Welcome to “Scrimp City“—an anonymous, week-in-the-life chronicle that provides a real-world look at women who are trying to save money—across a range of pay scales and industries. Each installment dives into one woman’s progress toward one overarching savings goal, and breaks down where she saves and splurges while navigating a career, planning for the future, and still making sure there’s something leftover for snacks.
In this edition of Scrimp City, we meet a 25-year-old woman training to be a human resources analyst who has a habit of covering expenses for her loved ones—even if it means putting it all on a credit card and sorting out the details later. Her rationale? Even if it costs more (sometimes 3x as much), certain life experiences are more enjoyable when shared with other people.
In this week’s challenge, our scrimper’s extreme saving plan is almost tossed out the window when she hears her favorite South Korean band, BTS, is coming stateside for a stadium tour. And that means getting tickets from the box office, rather than on resale, will easily mean saving hundreds of dollars. To prepare for when tickets go on sale, she pulls all the stops to ensure she can afford to see the group multiple weekends with family and friends in at least two cities—oh, and while still coming under budget.
Here’s how she fared in her quest.
Meet Our Scrimper:
Job title:I work as a human resources analyst trainee and I clock in a few extra hours on nights and weekends as a remote administrative support assistant to round out my income. It’s flexible enough that I don’t have a set schedule each week so I can work when I have time.
Location:San Bernardino, Calif.
Monthly salary (after taxes): $3,400+
I earn about $3,000 each month from my full-time job and $400 from my part-time gig. I also resell items and clothes online and in a few apps so my actual monthly income ranges. I’m hoping to find a writing gig to earn a bit more cash, too.
Monthly rent: $0
Bear with me! I was raised in a pretty traditional Mexican-American family and my parents believe in staying close and growing together. Their rationale is always: “Why pay rent to a stranger when you can live at home and save?” They insist on keeping it this way but I dream of moving to Los Angeles and eventually having my own place. I’m just afraid I can’t afford it at the moment so this arrangement is for the best right now.
Because I don’t pay rent while living at my parent’s home, I try to cover other expenses elsewhere and treat my family with gifts and experiences. I’ve always been very generous with my money. Actually, a lot of my debt is because I’m overly generous… But, we’ll get to that.
Estimated total monthly fixed expenses: ~$843
This covers my car payment, insurance, medical bills, phone plan, gym, and a few other smaller, recurring expenses.
Total debt: $42,800
I have about $6k left in student loans, a $20k car loan, and about $1,800 in medical expenses. The rest of the debt comes from $2k of personal credit card debt and then another $13k in credit card debt I’ve racked up on behalf of others. (Again, we’ll get to that…)
“My relationship to money is … stressful.”
How to sum up me + money:
Money has always been a topic of conversation in my household, or more specifically the lack of ithas been. Both of my parents came from impoverished backgrounds. They worked hard to bring themselves up and made sure that my siblings and I did not have to suffer the way they did. Once their lifestyle improved, however, they took different paths. My mom, with a heart full of generosity, spoiled others and couldn’t control her spending. My dad maintained a frugal mentality and saved as much as he could even if that meant staying home every single weekend. There were constant fights over these differences.
Because of this, I want to ensure I am able to live a full life while still being able to save for my future. My parents have caused me to constantly worry about money, but despite that, I still have a tendency to binge shop. My debt gives me anxiety. I hope I can afford to move out one day while also being able to provide for my parents. Unfortunately, at times it truly feels impossible.
My current spending habits:
I’m not rich by any means, but I have a steady income and I make more than my sister and a mutual friend of ours. They’re both students and work part-time, so when it comes time to attend certain events like concerts or weekend retreats, I usually just put the charges for all of us on my credit card. It’s just that, well, they want to attend but don’t have the means to do so. And what’s the fun in me doing things alone? I want them to be able to enjoy things with me so they both have “tabs” with me. Right now those “tabs” are at about $7,000 and they each pay me $100-$200 a month to pay it down.
How I got here…
How I’ve handled my finances in the past:
I guess I should talk about the debt I accumulated from my previous relationship. We were together for about four years and engaged to be married. My partner had a lot of debt and I saw it as my duty to help him manage it. He had bad credit and was not able to qualify for a credit card, so I added him as an authorized user on one of my cards. He ended up maxing the card out ($6k). He would try to make large payments to bring the balance down, but he continued to use it. I never saw the balance any lower than $4,500. He was an entrepreneur when I first met him and ended up losing his business. I would loan him money to pay for groceries and other expenses. I kept track because he said he wanted to make sure he paid me back.
“We broke up and he was $18,000 in debt…to me.”
Over time he found a great job making about $2,000 a week, but even then he could not seem to get his finances in order. Because of this along with additional personal reasons, I decided I wanted out. We broke up and he was $18,000 in debt—to me. It took us a month after our breakup to finally address the debt and since then he’s been paying me every week. He still owes me $13,000. I fear that when he gets in a new relationship he will stop paying me…
There’s about another $25,000 that I’ve lent to others because I have my mother’s heart, or lack of common sense. Luckily only $13,000 of it is on credit cards, and the rest came from my personal savings so at least I’m not paying interest on all of it!
Aside from these personal loans or “tabs” I work out with others, I don’t have a ton of formal debt. I worked full-time while in school and paid my loans as I went, so I don’t have a large balance left. I have some health issues and a trip to the ER left me with some medical bills but it’s small compared to everything else.
Why I’m trying to save…
My money goals:
Saving money is really important to me so I’m always stocking away 35 percent of my income into multiple savings accounts. Technically, I have seven different accounts I manage, all with different money goals. After the new year, I finally decided to commit individual savings accounts to a different savings goal. Right now I break it up as follows: Emergency (let’s say my car needs repairs), rainy day (I lose my job), moving out (moving is expensive!), house (I’d like to be a homeowner someday), travel (recently made this a goal), retirement, and one specifically for my favorite musical group, BTS (being part of ARMY, their fan base, isn’t cheap!).
I also have an investment account with Betterment and an employer-provided retirement plan. Everything is automatically deducted on a biweekly basis. I plan on opening another account soon specifically dedicated to my parents. Because of our culture, it is an expectation that we care for our parents as they age. I want to be prepared for that.
My budgeting tools (so far):
I constantly check my banking app and just recently started using the EveryDollar app to create a budget and track all expenses. My banking app and website were down for almost a month and now that it’s back up I realized that I spent a ridiculous amount of money on going out and eating. Because of this I want to try to eat more meals at home, cut down on going out, and be more mindful of my purchases.
How I’m challenging myself this week:
Because I eat out every single day for pretty much every meal, my goal this week is to reduce that. I also plan to contact the medical provider I owe to see if I can reduce the amount of my last hospital bill.
How much I *usually* spend: ~$300
My *new* weekly budget: $150
Day One, Monday (A holiday):
A successful no spend day!
Day Two, Tuesday:
As much as I felt like I needed another day off, it was back to the old grind. I decided to treat myself to breakfast to lessen the dread. $6.68 for a meal and coffee and I continued on my way to work. As I was driving, I received a Twitter notification from the BTS account announcing an upcoming stadium tour! They will be in the US for three different dates. Luckily, one of them is less than an hour from me. Unfortunately, I want to go to the other dates as well.
Although tickets don’t go on sale until next week, as soon as I got to work I looked into flights and Airbnb’s. I booked an Airbnb for the local date since that is a 100-percent yes, I’m attending, and no, you will not talk me out of it! It was $283.38 total, but only $141.69 was due today. Small victory. My sister and our friend will be joining me and I’ve already let them know that I will cover the cost of the Airbnb for the local concert. Any flight or ticket expenses will be put on their “tabs” and they will (over time) reimburse me.
“Tickets sell out so fast for these events that I am anxiously trying to recruit friends to help me purchase them in order to increase my odds of getting one.”
I have already gone well over my “budget” for the week, but I justify it by reminding myself that this is an experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I got so caught up in doing research that my breakfast ended up getting cold. Still ate it, and the coffee was delicious.
Honestly, this BTS news has made me a nervous wreck. Tickets sell out so fast for these events that I am anxiously trying to recruit friends to help me purchase them in order to increase my odds of getting one. I ended up using food to ease my nerves so I had WaBa Grill and Yogurtland for lunch. Small portions but still cost me $9.46.
Day Three, Wednesday:
I completely forgot about the “girls weekend” I had planned for my friend’s birthday next month until I received an email letting me know that the remaining $93.27 for the Airbnb had been charged to my account. As I have mentioned before, I tend to be the one who pays for things in our trio (sister and a mutual friend). I’m not asking them to reimburse me for this cost. With the concerts coming up, I’m tempted to cancel this trip. We probably won’t. C’est la vie.
Determined to not spend anything else, I brought fruit and yogurt from home which I paired with peanut butter, bread, and granola that I had stashed at work. This made up my breakfast and snacks for the day. For lunch, I warmed up a can of soup that’s been in my drawer for months now. Not amazing, but definitely filling.
Day Four, Thursday:
I had to fill up my gas tank today which cost $49.77. I should have invested in an electric vehicle especially since my job has charging stations. (To be fair I was not employed here when I was car shopping.) I purchased a sandwich from our local cafe for lunch. I was too tired this morning to pack anything, but at least my money is going back into the community. I offered to work overtime today, something I try not to do because my 10 hour days are long enough, but the additional money is a definite perk.
Day Five, Friday:
Knowing that the BTS concert tickets will be going on sale in exactly one week, I decide to stay home the entire day (I get every other Friday off from work). As the evening arrived, my sister and friend came back home from a shopping trip and invited me to go out clubbing. I declined the invitation multiple times. I decided to do some self-care in the forms of a relaxing bath, face mask, and tons of reading.
“Last year I spent $2309.83 solely on the tickets to see BTS”
I need to save for these tickets! Last year I spent $2309.83 on tickets to see BTS three nights in Los Angeles and once in New York. Since they sell out so quickly, so many fans have to buy them on resale and that easily means you pay double, triple, or more of what the original price was! I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst this time around.
Day Six, Saturday:
Day Seven, Sunday:
Successfully executed another no-spend day here.
Spent: $0 (If anything, I got $243 back from returning purchases!)
Day 8, Monday:
It was decided that we would cancel the birthday trip to save those funds for the BTS concerts and I ended up getting almost all of my money back. I failed to bring my lunch and spent $7.32 on a burrito bowl. I worked overtime again today. It makes me look like a dedicated employee and adds some extra funds to my paycheck—a win-win.
Day 9, Tuesday:
Because I’m going to be out of the office for the next three days, I decided to work more overtime to ensure I wasn’t leaving anything for anyone else to take care of on my behalf. I had pizza for lunch from an amazing place across the street. Totally worth the $11.23. Only three more days until the tickets are released and I cannot wait.
Day 10, Wednesday:
Day 11, Thursday:
Another day of training. This time I headed to Anaheim right by Disneyland. After all this driving, I had to fill up my gas tank for $47.23. I considered going to Disneyland during my lunch break to eat there, but I figured that would cost me more than just going through a drive-thru. $9.87 for lunch and $16 for parking before I headed home for the day.
“I called my credit cards to make sure they would not flag any of my charges as fraudulent”
Tomorrow is the big day (ticket day). I called my credit cards to make sure they would not flag any of my charges as fraudulent since this has been an issue in the past. I updated my Ticketmaster account and tried to get some rest.
Day 12, Friday: (AKA Ticket Day)
Tickets were released at 10 a.m. venue time for each concert. My sister and I woke up at 5 a.m. to head over to an internet cafe to ensure we had the fastest internet speed. We paid for our computer time and then we waited ($16). The page on Ticketmaster had a countdown clock and since New Jersey tickets were going on sale we tried for that. We waited for over an hour until tickets were released and we were “in the queue.” It took a while but I ended up on the page to purchase tickets!
There were so many people on the site that it was causing glitches. The majority of the stadium was already sold out but there were still a few good options. Every time I picked seats, it would take forever to load and then tell me those seats were sold out and suggest new ones for me. I would click to purchase what was suggested and it would go through the same ordeal all over again! I did this over and over until we finally realized that it was not going to happen for us. Heartbroken, I closed the browser.
We looked up tickets for the event to see what they were reselling for. In the GA area, they ranged from $1,200-$5,000. I asked my sister if she would prefer we purchase resell GA tickets for the local concert and skip flying to New Jersey. She agreed that this would be a better plan. I had to go to my final training of the week, so I purchased time on three more computers and our friend took over my spot ($32). I left them each a credit card and told them to purchase whatever tickets they could get in GA.
I drove to Anaheim, sat through my training and received news that we had scored tickets—$1,160 for four tickets! I was paid back immediately for two of the tickets. I treated myself to pho ($11.65) and didn’t even mind paying for parking ($16) or the traffic home. We were going to see our boys again!
Day 13, Saturday:
This morning more tour dates were announced. They added a second day to all stops! I was motivated to list even more items for sale on my apps to save for round two of ticket-buying. We shortened our upcoming Palm Springs trip and I stayed home all day and posted new items. It paid off because I made 6 sales!
Day 14, Sunday:
I returned two items that I had purchased on Amazon a few weeks ago because they ended up being faulty which gave me $33.99 back. After this, I worked at my PT job and spent $4 on a fundraiser lunch that the store was having.
Total Spent: $1,058.89+ Total savings: $525
What the concert will cost me:
We budgeted $2,800 for tickets at an estimated price of $700 each (four dates, two venues in two states: Calif and N.J.). I added my sister’s part of the expenses to her “tab.” Here’s how much I spent…
During the challenge: The Airbnb in Calif.:$283;Floor tickets for Rose Bowl, Day 1: $580 (for two)
Post-Scrimp City challenge:For round two of ticket sales, I paid $580 for Day 2 at the Rose Bowl, $438 for Day 2 in N.J., and…$1,642.00 for resale floor tickets for New Jersey Day 1! The roundtrip flight to N.J. set me back $900 and $447 for an Airbnb there. Luckily, I’m splitting that with some other fans so it comes to $147/person.
It was interesting to realize the impact random shopping sprees have on my budget. All of the returns that I did this week were for items I didn’t even need! As much as I want to move out, I still feel too much guilt to leave my parents behind, so I am choosing to use this situation to my advantage. This won’t be a forever thing, but for now, it works.
My total debt feels so high right now but I really want to continue having these life experiences with the people I love and care for. I understand that right now they can’t cover expenses because it’s just where they are in their life. I tell myself I need to end this practice, but the excitement for what’s to come outweighs it all!
I’m so, so happy and excited to know we’ll be seeing BTS again in May.
This group has brought so much change and happiness in my life and I can’t wait to experience their live performances once again. Even if it means I’m picking up the tab to make it happen for all of us.
—As told to Theresa Avila