Fast Cash
March 26, 2010 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I need $150 by March 31st. Running out of ideas to obtain it. What can I do?

I need this money to help pay my rent. For the past couple weeks I've been applying to every single Craigslist gig that I can (I already have a full-time job), but only one out of dozens of people responded to me, and it turned out they weren't accessible by public transportation. Nobody in my circle of friends and acquaintances has any leads on cash opportunities right now. I also have no possessions of value to sell.

So what can I do? At this point I'm somewhat flexible as far as ethics go. I just need this money in the next 5 days.

(Bonus question: I've usually been unable to donate blood because I'm mildly anemic. Would this prevent me from selling plasma also?)
posted by spinto to Work & Money (49 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Payday loan? The interest rates are usurious, but I've used them before when I had make a rent/deposit payment when my paycheck wouldn't clear my bank in time for me to write a personal check on it.
posted by jquinby at 5:18 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're female, reasonably attractive, and your city has them, you could always try a strip joint. From what I've read, the way a lot of them operate is with the stripper as a private contractor. You get to keep whatever tips you make, but you have to pay the house a fee of some smallish set amount (and encourage the customers to buy lots of expensive drinks). Women who are good at it can make an astonishing amount of money stripping. There's maybe something similar for men...
posted by rhartong at 5:19 AM on March 26, 2010

Start knocking on doors, offering basic yard service? Or any other service that could reasonably be offered on an as-needed basis. It's a little late for raking, but if you're in a warm area there's always weed pulling & digging holes to drop flowers into. Not sure what cold areas do right now. Price yourself reasonably, expect to work hard. Depending on the area, it may be hard to find takers, but you never know.
posted by Ys at 5:21 AM on March 26, 2010

posted by zia at 5:25 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not sure what cold areas do right now.

Cleaning gutters is a popular gig, but requires a ladder, transportation and comfort with heights. Day labor? Not sure what the going rates are, though.
posted by jquinby at 5:26 AM on March 26, 2010

You poor bastard. I have been in your position, and it sucks sucks sucks. Do you have friends/family? Ask around if anyone is working on a project - renovation, painting, yard-clearing etc - with the _important qualifier that you really need the money for rent, and soon. Make it clear that you are asking for a favour (of work), not for work itself. I had some very kind offers once in a similar situation. Yeah, their gardens didn't have to have that massive clean out, right on that weekend - but it had to happen some time, and they were happy to help me out. Remember this: people love to help other people out.

So, swallow your pride (which I know is especially tough when it's one of the few things you have left), and cast your net far and wide asking people for a quick weekend's work. And do it Friday morning, your time, if you can.

Good luck.
posted by smoke at 5:31 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

-There are a lot of medical studies that will pay you upfront and in cash for participating. A lot of them aren't doing scary stuff like testing experimental medication- they'll just want a bit of your blood, or to do a sleep study or an EKG on you or something like that. You can find a lot of them here.

-How about *you* posting on Craigslist offering to do work? Do you have any particular skills, or would you be willing to do stuff like house cleaning, errands, etc? If you do have skills and you just need the money fast you could offer to do something that's usually expensive for a lot less than what it usually costs.

-Can you sing or play an instrument? I don't know if there are enough people on DC subways for this, but in NYC, if you're good, you can make $10+ an hour making music on the subway. In fact, people do all sorts of stuff on the NYC subways and make lots of $$$. On one line to Queens I always see this group of 7-12 year old city kids who do this crazy acrobatic routine while the subway is going, and they always clean up. You could also get a bunch of candy in bulk, and walk through the cars selling it to rush hour commuters at a big markup. (I have no idea if any of this is legal in DC).
posted by Ashley801 at 5:32 AM on March 26, 2010

Have you signed up with local temping agencies? My experience has been that it normally takes them a few weeks to find anything, but maybe they'll have an immediate opening that you could fill.
posted by brambory at 5:35 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh also, dunno if you have been late with rent before, but have you spoken to your landlord/lady? If you have a good (or even non-existent, as long as it's not bad) relationship with them, ask them if you can be a week late with the rent, with a simple story about your paycheque being late (note: complicated stories look and sound bad to landlords, and will set off the alarms).

I guarantee you that landpeople are used to much worse tenants than you, and a polite, meek request, explaining the delay (by phone!Or better yet in person, much harder to say no to a real person than an email) etc will be infinitely preferable to them than trying kick you out for $150 or even just kicking up a stink.

Of course, if you have been serially late with rent, you're gonna need a pretty special relationship for that to fly.
posted by smoke at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

Honestly, this may sound crazy, but if you live in or near a city and have some sort of odd talent or especially an instrument you can play just go there and sit outside until you make a $150. People are more willing and generous if you're doing something such as performing. If not then maybe try the honesty route and make a big sign that explains your situation. People have certainly made that much (but we're talking at least 12-16 hours). It may sound like you're being a bum but give it a try, you'll get back on your feet soon enough and with that deadline closing in you are certainly running out of options. If you have family though certainly contact them as well.
posted by modoriculous at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2010

-Day labor. You can do this on Saturday and Sunday. There is probably somewhere in your city where people go, to pick up laborers to work just for the day doing construction projects and stuff like that. This will be paid in cash usually at the end of the day. This is a good example of one center in Seattle; I bet you can find something like that in DC.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:41 AM on March 26, 2010

Donate sperm if you are a guy, eggs if you are a girl. Or better yet, many places now pay about 200+ per month for donation of plasma, which is what they extract from your blood. So its no different than donating blood, but they pay you for it.
posted by bordensize at 5:44 AM on March 26, 2010

Hang out outside Home Depot, guys get $10/hr in my area (Philly).
posted by fixedgear at 5:45 AM on March 26, 2010

I know it seems extreme, but I'd craigslist my television and couch. Probably not my laptop unless I really needed the money.
posted by syntheticfaith at 5:47 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask 15 friends for ten dollars, ask 10 friend for 15 dollars. Tell them what it's for so they'll understand that you need to get it all to make getting any of it really worthwhile.
posted by OmieWise at 5:49 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You say you have replied to ads on Craigslist but have you posted one?

My husband and I were just discussing this last night.....I detest posting ads on sites like that because of the junkmail that follows (I do, however, and usually sell or find what I need). We have recently been discussing having some local student-types help us with spring yard cleanup and fence fixing and are actively checking CL and other local sites for people LOOKING for odd jobs (like you!).

Put up an ad, list what you are willing and/or able to do (be creative) and include what days and hours you are available. Good Luck!
posted by labwench at 6:00 AM on March 26, 2010

Similar to Ashley801's suggestion of medical studies, but a little more specific: look at every university in your area, and see if any of their psychology or science departments are doing fMRI studies. It's quicker than a sleep study, generally a couple hours, and typically (in my experience) pays $35-75. It's also not at all scary--you put on a hospital gown, lie down in the machine, and hold still while listening to a story or looking at images or whatever that particular study has you do. Smaller/quicker studies (one fMRI, one blood test, etc.) pay immediately (you schedule it, show up, fill out a couple forms, do the test, and they give you cash). More comprehensive or longer studies (like sleep studies) might not give you cash the same day, or might take multiple days to complete.

Also seconding call your landlord. Late rent with no explanation is a problem. A phone call with a simple explanation might be fine.

Oh, and if this is just a matter of waiting on a paycheck (i.e., if you borrowed $150 now you could pay it back April 1), do consider asking a friend for a loan (or two friends for $75 loans, or three for $50 loans). I don't generally think lending between friends is a great idea long-term, but for short-term or emergency situations, I think it's appropriate (as long as you approach it like "This is my friend, so I will pay her back as soon as humanly possible" rather than "This is my friend, so it's cool if I take a while to pay her back").
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:02 AM on March 26, 2010

There's always a ton of psych studies going on at Universities, where you can make some money without much risk. Also, if you wear glasses or contacts, a university with an optometry department may have some contact lens studies going on. I've seen some of the contact lens studies paying very well.
posted by Diplodocus at 6:09 AM on March 26, 2010

If you are female, you don't have to strip, you can just waitress in a strip club. (Waitresses wear clothing. A lot of it. And you can waitress even if you're not "perfect" enough to strip.) I can give you some tips on how to do well at that without resorting to sleaziness - memail me if you're interested.


Clean houses. Ad in Craigslist, signs on grocery store bulletin boards. If you're female, be very careful.

Walk Dogs/Pet sit

Sell your hair

If you're in the US, the Census is hiring, but you'd probably have to wait a while to get an actual paycheck. They are paying $12-$22/hr in my area.

Deliver phone books

Be one of those people you see standing at intersections holding up signs advertising a store's big sale. Look on Craigslist under Jobs->Marketing

Sell newspapers at busy intersections

Recycle scrap metal

Deliver Pizzas

Sell bottled water at parks, festivals etc. You do have to buy the water first, though, so it's a bit risky. If you decided to do this, buy the water at a bulk place like Sam's Club or Costco.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:13 AM on March 26, 2010

Seconding the payday loan idea, if you are simply waiting on an ill-timed paycheck and would be able to pay the money back right away. Yes, the interest rates are awful percentage-wise, but it cost me $12 to borrow $100 for one week which is not all that painful in the grand scheme of things.

It's been a few years since I've done it so the rate may have gone up a bit, so definitely make sure you pay close attention when they explain their interest rates and payback schedule.

If you go, make sure to bring your ID, your last two pay stubs, a blank check and your most recent checking account statement.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:19 AM on March 26, 2010

Ack, I had more, but my browser went wacky and posted before I was ready.

Garage sale - if you do this, then merchandise everything as if you were running a store. Selling a table? Set the table with some dishes (even pretty paper plates), stick a candle or some leafy branches in an old wine bottle. Group items by color. Throw a solid colored sheet on your display table. Use small boxes under the sheet to make display risers of different heights. Make everything look better than it really is.

And definitely check out this site. Some really interesting ideas.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:20 AM on March 26, 2010

To sign up for paid psych studies at the University of Maryland (accessible by metro), you have to use the SONA system. I'm not sure if there are any studies currently going on or how soon they pay you. I've done one study at Maryland, and got paid $40 for an interview and watching some videos. Good Luck!
posted by bluefly at 6:23 AM on March 26, 2010

I don't see many buskers in the DC subways (except for the guy who always seems to be outside the Crystal City station). However, you'll find lots of musicians along U St NW, and H St NE at night, and on weekends. No idea if you can make $150 easily that way, but it's worth a shot if you've got the musical skills to pull it off.
posted by schmod at 6:50 AM on March 26, 2010

Nth everyone who suggests a scientific study of some sort. The overnight (usually sleep EEG) studies are especially lucrative, but you can make that much with 2-3 EEG or fMRI studies. Find a major local research university and look into their cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry departments; each will probably have its own system for recruiting participants.

You're also close to the NIH, which is accessible by Metro. Here are just a few of their available studies. You might even qualify for more because of your anemia. Each research section within the NIH will probably have a fuller list.
posted by supercres at 6:52 AM on March 26, 2010

Do you have any friends with kids, or friends of friends with kids? We pay our babysitter $10 an hour, more on the weekends and holidays. She can easily make $50 or more on a Saturday night if we do dinner and a movie.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:53 AM on March 26, 2010

(Okay, that link isn't the best. But dig through their site a little and you'll probably find something.)
posted by supercres at 6:54 AM on March 26, 2010

FYI: the NIH won't hand you cash; they'll cut a check, and it'll be in the future and likely not by 31 Mar (I doubt you'll even get taken in before 31 March, esp. for EEG/fMRI/MEG studies where the researchers need to schedule time on the machines, and generally there's a pre-participation health check as well). Not a great option for fast money, I'm afraid.

But in general: it's easy money, helps drive research forward, and can sometimes be pretty interesting :)
posted by Westringia F. at 7:08 AM on March 26, 2010

I'm surprised so many people are going to outrageous lengths about this. Just speak frankly with your landlord. Was there something this month that all your money went to? A medical expense or something similar? Or is this a situation something that will be reoccurring for the next few months.

If it's something that isn't going to happen again soon, just talk to your landlord. Really.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:17 AM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

Before doing a payday loan, do the math and figure out what you'd owe in interest on that versus just doing a cash withdrawal from a credit card--you may find the rates are much more reasonable.

Of course if you are in this situation because you don't make enough to support yourself, getting into debt should be avoided at all costs as that just spirals out of control.

Keep applying to Craigslist, start asking neighbors to do yard work, consider joining the Census teams that are going around neighborhoods and beyond that, TALK TO YOUR LANDLORD.

Before you talk to them though, make sure you have a good reason for why you are behind and most importantly, make sure you have a solid reason for why they should not worry about this becoming a regular occurrence. The last thing you want your land lord thinking is that you are going to become a deadbeat tenant as they will look to get you out as soon as possible if that is the case.
posted by Elminster24 at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2010

Sell stuff. It's a great way to simplify and declutter and it can score you a couple bucks.

Host a garage sale. Ask friends/family if they have stuff in their garages or houses that they're wanting to get rid of but don't want to go through the effort of a garage sale. Collect all this stuff and then hold a garage sale. AND, the garage sale doesn't have to be at your place - perhaps ask a family or friend to use their space/garage to hold the garage sale and give them a cut of the money you make.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:46 AM on March 26, 2010

If none of the advice about potential day labor / gigs works out, I nth all the "speak to your landlord" advice, even if it is ginormous apartment complex. I assume that your total rent isn't $150. The WORST thing you can do is to fail to pay ANY rent. Assuming you are just in a short-term cash crunch, pay what you can on April 1, and explain to the landlord when the rest will be available to you (and then follow through on that promise).

If this is the first time you have been late with the rent, this is probably No Big Deal. YMMV if you have had this type of situation before, of course.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 7:57 AM on March 26, 2010

If you're female, reasonably attractive, and your city has them, you could always try a strip joint.

Please don't add to the mountain of human tragedy in this world by becoming a stripper because you are short on your rent. If that's your only option, I'll lend you the $150. Jesus Christ.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:58 AM on March 26, 2010 [23 favorites]

I'm a landlady but IANYLL.

Is your rent payment history generally good? Is this situation unusual? Do you expect this to happen again? If the answers are yes, yes, and no, then call your landlord, let them know your rent will be on time but short, and let them know when you will be able to give them the balance. If you've been there a while with a good rental history, and your landlord's not a complete jerk, you're probably going to be just fine. Shit happens, and even in business, people are generally flexible and willing to make accommodations in order to continue the working relationship. But in order to do so, you have to communicate.

If your rental history is very short or spotty, or if you see this as possibly being a recurring problem, then you should probably still do the responsible thing and call--but continue to try to raise the funds before your rent is actually due.
posted by padraigin at 8:24 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check your newspaper for ads looking for people to take part in product/market surveys. I've done a few of these. They are only about an hour or two and they paid cash at the end. For example, I was paid $50 to critique a new beer bottle label. It was easy and actually kind of fun.
posted by jmmpangaea at 8:39 AM on March 26, 2010

Recycling bottles and cans. Removing them from recycle bins is probably illegal, but is certainly the norm. I don't even put mine in the recycle bin anymore, I set them to the side to make it easy on anyone who needs to get access to them.
posted by Edward L at 8:42 AM on March 26, 2010

When a friend was in a similar situation, they called the landlord and asked if they could make it up in work. They did some light gardening getting the grounds ready for spring and washed some windows. Definitely call your landlord and ask if you can work something out if this is a temporary situation. If it's not temporary, it's still worth calling to see if you can trade some work for a portion of your rent.

If you're good with computers, you can charge $50 to optimize them. Run an anti-virus, clean out the services that definitely don't need to be engaging with start up, set up a home wifi network, etc. Ask your friends and neighbors. Point out that the big box places will charge a $100 to do this and just wipe your hard drive.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:52 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Donate sperm if you are a guy, eggs if you are a girl.

FYI, bordensize, you can't just go masturbate your eggs into a cup. It is a weeks long process involving taking hormones, health monitoring, and an invasive procedure to retrieve many eggs from what is not a replenishing supply of eggs. It's a pretty major undertaking with lots of possible health risks involved.
posted by greta simone at 8:55 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh god don't do a payday loan. Those lose APR rates are ridiculous. If you can't come up wtih $150 now, good luck paying off $400+.

DId you try focus groups? The ones I signed up for are $100+ for 1-2 hours of your time. See if you can find one stat and be on the team. Easy cash money.

Otherwise friend loan or two friend loans to split the impact. Sorry you're in the position.
posted by stormpooper at 9:04 AM on March 26, 2010

Offer to clean houses/apartments, but do more than just advertise on craigslist. Do up some posters and hang them in densely populated neighbourhoods full of condo and apartment complexes.
posted by jennyhead at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2010

i've had to do payday loans before.

there are many sites that give you the first one free if you pay it back on the due date, so you end up paying only what you borrowed.

just make sure to use an email that is not your normal email address. you will need to check that email tho. i have used several times because they have actual customer service people.

even if you have to pay the fee, it might only be $50 or something on $150 which is a hell of a lot better than facing eviction or something.

definitely talk to your landlady first tho. that is always free, at least moneywise :)
posted by sio42 at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2010

DC is just now getting revved up for tourist season, especially with regards to the cherry blossoms. It's also the Smithsonian Kite Festival and some other goodies this weekend. Saturday is supposed to be clear skies, but not too warm. Depending on your talents and sales-ability, you could hit up the tourists in a lot of different ways. When I worked at a copy shop, we had several people who kept themselves fed by making pamplets and selling them on the street corner. I'm pretty thrifty about monetary exhanges on the street, but I'd be pretty intrigued by a "See DC like a local" map or zine. It'll take an initial investment and you have a really small window of time to turn a profit, though. There must be a way to prey on those herd-you-around tour busses that stop at all the public toilets at all hours of the night and day (toilet seat covers and hand sanitizer?). If you speak a language, you could maybe check at the HI and other hostels if you can put up a notice on the bulletin board about giving tours.

Also judging from my copy shop days (this was Portland, Oregon, though) when people would come in to trade coins for bills, I suspected that any kind of busking that doesn't involve a crazy-jaw-dropping skill is probably going to net +/- $20/day on average.

I'd also be more likely to give some of my clutter to a friend to sell than to lend them money. Or you might offer to cook for a friend or help clean up their place. I imagine there must be some metro accessible places where snow damage is still a big deal (fallen trees and other yardwork, for instance.)

Anything of the get-less-poor-wacky-scheme variety has a risk/return tradeoff, though, if only in time. And anything that's not risky or time consuming (or creative) is going to have a ton of people lined up for it in this day and age. Your best bet is talking to your landlord, your bank or your acquantances. Some employers will still do paycheck advances, too.

Oh, I did just have a wacky scheme for you, though. You could sell mini-kite kits near the kite festival.

Hm. I used to have a template for one you could make out of a piece of (color) letter sized paper, some string, some decorative tissue paper, tape and a stir stick (think kabob skewer without the sharp end). the instructions were typed on the paper that you used for the kite. I think I've lost it by now, though.
posted by Skwirl at 9:53 AM on March 26, 2010

Thanks so much to everyone for your responses. I'll be trying almost all of these suggestions. As a first step, I've put in a call to my landlady (waiting for her to return my call) since that approach was so overwhelmingly recommended. :) I have an excellent rental history in general, though I've only been in my current apartment complex for 6 months, so it's worth a shot. I also don't foresee this happening again soon -- there were just some unexpected circumstances this month, and unfortunately I get my paychecks on the 5th and 20th rather than the much more logical 1st and 15th. So I will be all good as of April 5th, just need to make it till then.
posted by spinto at 10:09 AM on March 26, 2010

Definitely try to work it out with your landlord, and check your rental agreement. Every agreement I've ever had stipulated that rent was due on the 1st, payable by the 5th. Getting paid on the 5th and 20th is very common.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:24 AM on March 26, 2010

Good news: My landlady was kind enough to grant me an extension until the 5th. Thanks again for all the great and creative suggestions, and for encouraging me to just talk to my landlady. It worked better than I ever would have imagined!
posted by spinto at 11:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds like money's pretty tight right now, so if you do want to make a few extra bucks and give yourself a bit of a financial buffer, I third the medical and psych studies. Hearing, vision, and psych studies especially tend to involve no physically dangerous stuff and tend to pay $15-$20 an hour. However, be aware that many of the better paying studies (e.g. sleep studies) can require some initial screening appointments, or extended time commitments. Others have specific requirements - many fMRI studies require that you have no metal in your body, decent vision without glasses (contacts are generally ok), etc. Finally, some experiments will send you a check in the mail weeks later, while others will make you fill out a form and either give you cash immediately or direct you to an office somewhere on campus where you exchange the form for cash.
posted by ubersturm at 12:13 PM on March 26, 2010

Good to hear the outcome! I was just going to say that if you are in D.C. as other responses seem to indicate, my friend who went to GW used to do focus groups all the time. I don't know any other details than her mentioning that she did them a lot in college.
posted by ishotjr at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2010

Do you still have music CDs? You could sell them to a second-hand CD store.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:37 PM on March 26, 2010

I am so very glad you went with calling your landlady before the stripper suggestion.
posted by Bobby Bittman at 10:40 PM on March 26, 2010

How has nobody mentioned Modest Needs yet? I am not sure you are going to be able to get the cash infusion that quickly, but in the future, you and anybody else in this situation should consider them first. This is a charity that helps people exactly like you out.
posted by onalark at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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