Did you know that you can grow your money even if you don’t have a robust savings account? And, you don’t have to wait until all your debt is paid off before you start stacking the dollar bills in your bank account.
In fact, you can rack up $5,000 in savings within six months — all while carrying debt. To get started, check out these pointers from Aristotle Hren-Boulis, a 25-year-old financial coach in Los Angeles.
Figure out how much money you have to save and spend
As Hren-Boulis says, “what gets tracked gets done.”
Yet, instead of tracking every single transaction, which is as tedious as counting calories, focus on just your variable expenses. To start, figure out what your monthly income is.
Next, pull out your fixed living expenses. These are those bills and expenses that you pay every month in about the same amounts. This typically includes rent, the minimum payments on your debt, utilities, and insurance.
Pro tip: If you have a bill that you only pay a few times a year, like your auto insurance premium, you can divide that by the number of months and fold that into your monthly expenses.
Once that’s all done, you’re left with a number. Let’s say it’s $2,000. Divide that figure by the number of weeks in a month, which — if you want to be exact — is 4.28. If you have $2,000 beans after your fixed expenses, that’s about $467 a week. That’s how much you have to “play with,” and either put into your savings or spend on your other living expenses. If you have $1,500 after you subtract your fixed living expenses, that number is about $350 a week.
Pay yourself first
After you pinpoint that number, divvy it up into savings and spending. How much should you save? Well, there’s no set number, as it depends on your lifestyle and preferences, says Hren-Boulis.
“Everyone’s budget is different, so you’ll have to customize it,” he says.
So, if your weekly number is $467 after your fixed expenses are accounted for, try saving $200. The rest you can spend on your variable expenses, such as groceries, eating out, concert tickets, personal items, and clothes. Here’s the sweet part: If you save $200 a week, after six months you’ll have $5,000 in the bank!
Pro tip: To save time and brain space, automate your savings. If you’re a Chime member, you can choose to save a percentage of each paycheck with Chime’s Save as You Get Paid feature.
Instead of budgeting for the entire month, break down your variable spending in weeklong chunks.
When you’re starting out, Hren-Boulis recommends giving yourself more than you think you’ll need. To gauge this, you can go through your transaction history on a mobile banking app. Not sure where to start? Try $250 or $300 a week, and adjust your weekly savings accordingly.
Start your budget on the weekend
Rather than beginning your budget on a Monday, Hren-Boulis recommends kick-starting your spending plan on the weekend.
This way you’ll be in the flush and can enjoy yourself over the weekend.
“Nobody wants to get to the weekend and run out of money. So if you start on the weekend, and spent $100, then you’ll have $150 Monday to Friday,” says Hren-Boluis.
Of course, you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. For example, if you’re concerned with having enough money for groceries, you might start your budget on your weekly grocery shopping day.
The important thing is to have enough money to spend so you don’t feel deprived or stressed out.
Track your spending
You’ll only need to track your spending on your variable expenses. You can do this by way of jotting down notes on your phone or on a pad of paper, creating a simple spreadsheet, or using a money-saving app.
“When you start tracking how much you’re spending each week, you start to mentally make trade-offs,” says Hren-Boulis.
For instance, let’s say you have $30 left this week. You can think to yourself, “If I eat in tonight, I’ll have money to go out tomorrow night.”
Spend what remains
So what happens if you end up spending less in a week than the amount you had set aside? Hren-Boulis says it’s important to feel motivated and good about your money.
For instance, if you end up having $100 left for that week, you could spend $60 on a massage and put the rest toward savings. And if you don’t feel deprived, then by all means save whatever is left over each week.
He also doesn’t think it’s a good idea to “roll over” money into the next week.
“That’s when you start to get ideas,” says Hren-Boulis.
Letting “extra” money spill over into subsequent weeks operates on the same principle of rollover minutes for cell carrier plans. If there are weeks where you have larger chunks of money to spend, you might get used to spending more than you can really afford.
Track your net worth
Net worth isn’t your income, but rather your assets minus your liabilities. And, tracking your net worth is something you should get into the habit of, explains Hren-Boulis.
Your assets include the value of your car, and how much you have sitting in your savings and retirement accounts. Your liabilities include all your debt — such as credit card balances, student loans, car loans, and personal loans.
Try to check in on your net worth at least once a month. When you see that number growing, it’ll keep you motivated!
Save those beans before paying off debt
So, should the money you’re saving go toward debt or your emergency fund?
Ideally, you should have some savings tucked away in an emergency fund before aggressively paying off your debt. Why? Well, if you don’t have much of a financial cushion, and the unexpected should occur, you might resort to using your credit cards, which could tailspin you into deeper debt.
You do you
Following these tips is just one way you can go about saving $5,000 within six months. But, no matter how you slice and dice things, the important thing is to consistently save the same amount each week. Are you ready to give it a try?