Thursday, March 31, 2011

the inexpensive life

In case you slept for the entire month of March (and I'm sincerely so jealous if you did), this would be the only thing you missed (besides that pesky "war" in Libya). You got it, it's the super cool remix of Rebecca Black's FRIDAY, with a new spin: GANG FIGHT!!!

Anywho, if any of you are like me, you're living on a budget. A pretty tight one. There are lean weeks, and leaner weeks (usually when I pay my rent). But you know what? This is part of living in a city, part of being out on your own, and part of not deserving any more salary than you are making. Sometimes the blogging world seems a lot about material goods and things you can buy. But, the reality is, even in the gluttonous consumer world we live in, sometimes it's irresponsible just to go out and buy buy buy. So I'm doing things on the cheap right now, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun interesting. And there are plenty of ways to pass the days...FREE.

1. One of my favorite freebies was The New York Times. They recently set up a paywall  (which doles out 20 free articles a month. Easy, I thought. That'll last me about a week. Sadly, it lasted me one morning. And that was Tuesday.), which is good for them to make money.  Lucky for us, the online subscription isn't too too expensive ($4 for 4 weeks I believe). If you're wary of doling out that kind of bucks, the Boston Globe is still free, as is CNN and the Huffington Post and almost every other online news source. But they won't be far behind NYT.

2. I don't just window-shop. I fondle-shop. As in, at lunchtime I walk over to some favorite clothing stores and touch all the clothes. Everything's so pretty, and I just imagine wearing the pretty spring skirts and pairing them with pretty blouses and feminine ruffled tops. Sometimes, out of spite (especially if I'm cranky), I pick a few things up and deposit them in all the wrong places in the store. But mostly, if I stay long enough, I get desensitized to that want want want NEED feeling and feel happy when I leave with nothing. Which is way better than the guilt of swiping the card.

3. I've drastically cut back my food spending. First, I don't buy food during the day. My office provides coffee, and I always bring lunch--usually leftovers or a PB sandwich, and that saves, at the least, about $20 a week. I've reduced my grocery bill by not buying frilly food. I eat a lot of pasta and a lot of rice, but I'll buy a couple veggies, too. I'm simply not a glutton with my food anymore. It wasn't worth the hit my wallet was taking, and chances are, not worth yours too. I still make delicious food, I'm just creative and cheap about it. My advice: for 1-2 weeks (I can usually make mine last almost 2 weeks) buy the following: 2 boxes of pasta, a loaf of bread, a pound of chicken breast, something for breakfast (a big carton of yogurt, or English muffins, or eggs for scrambling), a jar of  tomato sauce (my fave is Barilla Tomato & Basil), and a couple select veggies, like zucchini, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, and any cooking essentials you might be out of at home (i.e. salad dressing, olive oil, garlic cloves, milk, etc). I ration the tomato sauce by combining it with minced garlic that I cook in olive out--it makes for a much simpler, light, tasty sauce. I just get creative with what I'm making, and I don't waste food.

4. I don't really buy music (but I don't steal it either!). I listen to Pandora Radio and Youtube songs I want to hear multiple times. If you have a favorite radio station from your home city, lots of them stream online. My all time favorite streaming radio station is WMVY (duh, the Martha's Vineyard radio station).

5. My roommate and I pulled our cable. It's a huge amount of savings. Plus, many TV shows are available online. And no TV leaves room for more books, more writing, more knitting (which I FINALLY learned how to do) and getting OUTSIDE. If there's a show you really have to watch, hike on over to a friend's with TV. Or don't watch it. It doesn't really matter in the long run.

6. For the time being, I've decided to pick one night a week to go out, which is usually Saturday. I love going out with friends, and I'm a naturally super social person, but cutting back is cutting back, and two nights a week can get pricey! I'd rather save my money for going out more this summer.

7. There are so many other things you don't have to "splurge" on. Do your own nails. Wash your socks and underwear, if you're running low, in the bathtub. Go to the library instead of Barnes & Noble (it took me years to make myself do this...but now I'm addicted). Now that spring is coming, we'll spend more time in parks. I'll take friends down to the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty (and MAYBE that really cute guy...nahttt). I'll go to the museum for a dollar. If you can walk or take the subway or take the bus, DO NOT take a cab.

The essentials in this early post college life, I believe, are this: rent, bills (loans, credit card, etc), food, fun. Splurging on non-essentials (and, sometimes, even splurging on essentials) just isn't a good way to live. I have to remind myself that I have to earn splurges, that splurges are a privilege, and not take what I have for granted. The most important thing I've learned when trying to manage my money independently is not to get stressed out, but to simply budget better. Don't buy things you know you can't afford. Think long and hard before a big purchase. And hope, hope, hope that this will be a good foundation for being responsible with money in the future.


  1. All of that is so true! I have been trying to budget every dollar coming it and put most of it towards loans/in savings... I'm not going to lie, it's very hard. Especially when college seemed like Disney World, magically food came from a little card, but it feels good seeing how much money I am saving/paying down my loans with. Keep up the good work :)