The (Almost) Free Fun Challenge

My friend S. and I get a lot of joy out of being “cheap” together.  When we get together, we treat ourselves to Chipotle burrito bowls or some frozen yogurt.  We window shop in the discount shops and thrift stores.  We walk along the waterfront and chat.  And we almost always end up talking about the fact that we have such a good time together without spending much money.

When I am with my regular group of friends, I definitely spend more than I ever do with S.  We go to movies.  We go out to eat.  We go bowling and we do karaoke.  We occasionally see a Broadway show or a concert.  We go to a bar and get a drink.  We hit a museum.  We have a lot of fun and we spend money doing it.

There are ways we save.  We try to go to museums on free nights.  We go to at least a couple of movies when there is matinee pricing.  We rarely go to Broadway show unless we have discounted tickets.  We have movie nights at our own apartments sometimes.  But at the end of the day, we’re still spending money.  It’s not money we don’t have, but is it always money we need to spend?

I’m thinking probably not and I’m aiming to prove it.  Summer is a great time to find free and super cheap things to do in New York City, so instead of doing the usual every week and laying out cash to amuse ourselves, I’m going to try to come up with fun activities that cost little to no money.  And, of course, I’ll blog the results.

This should be a good challenge for me because entertainment is a big category in my budget.  Like I said earlier, it’s not money I don’t have, but if I can reduce spending in this category it is money that can be spent (or saved) somewhere else.

What do you do when you want to have fun without spending a lot of money?

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Little Things

The other day I looked at my hairbrush and sighed; I hadn’t been taking care of this one as well as I should have been.  I would pull out the stray hairs that got stuck in it, but I never left it to soak overnight or made a serious effort to keep hair product from sticking to the bristles (I’m gross, I know).  I resolved that I would start looking for a new one and promised myself I would do everything right this time.

A hairbrush is hardly a major expense, but a good quality one can set you back $20 or so; at least, that’s what I had paid for this last one.  And it had been a great brush.  It worked well with my hair.  The bristles were in excellent shape.  The handle showed no signs of wear.  It annoyed me that I was throwing money down the drain just because I didn’t take the time to do one little thing.*

And what’s the point of this story (aside from revealing that I am lazy about cleaning my hair brush)?  When it comes to finance, the little things count.

In the past, I was definitely guilty of letting the little things slide.  I would buy clothes that ended up not working for me and I would forget to return them.  I would never remember to make lunch, so I would grab some take out.  I would procrastinate getting ready for work and have to shell out money to take a cab so I could make it on time.  I never got myself into real financial trouble, but I certainly wasn’t doing myself any favors.  I was spending money so that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing or why I was doing these things in the first place.  If I didn’t return those clothes, maybe I didn’t have to think about the fact that I was having a bad self-esteem day (or decade).  If I didn’t bring lunch, I wouldn’t have to think about feeling shy and awkward in the break room.  If I didn’t get up in time to take the train, I could focus on feeling rushed instead of feeling bad about my job.  Maybe my reasons for not cleaning my hairbrush aren’t so profound.  Or maybe they are.  Maybe if I just bought a new hair brush, I wouldn’t have had to think about the stress from grad school and being unemployed that caused me not to care about cleaning it in the first place.

It would have been easy to throw this hair brush in the garbage and buy a new one; a few years ago, that is absolutely what I would have done.  I would have spent $20 on this one, and $20 on the next one, and maybe $50 on the one after that in the hopes that it would last longer than my other brushes.  And I never would have had to think about why I kept making choices that clearly didn’t work for me.

*In case you are waiting on pins and needles: I decided that I wasn’t going to let my brush go down without a fight.  I soaked it in shampoo and vinegar solution, massaging the bristles gently with an old toothbrush and my fingers until, tada!, it looked like new again.

Obligatory First Post

I’ve been reading a personal finance blogs for a long time, but I never pictured myself writing one.  Now that I’ve taken the plunge though, I’m kind of psyched.

The only thing my parents ever really told me about money was that I shouldn’t let my credit card carry a balance from month to month.  When I got my first part-time job, I started socking money away with the goal of going on a really nice vacation.  Eventually, I decided to go to graduate school and stumbled across a personal finance blog; I ramped up my savings and sent out my applications.

I graduated with my Master’s degree last year and spent almost a year being un- and marginally employed.  I spent through my savings (which was the idea of saving them I suppose –live through grad school and the aftermath without steady work or credit card debt) and added a brand spanking new student loan to my monthly bills.  Now that I’m happily employed again, I kind of feel like I’m starting from scratch.  It is a little frustrating, to say the least.

Hence the blog.  I’m thinking that writing here will give me the motivation to keep paying down my loans, making frugal choices, and building a rich and fulfilling life.  I’m also hoping to share some ways to make ends meet, while still having a good time, in the most expensive city in the United States.

There’s not much here to read yet, but it’s a start.