How to: Eat and live well on the cheap

In September, I spent all my money on tickets to Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (which I didn’t end up blogging about because of exams and assignments and then more exams). But then bills and stuff got taken out of my account and I found myself with about $5 to spend on groceries and a deficit where my public transport budget should be. I wasn’t about to beg for cash and I wasn’t about to crack out the mi goreng (did you know it has the same amount of fat per packet as a Big Mac? Ew!), so how the hell did I manage to eat well when I had absolutely no money?

First, I bet if you’re a proper HPG you probably have friends who owe you a dinner, or at least a lunch. I had a very lovely (and good looking) gentleman caller cook me a very tasty and healthy dinner after one of the runway shows and it definitely hit the spot. Another night I shared a pizza with a friend and had a beer that was leftover in the fridge from another friend dropping around. So that’s two dinners, and I scored a couple of free drinks too. One healthy dinner, one not-so-healthy. But a girl’s gotta eat. Which brings me to my next point…

Second, I chose to be just a little less picky about what I ate. After all, beggars can’t be choosers. [side story: Once when I was a store manager at a commercial coffee chain store, we used to give the expiring sandwiches to the homeless guy that draws outside Melbourne Central. His name is Wayne by the way. Anyway, Wayne asked what was in the sandwiches and then politely declined to take one. I was flabbergasted and have questioned the motives of all homeless people since]. So instead of the high quality brands I usually buy, I lowered my standards and my shopping bill to include the no name brands and managed to spent next to nothing to feed myself for the remaining meals. Five bucks pal!!!

No name brands have perfectly acceptable frozen vegetables, pasta sauce, rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, wholemeal bread and bean mix as well as plenty of other products. If you’re trying to cut your budget, cut the snobby crap. I ate no name pasta with no name sauce, no name frozen vegies and no name bean mix for 5 meals that week and yeah it kind of sucked, but going to all of those fashion shows did not! I made the most of the fruit basket at work to get my nutrients, drank tap water, made instant coffee at work and then drooled over high fashion all week. Sure I ate plain wholemeal toast with nuttelex for breakfast and called in a couple of favours from friends but I still got to have a drink at the end of the week.

If you’re trying to cut down on spending, alcohol is the first thing that needs to to. Who are you kidding that drinking beer is cheaper, it’s still money that you’re trying to put toward something else. If you really want a drink, find somewhere with a happy hour and have ONE, like the $3 tap beer or $5 house wines, during Happy Hour at my favourite bar. Start taking your lunch to work immediately! Takeaway coffees have to go, especially if they’re daily. Cigarettes should also go. If you’re a smoker then just remember 3 packs a week could get you an express lunch at Treasury, or 2 really good cocktails, or it could be the annual fee on your credit card…

Speaking of credit cards… screw the rewards program, you don’t need it. Use all your points for cash back onto your card and call up and get your card switched over to the lowest interest rate card possible. Yes, you can do this, I used to work in credit cards (ironic, I know, I’m a Rebecca Bloomwood sort of a person) and I went from having a 22% interest card to a much more reasonable 13%. Then I balance-transferred my other card onto it at only 2% for 12 months (better than 0% for 6, knowing I wouldn’t pay it off in that time). Winner all around! But then I didn’t pay it off and that’s why I’m poor. More fool me.

If you’re trying to save money, save it for something. That way you’ll have a goal. Go through all your expenses and figure out where you can cut corners. Can you get those shoes reheeled instead of forking out for a new pair? Yes. Can you cancel that gym membership you haven’t used for months? Yes. Can you cancel your health insurance? No way! But you can do your body and your wallet a favour by indulging just that little bit less.

Just remember that sacrifice is giving up something good for something better!

A normal week:
Takeaway coffee all week = $15
2 cocktails on Friday night = $30
Lunch at work every day = $50
Groceries for home = $70
Dinner out plus wine and a movie = $65
Glossy magazine = $10

That’s $240! Imagine what you could do with an extra $240 EVERY WEEK! And before you baulk at the amount that I was spending, just keep all your receipts and write down everything you spend money on, or use CashTracker on your iPhone and just look at the end of the week. Then it’ll be more fool you!

Share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!