It’s probably going to come as no surprise to any of my readers that most of my friends are broke. OK, maybe not broke, but definitely not rolling in the dough. And don’t get me wrong — neither am I; that’s what I (and they) get for picking professions (like writing) that few people make a ton of money at. If only my friends and I weren’t artsy, instead developing healthy, profitable passions for blood & guts, the law, or venture capitalism!
While most of us in our later years have come to manage the pittances we make a little better than we once did, every now and then, I’ll still hear the “broke as a joke” line; “I can’t do fill-in-the-blank, because I’m broke as a joke right now,” Friend X will say. And every time I hear this, I think about some of the choices I’ve made that over the years have saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars (no exaggeration), and then I think, “Man, I am so glad I never started doing fill-in-another-blank, because I’d probably be broke as a joke right now too.”
Most conventional wisdom will tell you about — you guessed it — conventional ways to save. Getting rid of your landline, not eating out, not going to movie theaters/concerts/other events, stopping shopping, selling off your stuff via Craigslist, keeping your home cold in the winter and hot in the summer, etc., are all great ways to save, but what do you do if you’re sitting around your studio apartment in your underwear in July sweating into your ramen, still broke as a joke? Before you go selling your spunk or worse, consider my extreme — and extremely unfun — ways to save! (Hey, I never said being radical was going to be easy, did I?)
1) Stop fussing with your hair
Those balding friends in my posse may already know how much money they’ve begun saving simply by virtue of Mother Nature’s wrath. After all, if you don’t have hair, you don’t have anything to cut, color or style now, do you?
However, if you do have hair and you insist on being pretty boys and girls, let me detail how much you spend every two months to achieve this (and I’m being generous here, since some of you visit a salon monthly):
$40 — Hair product (and can I just say how much I’ve grown to hate the word “product” because of its pairing with “hair”?), which is a modest estimate that does not take into account cleanliness items like shampoo
$75 — Hair color in a salon (because some of us are now having to cover the grays – yikes!)
$65 — Haircut in a salon
Grand total: $180/2 months, or $1,080 a year
2) Stop wearing makeup
You know what sucks? Makeup. Besides requiring testing (usually performed on animals) and generally being a pain in the rectum to both apply and remove, it supports a sexist double standard and tricks people into thinking you look like something you’re not — well, at least with the way most people wear it. I remember seeing this girl I worked with while we were in high school once without her makeup on, and it was horrifying — not because she was ugly, mind you, but because she literally looked nothing like the person I’d come to know. It was creepy — like that-show-The-Swan-where-those-women-got-all-that-plastic-surgery-done-and-looked-nothing-like-themselves-by-the-end creepy.
Last time I checked, it wasn’t law that women had to wear makeup, and since the only men who regularly wear it are those of the stage while onstage, why should anyone else have to bother with this demoralizing task? (Seriously, wouldn’t it be interesting to consider people beautiful just as they were instead of telling them they were only pretty when they didn’t actually look like themselves?)
Anyway, here’s what you spend on that crap every three months (because if you’re not using it up, you’re supposed to be discarding it by then anyway; it does expire):
$10 — Foundation
$10 — Powder compact
$3 — Concealer
$20 — Eye shadows (because I know you bwotches need your variety)
$5 — Mascara
$5 — Eyeliner
$10 — Blush
$15 — Lipsticks
$10 — Lip glosses
Grand total: $88/3 months, or $352 a year
Keep in mind that these are prices for, like, Cover Girl. If you’re all about MAC or some department store brand, you’re paying double this, at least.
While we’re on the subject of female beatification, stop getting your nails done too — and I mean both fingers and toes. Quit being a lazy arse, grab a bottle of Wet N Wild, and call it a day.
$30 — Acrylic nails (initial application in a salon, nail polish included)
$20 — Acrylic fill (twice a month after initial application, nail polish included)
$15 — Pedicure (twice a month)
Grand total: $80/1 month, or $850 a year
3) Stop smoking
And you’d have far less wrinkles anyway if you’d put down the ciggie, Smokey McNicotine. Dude, do you know how much cigarettes really cost these days, even if you buy them by the carton? In Las Vegas, my mom was paying $150 a month for her Marlboros! Granted, my sister was smoking half of them, but you get my point. Other cities (L.A., New York, etc.) are even worse — not to mention the fact that you know you’re going to be at a bar or some other inconvenient location some night when you run out, so you’re going to pay full price for a single pack somewhere along the line as well — which is like buying a CD at Barnes & Noble; it’s just not smart.
$50 — carton of Marlboros in Las Vegas (assuming you’ll only smoke one carton a month)
Grand total: $50/month, or $600 a year
Now, keep in mind that this is only the price of cigarettes. If you’re a cigar aficionado, your cost will be different. And if you’re a lover of the ganja, well, that’s going to cost you quite a bit more — even with your medical marijuana script.
4) Stop drinking (alcohol, soft drinks, or any beverages you pay for in dining establishments)
Yeah, I went there. I took the knife, and I stabbed it right through your pickled little liver!
Seriously, though, what if, instead of being teetotalers on principle, those temperance peeps were just cheap, you know what I’m sayin’?
$2.99 — Two-Buck Chuck (a glass a night, 5 glasses per bottle)
Grand total: $17.94/month, or $215.28 a year
But we all know you’re men and women of more distinguished tastes; plus, you could easily spend $17.94 on alcohol alone in one night at a bar, so let’s be more realistic, shall we?
$13 — 12-pack of Sam Adams (2 a month)
$30 — Gray Goose (1 a month)
$20 — Jager (for those of you who haven’t quite realized you’re not in college anymore)
$20 — Miscellaneous mixers (per month)
$20 — Bar tab (4 times a month, so as not to further embarrass the lushes among us)
Grand total: $176/month, or $2,112 a year
But this is just for alcohol. What about the cost of soft drinks when you’re out and about? Not to mention having someone else make your morning coffee — and yes, I am talking to you, Starbucks junkies!
$2 — Pop at a restaurant/fast-food joint (8 times a month)
$4 — Grande Mocha-frappa-cappa-latte-cino, no whip (twice a week)
Grand total: $48/month, or $576 a year
It may be extreme, it may be radical, it may even be feminist (gasp! the horror!), but not being a nicotine-filled, caffeine-driven party skank — aka Paris Hilton — saves me more than $5,000 a year, according to my calculations. Just something to think about the next time you’re hungover and can’t figure out where all your money went, let alone how that video of you got filmed and posted on YouTube.