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Here’s How to Get Some of Your Kids’ School Supplies for Free this Year

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Holy cow, is it time for back-to-school shopping already? 

Not only is it a pain, but it’s also expensive. The average parent spends nearly $125 on back-to-school supplies per kid per year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Here’s a good way to make it better: Get some of your kids’ school supplies for free. 

That’s right, free. When you sign up for a cash-back app called Ibotta, you’ll earn 100% cash back on a variety of school supplies and snacks.

This back-to-school shopping promo is a more generous version of what Ibotta always does, which is earn you cash back when you buy things. Although it’s probably best known for getting you cash back on groceries, wine and beer at your local grocery store, Ibotta is offering this back-to-school bundle through Aug. 31.

The following items are free after rebates: a three-subject spiral notebook, a 12-pack of Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils, an eraser, a box of tissues, a Del Monte fruit cup and all the ingredients you need for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The rebate items, which have a combined value of at least $20, can easily be purchased online via Ibotta through Walmart, Target, H-E-B or Shipt. You can also buy them in-store at Walmart.

To collect your $20 in free school supplies — a good deal no matter how you look at it — just download the free Ibotta app or browser extension. Your back-to-school offers should appear. Choose which of the four retailers you want to shop at. 

You’ll get your 100% cash back within 72 hours of pickup or delivery.

It takes about 30 seconds to download Ibotta on your phone. What, you don’t need free school supplies?

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He buys school supplies for two kids.

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This Company Can Help Protect You from Dark Web Hackers in As Little As 2 Minutes

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The internet can be a scary place — hackers, fraudsters and schemers are standing in the proverbial shadows, just waiting for you to drop your guard. 

And every seven seconds someone does let their guard down — which, according to a 2020 report from the U.S. FTC, resulted in more than $3.3 BILLION in identity theft and fraud losses in 2020 alone.*  

It’s way too easy to open yourself up to a credit-score destroying, identity-stealing criminal. And they know it.

Things as innocent as swiping your credit card at a gas station, connecting to a public WiFi or answering a Facebook quiz about your first pet and the street you grew up on could be handing these bad guys your personal information. And most of us don’t even realize it. 

That’s where a digital security company called Aura comes in. It guards your money, personal info and devices against identity theft and fraud all in one place. It’s the most uncomplicated way to protect yourself online. 

Safeguard Your Money, ID and Devices All at Once

Normally, if you want to protect yourself, your money and your network, you’d have to buy three products, set up three services and wade through three customer service centers to solve any problems. Talk about a mess. 

But when you sign up with Aura, you get identity theft, financial fraud and device and network protection in one subscription. For just a few bucks a month, Aura’s tech will protect you from financial, credit and identity theft, plus malware, ransomware, scam sites and more.

Here’s how it works: Aura will monitor the web  —and your credit — for leaks and breaches of your personal information, which you provide to Aura, and alert you of any suspicious changes or charges. Plus, they do this four times faster than the average identity theft product. If you do experience identity theft or fraud, you’ll be assigned a US-based personal case manager to help fix it.

And for some peace of mind, you’ll also be covered with a $1 million identity theft insurance policy for eligible losses. 

As for your devices, Aura stops malware from infecting your phone or computer and will even block you from scam and phishing sites that could steal your info. It works across Android, iOS and Windows. 

There are three plans to choose from, ranging from a basic plan to ultimate protection. 

More than one million people are protecting themselves with Aura. It takes just two minutes to sign up, and your identity, money and devices could be safer, too. 

* 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network report, U.S. FTC

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14 Side Jobs You’ve Never Heard of That Could Make You up to $500 This Week

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If you needed extra money, like, yesterday, you’ve come to the right spot.

Our team has compiled a list of creative ways you can fatten your bank account this month. Certainly, there’s something here that fits your needs.

Without further delay, here are 14 ways to make money:

1. Let This App Pay You up to $83 When You Win Solitaire Games

Lots of us already play Solitaire on our phones for fun or just to pass the time. Want to see if you can win money at it?

There’s a free iPhone app called Solitaire Cash that lets you play for real money. You could get paid up to $83 per win.

You might be thinking: There’s got to be a catch. This is definitely one of those spammy apps, right?

Wrong. There really isn’t a catch. Sure, you can pay to play in some higher-stakes tournaments, but there’s no pressure. And, in fact, there aren’t even any annoying ads.

With each game, you’ll battle it out against at least five other players. Everyone gets the same deck, so winning is totally a matter of skill. The top three players who solve the deck fastest can win real money — anywhere from $1 to $83.

Over on the App Store, it has over a million downloads and more than 15,000 ratings, averaging 4.7 stars (out of 5).To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

2. Watch Movie Previews

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Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

If we told you that you could get paid to watch videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh.

It’s too good to be true, right?

But we’re serious. A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.

InboxDollars won’t make you rich, but it’s possible to get up to $225 per month watching these videos. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately get a $5 bonus to get you started.

3. See if You Can Get Free Money From This Company

Here’s the deal: If you’re not using Aspiration’s debit card, you’re missing out on extra cash. And who doesn’t want extra cash right now?

Yep. A debit card called Aspiration gives you up to a 10% back every time you swipe.

Need to buy groceries? Extra cash.

Need to fill up the tank? Bam. Even more extra cash.

You were going to buy these things anyway — why not get this extra money in the process?

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

4. Earn up to $69/Hour Working From Home

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Neustockimages/Getty Images

Can you open an excel spreadsheet? Does earning $69 an hour sound appealing? How about the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed?

Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a CPA and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through online courses called Bookkeepers.com.

You don’t have to be an accountant or even really good at math to be successful in this business. In fact, all you need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems. The ability to stay moderately organized is helpful, too.

You can make up to $69 an hour, according to data from Intuit, the creator of QuickBooks, and you have no commute. It’s a great opportunity for parents who want a part-time job, recent college grads or anyone who wants to bring in real money working from home.

Robinson shares what it takes to be a virtual bookkeeper, plus tips for making this career work for you in his free class at Bookkeepers.com. If you stick with the classes, you could be running your own business in just a few months.

5. Get a Free $80 for Playing This Cell Phone Game

We all have our favorite ways to kill time. A good book, a good conversation, a hockey game.

Here’s another good time-killer: Playing games on your iPhone. And what if you could play for money? Real money?There’s a free iPhone and iPad app called Bubble Cash that pays you to play. You can get paid up to $80 per win!

You might be wondering if there’s a catch. But there’s really not. Bubble Cash is free to download and is completely skill-based. And it’s quite popular. It has more than a million downloads and averages a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on the App Store.

Players have won hundreds of thousands in prize money so far.

To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

6. Put $5 in the Stock Market, Get a $5 Bonus

Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and you’ll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common — they own another company.

But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.

But with an app called Stash, it doesn’t have to be. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies for as little as $1.

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1

It takes two minutes to sign up, and it’s totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “Your money’s safe.”2

Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*

7. Get Paid up to $80/Month — Just for Sharing Your Opinion

Taking surveys might not sound like the best way to make money, but if you’re just vegging out on the couch — or pretending to be interested in your partner’s new favorite show — why not click a couple buttons? It could earn you up to $80 a month. Seriously.

There are a bunch of paid survey sites out there, but one of the best we’ve found is Survey Junkie.

They’ll ask you questions about things like, what kind of laundry detergent you use, or if you prefer Pepsi or Coke. You get points for answering, and many people accumulate enough points to request a check within a few hours.

More than 10 million people already use Survey Junkie, and it has 4.5/5 stars on TrustPilot.

Give it a try by visiting Survey Junkie and clicking the “Join Now” button. It’s free.

8. Become a Mystery Shopper

Got an eye for great service? You could make money — and get the occasional free meal — as a mystery shopper.

Companies want to know the employees serving their customers are putting a good face on the brand. Because a CEO of a  huge chain can’t pull an “Undercover Boss” every week, many companies send mystery shoppers into the field to rate the customer experience.

This can be a simple way to make extra money — if you’re efficient. Here’s what to do — and what not to do — if you want to be a successful mystery shopper.

9. Search Your Wallet and Cash in on Your Dollar Bills

A crisp dollar bill being held out over a pair of blurred out sneakers.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Specifically, dollar bills with strange serial numbers — ones that aren’t easy to come by. The collectors at CoolSerialNumbers.com will pay you big bucks if you have a bill with a rare sequence in your wallet.

Turns out antique coins aren’t the only currency worth cash to collectors.

Check out their website for a full list to see if you’ve got any of these rare bills, but here’s a rundown of the sort of serial numbers these collectors are looking for:

  • 7 repeating digits in a row on $1 Federal Reserve Notes (i.e. 09999999, 77777776)
  • 7 of a kind on $1 Federal Reserve Notes (i.e. 00010000, 99999099)
  • Super repeaters on $1 Federal Reserve Notes (i.e. 67676767)
  • Double quads on $1 Federal Reserve Notes (i.e. 00009999)
  • and more!

10. Earn up to $25/Hour Delivering Food

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MStudioImages/Getty Images

Cities around the country are filled with two things: incredible restaurants and busy people.

You can help connect them by delivering food through DoorDash.

As a “Dasher,” you’ll work as an independent contractor, setting your own hours and working as much or little as you want, meaning how much you can make is up to you.

You’ll earn a $6 fee for each delivery, plus keep 100% of your tips. Depending on the day, you could earn up to $25 an hour. If you drive full time, that’s $1,000 a week!

For a real-life case, Jose Neri, a former Dasher in California, reports earning $500 to $600 a week working just lunches and dinners. They could take about two-and-a-half deliveries an hour, and users would tip between 10% and 15%.

All you need to get started is an insured vehicle or a bicycle and a smartphone. You should be at least 18 years old and have a minimum two years’ driving experience.

If you’re interested in becoming a Dasher, you can learn more here.

11. Become a Mermaid

Three mermaids are underwater, and they form a circle with their arms and tails.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Do you want to be part of their world?

We went for a swim with the real-life mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida to find out how they get paid to slip into fins and perform for kids (and kids at heart).

From mastering underwater routines to learning how to use buoyancy to your advantage, this job isn’t exactly a day at the beach. But if you can keep up, it’s every bit as magical as you’d imagine.

To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old and be able to swim 400 yards in less than 15 minutes. Mermaids’ pay starts around $10 an hour.

12. Get Paid for Your Opinion

Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys. It’s also famous for handing out free rewards points (called SBs) at random just for being a member.

You’ll get SBs for each survey you qualify for and complete that you can redeem for cash via Paypal or gift cards to a number of popular retailers, including Amazon.

Even better? You’ll earn a 500 SB (or $5) bonus when you sign up and earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.

13. Get Paid to Drink Beer

Neil Callaghan, an advanced level cicerone, currently working at Cigar City Brewing. 
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

The craft beer industry is hoppin’, so take advantage of it by, well, getting paid to visit breweries.

When you sign up as a mystery shopper, it’s your job to go to a grocery store, gas station, restaurant or, in this case, a breweries, and provide anonymous feedback.

Now, you can get paid to mystery shop — and drink — at breweries in your area through Secret Hopper. (Clever, right?)

The company is looking for detail-oriented beer-drinkers to hop around to different breweries and objectively rate and review their experiences. One Penny Hoarder gave the gig a try. He paid $16 on his visit to a local brewery. Secret Hopper paid him $20 via PayPal within a few days.

So, no, you’re not going to get rich, but you will get free beer, and that makes us hoppy.

All you have to do is sign up, then it’ll contact you when you’re needed.

14. Get a $5 Bonus to Invest in the Stock Market

woman outdoors looking at phone
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

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Owning a Home is Just the First Step. Here’s How to Afford Everything Else

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Homeownership is the American dream, right? We spend years — sometimes decades — saving up enough money for a down payment for our first home and mark it as a major milestone in our lives. 

But sorry to rain on your parade — just the down payment isn’t enough. 

Sure, you’ll get the keys and have takeout on top of a box marked “front hall closet” on your first night, but then what? You need to fill it. You need to protect it. And you definitely need to be saving up for all the leaks, breaks and “oh, sugars!” that come with that property deed. 

So How Much Do You Need?

If you’re starting from scratch, the interior designer rule of thumb is to spend between 10% and 50% of the home’s value on new furniture, appliances and decor. A totally empty $300,000 house might run up a $30,000 bill. It might be less if appliances are included, you’re bringing furniture with you, or you’re a good thrifter. It could cost more if you have expensive taste. 

The average homeowners insurance in the US on that same $300,000 home is about $1,200 per year. It’s higher in places like Texas and Florida (hello, hurricane season) and lower out west in Utah and Idaho. Natural catastrophes, the cost of rebuilding your home and even your credit score can affect the cost of your premium. 

As for emergency savings, the rule of thumb is three to six months’ worth of living expenses — definitely on the higher end, if you’re a homeowner. Realtor.com suggests 1 to 3% of your home value, so $3,000 to $9,000 stashed away for when your dog decides to eat through a wall. 

It sounds like a lot. And make no mistake; it’s definitely a big part of your home-owning investment — but it’s attainable with the right knowledge and savings tools. Here are a few ways to boost your savings and lower your home-owning costs. 

1. Make Your Sure Credit Score is in Tip-Top Shape

You probably remember this from when you were buying your home — the better your credit score, the better your mortgage’s interest rate. The same is true for homeowners insurance and credit card interest rates (this is important to think about if you open a store card to spread out furniture payments). 

The good news? A free website called Credit Sesame makes it easy to put your credit score on track to reach your goals and keep your loan payments low. We even talked to one guy, James Cooper, of Atlanta, who used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.*** He says they showed him exactly what to do — he was even able to open his first credit card.

What could adding 300 points to your score mean for your goals? It could easily save you thousands of dollars over the life of a car loan or mortgage. 

Within two minutes, Credit Sesame will give you access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

Make sure your plans don’t get sidelined by bad credit. Sign up for free (it only takes about 90 seconds) and see how much you could improve your score.

2. See if You’re Wasting $690/Year on Homeowners Insurance

You’re probably wasting money right now. And it’s probably on something you’d never expect — your homeowners insurance policy.

This isn’t something you actively think about — you just know you’re required to have it. 

The problem is, you’re paying too much. Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes. 

In fact, it saves users an average of $690 a year — or $57.50 a month. It’ll even help you break up with your old insurance company. (You’re allowed to cancel your policy at any time, and your company should issue you a refund.)

And just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you’re skimping on coverage. Policygenius will make sure you have what you need. 

Just answer a few questions about your home to see how much money you’re wasting.

3. Cut Your Other Bills to Save For More Furniture

Furnishing a house is expensive. You don’t even realize how much money you’ll need until you start pricing it all out at the store — a couch, a coffee table, a few lamps, a bookshelf, a couple side tables, an armchair or two, things to put on your bookshelf and on the wall… and that’s just in your living room! 

One easy way to come up with this money is by cutting your costs and saving the difference. For example, when was the last time you checked car insurance rates? 

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. 

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $489 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 towards a dining room set just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

4. Have a Safe Place to Save Your Emergency Fund — and Grow it 16x Faster

You’ve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. That’s bad advice when it comes to building and protecting an emergency fund.

You should be looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account. That’s 16x more helpful when you need $9,000 earmarked for future, inevitable, home repairs.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder and a homeowner who has used these tips to save money herself. 

***Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

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Before the Debt Collectors Start Calling, Do These 4 Things

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Debt happens. 

Most Americans have some sort of debt — and not all of it is good debt, like a mortgage, car loan or student loans, which are considered good investments. 

Credit card debt, medical debt, overdue bills and high interest loans are just a few of the types of bad debt that can wreak havoc on your life. They can destroy your credit, snowball into even more debt and, yep, have the debt collectors hounding you to pay up. 

So while it’s likely you’ll come across one of these bad debts in your life, there are steps you can take to make sure they don’t get out of hand — and to keep the debt collectors at bay. 

1. Get Rid of Dings on Your Credit Report and Raise Your Score

What does your credit score have to do with debt? Turns out — it can be a major factor in you getting out of debt quicker. 

If you have a low score with a few dings on your report, you won’t get access to decent interest rates on your loans. That means you’ll be paying more in interest and less on the actual loan amount — taking you sometimes years longer to pay it off and thousands of dollars more. If it’s a mortgage, the cost of your poor credit score could mean tens of thousands of dollars gone to waste.

The good news? A free website called Credit Sesame makes it easy to put your credit score on track to reach your debt-free goals. We even talked to one guy, James Cooper, of Atlanta, who used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.*** He says they showed him exactly what to do — he was even able to open his first credit card.

What could adding 300 points to your score mean for your goals? It could easily save you thousands of dollars over the life of a car loan or mortgage. 

Within two minutes, Credit Sesame will give you access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

Make sure your bad credit doesn’t give the debt collectors more ammo to use against you. Sign up for free (it only takes about 90 seconds) and see how much you could improve your score.

2. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company Insane Interest Rates

If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape and the debt collectors will set up camp on your doorstep forever…

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates — some up to 36%. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances. 

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

You don’t need a perfect credit score to get a loan — and comparing your options won’t affect your score at all.  Plus, AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes less than a minute and just 10 questions to see what loans you qualify for — you don’t even need to enter your Social Security number. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

3. Lower Your Bills to Avoid Missed Payments

If your bills are lower, there’s less of a chance you’ll miss a payment due to lack of funds. And no missed payments means no debt collectors calling you every single day. But a lot of these money-sucking bills are ones you can’t cancel.

Take your car insurance bill, for example. When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices, anyway? You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money and help you avoid missed payments.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $489 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

4. Try to Negotiate Your Payments and Get On a Payment Plan

If you went to the hospital without insurance or you haven’t met your deductible yet, doctors’ bills can be pretty steep.

Thankfully, doctors and hospitals can be willing to work with you. Some medical providers will offer a discount if you’re strapped for cash, and most are open to payment plans. So instead of $500 out of pocket today, you could be paying a little over $83 a month for the next six months. 

While it doesn’t make the debt disappear (you are still liable for these payments), a payment plan makes paying off these debts more manageable and will keep the debt collectors off your back so long as you make each monthly payment.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

***Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

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Parents: Here Are 5 Smart Uses for Your Child Tax Credit Payments

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Parents, we know what a game changer this is: Suddenly, you’re getting these child tax credit payments every month from the federal government.

The payments started landing in bank accounts in mid July — $300 a month for each child under six, and $250 for older children. Even better, these payments will keep coming each month through December!

If you’ve got a family, that money really adds up. Good thing, too — kids are expensive. The remaining five payments are coming via direct deposit on Aug. 13, Sept. 15, Oct. 15, Nov. 15 and Dec. 15. (If the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit info, you’ll get a check.) And you’ll get more money back when you file your taxes next year.

So, here’s what we think you should do with this money:

1. Stock Up on Groceries — and Get Paid 

Every parent knows that some of the realest spending decisions you make are at the grocery store: Should I buy this or that for dinner? What’s on sale? Can we afford that? 

The federal government’s child tax credit payments will certainly help you feed your family — and maybe buy some nicer cuts of meat, or that pricey ice cream you were looking at. And you may as well earn a little money back while your groceries are being bagged up. 

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying any of hundreds of different items at the grocery store. 

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart. 

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. 

Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something.  

2. Invest the Money for Your Kids

Another way to financially take care of your family is to invest. Investing is how you build generational wealth. 

If you feel like you don’t have enough money to start investing, this sudden extra money could help with that. Also, you really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth up to $200!) if you know where to look.

Whether you’ve got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.

What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $2.50 to $200 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.

3. Build Up an Emergency Fund

As a parent, the responsible thing is to have an emergency fund. But as a parent, your money is always so stretched, that’s hard to do.

An emergency fund is a stash of easily accessible money that equals three to six months’ worth of living expenses, in case you unexpectedly lose your job. And millions of us unexpectedly lost our jobs in 2020.

You can save your federal child tax credit payments in an Aspiration account, an online account where you can earn up to 20 times the average interest on your savings balance. (The FDIC reports that the average account earns just .05%.)

You can also earn up to 5% cash back on your debit card purchases. 

It takes five minutes to sign up.

4. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company 

Have you got credit card debt? Use your child tax credit payments to pay off a low-interest loan that replaces your credit card debt.

Credit card debt is the most expensive kind of debt, and your credit card company is just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

5. Look Out for Your Kids Over the Long Term

These child tax credit payments could help you afford something you haven’t bothered with until now: Life insurance.

There was a surge of interest in life insurance during the pandemic, as more Americans realized they probably needed it. 

Also, more people are seeking out no-exam life insurance because they don’t want to go to a doctor’s office for an in-person exam. Companies like Bestow use algorithms instead of medical exams to evaluate applicants.

Rates start at just $16 a month. You could leave your family up to $1 million. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without leaving your home, get a free quote from Bestow.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. As the parent of 11-year-old twins, he’s wondering: Where have these monthly child tax credit payments from the federal government been all these years?