Saving $10,000 in a year is a great challenge for anybody looking to improve their financial situation. In addition to having more money with which to invest or pursue other goals, you’ll develop important habits like budgeting and slashing unnecessary expenses.
In this post, I’ll show you how to save $10,000 in a year with 10 powerful yet straightforward steps.
How to save $10,000 in a year: 10 easy steps
Note: If you purchase something through an Amazon link in this article, I’ll receive a small commission, which helps me keep ads on the site to a minimum.
1. Identify your purpose for saving $10,000
You’re probably not looking to save $10,000 in a year purely for the sake of it. Perhaps you want to take a vacation, buy a car, pay off debt, or something like that.
Even if you’d just like to have $10,000 saved for no particular purchase, I’m sure it means something more to you than just an arbitrary figure. For example, will the money be part of an emergency fund that helps you sleep better at night? Is saving $10,000 the first step in showing yourself that you can handle money wisely?
Whatever the case may be, identify your reason for taking this journey over the next 12 months. Staying on track isn’t always going to be easy. Keeping your purpose in mind will help you stay focused.
It will also come in handy for the next step.
2. Get your priorities straight
Where does the objective you identified in the previous step fit on your hierarchy of priorities? The answer to this question will help you maintain perspective over the next 12 months.
Take a look at the basic hierarchy of financial priorities (in descending level of importance) below.
|1||Covering immediate essential purchases (food, rent, mortgage, minimum debt payments, etc.)|
|2||Establishing an emergency fund and aggressively paying off high-interest debt|
|3||Maximizing contributions to employer-sponsored retirement accounts|
|4||Maximizing contributions to your own retirement account for the tax benefits|
|5||Aggressively paying off lower-interest debt (i.e. mortgage)|
|6||Investing in taxable brokerage accounts|
Wherever your reason for saving $10,000 sits in that chart, make sure you’re not neglecting higher-level items.
For example, there’s nothing inherently wrong with saving up for a vacation (priority level seven). There is a problem, though, if you’re unable to make minimum mortgage payments or establish an emergency fund (priority levels one and two) in the process.
Additionally, if your financial situation changes in the next 12 months and you’re suddenly unable to take care of higher priorities, it’s okay to postpone achieving your discretionary goal.
Don’t use this as an excuse, though. You’re not allowed to slack on saving $10,000 for a vacation because you want takeout every evening. It’s only when a higher priority is in jeopardy that you should take a timeout.
The key here is that you should never set yourself up for lasting financial damage attempting to save $10,000 in a year. That would be pointless.
3. Do the math and set a monthly target
Saving $10,000 within a year works out to squirreling away an average of about $833.33 per month.
You can either simply save that amount every single month or use the biweekly method outlined in the chart below. With it, you’ll save $750 per month until the final month. At that point, you’ll save the remaining $1,000.
The biweekly method is nice because you get a “break” on the first cycle of each month. Either strategy works fine, however. Just choose the one you’ll have an easier time sticking to.
4. Make a concrete plan for getting the money
To increase your chances of success, I’d recommend figuring out exactly where you’ll get the necessary funds for each of the next 12 months.
An easy first step here is to add up each of your fixed essential costs (leave out discretionary purchases for now) and subtract the total from your monthly income. You’ll need to take one of two paths depending on what you find.
Path A: Slash and save on discretionary items
If your calculation leaves you with more than the target, you’ll know you can come up with the necessary funds by cutting back on discretionary spending.
I like the advice given by Ramit Sethi in his book I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Ask yourself which discretionary expenses actually bring you happiness and fulfillment. I’d add to that and suggest you compare the benefits of those discretionary purchases to the benefits you will derive from being $10,000 richer a year from now.
For example, you may be a foodie who genuinely enjoys dining out. If your reason for wanting to save $10,000 is to visit Europe, however, you might be willing to skip munching at the pizzeria down the street. I hear the pizza’s better in Italy, anyway.
Path B: Make more money
If your calculation leaves you with less than the target, you’ll need to increase your income.
First, though, take a closer look at the expenses you’ve deemed essential. Ask yourself if you can fulfill those needs in a cheaper way.
If you still can’t come up with the necessary funds after cutting discretionary spending and being more frugal with essential items, you’ll need to make more money.
This can be simple if you work in a profession that lends itself well to freelancing. There’s a whole bevy of platforms that connect web developers, writers, graphic designers, and other skilled workers with people in search of those services.
When I need extra cash, I pick up some writing contracts on a site called Upwork. It’s not always the most rewarding work relative to the time you’ll put in but it’s reliable money. If you hit it off with a particular client, you can also arrange a steady flow of work that helps you reach your goal.
If you don’t have a skill that lends itself well to freelancing, you’ll have to consider picking up a formal second job or negotiating a raise.
I won’t lie, this is probably the most difficult aspect of saving $10,000. If you foresee yourself having difficulty coming up with the money each month, consider the biweekly method I mentioned earlier. You’ll get a “break” every odd-numbered cycle by having to save a smaller amount.
Why you shouldn’t trade your way to $10,000
You’ve probably heard stories about people making tons of money in the stock market within a short period of time. However, I would strongly advise against attempting that as a means of accumulating $10,000.
This is especially inadvisable if you’re looking to make an important purchase with the money a year from now. Check out my post on saving vs. investing to understand why the latter is a horrible idea for this type of short-term goal.
I’ll add to what I’ve written there and say that unless you have well over $100,000 to invest, making $10,000 in the market within a single year requires risky maneuvers that will very likely wipe you out.
Stick to more reliable methods of generating income like picking up a side gig.
5. Choose the appropriate account to save in
Certain types of accounts can actually help you hit your target faster. It all depends on why you’re looking to save $10,000 in a year.
If you’re putting the money towards a long-term goal like retirement or your child’s education, you might consider investing. In that case, check out this article. In it, I discuss the plethora of investment accounts designed to help Americans reach various financial goals.
Saving directly within one of those accounts is very convenient. You can have it come right out of your paycheck if you want! You’ll also receive tax benefits in many cases.
Check out this article to learn about the various assets you can purchase within an investment account (stocks are just one type).
If you plan on spending the money a year from now, however, you’ll be better off with a savings account. Choose something with a high-interest rate to accelerate your progress. An account with a 2.70% interest rate, for example, will leave you with an extra $124.63 at the end of the year, assuming you’re saving $833 monthly. Not bad!
Pro Tip: While a 2.70% interest savings account might sound like a fairytale, they do exist. You’ll typically find rates that high at banks making promotional offers.
6. Track everything
If you’ve never attempted a savings challenge like this before, you may find it helpful to use a tracker.
I really like Mint by Intuit because it allows you to connect your savings account of choice along with your goal. The app will then continually tell you whether you’re on pace to meet your target.
Mint is also helpful if you have several credit cards and financial accounts because it pulls all of your transactions into a single place for you to analyze.
I’m not getting paid to promote Mint, by the way. I just think it’s a great tool. Use whatever tracking system you want at the end of the day. I recommend choosing one at step six to make sure it actually connects with the account you chose in the previous step.
7. Pay yourself first
It’s much easier to save $10,000 in a year if you treat it as a priority. Rather than letting others (Netflix, Amazon, Sephora, etc) have first dibs on your paycheck, pay yourself first.
In fact, don’t even treat your monthly target as something negotiable. It’s a fixed cost just like your car insurance, rent, and other bills. If you’ve budgeted correctly, you should be able to set that money aside immediately after you’ve gotten paid and still have enough cash to cover necessities.
In the world of personal finance, we call this “paying yourself first.” It’s a great habit that keeps your goals top-of-mind.
Just remember the hierarchy of priorities we mentioned in the second step and plan accordingly.
8. Be aggressive
Don’t look at your monthly target as a maximum. If you can comfortably exceed it and put yourself ahead of schedule, go for it.
Exceeding your target as often as possible gives you some extra breathing room for life’s surprises. The best part? If everything goes according to plan, you’ll just have more money at the end. Here’s what the biweekly savings plan would like with an extra $50 per month.
You’d have an extra $650 at the end of the year. If you have no pressing expenses, treat yourself with it!
Oh, and don’t forget about your tax refund. Americans receive an average refund of nearly $3,000. That’s 30% of your goal right there! Up in Canada we only get about $1,800 on average but that’s still 18% of $10,000. Put the money towards your goal if you can.
9. Course-correct as needed
Many of the steps we’ve outlined previously (i.e. saving aggressively and paying yourself first) will reduce your likelihood of falling behind. Life still happens, though.
If circumstances force you to skip saving here and there, figure out exactly how much you’ve fallen behind and what it will take to catch back up. This is so much better than blindly hoping things will magically work themselves out.
After all, you set out to save $10,000 in a year. That’s a hard number with a hard deadline. You either hit it or you don’t.
This is another benefit of using a tracker. If you fall behind, it will notify you and do much of the catch-up calculations.
10. Celebrate your victory
Once you’ve successfully saved $10,000 in a year, you have reason to celebrate. Seriously, that’s a major accomplishment. You’ve achieved something many people haven’t achieved in their entire lives, according to CNBC.
If you’ve saved aggressively and ended up with more than $10,000, treat yourself with at least some of the excess. You’ve done well.
Don’t stop saving after $10,000!
Once you’ve shown yourself it’s possible to save $10,000 in a year, the sky’s the limit. In fact, I bet you’ll have so much fun these 12 months that you won’t want to stop.
That’s why I’ve done my best to introduce good habits through each of these steps. With the right approach, these 12 months will serve as a blueprint for a lifetime of solid financial decisions.
Think about it. Within a decade, you could have $100,000 if you wanted to. If you keep that up for the rest of your working life and invest the money wisely, you’ll have a fortune in retirement.
Big wins like that are really nothing more than the result of smaller wins compounded effectively. Just take it one biweekly period, one month, one year at a time.