How To Save $5,000 in a Year (Practical Steps)

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How to Save $5,000 in a Year

Saving money is an important goal for most people, but it requires discipline. Sometimes it helps to have a plan or a program to follow to increase the chances of reaching your financial goals.

$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 feels a lot more realistic when you look at it that way!

With the plan presented in this article, you’ll know exactly how to save $5,000 in a year.

What Would You Do with $5,000?

$5,000 is a nice chunk of money. There are a lot of things you could do with it.

  • Build up your retirement savings
  • Take a nice vacation
  • Use it for a down payment on a house
  • Put it towards the purchase of a car
  • Build up an emergency fund to protect your financial future

I’m sure you’ll come up with a few ideas pretty easily. In fact, you may already have something specific in mind.

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Why a Savings Challenge?

While you don’t need a money-saving challenge to save, a challenge can help in several ways.

It’s Fun!

Let’s face it, saving money isn’t always exciting. Sure, it’s fun to see the results, but saving money takes commitment and sacrifice. If you want to save $5,000, you’ll need to put in some effort.

A savings challenge can help a boring topic become more fun and enjoyable. Making saving fun means you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

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The savings challenge adds accountability, even if it’s just accountability to yourself. Once you start the challenge, you’ll hopefully feel the need to stick with it and complete it.

You can have a generic goal of saving money, but the money challenge gives you specific savings goals for each week, and you can easily check on your progress at any time.


Why not take a savings challenge along with a friend? Taking the challenge with a friend gives you even more accountability. You’ll also have extra motivation to build your bank account 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. Instead, it’s more about simply sticking to and completing the challenge. Most of us wouldn’t want to see our friend complete a challenge that we quit, so it gives us extra motivation to stick with it.

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 reasons are:

  1. You’ll be able to see exactly how much you have saved at any point in time
  2. It makes it easy to keep the money separate from your other accounts, so you don’t accidentally withdraw the money you’re saving through the challenge.

Of course, you can use any bank, but a high-yield savings account is ideal. This allows you to earn interest on the money you save throughout the year.

Save $5,000 in a Year

Saving Coins in a Jar

Here’s a guide to help you save $5,000 over the next 52 weeks. The table below shows how much to put in your savings account each week, as well as the total amount saved if you’ve followed the plan up until that point.

We created this plan using different amounts of money each week to make it a more interesting and fun way to save 5,000 dollars.


Ways to Save $5,000

If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, you may wonder how you will come up with the money you need to save each week. With that in mind, let’s look at some specific things you can do to free up the money to save $5,000 in a year.

1. Create a Budget

If you’re not currently using a budget, creating a budget is one of the first things you should do. A budget helps you make the most of every dollar and live well within your means. Your budget gives you a plan for using your money, including money you want to save or invest. As a result, it’s an excellent tool for controlling your monthly bills and reaching your financial goals.

If you’ve never created a budget before, don’t worry. Read our article How to Create a Budget That Works for a simple guide.

Another option that some people like is cash envelope budgeting. This system doesn’t work if you use credit cards (which is why I don’t use it), but some people find that it provides extra discipline.

2. Track Your Spending

Woman recording her expenses

Having a budget is good, but you won’t know if you’re sticking to the budget unless you also track your monthly expenses. I recommend recording your expenses daily so you don’t lose track. At the end of the month, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you spent and what you spent it on.

Tracking your spending helps you to identify areas where you may be spending more money than you realized. You can identify the problem areas where you’re wasting money or developing bad spending habits. Once you know this, you can adjust your spending to correct those issues, saving you more money.

I’ve always found that tracking your spending forces you to scrutinize every expense. You’ll be a lot more careful about how you spend your money if you know you’re going to be recording the details. It’s one of the best things you can do related to personal finance.

Don’t skip this important part of your savings journey.

3. Reduce Your Cell Phone Bill

How much money do you spend monthly on your cell phone or wireless service? If you’re with one of the major carriers, you could save hundreds of dollars annually by switching to a discounted pre-paid carrier.

About 9 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 5 years ago, we switched from Boost to Cricket Wireless. We’re still paying $70 per month, but the coverage in our area is much better. Cricket uses the AT&T network, but you can get coverage with very cheap cell phone plans. I’ve been very happy with Cricket, and I 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.

This is a great way to quickly progress toward your goal to save 5,000 dollars in a year.

4. Get Rid of Cable or Satellite TV

Another easy way my wife and I have saved money is by canceling cable TV. We canceled about 9 years ago, and I’ve never missed it (or the monthly bills). Now, we use an HD antenna that I purchased for less than $50, and we watch many shows and movies on Netflix.

We’ve found monthly savings by going with cheaper TV options.

For a more detailed look at your options and the costs, see our articles on the best cable alternatives and free TV apps.

5. Save Money on Food

Grocery Shopping

Food is a big line item in most budgets. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to reduce your monthly spending on food. 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 your meals at home.

You don’t need to avoid restaurants entirely, but limit the number of meals you eat out, and be careful with the amount of money that you spend when you do go out. Our article on ways to save money at restaurants can help.

Your grocery bill could probably 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 prices and generic brands saves our family of four a few thousand dollars per year. See our article on ways to save money on groceries for plenty of other ideas.

Meal planning is a great way to save more money. It takes a small amount of effort, but you can buy only the groceries that you need. You’ll plan your meals to use 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 cashback 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.

Rakuten ($10 signup bonus)

With a free Rakuten 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 Rakuten, and you benefit by getting cash back for things you need to buy anyway.

Rakuten has a browser extension that makes it easy to save. With the help of the extension, you’ll get a notification whenever you’re on a website that offers cashback through Rakuten. All you need to do is click on a button to activate your shopping trip, and you’ll be ready to save money. Rakuten will even find and automatically apply coupon codes to save you more money.

Ibotta ($20 in signup bonuses)

Ibotta is a great cashback app that will help you save money at grocery stores, department stores, home improvement stores, other stores, and even online. There are offers for various products and stores, and you can claim the offers you want.


TopCashback is similar to Rakuten. You can save money at thousands of partner websites with a free account. I recommend signing up for both Rakuten and TopCashback because sometimes the offer will be better at Rakuten, and sometimes it will be better at TopCashback (or cashback may be available only through one of them).

See our list of the best cashback apps for even more possibilities.

7. Credit Card Signup Bonuses and Rewards

Another easy way to find extra money to save is by taking advantage of credit card offers. You can earn anywhere from $100 – $1,000 as a one-time bonus for signing up for a new credit card. You can also earn cashback or travel rewards on your purchases (see our list of the best credit card signup bonuses here).

I use a few different credit cards to get anywhere from 2% – 5% cashback on every purchase. Over the course of a year, this easily adds up (with no change in your lifestyle) if you make all of your purchases with a credit card.

For more details on how you can get free money with this approach, please see our articles Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards and How to Stack Rewards and Cash Back.

8. Get Cheaper Insurance

Have you shopped around for cheaper insurance? Most of us have several different insurance policies (car, life, homeowner’s/renters, health). You could save money by moving to a different company or by adjusting your existing policies to reduce costs.

You can check your existing policies to make sure you’re 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 you can see what’s out there in just a few minutes. You may be able find monthly savings by making a change.

9. Sell Stuff You Don’t Need

Yard Sale

Most of us have a lot of things lying around the house that we don’t use or need. That stuff may seem like junk, but much of it has value. One of the quickest ways to make extra cash is to go through your house and pick out some things to sell.

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 we’re planning to have more for sale this year.

Although yard sales are great for getting rid of a lot in a day or two, your valuable items will likely bring more money if you sell them elsewhere. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are excellent resources that allow you to reach many people easily. 

If you feel like you don’t have anything to sell, see the article What Can I Sell? for plenty of ideas.

10. Save Money on Entertainment

Entertainment is one of the budget categories where many people can cut back and see significant savings. How much money are you currently spending on entertainment? Things like going to the movies, sporting events, concerts, and trips to the bar or meals out with friends can add up fast.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have any entertainment expenses. Doing things you enjoy with friends and family is a great use of your time. But there are ways to cut back on entertainment expenses without sacrificing fun. Find free or cheap things to do, start a cheap hobby, or simply give yourself a hard limit on how much you can spend for entertainment.

See our list of stay-at-home date ideas and ways to get free concert tickets for some suggestions that will help.

11. Start a Side Hustle

While reducing expenses is great, you can speed up your savings by making more money. In fact, with a good side hustle, you might save $5,000 in a year without changing your spending habits.

There are so many side hustle ideas, 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 turn this into a side hustle that brings in money regularly by buying and reselling. You can buy items at yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets and sell them for higher prices. 

A while back, 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 to make extra cash.


There are many different types of services you can offer as a freelancer for extra income. My favorite is freelance writing because there are so many blogs and websites looking for content regularly. Other options include graphic design, web design, web development, photography, social media marketing, and more.

Drive for DoorDash

Regardless of your current work schedule, making some extra money by working as a delivery driver is possible. Driving for DoorDash is an extremely flexible way to make money.

Take Online Surveys

One of the most popular side hustles is to take paid online surveys. It’s not the most lucrative option, but it’s a flexible way to make money online. You can take surveys while watching TV or during downtime. Some of the most popular survey sites are:

Final Thoughts on How to Save $5,000 in a Year

It may seem daunting, but saving 5,000 dollars in a year is quite realistic with a money saving challenge. By following the weekly saving plan laid out in this article, you’ll set aside $5,000 in 52 weeks to build up your bank account. You can use that money for a down payment on a house, save for retirement, pay off debt, or anything else.

And if you’re unsure how to come up with the money each week, implement a few tips in the article, and you should have no problem. Good luck!

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  • Commission-free trades of stocks, ETFs, options, and ADRs
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