The difference is that I now do all of this according to a conscious plan that I set up so that I can enjoy my life and yet not be frightened by its cost.
In the entertainment part of my budget, I include: eating out, trips to the cinema, TV and hamam/spa days. This month I am over my entertainment budget by TL 60 due to unexpected guests that came in the last couple of weeks. In the Turkish hospitality tradition, I can’t help but utter, “No, you are guests; it’s on me.” For most months, though, I manage to keep on track.
As with the food budget, I would recommend monitoring your entertainment expenses over a period of 20 days to a month. When you have a figure, reduce it by TL 20-50 and call that your entertainment budget.
Here are some ideas to keep your entertainment spending in check:
Get rid of your cable/satellite TV service. I did that two years ago, and I don’t miss it at all. As a plus, I’ve saved over TL 600.
I know that there are some TV shows that are addictive. I’m not immune to them, either. However, if you search online, you may find that all of your favorite TV shows have been uploaded and are there for you to watch on your time schedule. The two sites I frequent most are yabancidiziizle.com and dizimag.com. Because watching TV online requires downloading, you want to make sure that you have unlimited Internet access. If you can’t bear to part with your cable or satellite set up, consider reducing your package to the bare minimum. I mean, do we really have to watch so much TV?
Have at-home movie nights. There are many, many torrents of websites where you can download your favorite movie. Additionally, you can take a trip down to your local DVD store where you can find great movies for reduced prices. Make a batch of popcorn, invite some friends over and gather around the TV for an enjoyable evening.
Eating out can be great, but it can also wreak havoc on a budget. One idea would be to eat out less. It’s so much more economical to eat at home, and the food often tastes better than some of the fare that is offered up at restaurants. When we do go out, there are ways we can still enjoy ourselves and yet stick to our budget.
Join a groupon service. I use sehirfirsati.com, but I’m sure that others have popped up by now. I’ve gotten deals on massages (70 percent off) as well as discounted menu items at restaurants. If you buy a coupon, though, mind the expiration date. It’s not a discount if you forget to use it.
The downside of the groupon service is that they send you endless emails packed with offers, and you may only be interested in one out of 20 or 30 offers; consider setting up an email account that is just for this service so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Order a couple of appetizers and one entrée. The portion sizes at restaurants continue to grow, and you may find that one dinner is enough for both of you. If you are still hungry, you can always order something else. If you are dining alone, eat half of the meal and take the rest home; leftovers make a great lunch or dinner the next day.
Go out for lunch. Many restaurants offer great lunch specials. Also, keep your eyes peeled for other specials. I know one vegetarian restaurant that has reduced prices every Monday.
Skip dessert at the restaurant. If you have a hankering for something sweet, consider picking up some tasty baklava or a container of ice cream at the supermarket. If you pre-baked some brownies and have them frozen (last week’s tip), pull them out.
Frugal gift giving
With birthdays, going away parties and other celebrations, gift giving can add up over the year. Many people I’ve spoken to say that they don’t want to seem “cheap” and so they tend to give nice things. There are ways to give decent gifts, though, and not break the bank. Here are some ideas:
Re-gift. I know that doesn’t fly well with Turkish culture, but if somebody gave you something that you don’t really like or use (while, of course, you greatly appreciate the thought), why keep it around? Dust it off, polish it up and give it to someone who really would love it or who has a use for it.
Make gift bags. You can find very decorative bags, bows, and ribbons in Eminönü for great prices, and you can use those items as needed. The downside is that you have to buy in bulk and so it would require you to store the materials in your home. I opt for purchasing solid colored bags and then decorating them with stickers or painting them. As for what to put in the bags, the sky is the limit. Some of my favorites are a container of homemade brownie mix, scented soaps and fresh baked goods. My rule of thumb is thinking about what my friend could really use or would really appreciate.
I wrote an entire article dedicated to home spa recipes that could save you tons of money in beauty products. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the link to that article.
Extend your razor’s life. As anybody who shaves knows, razor blades cost an arm and a leg, yet we need to use them every day. While there is no way to sharpen them, here are two ideas to extend the life of your blades. After you shave, hold the razor straight and run it backwards up a piece of denim 10 to 20 times and then turn the razor upside down and run it down 10 to 20 times (this takes a few tries to get used to). Somehow, the fibers of the material take the fine nicks out of the blade and keep it from becoming dull. Another thing you can do is to store the blade in oil; this keeps water off the blade and stops the oxidation process in its tracks.
Saving that cute kitten from a tough life on the street is an amazing act of kindness and compassion, but it can also prove to be expensive. Here are some ideas to reduce your kitty-care bills.
Stretching kitty litter. Use a clumping litter and clean it every day. Once a week, add ¼ cup of baking soda (karbonat) and 3 tablespoons of dried mint. By doing this, a 10 kilogram bag can last a couple of months (for one cat).
Upgrade your kitty’s diet. This may sound counter intuitive, but the healthier you feed your kitty, the fewer trips you’ll have to take to the vet. Talk to your vet and explore online to find the best diet for your furry companion.
Shop around for a vet. When my cat jumped out of a six-story building after a bird, nearly losing a leg in the process, I rushed him to the nearest vet hospital. The hospital happened to be in an upscale neighborhood, but I just wanted to get him medical attention. They told me that they would have to observe him overnight and that the next day they would give me his prognosis. The next day, I went in and they told me that he needed an operation on his leg, but that he would live and the leg could be saved. I asked them how much it would cost and they said, “TL 3,000.” I called my vet who shopped around for me and found a hospital that would perform the same operation for TL 250. The elitist hospital was furious; obviously, I did not love my pet enough to leave him in their hospital. I paid the TL 700 they charged for an overnight stay, a serum drip and a can of cat food (which he didn’t eat) and brought him to the other hospital. No matter what anybody tells you, there is a more economical way.
Clothing and accessories
Prices continue to rise, but clothing is a necessity. I have adopted somewhat of a minimalist wardrobe: I have a couple of pairs each of jeans, dress pants and shorts, and I mix and match them with only a few T-shirts and dress shirts.
Shop at Eminönü
When I needed dress shirts for an upcoming corporate gig, I found a set of them for only TL 10 each in Eminönü. They were great quality, and they looked good on me.
Hire a tailor
When summer rolled around, I found those shirts to be too hot, and so I went to a tailor and had half of them converted into short-sleeved shirts. Now I have a summer and a winter business wardrobe.
I also had my jeans mended. I have two pairs of jeans that were bought in the US for over $100 each. However, they are years old now and are starting to wear out. Rather than walk around in holey jeans, I simply bring them to the tailor and for TL 5 they are almost as good as new.
Look for sales. If you prefer name-brand stores, keep your eyes peeled for good sales. My friend Ziya was determined to buy from Mavi Jeans and they just happened to be running a sale. He walked out of there with TL 200 worth of merchandise for only TL 150.
As you can see, there are many ways to stretch your lira here in Turkey. Once you start putting your mind to it, you will find yourself getting very creative. You might even find it enjoyable!
Brooks Emerson can be reached at email@example.com