Resell American electronics abroad at a huge markup
Expected pay range: Easily in the hundreds of dollars, possibly into the thousands
Who should do it: Americans lose sight of how little we pay, relatively, for our high-end gadgets. An unlocked iPhone, for instance, can fetch double in Brazil what you'd pay for it in Boston. A two-year-old laptop you never use could elsewhere command its weight in francs. CommSec, an Australian brokerage firm, has for the past few years compared prices of new iPads in various countries around the world; US prices are consistently among the lowest. Where are they likely to fetch the biggest return, if you can peddle them? South America (especially Argentina), pretty much all of Europe, and a few Pacific Rim countries (New Zealand, China, South Korea) showed at least a 20% markup in a recent survey. If resellers aren't nearby, try posting on Craigslist or the country's equivalent community board. Worst case, you save your receipts and return 'em to Best Buy.
There's always a catch: Obviously your results may vary -- and just selling stuff can be a pain. Plus, if you get too ambitious/brazen with your plan, customs might want to have a word.
Buy souvenirs low, sell 'em high
Expected pay range: Depends on how much Nepalese cashmere or how many Peruvian alpaca wool hats you can lug home. A sarong that goes for $6 in Malaysia could go for $30 in California. Margins would depend on your haggling acumen.
Who should do it: Avid shoppers who like to hustle, and who might be going to much of Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia. Leslie Kuster, a New Yorker who spent seven months traveling around Indonesia, decided to ditch the office life and instead launch a career out of her frequent trips back. Now she spends at least six weeks a year in Bali, buying up batik fabrics and garments she later sells at New York's Union Square Holiday Market and through her Amazon store, Back From Bali.
There's always a catch: You can get overextended if you're not careful, so start small. "It's really easy to buy buy buy, but not as easy to sell sell sell," Kuster said. "I would suggest buying the smallest quantity that you can and see if and where you can sell it."