13 Ways Every 20-​Something Can Save Up For Their Dream Vaca
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13 Ways Every 20-​Something Can Save Up For Their Dream Vacay In 2021, From Someone Who Actually Did

You deserve it after making it through 2020.

person smiling at camera with mountains and blue water behind her
Paige Ryan

For all the young professionals and students out there — 2020 has likely been the strangest years of your life. We've been dealing with the pandemic for over 200 days now, and if you're like me, you are ready for it to be OVER.

At the beginning of 2020, I started making a plan to save up for a dream vacation. Unfortunately, those plans are delayed because of everything that has happened this year.

But I am determined to make things happen when conditions permit. It's so important to have different flows of income. Side income allows you to build up cash for a goal or to transfer to your bank account in a time of need.

Finding ways to earn freebies and cash can be helpful in a pinch!

1. Sell your old toys and valuables

Living in apartments and moving every few years means you need to cut back on the belongings that you have but do not use. You may have old toys that can turn out to be very valuable!

I ended up selling a lot of my old American Girl dolls and accessories online.

It was hard to part with these toys that were such a large part of my childhood, but I knew they were just collecting dust in my storage closet.

I primarily used eBay because it reaches a wide audience and is a trustworthy site. However, I also used Facebook Marketplace. My eBay sales went to my PayPal account and I made a couple hundred dollars just by stuff that was sitting in storage bins!

2. Take surveys to earn gift cards 

person using laptop computer


Survey sites are a great way to earn rewards online. e-Rewards is a great place to start. For each survey you complete, the site credits your account with points. These points can then be used to redeem gift cards, such as $75 Starbucks or iTunes gift cards. It takes a lot of surveys to earn enough points, but if you have free time, it can be an easy way to save money on purchases you're probably already making.

3. Participate in research studies

8 people sitting around a desk with laptops, talking


Research studies are honestly a fun way to earn cash.

Many universities conduct research studies and offer opportunities to earn incentives for participation.

If you participate in a longitudinal study, you will complete periodic surveys and can earn rewards like Amazon gift cards.

Look into registering with regional research companies, such as L&E Opinions. They're always looking for diverse people to participate in studies that range from political opinions, restaurant and food preferences, clothing sizes, and more.

If you are selected, you will be paid in cash. The studies are usually fun and interesting.

4. Sell your clothes and accessories at consignment shops.

assorted-color clothes hanged inside department store with lights turned on


Cleaning out your closet and earning extra cash has never been easier. Consignment shops pay you for your used items (in good condition, of course).

Generally, there are two different kinds: stores that pay you upfront and stores that pay you when your item sells. The stores that pay you upfront pay you a small percentage of the resale price.

However, the benefit is you walk out with cash or store credit.

The other option pays a higher percentage of the selling price, but you can only cash out once they actually sell your item. If your item doesn't sell, they offer to donate it or return it to you.

Stores like Plato's Closet, Rumors, and Uptown Cheapskate are a great place to look for new clothes or clear out your used items.

Shopping resale and thrift stores are a great way to save money and still find great pieces.

5. Attention Target shoppers: enroll in Target Circle, now.

Target Circle

Paige Ryan

If you're like me, you do a lot of shopping at Target. Their app is the best! Sign up for Target Circle to gain access to their unique discount program. The discounts it provides can be used in conjunction with manufacturer's coupons and you'll even earn money on your purchases that can be applied to future purchases.

All you have to do is select the coupons you want and scan your personal bar code in the app at checkout, and the matching discounts will apply to your purchase.

While it may not save you more than a few dollars at a time, there are sometimes killer deals in there, such as an additional 20% off clearance clothing.

6. Sign up for store rewards.

person holding smartphone beside tablet computer


Having an account with a store rewards program can actually be quite helpful. At most grocery stores, having an account allows you to access their sales and discounts.

However, you may not realize how easy it is to earn discounts on online purchases.

Many online stores are now offering reward programs and each purchase earns points that can be redeemed for free items or discounts.

Points can also be earned for signing up, having a birthday, writing a review, or following the brand on Instagram. It takes no effort to save on your regular purchases!

Here are some stores that offer amazing reward programs:

Tarte Cosmetics: Sign up for Team Tarte and get 15% off!

Valfre: Sign up for their rewards program and get $10 off a $30 purchase.

Reggaetón Store: Sign up and get $5 off!

Crystal Bar Soap: Sign up for their Collectors Club and get 20% off.

8. Use your talents.

If you have a unique talent, you can use Etsy to sell your handmade goods such as jewelry, clothing, and decals. It can be a great way to make a little income with your talents or start a business.

As an education major, I have sold things on Teachers Pay Teachers.

8. Sign up to be a mystery shopper.


PrestoShopper is a new app that gives users money back in exchange for reviews.

Coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques... they all want customer feedback, and thanks to PrestoShopper, all you have to do is pick a location on the map, complete the "Live Shop" survey, and then claim your Amazon code redeemable for any online purchase.

Most of these surveys will be similar to store surveys you sometimes get on receipts.

For example, a survey may ask you to complete a tobacco purchase at a gas station and verify whether or not they checked your ID.

9. Budget better with "buy now, pay later" apps.

Okay, so this one can be a slippery slope, but if you're smart about it, it's actually really helpful.

Many brands are now offering "buy now, pay later" options. You make a purchase and pay it off in four installments (which can also be paid off earlier, if you want to).

The total cost of your purchase is divided into four equal amounts and you make the first payment at the time of purchase.

You then pay off the remaining four amounts every other week. For someone on a bi-weekly pay schedule, it's literally a dream (you're basically making a payment per paycheck).

Now, this is why it can be a slippery slope, but if you're buying something you absolutely need or would buy anyway, these apps can help make the cost more manageable — so you're not choosing rent over that new pair of shoes you desperately need.

It varies on what payment option a brand pairs with, but I've had good experiences with Afterpay, Klarna, ViaBill, and Sezzle.

10. Repeat after me: Student. Discounts.

flat lay photography of blue backpack beside book and silver MacBook


If you're still a student... I don't care whether you're a freshman or a master's candidate, take advantage of those student discounts. You know they're out there, so use them!

Many online services like Tidal, Spotify, and Amazon offer cheaper rates to students on subscriptions.

Getting verified with a site like UniDays can also earn you discounts on your favorite online stores.

11. Start making a budget that works for you.

My most important piece of advice is to find what works for you. There's a lot of advice online, some of it is good; others want you to pay them to teach you how they budget (using their talents!).

I personally keep a note on my phone with the date/amount of my paycheck, a list of the bills (amounts and due dates) for each pay period, as well as any other planned expenses, like a trip, gas, or appointment.

Just keeping track of every time you spend money is a good place to start.

If you intend to put money aside, allocate that out too! I used to have a secret place in my apartment where I stored cash and it was really helpful to have cash saved up when I had an emergency earlier this year.

Budgeting is going to be a learning process and it takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you.

12. Sell your clothes and accessories online.

My Depop store

Paige Ryan

If you want more control over how much you earn, online resale is a popular and fun way to earn money off of your old clothes and accessories.

Warning: This does take a little more work than just taking your clothes to consignment shops, but you can reach a much wider audience.

To get started, create your profile and begin taking pictures of the items you want to sell. You want eye-catching pictures that show the item clearly and informative descriptions that let potential buyers know the fit and condition of your items.

To make sales, you need to be active on the apps (logging in more than once a week).

You set the prices yourself (the site takes a small percentage of your earnings). Once an item sells, they send you a prepaid shipping label and all you have to do is send the package. These are also a great place to find unique items for yourself.

Here are some of the most recommended apps:

  • Poshmark: This app is very trustworthy and a great way to start earning money. Poshmark releases your earnings to you once your buyer receives their shipment (they need to accept the item, or the funds are released after four days). Sign up for Poshmark and get $10 off your first purchase!
  • Depop: This app offers some of the most unique items and has a very active group of users. You will be paid through PayPal and funds will be available to you immediately.
  • Mercari: This is another great app. (I haven't set up a sales page yet, so I cannot speak to that experience, but I have purchased several great items so far).
  • Curtsy: I also recommend this app, although it seems to have a smaller user base.

Having listings on multiple apps increases your chance of a sale, but make sure you update your listings across all sites. eBay is also a great place to sell clothes.

13. Use a rebate app, like iBotta.


Paige Ryan

There are apps that offer similar rebates, but there's literally nothing like iBotta. You have so much earning potential with this app and once you start using it regularly, you can save up money for anything and withdraw funds directly to your bank account.

iBotta now offers multiple avenues to earn cash, but the original way is to search the app for deals at a specific store (such as Target), save the deals you want, and then make your purchase.

After you shop, scan your receipt and you'll earn cash on matching purchases.

For example, iBotta recently offered $3 back on a box of KIND bars. I bought two boxes and earned $6.

But iBotta isn't just available on grocery store purchases...and this is where the fun begins.

You can earn cashback on ABC store purchases (hello bottles of Jameson and Malibu), Amazon, and UberEats. American Eagle. PLANE TICKETS. I earned $40 for booking a hotel through Hotels.com.

This app is one of my favorite apps that I have on my phone. If you're sleeping on iBotta, it's time to wake up.

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