A few weeks ago I proposed 32 Free-Spirited Ways to Seriously Save Money. Since there is no limit to how much money you can save in a lifetime and since I’ve truly perfected my money-saving skills, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to share some more. Some of these are very obvious, but are worth mentioning, because they are the easiest to forget. Keep this list in the front of your mind as you go about your day-to-day and happy saving!
1. I <3 my Local Library: When you don't have much money the word "variety" doesn't really have a place in your vocabulary.
Does anyone remember that Arthur TV show where they sing that song “Having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card?” Well it’s true! (and… it probably isn’t too hard to guess how old I am right now…) The library is probably the only place you can walk into and bring home anything that is on the shelf. Also, if you are unemployed or just have a lot of free time, you can use your time at the library to your advantage–reading up on a new skill or discovering new possibilities for yourself. Wins all around!
2. Step Out of the Kitchen: As counterintuitive as it may seem, a lot of restaurants will sell you three meals’ worth of food for less than what those meals would cost to make at home.
Chinese, Mexican, and African restaurants are all great places to find under $10 plates. Indulging in restaurant-perfected recipes is delicious and also cheaper than most last-minute meal options available at grocery stores. Plus, you’ll save a bunch of time preparing meals for a couple of days so you can work harder and make more $.
3. Share your Room: This isn’t going to be an option for everyone, but during times of transition this option can work well.
I once shared a room with a close friend of mine for one month while looking for a more permanent housing option. He had a girlfriend and was never there. I used the extra money to buy new clothes and furniture for the room I eventually moved into.
4. Be Creative with Your Dates & Social Outings: Not every date has to be this big to-do.
Some of my best dates have been Netflix & tea hang out sessions or even just walking around in nature doing stupid things. Learning how to speak in different accents via Youtube is probably my favorite thing to do with another person when I can’t afford a more interesting option.
5. Become a Virtual Beggar: Do you really need something, but don’t have the cash to buy it at the moment?
Log on to Facebook or any other social network you are a part of and type: “Hey, does anyone have ______ that they are trying to get rid of or would sell for cheap?” In my experience this works about 30% of the time and every time it has worked, it has saved me loads of money. You can also offer a trade of something your friend needs or whatever service you have to offer if that makes you feel less “needy.” Putting yourself out there is challenging, but it is often rewarded. It never hurts to try. If you’re really freaked out by this concept try adding: “Sorry guys, I know this is annoying …” as a preface to your request.
6. Swap Clothes: I was a little skeptical about clothing swaps until I actually attended one.
I brought a bunch of awful clothes that I had been meaning to get rid of anyway- including some more expensive items and threw them on a heap in the middle of the floor to be mixed with my friends’ discarded clothes. The timer was started and we began to dig. I still wear some of the items I found on that day. I also have received a ton of compliments on a few pieces jewelry I grabbed at the swap. If no clothing swaps exist in your area, set some up. Having a potluck sort of situation is a good way to round off the night… and a good play list!
7. Small Town Thrifting: Forget about Williamsburg thrift stores–sure they do the work for you and find items you will certainly love, but they also charge you way too much for that shit.
I like going to my old hometown (population 2,000) for my thrifting experiences. I have found some of my favorite shirts and paintings at a church rummage sale in an even smaller town. Guess how much my absolute favorite shirt was (it’s even made its round on some fashion blogs)… 10 cents. Get out there and start digging. There is definitely treasure to be found.
8. Pickle it!: This works best if you have a garden or are part of a CSA.
Most gardeners save money during one season of the year. They give out a ton of their surplus vegetables to their friends to not be wasteful, often forgetting about traditional food preservation methods. I picked up pickling when I had way too many cucumbers to count. My uncle had just started an all-organic garden and was giving me vegetables on a daily basis. Pickling was awesome mostly because I was able to eat pickles for free for over a year. You can pickle more than just pickles too and the health benefits are pretty impressive. And yes… I have seen this before:
9. Order on the Side: Sometimes the biggest and best meals I have had were a combo of side orders.
There’s a Dominican restaurant by my place that has the best beans and rice, which together cost a whopping $3. The serving size could last me 4 days if I ate a normal amount. If you want to eat food fast and are not in the mood to prepare it, see if the side order option can work for you. If you have food allergies the side order menu can offer you really great allergen-free options as well!
10. Fire it up: I am not a fan of leaving the heat off, but if you really need to save money this is one way to penny-pinch.
Heating up naturally is as easy as wearing the right kinds of clothes and using great bedding materials–wool and down are probably my favorite picks. Properly insulating windows and door frames and drinking copious amounts of your favorite teas helps too. My best tip for keeping warm naturally though, is cozying up next to a fireplace (if you have one) or lighting a bunch of candles and throwing on some classical music records.
11. Cool Down like a European: I did a lot of research on cooling down without air conditioning last summer when I didn’t have an AC or proper air flow in my apartment.
The best suggestions I have are taken from Europeans. Back in the day Europeans very smartly built their living structures with high ceilings. Since hot air rises, all of the hot air would have a place to go. Although most of us cannot rely on the structure of our apartment to cool us, there are other cooling options available, which are also inspired by Europeans. Eating the right foods is one of them. Cucumbers, grapes, watermelon and water are the best things to consume on a hot day. Also, you can hang up wet sheets and towels over your windows. When the hot air passes through the damp cloth it is naturally cooled down. Pro-Tip: It is actually not recommended to eat ice cream on a hot day, but you should do it anyways, because ice cream is delicious.
12. Do More Digitally: Printing out papers, sending mail and meeting people places to discuss things can secretly end up costing you money.
If you can get away with sending a quick e-mail in lieu of paying for stamps, travel expenses and copies of documents- try to go that route.
13. Actually Sleep at Night: This one goes out to all of the night owls that are paying way too much for electricity.
If you actually sleep at night you’ll save at least a little bit of money and your light bulbs will last longer too.
14. Wake up at Work: Sure, when you live closer to work you’ll save money on your commute, but I am actually talking about living at your place of unemployment.
I spent one summer working at a summer camp where all of my living expenses were covered. My bedroom was a yurt and it had no electricity. Despite that, my summer was amazing. I literally got to go swimming and be around nature every single day. I saved a ton of money too since I didn’t have to pay for anything. If you are young and bored one summer this is definitely an option to consider, plus you can make a lot of interesting international friends depending on where you choose to work. Cruise ships, farms, ski resorts, meditation retreats, and working as an au pair are all similar live-at-work options available to nearly everyone.
15. Turn Your Travels into Profit: If you happen to be going somewhere and you work in promotions, sales or even in the creative fields–try to look for ways you can make profit while on the road.
I have done this with playing shows, promoting products and reading tarot cards. In doing so you open yourself up to new experiences and you’re bound to learn more about the geography of the place you are visiting.
16. House sit: You can work to make money and house sit to save money while traveling, which is exactly what I did during a road trip I took a few years back.
I stayed in NYC’s Upper West Side for 10 days for free–right next to luxury hotels. Luxury hotels are awesome, but I preferred the apartment since I had a living room, kitchen and my own laundry facilities! You really have to put yourself out there to find house-sitting opportunities (maybe try tip #5), but it can be done. House-sitting offers a non-touristy feel of whatever city you are visiting, so if you are thinking of moving somewhere new this might be a really great opportunity for you to consider. I did eventually move to NYC! Coincidence? I think not.
17. Turn Ugly Clothes into Lovely Clothes: Once upon a time I owned the ugliest skirt conceivable to all of mankind.
Like literally, I would fear wearing it out in public, but it was expensive so I kept it. One day, buzzed on caffeine, I took a pair of scissors, cut out the inner lining until it was just past the mid-thigh point and left the outer lining flowing to the ground. The results were astounding. I received many compliments on my “new” skirt and people kept asking me where I bought it. I ended up being ahead of the trend, as a few months later similar skirts showed up in clothing stores. Your own creativity can go along way and who knows, you may very well have a precognitive eye for fashion.
18. Pretend You’re Vegan: I don’t believe that eating vegetarian is always going to be healthier- everyone’s body has different needs, but it is good to give your digestive system a break from animal products every now and again.
So if you want to save money and clean out your diet a bit then try the vegetarian or vegan option, they are often much cheaper than their meat-filled counterparts on restaurant menus.
19. Ban Supplements: One thing I learned from my short stint as a raw food vegan, was that it is by far much healthier to get your nutrition from real food- if your body is functioning properly and already quite healthy.
First of all, why would you spend $60 on a vitamin that you could get from consuming a couple of eggs every now and again? If you are partaking in veganism for fashionable reasons and are spending way too much money on supplements, maybe re-think your motivations and make a few adjustments. Also, you may not even be absorbing vitamins the way you think you are. I found my body was able to absorb B12 much better by eating animal products than by taking supplements. It won’t be true in every case, but something to consider if you’re not feeling optimal.
20. Try Friends-giving & Friends-mas: It’s so much fun to travel back home for the holidays, but it is also expensive.
Try Friends-giving or even Friends-mas. It’s super easy. You basically just replace your family with friends during the holiday in consideration. For Friends-mas you could ask everyone to bring a dish and their own booze, make dollar store white elephant gifts an option (but in no way mandatory), and make sure the setting is as festive as possible. Friends-giving is similar, but without the need for extensive decorating. I enjoyed a perfectly delightful Friends-giving at a friend of a friend’s house and I left with more friends and a ton of gratitude.
21. Make your Own Salad Dressings: Why are salad dressings so expensive?
If you have a blender, blend whatever leftover herbs and garlic you have with a bit of honey, a blend of vinegar or citrus and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and you’re good. Some other favorite ingredients include: mustard, tahini, olive oil, toasted sesame oil, white miso, raw honey, stevia, salt, pepper, dried herbs, sun dried tomatoes, dates, balsamic vinegar, white pepper, rice wine vinegar, braggs liquid aminos, etc. Try simple combinations and build from there, the goal is to find the perfect combination of sour, sweet and salty with just enough oil to perfectly coat your salad.
22. Dollar Store Lifestyle: I will admit it.
I have never truly loved dollar stores, but I’ve recently lived in some neighborhoods where the Dollar Store was probably my best option for buying household items. Dish soap, toilet paper, kitchen items (aside from food), washcloths, aluminum foil, etc. -are all items that in no way need to be brand name or cost more than a dollar. Save up some money by shopping at the Dollar Store and spend it on your under $10 restaurant meal (see tip #2).
23. Learn how to Say “No”: Saying no is a skill that one has to practice in order to learn.
By saying no to social invitations you forgo the need to purchase tickets to shows, drinks for yourself and others, expensive meals and subway fares. If you’re really in “saving money mode” stay at home for a bit and work on your employable skills. I’ve spent my most recent stingy days perfecting my resume writing skills, searching for jobs online and sending out tons of applications and you know what? It’s paid off! By saying no perhaps you will not only save money, but set yourself up for making money in the future.
24. Forget about Pets: Dogs and cats are so cute and lovely and it is so easy to crave their company–especially if you are saying no to social events and sitting around at home to save money.
Trust me though, dogs and cats are way more expensive then their cute little faces show. Even though you have all of the time in the world to take care of a pet if you are unemployed or working from home, a pet will end up costing you a lot of money in one way or another. You will thank yourself (and me) later by waiting just a bit longer until you are more financially stable to get one and you’ll be a much better pet owner if you can actually afford to take your pet to the vet when it needs to go. I’ve seen Kickstarter’s to help pay for my friend’s pet’s medical bills. Guys… just don’t. Be patient and you’ll have your dream dog one day, plus you won’t annoy your friends by begging them for money!
25. Obtain Unemployment Ö: I was kind of sad about how many of my friends shamed me for applying for unemployment.
If you are a motivated person who is actually looking for work–unemployment exists to help you! If you’ve lost your job due to lack of work or were fired for relevant reasons I definitely suggest seeing if you are eligible for unemployment. I’ve used my days on unemployment to work on my various skill–sets, apply for jobs that I am actually interested in and to spend hours at the library becoming a student of life again (see tip #1). Using your unemployment money to help you get to what you consider is “the next level” is something that should be congratulated. I will tell you however; applying for unemployment can be an arduous process so, be thorough in your application process and best of luck!
26. Volunteer: Volunteering can save you money in subtle ways.
Volunteering at an independent film store can give you access to hundreds of obscure film titles for free and volunteering at a radio station can give you full access to all of your favorite music and concerts for free. Most importantly, almost all volunteering opportunities help to build handsome resumes. Follow your interests to find the most rewarding volunteer opportunities.
27. MK & Ash your lips: Mary Kate and Ashley know how to do the perfect lip tint and you can too.
Plus, this trick actually saves you money by stretching the longevity of your most expensive lipsticks. To get the perfect “anytime” lip all you have to do is–apply a layer of Burt’s Bees (or your favorite chap stick) to your lips and then dot on your favorite lipstick. Rub the two layers together with your finger to blend together. Use more or less lipstick to make this look more appropriate for night or day. Your lipstick will last a lot longer and the look is super natural. You can easily get the “I just ate a popsicle” lip using this trick. My favorite color to do this with is any red that has a strong orange undertone. Experiment with different colors to find your best match. Pro Tip: Rosebud salve is also another great substitute if you aren’t totally in love with Burt’s Bees and is a common lip product in a free-spirited woman’s beauty bag.
28. Create a “Buffer Zone”: Always have money in savings and a number in your head that you won’t let your bank account dip below.
When your money starts to dip below that set limit pick up a couple of extra jobs to reinforce your finances a bit. Keeping this “buffer zone” or money you consider “non-existent” will help you in any cases of emergency and will also help you to have a little stability especially if you are indeed free-spirited and your life is a bit crazy. Honestly, if you don’t have a “buffer zone” at the point of reading this then I suggest making it your priority to start working towards one. At the very least have $2,000-$5,000 in your account that you don’t ever touch. Take a few months to save up and then continue with your thrifty ways and you’ll have better peace of mind and more flexibility when you need to make larger purchases. Just. Trust. Me.
29. Sell Things: There are probably 3 kind-of expensive items in your room at current that you could part with and your life wouldn’t get any better or worse.
Establish what those items are. Be really honest if you could sell them and use the money to go towards your “buffer zone” (see tip #28) or to purchase something that you actually need. If there isn’t a need to hang onto something often letting go can be for the best way to go both mentally and financially.
30. Don’t Waste Your Doctor’s Time: I have a sister that for some time was going to the doctor every week.
For a moment there I was getting really concerned, but I soon found out she was going to see the doctor about almost anything. Most of the time the doctor would just send her home saying, “You’re fine” or just give her some kind of antibiotic, which would send her back to the doctor weeks later with a yeast infection. If you have a bit of a cold there is probably no need to go to the doctor. Your body has mechanisms to fight that stuff off and sometimes it is best to just strengthen those mechanisms by letting your body go ahead and fight while you rest and watch movies all day. Of course if symptoms persist by all means go to your doctor, but try to determine whether or not you will be wasting your doctor’s time by doing so, because if you are wasting your doctor’s time, you’ll most likely be wasting your money.
31. Become a Receipt Collector: Plain and simple–we all buy things and sometimes those things suck or break or whatever.
Most stores let you return those items, but not without a receipt. So always keep your receipts. Receipts are like dollar bills that fade away with time. Until you are 100% sure you love something you’ve purchased just keep the receipt taped on it if you have to. I’ve done this before and it works like a charm. Pro-tip: Also strive to fill out any warranty paperwork on time, it’s annoying, but it nearly always comes in handy in one way or another.
32. iMessage From Afar.
Some of you already know what iMessage is, but for one month while living out of the country, I just shut off my phone entirely- relying on e-mail and Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends. Instead what I should have done (and eventually did do), was turn my phone onto wi-fi and used iMessage to text my friends back home. iMessage is an Apple service that works on all iOs devices and is essentially a way to text for free while you are traveling. Now that I am back in my country I text all of my foreign friends on a daily basis using this service. It is definitely my favorite way to keep in touch while traveling the world!