Week three: LoveRich CashPoor goes to Amsterdam (and the budget goes out the window)

LoveRichCashPoor goes to Amsterdam

LoveRichCashPoor goes to Amsterdam—tulips not included

“Sorry, this isn’t exactly princess class, my love.” The Husband

Friday

Wake up with: £40

Go to bed with: £27.17

Whoop, whoop! It’s our first wedding anniversary this weekend. I withdraw £40 from the bank to fund a weekend of romance.

On the menu: sushi with an oriental salad (in homage to one of the highlights of our honeymoon: dinner at Nobu, New York), steak and chips (our Friday-night favourite) and chocolate mousse cake (a nod to our wedding cake). On my way home, I cycle past Dalston’s Ridley Road market as it is packing up, traders are calling out to the crowds, desperately trying to get rid of their excess stock. I pick up three mangos, two avocados and two punnets of strawberries for £2.50. Win!

Thanks to a considerable over-estimation of the amount of booze our guests could get through in eight hours, we still have a stash of Can Paixano Rosat leftover from the wedding. When I get home, I discover the husband remembered to pop one in the fridge to cool before he left this morning. Did I mention I love my husband?

I create a steeplechase around the house with post-it notes inscribed with my favourite memories and anecdotes from the past year (my interpretation of the paper anniversary gift—and free to boot) and wait excitedly for the sound of the key turning in the lock.

We have a wonderful evening, full of fizz-induced giggles, although the best moment has to be when the husband hands me a gift. “It’s not our anniversary until Monday,” I protest… The husband insists I open it now. It’s a Time Out guide to Amsterdam: we fly tomorrow morning. See above for how much I love my husband.

Saturday

Wake up with: £27.17 + €24.32 (from secret foreign currency stash) + €100 (from er… the ATM) = EPIC FAIL

Go to bed with: £12.17 + €62.92

We rise bleary eyed at the crack of dawn and make our way to the airport. The most wonderful husband in the world has already booked short-term parking (cheaper than getting the train), flights (budget, of course) and hotel (not at all budget—but you won’t find me complaining).

Now, I have a confession: good as it feels to take control of my finances and work towards a long-cherished dream, that isn’t to say it isn’t tough. The moment the husband reveals we are off on an adventure, my heart fills with joy. I am well aware that a mini break in a boutique hotel is not strictly in the spirit of the current mission, but boy it feels good. Last week’s smug proclamations fly out the window. I want me some luxury and I want it now.

Confession mark two: I forgot to declare foreign currency in the audit. I have a €20 note and some shrapnel. Since we’re in full disclosure mode, I also have some US dollars, Swiss Francs, Vietnamese Dong and Mexican Pesos stashed in a safe place with my passport.

Final confession: this week, I finally managed to change the name on my bank account, meaning that I can pay in the cheques I’ve been hoarding from Christmas and my birthday. LoveRichCashPoor has some extra cash burning a hole in her pocket and she isn’t afraid to spend it.

In defence of this week’s epic fail, I said at the beginning that this isn’t a mission to always opt for the very cheapest of everything. Yes, we are trying to save, but we are trying to save without sucking all the joy out of life, or scrimping for scrimping’s sake. I’m willing to think carefully about what I buy and why to provide for my future but not always at the expense of the now. After all, you only get to celebrate your first anniversary once.

I believe fervently that there’s a distinction between cheap and value. The incredible Eritrean meal we enjoyed on Saturday night at Fenan Klein Afrika is a case in point: four beers, and an injera dotted with delectable curries to share. African music playing softly in the background, candles glittering on every table and a friendly waitress who chided us for being four minutes late with a twinkle in her eye—all for €30.40. It’s not the cheapest meal we could have eaten, but it was the best value.

Oh, and I could have spent A LOT more… Amsterdam is shopping paradise.

Sunday

Wake up with: £12.17 + €62.92

Go to bed with: £12.17 + €5.92

The husband’s boss sends him a text: “Happy anniversary. Dinner is on me—no expense spared.” We take him at his word: after a busy and blissful day treading the streets of sunny Amsterdam, we’ve worked up quite an appetite. Off to Momo for some serious sashimi and cocktails we go.

Monday

Wake up with: £12.17 + €5.92 (and withdraw €100 from the cashpoint—EPIC FAIL #2)

Go to bed with: £12.17 + €51.79

Total spent on Amsterdam trip: £128.17 (including bank charges for cash withdrawal abroad)

Total overspend this week: £88.17

Total overspend this month so far: £34.73 (taking into account underspends in previous weeks)

Total spoilt rotten wives: 1

Total utterly amazing in every way husbands: 1

At check-out, we overhear the couple in front of us at reception booking a taxi to the airport. We look at each other knowingly: we’ll be getting the €4 bus. As we squeeze onto the bus with our luggage in tow, the husband whispers: “Sorry, this isn’t exactly princess class, my love.” I laugh: it’s back to budget land for us.

Tuesday

Wake up with: £12.17

Go to bed with: £12.17

Back to earth with a bump. I have not made my lunches for the week, I have not done the laundry and it is raining. Again. Making a mental note to investigate all those ‘te koop’ (for sale) signs I saw in Amsterdam, I grab an approximation of lunch from the dregs of the fridge, pull on my waterproofs and cycle to work.

The cycle home is a timely reminder of just why I’m doing this. A crack of thunder and flash of very foreboding lightning signals the start of yet another downpour. Only this time, there’s some icy hailstones thrown in for good measure; it feels like 1,000 needles are searing into each thigh and I get utterly drenched. On the plus side, it’s free. How very Pollyanna of me.

The husband is out, so it’s straight to the freezer for the last of that leftover chilli. Normal service in the frugal kitchen resumes tomorrow.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £12.17

Go to bed with: £12.17

One of the things that struck me about Amsterdam is that the cyclists rule the road. Here it is a different story—I shouldn’t have watched 24 Hours in A&E but as the first comatose cyclist was wheeled into trauma, it was too late—it was car crash TV.

I have a near miss every day, and two years ago I broke both my arms and my jaw thanks to a car that pulled out without looking—and then drove off. I didn’t cycle for a while after that but eventually my hand was forced; the train fare is £2.35 each way, the bus costs £1.35, that’s £13.50 a week, or £702 per year. That is over a tenth of my savings goal. I’ll be cycling for the foreseeable future—complete with helmet and high-visibility vest.

Thursday

Wake up with: £12.17

Go to bed with: £8.66

Things that have run out this week include: coffee, ironing water, floor cleaner, toilet duck. Oh great. I prioritise the coffee (that’s a necessity, in my book) and pick up a chilli for tonight’s dinner: grilled chicken skewers with a spicy peanut sauce and summer rolls. Once I have finished cooking and packaged up the leftovers for lunch, the cupboard is well and truly bare… Next week is going to be tough.

One of the great advantages of this experiment is that it is forcing me to be more resourceful than ever.  The British waste more food than any other nation and our food waste is worth between £8bn and £16bn a year. This week I have thrown away (well, poured down the sink) one inch of milk—and that’s only because of our unplanned trip. How much food have you thrown away this week?

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