How to Save 5000 in 3 Months (Even If You’re Behind On Bills)
Wondering how to save $5000 in 3 months? One of my financial coaching clients, Holly and her family did just that (even during the COVID recession), and she’s been so gracious to allow me to share their story with you.
Holly and her husband are amazing, hard-working parents. Together they run two businesses, and she works another side job, all while homeschooling their three boys.
I especially love how dedicated they are to pleasing the Lord in all they do. And they’re intentionally passing on these values of faith and hard work down to their kids.
There was just one problem.
Like many Americans, they:
- were living from paycheck to paycheck
- had over $50,000 in debt
- and had less than $1,000 in savings
She told me,
“Our biggest challenge was trying to get away from living day to day, paycheck to paycheck. We were living frugally, making decent money, but not getting any traction or ever feeling like we could set goals that actually come to fruition. I felt we needed clear goals and specifics.”
As business owners, they struggled with fluctuating income from month to month, leaving them feeling like they were on a rollercoaster.
“We’d tried budgeting and the numbers never added up — it felt hopeless and constraining, so we ended up continuing on our same cycle, making a little progress, but never really feeling like we had a handle on things, and knowing the numbers still didn’t seem to add up!”
Even worse, they were behind on all their bills, including their mortgage.
Holly was even wondering if they’d have to sell their home and property to keep their heads above water.
How to Save $5,000 in 3 Months
1. Enlist the help of a financial coach
Back in March, Holly contacted me about her financial situation. We had a couple of low-pressure conversations that allowed us to get to know each other and see if financial coaching would be a good fit.
Once we both decided to move forward, I began coaching Holly on her finances in March 2020, about a week before the COVID shutdowns began.
She admitted, “I was hesitant to work with Shannon because of the cost. I was afraid to spend money and not have anything be different.”
Still, she decided to take the leap.
2. Start with a customized savings plan
Holly and I sat down and looked at her finances. We reviewed her debt and her vision for her family. We also didn’t shy away from recognizing the real obstacles standing in her way of getting there.
We worked together to create a detailed goal and step-by-step financial roadmap to achieve it. A one-size-fits-all formula wouldn’t have worked. What she needed was a personalized path and solution that would work for her unique situation.
From the start, I encouraged Holly to focus on saving the equivalent 1-month’s income within the first 90 days. At that point, I don’t think I was her favorite person.
She wrote, “Saving 1 month worth of expenses feels like it may take all year. Not trying to sound like I’m discouraged, but I’m somewhat of a realist and it just looks a bit daunting. If we try to save up 1 month’s worth of income, it will take us so long that we may lose momentum.”
However, her perspective shifted just a couple of weeks later. Holly wrote,
“As COVID-19 hit and we got a reality check about how quickly things could go south financially. It was good reinforcement as the “why” to have all our ducks in a row. I would feel much more worried and hopeless if this had not already been at the forefront of our minds.”
That’s when they saw the wisdom of my recommended 1-month savings goal and got more excited and comfortable with their plan.
3. Walk your plan with the support and accountability you need to keep going (even when it seems impossible)
Together, Holly and I discussed the cash flow going on in her family’s finances, including how to manage the multiple businesses and fluctuating income they had. We worked together to make a budget that would allow them to meet their savings goal—even though she didn’t believe 100% they could do it yet.
As time went on, she gained more confidence. That’s when she saw that the budget we put together would actually work. By the second week, she wrote to me,
“I’m very excited at the possibility of getting to the point of being able to set aside money. I think the most encouraging was to read that your budget also didn’t seem like it could work, but you tweaked, communicated with your husband, prayed, and stayed faithful and progress happened.”
“This is what we have been doing for the last weeks now and it is working — still not sure how it will all work out, but I know that we are being diligent and accounting for every dollar — we are united and tackling this together and progress is happening.”
Holly had tried to budget and save money before, but this time it worked. Sometimes it can be invaluable to have a second set of eyes on your finances, helping you to know what’s realistic, where you could push further, and most of all someone to cheer you on even when you’re feeling discouraged.
Holly & Her Husband Saved $5,000 in 3 Months
Just 3 months after they began their journey, the financial outlook for Holly’s family has dramatically shifted. They’ve already achieved so much, even in these uncertain times.
“It’s amazing how God has taken our small steps of obedience and turned so many things around so much quicker than we would have imagined.”
1. They fully-funded their one-month emergency fund
“We have an emergency fund fully funded with one month of living expenses — that seemed impossible a couple of months ago. When we started, we didn’t even have $500 — and now we have over $5000!”
2. They’re caught up on bills and are managing their variable income
“We are truly all caught up with our bills— it kinda seems like a miracle. And we also have several hundred additional dollars saved for next winter’s slow time.”
“God used the very challenging times we all faced this spring and because we had a specific plan in place and goals set, we were able to use wisely the finances that came our way.”
Now, they’re caught up on the bills they were behind on, including their mortgage. No more fear of losing the property and home that gives them their livelihood. (As you can see from their pictures, they work in agriculture as a family. Holly also runs the natural makeup line, Mud Creek Makeup Co.)
3. They’re experiencing more financial peace
“Since we’ve been working on budgeting the last couple of months, we have felt more at peace because we have a plan and can work within those parameters,” she wrote.
And they accomplished all this even with their clients paying later than usual and with Holly’s side job experiencing temporary layoffs due to the COVID shutdowns.
4. They’re preparing a financial and spiritual legacy for their children
The darkness of debt and financial turmoil no longer hold them back from fully serving God. They’re committed to tithing on their income, even as they’re working on their savings and debt pay off goals. She shared,
“Although the spiritual legacy we leave our children is much more important to us than the financial, being good and wise stewards IS part of a spiritual legacy, so we want to break the cycle and do better.”
5. They’ve saved more — faster— than they ever thought possible
Over the last three months, I’ve had the joy of walking alongside Holly on this journey. Even though I get to watch stories like this unfold all the time, I never get tired of getting these types of giddy emails like hers from my clients:
“In the last few months we have gone from basically zero savings and being behind on our bills, to paying our bills on time and having an emergency fund. Do you remember when I thought $1000 was the most we could save up?”
“It is exciting as we’ve prayed and committed our money to God, and held it open-handed, how He has blessed our diligence. I know you get it and would be excited….truly thank you. Your guidance and encouragement and wisdom has been a huge part of our success…..never before have I had someone to bounce all my crazy questions off of and hold my hand as I walk through getting our finances on track.”
What made this time different?
Holly had tried hard to budget and save in the past, but this time everything clicked and they started making real progress.
“Before, we had read through Dave Ramsey’s material, we had listed all our expenses versus income (and seen how the numbers didn’t match up), we have opened savings accounts, and even just stuck cash in a jar!”
“We had previously tried to stick to a budget, but it felt more restrictive than freeing, just in general not doable, so we would throw in the towel, say to ourselves that our situation isn’t possible to budget for, and continue to try and save money. We were not successful at saving any and certainly didn’t feel in control of our money.”
This time, she had an experienced financial coach by her side
I asked Holly to share her advice about what helped them succeed this time around.
“I just want to express how much Shannon’s nuggets of wisdom and personal care have meant — it truly has been all the difference. She does not sugar coat things, but she is an encourager.”
“She didn’t give a “pat” answer, but a true answer to my specific questions — like she had given it some thought and knew that even in my situation we could be successful and make progress.”
“That maybe the first month would not look ideal, or the second or third month…but she encouraged me that that’s ok, it doesn’t mean you give up, you keep moving forward — for some reason this was huge to me.”
“I tend to be an all or nothing perfectionist kind of a person, so when I had tried in the past and felt like I was failing, I just moved on thinking that I couldn’t be good at this. But just like with everything, budgeting is not that way — you just have to have a good plan, be willing to learn, sacrifice, and know it’s a marathon and not a sprint!”
So, what’s next for Holly and her family?
Now that they have their one-month emergency fund completed, they’re turning their attention to paying off debt. Their goal is to have it paid off by the end of the year.
“We are set to put all the money from my work into savings this month….that will get us a couple more thousand saved. Then we plan to attack our debt.”
“We paid off our credit card in April. We are working on selling a vehicle before fall, and we should be able to have my car paid off by Christmas and not have any other debt besides our house and land (which we will set a goal to pay off too).”
What about you?
Where could your finances be three months from now?
I hope that Holly’s story will serve as an encouragement to you. Right now you might feel like it’s hopeless to work on your finances in the face of layoffs, loss of income, and a questionable economy.
What I want you to know is this.
You don’t have to stay stuck in the feelings of anxiety and failure that come with money struggles.
Even if you feel like you’ve tried everything before, this time can be different. As long as you dedicate yourself to the process and have an experienced guide by your side, you will be able to reach your savings goals — probably faster than you ever thought possible.
Are you ready to get started?
Book a complimentary 20-minute consultation with me to see if you’d be a good candidate for financial coaching. I look forward to talking with you!