In those funny, bone-jostling hot college comedies, the excitement never ends. Gorgeous teens engage in glamorous fun, and even the nerdiest dweebs have a steady supply of fresh apple pies to hump. The reality for many young people—an amorphous group ranging in age from 18-49, better known as the brand marketer’s “key demographic”—is different, however, as all this ritzy entertainment comes at a steep, inflation-spiked price. If you’re aiming to afford the latest iPhone, ethically-sourced vegan clothing, DEI training, carbon offset credits, and tiny houses necessary to win the admiration of the smart set, you’ll to need to learn to manage on a low budget, especially if inflation keeps increasing and this recession worsens, as both always do (it’s always a good—perhaps even a great—depression somewhere in this wooly world, folks!). What follows are some foolproof budgeting tips that’ll allow you to live the most extravagant and splurge-filled life this side of whatever stadium is hosting the latest $10,000-a-seat Taylor Swift concert.
Tip #1: Never pay for toilet paper. When I enter the stall in a public restroom, do I pay careful attention to the design of the toilet paper dispenser? Nope: most dispensers don’t have locks, and the ones that do can be easily unlocked. Once I've slipped the complimentary TP into my stylish backpack or crossbody bag—yet another reason to carry one of these little gems around, in addition to looking chic—I take it home and single-ply it, thus creating two usable rolls out of one. If you’re aiming to get a head start on paying off those student loans, you can stretch the TP even further by hanging used squares over the towel rack to dry out.
Tip #2: Condiments are everywhere. Most people think that the condiments left out at our favorite fast-food restaurants are intended only for customers. If you’re a low-budget superstar, though, you know better. Just whip out that aforementioned backpack/crossbody bag and fill it to bursting with sweeteners, ketchup packets, mustard, salt packets, lemon slices, and all of the other little extras that taste great on a freshly microwaved six-pack of Bar-S Classic Franks (a Pittsburgh regional delicacy that’s available for under two bucks at most low-end grocery stores).
Tip #3: Once you buy a fountain drink, make the most of it. For reasons that elude me, many restaurant patrons purchase a “Big Gulp” or “Grande Gulp” drink and then fail to refill it. This, friends, is the kind of bad business practice that brought down reputable companies like Enron and Lehman Brothers. Once I gain access to free and potentially endless refills, I milk that fountain’s carbonation-supplying teat for every ounce of fluid that my bladder can contain. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I bring my laptop to the 7-Eleven and work remotely from there, replenishing my body’s supply of life-giving, Grant Hill-endorsed Sprite the second that I feel the least bit thirsty. In addition to supercharging the brain with a high dose of sugar, this kind of empty carbo-loading is perfect for “hardgainers” looking to double their “freshman 15.”
Tip #4: Avoid razors and hair salons. What do personalities like religious pitchman Jesus Christ, counterculture legend Wavy Gravy, Gonzaga hoops great Adam Morrison, and Pittsburgh Steeler legend Troy Polamalu have in common? If you guessed that they didn’t waste money on frivolous things like personal grooming, you’re well on your way to saving enough money to afford dozens of cases of Yuengling Black & Tan. Wild hair will pay for itself, too. Employers prefer workers who can think outside the box, and nothing says “visionary genius iconoclast” like an ankle-length beard that’s stained with ketchup, sticky with Sprite, and laden with the greasy residue of a hearty breakfast of Bar-S Classic Franks.
Tip #5: Why pay to wash your laundry when you can just spray it with Febreze? I could be like all those other people and dump my hard-earned coins into a bunch of loud, rusty washers and dryers. Or I could be a budget champion and invest in a single bottle of fabric refresher. One well-placed squirt from this miracle substance turns any old t-shirt that’s reeking of smoke and sweat into a delightful, fresh-from-the-dryer garment. But I conserve those squirts, as the retail value of a bottle of Febreze ranges from $3 to $5—perhaps even a bit more nowadays due to all this inflation. If you’re strapped for cash, just go to a dollar store and purchase one of those generic cans of disinfectant spray that smells like an old folk’s home.
Tip #6: “School’s cool if you’re a tool or a fool.” Do you know what costs nearly a million bucks and is even more boring than an hour of C-SPAN? Your college textbooks! Those heavy old things—which used to come bundled with useless CDs that would try to install trial versions of Adobe Acrobat on your computer even if you already have the full version—are about as helpful as a vintage copy of the 1986 Mon Valley Yellow Pages. Instead of spending your student loan money on these relics, Google or Wikipedia the pertinent facts and make educated guesses about the rest. After all, do you really need a textbook to tell you that Argentina's “Dirty War” went on a little too long or that AOL Instant Messenger was first employed by codebreakers during World War II? If you absolutely must secure a copy, surf over to Libgen and “borrow” (i.e., pirate) one.
Follow these six simple rules, and you’re sure to have some extra megabucks to invest in the worthless consumer goods that make this otherwise-meaningless life worth living. Just keep sweating the small stuff, refilling your “Grande Gulp” Sprite, hoarding your aluminum cans (enjoy the accompanying swarms of fruit flies; they add character), and living la vida parsimonious. However, if my methods seem a bit too ambitious, sleep it off—in addition to being awesome, all-natural, and organic, rest is completely free!