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En español | Buried in that kitchen table paperwork or beneath the floor mats of the car, you could be accumulating some surprising savings — and not even know! Here are eight possible cash stashes to mine around your home and workplace:
1. Credit card points and loyalty programs. Most people save credit card points for travel, but you can earn valuable day-to-day items, even without a big balance. Every program differs, but for fewer than 10,000 points one major company currently offers DVDs, dining gift cards, cameras, computer speakers, energy-efficient light bulbs, vacuum cleaners and even that video game your grandson wants for his birthday — all with free shipping and returns.
Occasional sales give you more bang for your digital buck. Check your card’s policy to determine how you can more quickly qualify for merchandise.
2. Loyalty programs. Revisit those dusty loyalty programs to which you belong — grocery stores, pet stores, rental cars. Remember that hotel loyalty program you signed up for in the lobby last year as your husband dragged in the luggage? You might have a free night waiting for you.
3. Extra change. Car floor mats, glove compartments, dresser drawers and your spouse’s pockets or purse may not yield much at first, but be patient, and you’d be surprised how quickly these coins add up.
Your bank may have a machine that automatically counts coins and gives you full value for them. Many grocery stores have coin-counting machines that let you choose between a voucher (minus a 9.5 percent fee) to use in that store only, and a gift card (no fee) for Starbucks, CVS, Amazon and dozens of other vendors and charities.
4. Silver and gold, silver and gold... Yes, you can get cash for those out-of-style earrings and the ugly place setting you inherited from Great Aunt Betty. Sold by weight, they’ll fetch you a percentage of that day’s market value (silver was about $30 an ounce at the time of writing), minus a percentage for the buyer (expect around 20-25 percent).
Skip the “we’ll send you an envelope” companies and “one-day-only” hotel events. Instead, visit only reputable jewelers for examination and weighing that you can monitor.
5. Pretax employee benefit programs. If you’ve signed up for workplace pretax health or transit savings programs (and you should!), be sure to keep your reimbursement receipts straight. Search your desk drawers for outstanding paperwork, and sign up for the programs’ online accounts to more easily ensure you’re getting your money back. And be sure to act within the program’s time window to avoid losing your investment.
Some organizational tips: See if your program offers a debit card — if so, you may not have to submit receipts at all. Also sign up for email receipts in case you lose the paper ones. Finally, direct deposit will save you the time spent going to the bank and the risk of lost checks.
6. Insurance reimbursements. As with those tax-free accounts, be sure to submit insurance forms for yourself and family on time, and keep track electronically. Many health care companies now accept claims completely online. Next, ensure your reimbursement is correct — doctors’ networks and insurance allowances change frequently, especially for out-of-network care.
7. Trash and treasure. Craigslist, eBay and consignment shops are useful outlets for selling your stuff. Take a look around the garage and the attic for vintage clothing, vinyl record albums, furniture, tools, stamps, coins and books. Are your kids’ old rooms still full of rock band posters and unicorn figurines? Your retro items in El Paso may be exactly what a Topeka collector is seeking (ask your kids first, of course).
Besides making some extra money, you’ll gain extra space in the house. Also, if you keep a paid storage unit, consider what items inside might be worth money (before the Storage Wars guys raid it).
8. Unforgivable forgettables. Did your new TV come with a rebate offer? Send in the paperwork immediately — fine print and tedious requirements can preclude your getting your money, but mainly companies count on your forgetting altogether (and 30 to 40 percent of us do). Often, you can even track your rebate status online.
Some other common slipups:
- Did you buy that TV on a credit card that’s got a 0 percent interest introductory rate? Be sure to pay off the item before the promotional rate expires to avoid getting hit with high interest charges.
- Perhaps you changed your mind about that ill-fitting holiday dress. Don’t let it hang in the closet with the tags still on. Return it now.
- With work, staying fit and caring for loved ones, it’s easy to overlook paying a bill now and again. Unfortunately, the electric company does not overlook hitting you with a late fee, and too many can even damage your credit record.
Also of interest: Save money with our spring Savings Challenge. »