Our top picks of timely offers from our partnersMore details
Editor's Note: APYs listed in this article are up-to-date as of the time of publication. They may fluctuate (up or down) as the Fed rate changes. CNBC will update as changes are made public.
As college students head off to the start of a new semester, many recent graduates are moving into their first apartments.
Whether you live with roommates, a partner or by yourself, life gets a lot more costly when you set out on your own. But living on your own has its perks, including the ability to make your own choices and live according to your own preferences. There's still a lot of freedom in leaving the nest, even if you're just scraping by on an entry-level salary.
Most happy adults know one of the secrets to enjoying this freedom: Save money on your necessities so you can have more to spend on the other areas of your life, like travel, entertainment or dining out. Life comes with a list of inevitable expenses, such as housing, transportation, utilities, loans and food. But once you cover those, the rest is up to you.
Here are three easy ways to save money on the basics and have more leftover for fun.
There are few perks to having utilities in your name, other than the service they provide. But if you're looking for a way to boost your credit score, having utility and telecommunications accounts in your name can be advantageous.
Experian Boost™ is completely free and helps you raise your credit score by connecting to select bills (including your cell phone, internet/cable, utilities and more) and reporting your on-time payments to the credit bureau Experian.
Experian also recently updated eligible bills to include on-time Netflix payments, providing you with more ways to improve your credit. (Read about every kind of bill that's included in Experian Boost.)
Having a good credit score can help you save you money in the long run. With a good score, you can qualify for the best kinds of loans and credit cards with better terms and lower APRs. For instance, if you ever wanted to make a big purchase and take advantage of a limited-time 0% APR, having a good to excellent credit score will improve your odds of getting approval.
Experian Boost™ requires that you have at least one active credit account, such as a credit card or student loan, to sign up. If you want to improve your credit from fair to good, this feature might be worth a try.
It's also a nice add-on when you use Experian's free credit monitoring service.
Credit bureaus monitored
Credit scoring model used
Dark web scan
Yes, one-time only
Groceries are a necessity of life, but with the right credit card, you can earn cash back on this everyday expense. Plus, cooking at home is a lot more cost-effective than dining out (though there are plenty of great credit cards for dining, too!).
The best grocery rewards cards offer up to 6% cash back at supermarkets. This makes it a lot easier to stretch your grocery budget even further, easily earning over $100 a year on groceries.
CNBC Select analyzed 26 popular rewards cards using an average American's annual budget and digging into each card's perks and drawbacks to find the best grocery store rewards cards based on your spending habits.
Here are CNBC Select's top picks for credit cards offering supermarket rewards
- Winner: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Runner-Up: American Express® Gold Card
- Best for Online Grocery Shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- Best for Gas Stations and Groceries: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- Best for No Annual Fee: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our number-one pick, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, offers the highest cash-back rate at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 6% on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) by using this card to keep your kitchen stocked. Using the average American budget, we estimate that you can earn $310 in cash back per year when you shop with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred at qualifying supermarkets.
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months from account opening
$0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95
0% for the first 12 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers
13.99% to 23.99% variable
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
See rates and fees, terms apply.
The wealthiest (and happiest) people learn to work smarter, not harder. Replacing your traditional savings account with one that offers high yields on interest (APY) and no monthly fees will help you do just that.
Even though interest rates on high-yield savings accounts have dropped to half of what they were last year, hovering around 1%, this yield still outpaces the 0.05% return you would earn keeping your money in a traditional savings account.
For example, if you had $2,000 in a Varo Savings Account earning 1.21% APY, you would earn just over $24 after a year (without making any extra deposits). With a traditional savings account, you'd earn just 10 cents.
Varo offers a checking account option in addition to its high-yield savings. Neither account requires minimum balances to open and neither charge monthly maintenance fees.
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Begin earning 0.20% and qualify to earn 3.00% if you meet requirements^
None; $0.01 to earn savings interest
Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle *The 6/statement cycle withdrawal limit is waived during the coronavirus outbreak under Regulation D
Excessive transactions fee
Offer checking account?
Offer ATM card?
Yes, if you have a Varo Bank Account
Don't forget about your checking account.
Just as there are high-interest savings accounts, you can also open a checking account that earns you higher-than-average interest on your balance.
The Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking Account offers 0.25% APY with no minimum deposit required to open an account. In order to earn interest, there are a two requirements:
- You must opt-in to paperless statements.
- You must set up a recurring monthly electronic deposit (such as direct deposit, payroll deposit, ATM deposit, mobile check deposit or transfer from another financial institution).
Monthly maintenance fee
Minimum deposit to open
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
0.25% with paperless and recurring monthly electronic deposit
Free ATM network
80,000+ Alliant network ATMs
ATM fee reimbursement
Up to $20 per month
Mobile check deposit
Taking just a few minutes to consider the ways to save and spend your money in smarter ways can set you up for success in the long run. The secret to managing your finances while also having fun is to simplify things and find ways to make saving and earning automatic. Give yourself a boost by reporting your utility payments, using the right cash-back credit card and opting for accounts with higher interest rates.
Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature® Card, Varo Savings Account, and Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.