Congress still can’t get its act together on giving Americans more of those $1,200 coronavirus “stimulus checks,” similar to the direct payments made in the spring.
Another round of cash to relieve financial pain and stimulate the economy was missing from a COVID-19 relief bill that died in the Senate this month. Since then, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed a $1.5 trillion package that includes new stimulus payments, but it’s not clear if the plan will go anywhere.
If you could use another $1,200 right now, don’t wait for Washington to sort things out. You can find your own sources of cash, to give yourself a stimulus check. Check out these nine ways to do that.
1. Cut your car insurance costs
If you’re like most people, your car insurance is due every six months. It’s very easy to get complacent and just blindly keep paying your premiums — which is how you wind up paying too much.
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, compare rates from multiple insurers to make sure you’re paying the best price.
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.
2. Find your long-lost money
You may have some money sitting out there, maybe in an old account, that you’ve totally forgotten about. That’s surprisingly common.
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’ll find out 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.
(You’ll want to be more careful about notifying beneficiaries when you buy your own life insurance policy.)
3. Refi your mortgage
If you’re a homeowner with a mortgage, you might easily create a $1,200 stimulus payment for yourself by refinancing to one of today’s low mortgage rates.
Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are currently averaging just 2.87% in the weekly survey from mortgage company Freddie Mac. With rates so low, 19.3 million homeowners could save an average $299 a month by refinancing, according to estimates from Black Knight.
The mortgage data firm says you’re a good refi candidate if own at least 20% of your home, could cut your 30-year mortgage rate by three-quarters of 1 percentage point (0.75) or better, and have a credit score of 720 or higher.
When you refinance, you will have to pay closing costs of anywhere from 2% to 5% of your loan amount. But you could have the costs rolled into the loan, or baked into a slightly higher interest rate.
4. Make money through a side hustle
If you’ve got a hobby or some special skills or talents, you might be able to land some side work to earn the equivalent of a second stimulus check.
Do you write? Know website or graphic design? Have a knack for doing celebrity impressions? You can use an online marketplace for gig work and find someone looking to pay for your unique services.
It’s sort of like online dating: You just create a profile describing what you can offer, and people will contact you if you’ve got 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.
5. Chase down your unclaimed tax refunds
Check with the IRS to see if you may be missing any tax refunds.
The tax agency says the average refund paid to taxpayers in both 2019 and 2020 has been $2,741 — well above that $1,200 coronavirus relief payment amount.
You can amend your previous tax returns for up to three years if you were eligible for a refund but neglected to claim it.
The tax agency recently put out a last call for taxpayers to claim more than $1.5 billion in refunds from 2016 returns filed in 2017.
6. Find savings on your home insurance
As with your car insurance, you can fall into the trap of paying too much for your homeowners insurance if you don’t shop around. 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 nearly identical.
You might miss out on discounts, too. A popular one is for “bundling,” if you buy both your auto insurance and your home insurance from the same company.
A comparison shopping site will let you size up quotes from hundreds of insurers for free, to see the best deals available in your area.
7. Sell some of your stuff
Are your closets full of old toys and other pieces of your childhood you’ve been hanging onto for too many years? Maybe it’s time to cash in that stuff.
Your toys from the 1970s and ’80s could be worth hundreds of dollars — maybe even way more than a $1,200 stimulus payment. If you’ve never sold things on eBay before, getting started is relatively simple.
Or, use a buyback service that will take your old electronics, books, and movies off your hands, and give you cash for them.
We did a comparison test of the top services online and found Decluttr pays up to 33% more than competitors.
8. Get smarter with student loan debt
Payments on federal student loans have been paused through the end of 2020, but if you’ve got debt from a private student loan you’re still on the hook for your regular monthly minimum.
But here’s something you might not know: Interest rates on private student loans are at all-time lows — down to just 1% in some cases — and refinancing your loan can save you a bundle.
Refinancing lets you pay off your current debt with a new loan at a lower rate. Your monthly payment will go down, so it’s possible you could save at least $1,200 each year.
Compare loan offers from multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting the best rate possible.
9. Pay less for everything online
If you do most of your shopping online — and these days who doesn’t? — you likely have some go-to websites (cough Amazon cough) that you always use.
But Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price-check every store.
But you can install a free browser extension for Chrome that will automatically find you 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. You could save hundreds of dollars each year — maybe even as much as $1,200.