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

california state flag
Viktorcvetkovic/Getty Images
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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Get Paid to Watch TV Online

dollar bills in wallet

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

An app called InboxDollars will actually pay you to watch TV online.

The site hosts a ton of stuff to watch, including cooking, entertainment, news and health shows.

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

That’s a pretty fun way to relax at the end of the day — and put some extra cash in your pocket.

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

4. 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.

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.

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.

5. 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.

This guy uses Arcadia Power to get clean energy without pricy solar panels.

6Earn Money for Healthy Activities

Need extra motivation for your daily workout? The health app Achievemint lets you earn money for completing healthy activities.

Connect Achievemint to workout apps like Apple’s Healthkit, Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Rundouble C25K, Twitter or any other app you already use to track your health and fitness goals. You’ll choose which data to securely share with Achievemint to earn cash for your activities.

For example, you can earn points for logging your weight with MyFitnessPal or hitting step goals with Fitbit.

You can earn cash in $10 increments in cash or an Amazon Gift Card when you reach 10,000 points and there’s no limit on how much you can earn.

Plus, you’ll earn 10 points just for signing up with Achievemint and connecting an app today!

7. 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.

Harris Poll and Opinion Outpost 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.

8. 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.

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. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

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

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

9 . 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.

10. 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 November, the average Uber driver in the U.S. made $556.22 a week.* Your earnings will be calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled after your pickup, and Uber charges a service fee.

If you want to give it a try there are a few things to keep in mind: You must be at least 21 years old, have three years of driving experience, have an in-state driver’s license, a clean driving record and be able to pass a criminal background check.

Additionally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

You can sign up for Uber here. There’s also Lyft, which you can sign up for right here.

And if you aren’t sure which is better for you? We’ve got a comparison guide.

* This opportunity with Uber is for an independent contractor. Stated trip earnings of $556.22 per week are based on 40 hours of driving per week using the net median national earnings of partners from November 2017. Median earnings in your specific location may be lower than the national figure. Actual earnings vary depending on number of rides accepted and taken, time of day, location and other factors.

11. 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.

With Stash, you can start with as little as $5 and automatically put away a little bit of money each week. (Note: There’s a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.) 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 shouldn’t have any excuses.

12. 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!

13. Rent out Your Parked Car

Want to make money with your car… but not keen on playing taxi? If you live in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley, let folks rent your car when you’re not using it.

OK, that sounds a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be. With the Getaround app, you can safely rent out your car to people in your community and neighborhood. The company insures your car for each trip, offers 24/7 roadside assistance and screens drivers for a safe driving record.

That’s more assurance than you get when your teenager gets behind the wheel…

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up with your Facebook account to rent out your car here.
  1. Set your own rates and availability.
  1. You’ll get a notification when someone books your car.
  1. Your car will be equipped with a Getaround Connect™, so renters will be able to locate, unlock and lock your car from their mobile phone during the trip period. No need to meet in person to exchange keys.

Like many side gigs that involve your car, some car owners worry about the costs for things like gas and wear and tear on the vehicle. With Getaround, renters are responsible for refilling the fuel used on the trip.

We also checked in with the company to see what it’s doing to address car owners’ concerns, and the CEO Sam Zaid told us, “Fortunately, customer feedback is one of the best ways we can learn and grow. We take feedback seriously and prioritize product updates based on our conversations with owners and renters.”

So don’t be afraid to share your experience to make this an even better platform for car owners and renters.

Plus, fewer cars on the road means less traffic and less pollution, so kudos!

14. 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.

15. 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.
  • cBe 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.)

16. Provide Customer Service — in Your PJs

Have you ever considered doing customer service from the comfort of your home? An increasing number of companies are hiring work-from-home customer service reps, instead of running call centers.

These jobs can be full– or part-time and offer a variety of schedules, including daytime, evening and weekend shifts with a range of pay depending on the position and location.

Your job is usually to answer customer questions over the phone or via online chat. You may find sales positions that include higher pay and performance incentives; or technical support positions, which are best if you’re tech-savvy and have an interest in helping people understand technology.

You should enjoy helping people, though! You know how a bad customer service call can totally ruin your day? You don’t want to be the bad rep on the other end of that call.

If you don’t like working with customers, keep an eye out for other work-from-home jobs at these job sites.

17. 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.

18. Start Chipping Away at Your Debt

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

Qoins rounds up each purchase you make 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.

How it works:

  1. Add your lender (the account you want to pay off)
  2. Connect your checking/bank account
  3. Start saving and automatically paying down your debt

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?

19. 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.

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.

Do you think this article might help you put more money in your pocket?

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.