Earning

5 money moves that can net you an extra $500 per month

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People across the country are looking for ways to come out ahead each month. If you're struggling to make ends meet, start by looking at your monthly budget and figuring out where you can trim. There are various monthly expenses that you may be able to do without, or get a better rate on.

You might also benefit from picking up a side hustle outside of your day job or one you can do remotely.

Here are a few easy ways you can earn and save more to end up with some extra cash at the end of each month. 

Make sure there's a freeze on your gym membership 

Potential monthly savings: $30

In many areas of the country, gyms have been shut down to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Many gyms, including Equinox and Planet Fitness, have proactively put an automatic freeze on accounts, saving members the hassle of doing so themselves. 

If you belong to a gym like that, then you've already snagged a sizable savings for this period, depending on your membership. You could be netting anywhere from $10 per month at budget clubs like Planet Fitness to $300 per month at upscale clubs like Equinox. The average monthly gym membership comes to about $30 per person. 

However, if your gym is closed and you're still being charged, that's an issue you'll want to address. Getting through to a customer service representative at your gym might prove to be a bit challenging during this time, so make sure you're reaching out in more ways than one.

Call your gym's direct line as a first step. If you can't get through, send them an email explaining the reason for your call. Once you get someone on the phone, jot down their name and contact information in case you get disconnected.

In the meantime, substitute home workouts using YouTube videos as a guide, or free workout applications like 7 Minute Workout or Nike Training Club. Learning new ways to work out at home might inspire you to cut out the monthly gym membership altogether and save you about $30 a month going forward. 

Shop around for new monthly plans 

Potential monthly savings: $25

One way to score major savings each month is to shop around for a better deal on your monthly bills. 

"Reviewing your car insurance doesn't seem like an area you would really think to save money, but it can have one of the biggest savings in your monthly budget," says Kristin Larsen of Believe in a Budget, who saved $300 per year, or $25 each month, by switching to a new insurer. 

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How to lower your monthly bills

Video by David Fang 

Larsen accomplished the same result by switching her cellphone plan to a wireless month-to-month plan, which translated to a $20 savings each month.

Getting a cheaper rate on a monthly bill can be as simple as picking up the phone and asking your provider what they can do for you. 

Take advantage of free trials for streaming services 

Potential monthly savings: $25 

Many people are using their streaming services to stay entertained during the quarantine, but the cost can add up. Subscriptions for basic Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime video accounts with advertisements will cost you close to $25 per month altogether, excluding annual fees. 

One way to save some money is to share a streaming service account with a friend or family member. Another way is to use up free trials for various steaming services before committing to a membership. Several platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Hulu, Netflix, and Showtime more have extended their free trial periods from seven days to 30 days.

This is a temporary fix, but it can help you narrow down which services you'll actually use and enjoy.

Other entertainment platforms are offering free trials or free samples these days, too, for audio books, virtual museum tours, online music lessons, and more.

Shop your pantry

Potential monthly savings: $150

Americans throw away a staggering $218 billion worth of food a year, which averages out to a cost of $1,800 for a family of four, or $150 each month.

Before heading to the grocery store or placing an Instacart order, go through your refrigerator, cabinets, or pantry and make a running list of everything you have. Separate your items into categories like fruits, protein, grains, condiments, and more. Taking stock of what you have can help you pair ingredients and make a meal you'll enjoy. 

When you're shopping, choosing items that you like and will actually use before they expire is a good way to shave down your monthly food bill. Pantry staples like beans, pasta and rice are all affordable ingredients that have long shelf lives and can be used to make several dishes. 

Challenging yourself to create a meal using what you already have on hand can be a huge money-saver and may even inspire you to continue making affordable recipes over the long term. 

Start a side hustle you can do from home

Potential monthly earnings: Up to $500 

A number of side hustles can be done from the comfort of your couch, as long as you have a computer and an Internet connection.

Think about your skill set and the kinds of services you can offer virtually. You can earn up to $40 per hour by becoming a virtual assistant, an online mock juror, or virtual tutor, for example. 

On sites like Lessonface that match kids with music teachers, rates vary: Participants may pay $60 for a group of four one-hour lessons to $50 for a one-on-one 30-minute lesson.

If you're crafty, consider selling your wares online. 

"Some people are simply creating like little Etsy shops and trying to sell things online," says Larsen. "Some people are actually really honing down and learning a new skill set, especially those who have been laid off. I think people are definitely taking this opportunity to learn how to start a successful side hustle or career working from home."

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