San Francisco: 18 Ways to Make Money in the City by the Bay

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Want to make some money in San Francisco? Maybe even save a little for the future?

We thought so — especially because it’s notorious for being one of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S.

We’ve compiled a tons of ways you can boost your bottom line — most of them you can do from the comfort of your couch.

How to Make Money in San Francisco

If you’ve got some time for a side gig — or even if you don’t — making extra money can be a great way to give a little love to your bank account. Here are a few flexible ideas to get you started:

1. Get Paid to Unplug the Toaster

Fun fact: California residents can earn money when they sync their utility accounts to an energy-sharing program called OhmConnect.

Why is OhmConnect willing to pay you to do things like unplug your coffeemaker, turn the TV off and stop the dryer just one hour a day (called an #OhmHour)? #OhmHours occur when the energy grid is overworking and must rely on dirty power plants to prevent a brownout.

#OhmHours typically occur once or twice a week in the afternoons or evenings.

The more electricity you save, the more you could earn. Take notes from John Hastie, who has been able to make more than $400 in one month with OhmConnect.

OhmConnect is offering Penny Hoarders a $10 Target gift card when they sign up and connect their utility accounts.

2. Place a Bet on Your Health

WalletHub named San Francisco one of the healthiest cities in America. If you don’t feel like you fit into that category (yikes, pun not intended), that’s OK. There’s good news for you.

You could get paid to lose weight.

Here’s how: Sign up for HealthyWage. Define a goal weight and a timeframe within which you plan to achieve it. Place a bet on yourself, between $20 to $500 a month.

HealthyWage’s calculator will consider how much weight you have to lose, how much time you give yourself to do it and how much money you’re willing to put on the line. This will determine your reward — which could be up to $10,000.

3. Stop Deleting Your Emails

It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious money. Intrigued?

One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping.

4. Invest in Real Estate…

OK, we say invest in San Francisco real estate, and you think maybe you could afford to invest in a patch of grass. Or maybe half a parking space.

Think again. You can start investing in real estate with as little as $500 — without leaving your couch.

Fundrise, a real estate investing platform, allows you to invest with its Fundrise Starter Portfolio. There, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

You aren’t just funneling your money off to some faraway land, either. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

6. List Your Couch on Airbnb

Have a spare room? Couch? Might as well use Airbnb to make some money by renting it out.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

And there's no reason you can't be creative. We found a guy in Mountain, View, California, who earns $1,380 a month renting out a backyard tent on Airbnb.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

Here are some tips:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events.
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  • Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.

Here’s the link to sign up as an Airbnb host.

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to San Francisco.)

7. Find Your Unclaimed Money

State treasuries throughout the U.S. have more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds, according to The New York Times. Just sitting around! Waiting for you to come play lost and found.

Check with the California’s State Controller site to see if you have anything coming..

Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice, performed a quick search, and found unclaimed money in her husband’s name.

“As I was scrolling through, I saw his name and his middle initial,” she says. She asked him to confirm his old Florida address; he grew up in Tampa. Sure enough, Mark Howell was entitled to $56 from a “matured insurance policy.”

Kelli immediately searched her other family members’ names. Her husband was the only who had any money to claim. And, sure, it’s $56, but that’s not bad for an unexpected check, right? We’ll take it!

8. Rent out Your Car

If you own a reliable vehicle — but leave it sitting in your driveway all the time — you could turn it into an income stream by renting it.

With the Getaround app, you can safely rent out your car to people in your community and neighborhood. The company insures your car for each trip, offers 24/7 roadside assistance and screens drivers for a safe driving record.

That’s more assurance than you get when your teenager gets behind the wheel…

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up with your Facebook account to rent out your car here.
  2. Set your own rates and availability.
  3. You’ll get a notification when someone books your car.
  4. Your car will be equipped with a Getaround Connect™, so renters will be able to locate, unlock and lock your car from their mobile phone during the trip period. No need to meet in person to exchange keys.

Like many side gigs that involve your car, some car owners worry about the costs for things like gas and wear and tear on the vehicle. With Getaround, renters are responsible for refilling the fuel used on the trip.

We also checked in with the company to see what it’s doing to address car owners’ concerns, and the CEO Sam Zaid told us, “Fortunately, customer feedback is one of the best ways we can learn and grow. We take feedback seriously and prioritize product updates based on our conversations with owners and renters.”

So don’t be afraid to share your experience to make this an even better platform for car owners and renters.

9. Sell Your Clutter

Have a bunch of movies or CDs collecting dust on a shelf? Clear some space to help you breathe, and put that old stuff to work for you.

Decluttr will pay you for these items — plus your Blu-rays, video games and other electronics like cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods.

For virtually anything, you can also use Letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s also 100% free to use.

Seriously, it’s time to let “Jagged Little Pill” go. Or at least sign up for Spotify.

10. Snag Cash Back on All Your Purchases

Ibotta is an easy-to-use cash-back app that’s partnered with more than 50 retailers, just about anywhere you’d do any kind of shopping.

Before you head to the store (or start shopping online), search for items on your shopping list within the app. Strawberries? Check. An ear of corn? Check. Cash back on a hotel room? Check. Add each cash-back opportunity to your list in the app.

Then shop.

When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

11. Answer Questions While Watching TV

Surveys aren't our favorite way to make money, but if you're just vegging out on the couch, why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks?

Here are some of the best paid survey sites we've found:

  • Ipsos i-Say: You might recognize the Ipsos Panel name because it’s the same company that does most of the political polling during elections. Some of the top-end surveys can pay up to $95, but those are rare and can take awhile to complete. Most surveys pay a buck or two and only take 10 to 15 minutes.
  • InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.
  • Harris Poll: Most surveys pay between $3 and $4 each for 20 minutes of your time. Larger panels are hosted locally. These usually require two to four hours of your time — and you don’t get to watch Netflix while you’re at it — but they pay up to $75.

12. Rent out Your Parking Space

If you have an extra parking space in the city, you might be able to establish a stream of passive income.

Look for online platforms that allow you to list your space. Craigslist seems to be a popular one. It boasts more than 1,000 parking and storage listings in the area. A two-car garage with a remote and keypad is going for $499 a month in the Mission District.

Not bad for a slab of asphalt, right?

13. Swipe Your Card for Cash Back

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, BART fare), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

14. Become a Human Billboard

You don’t have to wear a giant banana get-up or know any fancy sign-spinning tricks for this gig.

Sign up to be a human billboard through Nomad Technologies, and you’ll walk around with a tablet displaying a branded message attached to your backpack. The CEO describes it as “Uber for advertising” in that brands can launch a campaign anywhere and folks can sign up to showcase it whenever they want.

Nomads are paid $10 to $20 an hour. There’s even surge pricing, allowing you to get paid more.

15. Play Matchmaker

When you think of a matchmaker, you might think of a cartoon cupid character or even some type of genie in a bottle. The notion seems unreal — that someone could actually set you up with your soulmate. And, no, we’re not talking about Tinder.

Tawkify employs a team of matchmakers across the U.S. to match love birds — and it’s always looking for new members to join, especially in one of its first cities, San Francisco.

You don’t necessarily need a background in matchmaking. Team members have included lawyers, life coaches, entrepreneurs, teachers and even writers. Some matchmakers have made up to $50,000 a year working part time.

16. Become a Ride-Share Driver — for Kids

The gig economy is saturated with ride-sharing services. Notice we haven’t mentioned any of the traditional ones? That’s because you probably already know about them.

One you might not know about? HopSkipDrive, an online ride-service platform that helps parents schedule rides for their kids ages 6 and older. Yup — it’s like Uber, but for kids.

So-called CareDrivers can make up to $30 an hour shuffling kids around, from school to practice to recitals.

Right now, the service is recruiting CareDrivers in Los Angeles, Orange County and the Bay Area.

17. Set up a Passive Income Stream

Unfortunately, “passive income” doesn’t mean you can sit back and embrace the lazy. You’re going to have to work a little at first.

If you want to fully understand the concept — and get some ideas churning — check out our guide to passive income.

A few of our favorites include:

  • Selling your photos.
  • Buying a gumball machine.
  • Designing greeting cards.
  • Publishing an ebook.

Setting up a form of passive income is important; it allows you a little more room for flexibility while still feeling financially secure.

18. Start Kicking

No extreme physical activity or pulled muscles required for this money-making trick. All you need to do is download the Shopkick app.

Once you sign up, the app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). These can be redeemed for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy.

It pays you even more “kicks” for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you purchased in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases. Bonus: You don’t have to do anything; your linked cards will automatically apply your kicks.

We’ve got an ultimate guide to using Shopkick here.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She visited San Francisco last year and fell in love.

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