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City Break Money Diary: Here's how much I spent across three days in Amsterdam

‘I put it on my credit card because then it didn’t happen.’

WHEN I WAS in first year of secondary school, my mother idly mentioned keeping track of the money I spent.

Given the fact I had €5 a week to my name and nothing but Refresher Bars to spend it on, the suggestion seemed a little unnecessary, but I gave it a whirl anyway.

wot Source: Giphy

The fact that I prioritised cheap sticky sweets over splurge items like Magnums was all I really learnt from the endeavour, and after a few weeks I promptly stopped taking note.

Over the course of the next 20 years when rent, bills, bank loans and travel expenditure became my greatest outgoings, the idea of a money diary never appealed to me.

I go through phases with my money management – sometimes I’m good, sometimes I’m bad and other times I genuinely question who gave me agency over a bank account – so I never felt like devoting time to a project which would likely bring me out in stress hives.

However, most of us can put up with anything for a few days, so I decided that my first foray back into the world of money journalling would be over the course of three days on a city break to Amsterdam.

In my mind, I budgeted €300 between Friday and Monday, and here’s how I got on.


So, unsurprisingly for me, I got off to a bad start and instead of withdrawing a lump sum like I had initially intended, I… well… didn’t.

And when I realised I didn’t – quite soon into the trip – I still didn’t. See, this what I’m up against – myself.

I debated whether I should start taking note upon landing in Holland, or whether the trip began in the airport.

Considering I generally spend an unnecessary amount of money before ever landing in my destination, I thought it would be disingenuous to avoid noting the airport expenditure, and so I began calculating the minute I stepped off the aircoach.



Dublin Airport

McDonalds: €7: 1 bottle of orange juice, 4 hash browns

I was convinced we were going to miss the Aircoach, so I rushed myself and boyfriend out of the apartment before getting any breakfast.

And given the fact I need to eat every 11 minutes to ensure I don’t lose my reason, this was a bad idea.

Seconds after getting off the Aircoach, I was slumped in a McDonalds booth hoofing two hash browns into me and intermittently slurping on his drink after saying I didn’t need a drink.

Boots:€13 Assorted toiletries 

In a state of panic because some of my liquids didn’t fit in the clear plastic bag, I fecked a few of them into the nearest bin before going through security, and then had to make  straight for Boots to replenish my now depleted stash.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, had arrived to the airport with his toiletries perfectly stored in travel containers and neatly secured within a clear plastic bag. We’re vastly different, him and I.

Butlers: 2 cappuccinos and 2 chocolate croissants

As I had gotten the McDonalds, he provided the caffeine and chocolate.


Gin and Tonic €9 

As you now have to pay to sit beside your travelling partner while flying with Ryanair, we vetoed that idea, and that’s how I found myself nestled among a group of mates documenting their entire flight to Amsterdam.

If anyone you know recently travelled to the Dutch capital and photos of their flight feature a hugely uncomfortable-looking woman ten years their senior, that’d be me. 

I don’t normally drink on flights, but after indirectly featuring in at least 10 group selfies, I needed a gin and tonic. And when I was asked to pay €9 for one that didn’t feature ice or lime, I needed another, but held my nerve.

Oh, I also put this on my credit card instead of my debit card because then it didn’t actually happen.

Schipol Airport

2 train tickets to the Main Station: €10.60

I got our tickets this time; my boyfriend would get the ones on the way back on Monday.

And now for the city of Amsterdam

Toms shoes: €45
After dropping our bags off at at our Airbnb, we headed out to explore. I didn’t intend to do much shopping over the weekend, but I did want to pick up a pair of Toms.

I bought my first pair in March of this year, and wore them until I literally poked a hole in them with my toe. I was in Edinburgh in June and decided I wanted to visit Arthur’s Seat. I massively underestimated the climb and thought a fitted midi dress and pair of Toms would be an appropriate ensemble. It wasn’t. And by the time I arrived back down, my big toe was poking out of my shoe.

It killed me to bin them, so I finally picked up a new pair in the Tom’s store and it set me back €45.

The Lebanese Sajeria: No idea because I wasn’t of sound mind.

As previously mentioned I am a lifelong sufferer of the food mood – so much so that I often practice preventative eating to stave off any potential hunger pangs – but on this particular day I didn’t, and found myself almost manic with hunger.

I’m great company when I’m like this and definitely not someone you would regret having in your life, so my boyfriend ushered us into a tiny Lebanese restaurant and had me fed.

I’m going to be honest here and admit I can barely remember what I ate except that it was one of the most delicious things I ever tasted, featured a wrap, spicy mince and humous. My boyfriend paid because I wasn’t of this world.

Golem Cafe: 2 beers €10.50 

After eating, we walked a couple of streets to the Golem Cafe and squeezed ourselves inside. It felt vaguely like we were drinking in someone’s attic, and I spent most of my time eavesdropping on an American couple who were bickering about who was spending more time on their phones.

They jokingly referenced the fact we weren’t on ours.

They didn’t know ours had died, and we were struggling to keep it together.

Canal Tour: 2 tickets €22

Personally I don’t feel this needs to be included in the budget because I paid online before we ever left Ireland, but how and ever.

Anyway, it was good value for more than an hour on the canals, and given the fact we had chosen the 7pm slot, it meant the first half of the tour was in daylight and the second half was at night. Sure, it was like two tours for the price of one.

Oh, I was bought a hot chocolate and a Portuguese custard tart prior to getting onboard and have absolutely no idea how much it cost.


Cafe De Kroegtijger: €27

We were still so full from the panic-bought Lebanese food, so we vetoed dinner after the canal tour and went for drinks instead.

I’m going to be honest here and admit I can’t remember how many beers I had but it was enough to tell the bartender I thought she should be a model or a Bond Girl, and not enough to forget getting home.

My notes tell me my half of the tab came to €27.

Molly Malone: 2 pints €10

I’m not really one for Irish pubs when I’m away, but we stopped into Molly Malone’s after the other bar because my boyfriend spent time in Amsterdam in college and wanted to revisit an old haunt.

We had a drink each, a bizarre face-off with a couple who kept staring us dead in the eye every time we looked up from our pints, and a morbid conversation over how likely it was they might follow us home.

Walk To Wok €12

I ordered a curry I didn’t want, ate about one-fifth of it when I got back to the Airbnb and then resigned it to the fridge until Monday afternoon when I then binned it before we left for the airport.



Gs Jordaan: €15

On Saturday morning, we went for breakfast in Gs Jordaan which was about a five-minute walk from our Airbnb. Like so many of the places we ate and drank in in Amsterdam, the place was tiny, but the food was amazing.

A glass of Prosecco was only €4 so I had two with my breakfast which was baked goats cheese with avocado and bacon dip and a mountain of fresh bread. And my half of the bill only came to €15.


Fresh Stroop waffles: €7

We spent most of the morning and early afternoon wandering around the city, which is generally my favourite way to spend a weekend away.

We stopped at a small cafe selling fresh Stroopwaffles – the small was the size of a standard side plate – and I got us one each. Mine was topped with melted chocolate and Oreo bits, and I think about it at least twice a day since leaving Amsterdam.


Brasserie Stadsschouwung: Not my shout this time.

We stopped off for a drink because I had gotten to the part of the city break where I no longer like walking and question why I ever tell people I do.

Much like his response to my Food Mood the prior day, my boyfriend quickly directed me into a bar, bought me a drink – some gin-based cocktail that was strong AF and went straight to my head – and I spent about an hour gawping at passersby and laughing to myself.

My boyfriend, meanwhile, questioned his life choices.

Gifts €35

I popped into a stationary shop for a mildly drunken mooch, and picked up some cards and presents that cost €35, and – as it’s me – have yet to make their way to their intended recipients. 

Beefsteak Club Amsterdam: €118 (with tip)

So, the trip to Amsterdam was a birthday present, with my boyfriend having paid for flights and accommodation. As a thank you, I treated him to a steak dinner on the Saturday night.

And honestly, it will go down as one of the best meals we’ve ever had. 

The place is relatively new – we only happened across it because it was near our Airbnb – and if you go to Amsterdam and don’t make it a priority, you’re missing out. In fact, go now; I’ll square it with your boss.

For €104, we got four glasses of red wine -  it was a Beaujolis – something I only know because I recognised it from the Blur song – two steaks, three sides and two desserts; all of which were amazing.



We had breakfast in the Airbnb – breadrolls, ham, cheese, juice, coffee – and my boyfriend paid for it.

Anne Frank House

I really wanted to visit Anne Frank’s House, but tickets are notoriously difficult to come by.

If you don’t book two months in advance, you then check on the day you intend to visit to see if there are any slots available.

I wasn’t lucky any time I checked, but my boyfriend was persistent and while wandering through VondelPark he told me he had managed to get us two tickets, but the slot was in the next 45 minutes so we needed to head there straight away.

It was a 30-minute brisk walk from the park, and I’m so grateful I got a chance to see it. 

I actually found it incredibly difficult – much harder than I thought I would. Friends and family who had been before hadn’t mentioned certain aspects of the tour, and it seems various new features of the tour have been added over time. 

Cafe Van Zuylen €16

Immediately after leaving Anne Frank’s house, I steered us in the direction of a bar. For obvious reasons.

Himself got the first round while I took multiple photos of a cat which was asleep on a chair in the middle of the pub.

When it was my round, I added a portion of bread, humous and olive oil to the order. Again, like everything I had eaten in Amsterdam, it was really good.


The American Book Centre: €29.95

Picked up a book for my brother in The American Book Centre. He said he’d pay me back but since I had yet to get a present for him, I said I’d get it for him.

The Movies €22

We realised the oldest cinema in Amsterdam, The Movies, was near our Airbnb so we decided to take a look and go see Crazy Rich Asians.

It was the first time I’ve gone to the cinema on a weekend trip away – to be honest, it felt like a waste of an evening abroad – but it was a really nice way to wind up the trip.

I bought the cinema tickets as my boyfriend had bought the tickets to the Anne Frank House.

Tavenu €25

The cinema recently established an Asian restaurant within the venue so we both got a main and a glass of wine before the film. And boring as it is to repeat myself, it was – yep – really tasty.

Don’t get me wrong, it had NOTHING on the previous night’s meal, but the crackers they served on the side were enough to win me over. Remember Walkers Sensations crackers – not crisps -which were discontinued in Ireland circa 2006? No? Just me? OK, well they were just like them.

Bar €8
Before the film, I got us another glass of wine each to bring into the theatre.

After the film, I was bought another wine which I promptly spilled down the front of my dress, onto my lap and between my legs. And then we decided to call it a night.




Before heading to the airport we got breakfast in a small – shocking, I know – neighbourhood cafe called Piqniq. He paid and picked up the train tickets on the way back to the airport.

Schipol airport

Waffles €10

I bought three packets of Stroop Waffles in the airport to bring back into the work the following day. Only two made it in. Sue me.


And then for the stinger – literally.

Pharmacy €21
Over the weekend I noticed two bites on my face, and a few random ones on my hands and waist.

I mostly ignored them until Monday when they got really itchy. So, before getting back to my apartment after the flight, I dragged myself to the pharmacy to pick up some antihistamines and cream.

The pharmacist assured me that the bites would improve by the next day, but to call back in if they didn’t.



On Tuesday morning, I woke up looking like Will Smith in Hitch. Mildly hysterical, I raced back to the chemist who told me to book a GP appointment.

€100 GP fee later and a prescription for antibiotics and another cream which set me back another €29, I shuffled back home.



From my calculations, I went over my budget by approximately €130 (I’ve decided I’m not including the canal tour since I booked that before) which definitely isn’t the worst.

However, if you were to factor  in the €150 I spent on medical bills in the aftermath of the weekend away, the trip decimated my account to a much greater extent than I anticipated.

But really; who’s surprised here?

What I learned

  • I can’t budget.
  • All I really do when I go anywhere is eat and drink.
  • Money diaries are little more than a vehicle for serious shame-spiralling, and was – with the benefit of hindsight – very likely the cause of my mutant-like face last week.
  • Amsterdam is beautiful, has amazing restaurants, and is somewhere I would happily live for a while.
  • If anyone was going to return home from an especially relaxing weekend away looking like Hitch, it’d be me.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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