Saving money is hard. It requires planning, sacrifice, and self-denial. If it’s one of your goals, there are articles, gurus, apps, and books galore to help you, but ultimately you need to help yourself.
Saving money is not only about delaying gratification. Adapting a simpler lifestyle by choice can be gratifying in and of itself. Here are the best ideas I can share that helped me save money while leading a richer life.
1. Form Your Own Opinion on Advertising and Consumerism
Advertising is easily internalized. I often wonder if my whole style has been hijacked by this impulse when I write about places to go or things to buy. When I buy things on the feeling that a fancy conditioner or pair of jeans will make me a better person, I know I’ve been persuaded. Watching critiques of consumerism like Jacques Perretti’s (highly entertaining) BBC docs helped strengthen my opinion that I don’t need a lot of what is being sold. Advertising will give you plenty of reasons to buy all the time, so take time to learn about these tactics and form your own opinions. Another example, watching a “Story of Stuff” perspective on bottled water helped me chose to opt for tap over $2.50 bottles of Evian.
2. Cut Out Comfort Eating
Comfort eating is perhaps different for everyone, but for me it involves snacking between meals I don’t need or eating more than I need to in one sitting. When I’m in a cheapskate state of mind, I’m less likely to pull out my wallet for ice cream on the weekends and more likely to stretch a big portion into two meals. I have noticed a slight weight loss just from being more money-conscious. Since this is the natural result of cutting down on some unhealthy habits, I feel better everyday.
3. Cut Out Excessive Drinking
Drinking goes along with snacks and desserts as an expensive thing to consume with little to no nutritional or health value. Cutting it out all together can be hard, but even cutting down is a great way to save money on dinners, cabs, and after-hours pizza. You’ll feel healthier, thinner, and have more time and money to spend on worthwhile endeavors.
4. Make Your Space a Minimalist Haven
Books on minimalism and tidying up are more popular than ever. When you buy a lot of things you don’t need, no amount of organizing and reorganizing will suffice. Especially if you live in a city like New York where tiny apartments are the norm, it’s easy to suffocate in stuff. I noticed I was buying a lot of outfits, just to become tired of them and give them away in a few months. Breaking the cycle by simply buying less stuff is more efficient. Not only will you save money, but you gain back hours of your life sorting and reorganizing a cluttered collection of stuff.
5. Walk and Bike
I’m a very big fan of biking in particular. It can require an initial investment, but if you are thrifty, this cost is small. Once you get started, biking is a zero cost, zero emissions and fast way to get around. It doubles as a great form of cardio. I bike to work as a way to fit in a workout when I would otherwise be sitting on the subway. Walking has all the same benefits but takes more time (and may require a change of shoes), so it’s probably better on the weekends. You can save money on a transport and a gym membership/ spin classes, either way, while getting the invigorating benefits of exercise.
6. Invest in Hobbies
Hobbies can be expensive, but once you get past a few barriers to entry, it pays to be able to entertain yourself. Running outside and surfing are weekend mainstays (more so when it’s warm!) that provide me with more long-term satisfaction than brunching. They are also basically free because I own sneakers and a surfboard. Writing is another hobby that is even less cost-prohibitive and a terrific outlet for personal development.
7. Eat Like A Vegetarian
Have you ever noticed that the least expensive items on a menu are usually vegetarian? Even if you are cooking for yourself, meat is generally expensive and spoils easily. Carb-dense foods are less expensive and you can eat smaller portions. Even if you don’t want to go completely vegetarian, eating like one more of the time is better for you wallet, the planet, and your digestive system.
8. Create Self-Sufficient Habits
Self-sufficiency makes your life better in more ways than just allowing you to bank more of your paycheck each month. It gives you peace of mind. Being used to washing your own clothes, fixing your own food, wearing few outfits having a no-fuss grooming routine certainly makes traveling easier. Then, if your financial situation were ever to drastically change, savings aside, it is comforting to have processes in place that let you spend very little money to get about your life to begin with.
9. Cultivate Gratitude
If you are in the position to save money by cutting out superfluous things, it can be a great exercise in recognizing all the wonderful privileges in your life. Even if you don’t feel that way right now, the exercise of assessing how you use your time and money to find where you could cut back will show you where and how much you are above subsistence. No amount of money can make you happy if you are not cognizant of how much you have, and how much your really need.