This post is aimed more toward my “20-Something” readers who may be (like me) clinging tightly to their itsy -bitsy finances like hipsters to their oversized eyewear. Apologies in advance to anyone with real financial responsibilities (mortgages…children…) — you may be unimpressed.
I have mentioned before that the Bohemian lifestyle comes with its costs. Had I followed through on the Manhattanite job offer, I could be living the Carrie Bradshaw dream, well on my way to paying off student loans and settling in every night to 1000-count Egyptian Cotton sheets. Of course, the choices I make never seem to match up to general expectations — I never choose the easy route. That said, I may be broke, but I am not broken…
While scanning through the blogging world, I stumbled upon a quote by Oscar Wilde (who is probably the most over-quoted individual in the history of people who have ever been quoted, but this little sentence sets the stage for a topic I have wanted to write about):
“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”
First, a few thoughts on that green stuff:
Is money the most important thing? No, definitely not; But without a dime, it can be difficult to accomplish the real “important things.” While I cannot speak for everyone, I have identified three umbrella items that important to me:
- Survival: A girl’s gotta eat! A girl’s gotta sleep (somewhere safe)! A girl’s gotta get some exercise! All this takes a little dough, and you cannot live without it. You must take care of your body — when you respect your body, it will respect you back, and it will take you everywhere you want to go.
- Loved ones: What are we without the love and support of those whom we love in return? “Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love really was the answer to everything,” (Ray Bradbury). Keep your loved ones close — visit them, call them, write them — because loving relationships are the core to our happiness and the foundation of support for every leap we take. “All you need is love,” (and a maybe sandwich…).
- Goals: Goals are dreams with a plan. Keep dreaming. Never stop dreaming! But remember, your dreams deserve purpose; they deserve a plan; they deserve a deadline (before you are dead)!
So back to the quote. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. I suffer from “Muh-fundz-ah-low,” (get it?). You should have seen how excited I was to receive a package from my grandmother of sweaters and granola bars! Despite a few financial struggles, I have worked out a routine where I can cover my expenses, build a nest-egg, and have a little fun! With all the adventures on my to-do list, I had to get creative and find a way to live “above” my means.
Here’s the tricky part: “There are three kinds of people in this world: The have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-yet-paid-for-what-they-have’s.” Don’t fall into that third group — “debt” is not synonymous with “imagination.” By stacking personal loans and credit cards, we give ourselves the illusion of living like kings when actually, nothing we have belongs to us. “Own your life, or someone will own it for you.”
So, how do we miserly people go about accomplishing this?
Living Rich on Little: Some pointers from a 20-Something with pennies in her pockets and a smile on her face
1. On paying your bills (on time!):
Open a checking account separate from your usual personal accounts (try a University Credit Union. Fees are almost zero, interest rates are low, and they are extremely easy to get in touch with), then set up an EFT (electronic funds transfer) between each bill and the new account. Every month, I transfer exactly what I need from my personal account to the separate account. Technology takes care of the rest. Out of sight, out of mind, taken care of!
2. On saving money (and not spending it):
Treat savings like a bill. Every month, send the same amount of cash to a far-away savings account to which you have no debit card attached (University Credit Unions also have savings accounts!). Send it away, then forget about it. Treat it like it belongs to the bank — you will be surprised to see how quickly it piles up!
3. On traveling:
Sooner or later, you will have to travel — and if you have never traveled then you are missing out on the world! Whether it be for family or for fun (or for both!) plan your big trips as far ahead as possible and try your best to budget down to the penny. If you don’t trust yourself to save the extra cash, buy yourself VISA gift cards (up to $50) and pack them away until your trip (Just don’t lose them!).
4. On “the essentials”:
We need food. We need shelter. We need to have a little fun! A few lessons I have learned along the way:
- Avoid buying a car as long as possible. Ride a bike! If you must have an automobile, consider a Vespa (80 miles to the gallon! And easy maintenance)
- Always have potatoes, rice, and pasta on hand. Buy meat in bulk and freeze it. Purchase produce as needed, and go for the quart of milk if you are buying-for-one. You will never go hungry, and your groceries will never spoil.
- Call your grandmother and ask for a few easy recipes with minimal ingredients (aim for lasagna/meatloaf/enchiladas type grub). Take those recipes, double them, cook up a feast, and freeze 90% of it…again, you will never go hungry.
- Gym memberships are always a waste of money (unless you go for the month-to-month $10 deal at Planet Fitness…that is the only gym I have ever seen that is not trying to rip you off).
- Learn to love running. It’s a beautiful, free country out there! No matter where you are, no matter how crazy the weather may be, someone will be running. Make a friend!
- Speaking of a free country, did you know it is also free to hike and bike and swim and play kickball and practice yoga and do cartwheels in most of the United States? Go play.
- Never pay more than $11 for a bottle of wine.
- Always buy your beer on draft
- Be a good tipper and make friends with bartenders. They’ll be your saving grace between paychecks.
- Respect the store-brand groceries… It’s all the same. Read the ingredients. They usually match.
- Join your city’s entertainment facebook pages or read your local newspapers to find free music events and street festivals. They are happening ALL THE TIME, everywhere.
- Pack your lunch.
- Floss (Dental is expensive).
- Shop at clothing exchanges (buy/sell/trade) when you need to update your wardrobe. Always cool. Always affordable (I love the Buffalo Exchange in Austin)!
- Learn how to “upcycle!”
- Wait until the movies come out on Netfilx. Unless The Sandlot make an appearance in theaters again, you’re probably not missing out on too much.
- Host potluck dinners with friends rather than going out to eat together. It’s more fun anyway!
To my readers who have been there before, any other suggestions? I may have made some progress, but I am learning every day. Financial situations will change over and over again — approach them with a plan, and be thrifty (even when you have the extra cash). Deep breath! Smile! Everything is going to be ok.
One last closing remark:
“If your rent and bills are paid, there’s food on the table and clothes on your back, and you don’t have any money leftover, don’t let anyone tell you you’re broke — you took care of business!”