Kath Kelly is an English teacher and, by all means, the author of my favorite bargain book : “How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day“. When I first heard about this book I was a bit skeptic. What more could I learn about being broke :))? I live in Romania, we are not exactly rich here. But, since …last year…I guess, the book is also available for Kindle and, after laying my hands on it, it became like a shopping Bible for me.
Long story short, Miss Kelly was living in Bristol, together with some other friends, and they were all sharing the same house. One evening, over some glasses of wine, she was complaining that her brother wedding was due in a year and she had no money gathered to buy a proper present for him. She was virtually spending everything she gained, every month. She could save some money, no doubt, but that would mean she would have to live on £1 a day :)))) Well…£1 a day… not such a bad idea decided Miss Kelly. (Or, maybe, the wine…. )
‘I woke up the following morning and instantly regretted it but it was too late – I’d told my friends and now I had to go through with it.’
She went off, payed all utilities and due bills for the year to come and started her pound-a-day life. The pound was supposed to cover food, transport, outdoors and indoors activities, social nights, holidays, internet…well, actually anything but the already payed bills. ( An exception was made when dentist issues were involved, but that was about it! )
1 pound equals 5 Romanian lei. That is approximately 2 metro rides or 2 bottles of beer or 2 kilometers with a taxi… get my point? It is a small amount even for a place not too expensive. So, after reading the book several times ( :)) yes, I do that when I enjoy something! ) I summed up 10 amazing tips for living a full life when you are broke or want to save some cash.
- You don’t have to stay home every evening just because you do not have money to spend on drinks.
Miss Kelly would take her friends to free public events, free book launches and art openings. In return they would, sometimes, buy rounds at the pub or check for free events themselves. And that is a good advice in any given city. We often have in Bucharest free art workshops, gallery openings, open air concerts or sport events. Most of them offer free wine tastings or other giveaways. And I am sure you can find some where you live. We are used to think that, if we have no money, we should not go out. But that is just not true, there are countless activities that do not require any funds.
- Internet is free and that is a fact
I pay 4$ every month for my mobile internet connection. Another 20$ go on my cable and wireless connection at home. So, that makes 24$ a month, 288$ a year. The cable…I do not use it that much since I am not a big fan of television productions. Might use it once or twice a month. Most of the time I use the internet at work, and most of the places I go to have free internet connection. Miss Kelly used the library for free internet access. And, if you don’t have a library, you can use wireless networks in coffee places and restaurants without even having to go in. People share on Foursquare access passwords for places around the world and some places have no password at all.
- Discounted food is still food. And no, there is no shame in buying it.
Was shopping in a market some weeks ago together with a member of my team that earns very little money. I usually check the discounted food fridge and, if anything there is of use, I take it. They are 50% or more off, why wouldn’t I save money? But my colleague was horrified! “I would be very ashamed to buy discounted food! What would people say about me?” That you value your work :))? And act environmentally friendly? Food waste is a lack of respect. For the planet, our money and the time we invest in working for that money. We should make efforts to buy just what we need and throw away little to no food. Kate did that as well. She also used to pick fruits from the nearby forest, berries and such.
- Yes, there is a cheap hotel you can use if you’re broke. It is called a tent!
That is if you dislike couch surfing. Heard more than once people complaining about not having enough money to go somewhere for a short holiday, but when camping was mentioned they were all like: NOOOO! No! Nothing but a 5* hotel…cannot go any lower! Dear friend, camping is better that sitting at home, on a couch, wishing to be somewhere else. House-sit, visit a friend or …by all means….camp. Find a remote place, sleep in a tent. You will grow so fond of it you will never want to let go. Camping is not for broke but for free, wild people.
- Want some free holidays? Volunteer.
“There are volunteering schemes to take part in, and we’ve made a weekly commitment to a market-gardening project. Being out of doors all the time, and being less trammeled by day-jobs, had made both of us healthier and happier than we can ever remember. ” says Miss Kelly. A paragliding colleague was telling me, weeks ago, that she will spend the summer holidays in Greece, volunteering for an organization that takes care of the turtles in Kefalonia. And there are plenty of opportunities like that. Just go on-line and check for your area of interest. Most of them also offer the ride towards and from the place you volunteer at.
- When in doubt, hitchhike.
Hitchhike-ing is a common practice in Romania, and can be done for little or no money at all. It does take longer than usual travel, but it costs less and that’s an important aspect if you want to keep a low-key profile, right ;))? Just keep in mind to always carry a map or a mobile phone with GPS included, have a sign with your destination and stand in a place where you maximize your chances to be spotted by a car.
- Samples are nice. We like samples. Got any?
There are several places where you can get samples from, starting with the internet and ending with you local shop around the corner. Many big cosmetics companies send samples via mail if you ask them to, also when fairs happen local producers will ask you to sample their products. Keep your eyes open for things like that and you can save a buck or two.
- Friends love handmade gifts
You don’t have to buy your friends expensive stuff that they won’t need after a short while. I have so many received items in my closet, some of them won’t see the light of day until they reach garbage. I am sorry to be mean, but that is true. Are you a great cook? Then cook! Great painter? Paint! There are thousands of DYI projects on the Internet and handmade gifts are greatly appreciated. They tell the receiver that you gave him your most precious resource: time 🙂 In return you will receive, for sure, more valuable items.
- Bike your way through the city, walk or use a free bus
Bucharest is not exactly bike friendly. More like bike’s hell, actually, but people do bike to and from work everyday, when the season allows it. “For repairs and servicing, look out for free “Dr.Bike stall at community events“. Rollerblading is also an option, if you love to do that. And, also, the good old fashioned w-a-l-k-i-n-g. “Walking is very under-rated. What is so terrible about walking home with your shopping? Put it in a backpack and save plastic bags. Get fit and reduce carbon emissions!” Also, there are lots of markets that offer free bus service. And they do that for several routes. Check if the one near you has free rides and use them if in a hurry. You don’t have to go in when you arrive at the destination.
- Need something? Borrow, swap or scout for second-hand
“Streetbank helps you share your stuff with your neighbours. Sign up and help each other out: the distance you are from the people who offer or request things is given with each posting.”, says Miss Kelly. And sometimes that applies also to clothes.
When talking about reusing clothes or shop for second-hand items, most Romanian people will tell you they would never do something like this. But swapping and scouting for used pieces can be both money saving and fun. Have your friends over and swap clean, precious things that you don’t wear anymore. Give a second life to that dress you used to love but cannot find any occasion to wear these days. Check local second hand places for things you might like. Even if you don’t believe that, SH shops are filled with new, labeled, items that people give away for various reasons. If you admire a local fashionista follow her “Shop my closet” events. You will end up looking stylish without spending your weight in gold.
There is a big difference between being alive and actually living. Live like you mean it! Find means to enjoy every day and make a Heaven out of what you already have 🙂