In early 2010, Janice MacLeod couldn’t take it anymore.
She wanted out of her job as a copywriter at an advertising agency. And she didn’t just want a new job. She wanted to quit and move to Paris and devote herself full-time to painting and writing.
What makes MacLeod different from most is that she actually did it. She decided to drastically change her money habits and look for ways to save, minimize expenses, and sell off what she could. She aimed to save or make about $US100 a day, which she could then turn into a $US100-a-day travel budget.
After cutting corners for a year and blogging about 100 ways to spend less, MacLeod saved up $US65,000 — enough to move to Paris in 2011 and use for two years of frugal living. She continues to live there today (with her new French husband) and has a book coming out about her journey called “Paris Letters.“
MacLeod says anyone can buy themselves some freedom with a little time and creativity. Below, she shares with Business Insider 10 simple ways that she cut costs and financed her dream:
Traded clothes and bric-a-brac at the thrift store for a tax receipt. This contributed to my overall tax refund.
Added small price tags to the finished paintings I made in my house. Visitors often bought without me feeling like I was selling: Some paintings were $US25 for small pieces, others were $US250 for bigger paintings.
Cleaned out closets like I was looking for loot. Sometimes I found some. Sure, I found the occasional $US5 bill, but what I really found was coffee cards — many pre-paid coffee cards that still had small balances. I had a lot of free coffees that year.
Started making oatmeal and popcorn on the stove, rather than fancy breakfasts or snacks. Oatmeal may have been the biggest money saver. The regular, plain oatmeal. One big bucket is a lot of breakfasts. Eating oatmeal also filled me up, gave me energy and kept me from making expensive nutritional errors by buying muffins and goodies at the coffee shop.
Went out on picnics instead of going to restaurants. Totally fun way to save money and visit friends. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this became good practice for a life in Paris. Picnics in parks and along the Seine are part of the culture. And it costs a fraction of what one would spend in a restaurant. Bonus: I used up the plastic utensils and chopsticks I had saved over time.
Stopped going to salad bars and started chopping my own vegetables. There is that joke about calling Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck.” Before my grand money-saving scheme, I was always at the salad bar paying way too much for a salad I could have made myself for a fraction of the price. I changed my salad bar habit with a bit of planning. The key is to buy the vegetables at the market or farmers market, come home, and prep them for a salad right away. Not later. If I didn’t prep right way, the vegetables would lay to waste in the back of my refrigerator, forgotten and limp.
Started going to the library. Books, movies, and CDs are all free! Once I realised that I would travel after quitting my job, the library became the most wonderful place to find DVDs about distant places I may want to visit once I saved up enough to quit my job. Plus, I started listening to Italian and French language CDs, which came in handy later.
Declined a few out-of-state weddings of people I wasn’t really close to. Sending them a more generous cash gift was more cost-effective financially and energetically. Let’s be real. If they were very close friends, I would have gone to the wedding. But there is nothing wrong with saying no to some invitations.