Saving for retirement sounds overwhelming.
Whether you’re just getting started in your 20s or you’re in the final years of your career, setting aside enough money to live on after you leave the workforce is hard to imagine.
The best way to save is little by little over time, as countless experts will remind you.
But if you’re already past that point and looking for ways to save money in a hurry, here’s a 12-month strategy for injecting your retirement account with extra cash quickly.
Month 1: Invest Your Digital Change to Save $420 This Year
If you want an insanely simple way to save and invest your money, try Acorns. You’ll be amazed by how much money you can set aside without even thinking about it.
Acorns is a smartphone app that connects to your bank account, credit and debit cards to save your digital change. It automatically rounds up purchases with your connected accounts and invests the difference in your Acorns account.
This Penny Hoarder accidentally saved $116 — about $35 a month — by connecting one debit card to the app and forgetting about it.
At that rate, you could spend 10 minutes setting up your Acorns account in Month 1 and put away $420 this year.
If you use your credit cards more frequently, your round-ups could amount to much more.
Month 2: Write a Blog Post for $100
One commonly-overlooked way to earn extra money is to put your skills to use doing freelance work.
Even if you don’t want to turn this into your full-time gig, a freelance writing, design, photography or other creative gig you’re qualified for can be a simple way to earn money when you really need it.
Do you have a special story to share or a unique insight into a particular industry? Pitch an article or blog post this month to make money off of it!
Here are seven blogs that pay at least $100 per post. Write about everything from technology to traveling to finance.
Month 3: Earn an Extra $180 by Joining an Online Focus Group
We know you’re not going to get rich taking paid surveys, but our founder Kyle says he’s able to pocket an extra $10-$20 a month this way, and that adds up.
Start in Month 3, and that be could up to $180 this year!
Survey sites typically pay in credits for each survey you complete. For Swagbucks surveys, you can cash these in for gift cards to major retailers like Amazon, or even PayPal.
VIP Voice gamifies survey-taking, so you can use your credits to enter sweepstakes and auctions to win gift cards, electronics and free vacations.
Month 4: Sign Up for a Clinical Trial to Earn Up to $900
Do you live with a chronic condition like psoriasis, arthritis or migraines? They’re a serious pain in the neck… or wrists… or head…
But they may also make you eligible for clinical studies that can really pay off. These studies help medical professionals learn how to better treat chronic conditions.
Payment varies by study, but we found some that offer pretty killer compensation:
- Migraines: If you’ve never had a migraine, be glad you can just take my word for it: They really, really suck. Local research studies may offer payment/compensation up to $625 (learn more here). These studies help doctors discover better ways to treat — and hopefully eliminate — migraines.
- Back pain: If you suffer from chronic back pain, you could qualify for a study that offers up to $900 compensation for sharing your opinions. (Read more here.)
- Arthritis: If you have rheumatoid arthritis in the knee or hip and are otherwise healthy, you may qualify for studies offering compensation up to $625 depending on the number of study visits. (Read more here.)
- Cluster Headaches: If a doctor has diagnosed you with a cluster headache, you could qualify for a variety of studies that pay up to $300. You’ll also receive no-cost study-related care and medication. (Learn more here.)
- Crohn’s disease – Have you been diagnosed with this chronic gastrointestinal disease? If you’ve had Crohn’s for at least three months, you may qualify for one of the local studies that may offer payment that varies by study up to $750. Plus, you may also receive no-cost study-related care for the length of the study. (Learn more here)
Month 5: Rent Your Place for a Week to Make $400-$600
Vacation rental can be an awesome solution for empty nesters or retirees with spare bedrooms or an unused home office that could house guests for a night or two.
List your space on Airbnb during high-demand times in your area.
Are there concerts, conventions, sporting events or other popular events happening in your town this month? Though there may be demand year-round, you’ll get the most out of your rental if you list it at the right time.
Even if you don’t make Airbnb a regular income stream, these occasional visits can be just as rewarding for you as it is for them.
Nightly rates vary by location and demand, so check similar listings in your area. You could make around $400-$600 for a week’s stay, but the rate could be much higher in larger cities and during major events — or lower if you’re way off the beaten path.
Month 6: Use Your Car for Ridesharing and Earn $2,400
If you want to earn extra money on the side or even work for yourself full-time, signing up as an Uber driver-partner could be a great opportunity.
Sign up as a driver with the rideshare service this month, and you could have a new side hustle! Or, if you don’t want to keep it up long-term, you could at least use this opportunity to bank some extra cash toward your retirement fund.
Pay depends on your location and a number of other factors, but we know one Penny Hoarder who regularly grossed about $600 for a 40-hour workweek.
You could take it easy, work about 20 hours a week this month, and bank $1,200. Or, hit it hard for four weeks!
Work 40 hours a week for one month, and you could bank about $2,400.
Month 7: Automate Your Savings to Set Aside $210
The best way we’ve found to save money is automating it. When you don’t have to think about it, that money can add up fast.
This month, connect your account to Digit, an auto-savings app that withdraws small amounts from your checking account into an FDIC-insured Digit savings account. The app monitors your balance and spending to set aside only what you can afford.
So, the more money you keep in your checking account, the more you’ll save with Digit.
For example, one Penny Hoarder saved almost $2,000 in 10 months — the app set aside about $7 a day.
At that rate, you could save $210 this month without even trying!
When you’re ready, move the money into an interest-bearing savings or retirement account to turn it into even more over time.
Month 8: Start Investing — With Just $1/Day
If you want to start investing outside of your retirement account, but aren’t ready for a full-throttle education in the stock market, try Clink. It’s an app that allows you to invest as little as $1 a day.
Clink does the heavy-lifting for you, withdrawing funds automatically from your bank account and investing them across a portfolio of exchange traded funds (ETFs), which most sources consider ideal for new investors.
You can set the app to invest any amount you choose daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly — or link a credit card and invest a percentage of what you spend.
And you can withdraw funds back into your bank account at any time.
The smallest amount you can invest is $1 a day, so set aside at least $30 this month to get your feet wet!
Month 9: Sell Something on Ebay or Craigslist
If you need money now, find something you can sell for cash.
You might be able to gather unique supplies where you live, like driftwood, sea glass or seashells from the beach; or pine cones and dried leaves from the woods. Sell them in lots to crafters.
For furniture and larger items that cost too much to ship, sell them locally Craigslist. And if you have absolutely nothing you’re willing to part with, browse Craigslist freebies for something you can flip.
How much you can earn will vary wildly, depending on what you find to sell.
Set a goal to make an extra $50 decluttering your place this month, and add it to your retirement account — every little bit helps!
Month 10: Sell Unused Gift Cards for Cash
Check your purse, wallet, pockets and sock drawer… you’re bound to have an unused gift card or two lying around.
Instead of going on a shopping spree, sell your gift cards online to turn them into cash you can grow in a retirement account.
For example, you might have a gift card for $100 to a store you don’t love as much as the well-meaning benefactor thought you did.
List it on a gift card exchange site at a discount — say, $90. The buyer gets $100 to spend at 10% off, and you get, basically, free money you can actually use!
Invest that money in the right place, and it could grow more than you might expect!
Month 11: Babysit — Overnight — and Earn $800+
If you already have child care experience from your own children or grandchildren, you could be a valuable babysitter.
Look for babysitting gigs on a site like Care.com. Or, when it comes to connecting with families, word of mouth may be the smartest way to spread the word, so stay in touch with friends or colleagues with young kids.
If you want to kick it up a notch, consider becoming a night nanny to bank some money this month. You’ll be responsible for caring for a newborn overnight — feeding and comforting them when they cry.
Pay varies, depending on your region and who you work with, but your infant-soothing skills should net you $100 or more per night.
Offer the service a few nights a week to give busy parents a break without overwhelming yourself. Do it two nights a week for a month, and you can put away $800.
Month 12: Make and Sell Holiday Crafts
Do you enjoy making creative treats or crafting decorations? You could make money selling them!
If you’re just getting started, it may take some time to gain traction. However, holidays are a great time to supercharge a craft-based business!
If you find a good deal on pumpkins this fall, try some of these pumpkin-based crafts and treats around Halloween and Thanksgiving.
How much you can earn depends entirely on what you produce, how you price it and where you sell it.
Set a goal to earn, say, an extra $200 over the holidays, and add that to your retirement account!
Your Turn: What smart strategies have you used to beef up your retirement account?
Disclosure: You wouldn’t believe how much coffee The Penny Hoarder team goes through. This post contains affiliate links so we can keep the grinds stocked!