Famed economist Milton Friedman once said "There's no such thing as a free lunch." Personal finance experts Ken and Daria Dolan of Dolans.com love Milt, but are going to disagree with him on this one. To take advantage of any of the tips outlined here, the only price you'll have to pay is some legwork.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), one out of eight people in the U.S. have unclaimed assets ... with average claims of $1,000! If you have a 1 in 8 chance of getting some free bucks, isn't that worth exploring? Anything from a forgotten bank savings account you had as a kid to a utility bill deposit from a long-ago rental may still be waiting for you to an inheritance from a long lost relative. Most unclaimed assets are turned over to state governments until they're claimed or until a certain number of years pass ... so get a move on! Visit www.unclaimed.org to start your state search, or write to your state treasurer directly.
If your child or grandchild is about to enter college, be sure not to miss free money in the form of scholarships. That's free money you don't want to miss! College scholarships can be as little as $500 or as high as tens of thousands. It's free money, so apply for every scholarship you can find! Even small scholarships add up, so be sure to contact local organizations such as the Rotary Club and women's civic organizations. Free online services such as www.Fastweb.com offer a ton of sources for finding scholarships for which your child may qualify. Also, be sure to check with your child's high school (as well as his top college picks) for even more scholarship opportunities.
Your boss may not have given you a raise this year, but he still might give you some free money. If your employer offers 401(k) matching contributions, you're getting just that! So, if you are lucky enough to still have 401(k) matching (many employers have cut this benefit during this recession) be sure you are enrolled, and be sure you contribute the maximum amount they will match. Otherwise, you're missing out on free money every year--money that will grow exponentially over the years and that you can enjoy once you retire.
There's hardly a store you can go into these days that doesn't ask you to join its reward program. Sometimes they come in the form of "tickets" that the merchant stamps or punches each time you make a purchase. Once you've gotten so many punches, you earn a free something. Others let you earn points for every dollar you spend, then let you redeem the points for free stuff. Rewards clubs are offered on everything from movie theaters to restaurants to retail stores. Sign up and earn some freebies every time you spend.
Credit cards are worse than banks these days when it comes to "nickel and diming" you to death. So, let's turn the tables on them for a change and talk about how you can get some free money from your credit card company. While some rebate programs are getting stingier as credit standards tighten, there are still some very attractive cash-back (free money!) cards worth checking out. Examples include American Express' Blue Cash program, which can earn you up to 5% back on everyday purchases such as groceries and gasoline and Discover card, which pays you cash back on every purchase.
Another way to get free money from your credit card company and other places with which you do business is to sign up for the Thank You Network (www.thankyou.com). You earn points for every dollar you spend with participating credit cards and retailers, such as Citibank, Expedia and more. You then use those points to buy things on the Thank You Network. You can "buy" everything from an iPod to office equipment to a $100 gift card to your favorite retailer (like Barnes & Noble, Gap and Home Depot to name a few). Free money! What's not to like?
There's been a lot of talk about government grants during these days. Much of it is rubbish or flat out scams, but there are opportunities to lock up some free grant money if you know where to look. These are NOT federal assistance nor are they loans. (You don't have to pay them back.) A grant is simply an award given to an individual or organization that will have a public benefit. For example, business grants can help support small businesses, which in turn can help the economy as a whole.
In 2008, more than $100 million in grant money went to small businesses. You may qualify for a business grant simply if you want to locate your business in a small town. Your may qualify if you want to start a business in an area that needs an economic push. You may qualify if your business employs the disabled. The list goes on and on.Search www.grants.gov for any "hidden" -- AND FREE -- funds that could be available to you right now!
There are billions of dollars in housing grants offered including those aimed at helping first-time homebuyers, low-income renters and those with poor credit. Home renovations are also often subsidized by housing grants. Currently, there are grants to cover replacement costs for heating and cooling repairs in your home. There are other grants available for weatherization and even energy-related home repairs. Find out more at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development web site at www.hud.gov. While HUD does not directly offer grants to individuals, it works with local governments and other organizations to assist individuals in finding grants and other assistance.
There are grants aplenty targeted at helping women with a variety of needs. For example, there are grants for women who want to get a college degree or start a business. There are even some that will help subsidize a lower-income household. Some grants are modest (e.g. the Amber Grant's $500) while others offer awards in the tens of thousands -- the latter of which are most common for women-owned businesses.
You may be eligible to receive a grant based on your ethnic background. These grants mainly offer scholarship-type funds, but there are also others available for those starting a new business. The top ones include the United Negro College Fund for African Americans, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Institute for Latin-Americans, and the Tribal Colleges Education Equity Grant for Native Americans.
It's no secret: Green is "in!" And, thanks to federal money reserved for renewable energy, in an effort to decrease national energy consumption, there is "green" grant money to be had for both small and large businesses ... as well as individuals. These grants are designed to help offset the costs of installing renewable energy systems. For example, if you're a homeowner and are about to convert your hot water heating system into a solar-powered one, you may very well qualify for a green grant. The exact amounts of these types of grants vary from state to state; but generally speaking, the grant can cover 50% -- and sometimes more -- of total project costs.
If you're the head of a family in need, then a personal grant may be for you. So far in 2009, more than $160 million in federal grant money has provided temporary assistance to struggling families. Funds can help with childcare expenses and even utility bills and groceries. Personal grants are generally awarded through your local, state or federal government branches, but can sometimes be found through private organizations. Be sure to check out www.govbenefits.gov for more information on government grants, along with benefits and assistance programs to help needy families.
If you're struggling to pay for healthcare due to a lack of sufficient health insurance, you may qualify for a health grant to cover your medical costs. A health or medical grant can help cover a myriad of expenses -- from hearing aids and eye glasses to dental work and even prosthetics. Grant amounts can run from $5,000 to $500,000. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) manages over 300 grant programs. These programs cover medical costs, transportation, at-home services and even Medicare and Medicaid costs for the elderly and needy. Check out www.hhs.gov for more info.
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