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:Kindergarten teacher and part-time fitness instructor
Location:Jersey City, NJ
Monthly salary (after taxes):$2,436
Housing arrangements:Share three-bedroom apartment with two friends
Total monthly fixed expenses:~$900
Total debt:$82,000 ($80,000 student loans, $2,000 credit card debt)
How I got here and why I’m trying to save
How to sum up me + money:
I’m very good at pretending I have it and very bad at making choices that will set me up for future personal financial success. I love thrifting and have always been really invested in my appearance, so people often assume I have a lot of money based on how I dress. And I have a tendency to be loose with my spending in social situations. Turning down dinner plans or a weekend trip is nearly impossible for me! I’ve never been that interested in the intricacies of my finances, but since graduating from college it’s something I think and read about pretty incessantly. I know I’m not saving as much as I should be.
How I’ve handled my finances in the past:
I was ill-prepared for understanding the financial commitment and reality of student loans. I had a decent scholarship, but paid for the rest myself. It felt like my only option at the time, but I had a “I’ll deal with it later when I’m making good money!” mindset. As for credit card debt, a string of bad luck (having to leave NYC and move back to my hometown when I couldn’t find a job, several deaths in my family that required me to travel, etc.) and an addiction to shopping are the reasons behind it.
My money goals:
Longterm: I want to start my own business one day. Short term: Pay more than the minimum on my student loans, and try to contribute more to my 401(k).
My go-to budgeting tools:
I really don’t use any. I just have a general sense of how much I want to pay off, save, and spend, and do my best to stick to that without being too strict. Obviously that’s not going super well!
How I’m challenging myself this week:
How much I *usually* spend: $200/week
My *new* weekly spending: Less than $100/week
Day 1, Monday:
I wake up everyday at 5:30 a.m. to get to the 6:30 a.m. workout class that I teach each morning. Luckily it’s held in the gym at the school I work at, so I can just hit the locker room showers and get to my classroom before the kids start arriving. Sometimes I’ll be a guest instructor at a fitness studio near my house, too, which is always a nice financial boost. I often think about giving up on teaching all together to just be a personal trainer, since a good portion of my income comes from teaching classes!
I’ve gotten into the habit of packing my lunch, I never buy lunch, even though there’s a lot of good restaurants near the school. Dinner is usually where I get into trouble! Like tonight, when I ordered some Thai food because I was so tired (-$18). I make sure to save enough so I’ll have dinner for tomorrow at least.
Day 2, Tuesday:
Same wake-up call as usual. My class is especially fun today, because it’s specifically for elderly people and they are so much fun. I leave feeling really refreshed and ready for the day. The kids are a little too excited today because we have a field trip looming tomorrow, so I do my best to keep them preoccupied and their hands busy with art projects.
I definitely have an exhausting schedule (that I’m not sure how long I can sustain, to be quite honest), so I have a pretty strict 9:30 p.m. bedtime. Tonight is no exception! I have the rest of my leftover Thai food, watch Modern Love (and sobbing!) on Amazon Prime, and going straight to sleep. No money spent today! Proud of myself.
Day 3, Wednesday:
Today is field trip day and we have an earlier than usual start time, so I’m not able to teach my class this morning. The parents all bring the kids at 7:30 a.m. so we can load them onto the buses and get on the road by 8 a.m. We’re heading to the city to go to a musical performance and a museum afterwards. I packed my lunch, but then completely forgot it at home! I had to buy something, so I figured I might as well get my FAVORITE, Sweetgreen (-$14). I used to eat there all the time when I lived in New York. We also passed a Nuts4Nuts stand and I couldn’t pass up buying some cashews (-$3). I was so exhausted by the time I got home, I ended up just making myself a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner and calling it a day!
Day 4, Thursday:
Back to my usual early wake-up time. Taught my class, hit the locker room, and started teaching. It was a pretty relaxed day in the classroom, I think the kids were still exhausted from yesterday. After work, I went to go see my brother’s art exhibition at a nearby gallery. He’s a photographer and a painter, and he lives in Brooklyn but happened to have a show pretty close to my apartment. I’m so proud of him! Afterwards him and a few of our mutual friends went out for a drink, and I bought a round because I was feeling celebratory (-$41). Oops!
Day 5, Friday:
It’s a long weekend this weekend and I couldn’t be happier! I spent the day cleaning my apartment, then got lunch with two of my friends at this new cafe that opened up in their neighborhood. I got a panini and a chai latte (-$14.59), and we sat outside chatting for a few hours. My 9:30 p.m. bedtime was out the window today, since I decided to go on a date! I met up with a guy from Hinge who I’ve been talking to for a few days now at a bar close enough to my house that I can make a quick exit if need be. He was nice and paid for two rounds of drinks, but I didn’t really feel a spark.
Day 6, Saturday:
My friend’s baby shower was today! I took an Uber there (-$9.19) since I knew I’d probably have some champagne. It was nice to see her and her family in such good spirits. To be totally transparent, major events in my the lives of my friends and family make me really reflect on where I’m at in my own life. She has a really amazing career as a fashion designer and just got married two years ago. I can’t tell if it’s jealousy, or just challenging me to really think about the direction I’m headed. I do like being single for the most part, it’s not marriage that I’m after, but more so I feel lost in my career. I love working with kids, but I’m just not making enough money for the lifestyle I want to live. I could become a physical trainer full-time, but I’m not that passionate about fitness to make it my whole life. As all these thoughts were buzzing through my head, I tried to stay positive throughout the party…but it was tough!
Later on that night one of my friends came over and we ordered a pizza and salad (-$24). It felt really good to vent, and just be transparent about how I’m feeling. She was so understanding and even feels the same way a lot of the time, she said. Sometimes just not feeling so alone in what you’re going through makes it slightly better.
Day 7, Sunday:
Today I needed a day by myself. I stayed home and did laundry, cooked some food for the week, and watched movies. I also made a list of the things the things that I want for myself in the next few years, including how much I want to make, save, and debt I want to pay off. Hopefully this will help me to make a better plan for the future.
How much I saved by end of week:
Total Spent: $123.78
Yes, I went over my goal, but I’m still proud that I cut my spending by as much as I did! Especially since I had a lot going on this week. Tracking how much I was spending instead of just winging it felt a lot more responsible. It’s definitely something I want to keep up in the future.