Over the past month or so, there have been active conversations on a second wave of stimulus checks. While it would be nice, it’s not approved and is far from guaranteed. So rather than waiting on Congress, I’m going to show in this article how you can create your own version of a stimulus check--that is, put about $1,000 extra in your pocket--over the next month.
How to create your own stimulus check right now
Rather than wait on bipartisan agreement on a second stimulus package, and stimulus checks included in that, I think you should take matters into your own hands and create your own stimulus package. Meaning, free up an extra $1,000 in cash by making some smart financial moves.
Learn the best ways to invest your $1,000 here: How to Invest your First $1k
Below are some ways you can do that in the next month. Note that no one way will necessarily create $1,000 extra for you, but rather the combination of these tactics. Some will create less free money, and some will create more--it all depends on your willingness, financial situation, and drive to do it.
Sign up for a micro-savings app
Micro-savings apps most likely won’t create $1,000 on their own in a month for you, but they can certainly give you a few extra hundred dollars that you won’t notice missing. A micro-savings app is one that uses an algorithm to find extra money from your checking account and moves that money into another savings account.
One popular example is Digit, which charges $5 a month to provide this service. For some, paying the $5 is worth it, but not for others. That’s why I use Albert app, which is free (you can also sign up for their optional Genius service, which gives you a 1% APY and customized advice, among other features--but you don’t necessarily need it). In fact, over the past two weeks, I’ve saved over $100 in just micro-transactions. Each amount deposited was reasonable and I didn’t even know it was gone until I looked at Albert.
Sign up for a cash back credit card with a nice bonus
If you’re going to spend the money anyway, a great way to get some cash back is to sign up for an excellent cash back credit card that offers a great sign up bonus (more on this below). By meeting the minimum spend on that card, you’ll earn the bonus. I did this last year when I was paying my rent--I paid rent and used the same card for all of my purchases and was able to meet the minimum spend in a month.
Note that not all landlords will take credit cards, which is why you should look into Plastiq. They charge a fee to pay bills with your credit card, but sometimes they offer promotions that still put you on top when meeting the minimum spend for a cash back bonus.
Some of my favorites right now are the Chase Freedom card, which gives you a $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months and the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa, which does the same. Additionally, you can look at our full list of the best cash back credit cards to pick one that works for you--but with a good sign up bonus, you can easily create some extra cash.
Another cash-back tool you may want to start using (especially if you find yourself online shopping these days) is Earny. You can set up price alerts, track price history of items and earn up to 20% cash back when you shop online. Earny is also free to use. What’s not to love about that?! Read our full Earny review.
Double-down with a round-up app
When using a credit card (or even a debit card) for purchases, there’s usually an opportunity to round that purchase up. For instance, if you spend $4.55 at Starbucks, there’s $0.45 there that a round-up app can move into a savings account for you. So your total purchase would instead be $5. This way you can double-down on your purchase power when trying to meet the minimum spend on a credit card.
I have a few favorites, and each is good for different things. Acorns is my favorite for investing. Acorns will round up your purchases and invest the difference, and plans cost as little as $3 per month. Qapital is another one that’s great--though a bit more expensive--because they have IFTTT (If This Then That) integration. So, you can set up rules for rounding up purchases for almost anything. You can even round up by $2, $3, or $5 (so that same coffee would cost $10, but the difference would go into savings).
My favorite though, and the one I’m using now, is called Astra. It doesn’t have as many features as Qapital, but it’s free and it rounds up all of my purchases at the end of the week, and deposits that money right back into my own savings account--not a savings account with Astra, which is an awesome feature since my money is still in one place (I use Ally). Either way, get a round-up app to accelerate your earnings.
Pick up a side hustle
People talk about getting a side hustle all the time, but that’s because it’s really easy to do if you make the time for yourself. During the height of the pandemic, people were making a killing on food delivery services like Instacart, for example. So timing is also key. But you should also do something you enjoy, so you don’t burn out.
For me, it’s writing, building and managing websites, and doing SEO for my clients. And I have great clients, which makes life a lot easier. This isn’t passive income--in fact, it’s a lot of work, but it provides me a suitable income on the side. So even if you picked one thing, you could try it out for a month to come up with some extra cash. Make sure to check out our list of side hustle ideas for some more ideas.
Sell stuff you don’t need
Odds are there is a bunch of stuff sitting around your house that you don’t use anymore. My wife and I have been doing this over the past few months and have made several hundred dollars. We’ve gotten rid of things as small as books and as large as furniture that we weren’t using anymore.
Your first reaction might be that you don’t have anything you can get rid of - but I would really challenge you on that. I’d encourage you to read Marie Kondos Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if you haven’t already. While some people are sick of it, I actually found her concept of something sparking joy completely liberating. Here’s her explaining it a bit more:
Basically, if something truly sparks joy, you keep it. But if you hold it up and don’t get that feeling that it does, you can get rid of it. It’s hard to do at first, but we tend to form emotional connections to tangible things for no reason--once you rid yourself of them, you feel a lot better (and have some extra money to show for it).
Re-evaluate your insurance
Another easy way to save some extra money over the next month is to re-evaluate your insurance. For example, by raising your auto insurance premium, your monthly bill should be lower. Additionally, you should look at whether or not you have the right amount of insurance (i.e., paying for too much) or paying for unnecessary insurance products altogether.
Alternatively, you can look into changing insurance providers completely. Policygenius makes this process super-easy, and after you provide them the necessary information they’ll find you quotes for insurance products that will be similar to what you have at a lower cost.
Related: Best Home and Auto Insurance Bundle
Get strict with a budget
Another way to free up some extra cash in the next month is to create a really strict budget. Cut out things you don’t need, spend less in areas you normally spend in and really buckle down. While it may not be sustainable forever, it should a) free up extra money and b) see what is reasonable for you and if you are in fact spending too much normally.
For creating a new budget, I recommend You Need A Budget. It’s very high-touch, and you allocate all of your money to certain categories (versus projecting what you’ll spend where)--which is called zero-based budgeting.
I also strongly recommend reading Your Money or Your Life, which talks a lot about being incredibly in-touch with your money and gives you an in-depth program for reaching financial freedom in the long haul (this is honestly one of the best personal finance books available today).
Also, look into a bill-cutting service. Albert, who I mentioned earlier, has a bill cutting service for you within their Genius product--I’ve used it and saved about $30 a month on my cell phone bill. Lastly, consider changing your cell phone provider entirely. I just switched over to Mint Mobile and I’m saving $100 a month. So far, I LOVE it.
Once you start saving a good amount of cash, you may want to think about putting some of that money to work for you via investments. If you’re new to investing, we recommend downloading Stash. Sign up for Stash and get a $5 bonus after funding your account with $5. It’s an app packed with a ton of educational resources for investors and can help walk you through the process of investing with the app. To learn more about Stash, read our full review here.
You shouldn’t have to rely on a government stimulus check to put some extra cash in your wallet this coming month. While it would certainly be a nice and welcome bonus, if you try even some of the things I listed above, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own stimulus check this month.