1. Round up your long-lost money

Cash in the Grass.
W. Scott McGill / Shutterstock

You may have some money sitting out there, maybe in an old account, that you've totally forgotten about. That's surprisingly common.

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'll find out 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. (You'll want to be more careful about notifying beneficiaries when you buy your own life insurance policy.)

You also should check with the IRS to see if there are any tax refunds you're missing.

You can amend your previous tax returns for up to three years if you were eligible for a refund but neglected to claim it. The tax agency recently put out a last call for taxpayers to claim more than $1.5 billion in refunds from 2016 returns filed in 2017.

Bill Gates made a splash in 2017 when he bought $520 million worth of U.S. farmland, and he’s continued to invest since. What’s in it for Gates?

Read More

2. Refinance your mortgage

Yellow house sitting on dollar bills
karen roach / Shutterstock

If you're a homeowner with a mortgage, you might easily create a $1,200 stimulus payment for yourself by refinancing to one of today's lowest-ever mortgage rates.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are currently averaging a record 2.86% in the long-running weekly survey from mortgage company Freddie Mac. With rates that low, 19.3 million homeowners could save an average $299 a month by refinancing, according to estimates from Black Knight.

The mortgage data firm says you're a good refi candidate if own at least 20% of your home, could cut your 30-year mortgage rate by three-quarters of 1 percentage point (0.75) or better with a new loan, and have a credit score of 720 or higher. (Don't know your credit score? You can check it for free.)

When you refinance, you will have to pay closing costs of anywhere from 2% to 5% of your loan amount. You could: try to reduce closing costs via negotiation; have them rolled into your mortgage; ask the lender to cover some or all of the costs in exchange for giving you a slightly higher interest rate.

3. Earn money through a side hustle

Lifestyle creative hobby and freelance artistic work job concept. Woman creating art on a laptop
Anna Kraynova / Shutterstock

If you've got a hobby or some special skills or talents, you might be able to land some side work to earn the equivalent of a second stimulus check.

Do you write? Know website or graphic design? Have a knack for doing celebrity impressions? You can use an online marketplace for gig work and find someone looking to pay for your unique services.

It’s sort of like online dating: You just create a profile describing what you can offer, and people will contact you if you've got what they're looking for.

Once you start completing gigs and racking up positive reviews for your work, you can bump up your price and make even more money.

Eventually, you might discover that you’re able to support yourself on your side hustle alone — and never have to go back to a regular job again.

It seems like a tricky time to get into real estate, and being a landlord isn't as passive as you think. Look at these low-stress options instead.

Read More

4. Slash your insurance costs

Closeup image new car with piggy bank, illustrating car insurance
pathdoc / Shutterstock

With insurance, it's very easy to get complacent and just blindly keep paying your premiums — which is how you wind up paying too much.

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. Every six months when your policy comes up for renewal, compare rates from multiple insurers to make sure you're paying the best price.

Look for advertised discounts — like if your car is loaded with safety features. 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.

Don't overpay for your homeowners insurance either. Prices can be all over the place; LendingTree's ValuePenguin site found that rates in Florida can vary by more than $1,500 for coverage that's nearly identical.

A comparison shopping site will let you size up quotes from hundreds of insurers for free, to see the best deals available in your area.

5. Get money just for doing your regular shopping

US dollar banknote and credit card in the grey jean pocket
chillchill_lanla / Shutterstock

Cash-back cards are a great way to get a bit of money back every time you buy gas or food, and the money that's returned to your wallet can really add up.

There are cash-back cards that allow you to earn up to 10% back on your purchases, and often the cards come with generous sign-up bonuses — which can put you a big step closer to giving yourself that second stimulus check you probably won't get from Uncle Sam.

For example, you might get an extra $100 if you spend $1,000 with the card during the first 60 days.

You could score the bonus just by putting all of your regular expenses — including your groceries, utilities and cellphone bill — on the card. Not only will you earn the bonus, but you'll also get cash back on all of that spending.

6. Sell your stuff

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA
Milaski / Shutterstock

Are your closets full of old toys and other pieces of your childhood you've been hanging onto for too many years? Maybe it's time to cash in that stuff.

Your toys from the 1970s and '80s could be worth hundreds of dollars — maybe even way more than a $1,200 stimulus payment — if you’ve kept them in good condition.

Selling things on eBay is relatively simple, but if you’ve never done it before, check out our handy guide.

Or, use a buyback service that will take your old electronics, books, and movies off your hands, and give you cash for them.

We did a comparison test of the top services online and found Decluttr pays up to 33% more than other buyback programs, plus it was easy to use.

Just type in the specs of your item, or use the Decluttr app to scan the barcode, and you’ll get a quote. Then, put your stuff in a box, stick on the free shipping label, and drop it off at the nearest UPS store. Once Decluttr receives the package, you'll be paid via PayPal or direct deposit.

Are you thinking about saving? Well, stop thinking about it!

Take the change out of your piggy bank and make it work for you.

Acorns is a financial wellness tool that automatically rounds up your card purchases to the nearest dollar and puts those savings into an investment account. It takes the worrying out of investing and matches you with one of five investment portfolios.

Take five minutes to sign up for Acorns today and collect a $10 bonus.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Former Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman was formerly the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

What to Read Next

Home sellers snap up more all-cash offers — ways to compete when you're buying with a mortgage

Cash offers turn up the flames in already-heated real estate market

Businesses are hiring at blazing rate, and employers still struggle to find workers

And the U.S. is not at full employment yet, a Moody’s economist says.

Mortgage rates and home prices keep rising, but so far Americans are still house hunting in force

However, forecasters expect inflation and high rates will discourage some shoppers in the coming months, slowing the growth of sale prices.

Disclaimer

The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.