We all want to find ways to make our life less stressful and more abundant, especially when it comes to money, but it is really challenging worldwide as prices are going up everywhere due to the war. Life in our 30s can be a bit more of a challenge, especially if you’re a single woman. In your 20s you can rely more on your parents or later, on your partner if you have one. But what if you don’t?
I am not a fan of minimalism but simple life, so I created a new system for myself that helped me financially as I stepped into my 30s, and it seems to work well. I attempted to live without money but it’s not entirely possible for me at the moments, but these 30 things on my list can help everyone to make their financial life easier without having to miss out on anything.
Since I am traveling most of the time, I do not have to spend money on my home, its maintenance, or a mortgage. I don’t stay at luxurious, expensive places either. But what are the most common, day-to-day things you can cut back on?
I cut back on these items to save money in my 30s
1. Gym/Yoga Membership
I was never really a fan of gyms but I used to love to the classes of different yoga teachers. Since I live on the road now, buying a membership wouldn’t make sense. It was a great lesson as well. I realized that now in my 30s, I learned enough about my body to maintain shape, muscle strength, and flexibility. I already know what works for me, how much can I run on certain days, what exercises work best when I want to lose weight, get stronger, or tone certain body parts and how to stretch my body when it gets stiff.
Also, there are many groups on Facebook I can join wherever I go. 99% of these groups are entirely free and I found amazing people nearby to join on hikes, yoga classes in parks or jogs. Even if the event has a ticket, it’s cheaper and more fun to go to a dance aerobic class where you can meet locals. I invested in a pair of small weights as well, and I use them in my home workouts whenever I visit back home. (I wouldn’t carry them in my backpack…) The cheapest monthly membership I had was around $35 many years ago, with this I spare more than $420 a year.
2. Disposable Period Products
Studies have shown that disposable period products contain carcinogenic chemicals and toxins that can harm the reproductive system and greatly impact-long term health. So making the switch was not just good for my wallet but my health as well. Not to mention how much better it is for the environment when you create much less plastic and trash each month.
I calculated I used to spend more than $70 yearly on my period (a box of tampon almost every month and few pads). This is more than triple of the amount I spent on my period in the past 2 years. I invested in 2 lady cups, they together costed about 20 bucks. Later I got myself a pair of period panties for my long hikes but still it’s nowhere near the amount I used to spend… and I don’t even care to calculate how much my bleeding has cost me since I got my first period when I was 13.
3. All kinds of hair care products
I’ve been coloring my hair with henna since I was 25, which keeps it nourished, silky and beautiful. Not to mention with age I learned to care about my hair as well. I stopped experimenting with products and found the ones that work for me, most of these can be homemade.
I use a shampoo bar from Lush and color my hair every three months (henna fades off naturally and real henna powder is super cheap). For extra nourishment of my hair I apply coconut as hair mask every once in a while as needed. With this routine my hair looks more healthy than before when I used pre-wash, shampoo, conditioner, hair oils, heat protection, dry shampoo, and all the stuff to style. There are plenty of free and easy overnight methods you can use to style your hair and they even last longer.
Yes, books. I love to read and still read physical books. Once I had a collection of more than 500 books at home, which I downgraded already. I always dreamed of a home library as Belle had in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast but with my lifestyle it’s not something I can maintain now. Instead of buying new books I started to exchange books. Often, I can swap books with my friends or other travelers. Some second hand bookstores also swap books with you if you just ask them. And there are these free libraries in many countries here in Europe, where you can leave a book and take another one instead. So I only had to pay for one book and still have a new one each time I finish it. If you prefer modern technology, you can use free audio books or e-books even.
5. Bottled water
Living with a kidney disease means I have to drink at least 4 liters of water a day to keep them functioning. Bottled water can be very cheap at times but you can’t always find it. Americans spend about $100 annually on bottled water and I was not an exception either. Once in Paris I had to buy a 2 dl bottle of Evian for the price of a full meal because it was holiday and only this place could sell me water. It was my fault though because I didn’t carry enough water with me.
Normally I have at least 1 but rather 2 refillable hiking bottles with me, both 1 L each. Tap water is drinkable almost everywhere, you can add lemon juice or fruits, herbs, cucumber for better taste and it saves you many cents or even dollars daily. Plus it’s another solid win for the environment.
6. Makeup remover
Some good-quality makeup removers can cost more than $15. But did you know that coconut oil does even better job? Especially when removing mascara. It also helps to clean your pores and moisturizes your skin. And yes, the same coconut oil can be used on your hair and many other things, too.
7. Shaving cream and body lotion
Again, I praise coconut oil for this. I used to spend money on shaving creams for so many years but now just get myself a huge amount of coconut oil and use it for basically everything. (For cooking I use a different one, to avoid unwanted things getting into my food.) It makes your skin super soft and nourished and works perfectly under the razor.
8. Cotton pads, makeup wipes
Since I discovered washable, reusable makeup removers, I haven’t bought any cotton pads. A box of washable pad costed me about $3, with 3 pads inside which I gave away to my mom and sister. I only use one every morning and night to clean my face or remove make up when I wear, and just simply wash it after use and it gets dry by the next morning.
9. Paper tissue
This might sound gross at first but my grandma used to carry a family cloth (or handkerchief) with her everywhere, which is basically a tissue made of a piece of cloth. They are not as nice as they used to be, I recall my great-grandma making them on her own, embroidering our initials in it. I used to hate these as a child but now I returned back to their usage. You just use them as you’d use a paper tissue, except when you’d throw away a paper tissue, you wash the cloth.
10. Cheap, Low-Quality Clothes
Aging definitely has its benefits not many talks about. One of them being self-awareness and knowing yourself and your style. As a teenager I tried out everything on my path of looking for myself, from hippie to punk (I even had a Mohawk). My style didn’t change much since I went to university, it just evolved into a more crystal clear style. This allows me the luxury of investing in more expensive, high-quality clothes.
I also take good care of them, so I have some shoes, jeans, coats that have served me well for a decade+. I spent a lot of money on stuff that I would just wear a couple of times because they got ragged after a couple of washes. It’s really not worth it, if you think about it, rather buy a good quality t-shirt for more money, than having to buy a new one every few months.
11. Fast Fashion
Even when I finally discovered my style, I used to buy fast fashion items just because I liked them and still wanted to look trendy. But fact is I never really wore these items more than a few times because they go out of fashion so quickly. I know it can be tempting to walk into a mall and just grab all things you like but a lot of time you end up with a bunch of stuff that you don’t really wear or as in my case, with a dress that you find out, you already had in a different color but forgot about it. These days whenever I go clothes shopping, I just go for the things I really need.
12. Accessories and Jewelry
I used to have boxes full of jewelry and accessories, most of them just tangled up and faded or even got rusty while never being used (low quality, hello!). With knowing my style I also found the few statement jewelry I love to wear and I kept some good quality items that I could wear even in my 80s and just stick with those.
13. Uncomfortable Shoes
Stilettos are sexy and attractive, but they are uncomfortable as hell. How many cheap pairs of heels can you buy before your feet start to become deformed and you start having knee problems? Now that my clubbing days are long over (for the most part), I am more about the comfort and the good orthopedics when buying my shoes. I prefer to walk bare feet anyways; otherwise I wear nice and comfy boots, sneakers or Birkenstocks. My philosophy is if you cannot walk around in them all day, do not walk in them at all.
The last time when I was at a mall and I saw a bunch of pretty shoes, I felt the temptation of “I must buy everything.” But when I got home, I forget about it and I am always glad that my wallet is at least still intact. How many shoes does one person truly need? And I still kept a pair of high heel boots and a beautiful red high heeled sandal from my ‘old days,’ just in case I need it one day. I haven’t touch them in years… So do I really need them for that one occasion that might never come?
14. Cheap Electronics/Latest tech
I used to buy cheaper ear phones, phone cases and power banks because I wanted to save money. But I actually ended up spending more money because low-quality electronics tend to break quicker. I learned this lesson the hard way. Now I’d look for high-quality items that will cost a little bit extra but will last longer. You also don’t need to get the latest iPhone or whatever comes out at the time. Just find a brand that makes good quality products and that it has everything you need and take good care of it. I’ve had a Huawei phone for 5 years now and it still works really well.
15. Overpriced Salads, Green Juices & Smoothies
I have gotten a lot better with meal prep and knowing how to eat healthy at home. In my 20s I used to be really bad with this so most of the time I ended up at a nearby healthy restaurant spending $$ daily on their gluten-free sandwiches and smoothies, Buddha bowls and healthy salads. These left me starving as soon as I ate them. Honestly the markup on these things is ridiculous and they are not hard to make at home.
16. Potted Flowers
I used to surprise myself with potted flowers, cacti, and even potted herbs for my windowsill kitchen. The more I collected the more I learned about caring for them and eventually about rescuing and breeding them. So by now, I have so many potted plants I keep giving them away. It’s so easy to breed your succulent and then plant the baby flowers in their own pots. Even buying new pots is way cheaper than buying a whole new plant. And they make excellent gifts as well.
17. Souvenirs from travels
I really love traveling and flights—they give me unforgettable memories. However I am no longer taking back souvenirs from my trips. I remember so many times when I went somewhere and walked into a cool shop; I’d drop a ton of money getting gifts for my family (most of them were never used by them) or buying exotic jewelry for myself, which suddenly seemed too much to wear when I got home. All those things just collect dust and add more clutter to the house.
18. Expensive Hair Cuts
I used to think that more expensive salons do a better job, so in my 20s I was visiting almost every fancy salon in Budapest. But it turned out to be a waste of time and money. I got the worst hair cut of my life in one of the most expensive, famous hair salons. That’s when I realized, why pay so much money for something I can do myself, at home? I got myself a hair scissor and freshened my hair cut every once in a while. Since I don’t wear a trendy cut, it was more doable, especially when I had long hair. But even now with my short hair, there are so many good tutorials on the internet on how to cut your own hair. No one can tell that I did myself.
19. Disposable Razors
I once wrote an article about not shaving my body hair anymore so if you read that, it might sound strange. Every once in a while I still shave my legs or armpits—I haven’t gotten to that level of being comfortable with my body hair. But instead of buying disposable razors over and over again, I bought a nice quality metallic razor and just switch the razor blades as they wear out.
My philosophy is the same with manicures/pedicures as it is with hair cuts. Why pay so much money for something you can do for yourself? I can spend hours with doing my nails at home—it’s so relaxing and fills me up with energy, it’s a real me time. Not to mention the energizing feeling when I try to accomplish something more difficult than painting my nail with one color, and it turns out nice. I love to get together with my girl friends or with my sister and have a girly night, when we do our nails, chit chat about life, with a hair and face mask on.
21. Fast and pre-packed food
I am no longer buying packaged food, instant food, or any kind of junk food now. That’s not saying that I don’t sometimes have a craving for a Subway sandwich once in a while late at night. I used to be able to get away with eating a lot of crap in college in my mid-20s but now when I eat that stuff, I don’t even feel good because my stomach gets bloated and my brain feels really foggy. Nowadays I mostly stick to the perimeter of a grocery store where you get all the fresh produce and avoid aisles that sell all the packaged food and the junk food which often have much higher markup, too. By the way, it is going to save you a lot of money and probably cause you a lot fewer health issues later in life.
23. Expensive phone plans
I’m traveling most of my time and roaming isn’t cheap. But with wi-fi available almost everywhere, I realized that I don’t even need it. You can call almost anyone through an app. I took a look at my bills and noticed that I had 5 outgoing calls in the past year, 0 SMS sent, and I rarely used my data as well because I could get wi-fi. So I downgraded my plan to the smallest, which is 8GB internet and nothing else. If I have to make a call occasionally, I have to pay more for that but I can’t really see the difference on my phone bill since I rarely do it.
24. Extra Makeup
In the past, I would buy all kinds of exotic bronzers, blushes and eyeshadows, false lashes (I guess it was the side effect of my job) but I would end up throwing most of them out because I would just stick to the same basics every day. I had bags of makeup I never really used, because I bought them just to try out that purple smokey eye look one day but didn’t like it on me. At this point I know what kind of makeup, what brands work best for my face and I have just one of each type of thing such as one mascara, one eyeshadow palette, one foundation, etc.
I do have a few lip colors but that is the only thing that I really mix up and all my makeup fits into one small travel bag. Besides, I found that lipstick can be used as blush or even as eyeshadow. A lighter color of mascara works better on my eyes but it also works as eyebrow fixer. Most days I do not even wear makeup anymore, so I need even less (could you imagine I used to apply makeup just to go down to the grocery store on the corner?). I guess the nice thing about being your 30s is that you feel more comfortable with yourself and you do not feel as much of need to try on all these makeup looks and improve yourself because you are pretty comfortable with who you are.
I am not talking about news magazines, but I am talking more about tabloids and lifestyle magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vogue, etc. These magazines always have eye-catching headlines when you are standing in line at the grocery store. But whenever I read one I inevitably ended up wanting to just buy a bunch of stuff so I can look like the models in the magazines and try to have a life that looks like what I was seeing on these pages.
I never actually learned anything from these magazines that truly enriched my life. Plus, how many articles can you possibly read about how to get flat abs in 5 minutes a day. Not to mention half of the magazine is advertisement only. In my opinion, these magazines are just one big marketing ploy that prey on your insecurities to get you to buy stuff. Nowadays I find myself reading content that makes me think or understand the world better where I can learn something such as The Economist, Times, New Yorkers, The Smithsonian, etc.
In my 20s I collected planners, because they just make them so beautiful. But truth is, I always made the vow that this year I will use it and even started to write things. But after a few weeks I forgot about them and they were just collecting dust in my bag. I ended up using my old planners as journals for my shadow work, so I didn’t feel like I wasted money, but I just don’t need them. I forget appointments and to-do lists anyways (thanks ADHD) and if I really need to remember something I use an app on my phone to remind me.
27. Full-Priced Products
One of my hobbies is sale hunting. I just love to look for the yellow/orange colored price tags that is usually the sign of a sale. Especially when it comes to beauty products, like my Lush shampoo, I try to get them whenever they have big sales. Chances are there is a store nearby you that sells what you need on sale, let it be toothpaste or band aids, you might need to take more time to look around and explore them but once you get a hang of how these stores work their sale programs, you’ll have an easy job and can save some $$ monthly.
I know some countries do coupons seriously, so you can look out for them too.
28. Various Cleaners
Since I am on the road, I do not need cleaners because I don’t live in my own place, but even last year I still rented an apartment and I just found it so confusing and cluttering to have all these kinds of cleaners in my house. Do you really need one to clean the shower, another one for the sink, another one for the mirror, for the kitchen sink, etc? There are wonderful, eco-friendly brands that make cleaners that can be used on many surfaces and they do the same job. They spare some money and space for you. I only kept a bottle of universal cleaner, one for the toilet and one to remove grease in the kitchen.
29. Mugs & Pretty Dishes
I used to collect beautiful mugs and plates and even bought an expensive white ceramic grill pan with oak handle once. Thing is I do not use them, and not because I travel. I didn’t even use them before because they were just too pretty and I was so worried that I might break them, since you can’t just get another one to replace them. So they were just collecting dust on the shelves, taking up so much space and making my life harder every time I had to move. These are things I won’t be buying again even if I found a home and settle one day. Just not worth it.
30. Home Decoration
Another thing I do not buy anymore and not because of my nomadic lifestyle. A few years back I was planning to have a home with someone and I spent a lot of money on furniture and decoration into our home. So many things I didn’t need back then, but they looked pretty. Since then I sold most of these items, and when I moved into an apartment where I barely had any furniture I realized I do not even need that much.
I found out that I actually love to have less clutter and more free space around me, and no one needs so many candle holders and decoration pillows and picture frames and season decoration. I love to surround myself with pretty but functional things. If I invest in any home decor item now, I make sure it’s something that I really need, it’s functional if not multi-functional and good quality so I can use it as long as possible.
The common theme here is that overall in my 30s, I am a lot less concerned with looking good for the people and keeping up with the trends, so I spend a lot less money on things that superficially improve my appearance and that make me look good in front of other people. Nowadays, my focus is more on actual self-care. Overall I feel that getting older has been good for my finances because I am a lot clearer on what my values are in life such as health and wellness, minimalism, family, learning etc. and this makes it a lot easier to send money intentionally so that when I do buy things I can feel good about it instead of feeling guilty.
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Photo: Katy Ward via Unsplash