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11 Things I Cut Out Of My Budget (And Don’t Miss At All)

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Over the past year, in the interest of getting better with money, a lot of things I used to spend on with some frequency have gotten the axe. Trimming your budget does require some serious self-analysis, and often confrontation with habits you’d rather not admit to having, but nearly all of us could find at least one thing we could get rid of. Some of mine were concentrated decisions, some were just natural fallings-out, but all of them have resulted in a more streamlined budget. And while some things have felt like a true pinch to cut out, many things I’ve found aren’t missed at all. It’s crazy how things can go from seeming like an absolute need in the moment, to something you don’t at all notice when it’s gone. These, for me, have been the 11 biggest things whose deletion from my life have not left a hole in my heart.

1. Fast fashion. As I’ve written about here before several times, I no longer shop fast fashion. A more coherent explanation of this life change can be found at the included link, but the summary is that no longer even going into these stores has been the most noticeable improvement in overall quality of life, in addition to helping my bottom line. I genuinely feel like a better, more mature, more composed person — even if my top cost the same as a fast fashion tee, but instead was found at a thrift store. This change has taught me that being budget-conscious and eschewing FF often actually work in tandem, and greatly improve your self-esteem in the process.

2. Red meat at home. I still indulge in what I semi-jokingly refer to as my “quarterly steak” out at a restaurant, but red meat has become an experience in itself. I now greatly limit the amount of meat I eat at home, and have moved towards making vegetables/starches/nuts/whatever the stars of my meal. Red meat in particular is something I no longer buy to make at home, except maybe once a year, and I don’t miss it. It becomes a special treat, and I have shifted my grocery shopping to a more affordable, sustainable format without too much pain.

3. The obligatory drink with dinner. I used to feel obligated to order a glass of wine/cocktail/something with my meal, even if it was just a random Tuesday night at a lowkey Thai place. I suppose this was because I was still high on the novelty of being able to do it. But fuck that, I’m 27 for God’s sake, and now I’m just as happy to drink water with my meals (unless it’s a “going out” night). And honestly, limiting my “having a drink with my meal” lifestyle has done wonders for other things, notably my waistline.

4. Fancy gym memberships. When I first started this blog, I was paying 90 dollars a month for the privilege of being a member at a fancy gym by my work, which I frequented approximately three times a month. I have since become much more lucid and realistic about my athletic inclinations (limited at best), and have found that counting my steps is the most reliable way to get in some basic activity each day, and that at least for now, the only thing my gym fee is really doing for me is assuaging my guilt for sitting at my desk all day. For some, that fee might be indispensable. For me, it was a vanity and a waste. And I don’t miss it.

5. “Novelty” clothes. I own several expensive wardrobe items that were bought with the intention of turning myself into a different person through their purchase. I have a few extremely fancy coats, dresses, and skirts that have no business being in my closet, but which I felt would somehow be life-changing to me because of their aspirational nature. (No, Chelsea, you are not going to wear that robin’s egg blue winter coat with the white fox fur collar more than once a year at best. It was not worth 400 dollars, even if it was on mega-sale.) And while I’ll always cherish these items, I’ll never be dumb enough again to think that getting this one super-fancy item will make me a super-fancy person. I’m me, and if I want to look my best, it’s going to be through versatile, well-cut, mostly neutral items. And I have come to accept that.

6. Trendy neighborhoods. I was overpaying at my last apartment by about 800 dollars a month, because I thought it essential to live in the most-trendy part of Brooklyn where ~eVerYoNe wHo’S aNyOne~ was living at the time. That was deeply idiotic, and given how much time I spend at home — my office is an entire floor of my current apartment — the key is obviously the apartment itself, and not the trendiness of its zip code. I am a thousand times more satisfied with my current living situation, and though there’s nothing trendy about my block, I actually have found that being surrounded by families and old ladies is infinitely more pleasant than being surrounded by other 20-something “freelance” assholes. Never again, trendy neighborhood. Never again.

7. “Let’s get drinks” friends. We all have these people, these perfectly-nice people who awkwardly straddle the line between “acquaintance” and “friend,” but with whom there is clearly no deeper level of connection brewing on the horizon. We can keep these pseudo-friendships on a very slow simmer for years on end, meeting twice a year (after many made-and-canceled plans) to mostly go over the things that have been happening in our respective lives, and not actually get anything meaningful out of the exchange. While I admit I have slipped up a few times on this — and regretted it each time I did — I have mostly cut these people out of my life this year, and certainly not spent time or money having surface conversations with them over wine. It’s not them, and I’m sure they are perfectly capable of profound and satisfying connections with other people in our lives, but we are just not close like that, and never will be. We don’t need 30 friendquaintances. We need a few close friends, and that’s hard enough to maintain. And if we want tedious conversations over overpriced food, that’s what work connections are for.

8. Jewelry I never wear. I used to think I would make myself a “jewelry person” through sheer power of will, but that never happened, and now I’m left with a substantial collection of statement pieces I absolutely never wear. I basically don’t buy jewelry anymore, except for the occasional stud earrings I wear to death, and I’m happier for it.

9. Breakfast. Some people won’t be this way, but for me, accepting that I’m not a breakfast person (and therefore not spending 5-10 dollars a day on an office breakfast, which used to be a big vice) has been huge. I used to force myself to get in the “breakfast routine” because I believed that three square meals a day bullshit, but now my eating habits are much more tailored to my lifestyle (light lunch, big dinner, no breakfast), and I have dropped a big monthly expense in the process. A cup of coffee or pot of espresso from home will be fine for me, thanks.

10. Certain designer makeup. Some of my designer makeup choices have proven worth it, but many have not, and I am glad that I no longer feel obligated to get the high-quality shit on all fronts because I delude myself into thinking it’s an “investment.” They aren’t leather goods, they are face paint. And Milani lipsticks, for example, which I get for a couple bucks at the Duane Reade on the corner, have proven a better choice than any fancy tube I’ve ever regrettably spent $25 on.

11. My email vices. This isn’t a specific item I’ve cut from my budget, but rather a lifestyle change that has led to an overall budget reduction. Shortly after starting TFD, I made it a point to forcibly unsubscribe from several retail email lists (and some took a considerable amount of tense back-and-forth with a company rep), so that I am no longer tempted by their evil sales alerts. Do I wish that I could use retail email alerts responsibly? Of course. Can I in practice? Absolutely not. And I’m frankly proud of myself that I have learned to pre-empt my own poor decision making.

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  • Keisha

    “Let’s get drinks” friends too true!! haha

  • UGH THE JEWELRY THING. I came face to face with this when I moved across the country & I pared down my jewelry quite a bit. Then I moved again, and one more time, within a year & when I realized that 85% of the jewelry I owned had never even been unpacked, I finally went through it & got rid of most of it.

    • Mary Harman

      I’ve (kind of) luckily never had to deal with the jewelry thing. I’m incredibly allergic to most metals. I can wear high quality gold and other precious metals, but that’s it. I get a terrible reaction to any metal touching my skin—the buttons for jeans are my nemesis. When it comes to jewelry, I can’t wear anything reasonably affordable, so I don’t own anything beyond my wedding rings and a single necklace.

      I’ve seen countless friends and roommates stress over the which necklace to wear or singled earrings and missing rings. Part of me wishes that I could join in on the fun of jewelry, but the other part of me knows firsthand that you can survive without it, and I can definitely survive without the turmoil of finding the absolute best bracelet to go with that top. I don’t think anyone has thought less of me for not being a Jewelry Person™, so I’m not sweating it.

      • That’s definitely a positive outlook to an allergy! I have a couple necklaces that I rotate through at this point. It would be terrible to have a problem with buttons on jeans though!

      • Sara

        I have the same problem! So I own my wedding rings, a necklace, and a few pairs of earrings. Honestly, I don’t really feel like I’m missing out.

      • lazuliz

        I also have the same problem! Except I’m allergic to gold and nickle. Sterling silver 4 life!

        • Mary Harman

          AND gold?!? Woah. That’s a bummer. I gambled getting my wedding bands in gold over platinum because I wasn’t sure about it, but so far, so good! But at least you know what works for you! 🙂

    • Maggie

      My issue the well-meaning family members who buy me jewelry. I mean what else are you supposed to get for a teen/twenty-something girl right? Haha. But I’m firmly of the opinion that jewelry is too difficult to buy for someone else. Plus I wear hardly and jewelry except on the occasional going-out night. As a result, I have a ton of earrings and necklaces that I’m never going to wear but I feel too guilty to get rid of.

  • Mary Harman

    Breakfast was a big one for me. While I haven’t cut out the meal itself, I (almost) never purchase breakfast or coffee on my way to work anymore. There was a season where I got a coffee and a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks every. single. day. Fresh out of school, my rent was $300/month and I wasn’t saving for any future goals—marriage, kids, houses, and retirement were too far away for me to see, but Starbucks was just around the corner. I didn’t feel bad about it at the time, but I kick myself now thinking about a whole year where I dropped $6.50 before 9AM on the daily.

    If I’m smart with my mornings, I can brew coffee at home and manage to cook myself an egg without losing any sleep. On particularly tired and tardy mornings, I still snag a coffee on my way in, but once a month visits don’t dent my budget like my old habits used to. It’s been a game-changer for sure. I also stock my desk with nice instant coffee (from Starbucks, the former and forever owners of my soul) so that I can still get a cup of actual coffee for less than the in-store price when I’m feeling tempted to hit up the drive thru on my commute.

    • I was honestly a little disturbed by the skipping breakfast thing and calling bullshit on the 3 meals because it IS a universal scientific truth that there are serious health benefits to eating within an hour or 2 of wakening (and detriments to not doing so). But if it’s just about buying breakfast I totally get it. You can keep bars and bananas at home or at work (I used to keep my office stocked with milk, yogurt and granola and sometimes fruit) and just eat a quick bite, en route to work, or at work to get the health benefits of a breakfast.

      • what are the inherent health benefits of eating breakfast? I understand there are health benefits to eating certain foods for breakfast, and I know some studies have found a correlation with eating breakfast and weight loss (because having a full tummy makes you less vulnerable to snacking), but what about eating within an hour or two of waking up is beneficial? Honestly curious. I have often found that eating breakfast just jump starts my metabolism for the day and then I am ravenously hungry by 10:30 or 11, whereas if I just drink coffee and water all morning, I’m perfectly content with a moderate lunch.

        • Your metabolism will rise if you eat anything (thermic effect of food) just as it will rise naturally throughout the day and faster if you eat and exercise in the morning. Generally that’s considered good for weight loss because the higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn even at rest.
          As for the non-weightloss benefits, you’re right it’s all correlation (like pretty much any studies). Studies show overwhelmingly consistent correlations between those who eat breakfast (rather than a midmorning snack, which would be more than a few hours after waking) and lower cholesterol, blood sugar ,and improved mood/concentration/mental performance (especially among youth). Similar observational studies have also shown that those who take midmorning snacks do not get the correlated health benefits of those who eat earlier. Obviously correlation does not equal causation. If I eat a donut and high sugar Starbucks drink within an hour of waking, I would probably be better off skipping breakfast, but if I wake up at 5 am and swim some miles before work I’ll be getting plenty of health benefits even if I tuck into my breakfast around 8.
          IF may work as a weightloss strategy for some people in some contexts but, until we have alot of studies showing that it’s actually better for overall health than a cheap morning nibble I do not think it makes sense to advocate it as a budgeting strategy. Yes, cut out the Starbucks, but a few cents on oatmeal or a banana is not gonna destroy your budget and it may come with enormous long-term financial rewards in terms of health.

        • I have the same thing happen to me! I have never heard anyone else say that though so I appreciate you sharing that.

      • chelseafagan

        I practice intermittent fasting (http://vitals.lifehacker.com/how-to-free-yourself-from-food-cravings-with-intermitte-1702108722 ) so I for sure don’t eat breakfast and haven’t for over a year — and have experienced enormous health and lifestyle benefits from it — but as I state, I don’t expect it to be for everyone!

        • Summer

          I love IF. It can be tricky for me because I AM a breakfast person, so it’s hard to want to opt out of that meal. Fortunately, I’m most interested in lazy weekend breakfasts (where I’ve slept later anyway), so it’s manageable on weekdays for sure. I eat less when I skip breakfast since I’m not particularly tempted by the thought of a mid-morning snack and am subsequently satisfied by a smaller lunch. Like calorie counting, IF isn’t for everyone but it sure has it’s benefits for me!

          • Mary Harman

            I’m going to have to read up on this. I must have been under a rock, because I’ve never heard of IF before! If I were to cut out a meal, I’m not sure it would be breakfast for me, as I am a breakfast monster.

        • I also started intermittent fasting when I realized that whether I ate something for breakfast or not, I was just as hungry come lunchtime so breakfast was nothing more than an indulgence. I agree that the benefits are great! It saves money and I love having all those calories left for a nice dinner.

        • I have never done well with breakfast and don’t like to eat first thing in the morning. A banana at most. It’s just not how my internal clock is wired.

        • Marisa LaMancusa

          Hey Chelsea! I just read a couple of your articles and I too, practice intermittent fasting. And I love your outlook on embracing your weight loss, something I’m struggling to do. I was wondering, how often, if ever, do you weigh yourself?

  • Grace

    I deleted Asos from my bookmarks bar a couple of months ago, and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it’s made. I used to scroll through boots and coats (and I live in tropical Australia for Fs sake) and always ended up buying a few sale items. I’ve only looked on there a couple of times since, for specific items, and haven’t converted any sales!

    That Twenty Something

  • Chuwka

    Now i have a clearer view of things I equally need to cut out…

    Thank you Chelsea.

  • Theresa Helmer

    Number 2 is too real. I rarely ever buy red meat, but for some reason purchased a bunch of chopped steak (I don’t even like this stuff) when I was at the store because it was on sale. I wholeheartedly agree with leading a more sustainable existence and cutting (red) meat at home seems to be an awesome way to do this.

  • Anna Yugova

    Nice list but I disagree wholeheartedly with point 7. We do need as many connections as we can, and if one specific is not satisfying, this means you just don’t click with that specific person. Otherwise I am infinitely grateful to have a lot of people in my life who are not Team Me Squad, but instead, I have them to spread my infinite love and affection instead of pouring it all out on the selected few. It can get overbearing.

  • 3 is really big one for me! i have started to stick with water and i dont miss it at all.

  • Sara O

    Great article, I’m still working on giving up fast fashion!

    I found #6 to be a different experience for me (although I live in a different city, Toronto). This year I moved from a “cheaper” neighbourhood to a trendy one and found no major changes in spending. In my old neighbourhood I paid probably $100-150 less per month on rent but now I no longer pay for Uber rides to go out on on the other side of town where all of my friends live and where the good bars/restaurants are. As well, I am less likely to spend on overpriced food delivery services because there are more places that are walking distance. Still good advice to avoid overspending on rent, just found it interesting how it made really no difference in my case!