There are certain things that really hurt to spend money on in this world (read: speeding tickets, car problems and medical bills). They're unavoidable and at the very bottom of my enjoy-spending-that-cash-list.
Then, there are the way more fun, but also expensive and unavoidable things we spend a lot of money on in our 20s (read: attending weddings, professional clothing). It took me more years than I care to admit to get a handle on my budget after college. Saving is hard, especially when you're in a new city, trying to make friends and don't have a super high paying job.
There are a few little things that have made a difference in my budget and, as I interacted with multiple of them this week, I realized I would have appreciated it if I had learned about them sooner. So, without further ado:
1. A seamstress who knows your body and will tell you like it is. I once bought a bridesmaid dress for $300, then proceeded to spend $200 in alterations. I praise the Lord for Linda, the seamstress I now see anytime I need something done. My wedding dress alterations are going to cost less than I've spent with other seamstresses on bridesmaid dresses.
When I was there this week, a hem fell out of my skirt while we were talking (what are the chances!?) so she had me take it off and fixed it on the spot for free. And! Last time I took her a dress, she told me it was too loose and long and didn't flatter me. To have this kind of rapport and good prices has saved me a lot of money - and headaches.
2. An HSA (or similar medical-only fund). My night guard broke recently broke (the sexier side of my sleep habits) and insurance didn't cover a new one. That $600 bill hurt a lot less when I could pull from my HSA. After a few months, you don't even notice the money coming out of your paycheck, either.
3. An affordable dry cleaner. Just like a seamstress, you can spend a lot of money on a dry cleaner if you don't shop around. After moving to Midtown, I discovered Sig Samuel's, which is easily the best dry cleaner I've ever experienced. They know my name, are kind and have excellent rates.
I once left work late and knew I wouldn't make it by 7. I called to see if anyone would be there a few minutes after and they said they'd wait for me to arrive. That is the kind of service you need when you're in a jam!
4. A go to gift. Throughout your 20s, there are about a million reasons to give small, unexpected gifts (think engagement & hostess, to name a few). I used to scramble when a friend got engaged, spending an arm and a leg on something at the last minute. Now, I have a few Etsy shops I always buy gifts from that I know are affordable, reliable and make sweet gifts.
5. A friendly mechanic. Just like the dry cleaner, prices for oil changes and fixing your car (1) are brutal to pay for and (2) can really vary. Find someone who won't lie to you or charge you too much. I once took my car in to have a dent fixed and the kind mechanic told me there was no way he'd fix it. He said he could do it and charge me for it, but if I park on the street in Atlanta it wasn't worth my money. What a guy!
6. A credit card that accrues points. I tried the envelope method for a while but, as it turns out, when I carry cash, it might as well be Monopoly money. I make it rain. And then it's gone. :) A few years ago, I got the Delta AmEx because I fly a lot and they're based in Atlanta. I hesitated for a long time, but the annual fee pays for itself in baggage fees alone! I put everything on it and pay it off each month. Two years later, I have paid for entire weekend trips in points. It's the best!
7. The ability to make a good cup of coffee. It's no secret that coffee is my love language. But, because I love it sooo much, buying it outside of my house has to be something that is contained to once a week. Or else I would do it every day.
Think about it this way: If you take the you spend $3 on coffee each week and put it in a 401k that is of average interest, in 30 years, just the $3 per week would be almost $10k.
That is an expensive cup of coffee!
8. A rainy day fund. Because the worst thing is to put something on your credit card that you can't pay off and have the bills add up. Credit card fees are more painful to pay for that speeding tickets, if you ask me.
9. A good consignment store. For a long time I've battled the mixed guilt of keeping clothes I don't wear vs. giving away expensive things that are in good condition, simply because I don't like them anymore. Now, I still give a fair amount to Good Will, but try to sell nicer items at Labels in Atlanta or via ThredUP. Being able to sell a few things back makes me feel less wasteful. And, ThredUP donates anything they don't want.
10. A routine that feels indulgent, but isn't. I used to treat myself to "Kindle and Candle" when I had downtime. I'd light my favorite, most wonderful smelling candle and read a non-productive book. It felt so refreshing! Having a good face mask, favorite sparkling water (La Croix Grapefruit!) or special glass of wine is a lovely way to make a long day feel indulgent without spending much money at all.