You’ve probably heard the warnings against payday loans and other get-cash-fast, short-term lenders.
Interest rates amount to more than 300%.
Loans are almost impossible to repay for many people who need them most.
One former lender even said the industry made him feel like a “modern-day gangster.”
But what can you do? You need money now.
The desperation is real. But I’ve never taken out a payday loan.
A stop at your nearby — oh-so-conveniently-located — Check ‘n Go should always be a last resort. Like a last-last, way after you’ve tried everything you can think of, after asking everyone else in the world, so far down the list you barely even consider it an option… resort.
Because you can do better.
Avoid the outlandish fees and impossible interest that just put you further in the hole, and try to earn the cash on your own. We’ve pulled together 15 things you can try before you consider a payday loan — real ways you can put cash in your pocket today.
You may have to use a few of these strategies to amass the money you need, but a bit of effort might save you a lot of money if it means avoiding that payday loan.
1. Sell Your Clothes
When I was capital-B Broke in college, I could always pull a couple things from my closet to sell at a local consignment shop. I’d walk away with about $20, enough to stock up on groceries for the week.
I’ve never had a packed closet by any means, so you can probably do even better than I did.
2. Take Care of Pets
Want to make extra money hanging out with cats and dogs? Pet-sitting could be a great side gig.
If you just want to earn some fast cash today, offer to watch, groom, walk or feed pets for friends or family. You could be offering relief they were afraid to ask for!
You could earn around $40 taking a dog for a walk or stopping by just to keep them company, more if you pitch in for a visit to the vet or help with shopping.
Need more? Offer to watch pets overnight while friends, family or colleagues take a trip out of town.
3. Do a Few Odd Jobs for Family or Friends
Your family or friends want to help out, right? So find something you can do for them in the next hour, for a fair wage.
For example, offer to rake the yard or clean their windows for $20.
4. Pick Up a Craigslist Gig
Don’t forget about short-term gigs on Craigslist! If no one you know needs a hand today, take a look at the Gigs section of your local Craigslist.
Someone might need help with housekeeping, yard work, creative gigs or other odd jobs. Pay will vary, but you take whatever work you want and negotiate for a fee that suits you.
5. Offer to Babysit
If your friends aren’t pet parents, maybe they’re actually parents of little people?
Offer to babysit for the day or while they go out for the evening, and you could earn $50-$100.
Keep your eyes and ears open at work, at social gatherings and on social media. If someone mentions a search for a babysitter or just that they could use a nice night out with their spouse, jump in and offer the relief they’re looking for!
6. Sell Your Gold and Silver
Do you have silver or gold coins and jewelry that you don’t mind parting with? You can sell them for quick cash.
Our resident expert, writer Steve Gillman, warns against going with the buyers you see advertising on TV. They’ll probably send you an envelope to mail in your precious metals, and you’ll wait a few days for an offer and even longer to get paid.
Instead, look for a local coin shop and storefront silver and gold buyers. They tend to pay better prices and you’ll get the money today.
Of course, make sure your items aren’t more valuable as-is before selling them to be melted for their metals. Stop by a local jeweler for an appraisal, or maybe even a sale!
7. Flip a Freebie
If you’re not afraid of dumpster diving or curb-shopping, you could nab some items for a quick sale with no overhead.
If your neighbors’ trash doesn’t yield anything valuable, try browsing Craigslist freebies for items you can pick up and resell today.
Keep an eye out for things that are nearby and that flip easily — items you could sell at a pawn shop or on consignment, probably, instead of waiting for a private buyer.
8. Offer a Weird Service to Friends for Donations
My boyfriend once made $600 in six hours from a hotel room by posting an offer on Facebook to draw pictures for PayPal donations. Think of it like busking, but for the internet.
Instead of launching a crowdfunding campaign or simply soliciting donations, what can you offer in return to brighten someone’s day and thank them for their generosity?
Maybe you can record a song, paint a picture, offer a quick edit or proofread of something they’ve written, review resumes, create a design, write a joke, make a silly video or complete a dare.
Get creative — the more fun you make it, the more friends will want to participate!
9. Sell Scrap Metal
If you don’t have gold or silver to part with, maybe you have old wire, aluminum soda cans or construction scraps taking up space in your garage?
If you’re going to throw it away anyway, why not take it to a recycling center and make a little money off of it?
Copper and aluminum are the most valuable metals — though, none will net you a ton in one trip. You might net $5-$15, but when you’re strapped for cash, that little bit can make a big difference!
You could also do friends and family a favor by offering to clear out their scrap metal. Turn it in for them, and split the profits.
10. Sell Gift Cards
We’ve talked plenty about selling unused gift cards online, but that won’t pay up right away. If you want to turn your gift cards into cash now, you’ll have to venture into the real world.
Ask friends, family, neighbors, co-workers or (if it’s allowed) store patrons if they’re interested in buying your gift card at a discount. They may be happy to buy, say, a $25 gift card for just $20. And you’ll have $20 more in cash!
11. Make a Bar Bet
Yes, this can be legal, and it can be fair. But you might annoy or upset fellow bar patrons, so make sure you know your audience well before parading out these amusing tricks.
Make your way through these six foolproof bar bets — and maybe a few different locations — and you could impress your friends and leave with a pocket full of cash.
12. Collect Outstanding Debts… at a Discount
This tip, of course, requires that you’ve loaned money to someone and are awaiting repayment.
If that’s the case, and you’re desperate for cash, you might be able to collect on the debt quickly by offering a discount. For example, if someone borrowed $100, offer to call it even if they can repay $75 now.
You’ll be doing each other a favor, and if they can afford the discounted deal, the borrower will be happy to have the debt cleared.
13. Try Busking
Didn’t love the idea of offering odd services online? Try the real thing — street performing!
Get out your guitar, juggling balls, paints and canvas, saxophone or dusty Halloween costume, and try busking for the day.
Find a spot in your city with decent foot traffic and not too many competing performers, and you could quickly amass a nice pile of cash. If you don’t mind being the center of attention, this can be a fun way to make extra money when you need it.
14. Borrow From Friends or Family Members
If you’ve made it through the list and still need money now, think about who you can borrow money from before you resort to an expensive payday loan.
Always be upfront with friends and family, repay your loans on time and ask for money sparingly. No one wants to feel like a mooch, but the people who love you tend to want to help you when you need it, so don’t discount the option.
You can even offer to pay interest on the loan, and the rate will be far better than a payday loan business.
Whatever you agree on, make sure you put it in writing, so everyone is on the same page, and they know you’re serious about repayment.
15. Ask for a Paycheck Advance at Work
Finally, if you’ve exhausted all other options, tricks, tips and talents, try to get an advance on your paycheck from your employer before you agree to pay outrageous interest to a payday loan place.
Ask to borrow the money you need against small payments out of future paychecks. This reduces or eliminates your interest. And, when the lender is the same person who cuts your checks, they know they’re guaranteed repayment!
This strategy requires a degree of trust within your company. And, to be honest, it may be a long shot. But to save you from a cycle of building debt, it’s definitely worth trying.
Your Turn: What tricks have you tried to make money quickly when you’re in a bind?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).