Life is a Sandwich
Being frugal, hungry, and managing your time will end in the life balance you’re looking for.
I identify as a cheap Ukrainian. Deeply rooted in my frugality is the mindset that
life is like a sh*t sandwich. The more dough you got, the less sh*t you gotta eat.
Thanks for that quote, Dad.
But beyond the surface of that thought is a deeper habit that I’ve had that's shaped my life. It’s the notion of saving money at every opportunity you can, making hay while the sun shines, and little changes you can make now that over the long term can have a compounding impact.
By no means is this the secret to being a millionaire in your 20s (which I am very much not), but a guide that has helped me live the life I have, working for myself, doing work I love. And it has been not been carefully designed by any stretch. But the string that threads through the last few years, and many years before that, is that I learned how to be smart with my money, even if that meant making some sacrifices.
Listen, if you really want to save money, don’t spend it in the first place. And that’s where I see a lot of people go wrong. The conversation here is around saving money where you can, and where it’s easiest. In my line of work, it means buying used gear more often than new gear, when I can. In my life, it means buying a used car instead of 2020 model. In my day, it means making kombucha instead of buying it.
There are a few questions I think you can ask yourself to start this conversation with yourself such as:
Recently, what have I purchased brand new, that I could’ve bought used?
What is one habit that I can kick or modify so that it costs less?
How can I make a day-to-day thing more efficient?
And please don’t take this as “buy all your clothes at Value Village” but instead “can I make brewed coffee at home, instead of starbucks every morning?”. It may not seem like a small change, but the savings add up. I recently ran the math on making my own kombucha, and I calculated that I saved about $1000 over about 15 months. I get that because I make it, I drink more of it, but the stat is interesting.
There are lots of ways to be frugal. And it isn’t all about the financial savings, as many things that are more efficient and economical are often better for the environment. I stopped using new garbage bags every time I go to the bottle depot, and I use a reusable bag most of the time at the grocery store. Remember when being frugal, five cents is five cents you didn’t have. It adds up.
Make Hay While the Sun Shines
TRIGGER WARNING: I have heard many people call us millennials and Gen Z’ers lazy.
This is true for some, but the reality is that every aspect of life is squeezing us a bit harder, and it is sink or swim. Many choose to sink – and it’d be fairly easy to sink for me if I wanted. But most of us choose to swim….that is, we actually work really hard, and it makes sense that we want to either play hard or sleep. There’s a whole other discussion here about how laziness is being confused with mental health complications, as well, which I am not disregarding, but am not qualified to talk about.
My mindset has almost always been to work while the work is there. To just work hard, and not take sinking as an option. And if I feel myself sinking, make a change, or fire up an old engine to get swimming again. The idea here is changing your outlook on sick days, vacation time, and time off. Now that I work for myself, if I am sick, I better be doing something else that furthers my life instead of sinking. I was never eager to take vacation time, or was never of the attitude that at 5pm my work was done. This is where the difference is. This might sound motivational, and if that’s what you need to hear, then hear it. But that attitude did two things – it created challenges around my mental health, but also made me a really hard worker. I just pushed myself every day to not fall into the status quo in whatever I was working on. So be careful with working that way – but boil down the message and ask yourself:
What behaviours help me swim, and what behaviours are sinking me?
How can I push myself, in a healthy way, to work harder?
If the sun is shining, are you making hay, or are you just burning it?
Changes To Make
So you’re making coffee at home, saving your garbage bags at the bottle depot, and working through your sickness to make a few extra bucks. It may not be cutting it yet. There are ways to side hustle, but my sense is they create more complications than opportunities – but they’re worth a go to see if it’s for you. At this stage, if you’re ready to try your hand at being an uber driver, or a pizza delivery person for a couple months – go for it. There are some odd jobs that can be a lot of fun and if you can keep your eyes open for them, there’s a good chance you’ll find a little thing you can do on the side to bring in a couple fun bucks.
Here’s a few other ideas to really boost your bottom line:
Open a high-interest savings account. Find a bank that offers a high interest rate on your savings and just try to never touch that account. Look for accounts that compound daily.
Sell Your Old Stuff. If you haven’t touched something in over a year, there’s a good chance it’s gathering dust and is worth at least $5. I recently sold some gear that was sitting on a shelf for 3+ years for $20. It wasn’t much, but that $20 went straight into the bank account above.
Cook. Learn how to make your own stock, sauces, and meals. Even if you continue your old habits, you’ll find you’ll start to lean into the satisfaction and savings in making your own stuff. It’s super easy to make a giant pot of stock that sits on the stove all day and will last you through the week.
Subscription Services: I just cancelled my YouTube Music Subscription in favour of the three months of free XM that I have an offer for. After that time, I’ll switch back. Five bucks is five bucks. What can you cancel that you can go without for a bit?
Here's the rub: you don't need to live like a hermit or not eat to save money (although, I've done both, and it works well). You do need to make shifts in your attitude, your ego, you work, and your lifestyle to save money. Coming from someone who identifies as a cheap Ukrainian, I hope you can understand that this might be a bit biased, but feel free to take some ideas when looking Through My Lens.