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

Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder


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: 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 2: 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 you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.

Month 3: Ditch Your Card

Did you know that at least one in five cardholders are carrying around a credit card whose fees and rewards don’t match their actual spending habits, according to a 2016 study from J.D. Power.

Consider the following math problem: if you could increase your rewards rate by 1% on only $1,500 of spend per month, you could be pocketing an extra $180 every year!

Month 4: Consolidate Your Debt to Lower Your Bills

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

Once you know what’s in your credit history, Credit Sesame shares personalized resources and recommendations so you can figure out how to fix it — a better score could mean even better interest rates.

When it comes to debt, 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.

Month 5: 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 6: Earn Passive Income From Your Impulse Buys

Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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.

Month 7: 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 8: Grow Your Money Faster

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

There’s no law that requires you to bank the old-fashioned way — at a brick-and-mortar bank with a crummy interest rate on your savings.

It’s time to move your money into the 21st century. An iOS app called Varo Money combines traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy.

Here’s the best part: Pair your Bank Account with a Varo Savings Account where you’ll earn 1.75% Annual Percentage Yield.

That’s nearly 30 times — repeat, 30 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.06% average reported by CNN Money.

Varo goes easy on the fees, too. As long as you use one of its 55,000 ATMs across the world, you’ll never pay fees.

Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees. You’ll just pay any fees charged by out-of-network ATMs and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.

Month 9: 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!

Work 40 hours a week for one month at that rate, and you could bank around $3,000.

Month 10: Earn up to $350 Opening Another Bank Account

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This hobby is way more fun than stamp collecting.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite bank promotions happening right now. These banks will pay you up to $350 just to open a new account!

It’s up to you to decide how to manage several bank accounts. Some of us find it’s helpful to have multiple places to stick our money for various purposes — we’re less likely to touch it that way.

You could always open an account, collect the bonus, and close it when you’re no longer using it — just make sure you read the details and know the requirements you need to meet to earn the bonus.

So you don’t have to juggle too many at once, try opening a new account every few months — and collect about $800 in bonuses in a year.

Month 11: 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 12: 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!

Bonus: Make Your 401(k) Blossom

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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 just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD!

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.

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