How My 4 A.M. Routine Is My Biggest Money-Saver In One Of America’s Most Expensive Cities

I want to begin with a caveat: I do not believe that everyone in the world should wake up at 4 AM. I began this routine due to particular circumstances, and now, after following it diligently for a year, I’ve realized that it has helped me to save money in a variety of ways. You don’t need to adopt my routine in order to adopt these money-saving strategies, and I hope others will be able to tailor these to their schedules, too.

All that being said, I wake up at 4 AM every weekday. This is primarily because I work in finance, so I’m expected to work market hours despite living on the west coast. This is also partially because I have chosen to live in San Francisco, despite the fact that my office is located farther south. Furthermore, I do not own a car. I’m from the east coast, and the act of moving across the country was daunting enough to me without having to also buy a car, find parking, and get insurance as well. 

Breaking down my super early morning routine

As such, I wake up at 4 AM, get ready for work, catch a bus to the train station, get on the first train that leaves from San Francisco, and walk ten minutes to my office once I’ve reached my station. All-in-all, I can usually get to work at 5:45 AM. I don’t always need to be in the office at 5:45 AM, though. Sometimes, I have meetings at 6 AM and need to be in the office that early. But for the most part, I stop by my gym at 6 before heading to work and manage to be at the office at 7 every morning, giving me enough time to prepare notes for our daily morning meetings at 8. I can leave work as early as 3 PM, which I generally do, and if I’m able to time the train and bus correctly, I get home by 4 PM.

What this schedule means, for me, is that I typically need to be in bed by 8 PM if I hope to get a sufficient amount of sleep. I know there are a lot of people who can function on 7, even 6, hours of sleep but I need a full 8. Ideally, even a full 9. As a result, from Sunday-Thursday, I find myself declining invites to happy hours, dinners, or other events that would otherwise cause me to rack up my spending during the week. 

Early rising = fewer opportunities to spend

Most of my friends in the city work for tech companies, so they get off work around 6 PM. If they want to meet for happy hour at 6:30, even if I manage to pack my breakfast, lunch, and outfit for the next day before I leave, I almost never want to stay for just one hour. What’s more, I need to commute back to my place, change into pajamas, remove my makeup, brush my teeth, etc. I enjoy having my nighttime routine, and having to rush it and sacrifice sleep just to spend an hour or two with friends isn’t worth it to me. Not when I can make plans with the same friends on a Friday night, or sometime during the weekend. 

Just think about how often, during the work week, you go to happy hours, meet friends for dinner, see a movie, or participate in some other type of after-work activity. Even if you’re meal-prepping your own breakfast and lunch, there are still ample opportunities to spend money after work hours. Now think about how much money that adds up to, especially over the course of a full year. If you’re spending $10-$25 a night on happy hour or dinner, that’s easily $40-100 a week outside of meal-prepping or weekend expenditures. In a month, that adds up to $150-400, and in a year, that’s close to $1,500-$5,000. 

Find a routine that helps you prioritize what’s important

While my schedule has made it hard to make friends, it has allowed me to prioritize my health, my budget (which has meant I’ve been able to pay off my loans!), and my overall well-being. I spend my afternoons and evenings cooking myself dinner, catching up on TV, speaking to my east coast family, and volunteering, since I have a lot of spare time during which other people are typically at work. What’s more, the fact that I don’t spend money at all between Sunday evening and Friday afternoon (outside of my transportation costs which I count as “monthly costs” versus daily or weekly costs since I pay for monthly transit passes) means that I’m able to spend during the weekend, guilt-free. After all, I don’t get to see those friends or participate in those activities otherwise. 

As I stated, I don’t think this schedule will work for everyone. But I do think perhaps others who work in finance or investment banking can relate. After all, having to work specific hours or specific days of the week means you likely have a different schedule than other young professionals and your friends. But for me, that lack of alignment with schedules makes it easier to save money than if my schedule was similar to my friends’. I’d feel much more tempted to see them often and spend more money.

But if you’re really hoping to save money in a big way, try changing your schedule! Maybe begin going to the gym before work and going to bed earlier, or begin going to the gym after work during typical happy hours, or find volunteering opportunities to occupy your time outside of work on weekdays so that you’re busy pursuing passions rather than spending your hard-earned money. Despite the many difficulties and trials of my schedule, it has allowed me to save a significant amount. I genuinely believe that modifying your schedule can be the major difference that allows you to begin saving hundreds of extra dollars every month. It’s certainly worth a try. For two weeks, adopt a different schedule and see if it allows you to save more. I almost guarantee you’ll see a change somewhere. 

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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