consider the following:
- Recency: “When was the last time I used this?”
- Frequency: “How often do I use it?”
- Acquisition Cost: “How difficult/expensive is it to get?”
- Storage Cost: “How much space and maintenance cost is tied to it?”
- Retrieval Cost: “What costs are associated with retrieving it or it becoming outdated?”
Once you decide what to sell, you’ll need to figure out where to sell it.
The good news is, that’s the easy part. There’s a platform for everything these days, so you have a million to choose from and can even list on multiple outlets if you choose.
Where to sell your old clothing and accessories online
Poshmark is one of many outlets where people go to find cool clothes and accessories.
When you sell an item on Poshmark, they send you a prepaid shipping label to send it out, and then they take a small commission based on the dollar amount of the transaction.
- Women’s clothing
- Men’s clothing
- Kids’ clothing
- Jewelry and accessories
- How To Hack The Poshmark Resell Game (And Make Cash) According To Super-Users
- A woman made $1,200 in 2 months by selling her clothes online—here are her tips so you can do the same
- 15 More Tips to Become a Top Seller on Poshmark
Tradesy is one of my favorite shopping apps.
On Tradesy, you can find any and all luxury items, including but not limited to: designer bags, accessories, shoes, and clothing.
It works like Poshmark, as you can see in the screenshot below. The nice thing is they accept returns for you, so you don’t have to deal with it.
Mercari is another online consignment store that works just like the ones above, although its sellers’ fees are lower.Resources
More online consignment stores
- The Real Real
- Material World
- Buffalo Exchange
I wasn’t clever enough to think of this on my own. I learned about selling on Instagram from this Buzzfeed News article, which I highly recommend reading if you’re interested in experimenting with this method.
The author ran an experiment where she’d post the same items simultaneously on Instagram and Poshmark, where she’d sold around 50 things before, to see where things moved more quickly.
I posted multiple pictures of each item on my Instagram Story, since it seemed like, based on my anecdotal research, Instagram shows your story to more people than it does any one of your posts. I also made a collage of pictures of each item and posted that as one image on my regular Instagram, along with very short descriptions and prices, and directed people to my Story to see more. I used the hashtags #shopmycloset and #instacloset on my posts—although it seemed like all of my sales came from people who were already following me, not people who were wading through the thousands of posts with those hashtags.
Over the course of three weeks, she posted 40 items—a mix of shirts, dresses, pants, shoes, and bags. Everything sold on Instagram, with the exception of one bag and a pair of sandals that sold on Poshmark.
She included shipping in her prices, and everyone paid her either via PayPal or Venmo almost immediately.
Tips for selling clothes and accessories online
- Take great, crystal clear pictures (Yes, you can do this with your iPhone).
- Try to style pieces together to sell faster, so people can envision how it would look.
- Go into the details in product descriptions. Give them the measurements, how it fits, why you’re getting rid of it, and the product’s condition (be brutally honest).
- Be responsive. Get notified when you receive a message.
- Do some research to see what similar items are selling for on the platforms I mentioned above.
- Last but not least, I recommend this read on how Nasty Gal got started by selling stuff on Ebay. Lots of great tips in here!
Where to sell your old clothing and accessories offline
Local consignment shops
If you don’t want to go through the headache of listing your items online, then google “consignment stores near me,” and sell to a local store. Here’s a nifty consignment shop finder for the U.S.
Throw a garage sale
When I was little, my mom loved to throw garage sales, and she’d always make a lot of money—way more than if she’d just sold it to a local consignment store or listed it online.
Where to sell your computers, phones, and other electronics
- Facebook Marketplace
- Best Buy
- Apple Trade-In Program
- Gadget Salvation
- Mac of All Trades
- Cash for your Mac
- Mac me an offer
- Local pawn shop
Where to sell your old books
- Half price books
- Powell’s Books
- Cash for books
- Barnes and Noble
- Local libraries
- Local high schools or colleges
Where to sell your furniture
- Facebook marketplace
Sell class notes
Take notes for books you’re reading, courses (online or offline) you’re taking, long articles you’re reading, and long videos you’re watching. Basically, you can take notes on anything that teaches people how to do something and sell them.Note selling options
How to make money fast in college
If you’ve never heard of “focus groups,” they’re a group of people who’ve been vetted to share their opinions on a wide-array of topics, such as brands, products, and ideas.
Focus groups can be conducted online or in-person, and companies conduct them for market research purposes.
Usually, the group is led by a moderator, and it lasts for one to two hours. You can earn anywhere from $30 to $300 per session, but you must qualify to participate—i.e., they must choose you.
If you love animals, but are in college, a great way to kill two birds with one stone is to be a dog walker or pet sitter.
According to The Simple Dollar, pet sitters on Rover who work part-time and take on two to three dogs every two weeks earn an average of $1,000 per month. Meanwhile, those that treat Rover like a full-time job, working four weeks out of the month and taking on two to three dogs at a time, earn an average of $3,300 per month.
Where to find jobs
By the end of 2018, Care.com found that the national average hourly rate for a babysitter was $15.83. That’s more than a 30 percent increase from $12.07 in 2013.
That’s pretty good, especially considering babysitting can be fun and insightful (like maybe you’ll discover you don’t actually want kids of your own someday, or vice versa). It can also give a lot of invaluable soft skills that will serve you when it comes time to get a real job/career.Where to find babysitting jobs Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Babysitting (Plus How to Command a Higher Rate)
- How to make money babysitting
- 13 Ways To Make $17 Per Hour (Or More) Babysitting
- How to become a babysitter
- How to Get a Babysitting Job
- Make money as a babysitter
Selling your hair
This may sound weird at first, but read me out.
If you have long hair and need cash fast, selling your hair is a viable option. The best wigs and hair extensions are the ones made out of real hair, and they’re always in high demand, making it easy to sell fast.
Hair buyers want thick, healthy, untouched hair that’s at least 10 inches long. They aren’t interested in hair that’s been dyed, bleached, permed, etc, and they don’t want your hair if you’re a smoker or drinker.
List your hair on the following marketplaces:
If this way to make money interests you, I recommend reading this article that tells you how to do it effectively.
How to save money in college
Saving money for college is no small feat.
Of course, money shouldn’t be the only factor influencing where you go to school, what you study, and that first job opportunity—but it should be one factor. And the more you prepare by saving money for college, the greater peace of mind you’ll have.
Ready for the best money-saving tips for college students? Let’s do this.
Educate yourself on personal finance
Whether through self education or an official personal finance course, understanding financial basics will not only help when it comes to saving money for college but will set you up for success in life.
A recent study from Montana State University, for instance, found that high school students who were required to receive personal finance instruction were more likely to make smarter decisions about paying for college. Students were more likely to choose less expensive financing options, apply for aid and get grants, and less likely to carry credit card balances. It also reduced lower-income students’ need to work while in college, which could help them complete their degrees, according to the study. (source)
Whether you take a course, research information online, or read books on the topic, understanding and taking ownership of your finances is up to you.
If you’ve been careless with money in the past, now is the time to shift your perspective. As you reduce spending, learn to save, and (over time) make more money, make it a goal to live below your means.
Your future self will thank you.
Personal finance courses Personal finance books
Know how your major stacks up
All kidding aside, there are clearly stand-out graduates (and struggling graduates) in any major. Character, experience, talent, soft skills, enthusiasm, grit… there’s much more to a successful person than what they studied.
Considering the steep price tag of higher education and the daunting prospect of student loans, taking the time to understand the true cost—and return on investment—of a college degree is absolutely worth your time.
According to Nerdwallet, “Your major could make a big difference in lifetime earnings: The disparity between the lowest- and highest-paying majors is $3.4 million, according to a 2015 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.”
Much like having a basic understanding of finances is critical for college saving habits, educating yourself on the realities of student loan repayment and median salaries of your major is invaluable.
So how do you know if a salary is enough? It may help to talk it through with a trusted adult—like a career counselor, student advisor, financial planner, or family member. When in doubt, follow the 8% rule:
Borrowers can prevent a life of debt by applying the 8% rule when choosing a major and applying for student loans.
‘We really need to think about a degree as a product that we’re buying…when you’re buying a product, you want to get a good deal.’
The rule is simple: Your monthly debt payment shouldn’t exceed 8% of your starting salary. (source)
So do your homework, know the stats around salaries and student loans, and get a good deal. 😉
Build an emergency fund
If you’ve ever lived paycheck-to-paycheck, then you understand the PAIN of financial surprises. A major car repair, a health emergency, or an unplanned (but necessary) plane ticket can be pretty devastating to your bank account.
Enter the emergency fund.
Before saving money in college for anything else, save for this. We all have expenses and for you, broke students, there’s not always much to spare.
Hear me out when I say it’s worth scrimping on entertainment for a little while to start putting dollars toward a rainy day. Long term, experts recommend that you have somewhere between 3-8 months of expenses saved up—but don’t let that overwhelm you in the beginning. Saving money in college is hard. Start with a smaller, more realistic goal—try $500 or $1,000 (even if you know it will take a long time to get there).
Because when a surprise expense pops up (and believe me, it’s only a matter of time), you’ll be prepared instead of racking up debt.
College student budgeting
Create a college budget plan
What’s the cost of tuition at your university? Do you have any grants, scholarships, or financial aid? Where will you live? Will you work over the summer, during school, or both? Are you considering alternative education programs or community college to save on tuition? Figuring out your total expenses (or comparing between options, if you’re still deciding future plans) is the first step of budgeting 101 for college students.
You could use a college savings calculator, like this one, which I highly recommend because it makes it so much easier and actually personalizes the budget for you. Once you’ve established your budget, if you’re looking for something to track your day-to-day spending, try these apps: You Need a Budget (YNAB) or Mint. I’ve found YNAB to be incredibly helpful—for not only tracking spending but also working toward those emergency fund goals we talked about above. When I started using YNAB, I stopped checking my bank account balance and instead looked at YNAB—to see how well (or not) I’m staying on track.
The bottom line? Know your expenses, make a college budget plan, and stick to it.
Establish your credit history
Talk to your parents about getting a credit card, so you can start building your credit while in college.
Best practices suggest limiting yourself to one or two low-interest credit cards, and paying them off every month. You’ll want to maintain a low balance of 20 to 30 percent of your credit limit (or the less credit, the better).
In the long run, maxing out your credit cards will hurt you and your credit. Even if you pay the minimum payment each month, they’ll accrue interest and that will extend the time it takes to pay it off.
How to make money online
I’ve relied on the Internet to make money since before it was cool; or, for those of you into numbers, the last nine or so years.
If you’re asking, “How do I make money online without investment?” the truth is anybody making money online is investing something. If you already have free Internet and computer access, that’s great, but at the bare minimum you’ll be investing time (lots of it) and—depending on your services—you may need to spring for additional software, subscriptions, or equipment.
Get paid to freelance.
Freelancing your way through college is one of the best investments you could ever make in yourself and my favorite way to make money online.
In my experience (and according to a lot of research), companies want job seekers who have proven professional experience, meaning your GPA means nothing if you can’t prove you have any tangible skills. When it comes to making money online, freelancing checks all the right boxes—including decent money (or great money, if you stick with it) and solid resume experience.
Which services should you offer?
Your answer lies in the center of a Venn Diagram.
The three circles are:
- Skills: What you’re ok/good at/can learn quickly
- Passion: What you enjoy doing
- Demand: What’s in-demand (What the market will pay you to do)
Once you make these lists, see what overlaps.
Ask questions on Quora
Quora will pay for (quality) questions through the invite-only Quora Partner Program. Active users are the recipients of invitations, but the qualifications/selection process beyond that is fuzzy. If you have a natural curiosity and love to learn, this could be a great space to explore. Besides, asking and answering questions on Quora has the side benefits of honing your writing skills and potential networking/freelance opportunities.
Become an influencer
You can’t just upload any old post or video and “go viral” but if you have an engaging personality, an eye for videography/photography, and expertise to share (in a specific industry), influencer life might be for you. Take the time to learn influencer marketing strategies and create interesting content that provides real value/entertainment to your audience—both of which are key to making money online as an influencer on YouTube or Instagram.
Cashback reward programs
Talk about easy money. With a simple Chrome extension, you’ll never miss a deal.
How to make money from home
More people than ever began working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic—and some companies plan to keep it that way. While there are pros and cons to making money from home, many workers appreciate the flexibility, increased productivity, and extra time (with a lack of commute) to do the things they enjoy.
In the digital age, whether you’re a student or a young professional, there are numerous possibilities to make money from home. Let’s dive into a few of my favorites…
If you’re open to trying something new and enjoy people, direct sales is a great way to make money from home—especially as a college student. Top-selling brands from around the globe work with direct sales consultants (aka independent contractors) to get their products into customer hands. Cutco, Norwex, and Avon all offer direct sales positions.
Take Cutco (sold by its sales arm, Vector Marketing), for example. Representatives give sales presentations in person or remotely (via video conference) and can work around their own schedule. Sales reps are paid a guaranteed base pay per appointment or 10 to 30 percent commission if a sale is made.
Aside from being one of the most convenient ways to work from home, working in direct sales teaches valuable and transferable skills to any career. Student representatives learn a LOT of skills: communication, self confidence, relationship building, and money management to name a few.
Write and edit blog posts
As I mentioned in an earlier post, freelance writing is the best way to make money from home while building your personal brand. Plus, with content marketing on the rise, many companies are searching for affordable freelance writers.
Editors usually pay anywhere between $150 and $500+ per post, but expect to earn less until you’ve proven yourself.Freelance writing job boards
- Freelance Writing Jobs
- We Work Remotely
- Writer Access
- Angel List
- Medium Partner Program
Sell your photos
Photographers, photojournalism students, or people who take good pictures are perfect candidates for selling photos.
Photos Tips and Tricks
- If you’re in college, take a photojournalism class to learn the art of taking a good photo.
- Rent a nice, DSLR camera from a friend or local university.
- If you’re not in school, find a good course on photography.
- Try to sell your Instagram-esque photos to companies. Tell them this is better than using stock photo sites that everyone and their competitors utilize.
- Sell your smartphone photos.
Photo selling options
- Your own website
- Creative Market
- Adobe Stock
- Can Stock
- Getty Images
- Photo Shelter
- This Photographer Just Made $15K In One Day On Instagram
- How To Make Money From Selling Your iPhone Photos
- Here’s How to Get Paid for the Photos on Your Smartphone
- How to Make Money from Your Smartphone Photography
- Make side money selling your Instagram photos online
- 37 Ways to Make Money Selling Photos
- The Problem with Selling Photos on Instagram
- 15 Places to Sell Nature Photography Online
How to make passive income
“Many people think that passive income is about getting something for nothing,” Tresidder says. “It has a ‘get-rich-quick’ appeal … but in the end, it still involves work. You just give the work upfront.” (source)
Don’t be mistaken. Passive income isn’t synonymous with free or easy money.
Passive income means you work up front and continue to profit from it after you’re done. People who make passive income online or offline do so from existing assets, and there are only two ways to get them—invest money or invest time and effort.
Check out the graphic below for several types of passive income.
How to pay off student loans quickly
Got student loans?
I’m willing to bet you do, with more than 44 million Americans collectively owing $1.5 trillion in student loan debt across the U.S.
According to the Federal Reserve, more than half of young adults who went to college in 2018 took on debt, and about 69 percent of students from the Class of 2018 graduated with an average debt of $29,800, according to Student Loan Hero.
The good news is that people have been able to pay off student loan debt fast, and so can you. Read on and pay off your loans faster than the average grad.
Make more than the minimum payment
Obviously, probably the fastest way to pay off your student loans fast is by making bigger payments whenever you can, which I understand would not be easy for most of us out there.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when you could make bigger one-off payments toward them. Think year-end bonuses, birthday money, tax refunds or any other cash windfalls you have throughout the year.
While it’s obviously not as fun to spend your birthday money from Grams on paying down debt, you’ll be relieved when you’ve paid off your debt quicker—which means less interest paid in total.
In case you’re still not jumping at the thought of this suggestion, read this example provided by Huffington Post:
Say you have a $20,000 loan at six percent interest and 10 years left to pay it off. If you make just one extra payment of $100 each year, you’ll pay off your loan five months sooner and save $315 in interest.
Sounds more exciting now, right?!
Do your homework: While you can pay more than you owe each month, make sure your loan servicer is applying the overpayment to the current balance, and not just applying it to your next month’s payment, because then you won’t be paying down your debt faster.
Refinance your loans
This one is for the people with good credit and a steady income, which may qualify you to refinance your student loans.
Refinancing means you take out a new loan and use that money to pay off your old loan. Usually, this is so you can create a new term length and/or a lower interest rate.
For example, you could refinance your 10-year student loan to a term of seven years, which, yes, would result in a higher monthly payment. You could try to refinance a lower interest rate as well. The benefit is you’d pay off the loan faster and save yourself money on interest.
So if you refinanced $50,000 worth of student loan debt from 8.5 percent interest to 4.5 percent, not only will you get out of debt almost two years sooner, but you’ll also save about $13,000 in interest. The best part? Your payment would basically stay the same.
According to NerdWallet, you’re a good refinancing candidate if you have a credit score of 690 or higher, secure income and a history of on-time debt payments.
Try a refinancing ladder to maximize savings: Start with a payment you can pretty easily afford, say, a 10 or 15-year loan. Pay extra when you have extra, and you’ll cut down the amount that you owe rapidly. After a few years, you can refinance again to a seven-year loan, often with the same payment but with a lower interest rate. Finally, you could refinance one more time to a five-year loan before you finish paying off the entire amount. (source)
Before you take this route, make sure that the lender doesn’t charge loan origination fees, because that might cancel your savings on interest. Also be aware that refinancing your federal student loans would change them to private and permanently terminate your chances for income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness options.
How to make money as a teenager
It’s not easy figuring out how to make money as a teen. Lucky for you—with a little thought, persistence, and good old fashioned hard work—there are more opportunities than ever to get that bread.
Tap into your network
Whether you prefer a traditional part-time job or are looking to make money online in high school, taking advantage of your network is key.
There’s a high school student in my neighborhood who mows everyone’s lawn.
He owes his lawn-care biz to word-of-mouth referrals, which are such a great way to get started in anything, especially when you’re trying to make money as a teen. While I don’t know this young entrepreneur personally, when my neighbors recommend him, I listen.
Whether you want to mow lawns, babysit, build websites, or write blog posts, chances are there’s an adult who has a connection. Parents, teachers, neighbors, mentors, coaches—think about the people in your life and how they can help jumpstart your money making goals.
Tune into trends and make a profit
Ever think about selling your own t-shirts? What about custom phone cases or art prints? Maybe you’re an artist or have experience in graphic design… or you have an artistic friend who shares your entrepreneurial spirit. If you find the right niche market—and are willing to put in the sweat equity upfront—starting your own print-on-demand shop (POD) is a creative way to make money online in high school. (And gain valuable biz skills in the process. Win-win.)
Printify recommends setting up your POD by focusing on either a product niche (i.e., t-shirts or phone cases) or a subject niche (i.e., a trendy subject).
Leverage your passion and creativity
Art, activism, and even shared passions can be a perfect reason to start a community of like-minded people. But if you’re going to be creating content, finding resources, or sharing events, why not get paid for it?
Artists and creators have been turning to Patreon, where a monthly membership allows your fans to contribute to your work (and help you keep doing what you love). You can engage your followers and offer rewards/exclusive perks to your loyal subscribers. Design, writing, and photography are just a few examples.
Others have been building exclusive communities on Instagram where tiered memberships give users access to premium content.
If you’re a creator, building a community gives you a leg-up in terms of experience and networking—and it’s another great way to make money as a teen.
Give the stock market a go
Intimidating as a teen? Maybe, but keep reading…
If you’re new to the stock market, are able to invest even a little money, and you have the desire to learn—why not now?
Robinhood is a free trading app that allows you to choose how much you want to invest and the ability to do it from your phone. Bankrate acknowledges some of Robinhood’s shortcomings, but calls it a “solid trading platform,” and points out that “free trading can be great for beginners.”
That’s a wrap
Money isn’t everything, but it IS a necessary part of life. So if you need a lil’ inspiration to take the initiative today? When you’re making money in college and beyond, never stop learning, hustling, and setting new goals. Because the only one in charge of your financial future is you.