How We Saved $45,000 in Six Months (Plus FREE Budget Planner)

When Michael and I got married almost 5 years ago we had lofty goals of buying a house. We were living in a 625 square foot apartment with a Doberman and a makeshift cabinet that held our wedding gifts. Sometimes I dreamt that the cabinet would spill out and kill me in my sleep. It was that packed.

But the apartment was only $600 a month and it allowed us to save up for the house. 6 months later, we bought our home in Dallas.

I was so proud of this, I just couldn't believe we did it. Now, our goals of saving money are bigger than ever. The other day I mentioned that we saved $45,000 in 6 months.  And I'm going to tell you exactly how we did it.

I am going to be 100% honest and show you exactly how we did it. 

I want to be completely upfront with you, so you should know both Michael and I have no debt. Aside from our mortgage, we don't have any credit card debt, student loans, etc. I went to SMU, a private university (that costs roughly $65k a year! lolz) but my parents were professors so my school was… FREE. Michael went to Texas A&M with scholarships, and later went to Grad School. But he worked a LOT during grad school paid off his student loans really quick.

I understand this is not common. But the number one way to save is to get rid of debt. Now. 

We paid off my car (bought in 2012) in two years, all through savings. So, we currently don't have many expenses. Other than our mortgage and, well, food. To start this post off, if you have debt, payments, etc, pay them off as fast as you can. The sooner you do, the faster you save.

A note about how much we make. I'd say we make a good income separately but we are by no means making $100k a year. We make about average. *NOTE, this has changed dramatically. Now that I'm blogging full time, Michael quit his job and we are making well over that. This post was written in 2016 and while much of the information still holds true, we are making more. Which is why you'll see the difference in our spending habits above.

Six months ago we set out on a savings goal of $45,000. We already had about $20,000 in savings for out “6 months savings just in case plan.” When I fell rock climbing we had to pay $14,000 out of pocket over the course of 6 months, and luckily, we had a lot saved up, otherwise we would have been in major medical debt. So, we created a separate account just for this other goal. Before we left for Nashville we officially has $0 in this separate account. But we do have other accounts with money in them for emergencies.

I HIGHLY recommend that you have a 6 month safety net. You really never know what could happen.

Now, while I said we didn't have any debt, we certainly did have tons of expenses. For example, our trip to Asia. We spent roughly $6,000 total on that trip (at least).

For Michael and I, our biggest expense and greatest passion is travel. So we spend money on that. Here's a breakdown of what we spend and what we don't spend money on.

This is what we spend currently.

Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage: $1400
Food: $400 (approximately – this is on groceries plus eating out)
Dog Food: $200 (yes, we give them like the most expensive dog food because we're insane dog people and don't want anything gross in there.)
Shopping: $150 (approximately – this is on the necessities, toiletries, makeup and trips to Forever 21.)
Travel: $1,000
Miscellaneous: $100

Total = $3,250

I'm not going to include my business expenses (like the ones I spend on my blog, you can find all of those here, but all of those come out of my business account.) We do travel about once a month and that usually costs about $1000 for plane tickets, eating out, hotels, etc. Remember, this is currently. Meaning, when we were in save mode, we didn't spend money like this.

When we were in money saving mode here's what our budget looked like:

Money Saving Mode Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage: $1400
Food: $150
Dog Food: $200
Shopping: $50
Travel/Fun: $100
Miscellaneous: $100

Total = $2,000

Now, that might not look like that big of a difference but it makes a huge difference over time. The difference is saving $1,250 a month which equals to over $15,000 in one year!

Things we DON'T spend money on:

– Name Brands
I don't really believe in most designer name brands. My 2 year old leather Fossil purse ($128) functions just as well as this $980 leather Gucci bag. If you can cut back on things like that (especially when grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and buying makeup) you're going to save up front.

Eating out… that much. We just moved to Nashville (well, 6 months ago!) so we want to experience the city and what it has to offer. So we eat out selectively. We cook at home more often than not, at least 5 days a week.

Cable. We only have an antenna for our TV. When we do watch something it's usually on Netflix. First, I just don't have time to watch that much TV. Second, it's soooo expensive. I haven't had cable for 6 years now and I'm not looking back!

AC/Heat -If you follow me on Snapchat (username: helenesula) you know I make fun of Michael for never “letting” us turn on the heat. But truthfully, it saves tons of money and it's not that big of a deal. We live in Nashville, not Russia. The temperatures don't usually dip below 30 F.

Drinking. Drinking at a bar or restaurant is so over priced. If you can cut back in one area, try this one. $15 for a fruity drink isn't worth it. Of course, we get drinks from time to time, but not that often.

Getting my nails done. I love the way professional nails look. But I have a gel nail at home routine that I use that saves me tons of money and I can switch the color whenever I want. No, it doesn't last as long as getting it done in a salon but I can live with that.

Decorating. Look, I'm going to be honest with you, you won't see a home tour on this blog anytime soon. The majority of our furniture in our house was from mine or Michael's parents. I'm not saying our house is ugly, but it's not that cool looking. Some people know how to decorate on a budget, I'm not that girl. I do, however, like a good white rug

Things we DO spend money on:

Travel. Clearly! But this is something that is necessary to me and it's what makes me happy in life. If designer purses make you happy, then go for it. But to me, you have to pick and choose. It's all about balance.

Things worth their value. What I mean by that is even though we don't buy a lot of name brands, there are some things that are worth it. For example, I have a concealer from It Cosmetics (I've showed what I use on my face in this post) and it's freaking $24. That is a LOT for concealer. But I've had it for almost a year now! So to me, that's worth it. Plus I have dark circles under my eyes.

Concerts. We skipped a concert on Sunday because it would have been $60 with taxes and fees for both of us. So again, we're selective. But yes, we love music, so we go.

Our Roth. I know this isn't necessarily spending money but putting away money for retirement is extremely important for when I'm old and have no one but my dogs to take care of me. We put $500 each into our Roth IRA a month.

Investing in my Blog. I've talked about this before, but the moment I started taking a vested interest in my blog was when my blog started making me MORE money. I've made the money I've spent back ten fold.

Books. I spend a good amount of money on books and reading materials every month. To me, this is personal development. I listen to most books on Audible and find it's the best way for me to listen to books on the go. It's not cheap but I'd rather read than not. P.S. get a 30 day trial of Audible here.

Food. Well duh. But we have been subscribed to a program called eMeals for 4 years now and I don't see us stopping anytime soon. It's $7 a month. You choose your meal plan (gourmet, classic, gluten free, paleo, etc) and they send you recipes every week based on YOUR grocery store sales. I cannot even get over how awesome eMeals is. Full post on eMeals here.

When you're ready to cut back….

Look at your bank statements and credit cards. Look at your transactions. Did you really need to spend $300 at Target? Probably not.

Write out all your spending habits and put them into categories. I've attached a free downloadable worksheet for this, the “Busy Girl's Budget” (if you're a boy, hi, you can download this too.) It has what you need to plan a monthly budget + save for a 6 month emergency fund.



Like I mentioned, I want to be totally transparent with you. When we first started thinking about saving, we did not know planning a budget would be necessary. But it helps SO much. Planning our budget helped us to clearly define what we needed to cut out and areas we could save. 

We sat down and cut down on unnecessary expenses first: eating out, shopping, name brands. Then, we made a new account to put that newly saved money in. We simply do not touch that money but try to add to that fund at least twice a month. 

Now that we have this, we don't write our budget every month unless we aren't saving much. If that happens we'll take a look at what we're doing.

Ideas for saving extra

It's a good idea to make some side income, especially if you're really hurting. Michelle at Making Sense on Cents is an incredible resource for this (and saving money in general!). Adding in some extra income can really help you meet your savings goals without having to sacrifice on some on your favorite things. If you're looking to make some money on the side:

– Have a garage sale (here's how we made $700 on our last one!)
Start a blog
– Sell your stuff on ebay
– Get creative and sell on Etsy
– Babysitter/House sitter
– Become and Uber or Lyft Driver
– Become a Virtual Assistant
– Copywriting
– Shop using Ebates (when you sign up with Ebates you get cash back for the items you're already shopping for).

Some last notes on saving money, and probably the most important thing I can say is to pay your bills on time. You're paying more for something just to make it easier to pay, but overtime you're incurring charges. NO! Pay your bills on time and in full.

The best option is to usually pay for something outright, instead of multiple installments.

If there is something you really want, look for a coupon for it. Groupon is a wonderful resource for things like that. Or if you want to treat yo' self, look for a coupon first.

Thanks for sticking with me for this very lengthy blog post! I wanted to give you the FULL scope of how we save! Don't forget to grab your FREE Budget Planner and 6 Month Emergency Fund Starter Template.


How do you save money? What are some of your favorite tips?

Download a free budget planner! To help you save money where it counts!

Guillermo laptop

This is the exact planner I used to save over $45,000 in less than a year!

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Download a free budget planner! To help you save money where it counts!

Guillermo laptop

This is the exact planner I used to save over $45,000 in less than a year!

Powered by ConvertKit

[…] Her and her husband were able to save enough money to move abroad and really live their dream of traveling throughout Europe. You can find out how she implemented these strategies by reading the full article right here. […]

I read this post forever ago and loved it because you have similar expenses you splurge on like me and my husband. Like expensive pet food and eating out sometimes. I had to come back to this post to see what brand you feed your dogs! We have 2 cats right now it’s so expensive to feed them the canned food we do but it’s worth it to us since it’s high quality and they are our children! I want to get a dog soon too, so I was curious what you feed them. The link doesn’t work anymore. Love your blog and travel adventures! ?

Currently obsessing over your blog <3

OMG. You could save sooooo much more if you had a library card. I listen to a ton of audiobooks, most of which I get for free through my library’s Overdrive and Cloud Library app. I occasionally still buy something from Audible, but downloadable library books save me hundreds, probably thousands of dollars (I’ve been using library apps since 2011!).

DO you need a loan? get back to us with amount needed duration and phone
number.contact via davidmike756@gmail.com Note.sEnd details to. davidmike756@gmail.com

i love reading about how other people spend their money. i'm so nosy. we do a lot of the same things, like no cable (we have slingtv so KC can have ESPN it's $20 a month) and keeping the heat off. i really want to get our grocery budget down, it's hard though. i looked into emeals for a hot minute but i think we are just too picky for it. i might try again.

I LOVE emeals, it works when you us it. I like to play a game and see how cheap I can make my weekly meals. I'm weird like that.
Also, you're speaking my language with no heat, my husband holds out on heat as long as possible, I feel like it's a weird game of chicken every year. But we have a small condo sandwiched between others.
Also, there are so many free/cheap things to do in Nashville. If you like comedy, Zanies has free/cheap tickets almost monthly. Live on the Green is our big concert season. I think just living in a bigger city saves money b/c of all the free.
Sidenote, I think I spotted you at sushitrain recently.


I copied and sent this to my husband before I even read it. You're a hero!

Fantastic post. Literally printing the sheet right now and going over it!

Nicole / Chronicling Home

You are so incredibly blessed not to have debt, I am so incredibly jealous. This is one reason I don't know that I could let blogging be my full time job because I need a shit ton of money each month for my loans. I went out of state (it was cheaper than staying in California for college) but it cost me about $50K/year with rent, expenses, etc and my parents had no money. I did get some scholarships, but definitely nowhere near enough so I need 5 jobs LOL. I absolutely love posts like this because it's really interesting to read about how other people better manage their money. I buy whatever I want, but if I was more conscientious of purchases, things would definitely be better for me, thanks for sharing! xx adaatude.com

This is a GREAT read. We are on our way to getting to this, paying off debt as much as possible! So this just helps solidify the path we are taking. Thanks! 🙂

Amazing post and very inspiring! I need to get rid of my law school loans asap!

Mel | http://www.thegossipdarling.com

You are the best, seriously all of these tips are perfect. I am still working on quitting my job to blog, because well I am losing my job since moving to Carlsbad. So anyway this will help me save for the time being since i won't have an income and then collectively my husband and I can save! You are amazing and I love how open you are with us, your webinars have been so special. I personally loved the 4pm pst time yesterday! It was a great webinar.

Xo Chelsea http://www.shesaidhesaidfashion.com

Thanks for sharing your list! It's also super encouraging because my husband & I are doing similar things as you & Michael have been doing! Here's to saving! 🙂

Ok… now I dont feel bad about the food budget for our Corgidor lol I found a recipe for homemade dog food that I was going to try. My husband already makes a chicken/veggie mixture that he adds to his dinner, this is similar but with more vitamins and brewers yeast. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Awesome tips and transparency here. I got a couple of ideas from this. Thanks for sharing!


Awesome tips and transparency here. I got a couple of ideas from this. Thanks for sharing!


My student loans are predicted to be paid off in 2032. So there's that.

First of all, it's awesome you have no debt and are so good with your money! That is huge, and you have some really good tips here 🙂 we don't have any debt either, and it's an awesome feeling! However, I just have to say (hopefully without sounding like a grouch) that you definitely make more than "average"
If you are spending almost $4k a month on expenses plus putting $1k in your Roth plus able to spend 6k to travel to Asia AND save 45k in 6 months (which is saving $7,500 per month!). Your bar for average must be way higher than ours is! It's completely awesome that you were able to do that, though! You go, girl.

It's wonderful to start out a marriage with zero debt, because otherwise it seems to just pile on over the years! We automatically put a certain amount into savings each month, which we were really glad to have during IVF.

This is awesome and you guys are dedicated, but I'm confused…You put away (into savings) $7,000 a month for six months? After paying almost $4,000 grand a month in bills? Am I missing something? Lol.

This is outstanding. Have I mentioned lately just how amazing you are? This is incredible information.

Helene this is a WONDERFUL post! Love it – Ryan and I have a similar story. You've inspired me to do a similar post on my own blog! Way to go with achieving your goal 🙂

Thank you for breaking it down for us! So interesting. I love seeing other people's budgets. We can't save all that much right now because my husband is in residency (and Chicago rent is awful!), but I can't wait to save more once we move to Dallas and have a lower COL. 🙂

So for y'all do you typically run down your checking account and instead put whatever in savings? Like you would rather only have $100 in your checking to see $1000 in savings…I am a freak and would rather see the money in my checking account than savings even if I don't spend nearly any of it on "stuff."

thanks for this! downloading it now 🙂
Southern Elle Style

I love this post because I love finances. It's just bonkers to me how people in our generation either are really money smart or dumb. I agree that to save money you can't have debt and you can't overspend. Have you ever thought about joining the Nashville library? They have audiobooks you can download for free.

It's really refreshing to see other like minded individuals. I too came out of college debt free, max out my Roth annually and pay for everything in full. It's allowed my husband and I purchase a house and and fix it up, among other things. I'm a minimal decorator, too! Less is more in my book. The hard part is saving [as much] with a little person 😉

Great post! I fully agree about everything in this post! We've been able to save a lot too and will have our house paid off in 3ish years, woo hoo! 🙂

Really great guide! Luckily I have no student loans like you (although my husband does). That's one debt that a lot of people struggle to pay off.

My bf & I are taking a finance class right now so I feel like finances are everywhere!!! I'm working on saving for a car right now, and it's slow going since I don't make a ton, but I do enjoy knowing that I'm putting money away for something.

I love this post! My husband follow a similar approach with spending and saving money. Most of our spending ends up going towards food and travel – two of my favorite things! We're about to take a 4-5 month trip to Oceania and Asia – I need to go back and read your travel posts from your Asia trip!

You are so inspiring with these kids of posts. In no way does it seem like you've deprived yourself of anything. If there's something you want to do, you do it. But that doesn't mean you have to do and have everything, that's my problem. I, without a doubt, need to take a page from your book on this one!

Good for y'all! These are great tips and I love the budget planner! Starting my blog has caused me to eat out less so it was a win win! I have stopped getting waxes, getting my nails done and trying to shop less. I will have all credit card debt gone in July and the 6 month savings by the end of 2016. Then it's time to chip away at the car. I got f'ed over financially in a breakup 7 months ago and I made a vow to be fully financially independent and it is such a good feeling to be on my way!

I love reading posts like this! And congratulations to you both for saving so much money – that's so awesome!!

I've actually always been really bad at saving money and my trip to Ireland last year made me start learning REALLY quick. I have a lot of debt unfortunately (about $70,000 from school), live on my own, work two (low-paying) jobs, and don't make any money on my blog (yet). BUT I'm still doing okay. I won't be saving $45,000 any time soon, but it's something I hope to work toward! I'm doing it slowly – slowly cutting out going out to eat, slowly cutting back at Target, I rarely buy myself new clothes unless they're from a discount store. Let's just cross our fingers that I don't get sick any time soon because there's no room for a big medical bill like yours was!

We're lucky enough to not have college debt as well so we were able to quickly reach our savings goal ($30k) for a home down payment. It took us a little over a year because we ended up buying me a car and putting 10k down so we had to almost start over. I think the most important part is choosing what is most important/worth your money and deciding what isn't. To us, eating out is part of our lifestyle, but shopping or going to bars/shows is not. Instead of a budget, we have a savings goal each month – to put at least 1200 in savings. After that, we spend on whatever we need for the month! It has worked well for us!

Ok so I need to cut back on getting my nails done and eating out lol. Oh the struggle. I don't have cable either and haven't had cable in 6 yrs too! You are so lucky you got a free education!! My mom is a teacher, but maybe if she'd been a professor I would've lucked out.

Thank you so much for this post! and the budget spreadsheet.

Great post! Travel is really my biggest expense too (… Plus rent). I've heard a lot of people cutting cable but I don't think I'm quite ready for that myself. Maybe one day! $45k is 6 months is amazing though!

This is a great post! Loved it. Thanks Helen!

Pinned! Thanks for the great post 🙂 I love money posts.

We are getting ready to build a house, so we've been saving like crazy lately. Just by not eating out, we saved almost $1000 in a month. It's unreal how much we were wasting on meals out!

Ahhh so timely as Charles and I are really buckling down with our finances this year and want to build up an emergency savings & down payment for a home in the next 2 years. Thanks for sharing Helene!!

So much good advice! I think coming to terms with the fact that you should spend money on what you like the best (like traveling) and cut back on the rest is what was most helpful for us!

Pinning this! So many great tips and tricks that I'll be needing as I begin saving up for my next big adulting adventures (home ownership, etc!)

I love how honest this post was – these are such great tips for cutting out the extra spending!

this is great Helene! I'm always up for saving more money! Can I ask how you created the template? It's so cute and I just wanted to tweek a few things for my own personal use 🙂

I agree with all of these tips! One thing that my husband and I do is we actually put 25% of our paychecks straight into savings every single time so it's like money that never existed. It has really helped over the months on racking up how much money we've saved.

Definitely on the cable, I haven't had cable for 6 years as well, but Kyle had cable before we moved in together so he's gotten used to no cable but we do use the antenna.

liz @ j for joiner

Good stuff here! When we got smart with our money it enabled us to do a lot more and worry a lot less.

I love this! Way to go girl!!

Her Heartland Soul

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