When I was in college, I was flat broke. I lived in a crappy low income apartment where I heard occasional gunshots, drove an even crappier gas guzzling rusty Taurus, smoked Dorals and lived on Ramon noodles and spaghettios. Every semester I would twitter away my financial aid by living above my means and then when I was broke again, I’d apply for a credit card. Partly why I had such a hard time living frugally was because I was also a thriving musician and young mom who felt guilty if I couldn’t take my daughter to see a new movie or buy her a brand new outfit once in awhile.
Working for an airline in college didn’t help either because I was able to fly anywhere I wanted to for FREE but ended up using credit cards to pay for hotels and food. A few years later after graduating, I landed a job with a modest income of 35K as a graphic/web designer, started earning decent cash freelancing but was still carrying around that old debt. At first I was so excited about not having to live paycheck to paycheck that I piddled money away shopping, eating out, seeing movies and even going to Disneyworld! Quickly I realized that dragging that old debt along was really weighing me down and it was time to stop paying minimum payments and take care of bizniz if you will.
My New Years resolution was to put EVERY AVAILABLE DOLLAR towards my balances. Right now, nearly all money after gas, groceries, rent, food for my cat, etc. goes towards my credit card debt. Now you may be thinking “Wait, what do you mean nearly all of your money?” Well little cricket, in order to keep my sanity I do allow myself a little room to move. I figure that being in debt and crawling your way out is miserable enough and I’m not going to deny myself the little pleasures in life ($5 or less) such as the occasional 6 pack of New Glaurus, playing the claw machine at the grocery store, downloading an album or a enjoying a Snickers. Besides, now I find MUCH more satisfaction watching my balances dwindle down and cringe at the thought of wasting money at the mall, eating out or buying a latte because the end goal of financial security and getting rid of that shadow of debt following me everywhere is way better!
Here are some ways to stretch your dollars:
1. No Eating Out or Fast Food. I’ve been cooking more and it’s way cheaper. Leftovers rock!
2. Buy Generic. I shop at the Dollar Store for staple items.
3. Do your own car repairs when possible. I can handle changing my own air filter thank you very much.
4. Stop impulse purchases. Would life go on if I don’t buy that magazine, gum, or new lip gloss flavor?
5. Hit up thrift stores. If you do need clothes, you’ll save a ton of money. I like retro and vintage anyway!
6. Pack your lunch. I eat a PB&J or ramon noodles every day for lunch and then make a nice dinner.
There are a ton more creative ways you can save money that are obvious like using coupons, car pooling, turning your lights off, air drying your clothes, and so on. Just keep your eyes on the prize and you’ll find yourself making much better money saving decisions!