Teenager saves $10,000 in eight months
WHILE her peers are burning through cash as quickly as they earn it, Ellen is carving her own path.
The first-year university student, who recently turned 18, has tucked away $10,000 in just eight months - all without giving up her social life.
Ellen took part in money blogger Canna Campbell's $1000 Project challenge, which encourages savers to set an ambitious goal and break it down into manageable chunks.
"I took one big financial goal and I broke it up into baby goals which were parcels of $1,000. I looked at ways to save money and earn extra money beyond the limitations of my current salary," Ms Campbell said.
"And every time I had over $1,000 saved up from doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things, I went and invested that."
Working just seven hours a week in her casual job, Ellen said that $1000 sounded too intimidating and worked with $100 chunks instead.
She used her wages for living expenses and started looking for ways to make extra cash, ploughing every extra dollar earned into her bank account.
"As soon as I started doing it, I just found all this money," she said. "People were texting me about tutoring and baby sitting. It was just amazing to go from not having a savings plan to having abundance."
She said it became easy to find extra cash once she started "respecting money", ensuring she knew how much she had and exactly where it was going - even taking care to line up the notes in her wallet "in the right order"," the teen said.
And she stopped buying lunch at uni, instead prepping her meals in advance and heating them up in the microwave on campus.
As an unexpected bonus, Ellen said, she got to know her neighbours and made friends through her new money-making activities.
"I've been working since I was 14 but I didn't have any savings, I just spent it all, so it's just amazing that I have money there, and if I wanted to go on a trip, I could just do that," she said.
"You get so much freedom from actually having savings."
She admitted it wasn't always easy to say no to unnecessary spending, especially when surrounded by friends who liked to "throw their money around".
"Sometimes that's hard, even going shopping with them and they just buy everything," she told news.com.au.
"It's a mindset thing. My mindset now is that I don't want to waste my money on things I know I won't love, cherish and use."
Ellen used Marie Kondo's KonMari method of decluttering - in which people throw or give away any items that do not give them "joy" - and sold unwanted belongings on Gumtree to boost her savings.
And she said she was still able to enjoy an active social life, Ellen said.
"I just fund the things I really value, like dinner with friends, and save money when I'm by myself by making my lunch and not spending on extra makeup and clothes," she said.
Now the engineering student has set an even bigger goal: saving $100,000 for a home deposit by the time she finishes university.
That's $20,000 a year for five years, and she's calling it the "$500 project" because that's the amount she will focus on saving in gradual increments.
Visualising the "beautiful house" that she'd be able to own one day kept her motivated, Ellen said.
And for anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps, she said "It is challenging at the start, but it gets easier."