how i saved 40% of my net pay (and how you can, too)

Photo Credit: Jandro Martinez via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Jandro Martinez via Unsplash

So who’s ready to kick a$$ at saving this year?

If you read my last post (My 2016 Resolutions: Confessions of a Money Hoarder), then you know I am a self-proclaimed over-saver.  I know, rough problem to have, especially when most are swimming in student debt and just trying to keep their head above water.  But like I said before, my strong desire to hoard every dollar that touches my hands has inhibited my ability to really live, and I’m slowly starting to find the balance between watching that account balance go up and spending those dolla dolla bills (hello, Maccu Picchu!).

However, before I completely lose track of my former zealous-saver self (which, let’s be real, will never fully happen), I wanted to help those of you trying to up your savings game in the new year.  It’s not a hard track to follow, nor one of complete deprivation (I still do my fair of shopping, ladies), but it does take some discipline and willpower on your part.  It’s really just a matter of how badly you want to meet that savings goal, so if you’re ready to start kicking butt at the savings game, too, read on.

First, let’s dive in to see how much my money I kept in my back pocket in 2015.  You know, so you know that I’m a pro at this.  Here’s the breakdown of how much I saved this year:

savings

As a percentage of my net cash received on the year (i.e. net pay, rental income, etc.), that’s well over 40%.  This was even surprising to me, especially considering I also had to shell out around $3,250 on a new HVAC system this year.  Oh, the joys of being a homeowner.

So how did I do it?  Well, it was a twofold process.  First and foremost, I have a pretty well paying full-time job and some additional income I receive each month from renting out a room in my house.  I also received a promotion at work early in the fall, so the salary increase from that gave me some extra cash I hadn’t budgeted for in the beginning of the year. 

More importantly, though, is that I controlled my spending (like a grown-a$$, independent woman should).  I am definitely one for delayed gratification, so for the most part, giving up something now to gain MORE in the future is worth it to me.  I was definitely one of those kids who never snooped for Christmas gifts before December 25th because I loved the element of surprise.  Plus, the anticipation during that wait was kind of fun, and I feel the same way about saving. 

So where did I spend most of my money this year?  Here are my top 5 expense accounts for 2015:

expenses

Even though I had to buy a new HVAC system, my total home costs, which include utilities and any home improvement projects as well, are below the recommended 30%.  Plus, this doesn’t factor in the rental income I receive that directly offsets that, so yay me, I’m not house poor! (Considering buying a home?  Read my post on it here >>> So You Want to Buy a House)  I’m also not worried that travel is taking up so much of my budget because I spent most of that on my trip to Peru this spring, and my savings will more than cover it.  Food covers the 2 of the next 3 (fat kid stuck in a skinny kid’s body?), and I’m always looking to increase the amount I give to others – I gave almost $800 more than I did last year (Lord knows I need the good karma).

The thing to note, though, is that while this list isn’t all-inclusive, my total expenses for the year came out to be less than 60% of the net cash I received for 2015, which is why I was able to save so much.  And while I admit there were times that I had to pass on buying a pair of shoes I really wanted, I was nowhere near deprived .  I spent amazing weekends with friends in Nashville and New York, tried different restaurants and breweries all over Indy, and bought my first pair of Uggs (winters here can be wicked and I decided snow boots were a must).  You just have to learn to choose your priorities and focus your attention (and money) on them.

Now enough about me.  Let’s get to how you can be a badass saver, too.  Here are the top 4 ways I’ve used to save over 40% of my income.

  1. Budget

    It’s a simple concept, and yet so many people STILL don’t do this; however, this is the number one tool you can implement if you really want to get serious about getting your financial life in order.  Either you control your money or it controls you, and I’d rather have the upper hand in that battle.  So figure out where your money is going and plug up the holes.  As soon as you’ve mastered this, you’ll have much more cash left at the end of the month to pad that emergency fund…and maybe restock your wine selection.

  2. Automate

    I get paid on the 26th of every month, and on the 28th, a portion of that automatically gets moved to my savings account.  I don’t even have to think about it, and because I do it almost right as my money gets into my bank account, I’m essentially “paying” myself first.  If at the end of the month I don’t have enough to buy that new Ikea nightstand, then I just don’t get it – better to use my old one until I’ve planned for it in my budget than not have the money saved for when I really need it.

  3. Rob Peter to Pay Paul

    We all have different wants in this life – some of us want to be fashion queens while others want to simply explore the globe.  And wherever you want to spend a majority of your money is your business…just make sure you spend less somewhere else.  If your priority is to become a pro in the kitchen, then up your grocery budget and decrease the amount you allow yourself to spend out at restaurants or on entertainment.  Want to go to Africa next year?  Cool.  But you may need to say goodbye to your dreams of having a Pinterest-worthy home for awhile.  It’s all about trade-offs, and the sooner you decide what has the highest importance to you, the better it will be on your wallet.

  4. More Money, Less Stress

    One of the most effective ways to up your savings?  Increase your income (and not your expenses).  Taking on a side hustle is easier than ever these days with companies like Uber, Etsy, and Fiverr in the mix.  Or if you’ve got a specific skill (graphic design, editing, etc.), freelancing is great way to earn income in your downtime all from the confines of your own home.  Heck, even delivering for Jimmy John’s or waitressing on the weekends can have a significant impact to your overall finances.  If you’re young and unattached, there’s no reason you can’t up your income by utilizing your spare time.  It’s just a matter of whether or not you want to give up sleeping in on a Saturday morning to do so. 

Even if you’re not trying to boost your savings, these measures can also be used to tackle your debt – either way, you’ll be launching yourself in the direction of financial stability.  Remember, though, you won’t be successful unless you truly want to reach your goal and have the willpower to say no to some things now.  Delayed gratification is wonderful…I know from experience ;)

Now’s the time to share:  What are you saving for in the new year?  


On the search for a savings account?  Look into the online accounts below for an option that will give you higher yields than your traditional bank.

American Express (0.90% Annual Percentage Yield, No Minimum Balance)

Discover (0.95% APY, No Minimum Balance)

Everbank (1.11% APY, $1,500 Minimum Balance)

Photo Credit: Rob Bye

Photo Credit: Rob Bye