A few months ago I decided to treat myself to a shopping trip. Well, treat is the wrong word. I don’t really like shopping, but I had recently evaluated my wardrobe and found it quite lacking in professional clothing. A good friend of mine, lets call her H, with the same fondness for blazers agreed to come along. We armed ourselves with a list of sales, our student IDs (because J.Crew gives a student discounts) and some well-constructed walking shoes.
H had a job interview coming up and needed to find a professional outfit and a new pair of dress pants. We pulled a few options and she went to try them on. “Oh, I really like these,” I heard her say behind the well-worn dressing room curtain. She strutted out wearing a pair of black slacks and did a few twirls in front of the full-length mirror. Nodding her approval, stepped back behind the curtain, changed back into her boring jeans headed to the cashier, ego-boosting-pants in hand.
“Wait, I need to check the tags,” she said as we got ready to pay up.
“Why?” I inquired.
“Because, if they’re dry clean only I don’t want them,” she informed me.
H had a valid point. Even if she felt like a superstar in those pants, they would ultimately cost her more than she was willing to pay for a pair of pants. Luckily, they were machine washable, but the cute silky top she found got the axe. Dry cleaning a shirt in NYC costs about $4.50. If she dry cleaned it once a month it would cost her $54 a year, more than the original price of the shirt.
(I only wear the finest materials available.)
My friend’s reluctance to invest in a piece of dry clean only clothing got me thinking what other little actions we can take in our daily lives to cut costs. Shopping is an easy one for me. I’m blessed with a natural disdain for the whole process and frequently wear hand-me-downs.Not retro-chic thrift store clothes that make me a New York Fashionista, hand-me-downs.
My first year in New York I got lucky and my roommate’s co-worker frequently purged her closet full of exclusively high-end label clothes. Not only did I get free clothing, the leftovers could get taken to a variety of second-hand shops that buy clothing.
(Why yes, that whole outfit is a hand-me-down. What a sharp eye you have! The blazer is indeed Banana Republic. No, I don’t care that it’s last season.)
Besides my pillaging of people’s discarded clothing, here are some of my top money-saving ideas:
- Brown bag lunch
- Buy food in bulk and cook large meals for the week (get a slow cooker)
- Cut cable (invest in a Roku or another streaming media player)
- Evaluate transportation costs – take public transit if it’s an option or carpool if it isn’t
- Contain cost of utilities – Our electric bill just came in the mail today, we owe $32.87 TOTAL. #humblebrag
- Get a roommate or consider living at home – see how much you could save staying at home with the “Get Rich Living with Your Parents” calculator.
- Buy off brand (for certain products ie: cleaning products).
- Shop the sales
- Cut the gym – Unless you’re a hardcore gym rat stop getting suckered by those rates. Instead, run outside or do an exercise video on your TV via your streaming media player.
- Don’t buy a coffee or tea.
I understand, some days you just want to go get a $5 grande caramel macchiato. But figure this, you can save $2 on an iced latte if you order an espresso shot on ice in a grande cup and then add your own milk.
(I get it. My name is really tough.)
If you frequent Starbucks and the idea of spending between $10 – $20 a week on overpriced beverages isn’t enough to deter you then please sign up for a rewards card! They used to do free soy or flavor shots. Apparently they need the extra 50 cents these days. At least they’ll send you the occasional free drink coupon. Find out more details here.
(RE: above comment – I’m allowed to mock. I worked there too.)
Hand-me-downs and adding your own milk aside, there are some great deals out there. Sign up for Groupon, Living Social or deals in your area (ie: New York Deals). Finally, in true millennial fashion, I advise you download Scoutmob or any other region specific deals app.
(A free app that saves you money! Can’t beat it.)
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45 responses to “My Dirty, Little, Money-Saving Secret(s)”
I’ve basically spent the past year updating my wardrobe to more professional attire (business casual mostly) and it cost an arm and leg despite doing fairly budget shopping. I’m still not done either. They always say dress for success; well I got the dress, hoping for the success.
And your friend was completely right about the dry clean thing. Better to find cheaper, washable stuff until you actually start making money.
Totally agree, dressing for success is really important. I love hand-me-downs, but they are usually in great condition and work appropriate. My Mom always said it’s best to taking time buying a really great quality furniture you know will last a long time instead of filling up a home with cheap belongings just to have them. I think the same can be applied to professional clothing. A quality business suit/blazer and skirt is good to have on hand for job interviews.
I wish I had a roommate’s co-worker who purged her wardrobe of high-end labels for me to wear! That red blazer looks fierce on you and classic pieces like that never go out of style 🙂 Great penny-pinching tips. I really enjoy your writing style, it’s so young and fun. Love it! Keep up the great work pretty lady!
Awww thanks 🙂 Glad you like the tips and blazer! I get some pretty great ideas from you too.
I also refuse to buy dry clean only clothing. (Well, aside from winter coats)
I don’t own a lot of blazers, but the few I do have actually all been bought secondhand (either in thrift stores or online). My industry is pretty casual so I am grateful for that!
Winter coats are the exception!
Blazers styles rarely go out of style so they really are a great secondhand pick up.
Foursquare is another good app to have on your phone, not just for the social networking BS, but the fact that may retailers (especially in metro areas) offer really good deals for checking in. Starbucks usually has decent promotions through them. Plus if you have an Amex card, you can link it to your account for further savings.
That’s an awesome tip about making your own lattes. Being parents, we tend to have milk readily at hand 🙂 We only buy almond milk now though, which tastes ah-mazing in coffee drinks.
I think I’d add “Sign up for the store credit card” to your list to further your savings. If you’re a responsible spender that doesn’t look at a CC like free money, then it can only help you out. We have a Banana Card and if we shop there (which we rarely do) we’ll get an extra 15% off.
I keep hearing all good things about almond milk, but milk is my favorite drink. No joke. I love milk.
Foursquare and store credit cards are both good tips. I haven’t done the store credit card thing yet, but my mom does! I should probably check it out for stores I frequent. I use the term frequent very loosely.
The only store I frequent is Amazon. So I signed up for the Amazon Chase Rewards card. You get 3% back on all Amazon purchases.
I should have figured you loved milk.
Starbucks reward card program changed – you no longer get soy or flavor shots for free! It’s AWFUL! AND I’m sad scout mob is only available in a select few cities! I used it all the time when I was in ATL!
Well I better go edit it! They were doing it a few months ago. At least you can still rack up points for free drinks so it’s better than nothing. Scoutmob is awesome!!!
Like the advice about coffee & buying generic. You do what you have to do. Lol how did the baristas butcher your name? Twice? Well technically I guess Aaron is correct.
IT ISN’T CORRECT! 😛
I cannot tell you how often my name gets screwed up at Starbucks. It’s pretty comical. But I do empathize with their situation. I have some funny stories of my own that will come out in future posts.
I never even thought about looking at the tag!
And I have a roku (well my roommates do) and I absolutely love it! I don’t miss or want cable at all. I’m a busy lady, I can’t be expected to be at home to live by the cable guide’s time line. I love having the freedom to watch what I want when I want.
Sadly, I hadn’t really thought of it either but I do now!
I switched over to Roku for the same reason you did. I was never home to watch shows live so I always ended up watching them online anyway. It really is a great gadget.
Great tips! My wife gets my sister’s leftover clothes and there seems to be an endless supply! Now my sister’s friend who buys tons and tons and tons of clothes is also giving them to her. It’s like shopping for free! Definitely helps us save some money.
It’s so true! Anyone who thinks they are above hand-me-downs is a fool! They are my favorite form of shopping.
It’s times like this I wonder how much money I’ve saved over the years just by naturally not having a taste for coffee — no small feat since I’ve only held jobs where I’ve been surrounded by addicts. I’m going to guess the number is in the billions of dollars.
I’m with you. Even when I worked at Starbucks I never acquired a taste for coffee. I do love a good tea latte though! Luckily, tea is easy to brew and a milk steamer is a cheap purchase (or great birthday present).
Also, I had no idea you were still a student. When I was doing the full-time job, full-time student thing last semester, it was way too easy to plop down on the couch after 12 hours working and studying, stare at the kitchen to think about cooking dinner, and just decide to order a pizza instead… so congrats on being frugal while doing both 🙂
Oh I’m not! I graduated college in 2011, been living and working in NYC ever since.
“This shirt is “dry-clean only”…which means it’s dirty.” – Mitch Hedberg
Haha too true! Or in many cases, “please Febreze.”
Your utility bill is definitely worth humbly bragging about! How in the world is it so low? What is your secret?
The Accidental Environmentalist post from a few weeks ago explains some of my crazy tricks. My roommate is also really on board with conserving energy and saving money.
I also never buy dry clean only clothes. In fact, I wont buy shirts or pants unless they specifically say anti-wrinkle. It’s crazy how much money and time people spend on dry cleaning and ironing every day!
So way to go with the $32 electric bill! That’s tough to do in NY. And my Roku works great. You should try it out.
I do use a Roku! This is the second post I’ve praised the the switch from cable to Roku. Totally worth the investment.
If your roommate’s co-worker has any hand me downs for me please let me know 😉 Bf’s office recently started allowing them to wear “business casual” at work. Let’s just say we’re saving a TON of money in dry cleaning. Love that!
Haha, I will let you know! “Business casual” really is the dream, especially for month. I can’t imagine wearing a suit coat to work each day and having to get that dry cleaned.
Roku is great! Once you have kids, it has the huge bonus of commercial free programming.
That’s probably a solid 8-10 years away for me so who knows how TV will have changed by then! But I do agree, because when I babysit, it’s great to be able to stream a cartoon for the kids without the commercials. Plus, having so many options instead being pigeon-holed into what’s on TV.
Hmm…Starbucks. I actually don’t have a rewards card because I DON’T want to know how I spend there. Consider it ‘office space’ and I’m paying my lease. I figure if I really wanted to save money, I would stop going. Hey, some people spend money of beer…me, it’s coffee. ;o)
You gotta get the rewards card if you frequent Starbucks so often! You could at least get a couple of free drinks.
I would if I didn’t have to reload it with an actual dollar amount. I’m there every day! in fact, just came from there :op
Great tips! I’m going to pass along your thrifty tip for iced coffee to one of my friends. She loves the stuff, but hate how much it costs. Great way to make it a more affordable treat. The dry cleaning bill is always a bummer but hard to avoid with suits. 🙂
Thanks Shannon! Starbucks is such a money suck, but I don’t fault anyone who loves a good frappe.
Speaking of dry cleaning, I’m at the point of having to dry clean a professional dress. Such a bummer, but there is no way around it. It was a gift though so that makes me feel a bit better.
I always avoid dry clean only clothes. Those are also some great money saving tips. Cheers!
Thanks and thanks for reading!
You should write a post on dating soon.
Thanks for your feedback. I’ve heard that from a couple people, so expect a dating post in early May!
Sweet tips. Yeah, dry cleaning blows. Unreal how the annual cost could easily cost more than the outfit itself. Milk on the side is slick, but how does that compare to making your own coffee? Sometimes it does taste better when someone else makes it, haha. Just like eating out. Will check out your app suggestion. Girls are lucky, they can wear hand me downs and have tons of thrift stores. Don’t think that works for guys… or am I missing something?
Glad you liked the tips!
I think men can shop at thrift stores. Some places have suits, sports jackets, polos and dress pants. Could depend on your city/town though.
If you don’t have your own espresso machine then milk for the latte is the best way to go, but obviously making it at home will always be the financial winner! I’m not a huge coffee fan though so I never have invested in a coffee maker.
I hear you on the dry clean only! I also always check second hand stores when I need something (other than underwear!) because women especially go through clothes SO fast b/w diets and fashion changes. I have found beautiful Gap, Banana Republic and Hilfiger clothes for dirt cheap…the Gap slacks still had the 54.00 price tag attached and I paid 7.99.
Certainly heading to thrift stores now!