17 Money Saving Strategies We Used to Triple Our Savings Rate

2016 was the year we finally woke up. We became committed and united to reaching financial independence at an early age. We had always talked about it, but we had never paid as much deliberate attention to ways we could accelerate our path to FI.

It took us nearly a full year to escape living paycheck to paycheck. It took about another year to inch past 10-15% of the recommended savings.

Our third year was a breakout year as we doubled our savings rate to 40% for the entire year and even managed to triple our savings rate to 60% in the final quarter.

We gained a whole new respect for frugality and the people who have consistently been saving 60% of their income. Now that we’re up in these numbers, we feel it is almost easier to stay here than it was to get here.

Once the habits are in place, the momentum takes care of itself.

Now we’re extremely excited to see what new heights 2017 will take us. We’re still fine tuning our lifestyles so we expect more gains over the year.

Altogether, we saved $50,556.06 over 2016.

I break that # down below on ways we saved in 2016 and the ways we will continue to save in 2017.

17 Money Saving Strategies we used to Triple Our Savings Rate

17 Money Saving Strategies - so it begins

1)  Give a Damn, Seriously – we stopped a nasty habit we had of reading about great tips and then failing to implement them. Avoid our mistakes and hack the system now; as in right now. Literally, do something today from this list and start saving money.

17 Money Saving Strategies - number 1 is give a damn.

Awesome Gable. Now, get off my site!

2) Live big in a Tiny Home. One of our most popular posts this year was describing how we live in a neighborhood where most of our neighbors are paying a higher percentage of their income towards rent. Of course, we could pay the same percentage and upgrade to a nice 2 bed/2 bath, but we’re more than happy with where we live today.

Total Savings: ~$12,000 (seeing as how we could easily afford paying an extra $1k/month)

3) Negotiated Rent – When we signed our lease, we went through the tried and true process of negotiation to lower the rent. We knew the market and knew our landlord’s listed rent rate was extremely well priced. Regardless, we had our plan and it worked.

Don’t be afraid to ask, but do it in a way that doesn’t burn bridges!

Total Savings: $2,400, or $1,200 per year.

17 Money Saving Strategies - number 3 is negotiate rent

Seriously, don’t burn bridges.

4) Moved within Walking Distance to Work aka NO CAR – I care so much about not driving that I spent hours writing a poem about it.

Today, the cost of car ownership is estimated at $8,698 per year. In Chicago, with parking and relatively higher gas prices, I would imagine that cost would be even higher. We’re sticking to walking to keep our expenses low.

Total Savings: $8,698

17 Money Saving Strategies - 4 is walking more instead of driving

5) Negotiated Salary – There’s a reason they say building strong relationships is the number one skill to success. Being able to effectively negotiate, without the conversation becoming confrontational, is a crucial skill everyone should have.

I know negotiation is a skill because it was something I learned from other people and had to practice over and over.

Ben Franklin, who retired at 42, taught me there are two optimal ways to pursue financial independence. The first is through frugality. The second is through an immense work ethic. The American founder recommended combining the two to guarantee a much quicker path to financial freedom.

Total Savings: $17,000

17 Money Saving Strategies - 5 is negotiated salary

Early to bed, early to rise and early to retire, makes it all awesome!

6) Refinancing student loans – I only managed to refinance a few months ago, so our savings are small at the moment. The work to refinance is not as bad as we thought. The best part is now that the work is done, we get to enjoy the monthly savings automatically.

Total Savings: ~$250

7) Ironing my shirts – One of my favorite frugal hobbies from this year. 1% savings can never be underrated, especially when 1% means we can retire 2 years earlier.

The number below includes cab expenses as part of the drop off and pick up process.

Total Savings: $1,347

17 Money Saving Strategies - 7 is ironing my own clothes

8) Delayed New Clothes Purchases – I’ll admit. I am starting to actually need new clothes. I’m getting dangerously close to entering into the my-old-clothes-are-filled-with-holes” zone.

In a similar vein, I’ve wanted new triathlon gear for a few years. Triathlon training is a great hobby of mine as I compete in a few races each year.

My priority right now is achieving financial freedom, not to buy the slightly nicer running shoes.

Total Savings: $550

17 Money Saving Strategies - 8 is Delayed New Clothes Purchases

9) Amazon’s Subscribe and Save – Seriously, so many benefits here. The prices are more affordable than in the store, the delivery is literally to my door, AND it happens automatically.

My lovely fiancee broke down how we save over $1,000 a year on this service via this popular post.

Total Savings: $1,000

10) Home-brew Coffee – aka no Starbucks for the entire year. I basically lived the dream of every compound interest example ever seen, ever.

I technically, almost, kinda broke this rule on a few occasions, but I never paid for the brew myself.

Total Savings: $600 (at $3 per coffee over 200 visits)

I owe a few people some drinks, but…

17 Money Saving Strategies - 10 is home-brew coffee

A Distiller always pays his debts.

11) More home movies – aka no movie theaters. We have this sweet movie theatre close to us with the comfy chairs and you can even order food, brought to you, while you watch. Complete luxury/laziness, and we forwent the expense all year.

We spent a lot of time watching online subscription services instead. We spent more time together, and probably avoided a few unhealthy meals at the shows.

Total Savings: $300

17 Money Saving Strategies - 11 is more at home entertainment vs going to the movies

12) Cancelled magazine subscriptions – I would venture to say most people have some type of subscription they barely use. For me, it was the Economist. I’ve had a subscription since 2007, but decided to not renew this past year. Between spending as much time as I can with my fiancee, and all my other hobbies (work, blogging, triathlons and sleeping), there just wasn’t enough time to sit down to read about the news. In fact, I’ve taken out (for the most part) TV as well but that didn’t directly save me money as much as it did save me a lot of time

Total Savings: $97

17 Money Saving Strategies - 12 is eliminating my magazine subscription13) Credit card transfer to avoid interest – For my full take on credit cards, check out the below podcast episode:

(If you like that episode and are looking for more, you can check out more via iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or streaming here (feel free to use this link if you want to embed any episodes on your blog!)

The number below is primarily because we put our engagement expenses on such a transfer.

Total Savings: $750

14) Massage Table – Another one of those frugal things we decided to finally pull the trigger on. We’ve utilize the table quite a bit over 2016.

Long story short, I was actually a class away from being a certified massage therapist at one point in my life. Glad to see my life skills coming into play as part of building a lasting relationship with someone.

Total Savings: $500 (couples massages are expense in Chicago!)

17 Money Saving Strategies - 14 Massage Table

15) Frugal Gifts – 2015 was the year I purchased a $750 Tiffany necklace as an anniversary gift for my future wife. This year we spent 5 hours reading through our “good” memory jar. I put the word  “good” in quotations because my fiancee preferred to write notes like, “Today you stood in front of the TV while TGIT was on and it made me mad…”

They’re both obviously priceless gifts now, but the point is we ended up with $750 more in 2016. That’s money going directly into our early retirement travel fund.

Total Savings: $750

17 Money Saving Strategies - 15 is helping our early retirement travel fund

16) Cooking more. WAAAY more. This one was the biggest “aha,” moment of the year for me.

Not only did we start to cook more, but we found creative ways to save money at the grocery store.

Plus, we are eating much healthier now too.

Total Savings: $5,000

17 Money Saving Strategies - 16 Cooking Waaay More!

17) Fiancee cutting my hair – This one is a sweet gig. It helps that my fiancee grew up learning how to cut hair!

Total Savings: $540

17 Money Saving Strategies - Number 17 Cutting Hair

Overall Recap on these 17 Money Saving Strategies

 

The biggest benefit here isn’t the money savings. For me, it is seeing the physical transformation in my fiancee when we handle these topics.

We went from living paycheck to paycheck 3 years ago to now saving 60% of our income.

Totally nuts, but as I mentioned at the top, we attribute such a short turnaround to building smart, daily habits along the way!

Do you follow some of these same money saving strategies? Any other big changes you made in 2016 that helped you save money?

-Matt

34 comments… add one
  • Liz@ChiefMomOfficer Jan 16, 2017, 5:48 am

    Great tips! We’ve been big on #16 last year and continuing into this year. Eating out is so expensive, especially with three kids – including one who’s 13 and can’t get kids meals anymore! We bought a deep freezer again (our old one conked out a few years ago) and have started to purchase meat in bulk again. It’s a great way to save money and save on “there’s nothing to eat” syndrome. There’s always something to eat when you have a frozen stash!

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:33 pm

      Cooking was especially important for us, since it was such a big bucket item that we left alone for too long. In the end, it ended up saving us time overall throughout the week (much easier to heat up a meal, than figure out what we want for take out and then wait for the delivery)

      I’m also enjoying the whole craft side of it. Learning to cook is very enjoyable, especially once the meals start tasting great.

  • Financial Coach Brad Jan 16, 2017, 5:54 am

    Congrats on saving so much last year – that’s awesome! Very encouraging for your readers!

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:34 pm

      Thanks Brad. With the 2016 habits in place, I can’t wait to see what crazy results 2017 has in store.

  • Linda at Brooklyn Bread Jan 16, 2017, 6:49 am

    The gifts are all priceless! Cooking is definitely the hardest/ most important. It’s a constant struggle for us. And I am amazed at what it costs to go to the movies. We have two kids and last time we went it cost $76 for four of us. Not including a single snack, which we bring ourselves. It is really insane. Great tips!

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:38 pm

      Cooking was a real eye opener for us in terms of saving us time in the end.

      $76! The price of going to the show feels like it has crept up much faster than the average alternative form of entertainment. I mean, would I want to watch a 2 hour movie, or pay for 6 months of an online streaming service…

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Jan 16, 2017, 8:14 am

    Duuude I walked to work for two months and we saved so much freaking money. We got rid of a car payment and were down to one car for a month. We saved enough cash to buy a second vehicle outright. That was $450/mo we eliminated in the blink of an eye. It felt great. 🙂

    We also save on magazine/movie expenses by renting books and movies from the library. It keeps our house free of clutter and we get to use things fo’ free. Not too shabby!

    As a woman, I try to go as long as possible without cutting my hair. I’ll usually trim my split ends once a year using an $8 Great Clips coupon. Mr. Picky Pincher does cut his own hair with a pair of $30 clippers. The clippers pay for themselves over time and save us a lot of money on monthly hair trims for the hubby.

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:42 pm

      Awwwwesome! 😉 $450 is an amazing, overnight savings. Congrats on that and cool to see it paid off with the 2nd car being purchased outright. Sounds like a very smart move.

      I should probably take advantage of our local libraries. I feel I rely on the internet for a bit too much these days!

  • Full Time Finance Jan 16, 2017, 9:10 am

    Hey Matt, rather then cancel magazine subscriptions why not answer a few online surveys or follow one of the free subscription sites. I get more mags then I can read on time but I don’t pay a dime. Forbes, fortune, car and driver, road and track, popular science, popular mechanics, money, and Kiplingesque in my case. I know if I wanted it I could also get the economist. We give the excess to a local doctors office for those worrying about the environment. Sometimes deprivation is not the only solution. Reading and learning has value after all.

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:45 pm

      Looks like I left out my other hobby of reading books. I do read quite a bit, about a book a week, so I’m still learning new information. It just doesn’t happen to be as much news nowadays. I’d rather spend 6 hours reading a biography or business book than spending that time over the week reading the news. That’s basically the trade I’m making with my time.

  • Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions Jan 16, 2017, 10:55 am

    Forwarding to the two college-age children of mine. If they could use even a few of your ideas early on, it would make a HUGE difference in their lives! Well done!

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:46 pm

      Thanks Vicki. Yep! These tips have made our lives much more meaningful and secured us a brighter financial future. Two items that we would have loved to have immediately following college. Thanks again!

  • The Grounded Engineer Jan 16, 2017, 11:14 am

    This is great. That is incredible you found 17 different ways to reduce costs in your budget and most of these are fairly significant! I look forward to following your journey in 2017 to see how much you can save!!

    Also, I really enjoy your podcast!

    Best of luck.

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 16, 2017, 12:48 pm

      Glad to hear you enjoy the podcast!! We’re also having a lot of fun with it ourselves. 🙂

      Thanks and best of luck with your path on 2017 as well!

  • Financial Panther Jan 16, 2017, 6:15 pm

    Bonus with getting your hair cut at home – you save a ton of time. No waiting around at the barber shop or salon. My fiance cuts my hair too, and I like that I can just come home and get my hair cut basically whenever I want.

  • Jay Jan 17, 2017, 6:10 am

    Congratulations on your impressive savings rate. It’s good to learn the nuts and bolts of why you’ve been doing to bank so much of your income – thanks for sharing!

  • IndependentHoosier Jan 17, 2017, 8:56 am

    I like the simple breakdown and numbers. Also, #13 on CC interest – I did the same. Transferred an unneeded loan from my “pre-FI” days and saved about $728 in interest if I would have paid it out fully. Once my car loan gets to my magic number, it will be transferred to a no-interest card as well. Glad to see I am not the only who has done this and it inspires great confidence in doing it again. Much obliged.

    Great article and content as always!

    p.s – loved the GoT gif

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap Jan 18, 2017, 12:36 am

    Love ya work, Matt!! I can’t stress enough how much cooking more meals at home saves you money as you have found out over the last year. As we always say on here, it’s the gradual, small savings that start turning into big savings and becoming a new life habit. Great work to you both.

  • Julie @ Millennial Boss Jan 20, 2017, 7:10 am

    Only 200 visits per year for coffee! You don’t drink coffee everyday? I’m jealous. I’m hooked. Congrats to a banner year for you guys in 2016. I LOLd at the Tiffany necklace part.

  • Go Finance Yourself! Jan 25, 2017, 6:32 am

    Great list. I’ve incorporated a lot of these. I used to iron my shirts myself. Since I’ve been able to increase my income substantially over the last few years, I’m able to value my time a little more and outsource this to the dry cleaners.

    The biggest one for us has been living big in a tiny home. We have a 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch with about 900 square feet. Most treat it as a starter home, but we’ve stayed in it for almost 10 years now electing to build our wealth rather than spending more on mortgage payments. It also keeps utilities and other housing costs down.

    • Guest Feb 9, 2017, 11:39 am

      How big is your household? Because 900 square feet is pretty generous for me as long as my household doesn’t exceed four people.

  • CoupleofCents Jan 25, 2017, 9:03 am

    Great savings tips. How about you cutting your fiancee’s hair? 🙂 My wife won’t let me cut her hair but I’ve learned to cut my hair myself. I think we’ve reached the point after applying many of these tips ourselves, where where I’m starting to think more about building income. Enjoyed the post.

  • Danielle Jan 25, 2017, 10:56 am

    Great job! It really takes a lot of determination to come up with so many things to save money on. I know eating out is always a huge expense for us. But, food is my hobby so it is what it is. That’s impressive you were able to go from a 20% savings rate to a 60% rate last year. That’s awesome! I have been able to increase my rate by about 15% this year, but won’t be able to go much higher until my raise kicks in. Hopefully that will get us closer to 60% in total. Unfortunately, I work in a not so great part of town, and live in San Diego where the public transportation is no good, so I’ve still got my car.

  • Dividend 10 Jan 25, 2017, 11:33 am

    I agree – having no car is the best. Easier to pull off in some places than others, but if worse comes to worse you can always Uber.

  • Millennial Money Jan 25, 2017, 2:00 pm

    I laughed so hard at this! “I basically lived the dream of every compound interest example ever seen, ever.” I agree with Julie – how did you only drink 200 coffee servings? Somethings fishy 🙂 This is super impressive. I once tried to cut my own hair and it was a disaster!

  • Miss Balance Jan 25, 2017, 4:47 pm

    My favourite part of this post was the cat massage – so darn cute!
    Great savings too 😉
    I’m hoping to jack up my savings rate to 60% this year, so might start with negotiating my rent. I’ve been thinking about it for a while but I’m just worried about coming off rude or ungrateful and getting kicked out (unlikely though).
    Best of luck for a stellar 2017!

  • Kurt Jan 26, 2017, 12:06 pm

    Congrats on your progress! You guys were very aggressive, which I love. Shows what can be done if one is truly committed to saving money.

  • Steven Goodwin @ MyFamilyOnABudget Feb 2, 2017, 3:59 pm

    We’re still working on the grocery budget, although we have it set to $625/month for 2 adults and 2 toddlers (4 and 2). However, our groceries include laundry and cleaning supplies, diapers and toiletries, and pet food and cat litter too. Not sure if we are expecting too much or just not being frugal enough. One thing I’ve done to help out is starting to make freezer meals in advance. I got a couple of meal plans from IAmThatLady.com and since they are shopping lists for Aldi, I’d like to think it’s helping us save a bit more… Just need to be smarter about our snacks and lunches as well. Plus, once the girls are out of diapers, that will be a nice savings!

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