Money coach who paid off $300,000 in 3 years: Following these 3 rules helps me save big

"We became adamant about spending on the things we really love."


One of the most challenging parts of sticking to a budget can be curbing spending. Saying no to dinner out with friends or putting that super fun but much-too-pricey jacket back on the rack can be harder than it sounds.

However, if you want to reach significant financial goals, sometimes spending less is necessary.

Bernadette Joy is a money coach and the founder of Crush Your Money Goals. She and her partner paid off $300,000 in debt in three years, in part by cutting their spending significantly.

To do so, she had to set a few boundaries for herself. "We cut back on the things that were nice to have, impulse buys, convenient in the moment or simply unimportant," she says.

Here are two rules she uses to curb her spending and save big.

The $1 rule

"The $1 rule is simple," Joy says. "If an item comes out to one dollar or less per use, I give myself the green light to buy it. The $1 rule gives yourself permission to still buy things you use frequently, while preventing impulse purchases that might seem like a good deal."

The rule helped Joy avoid mental traps, like price anchoring. Anchoring is when a person gives lots of weight to the first piece of information they receive. If a product listing says an item was $100 but is now discounted to $75, the "anchor" is $100.

This can encourage consumers to purchase marked-down products because they feel as if they are getting a good deal without evaluating whether they actually need it.

"I found a beautiful winter jacket for 75% off, marked down from $300 to $75. While I was lured in by the big discount and brand name, I stopped to do the math," she says. "I considered the number of cold days and other jackets I already had in rotation, and I couldn't see myself wearing that jacket 75 times — or every single day for two and a half months — and therefore, it wasn't worth the money."

It also encouraged her to purchase fewer goods that might break or tear after a few uses. Instead, she finds herself buying "high-quality, sustainable items."

"I've moved almost entirely away from fast fashion, because even a $5 shirt that I might only wear once breaks the $1 rule," she says.

The 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule is another way to think about how much use you will get out of a product. If you believe you'll use a product 80% of the time, it's worth it to buy, Joy says.

"I was complaining to a friend that I didn't want to buy a new phone and laptop because both cost a lot of money," Joy says. "But since I am using both daily, it removed the guilt of the cost, because it's something I need every day."

If you'll only use a product, say, 20% of the time, though, you might want to reconsider buying it. Anything in between you can negotiate with yourself what percentage of time you'll be using it then decide if it's worth the cost.

If an item comes out to one dollar or less per use, I give myself the green light to buy it.
Bernadette Joy
Founder of Crush Your Money Goals

Focus on buying what you 'really love'

Remember, cutting back on spending doesn't have to mean cutting out everything fun. Don't deprive yourself of items that really bring you happiness, Joy says: "Constantly tracking every penny and slapping myself on the wrist didn't make me want to spend less."

Instead, her and her partner allocated money to spending that brought them satisfaction. "We became adamant about spending on the things we really love," she says.

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