This weekend I found myself gawking at a $5 single bumper car ride at Coney Island. One ride, $5?? And then I remembered that $5 is nothing now. It’ll be about the cost of one gallon of gas in the next three months. I realized that I was definitely entering a new point in my life……
That turn around point where you start to realize that changes in our economy have affected you? That happened to me sometime this month. Last week after my blackberry straight up broke, and all the insurance I’ve been paying on it for the past year is apparently a scam, the realization hit me: I was po’ po’ po’, and after tallying that there was roughly $1200 owed me from gigs, it was time to put a plan into action.
The first thing I did, after cry, was make what I call a “stress list” where I just list out everything that is freaking me out, and then I tried to formulate a plan to make some progress on everything on that list. Sometimes just making that list helps me feel better.
Since I’ve made the decision NOT to work for corporate assholes full time, I’ve needed to cut back on frivolous spending, and instead of freaking out about it, I’m trying to make it an adventure. I’ve been pilfering great blogs like The Simple Dollar for great ways to save a little bit, and contrary to what you may think, even little tiny eentsy weentsy bits help:
1. Travel. Now that I’m not working in Manhattan everyday, a monthly pass isn’t really necessary. There’s plenty of days that I’m working from home. Buy a weekly unlimited pass for busy weeks, and have a $20 card for other times you aren’t going to be in the city. And walk every once in a while.
2. Set a weekly budget for food, and leave yourself $20 bucks for frivolous spending, it’s way easier to stick to a budget if you give yourself some money to play with and not feel guilty about.
3. Eat out once a week, but no more. I realized that I could feed myself for $30 a week, probably less if I didn’t buy beer and ice cream, but I shop at the grocery store and look for deals.
4. Make one big meal a week and freeze portions of it for later. Last week I made Hamburger Stroganoff which fed two adults two big meals. (It would have lasted longer, but Matt had three helpings one night.)
5. See if there are things that you consume frequently that you could make yourself. Something I did recently was make my own oatmeal packets. I’m a sucker for brown sugar instant oatmeal. I bought a big tub of instant Oats, and a bag of brown sugar, and a package of smaller Ziploc baggies for less than $5. I made 48 dried servings of oatmeal. The ones you buy at the store are usually 8 servings for around 4 bucks. Obviously this was a smart move. (and you can keep a few on you while you’re gigging. It’s a quick snack, and there’s usually hot water bubblers everywhere you go.)
6. Pay your bills weekly. Sometimes it’s hard to find $80 for your phone bill if it happens to fall on the same week as your student loan payment. I found that if I stuck to my budget, I could find a spare 15 or 20 bucks each week that I could pay my phone bill with.
7. Buy produce. Way cheap, and healthy for you, especially if you’re supplementing your diet with Ramen. I made myself a staple diet last summer of hummus, pita, cheese and grapes; a peach or a banana for a snack, and a bowl of cereal in the morning. Pasta with sauce that I doctored up with spices and broccoli and REAL parm cheese.
8. Make friends with beans. Also way cheap, and can be eaten as a salad, or fried up with tortillas and a little meat for kickass buritos. Protein extravaganza!!
9. Commerce bank – if you’re like me you probably have change piles in various bags and jars. One Saturday afternoon Jack and I counted change that I had in one jar, and it was over $24. If you’re close to a Commerce bank, you can take it in, guess how much is in there and win a prize, and they give you cold hard cash, without taking a cut. $24 buys a lot of groceries if you’re careful.
10. Cut your coffee with cheaper coffee. Okay, I love, love LOVE my coffee, and I’m an unashamed snob about it. Last week I was running low on my Starbucks Sumatra whatever, and cut it with Cafe Bustella (which I call Cafe Busted, cuz it tastes like shit). It was the best coffee I’ve made yet. So, a $9 bag of grounds with a $5 can of whatever you can find, mix and you should have two weeks worth of blended coffee. Not too shabby.
And finally, this is something that I’ve been meaning to do: Start a garden. As much as I want to, I’m not sure I have the right skills yet. My ultimate dream would be tomatoes, basil, rosemary, peppers and cilantro growing right in my kitchen, but not yet. Tonight, I’m attending a Community Garden meeting in my neighborhood! Hopefully, I’ll pay a set price, labor a few hours a week in the garden, and have a crate of seasonal produce delivered to my apartment each week. I’m really excited about this, especially the ability to teach Jack about community and labor. God, could I sound any crunchier???