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About to Graduate From College
I was just two weeks away from graduating from college when I only had about $800 dollars to my name. I didn’t have any loans to pay off or any substantial debt, but I wasn’t really sure how I was going to survive another month unless I moved back in with my parents.
At that time, I didn’t feel like moving back home was the best option and would only set me back. Before graduating I knew that I had to find a job, and fast.
The $800 I had wasn’t going to get me very far, and at the most I could maybe stretch it out to live for just one more month. My rent was roughly $500, and I knew I could spend less than the remainder of $300 on food. After that, I wasn’t so certain.
Fortunately, I only had to provide for myself and didn’t have a family to support. The amount of stress that built up in my system caused me to be extremely frugal, as the uncomfortableness of not knowing how long you’ll be able to afford your next meal really drained on me.
I made sure to calculate everything I was spending money on: cell phone, rent, electricity, food, entertainment and anything else that was causing my wallet to slowly empty.
Here are the steps I took to build my wealth fast at 22 years of age.
Apply for work
When you start building your wealth, the first thing you have to do is find an income. At the time, the only option that I could think of at the time was finding work.
Within 3 days, I literally applied to roughly 30 jobs by sending my resumes and calling up companies that would potentially hire me. The job market was tough considering that a lot of other students were graduating at the time, so I wanted to make my chances as broad as possible.
When you’re in a bind, you really don’t tend to think about the best job you can get at the moment, but rather act on your instincts and tend to take the first job you can get. Don’t make that mistake unless you absolutely have to.
After applying for about 30 jobs, I got called into interview for 10, but only went to 4. I was interested in starting a sales career. The type of work that I applied for included jobs such as going door-to-door, making phone calls and setting up meetings with clients, just like a typical salesman.
When applying for jobs, I made sure that the work matched my interests at least somewhat. This way, during the interview you’ll perceived as more genuine and actually know why you came to apply in the first place.
Employers – at least the smart ones – can tell if you really want the job or not. You’ll want to show them that you have a keen interest in what you’ll be doing 40 hours a week if you want to get hired. Of course you can always exaggerate your interests a little bit, but I never found that faking my passions really got me anywhere, nor has lying.
At the Interview and Accepting a Job Offer
It turns out I was luckier than I thought. Due to my hard work ethic and preparing for interviews, I was able to get accepted into 3 companies. Time was running out, however, as my income was draining. Transportation costs to and from each company was taking its toll on me.
Every company that was applied for had a myriad of different goals and work processes. If you have any questions about how the company works or what benefits employees get, your best bet would be to call the human resources department. So that’s what I did and proceeded with interviewing.
The first interview I went to was a typical outside salesman job at Company A. On the first day I followed an employee around in his car and he took me on a typical route of trying to find new customers.
The job seemed like fun, but I knew at that point that I didn’t want to be selling printers and copiers. After the day was over, they told me to think about whether I wanted the position or not and to give them a call if I was interested. In the end they offered me a position at a lousy annual salary of $20,000 a year with the hopes that I would extra from sales commission.
I told them that I would think about it, but I didn’t give them an answer right away. I knew that there was potential for jobs with better salaries and more money to be made. Yet this made me feel at ease as I at least had a backup plan.
The following interview with Company B was the same type of position as Company A. It was for another outside sales position. This time they stated that the salary consisted of about $32,000 a year with commission for any sales that I make.
It wasn’t a bad salary since I already knew that I was in frugal mode and could save up quickly. After all, it was my first job outside of college, and I really had to take whatever I could get at the time.
A week after the interview they called me saying that they wanted to hire me. I didn’t accept at the time and politely told them that I was considering other offers. Something better could possibly come my way.
I was looking for a company that will give you the best value for who I was and the position that was best suitable for me. Furthermore, companies will tend to do their best in helping their employees succeed. Given that you have an interest in a position will only make you excel even faster.
The last job I applied for at Company C was slightly different. It was an inside sales job, which meant that I would be making sales over the phone. Not only that, but they provided paid training on IT products, even if you didn’t have any experience with turning a computer on.
I saw this as a great opportunity to not only learn about sales, but also to increase my knowledge about technology at the same time.
I was able to negotiate the pay up to a little more than the last company at about $32,500. The benefits and commission were roughly the same, but the working hours were a bit more stable from 7 AM to 4 PM every day. No overtime was permitted, as they didn’t want to pay out extra to employees.
I gladly accepted the position and called back the other companies stating that I had found something else. My average salary came out to about $34,000 a year after commission.
Becoming A Frugal Freak
Even though there was a sensation of relief after being employed, I didn’t want to find myself in that position again. I made sure to save every penny that I could. For starters, I knew that I had to make a budget.
If there’s one thing that’s more important than anything when building your wealth, it’s saving your money. If you have an income of $100,000 dollars a month but spend $99,800, you’re not really doing a great job of investing in your future.
Want to invest in the stock market and start earning 7% of your money? That’s a great idea, but without the money to invest you don’t even have the choice.
When I started work, my only expenses were gas, car insurance, food, rent, cell phone, entertainment and electricity. At most I was spending $1,600 a month. At this rate I was saving about 40% of my income every month, or roughly $1,400. I knew that within a year’s time I could easily save over $15,000 if I just kept at it.
However, I could do a lot better. I didn’t need many things and was used to the college life of trying to pinch every penny that I could. Material interests weren’t a big inclination for me.
The biggest motivation that was driving me is that I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t want to work at my current job forever. If I wanted to quit a year down the road because I hated my job but had no money saved up, I wasn’t going to be as willing to leave compared to if I would have saved $15,000.
I tried to cut back every expense that I could. The first thing I wanted to do was cut back on gas. The job that I found was located about 50 minutes one-way from where I was located, and every month would cost me roughly $400 just in transportation costs.
Not only was the commute long, but I was wasting precious time and money when I could be using it somewhere else. I couldn’t keep up at this rate, especially if I wanted to save more money. With that, I decided to move closer to my work.
Sure I would be a little farther away from my friends, but I could always drive up to see them on weekends and maybe once on weekdays.
I quickly put up a few ads online for someone to take over the lease on my apartment. Fortunately, my roommate’s cousin needed a place to stay and a new tenant was found.
I quickly moved out to another apartment for the same price, but much closer to work at about a 20 minute drive. Overall, I cut my gas bill by nearly half, meaning I was saving another $200 a month.
Cook Your Own Meals
I quickly became obsessed with this idea of frugality: making simple cutbacks can rapidly increase your wealth in a short time. There had to be other ways.
I was eating at restaurants too often, spending roughly $200-$300 a month. I started only buying groceries and looked up cooking recipes online. My grocery bill was actually very high at around $300 a month for one person, and people would often be shocked at how much money I spent. Yet I was spending maybe at most $50 at restaurants.
My coworker told me that she spends roughly $300 a month for her and her daughter. That’s great for her, but my restaurant bill was only $50 a month, meaning I was only spending $400 a month on food at most. When I asked her how many times spent on going out to eat, she quickly kept her mouth shut.
On weekends, I would drive up to my friends place, and I knew that I didn’t want to drive back to my place to make a meal if I ever got hungry.
I started preparing every meal first at home and would use my friends’ fridges to store them for when I got hungry. This was an easy excuse to decline joining in on pizza.
Not only did this help me save dramatically on money, but I also was eating healthier and felt fantastic as a result. I knew that I was on the right track toward saving money and leading a better lifestyle.
Get Cash Back
At the time I wasn’t using the best credit card available and quickly switched to a new one that would give me money for simply making purchases.
I applied for 2 that gave me 3% back on groceries and 5% back on gas.
Furthermore, they included sign-up bonuses which gave me free money just for spending a certain amount of money using their card within a certain amount of time. Both of them ended up giving me an extra $250 in my pocket within about 2 months.
Whenever I went out to eat with my friends, I would ask them to use my credit card so I could get cash back. They would pay me their share in cash.
Whenever we split gas from driving for a long time, I would gladly offer my 5% cash back credit card to be used to pay at the gas station. Again, they would reimburse me in cash. I was in the cash back madness mode.
With these credit cards, I was cutting my monthly food bill down from $300 to $291 a month and my fuel costs from $200 to $190. I knew that every single penny counted, and I wanted to save as much as possible while still living a comfortable lifestyle.
I started looking at receipt scanning apps that would give me cash back just for taking a picture of my receipt.
My apartment was pretty nice for $500. I had a short commute to work. Learning about new technologies at work was incredibly interesting. I still saw my friends. My diet was incredible. Nothing more could be asked for, and the extra money helped provide a sense of financial security.
When I was waiting for a friend in my car or in line for something, I’d even pull out my phone and complete a quick online survey for some extra cash. While it wasn’t much and the hourly rate wouldn’t usually exceed $10 per hour, I wasn’t going to do anything else with my time.
My monthly expenses dwindled to roughly $1,300.
Find New Forms of Entertainment
My entertainment bill wasn’t excessively high at the time, but it was more than I was willing to part with.
There had to be a way to still lead a normal life and find less expensive activities to partake in. I quit going to the bar and instead would go on hikes.Each time a friend or family member suggested doing an activity, I mentioned sports or going on walks around the park.
Not only were these activities more enjoyable in the long-run, but ended up saving me a lot of green in the process. Relationships were maintained and more money was being saved.
After Ten Months
After all is said in done, here were my average, monthly expenses during those ten months:
Rent and electricity – $520
Gas – $190
Food – $350
Entertainment – $50
Cell phone – $20
Car Insurance – $120
Total: $1200 per month
In ten months time, that makes my total expenses $1200. As for my salary after commission at roughly $17.50 an hour, my total monthly income was $2800. I was saving nearly $1,600 in cash per month outside of taxes, plus I was pulling it a little bit of extra cash from the online survey sites I was doing.
Of course my expenses varied from month to month. There were a couple of times it would go to $1,300 per month, but most of the time I could actually spend about $1,000 – $1,100 and still be fine.
In the end, I ended up saving a little over $13,000 after taxes, and the funny thing was is that I knew I could have done a lot better. Not only that, but I was right about hating my job.
At about month 8 at my new job, I couldn’t take dialing the phone 150 times a day and gladly left. Having $13,000 in my pocket gave me the sensation that I wouldn’t have to worry about money and could find a job more suitable to me.
I didn’t want to give up my source of income, however, so I quickly applied for new jobs and eventually began teaching English in Taiwan to keep my wealth growing.
Here I am 3 years later still employing the same concepts. I started a personal finance blog to spread my ideas to others in hopes of helping out others who find themselves in a similar situation. I’ve also looked toward investing. The Acorns app advises you on how to invest your cash with as little as $5 and little risk.
Sometimes your salary might not be as high as the one that I mentioned in this post, but the point is to show that if you budget and cut down unnecessary expenses, you can lead a comfortable lifestyle and still save money at the same time.
It’s only when people buy things they don’t really need in which they find themselves in a tough situation. Living the frugal lifestyle for me has not only been challenging, but also can be satisfying when finding new ways to save a dollar.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any suggestions for readers who find themselves in a difficult situation, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.