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I’m a frugal person, and I’m always looking for ways to cut expenses. I don’t buy my lunch, I never buy things in boxes at the grocery store, and I’ve started many frugal traditions with my friends. I believe that simplicity is one of the keys to happiness.
I think that many people, when they start to get serious about their finances, think that they have to sacrifice everything and sit on the floor in an unfinished studio apartment to save money. But that’s simply not the case. I think the key is to find cheap solutions to expensive habits that make you feel like you haven’t sacrificed anything. I’ve found that you need to treat yourself. Not because you deserve it (or anything else you told yourself when you were swiping your credit card with abandon) but because life is meant to be cherished. You’ve got to be happy. Because, believe me, if you’re not happy while you’re getting out of debt, the point in which you become debt-free is not going to be your place of happiness.
So, reframe the issue. Turn the expensive habits into treats (which they should have been all along!) and you get to end the month with $400 more in your pocket.
1. Buying Books vs. The Library
Books (and eBooks) are expensive! Especially if they’re new releases. You can easily spend $20-40 a month on books that you’ll read once, then add to your shelves for clutter. Go to the library instead! They have books, they have eBooks, they have friendly staff, and you can get anything you want. Put the new releases on hold and read one of the other thousand titles you haven’t yet read.
Cost of buying books: $20
Cost of checking out books from the library: $0
Monthly savings: $20
2. Going to the Movies vs. Redbox
In my area, a movie ticket costs $10. And I never go to the movies alone. So we’re talking $20 just for the tickets, and that’s if I have enough willpower to resist the delicious smells of movie theater popcorn. Instead, I can go to Redbox (and those things are conveniently located everywhere!) and rent a new release for $1.20. Then I can have a movie night (complete with way better snacks) at home!
Cost of going to the movies: $20
Cost of Redbox: $1.20
Monthly savings: $18.80
3. Getting Manicures vs. Buying Nail Polish and DIY!
Getting a manicure and a pedicure is a real treat, and one that adds up very quickly. It’s so expensive, and it’s just my luck that on the first day, I’ll end up chipping a nail. There’s no need to do regular manicures, though. Not with the slew of amazing colors of nail polish out there! Have you seen the Essie polish? It is so gorgeous, and $6.
Cost of a mani/pedi: $32 (including tip)
Cost of a bottle of Essie: $6
Monthly savings: $28
4. Housekeeper vs. Roomba
I recently looked into hiring someone to clean my condo once a week, and stopped asking once I heard two people tell me that it would cost $100 a week for my 1000 square foot home. There’s no way I can justify $400 a month! I have been really busy lately, and the condo does not look awesome, but I could not bring myself to spend that money. Instead, I bought a Roomba for $344, and now I vacuum every day. Roomba does a really good job keeping the floors clean, and now I’m more inclined to keep everything else in the condo in order, to match the floors. I never vacuumed daily before (who does that?) but now that I just have to push one button, I do.
Cost of a housekeeper: $400
Cost of a Roomba: $344
Monthly savings: $56 the first month, $400 every month thereafter
5. Gym Membership vs. Running
Gym memberships are such a racket. You have to pay an initiation fee (which calls to mind some sort of bonfire chanting ritual) plus an ongoing monthly fee. Gyms make their money by selling more memberships than they could fit into any gym. Why? Because they know you won’t go. And they know you won’t cancel, even if you don’t sign a contract, because you’ll feel too guilty that you’re not going. You’ll think, “no, I can’t cancel, I’ll go next month,” and you might! But you’re almost always better off just paying a drop-in rate, or running outside. I love the way the cool fall air feels in my lungs. The dog loves running outside (and I can’t bring him on the treadmill!).
Cost of a gym membership: $45 a month
Cost of running: $0 (no more money than having gym clothes & shoes)
Monthly savings: $45
6. Wine by the Glass vs. Buying a Bottle
A glass of wine ordered in a restaurant can cost you $10-12 a glass. The first glass you order pays the restaurant’s cost of the bottle (known as the “first pour” rule). With four glasses to a bottle, they’re making three glasses of profit! That’s fine for the restaurant, but not for you.
Instead of drinking wine out, go to the wine shop. Ask a few questions. Learn about the lower-priced wines. Buy a bottle and take it home. If you drink four glasses of wine a month, you’re way better off with the bottle.
Cost of four glasses of wine out: $40
Cost of a bottle of wine to drink at home: $10
Monthly savings: $30
7. Spa Treatments vs. Girls Night In
The price of a facial these days is outlandish. And why would you want to do a facial when you can mix up your own face masks at home, using organic ingredients? You can invite some girlfriends over for an at-home spa night. Check out Pinterest for some great recipes, and have a blast!
Cost of a facial in a spa: $95
Cost of doing facials at home: $15 for ingredients
Monthly savings: $80
8. Going Out to Dinner vs. Organizing a Potluck
Do you have a big group of friends that you don’t see as often as you’d like? Instead of getting together in a restaurant, combine forces. Do a potluck! Organize something where everyone can pitch in. Create a theme, and assign one couple to each course. Instead of having to pay $35 in a restaurant, each couple can pick up ingredients for their contribution for $10 and you’ll get to spend more time socializing and less time dealing with crowds!
Cost of going out to dinner: $35 per couple at a mid-range place
Cost of a potluck: $10 for ingredients plus free labor (you made it!)
Monthly savings: $20
9. Buying a Latte vs. Getting Home Latte Equipment
Everyone has heard of the latte factor by now. We’re making ourselves poor, $3.50 at a time. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Once you buy the espresso equipment, you’re all set. I recently bought one of those Italian stovetop espresso machines for $20. I figure, the Italians are the ones who invented drinking espresso, so I can’t go wrong with their tools! Then I bought a milk frother for the microwave for $10. That seemed like a silly purchase, but oh my goodness I have been making delicious lattes at home! My first latte was nowhere near perfect, but I got better, and now I like my at-home lattes at least as much as the fancy ones! And my pint glasses are the perfect vessel. It’s a little at-home coffee shop.
Cost of a latte three times a week: $42
Cost of making lattes at home: $4 for a gallon of milk, $16 for a pound of coffee
Monthly savings: $22
10. Swanky Drinks at the Bar vs. Home Bartending
In the restaurant industry, they call mixed drinks liquid cash because they can charge a lot of money to make something that costs very little in terms of ingredients and takes the bartender less than five minutes to concoct. I love having a cocktail out. It’s fun. But what is more fun is finding recipes for delicious drinks at home, heading to the liquor store, and mixing drinks for my very own patio! I’ve been into drinking Manhattans lately, which contain bourbon, sweet vermouth, and a cherry. I can put ice in mine at home because I love ice, and I don’t have to see a bartender scowl in my general direction.
Cost of a Manhattan in a restaurant: $11
Cost of the ingredients to make 17 Manhattans at home (750ml of bourbon yields 17 shots): $29 for bourbon (I like Maker’s Mark), $8 for sweet vermouth, $8 for bitters, $6 for cherries
Cost of one at-home Manhattan: $3
Monthly savings: $80, if we have 10 Manhattans a month (which, for me, is a fair estimate)