Maryann Akinboyewa - The Penny Hoarder

Calling all book lovers -- Kellogg’s, Walmart and Scholastic want to give you up to 30 free books!

Whether you’ve got a youngster, early reader or tween at home, you’re sure to find a few good options. Take your pick of more than 80 titles from Scholastic, including classics like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Goosebumps and The Baby-Sitters Club.

Here’s how to get your hands on your books.

How to Get Free Books

First, you’ll need to go shopping.

Head to Walmart and look for specially marked packages of Kellogg’s products like Cheez-It crackers, Apple Jacks cereal and Pop-Tarts. (Use an app like Ibotta or Checkout51 to save some cash on your purchases!)

Look inside for the 16-digit code, and enter it here. You’ll need to create an account, but it’s quick. Or, you can choose to sign in with Facebook.

To enter your code, you must be a U.S. citizen aged 13 or older, so you’ll have to help your kids choose their free books.

Choose whether you prefer a physical book -- which the company will ship to your address, free of charge -- or an ebook.

If you want to read your ebook online, you can do so in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. If you’d prefer to download it, follow these steps in the FAQ.

Pass It On

If you buy these Kellogg’s products but don’t need any books for yourself, enter your code anyway and choose the “donate” option.

You’ll get to choose the book you’d like to donate, and the school that will receive it. There’s your good deed for the day!

Enter your codes until March 31, 2016.

And if you’re looking for more free or low-cost books, check out this post for more ideas.

Your Turn: Which free book will you pick?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Maryann Akinboyewa is the Assistant PR Coordinator at Taylor Media Corp. 

Interested in becoming a bookkeeper? Learn how at learntobeabookkeeper.com.

Does earning $60 an hour sound appealing? How about the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed?

Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a certified public accountant and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers.

And no, you don’t have to have a CPA to be successful in this business. In fact, all you really need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems.

It’s a great opportunity for moms who want to work part time, millennials who are just out of college and anyone who wants to bring in real money while working from home.

We talked to Robinson about what it takes to become a virtual bookkeeper, as well as tips and advice for making this career track work for you.

Ben, can you share a little about your background? What’s your bookkeeping experience?

I've been a CPA since 1999. From 2001 until early 2015, I owned two accounting firms.

One of my main focuses within those firms was helping business owners take care of their bookkeeping. A lot of -- actually most -- business owners struggle with keeping accurate and up-to-date bookkeeping records.

I knew I needed a team of great bookkeepers to get the work done. What I soon discovered is that great bookkeepers are hard to find. And, when I did find a great bookkeeper who owned their own business, they were buried with clients and had a waiting list of business owners who wanted their books done.

Not being one to accept defeat, I set out to train my own great bookkeeping staff. For over 10 years, I developed a program that helped raise up great bookkeepers. Matching these business owners to great bookkeepers is something I really enjoy doing.

After I sold my firm in January 2015, I decided my life's business purpose was to help train and equip an army of 10,000 great bookkeepers who want to own their own business and -- more importantly -- determine the path they will take in life.

Do you have to have a CPA to be a bookkeeper?

The short answer: NO!

In fact, none of the great bookkeepers I have trained have even been accountants, much less Certified Public Accountants.

The work an accountant or CPA performs and the work a bookkeeper performs have some overlap. If I were given the choice of training a CPA or someone with no experience to become a great bookkeeper, I’d choose the inexperienced candidate any day.

But this inexperienced person does need to have certain personal characteristics to set themselves up for success as a great bookkeeper.

What characteristics and skills are you referring to?

Compared to a CPA, bookkeepers are more transaction-oriented and more often in contact with clients on a day-to-day basis. Bookkeepers are more involved with the granular details of the business, whereas CPAs are typically more involved in the strategy.

To be a great bookkeeper, you need real-world skills. If you go through a traditional bookkeeping course, you’ll probably learn a lot of theory. That’s important to understand, but there’s no practical application.

For example, when I went to school and got my degree in accounting, I thought “Yes! I can conquer the world.” But my first day working as a CPA was a real shock -- I could figure out earnings per share, but I couldn’t do simple tasks that business owners need, like reconciling a bank account. The best bookkeepers can navigate those real-world problems for the business owners they work with.

You also need to have decent computer skills. Since all the work you perform as a virtual bookkeeper is done in a virtual environment, you must know how to communicate effectively and efficiently through technology, and feel comfortable using those tools.

What are the benefits of doing this kind of work?

Goodness, where do I begin?

My favorite benefit is the freedom a bookkeeping business affords. As a virtual bookkeeper business owner, you have the freedom to choose where you work, when you work and with whom you work.

Think about the power of being in control of these three factors in your professional life! The impact is tremendous and liberating.

My second favorite benefit is the income potential. As a great bookkeeper, you command great rates. Business owners value the service you provide and are willing to pay you for this value because of the results you help them achieve.

The third benefit is that bookkeeping is always in demand. All businesses are required to maintain bookkeeping records, which means there are always people and companies hiring for these positions.

You mentioned income potential. What’s the going rate for bookkeeping services?

The average full-time bookkeeper earns about $40,000 per year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. However, that is as an employee in a typical work setting. As a freelancer or contractor, you can actually earn a higher hourly rate while working fewer hours.

I teach my bookkeepers that they should target at least $60 per hour as their goal. You must know how to provide true value to clients -- that real-world problem-solving we talked about -- to command this kind of income.

What tools do quality bookkeepers use nowadays?

At the heart of a virtual bookkeeper's toolbox is accounting software. For example, the one we often recommend is Xero.com. We also encourage our students to use Quickbooks Online. These tools take care of the vast majority of tasks you need to perform great work as a bookkeeper.

Other tools are basic and probably already available to you, such as a computer and a high-speed internet connection.

Say I wanted to start a bookkeeping business. What would my startup costs be?

This is one of the best aspects of a bookkeeping business: low startup costs.

You can start your bookkeeping business for less than $1,500, assuming you have a decent computer and basic office supplies.

The biggest part of the investment, both start-up and ongoing, is in yourself: learning! It's in developing your own skills and becoming a real craftsman at the art of bookkeeping.

As your bookkeeping business grows, you’ll need to continue to invest in new technology and supplies. Again, however, you must continue to reinvest in your own learning never being satisfied with where you are in your learning.

This is the mark of a real professional. I've been doing this for more than 16 years and I spend -- at a minimum -- 40 hours per year learning new skills and improving existing ones.

Your Turn: Do you have any questions for Ben on how to become a bookkeeper?

Interested in becoming a bookkeeper? Learn how at learntobeabookkeeper.com.

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Maryann Akinboyewa is the Assistant PR Coordinator at Taylor Media.

The end of summer means it’s time to go back to school, and for many of you, it means heading to college.

As an incoming college freshman, you’ll feel tempted to bring or buy everything you see in the “dorm survival” section of the store.

Let this recent college grad be the first to say: Don’t.

Many students show up on campus with tons of stuff they never use, and some have overlooked crucial dorm necessities. I spoke with several college students and recent grads for their suggestions on what to buy for your dorm room and what to skip.

Dorm Must-Haves

You’re definitely going to be happy you bought these items. Just make sure to compare prices before you buy to get the best deal.

Look for back-to-school promos, discounts and promos using sites like RetailMeNot, or try one of these browser extensions to automatically find the best price. To earn a little money back on your purchase, buy through one of these cash-back websites.

1. Minifridge

Whether you’re looking to store leftovers from the dining hall, cook your own quick meals in a dorm kitchen or just keep a few cold soft drinks, a minifridge can come in handy.

On nights you’re up late finishing a paper or studying, you’ll be glad to reach into your fridge for a late-night snack or beverage.

Check with your university to see if they offer any special deals on minifridges. Some colleges rent fridges or give significant discounts when you purchase them at the campus store. If that’s not an option, try Craigslist, Target, Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

2. Flip-Flops

Promise me you won’t be the freshman who goes barefoot in a communal bathroom. Yuck!

Bring a pair of flip-flops. You’ll be grateful when you’re braving the shower shared with 20 or 30 other freshmen.

3. Fan

Nothing is worse than burning up in a dorm room!

Unfortunately, many freshmen are stuck in outdated dorms without air conditioning, and in some places, it’s too humid to open the windows. You’ll definitely be happy to have a personal fan blowing cool(ish) air toward you.

4. Mattress Pad

Every college is different, but one thing I heard across the board was that dorm room mattresses are often uncomfortable!

For your own sanity (and the sake of your neck and back), get yourself a mattress pad. Ask an friend or family member if they still have theirs, or compare prices at Wal-Mart, eBay, Target, Amazon or Kmart.

5. Extra-Long Sheets

When I moved to college, I downsized from my comfy queen-size bed to an extra-long twin bed and had to buy new sheets.

Check with your housing department before you arrive on campus to find out what size your dorm room bed will be, then look for deals on this unusual sheet size.

Unnecessary Dorm Items

While some of these items are fun to have, they’re not crucial. Save your cash and skip these purchases:

1. Microwave

As a freshman, you’ll likely eat most of your meals in the dining hall. Plus, many dorms have microwaves in communal lounges or kitchens, and some schools prohibit students from having microwaves in their rooms.

2. Decorations

While decorating can be fun, it doesn’t have to break the bank! Instead of springing for framed posters or Christmas lights, try DIY decor.

I keep my room decorations pretty simple. I make collages of artwork or magazine clippings,” says Julia, a rising senior at Williams College. “Handmade decorations are the best!”

3. Printer

While a laptop is almost essential, a personal printer? Not so much.

Many college campuses offer free printing in the library, and some dorms have printing labs in their basements. Check with your residence advisor to see what amenities are offered in your hall.

4. TV

Unless you’re getting a hand-me-down from an older sibling or bringing one from home, don’t buy a brand-new TV for your dorm room. While it’s nice to have a bigger screen to watch when others are around, Netflix on your laptop is just fine and it beats wasting money on something you may hardly use.

It was cool to have [a TV] for whenever there was some show I wanted to catch, but you don't need one,” says Agnes, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland. “You mostly never have time to watch it and you could always catch things online the next day.”

Freshman year is fun, but it shouldn’t break the bank. With the right preparation, the transition into your new dorm will be easy and budget-friendly. Best of luck, Class of 2019!

Your Turn: What do you think of these dorm essentials? What did you love having, and what did you wish you hadn’t bought?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Maryann Akinboyewa is a social media strategist and writer.

Pull any bill out of your wallet. See the dark green numbers on the top-left and top-right corners? They could mean your bill is worth much more than its face value.

If a serial number’s digits are unique or interesting, collectors might be willing to pay big bucks for it -- hundreds or even thousands of dollars. You’ll make the most profit off a $1 bill with a fancy serial number, since its face value is lower than, say, a $20 bill, but it’s worth scanning all your cash.

Want to see if any of your bills are worth way more than $1 or $5? Here’s what to look for.

1. Low Numbers

Collectors love bills with low serial numbers, such as those below 1,000 or 100 (eg. 00000100). On eBay, these kind of bills can sell for anywhere from $20 to $100.

The lower the serial number, the more valuable the note is considered to be; a bill with the serial number 00000001 could be worth $15,000, according to SavingAdvice.com.

2. High Numbers

People also enjoy collecting the high numbers, and these can be even more valuable than lower numbers since there are fewer in circulation. Bills with serial numbers 99999900 and higher are especially prized.

3. Flippers

A flipper is a note whose serial number can be read right side up or upside down. On eBay, flippers range from $30-50 apiece.

4. Star Notes

Some bills have a star instead of a letter at the end of their serial numbers. Known as star notes, these bills are replacements issued when the original bill had a printing error. Because it’s against policy to produce a dollar’s serial number more than once, the mint simply adds a star to the end.

These printing errors aren’t common, so there aren't too many star notes in circulation. You’ll see $1 star notes on eBay for $5 and up.

5. Repeaters and Super Repeaters

Blocks of repeating digits (such as 27527527) are sought after, with $1 repeaters starting around $3 or $4 on eBay.

A two-digit repeating number, like 45454545, is called a super repeater and is even more valuable. Some eBay listings start at over $1,000!

6. Solids and Near Solids

A solid serial number is one where every digit is the same, like 55555555. Only about one out of every 11 million notes is a solid, according to Old Currency Values, and they can be worth $500 or more.

Since these notes are so rare, people also collect near-solids, where only one digit differs, like 55555575. These will usually bring in less money than a solid, but you’re more likely to find one.

7. Binary Bills

Binary bills have serial numbers with only two numbers, such as 29299299. A near solid would count as one of these binary bills, since it only includes two numbers. On eBay, some binary notes can go for more than $800.

8. Trinary Bills

Because of the rarity of binary bills, some collectors even ask for trinary notes, which contain three unique digits (e.g. 29329939).

9. Ladders

When the serial numbers ascends (e.g. 12345678) or descends (e.g. 8765431) in order, collectors call it a ladder. You’ll also find “near ladders,” where one or two digits break up the ladder.

Ladder notes sell for anywhere from a few dollars on eBay to an unspecified (but high) price for a bill marked 12345678 to Old Currency Values.

10. Birthdays

Some collectors want bills with a specific year or date in the serial number, perhaps a famous date or one meaningful to them. For example, 02162006 might be valuable to a collector whose child was born February 16, 2006.

A serial number that just includes the year is also desirable, such as 10901985 or 10002010.

11. Radars and Super Radars

Radar serial numbers read the same backwards and forwards, like a palindrome. For example, 06288260. A good condition, uncirculated $1 radar could sell for about $25.

If only the end two digits are different (like 27777772), you’ve got a super radar, which is much more rare and valuable. Even dollar bills with this type of serial number can sell for $70 and up on eBay.

12. Consecutives

When you have two or more separate bills with consecutive serial numbers, like 25348793 and 25348794, you have one of these series. They’re not uncommon, since you can get consecutive bills at any bank, but can be valuable if they also fit into another category on this list.

13. Doubles

Doubles occur when a serial number includes pairs of numbers, such as 24459387. The most valuable type of this bill is called a quad double, when a serial number has four sets of doubles (e.g. 55998833).

14. Double Quads

While technically they’re a version of a quad double, bills whose serial numbers consist of two sets of four of the same number are called double quads. (Confusing, isn’t it?)

For example, 77776666 is a double quad. These bills are rarer and more valuable.

15. Bookends

When the serial number has the same two or three digits on both ends, it’s called a bookend. Three-number bookends, like 36584365, are more valuable than two-digit bookends, like 36829736. Prices start around $3 for a $1 bookend on eBay.

Your Turn: Do you have any of these bills, and would you sell them to a collector?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Maryann Akinboyewa is a social media strategist and writer.

Gone are the days of scouring the Internet for deals and coupon codes. Instead, use browser extensions to make saving money while shopping online nearly effortless.

Whether you choose Chrome, Firefox or Safari, add these extensions to your browser to make shopping and saving even simpler and faster. They’ll help you automate your discounts, earn points and rewards, and acquire coupon codes without spending time combing through online forums -- saving you time while they save you money.

Here are seven browser extensions that help you save money -- and a few of them even help you earn cash and rewards as well.

1. Honey

When you’re ready to check out during online shopping, Honey will pop up on the right of your screen with available sales and coupon codes. Simply click “Try Codes” to test whether any of them are applicable to your purchase. If so, you’ll instantly save money! Either way, you’ve saved yourself the time you’d normally spend Googling “coupon code [retailer name].”

Works with: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera

2. Invisible Hand

Planning a big trip? Don’t jet out without downloading this browser extension! In addition to helping you out with your online shopping, Invisible Hand will automatically find the lowest price when you search for flights, hotels and rental cars.

While you’re shopping, Invisible Hand will discreetly notify you if the product or flights you’re browsing are offered at a lower price on another site. Simply scroll through a drop-down menu with price comparisons and click on the link to a cheaper option.

The tool boasts that it’s helped users save more than $1 billion so far, though the average savings per purchase is closer to $7.50. Still, that adds up!

Works with: Chrome, Firefox and Safari

3. The Camelizer

Are you an Amazon, Best Buy or Newegg shopper? Consider downloading The Camelizer.

This browser extension will give you a product’s price history without leaving the retailer’s page. You can also set up alerts, so that when a product’s price drops, you will be one of the first to know!

International Amazon shoppers, this one’s for you! If you’re in the U.K., Germany, France, Japan or Canada, The Camelizer can help you save money.

Works with: Chrome, Firefox and Safari

4. Coupons at Checkout

Coupons at Checkout automatically finds coupon codes without you needing to search. When you’re checking out, look at the coupon code box. If Coupons at Checkout has found one or more potential options, the box will be highlighted in red. Click on the box to see available codes and apply one to your order.

With more than 100,000 e-commerce sites in its database, Coupons at Checkout is bound to help with your savings.

Works with: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari

5. CouponCabin Sidekick

If you’re shopping online at one of the more than 1,800 retailers the site covers, the CouponCabin Sidekick will display a small bar at the top of your screen with any available coupon offers. You might save money on your purchase, get free shipping or enjoy another deal.

Even better? The Sidekick also helps you earn up to 10% cash back from your purchases. When you search for an item -- say, bathing suits -- you’ll see the amount of cash back displayed right in your search results.

Works with: IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari

6. PriceBlink

While you’re shopping on one site, PriceBlink is busy scanning thousands of merchants to see if any of them offer a lower price on the same item. If it finds one or more matches, it displays a small bar at the top of your screen with a drop-down menu of other options. One click takes you to the site of your choice for a better deal.

If you’re browsing one particular site, like GAP.com, PriceBlink checks to see whether the retailer offers any coupons or deals, then shows you the options. That way, you can consider your savings before ever making it to the checkout page. If there isn’t a deal right then, you can always add the item to your PriceBlink Wish List to wait for a promotion.

Works with: Chrome, Firefox, Safari

7. Wallaby

Do you have several credit cards, each with a different points and rewards system? It can be tough to know which card is best to use for which purchase, especially when you earn different amounts of points for different categories of purchases (like groceries, electronics or clothing).

The Wallaby Browser Extension helps you earn the most rewards from your purchase by telling you which credit card to use for each transaction. Just shop online like normal and when you’re ready to check out, just click the Wallaby icon to see which of your credit cards will earn you the most rewards or cash back.

Works with: Chrome

Your Turn: What’s your favorite browser extension for online shopping? Let us know in the comments!

Maryann Akinboyewa is a social media strategist and writer.

Do you plan your online shopping based around the day of the week? You should!

You may already know about finding great deals based on the time of year or month, but even the day of the week can affect the price you’ll pay. For example, did you know Wednesday at 1 a.m. is the best time to purchase airline tickets? The travel industry isn’t the only one. In fact, many retailers will wait until certain days to release their discounts.

Curious about what days of the week are best for shopping at your favorite online stores? Rather Be Shopping recently posted a guide on when and where to shop online and score the best deals. Here are a few of the retailer sites to check out:

Michaels.com

Are you a passionate DIY-er? You’re in luck! The arts and crafts retail chain Michaels releases in-store and online coupons on Sunday mornings, so try waiting until the end of the week to score awesome deals. Coupons can range from 30-60% off!

AbeBooks.com

Headed back to school in the fall? AbeBooks sells 1,000+ books and textbooks worldwide. Every Monday, AbeBooks offers new coupons and book deals. Offers can vary from 10% to 50% off.

BananaRepublic.com

You don’t have to break the bank to shop at Banana! Every Wednesday, Banana Republic adds new items to their sales category. In addition, they release new coupons, so you can even save on full-price items.

OfficeDepot.com

Sundays are the best days to shop Office Depot’s Deal Center. Office Depot coupons also tend to pop up on Sundays and Mondays.

Gap.com

Most of Gap’s coupons come out on Tuesdays. Offers vary and can include up to 40% off your entire online order! Here are a few more ways to save money at Gap.

LandsEnd.com

Tuesday is the best day to shop at the clothing retailer Lands’ End, both in terms of site-wide savings and deals within specific clothing categories.

BestBuy.com

Don’t forget your tech products! Every Friday, Best Buy releases new coupon codes with discounts. The deals are usually category specific and involve savings on HDTVs, laptops and appliances.

Want more savings? Head on over to Rather Be Shopping to find out the best days to shop at these online retailers.

Your Turn: Do you plan your shopping around the day of the week?

Maryann Akinboyewa is a social media strategist and writer. Say hello on twitter @himaryann!

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to save an extra buck?

While we’ve shared ideas on everything from the practical to the downright weird (um, permanent makeup?), we gleamed a few new tactics from the Huffington Post when they asked their some popular bloggers and financial experts: What’s the weirdest thing you did to save money?

The lesson learned from these financial gurus: anything is possible when it comes to saving, and you can always come up with more weird ways to save money. Though not every tip here will be applicable to you, there’s always another option for saving or cutting expenses. Nothing is off limits, so don’t be afraid to try out some of these methods to see what works for your lifestyle.

Here are five of our favorite strange strategies from the roundup:

1. Search the Lost and Found for a Free Swimsuit

After realizing the hotel he checked into had a pool, Jeff Yeager of the Ultimate Cheapstake decided not to buy a new swimsuit and instead asked the front desk clerk if he could take the swimsuit in the Lost & Found. Not only did the clerk say yes, she even allowed Jeff to keep it because it had been in the lost and found for more than 30 days. Score!

“Lesson learned,” says Jeff. “It never hurts to ask.”

2. Buy Secondhand Ski List Passes

Maria Nedeva of The Money Principle stood at the bottom of the ski slope and asked people who finished skiing for the day to sell their ski lift passes at a discounted rate. She asked 20 people and got three ski lift passes as a result of her efforts. Not bad considering ski passes can often cost more than $100!

“It was a powerful and empowering experience that took me far beyond my comfort zone,” Maria said.

3. Dress in Costume for a Free Burrito

Who doesn’t love Chipotle Burritos? While in college, David of Young Adult Money and his buddies dressed in costume during Halloween and scored free burritos. David and his friends even went so far to go to six different Chipotle’s to collect free burritos at each.

Though Chipotle no longer gives free burritos during Halloween, they do offer a discounted burrito to celebrate the nation’s scariest holiday. Visit the store in costume next Halloween for a $3 Chipotle burrito.

4. Wax Your Hair Away at Home

Talk about brave! Shannon of Financially Blonde waxed her own eyebrows right at home.

“The entire experience scared me and I almost dripped hot wax on my eyeball, but I learned that I could do anything if I just put my mind to it,” Shannon told the Huffington Post. “I now wax my own eyebrows regularly, and I have no fears whenever I do it."

5. Sleep in Your Car

Forget those hotel fees! During a trip to Cedar Point amusement park, Brian of Luke1428 and his wife opted to sleep in their car instead of paying for a hotel. Though Brian says he would never do it again, we bet they saved themselves a pretty penny that night.

Want to know other weird ways people have saved money? Read the full post over at the Huffington Post.

Your Turn: What weird or unusual ways have you saved money? What lessons did you learn from your experience(s)? 

Maryann Akinboyewa is a social media strategist and writer. Say hello on Twitter @himaryann.

With college tuition rising each year, it’s no surprise more college students are turning to alternative methods help pay for their degrees.

These frugal students aren’t just working minimum-wage jobs at the mall or relying on unpaid internships for a future full-time job offer. Instead, they’ve traded convention for creativity, figuring out creative ways to not only save money in college, but also bring in extra cash!

Back in October, we asked college students nationwide to send us their strategies as part of a scholarship contest. We received tons of responses from students sharing the craziest, funniest, most interesting, unique and creative ways they’ve saved or made extra money.

Looking for a little inspiration to help pay your own college costs? Here are six great ideas from the runners-up in the competition.

1. Sell Study Guides to Other College Students

Exams coming up? Consider selling old class notes and study guides to other students for a fixed price.

“I don't have much spare time to work a part-time job during the school year,” says Chris, a freshman at University of Kentucky. To help fund his studies, he came up with this creative way to share his past work.

“I created an online drop-box with old notes, quizzes, and exams for all of my classes. Anyone has access to this drop-box for a minimal one-time fee of $5.99. I've been able to provide over 75 students with an aid to their studies.”

Chris has pocketed nearly $450, just for sharing something that’s probably sitting at the bottom of most students’ closets.

2. Offer Your Friendship as a Service

Love making new friends and encouraging other people? You could make extra cash just by offering your friendship as a service.

“I decided to place an ad to spend an hour in Starbucks. I guaranteed that my laughter would be infectious and he/she would forget about their current stress for a little while. The cost was $20,” says Terkesha, a sophomore at University of Phoenix.

Let others reserve time with you to grab coffee or lunch. All you have to do is be yourself! Come with an open mind and a willingness to listen and share stories.

3. Teach Dirty Sign Language

Fluent in sign language? Put your ASL skills to work by giving signing lessons focused on interesting (read: dirty) phrases. One reader was able to make a quick buck just by teaching party guests off-color sign language.

“What started off as a fun party trick turned into an easy way to make some extra cash. My go-to ice-breaker at social events is to show a few interesting signs to a willing crowd,” says Kimberly, a junior at Western Governors University.

“Five minutes later and $50 richer, I was showing signs that would make my ASL teacher blush. Occasionally, when I’m feeling bold, I’ll make some extra cash by teaching some ‘vocab.’”

4. Become a Coffee Distributor

If you work in an office while you’re in school, does it serve coffee? Bring your Keurig machine and your favorite K-Cups to work. Sell individual cups to your coffee-loving coworkers and watch the money flow in.

“I took the house Keurig coffee machine to work and I decided to bring my K-cups and sell each cup at $1.25,” says Ruby, sophomore of University of Phoenix. “By the end of the week, I had sold out of my K-cups and made double the [amount] of my original purchase price. I had enough money to purchase more coffee, creamer, drop the price, and get gas and groceries.”

5. Hack Your Electric Bill

Utility companies in some states and municipalities allow you to pay different rates for your electricity depending whether you’re using it during high-demand times (like weekday evenings) or low-demand periods (like in the middle of the night). The difference can be significant. For example, Portland offers its residents savings of up to eight cents per kilowatt hour for using electricity during off-peak hours.

One way to make the most of this deal: Charge several car batteries during off-peak hours, then use them to power your lights in the evening.

“This technique reverses the time at which electricity [is pulled] from the power company, and therefore [reduces] rates for the electricity in comparison to all the other people using it after the sun goes down,” says Forest, a freshman at the University of Utah who learned this strategy from his grandfather.

6. Get Paid to Review Hostels

Taking an international trip sometime soon? Put your photography and writing skills to work by signing up to be a paid reviewer on hostelz.com.

One reader was able to support himself while abroad by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly from different hostels. “The covertness with which I took pictures would have made 007 proud,” says Neal, a senior at Brock University in Canada. “A forward roll and (pew-pew-pew!) that mouldy tap was captured. A backflip and (pew-pew-pew!) those stained sheets were public knowledge.”

“My moonlighting earned me many things including: A night’s accommodation and a beer [in Prague] and an Acropolis ticket and a slushy [in Athens],” he explains. For each 500-word hostel review with a few photos, Neal earned €10 (about $15 U.S.).

Your Turn: Are you a current college student or recent grad? What’s the most unique way you’ve ever made or saved extra cash?