by: Carly Maria Hubbard
So, you’ve taken the plunge and moved out on your own. Maybe you’re going straight from your parents’ basement to a studio in a new city, or maybe you’ve done the whole dorm/roommate thing for a few years and have finally had enough of fighting over utilities and the T.V. remote. Either way, it’s the first time you alone are responsible for all the financial yuckiness that comes with true independence. Suddenly everything seems outrageously expensive and you remember every single cent you pissed away on every stupid purchase you ever made in excruciating detail. (The $5.50 I spent on a faux-leather wrist cuff that had “Mrs. Bloom” on it when the first Pirates movie came out still haunts me.)
In any event, here are some random tips to help reign you in from spending your rent money on, well, things other than rent. I’m no expert, a just a gal living alone, wondering where all her money went…
Carry Cash Money, Bro
Seriously, ditch the plastic and pay for things with money you actually have. Yes, it’s a good idea to start building good credit as soon as you can, but that really only works out if you can actually pay your credit card bills in full every month.
Plus, people are much more conscious of spending money when they are physically handing over cold hard cash. No pain, no gain. Suffer through separation anxiety over that crisp $5 bill, and you’ll be more cautious about what the next one goes towards.
Kick the Bottled Water Habit
People, not only is buying bottled water extremely harmful to the environment, it’s straight up murder on your wallet. If you buy a bottle everyday at $1.25 a pop (which is just the cheapest price I’ve seen in recent memory) you’re looking at $456.25 a year spent on WATER. You guys know you can get that shit for FREE, right? Look, do yourself a favor and buy a reusable bottle and take it freaking everywhere with you. Hell, if you’re a big fan of H2O, get two. (I myself probably have around 6 different water containers in my cupboard- don’t judge me.)
Embrace Your Inner Julia Child
If you’re a student, just starting out at a new job, still unpacking from a move, or just straight up lazy, it’s tempting to order in. Every single night. Maybe for three meals a day. Two weeks straight. Listen, that 10 bucks you spend on Jimmy Johns may not seem like much in the moment, but it all adds up.
Why not try actually cooking? You’ll spend far less on groceries than you would on take-out or delivery. If your schedule is crazy hectic, try cooking a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday (or whatever day works for you- I’m not a mind reader) and either freezing or refrigerating them in tupperware.
If you have absolutely no cooking skills, stock up on frozen meals, even those are cheaper than daily take-out (and it’s ready much quicker!). If all else fails, there’s always the classic college dorm room staple: Ramen.
Wean Yourself Off Starbucks
I don’t really need to spell this one out for you, do I? You’re already aware of how overpriced their coffee is. If not, I can’t help you. Moving on.
Some people just can’t function without their salon quality hair products. For other people, it’s a weekly date night with your flavor of the month, imported beer, or a yoga class the gym membership doesn’t cover. (For me, it’s the fancy-shmancy cheeses at Whole Foods.) Whatever your luxury pleasure of choice is, there’s no reason you can’t give into it without completing going Godzilla on your well intentioned budget. Just be smart about it.
Make a trade. If you’re going to spend $35 on shampoo and conditioner when you could buy Sauve for less than $10, forget about that new pair of shoes you saw at Macy’s. Or resolve to not going out with your gal pals next weekend. Or pick up an extra shift at work. Or buy off brand gel and mouse. Whatever works for you.
(And yes, the occasional Starbucks indulgence won’t wreak you- happy?)
Be the anti-Finch
So, you know Paul Finch in American Pie? Unless you spent your high school years slapping the salami to posters of Farrah Fawcett, chances are you know what I’m talking about. As you’ll recall, Finchy had some serious issues visiting the little boy’s room at school. That’s fine and dandy when you’re still listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax forms, but when you’re footing the bill it pays to take price shortcuts whenever they present themselves…I think you all know where I’m going with this. You’d be surprised how quickly one person can go through a roll of toilet paper and how pricey that morning duke can start to feel.
Collect the Coups
I’m not saying devote your entire life to stockpiling cases of toothpaste like those peeps on Extreme Couponing. Just save the ones that print out with your receipt and occasionally glance through the paper. Don’t turn your nose up at 50 cents off milk: every little bit helps. Make the off-brand choice and pay attention to what’s on sale. Get a Dominick’s/Jewel/Whatever Card and get a few dollars off your total purchase. Easy.
This may be the most painful tip for some and the easiest for others. In our age of Hulu, Netflix, and other online streaming sites, there’s no justifiable reason to spend 50 bucks or more a month on something you could be getting for free. Netflix is only $7.99 a month (and let’s face it: most of you probably piggy-back on your friends’ accounts anyways, so you’re not even paying that little bit).
John Lennon told us: all you need is love.
I say: all you need is the internet.
Carly Maria Hubbard is a third year college student studying God-knows-what at DePaul University. An out and proud bisexual, Carly is a deeply spiritual pluralist and raging feminist trying to reconcile herself with the secular and patriarchal world we all live in. She loves performing and writing and has had two of her poems featured in Token Art Magazine, an student-run online publication. You can stalk Carly on Twitter at @Carly_Maria and follow her faith-based blog at http://altarations.wordpress.com/.