Let's face it: Saving for retirement is no fun. Stashing money to satisfy far-off goals is tough, especially if your budget already feels tight. But if you're struggling to save, fear not: There are creative ways to ease the process. 

1. Start early (and change your perspective)

When it comes to money, the squeeze of scarcity is difficult to overcome. The average American job seeker thinks they are worth more than employers are willing to pay, according to an analysis by Opportunity, an employment networking service.  

It's difficult to save when you feel underpaid, but if there's one thing you shouldn't underestimate, it's the power of compounding interest. Giving your money time to grow is the best way to ensure that you have enough once retirement age hits, and it also means you can scale back your efforts as time goes on. For instance, let's assume you want to save the recommended $1 million before leaving the workforce. You earn $75,000 a year, and you can either commit to saving 5%, 10%, or 15% of your income in your 401(k). Assuming a 7% average annual return, here's how quickly you'll reach your goal: 

Years of Investing 5% of Income ($3,750) 10% of Income ($7,500) 15% of Income ($11,250)
15 $95,096 $190,192 $285,288
20 $154,942 $309,885 $464,827
25 $238,880 $477,760 $716,640
30 $356,607 $713,214 $1.07 million
35 $521,725 $1.04 million $1.6 million

Source: Author calculations.  

Old age will come eventually, and tackling the math early can help you plan your life in the process. As you can see, even middle-of-the-road (10%) savings will secure your $1 million goal, while 5% savings barely scratch the surface. Take stock of what motivates you and try to see retirement planning as a challenge rather than a sacrifice. The million-dollar reward will be worth the effort. 

2. Use your property

Real estate is one of your most important assets in retirement, and you can use yours to pad your savings today. If you have an extra room or a rental home, the income you earn from it can close the gap between what you're currently saving and what you should be saving for the future. For instance, the average Airbnb host earns $924 a month, according to a Priceonomics analysis.

couple house hunting

Image source: Getty Images.

Investment property can also help you earn real-time income that doesn't affect your entitlements. For example, suppose you have reached retirement age and plan to draw Social Security in 2018. The Social Security Administration (SSA) caps your annual income at $17,040 as long as you're withdrawing benefits, but what happens if you haven't saved enough for retirement?

Unlike part-time or full-time employment income, investment profits are exempt from the SSA's rules, which means you can earn any amount without worrying about losing your Social Security benefits. If you own a home, now is the time to capitalize on your investment with retirement savings in mind. 

3. Channel your credit card rewards

What if you could save for retirement with everyday purchases? Using your credit card rewards is a painless way to prioritize retirement without much effort. Let's say your credit card offers 1% cash back on all purchases. If you charge $3,000 a month, you'll rack up $30 a month in rewards. While most issuers pay out benefits in gift cards and credits, you can adjust your household budget to account for the monthly savings by putting away more money into your 401(k), IRA, or other savings vehicle. As you can see, even a small contribution can add up over time:  

Years of Investing $30 a Month Earnings (With a 7% Average Annual Return)
10 $5,033
15 $9,129
20 $14,874
25 $22,932
30 $34,234
35 $50,086

Source: Author calculations.

These figures won't lead to luxury in retirement, but it's tough to beat wealth built on free money. Skip the gift card option in favor of a larger savings account. 

4. Start a side hustle

The gig economy has become an employment reality for 3.9 million Americans currently working on-demand jobs, according to an Intuit study. If you need more money for retirement, logging a few extra hours a week can help you prioritize savings. It's paying off for those embracing the opportunity. An Earnest analysis reported the following earnings for the most popular gig platforms:

gig economy earnings

Image source: Earnest.

As we have learned, even the smallest retirement contributions can add up thanks to time and compounding interest. If you're looking for an income-generating edge, don't forget to add side hustling to the equation. 

Saving for retirement isn't fun, but it doesn't need to be a struggle. Use your creativity to lessen the burden.