Things I Stopped Buying to Live Within My Means.

I am sure the words “live within your means” is not an unfamiliar quote to most. However, what does “means” actually mean? Living within ones means is essentially spending less than or at least equal to the amount of money brought in. Simple, right? If you make $3,000 a month then you should not spend more than $3,000 a month. If only it were that easy. Advertisements, influencers, co-workers, friends, “The Joneses”, and social media in general make it difficult to not spend more than we make. Watching others and comparing ourselves to them and what they have makes it difficult to not want more. It has also become the norm to work 80-100 hours a week in order to afford a more “luxurious” lifestyle.

My husband, Paul is currently volunteering to gain medical hours and working less paying hours. So we are bringing in less money than we had been previously. This means we had to sit down and hash out a budget. A budget can feel restricting and to put it bluntly, it sucks sometimes. Watching our friends eat out most nights, buy things without worry, and travel multiple times a year can be hard. However, I have learned over the past few months of budgeting how liberating and powerful budgeting can be.

When I am on a budget I am forced to parse out what is important to me and what is not. I have to choose what things to spend my precious few dollars on versus saying yes to everything. This has helped me learn what I value most. I say yes to yoga classes, friend dates, snowboarding lift tickets, and items that I need. I say no to fast food, going to the movies, and every single item I like that I pass in a store or online. As someone who loves clothes, budgeting has helped me decide what items I really love/need and which ones I can go without. Budgeting reveals what I value. Budgeting also lifts the burden of debt from my shoulders. Paul and I may be making less money, but with a budget we are still able to nearly pay off our car loan and should be done earlier than expected. It is such a relief to pay down debt and a greater high than any shopping experience can bring.

In order to cut costs, I have created a list of (some of the) items I no longer buy in order to save money, stick to my budget, and ultimately live within my means. This list is not a be-all, end-all and is not a one-size-fits-all model. Like I said, everyone values different things and the list does not apply to everyone. This is what works for me.

Things I No Longer Buy to Save Money:

1. Take-out Coffee. 
I love going to coffee shops and I love getting fancy coffee beverages. However, I save it for very rare occasions like a date with a friend. Most people in the office I work with get takeout coffee (ie Starbucks) every single morning. If a person gets a $5 coffee 5x a week, that is $25 a week, $100 a month, and $1,200 a year! Even if you get just plain black coffee 5x a week for $2.50 a cup, that is $600 a year. I started buying bags of coffee for $9.99 (fair-trade and organic, so no skimping on quality) and brewing it at home. A 2 lb bag makes approximately 164, 9 ounce cups of coffee (about 17 cents a cup). I usually drink about 2 cups of coffee, so it ends up costing 34 cents a day. If I drink 2 cups a day, 7 days a week for a month, then the cost is approximately $9.52, and approximately $114.52 a year. This ends up saving $485.48 a year compared to black coffee at a shop.

2. Lunches out. 
Along with getting coffee everyday, a lot of people in the workforce eat lunch out daily. While it is tempting to just go run and grab something to eat instead of packing a lunch it saves money to make your own. Even if you are going the cheap route and eating lunch for $5 a day, it adds up to $100 a month. According to USA Today, the average person in 2017 paid approximately $11 to eat out lunch on working days. This adds up to $220 a month, which is over half as much as my monthly grocery bill feeding me and Paul. Bringing my lunch to work can sometimes be a pain to plan, but the food I am eating is more nutrient dense, makes me feel good, and saves money.

3. Books.
I love reading. I do it every single day, but yet I own very little books. Books are expensive, they take up a lot of space, and most books I only read once (Harry Potter excluded). This is why I go to the library and checkout books for free. I have found that I actually read more when I do not buy the books. When books have a due date, I am forced to read them instead of just leaving them to sit on my bookshelf collecting dust.

4. Manicures/pedicures. 
I love nothing more than a good spa day, however nail maintenance is a luxury I save for special occasions. The average cost in my area for a manicure and a spa pedicure is about $65 which if done monthly, adds up to $780 a year. There are other things I would rather spend my money on then something of little importance to me. A good clip and clear polish works well for me. Having nail care be a treat makes it even more special, especially with friends.

5. Excess bath-care products.
I think most of us have been guilty of buying too much make-up, shower gel, colognes, shampoos, lotions, and potions. Ads sell us items to make us look younger, tanner, sexier, thinner. Do we really need an elixir for our left elbow? At 30 years old I know what items work for me and which do not. I have a skincare routine that includes soap, witch hazel and argan oil- that’s it! I also use coconut oil to remove my eye make-up. I use my make-up until it is gone and then if I want something new, like a new color of lipstick, I research it and get something else and use it until it is gone. I do not feel the need to spend money on duplicate items and I try to stay away from marketed items that make users feel they are not enough in order to sell the product.

6. Gym membership. 
If you use the gym regularly and love it that is fantastic! I however, do not. I do yoga via classes or videos online and do my own at-home workouts or run outside. When I had a gym membership it was overall a waste for me. Doing workouts at home for free has been more beneficial for me and a great way to save money.

7. Subscription boxes. 
If you listen to a Podcast or click on any website you will likely see ads for subscription boxes. Boxes for skincare and make-up products, boxes for clothes, boxes for your beard, and even boxes for your dog. For example, FabFitFun costs $49.99 for a one-time subscription or $179.99 for an annual membership. So for $50 you are advertised to get a bunch of high-end products (which you do get) but most of the items are not needed or wanted. People I know who have done subscription boxes end up giving most of the stuff away or attempting to resell some of the items. Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace is full of items from subscription boxes.

8. Home decor. 
I am not going to lie, I enjoy wandering the home decor aisles at any store. I love nothing more than throw pillows and fuzzy blankets. I could spend hours sniffing candles and pretend redecorating my home. The problem is most of the items in the home decor section are not needed and honestly are overpriced. I have plenty of throw pillows, blankets, and candles. More than enough. While it can be tempting to want to make my home look like a Pinterest one, I keep away from the decor aisles in order to keep from mindlessly spending money on mass produced junk I do not need.

9. Fast fashion. 
This may be the hardest one for me. I have always and still love clothes. I love looking at people’s clothes, putting outfits together and when I was little my favorite thing to do was to put on fashion shows with my Barbies. The best way for me to save money is to not shop for clothes, especially new clothes or clothes made cheaply. I have started being really selective about when and where I buy clothes. When I do need something I try thrift it or shop Poshmark. I no longer buy clothing because it is on sale which saves money too. I am also in the process of creating a capsule wardrobe, which means I only shop for specific items I need. I have finally figured out my style and what works for me and what does not. I am able to appreciate trendy outfits without having to buy them for myself.

10. Alcohol. 
Brunch is one of my favorite outings, especially if mimosas are involved. I also enjoy grabbing a drink with a friend after work. The problem with mimosas and drinks after work (even if it is “happy hour”) is they start to add up. According to the Huffington Post, if someone only drinks on weekends, two drinks per day, it ends up costing about $2,500 a year. This does not include tips, Uber/Lyfts, or the 2 AM Taco Bell runs. You can also visit the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website to see just how much alcohol is not only costing you, but the economy too. I stick with my soda water or once in awhile I have a Kombucha, saving the alcohol for very special occasions. This not only saves my wallet, but my health too.

11. Movie tickets. 
The last time I went to the movies was with my niece to see Frozen II as part of her Christmas gift, otherwise I rarely go. Movies in my area cost $10-$13 and that is not including the $10 for popcorn. I honestly prefer to be able to watch movies in my own home and pause it so I can get up to pee or grab more snacks. I can get a couple months of unlimited Netflix shows and movies for the cost of me and Paul to go to one movie at the theater together.

12. Fast food. 
Like I said in the Alcohol summary, those Taco Bell runs add up. The last time I had fast food, the items were a McFlurry and he got a Big Mac with the total being $13. For $13 we could have bought a gallon of ice cream and most of the fixings for a burger (depending on the quality…). I do believe there can be a time and a place for fast food, but it should be far and few between. When I eat at home I save money and I feel so much better health-wise (aka: not feeling like I swallowed a brick).

13. Expensive/excessive gifts.
For Christmas, my family did a game exchange each person brought a board game and we did a “white elephant” game. All of us enjoy hosting game nights so a board game exchange ended up being perfect. As for my four year old niece and nephews, their favorite gift was a “toilet light” that lights up the toilet bowl different colors so you can see it at night. They saw the one at my house and loved it. My friends and I did not buy each other Christmas gifts (we never do) and neither did my husband and I. My husband and I prefer to put money we would usually spend on gifts towards a trip. Have you ever received gifts you did not want? I can guarantee you have. According to Fastcompany.com approximately $100 billion worth of products are expected to be returned from Thanksgiving through the New Year and an estimated 5 billion tons of returns end up annually in landfills. Buying (and receiving) gifts not wanted or needed is bad for the wallet and the planet.

14. Single use items.
This is items like paper towels, plastic bottles and paper napkins as well as kitchen gadgets that only serve one function. The only exception is my garlic press as 90% of my recipes call for minced garlic and it is a nightmare to have to do. As for single use items, I try to use reusable rags instead of paper towels and a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones, etc. It not only saves money, but it helps our earth mother as well.

15. Media.
Media for me means Blu-Rays, CDs, Magazines, in app purchases, speakers, tech gadgets, or unneeded smartphone upgrades. I prefer to use Netflix (and steal my sister’s Hulu account) and Spotify for television and music. I personally do not need the latest and greatest gadgets, even though I love my Google home mini (which I got for free). I upgrade my phone when it has reached its functional limit. Magazines I can also borrow from the library or read when I do got to the spa. I am still using my Macbook Pro from college, 7 years ago and it is holding up just fine.

16. “Just in case items.” 
These are items that are bought for a non-specific reason or date and may or may not ever be used. My mother-in-law comes to mind when I think of “just-in-case” items. She has an extra coffee maker and an extra Keurig “just in case” the two she has break. Not to mention she is a single woman and is the only user of both coffee machines. However, I think most of us can relate to “just-in-case” items. These items can be furniture for a house we may someday move into or clothes we buy in case we lose the weight we have been wanting to lose or buying a guitar in case when we retire we will want to play it.
The only just-in-case items I think are worth collecting is an emergency kit in case of a natural disaster. Apparently Oregon is well overdue for a massive earthquake, so having a “just in case” emergency kit is really a “just for when” kit.

17. Experiences I do not want to do.
When I turned 30 I told myself I was no longer go to do things I did not want to do. Now I know there will always be things I do not want to do like *cough* work *cough* cough* or doing the dishes. What I mean is I am a very agreeable person, to a fault. I will compromise a lot of the time and spend my precious extra time (and money) doing experiences I do not want to do just because I do not want to “let anyone down”. For example, a few friends invited me to see a play and I really was not that into it. I knew I would have a good time just because my friends were there, but I honestly did not feel like spending the money seeing a play I was not into. Not to mention I had plans to spend the weekend with my friends the next week. So instead of just forking over the money and seeing the play I declined the invitation. And you know what? The world did not end and my friends still like me. I also saved some money so I can enjoy a better experience with them at another time.

18. Individually packaged items. 
I have started buying the majority of my foods in bulk, which has saved me a lot of money. I get that a lot of states and towns do not offer bulk sections, which means this may not apply to everyone. Oregon has a lot of Farmer’s Markets and most grocery stores have bulk selections, which is really fortunate. Individually packaged or even precut items tend to cost way more than items bought in bulk or uncut fruits/veggies. Sometimes it is a pain to shop bulk or to chop items myself, but overall it saves money (and the oceans) and I get an excuse to watch The Golden Girls on Hulu while chopping.

This list is just some ways in which I save money, but there are many other ways I strive to live within my means. However, I am not perfect and I do not pretend to be. There are times when I buy a candle I don’t need or buy a zucchini wrapped in plastic from Trader Joe’s. I am called “the bad minimalist” after all. I still go and get my hair cut and colored by a professional because I am not ready for the grays to stay and I suck at doing my own hair. I am trying my best and I hope this post will inspire you to try yours. What items do you skip buying in order to save a few bucks? I would love more ideas and tips.

Check On It.

Yes, the title of this post is a Beyoncé song and it was fitting for my post content, but not at all related to the song. A few days ago, I was lost down the “rabbit hole” of social media and decided to “check up on” some former friends to see the going-ons of their lives. I already knew it was not a good idea, but did it anyway because if there is one thing I lack it is self control. There is a quote I scrolled past while on social media urging “stop checking on people that are not checking on you”. It could very well have meant physically checking up on people but I took it as checking up on people via internet “stalking”. I should have heeded the advice. Instead, I leapt face first into my former friends’ social media lives and came up gasping for air and feeling like a complete failure. 

One of them had posts highlighting the fact they had their dream career after graduating from a Master’s program and were able to buy and renovate a house and buy a new car. The other one had posted about recently graduating with a doctoral degree in psychology while living their dream in Southern California. 

Instead of feeling happy for their success I felt horrible about my own perceived lack thereof. I sat there ticking off the list of things they had succeeded in that I had not. For me, my lack of education was a huge hit to my feelings of self worth. I am very well aware that there are very brilliant, successful people without advanced degrees and plenty of people with advanced degrees who are so stupid it makes me question how they were ever able to pass kindergarten let alone obtain an advanced degree. However, continuing education is a sore spot for me. I am currently working so my husband, Paul can go back to school for a career in the medical field, which means I currently do not have the means to go back to school myself to obtain a doctorate or master degree. This makes me feel really behind even though I am grateful to be able to put Paul through school . I know this season of life will pass but seeing other people who are more successful right now hits a particular nerve. 

I brought my feelings up to Paul and he replied “You do not know anything about these people anymore. They could have thousands of dollars of school debt or just be pretending to love their lives. They only post on social media what they want the world to see”.

Touché. People only post on social media what they want others to see. Let me repeat that for my own benefit: people only post on social media what they want others to see. People do not (usually) post their bad marriages, insecurities, failures, debt, or hatred for their jobs. I certainly do not post those things (except here, obviously). There may even be people who look at my accounts and think my life is anything but a clusterfuck, so maybe I need to listen to my own advice and stop posting just the highlights of life…..

I could go delete all my social media accounts to spare myself from comparison but there are people that I do find inspiring that do not make me feel as though I am not enough. I follow accounts that promote art, comedy, zero waste, puppies, minimalism, Golden Girls, intersectional feminism, and body positivity. All these accounts inspire me and therefore I want to go on social media to see them. Instead of purging all social media I have decided to purge all the accounts of people who spark feelings of failure or insecurity. I am going to Marie Kondo my social media and rid myself of accounts that do not “spark joy”. Does that mean I am ridding accounts of anyone successful? No. If someone posts they trained hard and put blood, sweat, and tears into running a marathon and finally did it then I want to see that success. If someone posts pictures of their perfect house, life, marriage, kids, career and claims they have it all because they are #blessed, then yes, I am blocking them. 

I am also going to block people I am no longer friends with, not to be a bitch, but because the chapter of my life is closed and I do not want to keep rereading those stories when I could be creating new ones.  They are allowed to be successful and post about it, but I am no longer going to allow myself to be subjected to it. I am going to be kind to myself and this means I am going to stop checking up on the past and focus on the present and the future. I am going to do what Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness does and not worry about what everyone else is doing and just keep focusing on my own thing (and keep dancing in my kitchen).