It’s been several years now since I got a super fun letter from a reader who has developed a hobby of looking for money in gutters, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, and other public places. And he keeps a running tab. He included a copy of his free money journal for the previous year.
It was amazing to see how his finds often exceed $50 in a single month, available to him just for the taking. Not bad! But I couldn’t help wonder how his payoff might climb if he knew about other places that harbor free money.
Not long ago, I toured my jewelry box. What a hoot! I found one gold chain now in pieces, a bracelet, and several orphaned earrings—all of it gold from the ‘80s that I don’t wear anymore. Something tells me you might find something similar if you go through your drawers and old jewelry boxes.
Not sure if it’s real gold? Follow these simple steps to find out.
Provided what you have is at least 10k gold (but not gold-plated), it’s like cash—free money. Go in person to three jewelry stores or local coin shops to see what they’ll pay you for it, then go with the highest bid. Never mail your junk gold to a “gold dealer.”
Start paying attention to vending machine coin return compartments. Luckily, most of them are clear plastic, so you can see into them without getting down and reaching to feel around. Winter is the best time to clean up on coins as people are often wearing gloves and don’t feel the coins they leave behind. Because there is no way to find that unfortunate person, it’s finders keepers—free money. The same goes for ATMs.
If you or a family member worked for a company with a pension plan and were terminated because the company went bankrupt or was bought out by another company, you or your relative (or his or her estate if deceased) may be eligible to receive benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is a U.S. Government Agency.
The PBGS is currently holding about $200 million in unclaimed benefits for more than 36,000 people. That averages nearly $5,500 per person. To see if you might have anything coming your way, you can perform a search at Finding a Lost Pension.
The PBGC helps locate people owed pension money and help them get it back. They do this with the Missing Participant Program, which finds people owed benefits from fully funded, PBGC insured defined benefit plans that have ended.
Junk Drawer Purge
If yours is like 99% of all the homes on earth, you have at least one junk drawer. Go through it on a gift card hunt. Call the number on the back of the card to find out how much value remains. That’s free money being held hostage in plastic. Use it, or you may lose it.
More than $15 billion worth of U.S. Savings Bonds have matured and are sitting unclaimed by their owners, according to the U.S. Treasury. The department’s Treasury Hunt search engine allows you to search for matured bonds using your Social Security number.
You or someone in your family may be missing money because you lost track of a refund, a rebate, security deposit, insurance dividend, or proceeds from a class action suit. It happens. To search online, check out this U.S. government site as well as Unclaimed.org (scroll down to find the U.S. map, then click on individual states to go to that state’s unclaimed property web page) and MissingMoney.com. You should not have to pay any fees to reclaim assets, so should you click on an ad that requires payment, don’t let that tempt you. You can do this search on your own without paying others in the process.
Now might be a good time to dust off that metal detector you got for your Birthday (how many years ago? Ha!). If you were not that fortunate, don’t worry. For under $75, you can pick up a decent metal detector.
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Metal detecting is a fun hobby where the more you participate, the luckier you’ll get. Want to get serious about it? Join a club. Find other enthusiasts. And make sure you keep a journal of your successes. Check out the Kellyco Detectors site. There, you’ll find a treasure trove of community and detecting how-tos, where to hunt, forums, and just plain free-money fun for metal detectors. Make sure you don’t miss 25 Best Metal Detecting Sites.
Question: What is the most significant amount of “free money” you’ve ever found if any? What were the circumstances? We’d love for you to share in the comments below.