How to Save $5,000 a Year Without Changing Your Spending Habits

Updated February 23, 2017
by The Penny Hoarder

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 $655+ 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 $655/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!

Smart Panel – This app will pay you up to $75 for the first year you keep it installed on your smartphone. It’s run by Verto Analytics, a trusted analytics firm — and usage stats are anonymous. Once you’ve qualified and downloaded the app, you’ll receive $5. Keep the app installed for at least two weeks, and you’ll get another $10. Then for every month you keep the app installed, you’ll get another $5. You can redeem your rewards via Paypal or an Amazon gift card.

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 this 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.

Nielsen Mobile Panel – If you have a smartphone, this Nielsen panel will pay you $50/year to keep this app on your cell phone and browse the web like you normally do. After you’ve installed it 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 & Samsung TVs.

Digital Reflection Panel – This company will pay you over $200 a year for attaching a simple device to your router and letting it gather information about your internet habits in hopes of one day making online experiences even better. It takes about seven minutes to fill out the necessary panel and survey to participate.

Balance: $660

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 Ipsos Panel and Vip Voice. Sign up for both to start receiving invites to surveys matching your profile.

Balance: $840

Month 4: 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: $3,240

Month 5: Sell All Your Stuff With These Apps  

Ways to save money

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 PENNY10 at checkout to get an extra 10% for your trade-ins!

For old books from college, you can 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.

Do you still have a prom outfit from, like, 10 years ago?

It’s never going to fit — or come into style — again, but something just keeps holding you back from sending it to Goodwill.

Maybe money could change your mind? Instead of storing clothes indefinitely, try selling them on an app like Poshmark.

There’s even a site for old purses and designer accessories! Sell them on CashInMyBag.

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: $3,290

Month 6: Consolidate Your Debt to Lower Your Bills

Kerkez/Getty Images

OK, so this one won’t necessarily help you make money to save. But it could substantially lower payments you’re already making on your debt and help you save more money each month.

Most of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates that are north of 20%. If you’re in the same boat, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.

A good resource is Even Financial, which can help you borrow up to $35,000 (with no collateral needed) and compare interest rates from several lenders.

If you do decide to consolidate your credit card debt, be sure you don’t close your old accounts. A huge part of your credit score revolves around the length of your credit history and closing active accounts can definitely hurt it.

Savings vary, but reader Julie Fulesday consolidated some of her student loans before refinancing them and was able to save between $10,000 to $12,000. While this is an extreme example, consolidating debt could help you get out from under it faster.

Can you knock your monthly payment down $100?

Balance: $3,390

Month 7: Negotiate Your Bills to Save $400+/Year

peopleimages/Gett Images
peopleimages/Getty Images

We all know you can negotiate the price of a car, but did you know that you can negotiate your cell phone bill and cable bill?

I recently did this with my AT&T bill. I already had the cheapest advertised plan, but I called AT&T and asked if they could do anything to help me reduce the bill. I ended up knocking off $20/month off, saving me $240/year!

I also did the same thing with my cable bill and racked up another $200/year in savings.

Here are some tips on how to negotiate these bills.

Balance: $3,790

Month 8: Earn $250 By Opening Another Bank Account

Class-action settlements
Maminau Mikalai/

Now that you’ve got some money saved, you could get paid just for putting a few bucks in another bank account.

We’ve put together a huge list of banks that will pay you just to open one — some will pay you up to $250 for it!

There’s no harm in having multiple bank accounts. In fact, I often find it’s helpful to have multiple places to save (I’m less likely to touch the money), so I have savings accounts for my Christmas fund and my vacation fund.

The top bank bonus is $250 right now — head over to this list to see all of the banks in your area that are offering free cash.

Balance: $4,040

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: $4,070

Month 10: Ditch Your Unused Subscriptions

Paolo Cipriani / Getty Images
Paolo Cipriani / Getty Images

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 $100?

Balance: $4,170

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 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:

  • Migraines – If you’ve never had a migraine, be glad you can just take my word for it: They’re really, really bad. Local research studies may offer payment/compensation up to $1,150 (learn more here). These studies help doctors discover better ways to treat — and hopefully eliminate — migraines.
  • 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. You can find more info here. Just a head’s up, you’ll need to provide a valid phone number and see a study doctor to see if you are eligible, and complete the study-required visits, before you’ll be compensated for participating.
  • Cluster Headaches: If a doctor has diagnosed you with a cluster headache, you could qualify for a variety of studies that pay up to $300. You’ll also receive no-cost study-related care and medication. (Learn more here.)
  • Crohn’s disease – Have you been diagnosed with this chronic gastrointestinal disease? If you’ve had Crohn’s for at least three months, you may qualify for one of the local studies that may offer payment that varies by study up to $750. Plus, you may also receive no-cost study-related care for the length of the study. (Learn more here)

Balance: $5,070

Month 12: Earn a $100+ Bonus by Opening a New Credit Card

$100 Credit Card Bonus
As long as you pay down your credit balance in full each month, rewards cards are a great way to make some extra money. We’re not advocating that you open 1,497 credit cards like this guy, but taking advantage of a sign-up bonus here or there can definitely help your bank account!

Check out this list of seven credit cards with no annual fee that offer a $100 bonus or more when you open a new account.

Balance: $5,170

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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