Whenever people ask me for advice about saving money I always feel like I’m scrambling for words. I think it’s because there isn’t really a silver bullet for longterm savings. The key to saving money, even if you don’t make very much, is finding lots of little ways to chisel down your budget. The best assets you will ever have are money and time; money that you can save and invest and time for it to grow (hellooooo compound interest)!
In addition to maintaining a $200 a month grocery budget (for two adults in NYC) I’ve found lots of little ways to lower our cost of living. By doing a lot of research and price comparisons I’ve found super cheap alternatives to a lot of things and now I’m going to share them 7 of them with you!
Ok, here we go. This part might not seem glamorous but you should see my spreadsheets:
I buy my razors for 19% less than most people. Forget those subscription shave sites, and whatever you do don’t buy blades at the store! At my local pharmacies (Rite Aid, Duane Reade) your standard razor cartridge refill pack is about $16.86 for 4 blades (that’s $4.21 a razor). I buy all of my razors from Dorco instead. Dorco actually manufactures razors so essentially the same razor refill costs $19.12 for 24 blades (About 80 cents a razor). It’s way cheaper than the store, even with coupons, and it’s also cheaper than dollar shave club or any of those other subscriptions. They have men’s razors too!
I only spend $16 a year on household soap. In an effort to save money lots of people purchase soap dispensers for the bathroom and the kitchen and then buy hand soap refills, but not this girl. I toss a couple of tablespoons of castile soap into my foaming soap pumps and then top them off with water. Believe it or not the pump turns the soapy liquid into this awesomely foamy soap. My favorite scent is rose! Oh, and you can also use it for washing dishes (if you hand wash) so you don’t ever need to buy dish soap again either!
Cloth napkins and the best kitchen towels ever. I love my cloth napkins! I think I paid about $7 for 16 red gingham napkins, and that was 3 years ago so I’d say they’ve already paid for themselves. I never buy paper napkins, paper cups, or paper plates because to me it’s just throwing away money. We occasionally use paper towels for really dirty jobs that a cloth can’t handle, but we only use a few rolls a year and for everything else we use these towels. They’re commercial grade kitchen towels and you can buy a set of 12 for $15. They’re durable and they’ll break you of your paper towel habit once and for all.
Discover your very own home cafe! I’ve talked before about how much money you can save if you pack your lunch instead of buying it out (plus isn’t it great to have a little taste of home with you at work?) but you can also save serious money by going DIY on your morning coffee fix. Coffee drinks are expensive, and those fancy drinks that are more cream, syrup, and flavoring than coffee are also crazy high calorie. The fella takes his coffee to work every day and it saves us over $75 a month. These days even the cheap coffee machines like ours have timers so just set it the night before and you can wake up to the beautiful aroma of freshly brewed coffee like we do! By the way, if you’re looking for a decent inexpensive coffee try Cafe Bustelo!
Get as many manicures and pedicures as you want (at home)! In New York City most ladies seem to get manicures and pedicures on the regular. My theory is that everyone is just attempting to obscure the layer of grime all us city dwellers perpetually have wedged under our fingernails. I love playing with nail colors, but the truth is unless you’re fabulously wealthy you really don’t need to pay another human being to perform basic grooming tasks. It really isn’t that hard to give yourself a professional looking manicure, and I promise that with a little practice you’ll get surprisingly good. If I got a mani/pedi once a week it would cost about $25 each visit($20 for service/$5 for tip). That’s $100 a month and $6,000 in just 5 years!!!
Recharge, baby! I can’t imagine a more boring way to spend money than by going to the store to buy batteries. About a year ago the fella suggested we buy rechargeable batteries at Costco and I absolutely love them! In addition to saving money on a product that’s typically disposable (my sweet spot) I think rechargeable batteries are way cuter than the old black and copper guys. Win-win.
I skip the dryer. We live in New York and we aren’t fabulously wealthy so we do our laundry at a laundromat. Ok, that’s a lie. The fella does our laundry at a laundromat. I haven’t set food in a laundromat in probably 7 years. Anyway, despite the fact that we live in a small apartment we line dry the majority of our clothes. I think our setup is pretty clever, we have hooks on one wall and then just run lines of rope from there to the doorknob across the room so it can all be put up and taken down in seconds. Skipping the dryer only saves us a few bucks a week, but line drying seriously increases the lifespan of your clothing, and that’s significant.