Save Like You Mean It

A once-in-a-lifetime trip, a new baby, recharging your career—how do you save for the biggest things in life? Six women share their stories of stamina, smarts, and success.

$80,00 for a new life

“I ran my photography business from New York City for years, but when I got pregnant, I decided two things: I needed great weather year-round to do more wedding photography, and my husband and I wanted our baby to have a less hectic childhood. We picked a beach town in California—and we saved for four years. We made charts, took extra jobs, limited our dinners out to once a month and basically figured out how much we needed to save to have a two-year nest egg while we transitioned our family and our business. Saving that much money—our goal was $80,000—really turns you into a team. And it was amazing fun to watch our bank statements grow.” —Susannah Gill

$4,800 for clear vision

“I wore Coke-bottle glasses all my life. (Except half the time I was too vain to wear them, so could barely see anything.) For years, I was afraid to have Lasik—after all, they’re messing with your vision. Plus, it cost $4,800, and I didn’t have a chunk that big. But I was getting married, and I really wanted to walk down the aisle and be able to see. It took a while, but I saved the money. The appointment came, and literally, in less than five minutes, I never had to wear glasses again. It changed my life—everything from being able to lie in bed and watch TV to seeing the birth of my kids. That $4,800 was the best money I ever saved, or spent on myself.” —Stacey Isaacs

$70,000 worth of free miles

“My husband and I saved up all our credit card points for a trip to Australia for our 40th birthdays. But thanks to a happy accident, first-class seats were booked for months, so the airline suggested a round-the-world ticket. We flew through Munich, Singapore, Seoul and then spent two weeks in Australia—and it cost the two of us only $350 total, in airport taxes. When I checked what those first-class tickets would have cost us, it would have been about $70,000. And because we saved so much in airfare, we splurged on five-star hotels!” —Caye Serling

$30,000 for a family

“I learned how to save from a young age—and it starts with knowing what you want. When I was 6, I started getting a $7 allowance that my mom told me to split three ways—into money I could spend right away, and save for something I wanted in the near term, and the long term. When I was 8, I’d saved more than $100 and adopted a dog, plus paid for its vaccinations, food, bowl, and leash. In high school I started a business making wedding videos. By the time I was 18, I’d saved $3,500 for a plane ticket to Peru and travel expenses. Now I’m saving $30,000 for an international adoption. It’s a lot of money, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to stick to your plan because you know the reward is coming.” —Elise Snoddy

$10,000 to travel in style

“When my company was about to transfer me to Singapore—a very expensive city—I knew I wanted extra cash so I could really enjoy the expat lifestyle. My salary would cover most of my living expenses, but I wanted plenty of money to access places that people might save for their entire lives to see. So for about six months before I relocated, I shopped less, went out to fancy dinners less, and chose my social plans wisely. I saved about $10,000 and made the move. Since then, I’ve been able to visit Burma, Bali, Japan, Sri Lanka. I even tacked on some travel time during a business trip to South Africa. My travel fund has served me well.” — Michelle Kerner

$36,000 for my dream home

“I saved for six years to buy my dream house. The plan was to save $6,000 a year, but there were some setbacks that included a layoff and a car accident (I was fine, the car wasn’t), and me occasionally dipping into savings. After two years, I realized I might not hit my goal, so I buckled down and stuck to a strict budget—something I had never done. I started entertaining more at home, and ironically that kept me motivated. I envisioned what it would be like to entertain in my house someday. I created a decorating idea book with sketches and photos/ads I ripped out of my favorite magazines. (It’s a wonder it wasn’t me who invented Pinterest!) Looking at these photos kept me focused. I loved my house—and ended up selling it for double what I paid for it. So it was a terrific investment, too.” —Cathy Christino

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