I’m 25. I want to travel the world, be creative and have endless free time to question my life, watch Netflix and hang out with my friends, but… I live in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Here are some tactics I’ve practiced in order to save money. They haven’t made me rich, but some have created positive change in my life and all have given me more time to follow my passions. Here they are for Better (+) or Worse (-).
1. Switch from tampons to the Diva Cup.
+ Tampons’ reputation has long been tarnished by knowledge that they may cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. Diva cups carry no such threat and are also great for women with heavy periods. It is easy to go through a ton of tampons each month, which can be expensive. If you take care of your Diva Cup it takes years to replace even at its very affordable price.
2. Rent furnished only.
+ The possibility of traveling when you please without the financial burden of a lease & saving money because you do not have to pay for furniture is a perk of renting furnished. Sometimes the person who is subletting their place is also getting rid of their furniture, so you might have some items to bring to your next place.
– Furniture having bed bugs, uncomfortable mattresses & finding a room with furniture that fits your needs are all complications that arise when subletting a furnished room.
3. Become a master of the shears.
+ After your hair gets past the shoulders it’s really easy to notice and trim away split ends regularly. Taking care of your hair reduces the number of haircuts you will actually need so when you do need to reshape your hair you can spend enough money to get a great cut. Nothing is as aggravating and money sucking as having to pay someone to fix a bad haircut.
4. Starve. Eat less when you have less $.
+ In most interviews I have read with people who have lived past the age of 90 there is a common thread- calorie restriction. When money is low, I tend to eat less and embrace it, knowing that perhaps it will make me live longer.
– Sometimes I go without food too long and it isn’t even for vanity’s sake I get really tired and feel completely ungrounded. This tip isn’t recommended.
5. Work for food.
+ Picking up restaurant jobs can be a great way to supplement income and choosing the right one can go really far when it comes to saving on groceries. I once worked at a raw vegan restaurant where all of my meals were free. My skin was glowing, my body was happy and I always had fresh, organic food to eat.
– If you have a restricted diet like I do (gluten-free, lactose-free) it is harder to find jobs that cater to your diet. The allure of free food may make you lower your food standards. This can cause adverse side effects such as bloating, headaches, lethargy, etc. If you have food allergies you know what I am talking about. Soy makes my temples itch!
6. Become a clothing snob.
+ Bypassing the temptation to purchase clothing with trends and instead purchasing fewer, more expensive items is one of my favorite money saving tips. It’s counter-intuitive, but over time you can see tremendous savings. I invested in a pair of really great boots for $400 and have been able to wear them for over 2 years. They still look brand new as opposed to a Topshop pair that lasted 3 weeks. I stick to buying classic pieces that won’t go out of style and are easy to blend with my existing wardrobe to create endless outfit combinations. I temper my love for high quality & designer clothing, with a willingness to buy all of my basics (tank-tops, t-shirts, leggings, etc) for very cheap. I really find no need for a $75 plain white t-shirt.
7. Learn how to cook bone broth soup.
+ Bone broth soup is an incredibly healing and amazing food that is really cheap to make. The broth itself is like gold in terms of what it can do for you health-wise. You can live off of a pot of bone broth soup for over a week if you store it properly & it is an excellent healing elixir for people with digestive issues and gut imbalances.
8. Dump out the espresso in favor of drip.
+ Drip coffee lasts longer as a sip-able drink. Also, with drip coffee you’re less likely to turn it into a latte or fancy drink with a bunch of extra sugar that would be more fun to consume in scone or cookie form.
9. Become a “frequent” everything.
+ Keeping frequent customer cards takes very little effort and time and it always pays off, whether with a discount or a free gift. My favorite frequent customer cards are from smoothie shops. They’re expensive and I always feel stupid to pay so much for them when I am in a hurry, since I make amazing ones at home. To temper that guilt with a free smoothie every now and then works for me.
10. Live life from the free box.
+ In 2014 language that means refreshing Craigslist’s Free section until something you need pops up. This sort of reminds me of hacking Neopets in the library as a highschooler, which is maybe why I get so addicted to it, but sometimes it really pays off. I was able to furnish my entire room for less than $100 thanks to Craigslist’s “free” section and on one occasion, while picking up a free side table I was offered a very strong Beefeater martini and 20 minutes of conversation. Anyone in their right mind would have refused, but it was actually awesome and the table is lovely.
– You can meet creepy people via Craigslist. Watch out for bed bugs my friends.
11. Become a master of trading.
+ I love to do creative things, but don't always have the skills to accomplish the overly ambitious visions I often set out to create. I've learned to become a master of trading. Trading a remix for a remix, a song for an album cover, a day of modeling for an animation, etc. When all you have to barter is your skills it is better to barter with the best people around. The collaborations that come of this exchange can be surprising.
12. Slay functional fixedness. Learn how to use objects in unintended ways.
+ I love seeing a new possibility in an object whose destiny is already carved in stone. I’ve used stacked drums and guitar cases as tables before, which were actually really pretty. I also recently found a strange wooden rack outside of my apartment. I meant to use it as a type of shelving for a video shoot, but it ended up being the perfect cooling rack for my laptop when I am recording music. Slaying functional fixedness opens doors of massive creativity and problem solving.
13. Embrace grandma’s closet, storage space & garage.
+ If your grandma is the right age you should be able to find, hidden under some seriously tragic outfits, a handful of classic pieces that can slip perfectly into your wardrobe (which at this point is comprised of cheap basics and very high-end timeless numbers). This year I found a silver fox fur coat, a Woolrich plaid jacket and a handmade onyx ring while digging around in my grandma’s forgotten things. They are all absolute treasures.
14. Carefully calculate when to buy.
+ Asking customer service reps about future specials can clue you in if there is a better time to buy than the present. Patience is a virtue.
15. Eat organic on “special” occasions. (When organic is on special)
+ I am one of those people that has actually noticed a difference in how I feel when eating organic. You can feel better and (sometimes) support really awesome business models by eating organically.
16. Love the internet. Satisfying your craving for instant gratification without buying books, E-books & magazines.
+ What can’t you find on the internet? How long would it even take you to read all of the articles on Thought Catalog? Speaking strictly in terms of instant gratification, there really isn’t much need to purchase more entertainment than what you might find during a casual surf of the internet.
17. Do yoga in your underwear.
+ Yoga studios are expensive. Save money by doing yoga at home, in your underwear, pajamas or whatever you want to wear. I like watching yoga DVDs and youtube videos to help guide my practice. Yoga has always been very personal for me so it has made sense to shift from a studio setting to a more private one. If you aren’t into yoga there are also a ton of resources for at-home workouts.
– Some people may have a harder time practicing at home or are not at the level to be able to practice without supervision and therefore can risk injury.
18. Train > Taxi.
+ Train is cheap. It’s fun to listen to an iPod on the train.
– Trains are a slower and often more inconvenient than a taxi. Also when I am in a taxi in NY I feel like I am in a movie, maybe because I am not from here. In a train I miss this feeling.
19. Take marathon errand-running excursions.
+ Consolidate your errand running to one day. This requires planning in advance and being organized. Doing so will save you time and gas money or if you don’t have an unlimited train pass, it will save you money on train fare.
20. Be fiscally reliable.
+ Paying bills on time cuts out late fees. Cashing checks on time saves you from losing those checks and then having to pay a check cancellation fee.
21. Give refurbished gear a chance.
+ When it’s not necessary to purchase gear new (I live in music gear world), see if there are any factory refurbished options. Often stores will sell them to you with a warranty or guarantee that the item will function properly. I have purchased refurbished items off of Ebay with no problem and saved a lot.
22. Fall in love with retirees. Purchase last year’s model of high-end gear and get it for half the price.
+ I was made privy to this money-saving tip this year when I was purchasing a new sound card for my computer. Many stores have earlier versions of gear that are brand new. Sometimes the parts will all be the same as in the newest models, but there will be a slight software change or they were made to be compatible with newer computers. It’s a good thing to look into if you are a nerd about electronics, but don’t always have the budget to indulge yourself. Create good relationships with sales people at your favorite stores for the best results.
23. Turn travel into a tour de transport. Be willing to take more than one mode of transport while traveling.
+ For me this can mean I take the train to a taxi to a plane to another plane to a car to another car to my hotel. If you love the adventure of switching things up and being flexible you can really save a lot of money this way.
– This can be terribly inconvenient.
24. Learn how to sleep well on a couch.
+ Using couch surfing responsibly can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars while traveling and you can really make life-long friends. I took a road-trip by myself across the US and couch-surfed the whole way. I’ve been able to return the favor multiple times and I am still friends with everyone I stayed with.
– I can’t recommend you won’t end up in strange situations and you will eventually sleep on some seriously uncomfortable couches if you do this long enough.
25. Carry on with just a carry-on.
+ You can cut out a lot of baggage fees this way. It’s also a lot less stressful to not have to worry about checking another bag and anxiously awaiting it at baggage claim. Traveling light is also less physically demanding.
26. Always say yes to the travel voucher.
+ Whenever airlines start begging me to switch flights in exchange for a travel voucher, I always seriously consider it. Not only can you save time by doing this (trading layovers for non-stop routes), you can also upgrade to first class and save money on future trips. Always negotiate, they will often work with you and you can increase the amount they’re offering.
– It’s a hassle booking flights with a travel voucher. It’s best to call the airline when you’re ready to use it to make sure you know what you’re doing.
27. Become a Jane of all trades. Instead of paying someone to do it, learn how to do it on your own.
+ This is how I learned how to produce music, how to prepare raw vegan food, how to speak French, etc. The possibilities here are endless. Do not believe you have limited potential. At least try to push yourself in an area that you feel intimidated by and something will come of it.
– It’s hard.
28. Learn how to style dirty hair.
+ I’ve talked to a lot of hairdressers who have told me it is good to let your hair get a little greasy. Also sometimes it is easier to style when it’s a bit dirty. If you use fancy shampoos you can make them go a long way by washing your hair less, which doesn’t mean showering less.. just FYI.
– Dirty hair can often look… well.. dirty. There is also such a thing as too greasy…
29. Use clairvoyance while shopping. Buying things you know you will use in advance.
+ This is investing now to save later. I do this often with bulk foods or basic items like socks, pens and even hard drives.
30. Diversify the shopping experience. Shop at Asian & Latino marketplaces for groceries.
+ They are often way cheaper and you can expand your culinary knowledge by learning how to tackle unfamiliar ingredients.
31. Sober up.
+ Alcohol is really expensive and cutting back saves you loads of money, headaches and possible regret. Save drinking for when you can celebrate a financial boost!
– Not drinking can me less opportunities to hang out with friends unless you want to sit there and drink water.
+ Not succumbing to impulse purchases is probably the most important tip of them all, which requires an appreciation of non-material things such as- relationships, creativity and your own spirituality. It is also the path to deep peace.