Parents warn of possible psychiatric drug dangers

Matthew Steubing committed suicide by jumping from the Silas Pearman Bridge in Charleston on July 18, 2003. He was 18.

Worried about whether you can afford the holidays this year? Time may be running out, but it's still possible to take advantage of a number of options to boost your end-of-the-year income.

From temporary jobs to getting paid for your opinion, there are ways to bring in extra cash in time to fund a few gifts. You may even find what could become a regular source of income after the tinsel is taken down.

1. Take part in market research.

A number of firms will pay for your opinion when you participate in focus groups, product tests or opinion surveys.

Spend a few days testing a product for Delve, for instance, and you could bring in $125 to $200. The St. Louis-based data collection firm, which has locations in 11 cities, also does online surveys and polls, where pay starts at about $25. In its focus groups you could earn $80 to $100.

Delve starts new studies every day, screening its database of about 400,000 consumers for individuals with the demographics needed for the client.

It takes about 10 minutes to fill out the sign-up form on Delve.com.

It asks questions about the members of your household and some of the products your family uses. Delve spokeswoman Kay Savio said new applicants usually get a response within a week.

Some surveys are aimed at children, so parents also can sign their kids up to take part and earn a few bucks. Savio said participants can get paid for in-person research that same day.

Some other market researchers, including Harris Interactive, pay participants in rewards points, which can be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

There are plenty of opportunities to take part in market research, but be wary of scams. Legitimate firms will not charge a sign-up fee or require you to pay for shipping the products to be tested or rewards you earn.

2. Get some seasonal work.

Even with the national jobless rate stuck at 9 percent -- it's north of 10 percent in South Carolina -- and many who are working looking for more hours or higher pay, it's still possible to get temporary work.

The usual suspects are retailers and the hospitality industry. With extra-long store hours and fierce competition for holiday dollars, retailers still need staffers.

The market is mixed right now, according to John Challenger, CEO of the outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. He said November is typically the biggest month for hiring seasonal workers. However, hiring will extend into December because many stores are waiting to gauge their needs based on sales and traffic over Thanksgiving weekend. At the same time, he added, retailers want to make sure they have adequate customer service.

Restaurants, catering companies, event planners and hotels also frequently add staff to handle holiday parties and events. Challenger said the travel industry often adds workers. And both United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx are hiring thousands to handle the shipping crunch.

It's not just holiday-related jobs that open up at year end. Keith Fairchild, owner of a TRC Staffing Services franchise in Jacksonville, Fla., noted that companies with December or January deadlines for filing annual reports, or completing other year-end projects often need help. Positions may be found advertised on online job boards -- use the keyword "seasonal" in your search. And don't overlook local newspaper ads, news websites or company sites.

3. Sell your stuff.

Tristen and Amy O'Brien started earning money on eBay by selling an old television set and other household items. They've since ramped up their selling into a business that brings in about $3,000 per month.

That effort requires nearly 40 hours of work per week between them. But it enables Amy to be a stay-at-home mom. Tristen writes a blog at Theebayentrepreneur.com that highlights hot-selling items, and offers tips and tricks.

His blog, and others like it, can help new users quickly learn what eBay customers are looking for, and what they're not. While everyone hopes for the garage sale purchase that sells for 10 times its purchase price, O'Brien said he's found more success with run-of-the-mill products.

EBay sellers can list up to 50 items a month for free. The site takes 9 percent of the final sale price, including shipping, up to $100.

Another option is selling through a consignment shop. Vintage clothing, antiques and unusual games and toys are often among the best sellers at independent consignment shops. Typically, these stores will keep 40 to 50 percent of the sale price, and pay you after the item is sold.

There are resale chains such as Play It Again Sports, which specializes in sporting goods and fitness equipment, Once Upon a Child, which focuses on children and infant's items. Operated by Winmark Corp., these chains (both have locations in the Charleston region) make an offer for your items based on the current sales trends and inventories, and pay at the time of drop off.