One of my early adult formative experiences was receiving my first paycheck—the largest I’d ever received at $743. That thrill of seeing the money deposited in my sparse bank account didn’t last long, though—I wasted the money on video games and eating at expensive restaurants.

In the following months, I mishandled my paychecks in numerous ways. While I had good intentions, I never seemed to get anywhere with my savings or budgeting.

In the search for financial progress, I returned to one of my original money influencers, Dave Ramsey. Though I’m no longer a big fan of Dave’s methods, he profoundly affected my financial decisions early in my money-making years. My first goal was to make his first prescribed Baby Step®, a $1,000 emergency fund. This seemed overwhelming—it was more than I typically made in a month. Could I do it?

With this goal in mind, I gave up many of my comfort purchases and cut back on my favorite restaurants. And within a few months, I had finally reached my milestone. I deposited the lump sum into my savings account. With an impending wedding and honeymoon to pay for, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t touch this money unless I encountered an actual emergency. While the amount has fluctuated with emergencies and windfalls, it’s remained an integral part of my finances.

The Art of Saving Money

From achieving this goal of saving $1,000, I learned the art of saving money.

Saving that $1,000 emergency fund taught me that I can save money, and I can save a lot of it if I need to. While $1,000 isn’t a large amount of money, you’d probably enjoy $1,000 sitting in your bank account if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

There’s a good reason that this $1,000 emergency fund is on the top of almost all personal finance gurus’ to-do lists. Saving this amount is hard, but it’s not so hard that it’s impossible for most people. If you’re living in the U.S. and have a steady job, you can certainly save $1,000. It might take several months, but this is where your financial journey truly begins.

We all possess the ability to save money to buy something we want, but we rarely save cash that goes untouched. Before you can ever hope to make a positive change in your finances, you must first learn how to hold on to your money. What better way to do this than by building up a fund that’s “just for emergencies”? Whether that’s its eventual use or not, every day you go without spending this money is a victory for your finances and your willpower. If you can responsibly hold on to $1,000, you can do the same with $100,000.

The $1,000 goal is vital because while saving, say, $100 is nothing to scoff at, it’s not as compelling. You might feel proud of yourself if you’re able to leave $100 untouched, but this won’t change your bad money habits. It won’t get you out of debt. It won’t allow you to retire.

One thousand dollars holds power. For some people, $1,000 provides food and shelter for a month. For others, it’s several months’ worth of expenses in a foreign country.

As you continue saving month, you continue building a robust financial life, and you can look back and know, like me, that it all started with the very first time you saved $1,000.

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