Talking about money as a means to solving a problem was a mindset shift that made a big difference in the way I spent.
This might feel a little basic or over-simple for something that’s just math, after all—but personal finance is just that. Personal. We buy things to fix real or perceived problems. When money is our go-to fixer for everything, it’s easy to fall into a mindless trap of swiping, tapping, or inserting a chip to alleviate negative emotions the second they arise.
Think about the last time you were bored out of your mind. What did you do? Was your solution to make up errands for yourself? Wander the aisles of Target? Invent a project that didn’t really exist that ended up costing you $40? $60? I’m WAY too familiar with this.
It’s because spending money is, in some ways, a time-filler. It’s something to do.
Isn’t it amazing (and horrible) that we live in a world (or rather, the first world) where we have so much damn free time on our hands that our invented tasks involve trying to think of things to buy?
(Ever heard that old joke about how we work to afford the car that drives us to and from work and the house that we never spend any time in because we’re…at work? Kinda makes you reevaluate the value of your time and money.)
Lately I’ve been practicing ~creative solutions~ to things I otherwise would’ve just run out and bought on the spot at the first excuse for a Target run.
“Borrowed” personal care stuff from the gym bathroom
Sam Cat has this really hilarious yet simultaneously concerning habit of stealing our razors from our showers. For real—we’ll come home and both of our razors are sitting in the middle of our family room floor. It’s like he’s trying to send us an ominous message.
Anyway, he ruined my good razor and the last good blade. I was fresh out.
I almost bought another set of razorheads (an annoying expense) until I was showering in the bathrooms at SoulCycle the next morning and noticed the giant vat of disposal razors free for the taking.
Well, my friends, I go to Soul three times a week (complimentary thanks to studio reciprocity), so my cheap ass just uses a fresh disposable razor every time and takes it home with me. I use it for the next few days/week and then replace it. Bada-bing! Creative (cheap!) solution!
The same went for Q-Tips. I was fresh out around the same time and decided that I’d just snag an extra couple from our studio restroom for a few weeks until I was at Kroger and could get the big pack for $1.29. Ordinarily, I would’ve walked next door to CVS immediately and paid upwards of $3 for the convenience of the downtown location.
Obviously, I’m not delusional—I’m not saving hand over fist on things like this, but I think it perfectly illustrates that mindset shift from “fix a problem with money immediately” or look for a free, creative solution instead.
Making household items go further
I went through this phase (can y’all tell I’m big on phases?) where I was SUPER paranoid about toxins and chemicals in my beauty and household products.
(I’m going to write a post soon about balancing frugality with buying quality products and why I think sometimes the money you save on the dirt-cheap product isn’t worth the environmental or health impact.)
So I spent around $5 on a bottle of Jessica Alba’s HONEST Company multisurface spray. It smells like lavender and makes me feel fancy, you know? But it’s expensive, and I clean A LOT, so I was running low.
The ~Old KG~, before my reformed materialist days, would literally GET EXCITED for products to run out so she could run out and buy a new one—try a new scent, give a new brand a spin—it was always fun. You know when something is almost out (but not totally) but you’re antsy to replace it so you just chuck it in the trash and go ham at Target? That’s the struggle.
But now that I’ve trained myself to HATE spending money, I decided to make a simple yet frugal decision—add about a cup of water to the solution and make it last longer. I was concerned it might dilute it too much, but I honestly can’t tell a difference.
Prolonging the life of your household cleaning products to save money is MAYBE the most adult thing you could possibly do, besides your taxes.
Fixing what I already have instead of taking every opportunity to buy new
I’m pretty clumsy with my stuff. I’ve shattered countless glasses and mugs, especially when I reach that caffeine high PINNACLE state of existence early in the morning where I’m teetering the line between effectively energized and at risk of a heart attack.
I was walking at work with my laptop in one arm and my Starbucks travel coffee mug (with my FREE APARTMENT COFFEE, holla) dangling from the other, and I banged it into a wall.
The beautiful, painted ceramic outer layer of the cup shattered to the floor, but to my surprise, the inner component—the cup itself—stayed together. The lip of the cup still had about an inch of ceramic covering attached, enough to hold and drink from.
Have you picked up on the narrative theme of this post yet? OLD KG would’ve gone to Starbucks on her lunch break and bought a replacement—because that’s just what you do when you have money to buy new shit. You buy. New. Shit.
Nope, got creative. Slid a koozie (roll tide) on the ceramic inner piece to keep it insulated, and continued using the travel mug.
Coincidentally, the very next week, our onboard coffee partner Community Coffee dropped off hundreds of free "Southwest & Community Coffee" tumblers, free for the taking. I've noted this before, but it's amazing what happens when you just...wait...and don't RUSH OUT immediately to buy a solution to the problem right in front of you.
Same goes for my riding boots from high school. I received them as a gift and wore them so much in college that the heels wore off down to where they screw into the rest of the boot. I wanted to just drop a few hundred dollars on nice, new riding boots, but found out there are these novel things called COBBLERS (welcome to 1732!) who can re-sole and fix up your boots for, like, $20 so they’re practically new again.
Cooking for friends instead of enabling expensive brunches
Fresh off an especially intoxicating Saturday morning SoulCycle high (thank you, Valentina), I was under the spinfluence and remembered my friends had talked about getting brunch the night before.
My friends aren’t high rollers, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of brunch for less than $20 at just about anywhere in Dallas.
So on my way home, I stopped at Kroger and bought half a dozen donuts, bagels, eggs, bacon, English muffins, two bottles of champagne, and a jug of orange juice. $40.
I sent a picture to our group text and invited everyone over. Because my friends are great, they offered to Venmo me for some of it, but I honestly just enjoyed knowing that I was getting a TON OF VALUE for my $40 instead of a small plate of food for $20.
I still have lots left over for breakfast for the rest of the week, too, and we had a blast sitting around in our pajamas instead of jockeying around with valet and parking, getting dressed and presentable, and the other annoying accoutrement that accompany a brunch out on a Saturday morning.
THE MAIN TAKEAWAY
It’s about making the money that you work hard for, work harder for you—so when you get your credit card statement at the end of the month, you’re not like, “Shit, I have nothing to show for this huge balance.”
It’s not all sunshine and savings, though—I also spent $50 on a haircut this week.
You can see how it may seem contradictory if I’m scrimping in some areas yet spending somewhat frivolously in others. But that’s the point—you’re making conscious decisions about what’s worth it, and where you can find alternatives.
And while I did ask Thomas to cut my hair for me to save that money, I’m not sure I’m at the point where I’m ready to sacrifice my ends for frugality’s sake. Maybe someday.
The young woman's money guide for all the things you're too embarrassed to ask your friends. Build the life you thought you were too broke to afford through managing your spending habits, travel hacking, and simple, smart investing.
Full-time Brand marketer at Southwest Airlines, part-time Yoga Sculpt teacher, occasional Waffle House Model and reformed materialist.
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