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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Money Hacks

Robert Manni - Monday, March 30, 2015


Bruce Springsteen sings, “Times are tough. They keep getting tougher. The world is rough. It’s getting rougher.” And he was right.

If you have money, the past eight years have been a boom. The stock market has doubled and interest rates have stayed down. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, during this period the average person’s standard of living has declined while their cost of living has skyrocketed.

Guys' Guys enjoy the high life, but they’re also practical and resourceful. They know how to do bend with the breeze and make do with the simple pleasures. Over the years I’ve learned a number of ways to manage my cash when times got tight.

Here is my list of money hacks for when you need them, and even when you don’t.

1. Eat at home – I’m not suggesting that you never dine out, especially in Fun City. But you can use your noodle when it comes money and to your dining choices. I lived the high life for years on agency and corporate expense accounts. It was great fun and an effective way to establish relationships and conduct business outside the office. But NYC is freaking expensive, so unless you have a fat expense account or are killing it as an investment banker, professional sports star, etc, dining out all the time is impractical. Yet, to partially combat their loneliness, many single people in the city eat out at least a half dozen times a week, and that gets expensive.

The other consideration is health. When you eat dinner at home, you can choose organic, healthy foods. And let’s fact it; most restaurants cook and serve GMO foods laden with butter, oil and salt. So eating at home more often will save you money and keep you healthier.

1a. Bring your lunch to work - When I worked in midtown a modest take out lunch would run me about $10-12 bucks a day. Add in a coffee and a snack and the total rises to closer to $20. That’s $100 per week and $400 per month. This does not include dinner and a cocktail with your mates. If you bring your lunch to work, and maybe a thermos of your favorite beverage, your cost is probably reduced by $70 per week and $280 per month. That’s real cash.

2. Shop online – In big cities, people love to unwind after work by stopping into a retail store on their way home from work and impulsively purchasing another piece of clothing to stuff inside their overcrowded closet. Remember the old 80-20 rule. We usually wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. You can always convince yourself that you need another pair of shoes, but this gets expensive.

Unless I need to touch and feel a product, I buy my stuff online. Oftentimes, I score free shipping, and if not, there is always Amazon Prime, which is a pretty good deal if you use it frequently. The other benefit of shopping online is that it keeps me out of the stores. Yes, I know we get sucked into buying stuff online via consumer retargeting ads, but if you have an iota of discipline, you can simply click to another site and poof, it’s gone. Bottom line, if you are on a tight budget, stay out of stores unless you know exactly what you need to buy.

3. Buy in bulk – There are certain household items we use every day, and this is where buying in bulk can save you real money. If you shop at the better supermarkets, you can usually find major savings on larger sizes. I recently bought a gallon of Bragg apple cider vinegar for $15 at a leading chain. That’s more than a 100% savings on the smaller size. And I use it every day. There are plenty of deals for bulk items online too, and most of the sites will throw in free shipping. I’ve even gotten free shipping on oversized bags of kitty litter. So not only did I not have to lug that big bag home, I also saved a bundle by purchasing the jumbo size.

4. Before going out for the night, have a snack at home – Guys’ Guys prefer top shelf booze. And in Manhattan, a mixologist drink will run you twenty bucks when tax and a tip are included. That adds up quickly. If you are on a first date, two drinks and a few appetizers is one hundred dollars. I’m not suggesting that you drink before a date, but if you’re meeting up with your buds, it’s not a bad idea to eat before heading out. I’m sure you can whip up something at home more tasty and nutritious than a greasy bar burger.

5. Give up eating meat – I stopped eating meat seven years ago and I have never felt better. Your body does not require eating dead animals to function. In fact, with the current abhorrent factory farming practices, you will be healthier if you forego meat. And guess what, a plant-based diet is cheaper and much better for you. I realize that this is not for everyone, but if you give meat a rest, your taste buds will quickly evolve to enjoying veggie burgers the same way you once craved a bloody bacon cheeseburger. Your heart, waistline, and wallet will thank you also.

6. Enjoy the simple pleasures– That means life’s simple pleasures like reading and spending more time outdoors. I do my best to read a book every week. E-books are cheap and portable, and there's always the library. The city parks are great places for a long walk or a run, and they are also fun for a date. Just being outdoors gives you a needed respite from the stale air in your office or apartment. And it’s free. NYC.gov also publishes a list of free events in the city every week and some of them are pretty cool.

7. Reward yourself – If you manage to do all of the things on this list, congratulations. You are healthier, you have more cash in your pocket, and so, you deserve a treat. Do something fun and forget about the money. It’s good for the soul. If you stick to a more mindful approach to your money, you won’t even notice a dent in your wallet.

These are certainly not solutions for getting out of real debt or making more money in business, but when you are living paycheck to paycheck, like 50% of America does, the benefits from these hacks can serve you well. I hope they work for you.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is you, the reader. You’ve patiently poured through this article and picked out some the tips that fell right for you to try. Now the next step is putting them into practice and saving some cash. Congrats!

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