I have to say, I take so much pleasure in people realizing what I complete cheapskate I am, because my life really is extravagant in so many ways. The reason for this is that I cut expenses in other ways that free up money for some fun things like (albeit affordable and practical) travel. Here is my list of what I do to keep costs down, so that fun things can be more of a priority. Enjoy!
1. Don’t use your dryer. Yup, I wanted to start off with a bit of a shocker… You read correctly. I do not use a dryer. Mine broke way back in June, so I bought an IKEA drying rack in a pinch, and haven’t looked back once. Sure, it’s mildly annoying to air dry everything, especially sheets, but when I realized it cost approximately $8 every time I ran my dryer, I decided to try going without. My electricity bill is markedly lower, and I feel like my clothes look much better and will last longer.
2. Adopt one simple rule: If you’re eating solo, you’re cooking. A large part of the pleasure of eating out is being in the company of friends. Save your dinners and lunches out for when you can really enjoy the entire experience. Your solo meals don’t have to be anything fancy.. My go-to are Trader Joe’s chicken fingers and roasted broccoli. Both can be plopped on a cookie sheet and baked at 425 for 25-30 minutes, and viola! Low calorie and delicious dinner for about $2.50. Going Solo in the Kitchen: A Practical and Persuasive Cookbook for Anyone Living Alone-with More Than 350 Easy, Delicious Recipes and Strategies for Food Shopping, Storing, and Recycling also offers some really great recipes. Note: this also makes a great gift for a college grad!
3. Buy in bulk. Think about what you use a lot of and stock up at Costco. For me, I make smoothies every morning, so I buy my frozen organic fruit (organic berry blend and pineapple) and organic frozen spinach in bulk. My dog is also pad trained, so I get those there too. I also eat a ton of roasted chick peas, so I buy a dozen or so cans at a time at Costco. Another bonus of Costco are things like discount movie tickets and restaurant gift cards. The one near me isn’t great when it comes to either, but my friends in Houston go to Costco before every time they go to their favorite Mexican restaurant because the gift cards at Costco are $100 worth of food for $75. Not a bad deal (IF you’re eating out with friends ;)!
4. Change that gym membership! Is working out important? Absolutely, but do you really need to do all those group fitness classes? Be honest here… Are they fun? Yes. Are they motivating? 100%. But, they get insanely expensive. I know some people who pay $200+/month for group fitness. Again, I’m not knocking it. I love my ((305)) or SoulCycle or Peloton classes as much as the next person. But, I would much rather pay my $10/month Planet Fitness membership and run on the treadmill and do their 30 minute cycle on the reg, and hit up one of these classes here and there with girlfriends. Plus, there are a ton of really great resources on YouTube. This is one of my favorites, and, of course, always a classic is the Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shred
5. Scrap the cable. Yup. That’s right. You don’t need it. As a busy 20 or 30-something, how much time do you HONESTLY sit down to watch TV? On average, probably 2-3 hours a week. Are those 2-3 hours worth the $100 or more you pay for cable? Probably not. Put another way, if you had to pay $10 every time you watch a show, would you? Well, if you watch TV only 2 hours a week, that’s essentially what you’re paying. Crazy! I personally use my parents’ cable login to watch Fixer Upper and This is Us on my iPad and stream it on my Apple TV. I should also note that I have wrangled with my Internet company annually to get a low rate. You can do this too. Just be assertive and threaten to cancel if they don’t lower the cost.
6. Speaking of TV, be aware of what you’re watching. It IS influential! Even as adults, we can be swayed by what we see. This is one of many reasons I stopped watching reality television. Are they inherently bad? Of course not! I used to be totally hooked on The Bachelor and almost all of the Real Housewives shows. But, I found myself wanting to live a life more extravagant than what I could afford, and justifying expenses that I really shouldn’t have by having constant exposure to designer clothing brands and sprawling mansions. The Real Housewives live verrryyyy fancy lifestyles, and I’m just not there yet (some day!), and The Bachelor takes the girls on vacations that would be way out of my price point. Again, nothing wrong with them.. They’re fun to watch, but for me, it was not good for my budget.
7. Do not be afraid to thrift. As a self-proclaimed germaphobe, the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes really grossed me out, until a friend reminded me that that is why God (along with Alva J. Fisher–yes, I just Googled this) created washing machines and why Billy Mays (RIP) created OxiClean . I don’t thrift a ton because I really don’t want to get bogged down with too much clutter (again, I’m telling you, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing really is a life-changer). But, when I do, I often find some of my all-time favorite pieces. Seriously! The Annual Junior League of Washington Tossed and Found is my absolute favorite (and, I should note, most Junior League chapters do their own version, so search when the one in your area is!). The bag day is the best– $40 buys you a garbage bag, and if something fits in said garbage bag, it’s yours. More on this later…
8. Really, really think out your purchases. Never impulse buy. My seasonal wardrobe updates typically only consist of 5-8 new items.. Yup, that’s it. I’m an avid reader of fashion blogs, so I keep up-to-date on what’s trendy. This way, I can narrow down what I want to update and what I’m cool with keeping for another season. I will warn you, though. If you are easily influenced, fashion blogs can be financially dangerous.. Proceed with caution. A few of my favorite fashion blogs are:
All that’s on my list for spring updates are an off-the-shoulder chambray top and white jeans. I’m sure I’ll want some minor accessories too, but I’m pretty happy with my current spring/summer threads.
9. Use cloth napkins. Our school had an assembly last year that had to do with Pope Francis’ encyclical about our over-consumption (Laudato Si), and this really got me thinking about the amount of paper towels I go through. I’ve stocked up on both cheap kitchen towels from IKEA (the 75 cent ones), and pretty cloth napkins, which I pack with my lunch every day. Now, I go through a roll of paper towels a month, which is insane, because I definitely went through a roll a WEEK before.. How cute are these Cotton Craft Napkins? I love that they come in a big bulk, and in so many fun colors. While paper towels might not be a huge expense, I find buying them just annoying enough to avoid as much as possible.
10. Meal plan! (and carry a water bottle with you at all times). I’ll be writing plenty when it comes to meal planning in upcoming months, but the short version is this: You usually know what you have going on throughout the week, so plan accordingly. By far the thing I am tempted to spend the most on is snacks and drinks when I’m out and about. If I know I volunteer on Tuesday evenings, for example, I can make a dinner that I can bring with me, like a veggie wrap. If I don’t do this, I definitely will stop at a sandwich shop, and buy something that is both more expensive and more caloric than if I had just brought something from home. Before you embark upon your week, sit down, see what you have going on, and prepare for the nights that you can’t eat at home. Also, always bring a water bottle with you! Keep it in your purse at all times. How cute are these water bottles? I have one that I loooove, and it saves me from buying a $1.25 bottle of water every time I’m out and about and thirsty.
Shhhh.. I added a little bonus tip: Diva Cup Yup, I just went there. They take some finesse, but save a TON of money in the long run. I will spare any detail out of respect for the whopping two gentlemen (my dad and my boyfriend) who read this blog.
Alright, there ya have it. These little tidbits have been my saving grace when it comes to freeing up money for other things. I would love to hear your tips in the comments below! Thanks for reading!