When it comes to government hand-outs designed to stimulate the economy, would you rather receive a check like the economic stimulus in 2008 or slightly increased pay checks over a long period of time, like the economic stimulus in 2009 and 2010 (the Making Work Pay credit)? While small increases might end up incorporated into typical spending and saving without much additional thought, a lump sum usually inspires the question: Should I deposit the money into a savings account, pay off debt, or spend it?
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This is a dilemma most people would like to have, but as of right now there are no plans in the works for an economic stimulus in 2011. Rather than wait for another government gift, here are several suggestions for creating your own stimulus check.
1. Cash in your cash back. If you take advantage of cash back credit cards to earn rewards on the money you would be spending regardless of whether you had such a card, contact the credit card issuer. Although some credit card companies distribute earned rewards only once each year, others will issue a check or a statement credit when requested.
2. Work more hours. Many employers allow you to devote more of your time and effort in exchange for more money, otherwise known as "working overtime." Take advantage of this opportunity. Assuming an annual salary of $40,000 or $20 per hour, and a benefit of earning time-and-a-half for working beyond 40 hours a five-day work week, you could earn an extra $7,500 by working an average of one extra hour a day for one year.
3. Refinance your mortgage. If you have equity in your house and you qualify for a lower interest rate, you could save money on your monthly mortgage payments and turn your equity into cash. This is not always a positive move for the long term, but the option exists for homeowners who need cash right away. Borrowing from yourself is often better than borrowing from someone else.
4. Turn your hobby into a business. A friend of mine has discovered his interest and talent in photography. For several years he had been taking photographs for his own enjoyment, but he recently began selling his services as a wedding and portrait photographer on weekends and occasional evenings. This doesn't interfere with his corporate day job; in fact, some of his co-workers are now his customers. If you like building computers, knitting, or making jewelery, there are many ways to earn some money doing what you enjoy just by informing friends in your social network (in person and virtual) that you are available.
5. Become a tutor. If your knowledge doesn't immediately lend itself to creating products or services you can sell, you can sell your knowledge. In today's competitive academic environment, parents of middle school and high school students are looking for tutors who will help increase their child's GPAs and SAT scores. You need only a few students a week to earn a couple hundred dollars a month. Science and mathematics are always in demand, but you can also do well if you have skill with musical instruments, test-taking, or foreign languages.
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6. Sell your extra stuff. Everyone has unnecessary or unwanted items around the house, used for nothing other than taking up space. Get rid of them. Garage or yard sales are still popular events, but I prefer online options like eBay and Amazon Marketplace. You can earn (or recoup) hundreds of dollars by selling your college text books online, even if it has been over a decade since you've used them. With an iPods, is it necessary to keep hundreds of compact discs?
7. Get a second job. You may not have the extra time, but there are many ways to make a second job work for you. For example, if you pursue a bar tending license, you can earn several hundred dollars a week by working in a local bar a few nights a week. If the bar is popular and you're adept at the job, that could mean several hundred dollars a night.
8. Cut back your spending. This may be the standard financial advice you could find anywhere, but if you're struggling with money right now and could benefit from an economic stimulus, it's time to take this idea seriously. Analyze your spending, cut back on luxuries like cable television and dining out, and take smart steps to reduce your energy consumption. This stimulus will reward you over time. No one can predict the next time the government will create an economic stimulus, so don't wait around. Stimulate your personal economy by earning more or saving more of your own money.
Luke Landes writes for Consumerism Commentary, where he encourages discussions about money and consumer issues. Consumerism Commentary regularly tracks and reviews the best online savings accounts and other financial products.