Money

I’m 35 And I’m Taking A Gap Year—So What?

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
Quick Bio:

Job title:Social media at non-profit

Age:35

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Monthly salary (after taxes): $3,933

Monthly rent: $750

Housing arrangements: Share one-bedroom with girlfriend

Total monthly fixed expenses: $350

Total debt: $5,000 credit card debt

How I got here and why I’m trying to save
How to sum up me + money:

My parents always told me I’d never make decent money working in non-profit, but I knew I wanted to pursue it anyway. Making a difference is what mattered most to me. And believe it or not, I do pretty well! It’s been difficult but rewarding, and I’ve been able to save quite a bit of money. My parents raised me to be quite frugal, which I’m thankful for, because it’s worked in my favor so far.

How I’ve handled my finances in the past:

I’ve always saved a solid 20 to 30 percent of my paycheck, and lived quite humbly. For the last few years, my girlfriend and I have talked about taking a year off from our jobs (she works in advertising) and travel—and the time has finally come! We both just have a few weeks left before we embark on our trip, so we’re trying to save our pennies the best we can.

My money goals:

While we’re still in Philly, we’re trying to live as frugally as possible to make our money last as long as possible while we’re traveling.

My go-to budgeting tools:

I have Bank of America, so I use their app to track my purchases.

How I’m challenging myself this week:
How much I *usually* spend: $250
VS.
My *new* weekly spending: $150/week
Day 1, Monday:

The struggle to save on food is real. I’ve packed lunch to bring to work every single day for probably a year now. Today, I make some oatmeal for breakfast and then pack up my lunch—pasta with pesto and veggies. I made a big batch to last us the week. My girlfriend and I usually cook one day a week, each of us make a vat of something to each throughout the week.

I have an issue with snacking throughout the day. On the off-chance I forget to pack some snacks, I have to try so hard not to go to the store and buy a bag of chips or something! Today, I won the battle. But I did promise my girlfriend I’d stop and pick her up an avocado after work (-$2), since she was making us tacos for dinner.

Spent: $2

Day 2, Tuesday:

Unfortunately, I’ve had a sore throat for almost two weeks so I finally made a doctor’s appointment. Healthcare in this country is just a mess. But it turns out I have strep throat. My insurance is so expensive, yet I still have to pay a steep copay (-$40), plus whatever the medication costs (-$16), and later I know I’ll get a bill in the mail for the lab tests. That’s the main reason I’ve been avoiding going to the doctor if I’m being honest.

Spent: $56

Day 3, Wednesday:

I probably shouldn’t have been at work since my throat has been hurting, but I’ve pretty much run out of sick days—and I feel bad being out of the office when I’m leaving in just a few weeks. My boss has known about my plan for months now since her and I are pretty close, so it’s not really a surprise to her that I’m leaving. Today I stay home and cuddle with our dogs while watching Netflix. In the afternoon I decided to go against my usually very strict rule of no takeout and got some ramen (-$16). It really helped my throat, so I have no regrets!

Spent: $16

Day 4, Thursday:

Another day at home. Didn’t spend anything today, and ended up having the rest of my ramen for lunch.

Spent: $0

Day 5, Friday:

Today I worked from home, because I was feeling better—and a little stir crazy from being in the house doing nothing! My girlfriend luckily hasn’t gotten sick, but I’ve been sleeping on the couch just to be safe. I don’t want her to be out of work, too.

Spent: $0

Day 6, Saturday:

Today I venture out of the house for a bit. My throat is feeling somewhat better, but I’m not 100 percent. My girlfriend and I go to the coffee shop in our neighborhood to get some green tea and fresh air. She paid for mine which was sweet. We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, but then I got tired so back to bed I went!

Boredom got the best of me and I ended up doing a little online shopping. Our trip is coming up quick, and I saw some travel-sized bottles for my hair products that were on sale (-$6.13) and a makeup bag that I loved (-$13 + $5 shipping). Oops!

Spent: $24.13

Day 7, Sunday:

It’s been a pretty boring week around here, and our friends were feeling bad for me so they brought me some soup which was very nice of them. Lunch and dinner, covered!

Spent: $0

How much I spent by end of week:
Total Spent: $98.13
Final thoughts:

I think getting a cold really helped with my spending this week! I didn’t have a chance to buy any snacks which was good for my wallet. I think I did a decent job, considering!

—As told to Sara Tardiff


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