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Everyday Cheapskate: 7 Places to Look for Free Money

Mary Hunt on

A few years ago, I received a fun letter from a reader who 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" from the previous year.

Recently, he sent an update that shows he is now averaging nearly $50 a month. Not bad! But I couldn't help but 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. Provided what you have is at least 10-karat 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, and then go with the highest bid. Never mail your junk gold to a "gold dealer."


Start paying attention to vending machine coin return compartments. Most machines have a clear plastic coin return, which makes it easy to see what's in there. And winter is the best time to clean up 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 your home is like 99% of all the homes on earth, you have at least one junk drawer. Go on a gift-card hunt. It's easy to 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 $27 billion worth of U.S. savings bonds have matured and are sitting unclaimed by their owners as of December 2020, reports the U.S. Treasury. The department's "Treasury hunt" search engine at lets you use your Social Security number to search for matured bonds.


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