10 Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Spend

If you’ve ever made a budget or even a makeshift budget (definitely what I do), it generally involves sitting down, opening your notepad, and adding up your monthly costs while crying. Most of the time, these are fixed costs– rent, utilities, cable/internet, transportation, insurance, and if you have them, student loans. But a bulk of what keeps us from saving what we want are spends we don’t expect or plan for– food, drinks (!!), clothes, Ubers, etc.

If this a New Years resolution of yours, or you have a trip to save up for like I do, looking at your spends can be a big eye-opener on where you can cut back. Here are some ways that I reduce my monthly spend.

1. Explore sharing accounts with friends and family

Start with music and television subscriptions. Spotify and Apple Music offer family plans for $15/month if you’re past the student price, and Netflix is the easiest subscription to “borrow” from a friend. Sorry, friend!

2. Take advantage of work or school benefits

Whether this means utilizing the campus/office gym or looking into wellness benefits through your work, many schools and companies offer ways to cut down on costs. For me, this also means attending various lunch and learns for a free sandwich or two (I’m learrrrning, ok?).

3. Reduce your Ubers and Lyfts

If you’re making monthly payments for a car or a transportation pass, use it when you can. I’ve made what I call the Double D rule for myself (I’ve never called it that): If it’s not dark and I’m not drunk I vow to take public transportation. Ha! Safety first! On another note, having a designated driver is always an option…

4. Pre-game (lol)

If you’re big into going out, try warming up the night with an old-fashioned house party! When drinks cost $10-$15 a pop in Chicago, you learn quickly that a night out is not complete without slamming a few back before you leave. Maybe this makes me cheap, maybe it makes me smart. Undecided.

5. Get rid of your stuff

Technically, this is a way to earn money, but anything helps. Learning to free yourself of your possessions is a BEAUTIFUL thing that can involve compensation. Go to a Plato’s Closet. Check out a consignment shop. Own less. It’s wonderful. If you need some inspiration, Netflix’ Tidying Up with Marie Kondo will have you throw away anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” which I’M INTO.

6. Balance your weekends

You know that feeling of waking up and you’re not hungover? This is kind of like that, but with money. Designate one day during the weekend to have a cost-free (or low-cost) day, then do your thing the next. For me, this usually means game/movie night on Friday night so I can do activities on Saturday.

7. Monitor your spending and subscriptions

Take the time once a month to look at your costs and see what’s worth it and what’s not. Do I ever actually use that Birchbox/FabFitFun box? Am I even listening to music? (I hope so), etc. Many of us are signed up for automatic payments that we aren’t even utilizing! Ridiculous!

8. Be conscious of food waste

Throwing away uneaten/spoiled food = wasting grocery money. Some ways I do this is by meal prepping (ugh, I know), eating similar dishes with the vegetables I opened (like opening a can of black beans and having a burrito bowl, tacos, and Huevos Rancheros, for example), and prioritizing spoilable foods to eat before pantry items. Besides, getting creative and CLEARING out your fridge is one of the most satisfying things, yes? Or is that just me? I think there will be a blog post to come on this because I can talk about it ALL DAY.

9. Calm down on clothes

Ladies, this is mostly for you, and honestly? I need this reminder myself. Practicing consciousness is not easy while shopping, especially in #TheInstagramEra! A few things to keep in mind while shopping:

1) Ask yourself how often you will/can wear the item. Does this work with multiple items I already own? Will I take one photo in it and never wear it again?

2) Save your money for staples, and purchase trendy items for cheap. I’m talking about you, wide leg pants, teddy coats, and snakeskin boots. While almost EVERYTHING I purchase is from Forever 21 (I’m not proud), I’m working on buying higher quality staples. Trendy things will obviously, and eventually, go out of style and you will wish you didn’t drop $150 on shoes you wore for one season.

10. Do free things

And in today’s most obvious advice ever… just stop spending money. For those of you who are BLESSED and live in warmer climates, take advantage of nature’s free activities and get outside! For those of you in Chicago, I’m sorry??? (I did make a post on how to be frugal here, though). Really, though– change up your weekend routine with some new and lower cost activities. Or just chase happy hour specials so you can carry on your business in a cheaper manner.

Questions for you– how do you save money when you look at your bank account after the weekend and CRINGE? What’s your method? Tell me in the comments on my Instagram post!

A Week In Workouts

You guys know how I feel about personal challenges (if you don’t, read here), so I’m thinking it’s time for a new one. If I haven’t made it obvious enough already, winter is my least favorite month for many reasons. The BIGGEST loss I have in the winter, though, is activity. I’m way less inclined to walk places, the trek to the gym in snow boots is just cruel, and getting home still working when it’s pitch dark outside does not motivate me to get a workout in. It just doesn’t!

So EVEN THOUGH this challenge is only going to be a week, getting myself out of the comfort of my bed/warm apartment will be an absolute feat! If you’re stuck in a similar situation, join me! It’s only a week 🙂

You don’t have to follow this exact formula– feel free to switch up the exercises as you need! But here’s an outline of the workouts I’ll be following this week:

Monday – HIIT interval running
Tuesday – Tabata
Wednesday – Quick legs + cardio
Thursday – At home workout (yoga, barre)
Friday – Tens + cardio
Saturday – Workout class / something new
Sunday – REST! Ha! Could never do 7 days in a row.

Follow along with me on Instagram here. Good luck, all, and happy workouts!

Trip Planning 101 – How I Plan My Trips

There are two types of people: people that would happily give their credit card over to a travel agent so they can sit back, and people who look forward to planning trips almost more going on the actual trip. Guess which one I am?! (I do take payment via Venmo, cash, or PayPal if you are interested in my services)

There is, however, an art to planning trips. The internet, of course, makes the process easier than ever, but it’s also an overwhelming resource to have. So where to begin? I’ll tell you my process of how I book trips, stay organized, and make itineraries that I’m (almost) always happy with. Here we go.

  1. Start with flights

    Obviously, lol. One of the most fun ways to book a trip is to give yourself a window of time that you can travel and book a destination based off that and wherever is cheap at the time (instead of just searching for flights to Rome, for example). This way, there’s still some excitement left in where you’re going and what your trip could end up looking like. Something to always keep in mind: If you want a trip in Italy, your flight doesn’t have to land in Rome. Look at surrounding airports, even outside the country/city you truly want to see.

    Google Flights is my top resource for booking, as they show convenient calendars with options to customize the length of the trip, good flight prices highlighted in green, and a new feature now stating whether a bag is included in the price or not.

    Read up on my cheap flight tools and tricks to see more on how I get the best deals.

  2. Befriend Maps

    One of the most disappointing things about planning trips is thinking you can bop over to another city/country just to realize it’s not close at all. I always look at Google Maps to see what’s a) realistic, b) possible, and c) available. For example, if you’re on a short weekend trip and a city you want to see is 6 hours away, you probably shouldn’t squeeze it in– it’s not realistic. If you don’t have a rental car and you want to visit a remote town in the countryside, it may not be even possible. And lastly, what opportunities are out there that you didn’t even think of or know of?

    My friends and I are looking at planning a trip in the spring and there was a good flight deal into Zagreb, Croatia. I initially thought we’d visit Dubrovnik and whatever else was around there, but we realized we could see Slovenia and northern Italy without spending the whole trip in the car. Our beach-hopping Croatia trip turned into a mountain trek! My point is, being familiar with maps can completely change the route and vision of a trip.

  3. Utilize Pinterest

    This is my number one resource for planning the outline of trips. SO many bloggers share their itineraries and ideas on trips, and many times there will be 5 day, 10 day, or weekend trip itineraries that do almost all the work for you. Search keywords like “One week in Portugal” or “Los Angeles weekend trip” and you’re guaranteed to find both popular spots and places worth skipping.

    On this same note, it can be easy to get swept into tourist traps or places that may be cool, but not for you. Know what you enjoy and look for that– even if you don’t think you can find it in that spot. On our next trip, my friends and I are trying to spend more time hiking and visiting cool nature spots, rather than strolling through museums and buildings. Instead of searching for European itineraries, I’m now looking at top European hikes, best nature spots in Europe, etc. Know. Yo. Style. And follow me on Pinterest where I compile MANY itineraries sorted by continent.

  4. Read Reviews

    You know how everyone says social media is a scam and nothing is ever like it is on Instagram? Same goes for websites. A hostel/hotel/Airbnb is ONLY as good as its reviews. This part of trip planning takes time and patience sometimes, but looking through accomodation and transportation reviews is what keeps things going smoothly while traveling.

  5. Find food

    Surprisingly, this is a new addition to my planning services. I was always VERY focused on the towns we would visit and how we would get there that I didn’t spend much time looking for good food. LOOK FOR GOOD FOOD– enjoying every meal made our Central America trip 20 times better.

    Most countries use TripAdvisor as their rating website over Yelp, so start there. One tip from me: sort your food by “most reviewed” instead of “highest ranked” to see the places that a ton of people have visited. Usually those ratings are worth a little more : )

  6. Good ol’ word of mouth

    Because speaking to people is helpful sometimes! In all honesty, though, trust the locals and trust the people who have done it before you. Sometimes I get ideas from people through social media, but asking people about their hometown or trip experience is an awesome way to get some insight on something that may not be public knowledge.

    And there you have it! These methods aren’t for the people who need every spot planned out (I’m not that Type A) but for people who need a rough itinerary with ideas of what to do/eat once you get there. See below for an example of what my “itineraries” look like going into a trip. This way, you don’t waste time searching for restaurants and activities, but you still have the freedom to switch things around if needed.

How do you plan your trips? What am I missing out on?