How to Quickly Save $1,000 for Your Emergency Fund and Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

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Wouldn’t life be a little easier if you had a $1,000 cushion in your emergency fund?

The paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is an easy one to fall into — and a hard one to break.

But trust us: There are ways out — and we want to help.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck This Year

One of the best ways to tackle this cycle to the cold, hard ground is to take it step by step. No, you won’t get ahead overnight. This is going to take a little time. But in the end, it’ll be worth it — and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Month 1: Separate Your Spending and Saving Accounts

Let’s start with the basics: Your bank account. Operating everything out of one account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.

To simplify, open an account dedicated to saving, and put your money to work. One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Spend and Save account — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

Goal: See if you can start socking away just $25 per month, for starters.

Month 2: Find out If You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance

Next, let’s take a look at your car insurance, shall we? Typically, this is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?

Yeah, there’s no getting around car insurance, unfortunately. But one way you could save money is by shopping and comparing rates twice a year.

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers, but your goal….

Goal: Save yourself at least $240 a year on car insurance — a cool $20 per month.

Month 3: Get Some Free Food

Sign up for Tablespoon’s free email and score up to $250 per year in coupon savings. Plus, stay on top of your food game with free recipes for doable dinners, delish desserts, party snacks and more.

Fill out the short form here (it takes 10 seconds), and select “coupon & sales.” Then click the button marked “clip all” to claim your coupons.

(Side note: A few readers have reported not seeing the “coupon & sales” link. You may have to log out and log back in for it show up.)

Goal: Save an extra $20 on your groceries this month.

Month 4: Drop a Brick in Your Toilet

Not like that, guys.

Find something to put into the bottom of your toilet’s tank to displace some of the water. This minimizes the amount of water needed to fill the tank, therefore reducing your water usage and bill.

If you’re not comfortable sticking a random object into your toilet, you can invest in something called a Tank Bank, a little bag you can clip to the side of your tank that’ll displace 0.8 gallons of water per flush. The $10 three-pack can potentially save you $35 a year.

Goal: Save $35 a year.

Month 5: Let This Company Pay Off Your Credit Cards

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.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 3.84%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

Goal: Save $100 per month in credit card interest.

Month 6: Get Free Lottery Tickets

This month is lucky number seven, so let’s try your luck!

There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.

Instead, try scratching for free using an app called Lucktastic (Lucktastic is called Lucktastic Match on iOS). Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens that you can exchange for free gift cards to retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, Sephora and more.

The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free. For more info, check out our full review.

Goal: You could always hit the jackpot. If you want to be more realistic, think in terms of clearing $5 per month.

Month 7: Share Your Opinions (Not on Facebook!)

Time to chill out a little bit. Online surveys aren’t our favorite way to make money, but if you’re just vegging out on the couch — or rewatching your favorite “Star Wars” movie for the 113th time — why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks?

Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys. For each survey you complete, you’ll get rewards points (they’re called SBs) that you can redeem for cash or gift cards for popular retailers like Amazon.

Take it from Jessica Maloy, who earned $1,200 in a year from taking Swagbucks surveys daily. The key? Persistence.

Pro Tip

Earn a 500 SB (or $5) bonus when you sign up and earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.

Goal: Folks from The Penny Hoarder staff have tested out the surveys and can typically pocket an extra $10 to $20 a month. So pocket that extra $20.

Month 8: Stop Deleting Your Emails

We’re at the six-month mark! Like Bon Jovi says, Whoa-OH, we’re halfway there.

Hey, it turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?

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’ll scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it’ll track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

Goal: Save an extra $100 a year.

Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

Month 9: Be a Mock Juror

Now that you’ve tried your luck, let’s shift gears here and start judging people online.

A mock or surrogate juror reviews evidence and renders a decision to help lawyers prepare for real cases. Participation usually requires a full day cooped up in a hotel conference room.

Fortunately, there are online surrogate juror options, too: eJury and OnlineVerdict. Those opportunities pay $5 to $60, but they can take less than an hour.

To qualify as an online juror, applicants must be:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • 18 years or older
  • Free of any past felony convictions

Creating an account for either site above is free but will require a questionnaire that will ask very personal questions about your age, marital status, criminal history, income, political opinions and more.

Goal: Earn $40 a month

Month 10: Optimize Your Credit Card Use

Okay, it’s month nine and you’re ready for the next step: A rewards credit card.

If you’re not using a rewards card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money. You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Goal: Pocket that $150 bonus!

*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Month 11: List Your Extra Space

We’re getting toward the end now. Time to take a big step.

Do you have a spare room? Try to earn an extra $100 or more by listing it on Airbnb.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

And there’s no reason you can’t be creative. We found a guy who earns $1,380 a month listing a backyard tent on Airbnb!

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

Goal: Earn $100 a month from that room you’re not using.

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

Month 12: Celebrate Your Savings (for Free!)

Ta-da! You’ve reached the end! Time to crack open a cold one and celebrate.

The craft beer industry is hoppin’, so take advantage of it by, well, getting paid to visit breweries.

When you sign up as a mystery shopper, it’s your job to go to a grocery store, gas station, restaurant or, in this case, a breweries, and provide anonymous feedback.

Now, you can get paid to mystery shop — and drink — at breweries in your area through Secret Hopper. (Clever, right?)

The company is looking for detail-oriented beer-drinkers to hop around to different breweries and objectively rate and review their experiences. One Penny Hoarder gave the gig a try. He paid $16 on his visit to a local brewery. Secret Hopper paid him $20 via PayPal within a few days.

So, no, you’re not going to get rich, but you will get free beer, and that makes us hoppy.

All you have to do is sign up, then it’ll contact you when you’re needed.

Goal: Save $10 to $20 a month, depending on how thirsty you are.