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creative ways to save money

Creative Ways to Save $3,000 in a Year 

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There’s something about a shiny new calendar year that inspires us to dream big. At the turn of the year, we just want to be better. We want to save money, spend less, wipe out that debt, pay off those loans and credit card debt…but the best way to make big dreams happen is to break them into bite-size pieces and concrete goals. So, how about this one: What would you do with an extra $256 every month?  

When it comes to padding your savings account, little actions add up. So here are 10 mini-resolutions—one for almost every month—to help you hang onto your money-saving goals all year long. 

1. Do a Dry January 

There’s no better way to detox from the holidays by giving yourself a month-long vacation from alcohol (it’s a no-brainer on January 1st). Cozy up to tea and movie in the evenings instead. Even if you only go out for drinks once a week, that’s around $40 savings every week of the month.

Not ready to do a dry January? Consider buying ingredients for drinks ahead of time at a grocery store to avoid the markups at the bar. You won’t save as much and your grocery bill won’t go down, but it is cheaper than going out.

Estimated savings: $160     Total so far: $160

2. Re-examine Your Fitness Strategy

It’s easy to go all-in on gym memberships at the start of a new year. Before you sign up for two or three, consider how often you’re really going to go to each studio or gym, and calculate how much you’ll be spending per class at that frequency. Is a name brand workout worth $20?

Instead of memberships, hunt for Groupons, grab a free trial of ClassPass, or find a local gym that gives you your first month for free. 

If you nab one free month at a gym ($60 value) and stick to coupons for the following two months, you could pocket some more spending money.

Estimated savings: $120     Total so far: $280

3. Hack Your Vacation

Adventure travel—and travel spending—are on the rise, but you don’t need to globetrot (and spend a lot of money) to have a trip of a lifetime. For your next vacation, skip the pricey flights, currency exchange fees, and other unexpected costs that sneak their way into an international travel itinerary. Instead, plan an epic road trip. Better yet, go camping in a national park (target a fee-free day for extra savings), visit a friend in a new city, or plan a trip to a cool town in the next state over. There are tons of creative ways to take a vacation. 

Bring your vacation stateside, and you could save around $600 on plane tickets alone. Now road trip instead of flying on that domestic vacay, and you could save another $200 (use a tool like GasBuddy to calculate your exact savings). Stay in a campsite or hostel, and you add another $280—not to mention way more adventure—over the course of a week-long trip. 

Estimated savings: $1,080     Total so far: $1,360

4. Shop Your Closet

Don’t just thrift shop—thrift sell. Next time you’re cleaning out your wardrobe, gather up all the items in good shape and take them to a consignment store to get cash back for your clothing. They won’t take everything, but you can get $5 to $15 per piece, which adds up. Take in an armload at the beginning of every season, and you could make at least $50 per year. 

Now let’s talk about new clothes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average millennial spends over $1,800 on apparel each year. Scarier: On average, we turn around and throw away around 81 pounds of it annually. Per person. 

Instead of buying new, sub in thrifting for one shopping trip each year, and you could save $150 easily. Plus, you’ll be doing the environment a favor.

Estimated savings: $200     Total so far: $1,560

5. Perfect Your Latte Recipe

We know better than to ask you to give up coffee, but you can still save some extra money by making that morning cup yourself. So, dust off that French press, mix and match honey, cinnamon, milk, cocoa, brown sugar, and vanilla until you’ve found your perfect recipe without the take out price.  

Say you spend $5 each time you go out for Starbucks or to your local coffee shop. Make your own at least once a week this year, and watch the savings add up. 

Estimated savings: $260     Total so far: $1,820

6. Get All Your Tunes for Free

First exhaust your free trials of Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Pandora. Then, hop on a family plan with some friends. Spotify, for example, lets you secure unlimited tunes for six people for just $15 a month

Get two different 3-month trials and put together a six-person family plan for the rest of the year, and you’re looking at $105 in savings.

Estimated savings: $105     Total so far: $1,925

7. Skip the Brand-Name Show

Research indicates that millennials are spending more and more on shows. This year, cut back a little: Instead of dropping cash on hard-to-get tickets—plus the transportation and parking required for downtown venues—go to an open-mic night at a local cafe or an improv show at a small local theater. You’re guaranteed to have an adventure and spend less money.  

Sub two $50 concert tickets with two $10 cover charges this year.

Estimated savings: $80     Total so far: $2,005

8. Cut Back on Video Streaming

Commit to only subscribing to one service at a time. You can always switch if you finish that last season and find a new favorite binge on a different platform. There are plenty to pick from, Netflix, Hulu, Disney plus, Amazon etc, and not enough time in a day to watch them all at once. 

Cut just one $12-per-month service from your list, and you’re looking at an extra $144 in your pocket when the year’s up. 

Estimated savings: $144     Total so far: $2,149

9. Go Retro with Your Next Cell Phone

New smartphones can cost as much as a laptop. Next time you’re in the market, buy a gently model from Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or a reputable refurbisher. (Best Buy and many service carriers, for example, have pre-owned phone programs.) Even buying last year’s model is a simple way to save a hundred dollars or more. Bonus: You won’t feel bad about skipping on the insurance and pricey add-ons.

One example: You can get a used iPhone X for $550, as opposed to the $700 iPhone 11. And skipping the carrier-provided insurance saves you another $180.

Estimated savings: $330     Total so far: $2,479

10. Suggest a Night In

According to one study, up to 47% of millennials have gone into debt because they felt social pressure to overspend on eating out with friends. The high percentage is actually good news—it means that if you’re feeling iffy about a night out, your friends probably are too. Step up and suggest throwing a potluck, trying a new recipe together, or grabbing snacks for a board game night. Make it a monthly thing for more savings (and more fun).

Say you spend $60 when you go for dinner and drinks but just $10 when you opt for a cook-at-home shindig. Do this once per month, and you’re looking at big savings. 

Estimated savings: $600     Total so far: $3,079

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the interview subjects are not necessarily those of Earnest. 

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.