Both Benjamin and Brady say calling your energy suppliers – internet, mortgage, electricity or gas – to negotiate a better rate is an underappreciated but often successful way to cut essential costs.
When it comes to grocery shopping, meal planning is often the first thing people suggest to save money, but if you’re single, eating the same meal five days in a row can be boring. Benjamin suggests a “soup swap,” where each person in your group cooks a different dish and then makes an exchange (this can be done with any type of food, of course). She also suggests having meat-free days, learning how to properly store food so it lasts longer, and shopping online to avoid impulse buys.
After you’ve mapped out your top expenses, it’s time to see what’s left. Figure out your financial goal (or goals) and spend a portion of your paycheck on this each time. This can be difficult if you’re single, says Benjamin, since you’re the only one holding yourself accountable.
Banks says it’s important to have a clear goal. “Once I have a figure in my head, I become obsessive about it. Would I rather see an extra $100 in my bank account, or spend $100 on a new pair of sneakers?”
“Write it down, set it as your phone wallpaper. Keep your goal in mind and it’s amazing how you’re turned off from making unnecessary purchases.
Finally the fun part: spending that remaining bit of money. For many single people, especially those who live alone, this means socializing. But this can be expensive.
Brady says it’s about being open with friends about your financial situation. “When we leave university and start working, there may be a social expectation that everyone has their money in order. But there is a huge amount of invisible financial stress that affects almost everyone.”
She encourages people to share their savings goal with friends and suggests cheaper alternatives to going out, such as a list of who cooks each week within a group of friends.
“My clients getting themselves out of debt was the most important predictor of whether or not they were able or willing to have honest conversations with their friends and family about the realities of their money,” she says.
Brady also recommends “spreading economies of scale” by sharing items with friends. She borrowed a friend’s outfit for Mardi Gras, and another friend recently borrowed a car for a weekend getaway. Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are also useful, as are “libraries” that borrow everything from lawnmowers to board games (in Sydney there is The Sydney Library of Thingsand in Melbourne, The partial barn).
When you’re dating, a similarly open approach to money also applies.
Banks recently started seeing someone who is in a similar financial position. She said they have talks early on and will cook at home when money is tight. “I’ve been in relationships where one person is a spender and the other is a saver, which is so stressful.”
“One of the main things couples argue about is money — so why not be open from the start?”
Benjamin suggests low-cost dates that aren’t stingy, such as taking long walks, visiting galleries, or looking for happy hours in your area. She stresses that your investment should be your time, rather than your money, especially if you find you don’t want to see the person again.
“If you’re single and you want to date, you have to be on a budget,” says Benjamin. “People have to respect that you’re open-hearted.”
Brady agrees. “A good person you try to spend time with will be open to your plans. If you don’t tell them, you’re accidentally sabotaging yourself. I don’t think this builds a good relationship.”
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