My Money: ‘I made it through the day without spending a dollar’

January 10, 2020 by No Comments


Chelsea ThomasImage copyright
Chelsea Thomas

My Money is a new series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Chelsea Thomas from California records her spending over a week and shares tips for saving.

We’re looking for more people to share what they spend their money on. If you’re interested, please email

Chelsea is 32 years old and lives in Los Angeles. She is the practice manager and patient coordinator of a plastic surgery practice in Beverly Hills. Her interests include participating in animal rescue fundraiser events, and researching new trends in the health and beauty industry. She also likes doing activities with her dog Roscoe, like hiking or dog fashion photo shoots. Over to Chelsea.

Chelsea’s week: A spontaneous painting project and a pizza party

I woke up at 6:45 today to get ready for work. I am already in a good mood because I normally have to wake up at 6:00 for work, but due to the holidays my daily rush-hour commute to work is cut down by 45 minutes. I work on the other side of LA, so on a normal day it takes me about one hour and 15 minutes to make the 10-mile journey to my job.

However, today the city is almost empty so it takes me under 30 minutes to arrive at work. I would love to live closer to my job, but my crippling student loan debt doesn’t allow me the luxury of living near my office, which happens to be situated in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the United States.

I arrive a bit early today, so I walk across the street to a coffee shop and get an iced coffee for $3.78 (£2.90). I bring my lunch with me to work and don’t spend anything else the rest of my work day.

On my way home from work I need to stop and charge my car since it is fully electric. I charge at a public charger for one hour to get 20 miles which costs me $1.38.

When I get home my boyfriend and I celebrate the fact that neither one of us has to work the next two days by forgetting about our healthy food-only diet and ordering a bunch of pizza. We alternate who pays for meals and today is my turn – $21.75.

After eating enough pizza to make even yoga pants feel too tight, I decide I cannot do anything other than lay on the couch and watch Netflix all night. We make it half way through an hour-long episode, before I pass out asleep for the evening.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

Total spend: $26.91

Today is New Year’s Eve and I have the entire day off as well as tomorrow – woohoo! My boyfriend and I sleep in and have a light breakfast at home since we both still feel full from our pizza party last night.

We are planning on celebrating New Year’s at a friend’s house who is throwing a small party. We decide to go to Costco to pick up a bottle of alcohol and hostess gift since they typically have the best prices on items in my area. We decide on a bottle of Japanese whisky $32.84 and a box of liquor filled chocolates $18.60. We also get a bag of dog food while we are there since we are running low $43.57.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

We decide to eat leftovers at home versus grabbing a bite somewhere since we are now running behind.

At 8:45 we leave to our friend’s party. We call an Uber car and the 24-minute drive to her house costs $26.85. We spend the next few hours drinking cocktails, eating appetizers, and listening to music with friends. At around 1:30 we decide to call it a night and head home. We check the Uber app and the cost to call a car home has now skyrocketed to over $100! There has been a fare surge due to the holiday so we decide to hang out longer and wait for prices to drop.

At around 2:15 we check transportation prices again and they have been cut in half, still not what we want to spend but we are tired and eager to get home at this point. We call the car and spend $50.45 to get back home. Spending the car ride dreaming of getting into warm pyjamas and out of my uncomfortable heels and dress justifies the awful price for just a moment.

My boyfriend and I split the cost of everything 50/50 today so I’m fine with what I’ve spent, considering it’s a holiday.

Total spend: $86.16

Today is New Year’s day! A day where it is socially acceptable to lounge around and practice the art of doing positively nothing. I am off work today and because we stayed out so late last night I end up waking up after 11:00am – oops, half the day is already gone.

After complaining I am hungry for 30 minutes but not doing anything about it, my boyfriend agrees to go out and track us down some mid-afternoon breakfast bagels. He returns 30 minutes later with breakfast as well as additional food for dinner later. Both my stomach and my wallet are very happy.

After we eat we spend the rest of the day uneventfully playing video games and watching movies on Netflix, and congratulating ourselves on being adults and not getting drunk last night just because it’s a holiday.

I remember my college days of spending an entire paycheck on dresses and drinking just because it was a holiday. Thanks but no thanks – welcome to adulthood. Normally my student loans come out of my account on the first of each month, but the banks are closed today so the withdrawal will not happen until tomorrow. I somehow made it through the day without spending a dollar – a New Year’s miracle!

Total spend: $0

Back to work today. I wake up a little late this morning and struggle to get out of bed. My sleeping schedule is messed up from my days off. I eventually get out of bed and realize I wasted so much time I now don’t have time to make breakfast.

I grab a protein bar and rush out the door. I get to work and realise I forget to bring my lunch. Ugh, I hate when this happens. When lunch time rolls around I walk down the street from my work to a local juice shop and get an acai bowl $10.90.

Today my student loans also come out of my account $859. I put a big portion of any extra income I get during the year towards my student loans so I can hopefully get them paid off quicker and not have the interest pile up. Sometimes seeing my friends spend their extra income on vacations and travelling I can feel down, thinking that this mountainous black hole of debt will never go away.

However, for the most part I always try to remain positive about the situation. I should feel grateful that I have a job that pays me enough to always pay my bills on time, something that hundreds of thousands of people in America who are plagued with monumental student loan debt struggle to do while also carrying the burden of keeping their families afloat. Thinking of this today is a great reminder to always be thankful and grateful for what I have.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

Total spend: $869.90

I wake up early enough today to do a quick meditation. I’ve been trying to meditate more and more the last few months. I would love to join a local class but the costs in my area are outrageous for something I can do at home.

I pack some berries and chia seed pudding I made for lunch and make my way to work.

At lunchtime I notice I have a notification on my phone to put in my produce delivery order today. I subscribe to a wonderful food delivery service that focuses on the elimination of food waste. Weekly or bi-weekly I log onto my account to shop a list of “imperfect” food items that are perfectly fine but cannot be sold in stores due to being too small, an odd shape, or there is simply a surplus of an item.

We are able to buy an abundance of fresh organic fruits and vegetables this way at highly discounted prices. I have saved so much money using this service over the past few years since I am a vegetarian and my main food staples are fruits and vegetables. The order I place today comes to $16.82 for 10lbs of organic produce. I don’t order too much because I still have a little left from last week’s order.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

My car lease payment has also been automatically deducted from my account today $146.59 as well as my car insurance $142.04 and home insurance $32.01.

On my way home from work I stop and pick up a caprese sandwich and green salad for dinner $13.14. I get home and catch up on some Real Housewives shows since my boyfriend is working late tonight.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

Total spend: $350.60

Even though it’s Saturday I wake up early. I listen to a podcast and clean up the house a bit while simultaneously drinking coffee and a protein shake. While I am cleaning I notice some stains on the walls that are not coming off. I actually noticed it a few weeks ago but now feel as though they are getting worse and it’s driving me crazy!

I don’t have any plans today so I make the impromptu decision to paint the walls. My boyfriend tries to talk me out of it saying we should have it done professionally. I briefly look online and see prices of several hundred dollars to have a room painted. No thanks, I’ll figure it out.

I drive 10 minutes to a home improvement store and spend an hour picking out brushes and other accessories, and deciding between egg white and ultra pure white. Before admitting to myself I have no idea what I’m doing, and putting everything back in exchange for a pre-assembled painting kit, and googling the best brand of white wall paint to buy. I make it out of the store with probably not everything I need at $83.08.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

I rush home and down some leftovers so I can quickly begin painting. Before I know it it’s dark out and time to eat dinner. I am only half way done with my painting project so my boyfriend offers to go pick us up some food for dinner (anything to get out of the possibility of painting I suppose).

After eating I spend the rest of the evening painting, scrubbing spilled paint… and thinking about how I should have just paid a professional. However, with the cheap cost of DIY plus spitting the cost of supplies with my boyfriend it was ultimately worth it.

Total spend: $41.54

After spending the entire day inside yesterday painting I wake up feeling like I immediately need to get out of the house. I throw on some clothes and take my dog for a walk to a nearby juice shop. I get a green juice $8.75 and slice of zucchini bread $2.75 for breakfast and a quinoa veggie bowl to go for lunch later $11.99.

After breakfast we walk past a nearby pet shop. My only two money vices in life – makeup/skincare and dog anything. After a three-hour shopper’s blackout in Sephora six months ago I actually forbid myself from buying any cosmetics until I run out of what I currently have. Dog stuff is still fair game since he’s my one and only child.

Image copyright
Chelsea Thomas

I find a bag of treats, a chew toy, lavender-scented waste bags, senior vitamins and a mommy’s best buddy t-shirt all on sale totalling $33.95. On the way out I also give a $15 donation to a local dog and cat fundraising team outside.

After lunch I meet a friend for coffee $4.85 and charge my car at a nearby public charger for an hour and 10 minutes while I’m there $1.17.

This evening my boyfriend and I go to a friend’s house for dinner, who insists we do not bring anything at all along with us. Afterwards we head home to relax and get ourselves ready for the week ahead.

Total spend: $78.46

How does Chelsea feel about her week?

I spent a little spontaneously this week which is alright because of a handful of monetary gifts I received from family members for the holidays. A lot of my spending this week also went towards food and a few of my monthly bills.

Overall I am fine with my spending this week when looking it over. I try to balance responsible spending while I’m working to pay off my student loans while also allowing myself occasional frivolous spending without guilt or thinking about it since I work hard for my money!

Total weekly spend: $1,453.57 (£1,107)