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Need a holiday bonus? Easily earn cash

You don't have to wait for a handout — you can get cold hard cash right now. From driving cars to taking surveys, financial advisers Jonathan and David Murray share five simple ways to make money this season.
/ Source: TODAY

With the economy in shambles, 401(k) plans cut in half and consumers feeling pinched, this holiday season could prove a challenge for many. For the first time in years, unemployment is up, confidence is down and retailers are expecting significant declines in their holiday sales numbers. No wonder more and more Americans are tightening their belts and looking for ways to lower their expenses or increase their income. In an effort to help consumers find some “easy” money this holiday season, finance experts David and Jonathan Murray, co-authors of “Two for the Money,” have discovered some creative ways to earn fast cash.

Open a bank account
Because many banks are going through difficult times, they are eager to attract new deposits — so eager that they are willing to pay you! Banks such as Bank of America, Wachovia, Wells Fargo and National City are offering “signing bonuses” that range from $25 to $150! Read the fine print, however, as restrictions and potential fees may apply.

Take a survey
This is not the annoying 60-second customer service survey we hear so often. Instead, organizations and businesses have concluded that it’s worthwhile to pay people for their opinions on products, services and experiences. The Web site is a good place to start. They set people up with surveys that can pay anywhere from $5 to $75 per hour!  

1. The more you sign up for, the more surveys you’ll receive.

2. Use a separate, designated e-mail address for responding.

3. Avoid paying a fee and/or using your credit card!

Join a focus group
Like surveys, these organizations will pay you for your opinions and experiences. There are hundreds to join! A home cleaning study in Chicago offers $100; a toy study for boys age 4-7 in Portland pays you $20; iPhone users in Boston can receive $50; there’s even a study in San Diego that pays $125 for “friends who watch TV”! Check or for details.

Test-drive a car Like the banks, the auto companies are eager to get your business. Dealerships understand how “seeing” a new car, and then test-driving it, can increase the likelihood of a purchase.  Companies like Hyundai, Kia, Saturn and Ford may offer cash, gas cards or gift certificates to major retailers, simply for driving.

Become a rolling ad  This unusual opportunity to make cash is explained at By agreeing either to drive a new car covered with advertisements or to slap a vinyl magnetic ad on your own vehicle, you can make up to $500 per month. The larger the ad, the more you’ll be paid. But be careful, as you don’t have much control over what you advertise. They also may monitor your driving habits.

Naturally, you’ll want to check out the fine print in all of these deals. As the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The businesses or organizations that make these offers are not altruists — they're doing it to make a profit, somehow, or to drive traffic to their particular cause.

That said, if you're looking for new and different ways to make some quick cash, without too much effort, perhaps these Web sites and ideas can get you pointed in the right direction.