Today, I will be sharing with you my story on how I saved $100k in 2.5 years. I will cover how I was able to cut down on spending, as well as 5 money mindsets you should have so saving becomes more effortless.
Everybody's savings journey is going to look different. There are so many different factors to saving, such as salary, cost of living in a city, lifestyle, etc. For example, in the case of Vancouver, the salary is lower than other parts of Canada, whereas the cost of living such as rent is extremely expensive. Other cities in Canada, such as Toronto actually pays 10 to 30% higher salary but have similar or lower costs of living compared to Vancouver. Regardless, I will be sharing with you how I was able to save $100k, and how I actually made the bulk of my savings after moving halfway across the world to Korea.
After graduating from University in 2014, I jumped right into my career. At that time, the starting salary was extremely low compared to the expensive cost of living in Vancouver, it was difficult to save. On top of that, I had $30k in student loans to pay off. So, I had dedicated whatever I could save to paying off my student debt and lifting it off my shoulders. I was able to pay it off in 2.5 years, and by that time, my salary had increased as I got promoted to a Senior Associate at the firm.
However, I had always knew I wanted to work in a different country. I took advantage of the connections of the Big 4 firm that I worked in and managed to land an international secondment to a network firm in Korea. (If you want to learn about how I did it, read more about it in my blog here). That is where my true savings journey started.
How I Was Able to Spend Less
Moving to Korea was one of the best decisions I made. Not only was I able to experience something once in a lifetime (ie. lots of traveling with all the security of a job, salary, moving expenses paid for, etc.), but it also made sense financially.
During the course of 2.5 years, I was able to save up the bulk of my first $100k because of a number of different reasons that coincided.
1. Higher salary - I was paid a higher salary across the board.
The network firm is the dominant accounting firm in Korea and provided very competitive salaries. On top of that, they provide additional payments, such as big bonuses (around 15% to 20% of your regular salary) as well as severances when you quit (equivalent to one month of salary accumulated per year of service). I was also extremely luck in that the firm was going through some changes at the time and had salary increases during the two years I was there!
Additionally, Korea has a low tax rate compared to Canada, which is known to have one of the highest tax rates in the world for individuals. So, I was able to take a higher after-tax take home pay!
Last but not least, Korea had a favorable currency exchange rate to Canada at the time. So I was able to convert what I earned to a "higher" Canadian dollar at the end of the day.
2. Lower cost of living & expenses - Compared to the money that I was making, I was also spending less because Korea has lower cost of living compared to Canada.
Rent: I was paying around $750 in rent plus utilities in Korea, vs $1600 for the same space in Vancouver. I'm already saving more than 50% in rent. (Though, keep in mind that rental system in Korea is quite different, where they require bigger deposits of $10k+, which you see back at the end of the lease).
Eating out: What might seem like a "luxury" spending in Vancouver is not the case in Korea! In Vancouver, eating out can be quite expensive since a standard meal can be $20 plus tax of 12% plus tip of 10-20%. The thing I like about eating out in Korea is that there are (i) lots of good low cost meals ranging from $5 to $10, (ii) tax is included in the price already and (iii) there is no tip culture.
Goods & Services: Generally, most things are cheaper in Korea compared to Canada. For example, if I want to get a plate set off of Coupang (ie. Korean equivalent to Amazon), I can get a decent quality for $20. If I were to get the similar plate set off of Amazon in Canada, it would be $50. Sure, maybe the ones from Canada might be better quality. But unless they are fancy plates that I'm using for guests, plates are plates! I'm still using the same plates from Korea which I ended up shipping back to Canada with the move.
All of these cost savings plus the money mindsets I had (which I will talk more about below) really made a difference in how much I was able to save and the rate I was saving. Not only was all the savings enough to cover my traveling expenses (ie. my main reason for moving to Korea), but it also helped me save towards my first $100k.
5 Money Mindsets
I talked about the situational factors of why I was able to save more, but the real reason why I was able to save was because of my mindset. I could of easily had lifestyle inflation, where I could have been buying designer handbags or lived in a nicer apartment. However, those were not my priorities, but instead, I decided to focus on what was important to me.
Mindset #1 - No waste
I do not like like buying new things before finishing up whatever I have. For example, I go grocery shopping once a week on Sunday, and by the time Saturday comes along, I literally have nothing in my fridge. Another example is for skincare products - I only have one or two cleansers, toners, moisturizers - MAX, and I don't buy a new one until I have used up every last drop of what I have.
I do this because of two reasons. First of all, it forces me to use up whatever I originally spent my money on, so I "realize" the full value of that product. Second, it reduces waste and prevents me from buying multiple products of the same thing (ie. having 10 moisurizers is unnecessary - did you also know, moisurizers expire so you might end up throwing it out before finishing it!).
Mindset #2 - Do I really need it?
Before buying everything my eye catches or buying on impulse, I question myself if it's something I really need in my life. If there is something I want to buy, even if it's a new $20 plate set, I save it to my cart and brew over it for a few days. If I still believe it's (i) something that would make my life easier, (ii) I will use it everyday and get lots of use out of it, and (iii) cost is reasonable and within my means - I will make the purchase. This way, it will filter out a lot of the unnecessary purchases, like that 6th plate set because it's "cute."
Mindset #3 - Good deals
I'm always on the hunt for good deals. I always compare prices and buy things when they are cheaper. For example, if I'm making a big purchase like a laptop, I will track the prices and wait until a new version comes out, so I can benefit off the discounted "older" version. This is exactly what I did when buying my current laptop - it was originally $2k+ but I ended up getting it for just over $1k! I was also known among my friends in Korea with getting good deals like $15 manicures!
There are also great discount apps out there, like TMON in Korea or Groupon and Honey in Canada. Essentially, you can get products or services for heavily discounted prices. It's always a good idea to do a quick search on the web for similar products or services on sale.
Mindset #4 - Focus on basics
Instead of spending too much money on "distractions," I like to focus on the basics. When I was in my early twenties, I remember spending hundreds of dollars on trendy clothes and expensive make up from Sephora. By all means, I like to buy nice things, but I prioritized focusing on the best ME I can achieve. For example, I rather spend money on skin care for clearer skin, working out for stronger body, and high quality food for healthier body. Now, I only have only the essentials for new make up or clothes, and I honestly don't even remember the last time I went shopping for them!
Mindset #5 - Save up for what really matters
I save wherever I can but I'm not shy about spending on things that really matter to me. I personally love traveling, so I set aside a budget for just that. For example, I had saved up $10k to travel Europe with my Mom in October of 2019! There are so many things you can buy with $10k, but the value I derive from THAT $10k that I spent is beyond just the monetary value. Not only was I able to create life-long memories with my Mom, I was also able to enrich my mind and body through new experiences and cultures. Looking back, the price tag on that travel experience was PRICELESS since the pandemic hit just 4 months after coming back and the whole world was in lockdown.
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