Blogger Stefanie O’Connell offers a few nontraditional methods for Grownups to reach their savings goals.
This summer I’ll be turning 30 and I’ve never lived alone. Not because I’m married or anything, but because I live in New York City and it’s the easiest way to save on my biggest expense—housing.
While my practice of bunking up in mid-adulthood is commonplace here in the Big Apple, I’ve often encountered backlash when offering the suggestion of having a roommate to help cut costs. Usually from folks who live in places where a communal approach to living is uncommon.
I recall one particular response: “What if you wind up living with a criminal who steals of your stuff or brings home untrustworthy people?”
Ummm…OK. What if I’m walking down the sidewalk tomorrow and a crane falls on my head? Sure, it could happen, but I’m not going to stop going places because of the slim possibility of a worst-case scenario.
Day-to-day habits trap us in patterns of spending that don’t necessarily serve our best interests, and I find we also get trapped in patterns of thinking that impair our ability to spend and save with maximum efficacy. Cultural norms, peer pressures, and social stigmas that shape these patterns may be what we need to reexamine when seeking out new savings approaches.
I can give you a million ideas and ways to save more money, but you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone to at least consider the alternatives. So bear with me, and challenge your notions of “normal” before discounting anything.
Buying used is an easy way to save on everything from clothing to furniture. I scored a $250 kitchen cart off Craigslist for $25 when I moved into my new place—cheapest extra counter space I ever got.
No, the listing was not a trap to lure me into an unsavory scenario, nor was it a malicious strategy for offloading bed-bug-infested furniture. It was just a sensible way for the original owners to recoup some of their cost on an item they no longer needed—and a sweet deal for me.
Whether it’s a Craigslist buy, a thrift-store find, or casualties from a friend’s latest closet clear out, I’m a big fan of pre-owned prices.
If the idea of buying used freaks you out, remember this—when you go to a hotel, you sleep on sheets someone else has slept in (and goodness knows what else), without thinking twice about it. Don’t let overthinking “pre-owned” keep you from sensible savings.
Get Rid of Your Car
In my 29-plus years, I’ve never owned or leased a car. Public transit, walking, and biking fulfill the vast majority of my transportation needs. For the occasional day trip or getaway, utilizing car-share programs and renting from car-owning acquaintances has proved more than adequate.
Even with the occasional Uber or Lyft splurge, my total transit costs are still significantly cheaper than the cumulative sum of car payments, insurance, gas, and repairs each month.
Sure, I may show up to coffee dates a little sweaty when I’m biking downtown in the summer heat, but I wouldn’t trade that minor inconvenience for the exorbitant cost (or headache) of car ownership.
Work a Second Job
Since my official entry into the full-time working world, I’ve never had just one job. Even during my best paying gigs, I’ve always nurtured a side hustle or two to maintain diversity of income—personal assisting, coaching, speaking, etc.
Earning a second income can help you accomplish what you want—eliminating debt, increasing savings, funding trips—without drastically changing your lifestyle. Some people might not understand why you work so much, especially if you’re in a professional environment, but you can point out the math easily. Working an extra 10 hours a week at $20 an hour means an extra $800 to $1,000 a month before taxes—no brainer.
Live in an Up-and-Coming Neighborhood
Housing costs make up the bulk of many people’s budgets. By decreasing how much you pay in rent, you can significantly lower your cost of living. Moving to a less-desirable neighborhood is one of the best ways to do that.
Sure, giving up gated parking, an elevator in your building, and beautiful hardwood floors may be hard at first, but you can console yourself by thinking of how much you’re saving. Cutting $250 a month from your rent equals an extra $3,000 a year—just by making one change to your life.
You don’t have to compromise on safety, either: Moving even a few minutes outside the center of your city can save you on rent.
Sublet Your Apartment
Rent out your apartment on AirBnB if you have some extra space. It’s a perfect way to save money if you’re living in a pricey place that you suddenly can’t afford, or if you want to utilize that guest bedroom when your besties aren’t visiting.
Having worked out of state for nearly half of my 20s, I’ve had at least 10 sublettors cover my housing costs over the years–no incidents, thousands saved.
While having a boarder might seem strange to your friends, you can remind them that there’s no point in having a room dedicated to your cat’s toys when you could be renting it out for $50 a night.
If any of these cost-cutting suggestions have you questioning me (and my threshold of normalcy), challenge yourself to reconsider your assumptions. There is a scale for everything, such as staying at a Hilton versus couchsurfing while traveling, for example. My hope, at the very least, is to reset your barometer so that you can find something in the middle that works for you—and your budget.
Stefanie O’Connell is a Millennial money expert
and author of The Broke and Beautiful Life.