Saving money is an important goal for most people, but many of us lack discipline. Sometimes it helps to have a plan or a program to follow in order to increase your chances for success.
In this article, you’ll find a free printable that shows how to save $5,000 in a year just by setting aside a small amount each week. You’ll also find plenty of tips and practical ways to cut expenses and find that extra money that you can save.
$5,000 may sound like a lot of money to save, and it is, but over the course of 12 months it comes out to less than $100 per week. It sounds a lot more realistic when you look at it that way.
With the plan presented in this article, you’ll reach $5,000 one year from now, and the most you’ll save in any given week is $130.
What Would You Do with $5,000?
$5,000 is a nice chunk of money. There are a lot of different things you could do with it. Build up your retirement savings. Take a nice vacation. Use it for a down payment on a house. Buy a cheap used car or put it towards the purchase of a more expensive car. Build up an emergency fund.
I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with a few ideas pretty easily.
Why a Savings Challenge?
While you don’t need a money saving challenge in order to save, a challenge can help in several specific ways.
Let’s face it, saving money isn’t always exciting. Sure, it’s fun to see the results, but saving money takes some commitment and sacrifice.
A savings challenge can help a boring topic to become more fun and more enjoyable. Making saving fun means that you’ll also be more likely to stick with it.
The saving challenges add some accountability, even if it is just accountability to yourself. Once you start the challenge, hopefully you’ll feel the need to stick with it and complete the challenge.
You can have a generic goal of saving money, but the money challenge gives you specific goals for each week, and you can easily check on your progress at any time.
→ Related reading: 9 Signs You May Be Living Above Your Means (and What to Do About It)
Why not take a savings challenge along with a friend? Taking the challenge with a friend gives you even more accountability, and also provides some extra motivation because of the competition.
If you’re following along exactly with the plan and the specific amounts to save, the competition may not be about who saves the most money, but instead, it’s more about simply sticking with the challenge and completing it. Most of us wouldn’t want to see our friend complete a challenge that we quit, so it gives some extra motivation to stick with it.
The Math is Done for You
One of the nice things about the challenge is that it takes care of the math for you. All you need to do is deposit the amount listed on the printable each week and you’ll reach $5,000 at the end of 52 weeks.
Creating a New Savings Account for the Challenge
While it’s not completely necessary, I recommend using a separate savings account for the challenge. The two main reasons are:
- You’ll be able to see exactly how much you have saved at any point in time
- It makes it easy to keep the money separate from your other accounts so you don’t accidentally withdraw the money that you’re saving through the challenge.
And if you’re going to put money into a savings account, you might as well set up an account at a bank that offers a good interest rate. There are a number of good online banks that will work, but I personally use and recommend CIT Bank. They offer high-yield savings accounts and money market accounts that would work well for this challenge. They also have a really nice user interface and mobile apps that make it easy to manage your account.
Free Printable PDF – Save $5,000 in a Year
Below you’ll find a free printable that you can use to make the money saving challenge easier. Click on the image to open the full-size printable. You can print it, and then cross out each week after you’ve made the deposit to your savings account.
Ways to Save $5,000
Ok, so now you’ve got the printable to lay out the amount to save each week. That’s great, but if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck you may be wondering how you’re going to come up with the money that you need to save each week. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the specific things you can do to free up the money to put in your savings account.
1. Create a Budget
If you’re not currently using a budget, this is one of the first things you should consider. A budget will help you to make the most of your money and live well within your means. Your budget will give you a plan for how to use your money, including money that you want to save or invest.
If you’ve never created a budget before, don’t worry. You can follow my article with step-by-step instructions on how to create a budget. You can also enter your email address below to get a budget template (spreadsheet and PDF) that you can use to create your own.
2. Track Your Spending
Having a budget is good, but you won’t know if you’re really sticking to the budget unless you’re also tracking expenses. I recommend recording your expenses every day so you don’t lose track, and at the end of the month you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’re spending, and what you’re spending it on.
Tracking your spending helps you to see some areas where you may be spending too much. You can identify the problem areas where you’re wasting money. Once you know that, you can adjust your spending correct those issues, leaving you with more money saved.
I’ve always found that tracking your spending forces you to scrutinize every expense, and you’ll be a lot more careful about how you spend your money if you know you’re going to be recording the details.
3. Reduce Your Cell Phone Bill
How much money do you spend each month on your cell phone or wireless service? If you’re with one of the major carriers, you could probably save hundreds of dollars per year by switching to a discounted pre-paid carrier.
About 6 years ago, my wife and I switched from one of the leading carriers to a discounted carrier (Boost Mobile) and it instantly cut our bill in half. Instead of paying $140 per month for the two of us, it dropped down to just $70 per month. That’s a savings of $840 per year!
About 2 years ago, we switched from Boost to Cricket Wireless. We’re still paying $70 per month, but our coverage is much better. Cricket uses the AT&T network, but you can get coverage for very cheap prices. I’ve been very happy with Cricket, and I definitely recommend them.
If you sign up for Cricket Wireless through my referral link, you’ll get a $25 account credit.
Going to a discounted carrier has been one of the easiest ways I’ve ever saved money, and best of all, it saves money each and every month. I was initially concerned about the quality of the service, but that hasn’t been an issue at all.
Aside from Cricket, FreedomPop is another good option.
4. Get Rid of Cable or Satellite TV
Another easy way that my wife and I have saved money is by canceling cable TV. We canceled about 6 years ago and I’ve never missed it. Now, we use an HD antenna that I purchased for less than $50, and we watch a lot of shows and movies on Netflix. During football season, I also get a Sling subscription to watch the ESPN channels.
We save a good bit of money each month, even when we have the Sling membership. During most of the year, Netflix is the only TV-related expense, so we save a lot each month/year.
For a more detailed look at your options, see my article on the best cable alternatives.
5. Save Money on Food
Food is a big line item in most budgets, and there are plenty of ways to reduce the amount of money that you spend on food each month. If you eat a lot of meals at restaurants or buy your lunch at work every day, you can save a huge amount of money by adjusting to making all (or almost all) of your meals at home.
You don’t need to avoid restaurants entirely, but limit the number of meals that you eat out, and be careful with the amount of money that you spend when you do go out. My artilce on ways to save money at restaurants can help.
Most likely, your grocery bill could also be reduced without too much effort. My favorite way to save on groceries is to shop at discount grocery stores, like Aldi. The combination of low Aldi’s prices and generic brands saves your family of four a few thousand dollars per year. See my article on ways to save money on groceries for plenty of other ideas.
Meal planning is another great way to save money. It takes a small amount of effort, but you can buy only the groceries that you need, and plan your meals to get rid of the food you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
6. Use Cash Back Apps to Save Money Easily
One of my favorite ways to save money is to take advantage of cash back apps. There are many different websites and apps that allow you to earn cash back on many of your purchases, but here is a look at 3 of my personal favorites.
Ebates ($10 signup bonus) – With a free Ebates account you can save money on most of your online purchases, and some in-store purchases. There are thousands of stores and websites that partner with Ebates, and you benefit by getting cash back for things you need to buy anyway.
Ebates has a browser extension that makes it really easy to save. With the help of the extension, you’ll get a notification whenever you’re on a website that offers cash back through Ebates. All you need to do is click on a button to activate your shopping trip and you’ll be ready to save money. Ebates will even find and automatically apply coupon codes to save you more money.
Drop ($5 signup bonus) – Drop is another cashback app, but it works differently. You’ll link your credit cards to Drop, and when you use your card make a purchase at a participating store, you’ll earn cash back. You can also browse special offers through the app to find even more savings.
Right now, Drop is offering a $5 bonus to new users. To get the bonus, simply sign up here and link a credit card to your account.
Dosh ($5 signup bonus) – Dosh is another cashback app that links to your credit cards. You’ll get credit for purchases made at participating stores/restaurants when you use a linked card. You can use the app to see offers in your area, or find some deals for online purchases that can be made by clicking through the app.
Right now, Dosh is also offering a $5 signup bonus. Create an account here and then link your first credit card to get the bonus.
7. Credit Card Signup Bonuses and Rewards
Another easy way to find some extra money to save is by taking advantage of credit card offers. You can earn anywhere from $100 – $500 as a one-time bonus for signing up for a new credit card. You can also earn cash back on all of your purchases.
I use a few different credit cards to get anywhere from 2% – 5% cash back on every purchase. Over the course of a year, this easily adds up if you make all of your purchases with a credit card.
8. Get Cheaper Insurance
Have you ever shopped around for cheaper insurance? Most of us have several different insurance policies (car, life, homeowner’s/renters, health). It’s possible that you could save money by moving to a different company or by making some adjustments to your existing policies.
You can check your existing policies to make sure that you are not overinsured. We saved more than $100 per year on homeowner’s insurance by reducing the coverage for the stuff in our house. We didn’t need as much coverage as we had by default. You can also save on your premiums by increasing the deductible.
Getting quotes from multiple insurance companies is pretty easy, so with just a few minutes you can see what’s out there. You may be able to save money every month or every year by making a change.
9. Sell Stuff You Don’t Need
Most of us have a lot of things laying around the house that we don’t use or need. That stuff may seem like junk, but a lot of it has value. One of the quickest ways to make some extra money is to go through your house and pick out some things to sell.
→ Related reading: How to Make Money by Selling Your Stuff
If you have enough stuff, you could host a yard sale to get rid of a lot quickly. My wife and I made over $400 last year with a weekend yard sale and this year we’re planning to have more for sale.
Although yard sales are great for getting rid of a lot in a day or two, your valuable items are likely to bring more money if you sell them in other places. The Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are both excellent resources that allow you to reach a lot of people easily. For more options, see my article on selling apps.
10. Start a Side Hustle
While reducing expenses is great, you can really speed up your savings by increasing your income. There are so many different side hustle ideas that you’re sure to find something that’s a good fit for you. Here are a few of my favorite options for making extra money quickly.
Flea Market Flipping – I just talked about the possibility of selling things you don’t need. You can actually turn this into a side hustle that brings in money on a regular basis by buying and re-selling. You can buy items at yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets and sell them for higher prices. See my list of the easiest things to flip for profit for some great ideas.
A few months ago, I interviewed Virginia, who makes money flipping furniture for profit. She and her sister buy wood furniture, give it a fresh look with some new paint, and sell it for a nice profit.
If you want to learn all about flipping and how to make a great side income with it, be sure to check out Flipper University. The couple that created this course makes a six-figure income working 20-30 hours per week flipping, and they’ll teach you everything you need to know.
Pet Sitting and Dog Walking – You may be surprised at how much money you can make with a pet sitting or dog walking side hustle. When I interviewed Lily about how to become a pet sitter I was shocked to hear that she’s making $40,000+ per year with her home-based doggy daycare. You can create a profile on Rover and allow clients to find you (Lily gets all of her clients from Rover). One of the great things about this side hustle is that you don’t need any special skills.
Freelancing – There are many different types of services that you can offer as a freelancer. My favorite is freelance writing because there are so many blogs and websites looking for content on a regular basis. Other options include graphic design, web design, web development, photography, social media marketing, and more.
Drive for Uber or Lyft – Regardless of your current work schedule, it’s possible to make some extra money by driving in your spare time. It’s totally flexible. Right now Lyft has a “make $1,000 in 30 days” guarantee for new drivers.
Take Online Surveys – One of the most popular side hustles is to take surveys. It’s not the most lucrative option, but it is very flexible and you can take surveys when you’re watching TV or whenever you have some down time. Some of the most popular survey sites are:
Download the Printable and Start Your Savings Challenge
If you’re ready to get started on your money-saving journey, you can use this link to download the free printable PDF. Good luck!