Kaila Jefferson wanted a fresh start in a new city.
After graduating with her master’s degree in 2020, Jefferson, 28, was living in Norfolk, Virginia. She decided to move to Atlanta, which she believed would bring her more career opportunities as a young Black professional.
One month after moving to Atlanta, Jefferson landed a full-time job in her field as a speech-language pathologist. But between graduate school and moving expenses, she had depleted her savings. Amid the uncertainty of early pandemic lockdowns and a growing wave of unemployment, Jefferson knew she needed to build her savings back up.
“I was trying to have a cushion of money saved up just in case for emergency expenses or anything since I’m down here living by myself,” says Jefferson. “Just to get myself back on my feet [after] I finished grad school.”
So she set a goal: She would give herself three months to save $10,000. Here’s how she did it, and her advice for anyone starting their own savings journey.
How She Saved
The first thing Jefferson did to boost her savings was limit her spending.
She replaced regular nail and hair appointments with at-home treatments. Rather than going out to eat, she ate more meals at home and began meal prepping. And when she did go out with friends, she set aside a certain amount to avoid overspending.
But just cutting costs wasn’t enough to achieve her lofty goal. What really allowed Jefferson to reach $10,000 was a combination of more income and consistent budgeting.
Multiple Streams of Income
While Jefferson’s full-time job kickstarted her savings journey, she boosted that with extra money she was able to bring in from side hustles. Building upon her passion for skin and haircare, she started creating content online and even launched a skincare brand. Experts say one of the best ways to start a side hustle is by starting with something you already love and are good at.
“For me, it just came down to finding something that I enjoyed doing and something that I was passionate about, and figuring out a way to make money from it,” says Jefferson. “These are all things that I was naturally good at and decided to share with other people.”
Her biggest success came from her YouTube channel, where she posted everything from her natural hair journey to DIY tutorials for body butters and scrubs. Jefferson estimates these videos brought in around $700 to $1,800 per month, which was an essential element of achieving her goal.
“Having more than one source of income has been the biggest key to saving that amount of money in such a short amount of time,” she says. “It has been such a lifesaver.”
If you’re interested in starting a side hustle or turning your passion into a second income, check out more expert tips and tricks on NextAdvisor:
Budget in Advance
Increasing her income was important, but it wasn’t the only thing that helped Jefferson reach her goal.
Even after cutting costs where she could, Jefferson says her expenses added up to nearly $2,500 monthly — before accounting for savings. So she started planning for every expense and budgeting.
After setting aside $1,250 every two weeks to cover her rent, utilities, and other bills, she was able to save an estimated $2,000 between her full-time job and the money she made from YouTube. Any additional money she brought in would also go into savings. Even though her side hustle money wasn’t as consistent as her full-time income, it did help boost her total amount saved to around $2,000 to $4,000 per month, she says.
But as they often do, emergency expenses threw a wrench in Jefferson’s plan. While saving, she also took on the costs of an unexpected medical bill and car repairs. Luckily, the extra income she saved helped her cover the costs and her already-diligent budgeting ensured she was prepared. Jefferson was able to pay for the expenses with money from two months’ worth of YouTube income and funds she was already setting aside, she says. That way, it didn’t set her back from her goal.
Choose the Right Savings Account
Instead of keeping all of her money in a traditional checking or savings account, Jefferson opened a money market account, or MMA, where she saved the money to reach her $10,000 goal.
Money market accounts work like a hybrid savings and checking account — you can access your money at any time, and you’ll earn variable interest. The primary differences between money market accounts and high-yield savings are that MMAs usually offer check-writing or debit card access, and may also carry higher minimum balance requirements.
“I didn’t have a financial advisor, but I do have one now, so I’m learning how to make that money better work for me,” says Jefferson. “I think it’s about doing your research and figuring out what works best for you.”
Experts recommend choosing an account type that best aligns with your financial goals and the amount of access you’re looking for. Compare interest rates and account requirements (including fees, minimum balances, and withdrawal restrictions) to choose the best savings option for you. Options like high-yield savings accounts or money market accounts, offer more liquidity and flexibility compared to Series I Savings Bonds and certificates of deposit, which require you to lock in your money for a certain timeframe to earn a return.
Beyond the $10,000 Goal
Between her multiple streams of income and consistent budgeting, Jefferson reached her goal of $10,000 within three months. After that, she allowed herself a bit more spending freedom, but set another goal to save an additional $5,000 over the next nine months.
In total, Jefferson says she saved $15,000 within a year and a half.
Since reaching her audacious original savings goal, Jefferson continues to grow her YouTube channel and her business, while still working a full-time job. With her emergency fund intact, she’s now setting aside the extra money for longer-term goals as well as debt payoff, including a credit card balance and $180,000 in student loans.
But she still maintains the importance of keeping her initial savings as an emergency fund in case of additional unexpected expenses — especially as a business owner still adjusting to her new city. “It feels good knowing that if something does come up, I have the financial means to take care of it,” says Jefferson.