Whether you’re struggling to make rent or just saving up for a new phone, extra money in your pocket during the pandemic is always a good thing.
Millions of Americans are feeling the pinch these days, especially now that the $600 bonus unemployment benefits are over and the pause on evictions ended on July 31.
There are a lot of lists online that claim to have the answers to your money woes, but it’s hard to tell which methods really work and which ones are scams.
To make things easier, we checked out a bunch of offers and put together this list of 17 legit ways you can give your bank balance a boost when times are tough.
1. Check if you’ve got any unclaimed money kicking around
It’s possible that you have unclaimed money just sitting in an old account — seriously, it happens a lot. In fact, Americans currently have more than $40 billion in unclaimed funds.
The best place to start your search is MissingMoney.com, which will tell you if you left any money in an old checking or savings account, or if you’re entitled to unclaimed life insurance policies from relatives who have passed away.
You should also check with the IRS to see if you’ve got any tax refunds you forgot to collect.
You can amend your previous tax returns for up to three years if you were eligible for a refund and missed out.
2. Turn your hobby into a side gig
Got a hobby? You might be able to use it to score some side gigs and supplement your income.
The world’s largest online marketplace for digital services makes it super easy to get paid for doing what you love.
It’s sort of like using a dating site: You just create a profile describing what you bring to the table, and people will find you based on what they’re looking for.
Once you start completing gigs and racking up positive reviews, you can bump up the price of your services and make even more money.
Who knows, you might even find that you’re able to support yourself on your freelance income alone and never have to go back to an office again.
3. Stop overpaying on car insurance
If you own a car and you’re not shopping around for a lower insurance rate every six months, you could be throwing away up to $1,127 a year.
Comparing rates from multiple insurance companies may sound like a lot of work, but you can find you a better deal on insurance coverage in just three minutes.
Just answer a few quick questions, and a website will sort through quotes from more than 200 insurance companies to find you the lowest prices available for the exact same coverage you currently have.
It’s totally free, so even if you’re just curious it’s worth checking out to see how much you can save.
4. Make money playing games
You may have heard of companies that pay you cash to fill out surveys. In most cases, the pennies you’ll earn aren’t worth the effort you’ll put in. However, we found one that’s actually worth your time — and it’s not just surveys.
You can earn money and gift cards for doing stuff like watching videos and playing games on your phone, but also by just shopping online at Amazon and Walmart.
In only a few weeks, a user named Elizabeth earned enough rewards to cover the materials for her husband’s EMT training program.
“I was able to get enough Amazon gift cards to purchase [his] blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, first responder pants, and a penlight… and I spent nothing out of pocket,” she says.
There’s no minimum time commitment, so you can make money at your own pace whenever you’ve got a free minute. And this rewards program is available on your phone, tablet, and computer, so you can earn rewards anytime, anywhere.
5. Get $100 just for doing your regular shopping
Cash-back cards are a great way to get a bit of money back every time you buy gas or get groceries, but they often come with hefty annual fees.
But one account that’s out there is free, and you can earn up to 10% cash back on every purchase you make. On top of that, you’ll get $100 just for signing up.
As long as you use your account debit card to spend $1,000 within the first 60 days — your groceries, utilities, and cell phone bill should easily cover it — you’ll get $100 automatically added to your account.
All you have to do is verify your identity by entering your email and Social Security number (which is standard practice anytime you open a new bank account), then connect your bank with a service called Plaid — it’s what Venmo uses, and it’s totally secure.
It’s basically free money, just for doing your regular shopping.
6. Get paid when businesses behave badly
Not all lawyers are bad — some are even working to get you free money through class-action lawsuits.
Check ClassAction.com to see if you qualify for reimbursement over products or services you purchased in the past that were falsely advertised, defective, or that you were overcharged for.
Recent settlements have included companies like Apple, Tesla, Juul, and others.
The criteria for eligibility will vary depending on the lawsuit, but in some cases you may not even need a receipt to get reimbursed. If you do need to have proof of purchase and you can’t find your receipt, remember to check your bank and credit card statements.
A lot of class action claims can be completed online in a few minutes, although it may take up to a year before you receive your rebate.
7. Clean out your closest and cash in
Mess creates stress, and if you’re already worried about money you don’t need piles of clutter adding to your anxiety. But trying to sell your old electronics, books, and movies online can be a chore, and you might only make a fraction of what your items are worth.
We compared the top buyback services online and found one that pays up to 33% more than the others, and it was super easy to use.
Just type in the specs of your old gadgets or use an app to scan the barcodes on your books, video games, and DVDs and you’ll get a quote instantly. Then all you have to do is put your stuff in a box, stick on the free shipping label, and drop it off at the nearest UPS store.
As soon as the company gets your stuff, you’ll be paid the next day via PayPal or direct deposit.
Your place will be cleaner, and you’ll have some extra money to help cover your rent.
8. Use AI to find a better job
The job market is tough right now, and if your job hunt is coming up short it might be time to expand your search to positions that fall outside your field.
You need to try a free online job board that uses artificial intelligence to match you with the best jobs from more than 8 million postings, based on your skills, education and experience.
The service also provides valuable information on over 35,000 job titles, including the credentials required and the criteria that recruiters look for in a top candidate.
By broadening your search, you may be able to find a career you didn’t even know you were qualified for.
9. Pay less for everything online
If you do most of your shopping online — and these days who doesn’t? — you likely have some go-to websites (cough Amazon cough) that you always use.
But Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price check every store.
It’s time for you to check out a free browser extension for Chrome that will automatically find you deals and coupon codes every time you shop online.
You can also set price-drop alerts for your favorite products, so if they go on sale you’ll be the first to know.
Taking a moment to install the extension could save you hundreds of dollars each year.
10. Tell a robot to make your budget
Do you need your butt kicked to get your budget in shape?
Check out this AI digital assistant with a huge personality. She’ll build you a custom budget and encourage you when you’re doing well — but also rip you a new one when you’re falling behind.
It’s like having a financial planner in your pocket.
Best of all, it’s free to use, and takes only a few minutes to sign up.
11. Let this app pay your credit card bills
If you’ve got multiple credit cards, keeping track of all your due dates can be stressful — miss a payment by even a day and you could get slapped with a $40 late fee.
But there’s an app that can make sure you’ll never pay a late fee again. It keeps track of your billing schedule and makes your payments for you — on time, and in a way that will save you money on interest.
You just make a single payment each month, and the app takes care of everything else.
Even if you don’t have enough in your account to cover your bills, this app will make your minimum payments for you — without charging you a fee — and you can pay the money back the following month.
Since 2017, users have seen an average savings of $5,300.
12. Turn your trash into cash
Got a closet full of collectibles? Well, maybe the time has finally come to take the plunge and list them online — they might be worth even more than you think.
For example, some of your toys from the 70s and 80s could be worth hundreds — or possibly thousands — if you’ve kept them in good condition.
Selling stuff on eBay is relatively simple, but if you’ve never done it before, check out this handy guide.
13. Play the market with a free stock
If you’ve never played the stock market before, you might think that owning stock in a well-known company is out of reach right now.
But there’s an app that will let you buy pieces of companies like Google and Tesla for as little as $1 — and when they profit, so can you.
You can invest in fractional shares of stocks, options, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cryptocurrencies. Best of all, there are no fees and no commissions.
And when you sign up, the app will add one free share to your account — and there’s a chance it’ll be from Facebook, Visa, or Microsoft.
14. Invest your spare change and get $10 free
If you haven’t saved up to invest in the stock market, you can start putting your spare change to work instead.
One company offers micro-investing accounts that start at just a few dollars a month. The “round-up” feature on the account app lets you invest the spare change that’s left over whenever you make a purchase.
So if you buy a coffee for $3.65, 35 cents will get added to your account.
It may not seem like much, but over time that spare change can really add up.
15. Find a better deal on your homeowners insurance
If your home insurance bill is higher than you’d like, you might be able to trim it down by shopping around online for a better rate.
Today, you can compare quotes from hundreds of insurers for free in only two minutes. Just answer a few basic questions and you’ll instantly see the best deals available in your area.
You could save close to $1,000 a year on your home insurance by comparing rates, while still keeping the same level of coverage you currently have.
16. Go viral on YouTube
If you love being in front of the camera, you might be able to make money on YouTube.
And if your content goes viral, you could potentially make serious cash — some of the highest-paid YouTubers are raking in over $20 million a year.
It’s hard to know what type of content will take off, so be mindful of the fact that you could end up sinking hours into a video that only a handful of people will watch, and that will net you $0 in profit.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out our guide on how to make money on YouTube.