Whether you’re struggling to make rent or just saving up for a new smartphone, extra money in your pocket during the pandemic is always a good thing.
Millions of Americans are feeling the pinch these days, especially now that the $600 bonus unemployment benefits are over and the pause on evictions ended in July.
Got money woes? You find lots of lists online claiming to have answers, but it’s hard to tell which methods really work and which ones are scams.
To make things easier, we’ve checked out a bunch of money-saving ideas and have put together this roster of 17 legit ways you can give your bank balance a boost when times are tough.
It’s possible that you have unclaimed money just sitting in an old account — seriously, it happens a lot. In fact, Americans currently have more than $40 billion in unclaimed funds.
The best place to start your search is MissingMoney.com, which will show if you left any money in an old checking or savings account, or if you’re entitled to unclaimed life insurance policies from relatives who have passed away. (You’ll want to be a lot more careful when you buy your own life insurance policy.)
You also should check with the IRS to see if there are any tax refunds you’re missing.
You can amend your previous tax returns for up to three years if you were eligible for a refund but neglected to claim it.
Got a hobby? You might be able to use it to score some side gigs and supplement your income.
It’s sort of like using a dating site — you just create a profile describing what you bring to the table, and people will find you based on what they’re looking for.
Once you start completing gigs and racking up positive reviews, you can bump up the price of your services and make even more money.
If you own a car and you’re not shopping around for a lower insurance rate every six months, you could be throwing away up to $1,127 a year.
Comparing rates from multiple insurance companies may sound like a lot of work, but you can find you a better deal on insurance coverage in just three minutes.
Just answer a few quick questions, and a website will sort through quotes from more than 200 insurance companies to find you the lowest prices available for the exact same coverage you currently have.
It’s totally free, so even if you’re just curious it’s worth checking out — to see how much you can save.
You may have heard of companies that pay you cash to fill out surveys. In most cases, the pennies you’ll earn aren’t worth the effort you’ll put in. However, we found one that’s actually worth your time — and it’s not just surveys.
You also can earn money and gift cards for doing stuff like watching videos and playing games on your phone, and by just shopping online at Amazon or Walmart.
In only a few weeks, a user named Elizabeth earned enough rewards to cover the materials for her husband’s EMT training program.
“I was able to get enough Amazon gift cards to purchase [his] blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, first responder pants, and a penlight … and I spent nothing out of pocket,” she says.
There’s no minimum time commitment, so you can make money at your own pace whenever you’ve got a free minute. And this rewards program is available for your phone, tablet and computer, so you can earn rewards anytime, anywhere.
5. Trade in your debt for a better deal
High-interest debt from credit cards and personal loans can be a major drain on your bank balance, especially if you’re making only the minimum payments each month.
If you want to break free from your debt ASAP, your best bet is to take out a debt consolidation loan.
With a debt consolidation loan, you’ll trade in all of your current debts — credit cards, loans, everything — for a single monthly payment at a lower interest rate.
A free service will show you quotes from all the lenders in your area willing to give you a loan, which makes it easy for you to shop around and find the best rate. You can borrow up to $100,000 with no collateral at rates as low as 5.95%.
Depending on how much interest you’re paying on your current debts, consolidating them could save you thousands of dollars and help you become debt-free years sooner.
6. Clean out your closet and cash in
Mess creates stress, and if you’re already worried about money, you don’t need piles of clutter adding to your anxiety. But trying to sell your old electronics, books, and movies online can be a chore, and you might make only a fraction of what your items are worth.
We compared the top buyback services online and found one that pays up to 33% more than the others, plus it was super easy to use.
Just type in the specs of your old gadgets or use the Decluttr app to scan the barcodes on your books, video games and DVDs, and you’ll get a quote instantly. Then all you have to do is put your stuff in a box, stick on the free shipping label, and drop it off at the nearest UPS store.
As soon as the company gets your castoffs, you’ll be paid the next day via PayPal or direct deposit.
Your place will be cleaner, and you’ll have some extra money to help cover your rent.
7. Get $100 just for doing your regular shopping
Cash-back cards are a great way to get a bit of money back every time you buy gas or get groceries, but they often come with hefty annual fees.
But one account that’s out there is free, and you can earn up to 10% cash back on every purchase you make. On top of that, you’ll get $100 just for signing up.
As long as you use your account debit card to spend $1,000 within the first 60 days — your groceries, utilities, and cell phone bill should easily cover it — you’ll get $100 automatically added to your account.
All you have to do is verify your identity by entering your email and Social Security number (which is standard practice anytime you open a new bank account), then connect your bank with a service called Plaid. It’s what Venmo uses, and it’s totally secure.
You’ll basically earn free money, just for doing your regular shopping.
8. Get paid when businesses behave badly
Not all lawyers are bad — some are even working to get you free money through class-action lawsuits.
Check ClassAction.com to see if you qualify for reimbursement over products or services you purchased in the past that were falsely advertised, defective, or that you were overcharged for.
Recent settlements have involved companies including Apple, Tesla, Juul and others.
The criteria for eligibility will vary depending on the lawsuit, but in some cases you may not even need a receipt to get reimbursed. If proof of purchase is required and you can’t find your receipt, remember to check your bank and credit card statements.
Many class action claims can be completed online in a few minutes, though it may take up to a year to receive your rebate.
9. Shave some money off your student loans
Payments on federal student loans have been paused through the end of 2020, but if you’ve got debt from a private student loan you’re still on the hook for your regular monthly minimum.
The good news is that right now interest rates on private student loans are at all-time lows — as low as 1% in some cases — and refinancing your loan can save you a bundle.
Refinancing lets you pay off your current debt with a new loan that has a lower interest rate. Your monthly payment will go down, and you’ll have more money to spend on other things.
You can find quotes from multiple lenders in just minutes, so you can shop around and make sure you’re getting the best rate possible.
With the right refi, you could pay off your student debt much more quickly, and save thousands in interest.
10. Pay less for everything online
If you do most of your shopping online — and these days who doesn’t? — you likely have some go-to websites (cough Amazon cough) that you always use.
But Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price-check every store.
It’s time for you to check out a free browser extension for Chrome that will automatically find you deals and coupon codes every time you shop online.
You also can set price-drop alerts for your favorite products, so if they go on sale you’ll be the first to know.
Taking a moment to install the extension could save you hundreds of dollars each year.
11. Use AI to find a better job
The job market is tough right now, and if your job hunt is coming up short it might be time to expand your search to positions that fall outside your field.
[You need to try a free online job board that uses artificial intelligence to match you with the best jobs from more than 8 million postings, based on your skills, education and experience.
The service also provides valuable information on over 35,000 job titles, including the credentials required and the criteria that recruiters look for in a top candidate.
By broadening your search using ZipRecruiter, you may be able to find a career you didn’t even know you were qualified for.
12. Find a better deal on your homeowners insurance
If your home insurance bill is higher than you’d like, you might be able to trim it down by shopping around online for a better rate.
Today, you can compare quotes from hundreds of insurers for free in only two minutes. Just answer a few basic questions and you’ll instantly see the best deals available in your area.
You could save close to $1,000 a year on your home insurance by comparing rates, while still keeping the same level of coverage you currently have.
13. Tell a robot to make your budget
Do you need your butt kicked to get your budget in shape?
Check out this AI digital assistant with a huge personality. She’ll build you a custom budget and encourage you when you’re doing well — but also rip you a new one when you’re falling behind.
It’s like having a financial planner in your pocket.
Best of all, it’s free to use and takes only a few minutes to sign up.
14. Turn your trash into cash
Got a closet full of collectibles? Well, maybe the time has finally come to take the plunge and list them online — and they might be worth even more than you think.
For example, some of your toys from the 1970s and ’80s could be worth hundreds of dollars — or possibly thousands — if you’ve kept them in good condition.
Selling stuff on eBay is relatively simple, but if you’ve never done it before, check out our handy guide.
15. Play the market with free stock
If you’ve never played the stock market before, you might think that owning stock in a well-known company is out of reach right now.
But there’s an app that will let you buy pieces of companies like Google and Tesla for as little as $1 — and when they profit, so can you.
You can invest in fractional shares of stocks, options, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and cryptocurrencies. Best of all, there are no fees and no commissions.
And when you sign up, the app will add one free share to your account — and there’s a chance it’ll be from Facebook, Visa, or Microsoft.
16. Invest your spare change and get $10 free
Another easy way to start investing in the stock market is by putting your spare change to work.
One company offers micro-investing accounts that start at just a few dollars a month. The “round-up” feature on the account app lets you invest the spare change that’s left over whenever you make a purchase.
So if you buy a coffee for $3.65, 35 cents will get added to your account.
It may not seem like much, but over time that spare change can really add up.
17. Go viral on YouTube
Do you love being in front of the camera? You might be able to make money on YouTube.
If your content goes viral, you could potentially make serious cash — some of the highest-paid YouTubers are raking in over $20 million a year.
It’s hard to know what type of content will take off, so be mindful that you could end up sinking hours into a video that only a handful of people will watch, and that will net you $0 in profit.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out our guide on how to make money on YouTube.