Dollar Store Dilettante: How to save money the hipster way

10 way to save money the hipster wayTo the hipsters out there who want to save money, here are 10 guidelines that define my life as a broke hipster in a big city.

1. Payeth not more than $20 for a show.

Forget the legacy acts and overpriced reunion tours. Keep an eye on OhMyRockness (or Pollstar if you're not in a major city) and go see new bands from whom you've heard one or two songs. Or none. Trust me from experience: Shows at mid-size and larger venues generally (and increasingly, in the era of easy downloading) pack in the jerks and bore you to tears. Even if they sound potentially awesome.

Ignore this commandment, and thou shalt sippeth the bitterness of Bud Light, pay $9 for it, and do so whilst listening to college freshmen in Guster shirts garble the words to "Cut Your Hair." You've been warned.

Exceptions allowed for the following: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Lady Gaga.

2. Payeth not more than $2 for a generic beer.

My sardonic ex-roommate once summed up my city of Chicago's hipster culture as "dudes with ironic mustaches making ironic quips while ironically drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon." It's true that PBR often gets a rap as the swill of choice for the blue-collar-wannabe jerks most people call hipsters these days. But I stand by the following: The most interesting people in town tend to go where they pour the cheapest drinks. Live in dive bars, meet them, and watch your social circle blossom.

3. Thou shalt support thine local arts.

Supporting the local arts often falls in the same category as flossing your teeth. Namely, things that everyone says they do and that almost no one actually does. Rather than pay more glib lip service myself, I'll show you tips to change this in the coming weeks and months.

4. Use thine library card, not thine credit card.

Stop buying David Foster Wallace novels you'll never actually read and just borrow DFW novels you'll never actually read. If the local library seems a few too many steps to muster (hipsters are lazy) try out a free exchange like BookMooch, where you hook up with other readers to trade for the stuff you want. Used bookstores are also a good bet, but I'm biased -- I live in a city that hosts the coolest used book store on the planet.

5. Artists, promote thyselves shamelessly.

An artist friend of mine once slapped out fifty black squiggles in Adobe Illustrator in five minutes and bet me that, although she couldn't sell prints of them on the street for $5, she could market them as "post-modern deconstruction pieces" to upscale buyers for $100 apiece. Two weeks later, on my daily walk to work, I saw three enormous prints of said squiggles adorning the windows of a major national bank, and another 12 wound up in private collections throughout Chicago. She laughed all the way to the bank, as they say.

A bit cynical "Emperor's New Clothes" experiment yes, but it proves the point that the value of your work lies in how you sell it. My friend simply walked into these businesses, announced herself as an up-and-coming artist and sold them schlock to prove that point. That kind of money is out there for your taking. Don't be afraid to market your art, whatever it might be, just because you're not confident as an artist yet.

6. Maketh friends with a disc jockey or two.

I don't know where the good parties are, but my DJ friends do. The next time you see someone spinning, ask them what they're playing and what they're up to. DJs get hooked up just about wherever they play, and they tend to share the wealth. With all those perks, in fact, you might even think about becoming one yourself (sound of a future column spark igniting).

7. Thou shalt embrace public and free transit.

Even if you don't have great bus or subway service in your area, riding your bike ranks right up there with walking your adorable Labradoodle as a great way to meet fascinating people. And if you live in the right city, you get to gang up and take back the streets once a month in a massive bike ride.

8. Thou shalt endure financial discomfort in service of a memorable experience.

Sometimes missing an awesome event costs more than being broke. I'm always willing to spend my last $25 for the next two weeks on an event I can't pass up and figure out the rest later.

9. Push your spending toward the two extremes.

This is perhaps the Golden Rule. Make fun of hipster types if you like, but most Europeans make fun of Americans because our idea of splurging lies in washing down Jalapeño Poppers with Amstel Light at T.G.I. Friday's once a week. Cut the mediocre, the generic and the mid-grade out of your life and your spending habits. Live on PB&J for two months, and then rock out on a $200 dinner at the best restaurant you can find. And, if you have trouble remembering this one, then think of it in terms of this paraphrase from a fairly authoritative source: "Be not lukewarm."

10. Hipsters, if you must deck thyselves in American Apparel, get it cheap.

Really, I just needed an even 10 here. Nine just doesn't have the same ring, you know?
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