Promises of free money often sound too good to be true and, usually, they are. But there are some legitimate ways to turn what you already have into an income stream. In this article, you’ll read about 15 ingenious ways on how to get free money by freeing up cash or making your money work for you!
#1 Look for Unclaimed Money
Unclaimed money is a thing. To be specific, it’s a roughly $3 billion thing. That’s about how much unclaimed money is returned to its rightful owners by the US government each year.
The crazy part is that most of this is money that people don’t even know is owed to them. It includes things like assets left to the “next of kin” of your long lost great aunt, twice removed. It’s a tax refund that got lost in the mail, and you forgot to check in about it.
It’s pension money you didn’t know you were owed.
Go the US Treasury’s website to start the search and find out if there’s any unclaimed money with your name on it.
#2 Max Out Your 401K
If you have a 401k and you’re not maxing it out, you are leaving money on the table. Every employer offers a contribution matching program. The exact amount they’ll match does vary, but you can easily find out how much your employer will match by checking in with HR.
Matching means that if you put, say $200 from every paycheck into your 401k, your employer will match that by adding another $200 to your 401k. That’s $200 free dollars. Every paycheck. For the duration of your time with this company.
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#3 Doublecheck Your Tax Return
If you’re used to getting a refund every year, you may not be checking your numbers too carefully to make sure you’re getting as large of a refund as you qualify for. A lot of folks don’t even know which of the 2024 tax brackets they fall into. Not to mention the fact that there are tons of deductions and credits out there, especially for people with children or people who own homes.
The more you can deduct from your tax bill or claim as a credit, the more you’ll get back as your refund.
You’re probably already claiming your dependents, but are you claiming any interest paid on student loans or mortgage? Are you deducting those home repairs you did earlier last year?
You might be surprised just how many things you can claim as deductions or credits on your tax return. The more you can deduct from your tax bill or claim as a credit, the more you’ll get back as your refund.
#4 Open a High-Interest Savings Account
If you have savings, put it to work for you! Online banks have been driving up the competition for high-interest savings accounts over the last few years so you can easily find accounts offering interests in the 2%-3% range.
I know that doesn’t sound like a jaw-dropping number, but the 0% that money’s earning just sitting in a checking account is impressive.
Speaking of checking accounts, if you do your research, you can also find an interest-earning checking account. These typically earn less than 1% but, again, that’s still better than 0%! Put your savings in a high-interest savings account and keep the rest of your money in a low-interest checking account, and you’ll find yourself earning a few extra bucks every month without any extra effort.
Chase rewards gives you a sign on bonus up to $500 if you open an account with them as well.
#5 Sell Your Photos
Stock photo websites like iStock or Shutterstock are an essential resource for web designers and bloggers across the internet. The cool thing is that absolutely anyone can upload photos to these websites. Whenever someone uses your photo, you get paid a royalty!
Whenever someone uses your photo, you get paid a royalty!
There are a ton of sites like this so why not post your photos to all of them and let the royalty checks roll in. The better your photos are, the more you’ll make!
To indeed hack this option, try to think about what kind of stock photos would be most useful. Pay attention to ads and commercials and think of ways you could do something similar.
#6 Get Paid While Watching TV
There are a few marketing research companies out there that just want to know what consumers are watching and when.
Nielsen is one great example. You simply download their app to your devices and provide your necessary information, and you’re done. The app will log what you’re watching and when you watch it. And in exchange, Nielsen pays you for granting them access to that data!
A similar option for browsing the internet is Inbox Dollars.
#7 Rent Out Your Spare Room on Airbnb
If you own your home or have a landlord who doesn’t mind, go ahead and list your spare room on Airbnb. It’s easy to do, and you’re getting paid just for having an extra bedroom. It does mean you’ll have to keep your house clean, but that’s extra motivation to stay on top of those household chores!
If you ever have friends or family in town or there are just a few weeks in which you know you won’t want to host any guests, you can easily block out those dates to make sure you aren’t saddled with unwanted guests.
#8 Get Cash Back When You Shop Online
There are a few different apps now that offer cash back in exchange for using their app to do your online shopping. Rakuten and Swagbucks are two of the biggest names in the game, but there are others.
You can transfer that cashback to your bank account, to PayPal, or turn it into a gift card.
The way apps like this work are by partnering with thousands of online shops to allow you to shop at your favorite brands. Instead of going to the website directly, go to it through the cashback app. Then, you’ll see what kind of deals the app is offering for that store.
Shop as you usually would (just through their link), and when you’re done, the cashback will appear in your account after the purchase goes through. You can transfer that cashback to your bank account, to PayPal, or turn it into a gift card.
#9 Ask for Gift Cards Instead of Gifts
For birthdays and other holidays, your friends and family might try to give you gifts, but it’s not rude to politely ask for gift cards instead of gifts. Then, you can use gift cards to buy what you need and want!
If you’re uncomfortable asking people for gift cards, consider returning their gifts.
If you’re uncomfortable asking people for gift cards, consider returning their gifts. As long as you know what store they got it from, you can usually return it for store credit even without a receipt.
Of course, the gift giver may wonder why they don’t see it in your house when they visit. That’s why it’s usually better just to be upfront, to begin with, and ask for gift cards.
Make it a little more personal by sending them a picture of your haul to show them what their generous gift helped you get!
#10 Get Refunds on Your Past Purchases
Paribus is an app created by Capital One. You link it to your accounts. It then examines your past purchases and finds out if you overpaid or were double charged or if the price dropped after you bought it.
It notifies you and then immediately helps you start the process of getting a refund for the overpayment whenever it notices you spent more than you should have.
#11 Sell Your Old Stuff
A great way to get rid of clutter and make some extra cash is to go through your house and find all the things you don’t use anymore. You’ll probably dig up some stuff you forgot you had! Why not sell it for a few bucks to free up space and get some extra cash?
It’s easy to post listings on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, and similar sites, so go ahead and throw up ads for whatever extra stuff you find lying around. If nobody buys it after a month or two, just toss. But you might be surprised just how much of what you thought was “junk” is valuable stuff somebody else is willing to pay for!
Things you can sell include:
- old, unused devices
- old or extra furniture
- old clothes, especially baby or children’s clothes since frugal parents don’t want to spend money on brand new clothes their kids are going to grow out of in a matter of months.
- Kitchen appliances or tools. If you ever had one of those “I saw this on TV, and it looked so cool, but I’ve never used it” moments, it’s time to cash in on that purchase now!
- Old car. Even if it doesn’t run anymore, there may be a collector or mechanic willing to pay you a few hundred bucks for it.
- Sports gear or camping gear.
- Baby supplies. If your kids have outgrown their cribs, diaper bins, changing tables, car seats, and any other supplies, sell these! New and expecting parents will appreciate being able to get all these necessary items at a discount, and you’ll get some cash for stuff that was just sitting around anyway. It’s a win-win!
#12 Become an “Extreme Couponer”
If you’ve never seen the videos or social media posts of people strategically using coupons to get a month’s worth of groceries for just a few dollars (or, in some cases, for free), it’s time to do some googling.
Extreme couponing is the incredible art of clipping coupons and using them to lower your grocery bill to just a fraction of what you would typically pay. There’s no secret magic at work, but it does take organizational skills. Here are a few steps to get started:
- Set aside time to start collecting coupons. Sundays are usually best because the Sunday newspaper has tons of coupons. Other sources include those weekly pamphlets grocery stores mail out (or leave at the front of their store) and certain online websites like Coupons.com.
- Choose coupons ONLY for the things you already buy. Think laundry detergent, shampoo, your kid’s favorite cereal, etc. It’s not a deal if you’re spending money on something you wouldn’t usually get.
- Keep them organized in a binder. Preferably, get one of those baseball card collector binders. Keep your coupons in there so you can easily see all of them. You can group them into categories to make them easier to find. Have a section for meat and dairy, another part for canned and dry goods, a section for cleaning products, etc.
- Learn the store’s coupon policies. Some stores limit the number of coupons per transaction, which doesn’t restrict your saving potential. It just means you have to get your groceries in a series of multiple transactions. If you’re polite, the cashier won’t mind doing this for you.
The longer you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more you save. When you’re right, you could potentially save thousands each year!
#13 Find Hidden Deals with Dosh
Dosh is a different kind of shopping app. Instead of offering cashback, it alerts you to deals you’re about to pass upon. If you’re shopping for jeans, for example, Dosh will find the lowest possible price on the internet for that exact brand and size. If you want to go to a restaurant, Dosh helps you find the best deals for the cuisine you’re craving.
Whenever you’re about to spend money, let Dosh score the internet to find the best possible deal to save you money on every purchase.
#14 Trim the Fat From Your Budget
If you’ve ever signed up for a free trial and then forgotten about it or got that gym membership and then never ended up going, you probably have at least a couple recurring bills that are doing nothing but draining money from your account.
Take some time to score through your bank and credit card statements or use an app like Trim to find these hidden leaks in your budget and plug them up.
Once you’ve purged your budget of useless bills, start looking at the rest of your budget for ways to free up some extra cash. Some easy ways to decrease your spend on essentials include:
- Start meal planning and shop according to your menu to minimize food waste. This alone can free up hundreds every month.
- Make your home more energy efficient by using LED lightbulbs, unplugging your appliances when not in use, and installing smart thermometers. You’ll use less power without any noticeable difference in your daily life.
- Pay more than the minimum (even if it’s just by $5) on your credit card to save hundreds (or even thousands) in interest charges.
- Share subscriptions. Form a group with friends to exchange Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, and other subscription services. You can split the total cost evenly or each take on a bill. Then, you’re all saving a nice chunk of money each month by not paying full price for every single subscription
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#15 Get Paid for Your Opinions
It turns out your opinions might be worth a lot more than 2 cents! Market researchers love to hear them and use them to help improve their products and their marketing campaigns.
Sites like Survey Junkie and Swagbucks provide you with a database of paid surveys that you can take. Once you complete the survey, you get paid to your account on the site. Then, you can cash that out in a variety of ways. I have been paid over $1,500 by doing surveys on Survey Junkie.
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