This Woman Saved $85,000 Before She Turned 19. Here’s Exactly How She Did It

woman sitting on stairs outdoors
Photo courtesy of Robyn Bri
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Many Americans aren’t good at saving money.

This information isn’t new.

Let me give you a refresher: 33% of Americans have nothing tucked into their savings accounts, according to a 2016 GoBankingRates survey. And 35% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved.

In fact, not saving early enough topped a list of our financial regrets.

But once you’re able to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, saving isn’t impossible.

Take note from this 19-year-old NewRetirement recently wrote about. Robyn Bri has saved more than $85,000 to date.

Granted, Bri has lived at home, but she’s also hustled hard since she was 8 years old.

“The first time I bought something with my own money, it immediately had more value to me because it was something I had to work to get, so I took better care of it,” she told me in a recent email exchange. “I think that’s what motivated me to start getting jobs and saving my money for certain things.”

Here’s how to save money like Bri.

1. Open a Virtual Piggy Bank

Bri says she keeps her money in a savings account and tries to stash money in it as frequently as possible.

I asked about her strategy for determining how much goes away and when. She says she plans to automate the process one day, but for now she just does it by hand.

“I usually will tell myself, ‘Okay, you just made this much money. You have to put at least this much in savings, then budget the rest into checking and into my spending budget,’” she says.

She keeps her money for everyday expenses in a checking account.

Here’s how you can save: If you want to help your savings grow faster, look into Varo Money. Pair your Bank Account with a Varo Savings Account where you’ll earn 2.10% Annual Percentage Yield. That’s more than 35 times — repeat, 35 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.06% average reported by CNN Money.

Varo goes easy on the fees, too. As long as you use one of its 55,000 ATMs across the world, you’ll never pay fees.

Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees. You’ll just pay any fees charged by out-of-network ATMs and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.

The goal is to make your money work for you, which Bri has already learned by 19. Jealous.

2. Pay With a Rewards Credit Card

What Bri does purchase, she says, she charges to a rewards credit card that she signed up for last year. That way she can earn points back. She makes sure to pay her card off each month, too.

She says she doesn’t have anything she’s saving the points for — just for something in the future.

Here’s how you can save: There are tons of rewards cards out there. If you’re looking for a passive way to earn some money throughout the year, a cash-back credit card is perhaps one of the easiest methods.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

3. Start Investing

Bri says she has two self-investing accounts with Merrill Edge.

One is a Roth IRA, and the other is a self-guided account. She also invested in Apple stock when she was 16.

However, she admits she’s always been a little hesitant about the process. “…It’s a risky business, and the more you put in the more you can lose, but at the same time the more you can gain,” she says.

She advises people to research. She also suggests taking online quizzes to see how much risk is worth taking.

“I always make sure that I never invest all my money,” she concludes on the matter.

Here’s how you can save: If you want to start investing, but feel slightly intimidated like Bri, try using an app like Acorns or Stash.

Neither one requires more than a few dollars to start. Acorns basically takes the digital change from your debit or credit card purchases and invests it. You can also snag a $5 bonus after you make your first investment

Stash allows you to set a fixed amount to take out of your account each week. Plus you’ll get an extra $5 bonus after your first investment when you sign up through this linkThere’s a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.

Have a little more to put away, but still want to keep it simple? We found a company that can help you invest in real estate (without being a millionaire).

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

4. Practice Frugality

NewRetirement also reports that Bri doesn’t blow her money on clothes or entertainment expenses.

“Mostly I just tell myself, ‘I don’t need that; it’s not a necessity — you can live without it,’” she says. “But I do allow myself to have a small budget once a month for things like transportation, going to the city for a day, etc.”

She’s sure to calculate necessities into her budget, too, like her phone bill and gas.

Here’s how you can save: Budgeting on your own might be difficult, but apps are a good way to hold yourself — and your spending habits — accountable.

Try using something like Trim, a Facebook messenger bot that can help you see where your money is going (or being wasted). It also helps you negotiate your bills with companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers. And you can easily tap to cancel recurring expenses you no longer need (like magazines, gym fees, etc.).

To see where you might be able to negotiate some utilities, sign up with Facebook, then upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money. (If it saves you any money, it keeps 25% of the savings tab.)

The idea is to hold yourself accountable and be able to critically think about your budget. The app is free to download — the first step to being frugal.

5. Tackle the Art of the Side Hustle

At age 8, Bri started doing odd jobs for her neighbors.

Since then, she’s worked as a pet sitter, babysitter, housesitter and waitress. Bri estimates she works 28 to 32 hours a week and earns something between $3,000 and $4,000 each month, according to SFGATE.

I asked her how she manages to stay on top of her priorities. (In addition to her side gigs, she was also a successful student and volunteered.)

She says, “For me, I really had to stay organized and on top of my phone calls, emails, texts, etc. Writing everything down and using a calendar to stay organized was definitely crucial. With so many different things going on, if I don’t write one thing down I could screw up a whole day.”

Here’s how you can save: Bri isn’t yet 21, the age you have to be to start driving for ride-sharing services. But taking on a side gig as a driver can bring in substantial bucks

We chatted with a Lyft driver who makes up to $750 a week. Perhaps the best part is that he gets to set his own schedule.

Been thinking about giving Lyft a try? Signing up is pretty painless

Another idea? You could tag team Lyft with driving with Uber. Lots of drivers do both.

If you’re not into people, consider delivering food through UberEATS

Or check out these 50 other ways to make extra money on the side.

Right now, Lyft is offering a $300 sign-on bonus to new drivers when you use code EXTRA300.

Here’s what you need to qualify:

  • You must be approved to drive within 30 days of your application start date.
  • Once you’re in, just complete 100 rides within your first 30 days of being a Lyft driver.

And just like that, the bonus cash is yours. Easy, right?

6. Consume Tons of Personal Finance Advice

How did Bri know about all of these smart money moves? She said she read a ton of advice in books and on blogs (like The Penny Hoarder, right?).

But actually she says her all-time favorite book is “Rich Bitch.” “It’s an easy read, and the best part is it’s interactive, so as you read you are advised to write stuff down, start planning/getting your finances on track.”

Here’s how you can save: You can never know everything.

On personal finance matters, we have taken notes from some of our favorite “zillionaires” as well as these books and these podcasts.

Cheers to Bri, who’s headed off to George Washington University this fall on a full-ride scholarship. (Here’s where to find some.) She has an on-campus job lined up and plans to find another gig along the way.

Here’s another hearty shout out to NewRetirement, which initially shared her story.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She didn’t know a single thing about money when she was 18 — except that she wanted it.

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