Teresa Bitler - The Penny Hoarder

Owning a dog can be expensive.

We spend an average $269 per year just to feed our pooches, according to the American Pet Products Association. When you factor in in grooming, boarding and other expenses, you’re looking at a total of between $500 and $1,000 per year, depending on where you live.

But when you need to offset these costs, pocket a little extra cash or even find a steady stream of revenue, man’s best friend may be your best bet.

Here are five ways your dog can earn money -- unless, like mine, he’s too busy napping to contribute to his upkeep.

1. Social Media Star

Trotter’s owner, Sonja Yu, doesn’t talk about how much her wig-wearing French bulldog earns for her, but the hip pup with more than 209,000 Instagram followers is a brand ambassador who has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America.

Trotter obviously earns a little something, in addition to raising money for local animal shelters.

Even if your dog doesn’t go viral like Trotter, with enough followers, you can benefit financially.

Baldwin Cunningham says he’s received the equivalent of $5,000 in products for in-kind sponsored content featured on his Labradoodle’s 17,800-strong Instagram account (plus one small monetary payment). Product obviously isn’t cash, but if you don’t have to buy a new leash or the next bag of dog food, it’s the next best thing.

All it takes is a camera, an Internet connection and a personable pup to get started and help your dog become an online sensation. (It doesn’t hurt to be a professional photographer, like Yu, either.)

2. Model

Bodhi, the 5-year-old Shiba Inu known as “Menswear Dog,” got his start modeling men’s clothes on Tumblr and Instagram, but he’s more than just a social media sensation today -- he actually models extra-small male attire for name-brand clothing lines.

It’s definitely profitable. Between photo contracts, guest appearances and sponsored content, Bodhi earns $10,000 to $15,000 per month for his owners, David Fun and Yena Kim, who quit their full-time jobs to focus on his career.

While there isn’t much of a call for clothes-wearing animals, your dog can earn money as a model in advertisements for anything from dog food to a family vacation. To find work, register online with a reputable agency like Le PAWS or Lucky Dog Models, and be prepared to provide professional photographs.

The typical photo shoot pays as little as $100 per day, minus the agency’s cut, so in the end, you won’t make a lot of money. But you’ll have the bragging rights that come with having a model in the family!

3. Actor

It takes a special dog to be an actor, but if your pooch has what it takes, acting in commercials, television shows and movies can be even more profitable than modeling.

Expect to earn $200 to $300 per day, unless your dog becomes a star and you can negotiate for more. (Keep in mind that even household names, like Eddie from the television show Frasier, earned far less than their human counterparts.)

Many of the same agencies that work with dog models represent dog actors, so if you register your dog to model, chances are he’s already in the running for acting jobs.

Or, you might get lucky like Gary Castelle, who was spotted by a German film company walking his dog, Junior, in Manhattan. The director loved Junior so much he created a part for him and paid Castelle $250 per day.

Another option: If you live in a city where a lot of filming takes place, like New York or Los Angeles, you may be able to get work for both of you. Productions often put out calls for background actors who can walk their dogs in film and TV scenes. The pay is usually $100 to $150 per day.

4. Fur Producer

Does your dog seem to shed his weight in fur every day? You’re in luck! There’s a market for Chiengora (pronounced she-an-gora), or dog-hair yarn.

It’s not as simple as sweeping the floor, and you probably won’t get anything for your dog’s hair if you simply list a bag of it on eBay.

However, you can turn the hair into yarn and either sell the yarn or use it to knit sweaters, scarves and other products to sell. This throw pillow made from Chiengora fabric is listed for $150, and tons of sellers on Etsy list socks, hats and more.

5. Performer or Athlete

Depending on the competition, you might actually lose money trying to make your dog a champion.

That’s because most dog shows award, at most, $100 for Best in Show. Even the Eukanuba National Championship’s grand prize of $1,000 barely covers entry fees, grooming services, handler fees and travel expenses to the show, and money from product sponsorships and stud fees are usually far less than you might think.

You’ll have a better shot at agility, field and other performance-based competitions. The prizes are still small -- USDAA’s Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships awards $1,000 to each first-place winner -- but you don’t have to pamper your pet quite so much.

Whatever competition you enter, you’ll have to put in countless hours in training and performing, so weigh whether the return is worth your investment.

Your Turn: Has your dog ever worked for his kibble? Tell us about it in the comments!

Teresa Bitler is a freelance writer whose German Shorthair Pointer spends his days sleeping under the desk. He has never earned a dime.

My husband and I always planned to save for our two daughters’ college educations, but when my oldest graduated from high school in May, we realized we had a fairly major financial crisis on our hands: We’d saved nothing, nada, over the last 18 years.

Even with the scholarships she’s been awarded so far, we’re facing a $20,000 per year bill for tuition, room and board, and we’re not sure how to pay for it.

It’s not too late to find funds, though! We’re learning there are quite a few options out there, even at this late date. If you’re a parent or a student staring down the barrel of an emptier-than-you-thought college fund, here are some last-minute ideas to help pay for college.

1. File for Federal Financial Aid

If you haven’t already filed the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA), it’s not too late. The federal government accepts FAFSA applications throughout the year, although your state and college may have their own deadlines.

Federal financial aid probably won’t pay for your entire school year — undergraduate students can qualify for up to $5,775 in Pell Grants, based on income — but it can make a dent. Other U.S. Department of Education grants, loans and work study programs can help supplement that amount.

2. Take Out a Private Student Loan

Unfortunately, federal financial aid might not cover all your expenses, so you might need to borrow more money from a private lender.

Try searching Credible. It’s like Zillow, except for private student loans. You can compare options to shop for your best match in under two minutes -- and it’s free to use. You’ll be able to find rates as low as 3.15% APR with autopay.

Oh, and you’ll get actual rates, not the estimated ones that tack on tons of money after the fact.

More than 2,200 schools are eligible, and it also offers flexible repayment plans to suit your life circumstances.

Do remember that it might be more difficult to get one of these loans if you don’t have any credit history, so you might need a co-signer. Credible’s tools can help you see how different co-signers can impact rates and loan products available to you.

But remember, your rate will be based on your specific credit profile.

Start perusing your options for free.

3. Complete a Special Circumstances Form

Life happens. If you’re in a pinch for last minute funds because of job loss, illness, divorce or other special circumstances, you may qualify for additional help.

Meet with your school’s financial aid officer about completing the school’s special circumstances form. You’ll have to go through a verification process that will require documentation of the change in circumstances, but it could be financially worth it.

4. Meet With an Aid Officer

Whether you have special circumstances or not, if you need additional funds, you should sit down with your school’s financial aid officer. Maybe there’s a work study program that can provide some extra cash, or a generous alum who wants to help students just like you.

The financial aid officer can also let you know about scholarship cancellations and late-deadline scholarships.

5. Follow Up With Scholarship Committees

Didn’t get that scholarship you were counting on? It doesn’t hurt to follow up with the scholarship committee or your school’s financial aid office.

Students who were awarded scholarships to multiple schools may decide to attend another one, freeing up the funds you wanted. Or, maybe, the student who won that scholarship won’t be able to attend college after all. (It happens!)

6. Apply for Late-Deadline Scholarships

Not all college scholarships have springtime deadlines. You can find substantial scholarships, like the $10,000 Ayn Rand Institute’s Atlas Shrugged Essay, with summer deadlines. You may have to do a little sleuthing, but here are a few to get you started.

7. Get a Part-Time Job During the Semester

You may have planned to get a summer job, but working while you’re in school is also a smart choice. You probably didn’t picture yourself flipping burgers on a Saturday night while your classmates partied, but steady part-time work can help finance college. And, if you’re lucky, you may even be able to find meaningful employment in your field of study or a job that lets you do homework in quiet moments. Or, if you prefer, give freelancing a shot.

Parents, you may want to consider working overtime when it’s offered to help foot the bill, or picking up some freelance work on the side of your day job.

8. Sell Stuff

Big ticket items — cars, boats, trailers — can pay for a year or more of college, but even the little stuff adds up. List your collection of vintage Star Wars action figures on eBay, park your ATV on the corner with a For Sale sign, or put your mountain bike on Craigslist or your local Facebook garage sale group. It adds up quickly.

9. Ask Family and Friends for Help

Most of your family, friends and even coworkers want to see you succeed. Ask them if they can help pay for part of the costs outright, or at least loan you the money.

It’s probably best to approach them in person, especially if you want help from your grandparents or Aunt Doris, but a letter explaining your situation and your goals can be effective, too.

10. Take Out an Emergency Loan

Here’s another good reason to meet with a financial aid officer — some colleges offer temporary emergency loans to students in dire financial straits. Typically, these are short-term loans for small amounts, but if you can’t afford books and other necessities, an emergency loan may just do the trick.

Heads up: You will probably have to prove there’s been an unexpected emergency, so don’t think you can get a loan to pay for extra beer money.

11. Set Up a Payment Plan

If all else fails, you may be able to set up a payment plan with the college. Many colleges offer no-interest payment plans that allow you to break your tuition into more manageable monthly payments. Usually, you’ll have to pay a small fee each semester ($30-$50) for the payment plan and a similar small amount as a penalty for returned payments, but you can have up to a year to pay the full amount.

Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.

Teresa Bitler is a freelance writer with one daughter heading to college this fall, another two years behind her, and zero in the bank to pay for either.