Working poor need cash too!
January 16, 2007 3:13 PM   Subscribe

My underpaid mother is in serious need of some extra income without quitting her day job. Of course there is...

My mother needs an extra chunk of cash each month, but cannot leave her current job even though she is significantly underpaid. She is a hard worker, and very intelligent to boot, but due to an old-school company loyalty mentality she will not leave her job for a better one despite my urgings. Unfortunately, I am a poor grad student and cannot contribute much to her bills, though I help in any way I can.

We have explored the idea of a second job to attain a little bigger income flow, but we live in a severely economically depressed area of the South (as in the median pay here is 60% lower than the national median), so we're looking at minimum wage for anything part time and after-hours. Perhaps an internet-based solution? I am more than willing to get the ball rolling for her, though she is quite the techie for her age.

Hive mind, I ask for your advice. How can a strong middle-aged, old-school woman make a few bucks on the side while working a normal 9-5 job?
posted by Willie0248 to Work & Money (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Could she sell things on ebay?
posted by mjao at 3:17 PM on January 16, 2007

This may sound weird, but: there's a pretty booming business in vintage (50s, 60s, not so much 80s) clothing on eBay. And, quite often, the thrift stores and estate sales in big cities are picked clean, so the good stuff comes from smaller cities or areas where people are not going to pay fifty bucks for a party dress from 1961.

Is this maybe something your mom could explore?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:22 PM on January 16, 2007

Response by poster: Most definitely, but I'm looking for a more long-term solution for her.

Unless you mean work as an ebay reseller, in which case that would be a great idea. I'm not quite sure how one gets into such a business, however.
posted by Willie0248 at 3:23 PM on January 16, 2007

Answers are going to be based largely on her skill set. Just a few examples...

Selling on eBay, maybe? Is there something that's commonly available in your area that isn't available elsewhere, or does she have any knowledge or expertise in an area of collecting that would allow her to buy things at thrift stores and flea markets and resell them for a profit on eBay? Heck, some do okay just watching the bargain sites like Fatwallet for specials in retail stores that could be turned for a profit on eBay...

Does she know how to sew and sew well? She could do alterations and repairs for local cleaners.

Are there any schools nearby? Can she tutor?

Are her computer skills strong enough that she could teach middle-aged and non-technical people how to use their computers? Her marketing hook could be that she's not a creepy computer nerd.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:23 PM on January 16, 2007

My old housemate, now at Appalachian State University in NC, answered one of those 'assemble medical equipment at home' ads in the paper that everyone ignores and makes around $900 a month doing that while watching TV or sitting around.

I guess it really depends on what it is that she actually does. Can you say? Because then there might be a possibility of finding like-work in the area that you are in.
posted by parmanparman at 3:50 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are there any real estate opportunities in the area? For example, is the local economy such that she could buy a 2-family house (via a mortgage, of course) and have the income from one unit cover the mortgage while the other unit provides the extra income?

Can she take in a renter?
posted by xo at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2007

I just ran across this MSN Money article today. Maybe it has some suggestions?

4 real jobs you can do from home
posted by MsMolly at 3:55 PM on January 16, 2007

Nth-ing the ebay suggestion, if she has any way to get the stock vintage sells great there. I set my mom up to sell on ebay and she is just nuts about it.
posted by yohko at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2007

Check out this thread on work-at-home options, there may be something for her to consider there.
posted by AV at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2007

I was just going to reply that selling on eBay is a great way to go!

But as someone who makes their living selling vintage clothing on eBay, I have to add a caveat, it is HARD work. You really have to know what you're doing to be successful. Unfortunately it takes more than smarts and persistence - I have been at it for about 7 years and I am still learning.

Right now eBay is saturated with people selling vintage clothing. The popularity of the vintage look has sent out lots of people looking to make a buck by hitting the thrift stores and estate sales. You really have to continuously offer high quality merchandise to stand out in the crowd.

However, if she is lucky enough to be in a place where there is still good older (I'd say pre-60's) vintage clothing to be found, then she has an advantage over 99% of the people who sell! The people who make good money selling the 70's and 80's clothing are generally VERY young, VERY trendy, and work like crazy to market their stuff to a youth market.

If it is something she is considering, she (or you) are more than welcome to email me and I'd be happy to share some good resources.
posted by suki at 4:16 PM on January 16, 2007

Two suggestions my wife did while raising children: One, she worked at Blockbuster Video. Because they stay open until midnight, should could start in the afternoon and still work a pretty full day a few times a week. Not sure if your mom has the stamina for that, but it's a possibility.

The other is that my wife sold Pampered Chef kitchen gadgets. It's kind of like Tupperware but a little less plasticky; I will vouch for their products. And it only costs $90 to get started. It's something she can do evenings and weekends. If she only does one or two shows a week, she can make some pretty decent money. (typically $50-200 for an evening's worth of work). This works especially well if she's established enough where she lives that she can get a few friends/relatives to do the first couple of parties (after the first month or two, it tends to grow on its own).
posted by Doohickie at 4:33 PM on January 16, 2007

Yeah, or she could be an Avon lady. My mum is, and she loves it, but she's more into it for the socialising with other ladies, than the extra money, I think.
posted by mjao at 5:11 PM on January 16, 2007

My grandmother did in-home care for disabled people in the evenings for a while.

Could your mom care for seedling starts and then sell the plants at planting time in the spring? Basically start an in-home plant nursery. Some tree seedlings sell for, like $30.

There are other craft-y things she could make. Like, oh, herbal sleep/eye masks (if she grew the lavender, she'd just have to buy the fabric).
posted by salvia at 5:19 PM on January 16, 2007

Oh! My Life As A Phone Psychic.
posted by salvia at 5:20 PM on January 16, 2007

Oops. I just re-read that phone psychic essay thing. Never mind on that! I read it years ago and for some reason, I remembered it completely differently than it actually is. I thought it said "I wasn't psychic, but I still really was getting to help people." But that essay was about how she was getting scammed by a sheisty company. So, I'm back to my earlier awesome and totally practical suggestion of dream herb eye masks. ;-)
posted by salvia at 5:38 PM on January 16, 2007

I'm going to nth the eBay idea. My mom is much like yours. She's middle-aged, works 40 hours a week at a low-paying job, and lives in the economically depressed south. She started selling stuff on eBay and she makes a small but useful amount of money (about $30-$50 a month). It kind of depends on what you put into it. My mom sells used books and movies for the most part.
posted by katyggls at 5:44 PM on January 16, 2007

Sorry to serial post, but I just keep trying to think of things. Two more:
* A friend of mine proofed books-on-tape. She had to compare the written book to the audiotape. I think she got $10/hour. Plus she was always learning something new.
* At my job, these people work from home (in some cases, homes in different cities): the Filemaker consultant, the grantwriter, and the web designer. But I'm not sure how your mom would get hired by people to do these things from afar. Maybe she could make web pages for local businesses, just simple ones for the church (location, hours, who is the minister), the pizza store (hours, menu, location), etc.
posted by salvia at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2007

I was going to mention taking calls for LiveOps, and see it's in the MSN article linked above.

It's a legit company that seems to treat its 'agents' like real humans; in fact, there are community tools for employees to talk to each other and learn from each other.

As the article mentions, the main downside is that you have to have a PC + broadband + a dedicated landline to take calls on.

Pay scale goes from about $7/hr to $15/hr.

I've heard about LiveOps from a close friend who works on the engineering side; have no other relationship with them.
posted by mvd at 6:29 PM on January 16, 2007

All sorts of strange things are sold on ebay. Like coupons!

I know it sounds strange, but people cut the coupons out of the newspaper and then sell them in sets of 20 (for example 20 coupons for chex cereal). Ebay limits the number of coupons in an auction to 20 coupons, and there are a few other restrictions like no pictures of the coupons (to prevent fraud).

From my following one seller on ebay, it appeared that they made ~$60 a week, maybe more from this venture. If you can get the newspapers for free. Ask your neighbors (easy to do in an apt. complex). Maybe there is a recycle bin near your home.

In any case I later ran across this article which also talks about it.

Remember, your mileage may vary. I would suggest if your interested, get an ebay account and track some sellers (just mark their ebay items as things you want to watch). Then decide if it truly is a worth while venture.

Most of the work at least could be done while watching the tube.
posted by tallpaul at 8:12 PM on January 16, 2007

Reprinting this comment with a few minor changes.

How much money are you talking about? Bonus whoring at online casinos can be lucrative and essentially involves clicking a mouse mindlessly for a few hours.

An example of how this works is you deposit $100 on the site and the site gives you $100 bonus for a total of $200 which will be available for withdrawl after you make $1600 worth of wagers. You play blackjack (or whatever game has has the smallest house edge) and bet the minimum every hand. You follow a chart on how to play the odds without exception and wager $1600. You then withdraw your balance which is usually just under $200.

The reason this works is that the bonus money they give you combined with playing the best odds make it almost a sure thing that you will come out ahead.

Hitting all the worthwhile online casinos can net you around $1k. Sites like this or this should get her off on the right foot. After the initial bonuses, there are sometimes reoccuring monthly bonuses available.

If your mother has good self control then the risk of losing her money is fairly minor as the house edge on blackjack is small and the bonus you receive should cover it. That said, there's still some risk.

Obviously disregard this if she doesn't have $100 to toss into a project or if she has had problems with gambling.
posted by ODiV at 8:35 PM on January 16, 2007

If shes not afraid of needles she could donate plasma. I make about $200 a month donating twice a week. It takes 1 1/2 to 2 hrs each time you donate. One downside of it is your left with a scar where they stuck you, which is always the same place. You can search google maps or checking the paper to find a plasma center. If you decide to go they usually have a coupon on their website or in the paper that will give you a few extra dollars. Most of the money I get is from the bonuses they give to regular donors. Because of the restrictions they have on donating, you can only get those bonuses by going the same two days every week.
posted by stuffedcrust at 9:04 PM on January 16, 2007

What skills and experience does your mom have? Career books suggest working through a personal inventory to help figure out what transferable and specific skills you have. Doing something like that might help your mom figure out her background. Google for "skills inventory" or "personal inventory". I prefer personal inventories because skills inventories tend to leave out major life experiences and most people don't think of themselves in terms of their skills alone.

However, if your mom doesn't have a week or so to work through a personal inventory, she might want to look for a side job that will provide good income. My aunt makes $20 - $25 an hour by cleaning houses, pet sitting, and acting as a companion to the elderly (sometimes overnight -- she sleeps there in case the woman falls out of bed).

(Disclaimer: I sell a PDF that explains how people can do a personal inventory to help them find an area in which they consult. I am not attempting to promote this to you or to anyone else here.)
posted by acoutu at 10:44 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

salvia - how did your friend get that job proofreading audiobooks? It sounds like a pretty interesting gig!
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, folks!

These are all great suggestions, and my dear momma is considering several of them!
posted by Willie0248 at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2007

You probably want to hold off on the casino whoring thing due to recent events.
posted by ODiV at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2007

CtrlAltDelete, next time I see her (we live in different cities, though), I'll ask.
posted by salvia at 3:39 PM on January 21, 2007

Can she write? There are many people interested in fresh articles. If she enjoys creative wrtiting, she could be making pretty good money ghostwriting.
posted by adriana at 1:30 AM on January 28, 2007

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