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How to Save by Stretching Your Comfort Level

Stefanie O'Connell

A few months ago I was chatting with a fellow unemployed actress lamenting the cost of living in New York City. All too familiar with that reality myself, I offered a host of cost-cutting suggestions to my colleague, including trying moving to a cheaper neighborhood, getting a roommate, cutting out personal care expenses and trimming the entertainment budget. For every frugal suggestion I gave, she countered with an excuse or justification for why that option wouldn't work for you: entertainment is for networking, looking good is essential to getting work, my neighborhood is close to job opportunities, and the list went on and on.

I can give you a million ideas and ways to save more money, but you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone, at least to consider the alternative.

Get a Roommate: Reduce Housing and Utility Costs by Half.

I get that adults don't want to live with roommates after college and certainly not well into their thirties, but it's all about priorities. If you insist on living in an expensive city, understand that you're going to need to sacrifice some of your personal space to make living affordable. Alternatively, you can move to a lower cost neighborhood, an option that may inconvenience your commute or affect your quality of life in other ways, but such are the tough choices of reality.

Ditch Your Gym: Eliminate Exercise Costs.

Sweating it out in the heat and humidity of summer and shivering through the polar vortex of January and February isn't the most comfortable way get in your exercise, but a little consideration for the weather while getting dressed and an appropriate adjustment of your workout for the elements isn't a bad trade off for free sweat sessions. Sure, the pristine machines, saunas, and fresh towels at the gym will always be more luxurious, but cutting costs isn't always about luxury.

Be a Hair Model: Eliminate or Reduce Haircut Costs.

Every time I suggest this simple frugal hack, the ladies go berserk. I get it, it's your hair, it's precious and vital to your look. Nobody wants a bad haircut, but you might be pleasantly surprised at what you can get when you take a chance and leave your regular $100 stylist for the free student cut. My last two cuts were free and fabulous. And if yours isn't, don't worry, it'll grow back!

Coupon: Reduce Costs by 10 to 100 Percent.

Did you know that some people are actually embarrassed to use coupons? Maybe you're one of them, or perhaps you just have an aversion to coupons in certain situations, like going out to eat. Getting over that discomfort can save you on just about everything from groceries to gifts.

Couch Surf: Reduce Travel Housing Costs.

I know I'm pushing the borders of the average person's comfort level here, but if you're serious about saving, you should at least investigate your cheaper options before discounting them altogether. Couch surfing is the practice of staying with a stranger who has a spare room or couch to crash on instead of paying big bucks for a hotel while traveling. In theory, it sounds crazy, but after having tried it myself, alone, as a young woman, all over the country, I can attest that couch surfing is an absolutely viable way to save on travel if you go about it correctly.

Ride a Bike: Reduce Commuting Costs.

The savings on this one will depend on the cost of your bike and current commute options, but for those who can, pedaling to work can add up to significant savings. In the first six months of having my Citi Bike membership, New York City's bike share program, I saved $250 on my commute. Yes, it meant I had to face my fears of biking NYC streets and learn how to ride in a dress in heels (or pack an alternative outfit), but I'm grateful I took that chance to step outside the comfort zone of my regular subway route to discover something even better and more cost effective.

As you learn to open up and adjust your comfort level, you may find your sense of normalcy redefined, and your bank account will thank you.

Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.

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