As some of you may know, my dear roommate/friend, Carl, and I challenged ourselves this October to save money. Being the clever hashtag-overusers that we are, we have dubbed this challenge #cheaptober.
As young nonprofit professionals, we don’t make a ton of money. While we were staying afloat prior to starting #cheaptober, we weren’t exactly living in the most fiscally responsible way. Thus, #cheaptober was born: avoid eating in restaurants, don’t get sucked into every online sale at J. Crew Factory, find free ways to get things, go out to eat with my parents, etc.
We’re now just about halfway through #cheaptober, and I am happy to say that we are both alive, culinarily satisfied, and our electricity, wifi, and rent are (or will soon be) paid. My credit card bill isn’t scaring me yet. In fact, I found that since I wasn’t spending $20 a week or more on restaurant meals, I had plenty of room in my budget to pay for an oil change, a surprise tire repair, and even going slightly ham on a massive Forever 21 sale.
I certainly miss the divine nachos at the Herkimer and the ease of buying lunch at work rather than making it ahead, but it’s surprisingly easy to reduce restaurant eating and make my own food. It helps that Carl and I are both magnificent chefs, obviously. And the joy of being able to buy clothes because my “Restaurants” budget in Mint is green is nearly as good as a baking sheet full of tender and flavorful pulled pork resting atop a bed of crispy chips, melted regular cheese, cheese sauce, guacamole, sour cream, beans, lettuce, and other accoutrements. (For real if you’ve never had nachos at the Herkimer you’re missing out.)
Here are the things I’ve learned about being thrifty so far:
- You probably have old gift cards laying around that still have money on them.
- Cooking is really not that hard or time consuming if you plan it well. Try taking a page out of Ina Garten’s book and make it ahead!
- You don’t have to get food at happy hour! Get a $4 beer and eat at home afterwards. You can also have happy hour at your house: buy a case of Hamm’s (or better beer) and a bag of frozen chicken strips and you’re in business.
- Go to free events! Carl and I accompanied our friend Rachel to the Twin Cities Marathon’s running expo and picked up about 5 bags of free chips, Clif bars, water bottles, cups, and boat keys.
- Coupon Apps and rewards cards, like Target Cartwheel or Cub’s rewards program, are key.
- Treat yourself a little: McDonald’s is well within the rules of #cheaptober as is the occasional candy bar or really cute, high quality, 70% off Sperry wallet with free shipping.