You Know You Need This: How to Save Money

solving your dollar dilemmas, one puzzle at a time.

solving your dollar dilemmas, one puzzle at a time.

A September 2012 The Atlantic article deemed Millennials, or Generation Y, the “cheapest” generation — ever. Loop21 took offense to the label and graciously redefined Gen Y as “cost conscious.” No matter which set of semantics you employ to describe those born between 1982-ish and 2001-ish, everyone can benefit from educated spending.

As a Millennial just starting out in my profession, reality has forced me to drastically redefine my definition of “necessities,” especially with milestone purchases. For example, I refuse to buy a new car. I will drive my damaged Camry into the ground because: 1) depreciation exists, and 2) my car safely delivers me from Point A to Point B. I don’t care to be a homeowner; renting is sufficient. My once must-have million dollar a la Princess Diana dream wedding has morphed into a no-frills courthouse affair. Lastly, I refuse to have children until I can no longer safely bear them – which should be about the time I’ve saved up enough to at least pay for their essentials.

In addition to not buying into the “Keeping up with the Jones’” or the Kardashians race, or your favorite trust-fund-baby-fashion-bloggers here are some tenants that I live by that may work for you:

Drink cold-brew coffee. I used to make daily caffeine runs to my local gourmet coffee shop. Unfortunately, paying $6 for imported java in an eco-friendly cup quickly consumed the pennies in my checking account. And calculating the time I would need to leave my apartment to wait in line and arrive to class on time was taxing on my non-caffeinated brain. Then, I discovered cold-brew coffee. Not only is cold-brew inexpensive and convenient, it also is healthier than regular coffee and can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can purchase a cold-brew set online, or DIY. The longer you let the coffee grinds steep, the stronger your brew will be.  I usually fill my thermos with three-quarters cold-brew and top it off with organic soy milk, but comb the W’s for ways to diversify your brew.

Eat home-cooked meals. If you’re like me and don’t live at home with your parents, eating out quickly becomes the norm. Who has the patience to make home-cooked meals and, god forbid, actually eat it? I do. The benefits reaped from preparing meals on weekends are too numerous to ignore. Making meals saves you $30-plus a day on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s also healthier – you control the ingredients. You can also alternate your meals by cooking two to three different meals at a time (i.e. pasta sauce, curry, chicken, etc.), freezing them in portioned containers, then heating up whatever you feel like eating. Can’t cook? I couldn’t either. In college, I couldn’t boil water to save my life. But if I can do it, so can you. Sure it took time for me to graduate from Hamburger Helper to off-the-cuff stir-fry, but following recipes and eventually improvising is a simple life skill worth learning.

Don’t go out that often. Or at least don’t do expensive things. You want to spend the day at Disneyland? You want to have high tea at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel? You can’t. Until you find your J. Howard Marshall (and best his offspring out of his fortune), you should just forget expensive fun times. Instead, scour the Internet for (nearly) free events in your hood. For you Anglenos, peep LA Weekly’s most recent “Free Things To Do” list.

Resist the urge to buy designer goods. As the spawn of two financially irresponsible individuals (i.e. my parents racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debt with no means to pay it back), I learned this lesson the hard way. In high school, I worked at a fast-food chain and also lived with my grandparents, who graciously paid for my essentials. Thus, with no expenses and a penchant to shine, what else would I do with my hard-earned money, but spend it all on Armani Exchange outfits, Prada purses, and a nine-layer prom dress? At the time, it seemed logical. But then I went to college and grad school and became one with student loans. Now whenever I have the urge to spend my Uncle Sam money on designer goods, I simply review my student loan total. Plus, as one of my ex-boyfriend’s mom pointed out: “You can’t eat those, can you?” So ask yourself: What’s more important, eating, or clutching your discounted Hermes Birkin crying from hunger pains?

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