Ex-NFL player who lived on $25,000 a year shares his key to saving money

NFL player who retired to get a PhD from MIT drives a used hatchback

When John Urschel retired from the NFL at age 26 in 2017, he had earned an impressive $1.8 million over just three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

His salary was as high as $600,000 in 2016, but you wouldn't know it from his lifestyle: The offensive lineman, who drives a used Nissan Versa that he bought for $9,000, chose to live on less than $25,000 a year.

That means Urschel was living off of just 4 percent of his salary in 2016. In other words, he was saving about 96 percent of what he made.

He didn't live on a modest $25,000 a year and drive a used car "because I'm frugal or trying to save for some big purchase," Urschel said. "It's because the things I love the most in this world (reading math, doing research, playing chess) are very, very inexpensive."

Former NFL player John Urschel
Nicole Craine | Getty Images

Urschel, who is currently pursuing his doctorate at MIT, chooses to spend on what makes him happy and not waste money on things that aren't important to him.

It's a popular strategy among super savers: Figure out exactly what you need and want, and cut out everything else.

"Question the things you're spending your money on," says one money blogger, "The Money Wizard," who saves more than 60 percent of his income and plans to retire by age 37. "Question whether or not they're going to actually bring you happiness.

"Is a car that costs $30,000 really going to make you that much happier than a car that costs $20,000? Or would you be happier saving that money so you can one day be financially free?"

Thinking through your purchases will help you refrain from shelling out more than you should to "keep up with the Joneses," he says: "Just because your friends enjoy spending lavishly on clothes, doesn't mean that's for you. ... Don't waste money on things that aren't important to you."

Luckily for Urschel, those things happen to be very low-cost.

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