Steve Gillman - The Penny Hoarder

Have you seen kids at carnivals and similar events with flowers, mermaids and other designs painted on their faces?

If so -- and especially if some of them were your children -- you know getting these temporary tattoos applied costs a couple of dollars. But did you know you can buy them for less than 10 cents each?

You’ll pay closer to a dollar for the materials needed to apply airbrush tattoos, but they sell for $5 to $20, and they’re more popular with adults. Clearly, a temporary tattoo business would have high profit margins.

Selling and applying temporary tattoos is primarily a weekend business, since most application opportunities will be at community events. That makes tattooing a good part-time business if your weekdays are full.

Curious about this potential side business? Let's look at the two most common types of temporary tattoos, as well as each one’s business advantages.

Stick-On Tattoos

It's easiest to start with stick-on or "wet-and-press" tattoos. Many YouTube videos demonstrate how to apply them, and it's a skill you can learn in minutes.

The other big advantage with stick-on tattoos is this business costs very little to start. You don’t need any special equipment; a wet cloth and a spray bottle are enough for most brands. Some tattoo varieties require isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which costs about a dollar per bottle. Of course, you'll also need a table and a sign, or you can use your own face to advertise your service.

Supplies are inexpensive as well. You can start with tattoos from dollar stores, but buying in bulk online will substantially lower your cost. For example, OrientalTrading.com has tattoos for less than 7 cents each when you buy in bulk. It carries pirates, flowers, monsters and hundreds of other designs. CustomTattoos.com has more elaborate designs starting at 35 cents each, with a $125 minimum order.

If your target market is kids (which is common with these easy-to-apply tattoos), set up a table or booth at school functions, street markets and any other events that are full of families. You’ll probably want to price your tattoos between $1 and $3, and you can offer a discount for more than one, since it takes very little extra time to apply a second or third tattoo.

Go to events and note which temporary tattoo sellers are busy, and see what they do to get noticed. If you bring your own kids when you set up, put tattoos on their faces to make them walking billboards.

The simple wet-and-press tattoos are not just for kids, and you can get creative with them if you design your own. At TattooSales.com, you can upload an image to make custom temporary tattoos. Use your imagination! One woman created a temporary tattoo of a music festival schedule, reported Gizmodo.com. Buyers put it on their forearms so they didn't lose track of which band was playing at a particular time and stage.

If you buy into a franchise, you get support and a name to use. For example, BodyGraphics.com sells a starter kit for as little as $129, which includes 250 tattoos and the one-year franchise fee. Its website says: "Some of our franchisees are earning over $100,000 in just six months!"

Airbrush Tattoos

Airbrush tattoos look more like real tattoos. They’re often more elaborate than wet-and-press types, so they sell for more money. Prices average around $10, and the materials cost from 14 cents to about a dollar, according to EuropeanBodyArt.com. The business claims you can make $300 per hour over an eight-hour day. The higher price and profit margin is the biggest advantage to doing this type of tattoo.

The biggest drawback to airbrushing is that it costs more to get started. You need an airbrush, a compressor (get the silent studio type), a tank, hoses, couplers, paint and tools for unclogging the brush tip. Starting an airbrush tattoo business could cost you thousands of dollars.

It takes more time to learn the techniques as well. Fortunately, you can turn to airbrush tattoo YouTube videos to get your basic training.

If you want to start quickly and more easily, buy a kit. For example, TribalInkProducts.com sells a starter kit for a regular price of $1,299. When you buy a complete kit, sellers usually provide support by phone if you run into problems.

How Much Can You Make Selling Temporary Tattoos?

If you're willing to invest the additional money and time to get started, airbrush tattoos are probably the way to go, because they're more profitable. Actual figures for temporary tattoo businesses of either type are hard to come by, which is common with cash operations of any sort. But apart from the claims of the suppliers, you can find some information in tattoo-selling forums.

In one forum in 2015, those in the temporary tattoo business described a range of experiences. One said he averages $850 per day at fairs and festivals. He also reported working 10 to 12 hours, and on bad weather days his take would drop to $200. Another said he made $1,600 on a typical Saturday, but he had employees to pay. Yet another said his event income ranged wildly from $50 to $700 per day.

One contributor said that after six years of doing temporary tattoos part time, he grossed over $100,000 in a year, for a profit of about $62,000 after paying for an employee and other expenses. That's not bad for a part-time business.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier; but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

If you invest $400 a month and make 7% annually, you’ll have nearly $1 million in 40 years.

Let’s say you’re 30 years old and you give up movies, Starbucks and dinners out for four decades to save that $400 each month. At 70, you’ll have a million bucks and be ready to retire, right?

But wait! One million dollars today has the spending power of about $240,900 in 1977 dollars. If we experience similar inflation in the next 40 years, your future million will also be worth just $240,900 in today’s dollars.

So you’ll be a millionaire, but it won’t be quite like you imagined.

What if you don’t want to wait 40 years to make your first $1 million? What if you don’t want to wait even 10 years?

Here’s how to make a million dollars quickly — with a little luck.

1. How to Make a Million Dollars Selling Something

Maybe you didn’t want to hear this, but it could be time to learn how to sell. One of the surest ways to wealth is to see what people need or want and provide it. But you still have to convince them it’s your something they need. That’s what sales is all about.

That’s how Dani Johnson went from being homeless to a millionaire in less than two years.

At first she rejected the idea of selling a weight loss program, as if it were beneath her. Then she realized she was homeless, drinking and using drugs — so why not sell something?

She didn’t even have a phone, but with a $15 voicemail service and a handmade flyer put up in a post office, she started getting orders for the program. When she ordered her inventory from the manufacturer, she had to borrow the address of a liquor store because she had no place to accept delivery.

From that start, she built her business and later sold it, becoming a multi-millionaire in the process.

Other examples of people who made $1 million fast by selling something include:

Fraser Doherty

He was 14 years old when he started making and selling “SuperJam,” and within a few years he had annual sales in the millions.

Cameron Johnson

He sold greeting cards at age 9, then moved on to selling Beanie Babies, software and advertising. By age 15, he was making more than $300,000 per month.

Alicia Shaffer

Within three years of opening her shop on Etsy, Shaffer was making close to $1 million annually selling handmade clothing and accessories.

2. Invest in Real Estate, and Retire Early

When Julie Broad and her husband decided to buy their first income property, they had only $16,000 in savings. Seven years later, they were millionaires, and she retired — at age 31.

Broad says one of the things she likes about real estate is the potential leverage.

“If you have $16,000 to invest (which is what I started with seven years ago), you can buy $16,000 worth of stocks and bonds,” she wrote at MyWifeQuitHerJob.com.

“But, if you buy real estate, you can buy a property worth $160,000 (which is exactly what I did). If your stocks go up in value by 5%, you’ve made $800. But if your property goes up by 5% you’ve made $8,000!”

You make money with income property from rents, appreciation and equity gains from the tenant’s rent paying down your mortgage. You also get to exercise creativity and control with real estate investments.

Broad points out if your stocks drop in value, your options are limited to buying more or selling more, but with real estate, “there are plenty of creative techniques to try.”

For example, rent out the garage separate from the house, add vending machines or laundry facilities, change the usage of the property and sell it.

“There are dozens of ways to turn a simple house into a money-making machine with creativity,” says Broad.

Many real estate investors have similar stories to tell.

For example, in his book “2 Years to a Million in Real Estate,” Matthew Martinez relates how he made his fortune in rental properties after quitting his 9-to-5 job.

3. Gamble… Without Too Much Risk

Mortgaging the house and betting $29,000 on number 17 on the roulette table probably isn’t a good plan. But not all gambles have to be that crazy.

Consider poker.

The Mirror profiled seven people who made more than $1 million playing poker in 2014. Poker comes with risk but also requires skill, and you can parlay your profits into bigger ones without risking much to start.

Another option is gambling on the popularity of new currencies.

Using $1,000 he got as a gift, Erik Finman made $100,000 on Bitcoin at age 15. At age 18, he now owns 403 bitcoins — worth more than $1 million.

And yes, buying a lottery ticket is a terrible bet. But it is one of the fastest ways to make millions — and buying a ticket or two each year probably won’t break you.

Just don’t add yourself to the long list of lottery winners who lost everything.

4. How to Make Millions With YouTube Videos

The internet may be the most obvious platform for making $1 million quickly. Of all the possibilities, creating videos for YouTube is perhaps one of the most fun.

Here are just a few profitable types of videos you could create:

Comedy Videos

You may not have heard of him, but comedian Ray William Johnson made $1 million per year with his funny videos.

Toy Reviews

You read it right: The three EvanTube channels make an estimated $1 million annually for their 9-year-old founder and his family.

Cat Videos

Grumpy Cat may not have made $100 million, but her owner Tabatha Bundesen admits, “I was able to quit my job as a waitress within days of her first appearance on social media, and the phone simply hasn’t stopped ringing since.”

5. Sell Millions of Self-Publish Kindle Ebooks

You can set up an account for free and start selling Kindle books on Amazon’s ebook platform this week.

You’ve probably heard about authors who have hit it big on Kindle. John Locke, for example, sold a million Kindle ebooks in five months, and Mark Dawson earned $450,000 in 2014 from his self-published ebooks.

But you don’t even have to write your own book to make $1 million on Kindle.

You can publish other people’s books. Bob Mayer and Jen Talty say they “built a seven-figure indie publishing house in just two years.”

6. Teach People (Outside of the Classroom)

Do you like to teach people? You won’t make a million doing it in a classroom. But perhaps you can go online.

The top 10 instructors on Udemy pulled in $17 million between them — and that’s just for one year. What could you teach in an online course — even a short pilot version?

Then there is teacher Deanna Jump, who became a millionaire in less than three years by selling lesson plans to other teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

7. How to Make a Million Dollars Trading Stocks

It might take 40 years to make your first million in stocks if you go for that slow and steady 7% return. But trading isn’t the same as investing. And volatile penny stocks aren’t your slow and steady investments…

The SEC says, “Investors in penny stocks should be prepared for the possibility that they may lose their whole investment.”

Trader Tim Grittani agrees that trading in and out of these low-cost stocks like he does, often within minutes, is risky. But his $1,500 became a portfolio worth more than $1 million within three years — when he was only 24.

That might get you thinking about trading.

8. Invent a New Way to Make Millions

Not sure you’re ready to commit to making a million with any of the ways above? Then why not invent your own way to make money?

For inspiration, here are some examples of people who did just that:

Alex Tew

Tew created The Million Dollar Homepage (the first of its kind) and sold one million pixels of advertising space for $1 per pixel to fund his college education.

Zhang Yin

Yin started with $3,800, buying cheap cardboard from the U.S. to recycle into boxes in China, and is now worth nearly $2 billion.

Alan Jenkins and Pat Burke

They have shipped more than $1 million in Irish dirt to the United States, for nostalgic transplants to use on their Irish roses or caskets.

Many other weird businesses might inspire you to invent your own way to make a fast $1 million.

Of course, even if you give it a shot, you might also want to do the usual saving and investing.

Forty years from now, you might thank your former self for putting aside $400 per month to provide some extra income in retirement.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier; but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

I've always been a dollar-store shopper, but I never bought food there.

Then our local dollar store started carrying the exact same brand of whole wheat bread I normally buy for $2.49. It might be two days closer to the expiration date, but not past it. So now I save $1.49 on every loaf of bread.

But you have to be careful. I once bought a screwdriver at a dollar store and it fell to pieces the first time I used it.

So what should you buy at dollar stores, and what should you avoid?

I looked at what the experts say in interviews with MoneyTalksNews and Today. Based on their advice and my own experience, here are 20 things to buy at dollar stores and 10 things to avoid.

Buy These Dollar Store Items

Why pay more when you don’t have to?

1. Greeting Cards

Everyone seems to agree on this one. Why pay several dollars for a card when you can get it for a buck?

2. Socks

Socks in dollar stores are often of decent quality, and the kids' socks sometimes come two pairs to a package, making them much cheaper than most other stores.

The experts say to look for socks made with acrylic or spandex for comfort.

3. Vases

You can include decorative bowls, too. The dollar-store versions are about the same as the cheapest vases in other stores, which will typically run you $3 or more.

I've found decent vases made of glass and plastic in dollar stores.

4. Gift Bags and Wrapping Paper

Gift bags cost more everyplace else, and they’re going to be thrown away anyhow. I wouldn't buy them anywhere else.

Wrapping paper is usually a good deal too, but the rolls are short.

5. Party Supplies

Once again, we're talking about disposable items. Why pay twice as much for streamers and plastic tablecloths, or five times as much for Mylar balloons?

A trip to the dollar store can easily save you $20 if you're planning a party.

6. Grooming Items

Hair ties and bobby pins eventually get lost, so why pay more for them?

Some name-brand shampoos show up in dollar stores too, for half of what they normally sell for.

But if you buy combs, avoid the flimsy ones in packages of 10 or more -- I bent one the first time I used it.

7. Some Food

I don't trust generic imported food yet, but now I'll buy well-known brands I’ve seen elsewhere, and that bread saves me some serious cash.

Still, make careful comparisons; many canned foods actually cost less at regular grocery stores.

8. Picture Frames

My wife and I have pictures on our walls in wooden frames we bought at a dollar store. The same frames cost $5 or more in any other store where we've seen them.

Just check to be sure the bracket or hook for hanging is securely attached.

9. Storage Containers

You'll find food storage containers on the "don't buy" list below, but for storing cleaning supplies, hardware items and many other things, I use plastic tubs and containers from the dollar store.

They cost at least twice as much in most other stores.

10. Some Kitchenware

Yeah, dollar store silverware is flimsy, but still, how would I break a fork or spoon?

Drinking glasses are a good deal too.

What Else Should You Buy at the Dollar Store?

Considering only things that save me at least 50% and have worked just fine, here are some other things I buy at the dollar store:

  1. Rope and twine, for uses that don't require high-quality tying
  2. Kids' coloring books, but not the low-quality crayons
  3. Bags of balloons, good for water balloons and party decorations
  4. Bandanas, for various uses
  5. Candles, for emergencies
  6. Dish towels, in two-packs. They wear out quickly, but they're still worth it
  7. Plungers: Throw them away when they break; you get seven for the price of one.
  8. Cleaning supplies: Some are OK, and they're much cheaper.
  9. Sponges, for cleaning other than dishes
  10. Duct tape: It’s low-quality but perfect for some uses.

Don't Buy These Dollar Store Items

Here’s when it’s not worth the savings.

1. Toys

With some exceptions, most dollar store toys are low-quality and will break quickly, if they work at all.

Some experts also say that parts and paints used for dollar store toys might not meet standards for safety.

2. Batteries

The experts say the battery life is so short that you're better off getting batteries elsewhere.

They're mostly right, but I'll buy batteries at a dollar store for uses where I don’t need much power, like remote controls. I figure they last half as long but cost a fourth as much, so it still makes sense.

3. Medications and Vitamins

These show up on many "don't buy" lists for dollars stores. I wouldn't trust any supplements or drugs that are made for this market.

One exception is aspirin from a known brand, but often the containers are so small that you might be paying more per pill than you would at the drug store.

4. Paper Products

It is tempting to pick up that four-roll package of toilet paper or those paper towels for a dollar, but look again.

Usually the rolls are much smaller than normal, and the experts point out that the quality is about as low as it can be.

5. Plastic and Aluminum Wraps

These are usually low-quality, and again, they're made to sell cheap by making the rolls very short.

6. School Supplies

The low quality of pens, paper, binders and such is one reason to avoid getting school supplies at a dollar store.

The other reason is that if you wait for back-to-school sales, you can save a lot more money at Walmart, Target and other stores.

7. Pet Food

Experts warn about the lack of standards with dollar-store pet food.

Then there is the size issue. Those small packages may cost more per ounce than the bigger bags you buy elsewhere.

8. Power Cords

Extension cords and power strips found in dollar stores are low quality and are sometimes dangerous, according to the experts.

9. Tools

Most tools found in dollar stores are barely functional, in my experience.

10. Food Containers

Low quality is a problem with these food containers, but safety is also an issue, according to a recent report on the hazardous chemicals in dollar store items.

I'm not too worried about the chemicals in the dollar-store tubs that organize my stuff in the garage, but I stay away from putting food in dollar-store plastic.

One last bit of advice: Be sure you're in a dollar store.

Dollar Tree keeps everything at a dollar, but other stores that use "dollar" in their names, like Dollar General, may have higher-priced items.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

If you buy a duplex and live in one side, you have a home and rent coming in from the other side to help pay it.

Investment real estate also offers tax advantages. And what could be easier than managing a rental next door?

You've probably heard the arguments for buying a duplex instead of a single-family home. But is it really a good idea for you?

Maybe.

Recently, after four years of Florida’s heat and humidity, my wife and I moved back to Colorado to buy a duplex in the small town of Florence.

We've only lived here for a short while, so I can't offer a comprehensive guide to buying a duplex as a home. But a lot can happen in a couple months, so maybe you can learn a few lessons from our experience.

Maybe even enough to decide if you’re ready for this lifestyle/investment…

Buying at a Distance

My wife was busy, so I flew out to Colorado alone for four days to look for our new home and investment.

Once I was back in Florida, we tried to buy a multiunit property -- my favorite of the seven properties I’d seen. We discovered a few problems and the deal fell through, so we made an offer on a duplex I’d been in for just 10 minutes.

Buying a property you’ve only been in for a few minutes isn’t as risky as it sounds, as long as you have an inspection contingency in your contract.

If the inspector had found any major problems, we could’ve backed out. Both units were occupied, as well, so we also could have backed out after reviewing the leases, if the rent was less than stated in the listing information.

Real estate is selling quickly in Colorado, and prices are rising, but we didn't have to buy something. So we offered $119,000, about $8,000 less than the asking price.

The seller said yes.

Meanwhile, my wife was asking me questions I couldn't answer, like whether the bedrooms were carpeted, what color the walls were, and where the washer and dryer were located.

Fortunately, the inspector answered some of those questions.

More importantly, he happened to have structural engineering experience. The duplex was built in 1900, but he assured us the cracks in the walls (most of which I didn't recall) were nothing serious.

Lessons:

  1. Don't get too attached to a property.
  2. Have alternatives in mind.
  3. Try offering less than the asking price.
  4. Take your time looking at a property if you're interested in it.
  5. Hire an inspector with building or engineering experience.

Negotiating the Deal

The duplex had no major functional problems.

After we got the inspection report, we asked for some minor repairs, and the seller agreed. He also assured us one unit would be empty by the time we moved.

Our contract allowed us to cancel the deal if we didn't find acceptable insurance. And by acceptable, it meant almost anything -- from the price to even what could be covered or excluded (such as earthquakes or floods).

The language of the contract said we could cancel the contract “based on any unsatisfactory provision of the Property Insurance, in Buyer’s sole subjective discretion.” Of course, there’s a deadline, as with all contingencies.

The insurance agent asked us questions, which we passed on to our real estate agent, who passed them on to the selling agent, who passed them on to the seller, who answered his agent, who then contacted our agent, who then contacted us, and we contacted our insurance agent, who then had another question.

The process was tedious and slow. And insurance was expensive, which we discovered the day after our insurance contingency deadline.

Fortunately, after questioning our insurance agent, we found we could substantially lower the cost by raising the deductible, paying a year in advance and getting our car insurance through the same company.

The listing information said the units were rented for $650 per month, but I suddenly recalled the tenant on one side telling me she paid $600.

We got copies of the leases emailed to us, and the rent was $650, but was discounted $50 if she kept the place looking good for showings while it was for sale.

Lessons:

  1. Inspections are an opportunity to renegotiate or back out of a deal.
  2. Watch deadlines in the contract.
  3. Ask your insurance agent how you can lower your annual premium.
  4. Ask tenants questions when you see a place.
  5. Always ask for rental agreement copies and other contracts

Closing the Deal

As soon as we were past our contract deadlines, we listed our home in Florida for sale.

It sold the next day for more than the asking price -- crazy times are back in Florida! We closed the sale 16 days later, a few days after closing on the duplex.

Meanwhile, we discovered the tenant in the unit we planned to occupy was still there.

We pondered the possibility of being homeless after closing in Florida, and decided we needed more information. Emails and phone calls went through the typical maze of real estate agents and we couldn't get a clear picture of the situation.

My wife found the solution.

She located the seller's personal phone number on a lease, and we called him directly. The tenant in "our" unit was more or less moved out and would vacate four days before we arrived.

Real estate agents don't like being bypassed, and some sellers would rather not talk to the buyers at all, but in this case it was one of our best decisions. The seller was very helpful -- he even came over after we settled in to answer any questions we had.

We’d mentioned we could close earlier than planned, but we hadn't heard from the title company. At some point I called them and they said, "Oh yes, we moved up the closing and the papers will be there in a couple days."

Thanks for telling us -- apparently it wasn't important for us to know when the closing was! We quickly wired the money so it would be there in time. I have never met a title company I like.

Lessons:

  1. It can help to talk to the seller directly if possible.
  2. Follow up on everything -- you may not be notified of important changes.

How to Make Money With Your Home

We closed early in the month.

Since rent is paid in advance, we were credited at closing with the rent already collected. If you're tight on money for closing costs, this can help a lot. Essentially, we were making money before we even moved in.

That was the good news.

Five days after we arrived at our new home (with everything we owned and two cats in our minivan), the tenants in the other side announced they were leaving in a week -- and one of their three dogs had torn a hole in the carpet.

Fortunately, the previous owner had collected an extra $500 deposit for pet damages.

It was bad news and good news. I wasn't thrilled to have to prepare the other side for new tenants while still settling in and painting our side. On the other hand, we’d probably find better tenants and could start fresh with our own rules.

We decided to use a placement service to find a renter.

For 75% of the first month's rent, they took photos, advertised in several places, took applications, did credit and background checks, and made a recommendation.

So we had that unexpected expense, a couple thousand dollars in repairs, painting and other preparation, and some vacant time shortly after moving in.

But now we have new tenants in place, and for $50 more per month than anticipated. We hope they'll stay for years.

Lessons:

  1. Close the purchase early in the month to collect prepaid rent at closing.
  2. Expect rental-preparation expenses and loss of income from vacancies.
  3. Be sure to collect a larger or extra deposit if you allow pets.
  4. Have a management company find tenants if you're uncertain how to proceed.

Financing a Duplex

We were fortunate enough to be able to pay cash for our duplex, but you can also finance them.

Bankrate.com explains there are some special advantages to financing a duplex when you live in it.

For example, unlike non-occupant investors, you can get a Federal Housing Administration or Veterans Administration loan.

And even though it’s your home, you can sometimes use the income from the other side to help you qualify for the loan.

But be sure the numbers still make sense once you add in those loan payments.

For example, if the units are similar in size, allocate half of each mortgage payment to the investment unit, along with half of the common expenses and all expenses specific to that side.

You should aim to have at least some positive cash flow (on that unit) after all of those costs.

Tax Advantages of Owning a Duplex

You may have to read up on the tax advantages of owning and living in a duplex.

But basically, anything you spend on the rental unit is an expense that reduces the income you report and the taxes you pay. This includes advertising, paint, flowers for the front yard -- anything to help you keep the place rented.

Expenses for the entire property are generally split down the middle.

For example, half of the tax and insurance bills are rental expenses. But talk to an accountant if you have a unique property, like if one side is much larger than the other.

You also get other benefits to further lower your tax bill, such as claiming depreciation as an expense. And you can still qualify for the capital gains tax exclusion on half of the property when you sell, since you live in it.

Duplex Disadvantages

The disadvantages of owning a duplex are about what you’d guess.

Here's a short list of the potential problems you could face:

  1. Tenants who don't pay on time: Be ready to start evictions quickly.
  2. Pet damage to your property: We may limit the number of pets.
  3. Potential liability for accidents on the property: Get insurance.
  4. Expensive surprises like broken furnaces: Ours are 30 years old, fingers crossed.
  5. Lots of maintenance work: It won’t be all the time, but probably when you least expect it.

For me, the biggest drawback is the stress of constant decisions.

Do I fix the shower myself or pay five times as much for a professional?

Do I allow the renters to have a garden?

Do I ask for rent on time, even if it means the tenant won't have money for her baby's medicine? (That one actually came up on a previous rental I owned.)

These problems are not unique to duplexes. They come with any residential rental property.

Special Duplex Advantages

As an investment, rental real estate has clear advantages.

For example, rents usually go up over time, but your mortgage payment remains the same (assuming you got a fixed rate), so your income rises. But some advantages are specific to owner-occupied duplexes.

For example, a duplex provides an opportunity to invest less in your own home. Our duplex has two 1,100-square-foot units and we paid $119,000, while small houses on the same street cost about the same.

We ended up putting $3,000 into fixing the place up. Coupled with $1,000 in closing costs, we spent $123,000 -- $61,500 for our home and $61,500 for a rental, much less than we would’ve paid for a single-family home for either purpose.

We don't like being landlords, especially after weeks of work preparing the place. I don't even like real estate. But where else can we get our expected 7% return?

And that's not even the whole story.

If we’d bought a single-family home for ourselves (our backup plan for moving back to Colorado) we would’ve moved farther from the town center to find something cheaper. We still would’ve paid more than $90,000, instead of $61,500.

Now we get to invest the $30,000 we saved.

We paid cash, but the advantage is there if you borrow, too. By investing less in your own living space, you save thousands in interest over the years.

Another advantage of buying a duplex as a home is you live next door to your tenants, so you can keep track of what's going on with your investment.

Being on-site, you can more easily deal with little problems before they become big ones.

And the rent check is only a few steps away.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

I love people, appreciate the uniqueness of individuals and enjoy a good conversation or party. In some ways, I'm a very social person.

But I confess: I really don't like "networking," being part of a "team," or any other situations where I have to sell myself or share responsibility with others. At heart, I'm a loner and nonconformist.

Some of you can relate to this. You feel uncomfortable with books on how to market yourself. You don't want to spend your time trying to win friends or influence people. And so you may have wondered: How can you make money working alone?

Fortunately, you don't have to spend your workday interacting with other people or sharing decision-making responsibility. Here are some of the best businesses, investments and jobs for introverts.

Best Jobs for Introverts

Most jobs involve working with others, and all jobs require some degree of interaction with your employer or supervisor, if not other employees or clients. But clearly some positions involve less teamwork than others.

Here are some of the best options for introverts:

1. Archivist

The median annual wage of an archivist is $50,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You'll spend your day organizing and maintaining historical documents in quiet rooms with few interruptions. What's not to like?

2. Court Reporter

A courtroom is full of people, but as a court reporter, you rarely interact with others. And you do, it’s only to read back a few lines of testimony. The median annual wage of $51,320 isn't bad either.

3. Caretaker

CBS’s Sunday Morning recently profiled Steve Fuller, the winter caretaker of Yellowstone National Park.  Fuller enjoys being alone for months and hours away from the nearest store (by snowmobile), but he says when he explains his job, "I usually start off with caretaker, and their immediate response is, 'Have you seen 'The Shining'?"

You can find all kinds of caretaking positions. Some are just house-sitting jobs and others involve working with the public. But some positions let you live alone and quietly care for a lodge or other facility in the off-season.

Pay varies greatly. You’ll find these positions on websites like CaretakerJobs.com and in the Caretaker Gazette.

4. Astronomer

How would you like to work by yourself much of the time, observing the skies or interpreting data? You'll be well-paid for your loneliness, as the median annual wage of astronomers is $104,740.

Here are some other jobs where you'll have minimal interaction with others:

  1. Medical Records Technician
  2. Industrial Machine Repairer
  3. Night Security Guard
  4. Night Shelf Stocker
  5. Appraiser
  6. Forest Fire Lookout

Businesses for Introverts

Jobs aren't the only option for introverts and nonconformists. Some businesses also give you the freedom to do things your own way and without too much interaction with others.

For example, my wife and I have spent the last 11 years creating websites about anything that interests us (backpacking, metaphors, poetry, money, etc.) and put Google AdSense on the pages. People find our sites, read the articles and essays, and click on ads, then Google automatically deposits our share of the per-click advertising revenue in our bank account every month.

At one point, we were making over $10,000 per month from Google. Our AdSense income has now dropped to less than $1,000 monthly, so I can no longer say it's an easy way to make money. But if you can figure out a way to get enough visitors to your blogs or websites, all you need to do is sign up and put the code on your pages.

Here’s the part introverts might like: In all these years, we’ve never talked to any of the advertisers or anyone at Google, and answering emails from visitors to our sites is optional.

Here are a few of the many ways you can be self-employed and conduct your business mostly by yourself.

11. Write Books

When I was contracted to write 101 Weird Ways to Make Money, I hated the tedious negotiations and editing discussions that went into getting the contract and writing the book. To avoid much of this hassle, write the book first and then submit it to publishers. (However, going the traditional publishing route isn’t easy -- but that’s a story for another post.)

12. Self-Publish Ebooks

It costs nothing but your time to write and publish a book on Kindle, Amazon's ebook platform. I made $2,000 with a book on ultralight backpacking I wrote in less than a week. I even made a few bucks with my nonconformist, opinionated essay-books. I've never had to talk to anyone to sell these books.

13. Start a Vending Machine Route

Fill the machines with whatever you sell and take the money to the bank. It's a routine you can do alone, and if you want to avoid the "sales" part of placing the machines, you can hire a company that finds vending machine locations to do it for you.

Here are a few more businesses you can operate on your own and without much customer interaction:

  1. Scrap Metal Recycling
  2. Treasure Hunting
  3. Inventing Things

Investments to Manage On Your Own

You’ll have to negotiate for some investments, but at least you can make your decisions on your own.Here are some of the best investments that let you work alone.

17. Stocks

You can open an account and trade stocks online from the comfort and anonymity of your home, without ever talking to another person.

18. Income Real Estate

When you are the homeowner, all the crucial decisions are yours alone. And if you're an introvert to the point you don't even want to deal with tenants, hire management. My wife and I have rented out a condo, and we've never seen or talked to our tenant.

19. Resale Real Estate

Flipping houses -- buying homes to fix them up and resell them -- can be very lucrative. If you're handy with a hammer and paintbrush, you can even do most of the work yourself.

Let a real estate agent do the selling and handle everything by email. My wife and I have bought and sold several properties without ever meeting the buyers or sellers.

Here are a few more investments that don't require much, if any, direct interactions with others:

  1. Lending Club Loans
  2. Music Royalties
  3. Options Investing

Should You Go it Alone?

Naturally, collaboration with others can lead to better ideas and bigger profits in business and investments. And even a lonely archivist or author could probably negotiate a better wage or sell more books if they learned how to market themself.

But money isn't always the most important consideration. If you like independence and time alone, it's good to know you can have those and still earn enough income to pay the bills.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Can you sum up a product in a sentence? Think of something funny -- and not another joke about too many candles -- to put on a birthday card? Make a point in few concise words?

If so, you might be able to make money writing slogans.

Companies sometimes need new corporate taglines, advertising slogans and jingles. Bumper sticker and greeting card makers want cute, endearing or funny thoughts to put on their products. When these businesses need help, they sometimes collect submissions from freelance writers or run contests that anyone can enter -- including you!

Writing Corporate Slogans and Taglines

Product slogans can be very short, like Nike's “Just Do It.” They’re rarely much longer than Hallmark's "When you care enough to send the very best."

Although companies usually have their own teams of writers and marketers, they often run competitions that pay big prizes to outsiders who can come up with a catchy line. Watch for these opportunities on television and in print, but your best chance of finding them may be online. Try one or more of these platforms:

  • Slogan Slingers helps companies create slogan contests in which their registered writers compete. It's free to sign up as a writer, and the company claims you can “make up to $999 per contest (minus our small admin fee).”
  • Get a Slogan is a "crowd-sourcing platform that brings in custom, creative and catchy slogans from a variety of sloganeers." Companies come to them for help, and writers submit their ideas. It's free to sign up, but you initially have only "qualifying" status. Once you obtain "qualified" status, you’ll receive $50 for each of your winning slogans.
  • Freelancer.com has a section devoted to slogan-writing projects. The projects are  sometimes run as contests.

For ideas about how to craft a catchy tagline, look over lists of some of the best advertising slogans and think about what makes each one work.

If you Google "slogan contest" plus the current or upcoming year (to weed out expired contests from the results), you'll notice that government and nonprofit organizations may have even more slogan contests than companies. Many of these are open to children as well, so get your kids writing!

For example, Kentucky’s Secretary of State holds an annual slogan contest for students in grades 6 through 8. The kids have to write a slogan about voting or elections. The 2014 first-place winner earned $1,000 for "Don't stay home and think you might. Go vote now, the time is right!" Even the third-place winner received $400 for "There's nothing sweeter than to elect your leader!"

Writing Greeting Card and Novelty Slogans

Nadia Ali wrote the slogan, "Nicotine Challenged," for use on lighters -- and earned $100. That's $50 per word!

Ali wrote the slogan for Kalan, a gift and novelty seller that mostly does edgy stuff I can't repeat here. However, their unusual products might be good writing opportunities for you! The Kalan Idea Factory accepts submissions through their Facebook page. Most recently, they were looking for greeting card ideas for next Valentine's Day.

Oatmeal Studios is a card company that pays for outside submissions -- and you don't even have to be able to draw. Describe the visual elements of the card, and their artists will take it from there. Their submission guidelines include the following tips:

If you find yourself wondering whether a line is funny or not, read it to a few friends and see if they laugh. From a creative perspective, go wild! Keep in mind your target list of people you send cards to.

Here are the occasions you’ll want to consider:

  • Birthdays (especially 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th)
  • Belated birthday
  • Get well
  • Thank you
  • Miss you
  • Congratulations
  • Anniversary
  • Retirement

Unlike some card makers, Oatmeal Studios doesn’t want puns, poetry, gross ideas or mean ideas, so keep it clean for your best chance of a payday.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Financial guru Dave Ramsey says, "Responsible use of a credit card does not exist." He advises using cash instead.

While he may have good advice to offer in other areas, here Ramsey is just plain wrong. I never pay interest on my eight cards, I don't spend more just because I'm not paying cash, and I'm measurably better off financially thanks to credit cards.

Yes, some people can't handle credit and should use cash, but plenty of people use their cards responsibly, and there are many great reasons to use credit cards instead of cash.

10 Reasons Why You May Want to Use Credit Cards Instead of Cash

Here are 10 reasons you might want to ignore Ramsey’s advice and use credit cards.

1. Protection on No-Return Items

A few months ago I was overbilled for a computer repair. Only when I disputed the charge with my credit card company did the manager of the business finally adjust the charge. I like having a credit card company to help me out at times like this.

Some stores don't allow returns, or specify that clearance items are non-refundable. If you pay cash for these items and have a problem, you're usually out of luck.

But if you pay with a credit card, you can file a dispute. Just because the company says "no refunds" doesn't mean you should pay for something that doesn't work, so never pay cash for items that can't be returned -- use a card.

The Fair Credit Billing Act lets you withhold payment on things that are damaged or of poor quality -- it’s not enough that you change your mind or bought the wrong size.

It’s important to note, as BankRate.com points out, that there are a few catches. You have to first try to resolve the matter with the seller, the item has to cost $50 or more and the law says it has to be bought within 100 miles of your home.

Fortunately, credit card companies rarely enforce the last two stipulations so you can usually dispute charges for items that cost less than $50 and those bought far away or online.

2. Cash-Back Rewards

I just received a $25 check for points I redeemed on one of my cards. But it can be difficult to keep track of all the rules for cash-back rewards, so I use my PayPal Business Debit card for most purchases.

I never have to make a phone call or fill out a form online; the 1% cash back is deposited automatically in my PayPal account every month.

When it's that easy, why would I want to pay cash and give up the extra money?

If you can keep up on the rules and revolving categories that some rewards programs have, you can do much better.

Some cards pay up to 5% for certain types of purchases one month, and switch the reward to another category the next month.

You can also get creative with rewards cards to boost the balance and earn more.

3. Signup Bonuses

My wife and I made $800 from credit card signup bonuses this year. We had to spend a certain amount to qualify, but we use a card for all our normal purchases until we hit the mark and get the bonus; then we retire the card.

Here's a question for Ramsey: If we never pay interest (we pay our bill in full every month), and we never buy too much just because it's on a credit card, are we really better off financially by paying cash and giving up the $1,000 we'll make this year in bonuses and rewards?

If you do chase after bonuses, you might be tempted to cancel your cards after getting your cash. But closing accounts can hurt your credit score. I close them anyhow, because the score bounces back in time and we aren't planning to get a mortgage loan, so having a perfect score isn't important.

But if you do worry about those dings to your score, just keep the cards but stop using them instead of cancelling them. Or, if they have fees, cancel them just before the annual fees are due -- in my experience, when you give the reason for canceling, the credit card companies often drop the fee.

4. Extended Warranties

Some cards offer extended warranties on the items you buy. For example, my American Express card offers up to an additional year on many items.

When blogger Xin Lu’s PlayStation 3 died just after the manufacturer's warranty period had ended, American Express picked up the cost of repairs. “AMEX's extended warranty saved us several hundred dollars,” she wrote on WiseBread.

It's a good reason to use the right credit card to purchase electronics, appliances and anything that has a short warranty period (five years or less). Keep the original receipts in case you need to file a claim.

5. Safer Travel

Having been robbed in Mexico, and having once lost five $20 bills on an Ecuadorian dance floor, I now carry very little cash when traveling.

Cash makes you a target for criminals, and if it's lost or stolen you'll never see it again. If a credit card is lost or stolen you'll be liable for $50 at most, as long as you report the theft within two days. Some cards offer zero liability.

Also, who wants to run around the streets of some unfamiliar place looking for a place to trade in those dollars? Credit cards are safer and more convenient in many places.

6. Better Exchange Rates

When my wife recently visited Spain, she exchanged some dollars for euros at the airport. Ouch!

Airport kiosks often offer poor exchange rates and charge high fees. Credit cards offer better rates of exchange, according to a recent study.

To avoid extra costs, choose a card with no foreign transaction fees. Here’s a list of some of the best travel cards.

7. Rental Car Insurance

When I traveled to Colorado last month, I rented a car for a week. The rental company's collision damage waiver would have cost me $140 for the week, but I declined. Instead, I put the rental charge on one of my credit cards that offers car rental insurance as a free benefit.

You’ll want to read the rules carefully if you use your credit card rental car insurance instead of buying that damage waiver. Not all types of rentals are covered, and you still could be liable for some damages even if you do have this insurance. But it works for me, and saves me a lot of money.

8. Other Travel Benefits

There are many other benefits to using a credit card when traveling, at least if you have the right one. Here are some of the travel-related benefits offered by various credit cards, according to WiseBread:

  • Extra baggage loss insurance
  • Emergency interpretation services
  • Medical emergency transportation assistance
  • Credit card loss protection
  • No baggage fees
  • Tracking assistance for lost luggage

Of course you can also get airline miles for booking flights with a card. You can even use credit cards to get free access to airport lounges. Check out the benefit guides that came with your cards to see what's available.

9. Expense Tracking

Credit cards give you a way to track expenses. Receipts can easily get lost, so it's nice to have online statements as a backup. Some card issuers keep those records around for a long time. Discover Card statements stay online for seven years.

Tracking business expenses for tax deductions is an obvious advantage of paying by credit card, but there are other expenditures you might want to track. For example, you’ll need to track any charitable contributions to deduct on your tax return, so use a credit card. You’ll also need to document expenses for a rental property, if you have one.

If you ever lose a box of old receipts during a move (or worse, a fire), get online and print out copies of those old credit card statements while they're still available.

10. Convenience

If you pay cash for everything, you have to make sure you always have enough currency on you. That means repeatedly stopping at the bank to replenish your funds when they get low. It also means keeping track of how much is in your wallet so you don't have an embarrassing moment at the cash register.

Plus, you have to make sure you get the correct change -- mistakes can happen. It’s simply easier to whip out a credit card and swipe it.

Cash or Credit: The Verdict Is In

To sum up the case for credit cards, here are the benefits of using cards instead of cash, based on my experience this year:

  • About $800 in credit card signup bonuses
  • About $200 in cash rewards from credit cards
  • Savings of $140 on a car rental
  • Successfully disputed a charge because I paid with a credit card
  • Safer overseas travel for my wife thanks to her credit cards
  • Better currency exchange rates because of her credit cards
  • Easier tracking of expenses
  • Extended warranties on several purchases
  • No interest paid on my credit cards
  • No fees for my credit cards (except one -- but that gets me a free night at a Hyatt)
  • No extra purchases versus what we would have bought for cash
  • Convenience

And yet Ramsey says, "There is no positive side to credit card use." He thinks credit cards are nothing but trouble, but I think the guru has failed to make his case. The verdict is in on credit cards: Not guilty.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

While most people associate treasure hunting with pirates, Penny Hoarders know better. There’s treasure all around us; we just need to know where to look.

In a previous post on treasure hunting at home, we looked at 11 hidden places in and around your house or apartment. Once you’ve exhausted those secret spots, it’s time to get outside and expand the search.

Here are seven more places around your home to check. Who knows where you’ll discover hidden or lost valuables and money?

1. Garage

Not quite in the house and not quite outside, the garage is a common hiding place for all sorts of things. Look in the rafters, in the attic if there is one, and in any and all cabinets and containers.

In 2012, officials in Carson City, Nevada, made some interesting discoveries while inspecting a house left behind by a recluse who died with no nearby relatives. They found $12,000 in cash in the house, but soon that amount looked paltry. In the garage, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil, was $7 million in gold coins.

Check out any old tool boxes you find in the garage. Some tools might be sold as useful items or, if they are old and interesting, as collector’s items.

There are other things sometimes left in tool boxes. Consider the man in England who one day looked through his deceased father's old tool box and found a handful of old coins he later auctioned for £30,000 (about $38,000 U.S.).

2. Backyard

When we were kids, my brothers and I filled a plastic container with little toys, coins, and other items, and buried it under a tree in the backyard. We planned to dig up our "time capsule" years later, but when we tried we never could figure out where it was.

It might be there still, and if it remains there another 40 years the coins and toys will probably have value as collectibles.

Valuable discoveries in yards are not uncommon. In early 2014, while hiking out of their backyard, a California couple found a buried treasure worth $10 million: six metal cans, each filled with rare gold coins.

A metal detector can help you find buried valuables. Hidden currency is often in a container made partially of metal, like a jar with a metal top.

Also, people typically level the ground after burying things. The loose soil on top compacts over time, creating a noticeable low spot, so watch for small depressions in the yard.

Burying things under the edge of a cement walkway or driveway is also common.

3. Garbage and Recycling Bins

Excited that the dealers from “Antiques Roadshow” were coming to his town, a man brought in a violin he had plucked from someone's trash. Maybe it was worth a little something, he thought.

As it turned out, once cleaned up, his junk-picked violin was worth around $50,000. Apparently it was a creation of Giuseppe Pedrazzini, a famous Italian violin maker.

If you see something interesting sticking out of a neighbor’s garbage bin, why not grab it? It's fair game once it's discarded.

If you live in a condo development, as my wife and I do at the moment, watch that dumpster for treasures. Here, the residents tend to generously put anything of value alongside the dumpster instead of in it. I've sold some of the things I've found there, and we eat every day at a beautiful wooden table that was discarded next to our recycling bin.

4. Garden

Over the years I've read quite a few stories about buried treasures in gardens. I'm not sure I would want to hide valuables where people are likely to dig, but perhaps homeowners figure they’ll be the only ones digging in their garden. Plus, the soil is already loosened, so a garden is an easy place to bury things.

Use a metal detector to avoid having to dig up your whole garden. If you can find old photos of your home, you might discover parts of the yard that used to be a garden -- search these spots.

Gardens can be wild places, and sometimes things get lost in the weeds. Coins and tools fall from the pockets of gardeners, and on occasion even statues get lost.

Wait... statues? That’s right -- a man in England found a statue worth £20,000 (about $25,000 U.S.) behind overgrown bushes in a garden.

Closer to home, a friend of mine found an entire wood-burning stove half-buried in the dirt in the garden behind his new house.

5. Barns and Sheds

Barns, sheds and other outbuildings around a home are natural places to hide things and good places to continue your treasure hunt. You might find valuable items left behind by previous owners.

When my wife and I bought a place in Colorado, the detached garage/storage building behind the house was bursting with random appliances and tools.

My neighbor sold the scrap metal for me, but I still wonder about a classic oil stove we found. It looked old enough to be a collectible antique. I probably should have had it appraised before we moved and left it to the next owner.

People also purposely hide things in outbuildings. At a house I owned in Michigan, I had a shed with a floor made of loose cement tiles.

If someone lifted the one that was three back and four over from the southwest corner, and dug into the dirt a couple inches, they would have discovered my old coin collection in a plastic peanut butter jar. A simple metal detector would have revealed the location of that little treasure.

My coins are no longer there, but I'm certainly not the only one who has hidden a collection -- and people who hide things often die without revealing all of their hiding places.

Old pump houses are another place to investigate. In years past, when people didn't trust banks as much, they hid gold coins in false water lines. Look for pipes that don't actually go anywhere or connect to others.

Who knows what might be out there in your shed or barn?

7. Foundations

Treasure hunters look at the foundations remaining at old homesteads to determine where the front steps and porch would have been. Why? That’s where people most often sat down to rest, so it’s also where coins most often fell out of pockets and got lost in the grass and dirt.

If your own home is old enough, there might be some valuable coins where people sat generations ago. Get out that metal detector and shovel.

If you expand your concept of treasure, you’ll likely find more of it. I recently helped a friend clean out a house he bought as an investment. Two guys in a pickup truck stopped by and offered to take many of the things that were in the yard, and we filled their truck.

They planned to sell the load to a scrap metal processor for a couple hundred dollars -- something the previous owner could have done before he lost the house to the bank. You can do the same with any metal objects you find around your home. Whatever you discover, there just might be a buyer!

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Maybe you’ve used Craigslist to buy or sell things, but have you ever checked out all of the things that are free?

That’s right, there is a section devoted to things which are simply given away.

People give things away because it is easier than trying to sell them or bringing them to a thrift store as a donation. But it isn’t always that difficult to sell these things, and if you know what you’re doing you can make thousands of dollars from Craigslist freebies. Let’s take a look at how it is done.

How to Make Money on Craigslist by Finding Free Stuff

Go to Craigslist.org, and if you’re not automatically forwarded to a local page, find your state on the list and click on the link for the location closest to you.

For me, the closest offering was “Fort Myers/Southwest Florida,” but when I arrived at that page, I could narrow down the results by clicking on “Collier County,” where I lived when I decided to check out Craigslist freebies. You might look at a couple different locations if they’re both close to you.

Once you have your local directory, look under the “For Sale” heading for the link that says “free” and click that. You’ll probably see advertisements for all sorts of free items if you live in or near a town of more than 15,000 people. One week in Collier County, Florida, the free things offered on Craigslist included:

  • A functioning full-size trampoline
  • An artificial Christmas tree
  • Firewood
  • A toilet seat
  • A bathroom countertop
  • A hot tub
  • A refrigerator
  • Sliding glass doors
  • Wooden doors
  • Windows
  • Leftovers from a rummage sale

I wouldn’t want a used toilet seat, but some of the other things looked good in the photos. The pictures of the rummage sale leftovers clearly showed some decent luggage, a folding chair, many books, clothing, vases and three pieces of wooden furniture.

If we had lived in a house instead of our small condo, I might have gathered up a bunch of these free things to sell at rummage sales — and that’s only one way to sell them, as you’ll see in a moment.

At the time, a post on About.com (no longer available) asked readers what their best free finds were. The answers included a running Suzuki ATV 250, a home gym set, a fish tank and a working motorcycle.

One reader said, “I have also picked up many big screen TVs and sold them for 200 a pop.” This guy says he’s had many $200 paydays from picking up a free TV now and then.

Of course there are better and worse places to do this. In some cities, you might have a lot of competition and new ads can pop up every few minutes, so check often. In small towns, there might not be enough ads for free things to bother looking. But chances are good that you can get some free things, and anything you sell them for is a profit.

How to Sell Craigslist Freebies

Let’s assume you have been running around picking up free things that were advertised on Craigslist. Now how do you sell what you collected? There are several ways to cash in your treasures, including these three:

1. Sell Them on Craigslist

The first way can be considered a sort of arbitrage, which means capitalizing on market inefficiencies by buying cheap and quickly selling for more in some other place. Free is as cheap as it gets, and the “other place” is just the ad categories where things are not free.

Ryan Finlay has some useful information about this on his website, recraigslist.com/. He makes a living on Craigslist, and most of what he sells he obtains there as well.

If you read about Finlay’s best day on Craigslist (as of April 2013), you’ll notice that he paid nothing for five of the six items he sold for a profit that day, and the dryer he sold for $200 was purchased for just $25. He figured he spent $15 on gas and ended the day with a $700 profit.

2. Hold Rummage Sales

The second way to sell the things you get is at rummage sales. The advantages include working from home, not having people call you all the time (as with the first strategy), and limiting your time dealing with customers to a weekend or two each month. Of course this doesn’t work well if you don’t live in a good location for a rummage sale.

3. Sell Items to Specialty Buyers

The third way, which will work only with certain types of items, is to sell to known buyers. For example, I got six boxes of free floor tiles, put them in our van and then sold them later for $10 to the first flooring company I passed.

Perhaps I sold too cheap, but hey, I got them for free. For luggage or electronics you could go straight to a pawn shop to get cash. We have a construction resale place that will buy things like used appliances, countertops and windows, which are all free items offered on Craigslist.

Selling to companies that are always buying is probably not how you get the best price, but it puts the cash in your hands fast. Another advantage is that you won’t end up with a house full of things that haven’t yet sold.

If you go this route, you should keep a list of the best places to sell your goods. You might even be able to get free things and sell them before you return home.

Your list should have scrap metal buyers (aluminum and copper items), pawn shops (electronics, jewelry, luggage and tools), used appliance buyers, used furniture buyers or consignment shops and, perhaps, a used bookstore if it pays cash for books.

It might be best to use several selling strategies to get the most out of your Craigslist freebies. For example, you could sell broken metal items to scrap dealers and large pieces of furniture on Craigslist to get them out of your home, and save the smaller stuff for your next rummage sale.

Once you know how to sell you can also buy things cheaply for resale, but the beauty of this hobby or business is that you can start with no expense other than the gas in your car.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money.” Of the more than 100 ways he has personally made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Imagine sipping your morning coffee on a beautiful balcony looking out over the ocean. Later, you water the plants and clean up a bit before taking a dip in the pool. Oh, and you're getting paid for taking care of this house!

It sounds too good to be true. Can you really find house-sitting jobs that pay?

Yes and no. Yes, caretaking gigs that pay a salary or stipend in addition to providing you a place to stay do exist. But no, there aren't many that fit the description above.

Most house-sitting opportunities fall into one of these two categories: standard house-sitting gigs, or more demanding caretaking jobs. If you’re curious about getting free accommodation in interesting places (and maybe earning a little cash as well), here’s how to get started.

Basic House-Sitting Jobs

Many websites list house-sitting gigs, and a quick glance at the listings tells you right away that not many people are offering to pay their house sitters much -- if anything. Normally, you get a nice place to stay, rent free. In fact, if you're caring for the home for months, you're usually expected to pay some or all of the utilities.

This might not sound like much of a money-making opportunity, but it depends on how you look at it. If your current lease is ending and you’ll get free rent somewhere for three months before moving into your next $1,000-per-month apartment, you're $3,000 better off, right?

Here are some of the online platforms where you can find the opportunities, along with their subscription rates:

Some people make a lifestyle of house-sitting. Canadian couple Dalene & Peter Heck sold everything in 2009 to travel the world, staying in other people's homes. Among other stays, they spent six months house-sitting in Honduras, and at the moment they're caring for a home in Paris, France. They say, "We’ve had 14 jobs in nine countries, and saved over $50,000 in the cost of accommodations as a result."

Sometimes you can get paid for basic house sitting. As House Sitters America explains;

The bottom line is it's all negotiable between you and the homeowners. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for the house and pets in exchange for free accommodation... However there may be times when a homeowner will offer some money for the house sitting job.

They offer examples of times a homeowner might pay you, including:

  • When the house is in an undesirable location
  • For short sits (such as a few days)
  • When there are many pets to care for

They add "Of course, there are also many professional house and pet sitters who actually do this for a living, and they will charge a fee for their services." How do these professionals get paid? Usually they offer a bit more than simply staying in the house and making sure no one breaks in.

Caretaking Jobs

In general, you'll get a stipend or salary if you're doing more than just watching a home. In these cases you're more of a caretaker than a house-sitter.

One of the best sources for these types of jobs is The Caretaker Gazette, which has been around for more than 30 years. They have the usual listings of free place to stay, but they also host advertisements from people who are willing to pay you. In their archives (which you can see for free) I found the following three examples in one issue:

  1. In a small town in Alaska, someone was hiring a caretaker to manage a small store and two apartments and do monthly home heating oil deliveries.

Pay: A small apartment with all bills covered, TV, Wi-Fi, salary (unspecified) and bonuses.

  1. Near Colorado Springs, Colorado, an add requested a couple or single person to care for a ranch with five horses.

Pay: Salary (unspecified) and a furnished apartment.

  1. An ad from Nassau, in the Bahamas, wanted a "house couple" to keep house, plan events, run errands and much more.

Pay: A place to stay and "$100,000 to $120,000 per year."

Clearly these are jobs, not just house-sitting, but they suggest the variety offerings found in the Caretaker Gazette. Of the 100 or so postings in that one issue of their newsletter, there were opportunities all over the U.S. as well as in a dozen other countries, including Peru, Australia and Iceland.

Are You Qualified to House-Sit?

A good house-sitter is responsible, reliable and adaptable. If you're looking to get more than just free accommodation, it helps to also have some mechanical skills. For example, more than one caretaking gig I found in my research required someone with basic plumbing skills, like being able to fix a leaking sink drain.

You’ll have competition, by the way, even for the basic house-sitting jobs. At the moment Mind My House shows 243 active house-sitting assignments, but more than 4,300 "sitter available" listings.

In other words, clients get to be choosy, so experience is a plus. To build some, you might start by house-sitting for family and friends. Be sure to get glowing testimonials from them to add to your resume.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

In recent polls, a third of Americans say they worry about money. You might include yourself in that group, but even if you’re doing fine, your financial situation probably isn’t perfect. So what can you do to improve it?

Apply Kaizen principles to your personal finances.

What is Kaizen? The Kaizen Institute says “Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement.” Originally a business philosophy, it’s been applied to many other areas, including health care, school reform, and life in general.

And although you can find various explanations of Kaizen, they all agree with this basic proposition: If you continually make incremental improvements, you get big positive results.

For example, I took the Kaizen approach to improving our homes by continually making small improvements while we lived in them. Small changes, big results: Each of the three times we’ve moved in the last three years, we sold our homes at a nice profit.

That brings us to the point of this article: You can apply Kaizen to your personal finances to easily take small steps toward big goals. Here’s how…

1. Commit to the Process

To have continuous improvement, you don’t have to think about money all the time, but you do need to take regular action. Commit to those actions by scheduling them.

Put an annual financial tune-up on your calendar. When the day comes, review everything you’ve spent to recognize and reduce expenses that are not in line with your values. You can also find ways to increase your income and add new sources, and work on retirement and other goals.

In addition to this annual analysis and brainstorming session, you should schedule more frequent times to review your finances and plan actions.

My wife and I sit down together at the end of every month to see where we’re at and to plan changes. A weekly review might be even more useful.

If overhauling your financial situation sounds a bit intimidating, don’t worry. It isn’t so difficult when you apply the next Kaizen principle…

2. Make Many Small Changes

The Kaizen Institute says “One of the most notable features of Kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time.”

This doesn’t mean you have to exclude big changes. However, there are advantages to small steps.

It definitely helps psychologically. For example, I could never create a “master plan” for the 20 ways I typically make money each year -- it would be too overwhelming.

But I also don’t develop 20 new income sources each year. Many of my streams of income, like book royalties, website revenue and interest on real estate loans, were developed years ago, and keep flowing.

Instead, I keep taking small steps to add to what’s already working. I make an investment, open a better bank account, get a new cash-back credit card, add a freelance writing client, and so on.

If you set out to redesign your financial life this week, the scale of the task might overwhelm and de-motivate you.

But you could easily open one higher-interest savings account, and then next week call around for cheaper car insurance, and the week after that make another small change. That’s the Kaizen way.

Small changes are also easier to correct.

For example, quitting a job is a big change that could be a difficult mistake to undo. Instead you might take a few steps to make your job worth keeping and find a few ways to make more money at work. Maybe that won’t be enough, but if any of your small changes don’t work out, it’s easier to modify them.

So how powerful can small changes be? If, one by one, you found a dozen ways to spend less and make more money, within a year or two you might be able to quit your job or change your lifestyle in some other major way.

For a more specific example of what’s possible, let’s assume you make the following small changes this year:

The money you’re saving and the extra income adds up to $2,460 per year, or $205 per month.

What happens if you put $205 into decent mutual funds every month? An investment calculator shows that, with a 7% return, you’ll have $35,264 after 10 years, and $509,351 if you keep this up for 40 years.

Six small changes could result in half a million dollars extra for your retirement! That’s the power of Kaizen.

OK, it’s technically seven changes; you also have to open that mutual fund account. And, of course, not every change will work out, which is why you have to apply the next Kaizen principle.

3. Analyze Your Results and Modify Your Efforts

“A Kaizen Warrior understands that change happens in cycles and that it’s impossible to improve without feedback,” explains the Kaizen Brotherhood. In other words, you need to pay attention to your results, and alter your course as necessary.

For example, suppose you try saving money with discounted gift cards, but the result is that you’re tempted into eating at restaurants more frequently, spending even more. You don’t have to give up on discounted gift cards, but you can modify your plan and buy only those valid at grocery stores and other non-restaurant retailers.

Kaizen emphasizes processes. Keep that in mind as you analyze your changes and modify your approach.

If you win a $100 on a lottery ticket or find a cheap pair of jeans, that’s great, but not necessarily repeatable. The regular processes by which you make, spend or invest money matter a lot more. Watch those.

For example, I make thousands annually collecting credit card bonuses and cash back (2016 profit: $2,278), plus bank bonuses (2016 profit: $2,219), but I started small. To get to this level I had to keep tweaking the process and watching to see what worked (mainly to discover which efforts were worth the time invested).

It may help to keep a written list of the changes you make, so you can regularly review them to see what kind of results you achieve.

4. Keep Improving

In what has been referred to as the “Kaizen improvement cycle,” the last step is to “Repeat the cycle by making another small, incremental improvement.” That’s how you get big results.

If those six small changes above can result in a half million dollars, just think what might happen if you keep making improvements.

Again, don’t get intimidated by those big goals. Remember, Kaizen is all about incremental changes. Make a small change today, another next week and so on.

And if finding new changes to implement becomes too much of a challenge, just do more of what has already worked, and do it better.

For example, I didn’t stop when we found a better bank account. Making 1.4% interest at Everbank was nice compared to Chase account’s 0.01% rate, but I kept looking, and found checking accounts that pay up to 5%.

You can apply Kaizen in this way to any area of your finances. If you successfully used a strategy to get a raise, try for another raise (if it’s been a while). If you found a few ways to reduce your utility bills, add a few more.

Make a small change, monitor the results and change course as necessary. Then repeat this simple process again and again. That’s the Kaizen way to improve your financial life.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Years ago, I worked as a live-in babysitter for a couple of months.

I didn't have to dress up like Mrs. Doubtfire, and the kids were OK, but the experience still might be part of why I chose to never have children.

However, if you like being around kids more than me, you could make decent money as a babysitter.

Many sitters now earn $12 to $18 per hour looking after kids. It’s not just a business for teenagers anymore. As an adult, you may be more likely to find work.

Thinking of adding a babysitting side hustle to your income?

Here’s what you need to know...

How Much Can You Make Babysitting?

Since the early 1980s babysitters' wages have risen much faster than inflation, and the average is now around $12 per hour.

The highest rates are in San Francisco, where babysitters charge $18 per hour to watch three kids.

The lowest rates (for watching two kids) suggested by Sitter City’s babysitting pay calculator are $10.33 and $10.67 per hour in economically depressed Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.

In other cities, parents are advised to offer $14 and more per hour. Additionally, Sitter City tells parents to consider the following factors when deciding how much to pay their sitter:

  • Number of kids ($1 or $2 more per-hour, per-kid)
  • Age of sitter (more for adults)
  • Location (higher pay in cities with a higher cost of living)
  • Time (more for late nights)
  • Additional qualifications (more if they know CPR, for example)
  • Additional responsibilities (more for picking kids up from school or helping with homework)

Babysitters should also be paid more for special occasions like New Year's Eve, and get a raise once they have proven themselves to be reliable, recommends Sitter City.

So why are babysitting rates rising in recent years? Some sources suggest that parents want more experienced sitters, and are willing to pay.

Also, it's getting hard for kids to work as cheap babysitters, which may drive up the average wage. In fact, one mother was arrested for letting a 13-year-old babysit her children!

Babysitter, Nanny or Daycare?

The line between being a babysitter and a nanny can be a tough one to determine, but the more important question is whether you’re an independent contractor or a household employee.

If you're the latter, your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities (like paying payroll taxes) -- something most parents probably don't want to deal with just to have a babysitter.

The IRS says, "A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee."

So babysitting in your own home makes it clearer that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes. Otherwise, if you don't get paid more than $1,900 by any one client in a year, you'll normally be considered an independent contractor.

Consult a tax specialist if you're in doubt about your status.

If you do decide to babysit kids in your home, you might be classified as a daycare operator, in which case you may need a license and have other legal complications. Each state has its own laws covering daycare, and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right side of them.

For example, child care law in Illinois specifies that you need a license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if you care for more than three children (your own are included if they're under 12 years-old). So if you live in Illinois and want to avoid the need for a daycare license, simply limit your service to watching three or fewer kids.

How to Find Babysitting Jobs

According to Stephanie St. Martin at Care.com, the best babysitters have these qualifications and personality traits:

  • Love kids
  • Patient
  • Responsible
  • Experienced
  • Full of energy
  • Good teachers
  • Flexible
  • Playful
  • Sensitive
  • Trustworthy
  • Skilled

The last item refers not just to knowing how to change diapers (if you're watching infants or young children), but also having first aid and CPR certifications.

St. Martin said most families expect this of their babysitters now. So if you have most (or all) of the traits and qualifications above, you're probably ready to find babysitting jobs, but how?

Fortunately there are several online platforms specifically set up for connecting parents and babysitters. Here are two examples:

  • Sitter City: They claim to have a new job posting every two minutes. They also have a free membership and paid services.
  • Care.com: With a free membership you can post a profile and apply for jobs. For additional fees, they provide other services, like a background check and better placement in search results.

Anne-Marie Lindsey, an experienced nanny, compared Care.com and Sitter City, and found that Sitter City was easier to use. She also said that not getting a $60 "enhanced background check" on Sitter City "doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job."

Where else can you look for babysitting jobs? Depending on your location, you may find opportunities posted on Monster.com and Indeed.com. You can advertise your services for free on Craigslist.

Finally, word-of-mouth is perhaps one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and to find new customers. Provide great service, then ask your favorite clients to tell their friends about you.

Your Turn: Have you ever worked as a babysitter, and how much did you charge?

Advertiser Disclosure: We are paid for some of our opinions in the post and some links may redirect to an affiliate partner. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.