Golden State Savings: 20 Ways to Put Away Cash if You Live in California

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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 no secret that the cost of living in California is something else.

But, according to the state’s tourism commercials, it’s totally worth it — those vast green vineyards, snow-capped mountains, the sharp cliffs of Highway 1, those iconic Hollywood lights…

We get it. It’s worth the cost.

But if you’re having trouble saving money… well, we get that, too.

So, Californians, if you’re looking for some ways to save, here are some ideas just for you.

Save Money on Bills…

cars parked on street

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

You’re thinking: I have to pay my bills. There’s no way around it.

Well, yeah, but there are some ways you can reduce their recurring burden.

1. Get Rewarded for Turning Your Lights Off

If you want to save some green — both the money kind and the Mother Nature kind — there’s a free service out there that can help you. In fact, it’s the first of it’s kind in California.

It’s called OhmConnect, and if you get your power through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison, it rewards you up to $200 per year for saving energy during “OhmHours.”

OhmHours are specific hours when the energy grid is overworking and must rely on power plants to prevent a brownout. Those power plants aren’t the cleanest, so that’s where you can help.

OhmHours typically occur once or twice a week in the mornings and evenings. If you’re an OhmConnect user, you can receive OhmHours updates through text or email. When you get an alert, that’s your cue to reduce your electricity use for about 30 minutes by turning off lights and appliances or unplugging batteries.

Afterward, check your OhmConnect dashboard to see how you’ve helped out.

By reducing your personal electricity use, OhmConnect will reward you up to $300 a year.

The service is free. You’ll sign up with your zip code and utility information. OhmConnect will then have access to your meter data, which will also help determine if you can earn prizes or payments.

2. Consider Your Car Situation

Surely you’ve thought about it: Do I even need a car? I rely mostly on public transit.

Parking is expensive. Gas is expensive. Insurance is expensive. Everything is expensive.

If you do decide you need a car, reevaluate your insurance situation, especially if you aren’t driving much.

That’s where a pay-per-mile insurance company can help — like MetroMile.

Approximately 65% of drivers overpay on car insurance to balance out those who drive a lot, according to MetroMile.

If you aren’t spending as much time in the driver’s seat, then you don’t need to pay as much.

For example, if you only drive 5,000 miles per year, you could save $500, according to MetroMile’s calculations.

Find out for yourself if a pay-per-mile insurance company will help you save by snagging a free quote.

3. Lift Your Student Loan Burden (At Least a Little)

There’s this little epidemic sweeping the nation right now called student loan debt and $1.3 trillion are infected.

Chances are, you’ve got monthly bills coming in, and they just don’t seem to ever stop.

You might want to look into lowering interest rates by refinancing your student loan debt with a company like Credible, which allows you to shop around for the best rates.

Take note from these guys — one cut his monthly payments in half from $850 to $400.

If you aren’t keen on refinancing, you have other options, too. You can take small steps to pay off your debts with an app like Qoins.

The app uses a round-up feature, so for each purchase you make, it rounds up to the nearest dollar. The app tracks the roundups and makes withdrawals in about $5 intervals that it automatically pays toward a debt account of your choice each month. Users report saving an average $50 per month to put toward their debts. Once you sign up, Qoins waits a whole month before making a deposit on a debt account so have some extra time to save.The service is $1.99 a month (but your first month is FREE), which is less than a cup of coffee — and probably way less than you’ll end up saving in the long run.

4. Cut. It. Out. (Those Unnecessary Bills)

Yeah, we snuck a “Full House” reference in here… Sorry.

Anyways, got a stray gym membership you’ve been meaning to cancel? Use your HBO account way more than Netflix now? Keep getting that magazine you subscribed to years ago?

Canceling subscriptions tend to elicit extreme procrastination. Plus, you might not even be aware of what’s lingering around.

Find out with a tool like Trim, an automated financial assistant that lives in the Facebook Messenger app.

When you download it (for free, of course), you can see what recurring bills are charging your account each month and cancel them. You can do it all through Trim, no customer service hold music required.

You can even save on your Comcast bill (because we know you all love when you have to deal with them…).

Trim will also send you deals and promotions based on your shopping behavior, too.

5. Cut The Cord

Chances are, you watch Netflix more than you watch regular cable TV. And cable can cost you an extra $1,188 a year.

So why not just cut the cord?

We have a list of alternative ways to watch all your favorite shows without being indebted to Verizon or Comcast.

Save Money on Housing…

for rent sign on street in st petersburg, fla.

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Now that you’ve cut down on those monthly bills, it’s time to tackle perhaps your BIGGEST monthly expense: housing.

Whether you own or rent, here are a few ways to save.

6. Carefully Consider That Rent vs. Buy Question

Ah, the question that’ll never, ever have an adequate answer: Is it better to rent or buy?

Well, we can’t answer that for you, but as you’ve seen, housing prices have grown out of control lately. Plus you have all those unexpected expenses that come with homeownership.

Penny Hoarder Steven Gillman explores the question more in depth. Take 5 minutes to read up on the matter, and we hope it’ll help you make an informed decision.

7. Find a Roommate

You might want to live on your own — prance around in your undies and loading the dishwasher however you’d like — but securing a roommate can dramatically reduce the price you pay for rent. Or it can help pay your monthly mortgage if you own.

But if you’re deadset on living alone, here are 48 ways that’ll help you afford your solo adventure.

8. Rent Out Your Plush Couch

So you don’t want a roommate… maybe you’ll allow for an occasional visitor?

Have a spare room? Might as well list 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.

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

Here are a few tips:

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

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.)

Save Money on Other Goods…

Buy one get one free vitamins on sale at Safeway in Largo, Fla.

Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

OK, no matter where you live, chances are, your grocery bill is always higher than you’d hoped, so be sure you’re taking advantage of some easy savings.

9. Earn Cash Back on Your Next Grocery Haul

We found an app that makes grocery shopping actually, sort of, kind of fun… seriously.

It’s called Ibotta, and you can earn cash back on items you already buy.

Before you head to the grocery store, open up the app, and find your go-to store.

Peruse the cash-back offers. Here are some examples of offers from Walmart available right now:

  • $1 back on Dole’s frozen fruit
  • $1 back on Clif energy bars
  • $1 back on Kashi frozen meals
  • $1 back on Anchor California Lager
  • $2.50 back on Evian natural spring water

Once you get home with your groceries, take a photo of your receipt and scanning any rebate-qualifying barcodes. It takes about 2 minutes, give or take. Submit your receipt and the money will show up in your Ibotta account within 48 hours.

When you sign up for Ibotta now and claim your first offer, you’ll score a $10 welcome bonus.

Want more ways to save on groceries? Here are a few of our other tips.

10. Save Money at Restaurants

Eating out? It can get pricy fast, depending on your taste.

Try this next time.

When your server brings you the bill, whip out your phone and open the Subtotal app.

Peruse its list of over 70 restaurants, find the one you’re dining at, and enter the bill’s total. Add a tip (no math required), and pay through the app.

The Subtotal app then generates a barcode that you show your server. It works similarly to a gift card.

By using the free app, you can score up to 10% cash back, which automatically pops into your credit or debit card account within a week.

Some of our favorite restaurants in the app include 8.1% cash back at Applebee’s, 5.25% cash back at BJs Restaurants and 7.5% cash back at California Pizza Kitchen. There’s also 8.1% cash back at Krispy Kreme and 6.75% back at Papa John’s.

Check out the full list of eateries, and download the app for free here (iOS/Android).

11. Earn Cash Back on Anything and Everything

Sometimes spending money is unavoidable, and in those situations, you might as well make the best of it by using a cash-back credit card.

One of our favorites is the Barclaycard Arrival™ Plus World Elite MasterCard®. There’s no annual fee, and you’ll get a $200 rewards bonus when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening it. Just make sure you pay the card off in full each month to avoid interest.

Plus, you’ll score 1.5% cash back on every purchase — no limitations.

12. Coupon, Coupon, Coupon — But Never Cut One

Couponing isn’t just for moms who have binders of ’em and clog the checkout line.

Couponing has been made easier with online platforms like Retale.

Retale takes those weekly ads from your newspaper and puts them into an app. You can digitally clip a coupon and use it at a number of retailers including Target, Walmart, CVS, JCPenney, Best Buy and Safeway.

Another digital coupon favorite is Ebates. It offers consumers up to 40% off at more than 2,000 online stores.

Plus, when you sign up for Ebates, you’ll nab a $10 welcome bonus.

13. Don’t Feel Like You Have to Opt Out of Organic

Just because you prefer organic food doesn’t mean you have to cut it because you’re living on a budget.

One of our favorite ways to save on organic products is through Thrive Market. Plus, you don’t even have to leave your couch.

The online marketplace offers solid deals on organic products. For example, if you love Lundberg Farms Organic Brown Rice Cakes — lightly salted, of course, you know they’re not cheap. However, you can get them on Thrive for 33% off at $2.85.

Plus, when you sign up for Thrive Market, you’ll get an automatic $20 discount on your first three orders. You’ll also get a free 30-day trial. After that, it’s $59.99/year, but Thrive says that cost helps it keep prices down on the products it sells.

If you want to see 10 other ways we save on organic groceries, check out this guide.

Save More Money by, Well, Making More Money…

Edwin Patrick Young drives for Uber on Friday Nov. 18, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

You’ve got the essentials down pat. You’re saving on bills, housing and other expenses. But what if that’s just not enough to get by?

You might need to take on a side gig. That’ll give you a little more wiggle room when it comes to saving.

14. Drive For Your Favorite Ride-Sharing App

If you live in a big city, chances are, the place is crawling with ride-sharing requests. All you need to do is capitalize on that.

In other, smaller cities, folks have reporting banking up to $450 a week just by driving part time.

The perks of driving with a ride-sharing service is that you can set your own hours and drive when you want. Plus, Uber now has a tipping system.

You can sign up for Uber here. And sign up for Lyft right here.

If you aren’t sure which is better for you? We’ve got a comparision guide.

15. Hop Outside the Ride-Sharing Box…

Californians… We’re a little jealous this opportunity hasn’t expanded to the rest of the U.S. yet.

Ever heard of HopSkipDrive? It’s a ride-sharing service, but rather than randos, you’ll shuttle kids around (and now seniors).

You can make up to $30 an hour as a CareDriver (that’s what you’ll be called). The service is actively recruiting in Los Angeles, Orange County and the San Francisco area — and has plans to expand.

There’s a long list of qualifications, though, so peruse those before signing up.

16. Establish a Form of Passive Income

We get it. You’re busy. You might not have time to take on a side gig. So consider setting up a passive income stream.

Passive income is defined as income that’s not directly tied to your time. Sure, it’s going to require some time up front, but in the end, if you’re successful, you’ll be able to make money without really thinking about it.

Here are 14 ways to start earning passive income. Some offer a greater yield than others, but every bit helps. Take your pick.

17. Take Advantage of California’s Diverse News Stories

California has a lot going on — from odd weather trends to celebrity spottings.

And, if you’re anything like the rest of us, you have your phone glued to your side, ready to pull out and capture anything.

Well, you can make money from those photos and videos. ScoopBroker is an app that allows you to sell footage to broadcast outlets and media buyers.

The platform is free to access, and you’ll be able to choose how you want to sell your clips — either through a non-exclusive or exclusive agreement.

With a non-exclusive agreement, you’ll be able to choose the market value of the footage or set your own price. If someone buys it, you’ll get paid within 24 hours of the sale.

For the exclusive agreement, you’ll be able to auction your media off to the highest bidder.

And if you haven’t stumbled upon anything neat, you can sign up for assignments from ScoopBroker. It’ll let you know when something’s happening in your area, how to get there and what outlets are looking for.

Save Money Automatically…

dollar bills in wallet

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

If you’re still struggling to scrape up a few extra cents, then here are a few bonus tips to trick you into getting the job done.

18. Automate Your Savings

Sometimes you have to trick yourself into saving money because it’s admittedly really, really difficult.

One way to move past this obstacle is to automate your savings.

Try using a hands-off, online bank like Chime. It helps you save each time you get paid by automatically stashing away part of your paycheck. You’ll never see it, and you’ll (ideally) never miss it.

You can also set the account up to round up all your purchases. So when you spend $32.45 at Trader Joe’s, for example, Chime will stash 65 cents into your savings, which adds up faster than you think.

Each week, it’ll reward you with a 10% bonus on round-ups.

19. Automate Your Investments

Once you get your savings down pat, then you can start thinking about investing.

But take this one step at a time. First, try using a micro-investing app like Acorns or Stash.

You can start with as little as $5 and automatically put away a little bit of money each week. Or, with Acorns, set it up so it takes the change from your purchases and invests it.

Each of these apps offer a sign-up bonus, so you can’t go wrong.

20. Make Sure You’re Keeping Your Assets Safe

Now that you have some savings stacking up, be sure to keep tabs on what you already have.

You’ll want to be sure to pull your free credit report every now and then. This is what influences that little three-digit number that means so much when it comes to taking out a mortgage or a personal loan.

You can check your credit report for free on a site like There, you can peruse your various accounts — even find out if you have a bill lingering in collections.

If someone has tried to take out credit in your name, you’ll know. Or, if a credit reporting agency has accidentally misreported something, you can dispute the matter.

Taking care of your credit is key to saving in the long run.

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.