Skimp and Splurge
Part 3: From Others' Perspectives
One of my intentions for the Skimp and Splurge blog collection is that it can be used by young adults to help them figure out which items are important for them to fit into their budget. I want my readers to understand that for every person, what they prioritize in their budget is personal, and what I find valuable, somebody else may not want or need in their budget. Therefore, I knew it’d be important to get some other folks’ opinions on each of these topics, so that my readers have more data to parse and more opinions for them to base their choices on.
So, like any good blogger, I conducted interviews. I intended to interview around five people for this post, but I ended up only getting two. So, the post won’t be quite as long as originally intended, but it’ll still suffice.
1. SKIMP: daily coffee
If you’re going to drink coffee daily, then you definitely need to own your own coffeemaker. No ifs, ands, or buts. Preferably, you should own a basic one that will make a pot of coffee at a time (instead of single-serving cups), because they’ll be a better investment when buying coffee beans and when serving a group of people.
Even better, if your work serves free coffee (like mine does), then take advantage of that and just bring your own cream and sugar as necessary!
2. SPLURGE: apartment rent
For the most part, the unanimous decision of the group was that location is everything. Whether that means location within a safe neighborhood, proximity to work, location within walkable distance to grocery stores and restaurants, whatever it is you prioritize. I know people that happily live in downtown Minneapolis so that they can walk to a bunch of yummy restaurants. For me, the idea of having to be in that traffic and noise every day stresses me out, so I happily live in the suburbs.
The only other constant requirements was air conditioning (preferrably, central air), and that there was available laundry in the building. For me, that escalates to laundry on my floor (stairs to do laundry is an annoyance of college-era).
3. SKIMP: tons of new clothes
The way I described this to my interviewees is that there’s three ways to buy clothes.
- Buy cheap clothes in higher quantity: you’ll have plenty of clothes, but they’ll wear out faster so they will soon need replacement by other cheap clothes.
- Buy more expensive clothes in lower quantity: they’ll last longer, but you won’t have as many items in your closet.
- Buy higher quality clothes used at a discount: they won’t be the newest fashion or “in-season,” and they may not fit perfectly, but they’ll last a while, and they’ll save you some cash.
One of my interviewees opted for the third option. The other interviewee opted for the second option. The reason for choosing the third option is that you can have a closet with more options for outfits, without sacrificing the quality of the clothing. Makes sense. The reasoning for choosing the second option is for somebody that maybe doesn’t need a lot of suits in the closet, only one or two. Get decent quality of them even if they were more expensive, so that you don’t need to replace them every year.
The whole group agreed that purchasing cheap clothes that are crappy quality usually is not worth it in the grand scheme of things. Clothes that you buy should last more than a year. If they’re not lasting that long, then they’re poor quality, and it’s worth it to either shop at thrift stores or shell out a few more bucks.
This doesn’t take into account the sector of the population that cannot afford to pay a bit more for better quality clothing. If you fall into that group, I’d highly suggest going with the third option.
4. SPLURGE: eating at nice restaurants
The general opinion of this topic is that it’s totally ok to eat out at nice restaurants, perhaps even good for people, if it only happens rarely, perhaps once a month. Sometimes, it’d good to treat yourself to a nice dinner with your SO. Just make sure it’s not happening on a weekly or daily basis.
5. SKIMP: tons of takeout and fast-food
The overwhelming opinion of this topic is to skimp, skimp, and skimp! If you don’t want to cook a meal, then you might as well eat good quality food and have somebody serve it to your table. Unless you’re actually in a rush and need the fast-food. But for the most part, you should cook at home for healtier and most cost-effective meals.
6. SPLURGE: video streaming servies*
The opinion here is that for most people, it is nice to have at least one video streaming service. We even all agree that it’s nice to have more than one. But, it’s important to do your research. Only get the streaming services that you feel like you really want. Are you getting the streaming service to watch 10 shows and/or movies, or just for that one show that you’re interested in? If you’re in the latter boat, then maybe ask your friends and/or family if they already have accounts that you can use (make sure to offer to pay them a couple bucks a month if they give you their login information).
Think carefully whether shelling out an extra $6/month is worth it to go ad-free. Especially if you only want to watch a couple of things on that service, it’s probably not necessary to get rid of ads. Similarly consider how many screens you really need to buy. If the account is just for you and SO, then you probably really only need two screens. If it’s for a whole family, then maybe four is worth it. Also, do you really need 4K definition, or is HD enough?
The biggest thing we can stress is that at some point, you’ve got to pick and choose which streaming services you think paying money for is worth. For me, I’m guessing that Disney+ will always be worth it. And perhaps either Hulu or Netflix, but probably not both. But getting ESPN bundled with Hulu and Disney+ isn’t worth that money, just because I’ll never use ESPN. But if I already have Amazon Prime for fast shipping, then I might as well take advantage of their video content as well, instead of paying for yet another video streaming service.
Just always do your research, and make sure to ask friends/family if they have accounts they’d be willing to let you use. Take it from me: using a friends account is the cheapest way to get content.
7. SKIMP: expensive phone bills with tons of unused data
My interviewees stressed that whether this is a Skimp or a Splurge depends on what the use of this bill is. If it’s your only source of internet, aka you don’t have WiFi, then this is probably a Splurge so that you can do whatever you need to do on your phone or with a hotspot. If you’re just a single person who uses WiFi most of the time, then use a pay-as-you-go plan so you’re not overpaying. But if you’re purchasing a phone plan for a whole family, then getting unlimited data for the whole family may be worth it.
Given that our audience for these posts is a new graduate with not a lot of monthly income, then my suggestion is to either use a pay-as-you-go plan, or try to share a phone plan with your roommates, friends, or SO (or your parents), and then share the cost of unlimited data for everyone.
8. SPLURGE: a good car
The agreement here is that safety is the number one priority when choosing a mode of transportation. Especially in Minnesota winters, you need a car that can get you from point A to point B even in the snowiest weather. But, I understand that getting a top rated car costs money that young adults may not have laying around.
In that case, I’d say go carless for a while. Try to live in an area that has a good walking and biking score, and get a bus pass. If you have roommates or SOs that you live with, try to share a car while you save up money.
If that isn’t possible and you absolutely need a car, then next try to look for friends or family members that may have a car that you can purchase from them for a discount. I know several people that have gotten hand-me-down vehicles from grandparents, aunts, and uncles at a significant discount. OR, they got a cheap car that wasn’t that safe, but then traded it in at the dealers to get a discount on a nicer car.
Also, buy used cars! I’ve noticed from friends that buying a new car typically isn’t worth it unless you want the newest safety features or addons.
9. SKIMP: buying a couch right when I move out
To my surprise, all of my interviewees wanted to move this category from a Skimp to a Splurge! They all agree that it’s nice to have a place to sit that’s not a floor or a bed (maybe that mentality is part of the college-era, too). But, they did stress that it doesn’t need to be a nice couch. It can be a $500 Ikea couch, or a nice leather couch from a thrift store. If it’s not too dirty, it could also just be your roommates couch that they brought from their parents’ house. In general, I’d highly recommend taking some furniture from your parents’ basement, if possible.
10. SPLURGE: a good bed
The consensus on the bed is that a good bed is a must. The mattress doesn’t have to be super fancy, and you don’t need to get a nice bed frame with a headboard and footboard. But you should get a new mattress (they’ll be cleaner and better quality… also ew!), and you should find it cozy enough so that you can get a decent night’s sleep. If you can’t sleep well, then over time, you’ve basically lost everything from your productivity to your sanity!
If you are having trouble finding the funds to buy a couch and a bed, consider either a nicer quality pull-out couch or a day bed. That way, you can have both a bed and a couch in one!
The very last thing I asked my interviewees was which of these 10 items they would move from a Splurge to Skimp, since they both opted to move the new couch from a Skimp to a Splurge. One of my interviewees chose the new bed to sacrifice, the other chose eating at nice restaurants. I’ve already provided a solution for getting a bed and a nice couch, and in terms of eating at nice restaurants, I think the best solution would just be to cook food in the comforts of your own kitchen. I highly recommend batch cooking for the easiest way to have plenty of food in your fridge/freezer without cooking on a daily basis!
Well, that concludes this set of blog posts! I hope that you’ve been able to get some inspiration to help get your own budget started! Good luck!
A huge thank you to Beth Heming and Joel Sax for letting me interview them!
* This category has been renamed from “Netflix” to “Video Streaming Services” to account for more than just Netflix.