Savings: Status Check

It’s been awhile since I’ve given an update on my savings strategy. Mostly because it’s embarrassing.

I set the goal to save $10,000 by the end of this year, which will provide me with some cash to help me survive the student life while in Amsterdam. I started out pretty well, cutting back in various areas of my life and regularly adding to my savings account. Though it’s only ever been small amounts, the steady progress I was beginning to see was comforting.

But now, a few months later, progress has come to a screaching halt. After an expensive July, including car repair and travel expenses, I had an even more expensive August, with more car repair and unexpected medical costs. And September hasn’t allowed me to catch up. It seems like the more I lose control over what I’m spending money, the more I feel compelled to spend it voluntarily on things that are nowhere in the budget. My logic goes something like, “well, the budget is already shot. So I may as well buy these platform shoes with fish in them.” So as much as I’d like to blame my derailed spending solely on the cruel universe that doesn’t want me to succeed, I must take at least 10 percent of the blame….or 60.

Nonetheless, I’m still trying. And if anyone has ideas about how I can make some extra cash, I’m wide open.

Here’s the latest.

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.