Savings: Status Check

A few weeks ago I decided I would start saving money for the purpose of living a decent life while in Amsterdam. No matter how I do the math, I’m going to have to take out some loans – at least for the first semester (before tons of miraculous scholarships and grants come through). So accepting the seeping-further-into-debt scenario, I want to at least be grown up enough to pay for my basic monthly expenses on my own. If I can put enough money away, I might actually be able to live like a normal person while I’m there. The alternative will be to live on crackers and Ramen. And I won’t say I’m too old for that…but I’m definitely too tired.

So anyway, I officially started on my savings plan a little over two weeks ago. The first few days were just warm-up. I was paying closer attention to my spending habits, but not really curbing them. Each day went something like: “okay, it’s crazy that I’m spending $9 on lunch today. I’m gonna have to cut this out.”

Last week was the first full week of what I now see is an entirely new lifestyle. It was like I started on a new workout plan after never having done so much as a stomach crunch in my entire life. Each day felt like I was doing chin-ups. It became harder and harder to sustain. And sure enough, by Friday, I fell off the bar.

I started out the week by making dinner on Sunday and packing a sandwich for lunch on Monday. On Monday night I made dinner again (and please keep in mind we’re already over my typical cooking capacity for a week), expecting to have enough leftovers to create lunches for the rest of the week. Not quite – I barely had enough for Tuesday. So there I was on Tuesday night, cooking again. This lasted me through Thursday. While all of this cooking and lunch packing was going on, I was also actively resisting all urges to make impulse purchases throughout the day. Small stuff calls me more than I realized. A lemonade here. A used book there. A delicious cookie on the way…you get the gist. But come Thursday evening, between smarter eating habits and partaking in only free events, I had managed to avoid pulling out my wallet once all week. Not once! (Never mind the fact that I treated myself to a couple of very cheap happy hour drinks on Thursday night to celebrate my accomplishment.)

Despite my hope to make it through the entire week without buying my lunch, I couldn’t do it on Friday. My savings muscles were simply exhausted. My compromise was to buy a relatively inexpensive sandwich without any frills in the form of juice or dessert. I didn’t feel like I had failed by any means. But it was made clear that getting through the rest of this year on such a tight budget is not going to be easy.

This week has actually been a bit easier. Perhaps because I now know what to expect. So far so good on lunch everyday. And thoughtful grocery shopping has also helped, though I still need to work on the coupon thing. I opened my wallet a few times for some essential purchases – like cat food and a cupcake from Cake & Shake. But I think I’ve almost hit a stride.

Slowly, but surely, my savings grows. Here’s the latest.

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