Looking out the office window mid work week, through the car windshield mid rush hour, or through the kitchen window mid-dishes: the noise dissipates into the sound of waves along the shoreline, the colors blur into a warm Tuscan afternoon and you find yourself caught in a Mediterranean daydream so perfect it’s the contemporary equal to Cinderella’s fairytale ball. It’s time to make those midday fantasies a reality. Here’s some simple ways to help you save money and make your dream trip come true — no fairy godmother needed.
Learn to Cook
I’ve always used my impatience in the kitchen as a scapegoat when deciding whether to cook my own meals. It is so much easier for someone else to make your food, especially if making your own food involves waking up earlier every morning to pack your own lunch or a pile of dirty dishes at the end of your meal. I used to eat out at least four times a week–until I realized that spending an extra $50 a week on restaurants meant almost $2,400 a year that I could have saved for that trip to Iceland. Suddenly, my kitchen skills weren’t so bad. Not only does buying your own groceries cut your food spending in half, but you also have more control over what is going into your body–helping you to eat healthier and look better for that trip! It’s a win-win.
Clean Out the Clutter
For years I let boxes of childhood toys, outdated clothes and shoes I never wore consume the space in my closet. Ancient coursework papers and orphaned electronic cords spilled out of my desk drawers. My shelves were just a home for knick-knacks without a purpose. I never knew what I needed because I never knew what I had, so shopping trips turned into impulse buys and, usually, additions to my collection of clutter. Once I finally amassed the sprawling mess into organized containers and hangers, where each thing had a purpose and a place, I knew exactly what I already owned and purchase decisions became much easier. As for all the junk that no longer fit in my life? A few Craigslist ads, a garage sale, and a Goodwill donation later, and I happily knew that my stuff had found fresh purpose in someone else’s life.
Use the Carpool Lane
Here in Los Angeles, commuting 20-plus miles a day is as common as the sunshine–but unlike solar power, the cost of gas adds up quickly. Don’t bear the gas station burden alone: share the ride with colleagues in your neighborhood. Carpooling will help you save money and beat the rush hour traffic. If carpooling isn’t an option, look into nearby public transportation such as the Metrolink (if you’re in LA). You can also check out the cost of your daily trip on AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Lucky enough to live where you work? Ride your bike a few days a week! You’re doing both your wallet and the environment a favor.
Break Up With Your Barista
This one’s a tough one: cut down on your morning Starbucks ritual. The baristas know you and your custom drink order by name and that chocolate croissant sugar high is unparalleled, rivaled only by the caffeine buzz brought to you by that frothy $5 soy latte. How could you possibly survive without it? For one week, try to brew your coffee at home. For every day you don’t give in to the green mermaid logo, put $5 into a jar. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up to that plane ticket to Italy, where you can drink a real latte.
Have an artistic side? Hobbies can double as moneymakers. Websites like Etsy.com give you the opportunity to sell handmade creations such as cards or jewelry, while on Cafe Press, you can design and sell your own graphic tee shirts. Have an eye for photography? You can sell your photos on Bigstock. It won’t make you rich, but it does bring in some extra cash.