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I saved $20k during university while working part-time, but was the hustle worth it?

I saved $20k during university while working part-time, but was the hustle worth it?
PHOTO: Pexel

For many, the dream is to retire early, which is why the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement is helpful. 

To achieve this, some people set financial goals, such as saving a specific amount of money before they hit a certain age.

In a recent YouTube video by The Woke Salaryman, co-founder and illustrator Goh Wei Choon shared how he managed to save his first $10,000. 

He did this by changing his lifestyle, paying his future self first and increasing his income potential. 

While some may feel that this sounds unrealistic or unachievable, it actually isn't. 

Before I turned 21, I had managed to save my first $20,000. 

But the road to reaching this goal was not easy and I do have some regrets. 

Becoming addicted to earning money 

Just a few months before entering university, I started work at a fashion boutique in town. 

I had been introduced to the role by a mutual friend and actually didn't have money on my mind when I accepted the job offer — I simply wanted a way to pass time before I started school. 

However, after seeing the numbers in my bank account increase over a few months, I became addicted to earning money. 

My monthly pay ranged from $800 to $1,100 per month, depending on how many days I worked. 

In hindsight, the pay wasn't much, but it felt like a lot as a pre-graduate. 

So, even after I started university, I would carve out time after school to get that bread. 

This meant rushing out of class once lessons were over just so I could catch the next bus to work. 

I didn't just work on the weekdays — I worked weekend shifts, too. 

And if my co-worker wasn't able to make it, I would eagerly offer to cover her, because that would mean I could earn a few more hours of money. 

Budget meals and a sad social life 

Even though I was drawing an income every month, I lived a very frugal life. 

Too frugal, if you ask me. 

One classic method I used to save money was to eat at home as much as possible. 

And when I had to eat out, I gave myself a pathetic budget of $5 per day. 

This meant eating the cheapest thing I could find at hawker centres or in school. 

As my job was in town, food wasn't the most affordable.

So, when I worked the later shift and had no choice but to buy dinner, I would camp for discounted sushi at the supermarket. 

On good days, I could get a eight-piece pack of maki for $2.80. 

If there wasn't sushi available, I would go to 7-Eleven and get myself one of the $2 onigiri.

Occasionally, I would treat myself to some butter chicken biryani for $3.90, and that already felt like a splurge. 

Not having much of a social life also helped my wallet quite a fair bit. 

Because I was so busy zipping off to work after school, I barely had time to make new friends or hang out with existing ones. 

This meant that I didn't need to spend much on meals or activities. 

I also rejected invitations to watch movies in cinemas because back then, the idea of spending $8 on a movie ticket felt too indulgent. Why do that when I could stream it at home for free? 

And obviously, an overseas trip with friends was not on my to do list. 

So, while my friends were having a good time jetting off to destinations like Bali and Bangkok, I was grinding away at work, saving every cent that I could. 

It wasn't entirely worth it 

Towards the end of university, I decided to stop working because I wanted to focus on my last two semesters of school. 

Immediately after, I started work at my first proper full-time job, with no breaks in between and no graduation trip. 

This was when I realised that I had shortchanged myself. 

Yes, I did have an impressive amount in my bank, probably more than most of my peers. 

But I also didn't get to experience what would have been the last few years of my schooling life. 

On top of that, I was perpetually sleep deprived and exhausted from trying to juggle so many things at once. 


Not to say that I shouldn't have worked while I was in university — if I could turn back the clock, I still would have done it, but differently. 

I would have been less strict with myself and allowed myself some leeway to use a portion of that money for leisure. 

I also would have worked fewer hours so I could spend more time with friends and loved ones. 

Sure, that would have meant that I wouldn't have been able to save up as much, or have taken much longer to hit the $20,000 mark. 

But all the money in the world can't buy you back time. 

And I feel that because I earned all that money in such an unhealthy way, I spent the rest of my 20s trying to make up for all that lost time by revenge travelling and spending.

This in turn, made me spiral and recklessly use up a huge chunk of all that hard-earned money. 

So, while it's good to hustle and set goals for an early retirement, you shouldn't put too much pressure on yourself to meet those goals. 

There's no point accumulating money and not spending it — have a balance and don't forget to enjoy the little things in life while you're at it. 

ALSO READ: How to save money the foolproof (and fun) way 

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