There are the traditional ways to save money, like opening a savings account and setting aside a neat sum every week. Or, setting a budget and following it with religious devotion, never eating out, or clipping coupons.
The tried and true are all well and good, but as a disrespectful millennial, I don’t want to follow the old ways. I want to save money my way, in a manner that is effective, fun, and just bordering the line between legal and illegal.
So, here is a highly professional list of how best to save money like a queen (disclosure: I’ve done all of these).
1. Turn grocery store samples into a meal
While grocery stores may hope that you will buy the cheese cubes they are sampling, you are under no obligation to buy that gouda or cheddar. Nor are you obligated to take just one, measly cube. Rarely, do grocery stores actually put up signage that forbids taking more than one sample. So bring Tupperware (a lot of Tupperware if you’re at Costco) and stock up.
2. Go on as many dates as possible
For all those nay-sayers that believe you can’t go out for dinner when on a budget, I say, think again. With the marvelous advent of the dating app, you can quickly find dates and meals. Just remember to question them about their job, salary, and 401(k) situation to make sure they will be more than comfortable footing your lobster ravioli filled meal. Also, it’s the 21st century, and I say this works no matter what gender you are.
3. Play musical chairs with gym memberships
Many gyms offer free trials, lasting up to a week. Even the gym chain that epitomizes luxury, Equinox, offers a single day free trial. Depending on how savvy you are, you can make those trials last you for a good year of working out. Create a couple of email addresses, use different phone numbers from your friends and family, and make sure to change up the locations so the trainers don’t recognize you. And, if they for some reason do recognize you, pull out a facade of confidence and quickly gaslight them.
4. Go visit your parents
Your parents are among the few people who will never deny you entry at the door. Take a weekend off from paying for your own food and laundry and go visit the folks. Your parents (depending on how many times you take these money-saving weekends) will be happy to see and have you over for a couple nights. Sadly, this tip only applies for those with parents that live close by–unless you become close with a friend’s parents who are local.
5. Dumpster dive
I know what you’re thinking: Ew. Society views the act of hopping into a garbage can to snack on a moldy piece of cabbage as something reserved for rats. But, equally as gross as that cabbage, is the fact that grocery stores and restaurants throw out millions of pounds of perfectly good food each year. Maybe skip the dumpster jacuzzi, but do stop by your local bakery at closing time and ask if you can take whatever they were planning to throw out. They look at you oddly, but they will almost definitely give you a stale loaf of sourdough.
6. The sidewalk is your shopping mall
Rather than trying to sell their prized possessions on eBay or Craigslist, many people prefer to leave their old things on the sidewalk for either the garbage man or someone passing by to pick up. Everything is free game from tables and chairs to bookshelves and lamps. Mattresses are the only exception: for the love of everything that is sanitary and good, do not go to bed on a sidewalk mattress. You will find a cockroach in it I guarantee.
7. Find bars and restaurant with free food
Many bars and restaurants will provide you with free food before or after you order. Take advantage of that free bread basket or the free chips and salsa. Fill your tank with the free stuff so you don’t have to pay as much for the food that costs actual money. Some restaurants and bars are pretty crazy in what they offer for free; for example, my local bar gives me a free pizza every time I order a drink. I know, you wish you were as blessed by the pizza gods as I.
8. Do a clothing trade
No one ever really needs to shop. We’re just bored with our current clothes and want to wear some new threads. An easy way to do so, without spending any money, it to host a clothing exchange with your friends. Have everyone bring a bag or two of clothes that they are willing to part with or rent out for a while, then go ‘shopping’ and find a new wardrobe for yourself.
9. Go on the ramen diet
Unlike the Atkins diet or the grapefruit diet, the ramen diet is not one for losing weight. Rather, because instant ramen only costs a dollar, the ramen diet helps you to gain money. Your doctor may discourage the irreparable damage that ramen’s sodium content will inflict upon your body, but if you are desperate to save money and have little value for your body’s health, then the ramen diet is for you.
10. Walk everywhere
Not only is walking excellent for your health, it’s also a free form of transportation. If you live close enough to work, school, or grocery stores, then switch out your car keys for a good old pair of legs. You’ll save a pretty penny and you might even lose a little weight.
11. Clean out hotel rooms
Just as with grocery store samples, unless the hotel expressly tells you not to take an item, everything in your hotel room from the pens, to the branded notepad, to the toilet and bathrobes are free for the taking. Don’t feel weird about bringing an extra suitcase when you go on vacation: you need room for all the toilet paper you are going to amass.
12. Toilet paper is, and always will be, free
As mentioned above, toilet paper is a free commodity that you are always allowed to take for personal use. Usually, the stuff wrapped in plastic at Walgreens is not for free pickup, but everywhere else (the coffee shop bathroom, the hotel room, the work bathroom) you are completely within your rights to pick up. Pro tip: Grab a couple of rolls when you go visit your parents.
13. Make friends…with people who have Hello Fresh
HelloFresh is a neat meal kit delivery service that brings all the ingredients and instructions for delicious meals right to your doorstep. The boxes are pretty pricey, but for those that have a HelloFresh Membership they can gift several boxes to a maximum of three friends. So when you meet people at the next party, make sure to ask if they have a HelloFresh subscription. I always do.
14. Refill at Starbucks
Did you know if you bring your empty Starbucks coffee cup up to the counter you can ask for a refill for only $1? This refill policy is generally only reserved for people that have been at the cafe for an extended amount of time, but no one is really monitoring to see if you have been sitting on the couch for the past hour or just came in the front door. So save your Starbucks cup and reuse it throughout the week to get cheap coffee on the reg.
15. DIY hot yoga
In the summer leave the windows open and in the winter crank the heat, then roll out your yoga mat and do a couple vinyasas until you sweat your body’s water weight. Perfect exercise to reduce your body’s ability to stay standing and conscious which will give you the perfect excuse to head home from work.
Feature Illustration: Laura Caseley For The Money Manual