I’m pretty sure no one comes to a fashion blog to read money-saving tips, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have much business writing about budgeting/finances. I clearly have a love for shopping, fancy lattes, and other Chicago delicacies that involve money. However, I’m also not that person who will be featuring a new designer bag every month or jetting off on a vacation when I feel like I need a break. The truth is, while Denny and I make a decent living, we chose career paths that provide more personal fulfillment rather than decimals in the bank account. On the one hand, it’s a privilege to be able to make that kind of choice. On the other hand, it can be hard, especially in this social media age, when you see other people living a wealthier lifestyle.
I was actually having a conversation- well, through Instagram DMs- with a college friend (hey Alex!) when this topic came up. We both went to the University of Chicago where there’s a lot of pressure to be the best- and to go into the best careers (re: the ones that pay the most). Neither of us took that path, but we have a lot of classmates who did. There are constant photos of them traveling the world, eating in the best restaurants, and buying luxury homes, and it can be hard to resist those feelings of regret or “What if I had done this differently?” Denny went to Notre Dame and then law school but rejected traditional law jobs in favor of working in politics. He loves what he does, but it can be unpredictable and takes a long time to work your way up.
Everyone picks a different path, but, if blogging has taught me anything, it’s that we’re all really curious about the ones we didn’t pick. On the outside, I feel like Denny and I look like we have our shit together and are working our way up in the world- but it also sucks that we don’t own our place, have to budget for daily expenses, and sometimes overdraw our checking account (oops). I use my Instagram to showcase beautiful, intriguing, and aspirational things, but I really use this blog to talk about the real-life, not-so-pretty stuff. We all have it, right?
As I mentioned in this post, Denny and I have really worked to be more conscious of our budget/lifestyle this year. We made some big changes, including a move to a new neighborhood and an apartment with, shall we say, character? to cut our rent payment, and we got rid of one of our cars. However, there are also small day-to-day things we do that help to manage our expenses, and, honestly, they’re all things that we don’t find very difficult. I think budgeting is like dieting- if you give up too much, you end up feeling resentful and binge later on. So here’s what works for us-
7 Ways We Save Money
- Making Coffee at Home– During the week, Denny and I only drink coffee at home. Actually, Denny probably only drinks coffee at home. I keep all other coffee runs to the weekend, and it’s usually just 1-2 times. We bought a Nespresso last year, and, while the pods can be a little pricey, it’s still way cheaper than popping into Starbucks everyday.
- Trader Joe’s– We don’t live very close to a Trader Joe’s, but it’s always worth using the car for a trip. I’ve price-compared a lot of grocery stores in every place I’ve lived, and Trader Joes consistently has the best prices. There’s a trade-off since you can’t get major brand names there, but they have so many great products- especially frozen meals- that it’s totally worth it.
- Skipping the Alcohol– We often skip the booze when we go out to eat. I know, so lame. Honestly, I can’t drink very much without feeling it the next day, and drinks in Chicago are so expensive that it’s not worth having more than one anyway. Sometimes I’ll indulge in a fancy cocktail or a frosé (clearly), but it’s not necessary for us to enjoy our night.
- Walk When We Can– This really only works in a city, but we tend to walk everywhere we can. Between parking, ride shares, and gas, it can get really pricey to drive around a city. There are tons of options for public transportation which is amazing, but it’s not always the most convenient. Personally, I love to walk, and we picked our new place based on the fact I can walk to work. (LIFE CHANGING). This will obviously get trickier in the winter, but we’re walking everywhere while we still can!
- Hand-Me-Downs– The majority of furniture in our apartment comes courtesy of hand-me-downs and Craigslist. We lucked out that my mom is an obsessive furniture buyer/refurbisher/hoarder, and we tend to get a lot of our pieces from her. I’m also obsessed with the almost-new Restoration Hardware couch I found for $400 a few years back on Craigslist, but, sadly, it didn’t fit in our current place. So what did we do? Swapped with my parents, of course. Did I mention my parents are the best?
- Roadtrips– Denny has a lot of family out east, including two of his sisters. Most family holidays, weddings, etc are on the east coast so Denny and I have taken many long road trips. I actually kind of love them, and it always makes for some good bonding time.
- Check Those Monthly Subscriptions– and cancel them!! Denny and I (okay, mainly Denny) had so many dumb ones. He had to apologize multiple months in a row because he kept forgetting to cancel them- but I think we’ve finally gotten rid of them all!
- Online Food Services– I recently placed an order at Brandless at the behest of my friend Jo, and we’re waiting on our first order to get here. It’s on online grocery retailer that sells products without, well, a brand name. They have a lot of amazing snack and toiletry items, and I had a hard time containing my excitement since everything is a flat price of $3. I also recently placed an order with Imperfect Produce where they send you a box of produce that would never make it to store shelves because of some physical abnormalities. The actual item itself though tastes the same as every other thing you’d buy in the grocery store, and, again, it’s a fraction of the cost. They also let you swap out items once you pick the box you want so you aren’t stuck with a bunch of things you’d never eat.