money making

Are you looking to save more money? You don’t need a budget, but what you do need to do is start experimenting with your life to find what works for you and what makes you happy. This post is a guest post from CityFrugal about his experiments and the results leading to a nearly 50% savings rate.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I arrived in San Francisco to start a new job. One of the most significant adjustments from my cross-country move was rent prices. My half of a two-bedroom apartment cost $1695 per month. Before I moved, I paid $475 a month to live in a large house, so sticker shock didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling – it was sticker electrocution.

Even worse, rent was going to eat up more than half of my take-home pay. I had a little savings cushion, but I wasn’t making a lot of money. If I wanted to pursue financial independence, I was going to have to get creative.

I didn’t know where to begin. Big change seemed daunting, so I started tinkering.

Over the next few years, I noticed some impressive results. In fact, I watched my expenses decrease as my life improved.

Encouraged by my progress, I started doing more conscious testing a couple of years ago. What if I cut down my spending in one area and reallocated it to another – would that make me happier? What if I automated my savings plan rather than manually adjusting it month-to-month? Would it be worthwhile to “waste” money and buy time?

I’ve lost count of the experiments I’ve conducted since those first days in San Francisco. The results are clear: I’ve saved between 25% and 47% of my annual income for the past eight years. Most importantly, I made sure the money I do spend makes me happy.

None of this came from an epiphany, a lifehack, or One Weird Trick. I’ve just stacked up small win after small win for years. Over time, these small wins can be life-changing.

The Experiments That Changed My Life

My life today is the result of hundreds of little tests. Not all of them were successful. Most of the ones that were successful improved my life incrementally.

But there have been a few experiments that have turned into something bigger – much bigger. These three experiments have saved me more than $100,000, made me better at my job, and improved my happiness.

In other words, these little experiments changed my life. Maybe they’ll change yours, too.

I Made Walking My Primary Mode of Transportation

After months of suffering through delays, traffic, and angry commuters on the crowded San Francisco bus system, I decided to move to an apartment where I could walk to work.

It was a bit of a challenge to walk through biting wind on the infamous San Francisco hills. Still, I found that I arrived at work each morning calmer and happier. Meanwhile, I avoided significant transit headaches and got some exercise.

After realizing how happy walking to work was making me, I tried walking more places. I would stroll to the water at Fort Mason on the weekends or walk to my friend’s apartment across town.

Switching to a walking-based life is the single most significant lifestyle upgrade I’ve ever made. You learn the ins and outs of your area. You get in touch with the city and the people around you. You soak up the ever-changing ecosystem in which you live.

By walking for most of your trips away from home, you also save a lot of money.

I still take taxis or the subway occasionally, but walking is now my primary mode of transportation. By walking (almost) everywhere, I’ve saved $2,500 per year versus my friends and coworkers.

I Made the Grocery Store My Primary Source of Food

When I moved to New York, one of my coworkers told me, “Everyone uses Seamless here – grocery stores are so expensive that it’s cheaper to order food than to make it yourself.”

The guy probably thought he was helping me. I thought he was, too.

I started my time in New York with an avalanche of delivery orders. I was ordering meals four or five times a week. Each meal was reasonably low cost, but they added up.

I was making more money than I had in San Francisco, but I was saving less of it.

Fed up with the price tag of my restaurant meals, I decided to browse the grocery store and check out the prices.

I was astonished. Everything was so cheap. I walked out with enough food to feed me for three full days – meals that would have cost over $100 to order from nearby restaurants – and paid $30 for it.

Since then, I’ve put my tinkering to use at the grocery store, to tremendous effect. Today, I cook all my breakfasts and lunches, plus about half of my dinners.

My average homemade meal costs about $4 versus a Seamless equivalent order of $15. This simple habit has saved me thousands of dollars per year.

I Learned to Win the Morning

In my early twenties, I turned up my nose at the idea of routine. I was young, (relatively) successful, and living in a fantastic city. Why should I limit my options each day?

Maybe I’m boring now, but I understand what I was missing.

I tested my first morning routine five years ago. That iteration included a morning run, breakfast, and guitar playing before beginning a stressful workday.

I’ve made dozens of adjustments to it since then, but my morning routine has become the bedrock on which my life is built.

In my current morning routine, I have time to write, exercise, and reflect. I start my workday centered and happy, spending zero dollars for the privilege. My morning routine has cut more than five years off of my working career.

I’m always surprised to learn that my friends and coworkers don’t have mornings like this. Theirs are more free form, less fulfilling, and often far more expensive.

Enter the Lab for Your Own Personal Experiments

For you to become successful, I suggest you start doing tests and experiments in your life.

Your mileage will vary with each of these experiments – the tests with the most impact will be the ones you choose for yourself.

How can you conduct similar experiments and get a taste of this life-changing magic? There are a few steps to take:

1. Start with Your Pain Points

Some pain points are unavoidable – e.g., high rent or student loans – but others are instructive. Removing negatives is one of the most powerful ways to increase your happiness, so it makes sense to start with those.

If you’re spending more than you’d like on Amazon, you might consider a test to reduce that spending. You could remove the app from your phone for a week or cancel your Prime subscription for a month.

You should also consider things that frustrate you in daily life. I hated my bus commute in San Francisco, so I figured out a way to skip the traffic and the crowds altogether. I was unhappy with my food spending in New York, so I tested ways to reduce it.

Where does your money go today? What frustrates or upsets you about your daily life? What negatives could you remove? Start there.

2. Devise a Test

Once you have ideas of things to try, you’ll need to set up an effective test. No matter what you’re testing, there are a few critical elements to any good experiment:

  • Start small. Big trials are daunting, costly, and carry significant potential consequences. I suggest starting with small changes – a tweak here or an adjustment there – before you attempt something big. Don’t underestimate the power of a series of small changes. They can have a big impact.
  • Set a timeframe to evaluate. The length of your experiment will vary, but having an endpoint in mind will motivate you and keep you focused.
  • Define success beforehand. What does success look like to you? Is it saving money, improving your mood, or making your life easier? Define your success metrics beforehand, and you’ll know whether your experiment is worth continuing.
  • Don’t burn the boats behind you. This isn’t the time for hero-ball. Keep your experiments reversible. You want to allow yourself to switch back if it doesn’t work.

3. Don’t be discouraged if an experiment doesn’t work.

Don’t let one failed experiment keep you from trying again. If an experiment fails, that doesn’t make you a failure. Remember: you’re the scientist, not the experiment.

Success and failure aren’t short-term metrics. We try to measure them daily or weekly, but their timelines are years and decades. The magic comes from systematically testing throughout your life.

4. Iterate, iterate, iterate.

Whether you’re initially successful or not, experimentation is an iterative process. The value comes from repeated trials.

If you cut spending on things you don’t care about to fund something you love, what are other areas where you could apply that logic?

If you saved money by insourcing a chore, what else are you outsourcing that you could do at home?

If you simplified your life by automating your savings, what else could you automate to make your life easier?

These are the questions to ask yourself. It takes work to think like a scientist, but once you make the shift, experimenting becomes fun.

1% improvements or a few dollars saved may not look like much in the short run, but it adds up over time. As Emerson reminds us, this is what life is all about.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

David writes about how to design a remarkable life from first principles at cityfrugal.com. Want to learn more about how to treat your life as an experiment? Sign up to receive CityFrugal posts and subscriber-only bonus content in your inbox. 

get out of debt

Saving money for a vacation, an emergency fund, or to just improve your financial situation is a great goal. In this post, you’ll learn how you can save $100 a week, and after a year, you will have saved $5,200!

saving money

Saving money certainly can feel like an intimidating challenge, especially if you currently save little to none of your income.

A great first step would be saving your first $1,000. But once you save up this small cash buffer, where do you go from there?

This $100 per week money saving challenge is a great way to start the habit of continuously saving. You’ll end up with $5,200 one year from now. Keep it up for 10 years (investing $100 weekly at a conservative 5% annual return) and you’ll end up with a grand total of  $67,396.73!

Why Save $100 Per Week?

Well, there is one main reason besides the obvious of $100 per week being a nice even number. It is a fairly reasonable goal for a household with a near-median income.

There is one slight issue when it comes to using dollar values in your money saving challenge. $100 a week, or $5,200 a year, may be too easy or too difficult depending on your household income and household needs.

The median household income in the US was $61,372 in 2017. Everyone’s tax situation is different, but a household with this exact gross income may generally see between $45,000 to $50,000 of net income.

Let’s pick a nice number in the middle: a net income of $47,500. Your net savings rate after completing the $5,200 money saving challenge would be:

Net Savings Rate = ($5,200 / $47,500) x 100

Net Savings Rate = 10.95%

Overall, a household with the median income who follows this challenge successfully would save about 11% of their take-home pay. 11% may not sound like a lot, but it’s reasonable and actually slightly above average. The average savings rate for Americans was just 8.1% as of June 2019!

You can calculate your own net savings rate to see how this money saving challenge works for you.

Setting a Money Saving Challenge That Works For You

$5,200 a year may not be the right goal for you if your household income is much higher or much lower than the median. There are other factors such as cost of living and household needs as well. It’s important after all to set goals that you can achieve!

If you are currently saving little to no money, a good starting point is to aim to save 10% of your net income. Taking your net income and dividing it by 10 will give you a personalized money saving goal if the $5,200 doesn’t feel like a reasonable goal to you.

Regardless of the amount you choose to strive for in this challenge, the principles you apply to accomplish it are the same!

The Gap Between Income and Expenses

In order to find more ways to save money, you must widen the gap between your income and expenses. You can then put this money away to save towards your goals.

This is why it’s important to have well-defined goals that can be broken up further. Remember the $100 per week goal? You can break that down to just $14.29 a day. From there, you just need to actually find that $14.29 gap daily.

Looking at Small Expenses to Save More Money

In David Bach’s book The Automatic Millionaire, there is an interesting concept coined as the “Latte Factor”. This term describes the small daily purchases that have the potential to add up to a huge sum.  We are talking purchases such as fancy coffee, take-out lunches, etc.

How much can you actually save with this method? Well, it all depends on how much you’re spending. If you’re buying a $4 latte daily, choosing to make that coffee at home will save you $3.50 at least. That already puts you a quarter of the way there!

Likewise, if you eat out on a daily basis, cooking at home can save you hundreds if not thousands per year. Did you know that 54% of American food spending is on eating out? If you find yourself spending more on restaurants than groceries, rebalancing this may instantly put you in a better position to save money.

Other small expenses that can add up include:

  • Lottery tickets, one per week ($5 per week = $260 per year)
  • Cigarettes, smoking three packs per week ($24 per week = $1248 per year)
  • Banking fees ($10 per month = $120 per year)

The list goes on!

personal finance success

Tackling Large Expenses to Save More Money

There is another method which can either be used separately or in combination with the above; focusing on large expense categories can save you thousands a year without giving up small daily luxuries such as morning lattes!

This method involves managing the “big three” expenses: housing, transportation, and food.

We already discussed food briefly above. Small purchases of coffee and snacks may be included under the “Latte Factor”, but spending thousands per year on restaurants likely falls here. Cutting back to eating out just two or three times a month can help keep your food budget under control!

Housing is the biggest expense category for Americans and holds significant saving potential. Downsizing your home and practicing house hacking (my personal favorite) both have the potential to save you hundreds every month, putting you well on track to complete this savings challenge.

Transportation is the third and final of the “Big Three” expenses. Buying a used car with cash is arguably the biggest change you can make, especially if you’re making payments on a shiny new car that has already depreciated by thousands of dollars. My 2014 VW Jetta cost me just $13,000; it has served me well for the past five years and hopefully will for another 10-15!

Increasing Your Income To Help Save More Money

An increase in income is arguably the fastest way to succeed at this money savings challenge, however it is not easy.

The simplest situation is a promotion or new position that comes with a sizable salary increase. Say your net income increases by $6,000 per year with a new job position. Your savings challenge would be instantly completed, provided that your lifestyle cost doesn’t increase as well!

The vicious loop of increased spending/increased earning is why people with six or seven-figure salaries may still suffer from alarming financial problems. Getting out of it by boosting your savings rate after a pay raise is a game-changer.

The above also applies to increases in annual income through side hustles or passive income from investments.

Automate Your Finances to Improve Your Financial Situation

side hustle goalsWant to know the best way to stick to this money saving challenge? Automate your contributions.

The pay yourself first mentality is a common psychological trick in the personal finance world. An automatic transfer to your savings account makes it one step harder for you to make discretionary purchases with the money that was meant for saving. It also is one less thing to think and worry about in general.

Make sure to run the numbers beforehand and make sure you can afford your mandatory expenses with the money left over from saving. If you can’t, then you’re probably saving too aggressively.

Where Should You Save Money and Put Your Savings

The act of putting aside money isn’t enough; it also matters where you’re putting the money.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to investing, and the proper allocation all depends on your goals. After all, personal finance is personal!

You likely have more than one goal, and you’ll want to contribute to them all simultaneously. However, it’s important to know the simple strategies for each type of goal.

Savings and Investment Accounts For Retirement

The importance of saving for your own future cannot be understated. Luckily, there are many different tax-advantaged accounts that are created to encourage money saving.

Maxing out your employer’s 401(k) contribution matching (if available) is one of the few no-brainer pieces of advice in the personal finance world. If you do not take advantage of this, then you are leaving your compensation right on the table!

An IRA is also a great choice for retirement savings. It is less restricted than the employer-sponsored 401(k), but doesn’t have the powerful benefit of contribution matching. Many people have a combination of both these accounts.

There are many other accounts to be aware of (notably Roth IRA’s) and far more strategies to learn. Check out this beginner guide to investment accounts for more.

money makingSavings Accounts for Short Term Goals

Are you saving for a big purchase, or perhaps want to boost your emergency fund? Saving for short-term goals requires a different strategy. You’ll want to save your money somewhere where there is virtually no chance of losing money.

One place this is possible is in a high-yield savings account. Your money can earn 2% to 2.5% in interest, likely just enough to counter inflation. If you plan on using the money within a year or so, that likely shouldn’t matter to you! I like to check Bankrate to find the best high-yield savings rates offered at any given time.

Start Saving $100 a Week Today!

Taking on a money saving challenge can be a fun way to boost your savings. Making it a structured challenge of $100 per week encourages accountability on your part, especially if others are aware of your participation in the challenge.

Whether you are saving zero percent of your income or 10+ percent, there are many ways to further widen your income-expense gap.

Finally, remember the importance of breaking down your big goals into little chunks. The $5,200 may seem large and unattainable, but you’ll be there in no time if you succeed at saving $100 per week!

credit card debt

Saving more money might seem like a tough thing to do, but with the right knowledge, you can save a lot of money in a short period of time. In this post, you’ll learn a number of ways to save thousands of dollars a year!

There are many ways to improve your financial situation: increasing your income, decreasing your spending, getting out of debt, etc.

One of the easiest ways people can improve their situation instantly is to cut costs and lower their expenses.  It doesn’t cost anything to stop spending money – just a little willpower.

Today, I will be sharing with you nine ways to start saving money – and all of these are strategies you can put into action today.

Let’s get into these 9 ways to save more money starting today.

9 Ways to Save Thousands of Dollars Starting Today

There are a number of ways to save money each and every day. I’ll give you nine in this article that you can take a jab at working on right away:

  • Destroying your Debt
  • Meal Prep and Eating in
  • Couponing
  • Planning Ahead for Vacations
  • DIY Projects
  • Using the Library
  • Unsubscribe From Subscriptions
  • Practice Smart Banking
  • Taking Public Transportation

Let’s go into more detail for each of these money saving methods.

debt eliminationDestroy Your Debt

Debt is a huge expense for many people. For me, it’s my biggest expense: my mortgage payment is $1,702, and I need to pay it every single month.

For me to live in my house, since I’ve financed it with a mortgage, I’m paying around $20,000 a year to service the debt. That’s a lot of money each and every year for 30 years. Unfortunately, many people, including myself, currently have or have had student loans, auto loans, mortgages, and credit card debt.

The first way to save thousands of dollars is to destroy your debt. Pay a little bit extra on the principal of your loan and you’ll be able to pay it off earlier. Check out my these ways to get out of debt fast, and you’ll be on your way to debt freedom – plus, getting out of debt is pretty awesome psychologically speaking!

Meal Prep and Eating In

Eating out is really expensive. Baked in to the price is the cost of the food, the cost of the workers making your food, the cost of the property and all that entails, taxes, etc.

A meal for one person these days can easily run you $10+ a pop – and that doesn’t even include a tip.

Alternatively, meal prepping, bulk cooking, and eating in can help save a lot of money.

For example, in Minnesota where I live, I can get a dozen eggs for $1. I typically will eat 4 eggs, and add in a banana and apple and call that a meal. This “meal” will cost me about $2.

Now, if I wanted to go out for breakfast, this same meal would probably cost around $13. Added up every single day of the year, and all of a sudden that $10 meal becomes $3,650!

Try eating in just once more per week and see how much more money you can save.

Use Coupons

Saving a dollar on 10 items each week can add up over a year. Saving an extra $10 a week is over $500 a year!

Just the simple act of looking at a coupon book and seeing if there are any deals on what you usually buy can help save a few hundred bucks per year.

My mom is an avid couponer. She spends a few hours each week looking through ads to make sure the family can save a few bucks here and there. Over many, many years, these savings add up!

Plan Ahead for Vacations

save money on vacationsIt’s no secret that transportation, especially air transportation, costs a lot of money.

One way to save more money on vacations is by planning ahead and buying your airfare in advance – whether that’s many months or even close to a year.

I went to Las Vegas at the end of June.  It was a last minute decision on my part – and for that, I paid the price.

For a flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, on such short notice, I paid almost $650!

If I had been able to check ahead, say, six months in advance, my flight would have been far less – around the $200 figure. That’s a $450 difference!

Imagine the amount of savings if you had a family or partner.  It’d make this savings even more significant: $450 savings across 4 people is some serious moolah!

DIY Projects

Going to the store and buying a new desk, bench, or storage rack can be a little bit spendy. If you’re handy (or even into learning some new skills), why not go to the hardware store and buy a few 2×4’s and get the job done yourself for cheap?

I did this last year: I went and created a ton of storage space for myself with a few 2×4’s and just a few hours of work. There are so many ways to DIY simple projects, and even if you don’t know how YET, you can always learn something new, especially with things like step-by-step YouTube videos, books, and internet articles.

 

9 ways to save thousands of dollars every year

 

Use the Library

Going to the library, getting a library card, and using it to further your education can go a long way in saving money on books and learning materials.

Books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble typically cost anywhere between $10 to $20 a book.  Most libraries have any book you could ever want, including other forms of popular media like movies, television shows, ebooks, audiobooks, etc

This year, I’ve spent $250 on books from Amazon. While I’m happy to do it because it’s bettering myself, I also find myself thinking about how that money could be better served.

That $250 could’ve been put into the bank, or used to fund an investment!

Going to the library and renting your books and movies could help save a few hundred bucks a year.

You can also find other surprising ways to save more money by using the library; I’ve heard of libraries that rent out things like kayaks, cooking equipment, and even zoo and museum passes. Get to know what your library offers and you may find endless ways to save!

Unsubscribe

Monthly subscriptions are dangerous for someone trying to keep their expenses low. Each and every month, you are on the hook for another payment.

What is necessary in your life? Do you really need that subscription to your favorite magazine?  What about the $60 a month subscription for new clothes (something my old roommate had)?

Take a tally of your current monthly subscriptions, and make sure you’re not missing any! Figure out what is necessary and remove what isn’t.

eliminate expensesBank, ATM and Overdraft Fees

A recent study puts the cost of transacting in cash at $200 billion a year – because of different banking fees.

If you need cash, find an ATM that is in your network and take out cash for free. ATM fees typically are at least $3 per transaction.

If we pay attention to where we are, we can usually find an in-network ATM.  But what if you can’t?  It’s always worth calling your bank and asking for a fee to be reversed. They should understand, and if you’re nice and polite, they should do it for you.

Overdraft fees are another hassle, and they make the least sense to me – if you keep money in your bank account and you’re keeping track of how much you’re spending, you shouldn’t be overdrawing your account.

Finally, there are so many free checking account options out there, either through basic packages at banks or credit unions, that it doesn’t make sense to pay bank fees to use your own money.

Stop paying to bank, and remove a few hundred dollars in expenses over the next year.

Public Transportation

Cars are super expensive.

Not only that, but add in insurance premiums (especially if you have a nice car), maintenance, gas, and parking, and a person can easily spend $5,000 to $10,000 a year or more just in transportation costs.

I personally spend a little over $2,000 on my car a year just for check-ups, insurance, and gas.

Instead of driving to work each day, I take the bus. It costs me $50 a month but is much less stressful than driving – plus, no wear and tear on my car!

Another alternative is riding your bike to work – as many people of the frugality mindset do. Plus, it’s great exercise!

Ways The Mastermind Within Community Members are Saving Money

One of the great things about having readers is being able to ask them about their strategies for financial success.  A number of people contributed to the question of the best ways they save money.

Dylan, a friend and blogger at Trail to FI, saves money by staying home!  Here’s what he had to say about saving money:

Don’t go shopping! The easiest way to avoid temptation is to not put yourself in the situation where you might be tempted. I used to browse daily deal websites and end up buying gadgets that I didn’t really need. Now I just don’t visit those sites.

A number of people say they use automation and a strategy of paying themselves first.

Cynthia, an avid reader, says she can’t spend what she can’t access.

On the first day of the month, we transfer a specific dollar amount into our savings.  We live below our means and we drive modest cars. We use a budget and we save 10% in retirement accounts and 35% in after-tax accounts.

Another reader, Diego, does the same:

Save it before you see it. State specific quantities in your one-year​ and five-year goal planning. Monitor, track, and document these goals (very important!) and re-assess the quantities if needed. Check your progress for the yearly goals every 3 months and every year for the five-year goals.

It seems that there are many different ways to save money – I love hearing about what other people are doing to become better and improve their situation!

 

Save More Money Today With These Ways to Save Money

I hope you can incorporate at least one of these tips into your life and start saving thousands of dollars a year. Maybe, you will take all nine and look to cut costs and eliminate what is not necessary.

There are so many ways to either increase your income or decrease your expenses. Figure out which one you would prefer and you’ll be on your way to increasing your savings rate, net worth, and your financial situation.

Take a stand and start saving some more money today!

Ways To Save $1000 Dollars
side hustles

Saving more money can sometimes seem impossible, but with the right saving strategy, you can save a lot of money. I like to focus on the 3 big expenses – housing, transportation and food – to save more money fast.

In this post, you’ll learn how to save more money fast and increase your savings by focusing on these 3 areas of spending to improve your financial situation.

How to increase your savings fast by reducing these big expenses

There are a number of ways for a person to improve their financial situation: increasing your income, increasing your savings rate, decreasing your expenses, or getting a windfall, to name a few.

My goal is to increase my income, though I’m always cognizant of the big three expenses: housing, transportation, and food.

These are called the big three because, typically, they will be your three biggest yearly expenses (shocking right?). Reducing expenses in these areas will have the biggest impact on your financial situation.

Yes, it’s easy to look at that $4 latte each day and think dropping that will help reduce your expenses, but honestly, $4 a day is $120 a month – not a crazy amount of money.

Switching houses or apartments could result in a $500 per month saving with little to no effort – and you’re still caffeinated. 🙂

I believe we all should be cognizant of these three expenses.

Here are some tips and tricks for saving more money on your three biggest expenses.

How to Reduce Housing Costs

In real estate, the main determinant of housing cost is location.

“Location, location, location!” you will hear, and it’s true.

The areas where there is higher demand, due to better schools, better jobs, and better attractions, will be more expensive than areas where there is lower demand.

An obvious way to reduce your housing cost is to downsize to a smaller house or apartment.

In the metropolitan area I live, a 3000 square foot house might cost in the range of $350,000 to $450,000.  A 1500 square foot house, on the other hand, might cost in the range of $200,000 to $250,000.

This immediate cost savings of $100,000 to $200,000 adds up quickly when you consider savings on interest, property taxes and insurance.

For a 30-year home mortgage at 5% interest for $400,000, you can expect to pay nearly $375,000 in interest over 30 years.

Compare that to a $200,000 home, also at 5% interest and over a 30 year period, and you will only end up paying $186,000 in interest.

That’s a savings of nearly $200,000 over 30 years – just in interest!

Another way to reduce housing costs is to share your housing space with roommates. When you are single, this is easy – just grab a friend or two and divvy up the rent and utilities to share with your friends.

If you are married, and/or have kids, then it might be a little bit more difficult to get roommates. Luckily, there are other ways to share space, while also reducing your housing costs.

House Hacking

I’m a huge fan of house hacking. I bought a single family house in 2015, and rented it out to three friends while I also lived there.

Because of this, I earned over $39,000 in 2 and a half years – just by house hacking!

rental income house hacking
My rental income from the last couple of years.

While this sounds impressive, there have been dozens of other more successful house hackers.

One of my fellow personal finance and real estate bloggers, Guy on FIRE, has amassed a nearly $500,000 net worth by age 30 through house hacking and real estate.

By buying a multi-unit property (such as a duplex or triplex), you can have the privacy of a single family home, and rent out the remaining units to cover your mortgage and reduce your housing costs.

Using AirBnB

Another way to save more money on housing costs is to rent out your unused space through AirBnB.

I’ve never stayed in an AirBnB and I’ve never personally rented out space using the platform, but I know of many people who are successfully doing this. One of them is my friend Financial Panther, who rents out one of his rooms on AirBnB.

He makes a pretty good amount each month, which is helping to cover part of his mortgage.

There are many ways to reduce housing costs, and depending on your level of comfort with renting out your house to others, there are various solutions you can try.

biking to save moneyHow to Reduce Transportation Costs

Unless you work from home, or are a hermit, there’s a good chance you use some form of transportation. Going to work, going to the gym, traveling to see friends and family – there’s always somewhere to be and people to hang out with.

Saving money on transportation is similar to housing in that if you want to own a car, buy something that is used and affordable. You’ve probably heard that when a new car rolls off the lot for the first time, the car loses 10%+ in value, just like that.

Therefore, if wealth is a goal of yours, buying a new car for $40,000 might not be the best choice, since in the first day of driving, you lose $4,000. Buying a used car for $20,000 or less might be a better choice for reducing expenses in the long term.

I bought a used 2014 VW Jetta for $13,000. It runs like new, and gets 37 mpg on the highway. I love it and since I own it in full, and drive it a few thousand miles a year, I’m going to get my money’s worth over 15-20 years. I could have bought a nicer car, but then I might still be paying for it many years later.

Riding Bikes and Taking Public Transportation

As the push for green travel takes place in many cities around the world, biking and public transportation continue to be a great option for people who want to reduce transportation expenses. I take the bus to work every day and pay $50 a month for the bus pass.

If I was going to drive, this would result in wear and tear on my car, $10+ a day in parking costs, and additional gas costs from filling up once or twice a week. All of this totaled up could add a few hundred more dollars to my monthly expenses.

Instead, I’ll pay my $50 and get a little bit of reading done on the bus!

Other people bike every day to work, get their exercise, and save the $50 I’ve been spending monthly to further save money on transportation costs!  I applaud the people in Minnesota who bike to work in the freezing temperature. It’s bad enough standing at the bus stop in 0 degree weather!

By driving something a little more affordable, using public transportation or riding your bike, you can reduce your transportation expense, which can be another way to increase your savings fast!

save more moneyHow to Reduce Food Costs

Reducing food costs can be as simple as eating out less.

When you go out to eat, there are a lot of added costs hidden within the price you end up paying: the service, the overhead of the restaurant, the tip and any additional tax.  I know this, and we all know this: eating out consistently is expensive.

I eat out for lunch at work. Typically, I go for a fast food type place (think Chipotle or something similar) and look to keep my daily lunch expense under $9.

This quickly adds up over the month (20 working days times $9 each lunch is $180).  Throw in any snacks I have at work, and during a working day I will spend $10 or more.

I generally do not go out to eat for dinner, and don’t drink much anymore. I’m saving some money there, but those work lunches are my main deterrent to having a bare bones food and drink expense (and maybe I’d have bare bones then!)

Like I said, cutting the number of times we eat out a month will reduce your food costs. By eating in, cooking meals in bulk or meal planning, you can save a few hundred dollars a month.

There are many resources out there for how to meal plan, bulk cook, or couponing to save at the grocery store, and I won’t go into these – I just want to make you aware that these are possibilities to reduce your food costs.

How The Mastermind Within Community Members are Managing their Big 3 Expenses

One of the great things about having readers is being able to ask them about their strategies for financial success.  A number of people contributed to the question of how they are managing their three big expenses.

Cynthia, one of my readers, said the following about housing expenses:

Our wealth began to snowball when we paid off our mortgage early. There is nothing like being truly debt free.

Congrats, Cynthia, you are one of the lucky ones! Not paying interest to the bank can add up in your brokerage or savings account!

Gwen, a blogger at Fiery Millennials, uses a three-prong strategy to attack these three major expenses:

I’m house hacking, I meal prep during the week, and I drive a 2005 car as to not be indebted to the bank and put my cash to good use in the present.

Another house hacker! I’m so impressed!

Dom, a blogger at Gen Y Finance Guy, uses a term he calls “Relative Frugality” to look at his three main expenses:

We simply practice what I have coined ‘Relative Frugality’. We don’t spend so much time managing the expense side of the equation as we focus on increasing the income side of the equation. The overall goal is to save 50% of our after-tax income and live on the other 50% guilt free. It’s a free ticket to enjoy lifestyle inflation. One thing we did intentionally do on the housing front was bought a house that at the time was 50% less than the bank said we could afford, but was still 3X the size we probably needed. The mortgage with insurance and property taxes makes up less than 10% of our gross income.

It’s cool seeing what different goals and scenarios people have, and how they are applying the strategic plan to their situation!

Conclusion

Being aware of how much you are spending on your three main expenses is step 1, and looking for ways to reduce these costs will help you get a handle on your expenses and increase your savings fast.

Moving to a cheaper apartment, house hacking, cooking in bulk and riding your bike or the bus to work are all great ways to reduce your expenses quickly.

As a current bus rider and previous house hacker, I’ve experienced the great benefits of these cost-cutting tactics.

I hope you can take what you’ve learned here and make some changes to see bigger savings in your future.

Tips to Reduce Your Biggest Expenses

How to increase your savings fast by reducing these big expenses
How to increase your savings fast by reducing these big expenses
save up to buy a home

Are you looking to buy a house for the first time? Saving money to buy a house can be a challenge, but with the right strategy, you can successfully save up for that down payment on your dream house.

save up for a house

Saving up to buy a house is an amazing accomplishment – but it’s not without its challenges.

First, you need to find the right property.  Then, you need to save for a down payment.  After that, you get to deal with banks, lenders, mortgage brokers, etc.

It’s a lot to handle if you’re buying a house for the first time.

But being a first-time home buyer doesn’t have to be scary – as long as you approach it with a thoughtful and critical eye.

Three Steps to Take When Saving Up to Buy a House

For the purpose of this article, there are 3 steps I want to focus on as you look to save up for a down payment on a house:

  1. Do Your Research
  2. Be Aware of All Costs
  3. Take Advantage of Programs

Then, after discussing these three steps, I’ll share with you some quick hitting saving money tips to help you increase your savings.

Let’s dive into each of these three pieces of information.

1. Do Your Research

The first step to take before you even decide to save for a new home is figuring out how much home you can afford.

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Getting an estimate from a bank or credit union
  • Doing the math yourself
  • Using an online calculator

While mortgage lenders are all too willing to help you figure this out, keep in mind that what you want and what you can afford are two very different things.

Mortgage lenders generally have no qualms with getting people to sign up for more house than they need.

Likewise, what you need compared to what you can afford also needs to be taken into consideration. If you’re planning on starting a family soon, you won’t want to buy a tiny 1-bedroom house.

To help figure out just how much home you can afford, you’ll want to know:

  • have a clear idea of your income
  • the cash you have on hand,
  • your recurring expenses and
  • your credit profile

You should be familiar with these as a lender is going to ask for this information, and it’s directly relevant to getting a home.

You can also use the 36% rule to determine how much home you can afford.

The 36% rule states that, on average, you should aim to spend no more than 36% of your gross income on your mortgage expense and debt payments.

For example, if you gross $3,600 a month and have recurring student loan debts of $500 a month, you’ll want to spend no more than $796 per month on your mortgage.

$3,600 X 0.36 = $1,296.00 – $500 recurring debt = $796

You can use this handy calculator from Nerd Wallet to estimate it for you.

The thing to keep in mind most is that you know your financial situation best – don’t let anyone pressure you into something that doesn’t feel right.

2. Be Aware of All Costs

Next, it’s important to be aware of all costs associated with buying a home.

While saving up for a down-payment is great, did you know there are many other property and loan related fees associated with buying a home that are not recoverable?

These property and loan related fees are called closing costs.

Closing costs are fees paid (usually by the purchaser) to finalize the sale of the home. Some of these fees are rolled into the mortgage, while others are paid before the house is purchased.

Typically, you can expect to pay between 2% to 5% of the mortgage loan amount on closing fees.

If you’ve never bought a home or haven’t heard of closing costs, these additional expenses can throw you for a loop.

Some common examples of closing costs include:

  • Appraisal fees
  • Home inspection fees
  • Application fees
  • Loan origination fees
  • Escrow fees
  • Document preparation fees
  • Title search fees
  • and more!

These fees add up, and many of them are one-time fees that don’t build equity – meaning they don’t go into the value of the home.

For someone purchasing a $100,000 home and putting 20% down and paying a 4% interest rate and using a mortgage broker, it’s estimated you would pay over $5,000 in closing costs!  That’s a hefty chunk of money.

When you’re saving up to purchase a house, it’s essential you take all of these closing costs and fees into consideration in your budget and savings goal.

You don’t want to get caught with your pants down if you fail to factor in one (or multiple) costs.

Here’s a calculator from NerdWallet that can estimate closing costs for you.

buy a house3. Take Advantage of Programs for First Time Home Buyers

There are a number of programs that FTHBs can use to their advantage when purchasing a home.

This is one of the best ways you can save money if you’re buying a home for the first time.

Many of these programs offer exclusive advantages, such as greatly reduced interest rates; grants given to help with closing costs and down payments.Others help vulnerable populations like veterans and native Americans in securing funding for purchase.

No matter your situation, if you’re a FTHB, there’s likely a program that can help.

Some examples of programs offered to first time home buyers include:

  • HUD first time buyers program
  • FHA loans
  • USDA loans
  • VA loans
  • and more!

Depending on where you live, you may have different offers in your area.

Here is a list of some of the federal programs that help first time home buyers by state.

Check out the list – you may qualify!

personal finance successHow to Practically Save a Down Payment for a House

Once you know what you can afford to spend on a home, you’ll want to start saving for a down payment.

The easiest way to save for a down payment is to decide how much you’d like to put down, then divide that number by the amount of months you have until you plan on buying.

For example, if you can afford a $100,000 house, want to put 20% down, and you plan on buying in one year, you’ll need to save $1,666.66 a month.

$100,000 X .20 = $20,000 down payment / 12 (months in one year) = $1,666.66

Depending on how much house you can afford, how long you have to save and your income and expenses, this number may be easily doable or very difficult.

Something else to keep in mind is that the more you put down on a house, the lower your mortgage payments will be.

You can also avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you put at least 20% down on your home. PMI is added to your mortgage payment whenever you put less than 20% down. It’s used to protect the lender against a loss in case the borrower defaults.

9 Tips on Saving Money for a Down Payment

Here are some tips on how to save some additional money you can put down towards a house.

  • Set a target amount and stick to it.  Just because you can afford something bigger and nicer doesn’t mean you have to do so.
  • Cut any unnecessary costs. Go through your credit card statement, bank statements, etc. looking for services you don’t use, or don’t care about and cancel them.
  • Pick up extra shifts or overtime at work, or get a second job one day a week.
  • Take on simple side gigs, like dog-walking, cat-sitting or babysitting.
  • Store your savings in a separate account to keep you from spending it on something frivolous or expensive.
  • Automate the savings process.  Now that you’ve calculated the amount you need to save per month, you could have that automatically transferred to your savings account the day you get paid. You won’t miss money you never had.
  • Save any unexpected money. Whether it’s your tax return or Christmas money from your grandma, put any additional money you get into savings to reach that goal faster.
  • Cut back on spending. You can go generic, as that’s a great way to save money without changing your shopping habits.
  • Have an extra room in your home?  Throw it up on AirBnB.  If you live near a music or sports venue, you could even rent out your driveway as a parking space on events days.
  • Declutter and sell your goods on eBay, or have a yard sale.

With all of these tips, I’m sure there’s something in there for you to utilize to help save more money!

Making Saving up for a Home Stress-Free with these Tips

Buying a home can be a big expense and stress, but depending on your own circumstances, it can be a good investment.  If you’re a first time home buyer, you can make the experience much more pleasurable by doing a little work beforehand.

By researching how much home you can afford, saving money for a down payment, and taking advantage of offers for first time home buyers, you’re far more likely to make it a pleasant experience.

Purchasing a home is one of the major financial decisions you will make in your life – don’t take it too lightly! Best of luck!

Save money for a house
frugal living guide

Living frugally is a great thing to try and do to save money for your financial future.

save a lot of money

When people think of the word “frugal”, and frugal living, they may think of extreme examples like reusing paper towels, or making your own dish detergent.

However, being frugal doesn’t mean you have to be a penny-pincher. Frugal living means having plans for your money and being more intentional with your spending.

Living frugally tends to get a bad rap, but it’s an easy and quick way to make changes in your life that add up to big savings.

In this post, you’ll learn nine money saving tips which will can help you live more frugally.

By applying these frugal habits in your life, you will be able to keep more of your hard-earned cash!

Money Saving Tips to Live More Frugally

Living frugally and saving more money is possible with the right guide and tips.

The 9 frugal living tips in this post include:

  1. Imposing Self Spending Limits
  2. Buying Last Year’s Model
  3. Avoiding Bank and Interest Fees
  4. Buying in Bulk
  5. Use What is Needed
  6. Find and Use Reward Programs
  7. Use Apps to Maximize Your Savings When Shopping
  8. Take Advantage of Offers
  9. Plan Ahead

Let’s now dive deeper into each of these money saving tips for frugal living.

frugal living guide

1. Impose Self Spending Limits

One of the easiest ways to be more frugal is to put limits on your spending. After setting spending limits, you then need to hold yourself accountable to those limits.

For example, I generally avoid eating out for lunch at work because it’s expensive and bad for me.

Another limit I put on myself is how much I feel comfortable spending on one meal. Many times, I don’t like spending more than $15 for an entree.

Putting limits on your spending isn’t about depriving yourself. Putting limits on your spending is about making better decisions and then ingraining those decisions in your mind so they become second nature.

Over time, these self-imposed limits can become habits which will be difficult to break.

2. Buy Last Year’s Model

The second frugal living tip is to buy last year’s model.

Whether you’re buying a fridge, a computer, or a car, there’s something special about buying it new.

A great way to be a little more frugal when you’re buying something new is to purchase last year’s model instead.

Depending on what you’re buying, you can save anywhere between 10% to 50%, simply by buying the older model.

For example, a new 2019 Honda CR-V has an MSRP of $29,695, while a new 2018 Honda CR-V has an MSRP of $26,599.

That’s a savings of over $3,000 – just over 10 percent. 

That’s a pretty big savings just for buying a slightly older model!

Buying new might be the only option for you, but if you can look to buy a slightly older model to save money.

3. Avoid Fees

The third frugal living tip is to avoid fees.

Fees, whether they’re from credit cards, banks, media rentals or subscription services, are a sneaky way to separate you from your money.

Fees are small enough to go unnoticed, but when put together, they can really put a dent in your budget.

Checking your statements frequently is a great way to make sure you aren’t getting charged any excessive fees. If you are, don’t be afraid to call the company up to see if they can remove it for you.  If you’re nice and polite, they should be willing to work with you.

buy in bulk4. Buy in Bulk

The fourth frugal living tip is buying in bulk.

Buying in bulk is another great way to be frugal.

Not only does buying in bulk keep more product on hand in the event you need it, it also saves you money by spreading the cost over more product. Buying in bulk lowers the cost per unit.

While buying in bulk can save you an average of 20%, for some items, buying in bulk can save you almost 100% on your purchase price.

No, that’s not a typo. You can save over 100% by buying some items in bulk!

For example, you can get a box of 500 Kirkland dryer sheets from Costco for $7.99 a box, or 1.6 cents a sheet.

Compare that to a 120 count box of Meijer brand dryer sheets, which cost $4.29, or 3.5 cents a sheet.

That’s more than a 100% difference!  To get the same amount of dryer sheets at Meijer, you’d have to spend over $17!

I always recommend bulk buying items which don’t have expiration dates, like garbage bags, paper towels, toilet paper, dryer sheets etc. for the maximum amount of savings.

This way you get them for the cheapest possible price and you always have them on hand.

In addition to buying supplies in bulk, you can buy food in bulk.

Learning to meal prep and meal plan is not that difficult, and you can squeeze out additional savings by buying your food in bulk!

5. Use What’s Needed, Not Recommended

The fifth money saving tip is to use what’s needed, not recommended.

A super easy way to be more frugal is to simply use less product than recommended.

When it comes to stuff like shampoo, dish detergent, laundry detergent and the like, they can be easy to overuse – even if you’re following the manufacturer’s directions.

Over time, this wastes product and money!

For an easy fix, try using half the amount of product you normally use and see if you can tell the difference.

For example, you could try using 1/4 cup of laundry detergent, rather than the 1/2 cup the box recommends. If your clothes still come out clean and fresh, you’ve just found a way of getting twice the laundry done at the same cost.

Buying in bulk and only using what’s needed for the job will have a great effect on your finances.

6. Use Reward Programs

The sixth frugal habit is to use reward programs.

If you frequently shop somewhere with a reward program and you’re not a member, you may be missing out on substantial savings.

Being a rewards member typically comes with many benefits, like:

  • Sales
  • Targeted coupons
  • Free items

In fact, many stores only allow you to take advantage of sales and promotions if you are a reward’s member.

Also, many of these programs reward you with personalized coupons and offers – sometimes put directly on your reward card or mailed to you.

A few years ago, I got the Target Red Card and have saved hundreds since.

If you’re not using the rewards program at your store, you’re leaving money on the table.

Sign up!

It only takes a moment, and over a lifetime of shopping will save you thousands of dollars.

Speaking of rewards programs…

7. Use Apps to Maximize Savings When Shopping

The seventh frugal living tip is to use apps to maximize savings when shopping.

Using cash back apps, like Ibotta, can help you maximize your savings from grocery shopping.

Here’s how it works:

  • Check Ibotta for offers
  • Go shopping
  • Snap photo of receipt
  • Collect cash back

It’s really that simple.

It doesn’t require you to change your shopping habits or your grocery store. Just shop like you normally would.

Using apps in conjunction with rewards programs and coupons can save you even more money.

For example, let’s say you open Ibotta before you go shopping and see that there’s a $.50 cash back for shredded cheese (which was on your list!).

You also received a coupon for $1 off a bag of cheese from your grocery store.  Furthermore, your store is having a buy one get one free sale on cheese.

If you buy a bag of cheese for $2, you’ll also get one free. Then you can use the coupon for $1 off, and finally then redeem the offer in Ibotta for $0.50 off.

With all of this savings, you’ve effectively paid $0.50 for two bags of cheese!

Using money saving apps like Ibotta are a great way to squeeze some extra money out of your grocery bill.

save more money8. Take Advantage of Offers

The eighth frugal living tip is to take advantage of offers.

There are multiple ways to get discounts and save money, simply by being clever.

For example, many stores offer discounts to college students.

If you are a student or have one in the family, you may be able to use this to your advantage.

Apple, for example, offers educational pricing for students on many of their products, which can easily translate to a savings of 10 to 20 percent. 

When you’re talking about fancy computers, this can be a savings of $100 or more!

Maybe your college-bound kid will let you use their name to order a computer at a discount?

Just pay it forward by feeding them or doing a load of laundry 🙂

9. Plan Ahead

Finally, the ninth tip for frugal living is to plan ahead.

Planning ahead is a great way to be frugal.

Depending on the situation, planning ahead can save you tens or even hundreds of dollars.

For example, let’s say you’re a family of four going to a theme park for the day.

You grab sunscreen, towels, a change of clothes, and you’re on your way!

Unfortunately, you forget to pack drinks or food, and have to resort to eating and drinking at the amusement park.

I hope you brought extra cash, because for a family of four to eat, one meal will cost over $60! That’s almost twice the price of a ticket!

If you had packed your own food, you could feed a family of four with homemade sandwiches, chips and pop for less than $5 a person.

Planning ahead can help you can avoid a lot of unnecessary expenses.

Save More Money by Living Frugally Today

Being frugal usually makes you think of images of people going to extreme lengths to save money, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Being frugal means living intentionally and being mindful of how we spend our money.

Sometimes we can be frugal without even changing how we spend money – we just do it with more thought!

Hopefully these nine tips can help you live a more frugal life, freeing up money to pursue more of your own goals.

Readers: what frugal living tips do you practice to save money?

Frugal Living Tips to Save Money

Frugal Living Tips to Save Money
save more money

Saving your $1,000 can be done. Getting to $1,000 in the bank isn’t too difficult, but can take some time. In this post, you’ll learn about 5 simple steps you can take to save your first $1,000.

saving $1,000

Did you know? Just 40% of Americans are able to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense. Let’s change that narrative, and help you save your first $1,000 this year.

Saving money might seem like a daunting task, especially if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Saving money is even worse when you are tired from carrying the burden of debt.

However, saving money is something everyone should do. There are very few pieces of one-size-fits-all advice in the personal finance world, but saving money, even a little, will make an impact on your life.

Even a small sum of $1000 in a savings account can stop you from falling behind if unexpected expenses pop up. There is not one person who wouldn’t benefit from a small cash cushion!

This article covers the a few simple steps you can take to save your first $1,000:

  1. Set a Action Based Savings Goal and Get Motivated
  2. Break Down the Main Goal Into Smaller Goals
  3. Determine How to Achieve the Small Goals
  4. Widen Your Income and Expense Gap
  5. Execute and Work Consistently

The best part is these steps are applicable to any money goal; you are more than welcome to set a higher savings goal after you hit your first $1,000!

saving your first $1,000

1. Set an Action Based Savings Goal and Get Motivated

By reading this article, you are likely already thinking about saving more money.

The first step on your savings journey is to be international and decide on a savings target.

For you, your savings target is $1,000.

Saving $1,000 is an action based goal. You are going to be intentional and proactive with our money habits, and improve your financial situation.

There are a number of benefits to saving money. One is the obvious improvement of your financial situation.

However, there are more than just financial benefits to saving this sum of money. There is also the satisfaction (and stress-relief) that comes from feeling in control of your money!

Now, you now need to add a deadline in order to make it a true goal. If you didn’t have a deadline, it’d be difficult to measure the goal and you will be less likely to accomplish it!

The date component of the goal could be as aggressive or conservative as you’d like. This will depend on your personal situation as well as how much you are able to change in it. A good benchmark would be 3 to 12 months.

Your goal should look something like this:

I will save $1000 within 6 months.

Now that you have your goal in mind, let’s move on to how you will accomplish your savings goal.

2. Break Down Your Big Savings Goal into Smaller Savings Goals

Saving $1,000 for the first time might seem intimidating and/or discouraging. Luckily for you, there is a simple trick to make your savings goal much more manageable!

To make your big savings goal more manageable, you can break it into smaller savings goals. These smaller savings goals need a time component to them just like the main goals.

Looking back at our example goal, saying I will save $1000 in 6 months is the same as saying:

  • I will save $500 in three months two times,
  • by saving $166.67 every month,
  • which means I have to save $83.34 every paycheck (biweekly), and
  • this results in saving $41.67 a week

By focusing on the $41.67 a week in savings, the goal seems a lot more manageable and attainable.

Does saving $41.67 a week sound a lot more manageable than $1000 in 6 months?

Breaking your big goals into smaller goals is research-backed as well. A study conducted jointly by USC and Harvard has shown breaking down big goals is effective due to the dopamine released by accomplishing your small goals.

Dopamine is the “feel good” hormone. Your brain appreciates these frequent small “rewards” more than chasing the infrequent big ones!

By staying consistent, and hitting your weekly saving goal of $41.67, in 6 months, you’ll hit $1,000 in savings! Do you believe this is possible?

Let’s move on to the next step and talk about how to save this $41.67 a week.

learn to invest3. Determine How to Achieve Your Smaller Saving Goals

You’ve gotten the what, when, and why figured out. This next step will help you answer the question “How?”

You now need to figure out how to save that $41.67 a week.

There are many ways you can go about this, however they all stem from the same principle: the difference between income and expenses, and then saving that difference.

For you, you may already have that income and expense gap, but may want to set up automations to help with increasing your bank account balance.

Automate Your Savings to Save Your First $1,000

Automating your savings can be a great way to help you make sure you don’t touch your $41.67 weekly savings.

Not only does automation make managing your money hassle-free, it also can help greatly if you find it difficult to manage your discretionary spending.

Quite simply, you set up an auto-transfer so that money is moved from your checking account to a savings account after payday. This removes the element of choice, meaning you will save money, and you will make it work!

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving” – Warren Buffett

This pay yourself first mentality can be very effective. Let’s recall our example goal of $1000 in 6 months.

You would set up a biweekly auto-transfer in the amount of $85 (the exact amount is $83.34, but it’s easier to stick to round numbers). Now, that money is put away, you can spend the rest of the money however you’d like!

One word of caution would be to take care to not save more than you can afford. Doing a quick projection of your expenses can help to see if you have enough cash left over after saving to pay the bills!

If you can’t afford to save this much with your current income and expense gap, then it might be best to focus on increasing the gap by increasing your income, or decreasing your expenses.

4. Increase Your Income and Expense Gap

One of the fastest ways to save more money is by increasing the gap between your income and expenses. If you increase your income by $100 a month, and keep your expenses the same, then you will have the ability to save that $100 a month right away.

Likewise, if you decrease your expenses by $100 a month, and keep your income the same, you can save that $100 a month right away.

There are a number of ways you can increase your income, or decrease your expenses. Let’s go into a brief discussion on these two topics.

Cut Expenses Where Possible to Save More Money

Most people associate cutting expenses with being “cheap.” However, this doesn’t need to be the case! The easiest way to cut down expenses is by focusing on the three biggest categories.

These three categories alone make up for 61.3% of the average American household spending.

The three are housing, transportation and food. You will find it most effective to focus your efforts on reducing expenses here!

The biggest expense is housing. Some ways to reduce housing costs include:

  • Downsizing your home
  • Getting roommates
  • House hacking
  • Renting out space on AirBnB

Trying to save $100 on food, entertainment, or other necessary items may be difficult, but moving to a lower area, or opting for a non-luxury apartment instead of the luxury apartment will do wonders for your ability to save.

Reducing transportation costs basically falls along the lines of reducing car usage. Deciding to buy a used car, instead of a new car would help you reduce transportation costs. Also, buying a car with better gas mileage will help as well.

For saving money on food, eating in and cooking more will help you save more money over time.

If you want to cut other expenses, subscription services are another place where money will go to waste!

Increase Your Income through a Raise or Side Hustles to Save More

The alternative to cutting expenses is increasing income. The drawback to cutting expenses is that you can only reduce your expenses by so much. Increasing your income on the other hand effectively has no bounds!

Arguably the easiest way to boost your savings is keep your expenses constant whenever you increase your income. Your income can increase through getting a raise, getting a new job, or starting a side hustle.

I managed to grow my income from $12 an hour to $100,000+ a year in my 20’s.

What I realized is increasing your income is all about providing VALUE.

Focusing on providing value in your work and hustles will lead to more gigs, higher compensation, and more money coming in on a monthly basis.

With more money coming into your bank account, you can save more money.

Now, let’s talk about consistency – the most important concept of personal finance!

personal finance success5. Consistent Actions Lead to Success in Saving Your First $1,000

By this point you have came up with a savings goal, broken it up into a series of smaller goals, and determined how you’re going to accomplish the goal. Now, it’s time to take action and achieve your goal.

Consistency is key when it comes to saving your first $1,000, and it’s just as important for the next $1,000.

Trying to save a large sum of money in a short amount of time might not be realistic, but you can definitely do it over time.

Saving small, regular amounts on a consistent basis is much more likely to result in you accomplishing your goal.

Setting up auto-transfers (as I previously mentioned) effectively forces you to be consistent in contributing towards saving your first $1,000.

All you need to focus on is the methods you use to make these contributions possible such as spending less and earning more.

Save Your First $1,000 This Year with These Saving Tips!

The act of saving $1000 involves just as much planning as it does execution.

Following these 5 simple steps will help you:

  • set a realistic savings goal
  • break it down into manageable smaller goals
  • optimize your savings rate
  • stay committed and motivated until you hit your goal

Remember, not only do you have to do things properly; you have to do it consistently as well.

The discipline gained and lessons learned from saving money are applicable for goal reaching in many other aspects of life.

Consistency can help whether you are undertaking a huge work project or you are trying to lose weight for the summer.

Think about past experiences: you most likely only became good at something through months and months of practice.

While it took a while, by putting in the work, you achieved your goal. You can do the same thing here with saving money over time.

Saving your first $1,000 will be incredible for helping you get to a better financial situation.

Can’t wait to see your results after you get started saving!!

5 Simple Ways To Save $1000 Dollars
5 Simple Ways To Save $1000 Dollars
5 Simple Ways To Save $1000 Dollars
5 Simple Ways To Save $1000 Dollars
frugal gift

For birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or the holidays, do people really need more stuff for their gifts?

In the 21st century, there’s been a huge change of perspective on stuff and experiences.

Whereas in the 20th century, having a nice TV, a cool stereo system, and a bunch of “toys” displayed status, many younger people are approaching life in a simpler and more fulfilling way.

For many people, stuff is out, and travel and experiences are in.

Where you’ve been, who you know, and what you do with your time signifies social status more than the cool car or big screen TV.

Maybe it’s the world we live in where gratification can be instant with seemingly instant everything and anything, and people are realizing this might not be best.

Last holiday season, I was having some trouble with coming up with gifts for my family.

Suddenly, a great idea popped into my head: what if I gave out experience coupons for different events later on in the year?

My grandparents don’t need any more stuff in their life, and can buy whatever they want. What they can’t do is conjure up a 26 year old and put him to work in the backyard for free!

I put my idea to work, and it was a great success!

In this post, you’ll learn about intentional gift giving, and spark some new thoughts for minimalist gift ideas for your loved ones for a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or the holidays.

Experience Gifts for Family Members and Loved Ones

Last year, I was brainstorming gifts for my family and came up with my experience coupon idea.

I thought to myself, “What do my family members really want and need that isn’t material? What could I do, or what could I create for them that would be beneficial for their lives?”

For my grandparents, this was pretty easy to come up with.

As I mentioned above, they saved their money, live a modest lifestyle, have little to no expenses, and are trying to give away things as the years go on.

What they struggle with instead is achy joints, stiff backs, and a need to take more breaks when doing physical labor.

I love working outside, and I also love working with my hands and learning more about how the real world works.

A day of lawn care and house work? That sounded like a great gift – and it was!

experience coupon frugal

This was one of my most memorable gifts that I think I’ve ever given.

Later that year, I fulfilled my gift and traveled for a 2 night stay stay to my grandparents house.

What was supposed to be a full day of work turned into 4 hours of yard work and mid-afternoon beers with grandpa 🙂

We both had a good time with this gift!

Money wise, this didn’t cost me much at all.

I spent about $25 on gas for my car driving to their house, and since I stayed in my grandparent’s basement, my food and lodging was taken care of for the weekend.

Best yet, it was great bonding time and I got to learn more about edging and gardening. For not a lot of money (and no additional clutter), this gift was such a treat for both my grandparents and myself.

Minimalist Experience Gift Ideas for Family Members

Above, I talked about one example of a frugal gift idea you could do for a family member.

For my other family members, I had fun with my experience coupons and came up with a number of other good minimalist gift ideas.

My dad and I love playing golf together during the summer time, and for him, it was an easy choice: buy a round of golf at any golf course.

He ended up taking advantage of this coupon in August. We went to a local course and the total cost was $49 a person.

For an afternoon of fun and again, some solid quality time with a loved one, this experience coupon worked out in a great way 🙂

For my sisters, over the last few years, I’ve given them experience coupons to

  • go rock climbing
  • go to a trampoline park
  • eat lunch or dinner somewhere fancy
  • mini golfing
  • going for ice cream

There are so many difference experiences and activities which you could do. Figuring out what would be fun and new for your family just will take a little brainstorming and action taking!

Give the Gift of Experience to Your Loved Ones

When giving a gift and making someone else feel special, there shouldn’t be the outcome of additional clutter and waste.

By giving the gift of experience, you can create memories which will last a life time.

I hope that this post challenges your thoughts on the norm of consumerism and brings you to think about alternative gifts for your loved ones this year.

I’m always up for thinking differently, living intentionally, challenging my own thoughts and the thoughts of others, and growing over time to create a great life for myself and those around me.

Maybe for your loved ones it’s a trip to their favorite restaurant, a live show or game, or taking a vacation. There are so many ideas out there for activities to do with your friends and family.

Readers: what do you think about this idea? Would you rather get physical gifts, or do something special with your loved ones? Will you give the gift of experiences this year to your family members and loved ones?

The Best Minimalist Gift for Family Members and Loved Ones

make-money-invest

In a recent post, I talked about how 2017 was a record year for me for income. I broke the 6 figure mark for the first time in my life. Today, I want to share with you why it doesn’t matter how much you make, but that it matters how much you save.  I could make $1 million dollars in a year, but at the end of the year, if I’ve spent it all, it doesn’t matter. It matters so much more how much you save, and I’m sure you will be convinced by the end of this post.

Saver Sally vs. Spender Sam

I want to share with you a story. I have 2 friends, Saver Sally, and Spender Sam.

Saver Sally makes $60,000 a year at her corporate job. She has a husband and a family, lives in a nice neighborhood, and drives a dependable car. She saves $10,000 a year in her retirement accounts.

Spender Sam makes $150,000 a year through his entrepreneurial efforts. He’s single and loves going to the bar to show off his most recent Rolex. Driving his new BMW to work, and hitting the clubs each weekend, he believes he will be able to save once he cashes out of his equity holdings, and only puts $1,000 a year towards his retirement.

Who is Wealthier: Saver Sally or Spender Sam?

Compound interest 8th wonderIf you saw Sally and Sam at the same time, you’d guess Sam was the wealthier one. With a nice car and great taste in the way he dresses, he has to be the wealthier one… right?

WRONG.

After one year, Sally has $9,000 more than Sam. But, Sam has a nice Rolex and a sweet BMW!

Yes, that is true, but does it really matter? With $150,000 in income, that’s great, and I’m sure he is having a lot of fun. What happens if his business goes belly up? That BMW won’t feel as nice to ride in without his paychecks rolling in!

The Power of Compounding

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” – Albert Einstein

Compound interest is an multiplier of wealth. Let’s see the impact if Sally keeps saving $10,000 a year, and Sam saves only $1,000 a year. In 30 years, the results are shocking. Sally will be nearly $900,000 richer than Sam. Take a look at the calculations below:

how much you save matters

Still not convinced? Who do you think is wealthier now?

Practicing What I Preach – How I Saved 48% of My Income in 2017

I track every dollar I earn and spend. In 2017, I made just over $107,000, I saved roughly $51,000, I spent about 33,000 and paid roughly 23,000 in taxes.

While my taxes will be adjusted up a little bit because of my withholding’s on my W2, I can safely say my pre-tax savings rate was roughly 61% and post-tax savings rate was roughly 48%.

Of the $51,000 saved, I was able to put $36,000 of that towards retirement and various other investments (business and taxable account). $18,000 of that went towards paying down various debts of mine (my mortgage). I had a decrease of cash by $3,000 throughout the year.

income and savings 2017

Breaking Down My Savings into 3 Buckets: Cash Savings, Debt Reduction and Investments

I consider there to be 3 ways to save: reducing my debt, putting money into a checking or savings account, and investing in my retirement accounts, investing in my taxable account, and my business.

In 2017, I reduced my mortgage by a little nearly $18,000. This was above and beyond the roughly $6,000 I would have eliminated through the monthly principal pay down. Last February, I thought it would be a great idea to pay an extra $25,000 of my mortgage and get rid of PMI. After starting a business, and putting my money to work elsewhere, I’ve put this goal to the side. I have a 2.625% interest rate, and while $144 in private mortgage insurance adds up, I’m still about $13,000 shy of getting rid of private mortgage insurance. We will see if I get rid of it in 2018.

Putting Money to Work For the Future

In 2017, I ended up putting about $36,000 to work for the future through my investments in my retirement, business, and taxable account.

I ended up doing both my 2016 and 2017 Roth IRA contributions in full in 2017, and as well as contributing a decent amount to my 401k.

With overall savings of nearly 50% of my income, I’m very pleased with my performance. Obviously, this can be improved, and I’m going to look to save at least 40% of my income in 2018. I’ve already maxed out my Roth IRA for 2018, and will be looking to max out my 401k. We will see if I can get there!

My Tips for You to Increase Your Savings

There are 3 tips I have for you to increase your savings:

  1. Look at your expenses and identify any areas of weakness you could work on
  2. If you are employed, set up your retirement account and increase your contribution
    • At the end of 2017, I was saving roughly 6% of my pre-tax income in my 401k. Bumping it up to 20% only resulted in a decrease of cash to me of $300. I was able to up my investment amount by over $500, while only losing out on $300 in cash, for a net gain of $200 in the long run (ignoring taxes in 34 years).
    • Try bumping your contribution up by 1%. I know you can do it.
  3. Destroy Your Debt!
    • Debt is typically the biggest deterrent of saving cold hard cash. That being said, I consider debt reduction to be savings, even if it’s technically paying back your lenders for previous purchases.
    • Use your identified savings from step 1 to up your debt payment over time. Check out my free Debt Destruction Tool if you haven’t already for guidance on how to destroy your debt.

Two final resources would be to read my article for other ideas, 9 Ways to Save Thousands Each Year, as well as my friend Gary’s website, Super Saving Tips. There are so many ways to save money. Hopefully this article provides you some ideas to implement in your life.

It Doesn’t Matter How Much You Make, It Matters How Much You Save

At the end of the day, end of the year, the true winners are the savers, not the spenders.

I hope this article has inspired you to save more. It’s very possible to improve your financial situation through income creation, but also expense reduction and paying down debt.

It doesn’t matter how much you make. It matters how much you save.

Readers: how much were you able to save in 2017? Do you have any savings goals in 2018? Do you have any super saving tips?

Erik

matters how much you save
Why Saving is the Secret to Becoming Rich

“Would you like to save 5% today by applying for the Target Red Card?”

I’ve been to Target 114 times in the past 2 years and every time I got to the cash register, the cashier said, “Would you like to save 5% today by applying for the Target Red Card?” I always said, “No, not today.” What a big doh I had when I actually realized I was wasting money… a total of $161.87.

Like I said, I’ve been to Target 114 times in the past 2 years, and spent $3,237.36 on those transactions. Each and every time, I was leaving at least 5% on the table. When you hear 5%, you don’t think it’s much. However, when compared to other credit cards, 5% is an insanely good reward for spending money. My main credit card only gives me 1% cash back on all purchases (So, really, I cost myself $129.49).

There are two takeaways from this experience that I want to bring to light: number one, when a person is young, a person should try to build credit as responsibly as possible. By building credit at a young age, that person will be more attractive to borrowers in the future and will be able to take on more debt to finance a company or get a better interest rate on a home in the future. Number two, the amount of savings over a lifetime taking advantages of programs like these can have on a person.

Building Credit

Building credit is huge in today’s world. If a person wants to start a business, invest in real estate, or buy things on credit in the future, they will need to convince a lender to do so. How do we build credit? Simple: open up different lines of credit, be it credit cards, loans (for cars, education, houses, boats, home improvements, etc), lines of credit, and pay them off (by making timely payments). It’s that simple! (Make sure to pay it off on time though!)

Improving my Credit Score

Credit scoring companies recommend having more than 12 open accounts at a given time to obtain a favorable score. While this has a low impact on your score, it is still something lenders will consider. I only have 3 currently, which is one of the reasons I finally applied for the Target Credit Card.

In addition to opening another account, my utilization will decrease. Credit scoring companies recommend keeping utilization under 30% if possible. I usually never have to worry about being utilized more than 30%, but there are times when it creeps up to 50% if I’m doing a project or an unexpected expense needs to be paid.

For number two, my lifetime savings will increase by a few thousand dollars. As mentioned above, in 2 years, I spent $3,237.36 at Target and would have saved at least $161.87 through their rewards program. Let’s extrapolate that over 5 years, 10 years, and 30 years.target credit card savings

A savings of almost $5,000!?!? That’s not even considering any investing I could do with these savings over those 30 years!

Conclusion

To sum up, I was stupid for the past two years and missed out on $161.87. Going forward, I will be able to save 5% at Target and as time goes on, this will help me in my pursuit of financial freedom.

What other rewards cards should I be taking advantage of? Home Depot and possibly Costco are next on my list.

Erik