The struggle is real for people trying to live in the big city—paying your dues and paying your bills are practically antithetical these days. But rest assured: you don’t have to go broke to go out. Here are five steps you can take to live that sweet, sweet “treat yo self” life despite an ever-dwindling checking account.
1. Live by the golden rule of the lifestyle coupon.
The internet is glorious, if not for things like basic communication, for the mere fact that coupons are no longer just grocery store domain. There are tons of sites out there: Groupon, Living Social, Pulsd, Gilt. Hop on Groupon to score mysteriously cheap Swarovski Crystal earrings to wear to the Michelin-star bottomless brunch that you’ll pay for with a $15 Pulsd voucher. Looking to take a vacation? I once spent a week at a four-star all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic for only a few hundred dollars—flight included—thanks to a Groupon Getaway. Spa days, spray tans, open bars, exercise—the internetz has it all. Always trust the bounty of the lifestyle coupon.
2. BYOB, bb.
BYOB is not just for house parties. Chances are, your city has pleeenty of restaurants that allow customers to bring your own wine, beer, or liquor—they’re just a Yelp search away. BYOB drastically reduces the price of going out to eat and means that, for once, the disparate salary range of your friend group isn’t an issue. To make things fancy, bring a bottle of vodka, order a few cranberry juices, and voila! Cosmos for everyone.
P.S. Tip well. These spots are usually family-owned small businesses, which is why they can make their own rules but also a reminder that the hustle is universal.
3. Retail therapy is not only for the rich and famous, thanks to Goodwill.
PRAISE THRIFT STORES. And I’m not talking about those “vintage clothing shops” that charge hundreds for frail, sequined, C-list designer blazers from 1970. There are tons of excellent, affordable spots that will make you wonder why you ever shopped retail in the first place. Places like Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet are amazing because their stock is usually vetted with the expertise of fashion and design students, and they only take pieces in nearly new condition. Intricate Prada heels, faux fur Marni coats, Kate Spade handbags, Jeffrey Campbell platforms—all things I have bought at thrift stores for under $50.
And let’s not forget the pillars of thrifting: Goodwill and Salvation Army. I find that donation-based stores are best in suburban and rural areas, so the next time you take a trip out of town, hit up the local thrift store and I guarantee you will find at least one $5 cashmere sweater.
4. Gallery openings are party crashing gold.
Every first week of the month, art galleries in cities across the country open their doors to the public to announce their newest exhibits. I’ve always thought of gallery openings as the holy grail of social life hacks: they are fabulous, VIP, scene-y parties full of incredible art, the occasional celebrity sighting, and free booze. Openings can sometimes feel like the most hip Around the World Party you’ve ever been to: find exhibit listings on ArtSlant, then follow the crowd and from opening to opening. Most of these galleries are located in larger buildings that house multiple studios, so walk in, admire the art, and party crash away!
5. Even sales have loopholes.
Location, location, location. Expensive taste is a tough thing to have, and the mythical sample sale is one oft-overlooked solution. While most folks think they’re hard to find, the trick is to follow the venue, not the brand. Certain storefronts host sample sales year round—track these warehouses on Instagram and Twitter to get live updates on who’s currently renting.
And don’t be fooled by the frantic shopping culture at these events. Prices get slashed daily, so a sample sale is at its prime in the very end, when there are fewer shoppers to compete with and more discounts on clothes the store has to purge before its 5-day lease is up. With a good eye and a little bit of strategy, you can walk away with couture garments that cost less than the fashion magazines you first saw them in.