Ways I Made Extra Money This Year

As a year-end wrapup, I present to you the many ways I made extra money for myself this year.
We filed our taxes early, as usual, this year and got a nice refund. Instead of blowing it on something silly, we plunked $2500 into starting our emergency fund.
I realized that I had not updated my IRS withholdings lately to reflect our latest family situation, so I sent that in to my company. I was still conservative in the changes I made, and it got us and extra $140/month, which is better than giving it to the IRS for 12 months.
We started regularly feeding our emergency savings account, which is an HSBC Direct Online Savings account. This earned 5.05% for most of the year, which is way better than our regular credit union’s rate of 1.something%. We earned more in interest in the first month than we had all last year. Later on in the year, when the Fed cut rates, we were able to lock some money in a 3 year CD at 6% from Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
I got a surprise bonus in May, which also got put right into the savings account.
We refinanced our house in June. This allowed us to skip our July mortgage payment of $1800. We also reduced our payments to about $1500/month by taking our property taxes into our own hands instead of doing the mortgage company’s escrow. They always seemed to underestimate us and we ended up paying extra every month to make up for it. Obviously the difference went into our savings and will be used for the taxes.
We cashed out a good chunk of change on our refinancing, which we planned to use for getting new windows and redoing our bathroom. While we waited, the money earned some extra interest for us until we needed it. Getting our windows done this year will also allow us to take advantage of the last year of tax credits for energy efficient upgrades, about $200.
Started bringing my morning and afternoon coffee. Even at $8-10 for a bag of the good coffee, that covers a week’s worth of afternoon coffees made by someone else. I also drank water instead of soda with lunch.
Switched to Sunrocket VOIP. We paid $199 for 15 5 months of service from Sunrocket. I also got $80 back from CrazyRefund.com. The combined savings was $17/month before long distance charges. We did spend part of that savings by switching to FIOS for a faster and more stable Internet connection though. We eventually had to switch to Verizon’s VOIP, VoiceWing, in July, which runs $19.99 plus taxes for 500 minutes, more than enough for us.
I had my vasectomy in June, just before our new health plan kicked in. You’re probably wondering how this saved me money. We had already used up our deductible for the year after Evan was born, so I was fully covered and paid a small amount rather than pushing it into July and having to start our deductible all over again. As a result, I paid $76 for the procedure instead of nearly $800.
I opened a Citibank “Ultimate Savings Account” with a $5 deposit and got $100 bonus, no strings attached. The rate is actually decent, 4.6% or so, and they have ATMs in every 7-11, so I may actually keep it around for travel cash purposes.
We rearranged our checking accounts so that we have a bill paying (and interest earning) account, and a regular grocery, gas, etc account. We didn’t earn a lot of interest, but anything is more than $0, and it’s also helped us keep track of our spending better.
I finally got a “rewards” credit card. It only gives me 1% of each transaction, but it’s better than nothing. The rate is also better than my old non-reward credit card. Plus, since the card is issued by the same credit union at which we have our checking account, we can use the card all the time for points, then just immediately transfer money from our checking account to “pay” for what we just bought.
We got rid of a bunch of stuff on Craigslist in a cleaning binge, which also allowed us to declutter a bit while making some cash as well.
Here’s to making the most of 2008!