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3 easy money hacks that make living on your own more fun and affordable

Living on your own can be costly. Here are money hacks to make it less expensive so you can enjoy your independence.

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We earn a commission from affiliate partners on many offers, but not all offers on Select are from affiliate partners.

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.

1. Boost your credit score with your utilities and Netflix accounts

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.

Experian Dark Web Scan + Credit Monitoring

On Experian's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO®

  • Dark web scan

    Yes, one-time only

  • Identity insurance

    No

Terms apply.

2. Earn cash back on groceries

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

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.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    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.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening; N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.49% - 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

3. Make your savings account work a little extra

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.

Varo Savings Account

Bank Account Services are provided by Varo Bank, N.A., Member FDIC.
  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    Begin earning 0.20% and qualify to earn 3.00% if you meet requirements^

  • Minimum balance

    None; $0.01 to earn savings interest

  • Monthly fee

    None

  • Maximum transactions

    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

    None

  • Overdraft fees

    None

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes, if you have a Varo Bank Account

Terms apply.

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:

  1. You must opt-in to paperless statements.
  2. 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).

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

Alliant Credit Union is a Member NCUA.
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $0

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    1.00% with paperless and recurring monthly electronic deposit

  • Free ATM network

    80,000+ Alliant network ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    Up to $20 per month

  • Overdraft fee

    $25

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

Terms apply.

Bottom line

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.

Learn more: How much cash should you keep in your savings and checking account? A financial planner weighs in

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 Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. If you purchase something through Select links for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, we may earn a commission.

*Results may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian Boost.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.