Moving to New York City has been filled with new adventures but a ton of more “real world” things such as paying rent and grocery shopping. Living in this city can get incredibly expensive, as a result I have found a few ways to pinch pennies that help me put aside extra money into my savings account each month.
Here is a breakdown on some easy ways to cut back on spending:
Make a list
Seriously do it. Make a list of all the things you need and have a general idea of what meals you will be making each week. Going into the grocery store with a plan will make for a faster and more efficient shopping trip. Plus it will save you tons of money in the long haul if you stick to what you need, rather than picking up a few things along the way or at the cash register. Trust me, you do not need that random Luna Bar or Larabar.
Make meals in advance
If you make a list before heading to the grocery store you should already have a general idea of what you will be making for meals that week. I tend to make my meals on Sunday afternoon and freeze/refrigerate them for use throughout the week. This will save you tons of time during the week and ensures that you don’t go out and buy a $12 salad at lunch. You’d be surprised how quickly those daily lunches add up!
Do NOT become brand loyal
Be open to the store brand, it is basically the exact same thing as the brand you love minus the cost. There are only a few products that I buy brand specifically, but that is based on testing the generics and preferring the brand. Trust me, buying the store brand of aluminum foil vs. Reynolds can save you money without losing out.
Check out your store’s local weekly circular online before grocery shopping to see what is on sale. But beware, use this information wisely, and only stock up on the things you actually need. Sometimes looking at the circular will make you buy products just because they are on sale (*cough* four boxes of Chewy Chips Ahoy because they were buy one get one free *cough*). See if your usual purchases are on the weekly circular, but if not stick to what you listed.
Buy in bulk
I noticed that instead of buying a Snapple downstairs at my office’s little convenience store and buying them in bulk at the local grocery store I can save tons. Buying in bulk is the best way to save money on something you consume regularly.
One of my goals in my 101 in 1001 list is to become an Extreme Couponer. Although I do not want to have a massive stockpile in my apartment (because where on earth would I fit that?!), I do want to start using more coupons. They are a great way to save money on your usual purchases.
Now that the weather is the perfect temperature for an afternoon stroll (seriously the most brutal winter ever!) I have started walking home from work through Central Park. It is about a two mile walk, but is a nice way to unwind from the work day. I know that this is not necessarily an option for everyone, but I have realized that walking could help me save on my subway pass. Instead of buying the monthly unlimited subway pass, I have started just adding funds to my card and walking as much as possible. It is a great way to see the city and save some money!
Use spare change
I have a weird rule that I randomly established when I moved to Manhattan. Whenever I am running late to work and don’t have time to eat breakfast I will stop by my favorite breakfast cart and get a Banana Walnut Muffin. Delicious and only a $1.50! Instead of using a one/ten/twenty dollar bill, I always give the man a handful of change. It is weirdly satisfying to use my loose change on a morning treat for myself. Get a piggy bank or put aside loose change and see how much you can put towards those random little purchases you have!
Go with the office coffee machine
Skip the coffee at Dunkin and wait until you get to work. This is something I still struggle with because I am a little coffee obsessed and a bit of a coffee snob. Although the individual coffee pouches I throw into the office machine each morning is certainly not the best coffee I have ever had, it gets the job done.
Cut unnecessary expenses
I know that it is not worth it for me to belong to a gym. I have never been a gym person. Even in college when we had a free gym opened basically 24/7, I only went a handful of times over the course of four years. Instead I prefer to walk everywhere and work out on my own outside, it saves me money and works for my lifestyle. If you realize you are hardly using your gym membership… get out of that contract ASAP! Also, if you take a look at your credit card statements you may discover that you are paying a random monthly fee from something you completely forgot about. Stop subscribing and cancel payment, you’d be surprised how much money those random subscriptions can end up eating your credit card.
Happy Hours – Seriously there is no better way to save money on after work drinks then hitting up a happy hour. Look for good deals (buy one get one free!) and enjoy this treat, knowing that it wont leave you with an empty wallet at the end of the night.
Say no to Barnes & Noble
I am not going to lie, I love Barnes & Noble. It is always such a relaxing experience browsing their bookcases. That being said, I know that I can find all the books I am looking for online for much less (looking at you Amazon Prime). Also, if you have a book in mind ask your roommate/friends/etc. if they have it first. I have lent many books to my family and friends over the years. It is a great way to save and stay connected to friends you don’t see as often.
Be your own manicurist
I know how tempting it is to go to the salon around the corner for a manicure. Resist the urge! And break out one of your (if you’re anything like me!) hundreds of nail polish bottles and do your own nails. It will save you money and give you a necessary break from the day. Doing my nails forces me to focus on one task and afterwards patiently wait until they are dry. It is weirdly calming and a great way to unwind from the day.
Think you make less than you do
When I was filling out my HR payroll forms back in September I had multiple options for how I wanted to distribute my paycheck. I have some money going directly into a 401K and I also have direct deposit. It is easy to set up automatic payments, that way you don’t even see the money you are saving (so you dont feel like you are missing out!). Also, another way to look at saving is like you are paying yourself. Putting aside money into a savings account is like paying yourself first, BEFORE those little indulgences like an afternoon shopping trip or decadent coffee treat.
Learnvest/Have a goal
A few weeks back I wrote about Learnvest and how the app has been a great way for me to keep track of my expenses. It shows me a break down in all my purchases and allows me to organize them into different folders so I can see where my money is going. There is also a goals feature that calculates how long it will take me to reach my goal based on how much I set aside into savings each month. This is a wonderful website and app that both have helped me work towards achieving my financial goals.
There are a lot of different ways to save money in an expensive city like New York. You just need to be creative and patient, a lot of these changes in my day to day life took time to discover and establish. I think the most important thing is to find balance. You don’t want to prevent yourself from enjoying fun activities, instead decide when you can afford to indulge vs. save. These tips are not an exact science, but have definitely helped me pinch a few pennies since I moved here in February.
What are ways you have found to save money? Any tips of the trade I should start trying out?