8 Easy Side Hustles that Really Pay [Updated]

Originally published June 13, 2016. Updated March 20, 2018.

Angie and I have been side-hustling for years. We’ve done everything from swap out the displays on top of gas pumps all across Colorado to sit on a mock jury to earn a little extra cash. Once we even mystery shopped our meals on vacation. While we love the added income, I sometimes think we do it more for the fun of it than anything else.

That’s one packed Peanut!

After a few months off from side-hustling, we decided to pick it back up last week. Our goal is twofold. First, we want to buy a car-top cargo carrier for Peanut. As our primary mode of transportation and occasional overnight accommodations on road-trips, Peanut can only hold so much. The cargo bag will allow us to put the soft stuff (sleeping bag, pads, pillows and clothes) on top of the car, leaving room inside for the tent, cooler, and food. Second, we want to use said car-top carrier for a really awesome road trip in April and well, we could use a bit of extra cash for campgrounds and sightseeing.

So back to side-hustling we went. And this time we added a few noteworthy sources of income to our growing list of Easy Side Hustles.

Field Agent 
field agentIt is very easy to sign up and easy to use. Within an hour, we were off on our first assignment…to test and take pictures of the coin counting machine in a local grocery store. Since we were driving toward Nashville anyway, we decided to do a few other assignments along the way. With Field Agent, you only have a 2-hour window to complete an assignment once you claim it, so it’s best to search while you’re on the go. In just a week, we’ve earned $27 (7 assignments) while we were out and about on our regular errands. Field Agent pays quickly, setting your earnings aside in an account that you can cash out at any time.

easy-shift-appEasy Shift
By far, this is my favorite of all the side hustling apps we use. It has the same easy to use interface as Field Agent. With Easy Shift though, you have 10-24 hours to complete accepted assignments, depending on the assignment. At times, we’ve had a little difficulty with capturing photos in the app but nothing that wasn’t easily fixed with a quick reset of the phone. Easy Shift pays very quickly via PayPal. We completed 4 assignments with Easy Shift over the past week, earning $20.25. That money was deposited within 3 days into our PayPal account.

Surveys on the Go
ongosurveyI’m still on the fence with this app. The surveys are easy enough but there are very, very few of them and the earnings are small. When a survey is available in your location, you will receive a push notification; however, you have to be quick to get in on the survey. So far this year, we’ve earned $12.45. When I discussed deleting this app with Angie, she waxed philosophical and said, “You wouldn’t step over a dime on the ground, now would you? No. A dime is a dime and ten add up to a dollar.” I couldn’t argue with that logic. So for the time being, we’ll keep this app to see how many dimes we collect.

Merchandiser by Survey
This is the companion app to Surveys to Go. Instead of 10 cent surveys though, you can apply for actual in-store merchandising jobs. This one was our big money maker of the week, bringing in $39. We counted Nabisco products at Target and Food Lion, Skinny Almonds in Target, and took photos of various displays in Publix. None of the assignments took more than 20 minutes. Once our work was approved, the payment posted to an account (like Field Agent) that we can cash out after earning a minimum of $7.50.

I tried Gigwalk back when it first came out and immediately deleted the app. Back then it was a points based payment system and let’s face it, when we do work, most of us prefer to be paid in cash not points. Last week, we reinstalled the app and gave it a second chance. That “chance” has netted us $12 so far (and another $5 when we complete an assignment later today). The drawback of Gigwalk is that there are not many assignments near us. The upside though is that they pay very quickly through PayPal.

The Source
Trendsource is not a standalone mobile app like the others. They are a legitimate merchandising and mystery shopping company and as such, there’s an application process. We’ve been contractors with Trendsource for nearly a decade. They offer easy monthly grocery store audits, restaurant mystery shops, and on-site business inspections that pay between $5-$25 per location, along with reimbursement for your purchase. Though they don’t pay immediately, they do have a set payment schedule and direct deposit options.

BestMark_BlueLogoSquareI couldn’t find an app for Bestmark but I wanted to mention them because, like Trendsource, they are a legitimate mystery shopping company. Both Angie and I are contractors with them. What I like most about Bestmark is that you can find easy internet or phone assignments that don’t require you to go anywhere. These assignments only pay $3-$5 but they also only take 15-20 minutes to do. Bestmark also offers on-site mystery shops, including opportunities for oil changes and other automotive services. Bestmark pays by check on a set monthly schedule.

My good friend Linda reminded me about this one via Facebook recently. She has been a long time shopper with them and I used to do a few theater audits every now and then. MarketForce is also a legitimate mystery shopping company. Their app and their online portal for selecting jobs is super easy to use and there are jobs all over the place. So far, we’ve only completed on grocery shop but we’ve signed up for 5 other shops in April, ranging from restaurants to retails stores. Like Trendsource and Bestmark, you will need to complete an application to become a shopper.

Food Waste Update

Still no food finds but sadly, we did add 12 ounces of burnt beans to our food waste list because someone (me) left the crock pot on high all day while we were playing outside. **sigh**

  • Wasted Food this week: 12 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 50 ounces
  • Rescued Food this week:   0 US pounds
  • Total Food Rescued this year:  184.39 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.

Our Frugal Christmas

Now that Christmas is over (and there’s no chance our family will call us cheapskates), we can safely reveal our total out-of-pocket spending for this gift-giving season. We spent just $75.

My mom is the ultimate gifter. Before she sent over her presents, our tree was pretty bare.

Don’t be fooled though.

Aside from us, there are no other minimalists in our family so gifting is kind of a big deal for them. My mom loves to see people open presents…and she is far and away the most intuitive gift-giver I’ve ever seen. She always seems to know just exactly what we all need. We also put a lot of thought into gifting this year, trying to make sure everyone had something picked especially for them. My mom, who loves to cook, has been looking for a good French Skillet for a few years (and an old-fashioned kitchen timer). We lucked out, finding both on sale at Wayfair just before Thanksgiving. The littlest member of our family recently started sitting on anything that remotely resembles a seat so we found a tiny chair (that won’t topple) just for her. We stuffed stockings for each other, gave gift cards to the teenage niece and nephew, and showered mom and the little one with a few other small, meaningful gifts.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the fridge…

This was also our year to host the family celebration. Much of our Christmas morning was spent prepping appetizers – sausage balls, jalapeno poppers, an assortment of cheeses, and punch – before starting on dinner. For our small family, we decided to go with a boneless turkey breast (no waste!) and the traditional trimmings – cornbread dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn casserole, and rolls. We cooked the turkey in the crock pot, which was a first for us. I’m pleased to say, it turned out rather well.

In fact, everything went rather well that day. And we did it all for just $75. Well okay, not exactly. The actual total, with food, was closer to $400.  Of that though, we only paid $74.88 out of our own pocket. The remainder was covered by gift cards.

Over the past few months we’ve worked various side hustles to score gift cards expressly for Christmas, including:

MyCokeRewards: We pretty much stopped drinking soda at home almost a year ago so collecting Coke points is a bit more challenging than it used to be. Luckily my mom still enjoys her daily Diet Coke and saves her caps for us. Combined with the codes we found in recycling, we were able to cash out points for $30 in gift cards, a free 12-pack of sodas for our guests to enjoy, and a free Shutterfly photo book ($22 value).

Kellogg’s Family Rewards: Though it was a small yield, we were able to cash out points from our morning Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes to get 2 RedBox gift cards ($3 value) and a Finding Dory flashlight for the little one.

Shopkick: This is Angie’s favorite app. Every time we go into a store, she’s scanning something for points. It’s a super easy way to earn gift cards. We cashed out for a $20 GameStop gift card for our nephew (to which we added our own GameStop Rewards points for an additional $5 gift card).

Job Spotter: By far my favorite way to earn gift cards. You simply snap a photo of a help wanted sign and earn points. While on vacation in October we walked a mall in Maryland taking photos of more than 2 dozen seasonal jobs. We cashed out these and other points for $76 in Amazon gift cards.

Our biggest score though was the $400 move-in bonus (Visa gift card) we received in September when we moved into our new apartment. $200 immediately went back to pay our deposit but the remaining $200 was put away for holiday spending.

Saving money is always a nice gift but the best gift we received was seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of our family throughout the day…and knowing they were safe.

On Christmas night, as my niece, her boyfriend, and the baby were pulling out of our parking lot, the front wheel of DC’s truck fell off. Not the tire…the entire wheel separated from the axle. We feel so blessed that they were not on the highway when it happened.

Yesterday we took down our holiday decor and put our house back in order. (Truth be told, having a tree in the living room, albeit pretty to look at, makes us feel cluttered). With Christmas 2016 now in the past, we’re looking toward the New Year and to discovering new ways in which we can be even more frugal in 2017.