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8 things 'Girls' can teach viewers about frugality

They HBO show stands in stark contrast to the excess of 'Sex and the City.' Fans of Lena Dunham's show can actually glean some tips for getting by in New York.

By Feb 6, 2014 3:44PM
This post comes from Elizabeth Sheer at partner site on MSN Money
Like generations of young people before them, the cast of HBO's "Girls" came to New York to make careers in the arts -- writing, acting, music. In the meantime, Hannah Horvath and her cohort have been working entry-level jobs, often in coffee shops.

Lena Dunham in a scene from HBO’s series ‘Girls’ © JoJo Whilden/HBO/APFor two-plus seasons, creator Lena Dunham's characters have been learning to live in an unforgiving, extremely expensive city on practically nothing (with more or less family support). This post-recession striving stands in stark contrast to Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolo Blahniks on "Sex and the City," HBO's other show about four women in New York. Fans of "Girls" can even pick up some tips for living in the big city. Warning: Potential spoilers ahead.

1. Choose your neighborhood wisely
The Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Hannah calls home, may not be as affordable as somewhere like Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the character of Charlie lives. Still, it's a better place to look than nearby Williamsburg, a former hipster enclave that's gone upscale. Rentenna, a website that tracks Brooklyn rents, identifies Greenpoint as an area with low median rent relative to the borough as a whole and savings of more than 25 percent over Williamsburg for a two-bedroom like Hannah's.

2. Have roommates -- as many as possible
It helps if they have jobs (or a monthly check from Grandma) and can pay rent. When Hannah's parents pulled their financial support in the first season, roommate Marnie had to come up with the full rent. Even if you're diligent about finding a cheaper neighborhood, cheap is a relative term in New York. You definitely wouldn't be able to live alone in Greenpoint on a barista/budding-ebook-author income.

3. Skimp on cable
In the first season Hannah reveals that she doesn't have cable, and you no longer need a cable subscription with a premium add-on to watch an HBO show. The first two episodes of the current season of "Girls" reside on YouTube (for a limited time) and you can watch the rest by mooching off anyone willing to share their HBO Go password. A high-speed Internet connection is all it takes to watch video online. With an inexpensive streaming device such as Google Chromecast, you can go a step further and watch on a TV.

4. Forgo a land line while you're at it
On "Sex and the City," Carrie and her friends were constantly calling each other via traditional telephone, right up through the early 2000s. But without a deal on a cable bundle, there's really no reason to have a land line anymore, assuming you have a cell phone. Although a smartphone is expensive to own, it can take the place of many other pieces of equipment, including a music player and a camera.

5. Don't even think about owning a car
Of course, this won't work in most other places, but there are plenty of cities with good enough mass transit to make a car unnecessary. When you must go by car, rent one. In most cases companies will rent to drivers 21 and older, but they add a fee if you're under 25. On "Girls," 24-year-old Hannah turned to her boyfriend, Adam, who's 25, to rent a car. Take a cue from him and save money by riding a bike around town.

6. Eat in
The characters on "Girls" rarely go to restaurants if they have to pay out of their own pockets. Instead they spend time in each other's apartments. Hannah serves her friends take-out tacos and store-bought ice cream in the third-season premiere. It's uncomfortable to do much cooking in a miniscule New York kitchen. However, even Hannah managed to make pad Thai for a "grown-up" (if ill-fated) dinner party last season.

7. Eat a lot of hors d'oeuvres if you must eat out
Much of the noshing on "Girls" goes on at the bars, clubs, and parties where the characters hang out -- generally on somebody else's dime. You can make a meal out of bar snacks if you have to, and you don't have to cook or pay. It may not seem like much, but for the most part Hannah's fridge contains yogurt and Cool Whip, making spring rolls look like a balanced meal. Working in a coffee shop also has its perks: You can always grab a leftover muffin or other day-old snack.

8. Be creative with decor
Charlie, Marnie's ex, impressed everyone with his striking, well-organized, and apparently DIY apartment in season two of "Girls." Seems he made the most of past carpentry and architecture office jobs. He also used found objects to make Marnie a Restoration Hardware-inspired coffee table. Ultimately, as fans will remember, he (ahem) reclaimed it.

More from Cheapism
Feb 7, 2014 9:25AM
The last place I need to learn about being frugal is some dim-witted TV show. And the last place on Earth I would want to live is new yourk.
Feb 6, 2014 5:49PM
Do the last part of number 7 and you are FIRED in most places
Feb 6, 2014 6:27PM
9. Screw your ugly boyfriend as often as possible.
Feb 7, 2014 6:15PM
Find a sucker that will pay for everything when on dates like my girlfriend did to me and then she said if your not spending a 100 dolars then this is not a real restaurant, it feels good not to have a girlfriend, no more Valentines Day for me!...I'm going to go play some poker.
Feb 11, 2014 12:40PM
It's like the opposite of sex and the city.  No labels, no restaurants, and no West Village apartments.
Feb 6, 2014 8:54PM
 Is it frugal to hire lesbians who cant lift a box of ammo for combat ? Yes democrats you are this stupid.
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