With the fall season in full swing, it’s only natural to take a closer look at our financial goals for this year. There are only a few short months left, after all, and those months include the busy – and expensive – holiday season. With a brand new year on its heels, it’s smart to take stock: Did you accomplish everything you hoped?
If not, don’t despair. If I’ve realized anything about money over the years, it’s this: Success – and especially financial success – is never a straight line.
Most of the time, it’s more like three steps forward, two steps back – a huge savings win here, and a loss over there. So, if you haven’t had the type of financial year you hoped for, your big “win” might still be on its way.
Big Savings ‘Wins’ to Shoot for This Year
To find out what other “big wins” are out there, we surveyed the financial community to see how they’ve been saving so far in 2016. If you’re still struggling for a win this year, you can lean on these stories for inspiration:
Savings Win #1: Saving enough to cover maternity leave
We all know that parental leave benefits are paltry in the United States, which is why many of us are forced to save for maternity or paternity leave on our own. That’s exactly what Jon Dulin of Money Smart Guides and his wife did in anticipation of their newborn child.
“My wife and I were able to put aside enough savings for when our daughter was born so that my wife is able to take some more unpaid maternity leave to be with our daughter,” says Dulin. “It has be interesting surviving on one source of income, especially when hers is the majority of our income, but you never get this time back.”
Sacrifice or not, Dulin is right. Babies are only babies for a short while, and once that time is over, it’s over.
Savings Win #2: The end of daycare
Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks is experiencing a “savings win” on the other side of the spectrum. Instead of a new baby, he has a brand new kindergartner. You know what that means – no more daycare or preschool, and a monthly savings of $1,300 in Wang’s case. No matter how much you earn, $1,300 in monthly savings is huge – especially if you put it to good use.
“We aim to use that extra money to help save for his college education and sock away a little more for our retirement,” says Wang. “We’ve gotten so used to paying that each month, it’ll feel like we won the lottery!”
An Experienced Frugal Parent’s Guide to Childcare
Savings Win #3: Paying for a car in cash
David Auten, half of the couple known as the “Debt Free Guys,” has been making a “double car payment” into a savings account so he can pay cash for a new-to-him car.
“We’re finally in the market to buy a new-to-us Audi,” says John Schneider, the other half of the money-saving duo. “This money has been direct deposited to a bank with which we have no other relation, so we don’t see the money on a month-to-month basis.”
Considering the fact that the average new car payment was $503 in the first quarter of 2016, this is a huge win. Without a car payment ruining their cash flow and stifling their savings, this couple can work on achieving their other financial goals.
- Related: Should You Always Buy a Used Car?
Savings Win #4: Avoiding student loan debt like the plague
The student loan crisis is absolutely real for those who experience it, which is why some people will do anything to avoid getting sucked into a lifetime of student debt. For Nick True of True Tightwad and his wife, this means paying for school as they go so they can avoid student loans altogether.
So far in 2016, the couple has paid cash for around $16,000 worth of graduate school bills. And with another $4,000 bill on its way in December, the couple must continue to scrimp and save for a while longer.
“Intense frugality combined with lots of overtime hours has allowed us to put her through school debt-free,” says True. In the end, his wife will have a graduate degree and the better job prospects that come with it.
Savings Win #5: Adding a full-time employee to the ranks
After years of hard work, San Diego Financial Planner Taylor Schulte says he took on his first full-time employee this year. Not only has hiring someone given him more “free time,” but the added help has allowed him to focus on building his business, too.
“It’s given me the ability to delegate tasks that were consuming my day, and it’s allowing me to focus on other areas of my business that I was neglecting,” says Schulte.
“It’s true – sometimes you do have to spend money to make it.”
Savings Win #6: Slaying debt for a cause
When Chris Peach of Money Peach and his wife started digging their way out of debt, they had several goals in mind. Not only did they want to save their family from a lifetime of credit card interest and struggle, but they wanted to be more charitable, too. And now that they’re debt-free, Peach and his wife have stepped up their efforts.
“This year, we have been fanatical about our tithing and our giving,” says Peach. While saving, investing, and buying stuff has always been fun, being charitable with causes they care about is much more rewarding, he says.
Savings Win #7: Paying off student loans for good
Andrew Josuweit of Student Loan Hero built an entire website and business around his $107,000+ student loan debt. After years of ups and downs, this was his year to pay off those loans once and for all.
“I finally paid off my student loan debt,” said Josuweit. “After far too long in forbearance, heart-breaking defaults, and penalties that led my student loan balance to balloon from $74,000 to $107,000, I made my last payment this summer.”
With more than six figures in student loan debt behind him, Josuweit can finally move on with his life and continue helping others do the same.
Savings Win #8: Lowering living expenses FTW!
Living expenses can get out of hand when you have a house and everything that goes with it, but is there any other way?
This year, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents, found out that, yes, there is another way to live that costs considerably less – moving into an RV.
This move won’t work for everyone, but it can work for some. And if you don’t mind a little hassle, the savings can be huge. In addition to unloading their home, Schroeder says they got rid of a storage unit filled with stuff as well. That saved them $2,000 per year on the spot, she says.
And since they are no longer paying a mortgage or utilities, they’re saving around 90% of their income.
Savings Win #9: Charging more rent and pocketing the difference
Being a landlord isn’t for the faint of heart, yet big and steady profits can be made if you know what you’re doing. Part of the equation involves finding good tenants of course, but it also involves knowing when to raise the rent – and when not to.
Philip Taylor of PTMoney.com came out ahead this year by timing a renal increase perfectly.
“Our biggest financial win of 2016 was having our rental property tenant move out, allowing us to reset our monthly rent to more closely align with the really strong rental market,” said Taylor. “We rented it out again almost immediately, and we’ve increased our annual cash flow by $3,600.”
This just goes to show what a booming housing market can do for sellers and landlords alike. If you time things right, you can truly come out ahead.
If getting ahead financially was easy, everyone would do it. Unfortunately, the path towards wealth and financial freedom is filled with so many hurdles it’s not even funny. Not only do you have to make all the best financial moves, but you have to avoid huge money drains and financial mistakes in the process. And even then, there are years where nothing seems to go right regardless of what you do.
All any of us can do is keep on trying. For every savings “win,” there are bound to be a few losses. But with enough responsible financial decisions, most of us should make real progress towards our goals over time.
So: What are your biggest “savings wins” so far this year? What goals do you still have to reach this year? Let us know in the comments.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. She blogs at ClubThrifty.com and teaches others how to write online at EarnMoreWriting.com.