What to do when you need money fast

We’ve all faced situations in which having a bit of extra cash would’ve been a tremendous help. If you find yourself in such a dilemma right now, keep reading as I’ll be providing some tips on what to do when you need money fast.

Just as importantly, I’ll share the common pitfalls you should avoid when looking to earn money quickly.

Top 18 ideas for when you need money fast

An infographic highlighting the article's main points.

I’d only consider these first two strategies if I needed money for an emergency. Otherwise, I’d jump to point three.

1. Tapping into your emergency savings

If your reason for needing cash fast relates to an emergency, this is a no-brainer.

However, an emergency fund can become a source of pride, especially if you’ve saved and sacrificed for months to establish it. This makes it difficult to actually use the money for its intended purpose without feeling like you’re taking a step backward.

I can certainly relate. Even when I was unemployed for two months in 2019, I didn’t take a dime from my emergency fund. I just freelanced as much as I could to cover costs.

Practically speaking, though, an emergency fund exists for a reason – to get you out of a pickle. Don’t be afraid to use it for that purpose, especially if it will help you avoid going into debt.

2. Getting a low-interest loan

Don’t have an emergency fund? Well, if you have good credit (generally considered to be above 670), you may qualify for a loan at a reasonable – possibly even single-digit – interest rate.

Many people rely on such loans when they need money quickly to cover an emergency. As long as they can repay the debt promptly, they won’t end up owing a ton of interest.

Speak with a financial advisor before doing this, however. Debt – even of the low-interest variety – is never something you want to take lightly, especially when you have other options or are terrible about organizing your finances.


No matter your credit situation, putting major emergency expenses on your credit card and carrying the balance (aka not paying it off before the end of the month) is almost always a terrible idea. Average interest rates on credit cards exceed 14%, which is ridiculous.

Lines of credit typically come with much more reasonable rates; I have one with RBC charging 7.44%.

Again, though, speak with a financial advisor about your best options before proceeding.

3. Asking for a raise at work

A raise at work could very well provide the cash you desperately need. You should avoid asking for a raise from the perspective of need, though.

Rather, be prepared to demonstrate exactly why you deserve more money. At a bare minimum, be able to show you’ve been fulfilling your duties masterfully. Put concrete examples in writing and be prepared to handle various responses (including rejection) confidently.

You should also thoroughly research salaries for similar positions in your area to ensure you’re making a fair request.

Important: If your boss (or any higher-up that would play a role in assessing your request) is unhappy with your performance, do not ask for a raise. Your request will probably be denied and you may even end up being shortlisted for termination.

If requesting a raise is impractical for this or any other reason, consider the other steps on this list.

4. Freelancing

If you have a skill that lends itself well to gig work, freelancing can be a very convenient means of earning cash. Such skills include:

  • Graphic Design
  • Copywriting
  • Blogging
  • Web Development
  • Bookkeeping
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Excel

Websites like Upwork make it very easy to apply for short-term gigs based around these services. You’re not going to make a ton of money quickly but it’s absolutely feasible to earn an extra $500 or more per month without sacrificing much in the way of time or effort.


I would recommend sticking to verified clients on a site like Upwork to start. There are many scams out there designed to steal work from freelancers. Don’t get ripped off!

5. Picking up a part-time job

Part-time jobs may seem old-fashioned in the gig economy but they’re still a reliable means of earning money quickly.

Job boards like Indeed and Workopolis are filled with short-term contract positions. These may be preferable to freelancing gigs if you find it difficult to manage your time in more informal roles; speaking from experience, keeping freelance clients happy while working full-time can be tricky.

Don’t let your age, lack of work experience, or the fact you’re still in school scare you away from picking up a part-time job, either. Check out this article for a list of online opportunities teenagers can turn to for earning some extra cash.

6. Listing used items on eBay

Unless you’re a meticulous spring cleaner, you probably have at least a few hundred dollars lying around in the form of used items.

Electronics like cell phones, laptops, and tablets are common examples. They also sell very quickly and for a reasonable amount of cash; my dad listed his two-year-old iPhone XR on Kijiji a couple of weeks ago and had $850 in his pocket the following afternoon.

Certain types of watches are also very easy to flip for cash. Stainless steel Rolexes come to mind but cheaper enthusiast brands like G-Shock and Seiko also do very well.

Other great things to sell include:

  • video games
  • computer accessories
  • phone cases
  • old toys
  • vinyl records


Make sure you know your item’s value before selling it. Also, you can usually get a much better deal with less hassle by selling your item to an ordinary buyer rather than going to a pawn shop or something of that sort.

7. Selling homemade items on Etsy

I have a friend earning great money right now selling 3D-printed Labyrinth door knockers on Etsy. It’s a great side hustle because the materials are cheap and the printers do most of the work with little need for human input beyond perfecting the design.

People sell – and, more importantly, buy – all sorts of novelty items like this on Etsy. For the best results, sell something you’re actually passionate about creating as the Etsy community thrives on that sort of thing.

8. Driving with Uber

According to Uber, the average driver earns $25 per hour when driving 40 hours per week.

However, results can (predictably) vary wildly depending on where you live. Additionally, you’ll need to factor in costs arising from increased wear and tear on your vehicle – not to mention potentially higher insurance rates.

Unfortunately, when you consider factors like these, most Uber drivers actually earn less than minimum wage. A third actually loses money.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 96% of Uber drivers quit within a year.

So why am I including this on my list of that to do when you need money fast? Well, you can get started driving with Uber in a matter of days. If you need a few hundred bucks quickly, are a skilled driver, and don’t have delusions about making tons of money, it’s not a terrible short-term gig.


If you’re going to be driving with Uber, make sure you notify your car insurance provider beforehand. If they find out after the fact, they may raise a stink or even cancel your policy.

9. Delivering food

If you’d prefer not to have strangers in your vehicle, delivering food via an app like Uber Eats, Doordash or Grubhub may be an option worth considering.

Generally, estimates peg earnings at between $8 and $12 per hour, which is less than you’d make ferrying passengers around but still not bad in terms of quick cash on the side.

The same aforementioned rules regarding added insurance and wear on your vehicle apply here, so keep that in mind.

10. Babysitting

Babysitters are always in demand. The coronavirus pandemic has even caused a spike in demand for “virtual babysitters,” which is a thing I didn’t even know existed until about 30 seconds ago.

The rationale, though, is that parents often need someone to keep their kids occupied for an hour or two while they’re in a Zoom meeting.

Whether you do this or stick to traditional babysitting, average earnings clock in at a very decent $16.75 per hour.

There are many great sites for finding babysitting gigs, including:

11. Tutoring

If you’re particularly skilled at something, there’s probably someone out there willing to pay you for tutoring.

I can think of at least one skill many North Americans take for granted – English. Seriously, if English is your first language, you’d be amazed at how much you’re capable of teaching someone new to it.

Other high-demand tutoring subjects include:

  • math
  • chemistry
  • physics
  • other languages (French, Spanish, etc)
  • SAT prep

There are many websites on which you can find tutoring jobs, including:

12. Negotiating your bills

Here’s an often-overlooked strategy that can move mountains when you need money fast. By reducing your monthly bills, you’ll automatically free up cash that you can spend elsewhere.

My telecommunications provider is one of the first avenues I pursue in this regard. They usually have some sort of “special offer” they can pull together for me since I’ve been with them for ages and always pay my bills on time.

If you’re legitimately unhappy with the service you’ve been receiving, consider jumping ship to a provider offering a bonus for new customers. When you call to cancel with your original provider, they may even throw a substantial discount your way in an effort to retain you.

You should also speak with your car insurance provider, especially if you’ve been driving much less due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They may offer temporarily reduced premiums based on the situation.

Whichever bill you tackle, this is a great method for potentially freeing up a few hundred dollars every month. As soon as you’ve secured your discount, you can begin allocating those funds towards whatever you need cash quickly for.

13. Renting out part of your home

If you have an extra room or full basement apartment suite in your home, consider renting it out to earn money consistently. Depending on where you live, this may amount to hundreds of dollars each month.

If you’re a renter in a property with more rooms than occupants, you can also consider bringing in a roommate to help offset your costs.


Make sure you look into the legalities of renting out a portion of your home before you actually do it. Municipal bylaws may require you to get a permit.

Similarly, be sure to check with your landlord before inviting a roommate to help with your lease as they may have a say in the matter depending on where you live.

14. Trading unused gift cards for cash

Another way to potentially access cash quickly is to sell your unused gift cards on a site like CardSwap, CardCash, or GiftCash. These websites typically pay between 70% and 95% of the card’s value depending on what retailer it’s for. So if you’ve ever received a gift card and secretly thought, “man, they should’ve just given me cash,” fish it out of your drawer and head to one of the aforementioned sites!

15. Becoming a website/app tester

I’ve occasionally been paid as much as $150 to user test various software programs for a couple of hours. It’s super quick money and all you have to do is provide your honest feedback.

In my case, these opportunities came to me because companies whose programs I’d previously used wanted my input.

You don’t have to play the waiting game, though. Websites like UserTesting streamline the process and allow you to complete tests posted on what’s essentially a job board.

Make sure to watch videos of successful tests before you start, though, since you’ll receive a rating regarding your feedback’s usefulness. The better your rating, the more tests you’ll qualify for.

16. Completing small tasks on Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is a website operated by Amazon. It allows you to complete small tasks in exchange for a little bit of money.

Now, when I say “small tasks,” I really mean small tasks. For example, you might transcribe a receipt within a few minutes and receive less than a dollar in pay. If you’re completing tons of these tasks on a monthly basis, though, you can earn some decent cash on the side.


If you don’t have a strategy, Mechanical Turk can very quickly become a waste of time. Consider joining the Mechanical Turk subreddit to learn about the various pitfalls out there and how successful “Turkers” optimize their time.

17. Using cashback apps

Another idea to consider when you need money fast is to look for cashback opportunities on your existing expenses. Apps like Rakuten, Swagbucks, and Drop allow you to earn rewards for purchases everywhere from Amazon to Uber.

Of course, cashback apps aren’t going to make you rich. After all, you’re simply receiving a percentage of the money you spend at eligible stores. Still, cashback apps are a great way to unlock a bit of extra money.

Don’t fall into the common trap of spending more because you know you’ll get cashback, though. That completely defeats the purpose!

18. Finding opportunities to save

Another often-overlooked way to unlock a bit of extra money is to trim the fat in your budget.

If you don’t analyze your transactions on a monthly basis, I bet you’ll be surprised to see how much you’re spending on little things you never give much thought to.

Look through your transactions over the past 30 days and highlight anything that shocks you. Then, look for opportunities to cut back on those items. That might mean simply buying them less often or shopping at a location that sells them for less.

Unused subscriptions are another thing to look out for when reviewing your transactions. According to a CNBC report, the average person who cancels an account with the help of subscription management service Truebill saves $512 per year! That’s an extra $42 a month, which won’t change your life but can certainly help.

What not to do when you need money fast

Now that you know my pick of the top 18 things to do when you need money, let’s look at what you should avoid. Some of these are just bad ideas period while a few are flawed if raising cash fast is the objective.

Obvious scams

If something sounds like a scam, it probably is – especially if it involves money.

Unfortunately, there are so many scams out there aimed at people who desperately need cash. Multi-level marketing schemes are among the most common. Unfortunately, they often end in tears for anyone not cunning enough to rope others in.

You should also beware scams inviting you to claim money of dubious origin (i.e. the famous Nigerian prince trick).

The bottom line is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Short-term stock trading

I love the stock market. It’s where I keep most of my money. That’s undoubtedly a long-term play, though, because the market is way too unpredictable in the short term.

For example…

A stock chart showing the performance of the ETF SPY during 2019 and 2020.
The performance of S&P 500 ETF SPY during 2019 and 2020 (Chart: TradingView)

At the start of 2020, nobody predicted the market would tumble as much as it did. Anybody who invested intending to turn a quick profit during this period would have been absolutely pummelled.

The potential for damage is even worse if you invest using risky strategies like leverage. A quick Google search reveals countless stories of people who got wiped out attempting to trade their way to riches on apps like Robinhood.

One guy took out $45,000 in loans, turned it into $1 million, and then lost most of it, ending up with just $6,956.

“Oh but that could never happen to me,” you might be thinking. Listen, emotions can run hot in the market – especially when you’re trading out of desperation, hoping to turn a quick profit.

Check out this article from The Motley Fool for a closer look at why short-term trading is such a terrible idea. You should also read this article that I wrote on the topic of saving vs. investing to understand why investing is a long game.

Starting a blog

Blogging is fantastic. You should absolutely give it a try if you’re passionate about a particular topic.

A blog is not going to generate cash quickly, though. In fact, if you approach blogging with the expectation of quick returns, you’ll alienate readers, who will see right through your intentions.

To make money as a blogger, you need to provide value and establish yourself as an authority in your niche. That can take months, even if you know exactly what you’re doing. If you’re starting a blog for the first time, you’ll naturally make mistakes along the way, which can drag the process out into years.

Again, blogging is great and you can absolutely make money from it. You’re just not going to turn a profit very quickly.

Payday loans

Payday loans allow you to borrow from your next paycheck. The problem is that these loans come with ridiculous interest rates as high as 700% in some U.S. states. As a result, people often end up owing astronomical sums in excess of what they borrowed.

Unless your credit score is low, you likely qualify for cheaper loans. See the second recommendation in the main section of this article.

Ideally, though, you don’t want to take on debt if you can avoid it. Consider the other suggestions in this article. They’ll benefit you in ways that go beyond simply having the cash you need.

Credit card cash advances

While typical interest rates on credit card cash advances aren’t as bad as those on payday loans, they’re still quite high, ranging from 15% to 30% according to Investopedia.

If you qualify for a credit card to begin with, you can probably get a personal line of credit that comes with a more reasonable interest rate. Again, though, debt should be a last resort. I’d consider the other methods in this article first.

Car title loans

This is another type of loan that typically comes with an extremely high interest rate. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, lenders charge an average of 25% per month.

Further, according to a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, between 6% and 11% of people who take out car title loans end up having their vehicles repossessed.

Once again, debt should never be your first resort. High-interest debt shouldn’t even be an option if you can avoid it (and you probably can).

What to do when you need money (conclusion)

I hope this article has been helpful in showing you a few ways to get cash quickly when you need it.

While these strategies certainly require more effort than simply slapping emergency expenses on your credit card, they’ll help you develop new streams of revenue and healthier attitudes about money in the long run.

About the author

Brandon-Richard Austin

Brandon-Richard Austin is the founder of Rinkydoo Finance. He is an avid investor and digital marketer for startups and publicly-traded companies alike.