Tag Archives: Frugal Living

Secrets to Where I Change My Coins for Cash for Free

Secrets to where I change coins for cash - for free! Hands holding coins

If you’re getting ready for vacation, the holidays, or want to splurge without breaking your budget, the perfect go-to is to cash in those coins you’ve been saving. Which means you’re wondering, where can I change my coins for cash – and do it for free?

There are plenty of options to try to get your coins turned into cash without paying a ridiculous fee. These are the best places to take your spare change and walk out with dollar dollar bills, y’all.

What Banks have Free Coin Counting Machines?

Each bank varies so much that you need to call ahead to make sure you’re not wasting your time. Even between branches of the same bank, you can find differences in their policies.

When you call ahead, here’s what you should ask about coin cashing:

  1. Do they have a coin counting machine?
  2. Is it free?
  3. Do you need to be a member of the bank to use it?

If your local bank doesn’t have a free coin counting machine, you can ask if they’ll accept rolled coins. Again, if this is the case, ask:

  1. Is there a fee?
  2. Do you need to be a member to bring in rolled change?

Usually, banks without a coin counting machine will accept rolled change. However, don’t bank on it (see what I did there?).

A lot of the bigger banks have gotten rid of their coin counting machines altogether, including Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, Citibank, Chase, PNC Bank, TD Bank, and more. You’ll mostly still find coin counting machines at community banks and credit unions.

If you choose to roll your coins, you can try cashing in small amounts at various banks. Again, the policies will vary so always call ahead before you lug your mountain of change in and risk hurting your back for nothing!

Consider Opening an Account

Depending upon how much change you have and how often you need to exchange it, it could be worth it to open an account with a bank that accepts loose change.

If it saves your time and energy and you get to avoid fighting with coin wrappers, go for it. Just be sure that they don’t charge any monthly fees and don’t need a minimum amount in the account to keep it open. Those items could negate any advantages of opening and using the account.

Where can I change my coins for cash for free?

Bank Need to be a Customer Accepts Coins or Rolls Fee
US Bank Yes Coins, not rolls No fee
Wells Fargo Yes Coin rolls No fee
Bank of America Yes Coin rolls No fee
Citibank Depends on state Coin rolls Charges fee at different locations; call for more info
Credit Unions Yes Varies; call ahead Varies; call ahead
Local Banks Varies Varies; call ahead Varies; call ahead

Where to Get Coin Wrappers

If you’ve found a local bank or credit union that will take your rolled coins, ask them for coin wrappers. Most banks will give free coin wrappers to just anyone, whether they’re a member or not.

If you can’t find a bank that gives coin wrappers out for free by some weird twist of fate, you can always hit up a Dollar Tree or Dollar Store for them. While it’s an additional cost, it shouldn’t be much.

Dollar Stores sell them in packs of 36 for a dollar. Plus, they’re the nicer ones that have that are round and not flattened, so they’re much less difficult to fill.

Other Free Coin Counting Options

Get your Kids in on the Action

When I was in high school, my parents owned a vending machine business. Before they bought a coin counter for use at home, my siblings and I would count and roll the change.

I didn’t mind it, but it was time-consuming. And, my parents didn’t pay us, so I guess you could say that that’s another free option. Make it into a game and have your kids roll your coins. Or, offer them a percentage of the take for their help.

Try Visiting the Casino

Some casinos will take coins at the cage, no questions asked. You might have to dump your change into one of their coin cups, but they’re usually lying around everywhere anyway. Just make sure you don’t end up turning around and spending it on the slot machines!

What to do if You Can’t Find a Bank that will Accept Change

With fewer and fewer banks accepting change these days, you might want to find an alternative. The one that’s most commonly known as Coinstar.

Coinstar’s coin-counting machines are in the lobbies of various groceries, retail stores, drug stores, and even some banks.

Currently, Coinstar charges a painfully whopping 11.9% fee if you want to cash out your coins for paper money. Ouch.

However – don’t despair. Coinstar also offers gift card options that allow you to avoid that fee. The gift cards are for popular places, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a card you’ll never use.

To use Coinstar, throw your change into the Coinstar machine. Then, once your coins are processed, you’ll be given the following options:

  1. Cash-out and get paper money (which will include Coinstar fee)
  2. Choose an egift card that will print out on paper (no fee)
  3. Apply your amount to your Amazon Balance (you can use this instead of a debit or credit card at Amazon)
  4. Donate your change to a charity (Coinstar has several different charities you can directly donate to)

If you choose the second or third option, you will be able to change your coins for cash for free. The following gift card options should be available at any Coinstar locations:

Gift Card Minimum Amount Maximum Amount
AMC Theatres $10.00 $100.00
Amazon.com $5.00 $1000.00
Applebee’s $5.00 $500.00
Cabela’s $5.00 $500.00
Chili’s Grill & Bar $5.00 $100.00
Domino’s $10.00 $100.00
GameStop $5.00 $500.00
Gap (can be redeemed at Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores) $10.00 $500.00
Hotels.com $10.00 $500.00
IHOP $5.00 $200.00
Lowe’s $5.00 $1000.00
Nike $5.00 $500.00
Regal Cinemas $5.00 $100.00
Showtime $25.00 $200.00
Sephora $10.00 $500.00
Southwest Airlines $25.00 $500.00
Steam $10.00 $100.00
The Home Depot $5.00 $2000.00
iTunes $5.00 $500.00

Coinstar Locations

Some of the stores where you can find Coinstar include:

  • Acme
  • Albertsons
  • Cash Wise
  • City Markets
  • CVS
  • Food 4 Less
  • Food Lion
  • Foodland
  • Giant Eagle
  • Harris Teeter
  • Hannaford
  • H.E.B.
  • Hy-Vee
  • Jewel
  • King Soopers
  • Kmart
  • Kroger
  • Lowe’s
  • Meijer
  • Pavilions
  • Ralphs
  • Safeway
  • Shop ‘N Save
  • ShopRite
  • Target
  • The Food Emporium
  • Tom Thumb
  • Vons
  • Walmart
  • Winn Dixie

While this is in no way an extensive list of all of the CoinStar locations, you can quickly find the nearest Coinstar by using the locator on their website here.

Coinstar Alternatives

Strangely, it’s nearly impossible to find any Coinstart competitors, possibly due to consumers moving away from using cash.

The only Coinstar alteratives I could find were banks, and they seem to be handling coins to cash less often.

Other Ideas for Your Spare Change

Spend it.
Make sure to keep change with you and use it at self-checkout kiosks. There are still a lot of places where you can use quarters to make a purchase, like air machines for tires, candy machines, vending machines, and the like.

Donate it.
There are always many opportunities where you can drop some change for charity. Think Salvation Army at Christmas or the change jars at checkout counters. Coinstar also has an option to donate your change to charities when you cash it in.

Coinstar’s available charities will vary by the machine’s locations, but they can include:

  • American Red Cross
  • Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • Feeding America
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • The Humane Society
  • Unicef USA
  • United Way
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Make some art or gift your coins to someone else.
When I was in high school, my grandma went through a phase where every present she gave us was a piece of art made out of change.

She did all sorts of crazy designs by arranging and gluing down change to cardboard and using bills folded into various shapes. (I’m pretty sure it took me longer to pick the coins off and soak the glue off than it did for her to come up with a design and create it though!)

While you don’t have to be crazy creative to gift your change, it’s one way to get rid of it and give a gift at the same time. Two birds with one stone, right?

Now that you know your options for cashing in your coins, make sure to use them for something good – like debt payoff, a vacation, or starting an emergency fund.

Did I miss any places where can I change my coins for cash for free? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Hands holding coins Text reads Secrets to where I change coins for cash - for free!

Free Stuff on Your Birthday: How to Cash In 170+ Deals

Free stuff on your birthday: How to cash in on 170+ deals!

Birthdays only come once a year – so why not take advantage of some freebies while you’re celebrating? There’s so much free stuff on your birthday that you can grab that it’d be crazy not to jump on these offers.

While I’m not suggesting you run out and buy everything you get a 15% off coupon for, birthdays are an excellent time to treat yourself a little sumthin’ special at the places you usually shop.

Free birthday gift from SephoraMany companies offer birthday rewards if you sign up for their email list or rewards club. I did find some that don’t require an email sign up to cash in, but most do.

For example, for my birthday this year, I snagged this fantastic gift Kat Von Dee beauty gift from Sephora. It included 3 shades of lipstick, a setting powder, and tattoo eyeliner (my fav anyway!). All for being a rewards member and just showing up during my birthday month. Sweet!

There are a lot of opportunities to grab free birthday makeup, but there’s also a lot of free food as well. Some of the restaurants I found give an entirely free birthday meal.

Seriously, an entire meal!

If you’re looking for free stuff on your birthday, you won’t be disappointed – though you might want to prioritize which ones you really want to get since it’d be impossible to get them all!

Free and Discounted Birthday Meals

From free appetizers with purchase to an entire free meal, restaurants love to give stuff away to help you celebrate your birthday.

90% of them will ask that you sign up for their email list or rewards club. If you’re worried about too much spam, set up a separate free email address that you can use just for email sign up offers. Then you can check it whenver you need a coupon for places that you shop.

Store Birthday Freebie Link Sign-Up Bonus
99 Restaurant and Pub Special offer that varies Special offer that varies
Abuelo’s Special offer that varies Special offer that varies
A&W Root Beer Float
Applebee’s Free treat like an appetizer, entree or dessert Free appetizer with purchase of entree
Arby’s Free milkshake Free roast beef classic sandwich with purchase of drink
Argo Tea Free drink (depending upon level) $3 credit when you download the app
Atlanta Bread Free cookie Free bakery item
Au Bon Pain Free birthday lunch Free travel mug
Auntie Anne’s Free pretzel Free pretzel when you spend $1
Baja Fresh Special offer that varies Free taco
Baskin Robbins Free ice cream
bd’s Mongolian Grill Free meal on your birthday $5 coupon
Benihana’s $30 gift certificate, plus kids get a freebie
Big Boy Free dessert
Biggby Coffee Free drink up to 24 oz
BJ’s Brewhouse Free pizookie Another free pizookie!
Black Angus Free steak dinner Free dessert
Bojangle’s Free Bo-Berry Biscuit with purchase Free 1/2 gallon of iced tea with purchase
Bonefish Grill Special offer that can vary
Boston Market Special offer that can vary
Brio Tuscan Grille Special offer that can vary
Brugger’s Bagels Free treat Bagel with cream cheese
Bruster’s Ice Cream Free birthday treat $3 off next purchase
Bucca di Beppo $20 birthday gift (we got a huge brownie sundae!) Pasta dish
BurgerFi Special offer that can vary Free fries
California Pizza Kitchen Free dessert or entree, depending upon your benefits level Free small plate
Cantina Laredo Free dessert
Captain D’s Free birthday dessert with purchase Coupon for a free dessert or appetizer with purchase
Caribou Coffee Free birthday treat Free drink after first visit
Carrabba’s Italian Grill Special offer that can vary
Carrino’s Free dessert $5 off next visit
Carvel Free birthday treat
Chevy’s Fresh Mex Birthday surprise Free appetizer with purchase of two entrees
Chick-fil-A Special offer that varies; check locations for availability
Chili’s Free dessert Free chips & salsa or non-alcoholic drink with every visit
Chuck E. Cheese’s Free birthday treat Free personal one-topping pizza on next visit
Cinnabon Special offer that varies Free minibon
Cold Stone Creamery BOGO coupon BOGO coupon
Cracker Barrel Free dessert
Culver’s Free birthday treat Free scoop of ice cream
Dairy Queen Birthday coupon BOGO Blizzard coupon
Del Taco Free regular size premium milkshake Free taco
Denny’s Free build your own Grand Slam on your birthday
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Special offer that varies Special offer that varies
Dippin’ Dots Free Dippin’ Dots
Dunkin’ Donuts Free drink Free drink
Dunn Brothers Coffee $5 to spend on a drink $3 credit when you download the app
Edible Arrangements Free 12 count chocolate dipped birthday box during your birthday month
Einstein Bros Bagels Free egg sandwich with purchase Free bagel and shmear with purchase
El Pollo Loco Birthday reward Free Pollo Bowl
Famous Dave’s Special offer that varies
Firehouse Subs Free medium sub the week of your birthday
First Watch Free entree BOGO offer
Friendly’s Free birthday sundaes for you + your kids
Fuddruckers Free birthday burger
Gneghis Grill Free bowl Free appetizer or dessert
Godiva Birthday gift
Great American Cookies Special offer that varies $3 coupon
Habit Burger Grill Special offer that varies
Hard Rock Cafe Special offer that varies
Hooters Free wings
Houlihan’s Free entree $10 off
IHOP Free meal Free meal
Jack in the Box Two free tacos with purchase
Jamba Juice Free juice or smoothie $3 off next order
Jason’s Deli $5 coupon
Jersey Mike’s Subs Free sub & 22 oz drink
Joe’s Crab Shack Special offer that varies Free appetizer
Johnny Rockets Special offer that varies Free appetizer
Kirby’s Grill & Steakhouse Free steak dinner $5 coupon
Krispy Kreme Free birthday treat Free donut
La Madeleine Free birthday bakery treat Free lemon madeleine or butter croissant
Longhorn Steakhouse Free dessert 100 bonus points (which is enough for four free sides, salads or soup upgrades)
Lennys’ Grilled Subs Free 7.5 inch sub Free chips and drink
Marble Slab Creamery / Maggie Moo’s Sweet treat $5 reward after signing up and first purchase
Marie Callender’s Special offer that varies; also gives special offers for wedding anniversary! Special offer for next dine-in purchase
Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt $5 menchie’s money 25 bonus smiles for registering; $5 and 2x smiles for 60 daysfor downloading the app
Moe’s Southwest Grill Free burrito Free nachos with drink purchase
Noodles & Company Special offer that varies; must sign up 60 days before birthday
Noodles World Kitchen Special treat
Not Your Average Joe’s Kitchen and Bar Birthday surprise
Nothing Bundt Cake Free Bundtlet
O’Charley’s Free birthday surprise
Olive Garden Free appetizer or dessert Free appetizer or dessert
On the Border Free queso Order of sopapillas
Orange Julius Free smoothie BOGO coupon
Orange Leaf $3 off
Outback Steakhouse Free dessert
Panda Express Birthday surprise
Panera Bread Free pastry or cookie Free treat
Pei Wei Choose one of five freebies
Peet’s Coffee & Tea Any size of your favorite beverage Free beverage after first check-in
Perkins Special offer that varies 20% off coupon
P.F. Changs Free appetizer or dessert
Pinkberry Free yogurt
Pita Pit Free pita
Pizza Hut Special offer that varies
PizzaExpress Birthday surprise
Planet Smoothie Free smoothie
Red Lobster Surprise birthday offer; must join at least 10 days prior to your birthday
Red Mango $5 reward $2 reward
Red Robin Free birthday burger
Shari’s Free slice of pie Free slice of pie
Rita’s Italian Ice Free birthday treat
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Free dessert
Ruby Tuesday Free burger or garden entree Free appetizer
Sbarro Special offer that varies Free XL NY slice with purchase of beverage within 24 hours of joining
Smokey Bones Free dessert $10 off your next $25 purchase
Sonic Special offer that varies
Sonny’s BBQ Free Big Deal Meal $5 coupon
Souper Salad Free meal during your birthday week $3 coupon
Spaghetti Warehouse Free meal during your birthday week Free appetizer with entree purchase
Sprinkles Free cupcake on your birthday
Starbucks Free birthday treat
Steak ‘N Shake Free specialty milkshake Free Double ‘n Cheese ‘n Fries
Subway Receive 20 points (good for a 21 oz fountain drink, bag of chips, or 2 free cookies)
Taco Bueno Birthday surprise
TCBY Birthday surprise
Texas Roadhouse Special offer that varies
TGI Friday’s Free dessert Free dessert or appetizer
The Cheesecake Factory Free sundae
The Melting Pot Free box of six chocolate-covered strawberries Free dessert or appetizer
Tijuana Flats Free birthday treat Free Tijuana Trio
Tommy Bahama Free dessert on your birthday $10 restaurant credit
Tony Roma’s BOGO entree
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Birthday surprise
Tucanos Free birthday meal
Uno Pizzeria & Grill Free dessert with purchase of an entree Free appetizer with purchase of an entree
Waffle House Free waffle
Wienerschnitzel Coupon for your birthday Free chili dog
Wingstop Free gift
Yogurt Mountain Free yogurt Free sandwich meal
Zaxby’s Free Nibbler Free sandwich meal

Free Birthday Gifts from Retail Stores

Again, most retail stores will want you to sign up for their rewards club or email list to in order to get your free coupon. Many offer great coupons that make it worthwhile though.

I like to save up any new clothes shopping for right around my birthday. There’s usually a ton of summer sales going on, plus the coupons boost my savings. I can’t resist a good coupon stack with a sale!

Store Birthday Freebie Link Sign-Up Bonus
Ace Hardware $5 coupon  
AMC Theaters Large popcorn r large popcorn and fountain drink (depending upon level)  
American Eagle Outfitters & Aerie 15% off coupon  
Anthropologie Free birthday gift  
Aveda Free birthday gift valued at $23; double points 15% off first purchase
bareMinerals Special offer that varies  
Banana Republic Special birthday offer  
Barnes & Noble Free cupcake for kids 30% off any kids’ book or toy
Benefit Boutiques Free birthday brow arch
Bliss Free birthday surprise 30% off any kids’ book or toy
Clarins Free birthday gift  
Columbia Free birthday gift  
Container Store Special & anniversary offers 15% off
CVS Free birthday gift Free welcome gift
Dave & Buster’s $5 game play $10 FREE Game Play with $10 game play purchase
Disney Movie Rewards 100 points  
DSW $5 or $10 to spend depending on level  
Famous Footwear $5 coupon plus 2x points on purchases during your birthday month Download the app and get 50 points (halfway to $5 coupon)
Gamestop Free birthday offer Buy 2 Get 1 Free pre-owned games (depending on level)
Hallmark Free card and discount (unable to verify this offer) $5 off your next purchase of $10 or more
IKEA $15 coupon; no minimum purchase
J. Crew 20% off and free shipping 15% off next purchase
JC Penney Birthday gift  
Journeys Special birthday offer (as well as ones specifically for kids)  
Kiehl’s Free lip balm or travel sized product (depending on level)  
Kohl’s Special birthday gift 50 points when you download the Yes2You app
Madewell $25 off a purchase (minimum purchase of $26)
Nyx Professional Makeup Special birthday gift  
Old Navy Special birthday gift 20% off your first purchase
Pet Supplies Plus Free birthday present for your pet (limit 1 per month & 3 per year)  
Petco Free birthday present for your pet  
RedBox One free DVD rental during your birthday month Free 1 night DVD rental
Regal Cinemas Free birthday reward  
Sephora Choice of 2 – 4 birthday gifts depending upon level  
Showcase Cinemas Free regular popcorn  
Smashbox Free birthday gift  
Tarte Cosmetics Free birthday gift  
The Body Shop $10 discount  
Ulta Beauty Free birthday gift  
Urban Decay Free birthday gift  
World Market Birthday gift 15% off coupon

Now that you’ve seen the possibilities of free stuff on your birthday, which ones are you going to cash in on? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to check out this great list of free things to do to go with your free birthday deals! Enjoy, and happy birthday!

Cupcakes and text that says "Free stuff on your birthday: How to cash in on 170+ deals!"

Super Easy Money Saving Challenge With Free Printables

Super easy money saving challenge + free printable

Beginning a money saving challenge is a great way to kickstart any of your financial goals. Whether your emergency fund needs pumped up, it’s vacation time, or one of the kids needs braces, having a padded savings fund is key to avoiding any new debt.

Can you imagine coming back from a weeklong vacation in Maui? Now, can you imagine coming back from a weeklong vacation in Maui…without credit card debt?

Have you ever been able to take a vacation without having to throw it all on a credit card? If not, do you have any idea how much you’ve paid in interest for that vacation, long after your tan (or burn, if you’re me) is gone?

This is why it’s important to set money savings goals. Without them, we’d be paying for those vacations (or braces, or emergencies) ten times over before everthing’s said and done. Having savings goals means never having to say, “Charge it!”

The best thing you can do is learn how to save money the right way, so that you can break the cycle of debt once and for all. Next, I’ll cover four types of money saving challenges and how each can help you acheive your financial goals.

Not sure how to find the best way to save money? Learn how to save $1000 in just 12 weeks with these free, printable worksheets! #money #savings #savingmoney #personalfinance

The Four Major Types of Money Savings Challenges

In my research, I’ve found that there are four major types of money saving challenges. Some are more passive ways to save that will slowly build up and that change will be less likely to be miss.

Others are much more aggressive savings strategies that require being very proactive with your money. While these are more difficult, they also reap a much bigger reward.

Money Savings Challenge #1: Save by Type of Cash or a Percentage of Your Income

These types of challenges are smaller and tend to be easier. A popular one is to put aside 10% of your income every paycheck, prior to paying your bills. This is often referred to as “paying yourself first”.

If you use and spend cash, there are a lot that involve saving different types of currency, such as saving all your $5 bills for the year. Keeping all your dimes. These savings methods are easy to do and the outcome can vary wildly depending upon what type of change you receive throughout the year.

Some additional examples include:

  • Save any $5 bills received
  • Save all of your dimes in a two liter soda bottle, which equals approximately $700
  • A year long penny challenge, in which you save one penny on day one, two pennies on day two, etc. You’ll have saved $667.95 at the end of the year.
  • Automatically move 10% of every paycheck into savings before you pay any bills

And so on. You get the drift. There’s a ton of different money saving challenges on Pinterest for easy, small money challenges such as these. Check out 37 Easy Money Challenges to Help Smash your Financial Goals for even more ideas.

Money Savings Challenge #2: Save by Using a Financial App

There are several great financial apps that can help you round up your spare change on purchases to put money aside. Heck, even some credit card companies offer these services as well.

The key is that once again you’re passively saving by pushing very small amounts into an account without realizing they’re gone. You’re not feeling the sting, since it’s always less then 5 or 6 dollars.

Acorns is a very well known and trusted financial app that can help you easily shuffle your extra cash around. Spare change can be rounded up from purchases and recurring investments set up. You can easily set up an IRA and Acorns handles all the investing and rebalancing of your funds.

Even better, you can earn as you shop. Acorns has partnered with over 200 Found Money partners that will automatically invest in your Acorns account every time you shop there. It really doesn’t get much easier than that! Learn more about the Acorns investing app here.

Money Savings Challenge #3: Do a No Spend Challenge

Here’s where the challenges stop being passive, and start to become very hands on. A no spend challenge is a period of time – say a week, two or a month – in which you proactively decide not to spend money.

For your no spend challenge, you set up rules and exceptions, such as you can purchase gas, but not groceries and much use this time to clean out the fridge and pantry.

At the end of the challenge, all of the money you would have spent goes into your savings. It’s another quick way to jumpstart your savings or create breathing room when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

For more no spend challenge ideas, check out:

Money Savings Challenge #4: Creating an Intentional Money Savings Challenge

What do I mean by an intentional money savings challenge? I mean that you set specifics and define a goal.

Do you want to do a 30 day money saving challenge? Is it biweekly? Is your goal to save $5,000 or $10,000 in 52 weeks? Or is that too long, and you prefer a save $5,000 in 26 weeks?

Whether you want to save $10 or $10,000, you need to set solid, achievable goals. Without details like an end date or an amount to strive for, that money can easily blow away and get spent on small, throw away items that aren’t helping you reach the next step.

This money saving challenge is the most aggressive of the four. But with the hard work and sweat of pushing yourself, you earn the greatest reward.

Money Saving Challenge Printables

I’ve created some free money saving challenge printables to help you not only plan your savings challenge, but to help you execute it.

While these money saving challenge printables are geared towards helping you save $1,000 in 12 weeks, it can easily be changed to match any time period or amount of savings. Some other popular money saving challenges are:

  • 52 week money saving challenge, saving anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000
  • 26 week money saving challenge, usually geared towards saving $5,000
  • 90 day / 3 month / 12 weeks savings challenge to save $1,000 – $3,000

Once again, this is all dependent on what your needs are and what your timeline is like. Download your free money saving challenge printables here:

A Step-By-Step Walkthrough of a 3 Month / $1,000 Money Saving Challenge

The first step to breaking the debt cycle is to build up a $1000 emergency fund. It’s also very important to learn to cash flow, or save for, other expenses such as vacations, medical costs, or car repairs before you need it.

While your personal money saving goals will vary, we’ll be using a 12 week, $1,000 saving example to walk through setting up your challenge.

Why You Need to Have at Least $1,000 Savings

We can plan all we want, but there are always unexpected expenses that pop up. Whether it’s medical, a wedding we’ve been invited to, or car issues, you can bet they’re going to show up at the worst times.

It’s not a matter of IF financial roadbumps come up, it’s a matter of WHEN.

The easiest way to stay out of debt when these roadblocks hit is to have some savings in place. I suggest having a $1000 emergency fund. $1000 is enough to cover your deductible for house issues as well as most medical issues.

Getting Started Saving Money

Now that you have your printables to help you learn how to save money, it’s time to get started saving!

Step 1: Find your motivation to Save.

It’s important to know your motivations for saving. Is your ultimate goal to be debt free, but you’re lacking an emergency fund? Do you want to take your family on vacation this year? Are you expecting a baby, or think you’ll need dental work?

No matter what the reason, take the time to figure out why you’re doing this. It’ll help you to stay motivated when things get tough.

Visual reminders are great as well – so make sure to use the saving tracker, as well as pictures of what you’re working toward to help with motivation.

Without figuring out why you’re doing the challenge, you’re much more likely to fall off the financial wagon and whip out that credit card at the next big sale you walk past.

Having a specific goal, amount and timeline really help to motivate and create drive. Which in turns makes it much, much more likely that you hit your financial target!

Step 2: Set Your SMART Goal.

As you decide on what you’d like your goal to be, remember to use the SMART method:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Action Oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

To build a $1000 savings in 12 weeks, you’ll need to save $83 a week. That’s just shy of $12 a day.

Let’s create an example goal. Rather than, I want to save $1000, let’s make it SMART:

I want to create a $1000 emergency fund by saving $83 a week for the next 12 weeks.

This goal is very specific: it has a measurement of time and debt amount, it includes an action, and it’s realistic and has a time limit.

You’re much more likely to be successful at saving $1000 if you break your goals down into smaller sprints, such as one or two weeks chunks, or even a month.

Decide how you want to break your savings up and write it down on your worksheet.

Step 3: Track Your Current Spending.

In order to get started saving you need to know where your money is currently going.

I know – a lot of people think tracking spending is a bore and a snore. I get it. But unless you can see where the money is most likely to leak out of your account (I’m looking at you, coffeeshops!), then you can stop the flow.

Saving money is going to take identifying needs and wants, and seeing where you can trim back.

If you don’t already use an expenses tracking software like ynab.com or mint.com, now’s a great time to start. It can help you look back over the past 2 – 3 months and gauge your spending.

Step 4: Create a budget.

Now that you see where your money is going, you need to make some decisions on where to make cuts. This is where a budget comes in handy. It’s an easy way to play with the numbers and see where it makes the most sense to trim your spending.

I can recommend this zero based budget that we’ve used to pay off more than $26,619+ in the past 19 months!

You want to trim your spending so that you’re able to hit that SMART goal that you created in the previous step. Next, I’ll give you some ideas on how to do just that.

The Best Ways to save Money

Now that you have your goal and budget in hand, this is where you need to get creative! There are only two ways to find money:

Spend less or earn more.

Sounds simple, I know, but it’s not always easy to keep consistent with it.  I’ve written a lot of in-depth articles about each. I prefer to do a little of both, so that I don’t feel like I’m being deprived by cutting too much, and I’m still able to meet my SMART financial goals.

How to Trim Expenses:

How to Earn More Money:

What to Do with Your Savings

Now that you’ve started your savings, how do you keep from accidentally spending it?

The best approach is to create a separate savings account. This new account can be linked to your regular accounts, but I really suggest keeping them in a place where it’s not as easy to access.

I also highly recommend automating the transfers to the savings account, so that you don’t forget and spend it.

For example, we have a savings account for my quarterly tax payments. Our checking is with a local bank, and this particular savings account is with CapitalOne. The monthly payments are automated so that they get taken out of checking at the beginning of every month.

If I need to access that money, it takes a couple of days to transfer back to my checking. It’s easy to set it and forget it – which means there’s no chance of accidentally spending it!

I highly recommend setting up your budget at the beginning of the month and immediately moving whatever extra you have into savings. If you don’t pay yourself first by putting your savings into a separate account, it will get bites taken out of it until it’s half of what it should be.

I’ve Hit my Savings Goal – Now What?

Saving for 12 weeks is long enough to have created a new “normal” for yourself and for your spending. You’ve adjusted to the new budget, and you’ve hit your goal. Now what?

The absolute best idea is to keep riding your momentum and continue your money saving challenge! Either keep saving, or begin paying off your debt, depending on where you’re at on the path to financial freedom.

Saving up $1000 is pretty easy if you have a plan and break it into manageable chunks. These tips to save money and printable worksheets will help to get your savings on schedule. Once you’re on track, you’ll find it easier every day to keep going until you hit your goal!

Bonus: When Should I use my Emergency Fund?

One of the biggest questions I get is “what’s the difference between an emergency fund and sinking funds?” (Don’t worry – I had no idea what sinking funds were a couple of years ago!)

Knowing the difference between sinking funds and an emergency fund will help you to understand when it’s actually a legit reason to break into your emergency fund.

The short explanation is that an emergency fund is for actual emergencies, like medical issues or an unscheduled car issue. Basically, anything you can’t really plan ahead for.

Sinking funds are a savings account that’s for those irregular expenses that you know are coming: yearly HOA fees, quarterly tax payments, or your car registration. Items that don’t happen monthly, but you know they’re coming.

Once you’ve saved up your emergency fund, begin to save your sinking funds next so you aren’t spending your emergency fund by accident. Learn more about emergency funds versus sinking funds, and why you need both.

What amount and length of time are you thinking of using for your money saving challenge? Are you going big and tackling a 52 week money challenge, or starting out a bit smaller? Let me know in the comments below!

Not sure how to find the best way to save money? Learn how to save $1000 in just 12 weeks with these free, printable worksheets! #money #savings #savingmoney #personalfinance

Struggling to save money? Try a money saving challenge and grab these free money savings challenge printables. Get your $1000 savings built in just 12 weeks! #savings #emergencyfund #savemoney #moneysavingchallenge
Can't seem to figure out how to save money? Use these free printable savings worksheets to get you on the right track! Learn how to save $1000 in just 12 weeks. #savings #emergencyfund #savemoney
Even if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you can still save your $1000 emergency fund in just 12 weeks. Use these free printable savings worksheets to get started! #debt #money #emergencyfund

How to Stop Overspending Immediately with One Easy Trick

How to stop overspending with one easy trick

I love to shop. It might not be for clothes, expensive purses, or jewelry, but I love to buy home decor. And daydream about herringbone backsplashes and kitchen remodels. Oh, and don’t forget about the hours I could spend in any craft or home improvement store within a 50 mile radius!

The cold, hard truth is that shopping is a necessity, just like eating and drinking (lots of) coffee. Even if you try not to shop for non-necessities, you still need groceries, toiletries, and other household items.

Consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages A DAY according to the American Marketing Association*. Emails, billboards, and tv ads – oh my! There’s no avoiding marketing ploys even if you think you are. We’re subjected to them everywhere – even while buying groceries or picking up toiletries at CVS.

So are we all doomed to overspend at the sight of a online sale, girls’ day out, or those thousands of ads we’re subjected to daily? Thankfully, the answer is no. I have one great trick to help you wrangle your spending and cut down on buying things that you don’t really need. Continue reading