The Year We Saved $10K: Playing The Hands We’re Dealt

Today’s “The Year We Saved $10K” stories both come from people who claim their stories are “boring” and “not dramatic,” but NO SAVINGS STORY IS EVER BORING.

Annecara: My story is pretty boring. My husband and I are DINKs, and we basically just auto-transfer 20–30% of our paychecks into our savings account every month, which has totaled more than $10k a year since about for the last three years. The percentage we save has gone up and down, depending on circumstance (for instance, our mortgage just increased by $400 a month, so we lowered our savings amount to compensate) but the only time we haven’t saved at all is when I was out of work at the end of 2011.

And..that’s all there is too it, really. Thinking about it, we’re really lucky that we can afford to save that much money and still function just fine on the remainder.

Jennifer: I have a “year I saved $10,000” story for you.

That year is this year, as of the end of this month. How did I do it? I started out making fairly good money ($42k), but was pretty unhappy with my job. About $300/month automatically goes into my 401k, and $250 to my Roth, so $5,000 so far this year is prescheduled retirement savings. I get paid biweekly, and save between $100 and $300 per paycheck in a fund earmarked for all my big, abstract future plans, like graduate school, buying a house, retiring early and traveling the world- the dream depends on the day. This totals another $3,000 so far.

The rest came when I switched jobs a few months ago, and my last paycheck included all my unused vacation hours — an extra bump into 401k automatically, and almost $3000 after taxes — $2,500 of which went into my now fully funded Roth. The biweekly saving will go up as well, since I’m making much more money at the new job, so I expect to save closer to $14k total by the end of the year.

I live in an expensive city (DC), and pay too much in rent (but that went down too recently, all I had to give up was a window in my bedroom), and go to happy hour more than I should, but having everything I want to save transfer out of sight immediately makes it much easier to stay on track.

I have a lot in my favor: no student loans, I only spent 6 months unemployed/underemployed after graduation, and I had money saved up from college jobs and a strong support network to get through that period. No car, no kids, no major emergencies *knock on wood*, and good health insurance all contribute to my current position. I made less starting out a few years ago, and didn’t really pay attention to where my money was going until it ran out; eventually I swung too far in the other direction and was an obsessive miser about every penny ($8,000 saved last year, on a much smaller salary), but now I’m in a good middle ground. I would like to travel more eventually, but for now I’m content buying amazing security for my future instead amazing experiences.

It’s not a fun or dramatic story, it’s just the way I’m playing the hand I was dealt.