I'm curious as to what people have done to earn some extra money for showing, vet bills, or just to shore their bank accounts up on a tough month. As we start to get ready to buy a house, money is even more on my mind. My savings are still not rebounding as quickly as I'd like, so I need to start tightening spending and focusing on ways to save and to add more value overall to my budget.
I've been thinking about the ways that I've done that in the past so I thought I'd toss a few of them out there and get your feedback. (I'll intersperse with horse photos so that you're not bored silly!)
In grad school, I picked up a few odd jobs for professors: I spent a few weeks proofing and copyediting in French, checking all the footnotes and bibliographic entries for a new book. I also worked briefly for an educational startup, and earned about $3k writing history essays that funded my summer schooling and showing.
Part of the key to using extra cash for horse expenses is keeping other expenses down, so I've done a few things over the years to earn Amazon.com gift cards. I convert those into other things, primarily gifts (around Christmas) and household necessities.
I used Swagbucks.com for a while, but honestly? Not something I'd necessarily recommend. I used it when I had a desk job with lots of down time built in, so I could spend an hour or two a day doing the searches and hunting down high value tasks. The way it works is that you use their search engine, or perform certain tasks (surveys, sign up for 30 day offers, etc.) and you earn Swagbucks. Earn enough Swagbucks and you can trade them in for all sorts of things. I always swapped them for Amazon.com gift cards in $5 denominations. Over the course of 18 months, I earned ~$200 in gift cards. I used that to purchase a ton of supplies when I first moved in with my fiance. It was a LOT of work, though, and sometimes I screwed up with the special offers and had to pay for some services.
One of the most lucrative things I've done has been consumer testing. I did it a fair bit as a teenager, and have picked it up again lately. Lots of consumer research companies are always looking for people to test, and you can earn good money for offering your opinion on various products. Sometimes you have to fit a specific profile, and sometimes they'll just take anyone to taste test, watch commercials, or brainstorm. I've tested packaging, hot chocolate, candy bar arrangements, kitchen layouts, you name it. Recently, I've established a relationship with a local company that offers occasional opportunities, and it's been really helpful. If you live close to a major city, you probably have this option, and for an hour or two of time you can make $50+. I made $150 once for a 2 hour interview/testing when I was a teenager and all I had to do was talk about what might be exciting names and descriptions for potato chips.
Lately, I've gotten into Amazon's Mechanical Turk. You get paid small amounts for performing small tasks: typing in things from scanned receipts, identifying photographs, taking some short surveys. It's total no-brain work and honestly the return isn't great: you'd make far more getting a second job if that's what you have time for. But I don't have the time. So Mechanical Turk is something I can do on a laptop while we're watching TV at night. Half an hour or so of doing it in the background earns me a few dollars. If I plug away while we're watching and engage just a tiny portion of my brain, I earn a decent amount. The money goes right into Amazon.com, and if I keep at it - half an hour here, half an hour there - it really adds up. I can order staples like toilet paper, paper towels, etc., and save my cash for other, horse-related expenses.
So, that's a quick summary of non-traditional ways I've used to add a little more cash into my horse budget! I've never had the time for a part-time job, since I've either been in grad school or had a full-time job that was waaaaaay more than full time. So I don't have hours and hours to devote to something - and if I do, the best return on an investment is almost always going to be to work at the barn in return for lessons.
What have you done to earn some extra money for horse activities?