A penny saved may be a penny earned, but the truth is that most people don’t have all that many pennies stashed away.
According to a recent study conducted by CreditDonkey, 41% of Americans have less than $500 in savings. And if you’re among the 76% in this country who are living paycheck to paycheck, you may wonder how people have even that much saved up.
And that’s precisely why we found six regular folks (read: not millionaires, although one of them is well on his way) to let us in on their saving secrets—including not just how much they squirreled away, but how exactly they pulled off the financial feat.
I Saved ... $10,000
Dena Botbyl, 29, West Milford, N.J.
How I did it: I set some very specific financial goals—namely, getting out of debt. (At the time, I was making around $50,000 a year, but I had a lot of credit card and student loan debt.) And then I practiced visualization, which is all about imagining yourself once you get to your goals. But the key to visualization is detail. For example, it's not enough to imagine yourself this time next year with $10,000 in the bank. You must get specific: What will you be doing exactly? What will your lifestyle look like when you reach that goal? What will you do with your free time?
Once I was done with the visualization exercise, I got to work by putting about $1,000 of each paycheck into savings every two weeks via automatic deposits—and sometimes that was half my salary! I also cut out excesses, like eating out too much and shopping for accessories. Plus, I applied any extra money toward my savings, rather than spending it. Six months later, I had $10,000 in the bank.
Why I saved: To pay off some of my $60,000 of credit card and student loan debt!
I Saved ... $800
Bob Berchtold, 29, San Antonio, Tex.
How I did it: I write a blog that doles out career and lifestyle advice to young professionals. I was trying to think of creative ways to help my readers save money, and I realized that most of us view cable as a necessary expense—but it’s not! So I came up with the Ditch Cable Challenge, in which I dared people to cancel their cable for a month. Well, one month, for me, turned into a year—and is still going! My old cable bill was about $125 per month, but now I just have a high-speed internet bill of $60 per month ... and I don’t even miss TV! Instead, I catch episodes of my favorite shows on Hulu.
Why I saved: To go on a honeymoon in Europe. When I got married last year, I couldn’t afford to take one—a few more years without cable, and we’ll be hiking in the Pyrenees Mountains!
I Saved ... $20,000
Deacon Bradley, 32, Austin, Tex.
How I did it: At the time, we were a two-income family—but we lived completely on my income of $65,000. Everything that my wife brought home (her salary was $50,000) went first to chip away at debt, and then once we paid off all our debt, her paycheck went straight into savings each month. It wasn’t easy, but we stuck to a tight budget and gave up things like fun vacations while we were saving.
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Why I saved: To purchase our first home. We were determined to buy a house with a 15-year, fixed mortgage and not pay mortgage insurance, so we needed at least 20% down.
I Saved ... $6,000
Katy Halter, 27, Harrisburg, Pa.
How I did it: In 2010, to make some extra money, I started crafting ugly Christmas sweaters from thrift-store finds adorned with tacky vintage Christmas decorations—and then sold them on Etsy. At first it was a way to pay for holiday gifts and my flight home to visit family in Texas over Christmas. But last year I decided to focus on creating as many as possible to see how much money I could make. So far, I’ve sold 180 sweaters for a total of $6,000.
Why I saved: I’ve paid off half of my credit card debt, and I took my mom on a vacation to New Orleans for JazzFest, which was a bucket-list trip for her!
I Saved ... $8,000
Andy Madeley, 35, London, England
How I did it: I moved out of my spacious, three-bedroom home, which was costing me about $1,200 per month, and rented a small bedroom in a house (at just $400) with four other people for a year. I stopped eating out, bought only supermarket-brand products, and—I'm not proud of this—I stole toilet paper from work so I didn't have to pay for my own. I also rode a bike or walked everywhere (even in the winter and the pouring rain!), because transportation in London is expensive.
Why I saved: I went on a cycling trip between London and Sydney, Australia, that lasted 16 months.
I Saved ... $300,000
Roi Shlomo, 34, Atlanta, Ga.
How I did it: When I moved to the United States from Israel in 2000, I had $80 to my name. I dreamed of owning a frozen yogurt franchise, but I knew that I needed to build up the capital to make that dream come true. So I started a carpet-cleaning company because of the low overhead. I also lived in a small apartment with roommates in order to save every penny of my profits that I could, but it still wasn’t enough, so I invested in some cosmetic kiosks in the mall. I even became a makeup artist and an amateur photographer to supplement my income even more! At the height of my saving, I was putting away between $4,000 and $6,000 per month.
Why I saved: In 2009, I finally opened my first frozen yogurt shop, Yogli Mogli, in Atlanta. Now it’s a national chain! And I recently started a new business venture in organic juices and smoothies.