21 Quick Ways You Haven’t Tried Yet to Make and Save Money

A woman smiles as she looks at her phone in a park in Tampa, Fla.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder


We’ve all done a million different things to make money, right?

Personally, I’ve written articles, bagged groceries, cooked cheeseburgers, donated plasma and walked dogs to earn cash. And when it comes to saving money… well, I’ve had to fool myself into saving any money instead of just spending it all.

If you need money at the moment, have you done everything you can to make and save a bit more cash? Everything? Really? Are you sure?

Because I’ve rounded up some quick ways that I’m betting you haven’t tried yet.

Simple Moves to Make When You Need Money

Here are a few tricks to try next time you need money.

1. Search for Unclaimed Money

Money in a Jar
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State treasuries throughout the U.S. have more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds, according to The New York Times. Just sitting around! Waiting for you to come play lost and found.

Take matters into your own hands and see if you have any unclaimed money floating around.

Check with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Click your state on the map, and it’ll redirect you to your state’s appropriate search site. (Beware: There are several look-a-like sites out there. Be sure you’re searching legitimate ones.)

Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice, performed a quick search, and found unclaimed money in her husband’s name — about $56 from a “matured insurance policy.

Kelli immediately searched her other family members’ names. Her husband was the only who had any money to claim. And, sure, it’s $56, but that’s not bad for an unexpected check, right? We’ll take it!

2. Have a Cup of Coffee and Check Your Credit Score

Your credit reports are basically the Holy Grail of your finances — and your life.

Financially, they can influence many of your big life decisions, like buying a house or a car. These decisions can become a whole lot more difficult if your credit reports have an error.

This is easy to prevent, though, especially if you just check in on your credit reports (you’ve got three major ones) every so often.

One option is to use a free app like CreditWise® from Capital One®. There, you’ll get a free TransUnion® credit report, which you can review for signs of error, theft or fraud. It’ll even give you personalized suggestions to help you improve your credit score.

Advertiser Disclosure: Capital One compensates us when you enroll in CreditWise using the links we provided above.

3. Earn up to $350 Opening a New Bank Account

Hands counting change into a piggy bank.
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Visit this Chase Total Checking® page* to apply online, or enter your email address to get a unique coupon to take with you to open your account at any Chase branch.

This coupon expires on Oct. 15, 2018, so you’ll need to complete the application before then.

  • Get a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit.
  • Get a $150 bonus when you open a new Chase Savings(SM) account, deposit a total of $10,000 or more in new money within 20 days, and maintain a $10,000 balance for 90 days. You’re not required to open the savings account to earn the $200 Chase checking bonus.
  • This offer is available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

4. Start Investing for the Future

A woman checks out the Stash app on her iPhone.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.

Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.

But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.

Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money — but it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it.

You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.

Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started!

5. Start Saving More

A pile on money rests on a table in a man's home.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn't even notice?

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

6. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank

need money apps
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

7. Turn Your Down Time Into a Money-Making Opportunity

I-say review
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Don't have time for a second job or side gig? Consider taking advantage of time you're just hanging on the couch.

Surveys aren’t the best way to make money fast. But there’s a certain appeal to clicking a few buttons and earning money when you’d otherwise be doing nothing. Here’s our recommendation: Sign up for these legitimate survey sites all at once. Chances are, you’ll qualify for at least one or two surveys on each site a month, and the rewards will add up.

  • VIP Voice surveys are relatively quick to complete and reward you with points you can redeem for cash or gift cards. Plan to login a few times each week. You’ll have no trouble earning an extra $30 this month with almost no work.
  • Opinion Outpost: What sets this apart from other survey sites is it gives away $40,000 every year. It has a quarterly drawing for a $10,000 cash prize — and for every survey you complete, you’ll get one entry into the sweepstakes!

Want an even more passive way to earn income? A number of companies will actually pay you for downloading apps on your smartphone or computer — and you’ll get paid again for every month you keep them installed.

The apps collect data and help companies better understand web and mobile usage — so you'll get paid to use your computer and devices like you normally would. Check out these apps:

  • MobileXpression for iPhones – After you’ve installed this app for one week, you get to play an instant rewards game for a prize (everyone wins something). We've seen users win a $25 Amazon gift card, but some of the other prizes include iPads and Samsung TVs.
  • MobileXpression for Android – This one is the same as above, but for Android devices.

8. Set a Budget You Can Stick to

A young couple check their credit on their laptop at home.
PeopleImages/Getty Images

An integral part of managing your money is creating a budget. Ew, gross. We know. But it’s important to take a good look at what you’re spending and where.

If you’re not sure where to even start, we favor the 50/20/30 budgeting method for its simplicity. Here’s how it works:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

The key is to accept you can’t create the perfect budget in an hour. You’ll have to experiment to find what works best for you.

9. Get Your Paycheck up to 2 Days Earlier

finding unclaimed money
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Want to get a jump on payday? Let Chime be your secret weapon.

Unlike most financial institutions, this online bank account doesn’t wait until your pay date to give you access to your money. As soon as it receives notification of a direct deposit from your employer, it immediately posts those funds to your account.

That means you’ll get your paycheck early — like Samuel Demeny, who recently switched to Chime. He uses direct deposit. His company technically pays everyone on Fridays, but Chime gets him access to that cash two days earlier than his co-workers.

“The fact that I’m paid on Wednesday versus Friday… helps me budget before the weekend even starts,” Demeny told The Penny Hoarder.

Not everyone is guaranteed the two-day head start Demeny has. That depends on your employer and its financial institution. We talked to another Chime account holder, Lee Best, who gets his paycheck one day ahead of his co-workers — on Wednesday instead of Thursday.

Opening an account with Chime is free and only takes about five minutes.

10. Try Your Hand at Real-Estate Investing

Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? We found a company that helps you do just that.

Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

11. Snag a Free $10 Gift Card

One of our favorite ways to save is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on purchases at Walmart.

Plus you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.

To earn your gift card:

  1. Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
  2. Use the Ebates portal the next time you need to buy something. It’s connected to thousands of stores, including Walmart, Amazon and Target. You’ll need to make your first purchase through the site within 90 days and spend at least $25.
  3. Your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your $10 Walmart gift card.

12. Earn Rewards for Making Good Financial Decisions

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

Basically, it offers the financial services you’d typically get from three or four different banks or providers, and they’re all bundled into one place.

MoneyLion connects with all of your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

Targeted at the financial middle class, MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits. The rewards program gives you points for taking actions like:

  • Connecting a bank account.
  • Signing up for credit monitoring.
  • Paying your bills on time.
  • Keeping your credit utilization low.

You can redeem the points for gift cards. It’s like giving American Express-style rewards to middle-class customers who may not have a points-earning credit card.

13. Declutter Your Space

A woman gets piles of clothes ready to sell.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Start taking a good hard look at your belongings. What do you actually need?

  • Clothes: If you have clothes you haven’t worn in the last year, why do you hang onto them? Try selling them to folks in your area through the online marketplace Letgo. It takes about five minute to list an item, and it’s free.
  • Technology: Begin with your overcrowded entertainment center, likely full of outdated music and movies. Consider selling these items to Decluttr. It’ll buy your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, and even cell phones and tablets. Shipping is free, and Decluttr pays you within 24 hours of retrieval.
  • Books: Bookshelf collecting dust? Through Amazon Trade-In, you can trade in your used textbooks, plus other items, like electronics, in exchange for an Amazon gift card.

14. Use Your Money in a Way That Makes You Happy

Family of four flying a kite at the beach.
Cecilie_Arcurs/Getty Images

They say money can’t buy happiness. And sure, that’s true. Even we can concede that.

But shouldn’t you get the most happiness you can from your money?

Enter Joy, a free iPhone app that helps you save money and spend in a way that makes you happier.

It takes a psychology-based approach to daily financial decisions and bills, and it calls itself “the first and only money app that won't judge you for how you spend your money.”

Its features include:

  • Personalized Money Coach: Based on what it calls your “financial personality,” Joy will assign you one of four in-app money coaches tailored to fit your specific needs.
  • Buying More Happiness: The app prompts you to rate purchases, helping you recognize spending habits and focus more on what brings you long-term happiness.
  • Savings Account and Daily Saves: The app identifies a daily savings amount based on your income data and spending habits, then prompts you to make that save via your free Joy Savings Account. This should help decrease overall stress, increase happiness and promote a sense of ownership over your financial future.

15. Scratch Off Free Lottery Tickets

There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.

Instead, try scratching for free using an app called LucktasticEach day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens, enter contests and play games.

The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free. For more info, check out our full review.

16. Take Steps to Consolidate Your Debt

Credit Card being cut in half
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Have you ever considered consolidating your debt? It could substantially lower payments you’re already making and help you save more money each month.

A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.

A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.

Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness.

It can help you borrow up to $50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders. If managing many different bills and credit lines is a hassle, you can also use an Upstart loan to streamline all of your loans into one.

17. Set Your Savings and Investing to Autopilot

PeopleImages/Getty Images

Siphoning a chunk of your paycheck into a seperate savings account isn’t the easiest personal finance move, especially if you’re already crunched on funds. Plus, unexpected expenses always pop up; it never fails.

This is where setting your savings to autopilot can save you — and your money.

Lots of apps on the market allow you to create a set-it-and-forget-it savings plan. One we can recommend is Rize.

Rize is a pay-what-you-want, 256-bit-encrypted (bank-level security) web app that’ll help get your savings on track. You’ll create a goal and set a deadline. Goals and deadlines always help kick your booty into gear, right?

These could be short-term goals, like saving for a weekend road trip or meeting your monthly student loan payment. You’ll even earn 1.16% interest on your balance. (For some context, that’s 19 times higher than the national average for savings accounts.)

If you have a longer-term goal, have Rize invest the money for you and help you maximize returns. It asks you to contribute at least $2 a month for that service and will take a 0.25% fee of assets invested (comparatively low for investor fees).

Like with any savings plan, you might need time to figure out what you can realistically set aside, but you can easily tweak your settings in Rize.

18. Streamline Your Prescription Refills

Multiple prescrptipn medication lay on a table.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Nothing is more frustrating than getting home from the grocery store and realizing you forgot to pick up your prescriptions. You know, the ones that have been sitting there for two weeks.

Then you worry the pharmacy is going to put them back, so you have to make a special trip back to the store the next day.

To save you the trouble, some companies actually deliver prescriptions right to your door — and can save you money.

Try Phil, an online prescription refill service.

After you sign up, Phil contacts your pharmacy, doctor, your insurance company — whomever it needs to talk to — and handles the rest. Each month, it’ll deliver your prescriptions to your doorstep. You’ll still have to pay for them, but delivery is free.

19. Avoid Credit Card Interest — But Still Earn Rewards

Next time you’re at the checkout counter to make a purchase, you could use either a credit card or a debit card. Either choice has pros and cons.

Many credit cards offer perks like cash back or travel rewards, but they also make it easy to rack up debt. If you don’t pay off your balance every month, you’ll wind up paying a lot of interest. And if you miss a payment, there are late fees.

Debit cards don’t usually offer cool rewards, but they won’t get you mired in debt either. It’s pay-as-you-go spending. The debit card is linked to your checking account, and you can’t spend money you don’t have.

Wouldn’t it be great to combine the best of both worlds? Now you can.

A new app called Debitize basically turns your credit card into a debit card, for free. With it, you can connect any credit card to a checking account.

Whenever you swipe your credit card, Debitize pulls the same amount of cash from your bank account. It stores the cash for you until it’s time to pay your credit card bill. Then it pays that bill for you a week before the due date.

The best of both worlds: You can build credit and get those sweet credit card perks, and also prevent yourself from running up unmanageable debt.

20. Protect Your Identity

If you want to keep your finances secure and orderly, don’t be afraid to use plastic. Just protect your information.

Credit Sesame helps you avoid identity theft by keeping a watchful eye your finances.

Credit Sesame’s free identity theft protection will alert you to important changes in your credit report (like someone trying to apply for credit in your name), and it offers $50,000 in identity theft insurance.

Isn’t that better than counting on Jim at the grocery store to keep his prying eyes off your personal info?

21. Make Your 401(k) Blossom

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Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.

Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.

There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.

*Fine print from Chase:

Checking offer is not available to existing Chase checking customers, those with fiduciary accounts, or those whose accounts have been closed within 90 days or closed with a negative balance. To receive the $200 checking bonus: 1) Open a new Chase Total Checking account, which is subject to approval; 2) Deposit $25 or more at account opening; AND 3) Have your direct deposit made to this account within 60 days of account opening.  Your direct deposit needs to be an electronic deposit of your paycheck, pension or government benefits (such as Social Security) from your employer or the government. After you have completed all the above requirements, we’ll deposit the bonus in your new account within 10 business days. You can only receive one new checking account-related bonus per calendar year. Bonus is considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.

Account Closing: If your checking account is closed within six months after opening, we will deduct the bonus amount at closing.

Editorial Disclosure

This content is not provided by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Pro.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’ll never have enough money.

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