7 Proactive Ways to Pad Your Bank Account — Just in Case 2021 Goes Sideways

A stash of money is protected in a bank drawer in this photo illustration.
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So, you thought 2020 was bad? Just wait!

OK, we’re kidding. Obviously, 2021 should turn out way better than 2020 did, right?

There’s no way it could be worse, right?

Right?

Welllllllll… we hate to sound like pessimists, but if there’s one thing life has taught us, it’s that things can always get worse.

Maybe COVID’s sequel shows up. Maybe the economy crashes again. Maybe our weird politics get even weirder. Maybe aliens land in Times Square.

Just in case, we’ve got some proactive moves you should make to protect your bank account in case things go south. Before the next crisis gets going, let’s get started with the protective measures:

1. Save Up An Emergency Fund

This past year has taught us the hard way that everyone should have an emergency fund. You need a place where you can safely stash your savings away — but still earn money on it.

Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

2. Stop Overpaying for Stuff

Your bank account will be in better shape in 2021 if you stop overpaying for things. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert any time you’re shopping on Walmart’s website and are about to overpay?

That’s exactly what a free service called Capital One Shopping does. (No need to be a Capital One customer to use it!)

Capital One Shopping’s free alerts can be added to your browser. Before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Amazon, Target, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. It will also show you coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even let you see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV. You’re ready to check out, and you assume you’re getting the best price. Here’s when Capital One Shopping will pop up and let you know if you’re about to overpay. It will even automatically apply any known coupon codes to your order.

So far, Capital One Shopping has saved users more than $70 million.

You can get started with Capital One Shopping in just a few minutes to see if you’re overpaying online.

3. Get Paid Every Time You Buy Toilet Paper

Grocery shopping was never exactly pleasant. But these days, it’s a downright struggle. Fighting crowds; keeping six feet of space — just buying toilet paper is a feat. Shouldn’t you have something to show for it?

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store.

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something…

4. Knock $489/Year From Your Car Insurance in Minutes

Car insurance is another thing you shouldn’t overpay for in 2021. When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $489 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

5. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company

If things go south financially, the last thing you want to be saddled with is credit card debt. And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

6. Cut Your Food Budget by Planning Ahead

Even if you’re gainfully employed and not in imminent danger of being evicted, you’re probably struggling with bills like most of us are. Groceries are a huge part of everyone’s budget these days, so they’re a big target for savings.

Try preparing for the week ahead with some meal planning. This goes beyond just making a shopping list. Real meal planning helps you save money because it helps you use what you buy, preventing food and money waste. It also prevents you from spending extra cash on emergency lunches or late-night takeout.

First, figure out how many meals you’re responsible for making every week. If it’s just you, your answer might be 21: seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners. If you have a family, count meals per person — a dinner for three people counts as three dinners, even if you all eat the same thing.

Now figure out how much food you’ll need to buy to make it until your next grocery trip. If you buy the same items repeatedly, you know which ones to stock up on when they go on sale. Stocking up on sale items also helps you freeze meals for the future. If there’s a way to buy in bulk and prep the foods you eat the most often, do it!

7. Add $225 to Your Wallet Just for Watching the News

It’s been a historic time for news, and we’re all constantly refreshing for the latest updates. You probably know more than one news-junkie who fancies themselves an expert in respiratory illness or a political mastermind.

And research companies want to pay you to keep watching. You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. They’ll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them.

You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. This might sound too good to be true, but it’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s got his game face on and is ready for 2021, come hell or high water.