Ruzielle: This year is the year I have saved over $10,000, and I did it because I’m incredibly lucky and also, I have serious workaholic tendencies. I spend my days off scouring the internet to make extra cash on the side—read: mock jury research, usability research ($50 an hour? Holla!), focus groups, etc.—and I take any chance I get to work overtime. Two years ago, I worked three jobs to beef up my savings and because: workaholic tendencies. Right now, I make okay-ish money for an unmarried woman without kids or animal friends ($45,000 plus range). I’m also a unicorn—I have zero consumer and/or “life happened” debt, zero car payments, and zero student loans.
My job has a 401(k) (sadly, it’s unmatched) and they take away $200 a month. Plus I also save about 20-25% of my post-tax income and any money I make on side jobs goes directly to my savings account. I received a huge chunk of tax refund money earlier this year from educational costs; it was around $4,000, and most of it went to savings. Also, I’m part of a twice-yearly bonus program at work and you guessed it, the money goes to savings. The bonus checks vary in amount; I’ve seen $1,000 dollars, and the one I just received was $250.
My housing costs are reasonable. I live alone and my rent and everything included is a flat fee of $1,100. I’m a bit of a recluse so I don’t spend all my time going out to happy hour with co-workers or going out, period. I’m not one to engage in FOMO, no matter how much fun going to Vegas is, or going to a bar that just opened. I try to live below the salt, because I have that mentality that I work X amount of hours to pay for this sweatshop shirt or whatever, so I might as well pay myself.
This past couple of months, I’ve made a conscious decision to cook more and meal plan. I’m fixated on fancy grocery stores and tend to pay $5 for a small cup of deli chicken salad which I can make at home and do a better job on it. I used to eat out a lot more but I get more disappointing meals than satisfying ones, and I just paid $15 on it. So I’m trying to be better at not eating out and the savings are adding up.
I also have to re-emphasize how luck plays into being able to save money. My bosses liked me a lot so I’m always first in line for raises, promotions, bonuses; I have lots of co-workers who never get ahead or get bonuses like I do, and I feel incredibly lucky.
Yesterday, a new AskReddit question popped up: “[Serious] Redditors, What are your top tips for saving money, or for earning a bit on the side?”
The OP asked for serious answers, and Reddit delivered: use the library, learn to cook, make a grocery list, use coupons, save your change, pay yourself first, pack a lunch, etc. etc. etc.
The majority of the responses were about saving money, not about earning more. This is interesting because there’s nearly always a hard limit to the amount that any one individual can save. Whenever you get some list of how to save money by taking the bus, going to the library, packing a sack lunch, you always get someone who says “okay, I’m doing all of those things and I’m still broke.” I’ve said it myself. (This is another reminder to never look up my old blog from ten years ago.)
On the other hand, there’s not necessarily a hard limit to the amount of money that a person can earn. Or, to be more specific: it is hard but there isn’t a limit.
So it’s telling that the advice skewed so heavily towards saving money vs. earning money.
Today’s “The Year We Saved $10K” stories both come from people who claim their stories are “boring” and “not dramatic,” but NO SAVINGS STORY IS EVER BORING.
Annecara: My story is pretty boring. My husband and I are DINKs, and we basically just auto-transfer 20-30% of our paychecks into our savings account every month, which has totaled more than $10k a year since about for the last three years. The percentage we save has gone up and down, depending on circumstance (for instance, our mortgage just increased by $400 a month, so we lowered our savings amount to compensate) but the only time we haven’t saved at all is when I was out of work at the end of 2011.
Jen: I feel quite lucky that I was able to save so much over the past 12 months. For me it was a confluence of three events, I think.
First, my salary got bumped up by $15,000; for me, that was a significant increase. It came about in a slightly interesting way. I was in charge of hiring someone junior to me, and to get him we had to make a higher offer than we normally would. My manager knew that I knew what he was making, and all of a sudden my salary got bumped up. I know I should probably have asked for a raise and I actually was planning to, but I got lucky and didn’t have to.
In this installment of “The Year We Saved $10K,” we have two stories from people in the legal industry.
Today’s “The Year We Saved $10K” stories are about saving as it relates to location. Jill saved her money while living in an area with a low cost of living, and Molly socked away her $10K while planning for a move.
Jill: When I was an undergraduate student in the early 2000s I “made” roughly $10,000 toward the end of my third year after applying for student loans that, as it turned out, I didn’t immediately need. I had a scholarship from an external organization and that, coupled with a small scholarship from the university as well as my part-time job at the library, meant that for a few months I had a huge amount of cash sitting in my chequeing account, which at times was a little surreal.
I was very practical about it and I ended up using it to pay a year’s advance of rent on a new one-bedroom apartment, which was $500/month (since I paid the year in advance I saved $250), and put the rest of it into Canadian Savings Bonds. I’ll admit that it’s debatable whether I made this money but the memory of seeing all that cash in my account when I was 19 or 20 fills me with a strange nostalgia, especially since I am currently broke!
Today’s “saving $10K” stories are about working three jobs, cutting back on expenses, and what happens when you take a job that comes with a higher salary as well as a higher cost of living. Also, they both involve farmers’ markets!
Marne: I read “The Year I Saved $10,000″ on The Billfold and jumped up and down a little with recognition—I did this! I’ve never met anyone else in my age bracket (I was 22 at the time; I’m 28 now) who did something similar, so I’ve never really had anyone to talk to it. But yeah, there was a moment when I had what felt like a serious amount of cash, and it was beautiful.Someone told me (or somewhere I read) that it won’t matter when you’re old if your career was 30 or 35 years long; what will matter is if you made the time in your life to do all of the things you wanted to do and enjoyed yourself along the way. The same source of that advice also suggested that traveling was a lot easier and more fun when you were younger and unattached and not so old that you had to be on a big tour bus full of other old people. I thought that all made sense.But traveling requires money and I had none, so between the autumn of 2008 and autumn of 2009, I held three jobs: first, I worked full-time at the University of Washington in food service. A former employer had suggested trying to find a job in any capacity at a public university specifically for the benefits package, which turned out to be excellent advice. I got great health benefits, paid sick days and vacation, and a solid retirement package, all of which made up for the fact that my salary might as well have been a paperclip and a handful of wooden nickels. The other downside: my hours were something like 7:30-3:30 and I stood during all of them. If I had a free evening, I would get home from work and lie on the couch and prop my legs up against the wall and encourage the blood to drain from my swollen feet and legs. On a typical evening, though, I went straight to one of my two other jobs. On those days, I took a lot of Advil.
A few afternoons and evenings each week, I babysat. I advertised myself on Craigslist as a queer-friendly babysitter with a CPR certification. Within a week I had a great gig with a five year old. We spent a lot of time in my car heading home from pre-school in the never-ending Seattle gridlock, listening to the same Mika CD over and over and talking about reasons why city planning is good and public transportation is cool. His moms were executives at the university who insisted that I was worth more than the hourly rate that I asked for. They paid accordingly. My hourly wage from babysitting ended up being double what I made in food service.