A fourth stimulus check may not happen — here are 9 ways to make your own
Though dozens of lawmakers are pushing hard to give Americans more stimulus checks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the other Democratic leaders who run Congress may have trouble mustering the votes for additional cash payments.
Plus, the Biden administration has moved on to other priorities. As the IRS continues to distribute the pandemic's third stimulus checks — for $1,400 — it's looking unlikely that there will be a fourth round.
If your household budget is strained and all your stimulus money is already spent, or if you didn’t even qualify for the third check, you might easily come up with extra cash on your own. Here are nine ways to essentially make your own stimulus check.
1. Lighten your load from student loan debt
Payments on federal student loans have been paused until October, but if you’ve got debt from a private student loan you’re still on the hook for your regular monthly minimum.
You could potentially save thousands on total interest fees and shave years off your debt by refinancing to a lower rate or shorter term.
By refinancing to a new loan with a shorter term, you could see your interest rate drop by more than 2 full percentage points and save an average of nearly $17,000 in lifetime interest, according to Credible, an online loan marketplace.
Student loan refi rates have fallen to all-time lows, but you'll need to compare loan offers from multiple lenders to get the best rate possible.
2. Reunite with your long-lost money
You might have some money just 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 can see 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.
And, check with the IRS on whether you might be missing any tax refunds. The agency has put out a last call for $1.3 billion in unclaimed refunds from 2017; the median amount is $865.
3. Turn your everyday tasks into money
There’s passive income and then there’s passive income. Why not make some money off the things you're already doing, like shopping for groceries every week?
Download an app that gives you cash back at the supermarket just for snapping pictures of your receipts. You also can scan receipts from restaurants, big-box retailers, drugstores, hardware stores and pet supply chains.
Meanwhile, another popular app helps you invest "spare change" from your everyday purchases, to build up savings quickly.
If you link your debit card and buy a mocha for $4.25, the app will take an even $5 from your bank account and put the extra 75 cents into an investment account. It's a simple way for you to get some returns from today's record-breaking stock market.
4. Lower your car insurance premiums
Your car insurance probably comes due every six months, and it's very easy to just blindly pay your premium without going over the numbers. But 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 website that makes it easy to compare policies and find the best price.
Don’t forget to look for advertised discounts — like if your car is loaded with safety features. The insurance company might knock a percentage off your bill for your air bags, anti-lock brakes or even daytime running lights.
Or, you might cut your premiums by agreeing to higher deductibles, which means you cover more of your own losses before the insurance kicks in.
5. Refinance your mortgage (if you've got one)
If you're a homeowner with a mortgage you took out as recently as a year ago, you might easily create the equivalent of a new stimulus payment for yourself by refinancing to one of today’s historically low mortgage rates.
Though rates have risen recently, some 11.1 million homeowners still could save an average $277 per month through refinancing their loans, says the mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight.
You're considered a good refi candidate if you have at least 20% equity in your home, are current on your mortgage payments and have a credit score of 720 or higher. You also should be able to shave at least three-quarters of a point (0.75) off your mortgage rate by swapping out your loan.
Refinancing is the right move if you plan to stay in your home long enough to break even on your closing costs, which can run from 2% to 5% of your loan amount.
6. Score savings on your home insurance
As with your car insurance, you can easily fall into the trap of paying too much for your homeowners insurance if you don't comparison shop. 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.
You might be missing out on discounts, too. A popular one is for "bundling," if you buy your home insurance from the same company that provides your auto insurance.
To see the best deals available in your area, use a website that will help you review quotes from lots of insurers.
With rates on insurance going up every year — ValuePenguin found homeowners insurance premiums have risen 59% over the last decade — it’s just a best practice to shop around regularly.
7. Pay less every time you shop online
If COVID has put you in the habit of doing most of your shopping online, Amazon and Walmart.com may have become your go-tos. But they don'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 scour for 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.
Taking a moment to do the installation could save you hundreds of dollars each year — as much as an additional stimulus check.
8. Cash in on your old clutter
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, '80s or '90s could be worth hundreds of dollars on eBay — maybe way more than another 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 ran a comparison test of the top services online and found Decluttr pays up to one-third more than competitors.
9. Earn extra cash with 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 fourth stimulus check.
Maybe you write, or know web or graphic design — or even have a knack for doing celebrity impressions. Using an online marketplace for gig work can get your unique services in front of the people willing to pay for them.
It’s sort of like online dating: You put out a profile describing what you offer, and people will contact you if you have what they’re looking for.
Once you start completing gigs and racking up positive reviews for your work, you can bump up your price, rake in even more money — and maybe consider making your side hustle your full-time job.