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

This month, we want you to try and reduce your car insurance bill. For many, car insurance 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? But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year.

The Zebra is an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.

Month 2

Want to get a jump on payday? Let Chime be your secret weapon.

Unlike most financial institutions, this online bank account doesn’t wait until your pay date to give you access to your money. As soon as it receives notification of a direct deposit from your employer, it immediately posts those funds to your account.

That means you’ll get your paycheck early — like Samuel Demeny, who recently switched to Chime. He uses direct deposit. His company technically pays everyone on Fridays, but Chime gets him access to that cash two days earlier than his co-workers.

“The fact that I’m paid on Wednesday versus Friday… helps me budget before the weekend even starts,” Demeny told The Penny Hoarder.

Not everyone is guaranteed the two-day head start Demeny has. That depends on your employer and its financial institution. We talked to another Chime account holder, Lee Best, who gets his paycheck one day ahead of his co-workers — on Wednesday instead of Thursday.

Plus, Chime offers some other unique features other banks haven’t caught on to yet, such as:

  • It doesn’t charge overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees or minimum balance fees.
  • You can open an easy-to-access, connected savings account. It allows you to automate your savings with features like the round-up tool, which will round up your transactions to the nearest dollar and dump the change into savings.
  • It has a “Pay Friends” feature, so you don’t have to mess with cash, math or other apps to split the bill.
  • Chime customers have access to thousands of fee-free MoneyPass ATMs around the country and mobile check deposit.

Who doesn’t want to get paid early?

Opening an account with Chime is free and only takes about five minutes.

Month 3

To build your savings, try to earn an extra $50 this month by bringing in money you don’t have to work for — like, at all. Here are a few cool ways to build up passive income and savings:

  • Paribus is 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 for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.
  • MobileXpression for Android: 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 other prizes include iPads and Samsung TVs.

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

Month 4

Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn’t even notice?

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

Month 5

Have you ever considered consolidating your debt? It could substantially lower payments you’re already making and help you save more money each month.

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.

A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.

Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness (though it does require a 620 credit score).

It can help you borrow up to $50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders. If managing many different bills and credit lines is a hassle, you can also use an Upstart loan to streamline all of your loans into one.

Month 6

Can you earn an extra $20 this month? A number of sites will pay you to read advertisers’ 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.

  • InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys, and you’ll get a $5 bonus for signing up. Plus, you get to earn cash, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging points. Check out how one college student pocketed $600 with InboxDollars. Her secret? Persistence.
  • MyPoints: This platform lets you earn gift cards for taking polls, answering surveys and other things you do online — a great way to cash in on long lines or an endless commute. You’ll earn a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.

Month 7

Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions, you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

Month 8

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.)

Months 9-12

Bonus: Cut your monthly bills to keep that balance growing!

You don’t have to do it alone. Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.

On average, Truebill customers get $12 in credits off their cable bills each month.

The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.

Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.

Bonus: Get a Cute Financial Assistant to Help You Save Money

A personal finance assistant would be nice… and a cute one would be even better, huh? *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Meet Charlie. He’s a money-saving penguin. Unfortunately, he’s not here to bring delight to your household with belly flops and fin hugs. Rather, he lives in your SMS text messages or Facebook Messenger (your choice, though Charlie is more fun and reliable on Messenger).

He’s not only cute. He’s also going to help you save money. Charlie offers help with a little bit of everything, including:

  • Finding you free money by making sure you’re getting the best deals around (ahem, overpaying $24 a month on that cell phone bill?).
  • Helping you avoid unnecessary extra charges by reminding you when you have a bill due.
  • Tracking your spending, so you can see that, hey, maybe you need to hold back from eating out so much (but Charlie won’t judge either way!).
  • Reminding you when it’s time to save and how much you can afford to put away.

Getting acquainted with Charlie is easy. When you click “get started” on its homepage, you can opt into chatting via text or Facebook Messenger, and follow his prompts. You’ll connect your bank account or credit card (or both) so he can get to work.

Oh, and he’s free! Thanks, little dude.

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