Are there still new options for getting more cash in your life — maybe even lots of it? There are indeed. And how successful you can be at taking advantage of them depends on you finding and following up on them.
That’s where we come in, showing you how to earn more, save more, and get financial aid you qualify for. We show you different options based on whether benefits and money come from the government or from private sources in Free Government Money and Free Money. And we add new articles each year to cover fresh options to improve your finances.
In Free Money 2015 we cover crowdfunding platforms to raise money for personal needs. Plus tips to avoid a penalty for not having a healthcare plan, how to recover back wages you're owed, and advice on credit cards, shopping and money for school.
Most if not all of these tips are still very current and useful, so be sure to take a look at Free Money 2015 along with the other articles noted above. Now let's get started on our latest tips for Free Money 2016:
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Update April 2017
A tax cut would certainly feel like “free money” since it reduces the amount of money you have to send in to Uncle Sam. And don’t forget state taxes - they can be a killer on top of federal taxes and, in many states, high sales taxes on top of the state income tax. It’s getting to the point where taxes have a serious impact on whether people remain in the state. California is a good example: at least 5 million folks have moved elsewhere in the last 11 years — along with over 10,000 businesses. Cities like San Francisco that impose additional taxes and regulations have also seen a departure of businesses. So take a good hard look at your tax situation if you would consider making a move… it could make a big difference to your personal and family bottom line.
News August 2016:
Speaking of Free Money, beware of scams that are now coming at you over social media like Facebook. The scammer will copy the profile of one of your friends and start chatting with you. Eventually they will tell you that you’ve won thousands of dollars and then start asking for more and more information to be able to get it to you. So beware — especially if they tell you about something called the “National Association of State Governments.” If this happens you should not communicate with this person any longer and report them to Facebook. And never accept a Friend Request from someone with whom you are already friends. It’s almost certainly someone trying to cheat you out of some money…
Unclaimed Money: There's been a lot of news on this topic – have you checked to see if there's some waiting for you somewhere? We want to remind you how important - and rewarding - it could be if you were persistent and thorough about searching for unclaimed property that is rightfully yours. The states are accumulating more and more of these valuables because people don’t search correctly or often enough. For example the state of California alone holds more than $6.1 billion which belongs to individuals like you. Some of it is in cash or stocks but there are also physical items being held. In California those items include $375,000 in 20 pounds of gold bars; a bag of diamonds worth $500,000, and $250,000 in gold and silver coins. We give you the straight scoop on doing your own free searches and give you a strategy for covering all your bases in Find Unclaimed Money.
Car Insurance: We’re sure you’ve seen the ads but have you bothered to check out competitive car insurance rates? It may be a bother but there is probably some saving potential here that would put free money in your wallet. Check around and compare rates for comparable coverage. You might also want to consider modifying your coverage. Consumer Reports indicates that you could save almost half your cost - depending on where you live - if you increase your deductible from zero to $1000. And they recommend you drop collision or comprehensive altogether if the amount of the yearly premium for those options is greater than 10% of your car’s book value.
HARP could be heavenly: You might be tired of hearing about it. Maybe you just can’t bear to go get involved with a bank again. But seriously, the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP) is for real. And it’s only around for the rest of this year. The government really wants to help you stay in your home — even if it’s worth less than your mortgage balance. Even if you didn’t qualify before. Please do yourself a favor and see if the new, improved, easier-to-qualify-for HARP program can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month! Find out fast if you might qualify with our quick and easy quiz - no personal info required: Assistance for HARP Eligibility.
FHA Home Loan Refunds: If you’ve ever had an FHA home loan, HUD may be sitting on refund money for you. Go to HUD.gov and see if you're in their refund database which lists HUD refunds due for FHA-insured mortgages. Just go to their main page (hud.gov) and enter “HUD refund” in the search box. That will take you to a page where people who have had an FHA-insured mortgage can see if their name is on a list of people owed refunds. If your name is on the list you can call a toll free number to get the refund. Even if your name doesn’t show up on the list you can call to see the status of the refund you think is due. Please note that you do NOT have to pay anyone to help you do this! They mention this at the bottom of the page and also provide you with a toll free number and email to use to contact them if you need help with the form. And speaking of HUD – if you're not a homeowner but would like to be, check out what HUD can do for you in Government Grants to Purchase a Home.
Tax Refunds: Do you love to get a refund at tax time? Think again. It’s understandable if you purposely use your withholding to force yourself to save. But what you’re really doing is loaning the government money and charging them no interest! If you can discipline yourself it is far wiser to reduce your withholding and increase the money in each paycheck. You can usually even make the savings or investment automatic by using direct deposit. That way you never see the money (unless you peek at your savings balance) and you’re not tempted to spend it. Check out which banks - or better yet, credit unions - are paying the best interest. Then get yourself a savings account to add to directly from your paycheck each pay period. You may be surprised at the benefits of compound interest as your money grows rather than disappearing…
Investing: If you’re looking for “free money” the thought of saving - and even investing - may seem like a distant dream. However, there are options you should know about so you can take advantage of them when and if you can manage to put some money aside. Money that is wisely invested grows over time so it is worth knowing about. If your employer offers any matching funds for money you put into a 401k plan, contributing enough to be eligible for those matching funds should be your top priority. If you don’t have such a plan then consider starting your own Roth IRA. Roths are a real gift in that your investments grow tax free over time and you do not pay taxes on the money when you make withdrawals in the future. To set up a Roth IRA look for an online broker with a low minimum for opening your account and lots of choices for no fee investing. Ameritrade actually has no account minimum and provides lots of educational resources that can help make you a more knowledgeable investor. Schwab does as well but it does have a $1000 minimum for a new account (which is waived if you set up automatic monthly deposits of $100 or more…).
Love Outlet Store Shopping? So many of us do! But sometimes you don’t end up with much of a bargain — and it may be an unpleasant experience (none of us want that when we shop!). Save money - thereby putting more “free money” in your wallet — bychoosing your outlet stores wisely. Consumer Reports did a huge study of their subscribers to find out how outlet stores ranked over 25,000 visits. Some of the results might surprise you! Big names you may like got the worst ratings (especially regarding how helpful the staff is): they include Levi’s, Nike, the Gap, and Old Navy. Which stores ranked best? L.L. Bean, BonWorth, Haggar, Bose, OshKosh ‘b’Gosh, Jockey and Carter’s.
More Government Refunds: We already mentioned HUD but what about the IRS? Have you neglected to file a return because you thought you didn’t make enough money to bother? Would you believe that the IRS reports that in 2015 alone they were holding almost $1 billion in refunds due to people who never claimed them by filing a return? And the average of each unclaimed refund is almost $700! You have three years to catch up and file a past return so file them now!
Drive for Cash: Ever considered driving for Uber and Lyft? No, the money’s not free but it can put (a lot!) more cash in your pocket. No boss to work for and you get to set your own hours - just turn off the app if you’re not available. If you’re smart about it you can make quite a bit of money and even enjoy doing it. Do an internet search to read the often entertaining as well as enlightening reviews of other drivers… Also consider these facts:
- Both services require that you are 21 or older; have a driver’s license for the state you plan to drive in; have been driving for at least a year and have no blemishes on your driving record; and are able to pass a check of your criminal background.
- Usually your car must be 2005 or newer, have 4 doors and have current registration and insurance in your state (and also in your name).
- Both companies might help you rent or get a discount purchase for a new one; Uber will even let you rent a car on a weekly basis.
- What can you earn? $450 to $750 per week is not unusual — it all depends on how much you choose to drive (it’s up to you), whether you drive during peak traffic hours and for big events, and how much you get in tips. Left keeps 75% of your basic charges and Uber keeps 80%.
- If you are deaf or hard of hearing you should check out special features and capabilities offered by Lyft.
Do you have an extra room in your home? Seniors especially are apt to be living in a house that is larger than they need. Their kids have moved out but owners are not ready to move out and leave the home they've been in for so long. But these days it's pretty easy to earn some extra money by renting out a room or, if you have some separate quarters, a portion of your home. Organizations like AirBnB make it pretty easy for you to publicize your room availability, book clients, and get paid. Not only would you be doing the renter a favor (rooms are often less expensive and friendlier than hotels), but you might make a new friend in addition to making some extra cash.
Stay Tuned: Make a commitment to try out at least a few of these ideas. And check back often for updates which we will add throughout the year. For starters, check out our latest article Free Money 2017.