I wrote in the past about how I needed to save some money in a big way, and I’ve really tried hard to make a change this year. I hear lots of people talk about being in a similar situation, so I thought I’d share all the ways I’ve cut my spending without making my life depressing.
This year has actually been very good and I’ve been so happy. I’ve had such a lucky year! But I still occasionally get down about money and wonder if I’m anywhere close to where I should be in life, or if there’s even such a thing as should be. I’ve come to dislike Facebook, and for the most part the blogging community as well, because I find myself questioning my life when I’m otherwise happy.
Example: I open up Facebook today and see yet another baby has fallen out of a woman’s vagina and landed on my newsfeed. Congratulations to her and every other woman, but I went to Facebook simply to post a link to a neon slap watch I’d like someone to buy me for my birthday in three months. Then I see the assembly line of babies and I start thinking, “All these people have gotten busy with life, and I honestly just spent 15 minutes looking at slap watches and trying to decide if I wanted pink, green or blue, and how I’d react if someone got me another color, like purple. Would I wear it? I don’t know!”
When I first started realizing I was in a financial pickle, I said food quality was the number one thing I wasn’t willing to sacrifice. I didn’t even try to save money! Now, I don’t have to sacrifice quality because I put in more effort. Freezing has been a HUGE help. I can’t say enough how much money my freezer has saved me. I used to toss out so much food because I’d make a giant pot of something, then get sick of it two days later and let the rest go to waste.
Now, I recognize how tiring it is to eat the same thing every day, so I put one portion in the fridge and the rest of it in separate to-go containers and store in the freezer. I always have a whole drawer full of frozen meals in the freezer so I never have to eat the same thing every day, and nothing goes to waste. An example of ready-meals currently in my freezer: Chicken tagine, vegan chili, vegan mushroom risotto, homemade vegetarian curry, creamy Parmesan pasta. I always have kilo bags each of frozen spinach, peas and broccoli, and smaller bags of things like butternut squash and carrots.
When I buy fresh produce, for example – potatoes, I slice ALL of them even if I plan to use only one in my dish. Then I freeze the rest! This Sunday I made German fried potatoes for three breakfasts this week using only ingredients I’d previously saved in the freezer: diced potatoes, diced onions + peppers. Before I started freezing I’d buy a bag of potatoes, eat one, then leave the rest in the bag thinking, “I’ll eat them later in the week.” I never did, and they’d always go to waste. I even save sauces. If I have half a can left of chipotle peppers in adobo, I put it in a tiny pot to use with something else in the future.
This was another issue where I was totally unwilling to compromise for a long time, and was a big reason of why I got in this pickle. I lived in a place I just couldn’t afford because for the previous two years I’d felt like a traveler and was adamant that I was finally going to have a home that felt like my own. I’d never felt at home in London because I didn’t have a whole lot of choice about where I lived, and had pretty much zero say in how my apartment looked. Even something as simple as putting up pictures of my cats on my bedside table – not allowed. So I made a stupid living decision that lasted way too long, but this year I’ve gotten back on track and still feel like I’m living in a home, minus the ridiculous price tag.
I moved into a much cheaper place earlier this year that I ended up adoring, but I need to still go cheaper so I’m moving again next month and saving myself an additional £250 per month.
It hurts my heart a little bit (a whole lot!) to say that if I’d taken a room like this from the beginning, I’d have had an extra £4,440 in my bank over the course of that year.
Cutting direct debits
Grocery delivery: There were some things I’d always forget were coming out of my account because I rarely used the service. I used to have a grocery delivery pass that would cost me £50 a year. Ever since I started freezing my food I cut WAY back on the amount of food I needed to carry back from the store, so I no longer needed a weekly delivery and it got the chop!
My gym membership: I use the gym mainly to run on a treadmill. While I like being able to go to the gym at lunch, shower and head back to work, it didn’t make sense to pay £16 per month when I have a beautiful city and parks I can run around after work!
My phone contract: I have an iPhone 4S, and I chose a shorter than average payment plan because although it meant higher monthly payments it meant paying less in the long run. My contract ends in two months, and rather than getting a new phone I’m going to keep my current phone and get the most basic plan – which should save me £30 per month.
Cutting these three things alone will save me £600 over the next year.
Netflix: My goodness. I LOVE Netflix. I’ve recently gotten addicted to Modern Family (If I ever have a kid I want him to be just like Manny) and The Killing, and this isn’t even mentioning my affair with Desperate Housewives. For £5.99 a month, this is TOTALLY worth the expense. It keeps me from buying movies and TV box sets, because it has pretty much everything I want to watch. I spent on average maybe £20 per month buying movies or TV shows. Now it’s strictly what I pay for Netflix.
Library: If it’s a book I really want to read, I’ll read it quickly. There’s no need to buy any more books right now because I’ve got a whole library of ones I’ve bought back in the US. I’ll eventually move back there, and any books I buy here are going to cost additional money to ship. If It’s a book I really want but the library doesn’t have it, it goes on my Amazon wish list. Don’t even tell me about Kindles. I love technology and digital media, but I LOVE real life books. No e-readers for me. I spent on average maybe £5-10 per month on books. Now it’s zero.
Cinema: I used to think my £15.99 per month Cineworld card was a great deal because I could see unlimited movies. Then I started realizing it isn’t worth it when you consider that you’re rarely watching movies you enjoy, and you’re spending £10 on popcorn/snacks twice a weekend as well. I canceled my card, and if I go to the movies I take advantage of my work’s rewards vouchers where I get £5 movie tickets. It turns out there’s only one move every couple months that is worth seeing, so this is a minimal expense. (Monsters University – OMGLOVEDIT)
Shopping is something I simply don’t do anymore. When I first became single I spent hundreds of pounds on a whole new wardrobe. All new work outfits, jackets, shoes, dresses, casual clothes, etc. I don’t want to go into the reasons why I felt like I needed an entirely new wardrobe, but I did, and I can’t say I’d do anything differently if I had to go back and do it again. While in a way I regret spending so much money, in other ways I don’t. I accept it now, and am fine with the fact that I can’t afford any new clothes whatsoever, and haven’t been able to for months. I’ve picked up the odd thing at a charity shop, but I’ve probably spent only £20 on clothes in the past six months – two dresses that I wear constantly and the most awesome shirt ever, an off-the-shoulder, ’80s-colored zebra shirt I got for £3:
Did you also notice how well my future hot pink slap watch will work with this?!
I’ve had some really great opportunities the past three years at my current employer. I’ve learned so much and made amazing friends. I’ve always felt lucky and thankful to have gotten the job I did, but the time came when I needed more and I knew I was worth more, so I couldn’t really afford to stay. Although it was a hard decision to leave, I’m so excited about new opportunities, making more friends and earning more money.
To help in my job search I created an online résumé with examples of my work, links to social media, downloadable PDFs of my writing/CV, and I also redesigned my résumé in InDesign, creating an interactive PDF with color-coordinated icons linking to my social sites, blog and previous employers. This helped my job search immensely and was a totally different experience than when I was looking for jobs straight out of school and had nothing to help me stand out. If you’re looking for a new job, I can’t recommend this enough.
Well, I think that’s about it!
*That dinosaur from the beginning of this post was from a hilarious comic my friend sent me, but I have no idea where it’s from!