• In a year and a half, I managed to save $35,000 in an emergency fund.
  • I was in a long-distance relationship and wanted to move to my partner's city, but I didn't feel like I could do that until I'd saved enough to cover my expenses for a full year if I couldn't find a job.
  • I worked hard to save that money, and every time I wanted to spend a little extra or stray from my budget I would remind myself why I was saving: to be with my partner.
  • See Business Insider's picks for the best high-yield savings accounts

Let's be honest, saving money can be hard work. Putting away a year's worth of expenses meant working long hours, staying flexible, and avoiding extra costs wherever possible.

It took me over a year and a half to meet my savings goal, but I was able to save $35,000 to serve as my emergency fund . Here's how I did it.

Why I built these savings

First of all, to build my savings, I needed to have a strong reason to diligently stash away all of my extra funds and that reason was my partner. We had been in a long-distance relationship for years and I wanted to move to the city where he lived, but to do that, I needed to build up enough savings to cover my expenses for a year if I couldn't quickly find a new job.

My partner and I started dating while in college, even though we lived hours away from each other. After graduation, I accepted a job in my college town that paid a respectable $15.50 per hour. However, the job meant that I was trapped in that city for the time being. The only way to move where my boyfriend of two years lived would be to find a new job or build an emergency fund that would allow me to safely move without financial repercussions.

With that, I decided to start building an emergency fund that would cover an entire year's worth of expenses. I set a goal of $35,000 because I knew that would cover even the worst-case scenario of expenses for an entire year. I could sustain myself during a long job hunt if I decided to make the move before I found a new job.

How I built my savings

Once I had my goal in mind, I had to get creative to build these savings.

I was lucky enough to avoid student loans

One big expense that I was able to avoid as a new graduate was student loan payments. Through a combination of scholarships and help from my generous parents, I was able to make it through college without any debt. I realize that part of my story is not feasible for every graduate, but I'm thankful that it was possible for me.

Without student loans squeezing my budget, I was able to save more money each month

I avoided lifestyle inflation

When I built out my first post-college budget, I kept it as similar as possible to the lifestyle I lived as a student. In fact, I even lived in the same small studio apartment for a year after graduation. I continued to enjoy free entertainment around my favorite college town to keep costs low.

Lifestyle inflation is notorious for taking your budget to a breaking point. I worked hard to keep my spending under control as I waded into the waters of full-blown adulthood.

I picked up a side hustle and turned it into a career

At my first job, $15.50 per hour was covering my living expenses, but it didn't leave much leftover to save at the end of each month. Even without student loans, I didn't have room in my budget to build savings quickly.

In order to save $35,000 in a year, I needed to find a new source of income . I decided to pursue freelance writing. I've always enjoyed writing and saw the potential to build an entirely new career without the strings of a traditional desk job holding me to a particular city.

Of course, it wasn't easy to build a successful business as a freelancer with a day job. But the long nights and periods of self-doubt were worth the cost. I was able to build a business that can completely support my lifestyle costs and built a solid emergency fund in the process.

I enjoyed the fun things in life

Throughout the time that it took to build these savings, I did not retreat from the outside world just to save a few dollars. In fact, I continued to enjoy evenings out with friends and road trips to local destinations. I just made sure that these outings worked with my budget goals. Luckily, I had supportive friends who were equally interested in sticking to a budget.

I kept my goal in mind

I built my emergency fund through a combination of putting in long hours after my day job, building new skills, and budgeting carefully. Some days, I didn't want to follow through on my plans.

But I would always remember the goal in the back of my mind. I wanted to build these funds to provide a safety net if I decided to move to a new city to be with my boyfriend before finding a new job.

I used that goal as a way to motivate myself when Netflix was calling my name or a new writing assignment seemed like more than I wanted to do. The power of a clear goal cannot be understated.

The bottom line

In the end, it took me over a year to save $35,000. I ended up finding a job where I wanted to live before I reached my goal, but I continued working to build my emergency fund. After moving, my new reason to save was to serve as a backup plan if my decision to transition to full-time freelancing didn't work out as planned.

I don't regret my decision to build a substantial emergency fund. It has given me the freedom to make choices that allow me to follow my dreams, no matter the financial implications.

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