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
Making $42,000 annually as a Provider Relations Rep in Orlando, Florida, this week’s Scrimp City saver has a lot going on: she’s moving to a new place, paying a solid amount of debt, and saving for a house down the road. All at the same time. Find out how she’s making it work and planning to save even.
Job title:Provider Relations Representative, since January 2019
Monthly salary:$3,500/month (with potential for performance bonuses after my first year.)
Monthly rent:My partner and I split $1,550/month and my share of that is $560.
Housing arrangements:I share a rental house with my partner and a roommate.
Total monthly fixed expenses:$1,220
(Car loan: $6,878, Chase card: $3,000, student loans: $16,000)
How to sum up me + money:
Money makes me incredibly anxious. Despite making a very fair salary, I’m constantly worried about if there’s enough to go around.I have been financially independent from my parents since I was 22 and for the first three years I was barely scraping by. It was almost impossible to make ends meet, which is where most of my credit card debt came from. Even though I’ve been making more than enough to get by for 3 years now, I still carry that anxiety of always checking my bank account before I swipe my card or thinking there won’t be enough to pay my rent, even though there is. I’m also afraid of what will happen to me financially if I get laid off or fired. I’ve come so far, but don’t feel like I have enough of a cushion to not really suffer in the event of an emergency.
How I learned about money:
My parents struggled with money when I was a kid and even though I never went without, I was always afraid to ask for things. A lot of the lessons I learned about money came from trial and error (like student loans and credit cards) and from things my older brother taught me when I lived with him. Most of what stuck was the importance of paying down debt as quickly as possible and maintaining a good credit score.
How I got here and why I’m trying to save
How I’ve handled my finances in the past:
I was fortunate to only need student loans for grad school, but I took a large amount out at the beginning with the thought of it getting me through my whole first year before learning that interest starts to accrue before you graduate. I also relied a little too heavily on credit cards in graduate school because, even though I was working full-time, I had a hard time covering living expenses, like groceries.
My money goals:
I have already tackled $7,000 in credit card debt. My hope is to pay off the last $3,000 in the next year while also saving for a down payment on a house. The housing market where I live is looking like it’s facing a downturn and I want to have enough money put away to take advantage. Also, I’m tired of carrying the weight of my debt on my shoulders and want to take care of it once and for all so I can live a more free life. Lastly, I have to move to a new rental house in a month. We’ve yet to secure a place, so I’m trying to be very cautious with money to make sure I have enough in the bank to jump on the right place when it comes along.
My go-to budgeting tools:
I have a detailed budget in Google sheets that I use to track my money each time I get paid. I also use the Nerdwallet app to check my debt, spending, and credit. I use the Qapital app to set up rules for automatic transfers and saving for big goals like moving and vacations.
How I’m challenging myself this week:
I am trying to spend less than $110 this week. The main goal is to not put anything on my credit card and spend only from what’s in the bank. I’ll be rounding up all purchases into a Qapital savings account that I’m using for moving expenses. This week I plan to avoid eating out and impulse purchases (I’m terrible about buying small things on a whim, not thinking about how they add up!).
How much I *usually* spend: ~$215
My *new* weekly budget: $110
Day 1, Wednesday:
I had a meeting with a client at 8:30 a.m., which means I had to leave my house at 7:30 a.m. I was annoyed because I was out of town last weekend and since I normally do meal prep on Sunday, I had no grab-and-go breakfasts and no time to make breakfast this morning, so I had to pick up a breakfast sandwich (-$5.30).
I then came back to my house to grab lunch and let the dogs out before going to my office for a contract review meeting with my boss at 1:30. I then came home and took my dogs to the park while they were showing my house to potential renters. After that I made dinner and got ready for bed.
Day 2, Thursday:
I went to a 7 a.m. spin class and thankfully, after that I was able to work from home all day. My partner and I haven’t seen each other much lately due to conflicting work schedules. We got word this morning that our application for our first choice rental house was approved, so after work we decided to get Uber Eats from one of our fav local restaurants (-$41.36) and watch Stranger Things to celebrate.
Day 3, Friday:
Met my friend for an early morning swim at her community’s lap pool. We are training for a sprint triathlon and having a buddy to workout with has been so awesome. Then I had a meeting with a client and got to work from home the rest of day.
My running group does monthly socials and group yoga at a brewery was the pick for July. The ticket was actually $14 (and included a beer), but I bought it two weeks ahead of time so I’m not counting it (-$0). Either way it was a fun way to spend time with some great friends.
Day 4, Saturday:
I took my two dogs to the vet for their yearly appointments. It’s an expense I budget all year for (which is why I’m not including the cost of that), but it still stings to lay out $300 plus meds, so I bought myself a yummy wrap for lunch (-$10) instead of spending $50 on useless stuff at Target. Not great, but it’s progress.
At 7:30 p.m., my brother and sister-in-law came over for a game night. I felt like I should have something to offer, so I bought beer and snacks (-$25). It probably wasn’t necessary, but they always feed me.
Day 5, Sunday:
I waited until 8:30 a.m. to do my bike ride and run workout for my training plan, and, as a result, I was wiped out when I got home. I showered, napped, and then my boyfriend and I went to the movies (4:30).
A little guilty, but we haven’t been on a date in a while, so I offered to treat him to a movie (provided I got to pick) and snacks (-$46), so we could do something out of the house. He’s tight on money right now because of our move, but he’ll get me next time.
Day 6, Monday:
I have mandatory meetings at my office from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays. I usually hang out for a little bit after to make sure I have everything I need for the week since I work mostly from home during the week. I brought my lunch from home ($0), and stayed at the office until 4:30 p.m. to prep for meetings the next day.
I went to work out with my running group after work ($0), and made a delicious veggie pasta for dinner ($0). It felt good not to spend money for a full day.
Day 7, Tuesday:
My company had one of it’s bi-annual meetings today, which I helped prep for and moderate. So both lunch and dinner were provided for me. My company’s CEO was in attendance and gave me great feedback afterwards, so I came home, heated up dinner, had a beer to celebrate, and went to bed early.
How much I saved by end of week:
Total Spent: $127.66 + Total savings: $82.34
Even though I went a teeny bit over budget. I feel really good about my spending this week. I am slightly surprised I saved so much because it felt like this week was a tough one and I ate out more than usual, but I think avoiding places (like Target and Amazon) where I tend to mindlessly spend money helped a lot. This was partially due to self control, but also had a lot to do with it being a really busy week. Either way, I’ll take what I can get.
—As told to Sara Tardiff