Artist Cafe Utica is a web site for artists. Some artists have all the money they could ever need and more, some have just enough, and many struggle to pay the bills, and could use some money saving ideas.
Many of those ideas are useful. I’ve adopted a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s envelope system that keeps my finances secure and saves me from overspending most of the time. Shopping at plainer but less expensive stores helps save money on groceries.
Some money saving ideas are impractical. Most of us cannot afford to do laundry often enough to own only ten or fifteen pieces of clothing. People are shocked at how small my wardrobe is, and I keep sixty pieces year round. Everyone cannot give up their car and rely on public transportation.
Other money saving techniques are simply wrong. They’re dishonest and show a lack of respect and compassion for other people. No matter how much you need to save money, here are five things you should never do:
Break the law
Don’t steal things. Just don’t. I know the Walton family is not going to go broke over that pen or wallet you shove in your pocket to save a few dollars at Walmart, and the people who own Sephora are also rich and are not going to suffer because you tossed an extra lipstick into your bag on your way out the door. But remember that shoplifting does not cause corporations to learn their lesson, say they’re sorry, and raise wages while lowering prices to make everything right. It causes them to raise prices. The rich corporate people don’t pay for stolen items. Other people just like you pay for stolen items by paying higher prices. Stealing from local merchants reduces their stock, which may force them to also raise prices. This could contribute to difficulties that put them out of business.
Sneak into cafes and coffeehouses without buying anything
Cafes and coffeehouses often offer free entertainment in the form of free concerts, poetry and prose readings, and open mic nights. They’re comfortable. They become our regular hangout. The Tram is like a second home to me. I’m one of many local artists with their “own” unofficial spot inside the cafe. (My chair is the wing back closest to the hallway.). I am waiting hopefully for the Tram to reopen.
We all still need to buy something if we’re going to go in. If you’re not hungry and you’re just there to see your friend perform, buy a dinner to go and eat it when you get hungry, buy some cookies or brownies to take home, or purchase a large drink. Sitting in a coffeehouse or cafe and refusing to order anything takes up space that could be occupied by someone who is ordering food and drinks.
Refuse to tip
Before you order takeout, add ten to fifteen per cent to your total. If you’re going to go out, add twenty per cent. Do you have that much money to spend tonight? No? Then you can’t afford the food. Go get some fast food or make something at home. Tips look like spending money because they are often given in one and five dollar bills and the worker takes the money home each day. In most cases, they’re not. Tipped workers often depend on tips for a substantial portion of their income, as their paychecks barely cover their taxes. Always leave a tip at restaurants, hair salons, barber shops, and anywhere else tipping is allowed, no matter how much you need to save money.
Make trouble for retail employees
That cashier you’re tempted to yell at because your new toaster is ringing up for twenty-four ninety eight when you only wanted to pay twenty dollars or less stands on his feet for up to eight hours every day. The people directly above him get to take out their frustrations on him by doing things like telling him to do something and then yelling at him for it and scolding him in front of customers. He doesn’t always get to choose out his own work clothes, go to the bathroom without someone else’s permission, or take a drink of something not approved by management while on shift. And if customers berate or insult him, nobody is likely to do a thing about it. For all this, he gets paid minimum wage. If you seriously need that discount, politely tell the cashier that you saw it listed at the lower price and ask if there is anything he can do. If the difference is five dollars or less, the cashier may be able to adjust the price for you. If the difference is greater, he can call a manager to adjust the price if it is indeed entered into the system incorrectly. Either way, the cashier has no control over the prices, coupon policy, discount policy, or what is entered into the store pricing system. If he had that kind of corporate power, he would not be standing there in a tacky, uncomfortable smock scanning your purchases in the first place.
Go to unhealthy, unkind, or dishonest extremes
I used to watch a series called Extreme Cheapskates on television. It should have been called “What not to do to save money.” One man got dessert by asking an ice cream stand for a sample of everything, then refusing to buy so much as a small cone or bottle of water. Another refused to allow his family to get their own buffet dinner. He paid for one all you can eat buffet, and made them sit at the table while he brought over plates of food. One woman didn’t do anything to hurt anyone else, but she ate out of the garbage and wore clothes held together with plastic kitchen clips despite having plenty of money to purchase fresh food and clothing she actually liked and could move comfortably in.
While most of us wouldn’t go to these lengths, there is a danger in taking money saving efforts too far. When in doubt, ask yourself if what you are doing is hurting someone, including yourself, and be honest about your answer. If it is yes, you have gone too far. Next, ask yourself if your money saving strategy is making things worse instead of better. You may pride yourself on saving money on clothes, but if you feel unkempt, shy away from job opportunities, and don’t meet up with your friends anymore because everything you own is tattered and stained, buy some new clothes.