10 Ways to Make Extra Money in College

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You’re in your late teens or early 20s. You’re in college, paid for through a combination of work, scholarships, grants, loans, help from family, and a little bit of sorcery. Tuition costs an insane amount, and that’s not even including a room, book costs, or food in many cases. So how exactly does a college student save up enough disposable income for the occasional night out or tickets to a nearby event?

I’m going to go through a couple of methods I used during my time in university that really helped me make some extra income without dipping into savings.

1.  Books: Buy low / Sell high

books make money selling

Unless your undergraduate major is something obscure like Theme Park Engineering or Turfgrass Science (yes, both are real!), your school will have a steady in-and-out flow of other students who have taken the course already or are planning on it. Buying from a friend who already took a course, or even borrowing a book can save you hundreds of dollars. The cardinal rule with this is not to buy your book through the school store, as those prices are usually way higher than ones you would find on Amazon or other retailers.  Don’t be afraid to buy used books either (used books online are usually also cheaper than in-store).

Now to the selling portion:

While you may be someone seeking to cut costs, not everybody in college is the same. In my experience, especially having gone to a private university, there was never a shortage of kids who had the money but didn’t want to bother researching the best costs or jump over hoops for a deal.  Most universities these days have student-run Facebook groups. There’s also a Facebook Marketplace for this too. Put out a post and offer up your book for sale. I always listed my book at maybe $5 under the asking price on Amazon and almost always succeeded in getting rid of my book. Mind you, these were usually used books I bought really cheap, then sold them at just under the price of a new one. With new books I purchased, I usually kept them in great condition so I was able to sell them for the price same price I bought them and at least break even. I think people just didn’t want to deal with having it shipped, then picking it up at the mail room.  Also in my experience, I’ve also had professors who helped me get in touch with incoming students who would need my books.

2.  Sign up for Psychology and Research studies

make money psych study college research

This technique actually helped me pay for my senior year Spring Break. If you’ve taken an intro to Psych class, there’s a good chance that one of the requirements for your grade was to participate in a study conducted by older Psych students or Gradauate/pHD candidates from your school. While course-required ones are normally just for credit, did you also know that you can sign up for them on your own?  Find the link to the study portal on your school’s Psych department website to reach out to someone  for info.  These studies, depending on the time it takes, can easily pay out $10 to $20 per hour, and even higher if the task is more time intensive or difficult.

If you do take this route, make sure you sign up early in the semester because as you approach the end, the procrastinating Psych undergrads will try to book the studies last minute en masse to meet their requirements.  Make sure to read through the waivers they make you sign before to make sure you understand the terms, even though usually they’re just disclaimers and background on the study.

3.  Use a Cashback Credit Card + Venmo/Square

Chase Freedom earn money college

Have you ever gone out to dinner with friends and had to split a bill seven ways? With the availability of P2P payment apps like Venmo or Square Cash, this is no longer an issue. However, why would you want to be the one having to do this? Because in paying the bill with your credit card and getting reimbursed by your friends later, you are earning cash back for their meals.

Let’s say 10 people go to dinner and the total is 200 after tax and tip ($20 per person). If you paid for the whole bill with a Chase Freedom or Discover It card during a restaurant quarter, you would get 5% cash back (though 1% during non-restaurant quarters), or $10 back. If each meal was $20, then you essentially only spent $10 on dinner. Furthermore, you’d be $200 closer to hitting the intro bonus requirement on the card. The Chase Freedom has a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 on the card. If you did this $200 outing with a large group of people three times, the $600 total puts you over the $500 minimum spend required to earn your $150 bonus. That $150 plus $600 x 5% bonus equals $180 total you’re receiving, for spending only $60 total on those 3 meals.

Things to remember:

  • Pay your full credit card statement balance on time every month.
  • Only use the credit card to purchase things you can afford with cash, so you won’t rack up a balance you won’t be able to pay.
  • Covering your friend’s bill to be reimbursed later only works if your friend is reliable and will actually pay you back.
  • Responsible use of credit cards in college will help you establish good credit history and improve your credit score.
  • Most credit cards offer consumer protections that debit cards do not, like extended warranty, return protection, price-match protection, theft protection, travel insurance. These vary based on the type of credit card you have.
  • Fraud protection:  If your debit card is stolen, that’s a direct line of access to your bank account. Even if you’re not liable, it may take time for you to have access to those funds. A credit card issuer will just cancel the fraudulent charge on your credit card and you no longer need to worry.

Best Cashback Cards for beginners:

I’ve included direct links to the credit card page. Please note that the links for Chase cards are referral links, and if you feel like using them, it can go a long way to help maintain this website. You should, however, pick whichever card makes most sense for your spending. Ie: if you spend mostly on groceries and gas, it makes way more sense to use the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred. Make sure to read all the terms and conditions associated with your cards. The information below is a quick summary.

  1. Chase Freedom
    • 1% Cash Back on all purchases
    • 5% Cash Back on rotating categories every quarter, such as dining, entertainment, groceries, and gas
    • $150 cash bonus after $500 or more on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  2. Discover It
    • 1% Cash Back on all purchases
    • 5% Cash Back on rotating categories every quarter, such as dining, entertainment, groceries, and gas
    • No sign up bonus, but at the end of the first year, Discover will double the total amount of cash back you earned that year
  3. American Express Blue Cash Preferred
    • 6% Cash Back at supermarkets
    • 3% at gas stations and US department stores
    • $150 cash bonus after $1,000 or more on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  4. Citi Double Cash
    • Flat 2% cash back on all purchases
  5. Chase Freedom Unlimited
    • Flat 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases
    • $150 cash bonus after $500 or more on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Learn more about cash back credit cards from our in-depth post here.

4.  Bing

bing rewards make money

I know what you’re thinking; why on Earth would I use Bing over Google? Well, Google doesn’t have a rewards program for using Google. Bing does. Searching with Bing earns you points that you can eventually redeem for gift cards such as Amazon, Xbox Live, and Sephora. You won’t make bank doing this obviously, but if you’re a student who needs to research things nonstop, why not get a small kick back from it? Usually I easily hit maybe $80-110 each year in Amazon credit, with no added effort at all.

Please refer to Microsoft and Bing’s Rewards page for more information.

5.  mTurk

mturk make money college

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program, or mTurk, is a research tool that universities and organizations use to gather data and research from large numbers of people who perform tasks. It stemmed from the idea that a network of human workers could do things that computers can’t yet.

If you sign up as a “Turker,” you have the option to complete small tasks for money. Some of these tasks include answering surveys, transcribing audio, tagging images, translating, or summarizing articles. Payment for most tasks, called HITs (human intelligence tests), pay anywhere from a couple of cents to a couple of dollars, depending on the difficulty of the task or how long it’ll take. As you become faster as a mTurker, you can knock out hundreds of HITs per day. Once you gain an understanding of which HITs are worth working on, you will be able to make more money. HITs can be approved or rejected by the recruiter so you should do a good job on the tasks. A goal most regular Turkers have is to work at a rate where they can make $7 an hour minimum, or at minimum wage for it to be worth it for them. I have done HITs and worked at rates that made me $30 an hour, though that doesn’t always happen. Usually in college, I just did low effort surveys that would range from 50 cents to a dollar while watching TV. That’s not going to be substantial income, but if you’re binging a show on Netflix, it’s cool to earn a couple of bucks while doing so. Beer money. Similar programs involve SwagBucks, which is also very popular but one I’ve never tried.

As a sample, this is what I made via mTurk just through occasional usage during weekends or while watching TV in 2014 after my daytime job. This is a result of getting the hang of mTurk, but also putting in low effort due to only being able to mTurk at odd hours.mturk example

Those who learn how to use mTurk and also spend a lot of time on it obviously make way more. There are Turkers out there who have made thousands. Making several hundred a day is very possible, as talked about on this subreddit.

Keep in mind that there are tons of other ways for college students to make money online. This is just one method that I’ve used personally.

Other mTurk Resources:

  1. Hits Worth Turking For” Subreddit: for shared information regarding HITs that are easy to complete and have a better pay rate.
  2. Turkopticon: An extension you can download onto your browser that will reveal the average score of the person hiring you for the job. These ratings are from other Turkers. This tool was created by UCSD.
6.  Sell your sports tickets

If you’re into your school’s football team and bought season passes, you don’t always have to go to every single game. If you think it’s going to be a bad game or just don’t feel up to it, instead of chucking it out, either give it to a friend or sell it. This is where Facebook comes into play again. Usually on the day or two before the game, there are always a couple of people looking to buy an extra ticket for themselves or for friends/family. At minimum, sell the ticket for the value of a single day ticket, since that’s what the person would have paid for if they bought it individually. You will make a profit because the ticket package you got for the season made each single ticket cheaper as a result. You can always slightly bump the price up if it’s a ticket for a popular game, but don’t fall into scalper territory.

7.  Part-time job at the library or gym

Of jobs that are available at school, the best jobs have to be the ones at either the library desk or gym front desk. Some of my closest friends did these jobs and they loved it because much of their job involved sitting at the front desk and scanning people’s badges. The rest of the time, they were free to do homework, study, or play around on their computer. All while getting paid. These jobs tend to be popular so research how to get hired through your university’s website or Student Services, then act fast.

8.  Tutor

tutor for extra money in college

Maybe you’re a S.T.E.M. major in college. Fortunately for you, and unfortunately for the rest of us, lots of college students still need help in these areas. Put up flyers or posts on campus Facebook Groups to advertise your expertise, then start spreading your knowledge. Of course, only do this if you are capable of helping someone else maintain their grades while also focusing on your own academics.

9.  Sell class notes

sell notes make extra money

If you’ve always been a strong student who takes excellent notes, why not offer up copies to others who may not be as good? Advertise on your college’s Facebook group, on bulletins, or online. There are websites like Stuvia or OmegaNotes where you can sell them.

10.  Rideshare Driver

rideshare uber lyft make money

If you have a car in college, you somehow end up becoming a glorified driver for all your friends. If you’re paying for parking and gas, and driving people around already, why not get paid for it? Every few weekends, when you don’t feel like going out with your friends or drinking, why not drive Uber or Lyft to give rides to drunk students?

 

There are many more side-hustles you can try to stretch a dollar in college. The ones mentioned above are methods that have worked for myself or my close friends. Please let us know if there are other methods that you think are worth including.

 

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