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.
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.)
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:
Dog Food: $200
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
– 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!
This is the exact planner I used to save over $45,000 in less than a year!