I just finished this delightful book that a blog reader recommended to me on Goodreads: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. Have you heard of it? It came out just last year, thus adding to the growing collection of Paris-themed memoirs out there for us Stateside-bound dreamers!
In the book, Janice describes her draining work as a copywriter in L.A. and her growing desperation to escape. Through regular journal writing, she finally decided to save up $100 a day for a year and then quit her job, travel the world, and figure out a new way to pay her bills and live her life.
You should read it to find out the details, but it all works out incredibly well for Janice. She meets a James Bond look-a-like in Paris, falls head over heels in love, figures out a thriving Etsy shop business selling hand-painted letters (check it out), and the rest — she writes — is history.
I found the whole story fun as well as inspiring, and the most inspiring part was how she made her dreams come true. She figured out how she could afford to quit her job for at least a year, and she calculated that would require saving about $100 a day for one year. At the back of the book, she wrote an exhaustive list of all the things she did to either save up or not spend $100 a day for a year. I loved the thriftiness and practicality of the list. I mean, who of us doesn’t want to quit our day job and have enough cushion to travel the world and paint/write/blog/create? (Or would you just like to end your year with $100 x 365 = $36,500 more dollars than you planned? Which is actually a great idea for all of us!)
Here are a few things Janice did, as recorded in her book:
1. Canceled my television service.
2. Sold my television. Saved money and time.
3. Used up my samples from Sephora.
4. Used up the creams that were just so-so before I repurchased my favorite.
5. Sold everything I didn’t use on a daily basis on Craigslist and eBay.
6. Invited friends out for hikes, coffees, or frozen yogurt rather than wait until they invited me to pricey dinners.
7. Used up my running shoes. I had enough with enough zip to get me through the year.
8. Drank all the tea in my house before buying more. Oh lordy, I had a lot of tea.
9. Ordered a small coffee instead of a latte. It would have been cheaper to make coffee at home, but less social.
10. Said no to dinners at restaurants.
11. Stayed home at night and painted instead.
13. Did my own nails with all the polish I already bought.
14. Accepted gifts from people. Strange, but the more I released, the more I received gifts, largely in the form of free meals and stationery.
15. Got a cheaper phone plan.
16. Searched my medicine cabinet before I went to the pharmacy. What I needed was usually there.
17. Stopped falling for coupons. You know what’s cheaper? Not buying at all.
18. Took care of unfinished business instead of ignoring it and going shopping instead.
19. Spent all my coins. The bigger your coin jar, the bigger your coin collection.
20. Cashed in all my free coffees from loyalty cards.
21. Listened to all the music I already had in my collection. There was so much I didn’t know I already had.
22. Convinced my family to not get each other big Christmas gifts. Instead we got each other a small stocking stuffer. It was delightful, and no one missed the lack of presents.
23. Used up all the half-filled journals I already had around my house.
24. Popcorn popped on the stove.
25. Welcomed overnight guests into my home. Strange, but they basically fed me half the time out of gratitude for the free place to stay, and I was delighted to see them.
Have you done some of these things already? I try to do some of them, but I need to work on others, like using up all my coins (such a good idea) and taking care of unfinished business before starting something new. Actually, Janice’s section on finishing her “unfinished business” was amazingly inspiring. She finished all the paintings she had started, did her taxes in March instead of on April 14, sent all her half-finished letters, and used her expensive health insurance to get her annual physical, dental exam, and eye exam. Her goal was “finish my unfinished business by the end of the calendar year,” and that got her cracking on projects that might otherwise have sat around her house for years.
I love this idea. I have a thousand items of unfinished business all over my house. Especially after my sister died, I thought about trying to tie up loose ends now so there wouldn’t be a lot of unfinished things if I died suddenly… but time has gone by and there is plenty I could finish. Like organizing our files before tax season, tidying the garage (again! I already did it once after this post!), finding the mysteriously missing car registration sticker, clearing out and selling all the clothes the kids have outgrown, and so on and so forth.
Which is your favorite suggestion on this list? If you haven’t already, are you going to read Paris Letters now? ;)
P.S. Check back tomorrow for a lovely letter and an exciting bit of news from Janice MacLeod herself! I just got an email from her and decided it deserved a post of its own. I’ll share it on Friday morning!
This book sounds interesting, I’ll have to check it out!
Some of these tips would be helpful for curbing spending and I’m down with the whole project completion thing. My craft bins are a disaster ATM. So hard to know what to just let to of, especially if you don’t want to end up buying replacement stuff. I think my transient childhood has made me a bit of an anxious packrat. Sigh.
But mostly I felt compelled to comment to point out that there are plenty of people and families who cannot save $100 a day because they don’t make 36K a year. Saving when you’re on a teeny tiny, paycheck to paycheck budget can be a real challenge.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because it’s one of my goals for this year to focus on debt repayment and building a savings account. I am lucky not consider myself in the teeny tiny salary category, but there are always ways to be more frugal (and more generous) regardless.
Anyway, not to be a contrarian, just wanted to acknowledge folks out there for whom saving this amount daily is not an option.
ps Your site redesign is really pretty. I like it.
Wow, Katie, I hadn’t thought about not being able to save $100/day because of total salary being less than $36k. Obviously my ability with numbers only goes so far! That’s such a good point, though.
Of course, all these numbers are Janice’s, and she figured she needed $36k to live on for a year. Which, depending on a lot of things (like health and home ownership and travel plans, etc.), might actually be more or less than a lot of people need.
Anyway, such a good point. Thank you for all your comments and insight! xo
My great aunt has a clipping on her refrigerator, among the zillion family photos and cartoons from the newspaper, that reads: “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without.” -wartime poster, 1942
I have an embarrassing amount of lotion to use, and I always feel so good when I finish a bottle of something and throw it away!
I like the idea that this was all part of the author’s grand project. It helps to have a driving factor. (Thank God we don’t have a world war, but I confess I do find the WW2 era terribly romantic!)
I think you’d like the book, Josie! I have been trying to finish up my lotions for the last THREE YEARS and now I get somewhat sad when someone gives me one because that’s probably another year of waiting to buy what I want, what I really really want… #confessions!
There are so many great ideas in this list! I try to use all lotions, shampoo, beauty samples etc before buying anymore to 1) not waste money and 2) make sure we don’t take up cabinet space. It’s tough to see something I want to try when out doing errands, but I remind myself that I can try it once I finish up whatever is at home!
And great point about finishing up “unfinished business.” For me it’s so easy to find daily projects (dishes, laundry, trash, general straightening) that need to be done and push bigger projects to the side. I just restarted my written to-do list (instead of my mental one). Hopefully it will help with some of this!
Oops, this is Suzanne Kroleski. I forgot to add my name.
Yes, I agree about getting distracted by everyday tidying and forgetting or continually procrastinating on the big projects. I would love to have a written to do list every day, but I am waiting for the Moleskine 2015 calendar to be back in stock on Amazon and so far it hasn’t happened for three weeks! Maybe they are out forever? I should just bite the bullet and get another calendar, or just start writing to do lists anyway!
i recently read, “7” by jen haymaker, and it was about focusing on how much you have, be it food, media use, clothes, etc. i realized that i have a LOT that i don’t really need around. we moved pretty close after i read that book, so i donated a lot of my clothes, and have been going through my stuff to decide what i need and do not need. i just went through my nail polish. this was spurred on by the fact that even after 2 hrs, my nail polish didn’t dry enough one night and still got imprints from my sheets while i slept! i now have a reasonable about of useable polish. i am not going to buy any more body products until i finish my drawers up, and i stopped a lot of my random purchasing things (starbucks, etc.). we gave the tv we used to workout to a mom of two kids who had recently moved with nothing. i’m not trying to gain much, but am trying to give much. i LOVE that idea to save/make $100 a day. i can’t imagine planning so far in advance. i love it. we downsized our home so we could have more money to give and see the world with our kids.
my two last spaces that need some focus are my school stuff (just started homeschooling the kids) and my craft area (former print designer/crafty gal and i do not know what to do with my stash of ‘what if i need….’ stuff. :/ i bet if i get rid of it all i’d feel a lot better and have more space in the basement. not sure)
sorry this response was so discombobulated! :)
I read that book last year and really loved it! I wrote some blog posts about it here because I was so incredibly inspired:
This book sounds exactly like what I was looking for right now! I’m so excited to read it! I agree with the comment above about $36K. A lot of these things are things I do anyway — ie home mani/ pedis (I’ve had two professionally done in my entire life, both after my 30th birthday), and I drink tea at home not lattes (unless I have a gift card). But I still love the sound of his book! It sounds like good encouragement for where I’m trying to steer my life these days.
I think you’re so good at saving money and still enjoying the beautiful things in life, Joy, the things that matter and last. I also think you’d love this book!
I like the sentiment of using what you have and not always getting new products, clothes, things. I think it’s a good idea for saving money, but also for not buying into all the consumerism and materialism we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I have to agree with Katie in the above comment that $100 a day is quite a lot of money for many people. With my husband back in school and us living on a reduced income, I would love to be saving $50 a month! But I do think many of her suggestions were good.
A few things we’ve done in our family…we utilize our public library all the time. Lucky for me they have many new books, so I can usually get whatever I am looking for. We also stopped buying liquid hand soap and have been using all the hotel soaps and gifted fancy soaps we had around the house. We also have a pizza and movie night every Friday and instead of ordering out, we make the pizza ourselves. One of my daughters has gotten into helping me make the dough and it’s fun to experiment with new toppings. The book sounds interesting! I’m going to check it out.
Ugh, I need to start using all our hotel soaps instead of buying new liquid soap! That’s such a good idea. I also would love to start making our own pizza! I read about this skillet/pan pizza the other day and it sounded SO good. And easy!
It’s always so nice when you recommend a book and the person loves it as much as you do – so happy! And I love your thoughts on getting by with less and repurposing material – it’s such a personal theme for me at the moment. The other thing I loved about Janice’s book are her beautiful letters. I’ve started getting back into painting since I read it so she really gave me some motivation at the right time.
Thank you for recommending it, Pita! Check out my blog post tomorrow for more about her letters… ;)
How have I not heard of this book before?! It sounds like exactly what I need to read next. I love the idea of combining frugality with romanticism. The crazy saving/thrifting doesn’t seem so strange when you match it with an end goal like living in Paris.
I just used through all of my Birchbox samples (after canceling the subscription) and have been purging through all of my cabinets/closets. It’s partly because of our impending PCS, but also because the materialism is just too much. Okay…putting this on my read next list.
Way to go, Carly. I need to go through and clear out our “toiletries” again; we have so much soap, toothpaste, floss, hair ties, make up etc. that never gets used. I went through everything when we moved to Sicily (3+ years ago) and combined things by category into small plastic Ziploc bags. I committed to using up each one before buying more, but time has gone by and the least-desirable stuff is still in those drawers!
#17!!!!!!!! I can be such a sucker for a coupon/deal. My dad calls it “goin’ broke savin’ money.” :P
Sounds like a fun, interesting read. Gonna start saving my pennies for a trip to Coronado! Starting with just saying “no” to those unnecessary purchases… :)
Haha, I love your dad! I do remember you loving coupons in college, too. :) I would love love LOVE to see you out here in Coronado… that would be a dream come true!
These are some great suggestions for using up what we already have. I’m as guilty as the next person about buying things I don’t really “need”. When I was making Christmas gifts this last year, I tried really hard to use up my stash of yarn and fabric instead of buying new. It wasn’t always easy — required a bit more creativity — but totally worth it in the end! Now I can buy new ones in good conscience! :) Need to try this with other areas of my life — like lotion and soaps!
P.S. I found your blog a few months ago, but then “lost” it when my computer crashed. Glad to have found it again! :) I’m a Californian too, up in the Foothills, in Auburn. **hi!**
Love all your thoughts and WELCOME BACK!!! So fun to have another California girl reading this blog. :)
Laurel, I’m a native of NorCal too…Sacramento! Just saying hi!
I just deleted my FB account as a means of saving time and being able to use it for tasks that I have been avoiding. I’m excited to see what happens once I get past the detox stage!
Wow, good for you! That’s a huge step. How’s the detox, though?!
I just wanted to say how much I loved this book! I got it from the library and was so sad to return it!
I have been trying to use up all of my beauty supplies, I donated 1/2 my scrapbooking supplies to the local women’s shelter, I handmade my Christmas gifts last year and have started to save as much money as possible! I now want to go to Paris!
I want to visit because of this book…it made me want to taste a macaroon, drink hot chocolate at Angela’s, and look for a cafe to write while sipping a warm drink.
I would love to win the letter as well! I would frame it because it is a work of art! I have thought about ordering one but it falls under ‘want’ instead of ‘need’ so I refocus on my dream of going to actual Paris rather than the painted letter.
My income is 31,000…so I can relate to how hard it is to save money, some months there isn’t any money to save depending on the circumstances.(the washer breaks down, etc.)
My biggest struggle is remembering what I actually need versus what I want…I can rationalize any want into a need! Hopefully I can make my goal in the next ten years!
You are completely inspiring, Jenn! You have done so much and done it so well. And I totally agree with you about rationalizing a want into a need. Wise words.
I like the ideas for saving money, but 100$ a day? I don’t spend that much in 3 days.
My personal way to save lots of money is the library. I read about 5-10 books every month so I save really much money since I borrow them from the library.
I don’t get the new publications there, which bothered me a lot at the beginning. But in the end there has been written so much brilliant literature before 2015 that I will survive to read books a year after they were first published.
YES to borrowing from the library. I’ve stopped buying books, even used books unless they are children’s classics. We get all our books from the library now. Our library last year was very poorly managed and never got new books, but now we have a fabulous library with all the new stuff, and I love it. It is such a blessing to enjoy all this for free! Best way to enjoy our tax dollars at work, right?!