I Swapped Budgets With My Friend For A Week & Here’s What I Learned

Design by Kelsey Freeman
There are two types of people: the spenders and the savers. 
Okay, so it might not always be that simple, but we bet if you ask around your friendship group you’ll find people with money mindsets on completely opposite ends of the spectrum: those who spend freely and those who count the pennies. Having a small or large salary doesn’t necessarily determine which camp you’re in either; it can all come down to personality, upbringing and habits.
But can you permanently change your money mindset? Let’s find out! We challenged two friends with similar salaries but wildly different spending habits to switch budgets for a week. Nina is a self-confessed 'penny pincher' and knows every hack in the book for making her money go further. She holds an American Express® Platinum Cashback Credit Card*, and earns money back into her account on her purchases. Sarah, on the other hand, is the 'bougie babe' of the friendship, preferring to live spontaneously and spend generously. 
For this challenge we set Nina a generous budget of £500 for the week, and Sarah a stricter £80 budget. Can they change their habits and what would they learn from the experiment? Before we dive into their weeks, we’ll let Nina and Sarah introduce themselves...
Nina: "I work full-time in PR and after many, many years of honed frugality, I have just purchased a flat. This might be one of the nerdiest sentences ever to be uttered but I really get a kick out of saving: at any one time I’m juggling an annual, monthly and weekly budget, checking four different banking or savings apps every day. I am that person who prints their bank statement off each month and gets the highlighters out.
While my flat purchase was going through I took out an American Express Platinum Cashback Credit Card. I knew I’d be spending a lot in the months after and I figured earning some cashback on that was a no-brainer, but I now use it for almost all my purchases, big and small. The card allows me to track my spending in real time via the app and I can see my cashback amount steadily growing. Normally I’d spend £50-80 in a week, which would go on all food, drinks, at least one meal out and generally keeping myself entertained. Despite my undying love for a spreadsheet, I also admire Sarah’s carefree attitude to money so I’m looking forward to slipping into her shoes and worrying a bit less about where I spend my cash."
Sarah: "I work full-time as a womenswear designer in central London, and live in south London with my husband in a rented flat. I would definitely say I am a spender; I spend my entire wage each month and frequently have to borrow from my husband before the end of the month, which is slightly embarrassing at 31!
I enjoy my money, like to be spontaneous, and would say I am generous; I would never skip a round in the pub or turn up to a party empty-handed. I typically spend £300 per week with most of it going on social occasions, eating out or the pub, and holidays. I eat out at least twice a week and buy my lunch every day. We always get a curry take-out on Sunday evening – it’s a bit of a ritual. If I buy clothing I make sure it’s from a small independent brand, and I don’t mind paying more to support these.
Considering we are on a similar wage, you couldn’t really get any more different than Nina and me in terms of spending."
*Representative 28.2% APR variable. Annual fee applies. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. 18+, subject to approval. Cashback is paid annually. Promoter American Express Services Europe Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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