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Getting a handle on your finances is an important aspect of living a financially free life. Most often, the emphasis is usually on cutting back expenses in order to make ends meet, but what if I told you there was another way? Yes, cutting back on expenses is a great place to start. But, adding more money to your bottom line will not only give you the financial freedom you seek, it will also allow you the freedom to maintain your current lifestyle. The following are 15 creative ways to make extra money.

1. Sell Free Stuff from Craigslist

Craigslist is a great place to exchange goods and services and, for the most part, it is usually done for money. However, a little known fact is that craigslist is also a great place to get freebies. Whether someone is getting rid of something because they no longer have room for it or they have to abruptly leave their home, city, or state; there are some rare gems that you can resell for a decent return. The key is to look for free stuff on Craigslist that is currently selling on Craigslist or elsewhere. Some items will be in great shape but if not, spruce it up and resell either on Craigslist, a flea market, or a garage sale.

2. Sell Your Photos

Do you have a keen eye? Are your photos museum-worthy? Well, if you answered yes or no to any of those questions then you can sell your photos to stock photo agencies like Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe and other similar companies. It really doesn’t matter if you are a professional or novice; you still have the opportunity to make some money. Most work on a per download basis where you get paid a percentage every time someone downloads your picture.

3. Rent Out Your Room

If you have a spare room in your living space and want to generate some side income, consider renting it out. Use Airbnb to put your home to work for you, whether you wish to rent out your entire home or a single room. Think about this…If you’ll be traveling a lot this year, rent out your home to make some money while you’re away that can help pay for all of those adventures. That sounds like a great way to make some extra cash and travel for near free, if you ask me. And don’t worry, there are security protections in place that help make this option less terrifying than most would think.

4. Sell Your Skills

Do you have a voice that Simon Cowell would pay a compliment to? Are you a talented graphic designer that can take any concept and bring it to life? Are you an artist who can give Michelangelo a run for his money? If so, sites like Task Rabbit, Fiverr, and Thumbtack are great platforms to sell your skills. These aren’t only limited to those with creative skills; you can sell editing services, research services, typesetting, and the list goes on.

5. Teach Classes Online

Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned professional, there is something that you are good at! I am stating this as fact because even if it’s something you have never gotten credit for, chances are you have a skill that others may find valuable. Using this skill to make some extra income is possible thanks to platforms like Udemy. Many top experts use this as a lucrative way to earn passive income but you don’t have to be a top expert to take advantage of this option.

6. Become a Field Agent

You may think I’m talking about the FBI, but I am actually talking about the Field Agent app. You simply sign up for an account and do small tasks around town for different clients. Your task can range from checking prices at the local supermarket to conducting surveys. You get paid based on the assignment and you get to choose which you want to participate in.

7. Become a Secret Shopper

If you have a great memory, can pay attention to details, and report on what you see and experience, then making money as a secret shopper will be a cinch for you. Becoming a secret shopper is as simple as you registering with a company that provides that service, then going undercover to different stores and reporting your experience as a customer. You are paid for your insight and while you are at it you can enjoy some free meals, traveling and shopping. Not only are you earning money and perks but you are also helping to set the tone for how real clients should be treated.

8. Offer to Babysit for Busy Professionals

Babysitting may seem like an obvious place to start when wanting to make some extra money and you may be thinking that you are not cut out to babysit, but here’s the twist. Look for moms and dads who are busy professionals who have small children under five. They will most likely tell you that they don’t remember the last time they were able to enjoy a quiet night out. Offering your services to this niche population will not only be a lucrative undertaking, but an easy job to do as well because chances are you will be simply house-sitting as the children sleep. If you have extensive experience in child care, consider signing up for sites like Care.com where you can set your schedule of availability.

9. Give Your Opinion

When you were a child, you might remember your parents telling you to “mind your own business,” but as an adult taking heed to this advice can cost you. This is because you can get paid to mind other people’s business. There are companies that will pay you to participate in focus groups, phone surveys, online surveys, and even product trials.

10. Join a Direct Selling Company

Companies like Avon and Mary Kay have stood the test of time and they allow you to start your own business for very low money. Becoming a sales rep for a direct selling company is one of the easiest ways to earn some money, especially if you’re selling something you use and/or love.

11. Drive People Around

You can really make a decent living becoming a driver for either Lyft or Uber. If a living isn’t what you are after, driving people around can still give you that needed boost in your finances by only working part-time.

12. Get Paid to Listen

If you love music, you’ll love this gig. Simply head over to Slicethepie.com and start reviewing unsigned artists and bands to earn some extra cash. Your payment per review is based on the quality of the reviews you turn out on the site, so it may take a little time to build up your reputation. But according to Slicethepie, “The better your review, the bigger the bonus payment.” The site also offers a referral program where if any of your friends sign up using your referral code and write reviews, then you’ll receive bonus payments for every review they submit.

13. Deliver Meals

Join apps like GrubHub or Postmates and deliver to-go food on your free nights or weekends. You also have the opportunity to get tips and the freedom to make your own schedule.

14. Clean Out Your Closet

We’ve all stepped up to the consignment store counter to find out that the sweater from J Crew we never had the chance to wear is only worth $3. Womp. By selling your excess or used clothing on apps like Poshmark, you have the freedom to set your price and wait. Poshmark even provides the shipping label for you. If it doesn’t work out, you can always head back to your local consignment store or put the items on Craigslist.

15. Become a Dog Walker

Sign up with sites like Rover.com or Wag! to walk dogs or care for pets and earn some extra cash. Sign on at your convenience and help out local pooches whose owners are stuck at work or out of town on business. If the apps don’t service your area, contact local grooming and boarding to let them know you are available for pet sitting or dog walking.

Do you know of any creative ways to make money? Share your ideas in a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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Scary Good Ways to Reap Halloween Savings

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

Save Money on Halloween…

Are you ready for Halloween? Before you hit the party supply store, we have some great tips to  help you save money on Halloween this year.

Last year the National Retail Federation reported that Americans were spending almost $3 billion on Halloween costumes and just over $2 billion on candy! As part of our #LiveFreeBankFree movement, we think there’s a better way, and wanted to share some scary good ways to help you reap some serious Halloween savings without eliminating an ounce of fun.

Decorating

Want to turn your home into a haunted house for a night? Sure you do! Get crafty and DIY your own décor to save. The best way to keep it simple is to pick a theme for your Halloween decorating, so everything from your candy to your costume and party supplies will look cohesive. We found an awesome blog post on savvysassymoms.com that has some simple, cheap Halloween decorating ideas (our fave is the boo-tiful marshmallow ghosties made from a lollipop and marshmallows). And if you’re not into DIY, we recommend checking out Oriental Trading’s Halloween Sale for some cheap party supplies and Halloween decorations.

Food

Every great Halloween party needs some frightful food and drinks. But food and drinks can eat up your budget rather quickly if you’re not careful and fearful of getting creative. To help you out, we found a great post that features 24 wicked good Halloween appetizers and breaks down the cost per serving of each. Need even more inspiration? Check out this Halloween Food Ideas Pinterest board for some spooktacular recipes. We hope you’re starting to get a taste of all the Halloween savings available to you!

 

Music

No Halloween is complete without some spooky sounds and songs. For Apple users, check out the Halloween Spooky Sound Box app, which gives you a variety of tunes for Halloween. You can also find some frightfully awesome sounds on YouTube to play from your mobile device or laptop, like this one that has 75 minutes of old school Halloween sound effects.

Costumes

One of the best parts about Halloween is figuring out your Halloween costume, and you don’t have to buy a ready-made costume to make an entrance. Our first Halloween costume tip is to take advantage of all of the unused costumes that may be filling up the closets of your friends and family members and do a swap. If that’s too much of a hassle, here are a few budget-friendly Halloween costume ideas you can make on your own:

  • Mummy: Just wrap yourself with toilet paper…over and over and over.
  • Ghost: Grab an old sheet and cut a few holes in it. Done.
  • Nerd: You could grab most of these supplies at a thrift store or dollar store: bowtie, button down shirt, tight pants, and glasses – don’t forget the tape!
  • Housewife: Grab an apron, a dress, and a headband.
  • Old School Hip Hop: Some cool sunglasses, a gold chain, some gear and kicks and you’re good to go!

Need some more ideas? Check out these cheap and easy last minute Halloween costume ideas from Buzzfeed.

 Candy

Halloween is one of those times that procrastination can work in your favor. If you wait until the last minute to buy your Halloween candy supply, you may get lucky with the stores marking down their Halloween candy a few days before to make it move so they can get ready for the next set of holidays. Opt for bulk buys to save money and check your local newspaper for some coupons. When your cute ‘lil trick-or-treaters ring your bell, don’t let them reach in and grab a handful of candy. Instead – pass it out yourself.

Trick-or-Treat Bags

Do you remember going out trick or treating with a pillowcase? Why not bring that concept back and remix it with a new school twist by decorating an old pillowcase together as a family! Bust out the glitter and paint and go to town before you hit the streets.

Stick to Your Halloween Budget

Halloween doesn’t have to be scary expensive. And if you need a way to save for this holiday, consider opening up a free high-yield savings account and transferring some money over each week to build your Halloween fund. Having a dedicated fund will help you stick to your Halloween budget.

If you have some of your own spooky ideas, share your tips in the comments below. Happy Halloween!

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Real-World Ways to Avoid Online Scams

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You may think that people who get scammed online are the ones who respond to those crazy emails from a foreign prince, but online scams happen to millions of innocent people each year.

The Bureau of Justice reported that identity theft cost almost 17 million Americans roughly $25 million in 2012—and that’s just one of many types of online scams.

That my friends equates to 7% of people in the U.S. over 16 years old! And college students specifically are a population at risk because they may not necessarily take the steps to protect their personal information from being stolen from their laptops and mobile devices or even their dorm. So what exactly do these online scams looks like and what are some ways to avoid those online scams?

Beware of These Types of Online Scams

  1. Phishing:No – we’re not talking about catching that big fish – but phishing is quite similar in the realm of online scams. The phish scammers are trying to catch you – and they do it by sending you spam or getting you to click on pop-up messages online (the bait) so they can get your personal info if you bite (giving them their big catch).
  2. Identity Theft:Online scammers use stolen captured personal information, like your Social Security Number, to open credit cards or create new bank accounts in your name. They also use it to withdraw money from an established account, go on shopping sprees, apply for loans in your name or even rent apartments or storage units!
  3. Smishing:A close cousin to phishing, smishing is a newer scam via text/messaging. Often times the text/message is something alarming and contains threats of awful consequences if you don’t reply ASAP. And what do they want? Your confidential information.
  4. Keylogging:Another online scamming term is keylogging, which is a way thieves use malware that records your keystrokes to capture your personal information right as you type it in. This could be your online banking password. Yikes.
  5. Flipping money:This is an older scam that’s been repurposed via social media. Messages are being posted via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to entice you into making BIG MONEY quickly. Some of these tweets and posts have a photo of someone holding up a huge check or tons of cash. If you contact them about this amazing opportunity, they will ask you to buy a pre-paid card and give them the PIN so they can take the money and run – without any paper trail.

How to Avoid Scams Online

While no one is impervious to online scams, there are ways you can lessen your chances of becoming an online scammer’s next victim. Here are some helpful ways to avoid scams online:

  1. Don’t post too much personal information online or via social media. Love getting those birthday wishes via Facebook each year? We do too. But don’t post your actual birthday, including year, as this is one of those pieces of personal information that online scam artists are after. Also be cautious about posting your travel plans or sharing pics while you’re not home. You don’t want to tip off any crooks that your house is fair game for a week. Other things to avoid posting – your pet’s name, your address, your mother’s maiden name – basically anything you use to create a security question for your online banking can be sourced via your Facebook page.
  1. Make your passwords strong and keep changing them. Did you know that a 4 digit number password can be hacked in just 0004 seconds and a password with 10 characters containing letters, some of which are capitalized, digits, and a symbol (like a comma, period, or exclamation point), can take 17,000 years to hack? The lesson here is to make strong passwords and change them often. Read our post to learn how to make a strong password that’s easy to remember. Don’t use information like your birth date or phone number either – it’s too easy to guess. And don’t ever share your password. You also should avoid allowing your computer to remember your username and/or password.
  1. Safeguard your computer and mobile devices.Make sure to keep your computer updated with the most current anti-virus and anti-spam software. You’ll also want to install a firewall and anti-spyware software to be safe. To keep your mobile phone safer, make sure to update your apps, especially your financial and mobile banking apps, and only install apps that are from trusted marketplaces.
  1. Be careful with Wi-Fi.Don’t do your online/mobile banking or send personal information over public Wi-Fi. Others on the network can intercept it and use your info in an online scam.
  1. Never give your personal information to random people.Please never give out your sensitive, personal information through email, over the phone or via text. Make sure the company you are communicating with is legitimate, and if you’re ever unsure, call them instead. Only share personal information with those you trust.
  2. Be prepared. Keep a record of your account numbers and their expiration dates. Also make sure you have your bank’s phone number in case you need to report any weird or fraudulent activity.
  1. Don’t hand over your debit or credit card. Never give out your debit card to anyone—not your children, friends or roommates. Also don’t get in the habit of leaving your receipts or bank statements lying around where anyone can see them. When it’s time to throw these out, always shred. (Yes, people have been known to dumpster dive to get this type of info!)
  2. Keep tabs on your credit. Check your credit report annually – it’s free at annualcreditreport.com. Check over these reports and look out for any errors – that could be a sign of identity theft.

FTC’s Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

The Federal Trade Commission recommends these tips below for protecting yourself online:

  • Only bring the card you need with you, and don’t put your debit and credit cards in your wallet. If someone steals your purse or wallet, it will help minimize your loss.
  • When making a purchase, keep tabs on your card and get it back before you leave.
  • Don’t sign a blank receipt. If there are any blanks, cross them out.
  • Save your receipts and compare them with your bank statements.
  • Open your bills quickly, or look at them online regularly, then reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.
  • Report any questionable charges or transactions to the card issuer ASAP.
  • If you’re going on vacation or moving – call your bank, whether it’s a branch bank or an online/mobile bank  and card issuers so they don’t keep sending your statements for someone else to view.
  • Don’t write down your account number on the outside of any envelope.

How to Report Online Scams If You’re a Victim

If you think you are, or may be, a victim of an online scam, contact your bank, credit card and other financial institutions ASAP. Additionally, if you believe you’ve been scammed online, reporting online scams by filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is recommended. A good resource to visit is IdentityTheft.gov – they have information on where to file a report, and how to begin the recovery process.

Online Banking Scams Happen

As a branchless bank, we want you to understand that online banking scams are a reality in our world today and you should take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

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Saving 101

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

In the age of instant gratification, it’s hard to think of saving as something fun. But if you start with the end goal in mind, saving is merely the method to get you what you want. Maybe it’s not right away, but there’s a certain pride you exude when you earn something that you worked hard to achieve. You may think that you don’t have enough money to save when you can barely pay your bills, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Here are some simple savings tips to help you find your way to a brighter tomorrow. (more…)

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