Frugality is the opposite of thoughtlessness. It is the art of putting money to its best use—spending less where you can so you can splurge where you choose.
Entertainment is an easy area to cut back on. We spend tons of money trying to have a good time, when we know perfectly well that a good time can be had for free. Below are two scenarios: first, a typical weekend for a thoughtless young single in NYC, and second, the weekend of a smart young single who has planned her weekend out in advance.
Scenario 1: Thoughtless
Friday night: After work, our Young Single (YS) meets two good friends at a bar—she buys a $6 drink during happy hour and a second for $10. She leaves $4 in tips. After the bar she grabs a $6 dinner at Subway before meeting her partner for a movie—they split the cost of 2 tickets and a popcorn-soda combo for $17 each.
Saturday: In the evening YS goes out to dinner with a friend at a downtown restaurant, paying $25 including drinks, tax and tip. She then stops at a liquor store to buy a $20 bottle of vodka to bring to a friend’s party that night. YS spends all night at the party and comes home in the wee sma’s via taxi, shelling out another $15.
Sunday: Tired and depressed over her empty wallet, YS stays home most of the day. She does duck out for a quick coffee and snack with a friend, spending $8 overall.
Total spent: $105
Scenario 2: Frugal
Friday night: After work, YS stops at a grocery store and picks up $25 worth of snacks and mixers, then heads to the NYPL to borrow a couple of DVDs. She has dinner at home. Around 8:00 she has 5 or 6 friends come over, a couple of whom bring alcohol. They have snacks and drinks, play darts and Trivial Pursuit, and watch/mock/recite two classic 80’s movies.
Saturday: In the afternoon YS meets her partner for a picnic lunch at the new High Line park, each bringing about $6 worth of food. That evening after dinner at home she goes to a friend’s house for coffee, bringing with her a $6 dessert for the two of them. At night they head out and meet her partner and friends on line for First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum, where they spend the rest of the night listening to free concerts and attending free tango lessons. YS spends $6 on a beer but mostly indulges in the free food and drinks available. At the end of the night YS takes the subway home with her friends.
Sunday: Not at all depressed about her money, YS happily spends the day doing chores and in the afternoon meets her partner for rollerblading in Prospect Park, a hobby of theirs.
Total spent: $43
You can see how easy it is to alter your plans to spend less on entertainment. There’s not that much difference between the two weekends—drinking, dancing, hanging with friends. But in the second example YS put in a little advance preparation that would help her save money.
She had to invite her friends over to her house in advance and think of some fun activities to do. She also had to research a free activity like First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum in advance. But the time she spent was worth it—not only did she save over $60, she had more memorable experiences. I’ve also found that I have more fun inviting friends over for snacks and games than I do going on yet another barf tour of the LES.