Help With Your Resolutions

help with resolutions - pay down debt, lose weight, organize life, learn moreI’ve noticed there’s a lot of talk about finances in the comments, so I thought I’d round up some of our Tales from the Wallet posts in case those are helpful.  Then I thought, heck, why not just round up a few of our other posts that might be helpful on your resolutions. Whether your goal for 2016 is to save more, pay down debt, work out more, eat better, appreciate life more, organize your life, or grow your mind, we’ve talked about it. Any big topic we haven’t talked about that you’d like to see an open thread on, or would you like to revisit any one of these topics for a more updated discussion?  

(Oh, and here’s a link to a more general discussion that will probably help with all of the below resolutions: how to get up early.)

Save More

Pay Down Debt

Learn About Finances

Eat Better

Move More

Look More Polished

Appreciate More, Stress Less

Organize Your Life

Grow Your Career

Socialize More

Ladies, do you have any favorite conversations or posts that have been helpful for self-improvement? Any big topics we’ve missed, or things you’d like to see updated? 

Pictured: Piggy bank, weights, closet, books.

resolutions help pin



  1. continued ed :

    I’d like to improve critical thinking skills, and to better anticipate things one or two steps ahead. Has anyone had success doing something similar?

    • Anonymous :

      Do math.

      • This is a good suggestion. I never thought of it that way… Logic problems, too.


        Just take a second to “war game” things in your life every day, too. Like when you’re given a project at work, try to figure out why you were asked to do it, what root problem it’s trying to solve, what other steps will need to happen afterward. If X, Y. If you tweak X, how does Y change? It’s a thought exercise, but it does become more automatic if you practice.

  2. Debt repayment :

    If you pay more each month than your required debt payments, how do you keep ensure future monthly payment amounts are correct?

    • Anonattorney :

      What do you mean?

    • Wildkitten :

      You need to keep close track of your lender to make sure your overpayments are going to the principal not just advancing your payment.

      • debt repayment :

        this is super helpful, thanks wildkitten and mascot!

        sorry if i wasn’t specific, this is with regards to the car payment. all i see is a lump sum online on the website and no option to have it go towards the principal so i’ll have to dig deeper into this/call my lender.

        • Anonymous :

          With my old lender, it required an instruction, something like “do not advance payment, apply access to principal.” When my loans were transferred to ACS their procedure seemed very complicated and unfortunately I have yet to figure it out. From what I recall they said I had to make my scheduled payment and then immediately call them to schedule the extra payment with the instruction for it to be applied to principal. Since calling them is the worst b/c their customer service is so awful and I never have time to do it, I haven’t done it. But basically all the companies make it a pain and you just have to figure it out.

          On a related note, I’d love an updated post on paying off student loans, with a focus on consolidation now that people have had a bit of time to relate their experiences with that.

          • Gail the Goldfish :

            On the plus side when it comes to student loans, Navient (the Sallie Mae spin off) has actually improved their website to make it easy to apply extra payments toward principal. I appreciate the extra half hour I get every month not having to call and complain when they screwed up the instructions I sent with payments.

  3. We do this for the car and mortgage payments. We confirmed with the lenders that any payment over the monthly amount is treated as a principal payment (for mortgages, there is usually a option on the coupon/online bill pay to make an extra principal payment). Then we just monitor the accounts/statements to verify that it is being applied correctly.

  4. Couple tips:

    – Somersaults are these amazing sunflower seed bites that are delicious and packed with protein. Not sure if every store carries them, but they’re in the organic food section of the supermarket I frequent. you can also get them on Amazon. they’re definitely my favorite snack now!

    – if you’re getting rid of old clothes, towels, linens, etc. and something is too stained or tattered to donate, take it to H&M and exchange a bag of old cloth for a 15% off coupon. even if you don’t shop there, at least you know the stuff’s being recycled and not sitting in a landfill somewhere

    • Somersaults sound similar to the Aussie Bites you can find at Costco. SO and I are addicted!

    • Oooh, my husband JUST went on a sunflower seed kick, these look perfect for him. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Honest Question :

    Not a resolution, but something I’d be interested to see discussed (although it comes up occasionally when people mention they’re considering law school). I know many here have significant student debt. I’ve caught a few reports from various news sources about “the cost and value of U.S. higher education,” and it has me wondering:

    Those of you with large student loans, would you make the same decisions about your education again? Are most of your loans from undergrad, graduate/professional school or both? Do your student loans feel worth it to you, because you love your work, your earning potential, or had an amazing experience at a high-priced university; or do you resent them? Did your parents contribute to your education, and how did that factor into your decisions? Grad year is probably important context, too.

    Those of you without big student debt, how did you do it? We’re currently not saving anything for our kids’ college education because we’re prioritizing retirement, so I guess the root of my curiosity is whether I’m a horrible parent.

    • I had no loans from undergrad (Ivy) because my parents paid for my degree and housing. They had stated they would be willing to pay the hefty private tuition for a very highly ranked school, but not for schools that were similarly/lower ranked than an in-state public option. I had a really good experience overall (small classes, attentive professors, found a good friend group) and felt well-prepared for either a job or for grad school. Had I needed to pay for school myself, however, I would have chosen an in-state public option or a lesser ranked undergrad with a scholarship, because I had heard advice from my parents’ friends that if you’re planning on grad school, save your money for that degree, as your grad alma mater will matter more long-term.

      I had about $175K in debt from law school (also Ivy, class of 08). I repaid it about 3.5 years after graduation, thanks to Biglaw salary and living modestly during those years. I have to say, the number of doors that were pre-opened to me because of my school’s reputation made the price worth it IMO. My only regret is that I did not ask my school to match a last-minute scholarship offer from a lower-ranked but still well-regarded school — maybe I could have saved $45K over the three years!

    • You’re not a horrible parent. Your child will have options–get loans, apply for grants, work part-time, etc–but what will you do in retirement if you don’t have enough money? Probably have to go to your child to bail you out, which is way worse.

      • Anonymous :

        + 1

        You can’t borrow for retirement.

        And I’m one of those who didn’t have children until I was almost 40, so my retirement is on the heels of my children’s college years (my husband is older than me, so he may be retired while they are in college).

    • I paid for undergrad at a highly ranked state school with a combination of scholarships, Pell grants, state grants, and student loans that now seem quite modest but at the time of graduation felt like a hefty expense (equal to car payment). My parents contributed nothing. I was able to minimize my loan exposure because at that point my parents were poor and the FAFSA family contribution was zero, which entitled me to a lot of need-based aid. If my parents had been employed at that point but had refused to contribute to my education, I would have had to incur a crippling amount of debt to get my bachelor’s degree.

      I worked for a few years and then went back for a master’s degree and a law degree at another good state school with the maximum level of scholarship/assistantship funding, which in that program was less than full tuition. I ended up taking out a lot more loans than planned because the law school tuition went up by 60% over the course of my attendance, but my award remained flat. I worked part-time throughout school and full-time during the summers.

      My student loan payment is now equal to my mortgage. I never intended to practice law and could have achieved the same career trajectory with a Ph.D. instead, which would have taken longer but would likely have come with full funding and a stipend. For a number of reasons, a major one of which was spousal pressure, I opted for the law degree instead. I now deeply regret that choice, not just because of the cost but because the Ph.D. would have been more enjoyable and more useful.

      I now have one child in elementary school and work at a nonprofit. My entire salary goes for my student loans, her extracurriculars and child care, and savings (we have a general savings pool rather than a 529 because I am uncomfortable locking up the money in a 529). I expect to continue devoting my entire salary to her education expenses until she has graduated from college. One reason we only have one child is that we wanted to be able to afford to fully fund her education.

      • Adding that we want to fully fund both our child’s education AND our retirement. This has entailed some other lifestyle choices (living in a LCOL city with good public schools, staying in a small house when everyone else was upgrading, driving modest cars, not taking fancy vacations, etc.).

    • I graduated in 2008 from a public university law school. This is the only law school in my state and therefore the networking opportunities are great. I did not have any undergraduate debt–I got a scholarship and worked through school to pay for living expenses. I graduated with about 60,000 debt from law school. I am not sure how much I have left to pay (I pay a smaller amount on income based repayment), because I work for the government and hope to take advantage of the 10-year forgiveness program. I love my job and am happy I went to law school and found this job.

      My parents did not fund my education at all. It was entirely up to me. I will probably not be able to fund very much of my children’s education either, since I am trying to save for retirement (I will have a pension, but also save extra in a deferred compensation account). I hope to be able to help them with living expenses, books, etc. when the time comes since we won’t be paying for daycare. And also plan to funnel some of the daycare money into a college savings account. We’ll see though. I wish I could do more. . .

    • My parents lived far below their means and were able to pay for my undergrad education and the portion of grad school tuition that wasn’t covered by scholarships so that I could graduate debt-free. Their parents did the same for them. I fully recognize how lucky I am that my family gave me this gift, and in turn, my husband and I are saving to be able to do the same for our kids. All generations ended up or will end up paying for college and grad school for someone–just the parent doing so for their child when the parent has the means to do so (and without paying loan interest), rather than the child trying to get out from under a mountain of debt incurred by their own education when just starting out.

      This approach is obviously one that comes from a place of great privilege, and I recognize that and am thankful for it every day. But if you are able to, it’s an unbelievable thing to be able to give your kid.

    • You are not a horrible parent. My parents saved enough to fully cover in-state tuition, along with room and board, for each of us at our state institution. They told us we could either go there, or take the money and go elsewhere, but we would be responsible for the additional cost, either through loans or scholarships. We were fairly well-off growing up, but my parents also prioritized their own retirement and savings.

      My older sister (grad 2003) went to a private college out-of-state, and pieced together the additional money through loans and scholarships. I did the same thing (grad 2007), although I was lucky enough to get scholarships that meant I didn’t need loans. My younger brother stayed in-state (grad 2011) and my parents covered the full cost. We all worked part time jobs for spending money. None of us have any remaining student debt – my older sister paid hers off quickly after undergrad, went to law school, and then paid those off quickly as well. My younger brother went to medical school on a scholarship from the Army and will be working off those scholarships over the next several years (so I guess you could say he still has some debt, though not financial.)

      Crucially, my parents had long, candid conversations with each of us about the implications of our choices. The school I went to was NOT my first choice (or, honestly, even my second), but it was the one that made the most sense financially, and I wound up loving it. My parents had been very clear all through my teen years what to expect regarding college support, so there were no surprises. I think they also did a decent job of teaching us to budget and pushing us to get part-time jobs in high school so we knew the “value of a dollar”.

      I don’t think you owe 4 years of private college to your kid. I think you owe them whatever you can reasonably contribute (for some people – that is nothing!), along with guidance and education about planning and making the right choice. If you don’t think you can help them make these choices themselves, then maybe a few sessions with a financial planner when they are considering college options.

      • By the way… holy cow!! I was thinking about this further and Googled the current tuition + room and board rates for U of I and was SHOCKED at the price! When I was looking at colleges (2002-ish), in-state tuition plus room and board (and books, fees etc) was like $12,000 / year. Now it’s more like $30,000! Obviously I don’t have kids – I had no idea it was so bad!

      • This is exactly what my parents did. I graduated from undergrad in 2010 debt-free, but worked throughout to have fun money. I funded grad school with a big scholarship and assistantship, savings from when I was working, living at home, and then a (very generous and unexpected) gift from a family member to cover the remaining balance which I would otherwise have funded with loans. It wasn’t a negligible amount (I think it was around $7k), but it wasn’t extravagant on their budget. I have no regrets. I was pretty miserable at the thought of going to my in-state option senior year, but I sucked it up and had a great four years.

        I hope to be able to provide four years of in-state undergrad to my hypothetical future children, but I’m not sure it’s happening. My salary will probably top out around $70-80k; my SO has potential to earn more if he takes over his father’s business (which he is 50/50 on doing: it’s good money but he hates sales), but realistically the two of us won’t get too far over $100k unless something drastic changes. I consider that a comfortable life for a family, but I’m not sure it will cover a reasonable lifestyle *and* retirement *and* four years of college*x number of kids.

      • Clementine :

        This is what we plan to do for our offspring- save up the full cost of attendance for four years at a state school. If kiddo chooses to go to a private school, they can make up the difference with scholarships or loans. If kiddo does not incur the full amount saved, the remainder may be used for an approved purpose, e.g. Travel, a vehicle, grad school, wedding, house down payment.

        Both my husband and I went to state schools – me with lots of scholarships and him with the GI Bill, and we still graduated each with 20k (40k) total in loans.

        • I like this idea a lot. How do you figure what the cost of a state school will be, though, between inflation and rising tuition costs?

          • An old but good resource — for like $4 on Amazon you can buy a book by Robert Ortalda called something like How to Live Within your Means and Still Finance your Dreams. I bought it about 15 years ago when my kids were babies. It has a simple formula with a chart that tells you exactly how to calculate and save for future college expenses based on today’s prices. You adjust it every year (or 2 or 3 . . . whenever you get around to it). It’s an old-school book from the spreadsheet era, but easy to follow and set up on Excel in like 15 minutes. For my case, I set up a plan to have saved enough for in-state tuition for my 2 kids and am still on track, contributing according to his plan and adjusting every once in a while by inserting today’s tuition costs from my state’s college web page. I’m amazed at how accurate it turned out to be. I see his book is partially available for free on Google books — maybe you can just find that chapter . . .

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      You’re not a horrible parent – my parents had nothing saved for me when I went away to college (long, off-topic story that I’ll skip here), and they were frank with me about that from as young as 12 or 13, when I first really started understanding how college worked. If anything, it motivated me, because I knew that if I wanted to go away to a school in a big city (my dream at the time), I had to not only get into the school, I had to be the kind of student the school would want to pay to go there. I ended up with two different full-scholarship offers to choose from, and my parents agreed to cover room and board for the first two years. (After that, I became a resident assistant, so my room and board were free, but I would’ve been on my own at that point regardless because that’s when my younger sib started college.) I did have to let go of my first-choice school because of finances, and that stung, but I still loved my college experience and had a great time, even when I was working part-time 15-20 hours/week to cover the expenses (books, spending money, etc.) that my parents couldn’t.

      I then went on to law school, got into a top-3 school, and got blinded by the brand-name. I now have a mortgage-level amount of student loans, which are miserable and never-ending and remain the biggest mistake of my life, and I don’t even like being an attorney that much. My parents played a role in that too – when I went to them to talk through my options (full scholarships to a number of different top-25s or paying full price at top-3 fancypants school), they were so starstruck by the fancypants school that they strongly encouraged me to take the loans. I wish we’d all been a lot smarter about that (and I wish someone had made me wait 2 or 3 years before law school, because if I’d known myself better I would’ve known I did not actually want to be a lawyer *before* sinking 3 years and $150K into the enterprise).

      So basically, you’re not a terrible parent at all for not saving for college – I do think, if it’s within your means, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to try to save, say, four-years-tuition-at-a-state-school per kid, as a back-stop if they’re not able to go the full-scholarship route (I graduated from high school over a decade ago, and the scholarship field has gotten exponentially more competitive since then). The reason I say this is because of my younger sib, who was not as academically motivated and took “we have no money for your college education” to mean “there is no point in striving to get into anywhere good because mom and dad can’t afford it” – sib would have likely benefited from the state-school-savings-fund and wouldn’tve taken 7 years to get an associate’s degree (has the credits for a bachelor’s and a half, but never settled on a major and switched schools several times, in part because of finances). Sib has since found success in a civil service career, but it was touch-and-go for a good long while, and life would’ve been very different if sib had had the support needed to get a bachelor’s by 22 or 23, instead of an associate’s at 25.

    • You are not an awful parent. I have approximately $130k in loans–about 30k from undergrad and the rest from law school. In undergrad, my parents helped by occasionally paying for books, buying groceries, and paying for my health insurance and medical expenses throughout undergrad. Otherwise, I had grants, federal loans, and worked part to full time to pay for school. In law school, I was lucky enough to have a partial scholarship and I landed paying internships, so that helped, but the rest was all loans.

      I don’t regret either degree, but do feel the weight of the loans quite a bit now. I am in public service and hopeful that they will be forgiven eventually, but that doesn’t make the payments any easier now. That being said, I was fully aware of what I was getting into when I signed up–especially when I went to law school. I never expected my parents to bear the burden on my career choices and I am grateful for all the help they gave.

    • Anonymous :

      My parents paid for my undergrad (Ivy-type school) and gave me nothing for grad school (I went to a private law school, but had a huge merit scholarship, worked while in school and graduated with about ~$30K debt, which is very little for a lawyer).
      In retrospect, I don’t think my parents should have paid for 100% of my undergrad. I didn’t have anything invested in it, so I didn’t take it very seriously and I didn’t get great grades (I didn’t flunk out or anything, but I could have done better). In law school, when I had to take on debt, I buckled down, worked hard, and got excellent grades. (As a counterpoint, however, my husband’s parents also funded his Ivy League undergrad and he worked really hard and did very well, so it’s probably a know-your-kid situation).
      On the other hand, my Name Brand undergrad education was a huge advantage to me in life and has opened so many doors for me career-wise (there was a big discussion about that here a few weeks ago). In particular, I graduated from law school in 2010 into a horrible climate and even though I went to a good law school and had very good grades it was hard to stand out from a pack of unemployed wanna-be lawyers, and my very fancy undergrad degree helped tremendously with that. So it was an incredible gift my parents gave me and I know I would not have had the same opportunities if I’d gone to State U (and I’d be even worse off, and drowning in debt if I’d taken on $200K to go to a fancy undergrad).
      Based on my own experience, I’ve concluded the optimal thing a parent can do is fund the education such that the kid can go to the best school they can get into without crushing debt, but make the kid take on a little bit of debt so that they have more of an interest in the outcome (something like 90/10 or 80/20 parents/loans seems appropriate to me).

    • I don’t think you’re a horrible parent, but student debt is truly crushing and it will only continue to grow as your kids approach college-age. We have two small kids and are actively saving for their college. I feel very, very strongly that I don’t want to pay their tuition entirely (although we could afford to). I think it’s important that they take a part-time job or do something else to contribute. But by the same token, I think that not saving anything for their college education is short-sighted. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    • I went to an amazing undergrad for free because my single mom didn’t have any money. (And not “no money” like comments on this site consider no money, but like, actually no money. I put more into my retirement plan each year than my mom ever made and some people here still think I am doing everything wrong financially). And it was great and worth it but also free. Law School cost a crap ton and I’m doing a 10 year repayment plan so I won’t re-litigate that decision, but I highly discourage other people from going.

    • Anonymous :

      Absolutely. I graduated law school with $135000 in debt (no undergrad thanks to mom and dad). 6 years later I have earned on average $150000 a year and am down to $23000 in debt by paying it off aggressively, but at a level that lets me live in a great apt with a fun lifestyle. I genuinely love being a lawyer.

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      I did undergrad entirely on athletic scholarships and need-based aid. Also went to a low-priced, big state school known for good academics. I had a partial scholarship to a T14 law school, but also paid for about half the rest of it with savings and took out the rest in loans (~60k). (I worked a long time before law school.)

      Anyways, you can only save for what you can. Not everyone can afford to save for retirement and completely cover their kids’ college.

    • You’re not a horrible parent. Your child can take out a loan for college, but you can’t take out a loan for retirement, unless you include a reverse mortgage. Maybe you can save to help with some of the expenses like books or living expenses, but your child will be grateful that they are not struggling to manage AND pay for your care when the time comes.

      • My parents took a calculated risk by not saving for my or my sister’s college education. They felt that if they pushed us to get excellent grades and participate in the necessary extracurricular activities, that we would be eligible for both merit and need-based scholarships. It helped that my sister and I are both very strong test-takers, and both scored extremely high on ACT/SATs. Thankfully, the risk paid off.

        I went to a medium-sized private university for undergrad, and a scholarship from the school itself paid for more than half of it. (The school has doubled in price since my graduation.) My parents paid for a bit less than 1/4 of the total costs, and I had loans for the remaining 1/4 or so. I applied for any and every extra scholarship and grant I could find, and won several, which saved my parents money (it meant they were off the hook for a semester or two), but didn’t reduce my payments any. I remember at the time feeling like that wasn’t “fair”, that I’d earned/won that money, so it should have reduced the cost of my share, not theirs, though I’ll admit now that it was rather selfish of me to think that way.

        It was never made entirely clear to me when I was applying for school just how much I was going to be expected to cover on my own, or what student loans would really feel like after graduation. They never really told us growing up that we’d essentially be on our own, but all in all, I can’t complain. My sister landed admission to an elite tuition-free institution, but in the end, still had loans for room/board/books. She’s in a high paying field that also offers signing and year-end bonuses, and I think paid off her loans within a year or two. I paid off my loans after about 7 years, living below my means in a HCOL area with roommates and not always in a great part of town.

        You’re not a bad parent. Just be clear with your child as far as what the realities are, and what crushing student loans mean when they’re trying to start out in the “real world”.

    • Do you have any spare change to set aside, though? If you’re in the USA, there are a number of tax-favorable ways to save for college, and if you start early, today’s small change might be significant when your kids get there down the road. You’re missing an opportunity to invest in Coverdell savings plans or 529 plans. In my state, I can deduct the 529 investments in my state income taxes, also. You get 18 years to save and grow this money tax-free before your kid goes to college. I don’t know what your income is, but for us it came down to priorities and we were able to cut elsewhere to over the years to put some money into those advantageous funds.

      • Not until I’m done paying for daycare… Realistically, yes, even now we could probably find some. But HCOL area means it would entail lifestyle changes we’re not willing to make at the moment. That’s a good point about tax advantages, though, and I should do some more researxh to see whether there are selfish reasons to save. Their grandparents generously opened and contribute to 529s with holdiay and birthday gifts, so they won’t be peniless.

    • Boston Legal Eagle :

      I was fortunate enough to have my parents pay for my full undergrad expenses – I went to a (great!) state school, so total expenses per year were somewhere around $20K. They also contributed to part of my law school expenses, so I graduated with only(!) about $62K in law school loans, which I have just paid off 3-years post-law school. It helps that I am an only child.

      On the other hand, my SO had some help from his parents for undergrad, also state school, but still ended up graduating with around $50K in loans. He picked a great major and is now doing really well, esp. without needing grad school, which I think was motivated in part by him knowing that he had to pay back loans and didn’t have the same parental help.

      I go back and forth about whether it make sense to pay for our future kids’ schools, at least undergrad, in full, like I had, or whether it’s better to get them some skin in the game to hopefully make better career choices. I enjoy my current job, but it’s a lot of up-front money and time and a good job is not guaranteed.

    • Little Red :

      I did it by living at home and commuting and my parents paying for all my expenses at a highly-rated public university.

      Given that college tuition increases at a rate higher than the rate of inflation or wage increases, it might be very well out of range for your kids by the time they’re ready no matter what. So honestly, I think this discussion may be moot by then.

    • Anon for this :

      I never went to college. *gasp* which is still surpringly common in us older IT folks because back in our day, being a computer hobbyist got your foot in the door.

      • I work in IT and my best bosses have been non-college grads. :)

        I do have a college degree, but I got my first “real” job based on my military experience and pivoted from there. My husband has several degrees, but would be nowhere without his military experience (and actually the military paid for all of them. and mine too). Both of our parents had college funds for us, but DH’s parents withheld his because he was a terrible student and a hooligan, and I initially dropped out of college because I felt bad wasting my parents’ money with no direction. Both of us have siblings who spent a boatload of parents’ money on private school and don’t have much to show for it.

        The more I think about it, especially after reading everyone’s great responses, the more I feel it largely depends on the kid. My husband is adamant that we should NOT save for kids’ college because it’s character-building to find your own way. I would like to have some money available, but maybe not in a 529, because if I don’t think sending my kids to college will be a good investment, or if the kid would rather do trade school or start his own business, or has a skillset that lands a great job without needing college, I’d rather have $$ accessible for me/them to do other things with. And I’m hearing from you all that student loans aren’t the end of the world. Thank you all for giving me a lot to think about!

    • I have horrible grad student loan debt. I would do it all over again because I love my job and couldn’t work in this area without the degree. My parents didn’t pay for a dime of my education post-high school. If I ever have kids I would be doing the exact same. At the same time, I will probably take care of my parents before I pay for my kids college. I know, I know. I don’t have kids. But, there is not a snowballs chance I change this position after I had to work my butt off to get through school. Especially thinking how much I partied! And the lazy kids I went with whose parents paid for them to go all work in jobs where they don’t even need a degree.

    • Undergrad 2006, law 2009. My parents told me they would pay for me to go to a state school or I could go to a private school if I got a scholarship that made up the difference, and times were tight when my brother and I were in school, so this was what they could give, no more. I wound up at Cornell as a NY resident – a lovely loophole that cut the cost of my undergrad in half compared to my out of state friends, though still more than a SUNY. Regardless they paid, and I had jobs throughout for my own spending money. My law school (top 10) was entirely funded by loans. I enjoy being a lawyer and don’t regret going to law school or incurring that debt. I paid it off in about 4 years by working in biglaw and living reasonably. My parents gave what they could and I truly appreciate that, but I can’t help but feel jealous of my peers who graduated debt free and are now on to home ownership, whereas everything I’ve saved has gone to loans and not a down payment. The freedom you can give your children is a tremendous gift. I don’t know how much money you, or anyone here makes, and if you think retirement saving is the way to go, that’s your choice, but IMHO saving for your child’s education is something that anyone with the means to do, really should do. My goal is to send my kids to school/grad school, and give them more than my parents could give me.

  6. What are your favourite life hacks?

    • Anonymous :

      Modern medicine. We get sick, we hack our body, we don’t die.

    • Wildkitten :

      YMMV on if you consider these lifehacks: Podcasts. Gel Nail Polish. Kindle books from the library. Cat auto-feeder. Housekeeper. Electric blankets. Bath sheets. Frozen food. Steamable veggies. Post-it notes. Flavored almond milk (instead of milk AND sweetener). The Sweethome. Wirecutter. Evernote. Moleskine. Keeping stamps in my wallet.

  7. Anonymous :

    Any tips or self-help book recommendations on managing anger? I generally don’t lash out at others, but will do so, often uncontrollably, with my family members. Partially it’s due to family dynamics growing up where we often express disagreements via loud voices/anger. I’d like to change this by improving myself first. Husband and I might start a family soon and I don’t want to introduce this dynamic into our new family.

    • Anonymous :

      Go to a therapist now for anger management. Don’t waste your time on self help. You need actual help help.

      So so so much better to deal with this now effectively!!

      • Wildkitten :

    • Wildkitten :

      I got this book from the library but I haven’t read it yet: Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier

    • “Anger” by Thich Nhat Hanh. Anything by Thich Nhat Hanh, really.

    • anonymous :

      A little late, but first I think you need to honestly evaluate how big of a problem this is for you/how out of control this is, and based on that decide whether you can tackle this on your own or if you need therapy. I have had a similar issue, really just with my husband, and what helped me was telling myself “I am in control, I decide how I handle this and what kind of person I want to be/relationship I want to have.” And sometimes I’d try to remind myself of the impact my actions have on others and how bad I feel after I lash out. I’m not sure if this will work for others; for me, the anger is usually provoked by feeling taken advantage of or like someone close to me put me in a suboptimal position because they didn’t care or were thoughtless. All of these have been honest mistakes and communication failures, but I felt like the resulting situation was that I didn’t have control over my life/things I wanted to. So reminding myself that I’m in control helps me handle the situation more rationally and from a position of strength rather than lashing out because I feel like that’s the only way to assert myself.

  8. Bit of a TJ :

    Following on from the morning discussion…I am not sure I totally agree with the strict adherence to “Max out your 401K all the time (if you have the means).” Like one of the commenters, I do it a little above the match because my priority right now is getting my liquid cash fund back up to 50K. I get compound interest etc., but honestly, it is such a small amount compared to what I foresee myself making in the next 30 years. It’s worth it to me to have more cash on hand right now. I am also 99% certain that my tax bracket will be much higher when I am 55 or 60 than right now.

    • Anonymous :

      That doesn’t matter. What matters is your tax bracket when you are 65, 70, 75, 80, 85. Those will probably be lower. Plus, it forces you to save. Plus the yield increases by any match you get.

    • Anonymous :

      Why do you need a 50k slush fund so much that you’re willing to forgoe the benefit of having more money to invest now?

      Unless you have an actual fact based answer, you aren’t a special snowflake and there is no reason why financial advice that is true for nearly everyone isn’t true for you.

      • A bit of a TJ :

        Because 50K is about the cushion I need for emergency house/car repairs and also if I lose my job suddenly. I guess in the latter situation I could put in a dispensation to get money out of my 401K but that seems like a bit of a risk. I could probably get it to cover my mortgage, but I’d also like to somewhat keep up my lifestyle if I am temporarily out of work. I’m not saying I’ll never max it out, but I just prioritize the cash savings right now. What I also don’t understand is that there is no guarantee my 401K, which is in index funds, will decide to balloon in the next 30 years. This is based on assuming the stock market keeps going up, and I somehow retire right at a peak.

        • Emergency funds are great, and 6-8 months is a solid foundation. Once you have that, focus on retirement. Or invest in a Roth IRA (if you’re over the income bracket, you can open a traditional IRA and roll over to a Roth). That way if something awful happens, you can take money out of the Roth without penalties or taxes (just not the interest earned, only what you put in).

          If you;re

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      Any financial adviser worth their salt would agree that “max-out-the-401k” mantra is not for everyone. There are tons of reasons not to max it out, even if you financially could do so, particularly if your employer doesn’t match. You don’t have enough liquid savings. You have high interest debt to pay off. You are trying to save for a home in a high COL area. You are financially disciplined and don’t need to be “forced” to save for retirement. There are other ways to save/build equity that you can use in retirement. I have a discussion with my financial planner each year to decide what my contributions should be to maximize any tax benefits (in combination with investment strategies), while still letting me reach my other financial goals and pay my fairly large expenses. And I am by no means a special snowflake financially speaking.

      • A bit of a TJ :

        Thank you! This makes total sense to me. As you can tell, I haven’t looked extensively into it, but on a common sense level, I always wondered. Glad to know I’m not crazy. :)

    • So it’s not so cut and dry.

      If you have no debt and have many left over, decent savings, then yes, it makes sense to max out your 401K.

      But if you work in a volatile career where layoffs are common and it can take 6 months+ to find a new job, then you’ll need a larger emergency fund and that should be the priority.

      Though if your employer offers a match, it’s just plain silly not to contribute to get the full match–that’s free money you’re tossing away.

  9. Anonymous :

    Piling in with all of the finance questions:

    Has anyone had to deal with a new relationship where the SO make significantly more than you do? How did you handle it? I have always been in relationships where things were fairly equal, but his every-night-going-out-to-dinner-place is my celebration-dinner-place. I hadn’t been paying as close of attention to my spending in December as I should have, and I spent just about everything I would normally attempt to save. Is there a polite way to say no I can’t afford that in a new relationship? I try to offer to pay as often as I feel comfortable doing so financially, but I feel guilty that it isn’t 50-50 and have no idea how to get over that.

    • First Year Anon :

      Yes, the polite way is saying “sorry, that is out of my budget- can we go somewhere at a lower price point?”. If he still wants to go and insists on paying, and you are comfortable with that, fine. Maybe a compromise would be you go to places that are more in your budget every once in awhile so you can contribute.

    • I’m actually in the same boat, dating a software engineer. I’d like to tell him that while I do value date nights, I need to be more mindful of how much I spend on dining out and I think dining out less often will really help with that. I’d say, explain that you’re trying to spend less on dining, and you can either go to fancy places, say, twice a month or go to a less fancy place once a week. Or whatever jives with your budget.

      Honestly, I think a mature guy would appreciate the fact that you’re trying to be financially responsible, that’s a sign that you’d be a good long-term partner, which should be more important than being able to go to a fancy restaurant once a week. But if he values the latter, he’s probably not a good match for you.

      As for ways to go out more often on a budget and offset costs, I’m a big believer in Groupon* and LivingSocial, using OpenTable to earn points toward free (or discounted) meals, and using a credit card that can get you a decent amount of cash back when you do eat out.

      *make sure the waiter actually takes off the full amount if you use a Groupon. I’ve had some perfectly fine experiences with them, but last week I went to an Indian place with a Groupon for $30 worth of food and the waiter only took $7 off the bill. Not cool!

    • Anonymous :

      “Hey, I realized that I’m totally overspending to keep up with you! And it has been so much fun, but in 2016 I need to get back to bring mindful of my budget, which means xyz resto is a special occasion place and the kitchen table needs to be a more familiar site.”

      Then talk about it!

    • Brunette Elle Woods :

      This isn’t exactly a feminist approach, but if he makes that much money, why are you paying at all? You want to catch a movie on the weekend, pay for that. An expensive $300 dinner after the movie, that’s on him! You do not have to accommodate his lifestyle.

      • Anonymous :

        I don’t see what’s un-feminist about the idea that whoever makes more pays more. I’ve been in relationships where it was the other way around, I had a job and he didn’t so I paid for more things than he did.

      • Pretty Primadonna :

        I agree. I would be completely fine with him paying for expensive dates, particularly those that are his idea. But, that’s just one opinion.

      • I don’t think it’s anti-feminist–it’s just anti-poverty :)

        When I dated my husband before we got married, I made six figures, he was an entry level pastry cook barely scraping by. Just because he’s a man wouldn’t have made sense for him to pay for dates when I was swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck. He was always willing to plan dates, but they’d be things like mini-golf, pizza, movie rentals. If I wanted to go to a fancy dinner, I’d pay.

    • My now-husband and I had a big income disparity when we first started dating. The gap has closed some (yay me!) but he still makes roughly 3-4x what I do. In the beginning, I would say something like, “Fancy Restaurant sounds great, but it’s not really in my budget this month. Do you mind if we go to Still Delicious But Less Expensive Place instead?” He’d usually say it was his treat, or we’d go to the less expensive place and split the bill/he’d still pay anyway. After we got more serious, we informally fell into a system where he paid for most “big” things, like nice dinners out or weekends away, and I paid for smaller items, like coffee, pre-dinner drinks, movie tickets, ice cream dates, etc. This may not work for everyone, but my husband was (still is) super old-school about “treating” me to things and there was no I could have afforded more than one of these nice dinners a month, so it worked just fine for us until we moved in together and started to combine finances.

      When I wanted to pay, I’d suggest a restaurant that was in my budget and let him know ahead of time it was my treat. I also usually ended up cooking for him a few times a month, which helped keep my costs down and he appreciated the home-cooked meal.

    • When I am in the opposite situation, I always pay when I want to go somewhere I want. Example on NYE I knew dinner would be $300 but I wanted champagne and steak. Last night he paid at a little taco place we both love for $40. Also, I will let him leave the tip.

      Otherwise, I would say that sounds really nice but I don’t have the money right now. If he doesn’t pony up and blows you off, fine. Better to know now that nice things are his priority.

      After spending 3 years refinancing after trying to keep up in a relationship similar to yours for about 8 months? Yeah, bring it up early. The hot air balloon ride over the mountains halfway across the country was nice but eating ramen for 3 years after I said I can’t keep up and he blew me off was not.

    • Was it just a holiday thing? No need to disclose your income. Say something like, I only have $XX left to spend until payday.

    • There’s nothing impolite about not being able to afford something and saying so! You just need to have a conversation about it.

      My relationship is no longer new, but he does make about 2x what I do. We use socialism. He pays 2/3 and I pay 1/3 for most household expenses. Some things we split 50-50, and sometimes we go out and he’ll announce “This is not going in the spreadsheet, this is a date,” and he pays. So romantic.

  10. Planning for a vague savings goal :

    Hi all, I need to figure out a financial strategy for the next few years. I read Bogleheads quite a bit, and posted there, but my question is really a mix of finances/life planning, so I’m a little stuck. I’m currently single, 32, renting in a HCOL city, and working in BigLaw. I’m about to quit, travel for 6 months, and then clerk for a year. Not sure where I’ll end up after that (in terms of location, COL, job, income, relationship status, etc.!). Thanks to BigLaw and being semi-frugal, so I’ve paid down a huge chunk of my loans (have $80K left, which are at 2 and 3%), have decent-ish retirement savings ($70K in 401k/IRA), and have non-retirement savings as well ($75K in index funds, allocation of 70/30 stocks/bonds). Thanks to my bonus and stock-piling cash for travel/clerking, I also currently have $95K in cash. I generally like to keep $30K as an emergency fund and want to set aside $30K for travel/moving (more than I will need, hopefully, but I’m being conservative), so I need to decide what to do with the other $35K.

    I want to own property someday, but I’m not sure when or where, as I’m at least 2 years away from settling somewhere. I definitely want to get married and have multiple kids, but who knows when or if that will happen (see above re: single and 32). My non-retirement savings are theoretically for the “short term” savings goal of a down payment, but again, no clue how short term that really is. I’m now starting to worry that my non-retirement savings are overly weighted for stocks (what if, for example, I’ll need it in 3 years for a down payment, and just before that the market tanks?), and am therefore nervous to invest the cash 70/30 in stocks/bonds as I have been doing. Bogleheads recommends CDs or a savings account for short term savings goals, but putting $$ in a 5-year CD doesn’t seem to make sense because the rates on those are currently 2.45% at best, which worse than my 3% loans. So maybe I should just pay down loans? But then I would lose liquidity. There are just so many variables in terms of when I will need that money and for what. How do you figure out where to save when you don’t know what you’re saving for? Help? And yes I realize this is a fantastic, wonderful “problem” to have. Minus the single-at-32 part, I consider myself super lucky.

    • Anonymous :

      Pay down your loans!!!!!! Then build up your savings again.

    • TO Lawyer :


      I would pay down your loans as much as you can and then you can save up again!

    • Pay down your loans!
      You know this – you’re not making the loan interest back in savings interest or the market, so get rid of them!
      I also was very fortunate in that I made a deal with my parents – I paid off my loans maybe 6 months ahead of when I otherwise could have and I briefly didn’t have any significant emergency fund. The deal with my parents was that g-d forbid something happened (i lost my job, etc.), they would loan me money if needed. Nothing did happen, I paid off the loans a little earlier and very quickly built up my savings again (amazing how quickly they can build when there are no loan payments!)

  11. I’d like to see a post on increasing efforts at creativity in an otherwise corporate life! Thanks, Kat.

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