My husband and I are savers as opposed to spenders. This allowed us to pay off $30,000 in student loans in 9 short months thanks to our zealous efforts. Our 100% debt free phase only lasted a few short months before we bought our first home and due to various reasons we did not have enough of a down payment to avoid the PMI cost. The way we set up our monthly budget is so that we can put any unspent income toward the financial goal we’re working on. For us, our most recent goal has been to drop that PMI. As of May 2014, we’ll be kicking that extra monthly interest fee to the curb! I’ll explain more about our mortgage at the end, but first things first- here are a 3 easy ways to make extra money:
Cash back from Credit Cards
Many credit cards offer cash back rewards. Our card gives 5% cash back on rotating categories and 1% on all other purchases. Let me emphasize that this method is NOT one you should rely on for income; think of it as a bonus on top of what you already intend to spend based on your established budget. We have an automatic payment set up to pay off the full amount we charge every month so our card is treated as if it were a debit card; only spending money we actually have. The categories that benefit us most are groceries and gas. All it takes on your part is to sign up to get the cash back rewards. These companies make it so easy- ours even sends a text when it’s time to register for the new quarter and all we have to do is reply back and we’re registered.
If you frequent a grocery store or gas station enough, you can use their reward program alongside your credit card’s reward program to earn even more cash back. For example, Speedway has a point-based rewards program that allows you to redeem gift cards after earning so many points (ex. 25,000 points = $25 gift card). You can use your points to buy food but I’d take free gas over a 4-hour old taquito any day. The more you spend in a single transaction, the more points you get– simply filling your tank will only earn you ~150 points but if you buy a $200 fuel gift card then you’d earn 3,000 points. It’s a couple extra steps to buy the fuel gift cards and register for the rewards program but it can add up over time.
Sell stuff you don’t use
This method isn’t 100% effortless but come on… how long does it take to list something for sale? After sitting around for 2 years we realized it was silly to keep our college textbooks so we sold them and made $250. We took a look around our place to find other things we never used (set of dumbbells) and sold it on Craigslist. A big ticket item we sold was a Saab convertible that my dad gave me for my 23rd birthday. He’s really handy with cars so he’ll buy one, fix it up, drive it for awhile to get the kinks out, and then sell it for profit. I didn’t expect him to give me one of the cars but he graciously did! He knew we were working really hard to pay off our student loans so he told me I could either keep it or sell it and put the money toward debt pay off (is this a test??). We had been living in an apartment that was within walking distance to my husband’s work so two cars was very unnecessary. Therefore we sold it and jumped months ahead of our debt payoff schedule. Now, I don’t suppose you’ll be given a free car for your birthday but maybe you have a second or third car and you really don’t need it. The money you can save on insurance, gas, and maintenance can add a lot to your monthly savings.
How those extra dollars helped us
We were making double and triple payments on our mortgage while we lived in Calgary because my husband’s company paid for almost all of our expenses. After moving back to Michigan we lost my income due to me staying home with a new baby. We were only a couple thousand dollars from dropping our PMI but our new budget didn’t offer much extra cash at the end of the month. We couldn’t make double and triple payments anymore but we continued to put our extra income, whatever amount that was, toward extra principal payments. Sometimes it was $50, sometimes it was a few hundred dollars but every bit helped us reach our goal faster. Now that we’ll be dropping the PMI that payment will go toward the principal instead of interest. If we had only made minimum payments from the day we purchased our home we would still have 10 more years to go to get where we are now and it would have cost us an extra $40,000 in interest!
What methods do you use to make a few extra dollars?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.