How I’m (Working on) Spending Less

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The other day I had a conversation with a friend about job benefits and how terrifying it was to pick a benefits package – it was one of the first adult decisions I had to make that seemed permanent. Right after that conversation, I wrote a check for my rent, looked up LSAT prep classes online, and cooked myself a nutritionally balanced (ish) meal. I was adulting. It is terrifying.

One of the perks of adulting is recognizing that money should probably be saved more frequently than it is spent. I’ve tried the whole budgeting thing before and had varying levels of success, but this time it is real. Thankfully, I have no student loans – shout out to mom and dad for that one. But in a possibly stupid move, I’m considering law school.

The goal is to save as much money now while I’m fully employed so that law school is less of a burden (fingers crossed for a nice scholarship). However, spending money is just so much easier than saving it. If you’re like me and pretending to adult or you want to save up for that trip to Bali next year (take me with you!), I’ve taken some (very basic) steps to save money.

First up was a nice little closet clear out. Maybe you’ve heard of the capsule wardrobe craze or the minimalism movement, but the core idea is to limit how much clothing is hanging on your rail at any point in time. I regularly go through my closet and pull out things that don’t fit or that aren’t my style or that I wanted to fix but never got around to. The move from my parent’s house to my apartment meant a big clear out – my donation pile was embarrassing large, but there’s a satisfaction to going through and clearing all those maybes out of the way. (Feel free to try the Marie Kondo Konmari method or just to do it willy nilly – whatever works best for you!) Despite having fewer items of clothing, I could see every single piece and know they fit – I didn’t have an “I have nothing to wear” excuse anymore.

Next up, all winter pieces were tucked away for the summer and all summer pieces were pulled out and hung nicely. The mentality is that only that which is useful right now is visible. I tucked all my winter clothes in a gym bag I never use and will rotate out my summer clothes when my apartment switches from A/C to heat. An added perk of this organizational update is that when I pull out the clothes from the next season, it’ll be like adding new clothes to my wardrobe – all those sweaters that have been tucked away will be a new surprise. Switching to summer, I didn’t really feel the need to buy twelve new summer dresses because my old favorites came out of storage and I was reminded how much I loved them in past hot weather rather than remembering them as the things that blocked my access to my sweater.

Continuing the clear out theme, I went over to my emails. My mom jokes that she doesn’t need an alarm because every morning she gets an email from Joanne’s Fabrics that wakes her up. If you’re like me, you get a thousand emails a day from every website you’ve ever ordered online from. Well now’s the time to clear them out – unsubscribing from all those stores you might be tempted by means one less temptation to spend money on things you don’t really need. If you really need a plain white work shirt, you can always go shopping specifically for that. Once I unsubscribed from a bunch of those email lists, the temptations to shop every week were gone. Maybe you’re not a quilter and don’t get those Joanne’s emails, but everyone is on a listserve they don’t need to be on – since typing this I’ve received an email from Keds, Potbelly, H&M, and IcelandAir. The temptation to buy myself a new pair of shoes and a new outfit, grab a sandwich and head for the airport is strong. I’ll be unsubscribing shortly.

Next step was to head to my wallet. I’m trying to transition away from using a credit card for every little purchase and focus on using cash and/or a debit card. There’s limitations to how much cash I have on hand at any given moment, which makes my spending lower. (I also really don’t like handing over cash and receiving change for some reason – it sparks some serious anxiety.) Using a debit card is slightly less successful in this because I do not want an overdrawn charge (again :/). But both keep me in line better than a credit card. Even though I work diligently to make sure I don’t overspend on my credit card, the temptation to pay now and worry later is there. I am trying to build credit, but I’m trying to transition to only using it for emergencies and to pay for a biweekly metro card reload.

Speaking of my metro card – one of my job benefits is a travel reimbursement program that means I don’t get charged tax for my daily travel-related purchases (I think that’s the deal – I could be getting swindled right now. One of the perks of an “adulting” decision.) Each paycheck has a fee withdrawn and I then pay for my Metro card reload and can get reimbursed for that payment. It would be easy to pretend that that reimbursement was new money, but it’s not – I’ve already paid for it in my check. So that reimbursement money has been going straight to my savings account. I try not to look at it and just pretend the money is long gone. Reimbursements and tax returns and checks from Grandma are all going straight to savings, where they can build a slightly higher interest and be saved for a rainy day (a.k.a. the start of law school). I calculate money based on that direct deposit, rather than on the money I’m being reimbursed.

(Quick shout out to direct deposit for saving me from a biweekly trip to the bank).

Every other money-saving step I’ve taken has been relatively small. Like a proper adult, I use my mother’s washing machine (thanks mom!). I try to metro as much as possible rather than taking Ubers or paying for parking. I try to avoid eating out (despite Chipotle being my one true love). In a strange bit of health conciousness, I’ve been trying to work out multiple times a week and thanks to YouTube, there’s a thousand free 15-minute, 30-minute, 45-minute workouts online, rather than paying for classes or a gym membership. I’ve adopted a more European approach to the grocery shop, where I buy for a day or two rather than a week – I make less waste when my fruit doesn’t inevitably go bad, and it’s easier to pop in and out without extra purchases than it would be if I was doing an aisle by aisle shop.

Basically, there’s a thousand ways for me to save money and I’m trying them all. So here’s to hoping we all find scholarships and cheap travel deals.

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