When I was in my mid-20s, I was sure 10 years down the road that I'd be firmly ensconced in my chosen career as an actress, probably living in some magnificent estate in Connecticut, and starting to think about settling down.
Fast forward to my life as a journalist, living in an apartment in Manhattan — life isn't always the way you think it will be. I gained Central Park and gave up the idea of a backyard. I lost my independence and gained my little son.
And every day, I skimp on some things to splurge on others. Food and dining out are major parts of my life. I love to head to the Japanese superstore and go overboard on assorted sweet snacks and salty sauces in Hello Kitty bottles. I get an indescribable thrill out of a three-hour tasting menu on my birthday. And there are trade-offs I try to make every day to ensure that's a possibility.
1. Secondhand clothes
I have become way into apps like Poshmark and Facebook resale groups that offer really good-quality clothes at huge discounts. Sure, you have to do your research and make sure the seller isn't a scam artist, but the cashmere sweaters and great jeans I have gotten for a fraction of the price of retail is worth the extra legwork. Many clothes have never been worn and still have tags on them!
The deals are even better for kids, who grow out of clothes so quickly and really don't care (or even know) if the clothes are secondhand. See ya never, retail.
2. Entertaining friends at home
"Meet you there for happy hour" never ends in a happy bill for me. Maybe it's the gin gimlet's fault, maybe it's the nachos followed by a slice of pizza, maybe I need to forget that my toddler learned how to say a curse word. I don't know, but I do know I never have a cheap happy hour bill. By asking my friends to come over (everybody bring a cheap bottle of booze or a yummy cheese), we cut way down on spending. Plus, we can watch Bravo while we drink. #winning
3. Seasonal pedicures
Is this one gross? It certainly works best in climates that go through a cold and snowy period where you're never outside in anything except galoshes or snow boots. I realized there are six months out of the year my toenails really just need to be clipped — not buffed, polished, and decorated with tiny pineapple designs. As an added bonus, during this time of year my feet never see the elements and as a result, they are soft without any callus or pumice treatments.
4. Cutting down on movies
Going out to the movies is very fun, but it's not a cheap date anymore. To compound that, many movies come on demand so quickly now. The price of renting the movie is often half of what it would be to go out to dinner, see the movie, get treats, then get back home via cab (because if I'm going out, I'm going out, baby!). And don't forget the cost of a sitter! Watching more movies at home has been a relatively easy way to save money for my family.
5. Planning travel around points
This is pretty second nature for me, because I grew up the daughter of a miles aficionado, but if you aren't choosing leisure vacations or work flight times based around maximizing your points, you're not getting the most out of your hard-earned mileage status. Many times, flights will be less expensive or even totally free on miles if you plan early enough or have a flexible enough schedule. The same goes for hotel rewards points. That savings just leaves more money for room service breakfast.