When it comes to dating, everyone has a type—tall, nerdy, extroverted, sporty. Mine is B-R-O-K-E. You know what they say, “Small salary, big heart.”
They do say that. Really.
Okay fine, it’s been an accident, one that feels all too common among millennials. In my cohort, it always seems like women have careers, whereas men seem to have have gigs and high hopes for their fantasy leagues. To wit: After ten plus years in New York City, I’ve gone out with only two guys who made more than me—and I’m a writer.
The other dozen or so haven’t come close. One worked at a cheese shop, two were artists, one was a part-time tutor, one sold drugs out of a pantry covered in dolphin stickers, you get it. One was a freelance science journalist who may have made okay money, but he faked his own death before I could find out. (Dating in New York, amirite ladies?)
Each one of these beautiful, perfect angels had his own life hack to survive on a pittance. Some were useful, some were pathetic, others were also pathetic. Here they are—for practical application, (or just to make you feel better about where you’re at in life):
SLEEP UNTIL 3 to avoid paying for pesky breakfast and unnecessary lunch. Can you survive on one pack of ramen a day, plus whatever the girl you’re dating brings over from her fridge? The answer is yes.
BUY CHEESE IN BLOCKS. Okay, this is actually a good one. If you’re a cheese monster like I am, buying blocks of cheese instead of pre-cut or pre-shredded will save you potentially hundreds of dollars a year. (Too bad the guy who showed me this trick drank all my good bourbon.)
LIVE IN A CLOSET. One guy’s bedroom was a walk-in closet. People rent those out, at least in New York. To be honest, lying on his twin-sized floor mattress with his shirts hanging over our heads felt a little romantic, like we were kids pretending to be grownups. He was in his 30s, though. Still, it was very thrifty and I was devastated when we broke up.
ARGUE ONLINE. I used to think complaining was too big of a hassle if a product arrived late in the mail, or had minor damage. Whoops. One innovative ex-boyfriend with time on his hands taught me that customer service reps will often offer refunds or store credit, even for minor inconveniences. Just be kind when you do this, for karma’s sake.
LEARN TO BE QUIRKY. Wearing two different shoes can make you look insane, unless you embrace a D-I-Y aesthetic and call yourself an artist. If you do things with confidence—for example, dress like you just washed up on shore from a 19th century shipwreck—people don’t question your choices.
SAY: “I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR THAT.” This one is actually very helpful. I used to be too embarrassed to admit when something was out of my budget, but after seeing several guys do this so brazenly, I decided to try it. It’s definitely more liberating than shameful.
COUPON APPS. My current boyfriend is obsessed with coupon apps like Ibotta, and now I am, too. Even better, most new apps/startups give you amazing deals to entice you to join, like $25 off your first order or free delivery. Lately, I’ve been downloading all kinds of apps and using coupon codes I see advertised around the city.
BUY GENERIC. Except for Q-Tips. Trust me on this.
BE A MAN. This is only sort of a joke. All of my exes were charged less than women typically are for so many products , including pharmacy items, haircuts, and clothes. The Pink Tax is REAL, it’s infuriating for the budget-minded. However it’s inspiring me to embrace my androgynous side. I’ve just bought my first two pairs of boys’ shoes for a combined total of $36. Next on my list: men’s skincare items.
Emily Winter is a writer and comedian in New York. She's written for TV Land, Glamour and Fusion TV.