8 No-Sweat Ways to Save Some Extra Money Before Summer Starts
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Do you remember the last few days of school before it let out for summer?
Anticipation would hang in the air.
Classmates squirmed in their seats and chattered about their big plans. Teachers did their best to maintain focus but ultimately rolled the TV out and put in a movie. There’d be free periods to sign yearbooks and eat candy. Recess lingered a few extra minutes. Maybe there was even an end-of-the-year party.
Although we don’t get a two-month break from life, there’s still a sense of excitement abuzz when summer is around the corner.
For adults, it might mean hitting the beach with a cooler full of cold beer or maybe a long bike ride stretching until the last glimpse of daylight. It could mean planning a vacation — or a staycation.
Either way, we’re ready. Except, we’d be more ready if our pockets held as much green as the sun-soaked lawn…
9 Ways to Save Money Fast (Even on a Low Income) Before Summer
With summer just around the bend, we’re planning ahead so we can fuel our adventures. Here are simple ways to save some money before June 21.
1. Start Investing (With as Little as $5)
It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.
Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.
But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. (The first month is free.)
Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money — but it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it.
You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.
Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started!
2. Create a Digital Piggy Bank
Another throwback: Remember when you were a kid and you had a piggy bank? You’d dig into the couch cushions, the laundry basket and your parents’ car cup holders… Once you filled that thing up, you’d start rolling the coins. Sometimes you’d collect as much as $80. Incredible.
The same concept can be carried over to your digital change — ’cause who uses cash these days, anyway?
Open an Acorns account. Similar to a squirrel hoarding acorns before winter, you’ll be able to stock up some loose digital change before summer.
Here’s how the savings and investment app works: Connect your credit or debit card and opt in for its round-up feature. Each time you make a purchase, the change will trickle into your Acorns account.
For example, if you buy a $3.60 cup of coffee, 40 cents will get deposited into your Acorns account. Then, you can invest it.
Sign up for your digital piggy bank now, and you’ll earn a $5 bonus after your first investment.
3. Earn Cash Back on All Your Purchases
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
Before heading into summer, start earning cash back on your purchases through a free app called Ibotta.
Sign up and earn money — nope, not points or gift cards — back on your purchases of nearly anything: an Uber ride, a Walmart or Target run, or even a hotel booking.
The cash adds up quickly. Take me, for example. I started using the app last May and have since earned more than $120. I cashed out at $100, and the little boost helped me pay my rent on time. The next time I cash out, though, I plan to use the money for something a little more fun.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
4. Stop Deleting Your Emails
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious 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 archives 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 anytime there’s a price drop.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping.
5. Trim Your Monthly Bills
With monthly bills, it’s easy to slip into a mode of acceptance. Sure, these bills add up, but what can you do? You can’t live without water or electricity or even internet.
Oh, but you’re wrong!
It is possible to escape those expensive monthly bills — or at least reduce them.
One of my favorite tools is an online personal finance assistant called Trim. The bot will help you negotiate your cable, internet and cell phone bills. There’s no guarantee it’ll grant you money back, but it’s helped folks get as much as $200 off their Comcast bill.
When I signed up and uploaded the PDF of my most recent bill, I received $10 back. It wasn’t much, but it’s nice knowing Trim has my back — especially when my rates mysteriously start creepin’ up.
See what Trim can negotiate for you — it’s free to sign up.
6. Let Someone (or Something) Else Determine How Much to Save
Determining just how much you can afford to save for a vacation is tough. You don’t want to try to save too much and not be able to afford your other bills. But you want to save at least something, right?
Digit helps take the guesswork out of saving. It automates the process for you. You link your checking account to the app, and its algorithm takes over. It takes factors such as your income and expenses into account and determines exactly how much you can afford to save.
These small (and safe!) amounts of money withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
It’ll never spin you into overdraft either. If for some reason you can’t afford to save at all, it won’t pull anything out of your account. Or, if you quickly need the money you’ve saved, you can gain access to it within one business day.
Using the set-it-and-forget-it strategy helped one Penny Hoarder save $4,300 without noticing; read his Digit review.
Digit is free to use for the first 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward. That’s less than your Netflix subscription, by the way.
7. Swipe Cash Back on All Your Purchases
A rewards credit card is a great way to passively earn cash back on your purchases. I’ve used one for almost three years now, and it’s funded several flights across the country.
You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those credit card purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.
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.
8. Sign up for a Survey Site (or Two or Three)
Surveys aren’t necessarily the best way to make money fast. But there’s a certain appeal to clicking a few buttons and earning money when you’d otherwise be doing nothing. We’ve got a few legitimate survey sites we want to recommend.
- You might recognize the Ipsos Panel name because it’s the same company that does most of the political polling during elections. It also has a survey app called i-Say that pays you for your opinions. Some of the top-end surveys can pay up to $95.
- Opinion Outpost offers surveys from all kinds of businesses and organizations. Most of them take around 10 minutes to complete and will earn you points you can redeem for free gift cards to places like Amazon and iTunes.
- InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.
- Sign up for an online market research site like Harris Poll to participate in surveys pay between $3 and $4 each for 20 minutes of your time. Heck, you can even fill them out while you watch TV — nice way to earn money in your down time! To get started, you can sign up for Harris Poll here.
Bonus: Take a Chance on Love Lucktastic
We know: There’s something satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets. But it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.
Instead, download a free app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens, enter contests and play games.
Who knows? You just might hit the jackpot and actually be able to take two months off work.
The app is free to download — and play.
*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.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. As a kid, she always loved summer because she could watch her favorite Nickelodeon shows and go rollerblading whenever she wanted.