ScoreCard Research Nick Loper - The Penny Hoarder

The rise of the $3.50 coffee has earned a special place in hell in the minds of many personal finance professionals.

“Just cut out this one daily splurge, dump your savings into an index fund, and you’ll be a millionaire in no time!” they shout from the rooftops. Starbucks, as the most prominent brand in this arena, takes the brunt of their ire.

My wife and I probably spend an above average amount there, though it’s definitely an above-average amount for people in the “personal finance” realm. We visit once or twice a week on average, and may spend $500 a year. It’s not an insignificant amount.

However, it’s often one of the highlights of the week because we walk the 3-mile round-trip together. It’s great exercise, fresh air and conversation. For that kind of quality time together without distractions or interruptions, it’s a small price to pay. Because of that, we consider it a healthy habit rather than a financially destructive one.

Still, we’ve become savvier Starbucks consumers over the years. If you have a similar relationship with “The Buck,” as I like to call it, try implementing these tactics to save money without canceling your coffee breaks.

1. Get the Starbucks App

[caption id="attachment_36757" align="aligncenter" width="640"]starbucks hacks Samantha Dunscombe - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Get the Starbucks app and sign up for the My Starbucks Rewards program.

Upon signing up, you’re immediately eligible for a free drink or food item on your birthday, plus free iced or drip coffee refills while you’re in the store. This perk is perfect for freelancers or others who occasionally like to work from a coffee shop!

For each dollar you spend, you earn two stars toward your rewards account. If you earn 300 stars in a 12-month period, you’ll earn “Gold” status, which entitles you to a free drink or food item after every 125 stars earned -- in other words, every $62.50 you spend.

Considering some frappuccinos run $5 or more a pop, you would only have to buy about 11 of them in 12 months for them to start paying for themselves.

2. Get Gift Cards

[caption id="attachment_36755" align="aligncenter" width="640"]starbucks hacks Samantha Dunscombe - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Our latest hack is finding discounted Starbucks gift cards through places like Gift Card Granny. These marketplaces match gift card buyers and sellers, with discounts up to 35%.

For Starbucks, at the time of this writing, the average discount is 7.9%, and some discounts are as high as 10.8% off face value. If you know it’s money you’ll eventually spend, it makes sense to prepay for your coffee and save a bit.

Then, you just load the gift card balance into your Starbucks app and use it like a normal credit card balance at the register.

3. Rethink Your Drink

[caption id="attachment_36742" align="aligncenter" width="640"]starbucks hacks Image from Morgan Dunscombe[/caption]

I was never much of a coffee drinker, so I used to get the froufrou drinks like the blended frappuccinos, white chocolate mochas and caramel macchiatos. Aside from being packed with sugar and calories, these drinks are among the most expensive options on the menu.

Instead, I’ve switched to simple iced or drip coffee with syrup (usually vanilla), adding my own milk to taste. This generally saves a dollar or more per trip and is a healthier option as well.

4. Other Starbucks “Hacks”

[caption id="attachment_36758" align="aligncenter" width="640"]starbucks hacks Samantha Dunscombe - The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

These are a few additional strategies I’ve used or heard about from others. They might not always work, but they’re worth a shot.

Upsize Your Cup

When ordering drip coffee, ask for a “tall drip in a grande cup,” which will give you extra room to add milk while still only paying for the tall size. A little extra space also helps keep you from spilling your coffee as you walk or drive.

Light Ice

I always ask for light ice with my iced coffee because often, the cup is so full of ice you don’t get as much coffee as you’d like. It’s not necessarily a cash saver, but this request will get you more caffeine and less water for your money.

The Do It Yourself Hack

My wife finds this one a little sneaky, but some people will order four shots over ice in a venti cup then fill it the rest of the way with the complimentary milk. It’s essentially the same drink as a venti iced latte, but it will be $1 to $1.50 less.

And of course there’s the easiest hack of all: bring your own cup. You’ll only save 10 cents on each order, but combine it with any of these other strategies, and those savings will add up.

Nick Loper is the Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing resource and community for part-time entrepreneurs. On the top-rated Side Hustle Show podcast, Nick and his guests explore a different business idea each week.

 

Editor's note: This post originally ran in April 2015.

Students and professionals are weighing the costs and benefits of traditional higher education against more practical -- and affordable -- online options.

The online education industry is poised to surpass $240 billion by 2021, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

But where will that those billions go? Who will cash in, and how can you get your piece?

A large portion of it goes to the instructors: the people who create educational content around their expertise in subjects that interest them.

In fact, I’ve earned more than $5,000 in the last few months from an online course I launched in November.

The only “qualifications” I have are from my own research and experience; there are no professional certifications required.

Here are a couple of examples of successful courses you can learn from, plus what you’ll need to know to create your own online course.

Cashing in on Expertise: Two Great Examples

John Azzi and Eliot Arntz earned more than $1 million in 2014 for their course on iOS 8 app development and its new Swift programming language.

Their success was due to a combination of solid, useful content, excellent customer support, and of course, some opportune marketing efforts on tech-friendly platforms like Reddit and Product Hunt.

The course took the pair about three months and $1,000 to fully complete, an investment that has since paid for itself many times over.

Rob Percival, a former high school math teacher from Cambridge, England, found similar success. With four courses on various programming topics, he’s netted over $1 million in the last nine months.

With income from a web hosting company he owned to support him, he put in three months of full-time work on his first course, creating more than 30 hours of instructional content. The problem was, when he released it, no one was buying.

Rob made the difficult decision to allow students to access the course for free in order to build up some positive testimonials, and then he went on to sell it to his database of web hosting customers.

Not all of them were interested in the how-to-code subject matter, but a large enough percentage were that the course began to attract attention and sales from strangers as well.

What Could You Teach?

While the examples above focus on very technical topics, there are online courses on a wide variety of subjects.

Naturally, courses with well-defined outcomes that may help the student earn more money tend to perform well, but that doesn’t there’s zero market for non-technical subjects.

Start by taking inventory of your own skills and experiences, particularly if you’ve overcome some challenges or struggles in the past. Odds are, others are struggling with those same challenges and could learn from your expertise.

For instance, if there is a specific software program you use in your job, perhaps you could create the definitive guide to that software.

That’s exactly what Brett Kelly did with Evernote Essentials, what Joseph Michael did with Learn Scrivener Fast, and what Matt Donley did with Master Sketchup.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that good old Microsoft Excel is one of the most sought-after subjects on the online education platform Udemy.

Test Your Ideas and Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

After reading some of these crazy success stories, I wanted to try my hand at creating a course as well.

The first course I built was on hiring and working with virtual assistants in your small business, and it was a complete flop. Even though it took me three or four weeks to fully outline and produce the videos for the course, it’s earned me less than $400 in the 12 months it’s been available.

Still, I was determined to give online teaching another shot. After having some success with a Kindle book launch, I had a lot of peers emailing me and asking for advice on their upcoming book launches.

It was a non-technical topic, but one that was in high demand.

That course, Kindle Launch Plan, earned more than $4,000 in its first three months and continues to earn a modest amount of passive income each month. It took about a month to outline and produce, but has turned into a valuable asset and proved that I could make money with online courses.

Where to Host Your Course

After you decide on a topic for your course, the next question is where to host it. How will customers find out about it?

John and Eliot above hosted their iOS programming courses on their own website, meaning they had to configure the video hosting, payment processing and general technical structure.

They’re programmers, though, so it wasn’t an issue.

Rob decided to host his course on Udemy, one of the largest marketplaces for selling online courses with more than 5 million registered students. Udemy makes it very easy for instructors to get started, and they handle all the payment processing and video hosting.

Here’s where it gets tricky: revenue share.

Naturally, Udemy needs to make a profit, but they also rely on excellent instructors like Rob to build courses for their site.

The current royalty structure is set up so if Udemy delivers the student to your course through their own organic discovery or through a promotion they run, they’re going to keep the bulk of the revenue -- up to 75% in some cases.

The compromise they’ve come up with is for any customers you as the instructor drive, you get to keep 97% of the revenue, provided they sign-up through your unique tracking link.

When I built my Kindle Launch course, I decided to host it with Udemy because I didn’t want to get bogged down in the technical details of hosting it myself, and I liked that I would keep the lion’s share of the earnings on students I referred.

I still wanted access to their database of 5 million customers, and reasoned it was OK to split revenue with them on any of those sign-ups because they would likely be incremental students anyway.

Don’t Forget About Marketing

I think the biggest mistake people make when creating an online course is having a “build it and they will come” mentality.

Whether you host the course yourself or on a platform like Udemy, you’re still going to be responsible for fueling the initial traction and enrollments.

In the million-dollar success stories above, both parties had large email lists of potential customers they could reach out to. That means if you’re thinking of launching a course this year, you need to start thinking now about how you’re going to let people know about it.

One tactic that worked well for me on my course was recruiting a couple of high-profile affiliate partners, people with sizable email lists of their own who I’d developed friendships with and helped in the past.

They created a special exclusive offer for their audiences that turned out to be a win-win-win for all parties.

I’m looking forward to creating more courses in the future because I believe this is probably more of a portfolio business. Will you join in?

Your Turn: What skills could you teach in this rapidly growing online education market?

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!

Nick Loper is the Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs. He also hosts the top-rated Side Hustle Show podcast, exploring new business ideas and tactics every Thursday.

Daymond John. Donna Karan. Marc Ecko. Betsey Johnson.

What do they have in common? They all made their fortunes as forward-thinking fashion designers.

But there’s another name to add to that list: Elaine Heney.

Never heard of her? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

Heney is one of thousands of budding fashionistas earning extra money on Merch by Amazon, a print-on-demand service for T-shirts that the retail giant quietly rolled out in late 2015.

Last year, Heney sold more than $128,000 worth of shirts and explained that because Amazon has so much organic traffic, it does most of the marketing for you.

If you’ve always wanted to break into the fashion business, but don’t have the budget to head to Milan, you can upload your designs to Amazon (subject to trademark approval of course) and let it handle the printing and shipping for you.

That means you can start your online fashion empire with no inventory, no upfront costs and no marketing budget.

Earning Power

Heney is something of a serial entrepreneur. She’s sold mobile apps in the iTunes app store, private label products on Amazon, and now T-shirts. Her T-shirt business earned her around $53,000 in profit last year, working -- she says -- just 10 hours a week.

Amazon lets you set your own price for each shirt. The suggested price is $19.99, which earns you around $8 in profit. Each shirt is eligible for free Prime shipping, as well.

[caption id="attachment_52829" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]sell t-shirts online Image courtesy Elaine Heney[/caption]

Get on the Waitlist

The drawback is that the Merch program is currently by invitation only. You can request your invite here, but it can take a few months to get approved, and you may or may not receive an email notification when your account is active.

I applied in November, and Merch approved me in late January. However, I didn’t find out I was approved until I logged in and saw I could begin uploading designs.

Your Merch account works in tiers. At first, it will only allow you to have 10 designs. Once you sell your first 10 shirts, you’ll level up to 25 designs. Once you sell 25 shirts, Merch will bump you up to the 100-design level, and so on. These upgrades aren’t immediate or automatic, though, so there’s some patience involved as this program grows and evolves.

While you wait to be approved, you can get started in a couple of ways. There’s an interesting workaround that involves setting up your own online store with Shopify and integrating it with a different print-on-demand T-shirt supplier and an Amazon seller account. Read more about this process here.

Heney recommended getting started by creating a few designs and testing them on platforms like Redbubble, Zazzle and CafePress.

And that’s an important point to make: Amazon didn’t invent this business model. Print-on-demand companies have been around for years.

The biggest difference between Amazon and these other marketplaces is the traffic volume -- and it’s not even close. According to TrafficEstimate.com, Amazon receives 90 times more daily visitors than Redbubble, 110 times more daily visitors than Zazzle and 220 times more daily visitors than CafePress. All those extra shoppers on Amazon add up to a lot more free exposure and potential sales.

Come Up With Design Ideas

You don’t even need any graphic design skills or a natural artistic talent, Heney explained, adding, “If I drew something, you wouldn’t even recognize it.”

The three main T-shirt categories that have worked well for Heney are:

1. Evergreen topics: professions, family roles, sports, hobbies, etc.

2. Trending topics: current news stories, memes, etc. One of Heney’s biggest sellers last year was an anti-Trump T-shirt.

3. Seasonal topics: Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Halloween, Father’s Day, etc.

If Father’s Day is approaching, Heney said she might create a design that combines two interests, such as “best dog dad ever,” or “I’m a dad and I love gardening.” Both of these slogans are pretty narrowly focused, but it doesn’t cost you anything to create them, and they’re perfect for the dad who’s excited about his dog or garden.

I’ll second the trending topic idea. Since my account was approved right around the time of Trump’s inauguration, I noticed the #alternativefacts meme trending. My wife created a couple “alternative facts” T-shirts, and those have been her best sellers so far -- no outside marketing required.

One tool you can use is MerchResearch.com, where you can type in a keyword to see all the Merch listings. This will show you what other designs are out there and possibly inspire you to improve on them or come up with your own unique spin.

Amazon will also show you the best-seller rank for each item in the Clothing category -- the lower the number, the more units it sells. Heney said anything under 100,000 in Clothing is probably making consistent sales.

Create the Designs

Even though Heney isn’t a graphic designer, she can create most of her own T-shirt designs with apps like Over and Wordswag. She hires freelancers on Upwork for her more complex designs involving images. (When ordering in bulk, you can get designs done for as little as $4 each.)

In our house, we use Gimp (a free Photoshop alternative), Wordswag ($4.99) and good ol’ PowerPoint ($109.99).

Surprisingly, sometimes the simplest designs sell best. Last year, a shirt that simply read “Nasty Woman” in plain text font became the top-selling shirt on Amazon.

In terms of the technical requirements, your design files must be 4,500 by 5,400 pixels and 300 dpi, and the design must have a transparent background. Once you apply for an invitation, you can download a template directly from Amazon.

How to Use the Merch by Amazon Platform

The Merch platform is straightforward and simple to use:

1. Upload your design.

2. Pick up to five colors you want your shirt to be available in. (Amazon suggests the most popular colors to help.)

3. Pick your price. Amazon will show you the estimated royalty at each price point you type in. The cost is around $12 per shirt, so if you price your shirts at Amazon’s suggested $19.99, you can make $8 per sale.

Your shirt will go through an approval process before it goes live on Amazon. On average, the approval process takes about 12 hours, but It can sometimes take a few days.

Marketing Your T-Shirts and Growing Your Fashion Empire

During the upload process, you’ll also have the opportunity to create a title and description for each T-shirt listing, and it makes sense to use those fields to include the keywords you’re targeting, like “father’s day,” “nasty woman,” “dog lover,” etc.

Although you could post your designs to Facebook or target trending hashtags on Twitter, Heney said the beauty of this business is just relying on Amazon to generate sales on its own.

With more than 6,000 designs under her belt, it’s clear that she wouldn’t have time to market each product individually. It’s also clear that this is a bit of a numbers game to bring in a full-time income.

Your Turn: You probably have a few fun T-shirt ideas in mind. Why not put them up for sale?

Nick Loper helps people earn money outside of their day jobs. He's an author, online entrepreneur, and life-long student in the game of business. His latest role is as Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs.

If you’ve ever found yourself shouting at the TV during “Hell’s Kitchen” or dreamed of opening your own restaurant, there’s a new way to turn your passion for cooking into a business -- without getting yelled at by Gordon Ramsay or taking out a second mortgage.

Catherine Nissen earns money hosting dinner parties at her Washington, D.C., home. She charges up to $65 a plate through EatWith, which aims to “bring chefs and foodies together one meal at a time.”

“I can fit 12 people at my table, and another eight at the counter on high stools,” Nissen said. Doing the math, a sold-out event could bring in up to $1,300. After EatWith takes its 15% cut for facilitating the transactions, Nissen would earn $1,105 for a single dinner.

Cooking up a Career Change as a Home Chef

Nissen isn’t a professional chef, but said she’s using EatWith to change her career.

“I’m not completely new to cooking,” she explained. “I mentored with a famous Lebanese chef for 8 years, but I do not have culinary school or professional kitchen experience.”

Still, the former shoe and jewelry designer is having a blast on the platform that lets her express her creativity in a new way. Since joining in April 2016, she’s experimented with new menus and pairings, and loves the “instant gratification” of seeing guests enjoy something she made.

Nissen credits her mother for inspiring her love of cooking. “She can make the most regular ingredient extraordinary,” she explained. “She is definitely a perfectionist and a very meticulous chef and she set my standards really high.”

Hosting isn’t quite a full-time income yet, but Nissen is confident it can be. To follow her passion for cooking, she’d been contemplating going to cooking school. On deciding to host with EatWith, she explained, “I felt that getting right into it, a little elbow grease and hosting street smarts, would be the best school for me.”

She added,“The difference between my dishes when I started, and my dishes now are night and day thanks to EatWith. Practice makes perfect.”

And she’s focused on growing her business.

“EatWith allows me to learn to be entrepreneurial — with someone holding my hand on the side if I need it,” Nissen explained. She’s planning partnerships with local specialty grocery stores and organizing events for local food bloggers and hotel concierges.

Feeding Strangers… In Your House?

[caption id="attachment_44695" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Catherine Nissen cooks during a dinner party at her Washington, D.C., home. Photo Courtesy Catherine Nissen Catherine Nissen cooks during a dinner party at her Washington, D.C., home. Photo Courtesy Catherine Nissen[/caption]

I asked Nissen if she was nervous inviting strangers into her home, but as she pointed out, “Most of the time the guests are more apprehensive,” adding that you can approve or decline any reservation requests through the EatWith system.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she said, smiling.

EatWith is one of several startups aiming to disrupt the restaurant industry by offering private dining experiences with awesome amateur chefs. Others include Feastly, Bon Appetour, and VizEat, which all allow you serve meals and host foodies in your home.

These platforms are free to join, but have a “rigorous” vetting process to make sure the dining experience is safe and delicious for guests all around the world.

For example, EatWith individually reviews each host’s application, and a quality control team member visits your home to evaluate the uniqueness and cleanliness of your hosting space, the taste of your food, and your overall passion.

How This Home Chef Found Her First Customers… and Keeps Them Coming Back

While Bon Appetour and VizEat cater to travelers and tourists, Nissen said her most common diners are locals out for a unique first date or a one-of-a-kind dinner party they don’t have to host. After her first couple of dinners, word began to spread, and repeat customers would bring their friends to try out the latest menu offering.

"Honestly, it all comes down to the pictures," Nissen said, after I asked her what made her listings stand out on the EatWith platform.

“We eat with our eyes first, and then our other senses come into play, especially when it’s online. I shoot every dish from two angles, and add in some shots of the venue,” she explained.

Beyond mouthwatering pictures, Nissen also improves her visibility by encouraging guests to leave reviews on EatWith. One reviewer wrote, “I will be going to her house now for my third time in the past two months, mainly for that coconut rice and to stand in her Pinterest-worthy open kitchen,” and added, “What makes this experience so memorable is Catherine's passion for cooking. She's so thoughtful and meticulous about the ingredients she uses, it will inspire you to try something new.”

Legal Considerations

Is this even legal? Do you need a food handler’s permit or liquor license?

Like many sharing economy platforms, EatWith ducks the inevitable questions about regulatory and licensing requirements; it says “each host is responsible for managing his or her own legalities and regulatory compliance,” and recommends hosts consult with an attorney.

Nissen said she obtained a regular food handler’s permit and hasn’t run into any legal issues so far. Guests bring their own wine, like they might to any other dinner party.

EatWith provides hosts with a $1 million third-party insurance policy to cover “the rare event a guest suffers some type of damage” during your event.

What It’s Like to Host Through EatWith

[caption id="attachment_44696" align="aligncenter" width="942"]Catherine Nissen cooks during a dinner party at her Washington, D.C., home. Photo Courtesy Catherine Nissen Catherine Nissen cooks during a dinner party at her Washington, D.C., home. Photo Courtesy Catherine Nissen[/caption]

On the menu this week are seared Vietnamese shrimp, chardonnay-simmered lentils and roasted chicken thighs with crispy potatoes. Nissen accepts reservations up to two months in advance, but had a few openings for dates within seven days.

When no one books a reservation, she doesn’t need to buy food or pay a waitstaff, making it a low-risk, low-overhead operation.

At $65 per plate, Nissen nets $55.25 per guest after the EatWith platform fee. If she serves 10 people, that’s $552.50 in revenue, of which she might spend $100 or $120 on the raw ingredients -- netting her $430 or so.

The dinner parties last two hours, on top of which Nissen has several hours of shopping, prep and clean-up time. EatWith processes her payouts three times a week.

Naturally, the more guests you can accommodate at a single event, the better your profit.

“Six guests is my minimum,” Nissen explained, but added she did a few smaller events when she started, both to practice her recipes and build up some positive reviews.

How does hosting meals compare with her previous careers? According to Nissen, “Cooking is way more fun! EatWith gives me the freedom and flexibility to set my own menu, schedule and dining experience.”

Your Turn: Would you ever host strangers in your house for dinner? What would you serve?

Nick Loper is the author of Buy Buttons: The Fast-Track Strategy to Make Extra Money and Start a Business in Your Spare Time. He also hosts the top-rated Side Hustle Show podcast at SideHustleNation.com, a growing community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs.

Rob Stephenson calls himself the Flea Market Flipper.

While it might not be the most glamourous side business, he earned $30,000 last year working 10-15 hours a week.

Lately, an average month might fetch $3,500, and his best month topped $10,000 in profit.

Stephenson’s a real estate inspector by day, but you can find him at the Orlando, Florida, flea market every weekend, hunting for the next profitable “flip.”

He’s also a regular at the local thrift stores, which supply a steady stream of inventory.

Stephenson does most of his deals within 10 miles of home, but he occasionally finds himself driving up to two hours for a profitable item he found online.

Want to give it a shot for yourself? Here’s how to get started with “flea market flipping.”

How to Find Resellable Products

To get started, the first thing you need is something to sell.

To source his inventory, Stephenson has a few favorite spots -- in addition to the local weekend flea market.

Among them are classifieds sites and apps like Craigslist, OfferUp and Let Go.

While Craigslist is very competitive because of its popularity, Stephenson explains there can still be some great finds if you act quickly.

So what does he look for?

“I look for odd items,” he says. “I look for weird stuff.”

Stephenson once bought a prosthetic leg for $30. He sold it on eBay the next day for $1,000.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

That’s the basis of this business model: finding unique or undervalued products and reselling them for a profit.

He suggests searching Google for regular or seasonal markets in your area, as well as the newer online marketplaces.

On OfferUp, he found a high-end exercise bike used in physical therapy offices.

He discovered these bikes in new condition often sold for $6,000 to $7,000, and offered $200 for it -- slightly less than what the seller was asking. The seller agreed, and Stephenson sold it for $2,800.

Finds like these are rare, but paint the picture of what’s possible if you’re constantly on the lookout for potential deals. The more unique or specialized an item is, the greater the profit potential.

For instance, the market for used iPhones is pretty well-established and efficient -- all sales will gravitate toward the average price.

With “odd items,” Stephenson says, there are more inefficiencies and profit opportunities. The goal is to quickly sell items, but he admits sometimes they sit in his garage and collect dust for months.

“I would just rather keep the item until it sells for what I am looking for,” he explains. “This year I sold a Gagglia Cappucino machine that I had sitting in our guest room closet for over a year, but it made me $1,000 after I dusted it off.”

What to Consider Before You Buy Anything

Aside from looking for “odd” items, Stephenson tries to find as much information about a product as he can.

Since there usually aren’t any barcodes to scan, it generally means checking a brand name and model number, if applicable.

You can try asking the seller for some background on the item, he says, but often they won’t know any more than you.

Especially at flea markets,

“They’re probably re-selling the item too, from a storage auction or estate sale or something like that,” Stephenson explains.

If it seems like this business relies on taking advantage of people or ripping them off, he adds, the sellers are also probably selling the item for a profit, and wouldn’t agree to a deal if it wasn’t in their best interest.

Armed with whatever information he can glean from the seller and from the item itself, Rob does some basic research on the free eBay app to see similar items’ selling prices.

“I generally won’t buy anything I can’t sell for more than $100, and a typical purchase is anywhere from $10 to $40,” he explains. “My wife is starting in this business selling baby items, and she won’t buy anything for more than $3.”

Flea market flipping can be pretty affordable to get started with, and it’s a business with very little overhead. If you can turn $40 into $100 every weekend, you’re multiplying your money much faster than in a savings account or mutual fund.

When it comes to fixing broken items, Stephenson says, “I am always looking for items that don't need any repair, but the majority of rehab work I do myself. I utilize the power of YouTube to figure out how to fix some things.”

He says the tools he uses most often are a multimeter to test electronics, a tape measure for dimensions and the Magic Eraser for cleaning up marks.

“Honestly, the most important tool I use in buying and selling is probably my smartphone,” Stephenson says.

Making Money With Your Inventory: Selling on eBay and Everywhere Else

Of course, buying random items and storing them in your garage isn’t the point.

You only get paid when your item sells.

Stephenson uses Craigslist, OfferUp, Let Go and eBay to sell his inventory, but says selling on eBay is his favorite.

“With eBay, you can reach a nationwide or worldwide audience of buyers,” he explains.

When crafting his listings, he’ll set the price at or around the projected value of the item he found during his research.

He avoids auction listings in favor of “Buy it Now” listings.

“If I can get 7-10 people watching the item on eBay, I know I have it priced right and it will usually sell,” Stephenson says.

If the item hasn’t sold after 30 days, he lowers the price and repeats the process.

Will You Try Flipping?

Stephenson’s advice for people getting started in this business is be consistent and invest the time each week in product sourcing.

“If you’re not out there finding deals, you’re not making money,” he says.

Your Turn: Will you try flea market flipping? Have you ever bought and sold an item from Craigslist or another marketplace?

Nick Loper helps people earn money outside of their day job. He's an author, online entrepreneur, and lifelong student in the game of business. His latest role is as Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs.

Ever considered using knowledge of the future for financial gain?

If you knew what would happen tomorrow, you’d certainly find ways to capitalize on that, right? (And we’re talking legal ways, people!)

Hollywood uses this plot device in lots of popular time-travel movies. In Back to the Future II, Marty is advised to “put some money on the Cubbies” after their improbable World Series win. In Frequency, a young boy in the past is told to “remember the word ‘Yahoo,’” which was a high-flying stock tip when the movie aired in 2000.

Even though you don’t have the advantage of mentors from the future whispering predictions in your ear, there are still several ways to profit from your clairvoyance.

Let’s dust off those crystal balls and dive in! Here are three ways to make money predicting the future.

1. Motif Investing: Capitalize On Market Trends

Think of Motif Investing as a selection of micro-mutual funds organized around certain economic trends or industries.

Rather than investing in a traditional mutual fund that holds hundreds of positions, you might buy a Motif with 20-30 stocks all clustered around one idea like Obamacare, Cyber Security, Climate Change, or No Glass Ceilings (female-led companies).

Motif shows you the performance history of these various “motifs,” and like traditional stock investing, you can put your money where your mouth is and invest in the trends you believe in. Trades cost $9.95.

The top-performer year-to-date? Battling Cancer, up 46.5%.

And while the thematic investing element is cool, where Motif gets interesting is that users like you and me are allowed to create our own motifs. Through their Creator Royalty Program, you can earn $1 for everyone who buys or rebalances your motif.

The platform has 100,000 active customers and is growing rapidly, so these royalty earnings have the potential to add up fast if you can build a popular and successful collection of stocks.

Among the “Community Curated Motifs” I explored, the top-performers seemed to share the common threads of capitalizing on a current market trend and a clever name, like Phanatical Pharmas II, GoPro or Go Home.

If you have access to a blog, forum or other audience of people who believe what you believe, you could recruit them to join Motif and buy into your fund, then collect the royalty.

2. Instavest: Replicate the Trades of Top Investors

Like Motif, Instavest also plays in the stock market sector but with an even simpler proposition. Instead of investing in micro-mutual funds, Instavest just shows you single stock recommendations and one person’s reasoning behind their pick.

The platform will show their actual trades, performance history, and the size of their position. This level of transparency is designed to let you replicate the trades of top investors without having to do all the research yourself, and without the expensive overhead of a traditionally managed mutual fund or brokerage.

If you believe a trader’s logic to be sound, you can buy the stock through Instavest and set it to automatically sell or re-balance whenever the Lead Investor makes their next move. Trades are just $3.49.

If you make a profit and are happy with your returns, you have the option to “tip” the Lead Investor a percentage of your gain as a “thank you” for their advice.

And naturally, this is a two-sided opportunity as well; if you’ve got a knack for picking winning stocks and can make a compelling case to convince others, you may find yourself in the Lead Investor role and earning tips as the gains materialize.

Lead Investors can make up to $5,000 per successful strategy when others piggyback, according to Instavest.

That’s not bad, considering it’s on top of what you already made from your investment!

3. PredictIt: A Crowdsourced Prediction Engine

PredictIt.org is something of a crowdsourced prediction engine where you can make money predicting future events.

Some of the current predictions on the site:

  • Who will win the 2016 Presidential election?
  • Will Greece exit the Euro in 2015?
  • Which woman will be featured on the $10 bill?

Here’s how it works. You buy shares in the outcome you think will happen. For instance, if you think Hillary Clinton will win in 2016, you could buy shares in that outcome.

All shares are priced between $0.01 and $0.99 based on market-driven probability and everyone else’s predictions. The current “price” to bet on Clinton is $0.57 per share, and will almost certainly fluctuate over time.

If you buy a share of Clinton’s presidential election at $0.57, you have several options. If things are looking good for her in the primaries, the value of that share (based on market demand from the rest of the PredictIt crowd) could increase to $0.67. In that case, you could sell your share for a $0.10 profit.

Alternatively, you can wait until the election actually happens. If your prediction comes true and Clinton wins, your share is now worth $1.00, earning you a $0.43 profit. In these types of zero-sum games, your profit is funded by everyone who predicted Clinton would lose… That’s the beauty of crowdsourcing!

PredictIt earns money by charging a 10% fee on your profit.

Ready to pull out the Magic 8-Ball and start profiting from predicting the future?

Your Turn: Would you try any of these futuristic strategies for making money?

Nick Loper helps people earn money outside of their day job. He's an author, online entrepreneur, and life-long student in the game of business. His latest role is as Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs.

When you think of being on vacation, you likely imagine lounging on the beach drinking Mai Tais, or exploring new cities and taking in the sights. We all revel in our few prized days off each year and often boast about our vacation time like it’s money.

Given the importance Americans place on this time, one would expect that every employee would be sure to use every vacation day he’s offered. But that’s not the case -- 41% of Americans lose out on their vacation time every year. While some employees are stressed about falling behind on work, others worry that no one else will be able to keep on eye on things while they’re away.

In addition to these concerns, there’s also the substantial financial cost of travel. Paradise doesn’t come cheap! In fact, the average vacation for a family of four costs $4,000, according to an survey by American Express!

While I can’t offer advice to help with your workload, I can help with the cost of your vacation. What if you could actually earn money while enjoying your time away from work?

Before planning your next vacation, consider these ways to earn money while you’re out of town.

1.  Rent Out Your Home on Airbnb

Instead of letting your house or apartment sit empty while you’re away, rent out your home to offset the costs of your trip. Use Airbnb to connect with people who are looking to stay in your area.

As a host, you’ll rent your home to a visitor (or group) while you’re on vacation. The rates vary by city and neighborhood, but you could end up pocketing enough to pay for your own hotel.

Jasper Ribbers is an Airbnb host and co-author of the bestselling Airbnb book, Get Paid for Your Pad. He recommends that new hosts price their homes competitively to attract their first guests and get positive reviews. Once you have several great reviews on your profile, try raising your price a bit on your next listing. Today, Ribbers’ Amsterdam apartment commands up to $300 a night!

2. Share Your Car Using RelayRides or FlightCar

Maybe you’re not one for renting out your house to strangers, but would you consider letting them use your car? RelayRides is an online car rental community that offers money and free airport parking to people interested in renting their vehicles to other travelers.

If you’re not road-tripping to your vacation destination, why not make money with your car instead of letting it sit at the airport? You could earn up to $150 per week, or earn $0.40 per mile your vehicle is driven by renters. And if no one rents your car while you’re gone, at least you’ll have saved money on airport parking!

I was looking forward to testing out this service on my last trip, but unfortunately for me, RelayRides only accepts vehicles with less than 100,000 miles.

As I write this post, RelayRides operates out of San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX), while rival FlightCar covers those two airports plus Boston (BOS).

3. Go for a Walk With Gigwalk

Another fun way to make money on vacation is with the free Gigwalk smartphone app. Check the map and complete mini-assignments (or “gigs”) near you to earn a small fee. It can be a fun way to spend an afternoon exploring a new city, and it almost feels like a scavenger hunt.

You’ll find gigs in major cities all over the country. Each one normally involves a simple task such as photographing the interior of a store or verifying a restaurant menu. The gigs typically range in value from $4 to $8, so the trick is to find a location with a bunch of opportunities nearby.

No experience is required and there is no application process. Simply look for gigs near your vacation destination -- restaurants, malls, coffee shops and other retailers -- and head out for a walk with your smartphone.

4. Explore With Field Agent

Field Agent is another app that helps you make money while on vacation. Download the app to your iPhone, iPad or iPod and create a profile, then look for tasks near you. They may include mystery shopping local retailers, taking photos or looking for products.

In a quick search of nearby tasks, I found gigs ranging from $3 to $6.50 that would each take about two to four minutes to complete. For example, one task requires visiting a local AT&T store to mystery shop for devices and take pictures. The allocated time is 2 minutes and the payout is $5.

If you batch a lot of these tasks together in a small, walkable area, you could earn a decent amount of money in a couple of hours. To increase your payout, try using Field Agent and Gigwalk simultaneously.

Will You Make Money on Your Next Vacation?

If you’ve been avoiding taking some of your vacation time, maybe these monetary incentives will help you enjoy a well-deserved break. Try one or more of these options on your next vacation to offset the costs of your trip.

Your Turn: Would you try one of these ways to make money on vacation?

Nick Loper helps people earn money outside of their day job. He's an author, online entrepreneur and life-long student in the game of business. His latest role is as Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs.

As the Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, I have the best job in the world. Each week I get to chat with amazing and inspiring part-time entrepreneurs and experiment with a variety of different business projects.

Recently, I asked more than 300 followers of the blog and podcast what they did to earn money outside of their traditional jobs, and these are the most popular side hustles they reported.

Full disclosure: one of the most popular responses was “I don’t have one yet.”

Let this list serve as your inspiration to get the creative juices flowing! Surely you can put one of these business ideas into action.

Which of these are you working on? Which could you start?

1. Freelancing

Freelancing took the number one spot, with writing, graphic design and web development among the most common services offered.

(Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)

2. Self-Publishing

The democratization of publishing through Amazon Kindle and other platforms has made this a popular side hustle.

You can write in your free time and upload your work for free to the world’s largest store.

3. Blogging

I was surprised to see blogging rank this highly on my survey, since a blog can be very time-consuming and difficult to monetize.

Still, bloggers can earn money through advertising, affiliate marketing and sponsored posts.

4. Consulting

Consultants are often paid hourly or on a project basis for their expertise in a particular area.

If you have a depth of knowledge on an industry, you’re already halfway to a new side hustle as a consultant; now it’s just a matter of getting in front of the right clients.

5. Crafts, Jewelry and Art

Side hustlers are a naturally creative bunch, so it comes as no surprise that selling homemade jewelry, original art, and other handicrafts made this list.

You could sell your wares at local markets and craft shows, through your own website, or on a marketplace like Etsy.

6. Ecommerce and Dropshipping

Beyond simply building a blog, an online store has a much clearer business model: you’ve actually got products for sale!

For inventory, you could create the items yourself, buy wholesale goods or find a dropshipping vendor.

With dropshipping, you never have to touch the inventory -- you process the order and the distributor ships the item directory to your customer.

7. Amazon and eBay

Retail giants Amazon and eBay rely on customers (you!) to help source their inventory, and some side hustlers report earning $500 a month or more finding items on clearance locally and re-selling them through Amazon.

8. Software and App Development

To build your own software application or smartphone app, you’ll either need some technical know-how or some outsourcing fortitude -- on top of a good idea.

Still, the appeal of a product with low-to-zero marginal cost is enough to draw many side hustlers down this path.

9. Coaching

These days there are coaches for everything, and people who demand peak performance from themselves hire life or business coaches to hold them accountable and make sure they stay focused in the right direction.

No gym shorts or whistle required.

10. Marketing Agency

Under this category, the specializations of social media, content marketing and search engine optimization came up quite a bit.

This is a way to sell your expertise and your service to help other companies gain more exposure online.

11. Teaching -- Offline or Online

Relevant and useful information is always in-demand, especially if others want to know what you know.

You can teach your skills offline, even if you don’t have a degree, or create an online course on a platform like Udemy.

12. Health and Fitness Services

For this category, I included everything from personal training, to running coaches, to meal planning services, to yoga and boot camp instructors.

Living a healthy life is a near-universal goal, so tapping into that massive market could be a lucrative side hustle.

13. Photography

Photography is my wife’s side hustle of choice, and has the added benefit of letting you write off all your fancy camera gear.

For a hobbyist photographer to turn pro, it only takes one paid gig.

14. Real Estate

Real estate investing remains a popular side hustle and is an excellent way to build long-term wealth.

The problem is it generally takes heaps of cash to get started and you might have to deal with property maintenance and problem tenants.

15. Network Marketing and Multi-Level Marketing

The allure of network marketing is understandable: sell someone else’s proven product, create a big downline, and sit back and cash the checks.

The reality may not be so rosy for most participants, but MLM eked into the Top 15.

Honorable Mentions

Among my favorites that didn’t make this list were a ventriloquist service, being Santa, officiating weddings, a snow plow service, and doing iPhone repairs.

If you’re looking for ways to earn extra cash, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities!

Nick Loper is the Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing resource and community for part-time entrepreneurs. On the top-rated Side Hustle Show podcast, Nick and his guests explore a different business idea each week.