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: Barista and freelance writer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Monthly salary (after taxes): $3,052
Monthly rent: $1,100
Housing arrangements: Share a three-bedroom apartment
Total monthly fixed expenses: $500
Total debt: None
How I got here and why I’m trying to save
How to sum up me + money:
I always wanted to make a lot of money. Even through high school I wasn’t really sure doing what, but I knew that I wanted to do something that would pay big. So, naturally, I went into finance—just like my parents. Even though I had these grandiose plans for my future, I’ve always been relatively lazy compared to my peers, and going the finance route just made the most sense given both of my parents could help me navigate the industry. And so right out of college, I took a job at an investment firm and started making very decent money.
How I’ve handled my finances in the past:
Some people have the issue of saving money once they started making more than they ever had, but my parents were always really vocal about saving when I was younger. So, I’ve been a stickler for saving since I got my first job working at an ice cream shop in high school. It wasn’t until I slowly started to realize that after years of working in finance, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with the industry…and I needed money to shift lifestyles.
My money goals:
I’ve saved enough to live comfortably and get by on picking up shifts as a barista, as well as doing some freelance finance writing, for a few years. So, my money goals are to live simply and hopefully make that money stretch for as along as I need it to.
My go-to budgeting tools:
I keep a very close eye on my spending, and manually enter everything into an Excel sheet.
How I’m challenging myself this week:
How much I *usually* spend: $500
My *new* weekly spending: $350/week
Day 1, Monday:
One of the many positive things that comes from my new job as a barista, is that it forces me to wake up early. I hate actually doing the waking up part at 4:30 a.m., but once I get moving it’s good to feel productive and walk around before the world is up. I drive to the coffee shop I work at and work until noon. After my shift, I wander around the neighborhood for a little bit—because I can do that now! Not having a full-time job is the best. I buy a used copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (-$5), which I’ve been meaning to reread.
I drive home so that I can make myself some lunch. Another perk of not working in office is that I don’t have to choose between either doing meal prep for the week, or buying $16 salads all week-long. I can just make lunch at home! So that’s what I do, before taking a nap. I go out for dinner and a few drinks with my friends (-$42).
Day 2, Tuesday:
I’ve worked it out so Tuesdays are my story-pitching days. I don’t work at the cafe on Tuesdays, so I get up around 8 a.m. and head to a co-working space that my friend owns (shoutout Gwyneth for the free membership!), and pitch stories to different publications about finance. I’ve just started doing this, but have already had some luck picking up stories! I’ve always been interested in writing, but have never done so professionally.
Few things make me miss my finance job these days. One of the few things I miss is the camaraderie. So I’ve joined a few groups recently, including a book club. We meet at a local bookstore once a month and drink wine while chatting about whatever book we’ve read. Everyone brings snacks, so I picked up a block of cheese and some crackers (-$9) before I head over.
Day 3, Wednesday:
Another day at the coffee shop. We get some really hilarious characters, which makes my day! One of my co-workers brought in her daughter to hang out for part of her shift before school started, and she was selling Girl Scout cookies, so naturally I bought a few boxes (-$15). Thin mints or bust!
Day 4, Thursday:
When I was working in finance, my mental health had never been worse. I have anxiety and depression, and prioritized work more than I did my health, so I didn’t make time to go to therapy or get medication. Thankfully, since I left, I’ve been able to do both. I go to therapy on Thursdays—it’s pricey now that I don’t have great insurance (-$150), but it’s beyond worth it. I’ve never felt happier and healthier than I do now.
Being mentally well also makes me feel more inclined to work out, so I’ve been going to yoga at least once or twice a week. I got to a pretty bougie studio for class (-$25), but it’s walking distance from my house and I love my instructor.
Day 5, Friday:
I’ve found that when I go on dates and tell them I’m a barista, they are a little judgey. But that, as soon as I mention that I used to have a successful career in finance, they instantly respect my decision to do my own thing. It feels kind of lame to me how much we value what people do for a living. I went on a date tonight and the guy was a lawyer, and I could just tell he thought it was sad that I *just* work at a coffee shop. Won’t be seeing him again! At least I got a free meal out of it. I met up with a few of my friends afterwards and we spent the night drinking and dancing. I bought myself two gin and tonics (-$26).
Day 6, Saturday:
My next door neighbor and I have become pretty close, since she’s going through kind of a similar life transition. She went from being the CEO of a company to taking some time off for her mental health. We decided to go to the flea market together, since we both are also trying to spruce up our living spaces. I found a really awesome pink accent chair that I couldn’t help but buy (-$55). Thankfully she had a truck to help me cart it home!
Day 7, Sunday:
When you aren’t full-time, you can choose your own “work week”, so I usually start mine on Sunday. I like the feeling of getting things done while everyone is away from their desks. I’m sure people hate getting Sunday emails from me, but whatever! Today I went to a coffee shop near my house and camped out all day, working on some stories I’m currently writing. I got an oat latte (-$5) and a blueberry scone (-$4.25).
How much I spent by end of week:
Total Spent: $336.25
I made my goal of spending less than $350! I barely even though about it, TBH. I think I’ve just gotten used to scaling back, and it’s becoming a natural part of my spending style.
—As told to Sara Tardiff