Is it Possible to Make Money by Doing Nothing?

I had someone ask me the other day if I knew of “ways to make money for free”. Huh? What does that even mean? Let's assume it means this: is there a way to make money without expending energy (i.e. doing work), spending some time on it, or giving up something of value (e.g. stuff, privacy)? I'm going to have to say no to this one. If there was something like that, I think we'd all know about it. But let's look a bit closer. Looking through my 52 ways to make extra money, I'd say there are a couple of items that actually come close.

Make Money for Free

This can be yours for the price of…nothing?

The Incomplete “Make Money for Free” List

I've racked my brain and scoured my list of money making ideas for a few that don't require much time, energy, or loss in value on your part.

Cash Back Shopping (e.g.Ebates) – Assuming you are already going to spend the money, using Ebates to get a cash kick back on the transaction is pretty labor and time free. All you have to do is sign up once with Ebates and remember to use them when you shop. So, while it's not totally free, it's close.

Cash Back Credit Cards – Along those same lines is the cash back credit card. You have to spend money to get the cash back. But again, assuming you are a human and need to spend money on food, gas, and other living expenses, you'll freely earn cash just by using your card.

Bank Account Sign Up Bonuses – Some banks will pay you a cash bonus just for opening up a savings account or online checking account. The only problem with this “free” money is that you have to go through the process of opening up an account. This usually involves giving up your private information and having your credit file checked. Also, the bonuses usually don't kick in till some time has passed, or some virtual hoops are jumped though.

Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses – Similarly, the credit card companies will give you cash back bonuses just for signing up with the card. See my free stuff page for a complete list. Some do come with spending requirements though.

“Already Headed That Way” Labor – Finally, I think that some “close-to-free” money can be had if you take advantage of the time and place you naturally find yourself. An idea that I recently ran across was this guy in Central Park who brought his cell phone charger along and then offered to charge others for a tip.

Can you think of any other ideas that come close to being a free way to make money?

What's Easiest to Give Up?

Since giving something up likely cannot be avoided. You should just think about what's easiest to give up. When trying to bring in a little extra money, whether for savings or debt reduction, it's key to think about what you'd be giving up to get the money. Which of these things “costs” you less to give up:

  • time,
  • labor,
  • or value?

The one that costs less to give up should be the one you focus on. For instance, if you're a college student, single person, or married with no kids, you likely have tons of free time on your hands. I know because I was once you. 🙂 You should likely focus your money making efforts on using all that free time. Time is easy for you to give up.

Likewise, if you have a bunch of “stuff” lying around your house that you don't use anymore, then consider using your stuff to help you make extra money. If you're already running pretty lean in that department, then use a different method.

What's your take? Are there any ways to make money for free?

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Last Edited: June 27, 2017 @ 3:34 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a former practicing CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of FinCon, the conference and community dedicated to helping other financial influencers and brands. He created this website back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money, hold himself accountable, and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

PT uses Personal Capital to keep track of his financial life. This free software allows him to review his net worth regularly, analyze his investments, and make decisions about his financial future.

PT keeps a portion of his emergency fund in Betterment, the automatic investing tool that makes investing super simple. Betterment focuses on what matters most: savings rate, time in the market, investing costs, and taxes. PT recommends this service to anyone looking to get started investing for themselves.

All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. I’d say investing in the market is a pretty passive way! after you’ve worked your a$$ off to get the money to dump into it, of course 😉

  2. @MFO – By value I mean “something tangible of value”, i.e. stuff.

  3. Financial Samurai says:

    Good old interest on savings!

  4. kt- lifedividend says:

    the only way of making money for me is rolling up your sleeves and getting a lot of dirt undre your fingernails. I have never seen a way to make a regular income by doing absolutely nothing. When i started looking for making money online the allure was working for just a few hours and getting a full time income but there is nothing further from the truth. You gotta work to make good cash but i heard that one can volunteer as a lab rat for science experiments where you just get injected with all manner of untested chemicals and poisons. That is the closest thing to free money i can see

  5. Hmm, I think unless you’re Paris Hilton it’s pretty hard to make money by doing nothing. And actually, even she has to give up privacy. I think that you can get paid to take surveys online, which sounds to me like a fairly effortless way to make money without giving up any value, but you would probably have to give up some privacy. Basically I think there is no getting around putting in time and energy in order to make money. As the saying goes, time is money!

  6. myfinancialobjectives says:

    cool post. Not sure what exactly you mean by giving up value though. I’d say the hardest thing for me to give up is my TIME. I wish I was like one of those people that can just go and go off of 5 hours of sleep a night, but I unfortunately need at least 7. If I had more time, I’d probably get a second job to accelerate my debt repayment and save for a new house!!!

    This guy at my work fixes peoples computers at work for extra cash on the side, he does it at work on his lunch break, makes decent money!