How much money would you like to have saved for the holidays? Or your next vacation? Or your emergency fund?
Whatever your goal, the number probably seems overwhelming.
Trying to figure out where several hundred or a few thousand dollars might come from is tough. Instead, break it down. Find ways to set aside just a little bit at a time — you’ll be surprised how quickly you can move toward your goal!
Here Are 12 Ways to Save Money This Year
To help you get started with that first step, we’ve put together a 12-month strategy to save money and work your way up to $5,000 in savings this year!
Month 1: Ditch Your Card
Did you know that at least one in five cardholders are carrying around a credit card whose fees and rewards don’t match their actual spending habits, according to a 2016 study from J.D. Power.
Consider the following math problem: if you could increase your rewards rate by 1% on only $1,500 of spend per month, you could be pocketing an extra $180 every year!
To get some professional help making your choice, check out Even Financial. It offers an online marketplace to find the right card for you, based on your situation and needs
Month 2: Earn an Extra $100 by Joining an Online Focus Group
Surveys aren’t our favorite way to make money, but if you’re just vegging out on the couch, why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks?
Here are some of the best paid survey sites we’ve found:
- Harris Poll: Most surveys pay between $3 and $4 each for 20 minutes of your time. Larger panels are hosted locally. These usually require two to four hours of your time — and you don’t get to watch Netflix while you’re at it — but they pay up to $75.
- MyPoints: The questions are pretty simple. Which do you like more: Coke or Cherry Coke? How many times have you been to the movies in the past 12 months? You get the idea.
- Survey Junkie’s clean look and “cashout wheel” keep you motivated to take as many surveys as you want. They’re relatively quick to complete and reward you with points. Once you earn 1,000 points — or $10 — you can cash out for gift cards or cash paid via PayPal.
- InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.
Month 3: Start Investing Without Thinking About It
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself consider starting an investment account through Acorns.
You can start small — with $5 — and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.
Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.
The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to stash $420 away per year.
At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.
But the beauty is you can set your own pace with Acorns’ features, so if you want — and can afford — to invest $1,000 faster, go for it.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
Month 4: Consolidate Your Debt to Lower Your Bills
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.
Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness.
It can help you borrow up to $50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders. If managing many different bills and credit lines is a hassle, you can also use an Upstart loan to streamline all of your loans into one.
If you want to keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.
Once you know what’s in your credit history, Credit Sesame shares personalized resources and recommendations so you can figure out how to fix it — a better score could mean even better interest rates.
Can you knock your monthly payment down $100?
Month 5: Earn Passive Income From Your Impulse Buys
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
Wouldn’t it be cool to make money you weren’t counting on?
One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.
Month 6: Let Someone Borrow Your Place for the Night
Have a spare room? Might as well list it on Airbnb to try to make some money.
If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.
Taking a few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.
Here are a few tips:
- Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events in your area.
- Be a good host, and make sure your place is stocked with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
- Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.
(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)
If you can rent your place for $100 a night just 10 nights a year, you’ll bank a cool $1,000 over the year.
Month 7: Sell All Your Stuff With These Apps
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
Are your closets and shelves packed to the brim with stuff you never use — or even look at?
You can sell virtually anything on Letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s 100% free to use.
But there are also apps for selling more specific stuff to people who might actually be looking for it.
Have a bunch of movies or CDs collecting dust on a shelf? Decluttr will pay you for them!
Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus hardware like cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods. Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-ins!
Set a goal to make an extra $100 decluttering your place this month, and add it to your bank account — every little bit helps!
Month 8. Automate Your Savings
Open an online savings or checking account and deposit $5. Heck, roll your quarters if you have to.
Chime is an online-only bank account that offers some unique features other banks haven’t caught on to yet.
- Chime doesn’t charge overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees or minimum balance fees.
- Chime customers have access to thousands of fee-free MoneyPass ATMs around the country.
- When you set your payroll up for direct deposit to your Chime spending account, your paycheck will post two days before payday, giving you more time to plan, save and pay the bills.
- You can open an easy-to-access, connected savings account. It allows you to automate your savings with features like the round-up tool, which will round up your transactions to the nearest dollar and dump the change into savings.
- Its mobile app boasts more than 2,000 five-star reviews, making managing money super accessible via iPhone or Android.
- It has a “Pay Friends” feature, so you don’t have to mess with cash, math or other apps to split the bill.
For an account that’ll help you strike up savings — and that’ll pay you two days early — check out Chime.
To keep your savings habit going throughout the year, sign up for Digit.
This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
We know it doesn’t seem worth it to deposit only a few bucks, but getting started is an extremely important step!
Month 9: Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy
Believe it or not, there are sites that will give you free gift cards just for signing up with them.
One of my favorites is Ebates, the cash-back shopping site. They’re giving away $10 gift cards if you sign up as a new member and earn your first cash-back rebate. You can choose a $10 gift card from Target, Walmart, Macy’s or Kohl’s.
You do have to wait 30 days, but it’s free money so can you really complain?
Month 10: Lyft Your Way to an Extra $3,000
Need a fun, flexible way to earn money this month? Try driving with Lyft!
Demand for ridesharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.
Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!
Work 40 hours a week for one month at that rate, and you could bank around $3,000.
Month 11: Earn up to $350 Opening Another Bank Account
This hobby is way more fun than stamp collecting.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite bank promotions happening right now. These banks will pay you up to $350 just to open a new account!
It’s up to you to decide how to manage several bank accounts. Some of us find it’s helpful to have multiple places to stick our money for various purposes — we’re less likely to touch it that way.
You could always open an account, collect the bonus, and close it when you’re no longer using it — just make sure you read the details and know the requirements you need to meet to earn the bonus.
So you don’t have to juggle too many at once, try opening a new account every few months — and collect about $800 in bonuses in a year.
Month 12: Ditch Your Unused Subscriptions
We all sign up for stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to put subscriptions on a recurring payment and forget about it — looking at you Netflix.
These kinds of payments can be smart for paying bills and chopping down debt, but getting rid of the subscriptions you’re not using and socking away the savings could help you roll over the $5,000 mark this month.
If you can’t keep track of them all, check out an app called Trim. Once you sign up and connect your bank account and phone number, it analyzes your transaction history for recurring payments.
When it finds one, the app sends you a text and cancels any subscriptions you don’t want to keep.
Just make sure you actually save the savings. Can you save another $200?
Put all these strategies to use and you could save more than $5,000 this year!
Bonus: Make Your 401(k) Blossom
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder
Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
There’s a robo-adviser for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.