Even though our finances look a bit healthier compared to when we first got married, I’m still all about the penny-pinching. During that first year, we were spending very little and doing whatever coupon clipping that was necessary. Although those were some harder times for us, I do believe it taught us quite a bit on how to handle our finances even now. Plus, we’re not millionaires or anything, so we still try to be good with our bank accounts whenever possible.
It’s interesting being married and financially supporting someone else while living alongside singles in New York City. Their cultural way of living is completely different from our own, and it’s almost fascinating to watch. It’s very typical to spend a good majority of your paycheck on ordering food and taxi services. Now I’m not saying that’s a terrible way to live, because trust me, it sounds amazing on my end. But it’s just not a luxury we can have. And you know what, I’m really okay with it. It’s fun being the breadwinner of the family and helping my husband reach his goals. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate way of serving someone, and I love it.
But like I said, we can’t live like true New Yorkers, so we’ve had to develop some tricks along the way. If you’re living in a city, financially supporting someone else, or just want to get a hold of your finances once and for all, we certainly have some tips for you.
Become a member of your grocery store
Out of this entire blog post, this is going to be my most recommended piece of advice. Get a member card at your grocery store. It has saved us a ton already. We shop at Foodtown, which is a cheaper grocery store in the city. They are always emailing us coupons and deals for our week. Every time we shop, we look for the deals we can get with our Foodtown card. Plus, some places even rack up points for more deals. With our points, Oliver and I are able to get free stuff al the time—like eggs, milk, orange juice, butter, and even rotisserie chicken.
Don’t be afraid of store-brand products
Guys, come on, it’s practically the same thing. And it is so much cheaper. Sure some of the stuff you are going to come across won’t be the same type of quality. For example, we splurge for the good salsa, because Foodtown’s salsa isn’t the best. But for other stuff—soy sauce, yogurt, produce, even soaps or medicine—we look for store-brand. It may not seem like now much, but it really does add up in the end.
Love to buy it? Try making it
Are there a few dishes you absolutely love to order out? Chicken fried rice? Enchiladas? Tacos? Burgers? Now have you ever thought about making these dishes right at home? I know there are some people out there who have yet to even turn on the stove in their apartment, so I’m here to challenge you to try it. You know all those videos floating through your Facebook of people making food? They are great tutorials for you to learn how to cook! So give them a try.
Bring breakfast with you
Why buy a breakfast sandwich and coffee when you can just bring it with you? We save a ton of money by making coffee in the morning, and I always bring a breakfast to-go. Typically it’s a greek yogurt with some homemade granola, oatmeal, or a frozen breakfast sandwich to heat up in the microwave. Sure a simple $4 at your favorite coffee shop may not seem like much in the morning, but at the end of the month that’s $80! Think about it—what could you be doing with that $80 instead?
Check out a second-hand shop
Even if you’re no longer in college and *so* over thrifting, are still absolutely brilliant. There’s a second-hand shop in Brooklyn called Beacon’s Closet that I absolutely love. Why? Because I can find Anthropologie, Madewell, and J.Crew clothes for at least 75% to 90% off the original price tag. Do some research on thrift stores around you and find ones that take in name-brand clothes. This means they are taking in brands that you are probably super familiar with (but could never, ever afford on a tight budget).
While you’re at it, sell your clothes
If you feel like you’re swimming every time you open your closet or dresser, it’s time to sell some clothes. I recommend giving The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if you need some good pointers on lightening your load. You can make some good cash getting rid of that stuff at thrift stores that are buying, or even online with apps such as Poshmark or threadUP.
Find classic pieces, not stylish clothes
After selling your clothes and hitting up a second-hand shop, try digging for pieces that are going to be classic. Sure bell sleeves and off-the-shoulder dressers were all the rage this summer, but next summer there’s a good chance they won’t be. Look for classic pieces that look great on you that can be used again, and again, and again. Like a wide shoulder white tank top, a slick pair of black jeans, or a classic pair of black loafers.
If you already have something, do you really need another?
Already have a nice pair of black flats? There’s really no need for another…right? Don’t overload on clothes you already have, because you’ll never actually use them. Find pieces that are great for your wardrobe and stick to those single pieces. I find having less options can broaden my horizons when it comes to creating an outfit in the morning, instead of being paralyzed with options.
Download a good budgeting app
If you’re not a fan of carrying cash and would rather use a credit card than it’s time to get yourself a good budgeting app. At the beginning of each year, Oliver puts pulls up a spreadsheet and creates a budget for the year. However, we can’t live off that spreadsheet—purchases will certainly get lost in translation. So we use Mint. It’s an app that immediately takes your purchases and categorizes them into the set budgets that you have already made. For example, when your electric bill is paid, that payment immediately goes into the “bills” part of your budget. Tracking it this way can give you a better visual of your finances every single day, and how much you actually have left to spend.
Limit your “fun” money
When you don’t have a budget, money is just money…which means it’s easy to recklessly spend. But when you do have a budget, you get a better picture of how much money is actually considered “fun”. For me, I completely own our “beauty” budget. It may say beauty, but it’s basically an easier way of saying “Kiersten’s fun money to use for whatever she wants this month”. It’s not much ($40 to be exact) but it’s just enough to help me pay for the things that we wouldn’t consider to be necessary right now. Like makeup, hair product, or new shoes. Having a limit seems harsh, but it actually helps me to keep those types of items into perspective. Just like eating sugary desserts or pastries, these types of purchases aren’t meant to be regular. This fun money limit helps me to view purchases in a different light.
Prioritize what you want to be spending on
With a limit on your fun money, you’ll also find yourself prioritizing how that money should be spent. For example, I know I really want this new hair product, but I also am almost completely out of my makeup. So instead, I’m going to have to spend this months money on makeup and wait until next month to get hair product. Now if I want something more expensive, like a new pair of booties, I will have to be okay with not spending my money for a little while. If these booties cost $80, I would have to wait two months in order to have my beauty budget again.
Keep your eyes peeled for deals
Now that you have designated fun money, it’s time to see how far you can make those dollars go. Which means hunting for coupons! When planning a night out, Groupon never seems to fail us for dates. We love couponing at our grocery store, and we tend to surf through the pages of Time Out New York for free/cheap things to do. Plus, brands are always offering some kind of deal to entice you to buy things. Just keep your eyes peeled for the best ones!
I hope these tips help you in becoming even more financially stable this year. What are some of the lifestyle changes you’ve made to save money? Share in the comments below!