Stop Using Paper Towels and Other Common Sense Ways to Save Money

Success doesn’t come overnight.  For most, landing a dream job requires short-term sacrifices—you’ve got to be willing to pay your dues in order to reach long-term goals.  In the field of public history maybe that means volunteering to get a foot in the door at an archives or museum.  Or maybe that means seven more years of graduate school.  But how does one pay their dues while paying their dues?

Living a frugal lifestyle is about being resourceful and planning ahead.  While it might not be easy or pleasant at first, here are some tips that helped me to make ends meet:

Housing:  In the past, I have used Craigslist to find low-cost places to live (and haven’t been killed or maimed by a psychopath).  If you are really looking to save, consider renting a room in someone’s home rather than finding a one-bedroom apartment.  Better yet, get a roommate to bring down costs.  Even better yet, rent a one-bedroom apartment with a significant other and your rent will be dirt-cheap.

Food: cook your meals at home and pack a lunch.  Buying prepared meals at school or at work is always more expensive than bringing something from home.  Since packaged convenience foods tend to be more expensive and less nutritious, cooking for yourself might actually help you drop a few pounds while saving money.  I also recommend attending all meetings with free refreshments.

Coffee: Make your coffee at home.  Seriously.  Even if you have to buy a new coffee maker and a top of the line travel mug, you will still be saving more than if you bought a latte every morning.

Books: Borrow textbooks for class from the library—interlibrary loan has everything.  I know we all love to buy and own books, but think of how it will feel to box and haul a mountain of books when you have to move out of your apartment in a year or two.  Read the book for free from the library, and then decide if the book is good enough to buy.

Conferences: Academic and professional conferences are one of the biggest expenses for graduate students and young professionals.  While these events are great for networking, choose the one or two most promising conferences to attend instead of going to all.  In the past, I have volunteered to set up at conferences or to blog about the event in order to get in for free.  Email the organizers months in advance to ask if there is any kind of help they need.  It’s worth a shot.

Entertainment: My recommendation is to work and study a lot so you don’t have a chance to realize that you aren’t being “entertained”.  However, if that’s not plausible, nowadays university and public libraries have DVD collections.  I recommend borrowing movies instead of going to the movies.  Also, don’t pay for cable because most TV shows are available online for free.

Holidays: Ask your friends and family for practical gifts like gift cards to the grocery store.  And maybe if you’re good, Santa will bring you that multi-pack of toilet paper you’ve had your eye on!