9 Urgent Ways to Hoard Cash and Lower Bills During the Pandemic

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The pandemic has us feeling uneasy in more ways than one.

The future feels uncertain, and we’re all waiting to see how things will pan out.

But, instead of feeling completely powerless, there are a few simple, unexpected ways you can be proactive — to take steps to invest your spare cash, pay off your debt, lower your bills and secure your future.

1. Invest Like a Tycoon (Even If You’re Not Rich)

The stock market can be a scary place. Stock prices shoot up and down like a roller coaster ride, and who knows when the whole thing might crash?

It would be nice to diversify and invest some of your money in real estate, but don’t you have to be wealthy to do that?

Now you can invest like the 1% does, and all you need to get started is $500. A company called DiversyFund will invest your money in commercial real estate — specifically, in apartment complexes it owns — and you only need $500.

Real estate can potentially earn you more money than the stock market. Over the long term, investing in the stock market will earn you an average annual return of 7%, adjusted for inflation, according to a number of studies. DiversyFund can’t guarantee how its investments will perform in the future — no one can — but historically, it has earned an annual return of 17% to 18%.

So you don’t need a fortune to invest in real estate. All you need to get started is $500.

2. Leave Your Family up to $1 Million in Life Insurance; Rates Start at $8/Month

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Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $8 a month. The peace of mind of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

3. Get Rid of Your Homeowner’s Insurance

For many homeowners, your insurance might not be something you actively worry about — you just know you’ve got to pay it. But, the truth is, you’re probably paying too much.

To find out, check with an insurance company called Lemonade. If its free quote shows you a better deal, Lemonade could switch you over in just 10 minutes. Policies start at $25 a month.

Even better? No phone calls. No lengthy sign-up process. Nothing. 

And just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you’re skimping on coverage. In fact, Lemonade pays out 30% of its claims instantly.

Just answer a few questions about your home to get started.

Lemonade is available in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin.

4. Have the Same Credit Score as a Millionaire — Without The Bank Account

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Good news: Your credit score has nothing to do with your income. Yes, having more money might mean you don’t have to take out loans or buy groceries on credit. But, in reality, you and me could have the same credit score as, say, a certain someone who owns Amazon. Heck, ours could be even better.

So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame.

Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.* “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.

Getting your free credit score takes less than two minutes.

5. Use up Your Entire Paycheck

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No, we’re not talking about going to Whole Foods and buying out its fancy cheese supply to help you through isolation. Instead, we’re talking about creating a zero-based budget, a budget that finds a place for your every dollar.

You’ll want to start by tracking a month of expenses. How much do you (or don’t you) have remaining? Then, consider your financial goals. Do you want to save money? Invest money? Pay off debt?

Work backward to cut your expenses until you can achieve that goal. It might take some patience, but it’ll pay off.

 

6. Cancel Your Car Insurance

If you need to free up some extra room in your budget, one of the easiest places to start is to cut back on your monthly bills — like your current car insurance.

In most places, it’s straight up illegal not to have it, so you’ve probably accepted that you’re going to pay through the nose for it. But you don’t have to.

A free website called Savvy will help you find the best rates — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826/year.

All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer. Best yet: This is totally free.

If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.

7. Get up to $500 in Free Stock

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If you feel like you don’t have enough money to start investing, you’re not alone. But guess what? You really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth up to $500!) if you know where to look.

Whether you’re got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.

What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $5 to $500 — a nice boost to help you build your investments during this time.

8. Add $225 to Your Bank Account Every Month

A woman's legs are shown dangling off a green suede couch. Her legs are crossed, and she holds an Apply laptop on her lap.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
What if we told you a research company would pay you to watch cooking videos on your computer?It’s too good to be true, right?

But we’re serious. InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward.

No, InboxDollars won’t replace a full-time job, but it’s something easy you can do while you’re already on the couch tonight wasting time on your phone. It’s possible to earn up to $225 per month watching these videos.

It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately get a $5 bonus to get you started.

9. Let This Website Help You Pay off Your Student Debt 5 Years Faster

No matter how much money you make, you might still feel like you’ll be stuck with student loan debt forever. Truth be told, your student loan providers just might be ripping you off with some super-high rates — yup, they’re getting rich off you. 

But there are other, nicer companies that’ll help you out. A website called Credible knows the best ones and could pair you up as soon as tomorrow.

Here’s how it works: Credible will match you with a loan that’ll cover your student debt tab. Use that loan to pay off your federal and/or private loans. Now you’ll be left with one new monthly payment.

This process is called refinancing. The key to refinancing is to find a loan with better interest rates or lower monthly payments.

Ashley Williams, a financial analyst, graduated with $46,000 in debt. Refinancing allowed her to knock five years’ worth of payments off her loans, and it saved her more than $18,000 in interest.

If you’re not sure where to start, Credible lets you compare your options in two minutes. If you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online.

*Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.