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 says.
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 way better financial position than before — and you might not feel so deprived either.
Watch your money grow while you sleep
2. Eat for cheap
Food is the third-largest expenditure for American households, accounting for 12.4% of all spending in 2021 (the most recent figures available), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In New York City, where the average "inexpensive" meal costs $25, keeping food expenses low can be hard.
Wong accomplishes this by only choosing the cheapest options at restaurants: “I don’t hide it,” she says. Instead, she'll fill up on carbs or eat beforehand, she says. 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 says. 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 says. “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 shopping the flyers can all be great ways to slash your grocery budget.
3. Find 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 because sees it as having the possibility for a great return on her investment if they make 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 says. "And then [on] the personal side, my cats are going to be happy."
And you can bet that in the process of working her plan, Wong is indeed one happy cat.
Kiss Your Credit Card Debt Goodbye
Millions of Americans are struggling to crawl out of debt in the face of record-high interest rates. A personal loan offers lower interest rates and fixed payments, making it a smart choice to consolidate high-interest credit card debt. It helps save money, simplifies payments, and accelerates debt payoff. Credible is a free online service that shows you the best lending options to pay off your credit card debt fast — and save a ton in interest.