How I saved $25,000 in 3 years

In the last 3 years, I’ve managed to save over $25,000 and I’m going to tell you EXACTLY how I did it.

 

No, really. I am!

Listen, I know you’ve seen this kind of post before. I have too! I’ve been where you are!

I’ve read my fair share of money saving posts. I’ve also re-read the same Penny Pincher article about the 50 side hustle jobs you could start IMMEDIATELY WITH NO EXPERIENCE AND LITTLE EFFORT!! What they fail to tell you is that you’d have to do ALL of those side jobs at once to make a respectable profit.

But that’s what I’m here for, to tell you the TRUTH about how I saved $25,000.

Are you ready?

 

I worked my a$$ off.

 

Of course, there’s more to it than that, but I want you to know right off the bat that I have no secrets, no trust fund, and no sugar daddy. I did it with smart spending, smarter saving, and a whole lot of work. This can be broken down into three parts..

 Generate Income

Apply a Savings Plan   

Cut Costs

 

Remember that “EXACTLY” thing I said? I’m getting there, but let me give you a little background on my financial situation before I started making conscious decisions about my money.

It started with a naively younger version of myself and awful money management skills. I left school with over $55,000 in student debt and was making about $2,700 a month. Subtract from that monthly shopping sprees, expensive groceries, a personal trainer, student loans, gas, utilities, and rent. I was left with a little over $500 a month. But did I save it? NOPE. I made stupid choices like ordering out for dinner, buying too many clothes (ok, mostly shoes) and paying top dollar for things that I could have gotten way cheaper, or for free!

 

So it’s out there. I made bad choices with my money, and had little of it to start with. Some of you may be at the same starting point as me, some of you may already be saving and looking for new ideas…some of you may be rich (YOU GET OUTTA HERE! Jk, adopt me?) Regardless of your current situation, I sincerely hope that you can take something away from this post.

 

Ok, ok…here we go. This is EXACTLY how I..

 

Generate Income

I’m fortunate enough to have a mother who pushes me to not only achieve my dreams, but to also be practical. Because of that, I spent the last 17 years honing my skills as a cellist and getting my Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.

With these tools, I was, and am still able to land jobs as a full time teacher ($50,000-$55,000 per year)  and a freelance musician ($300-$1,300 per performance.) I worked both jobs consecutively for a year before taking on a 3rd part time job teaching music in an after school program ($50 per class.) In total, I would be working anywhere from 50-65 hour weeks.

 

Like I said, I worked my A$$ off.
Of course, I realize that my circumstances don’t apply to everyone. Finding a part time job that pays more than minimum wage isn’t easy and articles about “side hustles” don’t get you anywhere. So I compiled the ways that I have, and ANYONE can, earn a decent supplemental income regardless of your background or education.

 

  1. Pet, House, & Babysitting (Care.Com & Sittercity)
    1. Sign-up, make a profile, apply for jobs! I’ve done all three and have been able to make anywhere from $20 per walk to $300 for a long weekend house sitting.
  2. Yard work (shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves)
    1. Ask around your neighborhood/county. I did this when I was younger and earned $25 every Sunday for mowing an elderly woman’s yard.
  3. Donate Plasma 
    1. This is the only one I haven’t done, simply because you have to wait a certain amount of time after getting a tattoo. In a couple months, I should be able to donate and can provide an update! Until then, I found this blog post incredible helpful.
  4. Substitute Teach
    1. This does require some college education, but the $60-$120 daily pay off was too good to leave out. In New Jersey, as long as you have 60 college credits in any field, you can apply to substitute teach. check out the requirements for your state and see if you meet them!

 

Finding a good side job could be the difference between a train trip around Europe, and a train trip to NYC. However, generating an income, whether through one job or multiple, is only the first step. What you do, or more importantly what you DON’T do with your money is just as important as making it.

 

Which is why I’m going to tell you EXACTLY how I…

Applied a savings plan

Not a spending plan. The goal here is savings; or as I like to call it, “hiding money from my self.”

I took my savings plan cue from a post I read on Adventurous Kate’s blog. Basically, you calculate what & when your typical monthly expenses are, and subtract from your the corresponding paycheck. What you have left, you immediately save. Simple.

For example: my student loan, car loan, and my car insurance all come out of the first check of the month and my rent and any credit card bills come out of the second. I keep what I need for bills and food in my available account and save the excess. For example, two months of regular savings with a freelance gig could look like this:

 

The trick to this is to make the amount you are saving larger than the amount you are spending

On top of these bi-monthly deposits, I also use any supplemental income to pad my savings. I consider my full time teaching job as my main stream of income used for bills and spending money. Anything I earn from part time/side/or per diem jobs is immediately put away on top of what I save from my main income.

So let’s say you already have a stream of income but you want to take it to the next level and really challenge how much you can save. This leads me to my final point, which is EXACTLY how I (and YOU could!)

 

Cut Spending

Depending on the type of person you are, this could either be the easiest or the toughest thing to conquer on the road to $25,000

For me, it was easy. While I enjoy spending time with friends, I generally don’t “go out.” Things like going to clubs or bars, amusement parks, seeing movies in the theater, etc., I don’t do. And not because I’m trying to save money, but because I don’t like the club scene, rollercoasters scare me, and I like to watch movies without a crowd of disruptive strangers. So while it was easy for me to avoid these expenses because I wasn’t doing them in the first place, I still had to find ways to cut more costs out of the things I was doing.

 

Initially, the list was small (and mostly food related?)

  1. Cook more
  2. Exhaust all food options at home before ordering out or buying more
  3. Stop buying name brand products
  4. Only buy clothes/shoes that can be worn while out and at work

 

After I saw how well it was all working, I upped the intensity of my cost cutting

  1. Move in with a roommate
  2. Inexpensive DIY holiday & birthday gifts
  3. Exercise outside

 

I know it may seem like you couldn’t possibly cut costs anymore than you do now. I felt the same way. But if you’re serious about saving, you’ll go back and looked at your monthly expenses with a hard eye. Do you need to buy coffee every morning or can you make your own? Will your co-workers understand if you bring your lunch instead of going out? Is getting a manicure a necessity or can you do it on your own?

 

More information (because I don’t want to leave anything out!)

On top of what is listed above, I made sure my credit cards were paid off every month. I also kept a close eye on my permanent monthly bills. I found that for two months my cable company tried to overcharge me. Later, my insurance company failed to tell me all my “discounts” weren’t applicable anymore and wanted to increase my payments. I saved $100 a month by switching insurance carriers! What could you do with $100 extra a month? (pssst…the answer is “save it!”)

I’ve been using this plan for almost 3 years now. I started just by generating an income, and combining the saving plan and cost cutting at different stages until I was able to do all three at once. Of course, I’ve had some major setbacks like buying a car, some intense vet bills, and dental bills. It can be devastating to have to spend a large chunk of the money you’ve been working so hard to save, but you have to stick with it! Saving money is a momentum game. Once you get rolling, you gotta keep going!

 

Phew, that was a long one. If you’ve made it to this part of the post, I congratulate you! On your way, you may have realized that my way of saving $25,000 is generally the same as any other post you’ve read. Well, what does that tell you? If enough people are doing well enough with a strategy that they want to take the time to write it all down, don’t you think there might something to it?

My final advice is to find what works for you, and really dig in! There may be times you need to revamp or adapt a strategy, but the end-game should always be the same. What’s the worse that can happen, you save a couple bucks?

Have you tried any of the same things to cut money? Do you have a secret money saving tip to share? Tell me in the comments below!

Author’s note: I’m going to be creating a post with my exact financial details (as close to my bank statement as possible) as well as a post about the top 10 ways I cut costs, incase you were looking for more details!

2 thoughts on “How I saved $25,000 in 3 years

  1. Great post. Love your site – such a great resource. I have been using it for a wee while as I build up the confidence to create my own space to share my plus size travel journey http://www.morewanderlust.com . I have only just started – and you are one of my inspiring bloggers!

    1. That’s great, CJ! I’m honored to be on your list of inspiring plus size bloggers. I can’t wait to check out your site! Plus size travelers have to stick together 🙂

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