The One Hack That Helped Me Save Thousands: 7 Stories


Whether you’re hundreds or thousands away from hitting your savings goals, you’re probably on the lookout for smart ways to supercharge your efforts. Fortunately, moving the needle in a big way doesn’t require a major or painful lifestyle change—as these seven savers prove.

They tell us how they dialed up their efforts with some simple yet extremely effective hacks—and ultimately saved thousands.

“I stockpile my $1 bills.”

Nick D’Urso, 27, co-founder of a nutrition company in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“This may sound like the simplest idea ever, but I’ve been able to save a pretty good chunk of money just by stockpiling my $1 bills over the last five years. For example, if I buy something for $16 and pay with a $20, I take the four leftover singles and put it in a safe.

It took some getting used to, but now it’s become a habit I don’t even think about. The best part? I’ve saved over $9,000 this way! I’ve been tempted to spend it over the years, but I’m happy to say that my willpower prevailed. My big-picture goal is to put a down payment on a house, so I’m keeping my eye on the prize.”

“I rent out my home during peak holiday season.”

Elizabeth Jenkins, 28, communications manager in San Diego, Calif.

“Whenever I’m planning a vacation, I always list my apartment on rental websites, like Airbnb and HomeAway, for the days I’ll be gone. It’s a quick and easy way to help cover the cost of the trip and sock away some additional funds.

During peak travel season, which is May to October in San Diego, I take it a step further by renting out my couch to budget travelers via Airbnb. I love meeting new people, so it’s like free money. At the height of the season, I rent out my entire home. I’ll either stay with a friend or in a budget hotel outside the city, then pocket the profits. I’ve been doing this for a little over two years and have saved roughly $5,000 as a result.”

“I made my savings account super-inconvenient.”

Eliza Cross, 58, entrepreneur and blogger in Denver, Colo.

“My tactic goes back to the old, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ way of thinking. I used to have monthly automatic withdrawals from my checking account to my savings, but soon discovered one major flaw: It was way too easy to transfer money back into checking for small emergencies, like a broken garbage disposal.

So about two years ago, I decided to create an ‘inconvenient savings account.’ I deliberately chose a credit union that’s not connected to my regular bank, then declined the free debit card. If I want to take money out of this account, I have to physically drive there and arrange it with a representative. Because it’s such a pain to access, I rarely move cash back into my regular account—and have been able to save about $4,500 so far.”

“I buy groceries in bulk.”

Matthew Walrath, 27, a nutrition coach in Los Angeles, Calif.

“Saving up for a house is a big financial goal of mine. And thanks to an easy hack I implemented four months ago, I should be able to cross it off my bucket list next year.

As a nutrition coach and fitness competitor, food has traditionally been one of my biggest budget busters. Until recently, I had a meal delivery service, dined out a lot and bought convenient items at the grocery store, like pre-cut produce. While training for CrossFit regionals, my food budget ballooned to $1,900 a month.

But recently, I decided to scale back in order to hit my other money goals. Now, I’m saving between $1,000 to $1,400 a month—without sacrificing nutrition—just by buying the majority of my food (meats and frozen fruits and veggies) in bulk and being more mindful about my habits. That alone translates into some hefty savings: anywhere from 25 to 60 percent off on produce and snacks alone. I also limit restaurant visits, freeze leftover fresh food and meal-prep weekly.

Doing this prevents waste and saves time—and I think it’s a savings trick that could work for almost anyone, even if your food expenses are a lot less than mine were. While there are some upfront costs to buying in bulk, the long-term savings definitely tip the scale back in your favor.”

“I reset my account each time I get paid.”

Monique Derico, 24, account coordinator in Boston, Mass.

“It’s very easy for me to get discouraged when I don’t hit my financial goals—which is why I came up with a key strategy when I graduated from college in 2014: Every time I get paid, I sit down and ‘spend’ all of my money on paper.

I budget so that all my bills and financial responsibilities are accounted for, then allocate a portion of what’s left to some (low-cost) leisure activities. Then, the night before I get paid again, I ‘reset’ my bank account by rolling outstanding funds directly into my savings account. My thinking is that if I haven’t spent it before the next pay period, I should be saving it.

This has turned out to be very effective for me because I don’t always have much wiggle room in my budget. My rent takes up half my income, and other variable expenses, like fluctuating utility bills, can eat up a good portion of what’s leftover… But I’m continuing to build a cash cushion, while still taking care of my financial obligations. This method enabled me to save $6,000 in a 19-month stretch.”

“I sold my car.”

Eagan Heath, 32, founder of an online marketing company in Madison, Wisc.

“This may sound extreme, but back in July 2014, I sold my Subaru Outback for $10,500. Madison has plenty of transportation options if you’re willing to get a little creative. Since ditching my car, I’ve come to rely on the bus, my bike and Uber to get around.

I’ve saved at least $6,500 per year in car payments, gas, parking and insurance costs. As a bonus, I’ve transformed my transit time into an opportunity to read, listen to podcasts and work on my business. It was a no-brainer decision that’s given my savings account a nice bump.”

“I make my own coffee.”

Gregory Golinski, 37, marketing coordinator in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Every month, I save a good chunk of money using one very simple hack: making my daily coffee at home. About two years ago, I invested in a high-quality coffee machine that set me back about $700, but the big-picture savings have been well worth it.

At one point, I’d been spending roughly $4 a day on my morning cup of Joe. Now I’m my own barista, easily saving me $1,500 a year—money I’ve used for two different trips to the south of France. Another perk is that I actually really enjoy learning about the craft: the dozens of ways to make a great cup of coffee, different types of beans and so on. For me, it’s been a win-win.”