1. Put the Uber app in a folder marked “last resort” on your phone. I don’t like to suggest that people take it completely off their phone, in case of emergency, but I think training yourself not to use the app as a go-to is important. Also, get in the habit of calculating the cost of your Uber before calling it. My habit is to never take an Uber that I know will be more than $10 (in LA, that means I can get about five miles without traffic). If I’m going farther than that, I have to resolve to only have one drink and then drive. If you want to estimate your Uber price, it’s 90 cents a mile and 15 cents a minute. UberPOOL is 85 cents a mile and 11 cents a minute.
2. Have a two-drink maximum at the bar (with a caveat for special occasions, as long as you’re not too liberal with interpreting the definition of “special occasion,” as I’ve been in the past). It’s not that you can only have two drinks in one night, but if you want a nicer, fancier cocktail, make a batch of delicious martinis at home to have with your friends before going to the bar.
3. Make sure your credit card information isn’t saved on your web browser. My card information was saved on Amazon for a while, and it made it too easy to buy something whenever I thought I needed anything. Furthermore, get into the habit of never buying something online immediately. Always enforce the “wait three days” policy.
Related: when you go out, keep your credit card tucked into your wallet in a spot that is not easy to access. This way, you won’t be tempted to charge a round of drinks on you. Then, bring a strictly-regulated amount of cash to the bar, and only use that to buy drinks.
4. Set up automatic transfers to your savings account immediately after your direct deposit hits your bank account. If you are barely seeing the money hit your checking account, you won’t feel like you’re missing out, and simultaneously, you’ll be growing your savings.
5. Factor the cost of tax, tip and drinks into a total before deciding whether or not to go out to dinner. Whenever I was invited to dinner with a friend (let’s say for sushi), I’d think about it as, “Oh! I can afford a $15 meal.” That’s not the right way to look at it. Sushi can be decently affordable in LA, but my dinner isn’t actually going to cost $15. It’s $15 of food, plus potentially a $10 drink or shared appetizer, plus my share of tax and tip (roughly another $8). So, it’s not a $15 meal, it’s a $33 meal. Get into the habit of factoring that into your decision process before saying “yes” to a dinner invitation.
6. Only order tea or drip coffee at coffee shops. It will guarantee that your total is always less than $3, unless you’re choosing a particularly bougie coffee shop, in which case feel free to just stop going.
7. Have specific foods that you know to always buy the generic version of. For me, personally, I always buy generic when picking up canned goods, peanut butter, milk, shredded or cream cheese, broth, seltzer, and frozen vegetables.
And when you’re at the grocery store, buy food for the week to bring into the office. When I worked in an office, I used to bring my lunch ingredients for the week in every Monday morning. I could never coordinate a meal every night for the next day, so this was my simple alternative. I would bring in a pack of salad greens, carrots, cheese, deli meat, an avocado, and bread. Then I’d spend the rest of the week eating avocado toast, makeshift chef’s salads, sandwiches, and whatever other combinations I could make out of my fixings.
8. Tell someone about your weekly budget, and make sure it’s someone who will be diligent enough to follow up and ask you how you’re doing with it. This is the same logic as having an exercise buddy. It’s always good to have someone who will hold you accountable for the financial resolutions you make.
9. Never order in when you could go pick it up.
10. Cut “treats” out of your grocery necessities. Do not think of nice meat, fancy pesto, sweets, cheeses, or good breads as things that are always on the list. Instead, think of them as splurges. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t “treat yo’ self,” it just tempers your spending on the expensive products. Now, I only end up with one of these splurges in my shopping cart per week, as opposed to all five of them.
11. Never get blowouts when you get you hair cut. Your haircut will automatically cost $25 less.
12. Try to only use homemade cleaning products. I get suckered into spending too much on cleaning products because I lust after enticing buzzwords like “meyer lemon” and “lavender fresh.” But TFD has a great article on how to clean pretty much anything using a combination of household items, and it’s very helpful.
13. Care for the clothes you invest in and learn quick fixes to solve small problems, instead of getting rid of perfectly good jeans because of a tiny hole. Lifehack shows you exactly how to care for any kind of stain, rip, tear, etc. here. Also, just iron already!
14. Always have a suggestion on hand for a free activity you can do with a friend. While I often like to enjoy a nice meal, or a drink with friends, on weeks when my budget is feeling a bit tight, it’s nice to be able to offer a free alternative when someone asks to hang out. If the weather’s nice, meeting up at a park for a walk is always a good idea. If not, host your friend at your house, or find a free show or concert that’s open to the public.
15. Always have a few good-quality nail polishes on hand so that you won’t be tempted to go out and get a manicure. Last year, I spent about $30 on three really Essie colors, and I made it four months with setting foot in a nail salon.
16. Get into the habit of checking your bank account in the same way you’re trained to check your email, your Facebook, or your Instagram. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest checking your bank account nearly as often you open Instagram, but adding it into the rotation of the sites you visit while sitting at your computer on Saturday afternoon helps a lot. I check my account about twice a week (just for three minutes) to look at my purchases and make sure everything looks right. (I was particularly thankful for this when I caught that I’d been charged twice for my groceries last week. I called the market, and the situation was rectified immediately.)
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