If you’re reading this, chances are good that you have regular access to a computer and an Internet connection. You probably rely on your computer to accomplish a lot of things (and waste some time), but do you realize that computers and the Internet are some of the most powerful tools you can have in your financial toolbox? There are many ways that your computer can help you make and save money that weren’t available just a few years ago. From helping you track your finances to creating additional income streams, your computer can make your financial life easier and better. Below are twenty-four ways that your computer can make and save you money.
Participate in “Get Paid To” Sites
There are a number of sites that will allow you to earn some extra money. These sites reward you for reading emails, shopping, doing surveys, or participating in special offers. Don’t expect to make huge amounts of money, but the reputable sites do pay out and you can redeem points for gift cards, cash or PayPal at many sites.
Blog or write articles for money
Sites like PayPerPost, Associated Content, and Constant Content pay you to write or blog about issues of interest to you. Most pay on a per page view basis so the better you write and the more popular your topic, the more you stand to make. If you already have a blog, you can add Google’s Adsense to your blog and get paid each time someone clicks on an ad posted on your site.
Open an online savings account
These pay much higher interest rates than most local banks, so you can greatly increase your interest earnings by moving your funds from your local bank to an online bank. Some to consider: ING, HSCB, and Emigrant Direct. Additionally, the money is harder to access, making it more difficult to spend in a moment of weakness and you may even get a bonus for opening an account.
Enroll in online bill pay
Every bill you pay online saves you postage, envelope, and check costs. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about checks or statements getting lost in the mail and the subsequent late fees that pile up when the payment is late.
Use VoIP for phone service
If you have a high speed Internet connection, look into Voice Over IP (VoIP) from a company like Megapath for your phone service. VoIP uses your computer’s Internet connection to make calls and the costs are minimal compared to traditional phone service.
Sell your junk
If you have stuff you don’t want anymore, sell it on sites such as eBay, Amazon.com, or Half.com. Many times you can get more for your stuff on the web than you would get at a yard sale, particularly if your items are in good condition or are collectible.
Sell your creations
If you have a crafting or building hobby, Etsy.com is a great place to sell your creations. Etsy provides a dedicated site for creators to sell their handmade items and you may find you can make more there than through other venues. This is also not a bad way to launch a business based on your creations (see number 13).
The Internet provides a great way to shop for the best price on the item you want without leaving home, saving you gas money and ensuring you get the best price. In addition to visiting each retailers’ site, you can go to sites like MySimon, NexTag, or PriceGrabber and see several stores’ prices listed in one place.
Save on travel expenses
It is much cheaper (in most instances) to purchase travel arrangements on the Internet than through a travel agent these days. All the major travel providers have their own websites or you can use aggregate sellers like Expedia or Travelocity. There are also travel auction sites like Priceline and Hotwire where you can score deals on unsold inventory. Many providers offer coupons, early booking discounts, or other incentives to get you to use their online programs. It’s cheaper for them and for you.
There are many sites on the web that offer printable coupons, either for general use or for use at specific stores. Before going on a printing spree, check to make sure that the store where you plan to shop accepts printed coupons. Some don’t, or limit what they will accept, due to fraud.
Find online coupons
If you’re shopping or booking travel online, take a minute and Google the retailer to see if there are any coupons available. Sites like RetailMeNot.com are good places to find coupons for many retailers in one place. I almost always find a discount when shopping online, whether it’s money off or free shipping.
Do paid surveys
Similar to GPT sites, there are many sites on the Internet that pay you to do surveys. If you enjoy this sort of thing, you can make a little extra spending money. SurveyPolice.com is a good place to check up on sites and learn which are reputable and reliably pay out.
Start a business
This one’s not easy, but the computer and Internet make it much easier to start a business using your skills. It levels the playing field, enabling you to compete with much larger organizations. Think about what you like to do and do well and then figure out how you can turn that into income. You’ll need to figure out how to market your business, what to charge, and attract clients (I said it wasn’t easy), but the rewards of doing your own thing far outweigh the difficulties.
Learn new skills
Whether you start your own business or remain with your employer, the computer can increase your skill set for minimal investment. There are lots of online classes for everything from single subjects like accounting to full blown degree programs. You can buy software you need to learn and learn it on your own time at home. You can learn a new language through online courses or software programs. Every skill you learn or improve makes you more marketable and increases your earning potential.
Find cheap gas
Gasbuddy.com is a great way to find out which station in your area has the lowest price. Stop driving around looking for the cheapest station. There are also desktop Widgets available that provide this information.
Check store inventories before wasting a trip out
Many retailers now offer the option to check whether the product you want is available in a store near you. With gas prices rising, this is a valuable tool that keeps you from driving from store to store looking for an item. Just look it up online and head to the store that has the item in stock.
Find stuff for free
Craigslist.com is a great place to find stuff in your local area that others are giving away for free or very low cost.
Find stuff for cheap
The Internet is a great place to find used items, or to participate in swaps. Sites such as SwapaDVD.com or PaperbackSwap.com are great places to trade books and DVD’s for no more than the cost of postage. Plenty of sites sell used items including Amazon.com, SecondSpin.com, Half.com, Abebooks.com, eBay.com, and Craigslist.com. Chances are whatever you’re looking for can be found used or traded in a swap.
Sign up for deals and coupons
Sign up with your favorite retailers and travel sites for special deals and coupons only available to those on the mailing list. You’ll probably get email offers for use online as well as offers good in the physical store.
Research products, vendors, and service people before committing money
If you’re looking to purchase a big ticket item or hire a specialist, do some research before you plonk down the money. The Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) is a good place to start when dealing with contractors or businesses to see if they have complaints lodged against them. For products, read customer reviews at sites such as Amazon.com or Epinions.com to see if others have had trouble with the item. A simple Google search will also turn up any problems you should be aware of. The research you do will save you money in the long run if you avoid lemons and shoddy workmanship.
Check your credit reports
You’re entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three credit agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking your credit report regularly and clearing up any errors can save you big money when it’s time to get a loan and can catch identity theft in its earliest stages.
There’s almost nothing you can’t find online these days and shopping online can be a great way to save money. Many online retailers offer lower prices than their physical counterparts due to low overhead. In addition, you can find coupons for many retailers that are good for use online, but not in the physical store. Many stores offer free or discounted shipping if you purchase a certain dollar amount. If a store doesn’t have a physical presence in your state, you might not have to pay sales tax. Shopping online saves you money on the price of the item, plus the gas required to get to the store.
Manage your accounts online
Most banks now offer online access to your accounts, allowing you to see transactions at any time, rather than waiting for the statement. This enables you to catch possible problems such as unauthorized charges or possible overdrafts before they become huge problems. There are also lots of software applications such as Quicken and Money that help you with budgeting, expense tracking, and tax record keeping, all of which saves you money by improving your financial picture.
Change your entertainment options
Rather than buying a whole CD to get the one good song, download that song from iTunes for $.99. Listen to free streaming radio. Join an online movie rental program like Netflix and avoid late fees and save the gas needed to get to the rental store. Watch TV programs online on network websites and get rid of your cable or satellite subscription. Play free online games rather than buying PC games. Your computer opens up a lot of new entertainment choices. Just never use your computer to download pirated software, music, or movies. It’s illegal.
One final word of advice…
As with anything related to your money, be on guard for scams. While many things on the Internet are legitimate, there are a fair number of things that are not. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Any site promising quick money with no effort on your part (or that asks you to pony up money up front), is something to be leery of. If you get into selling or buying on eBay or Craigslist, be aware that not all sellers and buyers are honest and take steps to protect yourself. Make certain you only deal with secure, legitimate websites when entering personal information. When it comes to your money and the Internet, it pays to look twice at any opportunity or website and make certain you understand exactly what or who you are dealing with.
Despite the need for caution, it’s well worth it to take the time to learn the applications, websites, and computer skills that help you save and earn money. There are many more money saving and earning opportunities available to those who are computer savvy than to those who are not. If you need to improve your computer skills or learn how to use some of these websites, there are many books, online help resources, websites, and message boards available to help you. The savvier you become, the more money you can earn and save.