Unless your parents are rich, we have all had times in our lives when we could need a little extra cash. I know that I have. And like many people, I have turned to the Internet as a source of ideas.
Of course, everyone know that the web is a mixed bag – whilst there are some genuinely good and innovative ideas out there, there are also a lot of scams, and people trying to make a fast buck at your expense.
I cannot claim to know everything, but after doing my own research and testing some of the methods, I have compiled my own list of the best ways to get free money. There was a lot of trial and error involved, but to save you time, and having to make some of the mistakes that I made, here are some of the best ideas.
Install free apps on your phone
Believe it or not, you can earn money from your smartphone by downloading free apps. There are lots of companies offer such promotions, and you can earn real money or points which can be redeemed for cash or gift vouchers from Amazon and the like. You are not going to earn a lot – perhaps the US $5 each time – but every little help.
Alternatively, you can get rebates if you shop at certain stores. There is even the opportunity with some of the schemes on offer to make even more money by referring your friends – when they sign-up in turn, you get paid.
There is no need to keep the apps on your phone either. Sign-up, download the app, get paid, and then – unless they pay you to keep the app on your phone, which some companies will do – get rid of it again.
Take part in online surveys
One way to get free money is to take part in online surveys. There are dozens of sites which offer people the chance to complete online surveys for money, and more seem to appear every year.
Typically, respondents are offered cash to take part, but some companies may offer gift cards or vouchers instead. Some may also be offered a small sign-up bonus – perhaps US $5 or so – once you register with them. Then you will be paid a couple of dollars or so to complete each survey. You are not going to make your fortune this way, but it could generate a little side income.
However, in my experience, there are good and bad online survey sites. Choose those that have been around for years – like Survey Junkie, MyPoints, and Swagbucks. They not only have the best reputation but have a lot of surveys which you can complete. And try and sign-up for several survey sites. You will not always qualify to take part in all the surveys that are run, so you want to maximize your income.
Earn refunds with Paribus
One of the most annoying things, when you buy something online, is to look at the same website a few days later and find that the price has dropped since. It can be a hassle to try and get the retailer to try and give you a refund but, if you sign up with Paribus you don’t have to – they do all the work for you.
If you download their app it will automatically scan your email message for receipts from one of the big online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target or Macy’s. If the price drops, Paribus will help you get a refund.
If also works with hotel sites if you have booked online through sites like Expedia, Booking.com, Hilton, and Marriot.
Book restaurant reservations with Seated
If you live in certain major cities, you can download an app that lets you eat in one of a great series of restaurants and get 30% off the price of your meal every time you make a dinner reservation. Called Seated, all you must do is download their app, choose from one of their list of restaurants, and make your booking online.
You will get up to 30% off the price of your meal each time in the form of gift cards or vouchers for merchants like Amazon or Starbucks.
At the moment this service is available only in a handful of cities – New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and San Francisco – but the company behind it has ambitious plans to roll this out to more cities and towns soon.
Become a stock photographer
If you have an eye for a good picture, you can make money by becoming a stock photographer. There are no needs to spend thousands of dollars on an expensive camera – nowadays you can take great pictures with just your smartphone.
Whilst some stock photography sites will take all the contributions that you can send them, others can be a bit choosier and ask you to submit to an approval process first.
No single photo is going to earn you a lot of money – between 25 and 45 cents per image per month is the going rate.
One tip to bear in mind is to set out who owns the copyright to the pictures before you start. If you can keep hold of this, you can sell the same photo to more than one site.
Some of the best-known stock photography sites include iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, and Deposit Photo.
Become a dog walker
If you have free time on your hands, especially during the day, then dog walking can be a surprisingly lucrative way of making a part-time living.
People who love their dogs but have busy lives and are out at work all day sometimes do not have the time or energy to walk their pets and are willing to pay somebody to do it for them.
Experienced dog walkers can earn anything up to the US $15 for a 30-minute walk, and they get to enjoy fresh air, exercise, and the company of man’s best friend into the bargain.
There are three ways to make money this way. Firstly, you can go and work for one of the established dog walking companies who already have an established list of people and companies for whom they work. They will give you steady work but deduct a portion of your income.
Secondly, you can download an online dog walking app like Rover, Wag!, or Care, and hook-up with clients in your area.
And the third way is to build up your own clientele. There are two downsides with this. First, it can take your time to build up a client list. The other problem is that a lot of people you are likely to meet will want to make sure you are licensed and insured before they trust you with their dog.
Get Paid for searching the web
Imagine getting paid for doing something that you spend hours online doing anyway? Getting paid for searching on the web is one of the easiest ways to earn free money and requires you to change virtually nothing when it comes to your behavior or your habits.
Companies like Qmee.com enable you to earn cash rewards every time you search in Google, Yahoo, or Bing. All you have to do in install a simple browser add-on, and then you will find a few sponsored ads appearing alongside your normal search results.
Every link clicked can earn a cash reward, and there is no minimum cash out. Even if you have only earned US 1, this can still be sent to your PayPal account. Or, if you are so minded, you have the option to gift the money to charity.
Save Money with Trim
You can download an app from a service called Trim, which helps you save money on everything from utility bills to subscriptions. The app tracks your daily or weekly spending and helps you cut down on bills and to eliminate services you no longer need.
It can also help you manage your budget overall, and help you cut down on your debt.
Where I have used it is to help cut my monthly bill from my internet service provider. I downloaded their app, signed-up for the service, and then gave Trim a link to my internet service provider, after uploading a copy of my last monthly bill.
They then negotiated directly with the service provider and got me a big reduction in my monthly bill. They do take 30% of the annual savings as their fee, but, in my case, that still left me well ahead. It also saved me the time that I would have spent trying to negotiate with the service provider directly.
Use couponing apps to get refunds
Using coupons to get discounts at your local grocery store has always been a good way to save money. But most people do not have the time to scour local newspapers or the internet, clip or print out coupons, and then remember to take them with them the next time they go to the store.
Fortunately, there are now several mobile apps which take a lot of the effort out of the process for you, letting you upload, clip and scan coupons directly on your smartphone. These apps let you select coupons for the items that you buy – just take a picture of the receipt, upload it to the app, and it will find the right coupon for you.
Some of the best available apps are Ibotta, SnipSnap, and ShopKick. Ibotta, for example, claims recently to have given the US $500 million back to shoppers and will connect directly to your local store’s loyalty card scheme.
Or, if you shop with Walmart, the Savings Catcher on their app, will search competitor pricing in your area for a few days after you shopped with them. If they find you could have bought the same item cheaper somewhere else, they will give you a rebate in the form of a Walmart gift card.
Get paid for taking selfies
Crazy as it might sound, there are companies that will pay for taking selfies.
If you have a decent camera on your smartphone, you take photos of yourself and submit photos to the companies offering these services. They will then pay you for the right to use your picture.
What is the angle of these companies? Basically, the information they collect helps them in their marketing activities in different parts of the United States based on demographic data like gender, race, and age.
Not every photo is worth money, but, when they do use your picture, you can make US $1 or the US $2 each time. And the more you sell, the more you earn.
There are several companies offering this service. I recommend Pay Your Selfie, Scoopshot, and Submit Pics for Cash.
Get paid to receive junk mail
Whilst most of us hate junk mail, you might feel better about if you knew that every time you received some you were getting paid for it.
This is not a scam, but a legitimate business idea. If you agree to become a mail decoy for one of the companies offering this service, they will pay you for every bit of junk mail that ends up in your mailbox – newsletters, catalogs, and magazines.
These companies are willing to pay you for this service because they want to know how long junk mail finds prospective clients – or if they ever receive it at all.
When you get junk mail, you simply either report online or call a toll-free number and enter a code from the mailing.
Some companies – like US Monitor – will pay you in cash for this service. US $10 per month plus 25 cents for each piece of mail you receive is the going rate. Others, like World Mail Panel, will reward you with points you can redeem for PayPal, gift cards, or other prizes.
Make money with Swagbucks
Swagbucks is a website that pays you to shop online, watch videos, surf the net, or answer online survey questions. It is one of the best most, and most reputable of the GPT (Get Paid To) websites and has been around a surprisingly long time – since 2008.
If you sign-up for this free service, you earn swag bucks every time you complete an online activity like watching a video, play a game, or answer a daily poll. 1 swag buck (SB) is worth the US $0.01, and, when you have collected enough SBs you can redeem them for gift cards, or PayPal.
For a few minutes work a day you can earn the US $200 to the US $300 a year.
Whilst giving blood is a popular way of giving something back to the community, selling plasma is a way of making money, as well as doing a good deed at the same time.
Provided you are over 18 years old, and are in good health, you can make the US $200 to the US $300 a month donating (that is based on donating as often as possible – two or three times a week – and, depending on how much you donate, making between the US $20 and the US $50 each time).
Each company has its own set of donation requirements, so check these out before signing up, and there can be side effects, so best check with your physician first.
Among the companies willing to buy plasma are CSL Plasma, Grifols Plasma, and Octapharma Plasma.
Rent a room out with Airbnb
Provided that you are comfortable with the idea of strangers sleeping in your house, you can make good money renting out a spare room with Airbnb. Or, if you have a rental property, or are planning to take an extended vacation, you can rent out your whole house.
(If you are one of the few people who doesn’t know what Airbnb is, it Is a company that looks to offer cheaper accommodation to travelers than expensive hotel rooms. Through their website, they offer rooms, houses and condominiums to rent on a daily or weekly basis to travelers).
If you live in a particularly desirable location – normally near one of the major tourist destinations – you can earn good money from Airbnb. However, before signing up for the service, check with your local municipality first. Some city ordinances have begun to place restrictions on the short-term rental market.
Sell your Old Clothes
Most of us have more clothes than we ever will ear, with cupboards full of items that we have not worn for years, or ever at all. Whilst you can give them away to charity, an alternative is to sell them. Not only do you get to earn money, but you get to declutter your house at the same time. A win-win situation!
Make sure that the clothes are clean and properly aired, and not torn or full of holes. Nobody is going to buy your cast offs if they are not in a decent condition.
However, provided they are presentable and wearable, there are plenty of places you can sell them, including consignment sites like Poshmark, Thredup, and eBay.
Get money from the Government
Any list of how to get free money would not be complete if it did not include the US Government. Whilst you may think that when it comes to Uncle Sam, money flows just one way – from you to them in the form of taxes – there are some cases when the opposite holds true.
For example, Unclaimed.org is a website that connects US residents with money that may have been forgotten over the years – like unclaimed account credits, uncollected insurance reimbursements, and old utility and apartment security deposits.
Then there is MissingMoney.com (LINK), which works along similar lines, and checks for missing money, property, and assets that may be owed by participating states.
Those on low incomes might also be interested in Federal Pell Grants for Education, the Child Care Development Fund, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Sell your old electronic devices
Nearly everybody has some old electronic devices lying around their apartment somewhere. I certainly have. Every time I have bought a new cell phone, for example, once I have swapped the SIM card over, I have just put the old one back in a drawer where it sits, quietly gathering dust.
However, there is a way to earn money from these old gadgets by selling them to a company like Gazelle, OCBuyBack, or GadgetSale, who are willing to pay cash for old smartphones, computers, iPads, DVD players and the like. Some of them will even pay money for devices that are broken.
One of the most popular of these sites is Decluttr. How they work is very simple. Scan any device that has a barcode on it with the camera on your smartphone, send it to them, and they will make you an immediate offer. If you accept their offer, they will send you a prepaid envelope in which to ship the device. They then pay you one day after they have received the item.
Loyalty Programs and Rewards
One of the best ways sometimes to get free money, or free stuff – which, let’s be honest, is really the same thing – is to take advantage of some of the various loyalty programs and reward schemes offered by various companies. You probably already spend money with some of them anyway, so why not take advantage of what they have to offer, and sign up for their membership schemes?
Here are a couple of my own favorites:
Personally, I love Starbucks – by signing up to their Rewards program, every time I order one of their specialty drinks, I get a discount.
I also shop a lot with Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Lowes. The reason for this is simple. Using Ebates I can get free cash back when I shop with them, and take advantage, at the same time, of their discounts and store promotions.
There are literally thousands of such loyalty programs and reward programs available. You will be pleasantly surprised as to what is on offer.
Open a new bank account
Most banks in the US will offer you a bonus if you open a new account with them, and sign-up for direct deposit, or are prepared to keep a certain amount of funds on deposit with them. They may stipulate a minimum fixed amount that you must keep with them, and a minimum time period, but usually these requirements are fairly limited.
Follow their “rules”, earn your bonus and then, if you don’t need the account, simply close it again.
Chase, for example, will offer up to the US $300 if you keep the US $1,500 with them for 90 days or more.
Always read the small print to see if there are any hidden restrictions and, if there is something in there you don’t understand, ask the bank before you open the account.
Celebrate your birthday with a freebie!
Many retailers and merchants will give you a discount or some sort of freebie on your birthday. Check with your favorite stores or restaurants to see if they are offering any sort of deals. You might need to sign-up for their loyalty programs or newsletters first to be eligible.
A few of my favorites are Applebees, Denny’s, Dunkin Donuts and Red Lobster.
I can vouch that all these ways are legitimate. Not of them are going to earn you very much, but they could be enough to earn you a decent side income.
However, watch out! There are a lot of scams offering advice on how to get free money. If somebody asks you to pay any fees upfront, then stay well away and be very careful with whom you are sharing your personal information.
Remember – if something seems too good to be true, then almost certainly it is not and should be avoided at all cost.