Wanna know how I managed to spend three weeks swanning around New York City last year? I lived with my amazing friend Gigi, who is a legit Manhattan property owner. 

Yep, that’s right, home girl saved her way to a sweet apartment in the very hip East Village. 

Not only is she a great friend for letting me stay there, she is a certified Fierce Girl. 

Nine years ago, Gigi packed up, left Sydney and made a life in the Big Apple. And while she’s had lots of fun times and cool experiences, she’s also been really sensible with money. 

We started chatting about some of the ways we’ve both achieved our financial independence and there was so much gold, I’ve captured it all in one post. Please enjoy Gigi’s Guide to Life & Money. 

  1. It’s not about being a ‘tight-arse’, it’s about balance. 

When we started our chat, I was asking for Gigi’s best ‘tight-arse tips’.

But she pointed out that’s not the right way to frame it.  “It’s the same way I don’t like healthy eating being framed as a diet. To me, these are tips for how to live a financially healthy life.

“Not buying a flat white every day isn’t being a tight arse, it’s saying ‘I would prefer to do something else with that $100/month’. Same with not spending money on make-up, bringing lunch everyday or eating less meat (though I started doing this for environmental reasons, then calorie reasons, then money reasons).”

It’s not like we don’t have fun or anything

She explains that it’s not just about cutting costs, but redeploying the savings you make

“When I cut that coffee spending of $100/month, I top up my auto savings. But not by the full $100. By say $50 or $75. Because I don’t want to never buy another coffee again, I just don’t want to spend $100/month on coffee. Kinda of like not eating back 100% of the calories you burn at the gym.

“And don’t think that people who spend a lot on something big are always spending that much. For me, the way to have a guilt-free big Saturday night is to not buy lunch and coffee during the week.” (Can confirm: Gigi never tries to avoid buying a round at the bar).

This is basically the ethos behind Mindful Spending, which I have written about here.

  1. More isn’t always better. 

“Having one of something will make you happy, but having multiples of something won’t multiply your happiness. True with eating treats and true with buying things.”

Side note: Gigi decided a couple of years ago to lose some weight that had crept on during her party years in New York. She’s done an amazing job of losing it in a healthy, sustainable way. We both agree there are many parallels between healthy eating and healthy finances. 

Anyway, she had this insight from someone in the Reddit weight-loss group. 

“They pointed out that a biscuit/cupcake/icecream can be amazing but eating more of it won’t make it more amazing. It’ll never taste as good as that first bite. Something about it really resonated with me”.

Having just done a major clear-out of my wardrobe, I agree this is true. No more sassy slogan t-shirts for me.

  1. Meal planning makes cents!

Ah, see what I did there? 

Puns aside, planning healthy meals and bringing a salad to work every day were easy wins for Gigi on both the calorie-cutting and saving front. 

“Meal planning means you don’t buy random stuff you don’t need, and don’t waste it. One thing that helps is learning to love leftovers. Be ok with eating the same thing four days in a row.”

I know people who say ‘oh no, I don’t like leftovers’ blah blah. I say to those people, toughen up: it’s all in your mind. Humans evolved by eating the same animals and plants over and over, and you can too. (Admittedly, by day 4 it gets old. But you can definitely do 3 days) 

Anyway, if you want to get better at meal planning, I have your back! Here’s my guide.

  1. Let your sober self be cheap, and your drunk self splurge

Gigi crystallised this for me a while back. If you’re going out on the town, don’t be lazy – take public transport there. Then you can give yourself a leave pass to get an Uber home. 

Similarly, try and start the night at your house (or a friend’s) with a good bottle of wine or two. That way you can probably have some cheap snacks as well. I know it sounds suspiciously like the pre-loading you did when you were 19 years old. But this is the adult version, with a nice Pinot Grigio, not Smirnoff Black. 

  1. Make friends with your banking app

“Something I think is a great habit is to look at your spending and savings regularly. I log in to online banking and go through my spending twice a week, just out of habit. It shocks me when I hear that not everyone does that”. 

There are two advantages to this: it provides a reality check if your spendy self is getting a bit busy; and you notice any unusual charges that might be fraud. 

I also have notifications on my banking app (Macquarie) every time I make a transaction. As the world has become a tap-and-go free-for-all, that reminder makes me think twice about where my cash is going. 

  1. Say no to things you don’t want to do

Sounds revolutionary huh? But think – honestly – about the number of times you go to stuff without really being interested. 

Gigi’s actual words were: “Can ‘just say no to weddings you don’t want to go’ to be a tip?” I say yes. She figures: “If you care so little about it that you don’t want to be there, then the bride/groom probably won’t miss you”.

One thing that’s become outrageously expensive are hen’s and buck’s parties. Back in the olden days (pre-Instagram), it was a modest affair like a dinner, a club and maybe a stripper. But these days it’s easy to drop $500 on one event. WTAF? 

So while we aren’t trying to ruin your friendships, we would suggest that just because you’re asked to do something – from dinners through to hen’s parties – doesn’t mean you have to

  1. Just stop buying stuff

This is Gigi’s final tip. “Like, go a month without buying anything”. 

I know, she’s no Carrie Bradshaw, right? (She is, in fact, a self-declared Miranda).

It’s not like we don’t vacation in Mexico either

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