I started this year off with a lofty goal. I want to build my own house. Over the past four or so months, a lot of changes have been made to my original plan to improve feasibility, but the original plan remains the same. Chief among them is that it now makes better sense to pay off my auto loan by the end of the year and purchase my land in cash.
That will give me equity and two assets to bargain with when it’s time to secure a construction loan. This is especially important because of record-high interest rates plus the biases around how self-employment income is verified and calculated means the bank isn’t about to give me as much money as I would like.
Maybe you don’t plan on paying off your car loan, buying land and building a house in the next 12 months. But, everyone could save a few pennies here and there. So, if you ever wondered how I manage to travel, buy a car, and now consider building a home while making less than half of America’s median income, here’s how you can do the same.
1. Cook Your Own Food
Eating out is expensive, especially in America. In most other countries, we pay for the food and move along. In America, you also pay wages to the waiter or waitresses. This significantly drives up the cost of food.
It is always less expensive to purchase your own ingredients and eat at home. Packing your lunch for work is also a good idea. If you can’t cook — learn how. You can save hundreds of dollars per month by following this one suggestion alone. That’s not to say you can’t ever eat out, but don’t make a habit of it.
2. Clean Your Car
When I first purchased Seth, tonnes of people stepped forward with advice on how to clean my car. One of the top recommendations were car washes and their membership plans. I can be a bit of a neat freak, so I seriously considered these. However, in the end, I settled on a hose, dollar store purchases, and my two hands.
Seth gets lathered up with baby shampoo, rinsed off and wiped dry. The Dollar Store also had great ArmorAll products to protect the interior, shine the tires, and clean my windscreen (Americans say windshield). I then use the hand vacuum to clean the interior. Mom is twice the neat freak I am, so when she vacuums her own car, she often vacuums mine and Dad’s as well.
3. Mow the Lawn
Another big expense for us unfortunate people who don’t live in the Cali desert is taking care of the lawn. Georgia is humid and gets a lot of rain and sunshine, making it the perfect place for your lawn to grow a foot high in two days. Georgia houses in the suburbs also sit on relatively large lots, so you’re looking at around $50 to mow your lawn every two to four weeks. Some neighbors mow their lawn every week!
If you invest in the tools to mow your own lawn, they will pay for themselves over time. My family has been saying this for a while now, but we’ve yet to act on it. Neither of the men in the household wants to mow the lawn in the Georgia sun, so we inevitably end up hiring this out. Don’t be like us. Mow your own damn lawn.
4. Style Your Hair
Black hair is the most expensive hair in all the world to maintain. It is unruly and Eurocentric ideals result in most of us feeling compelled to force our hair to conform to rules Mother Nature never intended for it. As a result, Black women spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on wigs, extensions, flat ironing, blowouts, and re-tightening dreadlocks.
If you can figure out how to do this yourself at home, your bank account will thank you. I get compliments on my hair almost everywhere I go, and I have been taking care of it myself since I moved to Atlanta in 2015. I don’t use a lot of gunk in my hair, so most of my re-twisting involves the use of an interlocking needle that cost me less than $10.
You may also notice that some of my hair is bleached. I did this myself as well. For women who have curly to straight hair, maintenance should be even easier for you. It will take some time and effort, but with some patience and creativity, I’m sure you can find ways to cut, style, color, and care for your hair on your own.
5. Clear Your Cookies
If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy a good dose of online window shopping from time to time. Unfortunately, this will come back to haunt you. Your cookies will store that information, which allows companies to serve you targeted ads. That new phone you looked at once on Amazon will continue to show up on websites you visit until you finally cave and splurge on a $1,000 purchase that was never necessary.
Everyone is susceptible in some way to these marketing attacks. So, the best way to avoid them is to clear your cookies often. I use CCleaner to clean up my desktop. You should also be able to wipe your browser history clean from the browser itself. Sure, that may mean losing the convenience of automatic sign-in, but needing to remember the password to your email and Facebook is a small price to pay for saving money.
6. Get a Certificate of Deposit or High Yields Savings Account
A few weeks ago, I shared the struggles I faced as an immigrant just trying to open a bloody high-yield savings account in America. I did, however, manage to pull it off. I now have two high-yield savings accounts and one Certificate of Deposit. They earn a much better interest rate than the 0.01% Wells Fargo had been paying me.
The interest compounds monthly, which means that I get to keep earning money on the total amount in the account, including on the interest they already paid me. Put simply, after I have already saved my money, storing it in a place that pays me higher than normal interest rates means I get to skim a little extra off the top.
Most of my savings are currently in my Synchrony Bank high-yield savings account, which has an APY of around 2.25%. I also have a Capital One high-yield savings account for rainy day funds, which has an APY of 1%. Highest of all is the year-long Certificate of Deposit I have with Capital One, which pays an APY of 2.7%.
Do you have any big goals you’re saving towards this year? What steps have you taken to fatten your bank account, so you can make that dream a reality? Tell me all about it in the comments below.