When Money is Tight, These 13 Resources Can Help You

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When money is tight, you can feel like you’re drowning.

You finally make that late payment on one bill, and the next one shows up in the mail. You turn to credit cards to stay afloat, but those bills pile up, too. And just when you think you’re in the clear and a nice paycheck comes rolling in… the rent is due.

Here are 13 resources that can give you some relief when you feel like your wallet is stretched as far as it can go.

1. Let This Company Help You Pay off Your Credit Cards

 General shots of a woman downtown Atlanta , Georgia.
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When you think about how much debt you have, you might feel a little anxious.

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.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 3.84%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

2. Open a Separate Savings Account

Operating everything out of one account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.

To simplify, open an account dedicated to saving, and put your money to work. One of our favorites is Aspiration — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

You’ll get access to two online-only accounts: one for spending and one for saving. The spending account comes with a debit card that earns 0.5% cash back on all your purchases, plus free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

After you open your Aspiration account, use it to split your income:

  • Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your spending account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills, plus fun stuff; like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
  • Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration savings to keep it out of sight and let it grow. You’ll earn 2.00% APY as long you deposit just $1 a month. We recommend squirreling more when you can, but we like that you won’t lose the perk when you can’t.

3. Watch Movie Previews

Most of you already know about InboxDollars, but did you know that it will pay you to watch movie previews, celebrity videos, the latest news and dozens of other videos? Plus, you’ll get a bonus $5 just for signing up.

You need to watch all of the shows in a specific playlist to earn your bucks, so be prepared. InboxDollars lets you know how long the playlist runs before you start watching, and playlists range from a few minutes to about a half hour.

The availability is subject to change, but it’s possible to earn up to $225 a month watching these videos!

4. Save on Your Cell Phone Bill With a Discount Carrier

Your phone buzzes. It’s your cell phone provider, which might text you more often than some of your friends.

“90% of your data plan has been used,” it kindly informs you. “We’ll add 1GB of shared data to your plan for $15.”

How nice. Just go ahead and add that to my already-enormous cell phone bill.

If you’re sick of of paying your cell phone carrier hundreds of dollars each month, look beyond the so-called Big Four and into the discount carrier Twigby.

That’s what Zak Wilson did. He’d been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, he’s now paying $60 a month.

Plus, new customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.

5. Breathe New Life Into Your Credit

Maybe your credit isn’t the best. Maybe you don’t even have credit. It’s a tough position, but here’s a simple way to remedy the problem: Open a credit card.

Sure, this might sound counterintuitive. However, if you open a credit card and pay it off each month, you’ll likely see your score increase.

Now the only problem is finding a credit card you qualify for.

If you’ve faced rejection after rejection, try applying for the Capital One® Platinum credit card. It’s built for those of us who have average, fair or limited credit. After the first five months, if you’ve made all your payments on time, you’ll gain access to a higher credit line. Another big perk? No annual fee.

Read through customer comments over at Credit Sesame — then start working on your credit.

6. Earn Cash Back When You Take a Picture of Your Receipt

TPH photo editor, Alexa Vincent, in various scenes showing credit card debt, consolidation and bankruptcy on August 14, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

No matter how tight money is right now, you’ll have to buy food at some point. We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.  

Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

7. Stop Deleting Your Emails

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It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?

One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

8. Share Your Opinions for Extra Cash

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Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys.

It’s also famous for handing out free rewards points (they’re called SBs) at random just for being a member.

Pro tip: Earn a 500 SB (or $5) bonus when you sign up and earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.

You’ll get SBs for each survey you qualify for and complete that you can redeem for cash via Paypal or gift cards to a number of popular retailers, including Amazon.

9. Prioritize Your Bills and Negotiate Them

On the phone with your cell phone or internet provider, trying to haggle a lower monthly bill?

Go ahead and hang up. (We know you’re probably listening to crappy music while sitting on hold, anyway.)

Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.

On average, Truebill says it helps customers save more than $700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling necessary subscriptions and getting refunds.

The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.

Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.

10. List Your Bedroom (or Backyard) for Rent

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Have a spare room? Might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one. We talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles.

Here are some of his tips:

  • Break out the labelmaker. “I have the entire house loaded with labels,” Michael says. “They look nice; they’re modern. This helps people feel less helpless.”
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels. Here’s a little hack from Michael: “I order on Amazon and have it delivered when people are there.”
  • Be kind to your neighbors. “I say, ‘I’m not going to put anyone here who I think won’t be good for you,’” Michael explains. “And I turn a lot of big groups away, especially in Nashville. I don’t want anyone going to the cops or the city.”

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

11. Sell Your Stuff

When you’re short on cash, look to the back of your closet and in the depths of your attic or basement. You’ll almost certainly find a bunch of stuff you don’t use anymore.

A lot of people see this clutter and start plotting a garage sale to earn extra money. The prospect is tempting — but a garage sale might not be worth your time.

Try some alternatives, like selling your stuff online or in town to earn more money with less hassle than hosting a full-blown garage sale. Apps like Letgo and Decluttr make it super easy to sell your stuff without sitting in the front yard and dealing with strangers all day.

12. Sell Your Blood Plasma

It takes about two hours and, yes, it involves a needle, but selling your plasma could earn you about $25 for your first visit. The process is simple, and you’re free to read or watch TV while a machine draws your blood and separates the plasma.

It’s common for plasma donation centers to pay between $20 and $30 per visit, up to twice a week.

Interested? Search “plasma center + [your city]” for options, and ask your friends for referrals — many centers offer referral sign-up bonuses.

If you prefer just to donate blood, look for a blood drive near you on the American
Red Cross’ website.

13. Ask for Help

A man making a phone call on a cordless landline.
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If you’ve exhausted all your options, call a local resource line for help. There’s no shame in it.

Start with 2-1-1, a confidential service offered through United Way that can help you find the resources you need to make rent, pay utilities or find affordable housing.

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.

You can also look into applying for a grant. Take, for example, Modest Needs grants, which are designed for workers just about the poverty line who are ineligible for most other forms of social assistance.