Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to live poor and not feel like it (so much)

photo: Omer Wazir

In the four years that Lindsey and I have been married, we have yet to make more than $30,000 in a single tax year.

This might surprise some of you who know us because we don't, to my knowledge anyway, look poor - unless you count driving up in our awesome 15-year-old car.

Along the way, we've picked up some habits that make living frugally more enjoyable. Here are some of them:

1. Hulu instead of cable.
Keep the Internet. Kill the cable. All of our favorite network shows are available online, and even some of our favorite cable shows like Psych are free on sites like Hulu.

Plus, since Hulu is on demand, it's like having a DVR.  If you have an old desktop computer (or can get your hands on one), it will probably be perfect for a home media PC connected to your TV.

2. Good toilet paper.
A few items are not worth scrimping on. The couple of bucks you can save by going generic aren't really worth it when it comes to the comfort of your tushie.

3. Ice cream.
We stay stocked on ice cream. Nothing fancy, just store brand or whatever is cheapest. This makes home a happy place to eat and live.

4. Netflix, not movies.
We have subscribed to Netflix rather than going to movies. Some movies are worth the big screen date, such as The Avengers, but other movies aren't. Is The Proposal any funnier 30 feet tall than it is 3 feet tall? I say "no."

5. Cook at home.
Eating out is a huge expense that is easy to curtail. If you're insanely busy like we are, take one Saturday per month and make a bunch of freezable meals or sauces. If you have friends who do the same, you can even trade with each other to introduce variety.

Don't go premade either. Ingredients for lasagna are cheaper than frozen lasagna which is cheaper than Olive Garden. Ultimately, this is usually much healthier too.

6. Work on the side.
If you have a skill that people will pay for, pick up occasional side jobs. Teach a guitar lesson. Plan a party. Take care of someone else's kids. Then have a little fun with that money if you can afford to.

7. Haunt clearance.
We don't buy clothes full price unless we absolutely have to. I would guess that 75% or more of my wardrobe is from clearance racks at Target, Old Navy, or Kohl's. It's my personal mission to never pay more than $10 for a shirt.

The only time I break this rule is if it isn't worth buying lower quality. I will pay $25 for jeans if they will last me three times longer than the $10 clearance pair.

8. Learn new things.
You might be more capable at small automotive repairs or cooking than you think. Only use professionals if the risk is greater than the savings or if you will lose money or do poorly at your job without it. I.e. If riding the bus to work makes you late, get your car fixed.

9. Split meals.
Look up the nutritional facts for your favorite restaurant dish. A lot of times they're more calories than even two people should consume in one meal.

When you do go out on a date with your spouse or significant other, split the meal. It gives you a good excuse to sit close. Don't stiff the waiter in the tip, though. Be conscious of the fact that you took up one of their tables for that time period. Frugality isn't an excuse for stinginess.

These tricks won't magically shrink the size of your rent, mortgage, or student loans.  They can't make health insurance affordable.  But if you're struggling with life feeling just a little unmanageable, then they might help tight budgets feel a little roomier.

What do you do to save a little money?

1 comment:

  1. Scott and I were just saying that we are horrible at having fun, mostly because it costs money. Thanks for sharing!


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