Living in DC, I’m lucky to have two states nearby. Maryland, Virginia, and DC all have very different personalities, and it’s fun to take advantage of all of the opportunities. While I absolutely love DC, I usually decide to shop in Maryland or Virginia when I’m buying clothes or especially when I’m buying large purchases. Why? Sales tax. DC has an unusually high sales tax, and it definitely can add a lot to your total bill. Especially when buying furniture, electronics, winter coats…expensive items. You wouldn’t think that just a few percentage points higher would make a big difference, but like so many other things, it can really add up! I realize not everyone has the luxury of choosing which state in which to shop, but if you do you should definitely give it some thought! Happy Shopping!
Before I moved here, my town was very spread out. It was basically impossible to walk anywhere, and no one gave it any thought. One thing I love about living here is the opportunity to walk most places that I need to go. Yesterday, I walked to and from the library at my school. It was a beautiful day, so it was quite enjoyable. Today, I’ll probably do the same rather than take the bus. It’s healthy, and it’s frugal! Taking the metro one way costs about $1.50 and the bus is $1.25. A daily savings of $3 doesn’t seem like much, but that’s a coffee at starbucks or it’s a $15 dinner out at the end of the week. It’s crazy how things add up.
Nothing is better than finding great deals on quality things! Yesterday, my friends and I piled into the car and drove out to the outlet mall nearby. While none of us can afford to shop, we all need suits for upcoming interviews for summer positions. At my suggestion, we all set a reasonable budget, and we were on our way! I personally brought my budget in cash so there would be no question as to how much I had spent. This is a good idea for controlling yourself in such a tempting environment. Outlets are a great idea for finding high quality pieces at affordable prices. I ended up with a $350 suit and a $120 pair of shoes for a grand total of $200! A savings of $270 is not too shabby. Most cities have an outlet mall within about an hour or so, so check them out and have fun shopping!
Today my school had a career day to talk about summer internships for the first summer of our three year program. I have to say it was a little overwhelming! I plan to go into the public interest sector of my profession – needless to say, it pays hardly anything. Summer internships are unpaid. For my classmates going into the private sector, they will make close to $30,000 for the 10 weeks of summer work. I knew there would be a discrepancy in pay between the sectors, but I had no idea it would be that large! While I am tempted to go the private route just for the money, that would go against my passions and goals. It’s definitely hard to do what you love sometimes, especially when doing what you love means giving up on such a huge paycheck. But, I will make it work, and you can too! I know for all summer internships, there are tons of sources for summer funding. If you search Idealist and similar sites, you can find some amazing opportunities. And, if you get a few grants, you can make enough to cover your expenses while working for free during the summer. So check out some of those sources for public interest grants – you never know what you might find! Sticking with your passion and gaining great work experience is priceless.
Tonight I celebrated the end of the week with a few friends from school. Instead of going to the trendy, expensive part of town, we decided to hit up a bar in our neighborhood that brews their own beer. What a great decision! We went, of course, at happy hour time. We shared 2 appetizers and both had two local beers. Each bill? Just over $10! So, my suggestion for today – explore your neighborhood and see what little places you can find. I love these little places because they’re appreciative to have your business. They also want to sell their own brew, so they’ll usually have great deals and you get to try something other than the usual domestic choice. So look up your friendly neighborhood establishments, and have a great beer for me!
Living frugally doesn’t mean giving up the finer things in life, it just means being more creative about getting them. Down the street from me is a gourmet wine and cheese shop. I’ll talk about the wine sometime in the future. They have a cheese counter that sells amazing, very expensive cheese. I went in one day and told the guy behind the counter that I appreciated fine cheese but couldn’t afford it. He let me in on a little secret. When they get down to the end of a large block of cheese (after cutting pieces off for people), they can’t keep it in the case any longer because it may be too small to fit the next order. So they cut these remnants into smaller pieces and sell them to frugal folks like myself. Once a week, I go in and ask for the remnants – for 99 cents a piece, I get to enjoy amazing pieces of brie, chevre, and gouda. They’re pretty healthy sized pieces too! So, find your local cheese shop and ask the person behind the counter if they’ll sell you the remnants. When you have your friends over and serve them your gourmet find, they’ll never know you only spent 99 cents!
I’ve always had a great love for coffee, but it’s turned into an obsession now that I’m back in school. I get up at 6 every day and usually go to bed around midnight, so I definitely need my caffeine fix every morning. The problem is that this obsession can get a little pricey. My amazingly thoughtful boyfriend was kind enough to get me a generous Starbucks gift card as a going away gift when I moved to DC. While it was much more than he should have spent, Starbucks can quickly add up, so I use it only on days when it’s absolutely necessary. Every other morning, I bring my own. I made a trip to Target to get a coffee maker and travel mug, both on sale of course. I buy Starbucks coffee, which is about $10/pound. Not bad considering that it lasts me around a month. At my local market, I found flavored syrup for a very reasonable price. Now, each morning, I make my own tasty coffee with vanilla, hazelnut, cinnamon – whatever mood strikes me that day. I’d estimate that filling my travel mug costs around 10 cents per day. This is a vast improvement from $5 per day! So, get out there, invest in some reasonably priced supplies that will last a long time, play around, and you’ll figure out how to make a cheap tasty treat to start your day!
I mentioned in an earlier post that my new apartment was a little barren. It’s not that I don’t have nice things, it’s just a surprisingly huge apartment! I worked for a few years before going back to school, so I had some time to acquire some furniture that made me happy, with the exception of one very important piece…a dining room table. One great way to have a cheap, fun night is game night – I haven’t been able to plan this without the requisite table. I finally decided that my roommates weren’t going to come through for me (even though I’ve provided EVERYTHING in this apartment), so I took it upon myself to find something nice. You know I’m on an extremely tight budget, so I had to be creative. Then, I found the world of online, local classifieds. There are several sites that do this, craigslist being my favorite. You can search by city and by type of item you’re looking for. I’d recommend opening any ad where the people say they are moving. This means they’re usually desperate. Desperation means low prices for you! And remember, you always have room to negotiate. The prices in online classifieds should never be the bottom line. So, lucky for me, I spent about 3 days looking on craigslist and found a great table and chair set listed for $100 total. I bargained them down to $80 with the seat cushions thrown in as an extra freebie. They advertised that they had to be out of their apartment by the weekend (it was Wednesday), so I hit them just at the right moment when they were desperate to sell. It’s a win-win – and now I can finally have my super frugal game night!
Living in a big city while in school can be extremely frustrating. I love eating out, trying new foods, drinking wine and martinis, but that’s difficult to do on a budget…until I learned about happy hour! Just a few metro stops away from me is Bethesda. I’ve heard they have the most restaurants per square mile in the US. Who knows if that’s actually true, but I’d believe it. Everyday, just about every place there has happy hour. You can search online to look at menus and specials to find the places that suit you best. Personally, I like to go somewhere where I can get dinner (not just drinks) and not spend too much. Most of my friends are done with school and have pretty impressive jobs, so sometimes our differences in budget limit what I can do with them. When I want to see them, I just take charge, find a great place online that is affordable for happy hour, and plan the outing. This way, I get to hang out and enjoy great food, drink, and company without hurting my wallet too much. And even with great salaries, they never mind the savings. Just last night, I enjoyed an amazing pizza topped with goat cheese and crispy prosciutto and a glass of pinot noir for a total of $8…not bad for such an amazing meal! So, wherever you live, go find a great happy hour and enjoy yourself!
I know I haven’t written a post in a long time but I’m really going to try harder to keep new entries coming in. The problem is that I’m so busy that I forget how little time it takes to update this. Even though deep-down I know it only takes five minutes (or ten minutes at the most) out of my day whenever I think about updating I feel like it’s going to be some long, drawn-out process so I put it off. I’ll do better in the future I promise!