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It took 12 months, but I saved $12,000. Considering I made less than 40K, that’s impressive. I’m not staking my savings authority, but sharing success. 

Sharing is caring unless we’re talking about the flu or a toothbrush.

To accumulate such a sum, I needed to do things and not do things. As much as I’d love to single out one special habit, I can’t. It was a combined effort because teamwork makes dream work, even if that teamwork is with inanimate objects.

Budgeting Basics

The shortlist starts with a budget. A budget is always at the top of my finances, not because I’m a creepy bean counter but because whatever I measure gets managed.

I measure finances with every single input. Even something as small as a $2 refund is a sum worth of a budget entry.

Saving $12,000 in 12 months takes a day-by-day approach similar to traveling to the moon, climbing a mountain, or learning the art of patience while sitting in a medial waiting room waiting for someone to yell your name.

Everyday brings a choice and cost. If I do the right thing most the time, then I’ll get there mostly on time.

Nestled inside my budget like an alien residing in a chest cavity, I had a special tab on my excel spreadsheet called the 12K challenge. The color-coded entries were how I kept momentum over 12 months, even when I’d rather spend my money on books, period underwear, and a blanket hoodie.

My shopping desires are equal parts stimulating and fascinating. 😉

Splitting Costs

Having a roommate cuts costs and ensures more funding for all. 

My roommate is the permanent kind. So we split groceries, utilities, and a mortgage. Cost-of-living is the most expensive and draining for every budget, but having it split is a boon for both. 

Another serious savings is living in a cheap area. I live in a state with no sales tax, which is better than living in a state with a 6.5% sales tax.

My area is more rural than most, but expenses are lower too. This trickles down to less money spent on things I don’t want to buy, like inflated gas taxes, ballooned housing costs, and property tax that’s more painful than a colonoscopy. 

Collecting Cash

My biweekly payday was the main engine that fueled saving $12,000 in 12 months, but I hustled in other areas too:

  • I eagerly accepted overtime 
  • Volunteered to work holidays 
  • Received a monetary award
  • Cashed in credit card rewards 
  • Churned credit cards for bonus offers
  • Maximized birthday and Christmas gifts
  • Rolled over returns, refunds, and rebates 
  • Participated in paid surveys
  • Dog sat
  • Sold clutter
  • Used cash-back apps 

On their own, these instances didn’t contribute as much as my primary income, but they did contribute $3,000 as a collective. 

These smaller side hustle deposits were more frequent than my gov payday which was helpful at sustaining motivation between pay periods. 

Discarding Debt

I’m debt-free outside of a mortgage which is how I can save so much when I make so little. If I was paying off a car, school, or personal loan, the title of this post would be different. 

Being debt free isn’t without sacrifice, but it has been worth the effort. 

I chose to have an older but paid-off vehicle even though the bank says I can afford more. Joining the military for four years is how I received a free degree. I would rather deploy a monthly no-spending spree, enjoy free hobbies, and be a regular at the library than have debt. 

Humble Dollar has thoughts about debt, “I’d rather walk on broken glass than pay a penny of interest on my credit cards.” An efficient broken glass walker isn’t something I want to add to my skills set. I prefer to avoid debt and keep my blood too.

The choice to be debt free started with small, consistent choices. Over time, it’s become a lifestyle of content over consumption. 

How To Save $12,000 in 12 months

When I first pondered how to save $12,000 in 12 months, I had no idea if that would happen. 

I didn’t have a blueprint, directions, or even the confidence to think it was possible. I put the goal out there and hoped that if I did the best I could for 365 days, it would be enough. 

I tried to self-sooth with thoughts like even if I don’t save $12,000, anything less is still more than never trying. 

I spent six months of the year, behind on my savings goal. Instead of giving up, I kept aggressively saving and hoping the next month would be better. I tried to shift my focus on a hopeful future versus the dismal present.  

Like a helicopter budgeter, I’m glad I got my goal, but I’m proud that when riddled with doubt, I held steady and true.

I kept calm and carried on and saved $12,000 in 12 months.

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