Money. It’s important. Whether you want to have expendable income to travel, or just want to be able to go out to eat a few times a month, you have to think about money. If you’re like me, a creative type, money can be a tough thing to stay on top of. But, believe it or not, there are really easy ways to significantly cut down on your expenses and keep building your savings and enjoying your life. These are ten money saving tips I use in my own life. They may work for you, they may not. There may be other things you’re doing that I haven’t thought of. If that’s the case – do comment!
- Use What’s In Your Pantry: I bet that if you were to walk into your kitchen and open the cabinets and doors you would find a ton of stuff. Soup, beans, rice, pasta. While packing I’ve been shocked at how many food items we have. Instead of planning recipes and going shopping, start with items in your pantry. Chickpea overload? Try making your own hummus, these snacks (instead of buying chips, pretzels, crackers, or popcorn), and chickpea cutlets. Black beans? Make them into burgers, taco/burrito/enchilada stuffing, or soup. Don’t buy any pasta, rice or other dry goods until you use all of yours. Rather than stick to a recipe, use what you have to create your own meals (pasta/rice/quinoa works with almost any veggie and sauce – get creative. Also, use pita/pizza dough to make unique pizzas). Only buy fresh produce, meat, dairy and other things you need. You’d be amazed how much this will cut from your grocery bill. Also, strangely enough: crock pots are the best way to use up this stuff.
- Hydrate: If it were up to me, I would only drink coffee, cherry Coke zero, and diet Pepsi. The weird thing? I actually really like water. And it’s good for me. It’s good for you, too. And for our collective wallets. Not only is drinking water good for your body (you are mostly made up of water and it helps keep your skin clear, flush toxins, help your digestive system stay on track, etc.) but if you make it your priority you’ll save by not buying other stuff. Water is FREE out of your tap. Sure, you can buy a filtered bottle, pitcher or one for your sink and that’s a slight cost, but way less money than soda, juices, etc. It doesn’t mean you can’t drink the other stuff, but make water your go to and allow yourself the other as a treat after hitting your goal amount. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and then water all day. If I drink enough water during the day, I enjoy something else later. Lately, though, I find I’ve been sticking to water.
- Kick Your Coffee Habit: I don’t mean not to drink it. You should drink it. It is the drink of the gods. But you don’t need to spend $5/cup at Starbucks. That’s $35/week. In a year, it’s $1820. Now, that’s one cup a day, every day. So who knows how correct the math is. But, here’s the thing: that’s a big chunk of change for something you can make at home. Invest in a coffee maker and experiment with amounts, roasts, creamers to find your perfect blend. My perfect recipe would make most people scream: instant, sugar, evaporated milk. Two ice cubes. Yum.
- Get A Subscription: I’m a product whore. Seriously. I love certain products… like lip stain and eye shadow. I seriously can’t get enough. But I am also fickle. And I rarely use something entirely. If you’re like me, and there’s something you can’t get enough of, get a subscription box. These boxes show up in your mail monthly, or every few months, and have samples of a variety of products. I use ipsy. This is a monthly box of five beauty samples in a cute bag for $10/month with one month free if you pay up front. I spent $110 back in November and since then the only products I’ve purchased are my foundation and moisturizer. Why? Because these are things I wear most days. Of note: I find myself wearing foundation less and less. I attribute that to #2. My staples are black eyeliner, lip balm and sunscreen. I haven’t had to buy any of those in months because of ipsy. Another tip: find someone else with a subscription box and trade. My friend, B, doesn’t wear black eyeliner but she does wear stuff I don’t – so we swap.
- DIY: There are some things you should pay other people to do. Like removing the asbestos from your house. And cutting your hair. But there are other things you can and should do yourself. Paint your own nails, god damn it. I know, it’s so much nicer and easier to have someone else do it. But it’s pricey, and often you are contributing to unethical labor practices. I’m terrible at painting my nails and only do it on a whim (and if ipsy has sent me nail color which is rare, thank God) but I’m learning how to do it myself. You can cut your own lawn, walk your own dog, get your own groceries… don’t waste money on this stuff. That said, time is money and if you have a deadline it’s okay to look to Fiverr or TaskRabbit, or the teenager down the street to pick up something once in a while. But for the most part, do it yourself and you’ll see a savings.
- Practice Restraint: I love notebooks. I also love pens. This is probably why I am a writer. You know what else I like? Games. I decided when I started this blog that I would share things that I normally would be a little embarrassed about if they would help readers. That’s one of them. Music games are a weakness. Like anything by Smule that works on an iPad. I also love board games. With the move I noticed that I have a shitload of notebooks. And pen(cil)s. I simply don’t need more. And so when I’m at the grocery store and I cross the office supply aisle I either keep walking or I meander and then remind myself that I have notebooks at home. If I do cave (which I haven’t in MONTHS!) I’m lucky that I have Budweiser tastes when it comes to office supplies (just like coffee). My favorite notebooks are single subject, college ruled spirals. Seriously. Don’t get me a fancy journal or moleskine. Just a 69¢ spiral notebook. And I will love you forever. I also write with mechanical pencils and bad, cheap pens. But, here’s the thing, every time I remember that I have some at home I’m a buck or two closer to my next vacation. With apps I’ve learned a trick that is priceless: shit gets old. So, always do the free version and set a long limit before you allow yourself to get the full, paid version. If you use something every day for a month, go ahead and spend the 99¢. Chances are you’ll get sick of it before you hit that benchmark. And here’s the best part: once you get sick of something and delete it you can always re-download it again later. I often go way back and replay older games rather than buying new ones. You can find them under “purchased”. With board games they are just insanely expensive, especially the independent games we love. The rule? Only purchase with gift cards. This works for us since we play hard games, like Pandemic, and aren’t even close to having tried the many iterations offered to us in the first expansion pack.
- Rethink Your Grocery Store: I stepped on my soapbox only once. Considering that this is my 1257th word in this post that’s impressive, but I’m going to say this: you don’t need to shop at Whole Foods. I’ll leave the soapbox aside (seriously practicing restraint) and point out that it is crazy expensive and while yes, there are some things that are awesome about Whole Foods, if you’re thinking about freelancing, there is a TON of money to be saved by grocery shopping smarter. I am NOT a couponer. I will never be a couponer. I can’t even get on top of my mPerks account at Meijer to have it mean anything. Recently, Kris and I made the switch to Aldi. Before you say something about how gross Aldi is, please consider these three things: First, it is Trader Joe’s. And you know you love Trader Joe’s. In fact, one of the things I see on FB most is people posting that they wish there were a TJ’s in their town (that might be hyperbole). Second, don’t knock it until you try it. My first week shopping there I got produce, snacks, stuff for three dinners, and a box of creamsicle pops. $44.00. Uh, yeah. Now, I haven’t bought their meat because, well, I am so weird about meat to begin with that I’m just not sure how I feel about Aldi’s meat but I might try it at some point. Add a store like Aldi to #1 and you’ll be flying to Paris in a month or two with everything you’ve saved. The third thing to consider? Check out this article I wrote.
- Reuse What You Can: Have dogs? Don’t buy poop bags. First, use your leftover grocery bags. Unless you shop at Aldi… since they don’t do plastic bags. Use opened envelopes for grocery lists/scrap paper instead of purchasing ready made grocery lists/message books. You’d be amazed how many things in our house don’t have to be used just once. And I’m not saying you have to go crazy with it – but using a tad of logic can save you here and there. For example, you only have to buy travel size anythings once. Then refill it. I have a small cosmetic bag for travel with an old shampoo/conditioner set from a hotel that I’ve refilled a million times. I keep a toothbrush in there, some qtips from a small qtip container from forever ago, etc.
- Practice The “If I’m Still Thinking About It When I’m Done, I’ll Buy It” Trick: Sometimes when I’m grocery shopping or have to run to the mall to get my face cleanser I will see something. Sometimes it’s fruit I haven’t tried or something at the deli counter that would make dinner way easy. Other times it’s a a cute top. I’m a Pisces which means I can be impulsive, if you believe in that stuff. If it’s not on the list (9.5 – never go grocery shopping without a list and stick to the list!) I say “No”. If I feel like saying “no” is going to be impossible, I tell myself that if I’m still thinking about it right before I check out I can get it. This works on several levels. Sometimes I forget, other times I have gotten my cold products and am ready to checkout and don’t want to walk all the way back someplace to get that impulse buy. I always get milk and meat last because I’m a freak about getting that stuff right into my insulated bag and home to the fridge. It would take something REALLY spectacular to get me to stray from this
habitneurosis. Plan your route so you pass the things you don’t need first.
- Break The Rules: If I were to follow all of these rules all of the time, I’d probably save a bit more money but be a little less happy. If you really love a dress or a pen or want to try a new meal, or are sick of chickpeas, it’s okay to buy something or eat something different. More on that in my next post about when it’s smarter to splurge and in the post after that about incentives.
Those are my ten money saving tips for freelancers – what will you try? What do you already do? What should I try?