I’ve always been pretty thrifty and saving money is fun game for me, but three years ago, when we moved to the Washington, D.C. area, I learned to take thrifty to a whole new level.
With housing costs about 4x what they had been in St. Louis and other expenses about 30% higher, we had no choice but to cut back. I’m talking serious, diet-altering cutting back. Learning-to-eat-beans-instead-of-meat cutting back.
As a musician, you already know that some skills are best mastered over time. Being frugal is one of these skills. You can make drastic budget cuts as a temporary measure, but the real payoff comes from developing a habit of living with less in the areas that aren’t as important to you so you have money to spend on the more valuable things.
For me, it was important to have a few months of savings in the bank so I could invest time and resources into my business.
If your spending doesn’t reflect your priorities, here are some areas to consider cutting back, both temporarily and long-term:
Saving Money on Housing
- Get a roommate
- Avoid rent entirely by becoming a serial house-sitter (It’s possible! I did it for 15 months. Might not work if you have a home studio…)
- Barter cleaning, childcare, or other services in exchange for temporary housing (Even a month or two could save you hundreds of dollars!)
- Designate a spare room in your home strictly for business so you can claim a home office expense on your taxes
- Downsize to the smallest living space you can handle
Saving Money on Food
- Cook at home
- Shop from a meal plan and grocery list (You’ll probably be healthier for it, too!)
- Learn to love (or at least tolerate) cheap proteins, like beans and chickpeas
- Shop at less expensive grocery stores
- Kick the Starbucks habit (Or make your coffee at home.)
Saving Money on Miscellaneous Shopping
- Go on a 30 day fast from unnecessary shopping
- Shop at thrift stores for clothing and housewares
- Volunteer to help your stylish friends clean out their closets in exchange for keeping their unwanted clothing
Saving Money on Gifts
- Make a deal with your friends and family to forego gifts or exchange homemade gifts this year
- Give the gift of quality time and go on a free or inexpensive outing for the next celebration
Saving Money on Entertainment
- Trade expensive hobbies for free or cheap ones (Have you tried geocaching?)
- Look for free concert opportunities at parks, universities, and community centers
- Cancel Netflix and rediscover your local library for DVDs (some libraries even carry video games!)
- Cut the cable (It doesn’t have to be forever. Start with 30 days.)
Saving Money on Transportation and Travel
- Cut back on driving by carpooling or foregoing frivolous trips (Fewer trips will also mean less temptation to spend money you hadn’t planned to spend!)
- Bike or walk whenever possible
- Get a bus/metro pass
- Be aware of the cost of driving (Figure out the cost of driving a mile in your car and mentally calculate the cost of your trips. Even the short ones add up!)
Saving Money and Keeping it Fun
- Gamify it by setting goals for saving money or paying off your debt and rewarding yourself for accomplishing them
- Get a friend in on the challenge. You’ll have accountability and someone to commiserate with when you can’t go see the latest Star Trek movie on opening night because you already spent your fun money for the month…
- Most importantly, keep being awesome. Don’t just sit at home and mope. Learn about all the free things happening in your city and keep experiencing life.
During the seasons of tightened budgets, it helps me to remember that I am making sacrifices in the moment so my financial future will be brighter. And you know what? It is.