I’m not always a huge fan of the “gig economy,” but if there’s one thing that I do kind of appreciate that’s come out of it, it’s the rise of all these apps that will help you make money. It’s true that these kinds of apps won’t substantially increase your salary, so if you’re looking for the big bucks, these are probably not the droids you’re looking for; however, it’s nice to be able to make a buck here or there by accomplishing simple tasks or even just shopping smarter. Who doesn't like the idea of being able to spring for a fancy coffee every now and again thanks to something that only took them five minutes to do?
What exactly is wrong with the gig economy? Personally, I think it’s far too easy for the proverbial big fish to take advantage of the little guy. As Jia Tolentino observed in The New Yorker back in March, the gig economy often seems to “[celebrate] working yourself to death” — it frames ignoring your own health and physical and emotional needs as a mark of your commitment, something to which we should all aspire. And that feels… weird to me. I also think the gig economy has a tendency to devalue the work that many people —particularly creatives — do by encouraging us to charge the lowest possible amount for our work. That’s also weird, not to mention unsustainable.
But $5 for a few minutes of your time? That’s fair. And that’s what the various money-making apps out there let you do: You spend a couple of minutes doing A Thing, and then you get a little extra cash for it in return. No, you won’t get rich quick using these apps; they will, however, put some extra beer money in your wallet — or coffee money, or Eff Off fund money, or whatever you could use an extra $20 every now and again for. That’s the part of the gig economy I like— the fact that, if you’ve got access to a smartphone, you can find clever and creative ways to give yourself a little financial wiggle room.
Whether you’d prefer to get your extra monies by saving while shopping or by completing some easy tasks, there’s — you guessed it — an app for that. Here are 10 to start. Have fun, kids!
If you’ve ever used the Chrome extension Honey, free cash back app Dosh is kind similar: Once you’ve downloaded it, you connect your credit and debit cards to it (securely, of course); then every time you use those cards, the app will automatically search to see if there’s a coupon or offer available. Dosh will then convert the coupon or offer into cash, which it deposits into your Dosh Wallet. From there, you can transfer the money to your bank account or PayPal account, or you can donate it to charity. It’s good for pretty much any kind of shopping you might do, but travel is particularly recommended.
Download Dosh for iOS and Android.
Here’s one for the Instagram enthusiasts in the crowd: Foap lets you upload your photos to the app’s marketplace and sell them (well, the license to use them) for $10 a pop. $5 of that goes to Foap, and $5 of it goes to you — each and every time your photo sells. So, if your photo gets purchased 10 times, that’s $50 in your pocket. Your photos do have to be OK'd by Foap’s developers in order to make it into the marketplace, and you’ll need a PayPal account to actually access your payouts — but if you’re someone with an eye for photography, Foap can be a fun way to put a little extra cash in your pocket.
Simple, straightforward, and easy to use, InboxDollars asks you to perform certain tasks and gives you money in return. It essentially facilitates consumer research: Brands pay InboxDollars for user input; InboxDollars recruits users to provide that input; those users are assigned tasks to complete; the brands get the input they want; and then the users get paid for their time. Reading emails is the task InboxDollars is most well-known for (and from whence its name comes), but you can also do things like take surveys and watch videos.
As Survey Chris notes, the payout minimum for InboxDollars is a little high in comparison to other similar services; you have to complete $30 worth of tasks before you’re able to get your first check. Apparently you get $5 just for signing up, though, which knocks the bar down to $25 for your first check — and what’s more, Survey Chris writes, “For the high payout minimum, I was still able to cash out pretty quickly.”
Not going to lie: I’ve had a Vanguard account for years, and I’m still terrified of investing. Like many Millennials, though — particularly those of us who entered adulthood right as the recession began — my fear largely has to do with moving around large sums of money and feeling like that’s the only way to invest. It’s not, though — which is where Acorns comes in.
An investing app aimed at Millennials who may not have a ton of working capital available (hi there, student loans, stagnant wages, and rising costs of living), Acorns operates on what it calls “round-ups,” which it tracks by keeping an eye on your bank account (yes, 256-bit encryption is part of the deal — safety first!). The system is perhaps best explained by example: Let’s say you buy a $3.72 cup of coffee on your way to work. Acorns will round that transaction up to $4 and invest the 28 cent difference for you. So basically, you’re investing what you’d probably consider to be spare change — and it can really make a difference in the long run.
Acorns isn’t perfect, of course; it doesn’t handle retirement funds, and as Policy Genius points out, depending on how many transactions you’ve made that result in money invested, the $1 monthly fee for using it can actually be kind of high for what you’re getting out of it. But it doesn’t require thousands upfront in order to get going, and it demystifies investing for folks who may not be super familiar with the whole thing. Plus, the app has partnered with a number of companies to give you up to 10 percent cash back when you use a linked payment method at them. Check out more pros and cons of Acorns at Nerdwallet.
Got some books — actual, physical books — you’re looking to re-home? BookScouter helps you resell them for the best possible price. Just load your book’s ISBN into the app (something you can accomplish either with the aid of your phone’s camera or by typing in the code manually), and the app will compare real-time price quotes for you, ensuring that you’ll get the most bang for your book buck. From there, all you need to do is select where you want to sell the book and complete the transaction on the seller’s site; then you can package and ship the book for free with a shipping label that will be provided for you. You can collect your money either via check or through PayPal.
Honestly, I wish I’d known about BookScouter the last time I moved; I scaled down my book collection, and while I was happy to give some old favorites I now have digital duplicates for to friends I knew would enjoy them, getting a couple extra bucks for a few of them would have been nice. Oh, and college students? This is undoubtedly one of the best ways to resell your old textbooks. You’ll probably get a better price than your university bookstore will give you.
6Fronto Lock Screen
Similar to Slidejoy, Fronto Lock Screen is an Android-only app (sorry, iOS users) that puts ads on your lock screen. These ads might be products, articles, or surveys; the type of ad varies, which helps keeps things interesting. If you swipe left on the ad and follow the link, you’ll be paid in Fronto points — according to Forbes, 2,5000 points equals roughly $1 — which you can then deposit as cash into your PayPal account, trade for Amazon gift cards, or use to get deals on purchases.
Download Fronto for Android.
Some of the best money-making apps out there are the task-based ones — and honestly, I suspect it’s because they kind of let you 'gamify' the whole thing. If you choose to become a Field Agent, for example, you can browse jobs available in your area, and once you find a fit, you can snap it up for yourself. Once you’ve accepted a job, you have two hours to complete it, after which you’ll submit your work for verification. One you’ve been approved, you’ll get paid securely through PayPal. The average job will earn you somewhere between $2 and $12.
Because I’m kind of a weirdo and I like to turn everything Ido into a story, I look at these kinds of tasks as secret missions. Performing an “egg audit” at a local store is much more exciting if you pretend you’re James Bond while you’re doing it.
Another task-based app, Rewardable pays anywhere between a couple of bucks up to $20 for completing “micro jobs” like recording a wait time at a restaurant or counting the number of products on a shelf at a store. You get access to higher-paying jobs the more tasks you complete; sometimes bonuses are also available for social interactions (think sharing a product with a buddy or something like that). You’ll get paid for your completed tasks via PayPal.
Think of Ibotta as couponing for the digital age: First,before you actually head out on your shopping trip, browse the cash back rebates available in the app and add whichever ones you’re planning on using; then, shop to your heart’s content; and after you’ve completed your shopping trip, either submit your receipt or just link your loyalty card. Voila! Instant cash back. You can cash out your savings through PayPal or Venmo, or you can convert them into a gift card. Technically this one doesn’t make money for you in the sense that it doesn’t generate cash you didn’t already have — but it does save you a ton if you use it right, and hey, that’s not nothin’.
Shopkick’s rewards are only good for shopping, so if you’re looking for something that will put cash directly in your bank account, this one may not be for you. If you tend to shop regularly at some of the same stores, however, Shopkick might help you get the most bang for your buck on your everyday purchases. You can earn “kicks” — reward points, essentially — for doing anything from scanning items in specific stores or making purchases with linked credit cards to just walking into some stores; then, once you’ve racked up enough kicks, you can trade them in for gift cards. The app also recently expanded to include a section called Shopkick Grocery, which provides more opportunities for users to earn kicks through increased product and store offerings, as well as rewarding users for doing things like trying out featured recipes.
There are a lot — and I mean a lot — of apps out there that will pay you to take surveys, so QuickThoughts is by no means your only option. What I like about QuickThoughts, though, is that it combines the pros of taking surveys (quick, easy, short) with the fun of apps like Field Agent (Missions! Sneaking! Secrecy!). You do have to qualify in order to take specific surveys, which means you’ll have to answer a few preliminary questions knowing that you might not actually gain access to the survey; that’s par for the course with most survey-based moneymakers, though, so it’s not unexpected. As far as the missions go, you can either do “a live-action challenge close to your location, or one… at your own pace the next time you’re out and about,” according to The Penny Hoarder.