Enjoying the 'Good Life' on a Budget

Author Farnoosh Torabi explains how to live large on a little.


Purchased books and DVDs. The library is becoming more popular with the under-30 crowd these days. No joke! If you're a bookworm, get a free library membership and instead of spending $20 to $30 a month on a couple of books, get them free from the library. Same goes for DVDs.

Adult beverages. You can slice your dinner bill in half at the restaurant by nixing two glasses of wine.

If you want to make a toast, consider a BYOB restaurant instead. Know that, as a way to profit, restaurants and bars jack up wine bottle prices by three to four times what you'd pay in the liquor store.

How do you decide when to buy things and when to skip it? Your spending diary suggests you make economical choices.

There are some things I do very consciously. I have a little rule of thumb, which is I need to at least have one to two homemade meals every day. If I know I'm going to be eating out for dinner, I will usually eat breakfast at home, pack a lunch, or have a small bought lunch at work. It's healthier and saves a bundle. For things that aren't necessary, like shoes—although nice clothes and shoes are a part of my "good life" equation—I try not to go crazy all the time. A $7 cotton tee is just as good as a $30 one, especially if I'm just going to layer it under other tops and wash it 18 times. I consciously went to DSW for shoes, too, because I get a kick out of saving on shoes. I recently splurged $330 on a pair of Marc Jacobs shoes, but it was my New Year's gift to myself, after learning about my raise. And I totally love them! But you also do seem to spend money on things that aren't necessarily necessities, like brunch—is that also a conscious decision, because those things make you happy?

Why work hard for your money if you can't enjoy it? I've gotten to a point in my financial life where I feel like I can splurge on some things with more freedom than when I was just starting out in New York. I'm further enough along in my career where I have a bit more discretionary income. A leisurely brunch was always something I'd have to budget for. Now I can afford it better. That said, there are definitely some weekends when I prepare breakfast. That $12 granola and yogurt bowl across the street is just $3 or $4 when prepared at home!