As I write this, I just got my paycheck and realized that taking out all my bills and rent leaves me with….about 35 dollars. For two weeks. Yup.
I’m starting my own Spending Fast next month, with a co-worker, thankfully. Necessity is the mother of invention and I’m going to have to invent a whole lot of junk and fast. To get myself mentally prepared for my Spending Fast, I’ve unknowingly been doing a couple mini-challenges that have honestly been hella fun.
I often look back on the time I moved to Boston when I was 20, without a job, still applying to schools and sharing a bed with my best friend for three months. There was a period in the summer where I didn’t get paid by both of my jobs and when I did, it just barely covered rent. I lived off the $50 my mom sent me each week. (She had offered more, but at the time it was all I needed and it felt gross to think of asking for any more.) My groceries from Trader Joe’s and the fruit-is-almost-rotten farmers market were $35 and my subway/bus pass was $15. Thus, $50 was my survival number.
This was honestly the happiest time of my life because it was so simple and I wanted nothing, really. My friend and I shared clothes, made pasta sauce with farmers market tomatoes that were almost bad and danced around the apartment in silly outfits. I walked home along the river when my subway card expired and I was stuck across town. I went out to free swing dancing events at the college down the road.
In short, there’s a reason the cliché exists that life is so much more simple and lovely without the mental clutter of money. Yeah, I said it. Money has only cluttered my life– with things, with plans I’m not super jazzed about (but have paid for), with bills and paper and complications. I’m more than a bit excited to tap into that secret frugal, fun, industrious part of my brain again. Here are a host of things I’m doing without disposable income until my next paycheck.
Money-Saving Challenges That Don’t Suck …
1. Wear all your clothes without repeats!
See how long you can last. I’ve grown tired of the whole “try on all your clothes to see if they still fit/work for your life” advice. If you’re anything like me, I always can find a reason to keep those stragglers in my closet. Since the start of this month, I’ve unknowingly been challenging myself to wear all of my clothes at least once without repeating.
As someone who finds that a great outfit can set the tone for the whole day, it’s been an eye-opening experience. Not only regarding how many clothes I have, but how they make me feel throughout the day. Does that skirt ride up a bit too much in the back? Does that top remind you of your ex-boyfriend? Is this the third time you’ve tried to get the coffee stain out of those pants, to no avail? You’ll gain so much clarity when you attempt to wear these things all day (rather than a few minutes going through your closet) and might even re-discover something you haven’t worn in a while.
2. Eat all your food! All of it!
Sort of in the same vein as the above tip, I’ve been doing the same with food. That can be my kryptonite because you have to eat, right? But when you’re rationalizing a trip to the grocery store as a way to get an overpriced Kombucha, it’s time to take it down a notch.
I grew up with a super-industrious (Three jobs! She’s the queen of the side-hustle) and frugal mom who has instilled in me the belief that I really don’t need much to be content. Every month we had a “clean out the fridge and freezer” dinner night. We literally had to clear out the freezer and fridge of all the random bits we let collect during the course of the month. It often became my favorite meal of the whole month and forced us to be creative with leftovers. Once the fridge and freezer are clear, it’s off to the grocery store (sans Kombucha)!
3. Some other mini-challenges / swaps that aren’t “Bring your lunch to work!” or “Put coffee in a reusable mug!”, because we all are rocking those, right?
- I have so many coins; like, sooo many. I’m going to put them on my metro card and take myself to the beach.
- Cross-stitching my face off! Cross stitching, swing dancing, and painting all were hobbies that formed out of this cheap era of my life. I forgot how mentally clearing they can be.
- Reading ALL these money diaries on Refinery 29. It is so comforting and eye-opening to see how all different types of ladies put their cash for good (and sometimes crazy) uses.
- Putting some books on PaperbackSwap. My goal is to read 100 books this year. So I’m heavily using the library and PaperbackSwap to save on this goal. I’ve been swapping on PBS for nearly a decade now and it saves my butt every time.
- Another sneaky tip: I read the New Yorker and the New York Times a lot, and recently discontinued my subscriptions for both. If you read in Google Chrome’s “incognito mode”, you can read them both to your heart’s content without going over your monthly article limit. Win!
- Declutter your social media, especially clothing stores and anyone who inspires a sort of envy in you. I’ve recently made the switch from following a lot of “sponsored Australian 19-year-olds who eat a lot of expensive fruit” to a lot of “chill women who hike a lot and take pictures of plants.” It’s made a world of difference in the part of my brain that compares myself to what people have.
What about you? What personal challenges have you tried to help save money?
Mackenzie is a 25-year-old Floridian living in L.A., where she finds herself living the cliché L.A. life — always on the hunt for a good, new beer, a good hike, and a good spot at the beach. She blogs about (oftentimes) bizarre world travels and stories at Whatever, Gatsby.