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How to give yourself a $1,200 stimulus payment (and forget Congress)

Doug Whiteman
·6 min read
How to give yourself a $1,200 stimulus payment (and forget Congress)
How to give yourself a $1,200 stimulus payment (and forget Congress)

The election didn't settle one thing: the dragged-out debate over more coronavirus relief, including a second round of those $1,200 "stimulus checks."

Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still support a $2.2 trillion package, with more direct payments to help family budgets and stimulate the economy. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to push for a "skinny" $500 million plan, without the fresh injection of cash into Americans' wallets.

Same old, same old. Meanwhile, the pandemic is raging in the U.S., to the scariest levels seen so far, and cities and states are announcing new lockdowns and business restrictions that are likely to put more people out of work.

It's already been about seven months since the first batch of checks went out. Had enough of waiting for phase two? If your household budget needs more help, it's time to take matters into your own hands.

Here are nine ways to find the cash to give yourself a $1,200 stimulus check.

1. Collect your forgotten funds

100 dollar bill buried in the sand
OlegDoroshin / Shutterstock

Chances are you've got money sitting out there, maybe in an old account, that you've totally forgotten about.

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.

2. Pay less every time you shop online

If the coronavirus got you into the habit of doing most of your shopping online, Amazon may be your go-to time after time. But Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price-check every store.

So, just download a free price-checking 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. You could save hundreds of dollars each year — maybe even as much as $1,200.

3. Trim your car insurance costs

Happy woman driving a car and smiling. Cute young success happy brunette woman is driving a car. Portrait of happy female driver steering car with safety belt
Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock

Your car insurance probably comes due every six months, and it's very easy to just blindly pay your premium without even looking. That's exactly how you wind up paying more than you should.

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. Each time your policy comes up for renewal, use a service that compares rates from a large number of insurers to see whether you're paying the best price.

Shopping around and comparing rates has become even more crucial during the pandemic, because many insurance companies have slashed premiums as Americans commute less.

4. Refinance your mortgage (if you've got one)

If you're a homeowner with a mortgage you took out before 2020, you might easily create a $1,200 stimulus payment for yourself by refinancing to one of today's dirt-cheap mortgage rates.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are currently averaging just 2.84% in the nearly 50-year-old weekly survey from mortgage company Freddie Mac. At today's rates, 18.5 million homeowners could save an average $304 a month by refinancing, according to an analysis 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, and have a credit score of 720 or higher.

5. Score savings on your home insurance

Mature Black couple sitting and managing expenses at home, finding cheaper homeowners insurance
Rido / Shutterstock

As with your car insurance, you can fall into the trap of paying too much for your homeowners insurance if you don't shop around. Prices can be all over the place.

As an example, LendingTree's ValuePenguin site found annual home insurance rates in Florida can vary by more than $1,500 for coverage that's practically the same.

To see the best deals available in your area, use a website that will help you review quotes from lots of insurers, so you'll never overpay for your homeowners coverage again.

6. Earn some money through a side hustle

You have a hobby, right? Or some special skills or talents? You might be able to use what you've got to land some side work to earn the equivalent of a second stimulus check.

Maybe you write, or know website or graphic design, or even 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.

7. Smarten up with your student loan debt

Miniature graduation cap on hundred dollar bills
zimmytws / Shutterstock

Payments on federal student loans have been paused through the end of 2020, but if you’ve got debt from a private student loan you’re still on the hook for your regular monthly minimum.

You could refinance that debt at a record-low interest rate — currently down to just 1% in some cases — and save a ton. Your monthly payment will go down, so it's possible you could save at least $1,200 each year.

Review loan offers from multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting the best rate possible.

8. Chase your unclaimed tax refunds

Check with the IRS to see if you may be missing any tax refunds.

The tax agency says the average refund paid to taxpayers in both 2019 and 2020 has been $2,741 — well above that $1,200 coronavirus relief payment amount.

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.

9. Sell your old clutter that you don't need

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA
Milaski / Shutterstock

Got an attic or closet full of old toys and other pieces of your childhood you've been clinging to for too long? Maybe it's time to cash in that stuff.

Your toys from the 1970s and '80s could be worth hundreds of dollars on eBay — maybe way more than a $1,200 stimulus payment. If you've never sold things on eBay before, getting started is fairly simple.

For your old electronics, books and movies, use a buyback service that will take those items 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 one-third more than competitors.