Americans, on Average, Save 5.2% of Every Paycheck and Earn Next to Nothing on Interest

In December, the Federal Reserve increased the federal funds rate for the first time since 2006. This boost, which raised interest rates, should be great news for savers, who have had to accept almost laughably small yields on their cash for the past decade.

But when NerdWallet looked at interest rates on savings over the past decade and lined that up with how much people are actually setting aside, an unsettling truth emerged: Most Americans aren’t saving enough money to cover emergency expenses, let alone enough to see a substantial return on their account.

Sure, it doesn’t help that interest rates on savings have been so measly, hovering at just over 0% since 2008. Even savings accounts with the highest interest rates offer only about 1.05% these days. NerdWallet research shows savers earned as much as 4.5% in 2006.

The Fed meets again March 15-16 to discuss another possible increase to the federal funds rate. To understand the connection between interest rates and your savings, NerdWallet compared how much $25,000 worth of high-interest savings would have earned in 2006 (at a rate of 4.5%) with how much those savings would earn in 2016 (at 1.05%).

Key takeaways

In 2006, a high-yield savings account of $25,000 would have earned nearly $887 more than it does now. That handsome 4.5% would yield $1,150.62 in annual interest in 2006. With a 1.05% interest rate in 2016, that number shrinks to $263.88.

Now, consider the difference on a national scale. NerdWallet applied the personal savings rates of 2006 and 2016 to the average disposable (post-tax) personal incomes in the respective years. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average American saved 3.3% of $33,591 in 2006 and is expected to save 5.2% of $42,350 in 2016.

Roll those per capita numbers up to the U.S. population, and the aggregate high-interest earnings in 2006 were $15.2 billion, compared with $7.5 billion expected in 2016 — a difference of roughly $7.7 billion.

Even with lower interest rates, Americans are saving more than a decade ago. People are generally stashing more money in savings than they were in 2006. The average American in 2006 saved 3.3% of disposable income, but by 2016, the amount saved had grown to an estimated 5.2%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

On average, Americans are saving too little. The average American is projected to earn a disposable income of $42,350 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. If 5.2% of that income is saved, it works out to $2,202.20 in annual savings — which likely isn’t enough to cover a new furnace or other emergency expense.

If the saver receives an interest rate of 1.05%, the account will yield $23.25 annually. But if the savings account gets the 0.01% offered at most large banks, the saver will earn 22 cents in interest. To increase your savings, NerdWallet advises people to start saving 10% of each paycheck and work their way up to 20%.



How to save in 2016

There’s no telling whether interest rates will continue to rise, but there are ways to increase your savings. Here are some suggestions from Devan Goldstein, NerdWallet’s banking expert.

Save more of your income. “The average consumer isn’t doing a good enough job saving,” Goldstein says.

Consider this: In 2006, the average American saved 3.3% of a $33,591 disposable income, which amounted to $1,108.50. Even in the good old days, with a 4.5% interest rate, a saver earned only $51 in annual interest.

“If I can only be making 50 bucks in the best of times, then I’m not saving enough,” Goldstein says.

But now, even with the average American saving more (5.2%) and set to make more ($42,350), an interest rate of 1.05% amounts to $23.25 on savings accounts.

“The hope is that rates will get better, and then you will make some money, and that will be great,” Goldstein says. “But you need to be saving one way or the other.”

Start saving at 10%, work up to 20%

Goldstein advises saving at least 10% of every paycheck and working your way up to 20% to meet long-term savings goals, like college and retirement. Plus, the more you save, the more you’ll earn.

In the short term, work to pay off high-interest debt, like on credit cards, while building a solid reserve in your savings account. “Aim to have enough money in a rainy-day fund to cover three to six months of essential expenses,” Goldstein says.

Once you’ve established your emergency fund and achieved your short-term financial goals, Goldstein suggests looking into other saving and investing opportunities, such as CDs, 401(k)s and Roth IRAs.

“The savings account is one cornerstone of a solid financial plan, even if you’re not earning as much interest as you’d like,” he says.

Do a strategy check

Use the recent rate increase as a chance to rethink your strategy. The higher federal funds rate will likely translate to higher interest rates offered by financial institutions, particularly if the rates continue to rise. It won’t happen overnight, Goldstein says, but, “one year, two years, three years go by, and at some point, we’ll all be making money on our savings again.”

Goldstein suggests searching for the best rates on savings accounts. (Need help shopping for the best rate? Here’s NerdWallet’s analysis of the best savings accounts.)

Keep in mind that there’s no account, product or strategy that will work for every saver.

“Sometimes switching accounts wholesale makes sense; sometimes it’s easier to dip a toe in the water by opening a new account, saving in it for a specific goal and seeing how you like the institution and product you’re using,” Goldstein says. “Sometimes you may want to switch product types, going from a savings account to a CD, for example, if your goals for the money have changed.”


NerdWallet used a savings of $25,000 along with the data cited below to compare the interest earned in 2006 versus 2016.

Savings account interest rates. Our research found archived publications from 2006 that show an interest rate of 4.5% on saving accounts. We used NerdWallet’s savings account data to find the highest rates offered today.

Annual interest earned on personal savings. We multiplied the savings of $25,000 by the interest rate, which we compounded daily.

Personal savings rate. The savings rates from 2006 and 2016 are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal savings rate is the percentage of disposable personal income a consumer saves. Although this amount can be saved in a variety of products, such as CDs or 401(k)s, for the purposes of this analysis, we allocated total personal savings into a savings account.


Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Twitter: @lauraemcmullenSreekar Jasthi is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email:

Infographic by Michael Belen.

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Eat Cheap, Without the Junk

Is your regular diet consisting of more “junk” than “food?” Have the dining hall options that used to satisfy you now leave you with a bad taste in your mouth? Are you just bored with your routine and want to find ways to mix it up or nourish yourself within your budget? Well then get ready foodies, because this Pinterest page is full of recipes and dining hall hacks to help you break out of the rut, fuel your brain for finals, and eat on the cheap. Because hey, making your own food is one surefire way to save some serious cash. And if you’ve got any food tips or hacks of your own that you want to share, tweet us @MoneyKnowl.


To check out the Pinterest page by Texas Tech University Advising, click here.

7 Jobs for People Who Want to Have Fun at Work

Confucius famously said, “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” This formula for a happy life seems so simple, and yet so many of us dread Monday mornings and race out of the office at 5 p.m. on the dot.

So what are some jobs that could convert you from a stressed-out, tired and frustrated employee to a happy, fun worker bee? And no, the answer isn’t “not having a job at all!” Work is important and necessary, so these jobs aren’t for slackers, but for people who want to enjoy their career so much that it doesn’t feel like work. Here are seven jobs that are perfect for people who want to have fun at work.

  1. Video Game Designer

Do you rush home to play Call of Duty or Minecraft? If so, then video game design may be a job that doesn’t seem like work. Training in graphic design, computer programming, sound engineering or computer animation, among other fields, may put you on the path to this fun career. Given the popularity of video games, this is a growth industry, which means that job prospects are good. Yet another reason to consider video game design.

  1. Realtor

Do you enjoy working with different people every day? Are you a good communicator and negotiator? Does the idea of sitting behind a desk or computer all day bore you? If so, your strengths may be suited to a career in real estate.

Career website CareerBliss ranked the happiest jobs in America in 2014, and realtors came in third. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales and home prices are both expected to rise in 2016, making this a great time to enter the field. But don’t forget the commercial real estate market as well – it can be just as awarding.

  1. Marketing Manager

“Mad Men” has made advertising look glamorous and easy. In today’s workplace, it is marketing managers who set strategy and policies that eventually result in those famous ads. Marketing managers strategize not only about TV and print ads, but also about social media campaigns that play out on Facebook and Twitter. Marketing managers are needed in every field — in corporate offices and startups — plus the job pays well, all reasons why marking management is a fun and rewarding career choice.

  1. Wedding Planner

Try to think beyond the J-Lo romcom when picturing your career as a wedding planner. You’d get to be a part of the happiest day of someone’s life and would thrive on connections and contacts in your community, because if the bride wants white horses or exotic flowers, you’ll have to find them! But at the end of each project, there is a giant party. What is more fun than that?

If you are well organized, creative and a good communicator, wedding planning may be the fun career for you.

  1. Research/Teaching Assistant

As referenced above, CareerBliss surveyed over 57,000 reviews on their website to find the happiest across several categories, including work-life balance, work environment, compensation and more. The happiest career they found? The research/teaching assistant. Why?

While not the highest paying career, it does present workers with new challenges and projectsregularly, typically in an academic or health care environment. The hours are reliable and the work is rewarding, making research and teaching assistantships sought-after jobs

  1. IT Consultant

Another well-paying job that often clocks in high on the happiness scale is information technology (IT) consultant. IT consultants work with a variety of clients both on site and remotely, so no two days are the same. While client meetings are held during work hours, IT work can often be completed remotely at any time of the day or night, giving this profession lots of flexibility and personal control.

  1. Writer/Blogger

Getting paid to have others read your thoughts? Some people manage it through writing and blogging. This career is fun because you can be totally creative and be yourself, with no corporate boss telling you what to wear or when to take your lunch break. On the flip side, writer’s block is real, and if the deadlines aren’t met, the bills won’t get paid. But Carrie Bradshaw’s life looked fun, right? Need we say more?

So whether you are looking to start your career or make a switch to a new one, consider these fun careers. Chances are you won’t even realize you’re working.


This article comes from our friends at Phroogal. It was originally published on January 28, 2016, and can be found on their website here.

How to Save Money With Hashtags

Retailers and popular brands are using social media to interact with, engage and keep in touch with their most loyal customers. Social media users can leverage this presence to save big on everyday costs.

Whether you want to find great sales and coupons or want money-saving tips and free giveaways, hashtags can help you find these special offers quickly. While hashtags first gained popularity as a way to search, find and trend topics on Twitter, they are now used on nearly every social media platform, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

“From a money-saving perspective, social media is best used as a way to learn of deals from your favorite brands and retailers as soon as they are posted,” said Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor at, a website devoted to the best verified deals available on the web every day.

Related: 5 Online Shopping Hacks for Getting Discounts on Everything

For flash sales, temporary offers and limited-availability products, the precious minutes between when the sale is posted and when shoppers learn about it can mean the difference between getting a deal and completely missing out, Glaser added. “This becomes even more important during the Black Friday shopping season, when online door busters can sell out almost immediately,” he said.

Many brands are using multiple social media platforms, which can give customers more opportunities to learn about how they can save money on their favorite products and services. But each social media network functions differently, so it’s important to understand how to use them to get the most benefit.

Facebook: Page Interaction Yields Incentives and Coupons

Retailers frequently use Facebook to share deals with fans who “like” a brand or company’s page. Facebook is also a viable medium to find promos and special offers, some of which are exclusive to people who participate in a brand’s social media network.

“Patient deal hunters can get some exclusive deals through the social media accounts of brands and retailers,” Glaser said. “Businesses are no longer allowed to give incentives in exchange for ‘liking’ their Facebook pages, but they can still provide incentives for interacting with their page somehow, like taking a quiz or survey.”

Disney, for example, has offered movie rewards points on its Facebook page that could be redeemed for toys, tickets, DVDs and more, according to Glaser. And Snickers offered a buy-one-get-one deal via Facebook, he said.

“We do see a lot of food and snack deals, including some freebies, on Facebook,” said Glaser. “We even saw a ‘best-ever’ discount from Virgin America — 20 percent off — in exchange for filling out a Facebook form.”

Dollar-off coupons are often available through a business’s Facebook page. Skincare company Origins, for example, has offered $20 off an in-store purchase of $45 or more, and Sephora offers “Fan Friday” coupons, Glaser added. You can search for Sephora’s deals using the hashtag #FanFriday.

Twitter: Valuable Source of Referrals and Last-Minute Deals

When searching Twitter for ways to save money, #flashsale can be useful for finding last-minute deals, as can #dailydeals, Glaser said.  “You can also search more generic hashtags like #deals and #sale, but this naturally will yield a broad range of results that may or may not be useful to you.”

“We see fewer deals exclusive to Twitter, but American Express often offers credits from $10 to $100 for syncing your AmEx card to your Twitter account, tweeting out a certain AmEx hashtag and then spending a certain amount at participating retailers like Staples, Dell and Zappos,” Glaser said.

The best tactic is to follow the brands and money-saving blogs and websites you are interested in so you can have a curated flow of deal announcements sent directly to your feed, he said. If these deals are too much to handle on your personal account, create a secondary account simply for finding deals and shopping, Glaser advised. “This makes it easier to follow a greater number of accounts without overwhelming your daily feed.”

How to Use Referral Tweets

Twitter is also an easy and quick medium to get out referral links to a wide audience. Referral links often pay big when one of your followers uses the link to sign up for a service or to purchase a product. Add hashtags to your own referral links such as #FREE #giveaway or #discount.

“Social media is also great for garnering rewards from referral programs,” Glaser said. “Airbnb, Amazon Prime, Uber, Dropbox and many other companies all offer some form of credit if you can get your friends to sign up or use the service.”

Related: How Facebook and Twitter Buy Button Features Could Leave You Broke

Instagram: Use Hashtags to Find Deals and Giveaways

Instagram is a visual platform but users and brands use hashtags to promote their sales or specials. The bloggers behind offer tips to use Instagram to save big, like following your favorite brands and then searching deal hashtags such as #BOGO, #giveaway, #friendsandfamilysale and #discounts.

Additionally, Instagram is a great place to participate in contests. Submit your photos and try to save money by winning freebies through contests hosted by boutique and big-name brands. Glaser pointed out that visual platforms like Instagram can be better used to see inventory and offers than scoring exclusive coupons.

Pinterest: Graphics and Tutorials Show How to Save Money

Pinterest is a little bit different from other social media platforms but it still offers money-saving opportunities. “For less time-sensitive deals, a wider range of social media sites are now in play; Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat have all been used to announce deals,” Glaser said.

Hashtags are clickable in pin descriptions. Pinterest is big on visuals, so many brands and companies create and maintain boards that offer tips from professionals. You can use hashtags to discover ways to save money either by trying clever hacks or by tackling DIY projects. These money-saving tips aren’t limited to arts and crafts projects; even financial services companies offer free financial advice and savings tips in the form of infographics on their boards.

Pinterest, like Instagram, is also a place to find new circulars or catalogs. These platforms are good for entering visually based contests that might award gift cards or free products, Glaser said. Pinterest can also be used to connect with other coupon hunters. By following these bargain hunters on Pinterest and other social media platforms, you can receive a steady stream of deals, he added.

Read: 5 Ways to Trigger Your Money-Saving Reflex

How Social Media Can Improve the Customer Experience

You are already on social media connecting with friends, family and business colleagues. Take your interaction a step further by strategically using your social media networks to find money-saving deals and contests for giveaways. And if you have a legitimate complaint or concern about a product or service, don’t underestimate the power of social media in bringing about a resolution to your issue — and maybe you’ll get a credit or coupon as consolation, Glaser said.


“This article, How to Save Money With Hashtags, was originally published on”

How to Become Habitually Frugal

“Frugality is often borne out of necessity but eventually it becomes habitual.” Jim Wang grew up living a frugal lifestyle, and although he can now live more comfortably, his frugal habits stuck with him. He shares a few things he’s learned over the years, and how they can help you become habitually frugal, too. Take this clever idea – he puts a whiteboard near the freezer with a list of everything inside, allowing them to keep inventory and use items before they go bad. Read the rest of his tips and tricks to create your permanently frugal lifestyle.

To read “9 Daily Extravagance Habits Frugal People Don’t Have” by Jim Wang, click here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Filing Taxes

Ah, spring fever has hit as we anxiously await the warmer weather and putting away that bulky clothing (well, at least if you live in Nebraska like I do). But before we can start our spring break plans or look ahead to the long days of summer, we need to remember what season it really is—tax season. If you’re new to filing taxes, like I am, I thought I’d do us all a favor and research some essential tax tips to help us get through this together. Here, I present the beginner’s guide to filing taxes.

Mark Your Calendar

Even if the thought of filing your taxes sends a chill down your spine, filing late should be avoided at all costs. Most years, April 15th is the deadline for paying your taxes. However, you get an extra three days to file this year thanks to Emancipation Day: it falls on April 15th, so federal offices will be closed. Still, that isn’t an excuse to procrastinate. If you don’t file your taxes on time, the IRS can charge you interest and penalties on any unpaid taxes. If you’re trying to save money, you don’t want laziness to chip away at your wallet.

…And Give Yourself Extra Time

You should give yourself an ample amount of tax preparation time in case you run into any issues or questions you cannot solve on your own (don’t worry, we talk about where to find help in just a bit). It is also important to plan for enough time to double check the information on all your forms, then file your taxes manually or electronically. More information on where to send your taxes if you file by mail can be found here. If you are using a software program to complete your tax return, it will typically walk you through the process of submission (read on to learn about free tax preparation resources).

Know Your Forms

If you’re doing your taxes for the first time, you might not know where to start—and that’s okay. The first move you should make is getting your tax documents together. For most folks, that means getting your W-2 form from your place of employment, which employers are required to mail out by January 31st. This form lists your salary information for the previous year and reports the amount of federal, state, and other taxes that have been withheld from your paycheck. If you performed any freelance or contract work, you would receive a 1099 form instead of a W-2. And if you paid any student loan interest during the year, you would receive a 1098 form to deduct that interest. Obviously, everyone’s tax situation is different, so it’s good to have a handy reference guide like this to understand the variety of tax forms you may need.

Analyze Your Tax Prep Options

Many college students can’t afford an accountant or outside service to prepare their taxes. Luckily, there are a few different options for free tax help:

  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program operates nationwide to provide free tax preparation. Use this site to find a VITA program in your area.
  • Public libraries may also provide free tax assistance.
  • The IRS Free File program partners with online tax programs to offer free software or fillable forms, depending on your income. Visit the Free File site for more information.

Above all, as you go through the tax filing process, use this as an opportunity to examine how taxes are impacting your bottom line. Maybe you’d rather have a small refund, as that means more money in your pocket throughout the year; maybe you’d rather get a large refund so that you can plan financial goals around your tax return. Either way, understanding how taxes work and what impact they’re having on you each year is crucial in truly mastering your money. And if this is your first year to file taxes on your own, congratulations! This is a great step in gaining financial independence. For more information on resources to help you file your taxes, visit the IRS student information page

How To Make Sure Your Financial Resolutions Stick

March is here – the month of the Irish, NCAA basketball, and diminished New Year’s resolutions. All the gung-ho dieters are now quietly giving up their weight-loss goals, the gym that was teeming with new members in January is now emptying out save for the year-round regulars, and those committed to finally getting a grip on their money are seeing that grip unravel. What is this phenomenon about? Why do we lose the motivation to stick to our New Year’s resolutions so soon after starting them? Well, according to psychotherapist Robi Ludwig, the reason for this is that we count on motivation to keep up with our goals – but self-motivation is not enough. Here’s the problem – there’s no plan in motivation. Sure, you can plan to be motivated, but how do you measure and maintain that? Your resolution needs structure and definition: determine what to change, how to change it, how to measure it, and what your timeline and final outcome will be.

Without that structure, your resolution may play out like this. You tell yourself, “I’m going to save more money,” and after a couple of months, you realize that nothing has changed. But it sounded like such a responsible idea: New Year, New You, New Finances.

Without that defined plan, though, your resolution could never be more than just wishful thinking. So how do you plan for a financial resolution, then, and how do you stick with it? With that tried and true solution: a budget, of course.

What to Change

The first thing you need to do is decide what needs to be changed. Where did you fall short last year or even last month? Take that information and start to create a list of what you want to do different this year, but be careful. You don’t want to change everything, especially if “everything” ends up being more than two or three goals. Stick to a few goals so you don’t overwhelm yourself, and you’ll start on the right foot.

How to Change

Now you need to make your plan detailed. Your goal should be specific enough that if you showed it to someone on the street, they would interpret it the same way that you do. Remember, the devil is in the details, which is why many resolutions fall through without further definition. For example, the odds of meeting your goal are pretty slim if you simply state, “I am going to save more money.” Your odds of success improve, however, when you give it parameters:  “I am going to save $100 more this month.” You need a real goal to strive for, because “saving more money” could imply $25 to one person, and $2500 to another.

One way to actually start saving is by setting up automated savings. If you’re already enrolled in direct deposit, you may be able to designate that a percentage of your paycheck goes directly to you savings account. You may also be able to set up automated transfers from your checking to savings account through your bank. Either way, the money is going to savings before you even touch it.

How to Measure Your Change

Each time you make a contribution to your savings goal, celebrate it. You don’t have to wait until the entire goal is reached to be proud of your progress. This takes care of some of that instant gratification that many of us thrive on, and it keeps us excited to reach the end goal.

Monitor your progress weekly and expect to have some missteps. Your resolution will only stick if you keep it on track, but nobody is perfect. Set aside time in your normal schedule to sit down and go through your finances to adjust what you’re spending or to celebrate all that you’re saving. Pretty soon it will be a normal task, and this will make a big difference in the end.

The Outcome

Success. If you create a detailed plan and stick to it, you won’t fail. Whether your goal is to save over a month, year, or decade, you will see results if you stick to your plan.

Then, share your results! It’s not a bad idea to share your goal from the beginning to give yourself some accountability, but sharing your results will push you to keep going after you hit your first mark.

All-in-all, you need structure and a way to make that motivation last longer than a couple of weeks. To lose weight, it’s your weight-loss program; to save more money, it’s your budget. Whatever your resolution is, a detailed plan and some accountability will be a rewarding journey.

The Weirdest Thing I Did to Save Money

Personal finance experts are in the business of helping readers save money every day. Although not every tip can apply to every reader, there is a shared goal of imparting financial wisdom to others to help them cope with debt, improve their credit, successfully obtain a home and accomplish a number of other financially based goals. It’s definitely possible to take frugality too far, however, and the quest to save money can quickly turn from the wise to the weird.

We asked 30 major bloggers and personal finance experts to share both the most bizarre things they’ve ever done to save money — and the lessons they learned through the experience.


I Scrounged in the Lost and Found for a Free Swimsuit

“I don’t consider it weird, but others I’ve told about this incident find it cringe-worthy,” Jeff Yeager, the Ultimate Cheapskate, said. “I checked into a hotel once, only to realize that they had a swimming pool and I didn’t bring a bathing suit. The clerk at the desk suggested that I buy one at the mall next door. Grimacing, I asked if instead they perhaps had a suit in my size in their lost and found. She proudly produced a nice-looking swimsuit in just my size, and said that I could keep it when I was through, since it had been in their lost and found for more than 30 days. It’s still my favorite suit. Lesson: It never hurts to ask.”


I Saved Coffee Cups to Get Free Refills

“At one point in time, I used to save paper coffee cups and use them to get free refills on a different day,” said Deacon Hayes of Well Kept Wallet. “Then places started charging for refills, so it really didn’t make sense to do this anymore. Plus it was kind of weird to take a paper coffee cup home, rinse it out and wait to take it the next time I was at that coffee shop. I learned that the best bet is to brew my coffee at home or, if I schedule a meeting, make sure to do it where they offer free refills.”


I Bought Secondhand Ski Lift Passes

“The weirdest thing I ever did to save money was to stand at the bottom of a ski slope and ask people who have finished skiing for the day to sell me their ski lift passes,” said Maria Nedeva of The Money Principle. “This sounds like another middle-class woman playing at money saving but it was a powerful and empowering experience that took me far beyond my comfort zone. And I was already using most usual saving hacks and then some, anyway. To buy three ski lift passes, I had to ask about twenty people.”


Photo Credit: Susan Law Cain

I Dressed in Costume for a Free Burrito

“Some may find this weird, but I thought it was genius,” said David Carlson of Young Adult Money. “When I was in college, Chipotle offered free burritos on Halloween if you showed up in costume (I believe they are now $3).  A group of my buddies and I went to about six different Chipotles and collected a free burrito at each. Who could pass up six free Chipotle burritos? Not us.

“I learned a couple things from this experience: College students will do just about anything for free food, especially Chipotle, and lettuce doesn’t stay good for three days in a leftover Chipotle burrito.”


I Sported Free-But-Branded Shirts

“A few years ago, I worked for a certain potato chip company,” said Nelson Smith of Financial Uproar. “As part of the job, I got three or four free polo shirts per year, which are really comfortable and, at least in my opinion (but probably not my girlfriend’s), pretty stylish. There’s just one problem: They have potato chip logos on them.

“You can probably figure out where this is going. Yes, I still wear those shirts to this day. And often, too.


I Wandered Around Looking for Free Wi-Fi

“I’d say it was when I was traveling on a motorbike around Europe and didn’t have a cell phone plan for all of the small countries where I would sometimes only spend a few days,” said Pauline Paquin of Reach Financial Independence. “I was the passenger and we would go around the town center, me with my smartphone in my hand trying to find free Wi-Fi to load our route and look up a hotel for the night. We would then stand outside awkwardly and load up the data. I have learned that although it is nice to be resourceful, sometimes it would have been worth the cost of a coffee just to sit down and relax!”


I Couch Surfed

“I couch surfed to save on travel costs,” said Stefanie O’Connell of The Broke and Beautiful Life. “When I tell people I crashed with relative strangers as a petite 20-something-year-old woman traveling on my own, they think I’m totally nuts. The reality is, couch surfing hosts are more like friendly neighbors than creepy weirdos. I’ve stayed with families, couples, young and old. You might be pleasantly surprised by what’s out there when you stop assuming the worst. Couch surfers are an awesome community of adventure seekers —and it’s free!”


I Endured Time-Share Pitches

“I attended time-share presentations for the gift, free meal or show tickets,” personal finance writer Barbara Friedberg told us. “In Southern California there were many opportunities to visit vacation properties with time-share ownership possibilities. At the beginning of our marriage, when we had more time than money, we attended the mandatory time-share sales pitch (never bought in spite of the pressure) for the perks. For example, we got a great meal and show tickets at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Southern California.

“The takeaway was to figure out what your time is worth. If you’re young with no money, use your time to save or make more money. Be creative when looking for low-cost experiences and money-saving strategies. We also got a lovely luggage set at one time-share presentation, and free Las Vegas show tickets at another presentation while on vacation.”


I Unplugged My Power-Sucking Electronics

“I think most of the money-saving strategies I use are pretty normal,” said Jeremy Biberdorf of Modest Money. “I guess one that is less common would be unplugging appliances when not in use. A lot of those appliances are draining electricity even when turned off. There were also specific appliances that I’d put on a separate power bar knowing I would rarely use them. Then I could leave that power bar turned off.

“For this strategy, it might have been more effective if I had one of those devices that gauge appliance electricity use. Then I could determine where this was most worthwhile. Of course then there would be the extra expense. Due to the inconvenience, I have started leaving many of those appliances plugged in. Sometimes the time involved does make a difference in which money-saving strategies are worth the effort.”


I Charged Rent to a Credit Card

“The weirdest thing I ever did to save money was put my rent on my credit card,” said Lance Cothern of Money Manifesto. “Even though I had to pay a $10 fee to my landlord in order to pay with a credit card, I earned $30 cash back each month. In the end, I saved $20 a month by filling out a credit card rent form once a month in my apartment complex’s lobby.

“There are always creative ways to save money, you just have to find a way to take advantage of them.”

Read: 7 Times It Costs More to Pay With a Credit Card


I Opted for a Red-Eye to Get a Flight Voucher

“I was flying out to the East Coast to start my first real job after college,” said Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation. “My flight was supposed to get in Sunday night, and I would show up to the office on Monday morning for training and orientation. At the airport, the flight was oversold and they were looking for volunteers to take the later, red-eye flight that landed at [5 a.m.] Knowing I had several cross-country trips in my future, I wanted that flight credit voucher so I volunteered.

“Thankfully the flight was on time; I got a couple hours of sleep at the hotel, and made it to my first day of work only a little tired and bleary-eyed. It was probably a risky move though, and perhaps I didn’t make the best first impression!”


I Celebrated Christmas Late

“Growing up, we sometimes used to celebrate holidays a day or so after their official date,” said William Charles of Doctor Of Credit. “As we all know, after a big holiday (Easter, Christmas, etc.) the prices for items relating to that holiday dramatically decrease. In the past, my family has decided to celebrate these holidays a few days after their official date so everybody could save some much-needed money. It also usually means flights and other travel items are much cheaper as well, as you’re not needing to travel during those peak periods.

“Holidays really aren’t about presents or celebrating on a specific day (unless that day holds particular significance for you), but rather spending time with loved ones.”

Keep reading: How to Save Money During the Peak Travel Season


I Experimented With At-Home Waxing

“The weirdest thing I ever did to save money was waxing my own eyebrows,” said Shannon McLay of Financially Blonde. “A friend of mine told me about this waxing kit which costs about as much as one waxing for me, so I figured I had nothing to lose. The entire experience scared me and I almost dripped hot wax on my eyeball, but I learned that I could do anything if I just put my mind to it. I now wax my own eyebrows regularly, and I have no fears whenever I do it.”


I Snuck Sugar Packets

“As a 21-year-old single mom, I was a clerk at a big-city newspaper, where an editor would ask me to run to the cafeteria for coffee for reporters, ‘and get something for myself, too,'” personal finance writer Donna Freedman said. “Instead I would pocket the 35 cents it cost to buy an orange drink and purposely get more sugar packets than necessary; that way, I’d get an extra buck or so a week (these were 1979 dollars) plus sugar to take home for my oatmeal.

“I don’t know about ‘weird,’ but it’s certainly sad. Money and sugar! But seriously: It was just one more reminder that since I had very few resources, I’d better be creative about meeting needs for myself and my baby. My various hand-to-mouth coping strategies were pretty useful much later, when I was a mid-life college student and broke divorcee.”


I Took a Bus 1,000 Miles Out of My Way

“One of the weirdest (and best) things I did to save money happened soon after college graduation, during a recession when few landed regular jobs,” said Julie Rains of Investing to Thrive. “I accompanied a friend on a road trip from North Carolina to Montana, where she stayed to work the summer at Yellowstone National Park. Rather than flying directly back home, I extended my trip by taking the bus to Los Angeles and then flying out of LAX, because the total transportation cost was less expensive using this route. While in LA, I stayed with a college friend studying law at Pepperdine University; her campus housing was on Malibu Beach, so my cost savings involved a free beach stay.

“From a business perspective, I learned that costs are often lower on high-volume routes; from a personal perspective, I discovered that free-form adventures are often more fun and cheaper than traditional travel.”


I Collected Birthday Freebies

“The weirdest thing I ever did to save money was to use my birthday to collect freebies from more than 20 restaurants and stores around town,” said Kyle Taylor of The Penny Hoarder. “A lot of retailers offer these birthday freebies as a promotion and you only need to present your driver’s license to score tons of free food, free gift certificates and valuable coupons.

“My goal was actually to get to all 100 places on this list, but after my fifth scoop of free ice cream I realized that my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach. It was still a pretty fun day, and I scored a few free gift certificates that I was able to use later in the week.”


I Earned Cash Taking Surveys

“I once used an app that recorded my location and occasionally asked me simple survey questions in exchange for ‘points’ that could be redeemed for cash,” said Louis DeNicola of “In the end, it took a lot of time and battery life and I only made $10. I’ve since learned to recognize when something takes more time than it’s worth and focus on outcomes.”


I Slept in the Car Instead of Paying for a Hotel Room

“My wife and I once took a trip to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio,” said Brian Fourman of Luke1428. “Instead of paying for a hotel, the night before we went to the park we slept in our Saturn at a Walmart parking lot. Our big takeaway from that money-saving experience was that we are never doing that again.”


I Took My Trash to Work

“A few years back, I took a look at that huge garbage receptacle provided to me by my local government, and I realized how little trash I generated,” said Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers. “I decided therefore to opt out of garbage pick-up, and I believe I saved myself close to $200 annually. I obtained permission from my employer at the time to use the company dumpster, and took my refuse to work with me each day. It might sound like a rather unseemly process, but I recycled and composted everything I could, so it really wasn’t that bad.

“What I took away from the experience is that oftentimes you can find savings just by taking an objective look at some of the things you spend money on. If you’re willing to be a little creative, there are plenty of ways to save.”


I Put on Bike Stunt Shows

“When I was a kid, I would save money to grow my baseball card collection,” said Elle Martinez of Couple Money. “I had my can recycling route I did, but I wanted to earn a little bit more. Not weird, but I came up with the idea of putting on these little bike ‘stunt shows’ (no real skills, but I marketed it all around the neighborhood like I was a star), and charged like a quarter per spectator.

“I discovered that there are different ways to earn and save money, and having a job. I liked the idea of these small projects or games that allowed me to build my savings. Even now, I look for fun ways to build my savings.”


I Window-Shopped for Free Cookies

“When I used to be a broke college student, there was a discount store, Bob’s furniture store, that gave cookies to shoppers,” said Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista. “I never bought furniture but I always went for the free cookies. What I initially took away from the experience is free cookies taste better than paid-for ones. What I really learned is that there is always a way to get more for less.”


I Ate Free-But-Stale Bagels

“The weirdest thing I’ve ever done to save money was drastically cut my grocery budget for about two months while I was paying off debt,” said John Schmoll of Frugal Rules. “I figured out the cheapest way I could eat and still allow myself to get by, and thus have more money to throw at my debt. So, for roughly six to eight weeks I ate nothing but stale bagels from the grocery store and rejected frozen pizzas I was able to buy from a friend who worked in the food service industry. That allowed me to cut my grocery spending to a little under $100 a month for the span of time I did it.

“The lesson learned: Sometimes short-term sacrifices aren’t worth it in the long-term. It did allow me several hundred extra dollars to throw at my debt, but I could have looked for other ways to accomplish the same thing.”


I Gave Up Luxuries

“The weirdest thing I did to save money was cut luxury items out of the budget,” said Brian of Debt Discipline. “In order to save money immediately to have more cash to apply to debt repayment, we cut satellite radio, Game Fly and eating out. By simply changing our behavior, we were able to free up hundreds of dollars each month in our budget. After a few weeks of doing without these things, it was clear that they are wants and not needs and can be easily sacrificed.”


I Listened to the Same 12 Songs

“The weirdest thing I did to save money was listen to the same twelve songs over and over again, for years!” said AJ Smith ofSmartAsset. “I got an MP3 player as a gift when they first came out and I stuck with it, even after better, newer versions came out and long after I was able to add or change the songs. I ran with that MP3 player for years and finally when it started to bother me, I budgeted for and eventually bought a new one. This reminded me that finances are all about priorities; I chose to spend my money elsewhere until I prioritized it and then added to my budget.”


I Stocked Up on Free Condiments

“There are [two] weird things I did to save money that are related,” said Jon Dulin of Money Smart Guides. “When I was in college and I would be out at a fast food restaurant or a picnic, I would load up on ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise packets so I wouldn’t have to buy the condiments. I would also stock up on plastic utensils so I didn’t have to wash my regular silverware.

“At the time I thought I was a genius for saving money, but then I realized I was barely saving much money since I rarely use condiments in the first place and the cost to actually wash my silverware wasn’t that much either.”


I Hacked Gift Cards and Other Offers to Save More

“I do a lot of weird things to save money, but I recently wrote about my purchase of a treadmill desk which went way off the deep-end,” the eponymous Lazy Man of Lazy Man and Money told us. “I stalked Sears’ website for a few days to get the best price. Then I used a reward card to buy discounted gift cards to buy the product. I also attempted to apply for the store credit card to save another 10 percent off the $1,500 treadmill desk. I did this even though I was paying the bulk of the bill with the gift cards. It didn’t all go according to plan, but I ended up with a tremendous deal.

“I learned that I am a little crazy about saving money. On a more serious note, I got competitive in searching for the best price and the end result was more money in my pocket. You don’t have to go overboard like I did, but saving money on big purchases goes a long way.”


We Sweated It Out to Keep the A/C Off

“The weirdest thing we’ve done to save money is refusing to run any form of air conditioning for a month in the Texas summer heat,” said Jason and Vanessa of Cash Cow Couple. “We wanted to see how low our electric bill could fall, and our punishment was an abundance of sweat. It was a good experience because it served as a reminder that air conditioning is a luxury for many people in the world, not a necessity. We human beings are quick to adapt.”


I Lived in a Rent-Free Basement

“After my husband graduated from law school, we sold our home and moved into his parents’ unfinished, two-bedroom basement with our three kids,” said Stephanie of Six Figures Under. “We decided we would pay off our $130,000-plus in student loans before buying a house.

“While we’re itching to get into our own place, the free rent makes a huge impact on how much we are able to put toward our debt. Our living situation is also a constant reminder of our goal, which helps us not get sidetracked along the way. Two years (and one more kid) later, we are making great progress and are glad we chose this weird way to save money.”


I Was an Airbnb Early Adopter

“The weirdest thing I’ve ever done to save money was using Airbnb (back when it was just getting started) to stay in someone’s spare bedroom while on a business trip to NYC,” said Philip Taylor of PT Money. “It quickly became obvious that this room was the ‘cat’s room.’ I learned there is such a thing as being too cheap and to do a better job reading the reviews.”


I Canceled Cable

“I got rid of my cable subscription a few years ago,” said Chana Schoenberger Zimmermanof Max, a service that helps consumers maximize their interest earnings. “In addition to saving about $100 per month, I discovered that I didn’t really miss the ability to just turn on the TV, which also saved me from wasting time. If there’s a show I feel compelled to watch, I buy it from iTunes or watch it on Netflix, but even then I don’t come close to replicating that cable bill cost.

“At Max, we’re passionate about earning more interest on your cash in the bank, so it makes sense to keep cash there, or to invest it, rather than spending it on TV.”


“This article, The Weirdest Thing I Did to Save Money, was originally published on”

8 Things That Sabotage Your Budget

It can be difficult to live on a budget if you feel like you’re constantly running out of money: you pay the bills, buy groceries and other necessities, and before you know it, you don’t have much left in your bank account.

This is a constant struggle amongst college students that can be avoided. Sure, money is tight, but if you cut out the things you don’t need, then you just might be surprised with how much cash is left in your wallet at the end of the month.

Here are eight things that can sabotage your budget if you’re not looking for the best bargain:

  1. Textbooks

There’s nothing quite like that dreaded trip to the bookstore during the first week of classes, right?

Here’s a piece of advice that will save you money and spare you from waiting an hour in line once you’re there: Don’t go to the bookstore!

If you are still paying full price for your textbooks, then stop immediately. There are plenty of websites that sell the same books for a much cheaper price, and some of these sites give you an even better deal if you return them at the end of the semester. Amazon, for example, has a great rental program you could be using for all of your books.

  1. New Technology

Yes, it’s a little bigger than the previous version. Sure, the camera is slightly better. But you do not need the new iPhone!

There’s a social pressure to always have the latest gadget. But guess what? The last iPhone works just as well as the new one. Maybe it’s a split-second slower, but you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have on the new one just because it’s new.

Take care of the technology you currently have and it will serve you well. Hold on to it until it dies and you absolutely need to upgrade it.

  1. Expensive Coffee

Coffee is an everyday necessity for most people, but don’t empty your wallet for your morning cup of joe.

Brand name coffee shops (you know the ones) have great coffee, but they also have high prices. You can downgrade to more affordable coffee until you earn more money or, better yet, make your own coffee. After all, any kind of caffeine will get the job done.

  1. Full-Price Items

You know that coupon book you always get in the mail and then immediately throw in the garbage? Don’t toss it. Start using it!

Retailers are constantly having sales on certain items, and a quick Google search will show you the cheapest option for whatever you’re looking for. There are also some cash back websites that give you exclusive deals, as well as rewards when you use their service. Do yourself a favor and never pay full price again.

  1. Restaurants or Take-Out

How many times are you eating out or ordering food every week? And how much are you spending on restaurants versus the grocery store? If your restaurant spending outweighs your grocery bill, a good goal is to flip those numbers around.

An occasional trip to your favorite restaurant is acceptable. But keep in mind that one night at a fancy restaurant can equal a week or two of homemade meals.

  1. Credit Card Mistakes

Make sure you sign up for the right credit card that matches your needs, if you really need one at all.

Many people make mistakes with their credit card that leads to financial trouble. For instance, credit card companies may try to hit you with an annual fee. To get around it, however, you can contact their customer service to request that they waive the fee. There are plenty of cards without an annual fee as well, so be sure to take a look at those options.

In addition, be sure to pay your balance each month. This will help you avoid paying astronomically high interest fees.

  1. Brand Name Products

Sometimes certain things are expensive solely because of their brand name, when a cheaper version of the same product works just as well. And here’s another tip: if you do a little research to see where a product was manufactured, you may find that the store brand is the same as the name brand, just with a different label (like ketchup). So make sure you check out the cheaper brand before you make your purchase.

  1. Entertainment

It’s time to get rid of that cable bill.

The entertainment industry is starting to cater to instant streaming, which means you can watch any show you want at any time. It also turns out that signing up for major streaming services with a standard TV plan is a lot cheaper than a 200-channel cable plan.

Be Smart!

Practice being intentional about your spending. Take a moment and think about each purchase before you make it, and you may find that there’s a good chance you can save your money for something you find more important.

Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.

Student Loans, Interest Payments, and Taxes – Oh my!

Student loans, interest payments, and taxes: three things that have scared many people for years now. Read on to learn how these things can benefit you. Just as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man learned when they followed the yellow brick road, once you look at the bigger picture you’ll realize you had the resources to face your fears all along!

If you made federal student loan payments in 2015, you may be eligible to deduct a portion of the interest paid on your 2015 federal tax return. This is known as a student loan interest deduction. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make the money you’ve paid work for you! Below are some questions and answers to help you learn more about reporting student loan interest payments from IRS Form 1098-E on your 2015 taxes and potentially get this deduction.

What is IRS Form 1098-E?

IRS Form 1098-E is the Student Loan Interest Statement that your federal loan servicer will use to report student loan interest payments to both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to you.

Will I receive a 1098-E?

If you paid $600 or more in interest to a federal loan servicer during the tax year, you will receive at least one 1098-E.

The IRS only requires federal loan servicers to report payments on IRS Form 1098-E if the interest received from the borrower in the tax year was $600 or more, although some federal loan servicers still send 1098-Es to borrowers who paid less than that.

If you paid less than $600 in interest to a federal loan servicer during the tax year and do not receive a 1098-E, you may contact your servicer for the exact amount of interest you paid during the year so you can then report that amount on your taxes.

How many 2015 1098-Es should I expect to receive?

That depends on how much you paid in interest, how many federal loan servicers you had, and some other factors. Read through the scenarios below to find where you fit and know how many 2015 1098-Es you should expect.

  1. Your current servicer was your only servicer in 2015: In this case, your current federal loan servicer will provide you with a copy of your 1098-E if you paid interest of $600 or more in 2015. Your servicer may send your 1098-E to you electronically or via U.S. mail.
  2. You had multiple servicers in 2015: In this case, each of your federal loan servicers will provide you with a copy of your 1098-E if you paid interest of $600 or more to that individual servicer in 2015. Your servicer may send your 1098-E to you electronically or via U.S. mail.

If you paid less than $600 in interest to any of your federal loan servicers, you may need to contact each servicer as necessary to find out the exact amount of interest you paid during the year.

How will reporting my student loan interest payments on my 2015 taxes benefit me?

Reporting the amount of student loan interest you paid in 2015 on your federal tax return may count as a deduction. A deduction reduces the amount of your income that is subject to tax, which may benefit you by reducing the amount of tax you may have to pay.

For more information about student loan interest deduction, visit the IRS’s Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center.

Now that you know student loans, interest rates, and taxes aren’t as scary as you may have originally thought, you are ready to report your student loan interest rates on your 2015 federal tax return!

But what if I still need help or have more questions?

While we are not tax advisors and cannot advise you on your federal tax return questions, your federal loan servicer is available to assist you with any questions about your student loans, including questions about IRS Form 1098-E and reporting the student loan interest you’ve paid on your 2015 taxes. If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, visit My Federal Student Aid to find contact information for the loan servicer or lender for your loans. To see a list of our federal loan servicers, go to the Loan Servicers page on


This article was originally published on and can be found here.