As of fifteen minutes (and one very cold beer) ago, I officially own the beautiful house I’m sitting in right now.
My partner and I have been refreshing our mortgage account every few hours today, waiting for the final payment to process. (Weirdly, you have to WIRE the final payment. Seriously? After this years-long relationship of sending personal check after personal check, our mortgage lender refuses to trust us at the finish line? Fine, whatever…) Just before the close of the day, it happened.
Current principal balance: $0.00.
My mortgage is gone. I am done paying rent. If all things go according to plan, I will never ever pay rent again for as long as I live. Let’s talk about it!
You had a bad day. You’re takin’ one down. You sing a sad song just to turn it around…
… and so you go buy something.
The sweet release of “retail therapy” can feel like an injection of dopamine straight into the pleasure centers of your brain. Some even count it as self-care. For what can be more self-caring than to treat yo’self?
I know people who stress-spend like others I stress-eat cheese. The problem is that the euphoria that comes from buying something new—even if it’s fancy cheese and you really fucking deserve it because work sucked today—is short-lived, but the money you spent is gone forever.
That brief high of retail therapy or impulse spending can waylay your larger financial goals and damage the delicate equilibrium of your savings, generating far more stress than you relieved with the purchase.
Yet being upset about a bad day doesn’t mean you have to throw your financial goals to the wind. And losing that money while trying to make yourself feel momentarily better is going to feel worse in the long run.
I’m sympathetic to the plight of the emotional impulse-spender. Which is why I want to help you find another way of making yourself feel better. One that doesn’t involve your meager paycheck.
On a recent episode of the highly respected, laudable, and deserving-of-awards Bitches Get Riches podcast, Kitty and I came out with a controversial take: You don’t necessarily need a budget.
Next to “You can buy a latte sometimes,” it’s just about the closest we’ve come to outright heresy in the halls of money writers. We expect to be shunned and excommunicated any moment now.
Yet I firmly believe that budgeting doesn’t work for everyone!
Yes, for some people it’s an incredibly useful, indispensable tool. I know people who flailed around with money like a noodly-armed fan man on a used car lot before they made a budget, and afterward approached their finances with the serenity and enlightenment of a monk.
I also know people who make budgets, fail at them, and enter
a cycle of constant self-loathing and financial stress that ultimately harms
them more than it helps. Some of us chafe against the rigidity of a budget,
others thrive within its strict boundaries.
So budgeting ain’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you’re excused from managing your money altogether. Even without a budget, it’s still useful to have a system for keeping an eye on your money.
Today I’m answering a timely question from one of our Tumblr followers. Takeittothestarss asks…
“Hi bitches! I hope you’re well and that you can help me (in that order). I’ve recently moved out of my parent’s house into an apartment with a couple housemates. Our building is old and not well insulated. It also doesn’t have A/C or heating, so right now it’s cold as balls. I’m wearing 5 sweaters and a blanket and I’m still cold. How do I warm this space up? I can’t make any modifications to it bc it’s a rental and we’re college students in very expensive city, so the less $ the better. Thanks!”
Ah. Heat. Like hope, it leaves the world sometimes, and we’re all worse off for it. But this is a modern late-stage-capitalist twist on a classic tenet of life on the cheap.
If there’s a Ten Commandments of Frugal Living, the first three are probably…
Thou shalt not drinketh the fruit of the latte.
Thou shalt cut thine cable.
Thou shalt put on a goddamn sweater.
This coincides with the first two of the Ten Commandments of Being Dad…
Thou shalt not touch the thermostat.
Nay, seriously, thou shalt not fucking touch it.
I live in New England, which is about as cold and dark as Hell itself. Even now, several feet of snow are pouring down around me. Even worse, I live in an old house that’s still heated by oil.
Each fill-up is about $500.
Like most frugal New Englanders, I have shivered my way through many a cold winter day, trying to save a few ha’pennies to buy my husband the new watch chain he so richly deserves. So I’m going to tell you what I know about staying warm.
Keep in mind that, thanks to our Patreon donors, we don’t need to stoop to spon-con. All the product recommendations in this article come straight from the heart!
The Colosseum teems with unruly members of the plebeian class. As the sun beats down upon their heads, a riotous energy gathers and surges through the gathered masses. “Masterposts, masterposts, masterposts,” they begin to chant in unison.
The charioteer’s horses stamp their feet in agitation as the chant grows louder, reverberating around the stone walls of the arena. The captive tigers and lions pace back and forth as their handlers exchange nervous glances. How much longer can they hold their deadly charges back? How much longer will the people be denied?
Co-Empresses Piggy and Kitty—looking extremely classy in complimentary but not matchy-matchy ionic chiton gowns—stand and extend their golden and white respective arms. The crowd falls silent, awaiting their judgement.
Look, there are really two basic ways to get more money: increase your income or decrease your spending. Through a clever application of both methods, you can end up with enough money to live comfortably and stress-free without having to sell your organs in the process.
Let’s focus on one half of the equation today: decreasing your spending. The less you spend, the more you have to work with. And living a frugal life means you’ll need less money to get by. It’s all a beautiful circle!
So here it is! The complete list of everything we’ve ever written about being frugal and saving money. Your mileage may vary, so try different stuff until you find what works for you.
And hey. We’re all in this together. Don’t give up.
We’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about a hypothetical looming recession. The stock market has taken a bruising; bellwether companies are stumbling. Do such omens and portents mean that another recession on its way?
The good news is, we can answer this one very easily.
Yes. Another recession is coming.
We know this with 100% certainty.
The same way we know with 100% certainty that Piggy and I will be dead within the next hundred years. It is in the nature of a living being to die, just as it is in the nature of economies to grow and contract. The sun rises; the sun falls. The tides go in; the tides go out. It’s just the way things are.
Sounds kinda shitty, right? It’s possible that, someday far in the future, someone will devise some new system that will smooth out or even eliminate these cycles. Maybe the nature of goods and services will change so fundamentally that economies will transform in ways we can’t even imagine. But that’s Phillip K. Dick stuff—innovations that live so far in a hypothetical future that they’re still science fiction. You should plan to endure these market cycles throughout your lifetime.
And yes, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself more prepared. Let’s go through them.
Dear readers, it’s time I made a confession. You need to know The Real Me™. I’ve been hiding myself for too long.
Guys… I fucking love zombies.
It’s true. Every year around Halloween I go watch a live theatrical performance of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I’ve met Max Brooks twice and both times he declined my marriage proposal. Same goes for Mila Jovovich. I finished The Last of Us in forty-eight hours. Zombieland is my favorite family-friendly, feel-good buddy comedy. I attend my city’s annual Zombie Crawl religiously.
Having lived for years with this unhealthy obsession with zombies, you would naturally think that I would’ve learned something by now (besides the double-tap rule and how to steel yourself for mercy-killing a loved one, of course).
Turns out I did. I’ve learned a helluva lot about minimalism from the zombie apocalypse.
I’m going to start this article with a big, beautiful disclaimer…
Weddings are highly personal.
No matter how you conduct them, they always end up being perfectly splendid. And you can take my word for it—I used to work in special events, and have probably been to about 150 of them. My focus was high-end events. (Like,high-end high-end. Secret Service clearance high-end. Fun fact: most Secretaries of State are accomplished musicians and all of them will get up and play with the band at a wedding if they’ve had a sufficient quantity of wine.) But my own wedding was in a parking lot behind my house. I’ve seen ‘em all!
Today I’m going to take a wee bit of a shit on certain wedding traditions. They’re widely-practiced traditions that myself and many of my friends have partooken in. (Piggy, don’t you dare change “partooken” to “partaken” when you edit this!*)
For example, I’m going to shit on (spoiler alert) wedding showers. Now, Piggy had a wedding shower—an extremely traditional wedding shower, with tea and tiny sandwiches and everything! And I LOVED it! We had a blast. I would get together and eat tiny sandwiches with friends and strangers any day of the week. My love for tiny sandwiches really cannot be overstated.
What I’m criticizing isn’t this event—but rather, the weird historical power structures and social pressures that dictated the terms of this tradition. Don’t feel the need to rush to the comments to defend why you did your wedding the way you did. It’s extremely understandable why people follow traditions. It’s also not my business.
But they pay me the big bucks to be an opinionated old person. And I’ve got hot takes on the wedding industry spilling out of my eyes, nose, and mouth like liquid-hot adamantium. The weight of my opinions is so heavy that it drops me to the bottom of a tank of water with a metallic clang.
I have no idea how to date. I accidentally fell in love with the boy next door at eighteen, married him at twenty-seven, and I don’t think you could call my high school floozyism before then “dating” by any stretch of the imagination (#noregerts).
My girl Gabby says of the dating experience, “Dating revolves a lot around going out for meals and activities. We went to Top Golf for an hour and a half and he spent over $100… for a casual weeknight date. Concert tickets at the best venues in town are no less than $50 a pop before you even add in any drinks or food. Not only is dating expensive because you’re going out, but it also means you want to look your best so you may get a few new articles of clothing, get your hair done (on your head or otherwise…), get your nails done…”
All of which is just financially dire enough to convince me there has to be a better way. And I don’t mean taking vows of chastity and poverty and joining a convent. Though that’s a truly tempting option in light of some men’s behavior.
So buckle up, kids, and let this old married hag tell you how to save money while still finding Prince or Princess Charming. Surely it can’t be that hard, right?
I often fall into the trap of seeing a cost estimate online and thinking, “Ah, I, savvy anti-consumer than I am, shall devise a way to get the same results for a fraction of the price!” So I slave over making something, fixing something, finding something… and then I pass by the exact item I just made, sitting on the shelf of Home Goods, for twenty dollars less than the price I just paid to make it myself.
Why does this happen? I was raised with the general truism that making something yourself is less expensive than buying it new. And I think this used to be the case with almost everything.
But our world has changed a lot in a short amount of time. Certainly for our grandmothers, it was cheaper to sew their own dresses than buy them from a catalogue. But big, global economic factors have pulled down production prices for almost everything under the sun. And that has a huge effect on whether DIYing something is really going to save you money.