I Needed Extra Money for Vacation — Here’s How I Earned $500 in 3 Weeks

a couple sitting on an oversized rocking chair
Photo courtesy of Nichole Wierzba

When I was planning a recent trip to Nashville, I was so concerned about finding the best vacation deal that I forgot about another large vacation cost — actual cash to spend during the vacation. With no extra money coming my way, I decided to take a few unconventional paths to get some extra money before I left.

Here’s how I scraped up an extra $500 in the three weeks before I left on my trip:

I Donated Plasma

If you don’t mind needles and you’re in good health, donating plasma can be a great way to earn some extra money. Plus, you’re helping to save lives.

You’re typically only allowed to donate two times per week, and each donation takes about an hour. My local donation center currently pays $70 per week — $20 for your first donation and $50 for your second donation.

Oftentimes, new donors can get a bonus after completing a few donations. Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for the bonus being offered because I’d donated before, but it still didn’t take much time to rack up a decent balance.

Total earnings: $210

I Cashed in My Change

Do you have a dusty mason jar full of change sitting on your dresser? I sure did. Mine was almost full and pre-vacation was a great time to cash in. I combined coins from my change jar, my car and my wallet and took it all to my bank. It was quite satisfying to literally hear the sound of money.

Take your loose change to your bank if you can. While coin-counting machines typically charge a fee for cash, banks typically won’t charge you for cashing in. Coinstar doesn’t charge a fee if you opt for an eGift Card.

Total earnings: $70

I Sold Unwanted Items

In the past, my boyfriend and I had sold some larger items on Craigslist, including our washer and dryer, a boat and a truck. But before my vacation, I only had a few small items I wanted to sell quickly, so I decided to try Facebook Marketplace.

There, it was super easy to post my items for sale: I just snapped a few photos and added a price and description. Anyone with a Facebook profile can post items on Facebook Marketplace.

I listed a Keurig, an old iPad and a Fitbit that I never wore. I sold each item within the three weeks I had before I left for my trip.

A word to the wise: if you’re making an exchange with a stranger, take someone with you. If you don’t have anyone available, meet in a public place. I’ve never personally had a bad experience, but it’s better to be safe rather than sorry when dealing with a cash exchange.

Total earnings: $180

I Found a Freelance Job

I was already dabbling in freelancing to put money toward student loans. I write for a living, so I joined Upwork, an online freelance platform. I landed a few gigs early on but jumped online to find some quick job opportunities before my vacation.

A quick introduction to freelance platforms like Upwork: You create a profile and search for jobs based on your talents. I search for writing jobs, but there are all kinds of opportunities, from web and graphic design to IT and accounting. When you find a job posting that interests you, pitch for the job. If the client likes you, you’re hired.

I wrote a 500-word blog post for a client and earned $50. Upwork then charges a 20% fee from your earnings.

Total earnings: $40

After just a few weeks I had an extra $500. Instead of worrying about how to both pay my bills and enjoy my trip, I just took a few quick steps to earn some extra cash.

Nichole Wierzba is a marketing writer by day and freelance writer by night. When she’s not madly typing on her computer, she’s eating Mexican food or playing with her dog.