4 Habits That Helped Me Save $100K in Less Than Four Years
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By Bola Onada Sokunbi for Sapling

Saving a large sum of money can seem unrealistic, especially with a mortgage, a $54,000 salary and no outside contributions. But it’s very much possible. In three and a half years—starting right after I graduated from college—I saved more than $100,000.

Here’s how I did it.

I contributed to my retirement accounts.

When I first started working full time, I didn’t have a clue how to save for retirement (though I’ve since learned about asset allocation, diversification, fees and all that fun stuff). All I knew was I was being offered free money through my 401(k) employer match (they matched 100 percent of the first 6 percent I contributed) and I wanted it. By contributing 15 percent of my salary, I was able to put away about $40,000 in three and a half years.

If your employer offers a match, you have to take it. If you can’t afford to max out the contribution right away, raise your contribution rate by 1 percent each quarter or year until you get what’s yours.

I kept my expenses low.

Keeping my expenses down was another big factor. After contributing to my retirement account and paying for health insurance, my main expenses were my car ($150), auto insurance ($80), housing ($900) and utilities and cell phone ($170). I lived close to work, so I didn’t have to buy gas often.

Whatever I had left over, I tried my best to save. “Going out” was hanging out at a friend’s house with Netflix and board games. I also packed lunches, worked out at home or the park, carpooled and didn’t eat out often.

I saved 40-50 percent of each paycheck—and anything extra.

My first year working, I tried to save at least $600 from each $1,350-$1,400 paycheck. I also saved my annual bonus of $1,500 (after taxes) and the bulk of my tax return. This allowed me to save about $18,000 per year, which totaled well over $50,000 after three and a half years.

The best move I made was making my cash savings automatic. The money was never in my main checking account, so I never saw it. You can’t miss what you don’t have!

I started a side hustle.

About a year and a half into saving, I became very interested in photography. I took a bit of money from savings, purchased some mid-level equipment and ended up with a very profitable part-time photography side business. I reinvested some of my profits into the business—$10,000 the first year, $30,000 the second, and more in subsequent years—and put the rest into savings. I worked hard, but it was worth it.

Around this time, I started learning about investing outside of my retirement account, so I used some of the money I earned from my business to do that. These earnings ultimately pushed my savings over the $100,000 mark.

A version of this post originally appeared on Sapling.

More From Sapling:
Scary but True: 1 in 4 People Have Saved Less Than $1K for Retirement
What Do I Do With My 401(k) After Leaving My Employer?
11 Real-World Money Hacks

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