9 Creative Ways to Pay Rent When the Bank Account Is Near Zero

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When you think you’re out of money, you generally assume you can’t spend anymore. Your instinct is to turn super frugal — cut every non-necessity — and maybe even skip a bill or two. 

When you think you can’t even make rent, the situation can seem pretty dire.

But it doesn’t have to be. Instead of figuring out what you have to forgo this month when money is tight, find ways to make the money you need.

That doesn’t have to mean a second job or going into debt. There are tons of small, simple ways to put extra cash in your bank account so you don’t feel that panic at the first of the month.

Not all of these tactics will put money in your pocket right away, but we’ll note the ones that will!

1. Let This Organization Pay It for You

If you can’t pay your rent because of unforeseen circumstances, look into applying for a grant. Take, for example, Modest Needs grants, which are designed for workers just above the poverty line who are ineligible for most other forms of social assistance.

It provides small grants to deserving, self-sufficient individuals who are usually capable of paying rent and other expenses, but can’t cover expenses for the month because of surprise costs, such as medical emergencies, a death in the family, loss of a job or a large utility bill.

Modest Needs accepts applications from anyone in need, with a priority for people living alone, public school teachers and first responders.

2. Earn up to $225 to Watch Cooking Videos Online

Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

If we told you that you could get paid to watch videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh. 

It’s too good to be true, right? 

But we’re serious. A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.  

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward. Brands pay InboxDollars to get these videos in front of viewers, and it passes a cut onto you.

InboxDollars won’t cover your full rent, but it’s possible to earn up to $225 per month watching these videos.

Unlike other sites, InboxDollars pays you in cash — no points or gift cards — so you can put the money directly toward rent. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately earn a $5 bonus to get you started.

3. Get Free Scratch-off Tickets

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The odds don’t usually make playing the lottery worth your limited funds. But what if you could get the tickets for free?

Instead of a convenience-store stop, try scratching for free using an app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000, in cash or gift cards to popular retailers.

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

Wouldn’t you like to make your friends jealous by telling them the lottery paid your rent?

4. Get Paid $600 to Drop off Starbucks This Week

This side gig is a way to get cash in hand this week. So if rent is nearly due, this could be a smart move.

An app called Doordash will pay you to pick up and deliver an extra latte when you’re already out and getting your caffeine fix. And it’s not just coffee. You can deliver from Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and hundreds of other restaurants in your area.

With Doordash, you set your own hours and work as much or little as you want, meaning how much you make is up to you. 

You’ll earn money for each delivery, plus tips. Jose Neri, from California, reports earning $500 to $600 a week working just lunches and dinners. 

If you sign up for Doordash now, it’s possible to get your first paycheck this week, so you could make a huge dent in your rent payment.

5. Copy This Woman’s Strategy to Earn up to $1,200

We talked to a woman in Pennsylvania, 52-year-old Carolinda Hendrickson, who told us about the unique way she earned $1,200 in a year.

And it’s no huge time commitment. Hendrickson takes a few minutes each morning before her full-time job to complete surveys on Swagbucks.

Companies want feedback when they’re developing new products and services, so they pay Swagbucks to get your opinions. In turn, Swagbucks pays you to answer surveys online. 

Swagbucks will pay you in cash via PayPal. Plus, you’ll even earn a $5 bonus when you sign up and earn $25 (2,500 “SB points”) for completing surveys within your first 60 days.

6. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

If you’re struggling to pay rent, we bet your credit card balance isn’t looking so hot, either. So we found a company that’ll help you take care of it. No, like… the whole bill could be paid by the end of this month.

Your credit card company is ripping you off with insane rates, and it’s getting rich off of you. But there are other, nicer companies that’ll help you out, including a website like Upstart.

Here’s how it works: Upstart will loan you up to $50,000 so that you can cover your credit card tab. Use that loan to pay off your debt, then make monthly payments to repay the loan. It could lower your monthly payments and help you pay off that debt a lot faster. 

Plus, no credit card payment this month means money freed up for rent.

Upstart won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

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 (though it does require a 620 credit score).

You can tell the credit card company where to take those high rates… 

7. Get Paid to Play Words With Friends

Sick of losing to your friend who studies the Scrabble dictionary on the weekends? Here’s a way to enjoy the game whether you win or lose.

A free Android app called Mistplay actually pays you for playing popular games like Words With Friends 2, Yahtzee, Clash Royale, Star Wars and more. 

As you play, Mistplay rewards you in points, which you can exchange for Visa gift cards.

Plus, you use the code penny100 when you sign up to earn a free bonus.

8. Ask for Help

The arms of two people are shown extending toward one another beneath a shining sun and palm trees.
Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

If you’ve really exhausted all your options, try calling a local resource line for help. Seriously, there’s no shame in it.

Start with 2-1-1, a confidential service offered through United Way that’ll help you find the resources you need to find affordable housing, make rent or pay utilities. It’s there for people like you.

To use the service, head to 211.org, and enter your location. It’ll show you services in your community and give you a number to call. It’s a clearinghouse for help with food, housing, utilities and employment. If you’ve never asked for help before, that means you don’t know what kind of help is out there.

9. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Free Gift Cards

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What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.

But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart and dozens of other retailers where you can stock up on groceries (and stockpile your cash for rent).

And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn bonus points when you take a picture of your first receipt — you’ll be well on your way to your first gift card.

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?