10 Cheap Alternatives for the Everyday Things Millennials Can’t Afford

September 26 - Sheena Sharma

The other day, I was out to dinner with my friend, when I realized I had to decide if I wanted to spend the remaining $100 in my checking account on dinner or toward my next hair appointment. I begrudgingly chose dinner, and then sulked about how my hair would just never look the way I want it to look.

Fortunately for me (and every other millennial), I’ve been thinking a lot about how to save on the stuff I just can’t afford. So let’s talk about super cheap alternatives for everyday stuff.

1. If you’re engaged, have a backyard wedding.

Most millennials don’t really have hundreds of thousands of dollars to shell out on weddings. And unless you’re a trust fund baby or chose a profession that pays six figures, I’m guessing you just don’t have those funds saved up.

Take a cue from these folks and throw a low-key backyard wedding. Minimalist is the new OTT. (IMO, it’s even more beautiful than a cheesy wedding at a venue that holds 400+ people).

2. Get a credit card that you can earn miles on for spending…

A couple of months ago, I switched banks. You see, I used to be a Citibank customer through and through because I’m a New Yorker, and Citibank is one of the most prevalent banks in the northeast. But I ended up switching to Chase because I live in Austin now.

I’m actually glad I switched, because I have the Chase freedom UNLIMITED card, which earns me points for every dollar I spend. Those points translate into money I can use towards flights, and over the past few months, I’ve spent enough money to earn one round-trip domestic flight!

3. …And then, get rid of your debit card altogether.

Guys, you don’t actually need your debit card. (I only realized this after I got rid of mine). If you use your credit card for everything, and I mean literally everything, you’ll keep racking up those points I mentioned and earn cash back or be able to pay for flights.

If you really need cash for cash-only purchases, you can go directly to your bank and ask for it. Debit cards are useless! You’ll thank me later.

4. Use savings sites like Groupon to book vacations.

A regular vacation can cost upwards of $2,000, when you take into account flights, hotels and al the other stuff you end up spending money on when you’re gallivanting in a different country.

For international vacations especially, Groupon is great for this, which I know because I was researching vacation with my friends. Groupon offers packaged deals, AKA air-inclusive vacations, to some of your favorite cities.

I know what you must be thinking: What’s the catch? Luckily, there really is no catch, so book away.

5. Get a health insurance plan with a low deductible.

If you’re a freelancer or you work for a small company and your job doesn’t offer health insurance, you’ll need to apply for health insurance out of pocket (unless, of course, you don’t want to be insured at all, which I don’t exactly advise). It's best to get one with a low deductible so you don't have to pay much out of pocket for doctor visits; a low deductible may mean higher monthly premiums, but it still means ultimately paying less all at once.

Also, don’t pay for services you know you won’t need. For example, I got the most basic medical insurance, as well as insurance for vision, but not dental, because I wear contacts, but my teeth are super clean and healthy. If you really don’t need something, don’t sign up for it. You can always get covered later.

6. Grocery shop in bulk.

Try to go to the grocery store only once a week or once every other week. If you go any more than that, you’ll find yourself spending more money, on food that you probably don’t even need. If you’re anything like me, you’ll pick up a box of cupcakes at Whole Foods just because you made an extra trip to restock on paper towels.

You can save on grocery trips by making lists. Lists, lists, lists are super effective and hold you accountable.

7. Shop at thrift stores or only for sale items.

Thrift stores are where it’s at. Most of those clothes are either gently used or out of season, but who’s going to notice the former or the latter?

Be even thriftier by going to your favorite stores and perusing the sale sections. Everything ends up going on sale, anyway. I know this because one of my favorite Madewell jumpers went on sale for nearly half the price, just a few weeks after I bought it. I ended up kicking myself and vowing I’d never buy a regular-priced item ever again.

8. Get rid of your cable subscription.

Does anyone watch cable TV anymore? Well, apparently not: 61 percent of young adults would rather stream stuff, and I know I definitely watch more YouTube and Netflix than cable. Get rid of your cable bill altogether by investing in a Smart TV, so you can watch your Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. on your TV without having to pay extra.

9. If you’re in the market for a pet, go through shelters that waive adoption fees.

Petcare can be expensive, and adopting or purchasing the actual pet is also a handful. Some shelters are so overstocked that they’ll waive adoption fees for some of their pets, and especially now, with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Do a quick Google search for shelters waiving adoption fees in your area.

10. For haircare, just DIY.

OK, I need to vent about this because I’m just so upset about it. Two weeks ago, I went to the hair salon to get a keratin treatment, spending nearly $420 on the entire service, including tip. Well, it turns out it actually did absolutely nothing for my hair and I wish I could get refunded for it.

If I could turn back the clock, I’d just do it on my own in the comfort of my own home. Amazon is great and offers cheaper alternatives to DIY haircare stuff like keratin treatments.

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