Moving into your own place is one of those rites of passage where suddenly all of your “training” is put to use. There’s just something about the responsibility of something being your own that drags out the bad habits and forces us to confront them.
I am the queen of bad habits; I’m also the queen of confrontation. A major takeaway from my everlasting quest to be a better person is that small changes make big impacts. It is always the smallest, least-noticeable things that get away from you and make waves. It’s also true that the smallest adjustments yield the most surprising results.
Getting my first apartment marked the first moment in my life where I had to really think about money, and knowing where my money went and the worth of what I was spending on was important to me. Consequently, that also meant some things just had to go:
1. Dining Out
While in undergrad, I was the WORLD’S WORST about eating out. Meal plans got boring, and it was much more fun to dine out, pick up food to bring home, or (the worst of all) pay that delivery fee so my butt wouldn’t have to move off the couch.
There was no excuse for it, and I felt terrible. I’d cringe every month when I got my bill and saw those restaurants stacked up in the column (and the numbers that added up next to them). It was unhealthy, in terms of both my physical and financial health.
In my aforementioned quest to become a better person, I challenged myself to explore my love of cooking and to master some of my favorite recipes. When you’re cooking at home, you’re often using clean ingredients and methods, choosing a healthier menu, able to stretch leftovers into tomorrow’s lunch, and able to plan for a more cost-effective menu.
Before living on my own, I was completely obsessed with Beauty. I was convinced that I needed the most luxurious bath bombs and moisturizers. That I needed not one, not two, but five very similar burgundy shades of lipstick. And not drugstore brands.
Looking back on this, I’m embarrassed to admit how much of it just stemmed from the fact that I had an allowance and nothing else to spend it on. I liked being the girl with the stacked vanity. Taking care of yourself is important, and a cosmetic splurge every now and then never hurt anybody. But when living on your own, you’ve got to consider efficient use of space and your actual day-to-day needs, and with that comes an appreciation of having money saved and an intimate knowledge of beauty hacks and steals.
3. “Cutesy” Décor
“Intention” is a word that you will see in damn near everything I produce for this site, but it’s because I mean it. Intention is mastering how to know what is a worthy investment. Spending like a successful person means spending on quality and longevity. And go into any college town or Target during “back to school,” and you will be knocked over with “cutesy” décor. It’s trendy. It’s cheaply-made. It’s cheap looking, to be frank. It’s exactly the type of thing you will grow out of in a year, and it will find itself at the top of the throwaway pile.
Like any major chapter in life, moving into a new place comes with a rush of “new home, new me”. The impulse is SO REAL to make your home complete and polished as quickly as possible. This makes “cutesy décor” all the more tempting. It’s something cheap that you like now and can slap on the walls. But it’s a vicious cycle of basic-ness.
I am fortunate to run in a circle of very stylish women, and when I asked a friend of mine where the hell she got all of her fabulous home trinkets, her answer was simply “Oh, it’s just stuff I’ve collected here and there.” I loved that, and I loved even more as she told a few stories of bowls discovered at junk shops, or a splurge purchase, or a travel keepsake. Having a new home is a symbol of a life about to be lived. Take the time to fill your home with things you truly enjoy and that are worth having. The blank space above my fireplace drove me crazy — but that made it all the more rewarding when I bought an original painting that I truly loved, and that filled it perfectly.
4. Cocktail Hour
I blame the media for our cultural obsession with cocktail hours and boozy brunches. What is it about our twenties that drives us to take part in this expensive ritual? When I was younger and much less financially responsible, I went out for drinks with friends A LOT. Brunch. Cocktail hour. Meeting at the bar before a show. The thing about alcohol…IT’S EXPENSIVE. Cocktails are ringing in at $8+ a drink, and you will always have more than one (you know it, I know it). When I moved into my own place, on my very first grocery run, I bought three varying bottles of wine. Not because I’m a big drinker at home, but because I had resolved to exchange the weekend bar haunt with intimate evenings in with friends. This very small action did wonders for my budget; I was saving on all the small things like parking and tips, while still enjoying drinks with friends. That doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in a brunch now and then, but I have really cut back on the place it holds in my social calendar.
A symptom of my takeout addiction in the days of my youth was the love of not doing the dishes. I hoarded plastic forks and was all about boxes I could throw away. When I first moved into my apartment and hadn’t quite come to terms with having to buy dishes and then clean them, I defaulted to paper plates and plastic cups. I shudder even now to think of the carbon footprint I’ve left behind from that time in my life. When I finally bought some grown-ass-lady plates and cups, I was shocked to see how that move made a lasting difference in my monthly bill. It’s that small stuff that really adds up.
Caitlin is a 1L year survivor and coffee shop haunt who splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and Austin, TX. When she’s not writing, Caitlin enjoys movies, yoga, and indulging her INTJ/Capricorn bend with research on her many academic passions.
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