Want to earn extra cash? Use your imagination...

From testing drugs to mystery shopping, there are lots of ways to boost your income.

News of redundancies making you nervous? Fancy building up a cash buffer in case of financial disaster, or need to boost your savings? Forget bar jobs and stacking shelves, there are more fun and imaginative ways to generate a second income.

Surveys

Companies that provide products and services need to know that they're appealing to current and future customers, so pay agencies to collect plenty of data from all sorts of people. As an incentive, those agencies will offer you cash, vouchers or the opportunity to win prizes in return for your thoughts. You have to be over 18 and a UK resident to take part. Sign up at www.sarosresearch.com, for example, and you could earn from £30 to £100 for two hours' work.

Tour guide

If you know enough about your local area and it attracts enough tourists, you could sell your knowledge as a tour guide. You'll need plenty of time, some comfy shoes and be confidence with public speaking. It helps if you know a few words of a range of foreign languages to ingratiate yourself with your target audience. A basic walking tour can bring in as much as £5 per person.

Competitions

There are scores of online competitions that don't require a stamp or a phone call to enter. You can win anything from CDs to large sums of cash and holidays. Plenty of websites have lists of free-to-enter competitions, including www.born toloaf.co.uk, which also offers tips on how to make the most of your entry. Watch out for competitions that demand a payment to enter or register on the site.

Virtual office

Old-fashioned envelope-stuffing ads tend to be a scam, taking your money to set up in the first place then disappearing. But becoming a virtual secretary, giving support to small businesses that can't afford their own full-time staff, can earn you between £10 and £20 an hour. You'll need good word-processing and computer skills, a phone and an internet connection for your home computer. See www.ebs-digital.co.uk.

Rent your kids

If you, your children or even your pets are particularly pleasing to the eye, or even if you're not, modelling could bring in £200 for a five-hour session, minus an agency commissioning fee. Avoid agencies that charge an up-front fee as the reputable ones will take a 20 to 25 per cent cut of earnings. One of the largest agencies in Europe is www.modelsdirect.com.

Auction sites

Trawl car-boot sales for a bargain, polish it and sell it for a huge mark-up on online auction sites such as eBay. Alternatively, listings online which are wrongly labelled can be snapped up for a song and resold. As well as eBay, try www.esources.co.uk.

Tutoring

From music to maths lessons, there's no end of things people want to learn. You'll have to be good though, and have heavyweight credentials, especially with the academic subjects. The more qualified you are the more you'll earn, but expect upwards of £20 an hour. Self-employed and individual workers can't apply for a Criminal Records Bureau check, but if you work via an agency this may be necessary. For more information, visit www.crb.gov.uk.

Rent space

Clear the junk out of your spare bedroom and rent it out, or, if you live in the centre of a city, even your parking space could be worth a few pounds a month. The rent should be based on local market rates, and the Government's "Rent a Room" scheme means that you can earn up to £4,250 a year tax-free (£2,125 if letting jointly). Go to the "Rent a Room Scheme" page at www.direct.gov.uk.

Babysitting/childminding

For anyone taking on a job with children, you'll need to know what to do if any dramas unfold and be able to take control of the situation. Having contact details to hand for parents, close relatives and local emergency services should be a must. You can earn upwards of £5 an hour.

Street performing
If you're not shy of an audience and have a decent visual talent, even if it's just standing still, this could be an option. You'll need to be able to cope with banter from the audience, a bit of rain and a variable income. Get in touch with your local council to find out about any restrictions or rules.

House and petsitting

Housesitters are paid to live in someone else's house while the owners are away. Many people will pay around £20 a day for you just to be there and may even stock the fridge for you. In return, you'll need to look after the house and its contents, including arranging any emergency work, care for any pets and water the plants. Advertise locally or through an agency such as www. homesitters.com, or www. g-angels.co.uk.

Film or TV extra

Fancy brushing shoulders with the stars? Then sign up as an extra. The BBC pays around £60 a day, and you'll get free meals. However, you'll need to be prepared to travel at short notice and stand around in the rain and cold for long periods of time. Agencies provide producers with databases of extras and may charge you a membership fee. Visit www.universalextra.co.uk or www.extra.co.uk.

Mystery shopping

This is another dream job for many people, a huge number of large retail companies use mystery shoppers to check their service levels. That means you can get paid to eat, drink, shop, and even watch movies. Assignments pay between £5 and £15 each, plus being reimbursed for purchases. Avoid agencies which charge a sign-up fee. Try www.retaileyes.co.uk .

Drugs testing

Not for the squeamish, taking part in drugs trials can earn you money for taking a tablet or injection then sitting around drinking tea. You may also get a few free nights' accommodation. Volunteers are paid anything from £50 to a few thousand pounds, depending on the level of risk or pain involved and the duration of the test. Enquire with your local hospital first before searching for clinical and medical trials online from sites such as www.testwiththebest.com.

Cashback

If you're careful, not to mention disciplined, there could be money to be made from banks and retails themselves. Cashback from credit cards and bank accounts, as well as discount shopping sites, is often offered as an almost free way to entice new customers because the vast majority of us will spend it elsewhere rather than use it to pay off our debts. The amount you get back can be anything from a few per cent of the value of smaller items to several hundred pounds for taking out a mortgage, but it's more of a discount on your living costs than a second income. Alliance & Leicester is offering £100 if you sign up to their current account before Thursday.

Domestic breeding

The rat-like creatures celebrities cart about in Louis Vuitton bags are worth a fortune themselves. Pure-breed dogs, cats and even rabbits can sell for hundreds of pounds each, so breeding them seems like a real money-spinner. But there is significant cost, time and effort involved before you earn anything. You'll have to buy a pure-breed female then stud it. There are also ongoing veterinary bills and proper care, exercise and accommodation to consider. Domestic breeding schemes take up to 20 years to become profitable, so it's not an option for short-term cash.

Nude modelling

Comfortable with your body? Artists often need life models and it's not as smutty as it sounds. Nude modelling involves taking your clothes off and staying still for up to 45 minutes per pose. Experienced life models earn around £10 an hour, so enquire with local colleges or universities or consider membership of the Register of Artists' models at www.modelreg.co.uk .

Phone operative

This is where it all gets morally challenging. If you've got a phone line and a good imagination, you can fit in adult calls around your everyday commitments. It's a competitive market, but you could earn in excess of £10 an hour. Go to www.adultwork.com and www.fone-me.com/action/operator for ways to list your services.

Sperm/egg donor

Did I mention morals? Those happy to donate their baby-making material could be "reimbursed" for expenses and lost earnings for up to around £250. It's illegal to be paid for sperm or egg donation in the UK, but fertility clinics in the US offer up to $8,000 (£5,500) for egg donation. That can involve surgery under general anaesthetic, so it's one for the strong, and open- minded ( www.ngdt.co.uk ).

Surrogate mother

Upping the ante, if you can cope with the emotional and physical roller-coaster, becoming a surrogate mother could offer hope to childless couples and earn you some cash at the same time. Again, it's illegal to be paid for this service in the UK, but in the US and South Africa for example, surrogacy can earn you as much as $20,000 (£13,700) per baby. Take a look at www.surrogateweb.com .

For lots more inventive ways to boost your income, '101 Ways to Make Extra Cash in a Recession', by Gavin Griffiths is available from Microvar Limited or www.101guides.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

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