How to save when you live paycheck to paycheck

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How to save more cash

Retirement planning is a hot topic and the research suggests that Americans are overwhelmingly unprepared. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, only 22% of workers say they're very confident about their ability to save enough for a comfortable retirement. Seventeen percent said they're not too sure they'll be able to meet their basic expenses once they retire.

Find out now: How much do I need to save for retirement?

Having a higher income means you've got more money to save, but what if you're living paycheck to paycheck? While you might have to start smaller, it's possible to build a solid nest egg when you're working on a shoestring budget. Here are some tips on how to save even if you think you're broke.

1. Start With Your Employer's Plan

If you've got a steady job that has decent benefits, your 401(k) is a good place to put your retirement funds. Ideally, you should be chipping in enough to get the company match if your employer offers one but if not, it's best to save what you can until your pay increases. You'd be surprised at how quickly it can add up.

If you save consistently until you turn 65 and your income never changes, you'll have plenty of money to use when you retire.

2. Bank Your Extra Paychecks

If you normally get paid on a biweekly basis, you've got a built-in way to save if there are certain months out of the year where you receive a third paycheck. Stashing this money in your retirement account can add some significant numbers to your savings total over time.

By socking away that extra paycheck in a Roth IRA, you could have thousands of dollars to withdraw tax-free in retirement.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Put an End to Paycheck-to-Paycheck Living

3. Use Your HSA for More Than Just Medical Expenses

A health savings account can supplement your retirement savings if you don't have a 401(k) or you can't park your extra checks in an IRA. The money you stash in an HSA is supposed to be used for medical expenses, but you can make penalty-free withdrawals for any reason after age 65. You'll still pay taxes on the money, but that extra income can come in handy.

4. Get Credit for What You're Saving

If you normally get a big tax refund, that's extra money you can automatically set aside for retirement. You can pump up your refund even more by claiming the Retirement Saver's Tax Credit.

This is a credit designed for lower income workers and it effectively pays you back for saving. As of 2016, the credit is good for up to $2,000 for single filers and up to $4,000 for married couples filing jointly. The credit is applied to your tax liability for the year, so it can put a few extra dollars back in your pocket that can then go towards your nest egg.

Check out our 401(k) calculator.

Final Word

Saving for retirement can be challenging, especially when you don't have a lot of extra money to work with. Trimming your budget is an important step but if you've already cut it down to bare bones, you may have to think outside the box to find the cash to save.

The post How to Save When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

RELATED: Click through for some ideas on how to make money fast:

20 unusual ways to make quick money
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How to save when you live paycheck to paycheck

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

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Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

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Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

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Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

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Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

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Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

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Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

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Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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