A few months ago I decided to treat myself to a shopping trip. Well, treat is the wrong word. I don’t really like shopping, but I had recently evaluated my wardrobe and found it quite lacking in professional clothing. A good friend of mine, lets call her H, with the same fondness for blazers agreed to come along. We armed ourselves with a list of sales, our student IDs (because J.Crew gives a student discounts) and some well-constructed walking shoes.
H had a job interview coming up and needed to find a professional outfit and a new pair of dress pants. We pulled a few options and she went to try them on. “Oh, I really like these,” I heard her say behind the well-worn dressing room curtain. She strutted out wearing a pair of black slacks and did a few twirls in front of the full-length mirror. Nodding her approval, stepped back behind the curtain, changed back into her boring jeans headed to the cashier, ego-boosting-pants in hand.
“Wait, I need to check the tags,” she said as we got ready to pay up.
“Why?” I inquired.
“Because, if they’re dry clean only I don’t want them,” she informed me.
H had a valid point. Even if she felt like a superstar in those pants, they would ultimately cost her more than she was willing to pay for a pair of pants. Luckily, they were machine washable, but the cute silky top she found got the axe. Dry cleaning a shirt in NYC costs about $4.50. If she dry cleaned it once a month it would cost her $54 a year, more than the original price of the shirt.
My friend’s reluctance to invest in a piece of dry clean only clothing got me thinking what other little actions we can take in our daily lives to cut costs. Shopping is an easy one for me. I’m blessed with a natural disdain for the whole process and frequently wear hand-me-downs.Not retro-chic thrift store clothes that make me a New York Fashionista, hand-me-downs.
My first year in New York I got lucky and my roommate’s co-worker frequently purged her closet full of exclusively high-end label clothes. Not only did I get free clothing, the leftovers could get taken to a variety of second-hand shops that buy clothing.
Besides my pillaging of people’s discarded clothing, here are some of my top penny-pinching ideas:
- Brown bag lunch
- Buy food in bulk and cook large meals for the week (get a slow cooker)
- Cut cable (invest in a Roku or another streaming media player)
- Evaluate transportation costs – take public transit if it’s an option or carpool if it isn’t
- Contain cost of utilities – Our electric bill just came in the mail today, we owe $32.87 TOTAL. #humblebrag
- Get a roommate or consider living at home – see how much you could save staying at home with the “Get Rich Living with Your Parents” calculator.
- Buy off brand (for certain products ie: cleaning products).
- Shop the sales
- Cut the gym – Unless you’re a hardcore gym rat stop getting suckered by those rates. Instead, run outside or do an exercise video on your TV via your streaming media player. Girl Meets Debt offers a great post about the horrors of gym memberships.
- Don’t buy a coffee or tea.
I understand, some days you just want to go get a $5 grande caramel macchiato. But figure this, you can save $2 on an iced latte if you order an espresso shot on ice in a grande cup and then add your own milk.
(I get it. My name is really tough.)
If you frequent Starbucks and the idea of spending between $10 – $20 a week on overpriced beverages isn’t enough to deter you then please sign up for a rewards card! They used to do free soy or flavor shots. Apparently they need the extra 50 cents these days. At least they’ll send you the occasional free drink coupon. Find out more details here.
Hand-me-downs and adding your own milk aside, there are some great deals out there. Sign up for Groupon, Living Social or deals in your area (ie: New York Deals). Finally, in true millennial fashion, I advise you download Scoutmob or any other region specific deals app.
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