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How ‘value spending’ helped this TikTok star save $100K by age 25

Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K, opens up about her own financial gains and shares how others can turn their own finances around. 

She's the founder of a popular financial blog, a TikTok star with over two million followers, and she has her first book coming out later this year.

To put it plainly, Tori Dunlap is a success by any measure. And if you happen to measure success in dollars, she’s been one for quiet some time.

Dunlap saved her first $100,000 by the age of 25.

On Thursday morning, she visited TODAY to share the secrets to her success and how others can see financial gains — even in times of economic crisis.

"The first thing is to get the lay of the land by looking at your money," Dunlap told Hoda Kotb. "We call it the ostrich effect, people bury their head in the sand, and they act like their problems don’t exist. So getting honest with your money is the first step."

If that first step leaves you feeling low, the next one addresses that.

"The second step is just being really empathetic and really graceful with yourself," she continued. "You’re not going to know everything about money. You didn’t come out from the womb knowing everything about how to save or how to invest. So during times of crisis, it’s really important that you give yourself that grace and then set aside anything that you can."

And she means anything.

"Automate your savings," she insisted. "Set aside an automatic transfer from your checking account to your saving account. Even if it’s $20 a month, that’s better than nothing."

That because small savings really added up given enough time, and the first thing she believes everyone should save for is an emergency fund.

"We call it paying yourself first," Dunlap explained. "If you’re giving Netflix more money than you’re giving yourself every month ... you’re at least as deserving, I would argue more deserving, than Netflix of that money."

That doesn't mean you should cancel your subscription. While some old-school financial advisors might scowl at your steaming services or daily coffee fix, Dunlap believes it's all about balance.

"You should be able to afford things that you want while saving," she said. "It’s like a diet. If you tell me I can’t have fried chicken, the only thing I’m going to want to do is eat fried chicken. So, if you tell somebody they can’t spend money, that’s not sustainable."

To that end, she recommends narrowing it down to three value categories that are important to you, the things that are worth splurging on. Because while you can afford all sorts of things, you can't afford everything.

All of those methods played a role in her own financial achievements.

"It was a lot of things," she said when Hoda asked about her early success. "The first thing is privilege. My parents helped pay for college, but I was also working three jobs while I was in school. I started saving. I invested as soon as I could. I opened up a Roth IRA at 22, and then I focused on that value spending. So I still traveled to Costa Rica, I still hung out with my friends, but I set aside that money every month."

One of her helpful parents even joined her on TODAY Thursday. 

Dunlap's mother, Janeice, is a TODAY fan, and a Hoda fan in particular. So as the TikToker gained more fame, Janeice kept asking her when she'd finally visit TODAY.

Hoda Kotb meets Janeice Dunlap, Tori's proud mom.
Hoda Kotb meets Janeice Dunlap, Tori's proud mom. Nathan Congleton / TODAY

"I promised four years ago that I would fly her out when I got on the plaza," Dulap told Hoda. 

And just like with her savings, she stuck to the plan.