How I Saved $15,000

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I’m naturally wired as a spender rather than a saver. 
 
For years, I knew I should be saving money. I knew I should be contributing to my retirement. I knew I needed an emergency fund.

And like many people, I didn’t do it. But then someone told me about America’s Cheapest Family.

If you don’t know their story, they’re a family of seven who lived off of $35,000 for 12 years. And they inspired me to find more creative ways to save money. I knew that if they could do it, so could I.
 
So in 18 months, I went from not having an emergency fund at all to saving $15,000.
 
And if you’re wondering how to save money wisely, here’s what worked for me:
 

1 | I Lowered My Interest Rate

office desk with laptop and paperwork

Interest rates are tricky.
 
And in the end, they’re what costs us so much more money on our debt. So I realized that if I only made minimum payments on my credit cards, it would take years and years to pay them off.
 
Here’s what I mean:
 
Let’s say you only made the minimum payments on a $5,000 credit card with a 15% interest rate.
 
Do you know how long it’d take to pay it off?
 
6.5 years with $2,892 worth of interest.
 
So the first thing I did was stop adding more debt. I stepped away from my credit cards. Secondly, I used Credible to lower my interest rates.

Credible offers two free services:
 
1. Student Loan Refinancing
2. Personal Loans
 
What is student loan refinancing?
 
When they refinance your loans, they match you with a better lower with a lower interest rate. A lower interest rate will save you hundreds – if not thousands – in interest fees. And according to their research, Credible users save an average of $18,886 over the life of their loan.
 
If you have multiple loans, this means they’ll combine everything into a new, single loan. This makes keeping track of your bills simple.
 
(You can also refinance if you have just one loan)
 
What are personal loans?
 
Personal loans are ideal for credit cards and other types of debt. If you carry a high-interest rate on your credit cards, for example, then you can move that balance over to a personal loan.
 
I refinanced my student loans and got a personal loan for my credit cards. It cut my repayment time in half and saved me a couple thousand in interest.
 
Once I became debt-free, those extra monthly payments started going towards savings.
 
So just because you can’t afford to pay off the balance completely, don’t settle for a high-interest rate.

Know your options.

Note: You can read more about Credible in our Credible Review
 

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2 | I Saved While I Spent

man holding wallet full of cash

I love finding creative ways to save money. But I also like to keep things simple, so I prefer things that don’t require a lot of effort.

For me, this meant using a cash back app called Rakuten.

I figured there were things I needed to buy anyway, so I wanted to save money while doing it.

Plus, there’s a lot of things I find cheaper online. So when I combine that with Rakuten, then I know I’m getting a great deal.

If you haven’t heard of Rakuten before, here’s how it works:

You sign up for a free account and use the search bar to find the retailer you want to shop with.

Here’s how that looks:

rakuten homepage

As you make purchases, you’ll get cash back.

Once you accumulate your earnings, Rakuten mails your check or deposits it into your PayPal.

Note: The Rakuten link above gives you a $10 bonus for signing up and shopping.

3 | I Created a Necessities Only Budget

man writing his budget

I put a strong emphasis on necessities. This allowed me to get a month ahead on my bills and build my emergency fund.

I also made sure to stay within these recommended budgeting percentages:

  • Housing: 25-30%
  • Utilities: 5% – 10%
  • Food: 10 % – 15%
  • Transportation: 10% -15%
  • Health: 5% -10%
  • Insurance: 10% – 25%
  • Clothing/Personal: 10% – 15%
  • Saving: 10% – 15%
  • Giving: 10%

So if I overspent in one area, then I knew I needed to underspend in another to balance it out.

My necessities only budget allowed me to know my ‘number’.  My number was the exact amount I spent each month that fulfilled my basic needs.

4 | I Used Cash

woman holding cash

Did you know that people who use cash spend 12% to 18% less than people who use cards?

I didn’t, but boy could I tell a difference after I started.

Here’s the deal:

There’s a psychological component behind spending with cash. Swiping a credit card just doesn’t sink in as much as spending your hard-earned dollars.

So for me, this was more than just finding creative ways to save money.

It was a lifestyle change.

So when I went shopping, I used my SavvyCents Wallet and only took the amount that I knew I needed.

As the former spender, this helped tremendously with impulse shopping.

These days, if I see something I want, I ask myself:

Do I really need this? 
Do I want to store it?
Do I feel like cleaning and maintaining it?

Since I only have a limited amount of cash to spend, I have to be willing to give up something in my cart for something else. 

It’s a trade-off that helps me put things into perspective. 

If you’re new to using the cash system, I recommend starting out with cash envelopes. They’re cheap, easy to use, and easy to label.

Once you get used to your cash system, then try out a cash envelope wallet. They’re much more durable in the long-run.

5 | I Created My Own Conveniences

woman making coffee

My day doesn’t start until I’ve had my first sip of coffee. And I know I’m not the only one.

So I spent at least $5 a day on coffee. But I was essentially paying for the convenience.

And part of my journey was realizing this:

Financial freedom requires you to think BIG picture. I had to stop wasting money on short-term wants.

So I focused on doing things myself.

6 | I Cleared the Excess

man typing on laptop

I knew I had to do something about the expenses that were ruining my budget.

Because finding creative ways to save money is often about clearing the spending leaks in your budget. You know, the little things that add up.

So the first thing I did was cut my Dish cable package from $170/month to $70.

And I went ahead and bought Amazon Prime Video so that I could get my favorite shows and movies.

For grocery shopping and dining out, I determined that alcohol is a want. I started enjoying a glass of wine on the weekends only.

Lastly, I found a cheaper gym in my area. It doesn’t have all the perks of my old gym, but those things aren’t worth paying for.

Just by doing these three things, I saved $250 each month.

7 | I Became a Jack(ie) of All Trades

woman working on laptop

The pursuit of financial peace has led me to become the Jack of all trades.

I wanted to pocket as much extra money as I possibly could.

Here’s what I did:

  • More cooking at home, less eating out. I’m no Susie Homemaker, but I saw improvement. Joanna Gaines’cookbook was a hit in my house. ($250/mo savings)
  • Hair Salons. I used to go every 6 weeks to get a touch-up. Now I’ve had my hair stylist add extra lowlights so that I can go every 8-10 weeks instead. ($125/mo savings)
  • Nail Salons. Because I can think of better ways to spend $50. Nowadays, I’m doing my own manicures at home using this Kiss Set. They don’t last as long, but for $5, you can’t beat it. ($50/mo savings)
  • Dry cleaning. I use a handheld steamer and just do it myself. ($30/mo savings)
  • Washing my Own Car. Because I can do a better job than the car wash, anyway. ($25/mo savings)
  • Pet Treats. They’re expensive. So I started making them at home. Plus, I feel better knowing every ingredient. ($15/mo savings)
  • Lawn Car. Alright. So I don’t love this part, but I’ve started doing it anyway. ($100/month savings)
  • Pest Control. I’ve been paying a company to do this for years. It was WELL worth it, but I wanted to try doing it myself. I’ve been using Ortho. ($30/month savings)

8 | I Stopped Paying Full Price

man doing his budget

I’ve stopped paying full price on virtually everything. And this is one of my favorite creative ways to save money:

Plan your shopping trips around your grocery stores flyer.

When someone first suggested that to me, I wondered why I didn’t think of it sooner.

And did you know that the average American wastes $2,200 worth of food each year? I was probably one of them.

So here’s the deal:

Sale cycles usually run every 6-8 weeks. So I started using a FoodSaver to stock up on expensive items like meat and produce.

My FoodSaver vacuum seals my food and makes it last up to 5 times longer. So I can stock up on food when it’s actually on sale and freeze it for later.

Win-win.

9 | I Kept a Change Jar

jars full of coins

So this one is surprisingly simple, yet effective:

By keeping a change jar, I saved $289 my first year. Not bad.

Every day when I came home from my cash-only system, I tossed the excess change into my jar. I got this idea from someone who saved $375 last year by using his jar.

10 | I Hustled

woman driving her car

Once I discovered that the average millionaire has seven streams of income, I was hooked.

Of course, I thought to myself: the best way to save money is to make more of it. I have multiple side hustles that help me earn more money.

Plasma donations, cleaning houses, babysitting, and selling stuff I don’t need – showed me that earning money is sometimes about thinking outside of the box.

11 | I Set Goals

man writing in notebook

How did I maintain motivation for the long term?

I had goals. This isn’t just about finding creative ways to save money, it’s about succeeding in every area of your life.

Goals, goals, goals.

It just works.

So here’s what I did:

I wrote down my short-term goals and long-term goals on a notecard. I laminated it and put it in my wallet. It served as a great reminder that I was on track to being accomplished and empowered.

With every contribution I made towards my savings, I got excited about coming closer to my dream.

Talk about saving with a purpose.

Do you have any creative ways to save money? Let us know.

Thanks for reading.

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