Money

How to Save More Money & Retire a Millionaire at 50

Let’s discuss how to save more money. I’ll also show the long term impacts of saving and investing early and often with as little as $25 a month. If you’re on the fence about cutting out your expenses just to save a few extra bucks each month, by the end of this post you’ll be able to see how to turn $25 into $20k (and even $1 million) without lifting a finger.

In a world where only 48% of Americans could handle a $1,000 emergency and the average single person under the age of 34 without kids has only $2.7k saved, the majority of us could benefit from saving a little more money. Especially if we ever want to retire. According to financial experts, the traditional advice to save 15% isn’t going to cut it for millennials if they want to retire at 65 or younger. Instead, we need to be focusing on upwards of saving 40% of our income to retire on time, even though the average millennial starts saving for retirement 15 years earlier than baby boomers.

Why is that? Why are we saving earlier and still feeling insecure in our retirement plans?

Because most of our retirement is not coming from social security or a pension– it’s going to come from our personal savings and investments. 

That’s a scary prospect if you’re not used to saving money and you struggle with saving enough money for an emergency, let alone retirement. 

So what can we do to save more money?

We can make more money, but does that really help if we keep spending as much as we’re making or even more than what we’re making?

Not really.

Instead, we can focus on our spending to identify areas of mindless spending in order to use that money for savings and investments instead.

In order to do that though, we need to start reframing how we think about spending and saving money.

Thinking About Spending Differently Brought to You By Graham Stephan

Which brings me to Graham Stephan.

Lately, I’ve been binge-watching Graham Stephan’s YouTube videos where he reacts to videos of millennials explaining where all their money goes each month. In one episode, he confronts Molly Elizabeth from one of the millennials from Glamour’s Money Tours, and he did something that completely changed the way I look at money and spending.

He calculated what Molly’s $20, twice-daily Uber habit would earn if she invested it in a low-cost index fund instead of spending it every day. The results? Pretty shocking.

If Molly invested the $40 daily expense or $1,200 monthly expense into a low-cost index fund, which generally returns an average of 7%, over the course of 25 years, she’d have $917,299.06 SAVED in an investment account. 

That’s almost a million dollars, folks. Just by cutting out her daily Uber habit.

AND SHE’S ONLY 20. She could have a million dollars saved by the age of 45 by simply not using Uber as much as she currently is.

Let’s say she stopped Uber-ing and instead bought a car that cost her $500 a month. She’d still be able to invest $700 every single month and end up with $535,091.12 in her investments just by cutting out the Uber habit.

That.

Is.

Insane.

With numbers like that, I truly hope she decided to immediately purchase a reliable used vehicle and stop Ubering around LA.

How Could Cutting Small Expenses Work For Me?

A powerful way to convince someone to start saving, right? Watching this turned saving money on its head for me and I started wondering… I wonder which of my expenses would have that same impact on me.

For example, I’ve been playing around with the idea of getting rid of my current telephone provider in order to try something like Tello. Tello offers Sprint service basically at outlet prices, and I could get service for as low as $14 a month, which would save me $110 a month.

How much money would I have in ten years if I invested that $110 savings? 

Using my handy dandy compound interest calculator, I discovered I’d have more than $18k in ten years JUST by getting a cheaper telephone service. 15 years? $33k. 20 years? $54k!!!

This is fun. I could go on. And I will. In fact, this whole post is me playing with my compound interest calculator.

Below I’ll share all the ways I’ve saved money in the last two years and show how those seemingly small savings, when invested, can turn into an entire retirement portfolio.

woman thinking about how to save a million dollars while sitting in a grocery cart

How to Save More Money and Retire a Millionaire by Fifty

1. Meal Prep

In years past, I wasn’t always great about meal prepping especially after long (and expensive) weekends out drinking too much and being hungover.

Those weekends often set me up to spend ridiculous amounts on groceries because I’d GoPuff hangover snacks or order some take out and call it groceries. Sometimes I’d plan so poorly that I’d end up eating out all week or I’d go to the grocery store three times that week just grabbing a few things here or there. 

Now?

Pretty much every week I spend about 15 minutes thinking about how I’m going to plan my groceries so that I have meals for the week.

Generally, I make a big batch of something that can serve as my lunch every day and then I make a big batch of something else that serves as my dinner every day. For example, this week I’m eating overnight oats with a banana for breakfast, grilled vegetables and chickpeas on salad greens for lunch, and a rainbow stirfry noodle dish for dinner. 

 

It’s easy and prepping like this has made a big difference in my budget. I used to spend about $300 per month on groceries, and now I average about $200 a month.

 

Savings: $100 a month

Approximate Value of Savings after Investing it Monthly in a Low-Cost Index Fund:

  • 10 years: $16k
  • 15 years: $30k
  • 25 years: $76k

For more ways on how to eat frugally, check out some great Frugalwoods posts:

how to save more money

2. Reduce Transportation Costs

Last year, I paid off my car and then promptly sold it. Read about why I made that decision in my November 2019 Spending Report and my December 2019 Spending Report

The car, when I started this journey cost me $350 a month for the payment and after an accident last April, it was $150 a month to insure and about $50 a month to fill with gas, costing me about $550 total a MONTH, not including routine maintenance costs, city stickers, state stickers, and parking.

So let’s just throw in an additional $50 a month which is conservative. 

After I sold my car, I started taking public transportation more, using my bike and asking for rides from friends and family when necessary. I still take Ubers here and there, but I’ve been able to take my transportation costs WAY down and now I average about $137 a month on transportation instead of $600 a month.

Savings: $463 a month

Approximate Value of Savings after Investing it Monthly in a Low-Cost Index Fund:

  • 10 years: $77k
  • 15 years: $140k
  • 25 years: $353k

3. Limit Your Take Out and Eating Out

Since the shelter in place has started, ie for the last 65+ days, I’ve only ordered take out three times, two of which were for my birthday weekend with my sister.

That’s a HUGE improvement from when I first moved to Chicago and would eat out 3-5 times a WEEK. 

It makes me cringe to think about how loose I was with money then. All the money I spent on meals and drinks I don’t even remember! So much advancement could’ve been made if I had started my financial independence journey only a few years earlier! GAH! 

Anyway. 

If you’ve read “I am $67k in debt”, you’ll know that I spent $364 in two weeks just on eating out before I started budgeting. That’s $728 a month on eating out. SEVEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT DOLLARS. 

That number makes me ill.

Now, during COVID-19, I spend about $50 a month eating out and even pre-coronavirus I was spending about $100 a month, total. 

Savings: $628 a month

Approximate Value of Savings after Investing it Monthly in a Low-Cost Index Fund:

  • 10 years: $105k
  • 15 years: $191k
  • 25 years: $480k
 

4. Stop Drinking $13 Cocktails at Bars and Restaurants (Or Even Better-- Just Drink at Home)

Another Graham Stephan fav– drink at home. Stop drinking outside of the house.

I’ll usually turn down booze with dinner unless I’m on a date. And even if I’m on a date, I’ll only order a cheap beer or glass of wine. Luckily, it’s cool and hipster to order a $3 Hamms these days, and when I do, usually my date or friend chooses to go the cheap route as well. 

When I first moved to Chicago, I wouldn’t bat an eye at spending $50 on two fancy-ass cocktails and a tip. It seems INSANE to me now that I’d blow that kind of money on drinking ALL THE TIME back then, and won’t now even though I’m making almost 3x’s as much as I did when I first moved to Chicago.

$13 cocktails, in my humble opinion, are ridiculous. Will I still order one on occasion?

Maybe if it’s a special occasion, but to be honest, $13 cocktails don’t make me happy so I don’t spend money on them anymore. I prefer to drink cheap wine and beer at home anyway.

When I first moved here, I would spend $175 in TWO weeks just on booze. That is $350 a month!!! SUCH WASTEFULNESS.

Now? During COVID-19 I spend less than $15 a month, but usually, I spend about $50 a month on alcohol or less. 

Savings: $300 a month

Approximate Value of Savings after Investing it Monthly in a Low-Cost Index Fund:

  • 10 years: $50k
  • 15 years: $91k
  • 25 years: $229k

5. Plan Your Travel

Until this year, I didn’t really plan my travel. I would kind of assume at some point I’d go on trips and just use the money in my savings to go on trips because my savings, up until a year, ago didn’t have a plan. I just knew I was saving for when I needed money, so I’d use that money whenever I felt I needed to.

That led me to spend $10k on travel in a year because I didn’t really plan for it. Instead, I said, hell. I want to go on a trip so I’m going to go. 

Which was awesome, but also, I could’ve gotten very similar enjoyment out of spending less. 

This year, I decided to budget and plan for travel like any other line item in my yearly budget. I felt comfortable with $5,000 and I’m on track to spend less than $5k on travel this year thanks to COVID-19 and careful planning. 

Savings: $5,000 a year or $416 a month

Approximate Value of Savings after Investing it Monthly in a Low-Cost Index Fund:

  • 10 years: $78k
  • 15 years: $139k
  • 25 years: $342k

6. Reevaluate Your Subscriptions

This one might seem like a small change, but it can lead to significant changes.

Last year, I decided to cancel my fancy gym membership because it made my life more difficult and it was expensive. I spent $89 a month to be in a gym that only had 5 classes a day, three of which I could actually attend. It meant I had to hurry home from work to try to make it in time for the 4:30 class, and if I missed it, my whole night would be thrown off because I needed to now wait until 5:30 for the next class or 6:30 for the last class of the day.

It was a pain in the ass even though I liked the gym, but I ended up not going very often because it was so inconvenient.

Once I canceled that, I joined Well On Target through Blue Cross Blue Shield which gives me access to thousands of gyms nationwide for just $25 a month.

It’s awesome. I also, due to shelter in place, joined BeachBody to do their at-home workouts which is $39 a quarter or $13 a month, bringing my total costs to $38 a month. 

Savings: $51 a month

Approximate Value of Savings after Investing it Monthly in a Low-Cost Index Fund:

  • 10 years: $6k
  • 15 years: $12k
  • 25 years: $31k

7. Pack Your Lunch

It’s funny that three of my money-saving tips are food-related but food for millennials is one of our biggest expenses. 

Why? Because we have created a huge “experience” culture that convinces millennials that going out to a restaurant for dinner is an “experience” and therefore not a total waste of money.

Is it an experience? I guess sometimes it is, but eating out for lunch at work… is not. 

Perhaps you could argue that going out to lunch with colleagues is an experience– but couldn’t you have that same experience if you all decided to eat your packed lunches together in the designated lunch area in your office? 

I think you know my vote.

To be fair, I used to eat out for lunch a couple of times a month prior to getting into budgeting and the FIRE journey. It’d maybe cost me between $25-$40 a month, and while that may seem insignificant, take a look at how packing my lunch has saved my future self a significant amount of money.

Savings: $25 a month

Results of Investing that Savings:

  • 10 years: $4k
  • 15 years: $7k
  • 25 years: $19k
how to save more money now

How to Save More Money: The Little Changes Add Up

Here’s the part I’ve been waiting for.

Let’s see just how much money we’d have saved in 10, 15, and 25 years if we made all the slight life changes listed above. Time to add it up.

 

Total Amount Saved Each Month: $1,983

Total Amount Invested after # of Years (assuming 7% yearly return):

  • 10 Years: $336k
  • 15 Years: $610k
  • 20 Years: $984k
  • 21 Years: $1.07 MILLION 
  • 25 Years: $1.5 MILLION

You read that correctly.

If I invested the money I didn’t spend on eating out, drinking, fancy gym memberships, crazy travel, and transportation– I would have $1.5 million in my investments by the age of 54 or $1.07 million by the age of 50.

That’s enough to retire, my friends.

Without lifting a finger.

Without working 80 hour weeks.

Simply by not spending money on things that do not bring me value.

 

TLDR: Even small life changes can have huge impacts on your savings and ability to retire. 

I found $2k a month in my budget that I could use to pay off debt and invest. Do you need $2k a month to make a difference? No. Starting with as LITTLE as $25 a month will make an impact on your long term savings goals, especially if you invest it and stay consistent. 

By cutting out drinking, eating out, needless subscriptions, superfluous travel, and a few other small things– I was able to find $2k each month that I could save, invest, or pay off debt with. Investing that consistently for the next 21 years will make me a millionaire by the time I’m 50. Simple as that. 

 

If this doesn’t convince you to start saving more money, what will?

Now, my big goal of this post is to use it to convince people to save more money. Did it work? Let me know in the comments below and if it didn’t share with me why! I would love to know what is holding you back and if you have any extra tips on how to save that I didn’t cover (there are SO MANY TIPS), share as well! 

 

 

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Summary
How to Save More Money & Retire a Millionaire at 50
Article Name
How to Save More Money & Retire a Millionaire at 50
Description
How to save more money and retire as a millionaire: meal prep, stop wasting money on eating and drinking out, limit (or eliminate) your transportation costs; and more.
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Clo Bare
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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Cathers
    May 21, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    Some really great points here! Totally agree there are some really easy ways for us to save money and in the current climate its definitely helping not being able to eat out so much! Thanks for sharing!

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