By Serena Kim @goserenakim 

Surviving as a writer and a creative in this economic climate is rough. And raise your hand if you’re a single mom. The Big Sick, otherwise known as the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020, has made our challenge that much harder. Every month squeezes my bank accounts from both ends. Something’s gotta give! I’ve learned a few hacks that have saved me substantial funds. I’m not talking about skipping your daily macchiato or your biweekly mani/pedi. We’re way beyond that. We’re clipping coupons. We’re holding off. We’re missing meals. So in lieu of that, let me introduce my top five ways to save money. 

1.Learn how to hand wash your delicates. 

Dry cleaning a sweater could run you $6 US or more. Why not just soak it in the sink with a little liquid soap? You then squeeze it gently, rinse, and repeat, until the water runs clear. Lay the sweater out on a towel and let it dry. If you can’t be bothered, try washing your delicates in the machine, and then lay them out to dry. Anything to avoid that huge drycleaning bill! 

2. Check out ebooks from your public library. 

Locked inside with nothing to do, I have been reading books on my Kindle like crazy. I’m learning so much, but it can be an expensive habit. Kindle Prime costs at least $10 a month. So I’ve learned to navigate the bizarre and outdated LA Public Library website for free books. There’s a great selection of bestsellers, romance and history novels,  and magazines. You can even place books on hold; an email comes when one’s ready to read (or listen to). Books live on your ereader for three weeks, before they go poof! 

3. Apply for financial assistance. 

If you live in Los Angeles and you make under $3,000 a month, you are eligible for the

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which could greatly reduce your gas and electric bill. Also, California has a food stamp program known as SNAP. If you make less than $1726 a month, you can qualify for an EBT card loaded up with hundreds of dollars that you can spend on free range eggs, organic milk, sourdough bread, basmati rice, and fresh local peaches. Imagine the possibilities! 

4. Try shopping vintage. 

I encourage you to buy vintage clothes because it’s cooler, less expensive, and less wasteful. Did you know that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter of the environment after petroleum industries? Just imagine your last H&M purchase bobbing around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Vintage clothing apps like thredUp, Poshmark, and eBay, let you filter out your size and favorite brands. Pro tip: Use a tape measure to get an accurate sense of your body’s dimensions and match it against the measurements provided in the details. Trust those inches more than the “sizes.” 

5. Understand the stock market. 

When you barely have enough money to make ends meet, investing in the stock market seems ludicrous. But trust me, it won’t always be like this. You will prosper. You will thrive. And when that happens, you should open an online brokerage account at TD Ameritrade, Etrade, Vanguard, or Charles Schwab. From there, you can buy a stock, which is a little piece of the company. If it costs $100, and the price goes up 5% to $105, then you will have made a cool $5 off of your investment. Now imagine if you had bought 10 of those $100 stocks. Your profit would be $50. Something to consider – homework time! 

Share your favorite financial hacks!

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