Surprising Ways to Get Your Money Back From the U.S. Government

Imagine a pile of money sitting on your front stoop waiting for you to pick it up. But instead of collecting it, you hurry past the mound of cash every morning in a rush to get on with your day.

When you don’t claim money owed to you by the government, you essentially do the same thing. Each year, billions of dollars worth of cash and benefits sit stagnant, waiting for someone to declare ownership. Read on for some easy ways to get free money from the government. One simple move could save you hundreds (page 9).

1. Put beat-up currency on the mend

damaged money

A specialist examines damaged currency to determine its value. | U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Did your preschool-aged nephew decide to use a crisp $50 bill as an art project? All is not lost. Take your burned, water damaged, or cut up currency to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to have it replaced. As long as more than half the bill is legible, you can get a brand new one in its place. File a claim and get your shiny new currency at moneyfactory.gov.

Next: We can all agree this aid is invaluable.

2. Cash in on child care

kids at a day care center

Many families need help in this category. | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Children under 13 shouldn’t be left unsupervised, and the government recognizes this. So qualifying families can get child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Fund. Although the program details vary per state — they all want the parent/s or guardian to be employed or in an educational program — you can apply and save a ton of money if you’re accepted.

Next: A free place to live? It’s possible.

3. Start fresh for free

Street in New Haven, Connecticut

You could live in the adorable town of New Haven, Conn. | AlbertPego/iStock/Getty Images

It seems crazy, but some urban and rural cities will actually pay you to live in their town. If you’re a first-time or low-income buyer, then you could relocate for free with just a few stipulations. For example, the city of Buffalo, New York could give you a plot of land for $1; you just need to stay there for at least three years and repair coding violations within 18 months.

If you’re willing to permanently relocate, you could receive “monetary incentives” like free homes, free land, or student loan forgiveness. Why are places like New Haven, Connecticut and Tribune, Kansas willing to pay for your education? It can also boost the local economy.

Next: This special bond will last forever.

4. Replace a savings bond

200 dollar Savings Bond

You can submit for a replacement. | svanhorn/iStock/Getty Images

Lost your savings bond? Don’t worry. You can submit for a replacement at treasuryhunt.gov. If approved, you’ll get the missing or destroyed bond replaced for free.

Next: Do you have a green thumb?

5. Farm for your funds

a field of golden wheat under a blue sky

A field of tranquility made an impact on this military man. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

You may face controversy if you get involved with agricultural subsidies. However, you also may receive thousands of dollars annually. An agricultural subsidy supplements a farmers’ income and stabilizes food prices, which can improve the economy. Around the world agricultural subsidies are associated with milk, rice, beef, cotton, wheat, and other crops. Qualifying for these subsidies is complicated, but it could be worth the effort if you’re agriculturally inclined.

Next: This financial help will keep you busy.

6. Study, work, repeat

Volunteering with kids

Working in the community can be rewarding. | svanhorn/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re a postsecondary student (aka college student), you may qualify for a federal work-study program. Rather than direct financial aid, these grants encourage community service like tutoring and literacy training. Your employer may pay 50% of your earnings, but the government does pay 100% in some cases. Apply through FAFSA, and you could make money while improving your community.

Next: Have you ever been scammed?

7. Get revenge on scammers

banking and people concept

You may be able to get your money back. | Dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

Scammers are constantly seeking vulnerable people to prey upon, but even if you fall for their rotten tricks, you may be able to get some of that money back. If you’re the victim of a scam, simply file a claim with the Federal Trade Commission and you could get some of your cash refunded to you.

Next: Discover what a relative forgot about years ago.

8. Claim what property may be yours

a woman at a computer getting her taxes done

You may qualify for help. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

It’s possible you have acreage, inactive stocks, uncashed payroll checks, or other unclaimed property out there just waiting for you to reclaim ownership. In 2015, state governments had $7.8 billion worth of unclaimed property on file, yet they only returned $3.2 billion worth to the rightful owners.

Figure out if you have land or property by visiting the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) at unclaimed.org. If there’s a chance you could have property in multiple states, check out missingmoney.com to launch a more comprehensive search.

Next: This extra cash will make you the queen bee.

9. Money for your honey

A researcher collects a bee from a hive

A bee researcher collects “nurse bees” in a hive. | Natalie Behring/Getty Images

If bees don’t scare you, they may be your ticket to an additional paycheck. Under certain terms, the government will pay you $200 per hive — up to $2,400 annually — to raise healthy, helpful bees. These little insects hold a key to environmental health after all.

Next: How do you “service” the government?

10. Be a friend (with benefits) of the government

Running soldiers carrying weapons

You may qualify for things you didn’t even realize. | ChrisSupersea/iStock/Getty Images

Wading through the slew of government benefits to determine your eligibility used to take hours. Now? There’s a streamlined Benefit Finder, which matches you up to programs you may not know about.

Just spend a few moments filling in basic information like your income, military status, and education level and the site will automatically match you with programs you may be eligible for. Apply for the ones that sound good, sit back, and collect your money.

Next: “Beat the heat” with money from the government.

11. Put a freeze on wasted money

Air conditioning unit in window

Insulate your home so you’re not throwing away money. | jupiterimages/iStock/Getty Images

Drafty doors and windows lead to wasteful spending on your heating and cooling. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program offers low-income family grants so they can take care of issues including pipe insulation, window replacements, energy efficient lighting installation, and more. Households who take advantage of these programs can save as much as 20% on their future utility bills. Find out if you qualify by visiting waptac.org.

Next: New businesses can get you bucks.

12. De-stress business startup

Black male small business owner standing outside coffee shop

They offer small business grants. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Starting a small business isn’t easy, but the government eases the pain a little bit by offering low-interest loans or grants that never need to be paid back. The Small Business Innovation Research fund supports tech and research ventures with free money all the time. Submit a proposal at sbir.org.

Next: Don’t let a down payment get you down.

13. Let the government help with your home

house for sale

You can get a no-interest loan. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Buying a house? Some houses qualify for federal grants or loans that you can use toward the down payment or closing costs. Research your state’s specific programs by visiting fha.gov.

For example, Pennsylvania’s HOMEstead loan offers buyers up to $10,000 in the form of a no-interest loan to put toward fees.

Next: Turn the heat up on savings.

14. Keep the heat on

White heating radiator

You may qualify. | pattonmania/iStock/Getty Images

Can’t afford the high cost of oil? You should look into LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program), which offers grants to families who have trouble paying their heating bills. Find out if you qualify by contacting your LIHEAP state representative.

Next: Get those pension payments.

 

15. Collect unclaimed pension payments

pension displayed on calculator

Find out if you’re owed money. | cacaroot/iStock/Getty Images

There’s nothing worse than failing to take advantage of money that’s owed to you. Find out if you or a loved one has uncollected pension payments by visiting the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and bring that money home.

Next: Being “forgiven” will always feel better.

16. Get rid of your student loans

Years of monthly payments add up to crazy interest payments. | iStock/Getty Images

Even declaring bankruptcy won’t free you from the obligation of student loans. But if you’re a full-time employee of a government agency or a non-profit organization, then you may only need to make ten year’s worth of monthly payments before getting your loans canceled forever.

Find out more about having your student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program at studentaid.ed.gov.

Next: Our political climate may change this payment soon.

17. Good health equals better tax credits

Health insurance document

For the time being, you can get tax credits. | Minerva Studio/iStock/Getty Images

No one knows what will happen with the Affordable Care Act, but for the time being, you can get tax credits through the program.

Anyone who buys coverage through the government’s health insurance marketplace at healthcare.gov can get credit to be used toward insurance premiums. You can use it for reducing monthly payments or opt to have it distributed as a tax credit when you file.

Read more: A Little Too Late: Valuable Money Lessons You Wish You Learned in School but Never Did

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