12 Ways to Save Money and Add $5K to Your Bank Account This Year

Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
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How much money would you like to have saved for the holidays? Or your next vacation? Or your emergency fund?

Whatever your goal, the number probably seems overwhelming.

Trying to figure out where several hundred or a few thousand dollars might come from is tough. Instead, break it down. Find ways to set aside just a little bit at a time — you’ll be surprised how quickly you can move toward your goal!

Here Are 12 Ways to Save Money This Year

To help you get started with that first step, we’ve put together a 12-month strategy on how to save money and work your way up to $5,000 in savings this year!

Month 1: Have a Cup of Coffee and Assess the Damage

Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.

Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or move into a new apartment.

But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.

To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how to address it.

Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.

James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points using Credit Sesame. Now he talks to high school students about the importance of having good credit and uses what he’s learned through Credit Sesame as a blueprint for his lessons.

“We want to touch the Z Generation,” Cooper says “We’re not in the business of fixing credit. We want to get to you before you have to fix your credit.”

Month 2: Consolidate Your Debt to Lower Your Bills

When you think about how much debt you have, you might feel a little anxious.

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.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 3.84%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

Month 3: Stop Deleting Your Emails

A woman sits on the couch with her resting dog and daughter. The woman uses her laptop.
DGLimages/Getty Images

It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?

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 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.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

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

Month 4: Start Investing Without Thinking About It

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If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

You can start small — with $5 — and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. And the sooner you start, the more you could potentially make. For example, Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to stash $420 away per year.

At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.

But the beauty is you can set your own pace with Acorns’ features, so if you want — and can afford — to invest $1,000 faster, go for it.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

Month 5: Get Your Paycheck 2 Days Earlier

$100 bills in a glass jar on a wooden table.
Julia_Sudnitskaya/Getty Images

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 6: Earn an Extra $100 by Joining an Online Focus Group

Surveys aren’t our favorite way to make money, but if you’re just vegging out on the couch, why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks?

Here are some of the best paid survey sites we’ve found:

  • 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.
  • Opinion Outpost: What sets this apart from other survey sites is it gives away $40,000 every year. It has a quarterly drawing for a $10,000 cash prize — and for every survey you complete, you’ll get one entry into the sweepstakes!
  • 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.

Month 7: Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy

Believe it or not, there are sites that will give you free gift cards just for signing up with them.

One of my favorites is Ebates, the cash-back shopping site. They’re giving away $10 gift cards if you sign up as a new member and earn your first cash-back rebate. You can choose a $10 gift card from Target, Walmart, Macy’s or Kohl’s.

You do have to wait 30 days, but it’s free money so can you really complain?

Month 8: Make Your 401(k) Blossom

Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

You have a 401(k) — kudos for that, but is it doing what you need it to?

If you’re like most people, you have no idea whether your 401(k) is on pace for your retirement or just sputtering along.

Chances are, your 401(k) could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.

It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis  that will show you whether your investments are allocated properly and whether you’re losing money paying hidden investment fees. It’ll even tell you just how much more money your account could earn by the time you want to retire.

After that, if you sign up, it’s as low as $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get a special rate of $99 per year with the code REEETIRE.

Think of Blooom like a mechanic constantly fine-tuning your car’s engine so it gives you the best possible performance and gas mileage. Except it’s your 401(k) — and your future.

Month 9: Ditch Your Unused Subscriptions

We all sign up for stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to put subscriptions on a recurring payment and forget about it — looking at you Netflix.

These kinds of payments can be smart for paying bills and chopping down debt, but getting rid of the subscriptions you’re not using and socking away the savings could help you roll over the $5,000 mark this month.

If you can’t keep track of them all, check out an app called Trim. Once you sign up and connect your bank account and phone number, it analyzes your transaction history for recurring payments.

When it finds one, the app sends you a text and cancels any subscriptions you don’t want to keep.

Just make sure you actually save the savings. Can you save another $200?

Put all these strategies to use and you could save more than $5,000 this year!

Month 10: Get Paid to Lose Weight

Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Bottom line: HealthyWage will literally pay you for losing weight.

Not only are you getting more healthy, you’re also making some money. How’s that for motivation?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
  2. Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
  3. Place a bet on yourself ranging from $20 to $500 a month.

Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!

Wondering if it can really work? We talked to one woman, Teresa Suarez, who lost 68 pounds — and made over $2,400.

Month 11: Let Someone Borrow Your Place for the Night

Have a spare room? Might as well list it on Airbnb to try to make some money.

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 for becoming an Airbnb host:

  • 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.

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

If guests stay at your place for $100 a night just 10 nights a year, you’ll bank a cool $1,000 over the year.

Month 12: Lyft Your Way to an Extra $3,000

Need a fun, flexible way to earn money this month? Try driving with Lyft!

Demand for ridesharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Right now, Lyft is offering a $300 sign-on bonus to new drivers when you use code EXTRA300.

Here’s what you need to qualify:

  • You must be approved to drive within 30 days of your application start date.
  • Once you’re in, just complete 100 rides within your first 30 days of being a Lyft driver.

And just like that, the bonus cash is yours. Easy, right?

Work 40 hours a week for one month at that rate, and you could bank around $3,300.

Bonus: Sell All Your Stuff With These Apps

Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Are your closets and shelves packed to the brim with stuff you never use — or even look at?

You can sell virtually anything on Letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s 100% free to use.

But there are also apps for selling more specific stuff to people who might actually be looking for it.

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

Set a goal to make an extra $100 decluttering your place this month, and add it to your bank account — every little bit helps!