This Simple Month-By-Month Strategy Could Help You Save $5,000 This Year

Updated December 6, 2016
by The Penny Hoarder
Ways to save money

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!

To help you get started with that first step, here’s a 12-month strategy. Try just one of these ways to save money each month to work your way up to $5,000 in savings this year!

Month 1: Open a New Bank Account and Set Aside $5

Ways to save money
Kevin Krejci under Creative Commons

Open an online savings or checking account and deposit $5. Heck, roll your quarters if you have to.

There are a bunch of great online banks, but one of my favorites is Aspiration because it offers an interest rate that is around 100 times what a normal bank offers, with no monthly fees.

You can open a savings account at your local bank, but my suggestion is to go with an online bank — you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.

I know it doesn’t seem worth it to deposit only a few bucks, but getting started is an extremely important first step! Just trust me.

Balance: $5

Month 2: Earn $400 in Passive Income From These Apps   

Ways to save money

There are a number of companies, including Google, that will pay you to install their apps on your cell phone. They’ll pay you for every month you keep them installed

The apps collect data from your cell phone and help companies better understand web and mobile usage better — what times of day people browse, how long they stay on websites and use apps, and which types of sites and apps are popular (or not).

These are my favorites. Install all of them and earn $400/year or more:

+ Paribus – My new secret weapon is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up for Paribus and once you do, they will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from Amazon, Target, or one of the other 16 retailers listed on their website, they will track the item’s price and issue you a refund anytime there’s a price drop!

You don’t have to do anything!

+ ShopTracker – If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, you can earn money each month contributing to research to help companies understand what people are buying online. Download and connect Shoptracker to your Amazon account. They’ll instantly send you a free $3 Visa gift card, plus another $3 for every month you keep it installed.

+ SavvyConnect — You can earn $5 per device (phone, tablet or computer) for each month SavvyConnect is installed. That’s a total of up to $180 per year to help rank the most popular sites and apps. Make sure you keep it installed at least a month to get your first $5 per device.

+ MobileExpressions for Android or iOS – After you’ve installed this app for one week, you get to play an instant rewards game for a prize (everyone wins something). I won a $25 Amazon gift card, but some of the other prizes include iPads and Samsung TVs.

Balance: $405

Month 3: Earn an Extra $180 by Joining an Online Focus Group

Ways to save money
Barcin/Getty Images

We know you’re not going to get rich taking paid surveys, but I’ve been able to pocket an extra $10-$20 a month this way, and that adds up.

Start in Month 3, and that be could up to $180 this year!

Our favorite survey sites are VIP Voice and Ipsos Panel. Sign up for both to start receiving invites to surveys matching your profile.

Balance: $585

Month 4: Earn Money for Your Healthy Activities 

Ways to save money

Need extra motivation for your daily workout? The health app Achievemint lets you earn money for completing healthy activities.

Connect Achievemint to workout apps like Apple’s Healthkit, Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Rundouble C25K, Twitter or other apps you already use to track your health and fitness goals. You’ll choose which data to securely share with Achievemint to earn cash for your activities.

For example, you can earn points for logging your weight with MyFitnessPal or hitting step goals with Fitbit.

You can earn cash in $10 increments in cash or an Amazon Gift Card when you reach 10,000 points, and there’s no limit on how much you can earn.

Plus, you’ll earn 10 points just for signing up with Achievemint and connecting an app today!

Balance: $595

Month 5: Sell All Your Stuff With These Apps  

Ways to save money

If you’re like me and have a closet full of stuff you don’t wear, you could bank some cash selling your clothes. My favorite platform is Poshmark — the app is super easy to use!

And it’s not just clothes; you can clear all the clutter from your life by selling stuff online.

For my old books from college, I use Bookscouter. Just type your book’s ISBN into the search bar, and the site will connect you with more than 25 of the best-paying and most reputable buyback companies online.

And for virtually everything else, I use 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, but it’s also 100% free to use.

So, what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to let go of all that superfluous stuff?

Set a goal to make an extra $50 decluttering your place this month, and add it to your bank account — every little bit helps!

Balance: $645

Month 6: Write Letters to Legislators 

Ways to save money

If you’re a good writer or editor, you can make $12 to $15 an hour writing letters to members of Congress. You’ll be able to learn more about the issues available before committing to writing a letter, so if you want to stick with your own political views, it’s easy to pick and choose.

Before you apply, make sure you have the required computer equipment. For example, I can’t do this job because the software the companies use doesn’t work on Macs.

Work just a few hours this month, and you could earn more than $500.

Balance: $1,145

Month 7: Uber Your Way to an Extra $2,400

Ways to save money
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures under Creative Commons

If you want to earn extra money on the side or even work for yourself full-time, signing up as an Uber driver-partner could be a great opportunity.

Sign up as a driver-partner with the rideshare service this month, and you could have a new side hustle! Or, if you don’t want to keep it up long-term, you could at least use this opportunity to get some extra cash in the bank.

Pay depends on your location and a number of other factors, but I know one Penny Hoarder who regularly grossed about $600 for a 40-hour workweek.

You could take it easy, work about 20 hours a week this month and bank $1,200. Or, hit it hard for four weeks!

Work 40 hours a week for one month, and you could bank about $2,400.

Balance: $3,545

Month 8: Get Paid $225/Month to Watch Movie Trailers

Ways to save money
People images/Getty Images

Most of you already know about Swagbucks, but did you know it will pay you to watch movie previews, along with dozens of other videos? Plus, you’ll get $5 just for signing up.

You need to watch all of the shows in a specific playlist to earn your bucks, so be prepared.

Swagbucks lets you know how long the playlist runs before you start watching, and playlists range from a few minutes to about a half hour.

And it’s possible to earn up to $225/month watching these videos! Max out your video-watching potential and you could earn a full $225 this month.

Balance: $3,775

Month 9: Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy

Ways to save money

Anytime I shop online, I use a cash-back rewards site like MyPoints. It’s a smart way to earn cash for the shopping you’re doing anyway!

And it works at most of my favorite retailers. Once you sign up for a free account, you can get 1.4% cash back on purchases at Target and a whopping 5.4% at Walmart.

There are more than 1,000 stores on the list, so you can purchase nearly everything you need through the cash-back site.

Plus, when you spend your first $20 through the portal, MyPoints will give you a free $10 Amazon gift card.

Try to average at least $10 in cash back for the last three months of the year.

Balance: $3,815

Month 10: Rate Your Local Businesses

Ways to save money
Paul Beattie under Creative Commons

As many of you know, I was a professional mystery shopper for many years (I got my start conducting liquor audits all over the Southeast).

One of the most popular types of mystery shops is for pizza companies — both Papa John’s and Pizza Hut regularly conduct mystery shops at all of their locations.

Who wouldn’t love $5 and free pizza?

Other audits pay even more — between $8-$25 each.

It’s pretty easy to do and you can do it several times a year. If you’re interested in giving it a try, here’s a list of my favorite mystery shopping companies.

Going all-in, I was able to earn between $400-$500 per month as a mystery shopper! If you conduct just one or two each week this month, you could easily bank an extra $50.

Balance: $3,865

Month 11: Sign Up for a Clinical Trial to Earn Up to $900 

Ways to save money
elenaleonova/Getty Images

Do you live with a chronic condition like psoriasis, arthritis or migraines? They’re a serious pain in the neck… or wrists… or head…

But they may also make you eligible for clinical studies that can really pay off. These studies help medical professionals learn how to better treat chronic conditions.

Payment varies by study, but we found some that offer pretty killer compensation:

  • Arthritis: If you have rheumatoid arthritis in the knee or hip and are otherwise healthy, you may qualify for studies offering compensation up to $625 depending on the number of study visits. (Read more here.)

Balance: $4,765

Month 12: Sell Your Gold and Silver 

Ways to save money

Do you have silver or gold coins and jewelry you don’t mind parting with? You can sell them for quick cash to add to your savings.

Our resident expert, writer Steve Gillman, warns against going with the buyers you see advertising on TV. They’ll probably send you an envelope to mail in your precious metals, you’ll wait a few days for an offer and even longer to get paid.

Instead, look for a local coin shop and storefront silver and gold buyers. They tend to pay better prices and you’ll get the money today.

Of course, make sure your items aren’t more valuable as-is before selling them to be melted for their metals. Stop by a local jeweler for an appraisal — you might sell it there, or you could list it on Ebay.

Can you find $250 of gold or silver to sell?

Balance: $5,000+

Your Turn: What are you doing this year to beef up your savings account?

Disclosure: You wouldn’t believe how much coffee The Penny Hoarder team goes through. This post contains affiliate links so we can keep the grinds stocked!

by The Penny Hoarder
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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