“Budget” and “diet” have very bad connotations. They imply deprivation and strict rules for many. That’s why financial planners prefer “spending plan.” It’s not about restriction and sacrifice. It’s about priorities. You only have so much money. What do you want to do with these limited resources? It’s your choice. A spending plan is as flexible as you want to make it. The more focused it is, the faster you can transition. Is that worth it to you?
This isn’t about sucking all the joys and pleasures from your life. This is about deciding what’s most important to you. I guarantee there are things listed below you could do without. I cut out a ton of them myself, and kept others. It’s all about priorities.
Exercise 8: revise your monthly costs
Remember that pain in the butt Exercise 5? Well, it’s time to take another look at your monthly spending. Weigh everything on the list against transition: which is more important to you, cable or hormones? Daily newspaper or electrolysis? That’s what you have to do with each item.
Here’s a big list of ideas. More to come. Eventually, I will also add links to all my tips on reducing transition costs.
My top 12 tips
- Get good insurance
- An insurance policy that covers trans healthcare is the best way to help pay for medical transition. Not all policies cover trans healthcare. You must read your policy and make sure.
- Many families with insurance cover children under age 25. If you are under 25 and on your family’s policy, ask your parents to review the policy.
- Many corporations offer a healthcare benefit that covers transgender health. Getting a job at one and meeting the requirements can save you money.
- Many colleges and universities offer student health plans, some of which cover trans health services.
- Many self-employed people are self-insured.
- It is possible to transition without insurance, called paying out of pocket. That’s what I did by taking the steps below.
- See the section on insurance for more.
Make a spending plan
- If you need money for transition, you must make a spending plan. use a great program or app like Mint that helps you see how you manage money. Your plan has to be realistic, and you have to stick with it. No excuses!
Change your housing
- Housing is probably your biggest expense if you don’t live with family, so it’s the easiest place to save. Move somewhere smaller. Move to a cheaper area. Get a roommate. Move back home.
Change your eating and drinking
- This is probably your second biggest expense. Learn to make basic dishes at home. Buy food in bulk. Don’t buy processed foods. Trade the junk food for healthy options. Trade the flavored beverages for water. Stop drinking, smoking, and using drugs: they all cost money and lost time.
Change your transportation
- This is usually the third biggest expense after housing and food. Consider a walking, biking, or taking a bus or train instead of a car if possible. I got rid of my car and biked to work for 7 years.
Don’t use cash
- You want a record of every transaction. Cash makes that hard. If you get paid in cash, put ALL of it in your bank account immediately. Split bills and pay people back with apps like Venmo.
Skip expensive conveniences
- Bring your own coffee to work or school. Make your lunch and snacks at home. Don’t use vending machines. Don’t eat fast food. Don’t use bodegas and convenience stores. Don’t use rideshares and food delivery.
Get the highest-paying job you can stand
- I got a job in advertising to pay for transition. I hated it, but it made a lot of money. Sometimes you have to do something you don’t want in order to get something you do want.
Get a side gig
- If your main job doesn’t pay enough, use your time off to make other money. Paint houses. Clean toilets. I’ve done those for money. Set up an Etsy shop. Ask neighbors about odd jobs. You are only limited by your imagination.
Barter and trade
- Ask someone if you can do or make something for them in exchange for something valuable. Fix their computer in exchange for dinner. Clean their office in exchange for a laser hair removal session.
Pay yourself first
- When you get paid, put your money for major expenses in a separate account. Put in the amount you promised to save first, every single time. Many banks let you open a free linked savings account and will even set up an automated transfer..
Make yourself valuable
- If you are a valued employee, you will get extra hours, or bonuses, or promotions. If you are valued by clients, you will get more work and more referrals. If you are valued by friends and communities, they will support your side gig, your crowdfunding campaign, you name it.
Thought starters for modifying your spending
I’ve listed over five dozen things you might consider when looking for ways to reduce spending. This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just to get you thinking in the right frame of mind. You are only limited by your imagination and discipline.
ShelterTrade downSell your house or condo for a cheaper one. Switch to a cheaper apartment. Rent/mortgage is usually the largest expense in someone’s fixed costs. That means any change done here will be the most dramatic. Get roommatesCut your costs in half or less. Roommates might be a hassle sometimes, but they can be a huge money-saver. Do your own maintenance and repairsAnd put any repairs in perspective of your transition. Is remodeling your kitchen more important than transition? Until you’ve reached your goals, try to keep repairs to necessary ones.
UtilitiesCut out the callingUse email or letters instead of calling long-distance. Join a long-distance calling program. Save on heatClose off unused rooms to save on heating. Lower your thermostat and wear warmer clothing. Use a humidifier in winter. Moist air feels warmer than dry air. Get by with lessUse fans and space heaters instead of central air conditioning and heat. Conserve waterFix leaks, put a brick in your toilet tank and install a low flow showerhead if you pay for water.
Check your policy info
If you’ve moved or changed your sex legally, your rate might be lower now.
Raise your deductibles
This can lower your premium, but it also means you will take a bigger financial hit if something happens.
FoodDrink waterIt’s good for you, it’s cheap, and it fills you up so you don’t eat as much. Soda, powdered drinks, etc. work out to $1 to $6 a gallon. That adds up fast. Don’t do bottled water unless your tap water is undrinkable.Plus, if you’re on an androgen blocker, you should be drinking lots of water anyway. Eat healthyEating healthy can be cheaper. For instance, I’d have to eat 14 bags of Cheetos in a day to get enough riboflavin. Don’t throw food outWould you tear up a dollar bill and throw it in the trash? That’s what you do every time you toss out spoiled food. If you aren’t eating something before it goes bad, buy less. Use leftovers right away. Freeze perishables that can take it. Reduce your meat intakeNot only is it healthier to eat vegetarian, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. I haven’t bought meat at the store in 2 years. You’ll get plenty of protein from other sources, but if you’re worried, eat tofu or beans and rice, or peanut butter, or dairy products. Buy non-perishables in bulkEat at home Reduce eating out, Bring lunch to work, don’t buy breakfast Don’t buy anything from a vending machineBring snacks with you. It’s cheaper, and you should have something healthier, anyway. Lay off the fancy coffeesThey add up fast. Caffeine’s not that good for you, anyway, but if you need it, take a No-Doz with some water. Cut out convenience itemsOunce for ounce, a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner costs four to 10 times as much as making a big batch from scratch. The more prepared a food, the more expensive usually. If you can make it yourself, do so. Make a listAnd don’t take the kids or go when you’re hungry. Stick to the list Lay off the junk foodIt’s called junk food for a reason. It’s expensive, bad for you, blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat now and then (my weakness is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), just try to be sensible. Use couponsBut only if it was something you planned to get anyway. Get a preferred customer cardMany larger grocery stores offer discounts to frequent customers. Buy generics/store brandsSome generics are actually as good as the brand name counterparts, I’ve found. Go to the big storeConveniences stores and corner markets are real budget-busters. Plan ahead so you don’t have to make these trips.
TransportationTrade downGet a cheaper car, save that much a month in payments and insurance and gas, etc. Take public transportationMost larger cities have this available, and in some cities, it can save you a ton of money. Do minor maintenance on your car yourselfAn ounce of prevention… CarpoolCarmates, like roommates, can save a lot of money, especially if you have to pay for parking at work. Ride a bike or walk for short errands, or even commutingYou get the exercise, you save on gas… I saved $1,200 in two years by riding my bike to work instead of taking the train. That’s a trachea shave! Take the bus or train instead of flyingIf you are taking a long trip, the bus or train might be a cheaper option. Also, do you really need to take that trip?
Family costsFind cheap ways to have funPicnics, museums, whatever isn’t going to cost a lot. A family night of board games. A family night of cooking together. You are only limited by your imagination. Look at money spent on kidsKids come first. You had ’em, you’re responsible. Their needs come before yours. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t spending unwisely on your kids. Take a look at what expenses are from your kids. Can you eliminate anything without depriving them? Do they have old clothes or toys you could sell? Do you give them money whenever they ask? Would a packed lunch cost less than a school lunch? Are you getting them a lot of unhealthy snacks, or buying expensive convenience products like juice boxes? Go through and itemize children’s expenses, too. You may find items or patterns that could be changed without causing problems.
Personal careReduce the trips to a salonDo your own nails. Cut out a haircut or highlight here and there, as long as it doesn’t make you look bad. Keep the makeup simpleA few good items are all you need. A really good foundation is key, and I recommend getting some nice brushes, but the rest can be drugstore stuff. Invest in quality, not a lot of cheap stuff. Less is more with makeup. Skin careKeeping skin clean and healthy will reduce makeup costs by allowing you to use less.
Health costsQuit smokingHow does this save money? Jeez, how shall I count the ways? Besides increasing your insurance premium, your cleaning bills, etc., smoking costs hundreds to thousands of dollars a year, depending on how many cancer sticks you’re suckin’ down in a day. You’re more likely to get sick and miss work, and you put yourself at a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke, perhaps quadrupled if you’re on estrogens. It screws up your vocal cords and makes it harder to feminize your voice. Smoking can also affect the outcome of SRS and other procedures by diminishing your circulation. There are very few things that are worse for you when transitioning. Reduce or eliminate alcoholAlcohol is not only expensive, but it stresses your liver, which will already be stressed from processing hormones. Plus, some studies indicate it reduces the effects of hormones. Buying wine or beer at restaurants can end up being half the bill. If you do plan to drink, try to keep the amount and expense low. Lay off the drugsHmm. You’d think this would be obvious, but if you are addicted to drugs, you should get into a program. Nothing sucks up money faster than a drug habit. Stay healthyBeing healthy means less trips to the doctor and less missed work. That adds up. Ounce of prevention… Get checkupsYou will probably be seeing a doctor for hormonal treatment anyway, so use that time to get looked over. Make a drugstore listYou should have a shopping list for the drugstore, just like the grocery store. Stick to the list. Get genericsStore brands can save a lot. For instance, generic minoxidil costs half what Rogaine costs, even though it’s the same stuff. Take full advantage of benefitsIf you can get two dental cleanings a year as part of your plan, do it. If you can get eyeglasses every year, do that, too. Most plans have incentive for preventive things.
Gifts/outside givingI made it myselfMake a thoughtful gift yourself instead of buying something. Some of the best gifts I ever got were handmade. Donate timeIf you want to help, perhaps this is an option instead of giving money. Volunteering makes you feel good, and it can sometimes be even more valuable to a charitable cause!
ClothesMake a shopping listChange from nice clothes when you get home to reduce the chance of stains and wear. Definitely do not cook or clean in in nice clothes, or at least wear an apron. Sell old clothesKeep it basic. I recommend the Simple Chic series of books for excellent advice on having a classy, versatile, inexpensive wardrobe. Choose quality over quantityA few really good pieces look better and last longer than a lot of cheap ones. Clean clothes according to instructionsSaves wear and tear, and helps clothes look better and last longer. Hand wash instead of dry-cleaning when possibleIf you have the choice, hand wash something in Woolite. Saves a bunch over time. Look in thrift and discount storesBut only buy things you need anyway. Let clothes air-dryInstead of using a dryer. Especially towels, and other heavy stuff.
MiscellaneousDon’t buy door-to-door and Tupperware type stuffThe temptation to buy, especially from friends and cute little girl scouts, is too high. Find a bank with good dealsSome banks don’t charge for ATMs or monthly service charges. These are unnecessary costs. Reorder bank checks through the mailYou can save 2-3 times off bank checks Only subscribe to things you can’t get at the library or onlineAnd don’t impulse buy newsstand copies. They’re very expensive in comparison to a subscription Cut back on moviesRent movies instead of going to the theater, or at least see a matinee Barter for servicesInstead of paying someone to babysit or feed pets when you’re away, offer to do the same for friends. Get rid of cable TVDo you really need 128 channels? That’s four to six hundy a year right there. Drop unnecessary membershipsIf you don’t need to belong to an organization, health club, etc., quit. Quit your record and book clubsYou end up buying stuff you wouldn’t buy otherwise, anyway. Cancel subscriptionsAny subscription you can do without should go. Don’t buy stuff from television shopping channelsImpulse buying for couch potatoes. A scary combination. Make internet purchases carefullyThere are great deals to be found, but don’t buy things on impulse over the net. Avoid catalog shoppingCatalogs are popular with some TGs in early stages of transition, because you don’t have to go to a store and possibly be embarrassed by a clocking. However, be careful not to buy too much. Unless you really need a certain item, don’t get it. Wait for the discounted items.
If you make a mistake, don’t fret
Some people let a small setback or lapse in discipline be their excuse for quitting a plan altogether. Remember what I said about excuses? Don’t be one of those excuse people. Everyone slips once in a while. Just try to step back, see what caused this to happen, then move forward with a plan for dealing with it in the future.
Next: Modify your timetable