There are plenty of reasons you might find yourself needing some quick cash. Maybe you find yourself with a big credit card bill from the holidays, for instance—and with the average American debt-holder adding a cool grand to their debt over the holidays, you’re not alone. Or maybe you just need some liquid assets for bills, surprise expenses, or a spontaneous vacation.
Whatever the case, you need money. While finding loose change between the cushions of the couch probably won’t be enough to get it done, you might have similar “found money” just waiting to be accesses. Here's how to get at the low-hanging fruit funds you may have forgotten about.
Turn Your Stuff Into Cash
Forget spring cleaning—do a little fall cleaning, says Tracie Fobes, owner of PennyPinchinMom.com. Turn to eBay or Amazon to get rid of items around the house that you don’t use anymore. Don’t forget to check those boxes in the basement, the cabinets you never open or the extra holiday decorations you mean to put up every year (but never do). Fobes had a collection of 15 or 20 decorative holiday houses that she waited until October to sell online for $200 to $300. “I got rid of my clutter, and I got money for Christmas,” she says.
Other selling platforms to consider? Letgo, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace (where I unloaded a desk and chair for a cool $150 earlier this month) all help you sell your stuff in your local area. For clothes, TheRealReal (more luxury) and Poshmark (more mainstream) are options to consider. If you’re aiming to get rid of old tech (like phones, laptops or tablets) try Decluttr, Gazelle, NextWorth or Swappa. For a more old-school but tried-and-true approach: Return that still-tagged item you bought weeks ago but haven't worn for store credit to use when holiday shopping.
Take Advantage of Unused Gift Cards
Got a stash of gift cards you’ve collected and set aside over the years? Whether they’re in a not-often-accessed section of your wallet, an old purse or a desk drawer, dig them out. You can use them to shop for friends and family directly or top the gift cards off to give them as gifts themselves, says Fobes. If you’d rather trade them for cash and use the money to shop elsewhere, sites like CardKangaroo and Raise will buy your gift cards at a discounted rate.
Explore Unclaimed Money
If you’ve never looked up whether or not you have any unclaimed funds, now is a better time than most. Here’s the rundown: When people leave money behind via inactive accounts in financial institutions or companies (like savings accounts, stocks, security deposits, IRS refunds, store credits, etc.), it’s kept in a holding account for your state or locality. There’s $42 billion worth of unclaimed funds in the U.S., according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), so you could be due a significant amount. Search your name (and your family members’ names) on MissingMoney.com and Unclaimed.org. “I’ve seen people have as little as $5 in there to thousands,” says Brynne Conroy, founder of Femme Frugality. “Because they can’t get in touch with you, you’re not going to know that money exists until you go and check.”
Check in on Your Rewards
When was the last time you checked your credit card rewards balances? If you’ve seen the numbers racking up but never got around to using them, now could be a good time to see which gifts you can check off your list through the card company’s shopping portal. Go ahead and check in on your rewards for any stores you’ve joined the loyalty programs for—including places like CVS and Walgreens (candy and smaller items make great stocking stuffers, says Fobes). If you’ve racked up points at stores like Sephora, Victoria’s Secret and others, there are often “free gifts” available, which you might be able to use as part of a present.
Look Into Insurance Policy Rewards and Dividends
Some insurance companies, particularly insurance cooperatives or member-based companies, offer dividends at the end of the year, says Conroy, citing some USAA and MetLife policies as examples. They set their premiums based on estimated costs at the beginning of the year, and depending on how many claims they pay out, they refund the extra budget to members. The amount of money paid out depends on the company and the year, but if your insurance company does this, they’ll either apply it to any balance you have left over or send you a check in the mail between October and January. “I’ve personally gotten checks back between $100 and $200 pretty consistently every year,” says Conroy. If you’re not sure what your insurance company offers, call to check about dividends for all your different policies—and ask about rewards, too (especially for health and car insurance). “I have Oscar for my health insurance, so every day you walk 10,000 steps, you get a dollar to use on Amazon,” says Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial,” noting that it caps at $240 a year.
Use Shopping Portals and Apps to Get Cash Back
When you do start your shopping, you can make your online purchases work for you by using shopping portals. How it works: The more people that visit the website, the more advertising revenue the website earns, and it kicks some of that back to its users. Ebates is one of the most popular portals, but many major credit card companies and airlines have them, too. Cashback Monitor is a tool that can help you figure out which portal will net you the most rewards on the day you’re shopping. You set up an account and enter the portal, then shop at your chosen stores. Every purchase you make while logged in means money added to your website account, but it usually takes up to three months for a check to arrive.
Other cash-back tips for while you’re shopping? Use a free app like Ibotta to scan your receipts (or link a store loyalty card) to earn cash back. Users look for deals on the app before they shop at their regular stores, and they receive cash back in their app accounts within 48 hours. “I’ve probably earned $20 or $30 since the summer just by scanning my receipt at Target or the grocery store,” says Lisa Rowan, savings expert at The Penny Hoarder. “You can cash out as soon as you have $20.” For after-the-fact savings, consider Paribus, another free app that keeps track of your online shopping and, if there’s a price change after you purchase, negotiates with retailers to adjust what you paid.
With Hayden Field