8 Ways to Find Money You Might Not Have Known Was There

Because we all know every penny helps!

By Debra Flanagan, publisher of Macaroni Kid Chicago Northside April 20, 2021

The pandemic created a financial strain on most of us, even with the stimulus checks. If you've adjusted your family budget and cut costs where possible but are still looking for some extra money (and who among us isn't?!?) here are 8 ideas to "find" some extra cash:

1. Refinance your home

Interest rates are extremely low right now and savings can be huge over time. Monthly payments can be reduced too.

  • Have your broker provide amortization schedules for 15 yr, 20 yr, and 30 yr mortgages to find your break-even points, to recover the cost of refinancing, before choosing your term.
  • Your definition of break-even may not be the same as your broker's. Clarify.
  • While you are at it, consider appealing your property taxes, if that's something you can do where you live. 

2. Check your bills

Who has time to always go through their utility bills with a fine-tooth comb? If you're like me, you've had most of your bills on auto-pay for years and don't pay enough attention to the details. Time to take a closer look!

  • Phone bills: I found double charges over the course of the year that amounted to an $800 refund!
  • Cable/Satellite: I do take a look at this every six months or so, and every time I find they sneak some new recurring charge in. Most recently I found a charge for $4.99/month for a movie package I never requested. Only a $20 credit, but the monthly charge would have continued.
  • Health Insurance/Health Providers: This can be a gold mine. I found $500 in overcharges by reconciling my insurance EOBs with my doctor bills. Also note, many insurance companies are charging lower co-pays for tele-health during the pandemic period, but if the insurance claim does not specify that it was tele-health, it won't apply. I found $300 by having a provider re-submit their claims, noting it was tele-health.
  • Car Insurance: Car insurance companies should be giving you a small credit against your premium for the reduction in use during the pandemic. I got about $15/month since April 2020. 
  • Scan your credit card and bank activity: A lot of criminals are taking advantage of this time of largely electronic transactions to charge small fraudulent amounts that may go unnoticed on a monthly basis, but then add up to not so insignificant amounts. I found $100.

3. Investigate unclaimed property

The treasurer in each state holds unclaimed funds. In Illinois, where I live, the State Treasurer is holding more than $3.5 billion dollars in unclaimed funds! It does not cost you to claim these funds, and it can be done pretty easily online. Between my husband and I, we found $600.

  • Check all states you have lived in (each state has their own equivalent office/website)
  • Check for deceased relatives

4. Resell used items

Take the time to take inventory of all your "stuff."  Chances are there is a market for the things you no longer need.

  • Facebook Marketplace has been very successful for me and you can look around and see what your items typically go for. There are also virtual garage sale groups on Facebook for pretty much every neighborhood.
  • If you don't have the patience for that, take your things to a local consignment shop.
  • Of course, there's eBay and Craigslist and the like, but if all else fails, donating your items to a charitable organization can result in a decent tax deduction come April. I like to track my donations using Turbo Tax's deduction tool.

5. Make returns

I don't know about you, but I'm not always good about returning things that either don't fit, don't work, or I simply changed my mind about. It often doesn't seem worth my time to go back to the store, or particularly with all the online shopping, to submit the claim or call customer service and then package and ship the item back. I am also notorious for missing return deadlines; however, return deadlines may be more flexible than you think, due to the pandemic. Return those items! Cha-ching.

6. Do your own repairs

While this won't put money in your pocket, it can save you a lot. There is a video on YouTube that will walk you through fixing just about anything! Over the last year I have fixed my washer, my dryer, a toilet, and installed a new flat screen TV, saving hundreds in repair bills. 

7. Check your Flexible Spending Accounts

Not only have the ways in which you can spend the tax-free dollars, expanded (i.e. over-the-counter medicine, feminine products, etc., and dependent care), but also the amount of Health Savings you can roll-over into the next year has increased.  

8. Do your taxes!

Do your 2020 taxes as soon as possible, if you haven't already (they're due May 15, 2021!). If your income was less than it was in 2019, you may be eligible for stimulus you previously didn't qualify for. 

Good luck finding some cash!

Debra Flanagan is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Chicago Northside.