I wrote a completely different post, but then decided that rather than whine about how shitty things are, I’ll write up some tips for how to adult well with little money and little energy. :)
Everyone knows about our shitty 18 months and our losses and CC debt. It’s pretty massive. Nick has a shitty job paying $17/hr and I’ve got a couple of catering gigs. Even so, we are treading water and barely making ends meet. The payments on the CCs are negated by the high interest rates. So, not all that great. But despite all this, we still keep ourselves and our house clean, take care of our cars, eat good food and generally live pretty well.
How do we do it?
Well, it’s a multilayered thing. First, we’ve got good habits that carry us when we’re tired or stressed out over everything. That is the #1 most important key to adulting: good habits. Most people who live like animals wallowing in their own filth just don’t have any good habits to fall back on, other than ignoring the filth. Or ignoring the bills. Or ignoring the myriad other things that need attention.
Bad habits are the root of all failures to adult properly.
So, yes, we adult quite well. We have lots of good habits. We are grateful for that. But what can you do? You can be thrifty and you can learn habits to keep your home and self in tip-top shape!
Here is a list in no particular order of things you can do to stretch your money farther:
•Use coupons at the grocery store. I’ve done this for decades! I’ll bet I’ve saved enough for a house by now! LOL You can do digital ones (with your loyalty card at Kroger) or paper. I use both. The valuable ones from Kroger are always paper.
•Buy staples on sale or from the clearance shelves. We found bacon bits and dijon mustard on the markdown shelf for 1/4 the original price. We bought all of them. I rarely buy meat/chicken that is not marked down. Which brings me to the next item.
•Buy a chest freezer if you have space and can afford it. You can buy sale protein and freeze it. I’ve always got a ton of proteins in the freezer.
•Buy a vacuum sealer system to repackage the proteins for freezing. These things really do work.
•Join a warehouse club if you can justify the amount of stuff you have to buy at once. We ditched Costco because it was not working for a 2 person household, BUT I just reinstated it because it helps with catering. Choose wisely.
•Learn to cook. You don’t have to be a fucking chef, but learn how to make several things you like. This is where that discount protein comes in handy. And this will give you leftovers for your lunch.
•Pack your lunch. Nick has always taken lunch to work. We usually have leftovers and if not, I buy the frozen meals (on sale, of course!). Fast food is not only nasty, but pricey. Learn to LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS. People who won’t eat leftovers drive me CRAZY. (Many chefs are like this, I’ve found. GAH! Not me, man!)
•Shop at discount stores.** Big Lots, Ollie’s and Dollar Tree are all great for certain things. Big Lots has several staple food items we use, disposables for my catering, and they usually have a good selection of brand name cleaning products discounted. Dollar Tree has my favourite trash bags (vanilla!!), plastics for catering and glassware. The cleaning products from Dollar Tree are typically not very good. Ollie’s is a true discounter, so you never know what you’ll find there. They had a ton of drug store items for a while, so we stocked up on our favourite toothpaste. They also had a ton of graphic novels for $3 ea, so we stocked up on those, too. :)
•Do the maintenance on your car. If you can’t afford the big stuff, just make sure the oil is changed on time. That alone will keep your car much healthier. If your car breaks down, that will impact you in terrible ways, so keep your car maintained. If you’ve got 100k miles on it and never changed the timing belt…you’d best find the money to get that shit done. A broken timing belt can kill your car. Allocate your money wisely.
•Should be obvious, but comparison shop. Compare store brands to name brands. I buy a ton of Kroger brand products that are equivalent (or sometimes better) than the name brand. Sometimes those bulk deals at Costco are NOT really a great deal. For instance, their 12 pk of tissues is more expensive than the Kroger brand 12 pack. Pay attention to prices, quality and convenience. It’s not really a deal if you make a separate trip to fetch it! Also: learn how to calculate per unit pricing. It is sometimes on the shelf at Kroger, but not always accurate.
Those are my shopping tips. Now, for some living tips:
•Clean as you go. I can’t stress this enough. CLEAN AS YOU GO. If the bathroom sink has some funk, keep cleaning wipes under the counter so you can grab one and swab the sink. Keep a toilet brush handy and swab the toilet when it gets gross. It takes 30 seconds! Same for putting dishes in the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, then do the dishes ONCE A DAY. EVERY DAY. Break up cleaning into small tasks and you’ll get it all done. I think people who live in filth get overwhelmed and can’t see a way to get ahead of the mess. Break it into small tasks then DO THEM ONE AT A TIME. It will work. You’ve just got to be diligent.
•Give everything a home. I think this is the one thing I see the most in filthy homes: everything is strewn about and nothing has a home. NO your fucking tampons DO NOT live in the kitchen. NO your fucking clothes DO NOT live on the floor. If this is your problem, then get a labeler and LABEL EVERY STORAGE AREA with what lives there (the visual cue will help you remember to put things away). Then PUT THINGS AWAY. When you get home from the grocery, put that shit where it belongs. After you cook a meal, put the ingredients BACK and wash pans. Get into the habit of returning things to their homes. It’s amazing how this ONE HABIT can eliminate much of the clutter piling up.
•Speaking of laundry. DO THE LAUNDRY. Do not wear the same clothes 15 times. Do not let laundry pile up. When you have two loads, it’s time to do laundry. This is also linked to the clothes in the floor thing. If your clothes are strewn on the floor (clean AND dirty) then you never know when it’s time to do laundry. GET A HAMPER and USE IT. Put your clothes away directly after you get them out of the dryer and FOLD THEM. Do the whole task, not part of it.
•Clothes aren’t the only thing that needs regular washing. TAKE A FUCKING SHOWER. This seems to go hand in hand with the dirty clothes habit. People who wear the same clothes 15 times and don’t do laundry seem to be the same people who don’t shower regularly. SHOWER EVERY DAY. I know this sounds basic, but I’ve seen this behavior over and over. When you go to a home and it smells of rank human? That’s because of dirty clothes and not showering. It gets into everything and makes your whole house SMELL. Trust me on this.
•Don’t forget to change/wash your bed linens once a week (or every other week if they don’t get smelly). And your towels. It’s the same thing: your stank gets into these things and will make your whole house smell of rank human. If your place is filthy, you will likely not notice this smell. That commercial about being nose blind? IT IS TRUE. You get used to it and it permeates everything. But trust me, other people smell it and it is gross. CLEAN YOUR FUNK OFF YOUR CLOTHES, LINENS AND FURNITURE. Learn to use Febreze when you clean.
•Febreze is NOT an equivalent to washing your clothes or cleaning your home. Use it WITH cleaning, not instead of it. You’re a hooman. We stank. Gotta be clean to stave it off!! Just remember: you shed skin cells on everything you touch or wear. Now think of all that funk in your stuff if you don’t clean it. Yeah. It’s gross.
•If you have a hard time remembering to do things, MAKE A TASK LIST and post it prominently. Check off what you’ve done. You’ll feel more accomplished and you’ll get things done, too. Do the WHOLE task, not part of it. It doesn’t count if you wash the clothes then throw them on the floor.
So, there ya go. A primer on How To Adult. All these items are things we do without even thinking about it, because we’ve trained ourselves with good habits. That’s all this is: HABITS. If you need to adult better, then print this shit out and use it as a guide.
Even the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Just do one thing at a time and you’ll get there.
I always say we’re cheap bastards, and we are, BUT we use it strategically. I call us THRIFTY! This is how we keep our standard of living pretty high even when we’re broke. We cut out ALL extraneous expenses (pedicures, non-essential Dr visits, etc.) and we shop smart. We clean as we go, every day. IT WORKS.
**About discount stores. Not all products are created equal. Cleaning products are definitely in this category. Spend the extra money and get a good laundry detergent (Percil is the best I’ve found). If you want to stretch your Percil out, then get some Purex and alternate. I’ve found that a good detergent really is important to keep clothes fresh – especially if you do sweaty work. I’ve also found that dish soap and dishwasher detergent needs to be brand name. The cheap stuff simply does not work as well. I don’t use off brand shampoo, soap or toothpaste but I use coupons and/or buy at discount stores. This comes back to comparison shopping and using what works best – which is sometimes NOT the cheapest. Don’t fall into buying cheap shit all the time just because your budget is limited. Look for deals and discounts! I PROMISE you that the cheap laundry soap from the $1 store is NOT going to get your clothes clean. Spend a little more and it will raise your quality of life. TRUST ME.