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The Latinista's coffee hack helped her save $60,000 and start her business—without giving up lattes

CNBC Select spoke with the founder of The Latinista about how she saved money without giving up coffee.

Photo courtesy of Yai Vargas

In 2018, Yai Vargas decided to quit her job and become the CEO of her own company, The Latinista.

To some coworkers, her decision may have seemed abrupt. But Vargas had been putting the pieces in place to walk away from corporate America for several years.

It wasn't without a little sacrifice: For more than a decade, Vargas hustled to pay off her student loan debt then save a $60,000 emergency fund so she'd be ready to leap when the time was right. She also downsized her apartment, sold her home and worked with The Financial Gym to make sure all her finances were in order.

But when it came to spending, Vargas still had one habit that she decided not to kick: her daily latte.

Below, Vargas shares how she developed a "hack" so she could treat herself to expensive coffee drinks — without sacrificing any savings.

The hack that helped her get early clients and treat herself

Throughout Vargas' 16-year career in multicultural marketing and diversity strategy, she helped corporate teams across multiple sectors recruit and sustain diverse employees.

She took great satisfaction in her job: "I was using my experience as a Latina, as an immigrant, as a Spanish speaker who went to school in New York City and someone who is bilingual," Vargas tells CNBC Select.

In time, Vargas started to see that other organizations were hungry for the kind of expertise she brought to the table, and she wanted to do more with her talents and skills.

"I knew I could offer so much to organizations who are dying for this type of work," says Vargas.

So she began envisioning what would ultimately become The Latinista, a company that helps Latina and Latinx women of color build professional communities and thrive in their careers, while also working directly with businesses to promote diversity within the corporate culture.

In 2012, her side hustle was born. She didn't make a lot of money at first and instead focused on building a professional network.

But there was a problem: Though Vargas was able to keep herself to a strict budget and put a big chunk of her 9-to-5 salary into savings, she struggled to kick her expensive coffee habit.

"Sometimes I was spending $14 a day on coffee," says Vargas. "I was going into work at 8:00 in the morning and I wasn't coming home until 2:00 in the morning because of the events that I was a part of."

So she found a way to network and stick to her budget by taking coffee meetings.

"When women started to reach out to me and say, 'Can I pick your brain and grab some advice?' I would say 'Sure, absolutely,'" Vargas says. "''It will only cost you taking me out to coffee.'"

In turn, Vargas drew inspiration from her meetings, getting a better understanding what challenges her target demographic was facing. She used the information to develop workshops and conferences for Latina and Latinx professionals.

Vargas also took coffee meetings with corporate professionals who needed ideas to build diversity within their own organizations. She couldn't always charge these clients (more than a cup of coffee anyway), as she was still employed with another company. But simply sharing insights from her own experiences and takeaways from her workshops was enough to make an impression.

Over time, she developed relationships with potential corporate clients who were waiting for her when she finally quit her job and devoted herself full-time to the Latinista.

The best places to put your savings

While Vargas built her professional network and worked on reducing her spending, she also padded her emergency fund by depositing her savings into a high-yield savings account.

Opening a high-yield savings account helps you earn interest faster than a traditional account (the national average APY on regular savings accounts is just 0.05%). Go with an account that is FDIC-insured, has zero monthly maintenance fees and comes with low (or no) minimum balance requirements.

Here are CNBC Select's picks for the top high-yield savings accounts:

The Varo Savings Account ranks on CNBC Select's list of the top high-yield savings accounts because it offers a unique tiered APY program that encourages customers to save more: Earn up to 2.80% APY when you make a minimum of five purchases using their Varo Visa® Debit Card, have direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more each month and keep a savings account balance no higher than $10,000 (there is no minimum balance) all in the same month.

Varo Savings Account

Varo Savings Account
Information about the Varo Savings Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. Bank Account Services are provided by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC.
  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    0.81% (with option to earn up to 2.80% if meet requirements)

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Monthly fee

    None

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle *The 6/statement cycle withdrawal limit is waived during the coronavirus outbreak under Regulation D

  • Excessive transactions fee

    None

  • Overdraft fees

    None up to $50; anything greater, Varo would decline the transaction

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes, if have a Varo checking account

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • High APY and option to earn even higher
  • No minimum balance
  • No monthly fees
  • Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle*
  • No penalty for overdrafts up to $50 (anything greater, Varo declines the transaction)
  • Option to add a checking account
  • ATM access if you have a checking account
  • Offers 2 programs to help automate your savings

Cons

  • Overdrafts over $50 will cause transactions to be declined
  • Cash deposits are only available through third-party services, which may charge a fee
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.