"The slow way to wealth is to save," the now 28-year-old tells CNBC Make It. "At the end of the day, it's a lot easier to make more money than to save more."
Making more starts with a specific net worth or earnings goal, he says: "Make non-negotiable goals, then reverse engineer it." If your goal is to become a millionaire in ten years, figure out exactly how much money you have to make in a year, month or week to achieve it.
"When you break it down that simple, it's not as scary anymore," he says. "But a lot of people just set a huge goal and they never break it down and know the numbers and the statistics that they have to hit, so it just becomes unfathomable and overwhelming."
Once you've set your financial goal, you have to actually get to work and start earning. The best way to make big money is to start with a skill you already have that you can monetize, Chidester says. "Maybe you're really good at getting someone in shape, or you're really good at running ads for companies. Maybe you do the best backflip in the world, or you're really good at selling books. Find one skill you're really good at, package that together into a service and sell it to people."
That's how he started. Chidester played Division 1 college football and had been a fitness buff since he was a kid, so he decided to create personalized fitness and eating plans for clients. At the time, he was 22 and had just dropped out of college before finishing his senior year.
He didn't make money off of his programs right away. In his first two years, he made just $2,000 and worked at Olive Garden to pay the bills.
It wasn't until he took a course about how to build an online training business that he started to see results. "That's when I learned that people will pay high ticket prices — high ticket meaning $1,500 plus — for a service," says Chidester, who was 25 at the time. "I was selling my fitness programs for like 40 bucks. That's when I learned, Oh, people will pay me $1,500 for my service."
More from Invest In You:
This mother of five buys RVs online, flips and resells them—so far, she's made $22,000
Millennial who paid off $300,000 in debt in 3 years: How to live a frugal but still comfortable lifestyle
41% of Americans would be able to cover a $1,000 emergency with savings
Chidester homed in on one-on-one coaching, which people will shell out four figures for, he realized. As soon as he increased his prices, he started seeing big money: He made $10,000 in one week. Eventually, he worked his way up to making between $30,000 and $50,000 a month. By 27, his net worth hit $1 million.
He then used a new skill he'd developed — how to scale a business online — to start teaching other business owners and fitness trainers how to grow their ventures. That evolved into his second company, Elite CEOs, which he runs in addition to Fit Warrior.
"What most people struggle with is, they don't sell stuff high enough to ever get out of their financial situation," he says. If your product or service is priced at $100, you have to sell a ton of units to get by. But, "If you sell one high priced service for $1,500, you only have to sell four or five a month and you're already almost at six figures a year.
"That's how I really got out of my situation."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Tanner Chidester recently turned 28.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.