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:Accountant (2.5 years)
Monthly salary (after taxes):$2,250 (Received a 5% raise in May 2019)
Monthly rent: $500
Housing arrangements: Living with my significant other and a roommate. Split rent and utilities three ways.
Total monthly fixed expenses:$400
Total debt:$28,100 ($25,000 student loan debt; $1,200 NFM (Nebraska Furniture Mart, bedroom set); $1,900 Chase credit card)
How I got here and why I’m trying to save
How to sum up me + money:
I feel anxious about money all the time, but I’m also curious. Growing up my parents provided nice gifts and extracurricular opportunities for me and my siblings, however, now being an adult, I’ve learned that they acquired those items through credit card debt and not cash. Money was never really discussed in my family, however we were expected to get a summer job and pay for a car and gas if we wanted to go out and do things. As for my current relationship with money, I feel reckless when it comes to going out for lunch and dinner, but am very hesitant to buy new clothes and other luxuries.
How I’ve handled my finances in the past:
Once I started my full-time job, I had more money than I’ve ever had before. I was also spending more than I was bringing in, trying to get settled into feeling like a grownup (apartment, car, furniture, etc.). I started charging stuff on my credit card, justifying that once I got paid I would just pay off my card. However, this was a vicious cycle and I was getting charged $45-65 a month in interest charges.
My money goals:
Currently, I have $50 from my weekly paycheck being directly deposited into a savings account before I even see it. My short term goal is to get my Chase credit card completely paid off and to build up my savings account to be greater than $5,000. My longterm goal is to be completely debt-free. However, before I can pay off my credit card debt, I need to better understand my spending habits. I always feel so anxious with my monthly cash flow and how to move money between accounts, because I’m trying to make too many payments and feel like I don’t have enough income to offset what’s leaving my account. I don’t have any additional streams of income, either.
My go-to budgeting tools:
I have a Mint account and an Excel spreadsheet budget, but I rarely use those. Typically, I manage my money with my bank’s mobile app, regularly checking my bank account transactions but not adhering to a strict budget.
How I’m challenging myself this week:
I would like to not spend more than $200 this week, and put $25 away into savings (in addition to the $50 that’s automatically deposited each week). I also want to avoid using my credit card at all costs. I don’t want to continue to add to the debt I’m trying to work my way out of.
Strategy for saving big this week:
I’m hoping to save money by making more conscious about careless spending. I’ll do my best not to go out to eat for lunch and by being more aware of whether an item I’m considering purchasing is a want or a need. Also pretend my credit cards don’t exist!
How much I *usually* spend: ~$450/week
My *new* weekly spending: Less than $200/week
Day 1, Monday:
Today I have a 5 a.m. wake up time. I let my dog out and feed him breakfast before starting my workout. I have an online subscription to BeachBody, which I do for about an hour. I make myself a protein shake for breakfast, shower, quickly get dressed, and head to work. I wanted to start this challenge off right so I made sure to pack a lunch, which is a salad with grilled chicken and some fruit on the side. As a matter of fact, my only spending today was on my monthly utilities that were due (-$49.04).
Day 2, Tuesday:
Woke up at 5 a.m. again this morning so I could take the dog for a quick walk and get in a workout before work. This is super nerdy, but I woke up so excited because today is my final car payment (-$64.04)! I’m officially a car owner now, after months and months of paying it off. Today after work, I stopped at Target to pick up some groceries for the week (-$23.09). I only ended up getting a half gallon of milk, some mac and cheese, and romaine lettuce. I actually bought enough groceries last week that I think will last through most of this week!
Day 3, Wednesday:
Usually I check my email first thing when I wake up, force of habit. And today I got an email notification that a handbag I listed on eBay a few days ago sold for $150. I’m so happy! I went through my things a few weeks ago to see if anything would be worth listing. I’ve been looking for additional streams of income to help pay off my debt, since my weekly check isn’t quite cutting it. I immediately make a $125 payment on my Chase credit card and add $25 to my savings, which I know technically puts me over my goal for this week…but since I wasn’t even expecting this money to come in today, I’m not going to count it!
Later on I did break my rule of not going out to eat and got some pizza and fries with my partner at our fav neighborhood spot. She paid last time we went out so I got it this time (-$24.34).
Spent: $24.34, Saved: $25
Day 4, Thursday:
It’s one of my fav co-workers’ last day today. I’m sad she’s leaving, but we decide to go out for a really nice lunch. A couple of people decide to tag along, and then suddenly, it’s a huge group affair! I couldn’t really miss out on this one, so I just said screw it and went. We went to a sushi place that thankfully has pretty good lunch special, so I got a bento box with salmon sashimi that didn’t set me back too much (-$10.96).
Day 5, Friday:
Okay, I was peer pressured into buying lunch again by my co-workers! There’s a Chipotle within walk distance and no one else on my team brought that day (and I brought a pretty pathetic salad), so I tagged along (-$7.62). It was a pretty stressful day at work, I had to have a few difficult conversations with clients about expectations versus the reality of hiring a super small team…and a low budget. I try to avoid carbonated drinks for the most part, but today I felt like I deserved to indulge, so I got a soda from the vending machine at the office (-$0.89).
After work my partner and I took the dog on a long walk by the river. We ran into some friends along the way who were headed to a nearby biergarten, so we decided to join them (especially knowing the place is dog-friendly!). My partner paid for our two rounds of beers and a pretzel!
Day 6, Saturday:
I love the weekends! It’s when I catch up with friends, which I don’t usually do much of during the week. I met up with my friend Brianne to catch up on life and chat about her upcoming move to Minneapolis for work. Everyone seems to be moving! I got a pumpkin latte and a cinnamon bun (-$14.94) at a brand new coffee spot which was really adorable, but definitely pricey. We walked around the neighborhood for a few hours after that, checking out different vintage shops and bookstores. I had restraint and didn’t buy anything, although a really cute pair of vintage Levi’s was calling to me.
Day 7, Sunday:
While Saturdays are my day to socialize, Sundays are for errands! My partner and I make a day of it, which I actually really like. We started the morning by making coffee at home and putting it into to-go cups so we could get started on our to-do list. First, we stopped at the post office to mail out a few packages we’d been meaning to send, including the eBay sale I made earlier this week (a little late shipping it out, oops!). Then we went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week (-$56.39 for my portion). That included some things for the house, like paper towels and dish soap. Then we picked up a prescription, dropped off some library books, and stopped at her mom’s house (who lives just a 20-minute walk away) to say hello, since we haven’t seen her in a while. Overall, it was the perfect slow but busy Sunday.
How much I saved by end of week:
Total Spent: $251.31, Total Saved: $25 ($125 paid off debt)
I was really surprised I spent as much as I did. I know that going forward, I won’t have a car payment at least. I also hope to have my credit card paid off relatively soon, so then I won’t be making these big payments whenever money comes my way. I already knew I had a spending problem with food, but I need to be especially picky with when I decide to go out with co-workers. I’m glad I didn’t do any impulsive shopping or use my credit card at all, though!
—As told to Sara Tardiff