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1. Save every bonus and gift

Anytime Wong gets a windfall, whether that be a bonus at work or a financial gift from friends or family, she puts it towards her student loans.

"I was very aggressive about it," she said.

If you owe a lot in student loans — or carry a hefty credit-card balance — you’ll know that interest is often what makes these debts so expensive over time. Making big (or little) extra payments, in addition to your regular monthly payments, can save you from having to pay additional interest over the long term.

And for those who are fortunate enough to be debt-free, you can apply the principle of this rule to your investing strategy. Whenever you come into a little extra cash, sock it away in your retirement account.

Keep in mind that you need not be as extreme as Wong to make this work for you. She may put aside 100% of her windfalls, but there’s nothing wrong with using some of your funds for fun. Putting aside 15% for yourself now and 85% for your future self (whether that be in clearing debt or saving for retirement) still puts you in a better financial position than before — and you might not feel so deprived either.

How to get a free $20 to invest in your future

An app called Acorns automatically rounds up purchases made on your credit or debit card to the nearest dollar and places the excess "change" into a smart investment portfolio. Acorns offers a $20 welcome bonus, immediately from your first investment.

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2. Eat cheap

Food is the third-largest expenditure for American households, accounting for 12.8% of all spending in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wong accomplishes this by choosing the least-expensive options at restaurants: “I don’t hide it,” she said.

Instead, she'll fill up on carbs or eat beforehand, and she always checks a restaurant’s menu beforehand to ensure there’s at least one thing available within her budget.

If there's free food at work, she's ready to doggie bag it and take it home.

"There was actually a holiday party that we had once [where] I took a whole platter that ended up feeding us for a whole week," she said.

Wong isn’t ashamed to take home leftovers, but she is discreet about it.

"It doesn't look that nice when you go to the office and you're taking this whole food [tray] out,” she said. “But then they all understand. New York's expensive."

Not everyone has an office that provides free food, but there are other ways to save on this major expense. Meal planning, repurposing leftovers and taking advantage of sales can all be great ways to slash your grocery budget.

3. Supplemental income

To make extra money, Wong works as a cat sitter on Rover, an online pet services marketplace.

When it comes to expenses for her side hustle, Wong says she always rationalizes them in terms of business, especially where it doubles as personal. She’s not afraid to invest in high-end or expensive items when it comes to her side business if she sees it as a great return on her investment if it makes her more appealing to potential clients on Rover.

"The business sense would be [that] it could be a [tax] write-off, it could be good for Rover," she said. "And then [on] the personal side, my cats are going to be happy."


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About the Author

Coryanne Hicks

Coryanne Hicks

Freelance Contributor

Coryanne is an investing and finance writer whose work appears in Moneywise, U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger, USA Today and Forbes Advisor, among other publications.

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