How I kept saving even during a job loss

By Kristin Wong

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

A while back, I wrote about paying off my student loan in a year. One thing that worked for me was putting “mad money” toward my student loan debt repayment. Any time I earned money from credit card rewards or traditional savings accounts, I’d use the amount, however small, to pay off my loan. Fast-forward 10 years, and I’m still using the same tactic to reach my savings goal of buying a home. Here’s the “mad money” I had in December, the month I tallied all of my savings:

  • Credit card rewards: $35
  • Interest from emergency fund: $10
  • Refund from lowering my cellphone bill: $20
  • Income from a small, quick, one-time freelance gig: $25
That’s $90 in savings, which may not seem like a lot. But I learned from my mom’s savings success story that every little bit counts.

I re-evaluated my expenses

There are so many resources on this topic — in fact, I wrote about this topic when I discussed my job loss — so I won’t go into it in depth. But it’s also probably the most effective tactic for saving when you’re broke and definitely worth repeating. To summarize, here’s how I re-evaluated my budget’s expenses after I lost a freelance job:

  • I stopped eating out and shopping so much.
  • I downgraded my Internet.
  • I learned how to do my own pedicures and thread my own eyebrows.
  • I called T-mobile and asked for a better deal, reducing my phone bill by $20/month.
  • I stopped driving to places that are within a mile of my house and walked instead. I took the subway more. I don’t drive much, anyway, but this still saved at least $10/month.
  • I called my Internet provider and asked if I could buy my own modem to reduce my bill by $5.99 each month; they said yes. They charge a monthly fee to use their stupid modem. So silly. I should’ve done this a long time ago.
Again, I understand that what works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone else. Maybe your budget is as tight as it can be. Maybe you’re at a low point with your investing. Maybe you don’t have any mad money. I’ve certainly read my share of practical advice that I didn’t necessarily find applicable.

But, to me, it’s ultimately about being resourceful. When you want something, you do whatever you can, depending on your situation, to make it happen. (Even if it means selling your beloved ALF collectible lunchbox.) I really, really want to save for the future, whatever it may hold. I’m doing anything I can to make it happen during my financial struggle. Turns out, a little resourcefulness goes a long way.

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