How I Was Able To Save $18,600 at 20 Years Old

frugal ways to save

I was able to save $18,600 mostly because I lived well below my income.  At the time I was making somewhere around $25,000 annually and still living at home, so saving over $18,000 wasn’t too hard for me to do.

I was even able to loan $15,000 of my savings that year.  Let me add that this was a BIG mistake and you can read all about why I don’t recommend loaning money to family & friends.

My expenses and frugal ways to save included:


Rent was only $100/month, since I was living with my mom.  That price also included the cost of groceries, since I was eating my mom’s food.


She also helped me out with my cell phone by charging me only $20/month, basically the add-on cost for her phone plan.

Health Insurance

I didn’t have a health insurance at the time, so health insurance costs were nonexistent.  Healthy people can’t get away with that anymore, since individual mandate penalties came into play; thanks to Obamacare!


My car was already paid for, since I paid $5000 cash for a used one.  So I didn’t have any monthly car payments.

Car Insurance

I was spending a little over $100 a month to insure my car.  Only later did I find out that I was spending more than I had to.  Find out for yourself why it’s so important to continue looking around at insurance rates, even if you’re comfortable with the car insurance company you have.


Gas costs were minimal as well, since I worked a couple of miles from home.  Really, I probably could have ridden a bike there instead of driving, but oh well.  All in all I was spending near $50/month on gas driving to work and the local community college.


I also made sure to cram 12 credit hours, considered fulltime, into as few days and blocks of time as I could.  With a lot of writing out possible schedules I managed to fit all 4 classes into 2 evenings.  Each class was about an hour each Tuesday & Thursday nights.  Doing this saved me loads.  Learn how I was able to get a free college education.


College education expenses, including books, were around $2,500 for the year.  Though, technically the cost was zero due to the fact that I got that money back as a tax credit the following year.  Find out how I spent under a $100 a semester on college books.


It was rare that I saw movies in theater I instead opted to grab a newly released film from the local Redbox.   I sporadically ate out and when I did it was someone else’s suggestion, not mine.


The only other form of entertainment I took part in was going to the mall or Ross, which I didn’t spend much over $10 on a trip.  Otherwise, getting out of the house involved hanging out at a friend’s house or attending a free concert.


I enjoy reading and I often borrowed books & magazines, along with movies from the library.  I even bought a few VHS tapes from the library bookstore, since we still had a VCR at the house.


I didn’t travel much either.  The only trip I remember taking around that time was to Disneyland with a couple of friends.  It wasn’t too expensive either, since we split the cost of gas and hotel room equally.  Also, we only bought a single day passes to the main park for just under $100 each.


Simple as this, I didn’t drink (alcohol). On top of the money savings, I was able to remember what I did the night before and wake up in my own bed.

I also didn’t drink soda.  I had been practicing since I was 14 and somewhere along the way it became a habit to avoid the stuff.  I drank water all day and ordered it at restaurants too.  I can only think of a handful of times that I ordered lemonade or something other than water while dining out.


I limited eating out to rare occasions.  I brought my lunch to work and simply ate PB&J sandwiches 5 days out of the week.  When I did eat out I chose the cheapest meal and often times ordered an item a la cart off the menu.  Portions are typically large these days and I feel like it’s easy to get away with ordering a bean burrito without the beans and rice sides.


I conserved water in the shower and turned the water off in between shampooing and conditioning.  I shaved my legs outside of showers and turned the water off each time after rinsing the razor.  This really didn’t affect my costs, but it was my insignificant way of trying to save my mom some money at the time.  Never let the water run, right?

I also made sure to turn the light off when I left the room.  I used natural light and opened the blinds (pointing up in the summer & down in the winter) during daylight hours.

My Budget looked something like this:
Expenses Monthly Annually
Rent 100 1200
Cell Phone 20 240
Car insurance 100 120
Gas 50 600
College n/a 2500
Entertainment 10 120
Travel n/a 250
Eating Out 10 120
Taxes n/a 1250
*Total Expenses 290 6400
Income 2083.33 25000
Total Annual Income x 15% Tax Rate = Taxes Owed + Tax Credit = Total Taxes
$25000 (.15) = $3750 – $2500 = $1250
Total Annual Income – Total Expenses = Total Savings
$25000 – $6400 = $18600

Every decision that involved money revolved around spending as little as possible and trying to save where I could.  By keeping in mind the goal to save as much as possible I was able to save a good portion of what I made.

I also was aware of how much I was spending in general, so that I could keep my finances in check.  Technically it wasn’t budgeting, but I did keep track of how much was being spent on regular monthly expenses.  Taking the time to do this little task allowed me to stay on track with my savings goal.

My advice is simple: be money conscious, stay aware of where your money is going, and continue saving for tomorrow.

If you’d like to start budgeting or need a little help in this area, then be sure to print off this free budget sheet.

And if you’ve dug yourself into a pile of debt, then think about printing off this free debt tracker.

*You might even post these printable(s) on your fridge, as a daily reminder.

Comment: What frugal ways to save do you think someone trying to live on half their income should try?

Tawnya is the founder of The Dancing Dollar, a blog about frugality & personal finance.  She writes about how frugal living can help other individuals & families live [happily] below their means.  She & her husband are on the path to pay off their home in less than half the time.  Click here to learn more.