How Much Money Do I Make On The Little Stuff?

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Ok, I’ve covered the Big Stuff. I save well over 20% of my income, and it’s already invested in low-cost index funds. But what about the Little Stuff, like making money off bank bonuses? What kind of money are we talking about? Let’s break it down a little and give some annual estimates. I’m going to ignore chasing the best interest rates for now.

Buying things with rewards credit cards: $300-$600
$100+ Credit card signup bonuses: $400-600
Bank signup bonuses (Example): $200-400
Other bonuses and perks (Example): $100-$200
0% APR Balance Transfer offers (How To Do This): $500-$1,500
Bored Money like surveys and stuff: $100-$200
Total: $1,500 to $3,500 a year!

That’s not something to sneeze at for most people. The key is to not spend this money and let it roll straight into increasing your net worth. (Maybe skim off some for some fun things :)) Remember the Big Stuff – Save it! This money is enough to fund a huge chunk of my Roth IRA every year. Save $2,000 each year x 30 years x 8% a year… that’s something like over $200,000.

Don’t forget, this is still ignoring all the other things, like saving money on utilities or other regular expenses, making more money with side projects, or trying to optimize your investment strategy to get the best risk/reward balance.

Now, how much time do I spend on it? I won’t lie, it’s a fair amount. I really kind of see it as a hobby myself. I don’t feel I need to do it. I like to do it. Some people play FreeCell or video games, I look for deals. I do it during my lunch hour, along with keeping up with this site. Honestly, if someone wrote my blog, I’d read it. It would save me tons of time finding and sorting through everything!

Most of the time it takes me longer to make an organized post about a deal than to actually complete the offer. I mean, completing the offer usually just involves filling out an application and maybe moving some money around temporarily or using the card once and then tucking it away. If you are efficient, it’d take maybe 15 minutes in total time. And you can do it without leaving the house or changing out of your pajamas.

But I’m perfectly aware that for each person that likes to do these deals, there is someone who could care less. I actually find it highly amusing. I could tell my wife – “Hey, if you just fill out this form, some guy will walk up to your door and hand you a $100 bill.” And she’d say “Yeah? Nah, I don’t care. That’s too much trouble.” I’d even offer to fill it out for her, and she’d barely look up. I bet some of you know what I mean. 😉

In the end, I accept both and say to each their own. Different strokes for different folks!

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  1. I make a habit of filling out online surveys and taking online tests (usually run by graduate students for thesis work). If it says it will pay me or give me a useful reward (I find gift certificates highly useful 🙂 ) then I make a point of completing them. I estimate I get about $200 a year from this. It does not take long and I don’t mind doing it. Some people like doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, I like getting paid to do surveys or tests… At least that is how I look at it 🙂

  2. EliminateOurDebt says

    Yes, $1,500 to $3,300 a year is pretty good for doing “little stuff”. I have found money that I never knew existed out there from your efforts which has gone straight to debt. Having offers and information in one place at this blog is very helpful. Thanks for doing that. I believe that some people just take all of this for granted.

  3. And the income is tax-free, too!

  4. Ramblingrose says

    Wow! I never thought you could come out ahead with those bank/credit card offers.. seems like it’d be hard to do.

  5. I’ve recently found this site and several others that have really sparked an interest (no pun intended) in personal finance. The more I get into it the more want to learn more. And it boggles my mind why some people don’t want to educate themselves to better their position in life. Money may not buy happiness, but if you have a job you don’t like that is going nowhere, you’re up to your eyeballs in debt, and don’t have any long-term financial plan how can you reasonably expect those stresses to be relieved if you won’t take action? It really isn’t hard. It may be slow going, but the longer you put it off, the longer you will suffer and your eventual relief will be weaker and delayed.

    I started by aggressively attacking debt. Most of it was my wife’s. We will have paid off close to $20,000 of debt in about 10 months, leaving only one car payment and her student loan. We also started an ING account and have stashed away $5k since April. We both contribute 6% to our 401k plans. My employer matches the full 6%, hers just switched from matching 3% to 6%. We have opened a Costco AMEX that gives rewards, but our favorite card right now is the BP Chase rewards card. 10% off gas at BP stations plus 4% off travel and dining plus 2% off everything else for the first 2 billing cycles, then it drops to 5%, 2% and 1% respectively. You also get a $40 gas card when you sign up and another $35 card if you charge $1000 in the first 3 billing cycles.

    I convinced my employer to let me telecommute. I figure this is saving us about $500 per month in gas, tolls, and mileage on my car. My wife cannot do this because she is a chemist.

    I’ve started ransacking the library for personal finance books to read primarily around investment strategies. I’ve learned a lot and now have what I feel is a good, sound buy-and-hold strategy focusing on value investing.

    And as soon as all of the debt is paid off I want to start utilizing 0% BT to earn extra income off other people’s money. I need to get higher limit cards first. I recently discarded an offer for a $100,000 AMEX. Am kicking myself now, but I don’t want to apply for it for a couple of months anyway. There is some great info on this subject over at Fat Wallet Finance. One guy has like 4 $100k cards another 4 $50k and a bunch around $25k. He is constantly using those to earn interest in online savings. In one of his posts he said he is earning a couple thousand each month!

    Anyway, great blog! I agree this is more like a hobby. I don’t find it to be a chore at all.

  6. I had no idea it could add up to be that much money. Hey $200 a month or so is nothing to sneeze at!

    – Bryan

  7. Jonathan,

    Agreed! For me, looking for deals is a hobby! I can spend 2 hours looking for the best price on an airline ticket just to save $5! Yes, It is not worth 2 hours of my time, but it just gives me great satisfaction when i Know I am gettting the best deal out there. As you said, you have to enjoy doing these things.

    I hate filling out rebates and on several occasions nearly missed big rebate items due to submission of due dates but thank god my wife is more organized in that arena.

    here is a site that i visit everyday for deals.

    They currently have a link for an XBOX GAME for $1.99 + free shipping (Max Payne 2, which is an AWESOME game)

    You wrote an article about backing up your files etc….if people are uncomfortable backing up online, this is the time to buy external hard drives….they have become way too cheap!!!

    You can get 250GB external hard drives now for less than $100…..or around 60GB for less than $50. These things used to cost a fortune just 1.5 years back.

    PS: I bought my first playstation in a garage sale for $2

  8. To put things in perspective, Jonathan u mentioned u make around 1$1500 to $3000 a year…..folks….this is like a car payment!

    Assuming your car payment is $200 a month….thts only $2400 a year….wouldnt you do all this deals if someone said to you….hey, let me give you a free car..provided that you spend 3 hours a week working for me by filling out rebates and doing deals for me etc!!

  9. Online surveys are good for extra income. One year I received over $1500 in cash and gift certificates. It does depend on your age and gender I think to get into the bulk of the surveys. I don’t bother with the one’s that only enter you into a drawing. I do need to look into these bank signup bonuses….thanks for mentioning that Jonathan.


  10. I love reward cards. BUT I hate signing up for new ones.

  11. While I”m not sure I would catagorize all your savings as “little stuff”, remember not to be penny wise and pound foolish. Meaning don’t spend a lot of time on deals that will only save you pennies when you could try for a “big” score such as getting a cheaper auto insurance and save hundreds. However I’m like Jonathan in all this “little” stuff adds up.

    Something as simple as making your own lunch everyday instead of buying one. Say $5/day, 50 weeks a year is $1250/year.

    Rate shopping for utilties, LD, insurance compaines, etc. Find a better deal, call and say you’ll switch if they don’t match.

    Pay everything I can with “reward” credit cards
    5% reward card for gas, supermarket, drugstores
    5% reward card for “utilties” electricity, phone, cell, cable, etc.
    2% reward card (Fidelity 529) for everything else.

    One more I really want is Citi’s mtvU card (its a student card and I’m not a student.) which is 5% at restraunts and bookstores. Need a replacement for Discovers 5% restraunt card.

    I’ve got my “auto loan” on 0% credit cards (the discover 0% “for life” deal), plus I’m getting about $200/month in interest from other limited time 0% CC offers.

  12. How do you make $200-400 a year on bank sign ups? How many accounts do you apply for, like 100?!

    How many credit cards do you apply for a year as well? I have signed up for maybe 3 a year at most and probably 1-2 average per year for bonuses and my score as of several months ago was 721. I think if it weren’t for that my score would be almost 800. I am always tempted yet weary about applying for another card because I don’t want my score any lower.

  13. KingSideRook says


    Does PineCone Research send tax forms at the end of a year?


    Except for the cashback credit cards everything else on that list is not tax-free.

  14. it’s pretty amazing that these things do add up. It’s like those free after rebate things. Even if you get your rebate back, you still feel like spent all that money.

    The problem with this $3000 a year analysis is that all these “hobby” money are highly fragmented. You get them from time to time and unless you put them together in a bank account, they don’t seem very visible. I guess what I should do is to start a excel sheet just keep track on all these stuff. Anything with cash value, such as gift card or gas card, I will count them as cash. Hopefully I can accumulate something like $1500 a year.

  15. sammythesnake says

    I don’t see how you could make $200-400 on bank account bonuses. How many do you sign up for in a year? 10 to 20?

    Also, how many credit cards do you sign up for in a year? I have done maybe 1 to 2 per year on average and I am always afraid yet tempted to sign up for more so I don’t lower my credit score.

  16. Is that 20% of your pre tax or after tax income that you’re saving?

  17. i really like the inlay and reflecting topics of this blog. blogs like this are the reason i started to blog/blogroll. i an a novice. months into the online brokerage trades.. Did the for a many months. (awesome for beginers to get hands on tradinh experiance with out the cost of out of pocket money.) is great for me. ConnieB you refered to making some money via online surveys. can someone with knowledge of an honest payout of cash or even certificates mail me. thanks

  18. “I don?t see how you could make $200-400 on bank account bonuses. How many do you sign up for in a year? 10 to 20?

    Also, how many credit cards do you sign up for in a year? I have done maybe 1 to 2 per year on average and I am always afraid yet tempted to sign up for more so I don?t lower my credit score. ”

    Bank account bonuses vary from $20 to $100+. I’ve gotten $100 from Bank of America just recently.

    Getting credit cards and not using them is not that bad. Credit inquiries lower your credit score ~5 pts each, and the effect is temporary and mainly for 6 months. I get over 8 cards a year and my credit score (when not playing 0% games) is over 750.

  19. how do you make money via online surveys?

  20. First, I’d like to say good job on your site. It seems you’ve covered most of the subjects on cash back, APR, balance transfers and all of the other small print on a credit card application in a simplified manner that most people can grasp.

    For those visiting your site trying to make more money I’d also encourage them to visit a post on a forum I visit called Bartering and Horse Trading (, the gentleman who started and updates the thread has a lifetime of experience of generating income and making multiples of increase on his ‘investments’ and he helps you start small. Just a recommendation to help us all generate a little more income.

    Good day.

  21. I’ve made over $1,600 this year doing clinical studies at the local medical institution. Not anything serious or damaging to my body. They wanted to see the effects of a flu vaccine, brain scans, or dietary things. Easy money.

  22. Model dlya sborki says

    Good catch, however if you will be ever late with the payments downside is more upsetting that the reward, don’t you think?

  23. Glossy Business Cards says

    Lots of money to be made with those offers, if you had to make a guess on the dollars per hour made, what would it be?

  24. I did the 0% bal transfer thing. Worked great for the discover more card. I did it again with a chase card… and sent the xfer to my Amex. I thought your readers might like to know that Amex called me later and said they would send out the credit check *this time*, but if I xfered in another huge amount like that they would cancel my account (for “improper use” they said). Yikes.

  25. I love finding little things to do to make extra money. Way I see it, that’s more than I had before. And I just enjoy making money.

  26. Seems to me it’d be nerve-wracking to take advantage of your personal credit, etc. to make a couple thousand dollars a year. Why not get an easier, less risky side gig like reselling items on eBay or offering a service? I can think of a hundred ways to make $1,500-#3,500 per year that don’t require opening up a credit line, bank account, or using credit cards. But I noticed a lot of personal finance bloggers do this. Just honestly wondering about this! Maybe it’s the risk-averse accountant in me. 🙂

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