For many of us, the bulk of our stress has deep financial roots. Whether or not you make as much as you deserve, feeding your families, paying the rent on time, and having enough for extra fun is daunting. Like a lot of 20-somethings, I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience in not having a lot of money. It can be really difficult, especially for those with student loans or medical expenses and those living under the poverty line. I in no way mean to undermine your struggles. I’m definitely no financial expert, but I have learned a few tips for living well within your means and finding the joy in things that cost no money at all, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
Obviously, money is a security blanket. It’s what we can fall back on in case of emergencies or unexpected circumstances. It gives us peace of mind. It’s great to have savings and emergency funds, but money is not the be all end all, no matter what our society says. Being grateful for what we do have, whether that’s good health, good relationships, or a good sense of humor, will help you realize the significance simply because money can’t buy those things! Be thankful and count your blessings. Life is too short to worry about your bank account when you’ve been blessed with life’s biggest treasures.
Yes, it’s fun to try out trendy bars & expensive restaurants and go to the movies when you’re out with friends. But these aren’t your only options, and you certainly don’t need to shell out half your paycheck when you’re out on the town in order to have a good time. Get creative with your free time — make it a tradition to host stay-in nights with your friends and play board games with drinks & homemade dinners. Or opt for having date night at home for once. Also, take advantage of your local library! You can find pretty much any movie there nowadays and it’s totally free (as long as you return it on time ;)). If you stay involved with your city, you’ll be in the know when free events are happening too, like public markets or clothing swaps. Although the market may cost money if you plan to shop, it can also be fun to just wander around and people watch. You might even make some connections with someone who has an interesting shop or stand, or maybe even find out how to bring your own trade to the market for some extra cash.
It’s important to learn how being frugal can help you in every area of your life, but especially when it comes to things like clothes and shoes and things you don’t actually need. This one can be hard for me personally because I love keeping my wardrobe updated and switching things up, but you can get things on the cheap if you know where to look. Scour your thrift stores, people! There’s much more than ugly sweaters and old Keds. I’ve found designer clothes thrifting for a fraction of the price. Being frugal doesn’t mean depriving yourself of your desires entirely, it just means tweaking your expectations a bit. Maybe you won’t be able to afford everything that’s on your wishlist at the moment, but I’m sure you’ll be able to thrift some pieces that are pretty damn close.
If you depend solely on money for your happiness, I truly am sorry, cause there’s a good change you might be a miserable person. There’s so much more to life than your bank account — most of which are priceless. Of course material goods can bring quick satisfaction, but over time that satisfaction fades and you’re looking at an empty wallet and pining for a new item that you just can’t have. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to succumb to the cycle of depending on an outside resource for pleasure? Inner peace and happiness have no connection to money. You can say that you’re secure with yourself because you’re making six figures, but if you’re not really satisfied deep down, why does it matter? It may be rooted in competitiveness or maybe an outside source like the largely superficial culture we live in. We can’t help that, but we can take steps needed to stop depending on anything but yourself for pure happiness. It’s priceless. And so, so worth it.
Always remember, whatever you’re going through right now is temporary. You may look back ten years from now and laugh or sigh with relief. Maybe you’re in a pickle because the cost of living is up, or maybe you’re drowning in student loans, or maybe you just suffered a job loss — but these things are temporary! It is way too easy to get discouraged about a less-than-ideal financial situation, but always aim to enjoy every bit of your life because you may even be envious of what you have now some odd years down the road.
It’s lovely to go out to your favorite spot to eat and enjoy a bite with friends or loved ones, but it’s not always lovely on the wallet. However, dining in doesn’t have to suck, you just gotta up your cooking game! Make it a goal to cook meals at home when you’re trying to be frugal. There’s no shortage of delicious recipes out there, and cooking is a great way to bring some creativity, culture, and catharsis into your life without even leaving your home. It’s also way cheaper than eating out all the time! Even if you’re only going to Starbucks once a day on your lunch break, those drinks add up. Preparing your meals and coffee at home, even if it means waking up earlier, is worth it in the end if you’re trying to save.
And no, shopping does not count as a hobby. Read books that inspire you, watch films that open your eyes and make you forget even for a little while that you’re struggling. Use your free time to uplift yourself instead of getting depressed! Truly living well wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself into something that’s both fun and intellectually stimulating. Maybe you’re an artist and your job demands so much of you that you can’t seem to get anything done anymore — well on your next day off, make it a goal to finish something you started or at least get some artwork done. Feeding your soul creatively feels so good and it’s totally free. Getting back in touch with your hobbies means getting in touch with yourself, and that’s a habit anyone should get behind — frugal or not.
Even if you don’t make a lot, you can start a change jar — that chump change will add up someday! Or maybe you have enough to put away $20 a month, or even $10 or $5. So save up for that trip you’ve been wanting to take, or treat it as an investment for your future or just make enough to put away in your savings account for emergencies. You deserve it, after all. If it’s a vacation, treat it like something that’s already planned or create a vision board so you can always be reminded of what you’re saving for. Start today by putting one dollar into an envelop and see where it takes you.
You don’t need to make a lot of money in order to be happy. Yes, a great job with awesome benefits can really help you out in a lot of ways, but it’s not necessary for happiness. That comes from within. The tips above are just some of the ways to live the life you love without necessarily making a lot of money. If you have some tips of your own, feel free to share them! 🙂