When I first started this blog, I was broke. And when I say broke, I don’t mean in the cute “might have to dip into my savings!” way. I mean broke. And it didn’t bother me, really. I’m used to living on a budget.
One time my lunch was hot dog pretzel samples. I, an adult woman, waited until my local hot dog pretzel representative had turned their back- then grabbed as many samples as I could, shoved them down my gullet, and power-walked away. My bank account has often sung to the tune of $2 and not because I was going out for too many brunches or partying too hard or because I just had to get away for the Winter. It’s because there never was money there, to begin with. And because I had no idea what to do with money when it did make it’s way to me.
Anyway. I have some guilt over making this blog about living in Toronto on a budget because, while I am still definitely on a budget, this is the least broke I’ve ever felt.
I’m doing ok right now. There’s money left after bills. I have some emergency funds in a jar. I have a tax free savings account. I’m paying off my credit card. I go to the dentist. I bought sensible shoes for work. I went to Montreal for a weekend, ate in restaurants, and didn’t fuck up my life in the process.
None of this makes me rich in this country by any stretch. I serve coffee to people with handbags that could pay off my debt and then some.
The money left over after bills is scant, I’ve dipped into my tax-free savings account to get me out of some jams, the shoes I bought violate my work’s dress code but the more appropriate pair was $20 extra and I couldn’t swing it. I had a friend to crash with in Montreal and spent 6+ hours on a bus to get there.
But I’m not about to focus on the smaller, less glamorous details. It’s a huge accomplishment for me to not always be the “I can’t afford it” friend.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could believe in and live as the version of ourselves we pretend to be on Instagram? I’d like to believe in her.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is I used to be quite fucked when it came to money. I’m not so fucked anymore. Instead of feeling guilty about that, I figured I could write about it.
I’m not a millionaire or an influencer or even someone who can shop at Aritzia, but I do spend time in some cute coffee shops in cute sweaters eating cute croissants and I’m rarely asked to leave. If that’s your current definition of success, read on.
I hate money advice because it’s always something like “just never get that credit card in the first place!” or “stop going to Starbucks.” I’d never say something like that to you.
I also hate money advice because it comes from people who are like “I traveled the world for an entire year just by eating bologna sandwiches” and I have a sneaking suspicion there’s much more to those stories than these people would have us believe.
First of all- think of what you’d like your ideal life to look like. If there are things on that list you can access- do those things. I think a lot of people live in the wistful “one day” part of their brain when they could be any place else.
In my ideal future, my days are my own and drink coffee on my Juliet balcony after meditating/doing yoga in my spacious sunny living room.
So, this morning I did yoga in my living room while looking out the window at trees.
This helps get me out of the “one days” and into the “today”, and I stop thinking money will be the one thing that makes it all come together.
Start looking at your money. Don’t cross your fingers and squeeze your eyes shut as the debit machine processes your request. There’s a very easy way to find out if you can afford that burrito, so start using it. Look at your debt, look at what’s coming in, look at what’s going out. Get a general sense of where you stand financially.
Make an appointment at your bank. What kind of account do you have? Is it the right fit for you? Are you unknowingly paying $40 in service fees a month for services you aren’t using? Ask about options for saving money.
I once cried in a bank appointment because I was working full time, making no money (minimum wage in Winnipeg is very low), and I qualified for nothing. I left having reduced my credit card payments, cut back on my bank fees, and started a TFSA.
Find someone to do your taxes. An actual person who can help you understand them. A stranger who you won’t feel embarrassed about airing all your dirty laundry in front of. If you tell them about your life, they can help you get a better return, and then you won’t be so mad you gave them some cash to help you out.
Beans and rice. Instant noodles and veggies. Spaghetti in some cheap sauce you jazzed up with a zucchini. Learn how you like them- fill your cupboards with them. And if you are going out- try dinner or drinks, not both.
Invite people over. Make meals together. You can tailor the food to fit your budget, people are usually happy to bring ingredients, plus you’ll look super cute on Instagram making your little dinner and your engagement will go up so- hey, you’re an influencer now.
Spend on things that will cost you more later. Cheap shoes will fuck up your life. A cheap imitation product will break down, forcing you to spend the money you could have spent on something with a warranty. Pre-packaged meals are a one time only thing. A bag of noodles and a few veggies will get you a lot farther.
Finally, (and most importantly to me) make a jar. I don’t care what you do or don’t believe in, I have a magic money jar and I want you to have one, too. A friend of mine gave me customized candle holders made with jars for my 30th birthday and they’re a couple of the best things I own. I started keeping money in one, just whenever I had cash. Then I convinced myself this was a magic money jar, and as long as I kept something in it, there’d always be more coming to me. When I receive cash, it goes in the jar. I’ve ended up using these funds to
-stay in motels on our way to Toronto
-buy Ikea furniture for our apartment
-Take two months off work to figure out what the heck I should be doing with my life (could have used more months on that one)
-cover an unexpected dental bill.
Respect your jar. It’s a little something silly, but most things are.
Anyhoo. That about sums it up. What’s your favorite way to save some cash?