How to make a quick buck - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

How to make a quick buck

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Posted: Thursday, April 13, 2006 7:16 am | Updated: 2:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

For whatever reason, you need cash. Pronto. Maybe there’s a hot date tomorrow night. Gotta get your hands on the new iPod Nano, “Battlestar Galactica” DVD box set or Ikea can’t-quite-pronounce-the-name-but- it’s-got-an-umlaut chair.

Or it’s your turn to buy beer.

Worse yet: After losing $100 on a Hawks game — you never learn, do ya? — you now owe your bookie $100, or a guy named Knuckles is making a house call.

Problem is, you’re so broke your wallet has an echo. The bank has repo’ed your checkbook. Even your Discover card’s maxed out.

You could, of course, panic. But wait: Before you sell your soul to the payday loan store on the corner, check Get Out’s guide for making a quick buck.

We’ve got the lowdown on some time-honored standards (giving plasma, babysitting, unloading your possessions) along with a few unusual choices, some frankly icky ones — and, for sheer curiosity, one or two that just might get you on the wrong side of the law.

When in doubt, check your local city codes. And your karma.

SELLING YOUR STUFF

Convince yourself you’re following the ways of the Buddhist monks by giving up your worldly possessions in exchange for enlightenment (and lightening your load).

Sell your books/DVDs/CDs

Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange

1056 S. Country Club Drive, Mesa

(480) 835-0505

Potential profit: Varies

Bookman’s says it’ll “take a look at everything” when evaluating what stuff it buys (which, hopefully, means no snickering at your Barbara Mandrell records), but the used media shop tends to favor newer in-demand items like popular CDs, video games and box sets of TV shows on DVD. You’ll earn more in store credit than straight-up cash, of course.

Best for: Music buffs who’ve already gone to MP3; bookworms who now think print is dead.

Sell clothes

Buffalo Exchange

227 W. University Drive, Tempe

(480) 968-2557

Potential profit: Varies

The East Valley’s de facto shop for buying and selling hipper men’s and women’s clothing, especially for Arizona State University students looking to unload threads for quick cash. According to Tonya Hemmer, assistant manager at the Tempe store, you’ll earn 35 percent of what Buffalo turns around and sells your clothes for. (It’s 50 percent in store credit.) But, like Bookman’s, this shop can be highly choosy about what it takes.

Best for: Fat-closet fashionistas.

Sell jeans

Blue Jean Buyers

1810 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe

(480) 947-8245

Potential profit: $8-$15 per pair

Gently used (or artfully ripped) American jeans get exported to Europe and Japan for top dollar. You’ll do best with men’s Levi’s 501 button-fly denim, waist sizes 32 and up, according to denim brokers.

Best for: Jean freaks with, of course, a few pairs to spare.

Sell misc.

Online: Craigslist, eBay. Real world: Classifieds, pawn shop

Potential profit: Varies

There’s a thriving online community of folks emptying out their closets and earning a few quick bucks in the process. I used a recent move as an excuse to pare down my possessions — unloading long-unplayed instruments, books, even trading an old digital answering machine for a free, tasty pie from a neighborhood pizza shop. Aside from the combo-with-everything, all said, I pocketed a sweet $1,300.

Best for: Pack rats in need of catharsis.

SELLING YOUR TIME

Take advantage of today’s hectic lifestyles by turning your free time into a service industry unto itself.

Day labor

Broadway Road and Mesa Drive, Mesa or Labor Force, 303 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler (480) 821-0974

Profit potential: $5.15 to $20 per hour

Zombie prostitution. That’s what it feels like, oddly enough, to stand on the street corner, waiting to get picked up for a stint of day labor.

I’m standing, fidgeting in place, alongside more than 20 day laborers lining the street beside a convenience store in central Mesa. We’re scanning the traffic like meerkats in ball caps, watching for a truck to slow down and pick one or more of us up for a day of off-the-books work.

We throw our index fingers up as if to hail a taxi — one worker here! — and when a landscaping truck does stop, we swarm it like the walking dead, pushing up against the glass, straining to listen and negotiate a deal. A few guys hop in the back; the rest of us head back to the sidewalk.

Later, an elderly woman in a rickety hatchback filled with cleaning supplies pulls up and flashes a wrinkly digit. In a blink, another guy jumps into the passenger seat and they’re off.

I don’t get picked up that morning.

But wait long enough and the potential payoff can be great: Land a construction gig and you can pocket $150 per day, one laborer says.

I have better luck finding a gig at a legitimate day labor center in Chandler one recent Saturday.

Sent to a warehouse in Mesa, I load heavy bales of newsprint onto trucks for 8 1 /2 hours — starting early and blowing through lunch — for a manager with a not-so-sunny disposition and a Ricky Ricardo chuckle.

It’s body-breaking work. I show up back at the day labor center to face a painful fact: For my hard day’s labor, I’ve earned only $38.55. It’s enough to send me back to the street.

Best for: The construction-curious; owners of steel-toe work boots.

Babysitting

Online: www.babysitters.com; real world: Around the neighborhood

Potential profit: $5-$20 per hour

If you’ve got a knack for taking care of rug rats — or at least enduring hours-long marathons of “Rugrats” reruns on TV — babysitting can put a few bucks in your wallet. There are Web sites for setting up a profile and getting new clients, or you can go old-school: Post fliers around the neighborhood and in apartment laundry rooms. Just do everyone a favor and first take a CPR class (www.americanheart.org).

Best for: Patient nurturers; Nickelodeon buffs.

Dog walking

Online: Craigslist; real world: Pet store bulletin board

Potential profit: $5-$20 per hour

Side benefit for single guys: Walking with a cute pup boosts your attractiveness factor by at least 35 percent.

Best for: Anyone with a lint roller for dog hair.

SELLING YOUR BODY

And no, none of these involve organ donation or waking up in a hotel bathtub full of ice and your liver missing. We checked around.

Experimental testing

Hill Top Research

3225 N. 75th St., Scottsdale

(480) 994-8502 or www.hill-top.com

Potential profit: $5-$375

Hill Top Research recruits people to take part in clinical studies for pay. That means having adhesive patches applied to your back to check for irritation, slathering on moisturizer or using a different deodorant for a while. I showed up for a patch study one afternoon after they’d already chosen enough participants, and they cut me a check for $5 for waiting. Had I made it into the study, though, I would have pocketed $375. Cha-ching!

Best for: Those not easily prone to rashes.

Give plasma

ZLB Plasma Service

1334 E. Broadway Road, Suite 102, Tempe (480) 894-1338

Potential profit: $25-$40 per donation

Plasma donation’s got a bad rap over its more esteemed cousin, donating blood. Perhaps it’s because giving plasma earns donors some sweet lucre. (You’re lucky to get orange juice and a doughnut after giving blood.)

Close to Arizona State University, Tempe’s ZLB is located in the same strip mall as The Clubhouse rock venue (for when you need to pay the cover charge, fast).

Less creepy than you’d expect (though stretching the “white lab coats = medical professional” theatrics a bit thin), ZLB’s lab is unique because it returns donors’ plasma-drawn blood to along with a cold bag of saline, speeding recovery. Watching the pink fluid being pumped back — and feeling the all-over chill that follows — makes one think of being injected with Kool-Aid.

ZLB pays well: You’ll earn $40 for your first two donations and $25 to $35 for each subsequent suck session, depending on your weight.

Each visit takes an hour or two, including wait time. But be warned: Your first visit includes a medical screening, which tacks on a few hours.

Best for: Non-needle-phobes; vampire victim wannabes.

Strip club amateur night

Christie’s Cabaret

1675 W. Baseline Road, Tempe

(480) 456-1015

Potential profit: $100 to $300; creepy singles

Before you fire off that angry e-mail: We’re not condoning this kind of behavior, mind you, but if you’ve got it (but no moola), flaunting it — Lucite heels or no — in an amateur competition at this Tempe skin show house can earn $100 (third place) to $300 (first place) plus tips for pole-savvy ladies of a certain exhibitionist persuasion. And it could lead to a regular gig: Managers say they use the contest to recruit talent.

Best for: Very liberal minds; women named Misty or Chloe.

USING SOME MUSCLE

Sweating that past-due cell phone bill? Turn that sweat into quick cash.

Have truck, help move

Online: Craigslist. Real world: Classifieds

Potential profit: $20 per hour

Truck owners: Sick of helping friends move in exchange for pizza and beer? Spend a Saturday morning helping complete strangers schlep their stuff for cold, hard cabbage.

Best for: Guys who work out.

Recycling

American Metals

740 W. Broadway Road, Mesa

(480) 834-1923

Potential profit: Varies

Trash-scavenging hoboes can’t be all wrong — recycling aluminum cans can be a profitable, if grubby, venture. The going rate for a pound of aluminum is 72 cents, and it’ll take about 30 cans to make a pound. Plus, you’re benefiting the Earth: According to the Aluminum Association, recycling 40 cans saves enough energy to equal a gallon of gasoline. Caution, though: Don’t filch cans from city recycling bins around your neighborhood; that’s potentially theft of city property and a punishable crime.

Best for: Dumpster divers; soda junkies.

Washing cars

Low-traffic parking lots Valleywide

Potential profit: Varies

Got a hose, bucket, some soap and equally broke friends? Phone up a fast-food restaurant and ask to hold a car wash some weekend morning. Usually reserved for charity groups and school fundraisers, parking lot car washes can pull in hundreds of dollars.

Best for: Bikini-clad cheerleaders (purely for the cliché); prune-finger aficionados.

GETTING CREATIVE

Sometimes artistic inclinations — or crafty business schemes — can be exploited for speedy scratch. Here, a few suggestions.

Selling crafts

The Quilted Bear

1244 S. Gilbert Road, Suite 106, Mesa

(480) 633-8525

Potential profit: Varies

Beer-can castles notwithstanding, turn that crafty hobby into cash by renting a booth at this Mesa crafts shop. You’ll need some start-up capital, though: The smallest booth, 4 feet by 2 feet, runs $100 a month, with a six-month minimum. And the store will take 12 percent of each sale.

Best for: Grandmothers-in-training.

Lemonade stand

Tree-lined suburban streets

Potential profit: Varies

When life gives you lots of free time and little cash, the saying goes, make lemonade.

When was the last time, outside of a “Peanuts” cartoon, you saw an honest-to-goodness neighborhood lemonade stand? Customers flock purely for the novelty and nostalgia.

Having secured a business partner, 7-year-old Clover Lasiter — and armed with cups, a few bags of ice and a batch of pre-made lemonade — we set up a stand catercorner from Casey Moore’s Oyster House in Tempe on a recent Saturday afternoon and raked in beaucoup bucks: $67 in just two hours of work.

It helped that we were running the stand while arts and music festivals were running nearby. It also helped that Clover is adorable: We offered customers a cup of lemonade for 50 cents and kids-say-the-darnedest-things advice (“I’m especially good about animals,” she said) for an extra quarter. We doled out sweet beverages and sage advice, and raked in plenty of tips in the process.

But wait!, you proclaim, isn’t using a kid cheating?

Not at all. It’s called optimal business strategy.

Best for: Nostalgia freaks; children.

Break-room doughnut delivery

Your office break room

Potential profit: $5 or more

On the way to work, pick up a box of doughnuts and leave them in the company break room with a coffee can for donations. The honor system works surprisingly well. An enterprising person could do this at several nearby offices, creating a sweet, jelly-filled network.

Best for: Aspiring entrepreneurs; Krispy Kreme addicts.

GETTING DESPERATE

We don’t actually advocate any of the following quick-buck methods. But when desperate times call for desperate deeds, these are de facto methods for the cash-strapped.

Busking

Any well-walked street

Potential profit: Varies

As does real estate, so goes the busker (aka street musician): Location, location, location.

During big sports games or festivals, street musicians on Tempe’s bar-crazy Mill Avenue — like my buddy Jackie the djembe player at Fifth Street and Mill — can rake in anywhere from $25 to hundreds of sweet smackers in a few hours of public jamming.

My stint busking one recent afternoon in downtown Mesa wasn’t quite as profitable.

Shortly after lunch hour on a windy Wednesday, I set up camp with an acoustic guitar on Main Street and proceeded to belt out for passers-by, most of whom proceeded to ignore me, no matter how hard I rocked.

Perhaps it had something to do with my limited repertoire. I only know essentially three songs: “My Funny Valentine,” The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” and Van Halen’s “Jump.”

Or maybe it’s because I can’t sing worth spit.

The total take from my busking session? $2.25. It’s hard being a playa — er, player. Best for: Frustrated troubadours; frustrated karaoke performers.

Panhandling

Freeway offramps everywhere

Potential profit: $25-$45 a day

Panhandling is illegal. But, as you probably assumed, it can be profitable. Young punks begging on Tempe’s Mill Avenue report pulling in an average of $5-$10 per hour of hard-core begging during busy bar hours. (It helps, they say, if you have an animal in tow.) Meanwhile, Mesa law officials say freeway panhandlers can pull in $25-$45 per day. But there are risks. Mesa prosecutor John Pombier says his office rarely prosecutes panhandlers, but the maximum penalty is six months in jail, a $2,500 fine and three years probation. Which should be more than enough to dissuade you.

Best for: Gutter punks; people with no shame.

Fountain fishing

Fountains and wishing wells

Potential profit: Lots of change

East Valley law officials say they don’t see many cases of fountain fishing — people who scoop out wishing coins — but it could be considered a form of theft, a misdemeanor. Be sure you know how to swim.

Best for: Low-lifes; wish-stealing jerks.

Gambling

Any of the Valley’s casinos

Potential profit: A lesson learned

You shouldn’t go to a casino expecting to make money, gambling experts say. It’s simple logic. But since when has logic been a part of making a quick buck? Flush with plasma money (and perhaps not thinking straight considering the blood loss), I went to an East Valley casino with $20, took to the roulette table and let it ride on black. I won. And then summarily lost it all on a hand of blackjack.

Best for: The casino, not you.

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