My Friends And I Are All In The Same Financial Boat—Making “Grown Up” Money, But Struggling To Pay Off Debt

My Friends And I Are All In The Same Financial Boat—Making “Grown Up” Money, But Struggling To Pay Off Debt

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: Mental Health Awareness Coordinator at a college

Age: 26

Location: Binghamton, NY

Monthly salary (after taxes): $3,850

Monthly rent: $825

Housing arrangements: Share a two-bedroom apartment

Total monthly fixed expenses: $400

Total debt: $75,000 student loan debt

How I got here and why I’m trying to save

How to sum up me + money:

For the most part, my grandparents raised me. My dad left when I was little and my mom struggles with addiction, so they stepped in and really gave me the best life—all things considering. We were very comfortable, both of them are Polish immigrants who worked super hard and now own several restaurants. I started working for them when I was around ten, just helping out peeling vegetables and washing dishes. But I grew up working there, and did up until I was 22. It really helped me to manage my own money and learn how to save.

How I’ve handled my finances in the past:

I used to be pretty stingy, probably thanks to my grandparents’ immigrant mentality. But in the last few years, I’ve more than doubled my income which has been really life-changing. I’ve never lived in a nicer apartment, been able to afford nicer clothes, or go on vacations before. But I think I’ve been getting a little carried away and my savings could look a little nicer. Plus, I still have student debt that I need to pay off.

My money goals:

To pay off my student loans in, like, the next decade? And to go on a few vacations between now and then.

My go-to budgeting tools:

I track my spending in my Notes app, especially cash! Because obviously I can just look at my bank app to see how I’m spending—but when I do have cash I somehow seem to blow it right away.

How I’m challenging myself this week:

How much I *usually* spend: $300


My *new* weekly spending: $200/week

Day 1, Monday:

I can’t be the only person who goes to Target with a shopping list, and leaves with a million other things not on said list. That’s exactly what happened when I made a Target trip after work today. I needed to pick up some new Tupperware containers (-$13.99) since I’m trying to bring lunch to work more often, and paper towels (-$5.79)—and left with this coffee that I like but can’t find anywhere else (-$7.13), chip clips (-$4.31), and a new lip stain (-$7.99).

Spent: $39.21

Day 2, Tuesday:

I packed lunch in my new Tupperware and everything this morning and completely forgot it at my house! So I ended up having to buy lunch. My work wife and I went to our usual spot, this place with soups and salads. I got a bowl of tomato soup with half a big chunk of a baguette (-$7.11). I also went on a date after work with a guy from Tinder and really wasn’t feeling it—he’s one of those guys who thinks astrology is stupid, but is obsessed with Marvel—so I paid for my own drink (-$9). Kind of a waste, but you live and you learn I guess! I went home and ordered Chinese food to drown my sorrows (-$26) and itdefinitely worked.

Spent: $42.11

Day 3, Wednesday:

I’m a big fan of online shopping. It’s soothing to me. Whenever I find myself bored at work, you can find me on Sephora, Nordstrom, ASOS, or some similar site. This little technique has been saving me from overspending lately: Instead of buying on-the-spot, I’ll add whatever I like to my wishlist and if I’m still thinking about it a week later, then I’ll buy it. But nine times out of ten I forget about it. Today, however, I did feel compelled to buy a pair of yellow leather boots that I’ve been nonstop thinking about from ASOS (-$98). I know they’re a statement piece so I won’t get a ton of wear out of them, but I really do love them! Sometimes you’ve got to treat yourself.

Spent: $98

Day 4, Thursday:

Another day, another food order I shouldn’t have made! For lunch, a group of people were ordering food and I couldn’t help myself. Plus, the salad I’d pack was particularly sad looking. So, I succumbed to ordering a chicken burrito (-$13), which was surprisingly huge—so I ate half for lunch and half for dinner.

Spent: $13

Day 5, Friday:

Didn’t spend a dime! I know, go me. Instead, I just online window shopped from my desk all day, dreaming about the makeup I would buy…if I wasn’t doing this challenge. Probably for the best!

Spent: $0

Day 6, Saturday:

A lot of my friends are in a similar position as me: We’re finally making *grown up* money, but are trying to pay off student loans or save up for the future. So for my friend Tiffany’s birthday, instead of spending at least $50 on a lavish bottomless mimosa brunch, she hosted brunch at her place and everyone was asked to bring a different dish. I’m not the best in the kitchen, so I just whipped together some boxed brownies that I had in my cupboard, but I did go buy some strawberry frosting (-$2.99) to add on top. They were a hit! It was a really fun (and boozy) day.

Spent: $2.99

Day 7, Sunday:

My nails were a mess, so I had to stop by the salon. I just got a gel manicure (-$25), I used to have acrylics but they were just too expensive to maintain. My friend Alexa called me while I was paying and said her and her boyfriend were at the park, so I stopped by to say hi. They apparently have a guy they want me to meet this week. Hopefully he’s better than the last guy I went out with—and that he actually pays for my drink.

Spent: $25

How much I spent by end of week:

Total Spent: $220.31

Final thoughts:

I shouldn’t have bought those shoes! I was so close! Overall, though, this really helped to put in perspective where my money is going. It’s easy to blindly hand over your card, without really thinking about how much you’re spending. I’m going to do my best to be more thoughtful about my day-to-day purchases.

—As told to Sara Tardiff