Save better: move money to build your future

I’m really into saving money and building my Future Funds. Currently I save 50% of my income split between retirement (20%), savings (30%), and investments (extra $). When I was paid significantly less, I saved about 25-30%, and when I’ve been barely employed and on unemployment I saved 10%.

I always looked back to the times I’d had even less money and remembered that it could, in fact, get more dire — and I always believed I could create a better future for myself and made good on that intention with cold cash.

Saving hella money

Step one: get motivated and get your vision for the future together.

Know that future vision and possibility will change over time. Serve it as best you can as you go.

When I tell people I save 50% of my income, the conversation usually turns to “but *how* do you save that kind of money?! That’s impossible! I could not do that!”

I mean, it is possible and, perhaps you could.

When I made $35k in NYC, I saved 20% between retirement (3%), savings accounts (15%), and a few lil’ investments (2%). YES, it got easier once I started making more money, but I didn’t let reality stop me from taking care of myself financially as soon as I had a dollar more than was absolutely necessary. And that, my friends, is one way to “get out” as a poor person in this bootstrapping country. Seems cruel? You’re right.

But the cruler part was my assessment of the reality of the future if I didn’t have resources. I’m watching my mom navigate life with few resources right now and it’s ROUGH, even though I’m there to help. Given that I have no kids, no wealthy man, and no family money — guess who’s tasked with taking care of me? I had to get real and ask myself: Which is worse — less organic food and only cheap thrifted stuff now, or the fear of remaining hungry permanently? I’ll take less stuff now for $100 (in the bank), Alex.

One of the biggest things you can do is cut BIG costs.

It’s more effective to get a roommate and cut your rent/mortgage in half, or ditch the car loan, or eradicate a debt payment, than it is to not get coffee twice a week to save $35/month. Work on the things that will have the biggest impact first!

Another thing you can do is commit to paying yourself.

When I got a job that paid enough that I could start paying off my student loans, I also decided to contribute the same amount to my then-work 401k plan. That was 12 years ago and that little account is now 4x my contributions thanks to an employer match and t-i-m-e. “If they’re gonna get that money so am I,” I thought. Yeah it would have been cool to go out more but I’m chilling because math says in another 30 years that $$ will be about 20x what I put in. BOOM.

Of course, bringing in more money will change the picture.

I know it’s not a said-and-done thing to earn more money. BUT, earning more money will mean that you have more money. Here’s lots more on my path to do so. But, I am still a believer that a $10 automated savings now sets the intention and gets you ready to save money when things are more spacious.

Either way, decide and prioritize what you’re going to spend vs future save.

Now that I have a career that pays me much more sustainable wages, you bet I still hearken to my thrifty ways – but things I get are longer-lasting and there’s more convenience in my life.

No secrets here: Combining what my gramma and single mom taught me about being thrifty, with being a punk in the ‘90 and ‘00s – spending hacks are part of the training. Now, I still save money by fixing things, vacationing on the cheap by staying with dear friends, buying used vehicles in cash, looking for sales, buying secondhand, getting free stuff, and avoiding buying excess in the first place by setting a spending limit in my plan. Sure, I’m well-practiced because for a long time I didn’t have money to mess up with, but I’m no saint or anything. I have vices and buy random things at stores sometimes too. Within the plan of course.

How to implement a spending plan

To make all this saving easy, I intentionally allocate money for buying stuff as well as saving up, so I don’t mess up my plan by accidentally spending what I meant to save for when I’m older.

Here’s how I set things up in my spending plan. It has a few extra lines, including:

  • Emergency fund savings – I add a little bit each month
  • Savings lines for travel, gifts, tattoos, haircuts, replacing my crappy stuff, and yes a motorcycle  — these are automated savings that go into separate high-interest savings accounts each month. For things I know I’ll spend money every year but not every month this has been a godsend for keeping up with the upcoming, “Oh…Right” expenses
  • I have a $50 “there’s always something” line in my budget, because whether it’s a new bike seat or flowers for someone or a car home when it’s crappy out…there’s always something. So, i plan for the unplanned
  • I have automated most of my donations and giving, so that I am making sure I’m redistributing and sharing money in line with my intentions, too.
  • Finally, I am saving an Opportunity Fund. It’s intended for a down payment but if I want to take a year off or buy an RV or start a physical business in a few years, I could. I want future opportunity and that means I stack paper for it.

I’m currently using my “stuff allocation” to replace egregiously crappy stuff in my home with better stuff – I just happen to be doing it on the cheap. The table I sit at now seats eight and was $50 because someone was moving the next day. I got my coworker’s “old” nice as hell sleeper couch for $150 because I mentioned I was looking for one.

At this point, savings is a game with myself, where the winner is … me.

Having an emergency fund means knowing where next month would come from, today, if everything went awry. Creating a Future Fund means choices for me or someone else in the future, in opposition to the coercive nature of market economics.

How can you set yourself up for a similar sense of security?

  • Make a list of the things you want to put money towards – your goals.
  • Then, make a list of what you bring in and spend on absolute necessities each month (food basics, not going out; loan payments and rent, not fun clothes).
  • Now – before you add in the fun stuff, decide on an amount you’ll put towards your goals, and where you’ll put the money (hint: do not leave it in your checking account or wallet)
  • What’s left is your “safe to spend” life money.

The outcome will look something like:

My income is $2,800 mo – $1400 for rent and car/loan payment – $600 for emergency, travel, and future fund savings = leaving $800 for food, fun, clothes, etc

Want help with this process? Get a free savings plan template here, or check out my course on budgeting & saving here.

In conclusion

There are so many ways that folks I know and I have spent less money, skipped out on the mindless waste-y part of consumerism, yet lived a fabulous full life with a building future fund.

I hope sharing my savings sparks an idea in you that works out well for your future — possibilities and choice aren’t something we buy in everyday consumerism, they’re something we create with resources and people.