I’m wont to overshare, be overly honest, and shoot myself in the foot, so I’ll give you the following information in advance: I just got out of massive credit card debt despite previously making more money than 91% of people my age (note: this is no longer the case but I’m 10,000x happier for reasons I will describe in another post). As outlined in a previous entry, a big portion of this was egregious overspending on restaurants. Yet another portion was my habit of making impromptu shopping trips to fast fashion stores which, while seeming cheap, are actually impulsive and often yield useless bulk in my already overstuffed closet. A third major portion was my “half-baked budget” travel style, in where I feel like I’m traveling for cheap but in reality I am nowhere near taking advantage of the true savings I can achieve. Staying in a $150 hotel is not being frugal, nor is it putting you out of your comfort zone (which is the point of travel, IMHO). Staying at a homestead, hostel, or AirBnB condo is not only cheaper, but more fun and more adventurous.
I could go on, but you had the idea with the first sentence of that paragraph. I was in debt, and in a good amount of it.
I got out, frankly, with the help of forgiving parents who had more of a “This had better be a lesson learned, Haley Christina” look rather than an “Oh, girls will be girls – don’t worry about it! We’re always here!” look. I also seriously downgraded my monthly subscriptions, keeping only my Netflix account for movies and a couple of inexpensive Patreon donations. And, of course, I drastically reduced my restaurant expenditures per month down to a once-a -week outing. All of these things help, but the fact that reducing expenses saves money is common knowledge to us all.
If you need to save money and get out a debt, you need to start by giving a hard look at where your money goes – not just where, but why. When I looked at how much I was spending on restaurants, I thought about why I did it and came up with these reasons:
1) I’m not making enough time to cook myself healthy meals.
2) I don’t know how to cook myself some of the meals I love to dine out on (i.e. pad thai, beer butt chicken, octopus sashimi) – because I haven’t made the time to learn.
As soon as I realized these problems were tackle-able, I tackled them. I save a lot of money and enjoy several delicious, home-cooked meals with my boyfriend, friends, and/or family almost every night. My pad thai still needs work, but hey, it’s an art.
The same thing could be applied to anything else you spend money on. For instance, if you go out drinking every weekend and spend $150 each time, maybe it’s because you a) don’t know how to make your favorite drinks at home and b) don’t know of any other interesting things to do in your city, so you go to a bar even though you know there might be a cover/a temptation to buy overpriced drinks. Why not invest in some bartending supplies, look up free or cheap events in your city, and pregame at home before Ubering out for a night on the town? Or maybe take a break and have a wine and game night at home? You can’t go wrong with a little Cards Against Humanity or, my personal favorite, Heads Up. Balk if you will at the celebrity endorsement (which I didn’t know it had before I searched for it), but the animal section is undeniably hysterical. I suppose the genesis here is that every expensive habit we have can be whittled down to a “why” and subsequently reduced from there, provided we are willing to put in a little time and effort in learning the more reasonable way to do things.
To take things further, we can further question our purchasing of unnecessary items (i.e. super-expensive designer clothing, makeup, home decorations) by asking ourselves this same “why”. For example, if I’m out buying a Arne Jacobson egg chair (which retails for, geeidunno, something like $7,000?), and I ask myself why I’m buying it, the harsh answer is that I’m probably doing it to appear cutting-edge and Batman-rich to my homies. Is that really a good reason? No. Looking well-off won’t make me happy – making my friends comfortable and spending time with them will. So, instead I’ll opt for a chair that is long-lasting, comfortable, and pleasant-fitting with my decor. It doesn’t even have to be the cheapest thing, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere near $7,000.
Hopefully that makes sense. If you’re buying something to look good in the eyes of others, it’s probably not worth it and it’s not going to make you any happier in the long run.
I’m of the firm opinion that we all have reasons for doing everything we do, whether subconscious or conscious. Think about why you’re spending what you spend, and be totally honest with yourself. You just might realize that that flashy new car (or phone, or pair of shoes, or pair of weights, or Lululemon pants, or “designer lunchbox” (wtf), or pair of earrings, or synth) you were gonna buy is actually totally lame.