Wow, happy summer! I apologize for the long delay since my last post; working full time on top of training to be a yoga teacher and trying to keep my sanity has kept me quite busy the past month! But I’m back. 🙂

I thought it was about time that I write a post on money, since I often get asked how I can afford to live my lifestyle. I love travel and tattoos, and on any given month, I usually find myself either on a plane or getting inked…or both, if I’m really lucky! Both of these habits are quite expensive, which means making certain choices in my day to day life about how I’ll spend my money so I can save for what is really important and enjoyable to me. It’s a matter of choices and priorities. Since I get asked about my ability to save money so often, I figured it was time to do a blog post so y’all can start saving and stop stressing as well!

I’ll start by saying that while all the below advice is pretty simple and straightforward, and most people will be able to get something out of all of these tips, they won’t work for everyone. And some of the suggestions may seem like huge lifestyle changes, especially based on the life the American media has brainwashed us into thinking that we need. It may seem hard at first, but making a smaller, simpler life provides so many benefits for both your wallet and your mind!

1. Downsize.

This is probably the hardest thing to do, but if it is an option, will definitely have the most significant impact. I’ve moved a lot in the past several years, thanks to college and then starting “real life” after college. Each time I’ve moved, it’s been an opportunity to evaluate what I need to hang on to and how much space I really need. Despite making more money every year, my living space and the amount of stuff I fill it with has shrunk considerably. My college apartment was a fairly spacious 500 sq ft one bedroom that I managed to pack pretty tightly with furniture and clothes and decorations…and I still had a ton of stuff back home at my parents’ house!. Upon graduating, I moved into a 400 sq ft studio, which meant getting rid of several pieces of furniture and a handful of other items, though I still had items stored in my parents’ basement. This original downsize wasn’t necessarily by choice, but a one bedroom apartment in the heart of Minneapolis vs. a one bedroom in Iowa means a significant increase in price! I wasn’t thrilled about studio life at first, but it only took me a few weeks to love it. It was an excuse (ok, and a necessity at the time) to get rid of things I no longer needed. And that process is so liberating! I felt physically and mentally lighter not being weighed down by so much stuff.

Eventually, even my large studio started to feel too big, and I got the urge to move again. I ended up finding the perfect apartment: a 300 sq ft efficiency, still in a great part of the city. And monthly rent is dirt cheap. Now, 300 sq ft is pretty tiny, I’ll be honest. It meant ridding my apartment of several more pieces of furniture (bye-bye couch and chair), and several truckloads of stuff. How on earth had I managed to accumulate that much stuff in my 20 something years of life? Now, my apartment holds only what I need, and I have nothing stored at my parents’ or elsewhere. In a small space like this, it makes you think twice before buying stuff you don’t need. Though apparently I still do that sometimes, because I managed to fill up another trunk full of stuff during my spring cleaning. You can read more about sorting through stuff and creating a clean living space in my post here.

Downsizing saves you money and simplifies your life in several different ways. First, and most obvious, is the reduction in rent. As this is often our biggest monthly expense, saving a few hundred dollars or more here can definitely make a huge difference each month! A smaller space is also cheaper to heat, cool, and light up. Except for the few months a year where I run my A/C (yes, Minnesota does get hot enough for that every once in a while!), my monthly electric bill is always below $20. And when I do have to run my A/C, my apartment is small enough that the smallest, cheapest, most efficient unit out there is able to cool the entire place! In addition to saving you money on the space itself, a small apartment will force you to think about purchases since their is less room to fill with stuff. You’ll need less furniture, and those big ticket items also cost the most money.

Then there’s the fact that a small space is so much simpler to maintain. It’s much easier and faster to clean when you only have one room plus a bathroom! Also, even a small mess can look huge in a tiny space, which is a good enough motivator for me to keep things tidy. And in a smaller space, you don’t have to go as far to put stuff back in its proper place, which also simplifies and save time!

2. Cut Back on Booze.

This is a tough one for a lot of people my age, but cutting back (and on occasion completely cutting out) on drinking has done tremendous things for my mind, body, and wallet. Alcohol adds up fast, especially in your 20s. Hitting happy hour every day and going out on the weekends can end up costing a hundred (or more) dollars per week, at least in my own personal experience, which is a lot of money I’d rather be spending on something else! Besides the cost, there’s also the fact that alcohol is purely empty calories, and if you’re looking to maintain or reduce your weight, this can be one of the biggest roadblocks. Alcohol also seems to go straight to the gut, and I’ve noticed my abs are flattest when I’m either not drinking at all or drinking at a minimum. Besides affecting your physical looks, alcohol also takes it’s toll physically with hangovers and exhaustion the next day, and an inability to complete tasks (especially like exercise) the day of. Lastly, cutting back on drinking can have a pretty strong mental effect. Every year or so, I decide to be completely sober for a few months, and it does change things. It can limit your social life, but you may also discover who are your “drinking buddies” and who are your real friends. Sobriety also helps me to clear my head and to avoid feelings of regret or confusion over what I may have done while drinking.

Overall, cutting back on drinking has had a huge impact on my life, and I have several friends who also have either cut back or quit completely and have been very happy with the benefits! However, life is all about moderation and not feeling deprived. I admit I love a good beer or a fancy cocktail now and then, but I try to limit my consumption to checking out a new brewery, or celebrating a special occasion with a drink. I also allow myself to drink on vacation, because vacations are a time for giving yourself a little slack on your self-imposed rules! Overall, my desire to drink alcohol regularly, just like my desire for caffeine, has severely decreased, but I still enjoy it every once in a while. But the majority of the time, I enjoy my good health and more money in the bank! Not saying “never” allows me to do my health and wallet a favor while also not feeling deprived.

3. Cancel Cable.

This is probably the easiest suggestion on this list, and one that will save a pretty sizeable chunk of change every month: Cancel your cable. Few things, IMO, are a bigger waste of time than cable television. It’s often $100/month or more, and you’re tied down to certain days and times that shows you like are on…or worse, you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through the guide hoping to find something interesting on. Think of all the things you could be doing instead! Get outside, read a book, call a friend, practice yoga. I’m not saying I don’t support the occasional guilty pleasure sitcom binge, but switching to Netflix or Hulu (~$10/month each, or less if you split it among a few people, whether or not they’re in your household!) is about a tenth of the cost…and you can binge watch an entire season of a show in one sitting without commercials. Hey, we all need those days!

4. Rethink Your Shopping Habit.

I’ll admit, shopping was once one of my biggest addictions and hobbies for a while. But buying stuff as a way to entertain yourself or fill a void won’t make you happy for long. A regular shopping habit is expensive, and will quickly fill up a small space with things you likely won’t end up using. Besides the expense, consumerism is also a destructive and unsustainable enterprise as a whole. Cheap clothes from trendy retailers, like Forever21 or H&M, are often not sourced ethically, and the people making these garments are not paid a living wage. (Watch the documentary “The True Cost” for more info on the fast fashion industry!) Clothes that are cheaply made are also more likely to end up in a landfill because they tear or fall apart, and because they cost so little people (and I myself have been guilty of this in the past, unfortunately), don’t feel bad about just throwing them away instead of repairing or donating them.

Cutting back on overall spending and shopping by asking yourself if you really need something or if you’re just bored can save a lot of money. However, sometimes we do need to buy things! My two alternatives that have saved me space and money: investing in quality goods or shopping secondhand. Investing a couple hundred dollars for quality, durable versions of things you use regularly (kitchen gadgets, boots, etc), will save time and money in the long term when you aren’t having to replace crappy versions ever few months or years. And with a good quality company, there’s a better chance they’re having a less horrible impact on the environment — I try to do my research on brands before buying when I have options!

Shopping thrift or secondhand is also a great alternative, especially for clothes. I prefer it because you’ll find more unique items instead of the same things everyone else is already wearing! Places like Plato’s Closet even have nice brand name athletic wear. Another perk of secondhand stores is that you can often receive either cash, a trade in credit, or a coupon for future purchases when you donate your unwanted items. Lastly, shopping secondhand is a great way to cut back on consumerism and the need for clothing companies to produce more cheap fast fashion garments, as discussed above. Shopping used allows you to get new-to-you items while reducing your overall impact on the environment.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll discuss more money tips relating to how finances, credit cards, and organizing your money! Let me know your favorite ways to save money and the environment in the comments, or share them on my Facebook page.