6 October 2014

Broke girl tricks of the trade

In my 6th week of living below what is classified as "living wage" in what has recently been announced as the most expensive city IN THE WORLD (interning + London = pain), I have learned a few budget busters; my broke girl tricks of the trade, if you will.

So, being the selfless, wonderful person that I am, I thought I'd share my discoveries with you.

You've got to be cruel to be kind (to your bank balance)

Topshop having a sale? ASOS styling it up on Instagram? H&M visual merchandisers doing a jolly good job on the shop window? Oh look, Liberty has got its Christmas stuff in! Cute. Maybe I'll...

No! Suck it up. Unsubscribe from emails, unfollow their feed, and stop your eyes from straying. Avoidance is often the best strategy if, like me, your resolve starts to melt as soon as you see something with cats on it. If you reeeeeally need it in your life, stick it on your birthday/Christmas list.

Laziness is not a virtue
Plan, plan, plan. Use Sunday to pack your lunches for the week. Know yourself - do you get peckish throughout the day? If so, get some cheap snack products: nuts, rice cakes, crackers, etc. If you're the kind of person whois starving by mid-afternoon and likely to cave by stopping off at Tescos to buy a ready meal on the way home, buy food that cooks quickly. 

Cheap things are good, free things are sacred

It takes time, but the dream is real. Keep a beady eye out for offers, competitions and events. Good places to start are Time Out, Twitter and magazine websites. For instance, last week I attended a Grazia Salon and got a goodie bag worth double, if not triple, the ticket cost. And next month I'm attending an Elle Magazine reader event at Benefit.  A few weeks ago I went to a Stylist reader event at Kate Spade (for free, with as many Martinis and prosecco as flirting outrageously allowed), and in the next week I have a networking event with GoThinkBig and a writing workshop with About Time Magazine, both FREE. 

I can't explain how exciting and satisfying it is to find things in London which aren't crappy and don't cost a THING. As the weather becomes more grey, I plan to scour art gallery calendars and see what exhibitions are about. And to keep me warm, I plan to absolutely milk the coffee machine at work (if you'll excuse the pun).

Your pride is not welcome here. Swallow it.
This might be just me, but I'm very stubborn when it comes to people helping me financially. I've been quite self-sufficient since I was 15 and had my first job as a Saturday girl at a hairdressers in the neighbouring town. I've never had to ask for money, or drinks, or anything. I've always been sensible, and would silently judge those who often admitted to making a plea to the bank of Mum and Dad (my parents gave me a set amount a month to cover living costs at uni, and that was that).

Fast forward 7 years, and I'm having to swallow my pride. If someone offers to buy you a meal or drink because they want to see you, let them. If your parents feel sorry for you and buy you a care package to supplement your food costs, let them. Stubbornness will only make you miserable.

The tube? It's a luxury
3 weeks ago my housemate told me that a 7 day unlimited bus pass is £20.20. Taking a bus and tube between zones 1 and 2 was costing me £31.40 a week. So I made the switch, and am saving a precious £11.20 per week, which is £44.80 A MONTH.

I'm not going to lie - the bus is the bane of my existence. Getting to work isn't so bad (it takes me an hour rather than 45 minutes by bus/tube to get to work) but on the way back I sometimes have to wait up to 40 minutes to get the connecting bus. And sometimes a bus will go straight past me, full. It's a ball ache, there's no getting around it. But... £45 a month. Just remember that, people.

Be realistic
Like a diet, going cold turkey on things you love will often lead to a binge. This happened to me in the first week of my internship, and I ended up spending over a fiver on assorted sweets and chocolate at the local shop because I had no change, and there was a £5 card minimum spend.

Don't punish yourself. Yes, you're pretty darn broke... But you've got to allow for SOMETHING. Depending on your budget, allow £10-£20 for any "weakness" moments, or even a meal out with friends. If you don't spend it, fine, but if you do, don't feel guilty. Just make sure you're NOT spending more than you can afford - there's a difference between being over-stretched and being in big fat debt.

Get a *cheap* hobby
Sorry to break it to you, but your dream of becoming a champion horse rider/snowboarder/sailor is not about to come into fruition. Break the habit of calling time not spending money "killing time" - it's depressing, and sounds like a means to an end - and find solace in doing something that makes you feel a bit better about yourself. For me, it's been getting a library card, so I can borrow books FOR FREE, and reading them on days/in the hours I don't have anything planned.

Sign up for a Waitrose card
I was gutted to realise I'm not anywhere near a Waitrose at home OR work - oops - but I don't regret signing up (it takes 2 minutes) for the simple reason that if I ever go into Waitrose, I can get a FREE COFFEE. COFFEE... FOR FREE. And it's Waitrose coffee, so it won't be crap coffee, either. Result.

Utilise the perks

As mentioned above, I'm lucky enough to work somewhere that lets me have unlimited access to teas and coffees. If I had two Pumpkin Spice Lattes (mmm, pumpkin spice) and a cup of tea from Starbucks everyday, I'd be spending a tenner. Even one drink from a coffee shop will set you back nearly £3. Fine, the work machine may not have sprinkles, a cinnamon swirl or an extra shot of espresso, but it's something.

As a former PR intern, I had access to ALL THE MAGAZINES. And every time I came across a sample, I'd pick it out and throw it in my bag. I did this for months. Now, I have a mini make up bag full of these samples. Recently, as I've started to run out of face cream, I've dipped into my hefty supply. It's a great way to test products without taking the plunge, and it prolongs time before I need to buy a full sized face cream.
Money saving websites are NOT your friend
You know what I'm talking about: Martin's Money Saving Expert, Voucher Codes, Groupon, etc. Yes, they have things to help you budget, but treat them as you would a volatile work colleague. 

Just because there is 20% off at Dorothy Perkins, does not mean you should spend £100 and save £20. Because let's face it... You shouldn't be shopping anyway. I often find these sites are enablers, making you feel justified in spending because LOOK HOW MUCH YOU SAVED. Um, no, dear - look how much you've spent. It's better to have in mind what you need to spend money on, then check these sites to see if they can save you anything on those things, instead.

Venting is actively encouraged 

If you're being good and doing all the above and you're still bummed about being so darn BROKE, vent away. Don't keep your frustration to yourself, as you will probably combust at an inconvenient time, at an inappropriate person. Venting is strictly for parents and close friends, and those who will sympathise, but also be firm and remind you to keep your head above water. 

Which brings me to my last point...

Remember this is only temporary

"Temporary" being the key word here. Temporary can be 1 week, 1 month, or even 1 year (maybe longer), but it won't be forever. Don't get me wrong, it's HARD seeing my friends get promotions, get pay rises and earn over DOUBLE the amount I'm earning at the moment. It's painful. But know that what you're doing, you're doing for a reason. Don't listen to people who tell you to do something else which takes you off your chosen path because it pays more. Keep your eye on the prize.

Not to mention you get a whole new perspective on life and money, and you'll surprise yourself by learning just how little you CAN live on.

Remember, this is temporary, and you are FABULOUS. Broke girls (and guys) - we're in this together.

Image: WeHeartIt


  1. i can't even remember how i stumbled across your blog today, but i'm so glad i have! been ferociously bookmarking website recommendations and making mental notes of all your tips! you should deserve a far bigger readership x ps. thank you :)

    1. Hi Pip! Aw thanks so much, this is so kind :) I've been getting some fab feedback recently so this is wonderful to hear. I hope my websites and tips help!


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