A Month by Month Guide to Saving $1,000+ and Ending the Paycheck to Paycheck Lifestyle

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Honest Abe


Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

It’s an easy cycle to fall into — living paycheck to paycheck.

And it’s a hard cycle to break.

Payday comes along, and it’s time to funnel money toward rent and (overdue) bills. And that doesn’t count groceries or other necessities you’ll need before next payday.

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 the 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 time. But, in the end, it’ll be worth it — and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Follow these steps for the next 12 months to save your first $1,000, get into the habit of saving and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

Month 1: Open a New Checking Account

Operating everything out of one checking account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.

To simplify, open a second account for a dedicated purpose. One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Summit Checking Account there are no fees, and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.  

This online-only checking account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

After you open your Summit Checking Account, use it to split your income:

  • Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your existing bank account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills.
  • Deposit what’s left into your Summit account to use for fun stuff, like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.

Start with $10 today, and siphon just $10 into the account from each paycheck.

You’ll bank $240 — plus interest! — by the end of a year.

Month 2: Start a Passive Income Stream

Start bringing in money you don’t have to work for — like, at all.

If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, the ShopTracker app will pay you each month for contributing to research to help companies understand what people are buying online. Companies use this information to improve the online shopping experience.

To earn a $3 Visa gift card today, plus $3 for every month you share your purchase info:

  1. Sign up and download the ShopTracker app on your Windows computer and Apple or Android phone. It takes about two minutes. You’ll need to answer a few questions about your Amazon use to qualify.
  2. Open the app and log in to your Amazon account to automatically share your purchase history.
  3. You’ll receive your Visa e-gift card code for $3 via email within 48 hours.
  4. Take a couple of minutes to share your purchase history to earn another $3 each month.

Your information is collected securely by The Harris Poll, a trusted market research company for more than 20 years. ShopTracker removes your name, shipping address and any personal payment information before reporting your purchase history.

You’ll earn $3 today and another $3 per month — that’s $36 a year.

Month 3: Get Back the Money You’ve Already Spent

One simple way to save money is to earn an unexpected refund for something you already bought.

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.

You don’t have to do anything!

If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its participating retailers, it will track the item’s price and work to get you a refund anytime there’s a price drop.

Plus, if something shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping — up to a full refund.

If you earn back $5 in price drops per month, you’d bank an extra $60 in a year!

Month 4: Fill out Surveys While You Watch TV or on Your Commute

A number of sites will pay you to read advertiser’s emails, sign up for offers and take surveys.

We’ve tried about a million of them (OK… we’ve lost count), but there are only a few we’d recommend.

VIP Voice is one of those companies. The surveys are relatively quick to complete and reward you with points you can redeem for cash or gift cards.

Sign up for VIP Voice and log in a few times each week. You’ll have no trouble earning an extra $30 a month with almost no work.

At that rate, you’ll bank $360 in a year.

Month 5: Join an Online Focus Group

You might recognize the Ipsos Panel name because it’s the same company that does most of the political polling during elections. It also has a survey app called i-Say that pays you for your opinions.

Some of the top-end surveys can pay up to $95, but those are rare and can take awhile to complete. Most surveys pay a buck or two and only take 10 to 15 minutes.

Also, i-Say rewards you with points you can redeem for cash via PayPal or gift cards to Amazon, iTunes and others. (For example, you can redeem 1,000 points for a $10 PayPal deposit).

Log in 20 to 30 minutes a week to answer questions, and you could easily bank $5 to $10 each month.

That could add up to $120 after a year.

Month 6: Pick up a Simple Side Gig

Have a spare room? Might as well use Airbnb to make some money by renting it out.

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 renting out a backyard tent on Airbnb!

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

Here are some tips:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events.
  • Be a good host, and stock your place 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.

Try renting your room just a couple nights each month to earn $100, and you’ll set aside $1,200 this year!

You could even put half your earnings toward monthly expenses and still save $600 in a year.

Here’s the link to sign up as an Airbnb host.

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

Month 7: Automate Your Savings

Some simple tricks can help you continue to build a stash of cash.

That’s where micro-savings apps come into the picture — like Stash.

With its Smart-Save feature, Stash users can automatically tuck money into an emergency fund (or a vacation reserve) without thinking.

Let us walk you through how it works:

  1. Sign up for Stash in about two minutes, tops. Plus, you’ll get a $5 bonus just for opening your account!
  2. Connect your checking account to the app.
  3. Smart-Save does the rest, analyzing your available funds, spending and income to calculate exactly how much you can afford to save.
  4. Watch the automated savings build.

If you’re tight on money one week, you can easily turn off the automated feature. Or if you need to tap into your savings, you can withdraw at any time.

Plus, it’s nice knowing Stash will never cause you to spin into overdraft. If your balance is low, Smart-Save won’t initiate a transfer.

Sneak a peek at Stash’s Smart-Save feature — then try to say that five times fast…

Please note, the Smart-Save feature is not a savings account offered by a bank. Smart-Save is a feature that may be turned on and connected to the checking account that is linked to your Stash Invest account.

To save $1,000 in one year, you’d only have to stash $19 a week.

Month 8: Download These Apps (Yeah, That’s It)

A number of companies will actually pay you for downloading apps on your smartphone or computer — and you’ll get paid again for every month you keep them installed, so this is a great way to boost your passive income for the rest of the year!

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

Here are some apps we’ve checked out:

  • Smart Panel: You’ll earn $5 just for downloading this app, plus $5 for every month you keep it installed. And you get periodic “loyalty bonuses,” so you’ll earn up to $110 by the end of a year (and another $120 in your second year)!
  • MobileXpressions for iPhones: After you’ve installed this app for one week, you get to play an instant rewards game for a prize (everyone wins something). We’ve seen users win a $25 Amazon gift card, but some of the other prizes include iPads and Samsung TVs.
  • MobileXpressions for Android: This one is the same as above, but for Android devices.

Month 9: Finally Part With Your Copy of ‘Jagged Little Pill’

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.

We talked to one user, Gil Flores, who sold about 100 DVDs and 75 CDs and made $275 — an average of $1.57 each.

Just download the app and start scanning the barcodes on your media to get immediate quotes. It’s completely free to use, you won’t pay listing or seller fees, payment is super fast and even shipping is free.

Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-in order!

Even if your collection isn’t as hefty as Flores’, maybe you could add $50 to your bank account?

Month 10: Rate Local Businesses (Without Looking Like a Jerk on Yelp)

Got an eye for great service? You could make money — and get the occasional free meal — as a mystery shopper.

Companies want to know the employees serving their customers are putting a good face on the brand. Because a CEO of a  huge chain can’t pull an “Undercover Boss” every week, many companies send mystery shoppers into the field to rate the customer experience.

This can be a simple way to make extra money — if you’re efficient. Here’s what to do — and what not to do — if you want to be a successful mystery shopper.

If you make about $30 a month as a mystery shopper, you can bank $360 in a year.

Month 11: Clear Your Closets

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.

One app we especially like is Letgo. You can literally list your clothes in less than a minute.

Think you can find one item a month you’re willing to part with for $10?

That’ll bank you $120 in a year!

Month 12: Collect Bank Bonuses

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 $300 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.

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