If you’re on a budget, chances are you’ve read a million lists designed to help you save money while also living in the big city. Make your own coffee! Avoid restaurants! Take public transportation! Enough!
Absolutely, those are great ways to save money in a major metropolitan area, but they certainly aren’t the only ways. I’ve always been a cost-conscious gal, and when I first moved to a big city, I was happy to find a few unique ways to navigate my exciting life in the city while also preserving my sanity and my savings account. Let me clue you in.
1) Throw a housewarming party
I know what you’re thinking. Won’t a party cost money? Yes, technically you’ll need to buy some chips and salsa and maybe a few boxes of pizza rolls. But what you spend on snacks, you’ll more than make up for in housewarming gifts, which usually include alcohol, wine racks, vases and other cute decorative items. If all goes according to plan, you won’t have to buy candles or tequila for the next few months. And no one says you have to stop with just a housewarming. As you get adjusted to your new apartment — if space and roommates permit — throw dinner parties every once in a while. You can ask everyone to bring one component of the meal, knowing that the host always gets to keep the leftovers. Pro tip: Volunteer to make the pasta. It doesn’t get much cheaper or easier than that.
2) Hit up networking events
If you’re on the job hunt, chances are you’re already attending networking events around your city. But even if you’re satisfied with your job, networking events are usually free to the public and provide free food and drinks to attendees. There’s nothing better than leaving an event with a full stomach and several new contacts in your phone.
Pro tip: Check out Eventbrite, subscribe to newsletters and join groups like Ladies Get Paid to find networking events in your city. Even better, listen to Ladies Get Paid founder Claire Wasserman dish on making more money with Jean Chatzky on the HerMoney Podcast.
3) Figure out your nonessentials
Everyone’s priorities are different, so it’s up to you to figure out what you can and cannot live without. I found that mapping out all my expenses was a great help — this way, I had a full picture of where my money was going. From there, I was able to discern which items or experiences would bring me genuine happiness, and which ones were costing me money simply due to routine. For example, if chatting with your favorite barista is the highlight of every morning, then don’t apologize for that cup of joe. But if you’re buying a daily coffee just because you never learned how to make it yourself, attempt to learn.
Pro tip: If you want to keep yourself accountable, download a budget-tracking app (Mint, Personal Capital and Clarity Money are all free on the App Store) or consider investing in a Financial Gym membership. “We have certified financial trainers that act as your B.F.F.—Best Financial Friend—who help clients feel empowered by their money, by providing ongoing encouragement and tools to achieve each of their financial goals,” says Shannon McLay, founder of the Financial Gym. Yup, McLay was on the podcast, too.
4) Be smart about your beauty and fitness routine
Beauty and fitness can often take a backseat when you’re trying to cut back on expenses. But it’s still important to feel good and treat yourself every once in a while. Hair salons, nail salons and gyms often offer promotions and discounts for first-time customers. There’s nothing wrong with trying out several (or several dozen) businesses before choosing your favorite.
Pro tip: When you finally settle on a salon or gym, ask if they have additional discounts for referring a friend. I found that I was able to score 20% off the occasional pedicure by having a buddy tag along.
5) Pick up a side gig
Whether you find yourself falling behind on rent or just want some extra spending money, seek out opportunities that can help you bring in cash without requiring long-term commitment. You can easily use your hobbies and interests — photography, graphic design, writing — as a means of snagging one (or a few!) great side gigs. There’s also nothing wrong with picking up a shift at a local boutique or café that will give you the flexibility you may need with hours. Money is money!
Pro tip: People are more willing to help an acquaintance than they are a stranger online, so let your neighbors know you’re looking for additional money. You never know when they’ll need a babysitter or dog walker.
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