The first thing we tell people to do on their journey to financial peace is to save $1,000 for a starter emergency fund.
For some of you, that may feel like an impossible task. Maybe you’ve never even had that much money in your bank account at one time. If so, you’re not alone.
Ramsey Solutions research found only about half of Americans (49%) have $1,000 or more in savings. And one-third of Americans (34%) have no savings at all.
But I’ve got 30 ways to help you make $1,000 fast—so you can secure that starter emergency fund. If you commit to doing enough of these ideas, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have that cash in hand within a month.
So, ready, set . . . get to saving!
1. Do a no-spend challenge.
What’s the best way to save money? Not spending it.
We waste so much money on random things we don’t need. If you cut back everything that’s not essential for just 30 days, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save. So, here’s my challenge to you: Do a no-spend month.
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That means no eating out, no online shopping, and no extras like getting your nails done. (And, ladies, I hope you know how to do hair—because it’s all on you this month.)
I know y’all think I’m playing, but you need to get serious about saving money. It might feel like you’re taking a ride on the struggle bus at first, but you can do it! And having more money in the bank will keep you off the struggle bus in the future.
You just have to get creative! Raid your pantry or fridge for meal ideas, borrow items from friends and neighbors, and think of a way to DIY something before you go out and buy it. Knowing the spending freeze has a time stamp on it can actually make it a fun game for you or your family.And whatever you do—avoid Target, Costco and Amazon like the plague. (Lord, lead me not into temptation!)
2. Drive for Uber or Lyft.
One of the best ways to earn some fast cash is to drive for a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft. As long as you don’t mind putting some extra miles on your car and getting the occasional “interesting” passenger, it can be an easy way to pass the time. In Nashville, for example, you can earn about $405 a week only driving 15 hours.1 Do that for several weeks, and you’ve got your $1,000!
3. Deliver food.
Everyone’s got to eat. But many people would rather pay someone else to pick up their food or groceries. Cha-ching! That’s the sound of easy money for you. You can deliver for apps like Postmates, DoorDash, Grubhub or Instacart.
The great thing is, you can work whenever you want, get paid fast, and earn decent tips. For example, base pay for DoorDash deliverers (Dashers) ranges from $2–10 per delivery, and you keep 100% of your tips.2 It may even turn into your new side hustle!
4. Transport packages for Amazon Flex.
I want you to avoid online shopping during your no-spend month. But it doesn’t mean you can’t make money off other people’s orders. Sign up to deliver packages with Amazon Flex and make around $18–25 an hour.3 And like the name suggests, you can work as much or as little as you want—whatever works with your schedule!
5. Cancel your subscriptions and memberships.
The thought of not keeping up with the Kardashians pains me as much as the next person. But all those monthly subscriptions can really add up when you’re shelling out $5 for Peacock, $15 for Netflix, $20 for Stitch Fix, and $70+ for the gym.
So, take inventory of all the accounts you’re paying for. If it’s not actually helping improve your life or if you haven’t used it in several months, cancel it. If you really end up missing one, you can always sign up again down the road.
And there are plenty of free streaming services you can learn to love in the meantime. Or you may like the savings enough to keep those subscription limits on lock.
6. Pack your lunch.
Food is the ultimate budget buster for most of us (and ya girl is no exception!). Americans spend an average of $3,030 per year on food away from home (aka eating out).4
Think about it: If you spend $15 eating out for lunch every workday, that’s $75 a week—which adds up to $300 a month or $3,600 a year! And that’s just for one person. Think about a couple or a family (including the cost of school lunches for kids). Dang, son!
Packing your lunch not only saves you money, but it also takes way less effort than calling in your order, driving there, waiting, paying, picking it up, and driving back. And don’t knock leftovers or a good, old-fashioned PB and J. There are plenty of cheap and delicious homemade lunch options that can come in clutch!
7. Brew your own coffee.
Your daily drive-thru may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re spending $5 on a coffee every day before work (and let’s be honest, most of us spend more than that), that’s around $100 a month just for your caffeine fix (not to mention all the gas you’re wasting in those long lines).
So, grab some high-quality beans, turn on the coffee maker, and be your own barista for the month. Or maybe cut out coffee altogether and save yourself the caffeine anxiety. You’ll be surprised how much money stays in your bank account. And here’s my prediction: You’ll end up liking your own coffee a little bit better than the drive-thru’s.
8. Use a refillable water bottle.
You guys know water is basically free, right? Whoever made us believe you’re some kind of savage if you drink from the tap is a marketing genius. But the truth is, you don’t have to buy bottled water just because it’s available ($1.50 a bottle? Sheesh!).
So, get you a cheap, reusable water bottle and fill it up. Choosing free water instead of soda or other fancy beverages will also save you some coin. And it’s better for you!
9. Clean out your closet.
You wouldn’t believe how much money is just chilling on hangers in your closet. So, now’s the time to channel your inner Marie Kondo and swap out your clothes for cash. Be real with yourself: If you haven’t worn that shirt in a year, you probably aren’t going to wear it. And instead of letting those pants that you’re hoping to fit into one day take up space in your closet (and your mind), let them go.
You can sell your gently used clothes to your local consignment shop or on sites like Poshmark and ThredUP. Or you could set up your own closet-cleanout shop on Instagram (if you don’t mind seeing your friends re-wear your clothes). And no, this isn’t your chance to buy a whole new wardrobe (I know you were thinking it).
10. Sell your stuff.
Knickknacks collecting dust in the attic, old sports equipment, kitchen tools you never use, hobbies you gave up on—pull it all out and put it on sale. Shoot, my husband and I sold almost all our furniture and lived on an air mattress while we were getting out of debt. And here’s what I can tell you: It’s just stuff! You’re better off clearing out the old stuff to make room for more money and new opportunity in your life.
Some things, like popular brands or collectors’ items, you might sell for more money online (check out eBay or Facebook Marketplace). But for everything else . . . “to the left, to the left, all your old things in a box to the left.” Pick a Saturday, put out a couple tables full of your stuff, post some signs, and watch your junk turn into dollar bills. Trust me, someone will want your old Michael Bolton album on vinyl (that someone is me!).
11. Have a bake sale.
Do you love to bake (or can you follow a recipe)? Your friends, neighbors and coworkers would love to pay you in exchange for some cookies, cupcakes, birthday cakes or other sweet treats. You can make anywhere from 50 cents to a couple bucks for smaller items and even more for cakes, depending on how much you spend on ingredients.
I actually did this when I was working to save money and pay off debt. I kept a small menu of my best baked goods and advertised on social media. It’s a lot of work but totally worth it! You may even want to poll your customers to see what other kind of baked goods they’d like you to make.
12. Wait tables or bartend.
It’s hard work, but plenty of places need part-time servers or bartenders. Obviously, how much you make varies. A five-star restaurant is going to pay more than Applebee’s (but no shade on Applebee’s—I worked there slingin’ Bourbon Street Platters and made some pretty decent tips).
On average, though, waiters and waitresses make $13.95 an hour, and bartenders make $14.59 an hour.5,6 But the real money comes from tips! If you do a good job, most people will show their appreciation by giving you 15–20% of the bill.
13. Switch grocery stores.
Instead of shopping at big-name grocery stores, switch to a cheaper option. I know some of you are super loyal to certain stores. I love me some Whole Foods, but we all know they’re trippin’ when it comes to their prices.
You can save a lot of money at places like Walmart or Aldi—as long as you don’t mind bagging your own groceries and renting a cart for a (refundable) quarter. Even if you only save $25 a week, that’s still $100 extra in your wallet when the month is over! Also, take a good look at your other grocery shopping habits to see how else you can save.
And don’t forget to actually stick to your grocery list. It won’t matter where you shop if you’re buying everything that grabs your attention down the aisles. (My girl, Rachel Cruze, has a great Meal Planner & Grocery Savings Guide to help you out!)
14. Buy generic.
Even if you’d rather stick to your favorite grocery stores, at least go generic—especially when it comes to milk and juice, pantry staples (spices, flour, sugar), and even certain medicines.
I know not all store brands are the same as name brands. I’m not going to tell you a Twist & Shout cookie from Walmart tastes the same as an Oreo (that would be a lie). But any taste difference is worth the amount of money you save. And Consumer Reports says most store brands measure up to the name brands in overall taste and quality (some are even made in the same factories!)—and they’re usually 20% to 25% lower in price.7
I know I don’t have to tell you gas isn’t cheap. And if you’ve got a decent commute every day, choosing to carpool with a coworker or getting your spouse to drop you off can save you literally hundreds of dollars. Even if you’re not a huge people person, just try it for a month. And when Terri from accounting is talking your ear off before you’ve had your morning cup of coffee, just remind yourself how much money you’re saving.
16. Work extra hours.
You don’t always have to take on other jobs to increase your income. Start by seeing if you can work some extra shifts or get paid for overtime at your current job. It’s way easier than trying to start a new side hustle. And it might even show your boss that you deserve a promotion.
17. Pick up freelance clients.
Use your talents—all of them! Are you a writer, graphic designer, videographer or other type of creative? Advertise that you’re open for freelance work, or use sites like Fiverr and Upwork to connect with people who need your services. You could even make useful items to sell on Etsy. And if you’re already an established freelancer, see if you can pick up a few extra clients for the month or even up your rates.
If you’ve got the heart of a teacher, why not get paid to help students one-on-one? You can connect with parent groups or schools in your area and let them know what subjects you specialize in. Or branch out beyond your community with online tutoring. TutorMe tutors make $16 per hour!8
19. Give music lessons.
Ooh, now we’re talking! This is one of my favorite ideas. Can you play an instrument or sing? Plenty of folks are looking for someone to teach them the basics. You can set your own hours and rates and opt for teaching kids, adults or both. Who knows? You could be the one to jump-start the career of the next Michael Bolton (a true legend).
You may have thought your babysitting days were behind you, but you don’t have to be a teenager to cash in on this gig. Reach out to your coworkers, friend groups and church and let them know you’re happy to watch their kiddos (for an agreed-upon rate, of course). As someone with kids, I’m here to let you know babysitters are charging $15–30 an hour for watching my two kids. Y’all better come get this money!
21. Pet sit or dog walk.
Maybe you’re more of a pet person than a kid person. In that case, offer to watch people’s pets while they’re out of town, or walk dogs for the owners who don’t have time. And who doesn’t want to play with an adorable goldendoodle for hours? If you need help finding clients, check out Wag! or Rover—just know they take a cut of your earnings.
22. Clean houses.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty (or you can just wear gloves). Plenty of people will pay good money for you to dust, mop or scrub a toilet. To get started, all you need are some basic cleaning supplies (or some homeowners might let you use their own products). Just listen to a good podcast while you work and sweep in that extra cash!
23. Mow lawns or do yard work.
Got a lawn mower or an eye for landscaping? Scout out some yards in your area that could use a little TLC. Then knock on the door and offer to get their lawn into shape. I recommend doing some research first to set a competitive rate, or maybe grab some seasonal hours with an existing lawn company. And depending on the time of year, you can make decent money raking leaves or shoveling snow too.
24. Wash and detail cars.
People can be super extra about their vehicles—which means they’ll gladly pay someone to keep them looking nice. If you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease, you can have a decent side business cleaning cars from the inside out. You can even charge your customers more if you drive to them.
25. Find odd jobs.
Maybe you can’t decide on just one way to make some extra money. If you like the idea of running errands, building shelves, or doing other random tasks for people, check out sites like TaskRabbit. You can also spread the word at your church or post your info on community message boards. It may not seem like much at first, but $20 here and there can really add up over a month!
26. Get paid for your photos.
I’m talking about selling your high-quality nature or city skyline pics to be used as stock photos. You’ll get paid anytime someone downloads one of your images. Foap pays $5 a photo, and Shutterstock will give you up to 40% commission per photo.9,10 It’s not a ton of money, but you’ll make more than you would letting your photos just sit in your camera roll.
27. Sell your unused gift cards.
We’ve all got those gift cards from well-intentioned relatives that we’re simply never going to use (sorry, Grandma, but I don’t eat Subway like that). Don’t let them go to waste! You can actually resell unwanted gift cards on sites like Raise. That’s less plastic crowding up your wallet and more money in your pocket.
28. Wrap your car.
Believe it or not, you can actually get paid to use your car as an advertisement! Yes, companies like Carvertise or Wrapify will match you with a business. Once your car is wrapped with their ad, all you have to do is drive your normal commute to spread the word. With Carvertise, you can earn between $450–1,500 per campaign.11 That’s a great way to kick your savings into high gear!
29. Take surveys online.
You’ve got opinions, right? Well, someone will actually pay you to give them. You can take surveys on sites like Survey Junkie, OneOpinion or Opinion Outpost and get paid in cash or gift cards. Keep in mind, a lot of these companies screen people first—so you probably won’t qualify for every survey. And it usually takes a while to earn enough points to cash out. But hey, it’s an easy way to make money without leaving your home!
30. Make a budget.
All right, guys, I saved my favorite tip for last! You need to do a zero-based budget. Because telling your money where to go is the best way to spend less and save more.
The EveryDollar budgeting app makes it easy to see where your money is going and make a plan for the month ahead. It also helps you stay motivated as you work toward your savings goals.
And get this: On average, first-time EveryDollar budgeters immediately find an extra $332 in their budget and cut their monthly expenses by 9%!
Get started by creating your free budget with EveryDollar right now. Already have a budget? Great—now use the tips I mentioned to trim it down!
Remember, every little bit adds up. And the more you save, the faster you can get that emergency fund under your belt and make progress toward your other financial goals. You got this!