In 2013, business journalist Richard Meadows decided to calculate his net worth. He wasn't pleased with the result.
Meadows, 22 at the time, decided to get serious about saving. He made a series of small lifestyle tweaks, started living on less than he earned and invested the difference. After about three years of saving half his income, he had $100,000 in the bank.
The journalist, now 26, handed in his notice at work, bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok and has been traveling and blogging ever since.
Two strategies, he tells CNBC Make It, helped him reach six figures in only a few years:
Tracking your net worth is the "number one tool for real financial success," Meadows writes on his blog.
After all, "if you're not measuring something, then you don't have that feedback loop," he tells CNBC Make It. "You don't know whether you're heading in the right direction." Plus, recording your income and expenses helps keep your spending in check.
He's in good company. Grant Sabatier, who went from having $2.26 in his bank account to $1 million in just five years, says a crucial step he took was monitoring his net worth: "I look at my net worth every day when I wake up in the morning and have my morning coffee. There are few greater motivations than seeing this number rise over time. No matter where you start from."
Sabatier uses Mint.com, which allows you to link all of your financial accounts and displays your assets and liabilities, while Meadows prefers to track his progress with a custom spreadsheet. You can also look into Personal Capital and You Need a Budget, which work in a similar way.
Automating your financial life — or sending your money directly from your checking account or paycheck to investment accounts, savings accounts and creditors — is a popular strategy among early retirees and super savers.
"It stops you from sabotaging your own progress," Meadows says. "If you run out of willpower and you blow all the money that you meant to save on a big night out or new shoes that you didn't really need, then you're never going to get anywhere."
However, if you automatically set aside money in a retirement account or for bigger savings goals like a home or car, you'll never be tempted to skimp on savings.
When Meadows was saving half of his income, he set up automatic transfers that aligned with pay day, he says: "The day after my paycheck landed in my bank account, a certain amount was automatically diverted to an untouchable account. That removes the temptation to spend it right from the get go."
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