The Topic: Fancy Free
The Dish: After managing a Saturday in the Mission District for less than $25, I felt pretty good about my budgeting skills—if I could remember to actually budget once I was out. Sometimes it's easy to get carried away, and before I know it $25 looks more like $50, and the instant gratification of spending is replaced with regret. This past Friday, I decided to see if I could go the entire day on an even stricter budget: $0 from my pocket. Not to spoil the ending, but it was completely possible. Sure, I had a few lucky breaks, but those might not be luck as much as seeing new opportunities. I fall victim to a few money sucks, including vanity, food, and caffeine—here's how I satisfied all my needs for nothing.
Forget the Gym.
I'm constantly tempted to join a gym in the city. There's a huge range to choose from, price- and ammenities-wise, but when it comes down to it, they all cost money. Well, after I've checked them out with a free trial, that is. If a gym membership is at the top of your list of must-haves, then by all means, enjoy! For this girl, I have other uses for that $40 per month. Instead, I take the old-fashioned route of hitting the streets for a run. If you already have a pair of running shoes (and I do), then it costs nothing to just get moving. I don't need to pay someone to let me sweat.
In addition to getting a run in, there are all of the free yoga opportunities I've mentioned in the past. Since then, I've discovered two more free weekly community classes, meaning I could practice alongside fellow San Franciscans four days a week if I wanted.
On the House.
When you don't have cash to spend, barter is the next best (or even better) thing. A few exchanges on Twitter with my neighborhood deli, Morty's, lead to a promise of a free sandwich in return for a song on the ukulele (one of my hobbies). I popped in Friday to introduce myself, and was given an advance on my payment in the form of some seriously delicious farmers' market-fresh vegan gumbo. While the deli isn't entirely vegan, they're big on vegan options and are always open to requests. And they gave me free gumbo! Consider me in the songwriting process, as well as a loyal customer.
Another money suck for me is caffeine. After realizing I was completely out of coffee at home, I thought I'd settle for some Earl Grey tea and tough it out. Post-lunch gumbo, I was hit with a serious case of the naps and had to retaliate. My beacon of hope? The mail. Sure, it's a lucky break, but my amazing Nona sends me a letter every week, and sometimes there's a $5 bill tucked inside. Friday was letter day! Do you know how many awesome things you can buy for $5, including an incredibly strong espresso drink?
Okay so maybe nightlife doesn't fall into the "food" category, but it might be the worst of making my money disappear like magic. This Friday, I decided to take it easy with—you guessed it—Netflix and my dog Boo. I only spend $10 a month on Netflix, so I'm counting it as free for this night. For a break, I called and caught up with friends and family, who often get pushed to the back burner on busy days. Hey, everyone—call your family!
The Final Word: It takes a little maneuvering, but if you really need to tighten the pursestrings, you can do it. Steer clear of places too tempting to resist. For me, that includes bookstores and anything involving food. Find more creative ways to satisfy your needs, and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Now, I have a song to write and a free sandwich to collect!