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According to a classic adage, there's no such thing as easy money. However, that doesn't rule out occasional opportunities to unearth money that's already yours. Padding your bank account (or stashing extra cash in smart investments or your ever-important emergency fund) can sometimes be as easy as a few clicks, if you know where to look. These are five ways you can uncover money you didn't know you had—simple strategies that are as close to "easy money" as it gets.
1. Check for Unclaimed Property
Unclaimed property is a general term describing assets that go "dormant" without making it to their rightful owner. This may be a refund you're owed for overpaying a utility bill at your old apartment, a paycheck you forgot to cash or the contents of a long forgotten safe deposit box, to name a few examples.
As time passes, unclaimed property gets turned over to the state, which holds on to it until the rightful owner claims it. Some states may reach out to you directly to notify you of possible unclaimed property, but it's wise—and easy—to check for yourself. All you need to do is run a free search in the database of any state where you have lived or worked. If you find a match, submit a claim on the state's website; you can then receive your missing money. It's that easy, and about 1 in 10 people have forgotten funds to claim.
2. Sell Belongings Online
Think of the unused items around you as more unclaimed cash waiting for you. Ebay and resale apps like Poshmark are nice, but you can make your sales even more of a cinch by staying in your neighborhood. Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor are exceedingly simple ways to sell locally. You can get rid of that old bed frame, cat tree or sweater set with a quick post; your buyer can stop by your house or meet you somewhere public. Just like that, you can have extra cash in your hand to use as you wish.
3. Treasury Direct for Savings Bonds
Similar to searching for unclaimed property, you can peruse the U.S. Treasury for savings bonds that have reached their maturity date. You need to provide a little extra info, like your Social Security or Employee Identification Number, but conducting a search is quick and easy on the Treasury's website.
Bonds take years to mature, or stop earning interest, so it's not uncommon to forget about them over the course of, say, 40 years. In fact, there is over $25 billion worth of matured, unredeemed bonds sitting in the U.S. Treasury—some of it could belong to you. If nothing turns up in your search, check back another time; the Treasury updates their records regularly.
4. Check for Taxes
Millions of dollars in tax refunds goes unclaimed or undelivered annually. If Uncle Sam owes you money, be sure you don't miss out on it. After all, you pay your taxes whenever the season rolls around, and money due to you on a tax return is rightfully yours. A simple change in address or a new bank account can mean your refund gets returned to the IRS. If you're looking for lost tax money within a year of filing your taxes, check the IRS database.
Additionally, you may have missed out on a federal tax refund when you didn't file a return. You can still claim your cash if you file within a three-year window of the original deadline.
5. Clean Your House
It may sound simple, but a deep cleaning of your living space and any storage can reveal hidden and forgotten assets. You could stumble across an unopened birthday card from Aunt Katie with a generous check you forgot to cash, or a stock of gift cards you didn't use up. You can multitask by setting aside items to sell while you sift through purses and wallets that have gone unused. It's also a good idea to check jacket pockets for cash. And, if you happen upon a gift card to a store you no longer frequent, use a service like CardCash to sell them and use the money wherever you want.
Before you cash any personal checks that might turn up, you might want to check with its signatory to make sure there's an adequate balance in their account.
The Bottom Line
Money may not grow on trees, but you can sometimes find it in unexpected places. Whether you want to crush your debt or you're simply strapped for cash this month, make the most of your assets and don't miss out on what's due to you.