Scott Alan Turner paid off more than $70,000 in loans and became a millionaire by 35. His No. 1 savings tip is simple: Pack your lunch every day. After all, eating out can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month if you’re not careful.
“My biggest [savings tip] I learned from my parents,” he says. “My dad worked for the town his whole life. He packed a lunch every day and brought it to work. In our small town upbringing, we didn’t have restaurants and we didn’t go out to eat all the time.”
Turner carried that habit into to his own life: In the 10 years he spent working a corporate job, he only bought lunch out a handful of times. Instead, he cooked large batches of food on Sunday to eat throughout the week.
Keeping up with the Joneses, or trying to live up to your friends’ and neighbors’ standards, is a tempting, but expensive, habit. Oftentimes, it leads to spending money on cars, gadgets and clothes that don’t actually make you happy.
“Question the things you’re spending your money on,” says soon to be early retiree and personal finance blogger “The Money Wizard,” who asks to remain anonymous. Thinking through your purchases will keep your spending in check and help you refrain from shelling out more than you should to “keep up with the Joneses.”
“Just because your friends enjoy spending lavishly on clothes, doesn’t mean that’s for you,” writes the 20-something, who managed to sock away $150,000 by age 26. “Don’t waste money on things that aren’t important to you.”
Financial blogger Matt and his fiancee, who asked to withhold their last names, went from living paycheck-to-paycheck to banking more than $50,000 in 2016.
“Our choice of living has been, from a numbers perspective, the biggest factor when it comes to doubling our savings rate in 2016 and helping us build wealth rapidly,” Matt writes on his blog, “Distilled Dollar.”
“We live in a neighborhood where most of our neighbors are paying a higher percentage of their income towards rent,” he writes in a separate post. “Of course, we could pay the same percentage and upgrade to a nice two-bed/two-bath, but we’re more than happy with where we live today.”
They pay less than 15 percent of their income for their 700-square-foot condo in Chicago. They estimate that they save about $12,000 a year, “seeing as how we could easily afford paying an extra $1,000 a month,” says Matt.
Transportation tends to one of “the big three expenses,” along with housing and food. One way to cut back on transportation costs is to go car-free. Of course, this may be more feasible for some than others, but you can save a lot by trading in your car for public transportation, a bike or your own two feet.
By moving to a place within walking distance to work, Matt estimates that he and his fiancee save nearly $9,000 a year. “This single decision has made me healthier, happier and wealthier over the past year than nearly any other decision,” he writes.
If an active commute is out of the question for you, check out other ways to cut back on transportation costs. And if you can’t get by without a car, drive a modest one: “I drive a 13-year-old truck that’s completely paid off and I split rent with my girlfriend in Minneapolis,” says “The Money Wizard.”
Matt and his fiancee easily saved a couple thousand dollars by cutting back on dry cleaning, massages, Starbucks and going to the movies, he says.
To cut back on “wants,” start by evaluating exactly where you spend your money, say early retirees Justin and Kaisorn McCurry, who banked more than $1 million in a decade to retire in their 30s. Try recording each and every purchase you make for a couple of months, whether that means writing expenses down in a notebook or using an app that will track your spending, such as Mint, Personal Capital or Level Money.
Ultimately, “knowing how you spend lets you determine whether you get value for your dollars, and where you might be able to focus efforts to reduce expenses further,” say the McCurry’s.
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