We get it. We’re supposed to save money. We should have an emergency fund equal to six times our monthly salary, and retirement at five times our annual salary before our 45th birthday. We should self-insure. We should have enough funds socked away to not need any extended warranties. We should…we should…we should.
For too many people, though, we should…but we can’t. Our income and expenses are so close to one another they might as well be twins. If there’s money left at the end of the month, we spend it on some emergency we’ve been putting off dealing with. We’d like to save. There just isn’t enough money to do it.
The good news is, many of us have little pockets of expenditures, or places we could earn a little more, to increase our extra money with each pay period. Find enough little pockets and you’ll be able to save more than you imagined. Here are my 24 favorite ways to save a little bit of money. Some of these might be things you do already. But if they aren’t, some will help you get started this week.
1. Credit Card Rewards
If your credit cards offer cashback rewards, move as many of your bills onto that card as possible. Pay it off either every other week, or in real time, to make it in under the grace period.
2. Consolidate Your Savings Accounts
If you have your money spread through multiple small accounts, find the one with the best interest rate and close the others. This is especially useful for accounts with higher interest when you carry a higher balance.
3. Open New Accounts (For a While)
A surprising number of banks, cable companies and similar services offer a few hundred dollars for signing up with them. Open an account long enough to get the reward, then either close it or make the change permanent.
4. Online Survey Programs
A lot of these are scams, paying nothing of value or extremely low amounts, but a handful are a reasonable way to make 10 or 20 bucks while you’re watching Netflix. Most experts recommend Swagbucks, MySurvey and Valued Opinions as legitimate income opportunities.
5. Host an Event
This isn’t for everybody, but if you have a skill to showcase (like cooking or music), you can host an event at your home or a local coffee shop or bar. Charge a small admission, and end the evening a couple hundred dollars richer than you started it.
6. Download the Shopkick App
Shopkick pays you in rewards points for some of your shopping behaviors – many of which you do already. Accumulate enough points, and you receive gift cards. Use them to buy things, and save the money you would have spent.
7. Craigslist and eBay
Admit it. You already have too much stuff. Somebody out there is willing to give you money for some of that stuff, and online platforms exist to help facilitate the sale. Your trash can be someone else’s treasure, as they say.
8. Try Out Paribus and Ebates
9. The Subscription Audit
It’s a near-certainty that you have at least three subscriptions that you either never use, or can get along perfectly fine without. Take a look at your bank and credit card statements, then purge the items you forgot you were paying for.
If you have a lot of debt, you can refinance using a home loan or personal loan, if it reduces the average interest you pay. Often, the arrangement will reduce your monthly minimum payment, which might also increase how much you can save.
11. Sell Your Dollar Bills
Dollar bills are worth a dollar…unless they’re worth over $2,500. Collectors will pay a shocking amount of money for bills with serial numbers that round out their collections. CoolSerialNumbers.com is a marketplace for those collectors and the people they buy from.
12. Get Busy Recycling
If you live in a state with a bottle return policy, this is easy money. If not, you can still make a monthly trip to a recycling place. Both mean money for your savings by getting rid of what you don’t want anyway while cutting down on the volume of trash you produce.
13. Test Grocery Delivery
This feels like a luxury item, but many shoppers report saving 20-40% using these services. It comes from less impulse buys, and daily deals offered by the delivery companies. Use with caution and track your results, though. Mileage may vary.
14. Leverage Amazon
Amazon (especially with Prime shipping and cashback on their branded credit card) sells a lot of household items at a fraction of the price you find at the grocery store. Arrange automatic orders and keep the difference.
15. Get on the Uber/Lyft Bandwagon
You know what these are. If you have a decent car, a good driving record and a few hours each week for a low-key part time side gig, sign up. You’ll be your own boss and work on your own time while making exactly as much or as little as you want from your work.
16. (Temporarily) Reduce Your Retirement Deduction
If you have high-interest debt, consider reducing your elective retirement deductions from your paycheck. Use the money to pay off the debt, then go back to your higher deduction while enjoying the benefits of less debt.
17. Test Websites
Similar to the survey options, you can sign up on UserTesting.com and similar sites to spend a few minutes testing websites and answering questions. You can make up to $20 an hour from home this way.
18. Start a Service Business
Know how to do something? Find people to let you do it for cash. Cleaning houses, babysitting, freelance writing, selling your art and photography, home organizing and becoming a virtual assistant are all variations on this opportunity. The gig economy is going strong nowadays, so make the most of it on your own terms.
19. Sign Up on Mechanical Turk
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service is a clearinghouse where people and businesses needing human intelligence to do minor tasks find the intelligent humans to perform them. You won’t make huge money this way, but it’s another trickle to add to your income stream.
20. AirBnB (and its Ilk)
The crowd economy is growing, especially in the department of lodging. If you have a spare room or spare apartment, put it on site and see how much you can earn.
21. Watch Pets and Houses
Although the going rate for this job (which everybody knows how to do) varies from region to region, it’s always more than you’d make watching Netflix at home.
Whatever you already do for a living, you can do a bit more of it as a part-time job outside your day job. This is among the easiest ways to earn extra money, as it requires you to learn zero new skills.
23. Ask for a Raise
Simultaneously the simplest and hardest on this list for many, you should go to your boss and ask for a raise. It’s literally free money. If they refuse, go get a new job at a higher wage.
24. Sell Your Gift Cards
They’re in your junk drawer right now, cluttering it up. Don’t sell these on the online gift card markets – you’ll get pennies on the dollar. Instead, sell them to the people you know are likely to use them.
One final way to increase your savings is too long-term a prospect for most to go on the list, but deserves mention. The next time you get bonus money – from a raise, a tax refund or an actual bonus – save half and spend the other half frivolously. The same goes for expenses that fall off, like making a final payment on a student loan. That way you save better, but still get to have some fun with your hard-earned cash.
No matter how many of these sources work out for you, taking on even one or two can add up to real extra savings in your account by the end of the year. I recommend trying one each month https://www.moneycrashers.com/reducefor a year, and seeing what that does for your bottom line.
Jonathan Henry is a financial consultant for individuals and small businesses. Self-taught, he’s an expert in savings accounts and smart spending.