We don't worry much about Dan losing his job at Walmart. Walmart has thrived in this economy. We do sometimes worry about cut hours, though. If he did lose his job, or got his hours cut, we have a back-up plan until he can find something new.
There are stand-by jobs. Stand-by jobs are my go-to jobs. These include mystery shopping, merchandising, and demonstrating. These are jobs that take a little research to figure out how to do, but once you've done that research, you can pick up a job, by independent contract, whenever you need some extra money. They are not full time commitments, and you can fit them into your own schedule. Since they are independent contracts, though, the money may take a few weeks, or longer to come.
Mystery shopping involves writing reports, often essays, and filling out forms. When you get an assignment, you will have a set of criteria you are evaluating the store for. To get a good income with mystery shopping, you have to sign up for a lot of companies. Just beware that it isn't all fun and games, as it is portrayed in some ads. It's a job with perks, but a job nonetheless. One of the best perks, to me, is that I can bring my kids to some assignments if I need to. Go to jobslinger or the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association to get started.
Merchandising is just stocking shelves at a store for a few hours. Sometimes they send you the merchandise you have to stock, sometimes it is at the store waiting for you. These assignments can take anywhere from an hour to a whole day, or even longer. The first job is usually the hardest, as you are figuring out how to do everything, but once you get over that, it's easy work. The hourly pay is average, but you get to decide when you work. I would start with the National Association of Retail Merchandisers. I've also worked happily with Certified Field Associates, which is one large company.
Demonstrating is fun if you have the temperament. You know the sample ladies? You could be a sample lady (or man). There is usually more time restriction on these types of jobs, like it has to be done on a weekend, or even at a specific time. Still, you get to choose if you want to do it, when, and for how long. Again, the National Association of Retail Merchandisers is the place to start.
If you like the idea of some of these stand-by jobs, it is a good idea to look into it now, so that you have the information you need when you need it.
I'm also a bit of a craigslist junkie. I frequently search the job boards to see what's out there. Sometimes there are dog-walking jobs or part-time housecleaning jobs with flexible hours that could be a help in a pinch. There are also a lot of one day only jobs listed. It's worth looking to see if there is an opportunity that goes well with your situation.
Another way to come up with cash is selling your stuff. Selling stuff on eBay is probably the fastest way, because the auction will be over in a week. I always start the bids at $0.99, and have never felt ripped off at the end of the week. You may not get the highest price, or you may get a surprisingly large amount. If you set the price too high on eBay, you run the risk of not selling the item and still having to pay listing fees. If getting the money isn't as urgent, selling on Amazon or craiglist allows you to set the price you want, but you may be holding on to the item for a lot longer than you want to.
Just knowing that these opportunities are out there gives me comfort. If a large expense comes our way, I know we can tackle it. I've mentioned before that we're paying for the upcoming birth out of pocket. Well, we've paid it all off. We did this by (reluctantly) taking some out of our savings, cutting back further, and through me taking advantage of some of my stand-by job opportunities. I now occasionally pick up an independent contract job here or there to build up that savings.