After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
There are lots of “work from home” and get-rich-quick schemes out on the web. If you find one that works, let me know and I’ll be the first to sign up! Until that day, here are 5 ways to make some extra cash in less than 12 minutes.
I’ve tried all of them personally and they’ve all worked for me! Some of them require a bit of planning, but most of them can be accomplished in under 10 minutes.
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1. Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Have a great credit score? Not planning on getting a mortgage any time soon? Get that awesome credit score to pay you back! There are tons of credit cards that offer sign up bonuses. They are usually contingent on spending a certain amount of money in the first few months you have the card. However, if you adjust your spending habits and just put everything on the card, you’ll usually make the spending minimums no problem.
A couple of the better offers right now:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering 40,000 points, which can be converted to $400 of cash or $500 of airline points. You need to spend $3000 in the first three months to activate the reward points. I cashed in on this deal when they were offering 50,000 bonus points. I spent the $3000 by paying off the final amount due on my wife’s student loans. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year, so just cancel the card before the first year is up and pocket your $500!
This is a great day to day use card. It offers 5% cash back on rotating categories like restaurants, groceries, gas, etc, and then 1% on everything else. I put almost everything I can through this card, and have racked up more than $500 in cash back this year alone. Right now they’re offering $100 cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months. That’s not too hard is it? Remember, cards are issued by social security number, so you and your wife/husband could both take one out and double your rewards. MyMoneyBlog talks about doing just that here.
TOTAL TIME: 7 minutes
2. Adjust your tax withholding
Did you get a refund from the IRS this year? Chances are you did. The IRS issued almost 60 million refund checks in 2012. Each check averaged $2946. That means the average taxpayer overpaid by $245 per month in 2011. What could you do with an extra $245 per month? Pay off some student loans, build up that Roth IRA you’ve been meaning to start, maybe get your emergency fund off the ground?
If you received a large refund this year, you probably should adjust your withholding. (Disclaimer: you should consult with a certified tax adviser before doing this.) Withholding is adjusted on your W4. For military members, you can adjust your withholding right on myPay. It takes a few minutes and is really easy.
So how much should you be claiming for exemptions? Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to figure out what your exemption status should be. For me, married with no kids, I’m a 2. Before I used the calculator to set up my exemptions correctly, I was having nearly $500 a month withheld. Now, I’m down to a more reasonable $300/month, which should still result in a refund of about $1000. Definitely better to have the $200/month in my bank account rather than to be giving Uncle Sam a free loan for a year.
TOTAL TIME: 10 Minutes
3. Switch to a Cashback Credit Card
Okay, this is cheating a bit because we already talked about credit card sign up bonuses up top. But this is different because we’re talking about using credit cards that give you a cash back bonus. Many cards only give you reward points, which can only be redeemed for overpriced merchandise in the credit cards company’s online store. Some other cards give you cash back, but at horrible rates. You shouldn’t settle for anything less than 1% cash back on all purchases. Many cards give you 2% and some even go up to 6% on certain categories (such as the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred, which gives you 6% cash back on groceries).
If you’re not cashing in on cash back, you’re giving up the opportunity to put money in your pocket. This year alone my wife and I have racked up over $1000 in cash back, which we’ve used for plane tickets, to build our emergency fund, and we’re planning on using to buy Christmas presents. And we’ve never given the credit card companies a dime in interest, fees, or anything else.
Obviously the credit card industries profits aren’t hurting, as they take anywhere from 1-5% of the transaction costs from the merchant. That’s why even if everyone paid off their credit card bill in full every month, the credit card companies would still make money. Just a little bit less than money.
TOTAL TIME: 5 Minutes
4. Cancel services you don’t use or at least get a lower monthly rate
One extreme way to save $100s each month is to cancel all your monthly subscriptions and try and go a month without them. (Disclaimer: I’m not the first one to have the idea, but I have done it myself.) I see so many people that subscribe to multiple magazines that they never have the time or desire to read. I used to subscribe to The Economist. I loved receiving a glossy new magazine every week. How many of the articles did I actually read? Maybe half, usually less than that. You know what I didn’t like? Paying nearly $100 a year for the subscription. There are so many other monthly recurring charges that hit your credit card every month. Just take a look at your statement. Netflix, gym membership, cable, Amazon Prime, mobile phones, landlines (does anyone still have a landline?), credit score monitoring service, and so on. You don’t need any of these. All those magazines that you get every month or every week and then have no time to read it? You can probably get the best articles online anyways, for free.
If you can’t cut out an expense, at least get the price lowered. I was paying $60 a month for TimeWarner Cable’s second fastest available Internet connection. After calling them once, I was able to get the price lowered to $40/month for 6 months and they upgraded me to their fastest connection, a $10 value, for free. After the 6 months, they raised my bill to $70. I called them once again to cancel. I was offered $30 a month for 6 months, and it was pro-rated for the previous month. A 50% decrease over what I was originally paying, all for only a 15 minute phone call. I was saving $40 a month. Over a year, that adds up to $480, or an hourly rate of $1920 ($480/15 min). Try earning that much money anywhere else in the world. I have had friends do this same method and they have had $160 cable/internet bills cut down to $90 a month, plus free HBO, Showtime, and HD for a year. That’s a yearly savings of $840, or an hourly wage of $3360. Not bad for a 15 minute phone call.
TOTAL TIME: Less than 12 Minutes
5. Try a new bank (or two!)
- ING Direct is offering $50 to open a Electronic Orange Checking account. You must do 3 card purchases or 3 Person2Person payments, or any combination of those to 3. Then bonus will be deposited in your account on day 50.
- US Bank is offering $150 cash bonus when you open a checking account and setup a direct deposit of at least $1000. You’ll get your bonus within 6-8 weeks. You’ll need to set this account up at a branch or by dialing 1-877-883-3635 and mentioning the promo code CK0930A.
Use any of these ways to make $200+? Let me know how it went in the comments!
If you liked these ideas or used any of them to put cash in your pocket, then share the love with your friends on Facebook, Twiter, or Reddit!
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence Faster
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.