Disclaimer: I'm student poor, not actually impoverished. If I got into a bad situation, my parents would be able to help me. I have a credit card, I have money in my bank account, and I'm doing okay in general. But I don't live a luxurious lifestyle, and right now I couldn't afford that. Saving money is something that I prioritize, often over things that probably deserve to be prioritized a little bit more. This is a list of things that I have done to save money. Some of these things I'm kind of ashamed of, or are kind of embarrassing, but most of them are also pretty funny. Maybe it will inspire you to be more thrifty…or not.
I have a budget that is very tight, right now it is eight dollars a day. I don't stick to it religiously, some days I spend more, some days I spend less, but in general that's my target. I'm living this summer with $1000 of "free" money from a scholarship, and anything beyond that comes out of my savings, which I use to pay tuition. So if I break my budget, I am just adding to my student loan debt.
This is the chronicle of my quest to stay under budget...
- Transportation is a key area of the budget you can really control. Metro is cheap here, about 20 cents per ride, and taxis are cheap too, but I am usually willing to walk 30 minutes to an hour to avoid using public transit altogether or to get to the metro.
- Example: yesterday I left a friend's house and decided to take the metro home instead of a taxi, saving $2. But of course, I got lost and ended up walking in the blistering sun for 30 minutes, then riding the super crowded rush hour metro for another 30 minutes instead of caving and paying for a 10 minute taxi ride.
- Example: I always take marshrutki when I travel instead of shared taxis. Even if it's only a difference of less than a dollar, I am willing to squeeze for a couple hours into a sweaty, crowded box, usually upholstered in the most abrasive fabric know to man, in order to save literally a buck
- Hitch hiking, while not necessarily recommended, also saves money!
- Dinner dates = free dinner. Enough said.
- Haggle, haggle haggle, and have no shame. The key is to find out beforehand from locals what the price of something should be, and insist on that. Don't make up a sob story and end up exploiting someone's pity, but never pay tourist prices.
- "I'm poor. I'm a student and I work at an NGO where they don't pay me any salary"
- "I only have X-amount of money in my wallet, will that be enough for this? Maybe I have one more coin in my pocket!"
- "I have been here 10 times and I always pay $X for the taxi! Why are you trying to overcharge me?"
- My shoes have holes in the bottom...
- Eat two meals a day instead of three, and fill the rest with cheap snacks (easy to find in Georgia)! Brunch around 11 or 12, linner around 5 pm
- Don't go to Prospero's...western style coffee shop/bookstore, a favorite of expats, and an enemy to the wallet