Ideas For Making Extra Money (And A Finances Update)

My last finance update (for 2013) was a slightly depressing one. It was great that we managed to spend less than we made, but…we had a bit of trouble paying down debt and increasing our savings. We did do a few things right, most notably: decreasing our interest rates by at least 50%, cutting the cost of a number of our bills, and increasing how much extra money I was contributing to the household. :)

Then there was my tragedy of plane ticket buying which I have since realized wasn't too much of a tragedy at all. No, I wasn't paying $300 for a flight overseas, but the prices I have seen since my purchase have definitely been on the rise (minus a few mistake fares that I would have missed out on anyway). Overall, it has given us a bit more time to save for discretionary expenses like food, hotel, travel (while in Europe), and souvenirs (if we so choose). Despite not buying both plane tickets together, it was not an altogether fail on my part. Just an oversight. (Or an excuse to leave Justin at home!)

So far this month, we have spent more than our usual amount, but we have also (somehow!) managed to stay below our income level. Some of this is probably due to Christmas money gifts as well as Justin's end of the year bonus, but other income has also most likely contributed to how well we are doing this month. I thought I'd share a few of our "passive income" strategies that seem to be paying off for us.


1. Bank BonusesBack in June, Justin and I got a letter from Chase bank offering a $200 bonus for opening a checking account. We received the $200 almost immediately, but we had to leave our money in the bank for 6 months. Well…guess what?! It's been 6 months! Yay!

Another fun thing we did (fun because we got a cash bonus) was open a checking AND savings account with Capital One 360 during their 2013 Black Friday promotion. After opening a savings account and contributing $500, we received a bonus of $75 AND interest (.75% APY). With our checking account, we contributed $100, used the debit card 5 times and 50 days later we had an extra $125 plus .20% interest. That is, we had nearly $200 extra in a month's time! In fact, the knowledge that we can get interest from a checking account has definitely encouraged us to look at moving our current main checking account over to Capital One 360. The interest isn't much, but it is definitely fun to see the little addition at the end of the day (quarter or whatever),

While neither Chase nor Capital One 360 are currently offering those bonuses, I do think it is wise if you need a bit of extra cash to watch out for those deals. It may not seem like a lot, but it definitely adds up over time.

2. Phone Apps – I've told you about them before, but since that time I have added another two to my list: GapNSnap and ReceiptPal

If you find yourself with extra time but very little money, GapNSnap is an awesome app for making a little bit extra. Unfortunately, since 2013 the rules have been changed, so you won't be able to reap all of the benefits from the app that I currently do, but you can still look into it. More or less, you download the app, tell the app which store you are at, and take pictures of tags for grocery items that are out of stock. You don't have to be in a grocery store, but the items must be items you would find in a grocery store. The way it works for those who have had the app since 2013 is that you get $5 per 100 items you snap pictures of along with points for each good snap. You can shoot up to 300 items and make $20 a week or shoot more than 300 items a week and be invited to join a special elite group of snappers that can make upwards of $40 a week depending on your time investment and commitment to snapping. The points you get can be traded in for a variety of rewards on the GapNSnap website. So not only am I making cash (that is immediately deposited into my paypal account), but I am also earning rewards! How sweet is that?! Unfortunately, new users of the app will begin by just earning points toward rewards. You have to take a certain number of snaps to be moved up to the cash and point earning category. :-/

The other app I use is ReceiptPal. It works just like ReceiptHog except that you can take pictures of any (and every!) receipt. There is one limitation though: you can only take pictures of 8 receipts a week. (This isn't actually a problem if you have a spouse that lets you put the app on their phone too. You can't combine accounts, but you can get credit for every receipt you have.) You can earn up to 200 points a week (300 in January), and the points can be used for a variety of rewards including Amazon gift cards (my favorite).

3. Amazon Payments – So your parents thought you needed a gift card for Christmas and they bought you one of those useless MasterCard, Visa, Or Amex gift cards. You can't use them to pay for bills, you constantly forget them at home, and you just know that you will forget to use them before the money starts dwindling due to "lack of use". This is where Amazon Payments comes into play…specifically if you have a spouse or someone trustworthy to send money to.

With Amazon Payments, you input your card information into the system, wait a day, then send a payment to whomever you would like that also has an amazon payment account. (Note: Don't send any more than what you have available on the card.) All of a sudden you go from having an unusable piece of plastic to cash (specifically if you send it to your significant other or someone who can forward the money on to your bank account). You can do this any number of times, but you need to make sure you stay below 200 transactions and $20,000 in transfers per year otherwise this free "gift card into cash practice" will be reported to the government and you will have to pay taxes on it. (According to Amazon Payments, it can take 5-7 days for money to be transferred to your bank account not including holidays or weekends.)

Another great thing about Amazon Payments is that if you open a new credit card for the points or the extra cash bonus, you can (more often than not) spend your money through Amazon Payments and then use the money you "spent" to pay down the credit card. Awesome, yes?! I certainly wish I had known about this strategy prior to now! 

4. Buying Gift Cards – I'm actually new to this strategy, but apparently (for example) this week (through the 25th) at Office Max, you can buy 2 $300 MasterCard gift cards (usually $600 +fees) for $580. This is great if you want additional points on your credit card and especially if you have a Chase Ink credit card (or one that gives you 5x the points for purchases at office supply stores). All of a sudden, you have an extra $20 in your account plus points for travel/cashback!! If you do this multiple times (depending on how much money you have available to you, of course), you could "make" even more! It is one $600 transaction per person per day per store.


So, along with using the above strategies to bring in extra money to the household, we were able to combine a sale and rebate to get an expensive lens for much less than retail cost. Plus, I got to cash out my ReceiptHog for the first time this month, we won a $500 gift card, AND we got to cash out on our Venture cash back credit card for a $400 Amazon gift card. Can I have more months like this, please?! ;)

What strategies do you use to make your money go further? Are you having a good month financially or could you use some help? Have you done anything on my list before?

**These are my recommendations, and I get nothing if you join or take advantage of any of the current offers provided by the services I mention on this post.

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