A fourth stimulus check is looking doubtful. Here are 9 ways to make your own
With the worst of the pandemic behind us and the economy coming back, a fourth stimulus check is looking less and less likely every day.
Even though his press secretary has indicated President Joe Biden is open to issuing another round of checks, he and the Congress have turned their attention to roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and to the rollout of a beefed-up child tax credit. A temporary expansion of the credit will offer "family stimulus checks" to 39 million households for six months, starting in July.
Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in early June that the president believes the stuff he's already put forward will be more effective than providing another round of costly stimulus checks to most Americans.
So, you probably shouldn’t bank on receiving more government cash anytime soon. But, with a little creativity, you can essentially generate your own stimulus.
Here are nine ways to do it.
1. Lighten your load from student loan debt
Prominent Democrats, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have been pushing Biden to cancel up to $50,000 of federal student loan debt for every borrower in the U.S.
But if you’ve got debt from a private student loan, you'll still be on the hook for your regular monthly payment.
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 since the pandemic hit, but you'll need to compare loan offers from multiple lenders to get the best rate possible.
2. Reunite with your long-lost moneyMarinaGrigorivna / Shutterstock
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 may have funds for you dating back as far as 2018.
3. 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.
4. Refinance your mortgage (if you've got one)Elle Aon / Shutterstock
Homeowners who haven't refinanced their loans in the last year now have an opportunity to take advantage of some game-changing savings.
Now that the rate on 30-year fixed mortgages is hovering around 3% again, mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight recently said 14.1 million homeowners could still save an average of $287 a month with a refi.
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. And you might easily create the equivalent of a new stimulus payment for yourself just by refinancing at a better rate.
5. 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.
6. Cash in on your old cluttertrekandshoot / Shutterstock
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.
7. Earn extra cash with a side hustle
You have a hobby, right? Or some special skills or talents? You might be able to use it 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.
8. Cut down the cost of your debtfizkes / Shutterstock
If you’ve been relying on your credit card to carry you through the pandemic, you know your plastic can easily rack up tons of expensive interest.
The Federal Reserve says the average credit card interest rate clocks in at 14.75%, and once you factor in compound interest, paying down your debt can feel like you’re running a marathon where someone keeps adding miles.
Give yourself a breather — and shake off your debt sooner — by rolling your balances into a single lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
9. Profit off your day-to-day purchasesIvan Kruk / Shutterstock
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.
Meanwhile, a popular app helps you earn returns in the stock market just by investing "spare change" from your everyday purchases, to build up savings quickly.
It's a relatively easy and low-cost way to climb aboard as stocks keep making runs at the record books.