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