A blog about trying to make yourself better at making and designing websites. Also about random shit.


I've been bad at money my whole life, and I think it's about time I wore some adult pants and go on a personal journey to take a good hard look at my finances. I've done a lot in the last month reading about budgeting, retirement, saving money, and investing, but here I just want to talk about how my city (Philadelphia) has been helping me cut down on my biggest expenses.

Without even looking at my bank account, I know from the get-go that a bulk of my spending goes to both transportation and various non-essential media. That's books, audiobooks, comic books, and movies.

A fifth of the cost

I've rationalized that the convenience and time that I save using Lyft outweighs the costs of travel. Besides, what's $10 every now and then? I still use the subway sometimes so it wouldn't hurt to go on a Lyft ride, right? I looked at my spending in August, and it looks like I racked up a pretty terrifying amount: $206. That's around:

  • 39 Shake Shack burgers
  • Half an iPhone 7
  • 1.7 years of Amazon Prime membership
A screenshot of the spreadsheet that I made that breaks down the cost of every Lyft ride I took in August.

Holy shit. It turns out that my "every now and then" attitude is costing me a lot of money. It turns out that the bus and subway system is pretty good in Philly. If I used it exclusively in August, I would've only spent $42!

So it's been two weeks since I deleted Lyft and started taking public transportation in the city. While it's not as convenient, I feel good about the money that I'll be saving in the long run.

This video from PBS has a good breakdown on how convenience can end up hurting our wallets, too:

A screenshot of the show called Two Cents from PBS

Of course there are limitations to public transportation—especially when going outside of the city. In those cases, I've been using Zipcar which can sometimes be cheaper than taking an Uber or Lyft.

My library can do that?!

Thanks to a good friend of mine, I recently learned that being a member of The Free Library of Philadelphia will not only get you e-books and audiobooks but also comic books, music, movies, language learning (it has Filipino!), a subscription to the NYTimes, and a subscription to Lynda.com!

Borrowing also jives with my reading habits since there are some books that I get tired of reading. Borrowing means that I could simply return it instead of gathering dust in my shelf. In the last two weeks I've listened to The Index Card, Think Like A Freak, and Being Mortal. These three combined would have cost me $79.31 if I actually bought these audiobooks.

Of course there are downsides. It could take weeks or months to borrow a popular book (e-books and audiobooks work the same way) and some titles might not be available in your favorite medium. (I prefer audiobooks since I like listening when I'm doing chores.)