Ever since my story was posted on the Acorns blog I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how I save half my income. While it’s been overwhelming to answer each person individually, I wanted to provide as many answers as possible to all of your questions. That’s why I created my free ebook download as a guide to help you begin your journey. But I also wanted to give you more background on my personal journey of saving half. So, without further ado, I present you with my journey of saving half my income.
What prompted you to save half of your salary? Was there an “aha moment”?
I don’t think there was an “aha moment.” My journey started right after I had graduated college. I graduated with about $15,000 in student loans, which for me was overwhelming. A few months after graduating I secured my first job and started tackling my student loans. I wanted to pay off my loans as quickly as possible so I created a really tight budget and put all of my extra money towards paying off my loans. In those early days, I wasn’t necessarily trying to save half of my income, per say. It just kind of happened. I wanted to knock out my student loan debt as quickly as possible and with my extremely frugal budget, I was able to save half my income and eliminate my student loans within a year or graduating.
Once my student loans were paid off I decided to build an emergency fund and start saving for retirement. Each time I check off another item on my “Financial To-Do List” or get a promotion at work, I keep moving forward to save more and more.
What steps did you take to begin saving half? Did you start small and build the percentage? Cut back on expenses?
I’ve always tried to save as much as possible. The one thing that really made the difference for me, was not increasing my spending when my income increased. Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to raise the ranks professionally and have actually doubled my income in the last few years. Instead of buying a new car, or going on weekly shopping sprees, I live (almost) as frugally as I did in those early years when I first graduated college.
Did you have to make sacrifices to achieve this goal?
I’ve had to turn down trips with friends, happy hours, and Sunday morning brunches. I give myself a little more wiggle room now but when I was first getting started, I lived ridiculously frugally. In fact, I still laugh at my 21-year-old self, I refused to pay for food and entertainment.
My first apartment was a studio apartment and I refused to splurge on internet and TV. I relied heavily on the public library–I would rent DVDs and books to keep myself entertained. Every Saturday morning I would wake up and head over to the public library. I would sit in the computer lab surrounded by kids and homeless people and use their free internet. Before I left I would check out a stack of books and DVDs so that I could stay entertained until the library opened back up on Monday.
I also work in the tech industry which means fully stocked kitchens at work. So that first year I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work. As boring as my life sounded a few years ago it really set me up for success. Not only was I saving a ton of money on entertainment and groceries, it really helped me grow in my career. I was spending long hours at work–and during my free time I was reading and learning new skills to help me advance my career.
What advice do you have for people who are starting where you were and would like to achieve something similar?
I think it’s important to understand why you want to save half of your income. For me, the peace of mind that comes with living frugally and saving a lot of my money is worth missing the occasional happy hour or brunch. Once you understand why you want to save half of your income, start tracking your expenses. I was spending a lot of money on mindless things that weren’t making me happy. In fact, to this day I can’t walk into a Target without filling up my entire shopping cart. Start with small changes and build from there.
What has been the best part of saving half?
The peace of mind and freedom it has given me. I’ve set myself up for success in a way that if I wanted to stop saving and just spend every penny of my paycheck, I could still retire with plenty of money. I also know that if something terrible happened in my life, I would be able to recover financially. Saving half my income has reduced a lot of stress.
How is life different now that your savings rate is so high?
I mentioned that saving half of my income has reduced my stress which has been the biggest benefit. A few months ago I was laid off from my job and didn’t stress about it. I knew that I had developed the frugal habits and emergency fund to be okay until I was able to find another job I loved. I ended up being unemployed for about a month and a half and was able to enjoy my funemployment. I took the time to really work on my blog and YouTube channel to provide all of you with more content. As I’m sure you can imagine, I also spent a lot of time at the library soaking up as much knowledge as I could during my free time. A lot of people don’t have that luxury and immediately go into a panic when they lose their income. The peace of mind it has given me has been the greatest blessing.
What is your next financial goal?
Purchasing a condo. I live in Silicon Valley where the housing market is out of control. The average condo costs $500,000+ so it will take me a while to be able to afford one. But once I do, it will be a major financial accomplishment.
What would you say to someone who says that what you’ve accomplished is “impossible”?
I think we all prioritize what is important to us. For some people spending time with friends is a priority, for others traveling, for me, it’s being financially secure. That’s not to say I don’t love traveling and hanging out with my friends! But once you make saving a priority and really start to focus on it, you can save half of your income too! In today’s day and age, you can learn anything from the internet. There are plenty of blogs and YouTube videos with people sharing their tips for living frugally and saving money. Set a goal, arm yourself with the knowledge and tools to accomplish it, and don’t be surprised when you’re saving half of your income a year from now.
What are practical tips for someone looking to save 50% or more of their income?
- Create a budget. I would not have been able to accomplish my goal without creating a budget and tracking every single expense. I highly recommend creating a monthly budget and tracking it with an app like Mint or EveryDollar.
- Learn that it’s okay to say no. Your friends will understand if you can’t make it to this week’s girls dinner. Your boyfriend will understand if you would prefer to cook dinner instead of going out to eat. You probably don’t need that candy bar you picked up from the CVS checkout line. Know that it’s okay to say no to yourself and others.
- Get creative! Just because you’re budgeting and saving money doesn’t mean you have to live the most boring life, ever. Learn to cook, explore your city, or get outside and go for a hike. I promise you, the more creative (and budget-friendly) I’ve gotten when planning things to do with my friends and boyfriend, the more fun we’ve had.