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By Katie Warren/Business Insider
August 23, 2018
Crowded Midtown Street
Yukinori Hasumi—Getty Images

I’ve attempted a few experiments now in the name of being better with money.

I tried not spending any money for a month and I failed miserably. I also tried tracking my spending, which made me realize the extent of my laziness and my lack of self-control.

With that track record, I should have known that spending only $100 in a week in New York City would be a struggle. But, of course, I tried.

I withdrew a $100 bill at the beginning of the week, although I didn’t hold myself to paying only in cash.

Here’s what happened.

Like with my other money challenges, the first few days of the experiment were easy.

I started this experiment on a Sunday, because I wanted to give myself a chance for success. If I’d started on a Saturday, when I tend to blow the most money, I would have failed before I started.

I had also gone grocery shopping the day before, as I usually do, so I’d be able to bring my lunches to work for the week and save some money. (I realize some people might see grocery shopping the day before as cheating. But I always go shopping on Saturdays, so this expense would be factored into my spending later in the week. )

And it worked — at least in the beginning. I cooked two giant pieces of salmon on Sunday which, combined with some greens, lasted me for three lunches for the week. I also made some chicken noodle soup, which I ended up eating three times. My weekday breakfasts were boring, but cheap: coffee, oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon provided by my office, and a banana brought from home.

I didn’t spend any money until Thursday, when I split some pizza and a salad with my friend.

My friend texted me on Wednesday and asked if I wanted to go see an outdoor movie in Brooklyn after work on Thursday.

I hadn’t seen her in a while, and the movie was “Space Jam,” so obviously I said yes.

We met at a pizza place near the park, where we split the cost of four giant slices of pizza and a salad. My half came to $14.75.

The movie was even funnier than I remembered it and, far in the distance, we got an extra show as lightning flashed throughout the movie. Some might consider that a two-for-one deal, and a major money-saving hack.

I took a shared Lyft home for $9.94 so I could avoid spending nearly an hour on the train.

Money Spent: $24.69

Money Left: $75.31

On Friday, I went out to dinner with friends and ended up spending $100 in one night.

I knew from the beginning of the week that I would have friends visiting, which is why I tried to save the majority of my $100 budget for the weekend.

On Friday, we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I looked at the menu online beforehand (as I do before eating anywhere, ever) and figured I would be able to order something that would fall in line with my budget.

But there were a few things I didn’t anticipate about the evening.

First, the group decided to order a variety of different dishes to share rather than ordering individual plates — and then split the bill evenly. Second, we lingered at the restaurant for nearly three hours, continuing to drink after we’d finished eating.

This brings me to the third thing: the drinks were so delicious — and I have such a serious problem with FOMO— that I ordered at least three $13 cocktails.

Thinking about this makes me cringe.

My share of the bill, including tax and tip, came out to exactly $100.

This meant, obviously, that I had failed my experiment.

Money Spent: $124.69

Money Left: -$24.69

Even though I failed, I was proud that I managed to spend so little money during the first five days of the challenge — and that I became more conscious of my spending.

Yes, I spectacularly failed my experiment by spending the entire $100 in one day.

The next day, I spent $30 in groceries (my half of a shopping trip with my boyfriend), which brought my weekly total to $154.69. I didn’t curtail my grocery spending in any way, because I had already been unsuccessful in my challenge.

But although I find these money experiments difficult, and I can’t seem to do them 100% successfully, I still find them valuable.

They make me more aware of my spending and less likely to carelessly blow money on things I don’t need or even really want.

They also make me realize my own privilege in undertaking this as a test and not out of necessity.

I wish I hadn’t spent $100 on one dinner and some drinks, but to be honest, I’m much happier I spent that in the company of friends I don’t get to see very often instead of on random impulse buys or workday lunches I would eat by myself.

Spending money isn’t inherently bad, but spending it mindfully is something I will continue to work at, learning from each of my failures along the way.

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