Do you feel strapped, no money for fun, or for loved ones, or for new things, even though you have a job? Does it feel like you've done everything, but you're facing austerity from now on?
Now wait, maybe it's not that bad. Is there waste you haven't noticed, though you've cut back on lattes and take lunch to work? In 3 years, even being careful, my pockets still have holes in them.
Where do you look next? To start, do you believe that "You get what you pay for"? Filet mignon tastes better than hamburger, an heirloom tomato does too. Does this project universally, to clothes, cleaning products, perfumes, activities? Maybe it's time to reassess your views.
Take clothes. Walking into that expensive/trendy store, you pay for the convenience, like those cute blue handbags in the mall window. Next season, on clearance, that look's old. Value shoppers know—the basics, black, white, navy, tan, maroon—and what looks good on you, never go out of style. For the season's color, one belt or scarf should do.
And what about shopping in places not chic? While visiting the upscale area of my city with a friend from out of town, we were waiting for the art movie theater to open. We stopped to browse at a posh boutique next door. As my friend and I sifted through racks of $100 t-shirts in disbelief, the employee made small talk. She commented "I love your sandals." They were from Walmart.
Which brings up the point, will people know if that snazzy shirt/pants/shoes is from Walmart, etc, if you pair it with something expensive, unless they shop there? And what about the Goodwill, the one that services an expensive area? Finding a $1000 Ralph Lauren suit for $7, another friend said he gets compared to James Bond, certainly for that British cut. And garage sales in affluent areas—the heck with vintage stores!
Now proceed to what you eat. Do you shop upmarket healthy food stores? I buy organic produce, shampoo and supplements at some—but I don't buy everything there! I've met people who look down on Aldi, but I also know bodybuilders and yoga teachers shopping there. A non-profit group called the Environmental Working Group publishes two lists, "the dirty dozen" about produce loaded with pesticides, the other "the clean 15" in which you can safely buy conventionally.
Eating simply saves too. A crock pot of beans for cheese burritos, omelets, veggies steamed garnished with butter and parmesan, or a Costco cooked chicken and fresh fruit for dessert are easy and healthy.
And natural cleaning products cost pennies. Baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide serve surprising purposes. For instance, mixing vinegar and dishwashing soap, left for a ½ hour, really cleans that filthy fiberglass tub. And a vinegar soaked paper towel replaces artificially scented dryer sheets. No need for harsh expensive chemicals.
And lastly, for entertainment, what gives you a good time? Is it a novel experience, a chance to escape, a challenge? In examining my life, what I remember about travels, the events, the spectacles are not what I was witnessing as much as the people. What did I learn from them, impart to them? How did we react together that made me feel a part of a larger world?
Connection, how do you generate it? The answer, largely forgotten, you get it by giving—not a tit for tat, you give of yourself generously. Organizing a games or a movie night at home for friends is inexpensive. The games serve as icebreakers, the right movie starts conversations. Becoming an organizer in a club or a meetup helps create community.
By varying my consumer habits, I afford quality. I buy steaks and enjoy travel with careful planning. Can you do it? Ask yourself, for each thing you buy, if there's a cheaper but equal alternative? Save where you can so that you can spend where you need to, and you just might find that you can afford a rich and satisfying lifestyle too.
Chris Graham is an author and editor for Y's: Lifestyle and Travel for the New Millennial. For more ideas on saving money, visit: http://ysmillennials.com/.© 2016 Chris Graham
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