Savings accounts are paying dismally  these days. Most are paying less than 1%. While you may be ok with the low rates given the safety of savings accounts you may also be looking for short term ways to earn more money.
Yes you could earn more investing your money in the stock market or other long term investments but those come with risk and/or tie up your money for long periods of time. Here are a few ideas with relatively low risk.
(Photo Credit: Tax Credits/Flickr )
Stock-Up on Staples
This is not nearly as exciting as watching your stock pick double in a month but it is an easy way for your savings to earn more money. Usually we think of shopping as spending money but here’s how you can make sure you are actually saving your savings.
Say an item you buy goes on sale for half price. Usually you would pick-up a few extra but this time you buy $120 worth that will last you a year. You normally spend $20/month on this item so have that money automatically deposited into your savings for the next year. The $120 you took out of savings to stock-up will be turned into $240 by the end of the year (+100% return). Do this for a few deep discounted items and suddenly your savings are earning a lot more than 1%!
Invest in Energy Savings
There are a lot of energy efficient options  out there these days but there is an initial cost to save you money. It can be as small as replacing light bulbs in your house with cfls  or buying a Nest Learning Thermostat  to as big as replacing your furnace. Take a look at what your savings will be. If a new furnace would cost $5,000 but save you $1,000/year in heating costs that is a 20% return. In this example it would take 5 years to re-coup the initial investment so make sure that you can comfortably have the money tied up for that amount of time. You can withdraw money from your savings but not your furnace.
Your savings can also be used to get any pre-payment discount you might be eligible for. Many companies from car insurance to oil delivery offer discounts if you pay up front rather than in monthly installments. Again if you want to insure this really impacts your savings make sure you then make the monthly payments to yourself. A 10% discount is a lot more than you’ll make from your savings account.
Gift Card Bonuses
Some businesses offer discounts if you buy a large amount of their gift cards. Now this won’t save you any money if you use it to spend more than you usually would (after all that’s what they’re hoping for when they offer you the discount). So restaurant gift cards might not offer that much savings but a grocery card could. In fact a local grocery in my area is currently offering a 10% bonus if you buy $500 or more in gift cards. Needless to say some of my savings will be going toward that offer. I’ll also use my credit card so that I can get the cash back bonus for buying the cards in the first place (that alone will be more than I’m making in the savings account). If you are considering some of the summertime restaurant bonuses, you can stack the bonuses with other offers like the Chase Freedom bonus  and 5% cash back .
While none of these ideas is completely risk free they all offer pretty big returns for a smaller risk than many investments. What other ideas do you use?