How much could you save in one weekend if you really put your mind to it? Five Acorns employees and I decided to put ourselves to the test.
Here’s what happened when we devoted an entire weekend to not paying full price—starting with my own family-friendly itinerary. (Spoiler: We all saved a good chunk of cash, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as you’d think.)
Budget-Friendly Fun With the Family
Money saved: $130
My weekend started with a flurry of texts from friends about a Build-A-Bear sale—an unheard of “pay your age” promo!—that had everyone clamoring to the mall. While I could’ve saved big on two pricey toys, the last thing my two daughters need is more stuffed animals, so I said no. Pro tip: Sometimes the best savings strategy is knowing when to pass.
On Saturday, I cashed in a Groupon deal: $19 for two hours of fun in a bounce house, saving us $16.80. On the way home, we stocked up on groceries, where I saved $41 on everything from school supplies to produce and snacks with in-store sales and BOGO deals.
Sunday began with a trip to the movies with two other families. We're all members of our theater's rewards program, which costs $15 a year. This landed us four tickets to “Hotel Transylvania 3” for under $20, along with half off popcorn. Had we gone on Friday night, our tickets would have cost double. We spent the afternoon skimming titles at our local bookstore. We came up with a stack of six we really wanted, but I hadn't budgeted for the $51 splurge. I pulled out my phone on the spot, and logged into my library account. Five minutes later, I'd reserved all six books—for free.
For us, this was a pretty typical weekend. I never learned smart money habits as a kid, so I love showing my kids how easy it is to have fun without breaking the bank.
It's All About Rewards Programs
Trevor Rogers, design director (New York City)
Money saved: $1,455
My wife Katie and I are already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving travel arrangements. We're spending the holiday in California, but roundtrip airfare doesn't come cheap. So we cashed in 69,255 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for JetBlue tickets. They were roughly $700 a piece, so our points saved us a whopping $1,400! All we paid was $30 after taxes and fees.
From there, we leveraged our OpenTable rewards points to snag $25 off dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The next night, we used a loyalty punch card to get $17 off a box of wine. You can probably tell that I'm all about rewards, which is why I also took advantage of the Slice app, which specializes in providing delivery services from local pizzerias. We got a ton of food on sale, saving a total of $30, including a $5 signup bonus.
This weekend savings challenge wasn't a huge departure from how we normally spend our money. We're always on the lookout for deals and love our rewards programs.
Finding Birthday Treats for Less
Alyssa Crittenden, customer support representative (Orange County, Calif.)
Money saved: $130
This challenge fell over my birthday weekend, so I focused on budget-friendly ways to treat myself before embarking on a weeklong road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway.
I hit an Urban Outfitters sale, where I got $23 off a new hat. And since I love finding new ways to be active, I signed up for a seven-day gym pass. The promotion, meant to hook new members, translates to a weeklong membership (normally $30 per month), which I thoroughly took advantage of on the road!
Every road trip needs a good playlist or two, so I downloaded Spotify Premium, which offered three months of music for $9.99—a $19.98 savings. Before I left town, I borrowed a friend’s annual National Parks pass. Her generosity kept $80 in my pocket since I didn't have to pay admission at any of the three parks I visited on vacation.
All told, I saved $130 in the weekend, and it was pretty easy. This challenge made me more conscious of all the different ways to save.
A Day at the Flea Market
Jordan Glendrange, business analyst (Orange County, Calif.)
Money saved: $57
Thriftiness isn't my strong suit, so I was excited to give this challenge a whirl. I directed my efforts toward my local flea market to see how many deals I could score in one shopping trip.
I was excited to stumble upon a book I’ve been wanting to read for $5, saving $7 compared to the Amazon price. I also found an awesome Members Only jacket for $20, which would’ve been at least $50 new. I thought it'd be nice to pick up something for my parents, too. I settled on a plant for my mom and a cool hand-drawn picture of Dodgers Stadium for my dad. I haggled for both, ultimately getting $20 off.
Bargain shopping and negotiating like this were new experiences, but small successes made me a believer. It was awkward at first, but it got easier after a few tries. I can see myself thrift-shopping again in the future. Even though I had to sort through a lot of duds, affordable, one-of-a-kind finds are possible for those willing to look.
Saving Big on Secondhand Essentials
Adam Bickford, senior software engineer (Portland, Ore.)
Money saved: ~$540
I was on the lookout for a new papasan chair for my wife Miranda’s birthday, but a new frame and cushion easily runs $300. I kicked off the weekend by finding one for free on Craigslist. It had a crack in the base, which I fixed with $2 clamps, and the cushion was in great shape. Later, we took advantage of Portland Wing Week and hit up two restaurants for a $15 dinner—about half of what we would’ve normally spent.
Saturday morning, we got two free coffees using a coupon from our Chinook Book app, which lets you browse mobile coupons. Miranda already pays the annual $25 Chinook Book membership fee, but I got a 30-day free trial with her referral link.
After coffee, we scoured a Facebook exchange group. With a baby on the way, we found a great high chair and baby carrier for just $70. We would have spent an extra $80 had we bought these things new. Later, we saved $64 grocery shopping with another coupon from our Chinook Book, along with in-store specials. Sunday required a trip to the mechanic to tend to some car issues. The final bill was $630, but we sidestepped a $50 processing fee by paying in cash.
Being frugal is second nature to me, and I've found that you can almost always save money. For us, buying second hand is one of the best no-brainer ways to save tons.
Groupon and Rewards Programs to the Rescue
Holly Miller, marketing operations associate (Orange County, Calif.)
Money saved: $253.76
I'm a film buff, and I love my Movie Pass. It costs $9.99 per month, but easily pays for itself. During my weekend savings challenge, I saw three new releases while enjoying heated recliner seats. Without the pass, I would have spent $54.75.
I'm also a big fan of live music and wanted to see Hunter Hayes perform at the Southern California Fair. Tickets were going for $75, but thanks to Groupon, I paid $16 and scored a free ticket to the fair, saving another $10.
My weekend also included some shopping. I popped into American Eagle and found a cute romper for $15, marked down from $60. I saved another $50 on sunglasses at Nordstrom, thanks to a big sale.
At Acorns, we have a cool program called Found Money. When you shop with one of our partners, the brand automatically invests in your account. This weekend, I purchased a $10 membership to Blooom, a company that helps optimize your 401(k) and got $55 invested!
I'm always looking for ways to stretch my money, but feel inspired to push myself now. So I’m planning to extend this challenge for a full week to save even more.