Now that the president and Congress have reached a tax deal to avert the"fiscal cliff," many Americans are breathing a sigh of relief as most income tax rates will remain in place and certain benefits on which many Americans have depended have been extended or made permanent. Still, one major perk has gone away — the payroll tax cut for most U.S. workers expired on Dec. 31.
This year, workers will see a two percentage point increase in their payroll taxes from 2012 levels — a rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. This amounts to a reduction in an annual income of $1,000 for the typical U.S. family earning $50,000 a year.
In addition, those workers who have been laid off in recent months or had work hours cut are certainly feeling a pinch. If you are among them — or worried that you soon may be — the start of the New Year is a great time to take the future of your financial situation into your own hands.
Start searching now for ways to make extra cash to simply pay for the increasing expense of just living. These strategies and "side gigs" may help you ease any financial strain:
Cash in gift cards
Tired of shopping? Don't need any more gifts? You may be used to holding onto gift cards for months — or years. Maybe you even used gift cards to purchase presents over the holidays. But if you need some extra cash, resale companies are happy to take them off your hands. At CardPool.com, you can get up to 92 percent of the card's value — and you don't have to pay a fee. Also check out PlasticJungle.com, which will also pay you for your gift card, either by check or a deposit into a PayPal account.
Work extra hours at a part-time job
SnagaJob.com is just one of the great resources for finding part-time jobs, offering opportunities for work on an hourly basis. Pay generally ranges from $10-$11 an hour. Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean there are not jobs out there, especially in retail. Restaurants and food services, health-care and personal care are other top industries for hourly workers, according to SnagaJob.com.
If you're in a big city, check out TaskRabbit.com to find odd jobs that can help you to earn extra cash. Task Rabbit is a service offered in about a dozen major metropolitan areas that connects people who are willing to pay for jobs with people who have the skills to perform them. Here's how it works: Someone who needs a package hand-delivered posts the task on Task Rabbit. You bid on the job, and if you're the lowest bid, you'll be assigned to to make the delivery. You get paid by the person who hires you, minus a service fee.
Start an online store
Turn your hobby, skills or expertise into a part-time business. Set up your own "online store" by selling products on Amazon.com, eBay.com or relative newcomer Etsy.com, an online marketplace for handmade jewelry, crafts and other goods, as well as vintage items. Etsy charges 20 cents to list an item for four months. When your item sells, you'll pay a 3.5 percent transaction fee. You can customize your shop with a banner, profile, shop policies and more. You'll get your own URL for your Etsy shop, based on your username.
Hold a virtual garage sale
Post your listings for furniture or whatever you'd like to sell online or on a smartphone mobile app like Geoli.st. Essentially a CraigsList for your mobile phone, Geoli.st is a free app that offers virtual classified ads on the best deals near your location. Geoli.st deploys a location-based technology so that people in your area will see your product for sale (photo, description and price). Since you're selling to buyers in your area, you can avoid shipping to far away places and get paid in person.
Sell your knowledge
Calling all teachers! Sell your original lesson plans, exams, teaching guides and worksheets. TeachersPayTeachers.com is a website that lets you upload your original files to its catalog and set your own price. Basic membership to join the site is free and you'll get a 60 percent royalty on gross sales, paid to you quarterly through Paypal.
Another way to sell your smarts is to take up tutoring. Peer2Peer (part of AristotleCircle.com), matches students and tutors (ages 16 years old or older). Pay ranges from $12-$15 an hour and, generally, you have to be able to work at least three hours a week.
You can take tutoring and teaching to a whole new level at Udemy.com, a website that lets you post a video of your course and pays you for your offerings. You set the price for your course and keep 70 percent of the sales.
With an audience that has grown from fewer than 100,000 users to over half a million in the past 12 months, it can pay a pretty penny. A course on the art of black and white photography, one of about 6,000 offered, has about 1,000 students and the instructor of the course has made over $30,000, according to Udemy COO Dennis Yang. The instructor for Copy Writing 101 made over $40,000 and "How to become a web developer from scratch" is such a popular course — with over 5,000 students — the instructor quit his day job to teach full-time and has made over $300,000.