How To Really Save Money
To save money, you don’t get the Starbucks coffee. Not even the Dunkin Donuts coffee, and certainly not the cold brew from the fancy place. What you do is you pull the 15.00 hot beverage holder out from the back of your pantry. It’s behind all the Tupperware. You get up 10 minutes earlier to brew the coffee with the old half-bag of hazelnut sitting next to the machine. You eat toast instead of getting a croissant. Or you drink the watery coffee in the break room. Or try tea. I know you have tea. And maybe you don’t drink any coffee if there’s no coffee at all. Well, maybe just on Mondays or Wednesdays. You’re allowed some joy.
To save money, you say no. You say no to vacations. You say no to concert tickets, even seats that are far away and cheap. You say no to happy hour. You say no to the movies. You say no, I’m busy. You say no, not this week. You say, “do you want to just take a long walk instead?” You say, “do you want to come over and watch all of one television show?” Or you sit at home and you work on the things you’ve been meaning to work on. Your book. Your podcast. Your painting. Your website. What you do not say no to is your future. You do NOT say no to one day, later, one day you’ll have it, one day you’ll get there, one day you’ll be okay.
And you do say yes to some things. You say yes to finally hiding your credit card or taking it out of your wallet. Maybe you say yes to looking for a weekend job, or a bartending gig, or more on your plate. Maybe you say yes to more hours and less free time. Maybe you say yes to that meeting you’ve been holding off—the one where you ask for a raise. Maybe you ask for a raise. Maybe you start looking for a better job. Maybe you won’t find it, but maybe you will.
To save money, you take the cash out of the ATM that you want to spend for the weekend. You learn to calculate how many drinks that means, or if it means a smoothie and a matinee and a bucket of popcorn. Or maybe it means a face mask and a giant liter of soda. You learn what you really want is a 2.00 bagel instead of a 14.00 brunch. Oh, for god’s sake, enough with the brunch.
To save money, you write everything you bought down for a week and see what you’re doing wrong. You budget your groceries and your subway pass and your birthday gifts and your bills. You calculate what you might need—new contact lens solution, new work pants, medications, a haircut—before you need to buy it. You take stock of what you have in your house. You leave a little space for error. You try to build a small emergency fund.
To save money, you cook. You cook all the stuff that’s already in your pantry in freezer. You do not go to the store and buy a hunk of goat cheese and French bread and olives on Tuesday. You look in your pantry and you see the pinto beans and you’ve got one tortilla in the fridge and you eat that, tonight. You note that you have rice and tomato sauce and frozen mixed vegetables and you meal plan around what you have. You meal plan and you say no to take out. You say no to the 15.00 pasta dish. You say yes to the bag of orzo you never finished up. You learn to grocery shop better---to pack lunch and hardboil eggs and bake tofu that lasts all week. You freeze. You buy freezer bags and things in bulk. You eat dinner before you leave the house. You skip the late night pizza. You can, of course, buy the 99-cent bag of Cheetos with the change you have in your purse. You save all the change you have. You collect it in all the places you leave it around the house and you put it in one place.
To save money, you walk. Not late at night, maybe, but you walk the six extra blocks to the grocery store with the cheap produce. You walk to a walkable place instead of taking the subway. You walk instead of talking the gym class. You walk to clear your head.
To save money, you cancel Spotify. You cancel Netflix. You keep the heat on as little as possible. You turn all the lights off. You don’t use all your phone data. You take quick showers. You get your priorities straight and you never sacrifice the things you need most to survive: doctors, therapy, bills, hot water? Yes. Or maybe a ride home to see your mom. Or a night with friends that you need more than anything. A book that will make you happy. You know what I’m talking about. To save, you don't always have to deprive. You just have to prioritize. And yes, sacrifice.
To save money, you work with the things you have. You learn to use thick nail polish by dropping a bit of acetone in it. You learn to sew buttons. You look for that second glove under the couch. You use the extra bottle of shampoo that you don’t like but don’t want to throw out. You put water in the dish soap to make it last longer. You don’t buy a new phone charger or new sneakers because they are almost broken. You don’t buy much—certainly not new lipstick, certainly not cute new clothes, certainly not things you just…want. You learn to want less. To save money, you learn to want less.
You tell people you want to save. You tell people you’re not going because you’re saving money. You don’t let people sway you. You learn what is important. You learn what you desire. You save your money however you can and for whatever reason you need to—whether it is because you don’t have much or because you want to have more. You can save, you can sacrifice, you can still have nice things and treats if you need to, you can do it, you can do it.
Above all, you can do it.