I moved to New York City with a dollar and a dream. OK, I had more than a dollar in my pocket but it wasn't very much. Right after graduating college, I moved to the city on a whim after getting a call from a hiring manager at a magazine I loved. She offered me an internship position and I went for it in hopes that it would turn into a job. My parents were skeptical about me living across the country from them and on such a small salary, but I was convinced I would have a permanent job in no time. But things didn't necessarily turn out the way I wanted them to.
I went through six months of sleeping on an air mattress in one of my best friend's apartments, living off of $20 a week, and lots of crying. Fast-forward to a year later and things are way better. I'm working at my dream job, moving into a beautiful Brooklyn apartment soon, and getting better at budgeting day by day.
But money is still very tight. I'm only 23 and still learning, but here is how I've maintained my happiness through it all.
1. Be grateful for what you already have.
When you can't carelessly spend your money the way that you'd like, it's so easy to complain. Sometimes you forget about the things you should be thankful for: a roof over your head, clothes on your body, friends, family, etc. You have to remind yourself that things could be way, way worse and someone out there is in a shittier situation than you. Practicing gratitude, even in the smallest ways, will make a big difference.
2. Don't stress about bills, but accept them because they're going to be in your life forever.
You know what they say, there's no point in stressing over things you can't control. Whether you like it or not, a part of being an independent "grown-up" is paying bills. Every month, you should factor them into your budget prior to frivolously spending your money. Even if all your money goes to bills, be happy that you're a responsible adult.
3. Do fun, free stuff with friends.
Get creative about how you spend your free time. Not everything costs money. Some of my most memorable times with friends haven't cost a dime. Have picnics in the park, and go to free art museums or street fairs. Especially if you live in a metropolitan area, your options are endless. Don't be ashamed to look for free stuff or pass on a dinner invite because your funds are looking kind of low.
4. Meal prep during the week so you won't feel bad about splurging on the weekends.
If you don't know how to cook, you better teach yourself now. You will thank yourself later because meal prepping saves you soooo much money. Blowing all your money on takeout every other day of your life is cutting your weekend budget in half. Instead, get up and go grocery shopping. Start with something simple: protein and veggies. Boom! You're done. Make big portions of everything so you can have it for lunch the next few days.
5. Remember that this is only temporary.
You have to constantly remind yourself that this is just the beginning. You might not have all the money in the world right now but who knows what you'll have five years from now? To practice this mindset, set feasible financial and career goals for yourself at the beginning of each month. Set yearly goals too. Pushing through this tough time will add a hell of a lot of character to your testimony.
6. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
Don't be fooled, many people in their 20s are struggling. You are not alone. Everyone's in the midst of figuring it out, so keep those people around you to confide in, vent with, and to exchange advice.
7. Pregame with your friends before you go out.
I know you're no stranger to a good ol' pregame. It's one college habit you shouldn't feel bad about not giving up just yet. Instead of getting depressed when you look at your open tab from the bar the morning after, drink before you go out during a pregame with your friends. It makes so much more sense. All your friends pitch in by either bringing different kinds of alcohol or splitting one huge bottle. Plus, it's more fun having tipsy, pre-dance parties before the real party with your friends in the comfort of your own home.
8. Be frugal and fashionable.
You must become an excellent thrift shopper, bargain hunter, and clothes recycler (meaning you know how to rewear your clothes a shit-ton of ways). Who says you can't look cute AF with your a shirt you found on the sale rack or at the thrift store? Because you can. And I bet you can also rewear your same favorite jeans a bunch of times and people wouldn't even notice. Shopping sprees just aren't realistic RN and that's OK. You can still slay daily, just on a budget.
9. Make happy hour your favorite hour.
Why pay full price for your drinks when you can get them for half the price (food included)? Happy houring is literally one of my fave hobbies because it means cheap drinks, cheap food, good friends, and good vibes. You won't be nervous to get the bill when it's over, plus, it's fun to see how many cocktails you can have on the clock before it's over!
10. Recognize that you are rich in so many other ways.
You have to change your outlook on happiness and realize that money isn't everything. Learn to appreciate the small stuff because things with monetary value can bring only so much joy. Be rich in love, positivity, and knowledge. Good things will come back to you tenfold when you're working toward your dreams and making the most of your life right now.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.