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I am 27 years old and make a joint equivalent salary of $139,000, live in Arlington, VA and work as a Finance Officer
I’m British, working for a British Company in the US on a three-year posting (one year in). My salary is actually £33,000 but due to the increased cost of living here, I get an additional £10,000 allowance for living costs, and my rent/utilities are paid directly by my company. This puts my equivalent salary at $93,000.
I’m aware this is an incredibly fortunate position to be in, especially with COVID, however when I return to the UK, I will be paid my UK salary only, so this is a short-term benefit.
The company can split my pay between my UK and US accounts, and currently 95%ish of it is going to my UK account. This % split was only set up after lockdown as we are currently spending much less on travel/socialising here so are taking the opportunity to focus on building our UK savings. My husband, J, was fortunate enough to get local employment when he arrived in country. He earns an additional $46,000 net which we live on.
For ease/consistency, I have converted all costs at 1.3 as this is roughly the average conversion since I’ve lived here – I will write UK next to any cost/savings that are based in the UK.
Section One: Assets and Debt
J and I (now) combine all our finances, so except for my pension pot, and a small F* Off Fund (FoF - we have one each), everything else is split 50/50. This will likely change when we go back to the UK as we’ll have better access to our own bank accounts.
My personal Net Worth is $72,400
I’ve contributed to work pension schemes since I started working full time age 18. This has been set at around 5% since I joined my current employer 7 years ago, and they contribute around 27%. I’m actually guaranteed £4,000 per year once I retire for as long as I live so have multiplied this by 20 on the assumption the retirement age actually stays at 68 and I make it to my late 80’s. This amount will increase over the years with inflation and as I contribute further to it. I can choose to retire earlier, plus take up to a 25% tax free lump sum on retirement, but that will affect the annual pay-out amount.
UK $52,000 equity, $157,300 left on the mortgage
J and I bought ($197,600) with just over a 10% ($20,000) deposit 3 years ago aged 24 and contributed half each. I managed to save this as I was living at home until we bought, and J got a help to buy loan through his previous workplace. He’s since cleared this.
Savings account balance
$29,700 made up of:
US $6,700 for fun money here (currently planned for another car – we’ll sell our existing one)
UK $6,500 in premium bonds as my FoF, $13,800 in our joint savings account to upsize when we get back to the UK, $2,600 in one of my side saving accounts as a potential future maternity pot. This is joint but kept in a separate account from the house savings.
Around $22,000 of this has been saved since the beginning of lockdown
Checking account balance
US $120 (+ $1,190 in checking, -$1,070 on AMEX). All our savings accounts are easy access, so we try to keep the balance as low as possible and tend to spend the full amount each month. [We end the week with this back up to $1,559]
Credit card debt (and how you accumulated it)
0 – we use our AMEX for our everyday spending, so I’ve included it in our checking account as we usually pay it off each week and use it in place of our checking account. J had CC/loan debt in the UK from the house deposit and wedding which he cleared down before we moved out here.
Student loan debt (for what degree)
0 - neither of us went to University
Anything else that's applicable to you
We paid outright for a second-hand car that is worth around $6,000
Section Two: Income & Further Background
I started at my current company 7 years ago working as a personal assistant and started on $24,000. I stayed in this role for 2.5 years before promoting into a finance role and onto $31,000. After a year I was temporarily promoted (with pay rise) within my team to a higher finance role and after a further 6 months was permanently promoted into the role and onto $35,750. There’s usually an annual pay rise of around 2%, which I’ve received between each promotion, but as this last promotion pay rise wasn’t as high as usual, my last few annual pay rises have been higher to bring me to my now salary of $43,290. I’ve spent the last three years at the same level, but have changed teams to gain more experience which will be needed for the next promotion which I’ll hopefully be able to get when I return to the UK – this will take me over the $50,000 mark.
Main Job Monthly Take Home:
UK – I get paid once a month, receiving $3,783 after tax, national insurance and pension contributions. This also includes the extra living allowance. $3,510 is paid into my UK account, $273 is paid into the US
US – J gets paid fortnightly, and earns a net salary of $3,546 per month (assuming 2 pay periods per month)
Any Other Monthly Income Here
UK - We receive around $598 per month from tenants in our house in the UK. The letting agents take all management and admin fees directly from the rent before we get paid. This amount can be less if any work needs doing on the property, but again the letting agent will pay directly and just transfer us a reduced amount. We also have to pay tax on any rent received and still need to pay last year’s bill, but we haven’t calculated it yet.
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?:
Not from family. My parents don’t have degrees, and whilst they supported my siblings going, it was our own personal choice. If we didn’t go, we were expected to work full time.
My school did expect me to go. I was in the last school year before UK University tuition went up, so the only advise they could give was to go now as you won’t be able to afford it in the future. I had a place to study events management but turned it down a week before the deadline. Bar sometimes feeling like I missed out on the University life experience (aka. freshers week), I have zero regrets not going.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My siblings and I were always encouraged to save including contributing to pensions when we started working, and prioritise this and bills over spending our money, but conversations didn’t go much further than that.
What was your first job and why did you get it?:
Weekly paper round from age 12 to 16 which gave me $10 a week to pay for my phone credit and to build savings. I started working part-time in a supermarket from age 16 earning around $250 a month, but this was mainly spent shopping and in the pub!
Did you worry about money growing up?:
No – my parents operated on a “what we do for one, we do for all”, so with a house of five kids, we certainly weren’t living the life of luxury, but we never went without, and it encouraged me to earn some of my own money from an early age.
Do you worry about money now?:
No, J and I are in a really good position and try to make sensible decisions so that we can still cope if our circumstances change.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?:
Fully when I bought the house and moved out age 24, although I obviously gained the support from J. I’ve always had to use my own money for wants and non-essentials (phone bill, own laptop, “fun” clothes). I was given a few years grace on rent as my parents helped my siblings at Uni, but this stopped when I turned 21. I’ve always bought my own cars/insurance and would contribute to the household, including buying some food and replacing furniture in my room.
Our parents continue to support us anyway they can, which included letting J and I move back in rent free last year whilst we were replacing our kitchen.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?:
My dad saved around $1,200 from when I was a child which I received aged 18 – this went into savings and then towards my first car and laser eye surgery.
My brothers and I also received $1,950 each from a great aunt when she died, which was a complete surprise (the will was contested so this was several years later). Our much younger half-brother didn’t receive anything, so we split this equally with him. The money left went towards mine and J’s wedding and we also received around $5000 additional from various family members towards our wedding and honeymoon. This was also not expected, and we budgeted not to receive anything, but this was a bonus and it relieved some of the pressure on us to save.
Section Three: Expenses
UK – I auto-transfer $1,170 across various accounts to pay for our UK bills. J & I both kept some bills in our own names to try to maintain our individual UK credit scores as well as our joint one. J’s parents are also looking after our two cats whilst we’re in the US, so we transfer them some money. We’ve discovered our UK entertainment subscriptions work over here so we haven’t cancelled them and pay them from the UK accounts, which is a benefit as they’re usually cheaper.
$910 to our joint account to cover – Mortgage ($986 – includes $130 monthly overpayment), Landlord Insurance ($32), Pet Insurance ($45), our life insurance ($22 – it pains me that the cats cost twice as much as we do. Obviously, they don’t have the NHS covering their medical costs, but they also don’t have a mortgage to pay off….), J’s UK phone bill ($35) – he’s still tied into his contract. The rent income comes into this account so that covers any delta and builds a pot to pay the tax bill. It works out at around $388 per month saved for this. We also pay around ($150) annually to cover IT costs including Microsoft office, McAfee Security and Dropbox storage.
$143 to my bills account to cover – my UK phone bill ($23), a second UK phone bill that I need to cancel as they wouldn’t transfer my existing number to them ($6), Trade Union membership ($19), Netflix ($12), Annual magazine subscription ($19). Any money left over for is for UK online orders and so we have money available when we visit home.
$65 to J’s account to cover – Amazon Prime ($10), Spotify ($20), Audible ($15) and annual Xbox Live ($50)
$52 to J’s parents for the cats.
UK Savings – we have $2,340 to split across the savings. The split varies each month, but as I’ve hit my FoF goal the focus will be on getting J’s to the goal amount and then joint savings.
US – TV, WiFi and Hulu ($131), Phone Bills ($167), Car Insurance ($110), Naked Wines ($40), HelloFresh ($523), Annual Renters Insurance ($152). We currently get Disney+ free with our phones, but this will end soon, and I expect we’ll start paying for it as well.
US Savings – I usually transfer between $500-$1,000 into savings when J gets paid but will vary this based on how much we have left in the checking account from his last pay and what bills are due. We’ll also raid this as needed for big purchases or if we’re running low in on cash in the checking account.
Day 1 – Saturday
0900 – I’ve been waking up on and off for a few hours, but the alarm has gone off, so I drag myself out of bed. J and I are booked into a second-hand book sale from between 11 and 12 so we need to actually get out of the house this morning. I tidy up a bit, have a shower and miss a call from my mum whilst I’m in there. I check J is up before calling her back and have a good catch up with her and my Nan.
1115 – We’re a little later than planned, but we make it to the sale. I picked the second slot so that there would still be a good selection of books available and am pleasantly surprised by the amount and overall COVID set up. We spend almost an hour browsing and come away with 15 books between us. $60.01
1210 – We left the apartment without eating breakfast, but there’s a restaurant open next to the sale that we haven’t tried before so we pop in and have a burger each. Discover there’s a cocktail bar underneath and make note to head back and try that soon. $41.92
1600 – J has spent the afternoon building Ikea furniture we bought last week and hiding in the bedroom watching YouTube videos whilst I clean, watch The Haunting of Hill House and drink copious amounts of tea. We bought our car in a bit of a rush when we arrived and to replace his Rightmove house obsession, J spends a lot of his time looking at cars available here. Last week he found an American muscle car that looks in good shape and isn’t extortionate, so in his argument to “buy American, eat American, drive American” whilst we’re here, he’s arranged a visit check it out and test drive it. We’re meant to be there at half past, but we had the wrong address and there’s been an accident so it’s actually an hour’s drive, and we don’t get there until 1715 - Oops. I do not want to like the car, but I’m honestly sold – I knew our current car wasn’t the best, and planned to cope with it for the three years, but this is such an improvement and feels like a fun car to drive on road trips. We arrange to come back next week to buy the car and head back home. Thankfully, the traffic has cleared so it only takes 40mins. We while away the journey by listening to an episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno.
1830 – We stop by Giant to pick up some essentials (loo roll, seltzer, beer, milk) and food for the rest of the weekend. $103.25. I cook pork chops, roast potatoes, asparagus and gravy for dinner, and we spend the evening chilling in front of Netflix with wine before heading to bed at midnight.
Daily total: $205.18
Day 2 – Sunday
0830 – I wake up and sneak out of bed without disturbing J, make myself a cup of tea and settle down to finish off The Haunting of Hill House. J hates scary shows/films, so I try to watch things before he’s up, but he still needs to be in the house otherwise my imagination will go wild. The show finishes and I hear no sign of movement, so I make another cup of tea and discover The Princess Diaries 2 is on freeform so obviously I watch this.
1100 – J gets up and makes us scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for brunch. There was meant to be a bread roll with this, but according to J it had gone off. Silently complain that I didn’t pick up some bagels whilst we were shopping last night. We stick The Office on in the background and binge far too much of it whilst I multitask and convert our savings/bills spreadsheet into $ for the intro to this.
1630 – I had grand plans to spend the day cleaning and assumed J’s mum would do her weekly skype call with us at 3, neither of which has happened, and I only realise this now. I suggest we message some friends to see if they fancy an afternoon pick-me-up, but they are hanging from last night, and I remember I’m doing interviews in the morning so probably not the smartest move. I have a shower, wash and sort my hair out to save time in the morning.
1800 – I get an email reminding me that I have items in my basket on an online order and that they’ve given me 15% off. Seems rude not complete it – J has a quick browse to see if there’s anything he likes but nothing takes his fancy. So it’s just non-wired bras for me and a very cute bee print quilt set. It’s a UK based store so I pay using my UK bank account. $123
1900 – J cooks dinner tonight, a HelloFresh recipe for firecracker meatballs with rice. We stick The Office on in the background, finish the rest of last nights wine and the entire series, getting to bed at half 11.
Daily total: $123
Day 3 – Monday
0630 – Alarm goes off. Ugh. It disturbs J, so I apologise for waking him, hit snooze and repeat 5 minutes later. Rather than getting straight up, I waste half an hour browsing Facebook before washing and getting ready. As an attempt to look semi presentable, I put actual work clothes on, straighten my hair and put on some mascara and powder.
0755 – I make it onto the laptop and do some prep before the interviews. Checking my emails, I spot that I’ve been paid my US pay today. The annual pay rise has come through and there’s a small backdate from last months pay, so I have an additional $127 this month. I clear a few more emails and make a cup of tea before starting the interviews.
1215 – Interviews are done, and as a panel we have discussed and come to a decision. We all need to type up our outcomes for HR, but I take a lunch break before my brain melts. J heats up leftover meatballs and rice from last night and we watch an episode of The Good Place whilst we eat. J’s heading into the office this afternoon so I tidy up, stick the dishwasher on and faff about on reddit before getting back to work at 1. Go straight back into a call with my Line Manager to touch base before he goes on leave – he lets me know he put me forward (and I have been approved) for a bonus for my efforts since joining last year, and the added COVID response. I’m touched and proceed to spend a while mentally spending it. I’m debating between a pair of Louboutin’s and a spin bike…. Slightly different ends of the spectrum I know. Keen to hear any inspiration! It should be around $1000 after tax so reasonably substantial.
1630 – J comes home and attempts to get in, but I appear to have locked him out. I get up, open the door and see that he comes baring this week’s HelloFresh box, which is a relief as I hadn’t seen any delivery emails (we had a few go missing in our apartment block when we started). I have a small break to see how his afternoon has been and reply to some messages with friends about possible Halloween costumes for a small gathering we’re going to. We jokingly consider a group The Office effort, which results in numerous gifs being shared. In a moment of inspiration, J passes me his shirt, tie and blazer to put on… turns out I’m a pretty convincing Sexy Toby. I get changed back into my own clothes and head back to work for a bit.
1930 – J finished work earlier so cooked again. Tonight’s is a HF spicy shrimp pasta. It’s a bit disappointing even with him adding extras from the cupboard. We eat and watch the Umbrella Academy before heading to bed at 11.
Daily total: $0
Day 4 – Tuesday
0730 – alarm goes off, get up, washed, dressed. No interviews today so back to COVID home working uniform of no make-up and trackies. Make a cup of tea and am at my desk for 0830 – in and out of meetings until 10 and spend the rest of the morning trying to catch up on my inbox. J’s headed into the office, so I take the opportunity to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack as I work. Get through the first track before admitting defeat that despite my amazing multitasking skills, I can’t actually sing along and type coherent emails. Settle for the LOTR soundtrack instead.
1215 – make it to lunch and reheat last night’s leftovers (we order HelloFresh for four people for the leftovers, as before we were just ordering in lunch every day). Realise I haven’t physically left the flat for longer than I care to admit, so take my lunch onto the balcony and eat it whilst reading through a money diary on reddit. Remember I have a meeting at 1, so sign back in ten mins before and read through the emails in a vague attempt to sound prepared.
J buys himself and his boss lunch in the office, but his boss will pay him back so $12.17
1900 – long afternoon, managed to start nothing on my actual to-do-list, so feel like I haven’t achieved anything. Yay. J got home half an hour ago (I didn’t lock him out today!) and switched the oven on as he walked past, so I take the opportunity to get up and cook once it’s done preheating. Pork tenderloin with coleslaw and mash tonight. It comes with a cherry jam sauce which I’m not the biggest fan of, so I make it into a fruity gravy. It takes longer to cook than I planned, and I can feel myself getting more and more annoyed with everything from a general mix of feeling stressed and hangry. J sticks toy story 4 on as we eat which doesn’t help my mood (as let’s face it, it’s the worst one). Our friends message asking if we’re watching the debates – J had planned to but had forgotten so quickly changes over to watch it. I have no words.
We make plans to watch the next debate in a group with alcohol, debate bingo and the next day booked off work to recover.
Head to bed at 1120 – still waste time on Facebook despite being shattered.
Daily total: $12.17
Day 5 – Wednesday
0830 – Alarm goes off. I didn’t get to sleep up until 12.30 and J disturbed me at 1.30 when he came to bed so extra sleep was needed. I check my phone, message my stepsister a happy birthday and stick on my dressing gown to make sure I’m online for my 9am meeting. Thankfully, no one has an update, so the meeting is cancelled, and I have time to shower and put clothes on before I properly start work.
1230 – Lunchtime. I have the remaining shrimp pasta and J makes a BBQ chicken sandwich with other leftovers in the fridge and we stick on another episode of The Good Place whilst we eat. We finish up, work for an hour and then drive into the office. J needs to stay in for a while, but I’m only in to sign a cheque so I take the opportunity to walk back home. It’s a glorious sunny day, but with a nice breeze so it’s an enjoyable walk until I’m almost back at the flat and have to walk up a hill and then 5 flights of stairs. It’s a fast reminder of just how unfit I am, and I have to have a quick lie down to recovecool down before getting back to work.
1730 – J and I have plans to meet up with our friends K and J(.2) tonight. In an act of attempting to keep some form of sanity, J and J.2 are heading out to a bar for a “Gentleman’s Club” and I’m heading round to K & J.2’s flat for wine and chick flicks. J gets home from work, kisses me hi and bye and heads straight back out. K’s getting her hair cut, so I continue working until half 6 before walking up to her apartment. I make a pit stop on route to pick up a bottle of white wine as she’s running low. The card machines are down so it’s cash only – I have a mild panic, but thankfully I find some notes in my purse - although I’m pretty sure I withdrew them pre-lockdown! $17
0200 – After a night of homemade mac’n’cheese, wine, films and putting the world to rights, I get ready to head home just as J.2 stumbles back into the flat. It’s lovely to see him, but the state he’s in makes me a bit concerned about what J is going to be like when I get home. Thankfully, when I make it back and he’s already curled up on his own side of the bed, passed out and lightly snoring away. I take off my makeup, do my teeth, get into bed and fall straight asleep.
*I’ve checked the banking app and J spent $50.50 on food and drink. The “club” made their way to our apartment around 9pm and worked their way through our booze which explains the low spend but high drunkenness.
Daily total: $67.50
Day 6 – Thursday
0700 – J’s alarm goes off. He rarely sets alarms and has an amazing ability to sleep though them, so I kick him awake to switch it off. He hits snooze rather than switching it off, so I wake up again 5mins later. Ugh. He actually manages to switch it off the second time.
0830 – My alarm goes off. I’m tired and thirsty, but other than that feeling pretty ok. J is not and I leave him snoozing in bed as I start work. It’s a slow morning (thankfully) and I periodically check on J to see if he’s feeling any better. General consensus is no. The leftovers in the house are not hangover friendly so we put in an order with Panera Bread. $32.25. J has a choose two, but I brought home some mac’n’cheese from last night so just order some crisps and a smoothie to go with it. It takes longer than expected to arrive, but it means a 1230 lunch in front of The Good Place. We finish and go back to work, J heads into the office again.
1400 – I’ve struggled to get back into the swing of things, and as there haven’t been too many emails coming in I take the opportunity to have a break and lie down on the bed (I work flexi hours and have a very high balance so this is done guilt-free). This lie down turns into an hour-long nap and I wake up feeling better, but still while away some time on reddit before deciding to make it back to work at 4.
1920 – J messaged to say he’s on his way back and I’ve already heated the oven, so I finish for the night and start making dinner. Tonight’s HF menu is a creamy lemon butter chicken with courgette and giant couscous. It’s reasonably simple to make, but one of our favourites. I multitask and clean down the kitchen as I go.
2000 – Dinner is eaten, J has made us a cup of tea and we’re settled back into The Good Place. Yesterday was payday into my UK account so I log into the internet banking and transfer to the savings accounts (the bill transfers are set up to auto-transfer on the 1st). $1,170 to J’s savings so he’s now at his FoF goal, $650 to the maternity pot, and $780 to the joint savings. The annual renter’s insurance has also come out of our US checking account today, but that’s counted in the expenses. We both head to bed at 11.
Daily total: $32.25
Day 7 – Friday
0730 – J’s alarm goes off, he’s heading back into the office this morning so it’s valid today and we both actually wake up for it. We both chill on our phones until my alarm goes off at 0830. Up, washed, dressed and on the laptop in time for my 9am meeting. I’m closing off last months accounts and updating forecasts so get stuck into multiple spreadsheets.
1440 – I’d gotten into a good rhythm with the updates, and without J here, I hadn’t realised the time, so I only stop now for lunch. It’s last nights leftovers so couscous and chicken, plus an apple left over from J’s Panera order yesterday. J didn’t take anything in so has stopped by Safeway $14.13 and the work café $9.48. I get the figures from the banking app and realise J has been paid – win. I have an hour break and head back online.
2020 – I’ve been in the swing of things today. It’s a long winded, but simple task so I’ve had Greys Anatomy on in the background as I work. I’d normally have left some of it until Monday, but I have a few urgent requests in today that need the updated figures so it made sense to get it all cleared – it’s also quite therapeutic so feels like a nice way to end the week . J and I have plans to see friends tomorrow, so I don’t feel too bad about not having plans for a Friday night and working for most of it instead. Still, we make the most of it being payday and order in some Steak Frites for dinner and I treat myself to a chocolate cake slice as well. $80.25. We spend the rest of the evening relaxing, finish watching The Good Place (a very emotional finale) and make it into bed for half 11.
Daily total: $103.86
Total Expenditure: $543.96
Food & Drink: $257.70
Lastly, reflect on your diary!
This is a pretty average week for us during COVID. We usually go out drinking over every other weekend, but that extra spending would balance out with the home/other expenditure as I try to make sure we spread our spending out. The AMEX balance is a bit higher than the usual weekly amount as J and I both ordered a trunk club a few weeks and kept a few of the clothes but the system errored which delayed us processing our returns (and them billing us). As we’ll looking to buy the car soon, it also feels like a better decision to leave the balance on the card and keep more cash available – I’m not concerned as we’re only just into the new credit statement period and J’s will get an extra pay period this month which will clear it.
Pre-COVID, this is actually lower than our weekly spend, as we also had most of my salary coming into the US account as well and were spending most of it socialising, travelling and just enjoying living in a city. If we had to, we could cut our costs and save a lot more, but we’re here to enjoy ourselves and so long as we can eat and pay the mortgage, we’re happy. We’ve also already reached our total savings goal for our time out here, so anything extra is a bonus.
I am not sure if my lifestyle is considered extreme here (I am coming from a zero waste and minimalist perspective), but I thought I'd share my habits and how we live. Warning, long post
Ok, so now that we are done with the formalities, let me share how I started on the minimalist journey that got me here. I discovered the zero waste lifestyle (do check out zerowaste for more) back in 2016 and that naturally drew minimalism with it. I was living in Hungary and already planning a cycle tour around a world, so the mindset change came in handy as I began to sell most of my stuff and stopped buying a lot of previously thought necessary things. We started a tour with my boyfriend in 2017 spring and ended up doing 20 months, with the only possessions being in a few bags on the bikes, and learning how to use minimal resources as we mostly wild camped with a tent. Sometimes the only water available for us was what we filtered from the rivers. It was a really good experience, we had an awesome time and it taught me what is really essential to enjoy ourselves.
Now we live in Denmark (my bf is from there so we didn't go back to Hungary) and was looking for work when the pandemic happened. Bad timing, but we still had enough savings left that with our current lifestyle we can go on for quite a while. And when we do get a proper salary again, these habits will help us achieve our dream of buying a farm way sooner. So, on to the details.
Our biggest saving comes from the fact that we dumpster dive. It is considered legal here (the store's trash is public if it's not closed in) and the amount of fresh, still perfect produce thrown out is ridiculous. This could never happen in Hungary for example, the stores sell sometimes half rotten produce, seriously. We eat a lot of organic stuff, could eat a lot of meat also if we wanted to (but we are flexiterian, so it's a rare treat), regularly have stuff like mangos, avocados, etc. So when we do shop (mostly flour, olive oil, pulses and other grains), we almost always buy organic, and we still only spend around 80 eur per month on groceries.
We also started a raised bed on the balcony (found a thrown out cupboard which we turned on its back) and plan to grow a few veggies we generally don't find in the bins, like herbs and tomatoes, which we already have a few of on the windowsill. Even if you don't have a balcony, you can grow a lot of stuff on the windowsill in pots, like tomatoes, chili and all kinds of herbs, I think everyone should give at least a chance for that! :)
This is more of a zero waste thing, but on the topic of food, we never use cling wrap to store something. We either use a tupperware, or just put something on a plate and cover it with another plate. You can also freeze things in glass jars, just don't fill it full. And normally I would buy grains in bulk in my own sewed bags, but since it's not available here, I reuse the resealable plastic bags the rice and dry beans come in for the freezer. If it's for bread or some fruit, I wash and reuse them again, but if it's something gross like meat, I throw them out.
One more thing to add here and I'm sure more people are doing this with the lockdown thing, is that we don't eat processed stuff and basically make whatever we can ourselves. Luckily I already had a food processor and make good use of it (although I saw a few in the thrift store for around 15 eur, so it's really worth buying one). It's 800W which is plenty enough to make nut butters, homemade nutella, hummus, falafel and all kinds of other creams. If we want ice cream, we blend some half frozen fruit and voilà, you got sorbet. I also started making sourdough bread, naan bread, crackers and pastry (like cinnamon rolls), and we regularly made tortilla before also, it's super easy to make. You don't have to spend too much time making these, just make a bigger batch and freeze some, bread products are good for that.
We only buy second hand, and mend and sew what we can. Or if it's a technical garment, buying from a more sustainable store and in good quality, which is of course cheaper in the long run. Decathlon is a good middle ground, I have running socks which are closing in on 10 years now and they are almost as good as new. And I was a triathlete for 8 years so they got used a lot. We also have a pretty minimalist amount of clothing, and honestly apart from one extra sports bra and two panties, I haven't bought anything (not even second hand) in more than 2 years. Probably our clothes don't wear out that fast because we only wash them when they start to smell (with some merino shirts this mean at least 4-5 uses, it was awesome during travel), and of course I never used a dryer my entire life and heard they are damaging clothes.
We are transitioning to a barefoot lifestyle so we probably won't spend too much on shoes either. We bought a xeroshoes DIY sandal for the city walks and probably use up the sneakers in the winter before we invest in some minimalist zero drop shoe for the colder weather, one set each will be enough for a few years I would guess, especially if we can move down south in 4-5 years.
When we moved in a few months ago, the rental was without furniture. Now we have a sofa, some chairs, a dining table and a coffee table, a TV stand (with a TV we got for free from someone who was upgrading, otherwise we would go without, don't have any cable subscription of course), and a thin mattress on top of our foam mattresses (it's good for your body, but that's another topic). The only thing we payed for was the mattress, second hand of course, it was around 13 eur, the rest is from the nearby apartment dumpsters. All in pretty good condition. Same goes for cutlery and other kitchen stuff, it's either from the dumpster (ok, we only found a few plates) or the second hand store. I just checked, and since moving in, we spent 240 eur on setting up all of this.
As for cleaning, we mainly get by with water. Sometimes I use baking soda, or foam up the bar soap with my brush for the dishes. It's a plant fibre bristle wooden brush, costs around an eur and lasts around half a year, but a loofah squash is also a sustainable and cheap solution, especially if you can grow your own. For water scale, I use my homemade apple cider vinegar. The only really commercial thing is a store brand, cheap but palm oil free washing powder, and I am considering percabonate for extra cleaning once we start the cloth diapering (we have a baby on the way). We gonna buy a portable washing machine cause the landromat costs 1.5 eur for each load and it will pay for itself in no time once I need to wash every second day. For cleaning the countertop we use cotton rags my MIL crocheted for me, and some normal kitchen towels to dry dishes, or cover a bowl when I make bread.
Entertainment, sports and electronics:
We have an internet subscription (around 30 eur for a 100/20 Mb, plenty enough), and two prepaid phone numbers. We mostly use voip to call, I top it up for 10 eur around two times a year, and with my mom I use whatsapp or skype. The only other thing we pay for is spotify premium, but it's a small indulgence we can afford, being only 5eumonth. We do have two smart phones but one is an old, around 8 years old Samsung for just calling and to have a holder for the other number, and a few years old Sony both of us use. I have a 7 year old laptop which still hangs on, although the battery doesn't work anymore and I lost one memory to corrosion during travelling, but it still works so I will only buy a bit newer but second hand one once this dies. My bf has a desktop he built newly before travelling, and it still runs quite a few good games, so we probably won't have to upgrade it for at least 2-3 years.
As for sports, we have our bikes, we do barefoot running (mostly in the forest, it's pretty nice), and we had a swimming pass (aroung 30 eumonth each) before the pool closed down (can't wait to swim again). We also do bodyweight training and physical therapy/yoga at home. This is one area where I do miss being part of a team (I did kettlebell and triathlon before), but currently there's no point, as I am pregnant. Maybe after the baby I join a triathlon team, the local one has a pretty cheap membership fee.
Well, this is pretty basic also. We use a bar soap, I have a shampoo bar for my hair which I use once a month, and other times I wash with eggyolk (which actually does a better job). We rinse with diluted homemade vinegar (my bf only uses water to wash his hair). I have a few essential oils for the smell, they really last long compared to how much they cost. We still use a cheap store brought toothpaste (been using it for more than a year, amazing how little you actually need). I have an epilator I bought when I was a teen (so, um, long time ago), and my bf has an electric shaver which we also use for cutting his hair. I also cut my own hair but it's easy because I have long hair so I just trim the ends. I dye with pure henna powder, a half kg bag costs around 15 eur and lasts for 1 year. If we need to treat dry skin, we just rub some olive oil on the area, it works really well (almond oil is also good for this). I used make-up a few times a year in the past, and maybe I will still use something for the eyelashes for like a job interview, but that's it, currently I don't use anything and don't feel the need. Edit: I forgot to mention that we have an alum crystal deodorant we are only using when we want to be absolutely sure we don't offend anyone, I would sure use it on a job interview. Maybe even my parfume I still have from quite a few years back, I think it's still ok to use :)
As you have guessed, we don't have a car, and we have bikes. So, yeah, that covers it. We have a public transport card for the occasional need, but it's rare we need it. We do plan to buy a van, but that is gonna be for living in and travelling, and only a plan right now. My family always had a car when I was growing up (Trabant in the old times, if you know what that is :D), but as in most of Europe, Budapest has a pretty good public transport system, so we only used it to haul around big stuff or going to the summer house. My mom has a 28 year old VW polo which has less than 200 thousand km in it (bought it when it was 10 years old, with the counter at 70), I think that says it all. I've been using the bike as my main mode of transport for the last 16 years (12 years all year around), and I can't imagine the amount of money I saved with it.
So I think that covers most things, but feel free to asks questions or say if I missed anything! :)