Free Money

By Mary Hunt

January 25, 2017 3 min read

Recently, I read about a guy who has a hobby of looking for money in gutters, parking lots and other public places and keeps a running tab. He routinely finds over $100 in a year. Not bad! Just imagine if he knew about other places that harbor free money for the taking.

VENDING MACHINES. Start paying attention to vending machine coin-return compartments. Luckily, most of them are made of clear plastic so you can see into them without getting down and reaching 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.

JUNK JEWELRY. Toured your jewelry box lately? Gather up all the broken chains, mateless earrings, bracelets, rings, etc. -- all of that gold from the '80s that you don't wear anymore. If it's at least 10K gold, it's like cash. Go in person to three jewelry stores to see what they'll pay you for a piece, and then go with the highest bidder. Never mail your junk gold to a gold dealer, and be wary of the popular gold parties.

PENSION FUNDS. 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, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or PBGC. In 2007, PBGC held $133 million in unclaimed benefits for 32,000 people. That averages nearly $4,200 per person. To see whether you have anything coming your way, search the PBGC database on its website.

MATURED BONDS. In 2014, about $16.1 billion worth of savings bonds had matured and were sitting unclaimed by their owners, according to the U.S. Treasury. The Treasury Hunt search engine allows you to search for matured bonds using your Social Security number.

UNCLAIMED ASSETS. You or someone in your family may be missing money because you lost track of a refund, rebate, security deposit, insurance dividend or proceeds from a class action suit. It happens. To search online, check out the government site www.usa.gov/unclaimed-money as well as Unclaimed.org and MissingMoney.com.

DRAWER PURGE. Everyone has at least one junk drawer. Go through yours on a gift-card hunt. Call the number on the back of the card to find out how much value remains. That's cash being held hostage on plastic. Use it, or you may lose it.

TREASURE HUNTING. Remember that cool metal detector you got for your birthday umpteen years ago? Dust it off and take up metal detecting -- a hobby where the more you participate, the luckier you'll get. Want to increase the fun? Join a club. Find other enthusiasts. And make sure you keep a journal of your successes. For detecting how-tos, locations to hunt, forums and just plain fun for metal detectors, check out the 25 best metal detecting sites (www.kellycodetectors.com/catalog/library/25-best-sites).

Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.

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