By implementing her 50/30/20 strategy, you can be well on your way to financial security.

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Saving our well-earned dollars has been instilled in us from the time we were young. And while Americans have historically struggled to save money, for a number of reasons, the pandemic may have changed things. The percentage of people's income remaining each month after taxes and spending skyrocketed to a record 32.2 percent in April of 2020, up from 12.7 percent in the month prior, according to statistics by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

One person who understands how to save is Angel Radcliffe, award-winning financial educator, business strategist, and author of Ballin' On A Budget: Smart Money Moves To Enhance Your Savings, who was able to save $100,000 in 18 months. This was in the aftermath of several curveballs: In 2009, she was laid off from a corporate job, which resulted in a drained 401(k). In 2014, her mother was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which resulted in unexpected medical bills as well as traveling expenses. And in 2015, Radcliffe left her full-time job to pursue other opportunities. Slowly, she began to build her account back. "We build an emergency fund for emergencies, but when the emergency happens, then what?" she says. "You are left starting over from point 'A.' I wanted to save aggressively, so whenever the next emergency occurred, I would be beyond prepared."

As remarkable as it sounds, Radcliffe's experience proves that it is indeed doable. Ahead, she explains how she did it.

outdoor portrait of angela radcliffe
Credit: Courtesy of Angel Radliffe

Implement the 50/30/20 rule.

After building her emergency fund, Radcliffe applied to the 50/30/20 rule of savings. Basically, this strategy factors the percentage of your net income and divides it into thirds: Essential needs make up 50 percent, wants make up 30 percent, and savings make up 20 percent. Radcliffe recommends that personal living expenses shouldn't surpass 50 percent of your net income, no more than 30 percent on personal wants, 20 percent of your net income should go toward your emergency savings or reserves outside your employer's 401(k).

Cut down expenses and reinvest elsewhere.

At first, she cut expenses that she didn't need, such as her cable provider and bi-weekly manicures (instead, opting for at-home self-care pampering). While these two expenses sound small, Radcliffe reveals that these two alone saved her an additional $2,000 to $3,000 annually. Then, she gave up owning and driving a car for eight months; here, she saved on eight months of gas, car insurance, and car payments.

Radcliffe also used her side hustle (earning an additional income with courses, speaking engagements, and books) to reach her savings goal as well as earn additional funds. "While I have dabbled in the stock market prior, it wasn't much to consider liquidating for an emergency," she says. "I wanted to try something different this time. I purchased stock in my employer's stock plan at a 15 percent discount, investing $12,929.92 in 2019, which is now worth $22,560—almost doubling my investment ($16,880 at the end of 2019)."

Tweak it to save 40 percent.

"Using this strategy, I was able to maintain my spending when it came down to the needs and wants portion," she explains. "Through the years, as my salary increased, it became apparent that 30 percent was a bit much to spend each month on 'wants.' So I made an adjustment and moved 15 to 20 percent out of the wants category to my savings, each month depending on the bills, thus becoming more like a '50/10/40' rule where 10 percent was for 'wants.'"

It mattered where she saved this money, as well. "In reaching my savings goals, I always started small ($5,000 or $10,000 then working towards $20,000 and $25,000, and so on)." she explains. "Once I would hit $20,000 in an account, I would start saving in a new account. Starting over from zero in a new account kept the momentum going. Moving the money to an account without easy accessibility is also a good strategy, which helped from withdrawing funds."

Monitor the budget with a weekly check-in.

When setting any saving goal, Radcliffe recommends accountability which can be done by holding weekly saving check-ins with yourself. "I have a calendar reminder in my phone for every Friday, where I check my spending on the budgeting app Mint," says Radcliffe. "Mint is able to pull in data from all of my accounts, credit cards, and so on where I have set spending limits for each category and can check if I am close to or over my budget."

Savings is as much a discipline as it is a mindset to which Radcliffe can attest. "Anyone can achieve their savings goal all by changing their mindset when it comes to money," she adds. "Speaking to yourself in a positive light, having self-control, and believing in your financial goals."

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