Free Money

A Free Money Experiment: In 2009 a London charity stopped providing meals, beds and emergency care. Instead they gave out about $4500 to 13 homeless men, some of whom had lived on the streets for decades. No strings were attached. The men simply had answer “what do you think would be good for you?” They could use the money as they chose.

One year later – to the surprise of most – 11 of the 13 were off the streets. None blew the money on foolish items. Some took classes, got treatment for addictions, found work, moved to hostels or shelters. Total cost: far less than the public services previously required.

Could it happen here? Hard to overcome political objections from all sides.That would include government not wanting to give up entrenched bureaucracies, control of funds, and the votes of people who sadly depend on them.

That doesn’t mean there’s no free money. Here are options for getting more cash. They're free in that you don’t have to pay the money back. There’s some effort involved to go after it – but not much:

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Free Money: Where To Find It

Update May 2017: Catch the latest Free Money article: Free Money 2017

Update April 2017 All money costs something one way or another, even if it’s just bothering to put in a little effort to get it. That’s apparently particularly true of government money available to help students and their families pay for college expenses. According to a study done by Nerdwallet, as recently as the 2014-2015 school year students neglected to to take advantage of $2.7 billion. This is money they could have been awarded had they filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to fill the FAFSA out even if you think you will not qualify for any money — statistics show you could be very wrong!

News August 2016 How about this for pretty amazing? If you're one of a lucky group of 100 people in Oakland, CA you may receive $1800-2000 per month for a year – for free! Really, truly for free. It's part of an experiment by a tech group testing options for a future where robots replace many lower level (or even intermediate level) jobs. The test is part philosophical, part political (since such a program would ultimately replace all government welfare) and certainly part economic. If you live in Oakland check it out; if not, stay tuned to see what happens with this very interesting experiment! Update on Oakland Project As of this writing (December 2016) it is unclear what the status of this project (called the Basic Income Project) is. The most recent company blog post that we could find on the topic was an announcement of the hiring of a Research Director for the project. (The person hired was one of over 100 applications for the position — and applicants included tenured professors from schools like Harvard, Oxford and Columbia.) They also say that this initial experiment is a short term pilot project they expect to be the forerunner — if all goes well — of a large, longer term study.

Here we discuss other free money sources that don’t involve the government. (For a review of options for getting grants, loans, and aid of many sorts from government sources see our article on Free Government Money.)

Looking for money because you need to buy a car? You might be able to get one without it – or without much of it. Check out our article about Money For A Car to find some resources you probably didn't know about. Lots of organizations are trying to help people with this same problem!

Find Missing or Unclaimed Money: If you do a search for Free Money you will get lots of results about money the states call Unclaimed Money or Unclaimed Property. It might be a forgotten savings account, a security deposit you never received because your name was misspelled, money you didn’t know you had inherited or the proceeds of an insurance policy that named you as a beneficiary.

This type of “property” – much of which is cash – must be turned over to the state by banks and other organizations. The states must keep the property safe and also must try to find the rightful owners. Though many states have done a good job setting up searchable databases so you can find funds in your name, their efforts are largely passive. That means that it is up to you to take action to find the money – states do not typically research and try to contact the rightful owner. Meanwhile, they make money on this property and do not pay you interest when and if you find it!

So it is super important for you to know not only what free unclaimed money might be yours, but also to get tips on how and where to find unclaimed money. It’s very easy and it’s free, you just need to be persistent.

Scholarships For College And Career Schools: Are you intimidated by the thought of competing for scholarships? Do you think no scholarships are available for career schools (sometimes called trade schools)?

If so you could be missing a great source of cash. Scholarships never have to be repaid! Too many people (young people especially) don’t even bother trying to get scholarships. They figure it’s easier just to get government aid and loans.

Turns out it’s not so easy when you graduate deep in debt – maybe without a job. Government loans must be repaid, costs get steeper each year, and interest continues to build even before you have to start making payments. It may feel free while you’re in school, but it’s so not!

There are thousands of scholarships out there and you don’t have to be super smart to get one. There are even scholarships based on luck – you just have to enter for the chance to win. Check out our Scholarship Information and start getting those applications ready!

Lotteries: Is it ever a good bet to buy a lottery ticket? People who actually do the math - and know what they’re doing - would definitely tell you no. But they’re not taking into account the reasons that some people play. If you are going to buy a ticket because you expect to win then that is a bad investment. But if you really enjoy dreaming for just a little bit about actually winning $1.5 billion dollars (that’s the prize as of January 16, 2016), then maybe that’s a different story. You may get as much enjoyment out of that dreaming as you do from spending $20 on a movie … and in that case, why not? But watch out if you are regularly doing that rather than paying for needed prescriptions or feeding your family. There’s a reason there’s a bumper sticker that says “lotteries are for people who arent’ good at math.” Be good at math.

OK we know this is a temptation — and the states hire really good ad agencies to be sure of it. It feels like free money when you win, especially if you win big.

But winning big is not likely, and over time you may have poured lots of money into those machines. There is unfortunately a whole lot of truth in the saying that lotteries are for people who are bad at math. The probability of winning a truly large prize is so tiny you would never place a bet with those odds on something like your football team winning every game (or any game!) it plays.

If you buy tickets regularly, and spend a noticeable portion of your income on them, that is exactly what you are doing. It is hard to resist – those ad agencies are good. Just remember you are basically handing your money to the government. If you must buy tickets, try to put an equal amount into something that is a sure bet — a 401k or savings plan if there’s one where you work, or buy stock in a stable company that lets you buy directly without a fee. (Just do a search on direct stock purchase, and stay tuned for our upcoming article on this topic.)

Free Money Web Sites?: And what about moneycroc — seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? Just play their game and you win, no need to fill out surveys or anything. We have found nothing about them that’s not legit. And they haven’t been blacklisted by Google so that’s in their favor. The only thing that’s not is the impression you might get that it’s “easy” to win. To play may be easy, but you probably would have to do so for a very long time in order to win anything. Does that make them bad? Not really — not much different than the state lottery really. It just could be tempting to keep playing rather than doing something more productive — and profitable — with your time. So be aware and beware.

401(K) Matching Plans: If you are lucky enough to have a job and to work at a place that offers a 401(k) Retirement Savings plan, take advantage of it! Especially if there is a “matching plan.” This is where an employer encourages you to save by “matching” what you put in, usually up to a certain limit. That is definitely free money! If you think you don’t have any “extra” money to save, think about buying fewer lottery tickets, or beers, or Starbucks drinks. The money can add up surprisingly quickly over the years — and money that is earning interest or dividends is money that is working for you (instead of the other way around!).

Kickstarter: This one takes a little more effort but it doesn’t have to be that hard! This is the web site that lets people raise money for their company, cause or project. They describe what they are doing, often including a video, and offer simple incentives for people who contribute. Some of these are very serious, formal ventures and you might not expect to create something like that. But sometimes they’re just silly and, if their story is told in an amusing way, they make a lot of money!

So if you’re a creative type and are good at telling a story, this could be for you. If you want to see an example of a very low-effort but wildly successful campaign, just do a search using the words kickstarter and potato salad… And to learn more about a similar type of financing, take a look at Crowdfunding News.

Get Paid To Open A Free Checking Account: An online bank is promoting its services by paying you $50 to open a free checking account. There is no minimum amount you need to deposit in the account, and the application is free. You will receive a debit card for the account and if you use it to make at least three purchases in the first 45 days, they will deposit $50 to your account. Not bad. You do have to have a street address (not a P.O. Box) and a Social Security Number to apply. Check it out at

Stay Tuned For Updates. Here's an update: our newest suggestions for free money sources are in Free Money 2016. You can also get still valid tips and information in Free Money 2015. And if you have suggestions or tips to add, please join our Community and share!

Recent Updates

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