Learn from Smart Women

Learn from bSmart Members

I spent plenty of time being poor as a single girl.  And when I say 'poor,' I mean unemployed for one year and in grad school for two (approximately 1/3 of my post-collegiate career…) which means there was little wiggle room in the budget.  Along the way, though, I’ve gleaned some helpful tips on how to live large on little.


Wine Aerator with Stand, $9.99

1) Swap your clothes

When you’re barely scraping by, it's not the time to be investing in statement pieces.  You don’t have to look poor, but you also don’t have to look fancy.  Host a clothes-swap night with some girlfriends that are about the same size as you.  While you may be tired of your clothes, your friends may just think they’re still pretty great.  And vice versa.

2) For the love, stop eating out all the time

This is one of the biggest money-wasters - especially going out for lunch.  You’ll spend at least $5/meal, but more likely in the $10-15 range.  Seriously.  Stop.  Learn to cook!  And when you do cook, make extras!  Leftovers are quick and easy, and perfect for a workday lunch. (I haven’t found a bad recipe yet on allrecipes.com)

3) Make your wine last longer with an aerator

Right now, my favorite cheap wine costs around $8 for a DOUBLE BOTTLE. (Canyon Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, in case you’re wondering.)  But use this trick!  Purchase an aerator.  They cost around $25 (for the red wine version), and will instantly change the taste from an 'okay for a third-glass' kind of wine to a 'first-glass' drink.

4) If you have to buy a car, don’t buy more than you need.

Be practical.  You’ll immediately regret those $356/month payments.  Especially when you’re in grad school.  Or unemployed. (TRUST ME ON THIS.)

5) Consider secondhand finds

Looking for 'new' dishes, kitchenware, or decor?  There are TONS of good options at thrift stores.  Need some furniture?  Try thrift Stores or Craigslist.  This is especially profitable if you live in transient areas, like NYC, or even Virginia Beach for that matter.  With people moving all the time, they quickly realize they don’t want to move certain items of theirs, so they sell at a massively discounted price.

6) Hit up free events

Again, in places like NYC or Virginia Beach (which, by the way, are in no way comparable cities… they just happen to have a few similarities), there are TONS of free entertainment options. In Virginia Beach, for example, there’s something happening every weekend at the Oceanfront in the summertime.  How do you find out about these things?  A lot of events are listed in local newspapers, but you could also find Facebook groups/ pages that are city-specific. Or follow your city on Twitter!  They’ll post a lot of info about events there as well.

7) Don’t forget your coupons!

I’ll admit, I feel a little funny walking around the store with paper coupons…and when I say 'funny,' I mean like a '40-year old mother with 4 kids.'  So if carrying around a coupon book isn’t quite your jam, a lot of stores have apps with coupons and discounts pre-loaded!  Target, Michael’s and Joann’s have apps, to name a few.  And! If you don’t need the item immediately, download the Amazon app, where you can literally scan the bar code of whatever you’re looking at and check if it’s less expensive to purchase from them (it usually is).

Hope those tips come in handy when you’re trying to save some cash!  Some of these tips were gleaned over years of heartache and bad-financial decisions.  If only I could go back and teach my young self! 


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