Living the Life of a Not-So-Starving Artist

On a recent visit to home, my dad walked in the house with a bag of produce from the farmers market, a few things from Home Depot and new clothes from the Goodwill. He’s genuinely proud of his thrift store treasure: brand new navy Dockers shorts and a baggy T-shirt. He shows them off to my mother who grimaces as though he’s brought a dead animal into the house:

“Jack, I don’t know why you do this. We have enough money to go to Macy’s or Target for God sakes.”

My father counters her with the logic I have taken to heart from him: why pay more when you don’t have to?

“Well, just make sure you let me wash them before you wear them. You don’t know where they’ve been…” she concedes.

I am very much my father’s daughter. Tennis, swimming, bike riding and gardening are some of our favorite things to do together.  My mom doesn’t like to get dirty, or sweaty, so we mostly talk about life over coffee. Dad and I don’t talk much, he’s taught me an almost Zen-like approach to being in the moment of whatever activity we’re doing. So this post is dedicated to my dad who taught me to live the good life on a budget and take pride in doing so.

This is also dovetailing on Monday’s post on Living a Life of Grace.

In addition to my weekend serving job, I now sell wine at a neighborhood store 10 minutes from my house. Overwhelmed by the feeling like I have no money and all my time is spent working, I needed to reevaluate how I was spending the little money that I have. Instead of living the life of a starving artist, I am finding ways to live a fulfilled and healthy life on a budget. In my precious time not spent working, these are some things I am committed to:


I eat. Meals. I shop at the farmers market for produce and meats.  Yeah, I actually cook at home: last week I made beef stew from scratch for my roommates and myself. I rarely buy snacks or meals from stores. If I’m buying food prepared by someone else, it’s a rare treat, like a doughnut from Dough (that’s worth it) or exploring a neighborhood restaurant once a week. I invested in a very nice pot to make large meals that I can eat throughout the week. One of my roommates is a vegetarian so I’m learning to cook a lot more with vegetables. I’m trying to treat eating as the communal activity it was meant to be, so I make a point to cook in large batches and share with my roommates. We’ve also implemented the house rule to recycle and compost.



I exercise. I’ve taken time everyday to work out: whether it be running, yoga, or an exercise youtube video. A quick ode to my dad, he could compete in triathlons if he wanted to. He quit smoking 10 years ago and since then the man goes on 20 miles bike rides, works out at the gym everyday and eats like he’s training for a marathon. I follow his example of treating my body like a temple. 



I have scoured NYC’s thrift shops. Buffalo Xchange is by far my favorite. There is also an awesome Goodwill store in the upper west side. I’m currently hunting for a new winter coat. I’ve furnished my apartment with scores from Housing Works and the Salvation Army. I’m using glass jars instead of plastic Tupperware containers. One thing I have yet to try is canning summer fruits before the cold takes over.


Living a good life does not mean sacrificing much, but reevaluating what is worth your time and money. A few years ago, a friend discovered The Hedonism Handbook by Michael Flocker. I am a self-proclaimed hedonist and I aim to treat my body like a temple. I pursue my passions -the arts- and grow my mind and my understanding of the world around me, in turn expressing it through theater. I do not think of my lifestyle as cutting corners, but rather deeply appreciating what I can do with what I have. I was never spoiled as a kid, and I thank both of my parents for raising me with a sense that that I even as a small being I have the responsibility to give back to the world. My J. Crew may not be handed to me by a bitter doorman, and instead picked out from the racks of Goodwill store for a third of the price. The point being I still look great in what I’m wearing, it doesn’t matter how much it cost. 




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