10 Tips for Saving Money

by Aliza Epstein / November 18, 2020

We could all use more change in our pockets. Washington, DC consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the country for cost of living, and with the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, people are more careful about their spending and more strategic about their savings. Here are 10 tips to make sure you still have money left over after every paycheck.

1. Get cash back from your credit cards.

Most credit cards offer some type of cashback incentive program where a percentage of your spending is awarded back to you.  

    • The Discover it Miles card allows you to earn 3% cashback on all purchases for the first year and 1.5% thereafter.  
    • The SavorOne card from Capital One offers 3% cashback on dining and entertaining, as well as 2% at grocery stores. (As an added benefit, this card does not charge foreign transaction fees.)  
    • The Chase Freedom card offers 5% cashback in different categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter). The categories for the first quarter of 2020 are gas stations; internet, cable, and phone services; and streaming services.
    • The Bank of America Cash Rewards card gives you 3% cashback on the category of your choice plus 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 worth of purchases per quarter). Bank of America Preferred Rewards members earn an additional 25%-75% when depositing their cashback into a Bank of America account.

Many of these cards also offer additional cash bonuses for opening the card and spending a specified amount during the first three months. Another perk of cashback is that the IRS views it as a discount—not as income—and doesn’t tax it. None of these cards charge an annual fee.

2. Earn a bonus for opening a bank account.

While interest rates on checking and savings accounts are dismal, several banks are enticing new account holders with cash bonuses.   

    • Citi Bank is offering $200, $400, or $700 for opening a new checking or savings account depending on the amount of money you deposit within 30 days of opening the account.
    • HSBC gives you up to $450 for opening a checking account and setting up a recurring direct deposit.
    • These cash bonuses are viewed by the IRS as interest and are taxable.

3. Get paid to shop with Rakuten.

Formerly known as Ebates, Rakuten gives you cashback on online purchases and some in-store purchases. Instead of going directly to a store’s website, go to Rakuten.com first and then click on a link for a particular store. You will be redirected to the store’s website and — voilà — cash will be deposited into your bank account or sent by check in the mail after you make a purchase. Cashback rewards range from 1% to 10% depending on the store. Don’t worry, Rakuten isn’t a front for collecting and selling your data. Rakuten partners with affiliate networks representing online retailers and negotiates a percentage of the purchase price for each referral. In other words, when you click on a link to a store on the Rakuten website, Rakuten receives a referral fee from the retailer and shares some of that fee with you.  

4. Search with Google Images. 

When it comes to big-ticket items like furniture, many companies sell the same product but with different names and price points. A few years ago I found the perfect desk online, except the price was above my budget. I typed the name of the desk into Google, and all of the search results showed the same price. Then I decided to enter a picture of the desk into Google Images. The results showed the exact same desk—literally the same photograph with the same vase and flowers on top of the desk—with a different name and a lower price tag.     

5. Make the most of your health insurance.

A few years ago my dentist informed me that I needed a bite plate. This pricey piece of plastic was not covered by my dental insurance. I decided to call my health insurance to see if they would cover it. It turned out that even though it was a dental expense, my health insurance would partially cover it as long as I provided a letter from my doctor explaining the medical necessity of it.

6. Negotiate your rent.

There’s one letter that every renter dreads: the annual letter informing us of our rent increase. It’s worthwhile to reach out to your landlord or management company. They are often open to negotiating because it’s in their best interest to maintain a current tenant rather than having a vacancy and seeking a new tenant. Look online to see if there are any available units in your building and what the asking price is for those units. If the price is lower than what you’re being asked to pay (and this is often the case since management companies tend to offer special pricing to attract new tenants), mention this to your landlord. You can also offer to sign a longer lease to secure a lower price.

7. Remember that second-hand doesn’t necessarily mean used.

I’m somewhat of a germaphobe and never felt comfortable shopping at second-hand clothing stores. Then I discovered Poshmark, a website where users sell their clothes. The nice thing about this particular website is that many of the items are new with tags. I have a weakness for Lilly Pulitzer dresses, and I’ve scored many of them on Poshmark for a fraction of the retail price.

8. Sign up for customer loyalty programs.

Airlines and large hotel chains are known for their customer loyalty programs (hello frequent flyer miles).  And while boutique hotels don’t typically offer customer loyalty programs, you can still get in on the money-saving action when you book a reservation at an independent hotel when you book through the Guestbook, which gives you 5% cashback or 15% “cash forward” toward your next reservation at one of more than 700 qualifying hotels. 

Anyway, customer loyalty programs aren’t just for airlines and hotels. Is there a sandwich shop near your office where you often grab lunch? Chances are that place has a customer loyalty program, something along the lines of buy nine sandwiches and get your tenth one for free. Sign up for that. You’ll probably buy nine sandwiches faster than you expected.

9. Get the app.

Two money-saving apps everyone should download are Groupon and Goldstar. Groupon offers discounts on local activities. Goldstar sells heavily discounted tickets to theater shows, concerts, and sporting events. 

10. Never shop online without a promo code.

If you don’t have a promo code, search for one on Google or look at the store’s Facebook page.

Now your only problem is deciding what to do with all your extra money…


About the Author: Aliza Epstein is a native of the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Arlington, VA.  She works as a non-profit manager.

The author and GatherDC do not receive compensation for product references or when you click on links related to these products.  (However, many companies pay referral fees, and referring your friends could be an 11th tip for saving money!)

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.