5 Easy Ways to Add $50 to Your Pocket

By David Ning on 1 March 2012 (Updated 18 September 2014) 18 comments
Photo: Photoctor

In terms of the economy, things seem a little better than a couple of years ago, but we are kidding ourselves if we think everything is hunky dory. The media outlets can talk all they want about a recovery, but chances are good that your family can still use some help. Here are five ways you can gain $50. You won't be rich overnight by doing any of what I've outlined below, but the money saved is nothing to sneeze at. (See also: 10 Monthly Bills You Can Slash)

1. Pause Your Memberships for Part of the Year

Chances are good that you can live without some of your memberships and subscriptions. Even if you do utilize them, it's likely you don't need them all months of the year. Consider canceling them for part of the year and reactivating them during others. Take your gym membership, for instance. Do you really need a gym during the summer when it's more enjoyable to stay active outdoors? Can you cancel your membership before the Thanksgiving weekend and start it back up in January if you won't be thinking about losing weight during the holiday season?

2. Cut Your Home Services

You've likely heard of the suggestion to cut your cable TV and give the Netflix free trial coupon a go, but it's hard to give up the sports channels, isn't it?

If so, why not cancel your subscription a few days before you go on that annual vacation? Since you will be gone for a week or maybe even two, you won't be needing the service anyway. When you come back, you'd likely take a few days to recuperate. Add another week or two to give Netflix a serious try, and you are looking at one less cable TV bill, even if you hated not being able to channel surf.

3. Start Using Your Credit Card to Pay for Everything

My friends used to make fun of me when I whipped out my credit card for tiny purchases, but it's a smart move as you are responsible with your spending. Using your credit card to pay is actually faster, and the rewards from just your small purchases can add up to big bucks after a few months.

From bills to that candy bar purchase to lunches out, you should be thinking about how to put everything on your credit card. And always ask whether you can use your credit card, too. Last time I bought a car, the dealership allowed me to put $5,000 on the credit card while paying the rest with a check. Since my card offers 1% cash back, I got $50 just for asking.

4. Refinance

If you still haven't refinanced your 6% 30-year fixed-rate loan, you owe it to yourself to get this done. Work out the numbers, because this can be more complex than you might think. But you may come out ahead even if you borrow money to come up with the sum underwater borrowers need to refinance. A home equity line of credit, your savings, 0% balance transfer credit cards, and even family members could be potential sources of funds. Though this is more work than the other suggestions, the reward is potentially much greater than $50 too.

5. Get Rid of Redundancies

We don't often think about it, but we often pay for the same thing in different ways. Take internet access, for instance. You have it at work, there is free WiFi in many stores, everybody in your family has that data plan, and you have internet access at home. Sure, it's convenient, but do you really need to be paying for so many different types of access?

An alternative way to think of spending is to ask what benefit you are actually getting out of an expense. You may not like mowing your lawn, and paying for someone to do what you hate is perfectly fine. But if you pay for a gardener just so you can go work out at the gym, then it seems like a waste of money.

It's your money, but spending a bit of time to optimize how you spend it will let you live the life you want much more easily.

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Guest's picture

The steps in this article can indeed help with monthly cash flow. However, I have a few additional thoughts...

- Although paying for everything on credit cards can earn the borrower rewards, and is a fantastic way to leverage the lender's money to your advantage, it is very important to pay off the full balance each month before any interest is charged. Paying interest can quickly negate any potential benefits (to the borrower) and quickly put you in a negative cash position.

- Although refinancing might result in a lower monthly payment, the borrower should carefully weigh the long-term impacts to their financial future. My recent article "Why are Lenders so Eager for us to Refinance?" (on my website) covers this very issue.

- A lot of money can also be freed up during the month by spending wisely and strategically (i.e. find the lowest prices, minimize driving to every store, etc). The best way I know of is shopping online. Using a cyber mall like the one explained on my website provides many benefits including efficiencies of time and money. And, of course, this ties in with Item 3 about using credit cards more.

- Another bit of advice I give to people is to track their cash flow. Actually seeing your income and expenditures tallied on paper can be a real eye opener. Seeing every transaction listed gives great insight about where money is coming and going. Using an automated money monitoring system (again, see my website) makes this effortless to do, shows account balances all in one place, and instantaneously shows the long-term financial impact of every spending decision and financial transaction the user makes or is thinking about making (financial forecasting).

Thanks for this helpful article about freeing up more money since so many people are hurting financially, and are desperate for ways to improve their cash position.

Guest's picture
Taline

I completely agree with the additions that you made! I use an AMEX rewards card and get back about $1000/year from it in cash rewards. I am however disciplined enough to pay off the balance at the end of the month so as to not accrue any interest charge as that would defeat the entire purpose of using it :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Your suggestion about using cards for every small purchase may benefit you personally in cash savings, but think about one way these companies make their money - they charge an even higher percentage to the business owners who accept your credit card. This HURTS small, local business owners, and even large companies add this cost to the price of the goods you buy. So who wins?

Guest's picture

#3 - Yes, so long as your credit card offers rewards. Some restrict it by type of purchase, or have to enroll in a program before you get the rewards. My husband and I are planning on buying a motorcycle in a year or two. I'm planning on putting it on my credit card, if I can, to score the cash back bonus.

Guest's picture

I've been using #3 for a while now - might as well get a little cash back for those daily purchases that you're going to have to make anyway!

Guest's picture
Guest

It is my understanding that when merchants agree to accept a credit card they can't put a limit on the size of the purchase. Call the folks at Visa or MC or AE and check it out. Then you might be able to save much more on a big ticket purchase

Guest's picture
Marissa

Dave Ramsey once said, "Rich people don't use credit cards." I would easily trade the burden of keeping and managing a credit card for $50.

Guest's picture

I'm a firm believer in using my credit card whenever possible. The rewards are awesome! So long as you're disciplined in paying the full bill every month - why not take advantage of it!

Guest's picture

Awesome advice. Get the a card where you can get 2% back on purchases so that car purchase rebate would've been $100 instead of $50.

I'm also in the process of refinancing to a 15 year fixed 3.5% loan..no closing costs....can't beat it...no brainer.

Donna Freedman's picture

I'm with you re credit cards: If I can get rewards, then I'll charge my purchases. I do think it's vital to remind yourself that you DO have to pay this in full at the end of the billing cycle. Credit sometimes gives you this feeling of possibility -- hey, I could buy a round for all my friends even thought I've got only $20 in my wallet! -- vs. reality.
That said: I'm about to go visit my daughter and enjoy taking her and SIL out to dinner. I'm bringing along $250 worth of gift cards that I got from my rewards credit card. I'm also bringing a movie gift card so we can catch a film together.

Guest's picture
Marianne

Lots of credit card controversy! :) We too use our credit card for everything

Guest's picture
Guest

I quit reading once I saw credit card involved. Bad financial advice. No credit card ever if you plan to save any money.

Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

Using #5 is a great idea. If you need internet access at your house, you can hook up your smartphone to the computer and tether.

Guest's picture
Greg

Spending $5,000 to get $50 is not wise money management. Putting that $5,000 on the credit card just puts you deeper in debt. If you can't pay the bill in full when it comes due, you'll get charged interest. If you can pay it in full, why put it on the card in the first place? Just so you can get $50? There are better ways to get $50. Such as cutting expenses, like dining out or transportation costs. Don't go out to eat as often and (if possible) use public transportation or walk or ride a bike. With current fuel pices, it wouldn't take long to save $50, Use your home air conditioner less and use fans more and open windows. I also know from personal experince that eating lower on the food chain will also save you a lot of money. More veggies and less meat, eggs and dairy will save you a lot of money. Not only at the cash register but also at the doctor's office.

Parenting and Money's picture

Using credit cards is a good advise but you need to specify that it must be paid in full each month. This only works for the disciplined and mature consumer. If you don't pay the card in full each month, then you defeat the purpose of saving and you are going into debt.

Guest's picture
Mike Parham

There are some good ideas in the article but credit cards are rarely a good option for the average person. Most people will not pay off their credit cards every month. The average person will definitely not be able to pay 5,000 off in one month. You may get 1% cash back, but most cards carry 20%+ on the card. The credit card company is not going to give you 1% cash back unless they are taking more than 1% from you. You lose when you use credit cards; they just make it more convenient for you to buy things you can’t afford otherwise. If you want to win in the long run, you need to take a few years and hit your debt hard and get rid of it. Once the credit card bills and various loans and other debts are gone, you have more money to invest for the future. Thinking long term instead of short term usually has much greater rewards, but you have to have patience and be diligent. These companies don’t get as big as they are without being good at getting at your money in creative ways.

Guest's picture
Don Antle

#3 Its a great idea to benefit from credit card business's point programs indeed. Being in debt management/consolidation business I help every one of my clients pay their bills on time. It is an extremely hard task to accomplish. Statistically 58 million adults admit to not paying all of their bills on time, and nearly 15% of Americans have been late making a credit card payment. Many people find it a great opportunity to achieve points so they spend the money on the little things, but their cash "burns a hole in their pocket". In 2009 alone credit card companies brought in 20.5 billion in just penalty fees, not interest, just people not paying their bills on time.
David has a great idea and many should follow it if their budget and determination fits. This was a great article thanks a lot.

Guest's picture

Great tips! I myself follow the one about putting everything on your credit card and using the rewards after I have paid it off. Both of my credit cards offer cash credit for a certain amount of points and even better, for a few amount of points, I can get a credit towards my bill making my payment lower. I love it.