1. Lighten your load from student loan debt
Payments on federal student loans have been paused until October.
Some prominent Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, are pushing the president to go much further and forgive up to $50,000 of the federal student loans per borrower.
The White House has said it’s reviewing the idea, but Biden himself has expressed some doubt about his authority to cancel such debts.
Regardless, if you’ve got debt from a private student loan, you’re still on the hook for your regular monthly minimum.
You could potentially save thousands on total interest fees and shave years off your debt by refinancing to a lower rate or shorter term.
By refinancing to a new loan with a shorter term, you could see your interest rate drop by more than 2 full percentage points and save an average of nearly $17,000 in lifetime interest, according to Credible, an online loan marketplace.
Student loan refi rates have fallen to all-time lows since the pandemic hit, but you'll need to compare loan offers from multiple lenders to get the best rate possible.
2. Reunite with your long-lost money
You might have some money just sitting out there, maybe in an old account that you've totally forgotten about.
It happens to 1 in 10 Americans, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, which says the states return $3 billion in unclaimed property to its rightful owners every year.
You can search what's in state databases of unclaimed funds by going to MissingMoney.com. There, you can see if you left any money in an old checking or savings account, or if you’re entitled to life insurance proceeds from relatives who’ve passed away.
And, check with the IRS on whether you might be missing any tax refunds. The agency has put out a last call for $1.3 billion in unclaimed refunds from 2017; the median amount is $865. The deadline closes May 17 so check now.
3. Profit off your everyday purchases
If COVID has put you in the habit of doing most of your shopping online, Amazon and Walmart.com may have become your go-tos. But they don't always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price-check every store.
So, just download a free price-checking browser extension that will automatically scour for deals and coupon codes every time you shop online.
Meanwhile, a popular app helps you invest "spare change" from your everyday purchases, to build up savings quickly.
There’s never been a better time than the past year to start building an investment portfolio, with the stock market having seen a record-breaking run.
4. Cut down the cost of your debt
If you’ve been relying on your credit card to carry you through the pandemic, you know your plastic can easily rack up tons of expensive interest.
The Federal Reserve says the average credit card interest rate clocks in at 14.75%, and once you factor in compound interest, paying down your debt can feel like you’re running a marathon where someone keeps adding miles.
Give yourself a breather — and shake off your debt sooner — by rolling your balances into a single lower interest debt consolidation loan.
5. Lower your car insurance premiums
Your car insurance probably comes due every six months, and it's very easy to just blindly pay your premium without going over the numbers. But that’s exactly how you wind up paying more than you should.
Drivers can save an average $1,127 a year by shopping around regularly for the lowest auto insurance rates, a study by CarInsurance.com found.
Each time your policy comes up for renewal, use a website that makes it easy to compare policies and find the best price.
Don’t forget to look for advertised discounts — like if your car is loaded with safety features. The insurance company might knock a percentage off your bill for your air bags, anti-lock brakes or even daytime running lights.
Or, you might cut your premiums by agreeing to higher deductibles, which means you cover more of your own losses before the insurance kicks in.
6. Refinance your mortgage (if you've got one)
Homeowners who haven't refinanced their loans in the last year now have an opportunity to take advantage of some game-changing savings.
Now that the rate on 30-year fixed mortgages is under 3% again, mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight says 13 million homeowners still have an opportunity to save an average of $283 a month with a refi.
You're considered a good refi candidate if you have at least 20% equity in your home, are current on your mortgage payments and have a credit score of 720 or higher. You also should be able to shave at least three-quarters of a point (0.75) off your mortgage rate by swapping out your loan.
Refinancing is the right move if you plan to stay in your home long enough to break even on your closing costs, which can run from 2% to 5% of your loan amount. And you might easily create the equivalent of a new stimulus payment for yourself just by refinancing at a better rate.
7. Score savings on your home insurance
As with your car insurance, you can easily fall into the trap of paying too much for your homeowners insurance if you don't comparison-shop. Prices can be all over the place.
As an example, LendingTree's ValuePenguin site found annual home insurance rates in Florida can vary by more than $1,500 for coverage that's practically the same.
You might be missing out on discounts, too. A popular one is for "bundling," if you buy your home insurance from the same company that provides your auto insurance.
To see the best deals available in your area, use a website that will help you review quotes from lots of insurers.
With rates on insurance going up every year — ValuePenguin found homeowners insurance premiums have risen 59% over the last decade — it’s just a best practice to shop around regularly.
8. Cash in on your old clutter
Got an attic or closet full of old toys and other pieces of your childhood you've been clinging to for too long? Maybe it's time to cash in that stuff.
Your toys from the 1970s, '80s or '90s could be worth hundreds of dollars on eBay — maybe way more than another $1,400 stimulus payment. If you've never sold things on eBay before, getting started is fairly simple.
For your old electronics, books and movies, use a buyback service that will take those items off your hands and give you cash for them.
We ran a comparison test of the top services online and found Decluttr pays up to one-third more than competitors.
9. Earn extra cash with a side hustle
You have a hobby, right? Or some special skills or talents? You might be able to use what you've got to land some side work to earn the equivalent of a fourth stimulus check.
Maybe you write, or know web or graphic design — or even have a knack for doing celebrity impressions. Using an online marketplace for gig work can get your unique services in front of the people willing to pay for them.
It’s sort of like online dating: You put out a profile describing what you offer, and people will contact you if you have what they’re looking for.
Once you start completing gigs and racking up positive reviews for your work, you can bump up your price, rake in even more money — and maybe consider making your side hustle your full-time job.