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Odd Jobs: Finding spare change in unexpected places 

Published April 17, 2002 at 4:00 a.m.

click to enlarge TIM NEWCOMB
  • Tim Newcomb

Revenues running low? Wealthy uncle hitting 100 and still blowing out his own candles? Looking for work, but can’t quite face the prospect of showing up at a job every day? Greenbacks may not grow on trees, but moneymaking opportunities can be found in strange places. Whether you’re waiting for your goose to lay its golden egg or just trying to make it through the end of the month, you may want to check out some of these fundraising alternatives. We can’t guarantee that they’ll make you rich, but they beat bank-robbing.

Testing, Testing

Inquiring minds want to know all about you — and they’re willing to pay. If you don’t mind having your most intimate habits scrutinized, and you fit the research-design criteria, there’s money to be made as a scientific research subject. Regular smokers and anxiety sufferers may qualify for a two-part study at the University of Vermont.

Fill out some questionnaires, get your vital signs measured, have a brief interview. Then go home and keep a daily log for two weeks. Completing the entire study earns you $130. Not bad for a lab rat.

Drawbacks: To participate in this study, you must either be a regular smoker or experience anxiety and panic attacks. Need we say more?

Clothing Allowance

If your wallet is running on empty but your closet is overflowing, you may want to consider consignment. Most stores will keep your stuff on the sales floor for 30 to 60 days before deeming it worthless. For items that move, you’ll receive 40 percent of the selling price, with the remaining 60 percent going to the stores. Reimbursement comes in the form of a check or store credit.

Drawbacks: To turn your duds into dollars, you need the motivation to dig through your closet and find garments or other goods worth selling. Then, you have to actually get your stuff to the store. How much you make depends on your apparel’s sales appeal. Come to think of it, you might do better with a yard sale.

Seal of Approval

You too can gain the glamour and prestige of being a notary public. Just fill out a form with your town clerk, pay the $20 fee, raise your right hand and swear to be true and faithful to the State of Vermont, yada, yada, yada.

Once a Superior Court judge has signed your application, you’re good to go. Duties include witnessing documents, administering oaths and even issuing subpoenas. How much does this gig pay? For most documents, you’re free to set your own prices.

Though notary public is probably the lowest-paying government job in the state, you can make your own hours and fees — so you’ll feel just as privileged as any other public servant.

Drawbacks: The $20 fee may seem a bit hefty if you’re really short in the cash department.

Pay per View

If you’re willing to bare all for a little extra dough, there’s a great market for nude models in the Burlington area. And after giving your name to just one gallery, you just might find gaggles of artists eager for a subject to ogle, er, to sketch or sculpt.

Terms vary depending on location and number of people studying your exposed body, but models can usually count on making more than $10 an hour and working in three-hour time blocks. Perks include stretch breaks every half-hour or so, and a space heater when the weather gets nippy.

Drawbacks: Being naked isn’t for everyone, and to be successful as a nude model, you do have to remove all your clothes and hold still — for long periods of time — while people stare at you.

Marrying for Money

Though justice of the peace is an elected position, it doesn’t require the same kind of fundraising as running for, say, City Council or president of the United States. To kick off your campaign, you must be nominated by one of the three active political parties in time to get your name on the November ballot. Justices of the peace serve a two-year term, during which they have the power to unite people in marriage or civil union.

Marc Awodey, who has been a JP for six years, claims that if you’re a Democrat and your last name starts with an A, you’ll most likely be elected. He charges from $10 to $30 per ceremony, and specializes in civil unions. Awodey performs at least four services each month and has sometimes done up to three in a day. Since Vermont is the only state in which civil unions are legally recognized, his clients come from far and wide to tie the knot.

Drawbacks: Getting elected may seem a bit ambitious for those without an alphabetical advantage. However, Awodey is currently in his third term, so it seems that once you’re in, you’re in.

Budget cuts

Looking for a hair-do change? Before you lop off your locks, check out the Hair Society, a Web-based company run by Maryls Fadeland that’s dedicated to buying and selling hair. Prospective hair huskers submit a color photo of their mane and shell out a $10 registration fee — a guarantee that someone’s making money on this deal. Your photo and description will be posted for three months at www.hairworksociety.org.

Does it work? “I sold my hair about two weeks ago,” claims “Lisa,” a former client. “I received over 20 responses to my ad, and sold my hair for $500.”

Hair hawked on the site sold for $100 to $500, and ranged in length from 15 to 22 inches.

Fadeland leaves it up to consumers to make sure the tresses they invest in are returnable. Brace yourself for the disappointment of being asked to return a wad of cash for a wad of your hair.

Drawbacks: If you don’t have long, lovely locks, this isn’t going to make you any money. And if you do, you have to be willing to part with them. This leaves the potential for some very bad hair days, especially if your hair isn’t deemed satisfactory and is returned.

Nest Eggs

If you’re a woman aged 21 to 30 and you’re fertile, you may be able to cash in your ova for a hefty chunk of cash. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, however. Should you decide to sell off your conceivable offspring, you’ll be screened for everything from genetic history and GPA to criminal record and credit rating. It also doesn’t hurt to be beautiful.

Once you’ve been deemed worthy enough to contribute your genetic material to the world, you’ll be asked to take fertility drugs for up to a month. Then a doctor will extract your ova in a simple outpatient procedure and implant them in the receiving uterus.

Helping people have babies is a lucrative business. How much of this money are they willing to share with you? The $3500 to $5000 most donors earn makes the $185 application fee look like chump change. Visit www.fertility options.com to find out eggsactly how to turn this trick.

Drawbacks: How many sane blondes do you know who had a great college GPA and good credit? Plus, fertility drugs can be a pain and make you hormonal.

Liquid Assets

Men looking to lighten their load may find sperm donation a profitable experience… if they do it often. Guys are not compensated nearly as well as women for their reproductive contributions; we won’t venture to guess why. Nevertheless, males looking to donate will receive $40 to $50 a whack for sperm that will be frozen and shipped — or up to an unbeatable $500 for fresh spill.

If you’re able to make the trip to Beantown, the New England Cryogenic Center pays $70 for viable specimens from 18- to 38-year-old college students or graduates. Size matters: Men under five-eight or over six-four need not apply. Studs with stamina can come up to nine times a month to the center.

Drawbacks: Other than hairy palms and Hell, we can’t think of any.

Can-Do Attitude

How about collecting bottles and cans? They may run at a meager 5 cents a pop, but in a town stocked with boozeheads, the change really can add up. And while Vermont’s nickle deposit is only half of Maine’s dime, this is one of the few states where a rainbow of discarded glass can be turned into a small fortune.

Summer is prime time for scouring the porches and yards of the college ghetto for remnants of the previous night’s debauchery. As the temperature rises, so does the rate of the collector’s two best friends: drinkin’ and litterin’. Hit the pavement for a couple of early morning strolls each week and — who knows? — you may soon be moving on up the economic ladder.

Drawbacks: Seasoned scavengers can mean slim pickings for the newcomer. And you’ll need a vehicle for storing your found treasure: a shopping cart, for example. But if getting up before dawn and digging through other people’s rubbish doesn’t turn you into a can-tankerous bastard, this may be the gig of your dreams.

Pounding the Pavement

Taking to the streets is one of the lowest-overhead fundraising schemes around. Burlington may not be urban enough for squeegee-wielders, and finger-diving in pay phones doesn’t pay off like it used to. But parking meters still jam, and people still drop coins by mistake. In fact, nobody bothers to pick up pennies.

The most direct way to make money on the street is good old-fashioned panhandling. Come up with an original line, like “Spare change?” then go hang out on Church Street, walk up to strangers, and hope you score enough for a cup of coffee before the cops chase you away.

Drawbacks: Winter can be a bummer, and friends might not respect you in the morning.

Elizabeth Wood contributed to this story.

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