Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Read the disclaimer for more information.
You’d probably agree that it’s hard to save money, right?
Regardless of how much money you make, how frugal you try to be, or how well you budget, socking away extra cash each month isn’t always an easy thing to do.
Yet you always hear about people saving tons of money. Sometimes saving amounts that don’t even seem realistic.
But how are they doing it?
That’s the question I wanted to answer.
So I did some digging around and was able to connect with 17 different people who have saved a ton of money, all by doing seemingly normal things.
I asked each of them to write a brief overview of their story, which you’ll see below, but I urge you read their full, personal experiences.
I think we can all learn something about how to save money from these incredible people. If you feel the same, don’t forget to comment and share this with others who you feel would benefit.
1. Travis and Amanda saved $1 million by their early 30s
Travis and Amanda are a young couple in their early thirties who saved up $1,000,000, quit their jobs, and began their journey of financial independence. They started reading Mr. Money Mustache several years back and embraced the idea of “mustachianism” with their whole hearts.
Their financial numbers were furiously crunched. Exactly how much money would they need to stop working, presuming they moved somewhere with a low-cost of living?
The answer ended up being $1,000,000. Living on a 4% safe withdrawal rate would give Travis and Amanda $40,000 per year to live on (and if you don’t live in the most expensive cities, this amount can go a long way).
Amanda says that financial independence is achieved by two means: maximizing income and minimizing spending. So they slashed their expenses (their total cost of living for 2014 was $47,576) and ramped up their savings. They moved their money to Vanguard and optimized their portfolio.
They hustled and advanced their careers, too, applying for promotions and working hard to receive raises and bonuses when available. Their blog also features a table showing their income and taxes over the last seven years.
After reaching their goal, Travis and Amanda planned their first big adventure: driving from California to Costa Rica. They bought a used 2000 Toyota 4Runner and named him Bruno.
They fixed him up so that they could sleep in the back, then they hit the road to camp and travel our way through Mexico and Central America. On their return trip northbound, they hunted for the best city to retire early in, and now live in Asheville, NC.
If you’re interested in learning more about Travis and Amanda, Bruno, and their finances, or following their ongoing adventure, check out some of our other posts at Freedom With Bruno.
2. ‘FIRECracker’ saved $1 million and retired at age 31
The Boomers told us that to grow up, we had to get a job, buy a house, and be a loyal employee. This woman, who goes by FIRECracker, tried to follow this advice.
But she hated every minute of dragging herself to a job she loathed to save up money to buy a house she didn’t even want. So eventually she got fed up and did the exact opposite of what everyone else told her to do.
And as a result, she retired at 31 with over $1 million in savings. Turns out the Boomers weren’t so smart after all.
3. Helene Sula saved $45,000 in 6 months
Helene Sula says that when you have the right strategies and mindset, saving a large chunk of cash can happen really fast. In fact, she was able to save up over $45,000 in just 6 months by using just a few simple, yet effective, tips that even you can apply immediately.
Her and her husband were able to save enough money to move abroad and really live their dream of traveling throughout Europe. You can find out how she implemented these strategies by reading the full article right here.
You can also follow Helene on Twitter @heleneinbetween and read her full blog, where she discusses how to get out of debt, save for a home or car, and start living the life you really want to, over at Helene In Between.
4. Anita paid off $95,000 in debt in 1 year
Anita (aka ‘Thriftygal’) started working as a lawyer with $95,000 in student loan debt to her name. The lure of “stuff” never really appealed to her, and she only wanted her time, freedom and life.
Living thrifty, she paid off her debt, read Your Money or Your Life and started her own wall chart, tracking her monthly expenses and her projected passive income. After four more years of working, her projected passive income was higher than her expenses, which allowed her to retire early.
Now Anita focuses on traveling, reading, writing, biking, seeing friends, exploring, planning, cooking, ticking off bucket list items, and marveling at the reality that she gets to live this life. She says that sometimes she finds herself just giggling with delight unexpectedly.
5. Bola Sokunbi saved $100,000 in 3.5 years
Bola graduated from college and got a full-time job making $54,000 (~$40,000 after taxes). It was her first real paying job and so she decided to challenge herself and see exactly how much she could save if she really put her mind to it.
Despite having a mortgage and car note, Bola was able to save over $100,000 in less than 3.5 years. She did it by contributing to her employer-sponsored retirement account, keeping her expenses low, saving half of her salary (and all of her bonus), and by starting her own side hustle – a wedding photography business, which was a nice boost to her income.
6. Jeff Maddux saved $166,000 by age 30
It was his first week of working full-time that Jeff started to plot his escape from the rat race. Deep down, Jeff knew he wasn’t going to survive in an office environment until age 65 with only 2 weeks of vacation each year – especially because he had a burning want to travel.
This fire inside him provided the motivation to keep his spending lean and develop a ‘savings first’ attitude. What was Jeff saving for?
In one word: freedom.
If he could save enough, he’d be able to buy his freedom from a lifestyle that didn’t align with his values. So he read everything that had to do with tax planning, budgeting, investing and optimizing his finances.
Saving as much as he did was not an overnight thing. It took years of making hundreds of smaller choices that accumulated to a lot of money over time.
By the time Jeff turned 30, he had saved up enough money and courage to walk away from that lifestyle and start his next chapter. You can read Jeff’s full blog at The Lifestyle Accountant and follow him on Twitter @JeffMadduxCPA.
7. Jacob Lund Fisker retired at age 30
Please note: the above photo is not Jacob Lund Fisker. Mr. Fisker did not include a photo for me to use, so this is a stock photo of what I imagined he would be doing in his early retirement extreme
Jacob began in 2000 with a goal of becoming economically independent and more self-reliant. Back then there were no blogs and he didn’t know of any books or websites, so he started piecing ideas together from scratch.
Later on he learned about FI (Financial Independence) from books like Your Money or Your Life and discovered that he was practically already FI insofar he invested his savings. Jacob discovered personal finance blogging in 2007 and seeing that nobody talked about the kind of independence he pursued, he decided to start his own.
Back then, early retirement still meant age 40-55, having a high income, and saving a million dollars using the magic of compound interest; or living like a monk.
Jacob’s blog blazed a trail for a new model which changed the focus to the importance of the savings rate instead of the common $1M goal; Pareto optimizing big expenses like home, transport, and food instead of clipping coupons or memorizing hundreds of frugal tips; and that it was possible to retire before age 40 using lifestyle changes instead of working six-figure jobs.
These are all common sense knowledge today but back then they were revolutionary. Jacob also wrote a book introducing a systems-theoretical approach that took it even further.
Today, he and his wife spend around $10,000/year combined, living a middle class lifestyle in a fully owned home just outside Chicago. For more information, you can read Jacob’s blog, Early Retirement Extreme and buy his book, which goes way more in-depth on his methods.
8. Clayton Cornell saved $15,000 in 15 months (on a $29k salary)
Not long ago, Clayton Cornell had a pretty average entry-level job. He was making about $29,000 per year. Yet he was still able to save over half of that income in just over a year by doing some pretty basic things.
This has also lead to some other big changes in his life. In 2011 he quit his job and began traveling full-time.
He says the keys to saving money are pretty simple: 1) track your spending, 2) make a plan, and 3) stick to that plan. Clayton started saving before the days of smartphones, so he carried around a small notebook and transferred all of his expenses to a daily log on graph paper. Every single day.
Once he had an idea of his daily expenses, he made a plan, which was an overall budget for every group (rent, food, utilities, beer, etc.). He then broke that into a daily and monthly budget.
The last, and most difficult, part to do is stick to the plan. But Clayton says that when you’re tracking things daily, you can see where you’re overspending immediately. When the group is tapped out, you stop spending right then and there.
It’s simple, but it definitely takes discipline. If you develop these key skills, you too can save a bunch of money on a very small income.
9. Elizabeth Colegrove saved $140,000 in 6.5 years
Elizabeth’s husband is active duty military. They have been to 5 bases in 4 different states since they were married just over six years ago.
Early in their marriage, they established the goal of being financially independent when Elizabeth’s husband retired from the Navy at 20 (God and Navy willing, of course). After a little trial and error with the stock market, they realized owning rental properties was going to be their key to success.
Since 2010, Elizabeth and her husband have purchased eight rental properties, all through job losses, transfers, and growing their carriers. Elizabeth says that their rental homes have been the best thing that have ever happened to them financially, stressful moments and all.
Now, to be able to buy these properties, they’ve had to save large sums of money for the down payments, and over the years they have come up with many tips and tricks to helping them meet these goals.
10. Nick saved $40,000 to move to Europe
Freedom means different things to different people. For Nick, it meant leaving the United States to move to Poland. There, he felt he could live an independent lifestyle free of office politics, dress codes, and the standard 40-hour workweek.
Through patient effort, Nick was able to save $40,000 to meet his goal, while laying the foundation for a better future. Nick says that whether you want to move across the world or simply change the direction of your career within the city that you live, giving yourself a long-term cushion of savings will give you the security and confidence to make the leap.
All it takes is self-control and discipline over the course of a handful of years, which isn’t easy, but is well worth the effort. You can follow Nick on his blog, Patient Ambition.
11. Deacon Bradley saved $20,000 in 1 year
Deacon Bradley saw his financial life turn around when he finally found and downloaded Dave Ramsey’s podcast one day. The first person he heard on the podcast was talking about how they had no debt to their name.
Seeing this as a complete inspiration, Deacon decided to find ways to pay off his own debt in less than a year. He immediately was able to save over $3,000, which ultimately swelled to over $20,000 by the end of that year.
12. ‘SG Budget Babe’ saved $20,000 in 1 year, too
SG Budget Babe is a young Singaporean woman whose inspiring story of how she saved $20,000 in her first year of work initiated a whole new movement for other young working adults to follow likewise.
In Singapore, most young adults stay with their parents until they get married, and continue to receive pocket-money until they land their first job. This was not the case for Dawn, where she started managing her own finances at age 18 after her parents stopped giving her money.
She also fully funded her college degree and study exchange trip for half a year in California (after taking on nine side jobs to save up for it). Dawn keeps track of all her learnings and shares tips about personal finance on her blog, SG Budget Babe.
Other than sharing about how she manages to save so much without compromising on a social life, she also writes about insurance, investments and other life lessons. SG Budget Babe is currently striving to meet financial freedom by the age of 45.
13. Kathryn O’Halloran saved $30,000 in 5 months
With only five months to save, Kathryn applied for a student visa for Japan. She needed to have the cash to support herself for a year, so she implemented an extreme savings plan. She ended up saving $35,000.
14. Greg Seymour saved enough to retire early and move to Costa Rica
Greg Seymour is a quitter – and proud of it. In 2012, he and his wife quit their corporate jobs and moved to Costa Rica, where they lived for over three years.
Before they left for Costa Rica, they saved up about five years worth of living expenses through pretty extreme frugal living. Doing this gave Greg and his wife the freedom to explore the world.
Since leaving the workforce, Greg and his wife have learned to live a simple, but fulfilled life. They also value experiences over possessions.
Greg says that living this way has given them the one thing they missed while working full-time: the time to enjoy their success and follow their passions: writing, hiking, and photography.
15. Dylin retired at age 43
Imagine how amazing it would be to retire in your 40s. You would have upwards of 40 or more extra years (depending on your health of course) to travel, spend time with family, volunteer, write a novel, or just enjoy life.
You may be thinking “that sounds great, but it’s just not realistic – I have too many bills and don’t make enough money.” The truth is anyone can retire early if they put their minds to it and follow some basic simple strategies.
Like most people, Dylin had student loans and credit card debt in his late 20s. Rather than getting discouraged, he simply put together a strategic plan to build my retirement nest egg. This plan enabled him to retire 15 years later at the age of 43.
The key components of the plan are the following: develop multiple income streams, create a frugal mindset, automate your savings, diversify your investments, and ultimately pay off your mortgage.
Dylin’s story highlights some of the key strategies he used. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to put together your own plan to retire in your 40s (or earlier!).
16. Rudy retired at age 31
His friends and coworkers are still working. But Rudy retired three years ago. No, he didn’t win the lottery, marry rich, or work any harder.
He made different decisions and focused constantly on his goals which led to a very different result than most see – early retirement. What was his secret? Rudy has a simple formula:
Saving + investing + compounding = financial freedom
He says you don’t have to give up your daily latte or work 60 hours per week – actually far from it. Read his full story to learn how he retired this young, and how you can too.
17. Alex Hopkin saved enough to buy her house in cash
This is an Air Force family that believes strongly in living frugally while putting an emphasis on traveling. Alex and her family find themselves at the mercy of the military, moving wherever the Air Force sends them, often resulting in living off of a single income.
This does not slow them down. They manage to balance saving for the kids’ colleges and retirement while paying cash for traveling.
Their most recent goal was one they thought was unattainable – paying cash for a house. Read how this young couple met their goal here.