5 Easy Ways to Save Money in 2020
By Derek Beres
Derek Beres, 24Life contributor and Los Angeles–based writer, playlist junkie and group fitness instructor, has a lifestyle resolution for 2020. 24Life asked him to share his tips.
The new year is an annual reset. Most of the focus is on resolutions, which usually default to something about working out more or eating better. Yet it’s also a time for financial planning—how we spend our hard-earned money. With tax season on the horizon, we start receiving our W-2s and 1099s in January. We also collect our receipts and gather tax-deductible donation forms from the prior year. Perspective is everything, and this month certainly offers that.
The big spend for many of us is food—specifically, how much money we spend eating out. Recently, after our slow cooker died, my wife and I decided to get an Instant Pot that doubles as a slow cooker. While we both cook often, this purchase was to get us in the mindset of cooking in larger batches every Sunday so that we can avoid the need for impulse lunches and coffees. In a city like Los Angeles, those seemingly small receipts add up quickly.
Below are five examples of the mindset switch we’ve made to rein in our budget for 2020, which are not limited to food. Don’t get me wrong: We’re not giving up all the “befores.” We’re just not using them as frequently, especially when less-expensive, low-stress and healthier options exist.
Sweetgreen is a Los Angeles institution, with ordering outposts at hundreds of businesses alongside their shops. It also sources from local farms and only uses fresh and, when possible, organic ingredients. Yet $12.95 salads quickly add up. If that’s your daily lunch Monday through Friday, you’re looking at more than $3,300 a year on greens, roasted chicken and a lime squeeze.
Dal is an Indian staple that’s especially delicious in the colder months. I’ve been eating dal for decades; it’s a wonderful comfort food. I tweak the above recipe, which calls for 3 cups of red lentils. I split it into 1½ cups of red lentils and 1½ cups of yellow split peas. I also slice up 4 Thai chilies (seeds in) because I like dal with a kick. I also prefer jasmine rice over brown rice. Finally, I use 4 cups of water instead of 6 in the slow cooker to make it a little less soupy; you already have liquid from the diced tomatoes. Mince the garlic and ginger well so that it gets spread throughout the dal. If I make this on Sunday, I know I have lunch every day of the week. Serve with a side of yogurt, and if you like additional heat, add harissa or Vietnamese chili garlic sauce.
I’m not particularly a Starbucks fan, especially given all the incredible independent coffee shops in Los Angeles. But I must admit, Starbucks’ Nitro Cold Brew is delicious on its own as well as with a touch of cream, if you’re feeling indulgent. But at $4.75 for 16 ounces, you can make a solid cold brew on your own.
Japanese Cold Brew
This recipe comes from my favorite local coffee shop, Bar Nine. It doesn’t make a traditional cold brew, which can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, but instead uses a Japanese method, which calls for 40 percent brewed coffee (I use an AeroPress at home, which you also can cold-brew) combined with 60 percent cold water and ice. It’s all about the beans anyway. I’ve been a home subscriber to Bar Nine’s delivery service for years. Using its method, I have an inexpensive and easy option at home every morning.
Or Uber. Or any ride-share service. The “revolution” in taxiing has proved no less expensive than traditional companies. Of course, I’m not talking about when you need to travel to the airport or if your destination is 10 miles away. But if you need to get somewhere within five kilometers …
When I lived in New York, friends would take cabs five blocks. I’ve been in suburbs where people drive from one side of a shopping complex parking lot to the other even though they weren’t buying anything. Nearby, at Westfield Century City, cars perpetually circle in the third-floor parking deck when there are always spots in the basement right near the staircase.
In his book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do,” Bruce Lee writes, “Take a walk whenever you can—like parking the car a few blocks away from your destination. … Avoid taking the elevator; climb the stairs instead.” Training, to the marital arts master, was not a matter of just being in the gym. It is a mindset. Health is a perpetual state of being, not an hour a day, four days a week. Double bonus: You gain in both health and wealth.
Saturday Night Dinner Out
A special night at a great restaurant is wonderful. Yet I have friends who default to splurging on a weekly basis. While it’s important to socialize, spending time at home learning new dishes can be less expensive, educational, social (if you’re cooking with a partner or friend) and healthier, as many restaurants add sugars and other ingredients not on the menu.
I am a huge fan of Moroccan cuisine. The tagine is my favorite vessel to cook with. As with a slow cooker, it requires patience and time, but the result is always worth it. Couscous is a Moroccan staple. It makes a perfect base for this savory and sweet (thanks apricots) dish in which the lamb falls right from the bone.
There’s a reason it’s called the attention economy: Corporations profit from your scrolling (and even more insidiously, your conversations). Applications might seem “free,” but we pay in terms of the sale of your personal information and targeted advertising. The quick scrolling through endless feeds is also terrible for our memories. Perhaps consider something more traditional, such as …
Quaint, I know, but a 4,000-year track record isn’t shabby. Kindles and audiobooks are fine, but there’s nothing like turning pages. A book requires a one-time price of entry; print books are incapable of harvesting data. You can even resell or gift them when the journey is over. Better yet, head to your local library. Los Angeles has a robust library system that I regularly use, not only for books but also for research and online resources.
Here are five favorites I read in 2019: “Killing Commendatore” by Haruki Murakami, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles, “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by Robert Whitaker, “Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World” by M. R. O’Connor and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.
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