The Secret Ways Millennials Make Extra Cash

There's no shame. We've all been there: young, broke, desperate, or all of the above. Life is expensive and sometimes you find yourself doing something you never would have otherwise considered in order to make some quick cash. It's not necessarily some deep, dark, scarring experience — sometimes you've just got to get a little ... creative.

Everyone's heard the old I-sold-my-undies-on-Craigslist stories. It's a tried and true (and not always easy) method of earning some cash. But, there are many more strange ways of making a buck, and we've rounded up some of our favorite stories. Here, you'll find some medical testing, some bizarre performance gigs, at least one yarn suit, and a brief run in with a misogyny cult.

Listen, you've gotta do what you've gotta do.
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Kati Tikkaken
Account Executive

In college, I was convinced that "promotional modeling" (a.k.a. handing out samples and flyers on the streets) was in some way relevant to marketing and would go nicely on a résumé. First, I promoted Sexy Beast, a vegan dog perfume, outside of New York Fashion Week.

Then it was off to promote vampire novel series, Blood Is The New Black, (also outside of NYFW) wearing a black dress, large sunglasses, and glued-on fangs. (I was a hit on a few Japanese fashion blogs the next week.) The only place these belong on a résumé is under special skills: Debasing myself.
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Amelia Edelman
Content Editor

In high school I played Clifford (you know, the Big Red Dog) at the elementary school library, for probably $10 an hour. It was a giant, red, fuzzy, hot-as-hell Clifford suit with a head, and I actually fainted in it once. But, fainting within the dog suit just kind of looked like me sitting down, so it took the librarian a few minutes to notice that I was actually unconscious. Then they rescued me, and I got to sit in the copy room drinking juice and I still got paid.
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Danielle DeJoy
Content Strategy Coordinator

I used to do a ton of psychology studies in college, and some of them were really bizarre. In one of them, I got shocked on my arm every time I got a math question wrong. In another, I had to eat a large pretzel rod every minute for five minutes while the researcher stared at me. I don't think my mouth has ever been so dry.
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Stacey Gawronski
Contributor Network Editor

When I was in grad school — broke, like all good grad students — I decided to try nude modeling for an undergrad art class. I must have seen a sign on a poster board or something advertising the small gig, and figured I'd make a few bucks. So, for a whole semester, at three hours a pop for approximately $12 / hour, I took my clothes off for an undergraduate art seminar class. I was terrified at first but grew to enjoy and appreciate the experience. Granted, it was a little strange when I glanced at one of the student's drawings one day as I was leaving class. It didn't look a thing like me — or at least what I thought I looked like naked. She must have seen my surprised expression because she said: "Oh, don't worry. I know this isn't right. I just really like drawing the pregnant figure."

I looked into doing it in NYC, but it seems there is no shortage of people willing to strip down for art and a few dollars. So, my "career" as a nude model was short-lived, but I have one of the student's drawings framed and sitting in a closet to prove it!
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Lizzy Oppenheimer
Senior Photo Editor

I once tried on 30 pairs of jeans in a warehouse in L.A. for $100. No idea why they needed me to do that, but I did.
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Amanda Green
Marketing Copywriter

The weirdest way I've made money over the years is wearing a crocheted yarnsuit in public for the artist Olek. Exhibit A.

I've worn yarnsuits on the High Line, on the street, at parties, in galleries, and in magazine photo shoots. It's never been about the money, per se. (I don't get paid much to do it.) It's an experience, plus enough cash for dinner afterwards. At this point, I just say yes when asked. One time, I agreed without knowing I'd be sitting in a gallery for four hours at a time wearing crocheted pasties and a mermaid tail. I still did it!
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Maria Del Russo
Beauty Editor

When I was younger, kids at my high school used to pay me to take them into the city. I was familiar with big, bad NYC because I took dance classes here, and some of the kids at school thought that made me an expert on things (which, I wasn't).

So, they use to tell their parents they were going in with someone who "knew their way around." I was such a jerk that I charged $25 a trip AND made them all chip in for my train ticket. The joke was on them, though — I really knew nothing about downtown, and we'd just wander around St. Marks popping into head shops. A real "NYC Experience," there.
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Cara Warner
Platform Engineer

When I was in grad school I volunteered for experiments to earn extra grocery money. I had six MRIs that year, wore a camera that took a photograph every 20 seconds for an entire day, and spent 20 hours in a sound proof room listening to electronic beeps.
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Ash Hodges
Office Operations Assistant

When I was a butcher — and so, so broke — I would take home the extra fat from the lambs and steer. I used it to make soap and candles which I sold to friends for pocket change.
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Arvin Bautista
Director / Animator

After college I did a lot of freelance design gigs (animation, logos, websites), many off of Craigslist, and some from college referrals. Someone I went to school with asked me to design the landing page for an upcoming dating site called "Sterling Singles."

There was no contract, and I did the mockup on spec. Eventually my contact started falling off the map, and as I tried to look up the "Justin Sterling" of the site to see if they could pay me directly, I found out he was an MRA-type guru whose "Sterling Institute" has been labeled as a misogynist cult. I never heard from him either, and I never got paid.
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Christina Bonnington
Technology Editor

My first paid job was playing the Sugar Plum fairy at FAO Schwarz, signing autographs and taking pictures with kids. (I was an advanced student at Houston Ballet Academy at the time.) I was probably paid $25.

My next paid job was as a rat in Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker. And not just any rat — I was a rat on horseback. Well, technically, instead of being on a horse, like our soldier counterparts, I was a rat riding on top of another rat, so a rat on rat-back. The rat I was "riding” was an extra part of my costume. What costume you ask? This one. You can't really see out of it, and it smelled awful. The costume also had a tail, and when I went out at intermission to sign autographs, kids would sometimes pull it.
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Tanya Edwards
Weekend Editor

When I first moved to NYC, I was working retail to (barely) survive. Since I worked non-nine-to-five hours, and had no money, I did random things for fun. One afternoon I went with a bunch of friends to sit in the audience of a trashy national talk show. I hadn't seen a TV taping before, and it was fun. At the end of the taping, one of the producers stood up and asked if anyone wanted to come back tomorrow and "help out." Then she said the magic words: "We will pay you."

My hand shot up, and along with a few other people, I was taken to another room and told they needed people to sit in the audience and provoke the guests. Basically, we were audience plants asking questions the producers suggested (this was my first lesson that everything on TV is scripted). They'd send a town car to pick me up, give me lunch, and pay me $50.

When I arrived at the studio the next day I was super nervous. The producers gave me some coffee, fed me a few questions, and I settled into the audience for a taping called "Girl, You May Think You're All That, But No One Will Date You Because You're a Bitch." When it was my turn to ask my question, the host bounded up the stairs to me, and I tried to give my best performance. It worked, because two of the women on the stage charged up the stairs threatening to kill me. They were restrained and taken back to the stage, but one of the girls said she was going to find me after the show and, "beat my Little Orphan Annie-looking ass."

That didn't happen, and when the show aired a few months later, I enjoyed a few weeks of people recognizing me on the subway (so strange) and I had landed a real job.
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