How's a girl to survive thousands of miles from home, on an entry-level salary, and with so much debt that Sallie Mae has taken up residence on the sofa? Prioritizing spending and pinching pennies, that's how. By stretching your money as far as it will go, you'll be able to get past this stage of life— and the still-recovering economy— and into one that gives you greater earning power. It's time to make your money start working for you. But what if your tastes don't allow for crystal chandeliers and a stretch Bentley? No problem, there are plenty of ways to live well on a limited budget.
Dressing Like a Star
After you've browsed through the @Targetdoesitagain Instagram feed or Tumblr for some inspiration and stocked up on staple items (cardigans, pullovers, little black dresses-- the wardrobe must-haves that you don't need designer flare to sport), it's time to hit the thrift. One of the best places to pick up designer duds is to visit your local second-hand store or consignment shoppe. Now, don't knock it till you try it. You'll be a believer once you discover a pair of never-been-worn-tags-on Levi's for $2 or a like-new Coach bag for $5. Of course, you won't score such great deals on every shopping trip, but you'll soon know which stores have better inventories (hint: head to the more affluent parts of town) and which days offer the biggest discounts. If you find something incredible, like a Gucci coat, that doesn't fit right, simply take it to a tailor-- you'll still save enough to pay your rent . . . and vintage Gucci? Yes, please. When you do decide to buy new clothes, the Jewelry Gal Blog says to remember to go for quality rather than quantity. It's far more economical to have one skirt that will last you for five years than to have to buy a new one each year.
Dating on a Dime
While many articles with the word "budget" in the title will tell you that you must stop socializing and do things on par with joining a convent, this one won't. Going out and meeting people is important and there are plenty of ways to eat and be entertained on the cheap. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Take advantage of lunch, happy hours, or early-bird specials when you want to dine at top-notch establishments.
- Make friends with your kitchen and go the DIY route. There are no shortage of tutorials and websites like Epicurious that show you how to whip up gourmet meals at happy meal prices.
- Afford a night out on the town by taking advantage of free museum nights, discounted theater tickets and ladies' night specials at the clubs.
Spruce Up Your Wheels
Now that you're dressed to impress and armed with an arsenal of delicious, romantic rendezvous ideas, it's time make the ultimate budget buy. Every princess needs a suitable carriage. If your hand-me-down Chevy is on its last leg, then it's time to get shopping for a deal on your new ride. The sooner you get started the better, as the search could take some time. But you'll find it's well worth it when you find a diamond in the rough. There are hundreds of luxury vehicles at beater prices out there. It's just a matter of finding them.
Too many people overlook the car section of eBay. It might sound shady to buy a car on the Internet, but there are enough companies (like Carfax) that have your back if something goes wrong. eBay is also quite vigilant about following up on disputes. Craigslist is another great place to take advantage of used car sales, although you want to have a trusted mechanic on hand to give the car a thorough inspection prior to finalizing the deal. For those who want a deal but aren't comfortable with buying from private parties DriveTime used cars offers a more traditional route, sans dealership hassles.
When it's time to get a new car, take the task on as if it's your second job. Learn to negotiate so you can drive down the price. For eco-conscious gals, why not consider ditching your car altogether? Kill two birds by eliminating your gym membership and purchasing a bike (used, of course) and get your daily dose of cardio as you pedal to work. For those times when you must have a car, borrow a ZipCar for a few hours or a whole day. What better way to impress potential clients than by driving a BMW you only paid a few bucks for to meetings?
With plenty of determination, some creativity and these tips, you can totally live the high life sans the requisite income and bills that usually accompany it.
About Amy Garrett
Amy is a car show fanatic who shares her tips on how to preserve the authenticity and glow of antique automobiles.