How I Saved $10,000 in 10 Months (at an Entry Level Job)

Editor's note: This post was originally published in April, 2011. But it still remains one of the most popular on Vagabondish.com so we're flashing back to it today for a little travel savings inspiration. Enjoy!

Over the course of 10 months, I was able to save $10,000, working an entry level job, in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. – Los Angeles. I saved over half of my measly $2,400 monthly income despite the inflated costs of living. Now I’m traveling the world, starting my own businesses, and generally loving life.

I don’t say this to brag (entirely), but to remind everyone that anything is possible if you focus enough energy towards your goals. Here’s I how I did it.

#1: I Tracked Every Expense

I saved my receipts and entered them into a spreadsheet at the end of every day. You’d be amazed how quickly the little untracked expenses add up – coffee, gum, etc. If you record your spending you’ll naturally be a little smarter with it.

Here are what my expenses from January ”˜08 looked like (rounded up to the nearest $):

  • Rent: $485
  • Utilities (gas/electric/water): $35
  • Cable: $15
  • Bus/Gas/Transportation: $53
  • Food/Vitamins/Supplements: $265
  • Eating Out: $41
  • House Items/Toiletries: $11
  • Entertainment/Beer/Gifts: $230
  • Education/Business: $70

Total: $1,165

*Note: I didn’t have a cellphone bill because I was still on my parent’s plan.

Clever Budgeting
Clever Budgeting © Jeff Keen

#2: I Opened a High Yield Savings Account & Paid Myself First

I had a set amount of money deposited directly from my paycheck into a high yield savings account. This way I didn’t have the chance to spend it. A high yield savings account is better than a regular savings account because I accrued interest.

#3: I Saved on Rent & Utilities

The more people you live with, the cheaper the rent and utilities are going to be. My bill was split between five guys. Consider sharing a room instead of keeping the single. There’s no shame in having a roommate these days, especially with the ridiculous costs of housing.

Privacy was hardly ever an issue for me and my roomies. Whenever my girlfriend and I ”˜needed the room’, I just asked and it was ours for a bit.

I don’t, however, recommend sharing a room with a complete stranger. You could get a psycho – I know from experience. Screen potential roommates carefully.

#4: I Saved on Food

I was eating 5-6 times a day and a lot of healthy foods at each meal. I also bought an expensive protein supplement from Biotest. Yet, I still spent less money on my grocery bills than most people I know. These strategies worked for me:

I bagged my lunch to work.

People hear this all the time but hardly anyone actually does it. My co-workers would routinely eat out and spend $7-8 for their lunch-time meal. I spent just over that for an entire day’s worth of food.

I had a meal plan.

I made a meal plan for the whole week and bought all my food at once. My roommates would often end up at the grocery store every other day because they didn’t want to buy a week’s worth of food at a time. What they failed to see is that they were actually spending more because when they didn’t have food in the house, they’d end up at a fast food joint spending about 1/7 of my weekly bill for one, awful, greasy meal.

I followed the deals.

For healthy, cheap food I went to Trader Joe’s. It kicks the competition’s butt on a lot of products. A dozen cage free eggs is only $2.50!

Go to farmer’s markets on the weekend and stock up. Buy in bulk from Costco. There are cheap places for high quality food in every city. You just have to know where to look.

I ate out sparingly.

Eating out is great. It’s fun and delicious. But it’s also expensive. I usually end up ordering a drink or two so it gets out of control very easily. Instead of going out, I tried cooking nicer meals for my girlfriend at the house. I’m not a good cook (yet) but I tried and I think she appreciated the effort.

Daily Commute, Istanbul
Daily Commute, Istanbul © Kıvanç

#5: I Saved Huge On the Commute

Try public transportation – it’s not as bad as you think. I rode the bus in LA for ten months with no real incidents to speak of. Unless you count getting made fun of for wearing a tie.

I had no car so I saved on all types of expenses – oil, insurance, and the other hidden costs. When I needed to borrow a car, I did, and I paid my roommates for my share of the gas. But, because I didn’t have my own car, I felt the need to drive places less. Obviously, if I didn’t live with friends, it might have been a problem, but that’s where good roommate decision making comes in to play.

#6: I Saved On Entertainment

Everyone’s idea of entertainment differs so you might have to get creative. Rent movies and split the $5 rental fee with a friend, or go to discount theaters. They often have movies that are just out of theaters. Avoid the hype and necessity to see a movie as soon as it’s released.

Some of my best nights in LA were spent with a cheap bottle of wine watching classic movies with my friends in a discount theater near my house.

There are times when you need to cut loose. Because I was spending so frugally on other things, I decided to splurge and spend a lot of cash on my friend’s birthday in January. The extra cash for sushi and drinks was well worth the fun.

#7: I Read Personal Finance & Travel Blogs Daily

Saving was difficult so I had to keep myself motivated. I made sure I read at least one personal finance article (usually something at GetRichSlowly.org) and one travel blog a day (Vagabondish.com anyone?). It helped me stay on track and stay focused on my travel goal.

Conclusion

The bottom line is: I didn’t spend my money on stupid things! As long as you follow that rule you’ll be fine. If it does you no good in the future, don’t buy it. Everything is an investment.

Yes, I may have forgone some immediate pleasures and comforts, but now I’m in a position that few people ever will be. I was able take an entire year off to make my dreams come true.

114 Responses

  1. Sean

    I agree mate. That’s the problem with people in developed countries: they make good money and feel the need to spend it! I was living cheap like that all throughout college. Then I moved to China and I still do it, and because of this I can travel often and enjoy myself!

    Check out my travels at
    http://www.worldresolution.net/travel

    Reply
  2. Nate

    One of the best blog posts I have read in a while. Very useful information!

    That is an astounding amount of money to save in that amount of time. Great job.

    Reply
  3. Scott

    I saved like you did and traveled for a year as well. It was amazing, but to be honest, life was boring until I left to travel.

    Reply
  4. Eva

    This is all good advice, but you lost me a little at “my measly $2,400 monthly income”… That’s after taxes, I assume? Not really a low-end entry-level salary for your basic office job.

    Reply
  5. Christian Haugen

    Good advice there, did pretty much the same thing before my trip. As I only had 5 months to save up I worked two jobs and voila, $10 000 in 5 months :) It’s possible!

    Reply
  6. Matthew

    My wife and I live on about $1,300 a month (and that includes $100 invested) as college students.
    I only wish that we made more so that we could be saving for more adventures. We take not-frequent-enough backpacking trips to the nearby national park, hit up the discount theater, and only rent movies from RedBox ($1 rentals, as we only keep it a day).

    No TV or internet helps keep expenses low. We access the internet on campus for free, and the two shows that we do watch we can see the next day online for free (via the company websites, so it’s legit too).

    I’m currently working on ways to increase my income, and those increases will be applied directly to savings. I’ve got more traveling to do!

    Reply
  7. Derek @ Live Uncomfortably

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the comments.

    The $2,400 was before taxes. I was making $15 an hour. In Los Angeles, that’s bottom of the barrel.

    I was able to save like this and still live a good, fun, life. It just takes getting rid of the some of the un-necessaries.

    (If you visit my blog for the first time today – haha. I have a pretty atypical post up)

    Reply
  8. Osman

    Well, congratulations for your determination! You will be an inspiration for many, i think! It is not really easy to control your account but when it is about travelling, it is possible!

    Reply
  9. Annabel Candy

    Well done, glad to see that you’ve got your priorities right, this will certainly give you a lot more happy memories to look back on that a life time of eating out at lunch time.

    Good luck with all your travel plans!

    Reply
  10. Brodie

    i am currently in a situation extremely similar to the author and I’ve been doing all the things he mentioned: he is completely correct. I’ve been steadily increasing my saving account balance by the steps mentioned above. I’m almost up to the $5,000 mark and spending the fall in Asia. I am 21 years old

    Reply
  11. Cody

    These numbers do not add up. So you made $15/hr and you saved $1000 a month for 10 months correct?

    So $1000+$1,165(your expenses) = $2,165 a month you had to bring in, atleast. So you only paid $235 in taxes each month?

    According to PayCycle.coms calculator you would only be brining home around $1844 a month after taxes. There calculator may not be to the dollar, but I believe you were taking home much less than the $2200 your calculations say you needed.

    Reply
  12. Liam Patrick Quigley

    I’ve always known how to live on the cheap, but to be honest, whenever I can afford it (even if it means cutting back on some other spending) I really prefer to eat out.

    I think it’s worth it to go out with your colleuges and friends and buy lunch, even the majority of the week. It helps cultivate social … ties, stuff like that. And it’s tastier. Ofcourse If I was low on cash I would have no problem living on the cheap for a couple months, but home made sandwiches often just aren’t as damn tasty as some really good food someone else prepares for you.

    And no internet? F that noise. I mean, I won’t pay for cable (netflix instant, hulu, torrrents, etc).

    Reply
  13. LadyAnn

    You also don’t know what his W-4 form looks like – single, married, head of household, 0 exemption, 1 exemption, 2 exemptions, etc. or the frequency of his pay periods. Because this was not a full 12 months, there could be an additional one or two pay periods. I ran several calculations at PaycheckCity.com and depending on his specific information, it would be possible to save $1000 + $1165 in expenses every month for 2009. I didn’t bother looking at previous years, but tax calculations change every year.

    Reply
  14. Tea

    We (family of 3) are living off of $12,000 a year right now. I’m starting work this month (with a new degree) and should be able to make 5 times that. I hope that we continue to live as frugally as we are now, just so we can put the rest into savings.

    Reply
  15. Derek @ Live Uncomfortably

    I didn’t realize some people were questioning my calculations. Thanks for concern.

    I was in fact working overtime hours. Plus, some months I spent less than others. For the 10 months total it averaged out to $1,000 a month.

    I hope that clears it up.

    Reply
  16. calico

    your numbers don’t make sense to me. Where in the US can you live and pay only $35/month for all utilities? In my area the electric company charges a minimum of $20 just to give active service, even if you don’t turn anything on. Your food costs are less than $10 a day, which makes me wonder if you were eating real food or just surviving on ramen noodles and spaghetti-os. You forgot the one thing that can make or break someone: medical expenses. Even with insurance your co-pays, prescription drugs, and not-covered expenses could wipe out your entire monthly salary. If you got injured in the US, you’d not only go broke trying to pay the medical bills, your low-wage job probably wouldn’t give you any paid sick time. You’d be behind on the rent, late fees would pile up, and you’d be living in your car the moment they release you from the hospital.

    My point is that minimum wage is not living wage. If we’re going to financially plan to help the average American, we should address some of the common reasons people end up in a downward financial spiral.

    Thanks for the great ideas otherwise.

    Reply
  17. Derek @ Live Uncomfortably

    Utilities – I lived 4 other guys and we split the bill.

    I ate 5-6 healthy meals a day and it’s extremely possible for under $10. Trader Joe’s in CA was my best friend.

    12 eggs = $2.50.
    Bag of chicken breasts = $6.
    Cheap veggies and especially bananas.

    I also supplemented with high quality protein from Biotest = $0.50 for a scoop of protein with 22 grams of protein.

    Medical Expenses – I had excellent medical coverage.

    I disagree on your last point. The whole point of the article is that I was able to live on a low salary and save for travel because I got control of my spending and was smart about saving.

    Reply
  18. Toni

    Forget about what the last person commented on.

    I stumbled on your post and I love it!!!

    I live in new york and we make about the same amount of money a month. I live at home and don’t pay rent so I save a lot from there. But of course where one thing lacks you make up for it elsewhere. I love to eat out and thats where my extra cash goes.

    So, im using your method in hopes of having 10G’s when im ready to buy my condo next year.

    I think you did a great job of explaining and making it realistic for everyone to do.

    People end up in downward financial spirals because they live outside of there means!!

    Reply
  19. Lizzy

    I just found this post linked from an FMF blog. I am currently saving for a house and I am now even more geeked up to save after reading your blog! Especially considering your healthy eating. That is what usually makes up the most of my costs – protein supps, egg whites, organic produce, etc. Most people show savings by eating cheap (but unhealthy)and I just can’t relate because I won’t sacrifice my shape for money. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  20. Derek @ Live Uncomfortably

    Right on Lizzy.

    Just make sure to cook your own food as much as possible. Also, if you have a Costco near you take advantage of it. Natural peanut butter, fish oil, almonds, and even produce, is super cheap in bulk.

    Reply
  21. Amber

    thank for the tips. I’ve know this is what I needed to do for a while now, but you really put into persepective. :D

    I just got back from a month long trip to India, and it wasn’t enough. I want to buy a house in the next few years, and travel more. Thanks agian!

    -Amber

    Reply
  22. Brian

    I’m living on the cheap in Malaysia, after a year in the Philippines and years of austerity in Florida. I’ve been thrifty, frugal and cost-conscious and haven’t bought everything that Madison Avenue wants us to buy. No Mustang GT, X-box, jewelry, alcohol, tobacco,… trendy blue jeans, etcetera. i haven’t bought 200 albums and DVD movies per year and gone to movie theaters dozens of time per year. My ‘weakness,’ my entertainment budget,was spent on magazines (news, photography, aviation and cars). a dozen subscriptions and buying off shelves. And I traded trucks and cars every few years, though. I hate all mass-transit!

    Reply
  23. Jessop

    For those nit picking the figures mentioned in this post, they are the ones who will never have the ambition to move on anyway. I know tons of people always making up excuses why they don’t move or travel.

    Derek’s whole point of the article was loud and clear to those of us who do actually make thing happen in our lives. The bottom line is, no matter what your income/expenses, saving for a move or a trip IS possible if you get your priorities straight and make the necessary calculations to achieve what you want in the end.

    Reply
  24. Amanda is a traveling photographer

    ^ So true! It’s really an inspiring article. I didn’t mean to sound negative in my other comment either. I don’t have the self control to only spend $41 on eating out because that IS my spending weakness. I make up for it in other ways though:
    I have a roomate instead of living alone in my townhome ( which I bought via short sales and got a hell of deal on ).
    I don’t buy a ton of new clothes.
    I don’t buy other misc. crap.
    I drive a cheap car that is almost paid off.
    ^ Those little things add up to decent savings!

    Reply
  25. Kelly

    Good advice! I saved a little over $2,000 in six weeks this summer to fund a last-minute cross-country road trip, so I know it can be done! It just takes willpower to give up the luxuries we’re all used to spending money on. Once you’re used to “going without”, it doesn’t seem so bad, and there are lots of crafty ways to be entertained and well fed on a very small budget.

    I also highly recommend wesabe.com to track where your expenses are going. When you see how much you actually spend on dining out, going to bars, and seeing movies and concerts, it’s much easier to cut it out of your budget!

    Reply
  26. Moriko

    True for some, I am a graduate my income is 1090€ and rent alone 524€ (crappy apartment). Public transit, meals to work the hole shabang and I save all I can. it doesn’t amount to much and sometimes it doesn’t amount to anything. It really depends on where you live to start with and what you do for a living.

    Reply
  27. Cristina

    oh wow those are some cheap utilities. while I don’t pay rent, the other stuff really add up:
    – internet/phone : $150 (land line, cell for me and hubby plus internet)
    – food: $200 a month for 2
    – utilities add up to $100 or so a month
    and yes, I’m in Europe.
    We don’t even own a car and we walk everywhere…
    It’s virtually impossible to save anything when you own a house and don’t share expenses.

    Reply
  28. William Wallace

    I hear it so often that people can’t even afford to go on holiday for 3 or 4 weeks let alone have the money for a long term adventure. I would also advise people to go and get a part time job, that will bring in some extra cash.

    I think the high yield interest bank account is a waste of time, in one year you aren’t going to make enough to buy a second rate burger from McDonalds.

    I however feel that sometimes people should explore there own country a lot more before they go travelling to far flung places. More often than not home offers a lot more and can be just as exciting, if you just open your eyes.

    Or perhaps when so called travellers go abroad, they should maybe think about staying in the same city or place for more than just a few days, I don’t see the point of that. I know so they can brag to all their family and friends that they have been to a particular place. They are in fact what I call speed tourists, who are all following the same old boring path, instead of daring to venture forth with their own eyes and imagination.

    Reply
  29. Socializedkyle

    GREAT! You just inspired me to get on my saving..I moved to Korea to try and control my spending. I really need to focus. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  30. Rhett

    This was an excellent blog, well worth the read. Congrats on your experiment, but how will you spend your money? Will you invest, buy a new car, pay loans, ect.?

    Reply
  31. Ruffadelic

    I really enjoyed the “public transport isn’t as bad as you’d think” part. It’s something I never really think about, because here in Switzerland we have a ticket to travel the whole country for 300$ per month (until age 25 it was 900$ per year!). So me and all my friends have always been without a car and would probably never buy one in the near future… I do most things on this list to quickly get rid of my student loan and to finance some long term travel, hopefully soon. This blog entry helps keep me motivated and focused, good stuff!

    Reply
  32. alex

    Good article! Especially just spending money on useful things and not silly stuff is THE way to go. But i think it´s also important not to limit yourself too much; even if you havent got alot of money it helps to spend some money on entertaiment/things you really like. Lifts the motivation!

    Reply
  33. Vic

    Good post, but imagine if you had to pay your cell phone bill. The no car thing may not work in every city, but most do have great public transportation. It just takes planning and execution on being frugal.

    Reply
  34. Ronda

    I did the same thing, saved every cent I had, now I’m living in Spain, learning the language, making new friends, and also starting my own online business.

    I write for other websites and get paid, that lets me stay here, but I’m also creating a local website that gives me recognition and is helping me find students who want to learn English. Its all good and I recommend this lifestyle to everyone I meet. I’d rather see the world and have nothing than work to live and still have nothing.

    Reply
  35. Reality

    Hmmm:

    Rent: $485
    Utilities (gas/electric/water): $35
    Cable: $15
    Bus/Gas/Transportation: $53
    Food/Vitamins/Supplements: $265
    Eating Out: $41
    House Items/Toiletries: $11
    Entertainment/Beer/Gifts: $230
    Education/Business: $70
    Total: $1,165

    Salary $2400 a month.

    I see how you did it! You got a decent job in 2009 then hopped in your time machine and got an apartment in 1985! Why didn’t I think of this!

    Reply
  36. Jared Knutson

    Or he lived with four roommates. At least bother to read the article before criticizing it?

    You did a great job Derek Im glad to see you made your goal.

    When im trying to save money i find the hardest part is dealing with some of the boredom that CAN come with it, one of the best activities i found to take up a good portion of your day is exercising. Not only is it usually cheap or if you are willing get creative free. You will feel a lot better and your feeling of self worth and accomplishment will further motivate you to save money.

    Eating healthy is another great way to accomplish this.. you can get tons of cheap healthy food at the grocery store and it will also boost your feeling of success.

    Reply
  37. Mattro

    At several times in my life I’ve achieved financial goals with almost identical methods. Just a couple things I’d add:

    One can do the same things or at least types of things they have enjoyed, simply in a less expensive manner. It could be as simple as opting for a less expensive beer or splitting entrees or as extreme as getting a second job in the service industry for the ‘hook-ups’. Opportunism, creativity and flexibility are your greatest allies in living well on less.

    A couple friends of mine moved to my relatively inexpensive city from their very expensive ones. They knew their dollar would go much further and they’d be better able to stick to their budget if they could enjoy themselves while saving.

    All this is simply to say that where there is a will there is truly a way — and often one that’s much better than living on ramen and moving back in with the folks.

    Reply
  38. Kelsey

    Definitely good advice, but it’s a little more difficult if you have slightly different circumstances. I know very few places where $15/hr is “entry level” (I make $9/hr here in Washington DC). It’s also great that you have 4 other friends to split the rent with, but for many people who are new to an area, that’s not really an option as they don’t have friends around to live with. My boyfriend and I live in a “really cheap place” here in DC, and we still pay $800 a month each. We thankfully don’t pay for utilities, but we have to pay for parking. Insurance is also another issue – if you have any sort of condition that requires medication (such as I do), then you’re shelling out at least $200 a month for insurance, private or otherwise.

    It’s good advice, but I think that you definitely have some advantageous circumstances that make this easier for you than it would be for many people, especially those living in more expensive cities.

    Reply
  39. marsplan

    hard for me to follow this entire plan but will try at least some of the points you mentioned. bagging lunch to work is a good idea that i have to do…

    Reply
  40. Gabe

    Derek, I love seeing what can be done when someone gets them selves in the right place and the right frame of mind! Congrats on reaching your goals as I have the same!

    I spent some time around Europe a few years ago and did the same routine to get there. That was before couchsurfing, facebook and alot of other social networking outfits. Traveling has to be even easier now. Im grounded for a bit with some health issues that I can’t travel on but am looking to run away ASAP.

    For all you naysayers, if you look at his article it makes sense. First thing would be not being so criticle. If your looking for problems, you will find them. Assume his calculations are averages, remember your location is not the same as LA(Rent, wages, prices) and that he had alot of roommates.

    This part of the country things are alot different. Entry level wage is like 9$ and hour, you can get an apartment for $500 a month and there is no mass transit!

    Go Derek!

    Reply
  41. Heather

    Great advice!

    Don’t listen to the haters, you did a really great job and your circumstances are just fine and so are their circumstances.

    As far as the money/calculation issues:

    I have $550 a month rent, so they can eat it.

    And

    Reply
  42. speedy

    nice i did 10k in 12 months.. rode to work every day 20kms.. just to save 15 dollars per week on the train trip.. but your right about motivation..my daily reading was the business papers.. and i kept a journal as well… unfortunatly after saving the money, i bought a car took 3 months off doing nothing and found a girlfriend…so my money was gone after 12 months.. but ive done it agian.. but this time..no car and girlfriend… so cash is good.. . )

    Reply
  43. Brendan

    I do the same thing! I use mint for the breakdowns of my expenses… and am very mindful of where it all goes. Great tips!

    Best!

    Reply
  44. Ayngelina

    Great tips Derek, I think the most important one is to write everything down. When I was saving I often decided against purchases because I didn’t want to write it down and admit how I spent money foolishly.

    Reply
  45. fajas colombianas

    I really enjoyed the “public transport isn’t as bad as you’d think” part. It’s something I never really think about, because here in Switzerland we have a ticket to travel the whole country for 300$ per month (until age 25 it was 900$ per year!). So me and all my friends have always been without a car and would probably never buy one in the near future… I do most things on this list to quickly get rid of my student loan and to finance some long term travel, hopefully soon. This blog entry helps keep me motivated and focused, good stuff!

    Reply
  46. misswalla

    Lots of good tips. Let me say though, $2,400 a month isn’t measly. With that said, I could use to develop a similar budget. Just an additional thought: Internet is a near necessity these days, but is tv? I haven’t had one for years and so I just stopped watching most tv shows, but then I do enjoy the fact that I can find them all online now!

    Reply
  47. Sara

    This advice is wonderful! Thank you so much Derek!

    I am currently making just over $2,400/month and trying to save about $10,000 by the end of the year. My biggest downfall is spending money on eating out but I have just started making meal plans and you’re absolutely right – it definitely helps cut down on the money spent at the grocery store!

    And you’ve inspired me to get rid of HBO – I get Netflix and barely watch the extra channels I pay $20.00 a month more for. Thanks for the inspiration and good luck with your travels!

    Reply
  48. Charles

    I’m happy to see a young person like yourself with your perspective on life. I am on disability and learning to live on a fixed income, so I can surely appreciate the hard work and determination it takes to save money.
    I have RA and even though I am on disability, I still want to have adventure and passion in my life. That’s why, at 57, with disability, I am thinking of trying the Hollywood Physique to see if I can too reach a pretty body, lol.
    Do you think this course would benefit anyone? Do you think an older man could accomplish what you have?
    I know you have a full and busy life, so I wont take up any more of your time.

    Reply
  49. nicktod

    Derek…

    Tell us all something. What is the level of fiduciary as well as travel risks in your life? For example… If you got yourself in a world of hurt, would your parents come to your rescue? Do you have health or auto insurance? Or is that something that you would leave to the american taxpayer after you claim indigence.

    Reply
  50. Kelsey

    @nicktod: I can’t speak for Derek, but I myself don’t have auto insurance because I deliberately chose to live somewhere that I don’t have to have a car. I don’t have health insurance in the USA because due to a pre-existing condition, nobody will insure me. However, while traveling I purchase travel insurance which takes care of anything that happens abroad, health-wise.

    Reply
  51. Zeeshan

    Thank you for sharing this information. It is true that there are too many unnecessary expenses we do everyday, and hence waste our money. But everybody’s circumstances are also different. My personal philosophy on savings is different than yours, and works fine for me, but I can see how effectively you saved so much, and then took a whole year off, that must be wonderful.

    Reply
  52. Greg in NJ

    Those fixed figures are so un realistic. $465.00 for rent?? Where in a box in Harlem?
    $15.00 cable..did you only get 1 channel
    $41.00 to eat out…that’s one meal, for me
    $35.00 utilities? thats 2 days use for me.
    Did you live home with Mommy? a room, with 6 roomies.
    Un realistic and not doable

    Reply
  53. Bryan

    Obviously making a budget and sticking to it is important when trying to save money, but you were in a unique situation splitting your living expenses 4 ways. I pay 159 for gas & electric for me and my wife in our 2 bedroom apartment. I pay 148 for cable tv internet and phone, 140 for 2 cellphones. My share of the rent in $850 and that’s cheap where i live, Our place is 1600 per month. It’s expensive living in the tristate area, but I definetly could save in many places. I am married so i can’t find an 1800 per month 4 bedroom

    good situation and unlike most kids your age you took advantage of it ra

    Reply
  54. AJ

    I just got a teaching job and was looking for some advice on smarter spending. I want to go to Harvard for my doctorate degree, so I am going to need to save A LOT! Thanks for this! I’m excited to start!

    Reply
  55. Jon

    LMAO Sooooooo in other words public transportation? Sucks, did it for years. Living with four roommates? Sucks even more, lived with two & couldn’t handle it. Eat eggs, Ramen noodles, & veggies all the time? Really sucks, I’m in shape (in the military) & I eat out; therefore, leading my point to be is shortchange yourself for a whole year just for a vacation? HAHAHAHHAHA too funny, honestly with all due respect (Talladega nights quote) you’re a cheap bastard bro. Don’t get me wrong, while I do understand your point of view, I totally disagree with it. That’s just my personal perspective though. Your plan seems to be a good plan, but LMFAO you sound like a cheapfu**. No offense I hate people like you, I’ve seen a couple of you here in my unit. I once invited a soldier to order pizza & split it. His answer was no $5.00 is too expensive & he brought a sandwhich from home. HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA Oh btw, I can already sense other cheapskates joining in & voicing their opinion saying that going cheap is the way to go. Honestly? I might not have much saved up in my savings; how-fuc****-ever, I go out everyday, drink everyday with friends, party every weekend, take a 3-5 day vacation twice a year (usually the Caribbeans), eat out with my fiance often, & do a bunch of other fun stuff ALL THE TIME & I don’t short change myself by eating a dozen eggs, a bunch of Bananas & whatever “Joe’s”.

    Sincerely, the guy who loves to live it up while not living a frugal life everyday just to save money.

    PS: I earn around the same income & have just about the same expenses. Which I forgot to mention I have a cell phone with unlimited minutes (Samsung Galaxy S) OH plus my car payment which might not be the best vehicle in the world, but I think a 2010 Honda Accord is pretty decent for a 24 year old.

    Reply
  56. Emmie

    Although I have reservations about the specifics – under $500 for rent? In Washington, D.C., that would be a place I would get shot at! Heck, there are condos in DC that go for $2500 in a place where you can get shot! – I do very much agree with the general idea. I’ve lived meagerly for most of the past year and a half and have saved enough for a sweet vacation in Spain! No amount of eating out or shoes, or clothes will ever come close to the experience of travelling!

    Buen viaje, chaval!

    Reply
  57. Kelsey

    Emmie: While I do agree that in some places, the rent may be a bit higher, but that’s where you just simply have to get creative. You can split a studio, live farther out, or live in a crappier neighborhood. As much as I love DC, I chose to move to Alexandria because I can get the same apartment for almost half the cost, and I’m only 15 minutes away on the metro. My boyfriend and I split a very nice, pre-war apartment for $500/person.

    Reply
  58. Andrea

    I did the same as you but over 1.5 years with two jobs.. rent and a car – in an expensive city. I saved $17,000 and paid back a debt of $10,000. The daily budget was addicting and it really helped me do it. I also had my future travel companion as a life line.. if I wanted to buy something I knew I shouldn’t I called her and she’d ask if I’d be wearing it backpacking in Africa.. and I would walk out of the mall without a purchase. What I did find hard was to undo the purse strings once travelling. Seeing the bank account decline was hard at first!!

    Reply
  59. Jessie

    I totally agree – trader joe’s is a godsend for cheap healthy eating and the daily budget thing really helps keep on top of my spending.

    I’m in a similar situation as you were, and I have to say getting a bike helped me cut even that little transportation/gas expense as well.

    Reply
  60. dave morrow

    Just did it in 4 months, but lots of money to save still to travel the world for a year. I do not agree that taking a bus saves you money tho. Even tho it does cost less you also could just use the time spent traveling hours on a bus to work overtime and make much more money. Big props to you to save it with 2400$ a month income.. how the hell do you afford LA my friend?

    Reply
  61. CaliBoi

    Yawn… Your life sound void of privacy and real fun… Sorry

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  62. sarah

    void of privacy and fun….maybe, but if you are saving up for something it’s worth it in the end! i am currently living in korea, earning just over 4k/month, which i can save at least 3/4 of if i try. my work days are long, but i still socialise, drink and eat out every weekend, as well as buying my cheapass lunch out every day! my plan was to save 30k over 9-10 months…it may not happen, but i’m trying! great advice for people like me who find saving impossible.

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  63. Jeremy

    My question to all the people saying his live sounds boring or no fun or that it’s pointless to live that cheaply, etc., is, why are you reading a website about being a vagabond? There are plenty of people who can have fun and enjoy life comfortably without spending a ton of money; you’re obviously not one of them. Fine, your choice, but why put down people who can and want to do that?

    Now back on topic. I’ve actually done the same thing, and I make less than Derek does. I’ve been working at my current job for just more than 10 months, and in that time I’ve paid off about $6,000 in debt from my previous traveling and put another $6,000 in the bank (I also had a couple grand saved so I could keep making my credit card payments). I take home about $1,700 after taxes and live in a not very expensive area (my rent is only $415 a month, and while I live in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, it’s not even one of the “cheap” apartments). I pay utilities and for internet, I’ll buy a book or a video game or the like every so often and I still manage to save a good portion of my paycheck every month. The main thing is just deciding to do it, and not making excuses. Traveling is more important to me than a big TV or eating out every other day, so that’s where I put my money. All these people saying it’s not possible or they don’t want to give up that other stuff just have different priorities, which is fine, but doesn’t mean people with travel and saving as a priority are any less happy or have less fun; I’d even argue we’re happier than those chasing a ton of material possessions, but that’s a discussion for another day.

    Sorry for the long comment, haha.

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  64. Corey

    hey derek. like your post, reminds me a lot of what i did two years ago :-) good on ya!

    Reply
  65. Paula

    After 20 years working at the same location, my monthly income is about half of what you say your entry level job pays. Saving is a luxury that I practice to the point of strangulation but I have no other income…most I can save in one year is maybe $1,000…if I don’t need to spend money on repairs or replacements…find your results to be very imaginative.

    Reply
  66. Ana

    hey I really liked your post, it motivates me to save a bit of money. I’m from mexico an it’s a little bit harder to save money when you you’re studying and don’t have a real job… but hey traveling is worth it. Keep doing it!

    Reply
  67. Mary

    @ Paula….I dont believe his thoughts and ambitions to be “imaginative”…I cant imagine what your making now, but I am able to put $150-$200 per paycheck into my savings account. I have built my savings up to $6K plus since I graduated from college 2 years ago. And not only do I pay college loans, I am donating to 2 different associations each month. I also have traveled to FL, NYC 4 times, and NJ this year, yet I am still putting money into my savings. All I am trying to say is, you can do it, but it’s a matter of your will to obtain this desire.

    Reply
  68. Aussie on the Road

    Some fantastic tips here. I’m in the process of trying to save for my own RTW trip and it’s been hard for me. I’m all about short term pleasure.

    I’ll bookmark this one and be sure to visit regularly to remind myself.

    Reply
  69. Shikhar

    That’s a really good post Derek. I am just starting out with an entry level job myself. Will be making $2400 for the first 2 months and then half of that (that’s just the hours). I think I can take a cue from your experience and start on the right foot. One advice can be to also look for some good investments in stocks or MF which are not too risky if you are new to the word. Can lead to good results if you are patient and not greedy. I personally will try my hand at it.. also good advice like on this page and from your dad (about investments) doesn’t hurt..
    Way to go Derek!!!

    Reply
  70. Chris Booth

    You lost me a little at £2400 per month too until I saw you meant it was pre-tax. That’s a fantastic saving on that wage, well done!

    I agree totally that paying yourself is very important. Once that money is gone from your account you suddenly find it much harder to spend much at all.

    Me and my fiancée buy our food fortnightly, ordering on-line to prevent any possible spur-of-the-moment purchases, and it works out about £25 each a week for all our food ($40) – which isn’t bad at all.

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  71. RT

    You do realize most of the world lives on even less, right? Do you want a cookie for acting like a responsible adult?

    Reply
  72. Todd

    Excellent article! Trader Joe’s is key. I made the dumb mistake of a while back of thinking I could afford my own place in Boston (3rd most expensive city to live in in the US) and $50 at Trader Joe’s always went way farther then $50 at the local supermarket.
    I created a video report on budgeting for travel and one piece of advice I give is to use your talents to help you earn extra money. I used to be a mechanic and whenever I needed a few extra bucks I would post up on craigslist to see if people needed work done to their cars. Other examples: if you speak another language fluently, see if people need translation services on Odesk, Guru or Elance. For the artistic set there’s always Etsy.

    Reply
  73. Michael

    How do you guys take a year off of work to go traveling? i assume you have to quit your job then. For the people who who go traveling for anything longer than a month long, how did you do it?

    Reply
  74. Kelsey

    Michael – it’s different for every person. Some quit their jobs, others merely take a sabbatical. Many consider a shift to travel blogging as a career change, and work while they travel. I do something of a mix – I have a low paying job at home that affords me a lot of time off, so I have a lot of time to travel, but not a lot of money. So, I often work while I travel, either on farms, in hostels, as a teacher, or doing freelance writing and design work while I’m on the road.

    Reply
  75. Michael

    What i don’t understand is the expenses needed for international travel. I have read that in other countries in the world, things are a lot cheaper than in the US. How much money do you need to save to travel for a year in Africa for example?

    Reply
  76. Michael

    And how do you know how much you need? Where do you figure the financial aspects out?

    Reply
  77. Shikhar

    Well Michael, it depends on the country you are planning on visiting. Like for example if you decide to go to India for some time, say 6 months or so, and you want to know how much money you would need for that, I can give you some thing on that.. All prices are approximate. I live in Vancouver and this is what I plan with.

    Flight: $1500 (return)

    Stay: depends what you are looking for, a 5 star with pool and stuff or rented appartments sort of place, but I would say around $150 a month for a well equiped place.

    Travelling in the country: estimates around $300 a month. Well it obviously depends on the places but this is a good enough amount for air travel within the country, unless you decide to take the trains which are cheaper.

    Food is cheap and you can easily feed yourself on approx. $200 a month.

    Rest is up to you on what you decide to spend on but I have tried to give you a general picture of your expenses. I have given estimates on some not so luxurious options. I believe in backpacking trips and this is way above the cost I would incur if I were to backpack across India for some time.
    Hope it helps you…

    As to your question about where to find out how much you need to save, I would suggest checking out local websites of the country you are visiting. Also discussions on boards such as this give you a good idea on that.

    Reply
  78. Michael

    So Shikhar,

    I understand that you need to get a general idea of the amount of money you will need to be spending, but is that really enough for you to feel secure to embark on a 6 month stay in Tanzania, especially if you have never been there before?

    Perhaps Googling “standard of living in Tanzania” would help to see what others can advise but isn’t there an official website to check on the cost of living in a foreign country?

    Reply
  79. Bohemian Trails

    Great breakdown of how you saved money. I’m managing to save also and I live in NYC and unfortunately am paying more than $450 haha. Cutting down on eating out definitely helps and I also try to track where my money is going. Great read!

    Reply
  80. YotDragon

    This is the article that came out on top when I googled “how difficult would it be to save 10000 in a year”…I’m sure glad it did. I work in the culinary field, and will be making a significant move to the States next year. I currently reside in Canada. I want the money so I can make sure my rent/utilities and living expenses are paid for the first six months I’m there. This shows me that I should even be able to save a little more.

    I do have debt repayment that has to be worked in, but I have zero social life, I don’t drink or smoke, and staff accommodation/transportation is very cheap where I am.

    Anyways…kudos to you for this blog. I’ve found it invaluable. Don’t give the naysayers a second thought, they’re just ticked they don’t have a decent savings account.

    Reply
  81. Kelsey

    Brendan – it helps if you actually read the post. If you did, you’d see that he splits his rent with 5 other roommates.

    Reply
  82. Madhu Nair

    Nice list Derek.
    I think eating at home does save a lot of money.
    It is also a nice way to be healthy.

    The other thing I did for our trip was to reduce the visits to the malls. I bought what I needed online. That saved a bunch of money too.

    Cheers,
    Madhu

    Reply
  83. Paul

    I’m glad I found this article. I’m a bit late to the party, but I felt I should just commend you and express my excitement to finally find another young person with my mindset.

    I live in Montreal, (Canada) and rent here is fairly cheap. Food is about average. My expenses are.. incredibly low.

    340$ rent (includes utilities, split with 2 roommates) + 75$ for public transit pass + 25$ for my CC bill (almost gone) and about 250$ for food. Barely breaks 700$ a month for all expenses. My monthly income is just shy of 1,100$ so I save quite a bit indeed. A bit over 5,500$ a year.

    Keep in mind, I’m only working 27 hours a week, at 10$ an hour. If I can save this much money working basically part-time, ANYONE can.

    I hope more people do, it’s very important.

    Reply
  84. Liyanna

    Hi

    This is an amazing article. It really inspires me to save and to make an effort . I spend like crazy and it is just simply amazing to see your will power.

    Btw I am from Australia and I am a casual at a department store and make 22/hr which is less than what I made when I was an assisting in nursing 2 year ago( I made 25/hr ). So It was really hard for me to cut down after I got use to spending a lot.

    Will definitely use some of your methods in the future !

    Thanks again for the awesome read !!

    Liyana~

    Reply
  85. Julia

    I like the spirit of the article. I live with roommates and my rent is $850 and that is on the cheaper side for my area. Unfortunatly, living frugal does not always lead to savings.

    Reply
  86. Brownin329

    You say you’re living frugally but you spend $230/month on entertainment? $265/month for food? Eating out?? You could have saved $450 extra dollars per month if its just you by yourself and done the noodle ramen thing. I mean next time REALLY be frugal!

    Reply
  87. Brooke

    Great job! I lived really frugally for a while when i started my company and luckily it went well. I moved and took on a job that makes 2,400 a month (after insurance, taxes etc). I live at home (by choice to save), don’t eat out, my car is paid for, my phone is straighttalk (walmart – 45 dollars a month). In eight months i just hit $16,000! I originally was saving because i couldnt find a job and had to pay lawyers fees to try to get my kids to move out of state. I have had to spend 5,000 on lawyers fees in the past year. I save for when i get my kids back and we can go lots of cool places like we used to, or a house, not sure. No debt and savings feels great though and other than living at home I am much farther ahead than alot of people i know.
    If anyone needs wordpress website help too i always do it on the side for cheap!

    Reply
  88. Sherri

    In my browser bookmarks I have a folder called “Living Cheaper.” A good suggestion to add here I think.

    Reply
  89. Mercedes Lackey

    Nice but the numbers have been seriously fudged. Health insurance? One trip to the ER with no insurance can wipe out everything you saved AND put you in debt. But insurance isn’t cheap. Nice that you were on your parents’ cell phone plan; most people can’t do that. Utilities at $35 a month is only realistic if you live in one of the half dozen cities where you need neither heat nor air conditioning for 99% of the year. Most people will be paying at least 3 to 4 times that. House items at $11 a month? Either you were skyving off your roomies, or you were stealing toilet paper and cleaners from where you worked, or maybe both. Transportation at $53 a month? You gotta be kidding me. In Chicago, a monthly bus pass is $100. In New York, it’s $112. In Dallas, it’s $160. In San Francisco, it’s $76.

    I call serious shenanigans here.

    Reply
  90. jhonny

    I say some of the negative commenters here cant read critically!

    great post! I agree with the idea of living frugally to achieve your goals and dreams in life!

    Reply
  91. Susan

    WOW all the negativity! It can be done, if you have no roommates, get some!! Get off your high horse, think outside the box.. help each other out. No big thing to share a rental house with another couple or 2 for a year or to and you all get to have a savings account. Stuff is just stuff people.. save save save.. then retire, travel and enjoy the 2nd half of your life.. and READ the whole article of whatever you are reading before you get your panties in an uproar about things that work and don’t. Derek you are awesome and inspiring!! My mom and dad passed away and my husband and I had to quit our jobs to take care of them 24/7. We are now without jobs and trying to find a place to live since the house must be sold and split between the kids. Not an easy task since everyone wants to know where rent will be coming from. My parents did leave us some money, but in the mean time we have used most of our savings in the last 5 months looking for places to pay rent 6 mo. up front while we find work again and the house is now up for sale. We are looking for a decent RV for about 5,000.00 which is about 1/2 of what we have left to live on until the house sells. We can’t find jobs in the town we are in, so we must move out of town. It’s stressful, but after reading your blog, we are now hopeful again! Thank you!!

    Reply
  92. Britt

    This is inspiring as I’m hoping to be moving to another state within the next 6 months. If I could save even half of what you’ve saved in this short amount of time I’d be thrilled (and not to mention proud of myself! ) I’m very determined and hope to succeed, thank you for the tips!

    Reply

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