Is Free Money a Lie?

Is There Such A Thing As A Free Lunch?

Common wisdom states that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but in today’s world that’s simply not true. There are a number of different ways to qualify for free money, and only some of them are ever advertised. Here are a number of ways to bring in free money.

As a word of caution, be careful when exploring free money options. There are hundreds of “free money” scams that require your personal information, want an up-front payment or subscription fee or simply exist to trick you. Always be careful to investigate your sources so you aren’t tricked by lookalike sites and scams.

1: Unclaimed Funds

Visit www.unclaimed.org and check to see if you have any unclaimed funds. What are unclaimed funds? It can be anything. Maybe you made a deposit on a utility bill and canceled your service without using it up. Maybe you had a savings account you simply forgot about. Maybe a distant relative died, and you’re the closest living heir to their inheritance. In most cases, unclaimed property is given over to the state to monitor until a certain number of years have passed, whereupon the state claims the funds. If you can find and claim it prior to this expiration date, the funds are yours.

2: Government Grants

The government has a deep interest in stimulating the economy. To do this, it offers quite a few government grants to qualifying small businesses. If you own a small business, you may qualify for an incentive. Even if you don’t, you may be able to make a small tweak to qualify. One such tweak is actively employing disabled people, for example. Another common grant comes with switching to renewable energy and becoming a green business. To see if you qualify, check www.grants.gov. Make sure you’re using the official .gov site, and not an imitator that will steal your personal information!

3: Rewards and Points Programs

These days, it seems like almost every retailer, credit card, bank and sports team has a loyalty program. With the right cards, you can earn points on every product you buy, every mile you drive and every dollar you spend. Make a list of the retailers you use on a regular basis — grocery stores and gas stations are good places to start — and investigate their rewards programs. You might have to register for a credit card, or you might only need to sign up for an e-mail newsletter. Once enrolled, your normal daily habits earn you points that you can spend on gift cards and discounts.

Another good source of loyalty programs are credit cards, though you should avoid signing up for a card with a high interest rate just because it has an attractive points program. That is, unless you’re certain you’ll always pay off your balance. The last thing you want to do is pay more on interest than you earn in rewards.

4: 401(k) Matching

Many employers offer a savings plan for retirement, typically a 401(k). These investments are unique in that, for many employers, the business will pay a contribution for every dollar you contribute. Add $100 from each paycheck, and your employer will add $100 as well. This is much simplified, and the exact details will vary from employer to employer, but the basic premise is the same. Contribute to your own future, and your employer will give you free money. The best part is, the more money you have in the investment fund, the more it earns in interest. The longer you keep up contributions, the more you’ll earn in free money over time.

5: College Scholarships

Scholarships are familiar to anyone investigating the high expenses of a college education. You can’t simply apply for a scholarship and cash it out for something else. However, if you — or your children — are looking at a post-secondary education, scholarships are the way to go. There are thousands of scholarships available, and thousands of websites dedicated to providing information about them. Apply to as many as possible and you’ll end up with a cheap — or even free — education.

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