The ongoing pandemic is wreaking havoc with our personal and financial lives. In Detroit, for example, a recent survey found that 43% of those who were employed pre-COVID-19 subsequently became unemployed. A CNBC/Change Research Poll, meanwhile, found that 47% of those surveyed who earn less than $50,000 annually reported having less than a month's worth of resources to pay for food, housing, and other necessities, should they become unemployed. Yikes!
If you're among those who are somewhat or very worried about having enough money in the months and year ahead, take heart. There are probably some actions you can take to bolster your situation.
Here are 16 ideas for getting more cash -- each of which has various pros and cons.
No. 1: Tap your emergency fund
If you're financially pinched and desperate for cash, that's what your emergency fund is there for! Of course, not everyone has managed to set up an emergency fund and stock it with at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. If you're able to establish and fund one now, it's smart to do so. If you're wishing you had one because you need cash, read on for other solutions.
No. 2: Look into what aid is available
You may be able to improve your cash flow situation simply by spending an hour or two on the phone and doing some online research. You may find some local or federal relief programs to help you -- and you may be able to get some lenders to defer payments you owe them. See what's possible with mortgage lenders, student loan debt, and other debt you might be carrying. Many lenders would rather work with you than have you default.
No. 3: Borrow from friends or relatives
You may be able to borrow some needed cash from loved ones who are on more solid financial ground. This can be a quick and simple solution, but it's not without a downside: If you end up unable to pay back the money, it can damage an important relationship. Even if you are able to pay it back, your relationship may change a little, with one or both parties feeling uneasy. Still, consider this route, if it might make sense for you. There are also personal loans you might be able to get from investors, via online banks and peer-to-peer lending.
No. 4: Get a side gig (or two)
One excellent option for generating extra cash is to take on one or more side gigs. There are hundreds of possibilities: You can tutor kids online, do some freelance writing or editing, make and sell crafts online, work a cash register on weekends, sign up for small (or not so small) jobs at sites such as TaskRabbit.com or Fiverr.com, give haircuts, paint houses, and so on. The pandemic has significantly boosted demand for delivery services, too.
No. 5: Profit by de-cluttering
Most of us have too much stuff -- in our attics, garages, basements, and storage units. You can make money by selling off much of it, either online or via yard sales. And what you can't sell, you might be able to donate, generating a tax deduction.
No. 6: Take in a boarder
This cash-generation option won't appeal to everyone, but if you have the space, you might consider taking in a paying houseguest for a while.
No. 7: Rent out your property
On a more short-term basis, you could rent out space in your home via services such as Airbnb.com, VRBO.com, Homeaway.com, or FlipKey.com. Other kinds of property can also be rented out, depending on where you live: If you're in or near a city, for example, you may be able to rent out a parking spot in your driveway, or even rent out your car when you're not using it. Check out services such as Turo.com and Getaround.com -- among others.
No. 8: Downsize your fleet
Speaking of cars, if you can get by with one less car in your household, you can generate and save significant sums. Selling a vehicle will bring in some immediate cash, and having one less car will save you regularly on insurance, maintenance, fuel, repairs, and possibly taxes.
No. 9: Liquidate investments
If you're lucky enough to have investments, such as in regular taxable brokerage accounts, you can raise some money by selling off some shares. That's not ideal, as you'll be shrinking your net worth and foregoing future gains from those holdings, but if circumstances require, this may be an option for you. It's a particularly promising strategy if your alternative is taking on high-interest-rate credit card debt, because you're likely to earn a lower return on stocks than a 20% or 25% credit card interest charge.
No. 10: Cash out or borrow from a life insurance policy
If you have a whole life or universal life insurance policy, you may be able to cash it out or borrow from its value in order to raise cash. This is not a good move, though, if anyone is depending on your income. Borrowing from a policy will reduce the death benefit until the money is repaid, and the income will typically be tax-free. Cashing out a policy is likely to result in taxable income.
No. 11: Consider borrowing from retirement accounts -- but tread carefully
You might also borrow from retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s. Doing so is not advisable, though, unless it's a true emergency. That's because you will likely really need that money in retirement, and by borrowing, you'll shrink the ultimate value of the account -- and, worse, if you can't pay it back, you can face penalties and also have less funding in your future non-working years. Recent legislation actually makes it easier to borrow from retirement accounts, due to COVID-19 stresses.
No. 12: Sell unused gift cards
Do you have some gift cards lying around that you never used? Well, you may be able to sell them online for much of their face value. Some of the many sites that can help you include Cardpool.com and CardCash.com.
No. 13: Look into a home equity loan
A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit can be a valuable lifeline if you're struggling. If you see struggles ahead, you might want to start looking into this before a job loss, as you'll be a stronger candidate with a job.
No. 14: Borrow on a 0% credit card
Another option is to borrow money on a 0% credit card, or transfer debt to one via a balance transfer card, which can help you pay less each month on the debt you owe. Just use it responsibly, and don't let yourself rack up fresh debt on the card. And work to pay down the debt before the 0% rate expires.
No. 15: Start collecting Social Security early
If you're 62 or older and haven't yet started collecting Social Security, you might want to consider doing so. Most of us have a "full retirement age" of 66 or 67, and starting to collect earlier than that will result in smaller benefit checks, but you'll get more of those checks and if you live an average-length life, it should all even out.
No. 16: Look into a reverse mortgage
A reverse mortgage, where you essentially borrow money (often in the form of a monthly income stream) with your home as collateral, may also be a possibility. It's not ideal (or possible) for many people, but it serves others well.
There are even more ways to generate extra cash -- such as simply spending less. Spend a little time thinking about it, and perhaps do a little research online. Using the ideas above and any others you come up with, you may be able to put yourself on more solid financial footing during these stressful times.