How I Saved $113,600 in 2.5 Years
The average American saves less than 5% of their disposable income (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/30/average-american-saves-less-than-5-percent-see-how-you-stack-up.html) As of June 2017 that savings rate dropped to 3.8%. If we look at the savings rate over the past 57 years, we can see that most Americans tend to save during financial dark times and spend during booming times. It just struck me how strange human behavior is when it comes to money. When we have the least amount of money, we can save the most. However, when money is flowing, we save the least.
The above article made me think of my savings journey to prepare to quit my corporate job so that I could start my own franchise. I was able to swing my net worth by $113,600 in 2.5 years. That equates to $45,440 saved each year.
When I started on my savings journey, I had just sold my family's business after running it for 5.5 years. During that time, I took a minimum wage salary until the last 18 months, and after that I took half the salary I should have been making. You may think, why pay yourself so little? Well, I really had no other choice. My brother-in-law was about 3 years into running his new Restoration franchise when he passed away. He achieved amazing success by hitting over $2,000,000 in gross revenue by his second year in business. However, that growth came with some debt. Some pretty massive debt of around $600,000. This debt didn't only come from the business, but also due to some property purchases that were made by my brother-in-law, the business took the brunt of the debt. To pay down this debt as soon as possible, I paid myself a minimum wage salary. I also paid my widowed sister a salary, but just enough for her to get by, as she had 9 children still living at home at the time. Once the debt was managed, I could then sell the business and move on to more lucrative employment.
The above plan caused my personal saving for retirement to stop, and my personal cash savings were used up by the end of the 5.5 years. Not only were my cash savings used up, but I also incurred $44,000 in debt. I had purchased a new car and borrowed money from my parents. In June 2015 I was $44,000 in debt and didn't have a job after selling the family business. I had about $1,500 left in my checking account. After selling the business I transitioned into working for the corporate office of the ServiceMaster Restore franchise my family owned. June 15, 2015 was my first day of work, and I made it my goal to get out of debt as soon as possible and to save enough money to start my financial freedom quest.
I started with my smallest debt and worked my way through the three loans until I destroyed them. Once I found out that I could use my company car for personal errands, I sold my personal car. I rented a car for vacations and rode my bike to many places. I was able to pay off $11,000 in debt on the car and pull out the $10,000 in equity to pay off my father. By selling my car, I got rid of half my $44,000 in debt. Then I put every dime into paying my mother back the $21,000 I owed her. I can't remember exactly how long that took, but I'd say around 6 months. That's when I felt I could truly begin saving for a financially free future. Below are tips, sacrifices, and strategies that I used to save over $45,440 a year.
Sold my dream car that I still owed money on
Used my bike to get places
Took public transportation
Took advantage of my company car policy that allowed for some basic personal use
I used Personal Capital to keep track of my overall progress. Sign up for free and receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card using this link https://share.personalcapital.com/x/AHVqjr
Had a roommate to split rent & utilities with
I'm passionate about eating good food and spent $300 a month on groceries but rarely ate out. I cooked from scratch at home.
Volunteered at a community garden every Saturday for 3 hours. This allowed me to help donate organic food to schools and food banks, but also, I received a food share for my labor. This made my organic vegetables free (except for labor) which helped my grocery budget.
Took care of my clothes and bought very few new clothes.
I sold items that I owned to lesson my burden and gain a few dollars. Roughly $120.
I used www.everydollar.com to track every dollar that I spent and to set savings goals. It became a game and I was excited to balance my budget at the end of the month to see how much I had saved.
After my debts were paid, I took advantage of my corporate 401K matching and started a ROTH IRA. My company also offered discounted stock to employees, so I purchased some stock as well.
I entertained myself by going for walks and listening to free audio books (check out the free Overdrive app) from my library or free pod casts on my phone. My partner and I would also entertain ourselves by cooking exciting meals at home.
My partner and I found a local farmer who could use some help butchering her pasture raised "beyond organic" chicken. We exchanged labor for free chicken.
Birthday/Holiday/Special Occasions were planned and celebrated at home. I avoided over spending on these celebrations. Our Christmas tree was made from a $.75 piece of green poster paper from Walmart and photos of our memories from the previous year decorated our paper tree. Or for my 40th birthday, we planned to ride 40 miles on our bikes to mark the occasion (We only made it 22 miles). We came home to homemade ice-cream and an amazing home cooked meal.
Saving brought new excitement into my life. I had another compelling reason to get up in the morning. I was working towards reaching my lofty goal.
This 2.5-year process was not without its financial setbacks that life always throws at you. I had to pay for two moves during this time. I traveled to Iceland with a friend (which was incredible and absolutely worth the money), and I had a pulmonary embolism that put me in the ER of my local hospital twice (which cost me over $7,000). I realized, that saving for the things you really want verses spending daily for your "kinda wants", gives you so much more happiness in your life. For most people, going to Iceland on vacation would require a credit card purchase. I paid cash. Moving twice would require a credit card purchase. I paid cash. And the most common reason for bankruptcy in the United States today, an unexpected medical issue, like my pulmonary embolism, would have been put on a credit card. I paid cash! The security of having saved a nest egg and knowing that I had the self-control to refill that nest egg brought me so much peace in my life.
You don't need to withhold joys in your life when you are managing your money. It's managing your money that allows you to feel real joy, peace and a stronger sense of purpose each day.
In the end, I was able to add $113,600 in 2.5 years to my net worth. I earned over that period $235,920 from work and dividends/interest on my investments. Easily 30% ($70,776 over the 2.5 years) of that income went to taxes. I donated on average $250 a month (roughly $7,500 over the 2.5 years) to charities I supported. I traveled, moved and took care of my medical bills.
This was the most money I had ever been paid in my life. I chose to go the opposite of the statistics. I chose to save drastically in a time of wealth instead of being forced to save in a time of need.
How much money do you think you could save if you really put your mind to it?