Rent, especially in an expensive city like New York, doesn’t get any easier to afford over time.
As you make more money, your interests change and because your paycheck is bigger, you want more space, a bedroom that comes with its own closet, better views, and an updated kitchen and bathroom.
The more you want, the more you’ll spend – and thanks to unbelievably expensive rent all over, you’ll try to convince yourself that your old broom closet-sized bedroom wasn’t all that bad (yes, it was) and maybe you should reconsider sharing yet another studio apartment with six girls you met randomly on Craigslist (no, you shouldn’t).
Even though the sky-high prices aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, there are still a few sly ways you and your roommate(s) can cut back on costs across the board, still afford to make rent every month, and set aside a little fun money for the weekends.
Sounds impossible, but it’s not. You can make smarter swaps, stress less about your $1,500 a month rent, and still have fun. Here’s how.
1. Split the necessities and buy in bulk.
If you think about it, two bottles of milk, two dozen eggs, two loaves of bread, and two entirely separate containers of coffee aren’t that necessary, especially if you and your roommate only keep the necessities around for emergencies. Ditch the second (or third!) bottle of milk and buy one that’s big enough to last both of you through the week.
You’ll spend less by splitting the must-haves and waste less, too.
2. Cut the lights and open the blinds.
Ever wonder how Pilgrims made it during the cold hard winter and through the bright and sunny summer? Okay, so obviously Pilgrims weren’t living in a world of iPhones and clap-on lighting, but still, if they did, they’d save by ditching the electricity where they could and opting for some au natural nature.
So what does it look like? In the winter, you’d be surprised just how warm your apartment will get during the day just by leaving the blinds open. Since sunshine is limited, it’ll feel twice as refreshing and soothing as it does in the summer. At night, try candles instead of flipping on the overhead light. They are cozier, more comfortable, and a hell of a lot cheaper.
In the summer, free sunshine is everywhere, so pull back the blinds and let the sun soak thru. Naturally lighting your space just feels good and saving money on costly bills? Well, that feels even better.
3. Eat home more often than you eat out.
The weekly bill your rack up on your Seamless account isn’t doing your financial woes any favors. Instead, try hitting up the grocery store once a week and stocking up on easy-to-make meals that will carry you through every dinner craving you have.
If meal planning is where you struggle, prep ahead of time by planning out the week. Think about what you’ll what Monday through Friday and then make your grocery list based on that. But if you don’t want to trade your dinnertime binges, start smaller. Buy yogurt, oatmeal, or fruit to bring to work for breakfast and cold cuts and bread for lunch.
You’d be surprised how much you’ll save on a daily basis by trading two of your take-out meals for make-ahead options.
4. Ditch cable and opt for Netflix instead.
The easiest way to cut the “fat” out of your monthly spending is to ditch the extras that you don’t need. One instance where you can trim down? Your cable bill.
Right now, you’re overspending when it comes to your package because you got roped into buying way more than you needed, right? Why not ditch your overpriced plan in favor of something that’s much more instant, much more digital, and much, much more affordable?
Online networks like Hulu and Netflix make it possible to blend your penchant for TV marathons and high brow movies all for a monthly low cost that’s not only sustainable but also affordable.
5. Stock up on snacks and stop calling the delivery guy all the time.
While you’re at the grocery store (see point #3), toss some of those tried and true snacks you love so much in the cart. It’ll save you from stopping at the corner bodega every Friday night for a late-night snack and 9 times out of 10 you’ll probably make much, much better food decisions like reduced-fat Lays instead of a super-size bag of Doritos.
Your wallet – and waistline – will thank you.
6. Do your own laundry instead of sending it out.
Sending out your dirty clothes to be laundered will always feel like an added luxury, and if it’s not something you need to do every time you have a dirty tank top, don’t. Sending your clothes out doesn’t make you pompous or arrogant, but it does make you part of the very cool circle that says “I have better things to do on Saturday afternoons than sit around the local laundry mat waiting for my whites to dry and my sheets to finish.” It’s a very special club but is that necessary? Probably not.
You’re most likely paying more to send it out, so why not save yourself the $10 and hit the ‘mat yourself? You never know who you might meet.
7. Pick a night to stay in and one to go out.
So many people have got it twisted: Hitting the club every Friday night isn’t a sign of “making it” in a big city. Instead, coming home, curling up in your favorite pair of sweats, pressing play on your DVR, digging into a steaming hot plate of Thai and a glass of your favorite Pinot is “making it.”
There’s nothing better than relaxing in your own digs. There’s no cover fee, no bartender to tip, no line to wait in for a refill on that watered-down $12-a-pop vodka tonic, and no expensive and potentially (err, probably) life-threatening cab ride home to round out the night.
You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) feel limited to skipping the bar scene every weekend, but doing so every once in a while won’t only save your cash, it’ll save your sanity, too.
8. Drink less beer, more liquor.
Hear me out on this one: Whether you’re at the club, at home, or at the local spot 15 feet from your apartment, trading in your beer for a stronger drink from the get-go means you’ll rack up a smaller tab (and get to your desired level of drunk faster!).
Still not convinced? Think about it like this: Four vodka-soda drinks at $12 = cheap. Six beers at eight dollars, a piece, = you’ll spend over $50 after including tip and you’re definitely buying an entire pie on the way home, no questions asked.
9. Plan a rotating series of Girls’ Nights with your best friends.
Pick a night every week (or every other week) to get together, gossip, and catch up with your best friends — it’s a genius way to save and celebrate. Sure, it’s expensive to prep the meal and takes care of the drinks, but if you’ve got a group of five girlfriends, you’ll only have to shoulder the cost once every five weeks, or if you get together bi-weekly that’s just once almost every three months.
Not a bad idea, right?
10. Get creative and try nontraditional activities.
Game nights, movie nights, froyo Fridays, craft beer tastings, and wine pairings are all-new, trendy take on the traditional weekend fun that usually leaves you broke come Monday morning. And even though they’re not the get-crunk-at-the-bar-make-out-with-that-questionable-guy-and-eat-three-calzones-when-you-get-home-before-getting-into-bed-with-him weekend debauchery, they’re still fun.
Because when we get right down to it fun shouldn’t be so expensive, right?