I make an average salary. I contribute to my 401(k) monthly. And I travel abroad every three months. While I’ve been financially frugal my whole life, saving is 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.
Now that I’ve upgraded from a piggybank to a checking account, I’ve been able to identify the best ways to save for the future without compromising my lifestyle in the present. Here are my secrets:
1. 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.
2. 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 latté. Seriously!
After I started selling items on Poshmark, a popular buying and reselling app, my passion for shopping turned into a self-funded hobby.
3. 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 have to cost a Benjamin? The shock grows when I see the cost of certain treatments. 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, hairstylists in training look for hair models to practice on. To put it simply, you can get your hair professionally done at top salons 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. There’s no shame in grabbing a deal!
4. Do the cool stuff you see online.
One of my favorite hobbies is collecting passport stamps. Since last November, I’ve visited Iceland, Copenhagen, Belgium, Turks & Caicos, France, Canada, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota and New Mexico. 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 roundtrip, nonstop 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 I even stayed at an ultra-luxurious hotel (typically $600 a night) for free by redeeming a reward from my points program.
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. This is how.
5. Don’t feel pressured to spend.
I learned this financial lesson the hard way. In your 20s, 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 no, it freed up a lot of time for me to read, catch up on shows, and best of all, sleep! All while saving.
6. 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. 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.