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Most of us have heard that old saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Sure, most of our income typically comes from working for wages, but below, we’ve shared some ways on how to get free money that don’t require too much of your time and labor.
Here are a few ways to supplement your income – proving once and for all that there may be such a thing as “free lunch”.
Maximize Government Assistance
You may already be aware of government programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF, but there are a few lesser known programs administered through the government that you may be eligible for.
Search for unclaimed money: While this tip doesn’t fall squarely under the category of “government assistance”, federal, state, and local governments run programs that centralize unclaimed funds that are owed to their constituents, regardless of income. These funds can include past overpayments of utility bills, insurance reimbursements, unpaid wages, and other types of payments that never reached you. For example, by searching my local comptroller’s website, I learned that I was owed about $200 for my service on a jury several years prior. Because I had moved around the time of the trial, the check was sent to the wrong address.
Get help with your internet or phone bill: A federal program called Lifeline helps low income individuals and families pay for their phone and internet bills. If your income is less than 135% of the federal poverty line, or you qualify for other government programs like TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid, your household is eligible for up to $9.25 in monthly assistance on their landline, cell phone, or internet bill. For those who live on tribal lands, the discount may be as much as $34.25 per month.
Find additional help during COVID-19 pandemic: Even if your household does not typically qualify for government benefits, it may be easier to get assistance with your bills due to the special circumstances of the pandemic. Extra assistance may include help with food, housing, and bills, or lost income due to unemployment.
Vote: This may seem like a less obvious way to maximize government assistance, but if you are eligible to vote, this is a powerful way to ensure a better financial future for you and your family. Members of both major political parties have recently championed ideas like the new child tax credit, which will greatly benefit families – even those with incomes too high to qualify for many other government benefits. When local, state, and federal elections come around, learn about what the candidates believe in before casting your vote.
Rent Your Stuff
There is a lot of advice on the internet about how to make extra money, and much of it involves selling your possessions. But what if you can’t just abandon what you own in the pursuit of fast cash? Well, you can rent it! A word to the wise: make sure you know the tax implications of your rental. The money you make from your rental will likely be counted as income on your taxes.
Rent your car: Websites like Turo and HyreCar make it easy for you to make extra money while you’re not using your car. Just keep in mind that while you will be bringing in extra income, your car’s value may depreciate faster than it would if you and your family were the only ones using it.
Rent your home: If you have an extra room in your house or apartment, consider renting it for some extra money. You can rent a room on a short-term basis to tourists and business travelers on Airbnb, or on a longer-term basis to tenants on websites like Craigslist. Be sure to know the laws and regulations in your area before renting. Rentprep.com has a great guide for renters subletting a space in their home.
Rent your bike: Renting your bicycle is a great way to get free money, especially if it isn’t your primary mode of transportation. You can rent your bike out on Spinlister.com by the hour, the day, or the week. Some listings command upwards of $100/week. Spinlister also allows you to rent sporting equipment like skis and snowboards.
Optimize Your Savings
If you’ve read any personal finance advice online, it’s likely you’ve heard the advice to put your money in a high yield savings account so that you will earn a high rate of interest on your savings. The truth is, “high yield” savings accounts don’t “yield” very much interest. The average rate of interest in the U.S. is just %0.1 percent. That means that if you put $100/month in a savings account, you’re likely to have earned $.46 in interest after a full calendar year.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t make use of interest earning accounts. It just means that you shouldn’t consider them to be a source of “free money” in any serious way. So, how else can you get free money using your savings?
Consolidate your loans and pay down debt: Before you even think about optimizing your savings, it’s important to manage your debt – especially credit card debt. If you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt and have a good credit score, consider transferring your balance to a card with zero percent interest so you can pay down debt without accruing additional interest. If you have student loans from multiple lenders, consider consolidating them under a single lender with a service like SoFi, at a lower interest rate.
Open a Certificate of Deposit: A certificate of deposit account is a savings account where you keep a certain amount of money for a certain term, and then cash out the deposit with the interest earned at the end of the term. These types of accounts will earn you more interest than high yield savings accounts. You can find interest rates as high as %.65, which means that with a deposit of $500, you would have earned $122 over a nine month term. There’s one catch – you can’t access your deposit for the term of the CD without paying a penalty.
Invest: With the advent of apps like Stash, Acorns, and Robinhood, investing is accessible to everyone. Small-time investors have gotten a lot of news lately for getting rich off of so-called “meme stocks” like GameStop. Investing in meme stocks is very risky, and not recommended. However, investing in low risk EFTs and shares through these apps can help your money grow significantly over the long-term. You may even get free money just by signing up, like with Stash’s $5 sign-up bonus.
Take Advantage of Rewards, Apps, and Sweepstakes
For some, these ideas for how to get free money may be cumbersome, and just another thing to pay attention to.
For the super-organized, rewards points, apps, and sweepstakes can be a great way to pull in an extra stream of income in the form of gift cards and free stuff.
Loyalty Rewards: Almost every supermarket, pharmacy, and retail store has some form of rewards program going on, and if you are indeed a frequent shopper, it may be worth it to enroll. Pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid have frequent shopper cards that get you discounts and rewards points that can take a few dollars off a purchase once you reach a certain number of points.
Shopper Rewards Apps: Apps like Fetch Rewards and Shopkick earn you rewards points that can be redeemed for gift cards. There are some apps, including Dosh and MyPoints that get you cash back on purchases made on cards you’ve linked to the apps. You’ll get a free $10 gift card just by signing up for MyPoints and spending $20 through the MyPoints site.
Some claim to have struck gold in the pursuit of free money by entering sweepstakes. Their secret to success seems to be consistency – entering sweepstakes on a daily basis, or as many times as each contest will allow, to increase their odds of winning. If you want to try your luck, Sweepstakes Lovers and Contest Girl are two totally free places to start.
There are a lot of ways to get free money, and these are just a few. If you have your own creative ways of generating extra income, let us know in the comments!