How I Saved $10K in One Year

I can hardly contain my excitement! I have finally met my first major savings goal of $10,000! Ten. Thousand. Dollars. Wow!

This is a major milestone for me for a number of reasons:

  1. I’m only two years into my first full-time job out of college. (Graduated in 2014. We can talk about those other two years offline.)
  2. I work at a nonprofit organization and I don’t get paid huge bucks.
  3. I only have one stream of income for the most part. (Working on more. Gotta practice what I preach, I know!)
  4. I live in the Northern Virginia area and it ain’t cheap in these streets!
  5. I’ve dedicated a portion of my monthly income to fund missionaries and others in need.
  6. I have a LOT of friends and we celebrate each other a LOT (aka spend money eating out).

My original goal was to have this money saved about a month and a half prior, but I decided to spend some of it on personal development and a trip to Disney World! (Because I deserve to have more fun! You know?)

Anyway, I’m super excited at what I’ve accomplished and the amount of discipline that I was able to exhibit in this process.

This is nothing but a testament to God’s faithfulness because, two years ago, I was literally living paycheck to paycheck. I was stretching myself thin and jeopardizing my mental health to be able to make ends meet. I had just moved back to the Northern Virginia area after completing my ministry training program in New York City. I was too prideful to ask my parents for help. It was a really rough time for me. (I’ll spare you the full story).

So, the fact that I’m not only able to live comfortably, but I’m able to support others in their callings is nothing short of a miracle. Like I said in the beginning of this article, I fund missionaries. There are people who rely on donations for their entire salary in order to spread the Gospel on college campuses and in other settings.

At one point, I thought that I was going to be living in a similar way since I’m called into “full time ministry,” but that’s not the plan the Lord had for me. At least not yet. For now, I’m called to use my resources in the marketplace in order to financially support those who are in traditional ministry settings.

I never thought that I would be one of those “business leaders” who funds the kingdom, but here I am. It might be small, but God is doing a mighty work with what I give Him.

I really wrestled with this at first. I used to be very stingy. In that first meeting in 2016 with the campus missionary who walked me through his proposal, there was so much resistance. I could literally feel my heart fighting to hold onto “my” money. I had just gotten to a comfortable place financially and now I was being asked to give some of it away??

Yes. That’s exactly what He was asking of me.

God has literally transformed my heart to where I can confidently say that I am a giver. I love to give.

It really only took me about 14 months to save this $10K. I had started a savings account before, but I had wiped it out in faith, buying a plane ticket to my first missions trip to Cameroon, Africa last year. In this decision I had no fear. It felt right and I went for it. (And I prayed on it, too, obviously.)

God certainly met me where I was because, when it was all said and done, I received that money back through my crowdfunding campaign for the trip a couple months later.

Yes. I have crazy big faith.

And God uses our wallets to test where our hearts are. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

So, that’s the background story.

Here are some of the actual tactics I used to “get my money up.”

  1. Tithe.

What do you mean, Jess? Doesn’t tithing mean giving your money away? How does it help with saving?

It has everything to do with saving. Financial stewardship isn’t just about saving money. It’s about putting the money where it belongs. And I believe that, for one, it all belongs to God. But also, more biblically, there’s an order of how we should be stewarding the finances He does allow us to enjoy.

Take a look at this scripture that pastors often refer to in tithing messages:

‘“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
‘But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
‘Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
‘But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — your whole nation — because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 3:6–12)

My favorite preacher, Pastor Mike Todd of Transformation Church in Tulsa, has a series on giving called “Wait Til I Get My Money Right.” Watch it. It’ll change the way you view finances.

In one of the sermons, he talks about how the Church has been interpreting Malachi 3:8 wrong this whole time. Pastor Mike suggests that the scripture is really saying that we rob God of the opportunity for Him to bless us.

It’s not that God needs our money. It’s that He wants to use it to examine our hearts and to take care of others. And we get blessed in the process.

Also in this sermon series, Pastor Mike Todd features a couple of sermons by Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas to emphasize this message. One part that stuck out to me was the whole idea about “rebuking the devourer.”

He talked about how sometimes people will find that they have car problems or extra bills/expenses that come up out of nowhere.

Basically, if you aren’t giving your 10% to God, you’re going to give it to someone else (bill collectors, car repair shops, etc.) And it could end up being a lot more. If you sow into your local church, then God will make sure you are taken care of.

The pastor isn’t suggesting that tithing fixes all of your problems and nothing will ever go wrong. But it’s just something to be aware of. It’s a biblical principle.

Who gets your firstfruits?

2. Zero-Based Budget

Besides seeing God protect my funds through tithing, I’ve also learned how to save through good budgeting practices.

When I was working my part-time job in 2015, I took the course “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey since my church offered it. I wasn’t making much at all. I was barely getting by and I was on the struggle bus big time. (Let me say, this is NOT a situation you should put yourself through if you can help it. Your mental health is too important to jeopardize. I can’t emphasize this enough!)

Anyway, I learned so much from this class. The biggest takeaway was how to budget.

The class is primarily based on helping people get out of debt and teaching them how to save so then they can give!

I didn’t have any debt at this time. I hadn’t bought my first car yet and I didn’t (and still don’t) have any student loan debt. I want to make sure I say this because I know that the majority of my readers have some expenses that I don’t have, which may not put them in a position to save as quickly as I was able to.

Anyway, what I learned was how to create what’s called a zero-based budget. This means that you take your income for the month and assign every bill, food item, etc. a dollar amount, so that by the end of the month, your budget comes down to $0. It may look something like this:

I know those numbers may not be realistic, but you get the point. The whole idea is telling your money where it should go instead of looking at your bank account at the end of the month and wondering, “What in the world did I spend it on?”

And when the money is gone, it’s gone. Don’t dig into your savings for something that’s not a priority.

For me, on the paychecks where I don’t have to pay rent (I always cry a little inside each time I send my landlord the check), I use the bulk of my money to pay my smaller bills and put the rest in savings.

If you know that you’re the type to transfer your savings to your checking whenever something “comes up,” it may be a good idea to do automatic savings into a different account so you never see or touch the money until it’s needed.

But the whole idea is to budget for those unexpected expenses and to build up your emergency fund so you won’t have to constantly dip into your savings.

And then, of course, there are those daily habits that save you money bit by bit…

3. Cook Food/ Pack Lunch

I have a local mall as the lovely view from my office window every single day. Maggiano’s, &Pizza and Nando’s literally stare me in the face all day long. However, I rarely give into the temptation to go across the street and pay for lunch. Instead, I pack my own food — usually leftovers. This is also a good way to implement a healthier diet.

To be honest, I developed these habits from being in a position where I had no other choice. I couldn’t afford to pay for lunch when I was working at my last job, so I guess those frugal spending habits just transferred, even when my salary greatly increased.

It also makes lunches with friends — when I do treat myself — that much more special. It’s such a treat to take an extended lunch hour and catch up with a friend, literally feet away from where I do business. Some have even followed me to a class I was teaching afterwards. :)

4. Get Creative

One of my friends described me as “on a budget.” I’m not sure if he was throwing shade or what, but it’s true. And I own it proudly. I like to think about the future instead of the now.

Although I love nice things and love to shop, I have definitely limited this habit. I get super creative with my outfits and always get compliments. A few signature “statement pieces” can go a long way. I’m really not into buying something that I’m only going to wear once or twice.

And, as most people know, I do my own hair. I get it done every few months or so when I need a trim or when I’m going to a wedding or another special occasion. But for the most part, I’m taking the time to style my gorgeous — albeit thick — locks every day.

Yes, it gets tiring, so honestly I might start wearing protective styles more because I’m getting sick of the upkeep. It’s been a good 8 years that I’ve been in this natural hair game. I’m tired, fam.

5. Give

Like I said in the beginning of this piece, I am giver. Well, I’ve become a giver. It was really hard at first for me to part ways with my money to support ministries, but God worked on my heart. I truly believe that we reap what we sow. I’ve been blessed to be a blessing.

I give to missions trips and fundraisers because I would want the same to be done to me. And it has been! I’ve experienced overflow and I believe a great deal of it has to do with the law of reaping and sowing.

Saving isn’t easy, but it’s worth it!

So, now that I’ve reached my goal, what’s next, you ask?

Get a new wardrobe! I’m so excited about this!!! Like so so excited! Why not, right?

It’s time to level up.

But also, I’m going to start taking on a couple more bills that my mom is still paying for me. I’m 25 so there are some things that I think it’s time for me to be financially responsible for.

So, I probably won’t be saving as much per month since I don’t have an aggressive goal in front of me, but I’m just so thankful to know that I have a pretty big safety net to fall back on, should I need it.

I have 6 months of living expenses saved up, just in case I decide to make a career transition and need a little bit of a nest.

I’m not entirely sure what the future holds, but I know Who holds my future.

Thanks for reading! I hope this inspires you.

Don’t forget to check out my E-Book “How to Raise Thousands of Dollars for Your Cause While Building Your Tribe” here.

Until Next Time!

This article was originally published on

Jessica Smith is passionate about connecting marginalized populations to resources that position them for success. As a business counselor at the Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia, she equips aspiring business owners with the tools they need to become economically empowered through entrepreneurship. She teaches monthly business startup classes and conducts daily counseling sessions to meet the individual needs of her clients. Jessica is always looking for ways to expand her reach, so she regularly contributes to online publications on business development and women’s empowerment topics. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Communication, magna cum laude, from George Mason University.

Advocating for the heart of the bigger picture and shining the light in dark places. Topics include faith, finances, wellness, and women’s empowerment.