Saving half of your income may be more possible than you think. Some regular people have managed to do it, like Grant Sabatier: He went from having almost nothing to setting a goal of retiring early and achieving it within five years.
Here are five tried-and-true strategies from Sabatier and other super-savers who have all, at one point, set aside at least half of their income to reach their financial goals.
In 2016, Chris Reining quit his IT job at age 37 with more than $1 million in the bank by living a modest lifestyle, saving and investing more than half his income and putting his money to work. Reining, who's been living comfortably off of his investments for the past three years, succeeded largely thanks to one simple habit, he tells CNBC Make It: automating his finances.
Putting your financial plan on autopilot means setting up your savings accounts, retirement funds and debt-repayment plans to automatically draw money from your paycheck or checking account each month so that you never have to make the choice to spend or save those dollars.
It will not only help you build wealth, but it'll save you time and mental energy, says Reining: "I automated my money years ago and the benefit is, I don't have to make decisions about where my money should go, how much I should invest, what I can spend, do I have enough savings and so on."
If you want to save big, it helps to know where your cash is going in the first place.
Many early retirees started their journey to financial independence by analyzing their spending habits and figuring out where they could cut back. "Knowing how you spend lets you determine whether you get value for your dollars — and where you might be able to focus efforts to reduce expenses further," says Justin McCurry, who saved more than half his income to retire in his 30s with his wife.
Reining also employs this strategy and has been tracking his income, spending and investments in a spreadsheet since 2006, he tells CNBC Make It: "Once you start tracking this stuff and seeing it month to month and then year to year you really start to understand: 'If I spend less, that means I'm saving and investing more. And if I'm saving and investing more, I'm going to be able to walk away sooner. I'm going to be able to have financial independence sooner because these numbers all work together.'"
Chances are, a significant chunk of your paycheck goes towards housing. If you can figure out a way to cut back on that cost, you'll free up a lot of money that you can direct towards saving and investing.
"Live in the least expensive apartment that you can, get roommates, house hack, buy a two-bedroom apartment and rent out the other room to keep your housing expenses as low as possible," says self-made millionaire and early retiree Grant Sabatier, who managed to save around 80% of what he brought in. "If you can cut your housing expense from $2,000 down to $600 or $700, all of the sudden, you've cut 10 or 15 years off the time that it will take you to retire."
Keeping "the big three" expenses low — housing, food and transportation — can make a big impact on your savings.
The more money you have coming in, the more you can set aside to save and invest.
"Go out and just try to make a little extra money," Sabatier says. "You don't have to go crazy, you don't have to go out and make an extra $10,000 or more per month. But every $1,000 you make and invest instead, that's going to cut literal months off the time that it will take you to retire."
Tracking your net worth is the "No. 1 tool for real financial success," says Richard Meadows, a millennial who managed to bank $100,000 in three years.
Meadows started saving about half of his income in 2013 and tracked his progress with a custom spreadsheet. "If you're not measuring something, then you don't have that feedback loop," he says. "You don't know whether you're heading in the right direction."
Sabatier relies on the same habit: "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."
Whether you want to retire early, save up for a down payment or pay off debt, having a specific goal for your money will make it easier to save.
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