How I Saved $25K In One Year (Without Compromising My Lifestyle)
I make an average salary. I contribute to my 401(k) monthly. I travel abroad every three months. While I’ve been financially frugal my whole life, it’s a skill that can be easily taught. Here’s how to save big like I did.
I have friends who make three times what I do, but still have difficulty saving money. What's the difference between me and them? Well, practice. Growing up, I had a green tin box where I stashed all of my cushion-hunting treasures. Each shiny coin was my own little secret. I grew older and realized this behavior was called “saving.”
Now that I’ve upgraded to a bigger piggybank, a checking account, I’ve been able to identify the best ways to save for the future without becoming a troglodyte in the present. Here are my secrets:
Make it exciting
For me, saving money has always been sexy because of its secretive nature. Whenever my friends shared money gripes over drinks, I commiserated, but I couldn’t understand how they allowed hard-earned dollars to slip through their fingers.
Early on, I was told to put away at least 10 percent of whatever I made into a separate account, be it savings, 401(k), or something else—and never touch it. I took this advice to heart and have realized that once it’s out of sight, I don’t miss the money. But boy, do I admire it's growth.
Not all sales are created equal
Everyone likes a deal, but I’ve created my own art to it. The art of patience and timing. New York City spoils me with designer sample sales, but I have to be discerning. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s worth the money. Some of the highest quality clothes and shoes in my closet have cost less than a latte. Seriously!
I got a gorgeous viscose scarf at the EDUN sample sale for $5 and wear the crap out of it. Other amazing deals have included a $25 lambskin leather jacket, $19 Rag & Bone jeans, $50 Manolo Blahnik evening shoes, and the list goes on.
After I started selling items on Poshmark, a popular buying and reselling app, my passion for shopping turned into a self-funded hobby.
Treat yourself for less
I have always been a haircare girl and have a cabinet full of products to prove it. But since when does a simple haircut cost a Benjamin? The shock grows when I see the cost of treatments like Balayage and Ombre. I can't justify doing my hair for the price of a plane ticket, which is how I came across the website salonapprentice.com.
In most major cities, hair stylists in training look for hair models to practice on. To put it simply, you can get your hair professionally done at top salons like DryBar, L'Oreal, Bumble & Bumble for the cost of a tip. Similarly, makeup giants like Sephora offer complimentary mini-facials and makeovers, making it impossible to say no to a night out because of finances. No shame in grabbing a deal!
Do the cool shit you see online
One of my favorite hobbies is collecting passport stamps, a.k.a. traveling. Since last November, I’ve visited Iceland, Copenhagen, Belgium, Turks & Caicos, France, Canada, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico. (Follow @JetsettingJunkies on Instagram to track my adventures!) The best part of traveling is being able to do it cheaply and often.
With low-cost carriers becoming more ubiquitous, it’s more affordable than ever to take to the skies. My round-trip, non-stop flight to Paris in February was $425. I only spent $60 on accommodations because I was able to pay for hotels with earned points from credit cards, and even stayed at the ultra-luxurious Intercontinental (typically $600 a night) for free, by redeeming my anniversary reward night from IHG.
For flight deals, I use a website called Skyscanner.com. It allows you to search the cheapest places to travel to by month, and from there, you can specify dates. My friends are always asking how I travel so much. You guys, this is how.
Don’t feel pressured to spend
I learned this financial lesson the hard way. As a twenty-something, there are birthday dinners, standing brunch reservations, shopping trips, drink dates, and a hundred other money-sucking activities that are easy to become absorbed in.
If I said yes every time a friend wanted to “grab dinner” I wouldn’t have your attention. When the occasion calls for it, I’ll splurge, but if it’s catching up with a friend, a great happy hour spot works just fine. Once I allowed myself to say N-O, it freed up a lot of time for me to read, catch up on shows, and best of all, sleep! All while saving.
Be transparent with yourself
I have different credit cards for different rewards, but I only swipe a few of them on a daily basis. I track everything on Mint.com to streamline my bills and see all of my accounts in one place. It also keeps my spending in perspective so I know if I need to be a little more cautious in the upcoming month.
When I see how and where I spend my money, saving it becomes a controllable, mindful practice that keeps me optimistic about my plans for the future.
Collectively, these different behaviors have led to big savings, like, $25K in a year savings. Part of becoming a good saver was trial and error. There is a ton of advice out there, but not all of it is practical. I had to make it personal in order for it to work. You will too.
My favorite piece of literature on financial advice is The Richest Man In Babylon by George Samuel Clason. It’s a collection of short stories set in ancient Babylon, in which the characters learn simple, yet effective financial lessons. When I’m the richest woman in Manhattan, perhaps I’ll write my own.
Words: Sasha Mishkin
Photo: Dara Kobayashi Ritch