Reader Marlene lives in Manhattan, which is a place that is not known for being affordable! But, she’s making it work.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a single, 70-something Manhattanite living in a rental apartment in a co-op building.
I never dreamed of living in New York but stayed after finishing college here.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I’ve been involved in business and leisure travel publishing since 1991.
And after decades working in journalism, PR, marketing and corporate communications, and creating and running a health and wellness blog, I currently work part time for a business travel publication.
After completing treatment for cancer in 2014, I ended up in a wheelchair due to side-effects that still exist.
Going from being very independent to dependent on others is a major life change with which I still struggle.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I think it was around 2013.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
Necessity. Growing up with a single mom, money was tight.
Working as an independent contractor at times, I had no choice but to be frugal when I had no idea how much money would be coming in or when.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
Getting the most value for my money.
I read something that said you should determine how much you earn per hour and then translate that into how many hours of work it would cost you to buy something.
That was a real A-Ha moment for me and a strategy I still use.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
I took the time to fully research Medicare before deciding which coverage to get in addition to the basic Plan A/B.
I opted for the Supplemental/Medigap plan. This turned out to be a real lifesaver as I was diagnosed with cancer within months of signing up. I would be carrying huge medical debt had I not done that.
I look at the cost of healthcare insurance as an investment in myself.
6. What’s the biggest challenge for you in saving money?
Preventing food waste. Cooking for one with only a small freezer is challenging.
7. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?
Periods of credit card debt over the years.
8. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Getting out to events is now more expensive as I must hire someone to take me and transportation can also be costly.
S0, streaming services for movies, concerts and events are a money-saving option. The total cost of streaming my favorites is still less than what I paid for basic cable TV!
I save as much as 40% or more by paying annually for a subscription.
9. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Clothing, jewelry or cosmetics. I’ve accumulated enough over the years.
10. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
I’d put it aside to pay for expensive essential things I need such as taxis; for hiring aides and for services for things that I can no longer do for myself.
11. What’s the best/worst parts of being frugal?
Worst: Carefully tracking what you spend. So time-consuming.
Best: Having $ for the things that matter. Being able to pay my bills.
12. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
I live in the most expensive borough in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. The cost of living, most notably housing, was/is very high. You have to work to save money—and be lucky, especially with housing.
But…there are ways to enjoy all (concerts, theater, sporting events and tons of other things) the city has to offer. I track free events, discounts and promotions.
We have fabulous parks in every borough, two of the best–Central and Riverside—are just blocks away. Just walking around this city is free and amazing.
Shakespeare in the Park and Restaurant Week are just two free or discounted events I’ve enjoyed over the years.
Other favorites: Discounted tickets to opera rehearsals and free tickets to dance, music and play events at Juilliard, where you can catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s stars.
13. How else do you save money?
As a true New Yorker, I’m always on the lookout for the best price. I use a variety of price-tracking apps in my browser to see the lowest prices for items.
I have a discounted (half price) senior Metro card that’s good for some public transportation. I search for any senior discounts wherever I shop. I sign up for free product/service memberships where you get periodic free items and/or birthday gifts.
I do cash back with Retail Me Not and Rakuten. And I have the CVS Care Pass.
I shop almost exclusively from what’s on sale weekly and what’s in season; maintain a pantry; carefully use Amazon Subscribe and Save; and search for special promotions and freebies for items I buy frequently.
14. What frugal tips have you tried and abandoned?
15. What single action or decision has saved you the most money over your life?
Against everyone urging me to buy, I did NOT buy the shares in my apartment when the building turned co-op.
I estimated that between the cost of mortgage, taxes and maintenance (which was anticipated to rise significantly due to the condition of the 1923 building, and has), I might not be able to afford escalating costs over time given that my income has varied considerably over the years.
16. What is something you wish more people knew?
How much you really spend versus what you think you spend. Most of us underestimate the total $ we spend if we don’t regularly track our expenditures.
17. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?
It has made me focus even more on the things and people for which I am grateful.
18. Which is your favorite type of post at the Frugal Girl and why?
Thankful Thursdays, Five Frugal Things and the reader profile columns. The tips and shared wisdom from Kristen and readers are inspiring and motivating. And fun!
I also love the DIY posts. I am in awe of Kristen’s ability to transform objects.
19. What are some of your best travel tips?
-Do not confuse “direct” with “nonstop” when booking a flight. Nonstop gets you from Point A to Point B with no stops. On a direct flight, you remain on the same plane but it may land and take off at one or more airports, which ups the risks of delays and other complications.
-Book the earliest flight out for your destination. If there are delays or cancellations, you’ll have a better chance of getting rebooked the same day.
-If there is any chance you will be traveling to a destination that requires a new or renewal passport, apply ASAP. There’s been a huge backlog in processing and turnaround times (currently 10 to 13 weeks for regular handling and 7 to 9 weeks for what the State Department calls “expedited.”). There are services that say they can turn around in a few days (for a hefty fee), but even they have been known to miss promised delivery dates.
This passport bit is major as many folks, especially those who travel infrequently, have missed trips due to poor planning when needing a new or renewal passport.
Marlene, I loved getting a peek into your life since it is so different than mine!
I smiled at some of the similar ways we save money, though; like by looking for free activities, use the CVS Carepass, and avoiding food waste. We do a lot of the same things, even though Manhattan is quite different from my suburb. 🙂
I understand the independent contractor life; I’ve been self-employed for so long, the idea of a consistent paycheck seems rather foreign. When I get my first nursing job, that part will feel weird!
I can imagine the challenges that come with being in a wheelchair and I applaud the way you are not letting that stop you from getting out and about!
Have you always lived in this building in NYC?