The SDMB "Little Help" Thread

On occasion we have had threads/post on the Dope from Dopers who have, through misfortune or economic privation or whatnot, had trouble with little things like keeping the electricity turned on, the rent paid, getting health care, car payments made and whatnot. And there’s generally some helpful suggestions in response to such posts/threads, but it’s kinda scattershot in nature.

So I was thinking of starting a thread that would be a resource for people who need some economic grease to get them through the tough spots. Suggestions for ways of making extra money, resources for keeping food, clothing and so forth in place. Even the Dopers who are now fairly comfortable have often gone through lean times and learned a few ways to get by in those lean times.

Of course, the Web is full of advice on how to make money, the difference here is, it will be from people who are not trying to sell something, and who will hopefully be giving realistic advice on how they make or made money.

I’ll start with something Terrorcotta and I did for about 18 months: we sold specialty cosplay garments on ebay. Terrorcotta was a fan of an obscure anime and made herself a costume for it, but needed an item to make her costume complete. But nobody was selling it, so she designed it and found a good supplier for the clothing item, and I bought a $50 “starter” silkscreen set and silkscreened the design onto it. Then we figured other people might want the item for their costumes, and sold them on Ebay at about one item a week. Our costs ran about $3 per item, and they sold generally at about $20 per item … sometimes for as little as $12, but once for $70 and a couple of times in excess of $50. Cosplayers wanted that item bad.

After the item sold for $50 plus a couple of weeks in a row and then for $70 (made our Christmas a little nicer that year), some pirate out in Hong Kong took note and flooded the market with them, and we exited, pocketing our proceeeds.

I’d say the secret to the success of that venture was Terrorcotta’s knowledge of that anime and her design skills. My mad silkscreen skillz might have helped too. But other people may have knowledge of particular market niches that could let them successfully sell things on Ebay, too.

I like anime and could use a little extra cash. Got any other ideas you could share?

Autolycus, exactly! I watch lots of anime for fun butd I also look for little cosplay bits not easily available since the promotional items for US distribution are typically piss poor and the cosplay market is much bigger than people think. Right now I am looking for a supply of white silk scarves about 6 inches and maybe 5 to 6 feet long with rolled edges. They used to supply them in craft stores for people to batik but I need to keep my unit cost under $5. If you can think of an item that could be made with simple printing or artwork, let’s see if we can work together.

I looked into printing Naruto headbands but the market caught up to me before I got it stated. Even when people don’t do cosplay, they like souvenirs of their fav series. I loved the Hellsing series and wanted a pair of Alucard’s gloves so I made extra and sold them. Keep an eye out for ‘bits’ people might like to put next to their Cowboy Bebop action figures.

Otherwise, the thing Evil Captor is thinking of is more like handmade things that can be sold on a small scale. Anybody remember the peace plant and beta fish in a jar things? I showed a friend from Nova Scotia those things so she went home and made them up and sold them for a nice chunk of cash since no one up there had ever seen them.

Are there things that have done well on a small scale in your area that might be new to someone else? Things that can be made reasonably and sell well? Not egg carton and yarn wastebaskets or church bazaar things but nice, indistiguishable from professional type stuff. Think ‘cool factor’ and gift ideas. Possibly things that can be drawn from the combination of relatively inexpensive items to create something nice.

This sitewould be a very good place to find such ideas.

Well, you can always do anime-based T-shirt (and other) designs and put them on sale at Cafe Press. Cafe Press takes the bulk of the profits when you make a sale, but the nice thing is, there’s no start-up cost for you … all you do is supply the design, they do the rest.

(Full disclosure: I have a Cafe Press shop, but I’ve sold very few items on it, probably because I’ve made little or no effort to market the items in the shop after setting it up. If you are better at marketing and manipulating keywords, etc., you might do much better than me. Problem is, anything you are trying to sell is almost always one of hundreds of designs available for any given keyword, and if you aren’t good at their special brand of marketing, people will see several hundred OTHER people’s designs before they see yours.)

That’s PART of what I’m looking for, but actually this thread is more about generic things people can do when money is tight, either to make money, reduce their living expenses, or find help solving their problems that don’t involve having more money (like govt. or corporate programs, food banks, etc). The craft thread idea thing is just one such avenue … admittedly, one that’s worked more than once for us and our friends.

Thanks for the link, that’s exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about.

And while I’m thinking about links, let me add a link for Cafe Press:

That was easy.

I have to recommend that anyone in a bad financial situation check out and also Both sites provide numerous ways to scrimp, save, or earn money.

I know this is harder to do nowadays given that lots of stores are open 24 hours, but I reckon it’s still possible: go to your local supermarket about forty minutes before it closes (or before it goes into night-shift-restock-shelves mode), and keep your eyes peeled for stuff that is being marked down because it is upon it’s sell-by date. Many extreme bargains are to be found in the fresh meat and other fresh food departments. Most places also have a bit of shelf space given over to end-of-line or slightly bashed stuff that is at giveaway prices.

As a student, back in the eighties, I lived close to a large Safeway in Edinburgh that shut at 8pm. After a few visits it became easy to spot the produce managers going round repricing things to get rid off them. Sirloin steaks for 20 pence each and a whole salmon for (I think) £2.00 are two happy memories, but it was mostly pork chops and mince given away for pennies. If only they had done the same with beer…

Thanks for the links. Some excellent ideas there, also some pretty meh ones. You could probably benefit from doing a thorough grind through the sites looking for good ideas. But both sites have articles that are written in that Rah! Rah! Sis-boom-bah! You can do it! inspirational/sales prose, which sets my teeth on edge and makes me suspicious of each and every word I read.

The thing I like about these sites is they teach you from the ground up how to handle the situation. Lost your job and never clipped a coupon before? There are numerous articles there that tell you not only how coupon clipping works but also how to research and combine coupons with sales to walk out of the grocery store having spent only a few dollars on a weeks worth of food. Need a cheap birthday party idea for the kids? These sites have them in spades! That is the kind of thing that so many people who have never been in that situation before might not be aware of as options. There is some schmaltzyness there as well but if you really look you can find a lot of good ideas there.

Also, keep in mind that those annoying people at the mall who want you to take surveys all the damn time often pay you for your time. Last week I made 10 bucks to taste 6 different kinds of cake icing and tell them which one I liked best. There are lots of ways to pick up a little extra money without extending too much effort, just as there are many ways to reduce your spending without a drastic change to your lifestyle.

Yeah, the same thing happens on this side of the pond. We call it “opportunistic shopping,” changing your grocery list based on what’s being sold at a good price.

Two more sites:

I’ve done this many times, when I lived around neighbors. I went to the ones I knew had a little more income with my lawn mower and offered to mow there lawn. Not a lot of money but believe me a couple dollars when you have none is a lot.

There’s a thread entitled “What Have You Done To Earn Some Extra Money” that has some excellent suggestions. Here’s the link: