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:Doula and owner of my own practice
Monthly salary (after taxes): ~$5,800
Monthly rent:I have a mortgage that I split with my husband, $1,485 each
Housing arrangements:Live in a two-bedroom with my husband
Total monthly fixed expenses:$800
Total debt:$20,000 student loan debt, $3,500 credit card debt
How I got here and why I’m trying to save
How to sum up me + money:
Both of my parents were pretty unconventional in their approaches to work and finance. First off, they’re both artists. My mom is a painter and my dad is a poet. But if you asked me to sum up what they did for money when I was growing up, it’d be a long list, but a few memorable jobs included carpentry, substitute teaching, gallery curation, serving at restaurants, working at book stores, babysitting the neighborhood kids. They always had a collection of odd jobs, but I never felt like we struggled with money—probably largely due to my parents keeping that hidden from me. But we’ve always been middle class, and ultimately they both became teachers in their respective disciplines. They taught me a lot about pursuing what you love and letting money come to you along the way.
How I’ve handled my finances in the past:
Since working as a doula, I’ve made pretty good money. I’ve always practiced in Oregon, and the community in Portland when it comes to maternity care and childbirth practices is really great and wide-spread. I recently bought a house with my husband, about six months ago. We’ve been looking for over a year, but it really took a while to find something we loved in our price range. It’s definitely more than I’m used to paying for housing every month, but it’s really worth it to call it our own. I know it’s a good investment. Balancing out the rest of my finances has been the difficult part! Knowing how much to save and spend has been sort of a mystery, especially having to put in a lot of money to update the house.
My money goals:
I’d like to sit down with my husband and figure out a budget. We haven’t really done that since all the repairs to the house. I’d also like to save up some money to do some landscaping work in the next year or two. The lawn is kind of a hot mess!
My go-to budgeting tools:
I use Digit, which helps you save cash without having to think about it too much. But other than that I just use my banking app and a spreadsheet to evaluate my monthly spending.
How I’m challenging myself this week:
How much I *usually* spend: $350
My *new* weekly spending: $250/week
Day 1, Monday:
I hate to be that person, but I love my job so much I really don’t mind Mondays. I wake up right at 6 a.m., meanwhile my husband Ryan presses snooze at least three or four times. I like to start the morning with some yoga, which I do in the living room while watching a YouTube video. One Ryan’s up he’ll usually make us both breakfast—that’s our deal, he does breakfast and I usually make dinner. We’ve only been in our new house for about six months, so we’re still very much forming our routines.
Today I’m working from home which I don’t do very often, but I have a few video consultations with potential clients and I’m feeling a bit under the weather so I just hunker down in our at-home office. It does prevent me from buying coffee or any snacks while I’m out which is great! But I do end up getting a little distracted on the internet and end up buying a book of poetry that a friend of a friend wrote (-$13). You’ve got to support the women artists around you—or at least that’s what I tell myself with this purchase!
For dinner I make a big batch of stir fry using ingredients we already have in the kitchen, and hopefully I can have the leftovers for lunch for a few days.
Day 2, Tuesday:
I woke up this morning with a throat so sore, I was sure it was strep throat. So, I made a quick trip to the doctor. I had to pay a co-pay (-$40), but it turns out I don’t have strep—but I do have some kind of mild throat infection, so my doctor prescribed me some antibiotics. I head right to the pharmacy and pick it up (-$21). Being sick is expensive!
I head home and get into bed for the rest of the day. Ryan has some chicken noodle soup delivered to me for lunch which was really sweet. Not exactly how I planned to spend the day since I do have a lot going on this week, but I’m taking it as a cue from my body that I need to slow things down!
Day 3, Wednesday:
Surprisingly woke up already feeling much better. I’m not 100 percent, but enough that I’m not quarantined to my bedroom today! I get some work done in the morning, then decide to take the rest of the afternoon to rest. I watch some reruns of Gilmore Girls on TV, before the book that I ordered is delivered and I dig into that for the rest of the afternoon.
Although dinner is usually my duty, Ryan takes over since I’m still on the mend. He makes chicken tacos which are actually really great!
Day 4, Thursday:
Back at work today! I’m feeling much, much better. I head into the office for the first day this week and I’m so excited to be back. I chit chat with everybody, find out what they’re up to this weekend, and a group of us decide that after work we’ll try to go to a hot yoga class. I think it’ll be good for my body to sweat it out a bit!
Right at 5 p.m. we all head over to the studio that’s practically next door. Classes aren’t terribly expensive (-$14), but I usually prefer to just watch a video for free at home. After being cooped up all week it’s nice to get out, though! Since we don’t get out until around 6:30 p.m., I tell Ryan I’m going to stop and pick up some pho from a local spot we both love (-$31). We cuddle up on the couch and eat while watching a movie.
Day 5, Friday:
People constantly ask me if I have baby fever, since I work with expecting moms—and I absolutely DO! Mine and Ryan’s five-year plan definitely includes a baby (or two!), but we’re still settling into the house and want to feel more comfortable financially before we decide to get pregnant. But being around such amazing moms and beautiful babies constantly makes me want to speed up the process! I have a few clients today, and each of them bring at least one kid with them. Thankfully I have a ton of toys in my office for them to play with.
I packed a lunch today—some butternut squash soup and delicious bread that my BFF made and dropped off at the house over the weekend! I’ve been cooking in big batches lately so that I have plenty to bring to work and it’s been really helpful getting me to save money on food during the week. We do still go out on the weekends often than we should. Here’s hoping we don’t go too crazy this weekend!
Day 6, Saturday:
I love Portland on the weekends. The city feels like my oyster! Or, mine and my husband’s oyster I should say. We usually start off the morning going to the farmer’s market—we’re pretty early risers even on Saturdays, so we get there around 8 A.M. We pick up some produce for the week, including some parsnips, collard greens, cauliflower, and winter squash (-$13). When we get back home, it’s time to do some housework! Before we bought the house, we only did chores on Sundays—but since we’ve had to put in quite a bit of work on the new house, we usually spend the whole weekend painting or fixing something. Today, we finish painting the sunroom and the guest bathroom. We start painting the trim in the guest bedroom, but realize we run out of paint. But, we’re feeling too lazy to run to Home Depot, so we leave it ‘til tomorrow and order a pizza (courtesy of Ryan!) and drink some beers while watching Netflix.
Day 7, Sunday:
Another painting day today! We work from the morning until the evening, only taking a break to go for a walk and get some coffees (-$6.50). Settling into our home has been such a great bonding experience for us, I end up really looking forward to doing small projects like this on the weekends.
How much I spent by end of week:
Total Spent: $138.50
I smashed my goal! It was a lot easier than I thought actually. Just really put in the effort to not go out to eat! Proud of myself (and Ryan!).
—As told to Sara Tardiff