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The Money Diaries: The 20-something ex-pat taking on the expense of her own apartment

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Today is another post in the Money Diaries series, which is based off New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries. We’ve collected stories from real people about their spending habits over seven days, anonymized them, and posted them here.

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Today’s post is by a 28-year-old woman who lives with her boyfriend in the Netherlands. She has $35k in student loans and has recently taken on the expense of her own apartment, where she’ll live during the week to eliminate a long train commute. What do you think — is this a smart move? (NOTE: her spending is in euros, unless specified.)

Day 1
2 p.m.: Payday! I get paid once a month. I immediately send my boyfriend 125 (since my health insurance is under his name) and funnel 166 to my savings account. I wire 400 to my US bank account (which is about $280 U.S. dollars. I won’t know exactly how much it is in euros until it clears) for student-loan repayments. I owe about $35k.
5 p.m: Ordinarily I do all the grocery shopping on Saturday, but tonight there’s nothing but potato chips for dinner. So I go out, get some bread and cheese for sandwiches. Spend a little extra on fruit and croissants for tomorrow’s breakfast. Total spent: 12.45
5:20 p.m.: Stop by the drugstore for some hand lotion, at my boyfriend’s request. I pick up a tube of Neutrogena and something funky called a “Hand mask.” Total spent was 8.05. I don’t mind buying things for him because he takes care of the mortgage and utilities—when he bought his condo, we weren’t living together, and now that we do, I take care of most of the groceries and day-to-day shopping needs.

Day 2
10:20 a.m.: Bus trip to town for a shopping trip. Cost 1.20, but I’ve put down 20 on the card (you scan it as you board the bus, and then again when you get off, and your fare is calculated by distance) earlier this week.
10:34 a.m.: In the Toko (where one gets “exotic” stuff like rice that comes in bags rather than in boxes) to pick up some lemongrass and noodles for the pho that I plan to make tomorrow night (8.5 per kilo). Also notice the chili peppers aren’t moldy for once, so I get a pack of Thai chilies and bird chilies (1.28 and 1.58, respectively). Pick up a bottle of “ginger wine.” just for kicks (7.95). Total spent: 12.90
10:45 a.m.: The WE (sort of like the Gap, but geared more towards “business casual” wear) has set up a temporary outlet store. I get a winter coat there—my own winter coat is hopelessly grimy and looks like I spent the better part of my life in a trash heap. Spent 29.95 on a nice heavy (and dark!) small men’s winter coat that comes to my hips.
11:02 a.m.: (according to the time stamp) Stop by the ATM to get an additional 60 in cash. I prefer shopping with cash, and also because the farmer’s market doesn’t take electronic payments.
11:10 a.m.: At the farmer’s market, spend 4.50 on a bunch of herbs and garlic.
11:23 a.m.: At the pet store. I hate the pet store. I always get something extra, because it’s so much fun to spoil my cats. In this case, my cats have worn out their cardboard scratch pad after a scant few weeks (my old one lasted a good several months, so I didn’t expect this one to wear out so quickly), so I want to replace it with a sisal one before they attack the sofas. I end up spending 12.15 on the scratch board, four individual cans of cat food (I tend to get lazy about preparing their dinners on the weekends), and two toy mice.
11:45 a.m.: At Xenos, where my boyfriend picks up more candles, a few glasses, some throw pillows. I don’t actually know how much he spent, because we keep our purchases separate. We also stop by the craft store to get some candle-making things—for him, again. I think he spent ~60, but again, we keep our financial lives separate.
12:29 p.m.: head back home. My bus card is down to 13.08.
12:50 p.m.: Get some stuff for the planned pho tomorrow. Also get some salami and stuff to pack my boyfriend’s lunch with Sunday night—the stores are not open on Sunday, so I’ve got to get everything today. Total spent 23.25.

Day 3
At home. No money spent, largely because there’s nowhere to spend it. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner consist mainly of simple, cheap stuff out of our pantry. Part II of cleaning done, and more laundry—line-drying limits us to a maximum of two loads per day, or 1 day of sheets. Today is sheet day. No, it’s not because we’re trendy-green, it’s because we don’t have a dryer.
5:35 p.m.: The gas lines of our stove is leaking. Shit. No pho. Double shit. How much is this going to cost us?

Day 4
9 a.m.: Can’t reach any repairmen, although it is possible that it’s listed under something less obvious in the phone book.
10:26 a.m.: To town, to catch the train to Maastricht. I have a 1 p.m. meeting with the realtor who has two apartments I want to look at. I’m looking for a place where I could stay closer to work during the week so that I don’t have to commute 4 hours by train every day. Another 1.20 gone.
10:32 a.m.: 20.20 for a round trip ticket to Maastricht.
10:34 a.m.: Withdraw 60 from the ATM. 40 of it is to become a “member” with the real estate company, so I’ll be able to look at apartments for a year, 20 is for groceries later.
12 p.m.: I haven’t had anything since breakfast this morning, so I spend 1.40 on a little snack.
1:15 p.m.: At the realtor’s, pay my 40, and go see the apartment. It’s nice enough for the price, but an immigration question prevents me from signing the papers right away (the apartment is just over the Belgian border, and I don’t want to have any problems with my residence status in the Netherlands).
2:01 p.m.: 4.70 for lunch—a wrap and a coffee drink from the train station.
4:45 p.m.: Call immigration, find out there won’t be a problem. I can move!
5:25 p.m.: 12.20 in the grocery store, for some milk, more sandwich supplies, and fruit for my boyfriend’s lunch boxes. Yes, I pack his lunch for him.

Day 5
11:04 a.m.: Spent the morning calling up people to see if I can reach someone to repair our gas line. No luck. Also called up the realtor—I can sign for the apartment today. I will be moving into the apartment on November 15. For the first two weeks on the job I will be staying in temporary housing. I figure I should get to know the place a bit first, since I will need to buy all of the accoutrements of living.
11:10 a.m.: Transferred 1300 from my savings account to my checking account. This, along with the 1000 portion that I’ve set aside from this month’s paycheck, will cover the apartment (security deposit, rent for 1/2 a month, plus the realtor’s commission), as well as costs for stuff that I’ll need (pots, pans, a bike, etc). Can we say “IKEA”?
12 p.m.: Lunch at home: PB & J, an apple, and a cup of soup.
12:45 p.m.: 11.96 at the Albert Heijn (supermarket). I’d originally gone to the Blokker to buy hangers, but they were out, so I stopped by the AH for some other things that we needed anyway (spinach, peanut butter, yogurt, Clementine oranges).
3 p.m.: Get an email from the realtor. The bill is 1291, which includes the security deposit, the first 1/2 month’s rent, and the commission. Grumble, but sign, scan, and send. I don’t really mind, though—the realtor did explain the costs, and the apartment will save me a 4-hour roundtrip daily commute.

Day 6
12-2 p.m.: In town again for some little things: total spent was 19.75 on pears, anti-slip mats to trap kitty litter when the cats finish their business, a basket for widowed and orphaned socks, and the regulation trash bags (where I live, if it’s not in the correct bag then it won’t get collected). A random purchase that I made was for two liters of juice—they were only 0.25, and we do drink some juice from time to time. Resend the email with the scanned lease agreement—forgot to attach the document yesterday.

Day 7
Planning how to set up my apartment. This is actually a really big deal because I don’t have a car, nor a license, so I can’t rent one. I figure about 500 for all of the stuff that I’ll need to get, 300 for the washing machine, and 150 for a bike. I did over-estimate some of the costs, so hopefully it won’t be too much more than that.
1 p.m.: 32.32 spent at the Blokker on towels and an alarm clock. Much to my annoyance they don’t carry any non-battery-operated clocks, so I also have to buy batteries.
1:20 p.m.: Spend 30.69 at the AH for a ton of kitty-chicken (I’ve been feeding my cats a mostly-raw diet for the past 2 years), a whole pre-marinated roaster, enough canned cat food for 2 weeks’ worth of dinners, and some flavored milk priced at 3-for-2, a favorite that won’t last long enough to go bad. I don’t dare get too much fresh food for my boyfriend, since odds are he’ll be too tired to make anything for himself before it goes bad.

IN SUM
1745 euros gained, 676.27 actively spent, 176 saved, but 1291 out of my savings (which is now depleted to 576) for a new life that will start next week.

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Read other Money Diaries. Or to be featured anonymously in a future Money Diary, click here.

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44 Comments on "The Money Diaries: The 20-something ex-pat taking on the expense of her own apartment"

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yohami
6 years 6 months ago

So much nonsense. If she makes 1700 a month, theres no way she is doing anything smart

Kerry
Kerry
6 years 6 months ago

She should consider renting a room from a family. It would probably be cheaper, and furnished. If she’s really serious with her boyfriend and they will get married, having to downsize her purchases for her apartment will be a hassle.

Porter
Porter
6 years 6 months ago

I think she made a significant error on her math in the first bit… 400 Euros is $542, not $280.

452
452
6 years 6 months ago

Love love love the money diaries. Glad to see them back, I always learn the most from other’s mistakes and from the comments posted!

Smarter Spend
6 years 6 months ago

A lot of mistakes in this one…

h
h
6 years 6 months ago

She can’t do math (EUR USD) and that’s very obvious in her decisions. No financial buffer (576 EUR!), lots of debts but getting a seperate apartment with all its costs and which has also to be furnished.

But maybe it’s just a way to get rid of her BF…she doesn’t seem to contribute to the mortgage payments anyway.

This is probably the most scary money diary I’ve read so far.

But I’m really happy to see some stuff from Europe for once!

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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something ex-pat taking on the expense … […]

Jules
6 years 6 months ago
Notes about my salary: It is actually closer to €2600/month, but I only bring home about €1700. Ain’t socialism wonderful? In all seriousness, though, having comprehensive medical and dental insurance coverage for €80/month is something I don’t mind losing 40% of my paycheck for. Part of my pay also goes towards a retirement plan (my position is technically a government job). I probably got the units mixed up, rather than the math–I check the exchange rates every time I send money to the US, and at the time I wrote this it was a little higher than it is now.… Read more »
Jules
6 years 6 months ago

I should also add: aside from my student loans, I have no other debt. I’ve consolidated them at a fixed interest of 4.25%, and my payments are only $245/month. However, seeing that I really want to get this debt monkey off my back, I make extra payments every month.

helen
helen
6 years 6 months ago
Per her update comment: I would build at least a 3-6 month emergency fund, ideally up to 12 months if you are essentially functioning as single by maintaining your own housing, before you worry about paying extra on the student loan. If you run into trouble, the student loan company is not going to say “well, you did pay this part early, so you can have it back.” If you are not in your home country, it seems like it would be important to have at least enough to move all your stuff back home if something went awry, and… Read more »
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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something ex-pat taking on the expense … […]

Ken Siew
6 years 6 months ago
All the math aside, I’m more curious what you are going to do with the extra 4 hours a day? That’s 80 hours of time saved every month from the super long commute (I can never take 4 hours of commute every day!). Are you doing something on the side to earn more money? Or maybe it’s essential to keep yourself from going insane? Lots of room for creativity there. I haven’t looked at every number in the post, but it seems like you’re not breaking the bank every month. And you also manage to make extra payments to pay… Read more »
duddes02
6 years 6 months ago

I’m confused as to why you say you pay 40% of your salary for the “socialist” benefit- however you pay your boyfriend 120 to be under his medical insurance. What am I missing? where exactly is the 40% going?

Jules
6 years 6 months ago
@ helen: I am working on my savings. I currently have €2000 in savings, and I’ll probably get a decent tax return as well (tax deadline is 1 Apr). The main reason for me being a little less concerned about the emergency fund, though, is that I’m more concerned with buying time: the service I use to pay my student loans has the option of advancing the payment due dates. It can take a long time to find a job (yes, the recession hit here, too) and job postings for positions similar to mine were rare in the best of… Read more »
duddes02
6 years 6 months ago

Getting back into shape + Ramen seems counterproductive 🙂

I do see that you seem to eat well (at least based on your recent purchases).

Good luck!

Jules
6 years 6 months ago

@ dudde2:

The Netherlands does not use a single-payer system (like the UK). Instead, individuals are required, by law, to buy health insurance. I’m assuming that part of the €900 I never see of my wages goes towards government subsidies for those too poor to buy their own plans. My current plan costs me €80/month. My boyfriend’s plan used to cost €120/month.

duddes02
6 years 6 months ago

@Jule-got it, that makes sense. Just curious-would the plan be cheaper for the two of you if you were married?

Honey
6 years 6 months ago

So you were unemployed and then got a job? That would explain why the sudden move, and why you used to be on your boyfriend’s health insurance. I liked the daily details but couldn’t really get any sense of how any of it fit into the context of your normal life.

memei
memei
6 years 6 months ago

wow you guys take no prisoners. scary

Migdalia
Migdalia
6 years 6 months ago

Jules, I have a question, why are making trips for groceries almost every day? Is not easier to plan a bigger groceries purchase?

Honey
6 years 6 months ago

Migdalia, if she is living in the Netherlands, she probably doesn’t have a car and can’t buy more groceries at a time than she can carry. That’s my understanding of how it is done in most of Europe. There are also not as many grocery stores (as we understand them) in Europe, so you always have to make multiple stops because you get your bread one place, your cheese another, your meat yet another, etc.

yohami
6 years 6 months ago

Buying groceries each day is more of a cultural things than anything else. Nothing could stop you buying for the week or the month if you wanted to.

Cas
Cas
6 years 6 months ago

Re #21 Honey, your stereotypes are a little out of date The majority of Europe is the same as the US with huge supermarkets and most people doing a big weekly shop. It used to be the case that people shopped daily but that was 30 years ago! Also our toilets are now all indoors lol

Honey
6 years 6 months ago

@Cas, good to know. I have only been to 4 countries in Europe but I didn’t see anything like that. Though it was funny to see people at Versailles claim the toilet didn’t flush when they simply didn’t know how to flush it.

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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something ex-pat taking on the expense … […]

JT
JT
6 years 6 months ago
Love the money diaries! I don’t see any major problem with the day-to-day spending…she seems to have a good handle on managing her money and day-to-day spending vs saving vs paying down her debt. I would say that its hard to tell from her diary what her long-term goals are. I think a short-term apartment is fine to avoid a long commute, but what kind of future is she envisioning with the current boyfriend? Is she fine with this as a long-term arrangement, or does she want marriage and to start a family, in which case I’m not sure that… Read more »
eugene yee
eugene yee
6 years 6 months ago

+4 hours to your life everyday? Win.

FX
6 years 6 months ago

While I agree that everyday financial activities are important in building one’s financial habits, I am also quite curious on her long term financial plans.

DJ Wetzel
6 years 6 months ago

I’ll be honest, I am a huge animal lover, I have a cat and a dog that I spoil regularly…..but spending a bunch of money on kittie chicken and canned cat food when you are eating Ramen? A raw food diet for you cat? I would rotate those guys down to the dry stuff and buy myself the chicken.

Jeremy Ruiz
Jeremy Ruiz
6 years 6 months ago

Great stuff. I think this is a really helpful blog. I love The Netherlands. Recently shipped 3 car through Rotterdam using Auto Shipping Network. They did a great job. Look forward to reading from you again!

Al
Al
6 years 6 months ago

She’s doing great. I get a kick out of all the losers trying to micro-manage every second of her day.

Some people like to live life. They like to hit on woman or men. They like to do sports.

Get a life losers

Silvia
6 years 6 months ago
wow.. very interesting to read. also, it inspired me to keep a diary with the daily expenses,probably something basic i should have thought of earlier, but i guess better late than ever. on the less pleasant side, i was more than slightly annoyed in reading the comments posted by honey, especially the one about the french inability to flush the toilet.come on! i’m european myself ( italian), i’ve been an expat in us, japan and now london ( still technically europe i know, but i swear the feeling is really different from the continent). i felt quite hurt from honey’s… Read more »
Honey
6 years 6 months ago

Um, I said that the AMERICAN tourists didn’t know (and wouldn’t try) to flush the FRENCH toilets when they were at Versailles. I was appalled at how everyone just gave up, all the tourists ahead of me in line kept coming out and saying, “the toilet doesn’t flush,” and when I got in there I was able to flush it easily and couldn’t believe that no one even tried.

gladys
gladys
6 years 6 months ago

i do really i want to be rich and has just started saving some money i have. i am a student in the university but here in ghana you do not have to go through hell in shool if you are as young as i am with a middle family supporting you

Jules
Jules
6 years 6 months ago

@ DJ Wetzel: Hehe, actually the raw diet isn’t all that costly, and it only makes up 1/2 of their diet these days–it actually costs more to feed the Tweeb (our renal failure-kitty) per month than it does to feed the other two, combined.

Cas
Cas
6 years 6 months ago

@Honey – don’t worry I think most of us understood your original point, Anyway how could you be anything other than lovely with a name like “Honey” 😉

Honey
6 years 6 months ago

Haha, Cas, actually it’s sort of funny (except for how gross the toilet was by the time I got to it!).

Порно онлайн
6 years 6 months ago

Good post for himself learned many new things, thanks

JM
JM
6 years 5 months ago
If at all possible, I would say to leave the money in your account instead of transferring every month to the US. 400 euros = $540 so even with interest you’ll still be ahead. Try and transfer every 6 months to pay off the debt if possible so the bank that you are wiring from doesn’t take a cut each time. There are probably even other options like PayPaling it to yourself (setting up accts for your Dutch bank and your American one on PayPal then transferring b/w). I would also be sure to know what’s going on with your… Read more »
Thijs
Thijs
6 years 5 months ago
I’m Dutch, now studying in the US for this Academic year. I think comments roundup a pretty thorough of Americans and their perspectives on the world. Some are filled with cliches, stereotypes, and some are well thought through. That being said, the 40% goes to social security, taxes, retirement. The Dutch health insurance is completely different than the American, even after the reform (NL is way more social, strict and “less-liberal”). What she didn’;t mention is that she might be getting money from the government to support her health insurance (although single, 2600 income might be too high socio-economical) commuting… Read more »
Bryan
Bryan
6 years 5 months ago

I wouldn’t build up a years worth of “disaster” savings like people are recommending. You live in a Northern European quasi-socialist country, I would just use other people’s money if I lost my job, through employment insurance schemes and welfare. Make sure you know you qualify in advance first.

For people who object to this: It’s there because they voted for it, and she has it stolen from her paycheque now anyway.

Jules
6 years 5 months ago

@ Bryan: That’s why it cost my boyfriend almost €1000 to sponsor me, and why he had to find a year’s worth of pay stubs to demonstrate that he did, in fact, have a job, and did not rely on welfare (otherwise I would’ve had to find another sponsor)–because I don’t qualify for welfare here.

Shelley
Shelley
6 years 5 months ago

@Thijs – shopping every day can be more expensive if you find yourself picking up more than you wanted just because you saw it that day. Jules was buying things that she said she needed (every day) versus making a list and shopping once. She also bought extra things just because she saw them.

I am not saying that it is good or bad, but I know I would be picking up things that appealed to me in the moment in addition to the things that I needed.

Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com

Interesting article to be honest. It’s always really fun to see someone elses system for dealing with finances even if its so different from your own. You can always learn at least one thing that will make a difference.

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