About this series: Welcome to Scrimp City—an anonymous, week-in-the-life chronicle that provides a look at women who are trying to be smarter about money, whether that means saving more, spending strategically, or just being more comfortable managing their hard-earned cash.
In each installment, we follow one woman’s progress toward a money goal or challenge they’ve set for themselves. We learn about their typical spending/saving habits and see if, after their self-imposed money challenge, they come away feeling just a *little* more financially-savvy.
Meet Our Saver
Job title:Finance Project Controller
Monthly salary (after taxes):$4,147
Monthly rent: $900
Housing arrangements:Two-bedroom apartment, split with one roommate.
Total monthly fixed expenses: ~$500
Total debt:$33,000 ($30,000 student loans and $3,000 credit card debt)
How I got here and why I’m trying to save
I understand the irony that I work in finance and I’m terrible with money. Trust me, it makes me laugh everyday—especially when I look at my sad savings account. Sometimes I feel like I just can’t stop myself from making bad money decisions. Home decor, shoes, and travel are my vices of choice. It’s actually something I talk a lot about in therapy. My therapist and I have come to the conclusion that because I grew up relatively wealthy, when I was pushed out into the adult world after college and my parents told me I had to be financially independent, I could no longer afford the lifestyle that I’d grown up with (yes, I realize what a brat that makes me sound!). But once you’re used to not sharing a bathroom with anyone your entire life, how do you go to sharing with three other people in a shoebox-sized apartment?! To put it plainly: I know that I spend outside my means and I know it’s not sustainable. It’s something I want to change.
I’ve convinced myself that, despite rarely checking my bank statements, I use the 50/30/20 method (where 50 percent of your check goes to living expenses, 30 percent to wants, and 20 percent to savings or debt). But checking my statements from the last few months…let’s call it 60/40/0. I have a little over $1,000 in my bank account right now (which I haven’t added to, or withdrawn from in a while), but I should have way more. I split my college tuition with my parents: They paid half, and I took out loans for the other half. To instill a sense of responsibility in me (which clearly hasn’t worked very well…). I really should be focused on paying off those—but instead I’ve prioritized decorating my apartment, buying clothes and shoes for every event on my calendar, and booking plane tickets I really can’t afford. I don’t ever share the details of my finances with family or friends, I think because I’m pretty embarrassed about how irresponsible I can be.
I do want to buy a condo or a house one day. But, for the more foreseeable future, I want to improve my credit score and add more regularly to my savings account. I also want to chill with all of my reckless spending, and adopt more of a “treat yourself once in a while” attitude.
Does my banking app count?
How much I *usually* spend: $400/week
My *new* weekly spending: Less than $200/week
So, I started the day doing what most people who are trying to save money should not do: I bought a coffee. It’s part of my daily routine, like washing my face or brushing my teeth. On the way to work, I buy a coffee from a cafe close to my office almost every morning (and sometimes again in the afternoon). I’m in a chai latte with a shot of espresso kind of mood (-$5.25). I swear to myself that I won’t spend anymore money today unless absolutely necessary. I packed a salad for lunch and a bunch of snacks, so I’m good until dinner. I go to a pilates class straight after work, but I already have a monthly pass. I met one of my friends afterwards for dinner and a glass of wine (because *balance*), but she missed my birthday party last week so she paid for my meal. So sweet!
Okay, today I got my shit together and didn’t buy a single coffee all day. I did, however, have an unexpectedly pricey night out. I went on a date with a guy from Hinge that ended up being a terrible match. W had virtually nothing in common—so after I paid for myown drink (-$10), I met up with some girlfriends to make myself feel better! I Uber’d to meet them at one of our fav pizza places (-$9), where we split two medium pizzas and two bottles of red wine (-$29.87) and gossiped for like, three hours straight. I Uber’d home (-$11), showered, and went to bed practically forgetting what a boring date I went on earlier that night! A success in my book.
I woke up with a sore throat, so I told my boss I’d be working home today. My fridge was pretty empty (plus I was so tired), so I ordered pho for lunch (-$12) and had the other half of it for dinner. Being sick and WFH is a bummer, because I’m still supposed stay on top of my inbox and all of these requests, despite the fact that I’m nonstop coughing and sneezing and desperately need to sleep. As soon as I finished up with my work for the day, I took a hot shower to try and clear up my sinuses and was in bed by 8 p.m.
Still felt like trash today, so I stayed home again which I could tell my boss wasn’t happy about. But would he rather me come in and snot all over everyone? I don’t think so. And I still worked all day, it’s not like I took an actual sick day (even though I really should have!). Didn’t have the energy to go full-on grocery shopping, so I left my house for the first time in two days to go to a nearby drug store to buy some popsicles for my throat, and some canned chicken noodle soup (-$6.24).
Thankfully I’m feeling much better today. I went into work, and I guess there’s an office plague going around because it was pretty much a ghost town—including my boss who was also sick. Needless to say, I didn’t do much today. But I did do some online shopping, despite my best efforts not to. This woman I follow on Instagram who makes pottery was having a sample sale, so I bought a really beautiful flower vase (-$61). Yes, it was pricy for a piece of pottery, but I’ve loved her work forever and usually it’s several hundred dollars! I also bought my mom a tea cup that was on sale (-$25) because she collects them. I got hers sent directly to her house in Arizona, which is an added shipping fee (-$10). I know she’ll love a little surprise gift!
I knew I was super close to going over my spending limit, so I turned down going to dinner at this pretty trendy new restaurant with two of my girlfriends, like we’d been planning since last weekend. I haven’t had that kind of restraint in ages, so I’m actually pretty proud of myself! Even though my friends were pretty annoyed. Instead my roommate and I just hang out and watch Modern Love on Netflix and cry. She made some pasta and garlic bread with her own groceries, but offered me some so I happily accepted! It was a low-key Saturday, but glad I spent $0!
My friend and her boyfriend are out of town, so they asked me to go over and feed their cat and water their plants. They wanted me to spend some QT with their cat, Arielle, because she needs to be the center of attention at all times (relatable) and gets lonely easily. So I hung out at their place all afternoon to indulge her and eat their snacks—I mean, they said I could! I said goodbye to Arielle and walked over to my pilates studio for a class. Again, I have a plan there so I don’t have to pay anything today. Later that night I tried my hardest not to give in…but I ended up ordering a pizza (-$21) for me and my roommate. I felt guilty that she fed me the night before, but was too lazy to go grocery shopping and cook something! It is a lazy Sunday, after all.
Total Spent: $200.36
Off by 36 cents?! I was so freaking close! I still did a good job not going overboard with excess spending this week. I’m proud of myself overall! Keeping a diary of my spending really gave some interesting insight into where I’m blowing most of my money. I’m going to take that extra $200 I normally would’ve spent and put that towards my student loan payment!
—As told to Sara Tardiff