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How to Save Money Without Sacrificing Your Social Life

How to Save Money Without Sacrificing Your Social Life

It is a tale as old as time; we want to grow up, master the art of adulting and have an impressive bank account that we can turn to for everything from the mortgage to a night out without ever fearing it will be empty. But this is never as realistic of a goal as we hope.

I will never forget the first time I told my mom I wanted to move out after college and get my own place. She was incredibly supportive, but she sat me down and told me I needed to come up with my budget. “Write down what you make versus what you will be spending.”

I thought this would be an easy enough project. After all, my friends would be coming over to see my place, instantly saving me money on eating out and going on expensive adventures. But even with the unrealistic expectation of expenditures, writing down rent/mortgage, electricity and utilities, etc. it quickly became clear that I would have absolutely no money whatsoever. So I was going to have to learn to save before I was able to move out. But how was I supposed to do that? I didn’t want to give up my social life, but I also didn’t want to give up my wallet!

Don’t Panic! Here’s How You Can Keep Your Money and Your Friends.

1. Don’t order an entrée

I always wind up with leftovers when I go out, so this tip helped me save money and stop wasting food! When you go out with friends, choose appetizers or desserts as meals to cut 20-50% off the cost of your outing. This can also be fun if you’re friends do it, too. It makes eating anywhere feel like a tapas restaurant![1]

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Just be aware of the kind of restaurant you’re visiting. While most establishments are happy to take your money, some do have a minimum spending amount and even charge fees for sharing. This info can always be found on a menu or in advance via their website.

2. Drink your own booze

If you plan on going to a bar, drink at home before heading out. If you still want a drink when you get to your destination, opt for only one since bars always up the prices of alcohol. But please don’t drink and drive. This one does take some time to get used to though, as you have to practice a lot of self control. You will be tempted to order more than one drink, especially if you’re at a specialty bar. But remember what your financial goals are when that temptation strikes.

3. Break the Rules

Listen, I’m not trying to get you kicked out of your local movie theatre, but have you seen the prices on popcorn and candy?! Bring your own snacks and buy tickets online from discount sites like Swaybacks or Gift Card Granny. Additionally, some theaters offer reward programs which can add up to discounted tickets.

If you don’t want to get caught bringing in food, opt for a DIY movie night at home with your friends.

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4. Attend a concert for free (as a volunteer)

Almost any event you want to go to will need additional help. Instead of hopping online to their website for a ticket, navigate to the “Volunteers” section of the site or submit a query via the “Contact Us” option. If you need help convincing your friends, remind them that there’s a good chance of meeting the band if you’re helping set up for their show. Sure, you will have to do some manual labor and you’ll probably leave pretty sweaty, but you would’ve been anyway if you were jumping up and down with the band!

5. Shop Secondhand

While this used to be a taboo idea, it’s become a fabulous option in recent years. With stores like ThredUp and Plato’s Closet, you can get cash for your own clothes and then buy other people’s consigned pieces. I’ve found it’s a great way to trade in your out-of-season pieces for trendier options without spending big. Plus it means you have an ever-changing closet which can give the illusion of constant shopping sprees!

Keep in mind that you won’t want to use this option for designer items you have strong feelings for. While it’s a great way to get a little extra spending money, you won’t get what you “think” they’re worth.

6. Keep your closet basic

If you fill your closet with basic pieces (think layering tops and well-tailored jeans), you can have endless outfit options just by switching accessories. If you get caught up with your friends shopping plans, opt for jewelry pieces you want to invest in rather than wardrobe upgrades.

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Recently I went through my closet and separated all of my pieces into outfits. If a couple things could work in numerous ways, I sectioned those items together. This has made shopping easier and cheaper since I don’t inadvertently duplicate items I have, and it’s also helped me speed up my getting-ready-routine in the mornings. Bonus!

7. Stick to a palette

This tip goes hand-in-hand with number 6. If you keep a consistent color palette, you can rest assured knowing all of your items (even new purchases) will coordinate. For instance, pick a color range like black, white and grey and know that you’ll easily pair outfits. Don’t think this means you need to have a cartoon character wardrobe in which you have 7 of the same pants, but just keep it neutral enough that you won’t wind up with that really expensive blouse that requires entirely new pants and shoes.

8. Give thoughtful gifts, not expensive ones

While thoughtful and expensive can sometimes go hand-in-hand, it’s important to stick to gifts your loved ones will cherish rather than fancy gifts they will use once and be done with. I have started shopping for holiday gifts year-round to balance out my budget. This way if I do want to get a couple bigger ticket items, it’s less overwhelming when the holidays arrive.

I like to use this rule of thumb when shopping for others: is it clutter and will they find use for it? I was once gifted a gorgeous crystal picture frame. It was very expensive and lovely, but I had no use for such a nice piece. It became clutter and I ultimately donated it.

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9. Use (discounted) gift cards!

If you plan your outings in advance, often times you can get discounted gift cards that work just like cash from Gift Card Granny or Plastic Jungle. And hey, your friends don’t even have to know you gave the gift card to yourself! Pro-tip: you can also use this as a gift idea for your friends!

10. Create your own social events

If you have a certain skill that your friends always say they’re jealous of, like cooking or decorating, use it to your advantage. Host a day of teaching your friends how to be great at that thing and you won’t have spent a dime! It’s a free way to have a busy social calendar and also be known as the helpful friend.

Like anything in life, saving money is easiest when done with support. Let your friends know what your goals are and ask them to encourage you when you want to make poor spending choices. Looking out for your financial health is nothing to be embarrassed about!

Reference

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Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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