As we quickly try to forget 2020, let’s focus on all the thrilling possibilities in 2021. Will this be the year you buy your first home, reward yourself with some new gadgets or —gasp — even travel again?
It’s exciting to think of the prospects, if you can afford them. Thanks to the way the pandemic tanked the U.S. economy, you may be just barely getting by — with your savings now on empty.
Before this weekend is up, why not begin the work toward making the year a financially better one? Here are 12 ideas for padding your bank account, from money making to money saving.
1. Slash what you're spending on debt
High-interest debt from credit cards and personal loans can be a major drain on your bank balance, especially if you’re making only the minimum payments each month.
If you want to break free from your debt ASAP, your best bet is to take out a debt consolidation loan. You’ll trade in all of your current debts — credit cards, loans, everything — for a single monthly payment at a lower interest rate.
Use a website that will show you quotes from all the lenders in your area willing to give you a loan, so you can shop around and find the best rate. You can borrow up to $100,000 with no collateral at rates as low as 5.95%.
2. Save money every time you shop online
If you do most of your shopping online — and these days who doesn’t? — you likely go to the same website again and again. You know which one.
But Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price-check every store.
So, just download a free browser extension that will automatically find you deals and coupon codes every time you shop online.
You also can set price-drop alerts for your favorite products, so if they go on sale you’ll be the first to know. Installation takes just a moment and could save you hundreds of dollars each year.
3. Stop paying way too much for car insurance
If you've got a car and aren't shopping around for cheaper insurance every six months, you could be throwing away more than $1,100 a year, according to one estimate
Comparing rates from multiple insurance companies may sound like a lot of work, but there are websites that do the shopping around for you and can find you a better deal in three minutes.
Just answer a few quick questions, and you'll soon be sorting through quotes from hundreds of car insurers to find you the lowest price available for the coverage you currently have.
4. Find all your missing money
You know where all your money is, right?
Actually, people move on and forget all about money in old accounts all the time. It's so common that Americans currently have more than $40 billion in unclaimed funds waiting for them.
Is a chunk of that yours? Search MissingMoney.com, which will show 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'll want to be much more careful 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.
5. Play the market
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 a popular investing app will let you buy pieces of companies like Google and Tesla for as little as $1 — and when they profit, so can you.
You also can invest in fractional shares of stocks, options, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and cryptocurrencies. Best of all, there are no fees and no commissions.
6. Get a payday from your old playthings
Got a closet full of the toys you grew up with? Well, maybe the time has finally come to say goodbye and list them online — because they might be worth even more than you think.
For example, some of your toys from the 1970s and '80s could be worth hundreds of dollars — maybe even 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 on how to get started.
7. Be compensated if businesses behaved badly
When companies do the wrong thing, they get taken to court — and sometimes their customers get compensated.
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 involved companies including Apple, Tesla, Juul and others. Many class action claims can be completed online in a few minutes, though it may take up to a year to receive your rebate.
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 proof of purchase is required and you can’t find your receipt, remember to check your bank and credit card statements.
8. Invest your digital spare change
Another easy way to start investing in the stock market is by putting your spare change to work.
There's an app that offers micro-investing accounts starting at just a few dollars a month. The "round-up" feature 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 be added to your account. It may not seem like much, but over time that spare change can really add up.
9. Find a better price on home insurance
If your homeowners insurance bill seems steep, you might be able to cut it down to size by shopping around for a better rate.
Just go online and compare quotes from hundreds of insurers for free, in only two minutes.
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 homeowners policy by comparing rates, while still keeping the same level of coverage you currently have.
10. Transform your clutter into cash
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 make only a fraction of what your items are worth.
We conducted a test of the top services online and found that Decluttr pays up to 33% more than other buyback programs, plus it was super easy to use.
Just type in the specs of your old gadgets or use the Decluttr 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.
11. Refinance to a cheaper student loan
Payments on federal student loans ramp back up in 2021, and if you have debt from a private student loan you’ve been on the hook for your regular monthly minimum all year.
But right now, interest rates on private student loans are at all-time lows — just 1% in some cases — and refinancing your loan can save you a bundle.
Refinancing lets you pay off your current debt with a new loan that has a lower interest rate. Your monthly payment will go down, and you’ll have more money to spend on other things.
12. Turn your hobby into a lucrative side gig
Everybody's got a hobby. What's yours? You could 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.