Saving Money Without Losing Your Mind

By: Jordan Elizabeth

“I LOVE being frugal!” said no one, ever. But, when you’re on a fixed income - or basically anyone who wasn’t born a millionaire - it’s an inevitability. And often, when you think about saving money, visions of Ramen Noodles dance in your head, which make it seem totally awful. But saving money does not mean turning into some derelict who can’t afford heat. Realizing this a month ago, I decided to buck up, spend less, and save more.

Cable/Internet

First, I looked at my cable bill. Yikes - nearly $200/month! Cable and internet is one of those things that seems like a utility you just have to have, like gas or electricity. But it’s actually a luxury, so you should think of it accordingly. In the world of Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Hulu (all with their own original programming multiplying like bunnies in Spring), the need for basic cable truly is dwindling. Think about what you and your family like to watch each week (mindless viewing doesn’t count!) and when you watch it. When I did it, I could only name 6 shows I watch religiously, and I never watch them live. The issue here is, that’s why they invented DVR, right? Well, unless you have to watch it that night, why pay upwards of $19/month for a DVR box, when you can subscribe to Hulu and watch those shows the next day, for $7.99/month?

What I chose to do (with the help of a website that calculates your costs), is to just pay for internet, continue the services I was already paying for (Netflix, Amazon Prime) and go back to that archaic antenna TV for basic channels. I subscribed to Hulu for $7.99/month and also Sling TV for $20/month, which - with a small device - gives you cable channels like AMC, CNN, and HGTV (so you can still watch home improvement shows until you’re too tired to actually do your own home improvements). Yes, it’s an adjustment to go back to the days where you actually sat down promptly at 7:59pm to catch that 8:00pm show, but is it really that much of a sacrifice? Not for me, when I think about the $100 I’m saving every month. Plus, I have fond memories of my mom screaming “it’s starting!!” and running to make it the living room on time.

Now about those subscriptions. While some companies frown upon sharing services with friends and family (Hulu only let’s you use it on one device at a time), Netflix and Amazon Prime give you the option to share (Netflix has a “Family” option, where you can stream on 4 devices at one time, and Amazon Prime just let’s you add family members to your account). So, rather than both my sister and I paying for those separately, we just moved to one account and split the cost! Splitting a $12/month service isn’t a lot, but any little thing counts, right?

Food Budget

My next biggest cost was food. Living in a city, I don’t have a big kitchen or a car, so grocery shopping and cooking aren’t the easiest. But, when I saw that between my husband and I, we could spend almost $80 per day ordering in (sometimes more. Ok fine, often more), I couldn’t justify it because “my counters are small” and “milk is heavy!” If I shop smart and forgo random luxury items like artisanal cheeses and 2 pounds of fancy olives, we can eat 3 meals a day for a week for about $100. I didn’t even do the math on these savings because thinking of all the money we were, literally, eating will make me want to puke.

Transportation

My last big expense was transportation. Well, I blame my husband’s affinity for cabs on this one, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly refusing to be chauffeured around the city, either. For us city dwellers, public transportation is the best, cheapest (and often, the fastest) way to get around. In return, you just have to deal with the slight stagnant smell of garbage and urine. But for $2.75 a ride, I can make do. For those suburban ladies looking to save, it’s time to bring back the soccer mom car pool! Whether you’re going to work, or to meet a local friend somewhere, try and carpool to save money on gas. It’s also better for the environment and you get that much more time to chat and gossip! It’s a win-win.

This month, I took it a step further and have been riding my bike to and from work. The added benefit to this is, it’s my daily workout and I’m spending less money on fitness classes. And the only flip side to this is, I show up to work a little sweaty. Although women “glisten”, right? So I show up glistening, which now sounds quite nice.

Most people will spend more as soon as they start making more (I’m raising my hand in shame). But now that I’ve taken the steps to drastically decrease my monthly spending and we have yet to eat one packet of Ramen Noodles, I wonder why I didn’t do this years ago. It’s crazy to think of how little you need many things in your life, until you cut them out! If you need the push to pinch your purse a little more, keep in mind: saving means you can splurge later on! So when you hate the fact that you can’t DVR “Scandal,” think of the fact that you may now be able to afford one of her delicious wool coats and matching Prada bag.

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JORDAN ELIZABETH - Life

Jordan Elizabeth is a comedian, TV Writer/Producer, collector of hobbies, and master of putting off adulthood. She can be heard on the Podcast "3 Dudes and a Broad" and performs stand-up comedy with "Girls Gone Funny." She lives in Manhattan with her fiance and two dogs. Read more about her life at Jordie Elizabeth and follow her on Twitter at@JordiElizabeth.