November 5, 2020
Free Money! Ten Simple, Guaranteed Ways to Boost your Household Income
Sara Richie wanted to help out financially beyond her regular balabusta contributions. Her husband’s business had recently been struggling, but as a stay-at-home mom Mrs. Richie’s options were quite limited. She sometimes dreamed that she’d find some kind of magical money tree, a way to generate free money. Is free money just a dream? Are there any realistic ways to increase household income without taking a job or opening a business?
A devoted balabusta should never feel that she isn’t contributing enough. But Mrs. Richie can probably find multiple paths to bringing in “free” money. Here are 10 guaranteed moneymakers she can consider. Each can bring in or save tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars annually, quickly and safely. In combination, these strategies can be quite rewarding. I’ve touched on some of them before, but combining prior ideas with some new ones into a master list makes them easier to track and implement.
1. Refinance to a lower rate
Falling mortgage interest rates often create a no-brainer way to save thousands of dollars every year. As long as your income and credit score haven’t fallen since you purchased your home, refinancing to a significantly lower mortgage rate is simple and cost-effective. You can keep the same mortgage payoff date, and fees can be rolled into the mortgage, no outlay required. It’s just a matter of filling out paperwork and banking those savings!
2. Grab the match
Many employees who are eligible for a 401(k) match don’t take advantage of their company’s generosity. Speak to HR and run the numbers. Because of potential tax savings and the ability to borrow money from 401(k) accounts, grabbing the match can often be done without crimping your income. A well-funded 401(k) account can easily grow into hundreds of thousands of dollars, and giving up this free money is a wasted opportunity. If your boss offers you money, take it.
3. Pay off credit card debt
It’s exceedingly common for people to carry $10,000 in credit card debt while keeping $10,000 or more in long-term savings stowed in the bank. If they’d take a step back they’d realize how silly this is, since they’re earning far less on the funds they have “loaned” to a bank versus what they’re paying to borrow from another bank. Those without savings can seek credit cards offering 0% interest promotions and roll over the accruing debt. However accomplished, getting rid of credit card interest is an easy way to make guaranteed double-digit “returns” on investment.
4. Chasing miles
On the topic of credit cards, many frum people have been able to bring in thousands of dollars’ worth of miles annually with minimal effort. Especially those with businesses that are spending many thousands or even millions of dollars annually, finding the right cards and managing the credited miles can be extremely worthwhile. I heard of one businessman who bought and sold $100 million worth of goods at cost price just to get the miles, netting over a million dollars! Perhaps this is an urban legend, but it demonstrates the reality that there’s free money available there.
5. Research top-yielding savings accounts
The internet makes it easy to find and open savings accounts that pay a bit more interest than what is offered by the large banks. As of this writing, for example, bankrate.com shows that Salem Five Bank out of Salem, MA, is offering 0.8% on savings vs. JP Morgan’s 0.01%. As long as it’s covered by FDIC insurance, a bank’s physical location doesn’t matter security-wise. Depending on the amount of idled cash, it may be worthwhile to move your savings accounts once in a while to get better rates.
6. Pursue bank bonuses
Some people make a hobby of pursuing bank bonuses—hundreds or even thousands of dollars gifted into newly opened checking, savings, and brokerage accounts. Banks hope that these new deposits will attract customers and that people won’t open an account just to take the bonus. But many people do just that! Each bonus has rules, with a minimum time frame and/or number of deposits required to claim the bonuses, but they do present the ability to earn hard cash for nothing. Everybankbonus.com maintains an updated database of these offers.
7. The famous GEICO insurance discount
This was probably the most popular tip I ever shared in the VOL (courtesy of Lakewood-based investment adviser Chaim Gewirtz). GEICO is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the company built and managed by Warren Buffett. By purchasing even one share of Berkshire stock, trading as of this writing at $212, you are entitled to a GEICO discount that can easily be worth that much every year! The growth of this excellent stock is then icing on the cake. You can buy the stock (ticker BRK.b) on any brokerage platform and then call GEICO to claim the discount.
8. Find your unclaimed assets
Many billions of dollars are lost in never-neverland, waiting to be claimed. Whether through abandoned bank accounts, stocks, insurance claims, utility security accounts, or another source, when a company can’t return money that’s owed, the state claims the funds and holds onto them. Searching missingmoney.com and unlcaimed.org may turn up free money. Lots of Yiddishe gelt is sitting there. Chaval.
9. Grab online shopping deals
You may not have time or patience to use coupons when shopping for groceries and other household items. Those who are good at it can save hundreds, even thousands, annually, but I don’t call that free money because it often takes a consistent investment of time and effort. When shopping online, though, it’s very easy to search and use coupon codes before finalizing a purchase. Those who do a lot of online shopping can use a browser extension like Honey which automatically finds and enters available coupon codes for online shopping carts.
10. Turn off unnecessary services
A financial “spring cleaning” often turns up many odds and ends that leak money out of your pockets needlessly, such as subscriptions and services that aren’t being used or that can easily be renegotiated. Companies love subscriptions via credit card because inertia and forgetfulness means many members will pay for services months or even years after they’ve stopped using them! Spending one afternoon annually on this type of cleanup, perusing credit card statements and following up with necessary termination calls or emails, can pay off handsomely.
The one big caveat
There’s one major caveat to all these: it’s important to assess the potential benefit in light of the cost of time. Depending on the scenario and how much of a premium you place on your minutes and hours, some of these potential ideas may not be worthwhile to you. After all, time is not only money, time is life!