Welcome to Scrimp City—an anonymous, week-in-the-life diary that provides a real-world look at the savings trials, tribulations and habits of women across a range of pay scales and industries.
Each installment dives into where they save and where they splurge, as they navigate their careers, plan for the future, and make sure there’s still enough left over for fun and snacks.
We’re kicking things off with a very organized 25-year-old woman living in Alberta, Canada, who’s working some long hours in the gas and oil industry as she aims towards purchasing her first home.
Here’s how she makes sure she’s setting enough aside each week to meet her monthly savings goals, all the while having enough left over to grow her side hustles and build a retirement account that she can cash in on early. Yep, she is literal #goals.
Job: Pipeline operations and logistics
Location: Alberta, Canada
Monthly salary: $4,500
Saving goal(s): My short term savings goal is to purchase my first home by the end of the year. I am 90 percent of the way there, having saved a $20,000 down payment. The next steps involve saving approximately $5,000 more to cover closing costs and to invest in décor and furniture. I have been working on this goal for about a year now, and I am really proud of myself for reaching the goal and sticking to a strict money regimen.
Long term, I am saving up to retire before I’m 40. I work in the corporate oil and gas sector, and as rewarding as this is—especially being a young black female in a old, white male-dominated sector—I am looking forward to starting my own plus-size clothing line and diversity consulting firm.
I am realistic in most anything I do in life, so I understand the necessity of holding on to a great job and planning for the future through saving and managing my money correctly. Being financially stable and not relying on loans is very important to me. I was lucky enough to have my parents cover my education; however, I do not use this as an excuse to not be smart about the money I am making now.
With simple planning and attainable goals, I have found that I can save money without restricting my love of travel and shopping too much.
Essential budgeting tools:The main tool I use to budget weekly is an Excel spreadsheet I created. It is really simple—all it does is take my weekly expenditures and compare it against my monthly income. I have formatted the sheet to have indicators such as red/green markers to show when my average expenditure has been too much, or when I’ve had a good week and can save a bit more money in the month overall.
To support this personal tracking sheet, I am a religious user of my bank’s mobile app. This is the quickest way to know exactly how much I have saved at a glance, and there are a bunch of tools, like a mortgage calculator and goal setting section, to help with budgeting.
Finally, I have a personally assigned banking advisor with my bank. He is my source of knowledge when it comes to how to save money efficiently, and he guides me in the right direction in terms of investments.
Morning: Sunday is my meal prep day, so I usually just grab an apple and tea at home in the morning, before heading out to grocery shop in the afternoon. On average, eating breakfast at home every day saves me $60 to $70 a week.
Afternoon: Grocery shopping takes place in the afternoon. Instead of shopping in bulk, I like to shop weekly, only purchasing things I need for my meals and snacks for seven days at a time. I price things out online or with flyers ahead of time, so that I know exactly what I am buying and how much I’m spending before I even enter the grocery store. Doing this saves me about $50 a week on food purchases.
Evening:Meal prep time! I use my slow cooker and oven-focused recipes to create big batch meals that can be eaten through the week. This helps me not spend money on food through the week; plus, making your meals for the week is a free self-care activity. Having a Sunday routine minimizes how much I spend doing other things.
Monday through Thursday
My job works on a rotational 12 hour day schedule four days a week, so unfortunately, most of my days look exactly the same. I moved to this role about eight months ago, and I have found that this structure has really helped me save money, because there is such a brief window of time where I can even spend money each day.
Morning: Breakfast on the go. Work starts at 6 am, so I am out of the door by 5:30 with a smoothie in hand. Once I’m in the office, I will typically eat a second breakfast of overnight oats. No money spent during the mornings, aside from what I budget for groceries.
Afternoon: I eat lunch at work, packed from the night before. It is a pretty common thing for the people I work with to get together and order some take out for lunch. I’ve totally stopped bringing cash with me to work, which stops me from being a part of the group that’s ordering food.
Evening: I get home around 6:30 pm. This only leaves about two hours before I need to head to bed so I can wake up early enough the next morning for my shift. Pre-planning my dinner not only stops me from spending money, but it also allows me to take full advantage of those two hours. No money spent in the evenings, aside from what was budgeted for groceries.
Morning: Friday mornings are meant for sleep and self-care. Coming off a full 12 hour set, my mornings are meant for me to recharge and to take care of my body. Instead of heading to a spa, I buy $8 Sephora face masks and $10 bath bombs from Lush and create my own little spa at home. This saves me at least $100 a month, and I will instead splurge on spa packages when I travel.
Afternoon: When I eventually drag myself from that, I eat lunch that I prepped on Sunday at home, instead of ordering in (which, I won’t lie, I sometimes do if I am too exhausted to get out of bed).
Evening: Girls night happens on Friday nights. I used to find this was a time when I would unnecessarily spend a lot of money (because pockets get deep as the drinks keep rolling in), so I suggested that the girls and I instead have “girls’ night in” once a month.
We still go out and try to hit up as many happy hour deals as possible, but once a month we get together in a potluck fashion and get to spend that quality time together without spending too much money. On average, I’d say this saves me about $200 for that week that we stay in.
Morning: Sit-down brunch at home. I save at least $20 by making myself my own over-the-top breakfast with left over items I may have in the fridge. This makes for a great comfort food meal that changes every week, for pennies on the dollar.
Afternoon: I carve out some time on Saturday afternoons to go over my budget. This includes adding to my Excel spreadsheet, looking over my week’s spending, and altering my monthly goals accordingly.
Evening: Because I have just looked over my expenses, I use Saturday as my budgeting “cheat day.” Based on how well I did for the week, I set aside money that I use to shop for outfits, shoes and accessories for my plus-size fashion blog. I am lucky enough to receive some in-kind payments from the work I do in my blog, so I utilize these funds specifically when it comes to outfit posts and content.
Total money saved: $200 to $350 a week
After thoughts: After necessary expenditures outside of my rental payments, such as bills, memberships, etc., I have about $3,000 left over a month. From that, I have set up biweekly withdrawals that automatically take out $1,000 towards my home down payment, and an additional $1,000 to my TFSA (tax free savings account) and RRSP (registered retirement savings plan), which are Canadian savings accounts.
I generally save between $200 and $350 per week as “pocket money,” which I keep in my checking account. This money is what I use when planning travel or when I want to splurge from time to time—like when I am too tired to cook, or if I see a pair of shoes that I must have.