In my previous blog post, I definitely dropped some tough love on the spenders out there. Sorry! Didn't mean to hurt any feelings, I promise. It's just having strong money management skills is such a huge part of the puzzle when you want to start investing in real estate. I only push you outside your comfort zone in the name of love!
Later I was sitting at home and reflecting to myself about what else I can do to help those who desperately want to get the money together to invest in a property (including myself, always)? What knowledge do I wish I had a decade ago that could have helped me get there quicker? I realized that I didn't really teach you HOW to spend less in order to save and invest more. So I decided to share some ways that I currently costs, even when there seems to be very little wiggle room to cut even more costs.
The Buy Nothing Movement
If you aren't familiar with this movement, it is a community of gifters. The whole idea is that everyone gifts what they don't need, so that someone in need can receive and that we save the landfills from filling up with even more stuff.
When I moved to my new neighborhood in Brooklyn four years ago, I stumbled across their Buy Nothing Facebook page. Intrigued, I joined figuring that a couple days later I would unfollow if it cluttered up my feed. I was immediately blown away by the types of things people were posting and the amount of people giving away free stuff each day! And I'm not talking junk here, although some stuff is less than desirable, I'm talking really nice stuff. Solid well-built furniture, light fixtures, wallpaper, clothes, lots of baby gear.
Often times the stuff is brand new and someone just forgot to return it or got it as a gift and just didn't need it. I mean I have been blown away by the generosity. Within the first 6 months of joining, I got several items that I had been putting off buying for myself because they weren't really necessities, but desires: I was gifted an Igloo ice chest for the beach, a coffeemaker, a black blazer (just my size!), a journal, the materials to make candles (which you all know I do often), a trainer for my bike, dog treats, Christmas tree topper, etc.
Now, before I even consider buying something, I post to the board to see if anyone is getting rid of what I'm thinking about picking up. Most of the time someone is. It's incredible! And it is saving me lots, and lots of money.
A beautiful leather bound journal from Italy- FREE!
A bike trainer so I can ride inside during the winter- Free!
A Christmas Tree and Tree Topper- Free!
Supplies to make more candles- Free!
In the true spirit of gifting, and channeling Marie Kondo, I post stuff there first before I donate it to Goodwill. It's the most heartwarming thing. The people I have met, my community, my neighbors, are all great. So check it out, I'm sure your community already has a "Buy Nothing" group set up. But if they don't, start one!
Work study program at my yoga studio
Also, when I moved to my neighborhood, I was looking to join a yoga studio in order to improve my mental health and try and tone up a bit too. So I was excited when a friend in the neighborhood told me about how yoga studios usually offer a "work study" program in exchange for free classes. Meaning you essentially work the front desk, check in classes, clean a few mats and sweep up after the class in order to take the class for free. I thought, this is brilliant!
Not only do I take classes for free (because, let's face it, yoga classes can add up quickly, especially in NYC) but by them relying on me to check in so the teacher is able to set up, it will force me to go on the days that I'm feeling less than motivated to be active. Double win!
And sure enough, for four years, I have been checking in classes at my local yoga studio, Dou Yoga (huge shout out, and check it out if you are ever in Brooklyn). It has provided me with regular exercise and an amazing opportunity to meet all different types of people in different professions, with different passions who all share one thing in common: we want to surround ourselves with chill people who are kind. And just to be clear, I have made all these amazingly zen friends and I have never paid a dime for it. And what did I do with that money? You guessed it, I invested it.
Free food whenever possible
I am not ashamed to say that my favorite type of food is free food! Whenever I can get it, I do. Networking events? Excellent! Usually there's coffee and muffins. Professional development workshops? Awesome! I'll take a couple of pieces of fruit for the road. Leftovers at a party? Give them to me, I'll ensure they get eaten! Free burrito at Chipotle on Teacher's Appreciation Day? I'm first in line. :)
There are so many opportunities for free food that I have trained myself to feel guilty if I don't take advantage. I know that a lot of food is usually left over and goes to waste, so I don't hesitate to take it home if they offer. It will save me money, and again, probably more importantly, it will avoid going to a landfill and rotting away.
Also, consider getting a side hustle in the food industry. In high school I worked for a catering company and often times got to take home left over food. I also have waitressed at places where they give you a free meal for a shift. Get creative. Or grow your own if you can! I have my window box with herbs in the city and I use them on everything cause they are free and delicious! So think outside the box (pun intended) and seize any opportunity to eat for free when you can.
And yes, I have heard of the dumpster dive movement. I'll sit that one out though, thanks.
Hand me down clothes
I am in no way ashamed to take hand me downs. Most of my favorite pieces are from women who are much more stylish than I am and were looking to "revamp" their wardrobe. It also helps that I'm little. I can take in quality pieces and alter them myself to fit my size. And to be honest, the items I usually get are way more in vogue than what I would buy for myself so I'll take their hand me downs any day of the week!
Clothes swaps are great for that very reason. You bring in what you are tired of and other people do the same and you trade! A good old fashion barter and community builder. Thrift stores are great (especially when your item's tag is the color of 75% off day). Again, lots of clothes pop up on the Buy Nothing movement, and often times they've never even been worn and still have the original tags on them!
Now don't get me wrong, I do spend money on clothes, but not often. I really challenge myself to have less clothes in the first place. I am not the girl that needs or wants to have 20 swimsuits in every cut or color. Rather I try to take exceptional care of the ones that I have so they last a very long time and I try to select styles that are not trendy but will withstand the test of time. You know, classic pieces. Plus the pieces I really love, bring me a lot of joy so I try to prolong their lifecycle as long as possible. Another way I do this is by consciously creating a wardrobe that mixes and matches easily so it expands my options for outfits and I try to avoid clothing garments that require dry cleaning. Dry cleaning is a major money eater.
Most importantly, when it comes to clothes (and anything in general, really) I do have a rule though: If I wouldn't pay full price for it, I'm not going to buy it just because it's on sale. The pieces I buy right now, I really have to love. I have to love the color, the fit, everything about it. If not, it's not worth my precious pennies that would be better spent invested. And the best way to save money is to not spend any at all!
Avoid new phones at all costs and don't update regularly
Enough with the phone updates will yah? Sure, my whole staff makes fun of me for my old, outdated iPhone SE that only works on speaker, but you know what? I am not paying a dime for it! Aside from service charges, which are deeply discounted because of my union. And I haven't been paying for my phone for years. It functions and does all the things I need it to do. I can still download updates in software. It's the smaller size that fits in my pocket, which I like. And truth be told, I don't need or want anything fancy. I am not the type of person that gets joy out of figuring out new features on a phone. Rather, I am the type who gets pissed that I knew how to do it on my old phone easily, and now I gotta figure it all out over again on a new phone!
You will never see me waiting outside an apple store for a new release. No ma'am. But I am appreciative for all my phone does for me, which is why I am loyal to my older model. I won't trade in my phone for a newer trophy wife phone until she passes away. So my iPhone SE saves me money and is my ride or die. And if she breaks, I'll ask a friend if I can have one of their older phones they no longer use.
Share streaming services
There was a joke in my family that pretty much everyone in that family was using a Netflix account that my sister-in-law got from her ex-boyfriend's neighbor in Arizona (we all live in KC and NYC, FYI). The sad part was it was a joke, and very funny, but grounded in complete truth for many years. Even after they broke up, that didn't stop us from continuing to use the account. It saved us a lot of money for over time. We only had to get our own account when they eventually cancelled it due to not using it themselves. Whoever they are (since I've never actually met them) and where ever they are, I hope they can rest assured hat we sure got their money's worth.
But seriously, even now we share. We have a family account and although we all live in different states, we use it and that saves us a lot. But I totally would recommend using your ex-boyfriend's neighbor's account if you can swing it!
And in terms of internet, if you have a neighbor who hasn't put a password on their wifi, use it! We did that for several years too. :) Again a penny saved, is an extra penny to invest!
Ask for help with tasks
So many people are afraid to ask their friends for things. I get it. You don't want to put an unnecessary burden on others. I understand. But I see things differently. I believe in bartering services. I help my friends move when they need it (cause moving sucks), or I'll babysit for free so parents can have a night out. If I can help with a task in some way, I will. Because I know there will be times that I need my friends to help me. Whether it's painting a room or borrowing a car, etc. Developing this relationship supports everyone and saves money. Plus, to be completely honest, it creates lasting memories.
I have this one friend who is loyal to all end. He goes up to Kingston with me and paints the interior of my investment properties. We make a weekend of it, hang out, laugh, get some work done and get a breather from city life in Brooklyn. I love our work/hangout sessions. This summer he plans to move apartments so you can bet I will be there help not only with the actual move, but design tips too if he needs it. :)
I love offering help and asking for help when I need it. The worst thing that can happen is someone says no. And the best thing that can happen is they say yes, and you get the help you need along with new memories!
Word of Mouth
My husband and I had been talking about getting a pug for years. And because we talked about it so much, we were eventually given not one, but two pugs! One of my close friends bought one for his girlfriend and due to her living situation, she couldn't keep her. So they both offered to give her to us! That's how we got Kiwi. Then a couple years later, a colleague whom I also consider to be a friend, knew I had a pug and loved her to pieces. So when he had a friend who needed to give away her pug, again because of extenuating circumstances, he put us in contact! So by talking about what we want, word of mouth worked its magic and brought our two furry bundles of joy to us! So put it out there! The universe will provide!
Kiwi and Toby our "adopted" children
Find free Entertainment
You already know about my obsession with reading free library books (check out my previous blog post 15 Books that Changed my Perspective About Money), so I'll not hammer you over the head with that. But in addition to that I love to go to book clubs. My locally owned bookstore Greenlight Bookstore, on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, has several book clubs that you can attend. They even partnered with the cute cafe across the street that provides appetizers and wine for free while we discuss the book. It is heaven. Free heaven!
When looking for free entertainment in your area, sign up for one of those local email lists. Each week I get an email about all the free stuff that is happening that week in Brooklyn. If I'm feeling the itch to do something, I will and I'll chose it from that list. I've done free walking tours of my neighborhood (cause I'm a nerd, and I love history and live in a historical district), I've gone to a really cool light show in Dumbo, the opening of art exhibits (more free wine!), movies in the park, book readings at bookstores, stand up comedy shows, etc.
One of my favorite events it the annual event where you bike to each library location in the Spring! They have all sorts of activities at each location and food. It's a way to get the community more informed about all the different services the library offers (fitness classes, tool lending, arts and crafts, etc.) It combines three of my favorite hobbies: biking, reading and neighborhood peeping.
And while yes, you can find ways to spend money at all these things if you want to, but you also don't have to. Seldom do I buy the book at a reading, but rather add it to my library queue. I never buy the artwork (cause I'd rather spend that money investing, and often its out of my price point), but I enjoy it there. So it's all about self control too.
So look for community activities that you would enjoy. I guarantee you that there is something local and free that is going on most of the time if you are feeling a little extroverted and/or antsy that day.
Upcycle and DIY
I love to make things myself and bring old pieces back to life (hence, my previous blogpost and most recent challenge #2020theyearofcreating). I get a high from it. I make candles at the start of each season using old containers I have. Sure, I could go out and buy some, but at the rate I burn through candles (since I am a fanatic), it's much cheaper (and more satisfying) to make them.
This past Christmas I made ornaments for our tree out of an old book and an incomplete set of scrabble squares. Not to brag, but my "wordy" tree turned out pretty darn amazing, if I do say so myself! And I got it all for free of course! The tree came from a tenant that moved out and left it behind and the star was gifted to us from the Buy Nothing list serve! Total win!
Utilize perks from work
Whatever you do for a living, there are always little perks. If you work in an office, you can probably print your documents for free and thus be able to go without a printer and ink at home. If you work at a bakery you probably get to take home food that is marked out because it is too old to sell, but still good enough to eat. If you work in a hair salon you probably get free haircuts and eyebrows waxed. Whatever it is you do, there are freebees that you can benefit from. Even if it is just free coffee at the work station (oh that precious liquid gold!) the little cost will add up over time. Plus, when you network with other people, you find out what they have access too. For example, I get my haircut by my best friend's stepsister. She always gives me the discount! Little things like this add up.
Plus work usual offers opportunities to acquire new skills for free. For example, I work at a middle school and we received a grant to help students learn filmmaking. I don't know how to the first thing about shooting or editing a film so I volunteered to lead that club this spring because I want to learn how to do it. Since there will be a teaching artist there to actually teach the kids how to edit the movie, I will also learn a new skill that would have cost me a few hundred dollars to learn otherwise.
Maybe your job supports you in getting licensed? Maybe they offer tuition reimbursement for you to go back to school? Maybe they offer child care assistance (you laugh, but some do). No matter what, there are certain perks at work that you can benefit from. So think about it and look into it more.
While this list is surely not exhausted, and I'm sure I'll post another list soon you send in your tips and I discover more, I want you to see that there are so many ways that the universe provides stuff for you for free (aside from you robbing people or mooching off them of course). All it requires a shift in mindset and an exercise in patience. Getting things for free isn't instantaneous or impulsive, but rather slow and strategic.
It's kind of incredible when you step back and allow it to. Last night, I looked around my apartment and I was blown away when I actually started adding up all the things that I have that got for free. I sent out a little blessing to the universe for always providing for me. It will for you too, I promise. You also have to be open to seizing opportunities that pop up in that moment and asking others for help. Nothing will come to you on your couch. You have to be a part of a community to receive the benefits of that community.
Hope this helps!