The 7 Key Strategies I Used To Save 100K in 3.5 Years

The 7 Key Strategies I Used To Save 100K in 3.5 Years
by Bola Sokunbi
September 27, 2016
Clever Girl Finance founder, Bola Onada Sokunbi, saved more money than most of us would ever dream of in less than four years. Today, she shares how you can do it, too. 
I've shared the general details of my story on how I saved $100,000 in 3.5 years without making a six figure salary here on my blog before, but today I want to delve into the seven key strategies that helped me get there and how you can apply them to your own personal savings (or debt) strategies, too.

Here it goes!

Strategy 1: Have the right mindset

Having the right money mindset is really critical and determines how successful you are with your money. You have to decide that you are ready to start saving or to start paying off your debt, and you also have to decide that regardless of what is going on, or what people are telling you, you can do it.

When I was in the early stages of saving money, I never thought I couldn't do it. Instead, I thought: why not me? I stayed positive and challenged myself to attain the six-figure mark with my savings. I wanted it bad enough and made saving money one of my major priorities. I told myself I could do it, no matter what. Sometimes the biggest hurdles are in our minds, and once we can get past them, everything else becomes a little easier. We find ways to get things done.
Having the right money mindset is critical and determines how successful you are with your money.

Strategy 2: Have a specific goal

When it comes to saving money, you want your goals to be crystal clear and really specific. This means knowing exactly how much you want to save or how much debt you want to pay off by when. Then creating an actionable plan around it that you can break down by quarter, month, and week so you can figure out what exactly you need to do to reach your goals.

One of my mistakes, when I was saving, was that I knew I wanted to get to six-figures but I wasn't super specific with my goals. So once I hit my $100k at 3.5 years and I got to ~$124k at four years, I started to get comfortable. If I had given myself a specific goal like $150k or $175k or even $200k, I think I could have saved more money in the same amount of time.

Strategy 3: Surround yourself with the right influences

Surrounding yourself with the right influences is really important. These are the people and the things that will carry you to success and keep you motivated. One of the things I did each morning (and still do) was check in with my favorite personal finance blogs and websites. They kept me motivated and inspired to keep going. I also spent more time with friends who wanted to talk about finances and business and read a lot of personal finance and business books. Once you start to shift your circle of influence and surround yourself with the right influences that align with your money goals, you'll find that you are more focused on achieving those goals.

Bola's Favorite Finance Sites

And (of course) Clever Girl Finance

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Strategy 4: Contribute to retirement

Saving for retirement should be part of everyone's long-term wealth-building strategy, and if your employer offers a retirement savings plan you should be participating in it. If you are self-employed, you can set up your own retirement savings in an IRA through a reputable brokerage firm. My 401k was where I saved $40,000 plus of my $100k in those 3.5 years, and while I took advantage of my employer match, I didn't max out my contributions because I didn't fully understand the benefits of the 401k until much later. If I could do it over, I would take advantage of it and max out to the full contribution limit allowed by the government each year, which would have allowed me to save even more money.

Strategy 5: Keep your expenses low

Keeping the gap between how much you earn and how much you spend as wide as possible will allow you to have extra money to save or extra money to put towards your debt. The larger the gap, the better. I focused on keeping my expenses as low as possible during that time by living close to work, keeping my grocery bill and general miscellaneous spending as low as possible, keeping my outings minimal, etc.

Strategy 6: Be smart with credit

I avoided credit cards and all my spending on credit was done on a charge card which required me to pay my balance in full every month. You cannot build wealth by racking up debt and so my recommendation would be to avoid using credit at all costs if you are trying to save or pay down debt. If you are paying down debt, set up an emergency fund of at least $1000 and then get aggressive with paying down your debt.

Strategy 7: Start a side hustle or get a part-time job

One of the things that helped me get over the six-figure mark was to start my own business as a wedding photographer. The reason why I was able to save more by starting my own business was because I managed my business finances well. Alternatively, you can get a part-time job to earn additional income. Whichever path you decide to take to accelerate your savings or debt repayment strategy, be it starting a business or getting a part-time job, understand that it will require dedication and financial savviness. You will be working a lot, and you will need to be a good steward of your business finances as well, but it is worth it at the end of the day.
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Got any questions for Bola about how she did it? Ask her in the comments below.