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.

cars parked on street

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder


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.

And, hey, here’s a good promo going on right now. If you sign up for OhmConnect and get four friends to join in, you’ll bank $80 plus an Amazon Alexa-enabled Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat, which is $249 regularly. This device will automatically help you make more money through OhmConnect by scheduling your thermostat to turn off — or up — during OhmHours.

The deal is available until Labor Day (that’s September 4, 2017).

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. 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 CashForward™ World 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.

4. Fill This Out While You Watch TV

Most of you know surveys aren’t our favorite way to make extra money, but we make an exception when we’re just vegging out on the couch. We figure as long as we’re just watching TV, there’s no reason we can’t click a few buttons at the same time.

Ipsos Panel and VIP Voice are two of the only legitimate paid survey companies out there (they’re rated an A+ with the Better Business Bureau).

Some of these sites do pay in points instead of cold, hard cash, but you can use those points to purchase gift cards with actual cash value. Should you prefer cash over the cards, you can turn around and sell any gift cards you earn.

5. 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.

6. Earn Cash Back on Your Next Grocery Haul

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

Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

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.

7. 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.


8. Drive For Your Favorite Ride-Sharing App

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

Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

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.

9. Start Investing and Automate

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.

10. Score Cash Back on Almost Everything

Ebates is an online shopping portal that offers cash-back opportunities at more than 2,000 stores.

You’ll need to sign up (and score a $10 sign-up bonus!) and shop through the platform.

You can score up to 40% cash back on your purchases. Here are some examples of our favorite deals (at the time of writing this):

  • Get up to 10% cash back on wedding decor and gifts from Etsy.
  • Score $20 off your Tom’s order.
  • Take up to 25% off your next car rental from Thirfty.
  • For a limited time, Macy’s upped it’s 3% cash-back offer to 10%.

The deals are always changing. Just a few weeks ago, Ebates was offering 10% cash back at Walmart. There are thousands of offers, so I’ll spare you. But you can see if Ebates has something for your favorite online retailer (probably) by signing up here. And don’t forget that $10 bonus!

11. Opt for Clean Energy — Without Installing Solar Panels

You can promote using clean energy, even if you don’t live near wind turbines or have solar panels on your home.

With renewable energy company Arcadia Power, you can offset your monthly energy consumption with 100% renewable sources in about two minutes.

Arcadia Power matches each kilowatt-hour of power you use with a kilowatt-hour of wind energy. Basically the company purchases certified renewable energy certificates in your name, so others can take advantage of clean energy in their area.

To get started:

  1. Find out if your area qualifies.
  1. Create an account, and provide your local utility information. Arcadia Power will monitor your monthly electricity use and purchase certificates accordingly.
  1. When you sign up your home or apartment (yup, renters are eligible, too!), you’ll get $20 off your next electric bill.

The site even has a dashboard that lets you keep track of how you’re helping the environment.

“I’m always looking for ways to be green in life, and one of my biggest contributions to the planet is the energy I use at home, so I like that Arcadia can help me have a small impact there,” says The Penny Hoarder founder Kyle Taylor, who tried the service.

“It costs you nothing to do something good — only two minutes of your time,” Taylor says.

12. Get Paid to Watch YouTube- Style Videos

dollar bills in wallet

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

The folks over at InboxDollars will actually pay you to watch videos!

Now, most of them aren’t as entertaining as the Grumpy Cat series, but you’re getting paid — so who cares?

The videos are sponsored by brands who need to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Every time you watch one of the ads InboxDollars will credit your account with a little bit of cash.

You’ll get a free $5 just for signing up.

13. Rate Your Local Pizza Place

domino’s pizza

Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

Awww…yeah! Who wouldn’t want $5 and a free large pizza? 🙂

As many of you know I was a professional mystery shopper for many years (I got my start conducting liquor audits all over the Southeast).

One of the most popular types of mystery shops is for pizza companies — both Papa Johns and Pizza Hut regularly conduct mystery shops at all of their locations. As part of the assignment you’re required to time their delivery service, quality of pizza, etc.

It’s pretty easy to do and you can do it several times a year. If you’re interested in giving it a try, here’s a list of my favorite mystery shopping companies.

14. 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.)

15. 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 internet bill (because we know you all love when you have to deal with those companies…).

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

16. 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.

17. Start Chipping Away at Your Debt


An app called Qoins can help you get debt-free without really thinking about it.

After connecting your accounts and choosing the credit cards or loans you want to pay off, you’ll just go about spending money (smartly) as you always do.

Qoins 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.

Even better: If you download the app now, you’ll get your first month free (it’s only $1.99/month after that). Every little bit counts, right?

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.


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.