This Woman Saved $85,000 Before She Turned 19. Here’s Exactly How She Did It

woman sitting on stairs outdoors
Photo courtesy of Robyn Bri
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Many Americans aren’t good at saving money.

This information isn’t new.

Let me give you a refresher: 33% of Americans have nothing tucked into their savings accounts, according to a 2016 GoBankingRates survey. And 35% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved.

So we’re taking notes from this 19-year-old NewRetirement recently wrote about. Robyn Bri has saved more than $85,000 to date.

Granted, Bri has lived at home, but she’s also hustled hard since she was 8 years old.

“The first time I bought something with my own money, it immediately had more value to me because it was something I had to work to get, so I took better care of it,” she told me in a recent email exchange. “I think that’s what motivated me to start getting jobs and saving my money for certain things.”

Here’s how to save money like Bri.

1. Open a Virtual Piggy Bank

Bri says she keeps her money in a savings account and tries to stash money in it as frequently as possible.

I asked about her strategy for determining how much goes away and when. She says she plans to automate the process one day, but for now she just does it by hand.

“I usually will tell myself, ‘Okay, you just made this much money. You have to put at least this much in savings, then budget the rest into checking and into my spending budget,’” she says.

She keeps her money for everyday expenses in a checking account.

Here’s how you can save: If you want to help your savings grow faster, look into an Aspiration account. Promise yourself to transfer just a few bucks each week and your money will earn a 2.00% Annual Percentage Yield. That’s more than 25 times — repeat, 25 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.08% average reported by Bankrate.

You’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, and no foreign transaction fees. Plus, by separating the money from your checking account, you’ll be much less likely to make a withdraw.

The goal is to make your money work for you, which Bri has already learned by 19

2. Start Investing

Bri says she has two self-investing accounts with Merrill Edge.

One is a Roth IRA, and the other is a self-guided account. She also invested in Apple stock when she was 16.

However, she admits she’s always been a little hesitant about the process. “…It’s a risky business, and the more you put in the more you can lose, but at the same time the more you can gain,” she says.

She advises people to research. She also suggests taking online quizzes to see how much risk is worth taking.

“I always make sure that I never invest all my money,” she concludes on the matter.

Here’s how you can save: If you want to start investing, but feel slightly intimidated like Bri, try using Fundrise. This company can help you invest in real estate (without being a millionaire).

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

3. Tackle the Art of the Side Hustle

At age 8, Bri started doing odd jobs for her neighbors.

Since then, she’s worked as a pet sitter, babysitter, housesitter and waitress. Bri estimates she works 28 to 32 hours a week and earns something between $3,000 and $4,000 each month, according to SFGATE.

I asked her how she manages to stay on top of her priorities. (In addition to her side gigs, she was also a successful student and volunteered.)

She says, “For me, I really had to stay organized and on top of my phone calls, emails, texts, etc. Writing everything down and using a calendar to stay organized was definitely crucial. With so many different things going on, if I don’t write one thing down I could screw up a whole day.”

Here’s how you can save: We write about a ton of side gigs on The Penny Hoarder, but we recently chatted with Ben Robinson, a certified public accountant, who told us that you could earn up to $60 an hour as a part-time bookkeeper.

Robinson says you don’t need to be an accountant or even really good at math to be successful in this business. In fact, all you need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems.

The ability to stay moderately organized is helpful too.

Median pay is around $19 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics— and you have no commute.  It’s a great opportunity for parents who want a part time job, recent college grads and anyone who wants to bring in real money working from home.

Robinson shares what it takes to be a virtual bookkeeper, plus tips for making this career work for you in his free class at Bookkeeper Business Launch.

4. Pay With a Rewards Credit Card

What Bri does purchase, she says, she charges to a rewards credit card that she signed up for last year. That way she can earn points back. She makes sure to pay her card off each month, too.

She says she doesn’t have anything she’s saving the points for — just for something in the future.

Here’s how you can save: There are tons of rewards cards out there. If you’re looking for a passive way to earn some money throughout the year, a cash-back credit card is perhaps one of the easiest methods.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn 5% cash-back on select rotating categories. For example, in one quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on gas. The next quarter? Groceries. The categories continue to rotate throughout the year.

. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

5. Practice Frugality

NewRetirement also reports that Bri doesn’t blow her money on clothes or entertainment expenses.

“Mostly I just tell myself, ‘I don’t need that; it’s not a necessity — you can live without it,’” she says. “But I do allow myself to have a small budget once a month for things like transportation, going to the city for a day, etc.”

She’s sure to calculate necessities into her budget, too, like her phone bill and gas.

Here’s how you can save: We already know that skipping our daily latte could save a fortune, but did you know that you could save a ton by changing how your car insurance works?

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:

  • Scan your existing insurance plan.
  • Analyze what coverage you have.
  • Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
  • Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers. Not too shabby.

6. Consume Tons of Personal Finance Advice

How did Bri know about all of these smart money moves? She said she read a ton of advice in books and on blogs (like The Penny Hoarder, right?).

But actually she says her all-time favorite book is “Rich Bitch.” “It’s an easy read, and the best part is it’s interactive, so as you read you are advised to write stuff down, start planning/getting your finances on track.”

Here’s how you can save: You can never know everything.

On personal finance matters, we have taken notes from some of our favorite “zillionaires” as well as these books and these podcasts.

Cheers to Bri, who’s headed off to George Washington University this fall on a full-ride scholarship. She has an on-campus job lined up and plans to find another gig along the way.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She didn’t know a single thing about money when she was 18 — except that she wanted it.