8 Different Ways to Access Hidden Money in Your Life

If someone told you there was a stash of cash laying around in your house somewhere, would you not do everything in your power to find it? Well, we’re here to tell you there is. It may not be a wad of hundreds neatly bundled in crisp new bills with a pink bow tied around it, but believe us when we say there are little trickles of money hidden all over your life, which, when added up, can amount to something significant. Adding it up, however, is going to require a little bit of effort.

We have all become accustomed to what we perceive as the “normal” cycles of earning and spending money, and get so caught up in these ebbing and flowing rhythms, that we often forget there are other ways to access money—literally right under nose. The first task is to identify all the viable ways beyond our jobs or income in which money can be made available to us. This will call on a bit of creativity. And the next step—and this is the hard part for many—is to act on each one.

As you get on the road to becoming self-made, sure, you’ll have to think big, dig deep and be ambitious to achieve your dreams and make your fortune. But how about all the small fortunes you already have and are just not aware of?

As Kenny Rogers famously sang, “You better count your money.”

So we say get un-lazy, get resourceful and go get the money that’s laying around in your life. Here are six ways to start:

1. Scour for Gift Cards

Newsflash: gift cards never expire. Ever. This means that all those gift cards you may have hoarded over the years are valid, and can be used to pay for things instead of spending your hard-earned cash. Did it ever occur to you that you could be contributing to your savings by just doing one lap around your house to gather old holiday and birthday gift cards?

2. Audit Your Bills

They say the squeaky wheel gets the oil, right? Well, when it comes to your bills, you need to be the squeakiest. Get on the phone with your mobile phone and Internet providers and reassess your plans. Are you paying too much? Do you need all that coverage? Are you even using your full data plan? Ask yourself other questions: do I even watch cable TV, or am I just streaming from the Internet now? Should I find a bank whose transaction fees aren’t so high? Where else can you chisel off unnecessary costs in your daily life? We call it trimming the fat.

3. Collect Unpaid Invoices

This one is a no-brainer, but sometimes we sit on unpaid invoices, and live with the (oftentimes false) assumption that they will eventually be paid. To which we say—no, thank you. As Nely Galán, SELF MADE’s author and founder, always says, “in life, you have to know how to be a money collector.” Always. Instead of aiming to be Mrs. Nice Guy about it, pick up the phone and collect on your work. You will not only earn the money you are owed, but you will also earn more respect for being the kind of professional that goes after it.

Similarly, if friends or family owe you money, set up a timeframe in which they can pay you back. Be willing to have that awkward conversation.

4. Enter Contests

You don’t have to raise a round of seed capital or win a Kickstarter campaign to amass a sum of money. Sometimes, believe it or not, you can make such money from winning a contest. “Corporations, the government and nonprofits sponsor contests for women entrepreneurs throughout the year,” Nely writes. “Contests are a way to earn start-up money that you don’t have to pay back. The winnings are a prize, not a loan. It’s free money!” You got that, right? She said free.

5. Tax Breaks

Nely has more killer advice when it comes to hidden money. “State tax incentives,” she says, “are announced throughout the year and often come in response to a timely issue, such as environmental concerns or disasters. Taking advantage of government tax incentives is like going to the store with the biggest, richest stack of coupons you can imagine.” Why wouldn’t you?

6. Rally on Rebates

A rebate is an amount paid by way of reduction, return, or refund on that which has already been paid. Rebates take a certain amount of time and effort from the consumer: figuring out the rules, filling out the forms, preparing and dropping off the mailing, cashing in the check, keeping track of the paperwork while this is being done. But hey, if it’s going to get you more of that free money, why the heck not?

7. Cash in on Coupons

Coupons are currency, make no mistake. As long as you use them, of course. Go ahead, be that person. Clip your coupons with confidence, knowing that at the end of the day, it all adds up.

8. Reap the Rewards Programs

Ok. It’s high time to apply for that air miles points credit card that you keep getting mail about.  You want to compare programs? Check out this recent Wall Street Journal article that tackles the hard part for you.