Tales From The Wallet: Help! I’m in My 20s & Have No Idea What I’m Doing with My Money

Money Moves to Make in Your 20s | CorporetteWhat money moves should you make in your 20s — and what should you avoid doing?  Rhiannon Payne, editor in chief of Feminspire, reached out with a fabulous guest post on this very topic.  I think her tips are solid however old you are, particularly if you’re just starting a new career with more money (like I was at 27, my first year in BigLaw).  Thank you for guest posting, Rhiannon!  (Pictured:  Lodis Accessories Audrey Cassie Cell Case with Wristlet, available at 6pm for $36.99.)

So you’ve finally landed that amazing job, the one that pays you enough to not only cover your rent and other basic expenses, but also affords you the luxury of having money left over – money that you’re not sure what to do with. The options seem limitless. While you once had to count up the pennies in your change jar if you wanted to buy a new outfit, you’re suddenly thinking about all the exciting ways you can improve your life with your new funds. Things you would have never considered are suddenly options – a tablet for working on the go? A newer, shinier car to replace your old model? The fancier silverware sets from Bed Bath & Beyond?

This is a trap that a lot of young people fall into, especially when entering the workforce after college or going straight into the professional world in their early 20s (the latter was me – I set my sights on an industry where a degree was more of an option than a requirement, and I didn’t want to risk a negative ROI on my tuition). Unfortunately, the financial education provided to American students, in both high school and college, is generally pretty limited. When a young person starts earning a healthy income, they often have no idea what to do with their money. Thus, some unfortunate financial decisions usually occur. This is especially true for women, who not only make less (on average, $0.77 to the dollar) than men, but are traditionally given even less financial guidance than their male peers.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I got my first “real” job. And the scenario above? Completely inspired by real events. I suddenly had money that I didn’t know what to do with, and unlike Kat who started putting away $100 each month at the age of 22, I made irresponsible choices.

Even though I was making enough money to support myself, it took me awhile to pull myself out of the financial hole that I dug myself into. The saddest part was that I didn’t have any serious financial issues until I started earning a decent living (why does that happen?). So take it for what it’s worth, but as a young 20-something who has been there, here’s what I would do differently (and am currently doing differently) when it comes to managing my money:

  1. Seriously, don’t start upgrading everything. The first mistake a lot of young people make is spending more money than they really need to. When I got my first full time job, the first thing I wanted to do was find a bigger apartment, get a car, and fill my closet with silk blouses and expensive pencil skirts from Bloomingdales. This is a bad idea. I’ll even spell it out for added emphasis: B A D. If you were getting by with your lifestyle choices prior to your job, don’t start rushing to change them by spending money that could be going other places (such as a savings account). For me, getting my own one bedroom apartment would cost at least $500 a month more than living with roommates or in a bachelor. A car would be another $500 a month or more expense, especially considering the cost of gas in my city (Los Angeles). These are mistakes for a lot of reasons, and are especially big ones in an uncertain job market. If you lose that awesome job of yours, you’re suddenly going to be stuck with a lot of big expenses and no way to pay (been there). Live with roommates, keep taking the bus, and treat yourself sometimes but not to the point where you’re spending your entire paycheck without putting anything away. I know how tempting it is to step up your lifestyle, but do it in baby steps, not leaps.
  2. Keep your expenses down across the board. This advice probably seems pretty obvious, and I’m sure everyone has heard it before, but when you’re in your early 20s and focused on your career and social life it can be easy to forget or simply disregard. My advice: don’t disregard it. The cost of convenience isn’t worth what they’re selling it for, and by “they” I mean Starbucks, the cute café on the corner where you buy a $10 salad every day, and the trendy bar where you spend $15 per cocktail on Saturday nights. Sure, you can afford to buy $3 coffee every day and pricey lunches and drinks, congratulations – but that doesn’t mean you should. If you add up the amount you spend on little conveniences, you’ll probably get a huge number – and that’s an amount that would be put to much better use in a savings account. So take a flask to the bar and just order a coke (don’t turn your nose up at this, we’ve all done it), make your own lunches, and brew your own coffee. When your car breaks down or you have to pay for an expensive medical bill, you’ll thank yourself.
  3. Don’t get into credit card debt – just don’t do it. Yes, more obvious advice. But if you’re anything like 20-year-old me, you might be prone to totally disregarding this as well. My best advice is to not open up a line of credit at all, but sometimes things happen, and there’s also the whole “building your credit” thing that we all have to do in order to get approved for things like apartments and cars. So if you decide to get a credit card, budget for every expense. When you have extra money to pay some of it down, do it immediately. Prioritize it right under your rent and groceries. The faster that debt is gone, the happier you’re going to be. The longer you let that debt accumulate, the more miserable you’re going to be – believe me.
  4. “The best time to start a savings plan is before you’re used to having extra money.” Oh man, do I wish I knew this a few years ago. This is advice from David Armstrong, a top-ranking financial advisor, so I can’t exactly take credit for it – but above everything else I’ve written here, this is something I think every young person should hear. His suggestion is to calculate 50% of what your paycheck is after taxes, then use that for the things you absolutely need like rent, transportation, your phone bill, etc. Then take another 35% for your wants. The last 15% goes into savings – period, no question. Pretend that 15% doesn’t exist if you have to, just don’t spend it. While this exact method may not work for everyone (we all have different expenses and income levels), find a version that works for you.

Were you good about managing your finances when you were young? Share your secrets with us. If you made the same mistakes that I did, feel free to commiserate with me in the comments. 

Rhiannon Payne is the Editor-in-Chief of Feminspire.com, a women’s media website that publishes the thoughts and stories of women around the world. She lives in Los Angeles and is still “figuring it out” when it comes to life, money, and all the rest.


  1. Prioritizing Debt? :

    All of the above makes so much sense, but what do you do when you’ve already made the mistakes? Specifically, I find myself with credit card debt (low five figures, I know, it’s terrible) and a car loan (very inexpensive car, but I’m still kicking myself for not just keeping the Civic I drove in law school) and law school loans (massive, obviously), and now that I finally have a Biglaw-type job, I’m wondering how to prioritize debt repayment, and also how it fits in with things like building savings.

    I’m so ashamed of the credit card debt that my gut instinct is to not worry about anything else (including savings) until it’s paid (5-8 months from now, depending on how well I manage my expenses and whether I get a bonus at year’s end), but now I’m wondering if I should be trying to save and pay down the credit cards simultaneously. I really, really, really want the credit cards gone ASAP, but is aggressively paying down debt at the expense of building a savings account wise? Should I be banking 3 months’ living expenses first and then focusing on the credit cards? Trying to do both at the same time? I’m kind of overwhelmed by trying to sort this all out.

    • Anonymous :

      I would do both (depending on how secure your job is). Like if your in a risky field or your company isn’t doing well, I would focus on savings. But that debt is just going to grow with interest unless you pay it off.

      • This was me in my 20’s, but my dad saw I was not to smart with my money and he took charge of EVERYTHING for me, from nuts to soup to nuts!!!! YAY! b/c I do NOT have to do anything financeial — he does it all for me, tho he want’s another man to marry me and take over this stuff, which he say’s is strictly a man’s job. I do not disagree with him in my case, but there are some women who probabely do not need a man to do this for them, but I suspect most DO and would love to have a man like my dad handel everything for them.

        My onley issue with Dad is that he gets a littel bossy when I want to buy something and he say’s NO. He does NOT let me take any money out to do thing’s myself. FOOEY!!!

        The onlely way I get cash is if he approves a purchase, I buy it, he pays for it then I return it!!!! I then have a credit I can use w/o him finding out until AFTER I spend the money myself. He get’s mad, but that is the way to get around his strict policey! YAY!

    • Wildkitten :

      I actually like Total Money Makeover for this question. He says save $1000 so you don’t get stuck putting things in your credit card if you make a small mistake, then pay off your credit cards, then save the 3-12 month savings account. That way you’re not totally on the edge, but you don’t get distracted/overwhelmed trying to do everything at once. You could change $1000 to $3000 if you were more comfortable, but I wouldn’t save up like $20,000 before paying down your CCs.

      FWIW I’m in a very similar boat.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I recommend this too, including the book. I borrowed it from the library to avoid buying it. It does little good to be making solid payments towards a card when an unexpected expense will have to go right back on the card.

        It doesn’t need to be a huge amount, just something that will cover unexpected completely necessary expenses like a car repair or to pay a plumber.

        What I personally did was focus on 1 month of living expenses first then switched to 50/50 debt payoff and emergency fund. I have 3 months of expenses saved now and am totally focused on the debt now.

    • I found myself in a similar position, though my debt level wasn’t quite as high. I’m not an expert at all, but the accepted advice seems to be: pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. In my case, I did this while simultaneously paying an amount monthly into my retirement savings. Some people would have put the retirement contribution on hold, but I didn’t want to do that entirely. I also made myself put a small amount per month into an emergency fund until I had $5k on hand for emergencies – not much, but enough of a cushion so that if something awful happened, I would at least have something to fall back on. I’m happy to say that I am now debt-free (other than my mortgage, of course), and it has lifted such a huge weight off my shoulders. It was hard to change my mindset from, “doing what I want, now, regardless of cost” to, “how will this affect my debt repayments?” but it was so worth it in the long run.

    • So I was in the mid-five figures debt and paid it off at the end of September. It took me a year of solid super payments. Your level of savings depends on your job security and your current level of savings. If you have almost nothing saved up, it’s better to add a little something to savings even at the expense of paying off your debt because if you don’t have savings when an emergency comes up you’ll be back to having to charge it again.

      Figure out a budget. A really really strict budget. You do not need cable. You do not need lunches out. It sucks but if you’re really diligent you can do both. Assuming you have nothing saved at all, I would consider splitting your remaining funds between the two. Look into opening a 0% interest card to transfer balances onto.

      Personally, I’m glad I’m debt free with less in the bank. My debt payments alone would have sunk me now that the gov’t is shut down. The rest is bare bones and I figured if I did it for a year, I can do it for a few weeks longer. Good luck!

      • Wildkitten :

        I have 5 figures and it’s so nice to hear about a light at the end of the tunnel.

        • It is the BEST FEELING EVER. Ellen caps deserved. Seriously, when I started to get close it was like a game of how much extra could I save. I didn’t realize how much it actually stressed me out until now. I transferred some debt to a 0% interest card and then since the remaining cards had similar interest rates, I actually paid off the one with a slightly lower balance (it was the one that had an extra 2% interest) first. Seeing that gone was life changing. Then I focused on the huge card. Honestly, I probably should have opened another 0% and transferred more off to save myself additional money, but I didn’t quite trust myself at that point to actually not go hog wild back into debt.

          And believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.

    • Miz Swizz :

      Start by sitting down and drafting a budget. Write your income at the top and write down all your expenses (round to the nearest dollar to make your math easier) then do some calculations. Putting all your monthly payments on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet helps. The math I was doing in my head was way off and frankly caused more stress than the debt itself.

      I’ve heard you should pay down your highest interest debt first to make a bigger impact and I’ve also heard you should pay off your lowest balance to give yourself a sense of accomplishment. For me, it was pay down your lowest balance because I needed to see that progress to feel like I was doing the right thing.

      Good luck and know that it’s doable.

    • Prioritizing Debt? :

      Thanks everyone.

      I’ve realized part of why I’m so mixed up about how to handle debt repayment is because of the source of the debt – without getting too personal, the debt was accrued during a really, really bad time in my life, and putting the debt to rest is the last step in closing the door on a really dark chapter – hence the mad rush to want to pay it off. I think I’m going to set up a smallish ($5K, about 2 months of bare-bones living expenses) emergency fund as quickly as possible, and then just throw all of my discretionary income at the credit card debt until it’s gone, which, barring any emergencies, will be in about 9 months.

      • Houston Attny :

        This seems like a smart move. That way, should anything happen, you’ll have some money in savings. And when it doesn’t happen, you’ll feel better knowing the cushion is there. Just think – by next Fall, you are debt free!

      • Abby Lockhart :

        This is me. Having the $5k makes me feel secure. Paying off the cards makes me feel happy and in control (after a “really dark chapter” of my own). I prioritized secure because I didn’t think I could get to happy without it.

      • Blair Waldorf :

        I like this advice. Save enough so you can pay for unexpected expenses without adding to your credit card debt, but focus on paying off the debt first. The interest rates on credit card debt are exponentially more costly than any interest you will get in savings. Get rid of the debt first.

      • different take :

        I suggest paying off credit cards before creating an emergency fund. The purpose of a cash emergency fund is to avoid using credit cards in emergencies. Credit card debt is tough for many reasons, but especially the usorious interest rates. I’d suggest getting rid of existing credit card debt before taking steps to avoid accruing cc debt in the next cash crunch.

        • You can’t use a credit card to pay your rent, though. In my opinion, you need to have two months’ rent in savings.

    • I prioritize paying off debt vs. savings by just comparing the interest rates between my loans and my potential investments. MrMoneyMustache does a good job at explaining this on his blog.

      First, I agree that you should build up a $5k savings chunk. Then, look at the interest rates that apply to your debt, and see what sort of rates you’d be getting off retirement savings (you should have a pretty risky portfolio if you’re in your 20s). If your interest rate on your debt is higher than about 9%, then definitely put everything toward that debt before you put anything in retirement. If your debt is lower than a 9% interest rate, start dividing your extra cash between debt payments and savings. Don’t build an investment account that doesn’t have tax benefits until you’re making solid contributions to retirement, and always try to put in enough to get an employer match.

      The idea generally is this: let’s say I have $1000 to put towards debt or a long-term savings account. The interest rate on my debt is 6.8% (student loan), and my 401K is getting about 10% interest. If I put the $1K in retirement, after a year it will make $100. If I don’t put that extra $1K toward my debt, then the amount I will owe will increase by $68. Ultimately, I made $100-$68, or $32 by putting that money in my 401K instead of using it to pay off my debt

      Of course, this doesn’t always work, and there are a lot of benefits to just paying off debt. It’s obviously less risky. But, this is how I try to make sense of it. Always try to throw at least some extra payments to debt if you can, but don’t ignore your retirement just to get rid of low-interest loans.

    • Do only two things simultaneously- Save 3 months living expenses in a savings account, and pay off your credit card debt. Don’t worry about retirement savings or investments until that debt is paid off. You’ll be losing much more money in credit card interest than you’ll be making in any type of savings account.

  2. Gail the Goldfish :

    I wish I could cover set expenses with 50% of my paycheck… Sadly, rent and student loans alone are over 50%, never mind food and transportation (and that’s with a pretty good deal on rent for my city). Here’s good financial advice: Don’t go to law school unless someone else is paying for it or you’ve got a scholarship. Don’t live in New York City.

    Also, I will judge people who take a flask to a bar. If you’re trying to save money, just invite people over and drink at home. Bringing alcohol to a bar is like bringing outside food to a restaurant. It’s rude.

    • Manhattanite :

      Don’t live in NYC should be near the top of that list.

      • Brooklyn Paralegal :


        I swear to god I will never be able to save money living in the damn place.

      • Add don’t live in San Francisco to that list. ;oP

    • mintberrycrunch :

      +1 to the law school advice and to the flask in a bar advice – that one surprised me. There are lots of options between the $15 specialty cocktails and sneaking in flasks of booze.

    • Senior Attorney :

      Good grief. No, we haven’t all done it. Honestly, bringing a flask to a bar truly never occurred to me until I read this post, and I’m kind of horrified.

      • Ew, really? Flask to a bar? Just have friends over. Or pregame. Or drink ONE cocktail all night.

        I made $25k my first year out of college working for a non profit. I also was paying part time grad school tuition out of that income. I lived with 3 roommates and NEVER ate out. But when my friends, who made far more than I did, were going out, I either invited them over, suggested a place I could afford, pregamed with friends in my apartment, or tagged along and sipped on one drink all night. Or I didn’t go. I was the cheapest person EVER during those times but it never occurred to me to BYOB to a bar. Yuck.

      • Veronique :

        +1. There are lots of ways to reduce your alcohol costs (happy hour, beer/house wine, cheaper bars, drink at home, etc.) without being downright tacky/socially unacceptable. Would you bring your own meat to a restaurant and add it to a cheap vegetarian dish? Imo, it’s similar to going to a restaurant and stiffing the waitress on the tip because you “couldn’t afford it.”

      • Wildkitten :

        I’ve done it. But it was called college and then I graduated.

    • Agreed. I’ve worked in bars and restaurants, and I think sneaking in a flask of booze is really unethical. Not cool. Better to have friends over and drink cheap booze at home if you want to save money.

    • NWanalyst :

      Thanks for pointing to this elephant in the living room. I couldn’t believe bringing a flask to a bar was listed up there with other–dare I say more legitimate–methods of saving money. I think I considered doing so once, but the idea of being caught doing something so rude to the staff/owners immediately destroyed the notion.

      When I was poor, I would order something like a gin and tonic or a rum and coke, with well liquor. I’d have one, maybe two, and I’d nurse them throughout the night. There were times when I couldn’t really afford to do even that with any regularity, and in those cases, I’d have friends over to my place. Or we’d go to their place. Or we’d discreetly bring a flask to a venue that didn’t serve alcohol and wasn’t monitored for unauthorized consumption of such. I see any of these options as superior to bringing a flask to an actual bar.

  3. anonforthis :

    not sure if I’m looking for advice, but I’m too ashamed to tell anyone in real life about this, so I guess I just need a place to say it: on paper everything in my life is going well; great boyfriend, great apartment, great job, good future job prospects, good health, plenty of friends and lots of exciting things to look forward to…

    but i have so.much.debt. like, $200k from law school- this part I’m okay with because I see it as a long-term investment, some of which I might never have to pay off if I go to a government job after a few years at a firm (yay IBR). But I also have about $22k in credit card debt and it’s absolutely stressing me out. my credit lines are very high (or at least they seem high to me) on 3 cards- like 8k. I have one card with a high limit that I have never used, and I cut it up so that I wouldn’t be tempted. But I’ve about reached my limit on the other cards, so that my disposable income every month, after making loan payments, paying rent (my apartment is $1150, pretty reasonable I think) and paying for cellphone/bus pass, goes entirely to making small-ish payments on my credit cards so that I don’t go over the limit. I know this isn’t sustainable. I actually didn’t buy a buss pass this month to save a measly $90 (more like $50 since I will probably still have to take the bus occasionally) and force myself to walk to work while the weather allows.

    i have one year left in my current job and then i plan on going to a law firm, so I guess my long term plan is to wait til I get a clerkship bonus (hopefully?) and put that toward my credit card debt. I just want to be free from it, but I know my own bad choices got me here.

    just needed to unload :(

    • Anonymous :

      Ugh I’m sorry. I am sure that there are many many people in a similar position to yours. Anyway you could consolidate your debt or talk to a financial advisor? Get a roommate?(I know, UGH, but it would cut down on your living expenses).

      • anonforthis :

        thanks for the sympathy :) i know there are lots of people in my position… i just never thought i would be here :(

        I can’t really get a roommate, I signed a year lease and I live in a “jr. 1-br” which is basically a studio with a semi-enclosed bedroom. I live in a relatively high-cost east coast city (think Philly/Boston) and I think I’m getting a good deal. I could probably pay less than $1000 but I’d be living in a crappy/not-so-safe neighborhood or with roommates, and I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I just can’t have a roommate. I also have 2 cats so that’s an issue with roommates.

        I’m making a big effort to stop eating out (limiting myself to once a week, which is a big step), walking to work as much as I can (vs. buying a $95/month bus pass, which I think is outrageously overpriced), canceling my gym membership (so irresponsible of me to have it in the first place, I never go!), and stopping my online shopping habit. if i’m being honest, what did me in was the online shopping and eating out. it’s just insane to me that i racked up this much debt.

        i just kinda feel like a failure in this aspect of my life, and it’s killing me! i’m terrified my bf will find out..

        • Anonymous :

          I would tell him, but that’s me. I mean that’s a huge secret for you to have to keep and that’s really stressful! He may even help you budget and stay on track. Since I’m on a tight budget my boyfriend encourages my frugality and helps me stick to my budget. He also reminds me that being frugal is good for me and will help me on later in life.

        • The scariest thing for me was telling my SO about my debt when we started getting serious, especially since he is so good with his finances. He asked me for exact figures, and I had to hide my face when telling him, I was so embarrassed. Kudos to him for being supportive and not just running away. If I’m honest, it’s his pragmatic approach to money as much as anything else that helped me pay off my debt and that keeps me on the straight and narrow now.

          • Amen. I had to own it and he said he knew at that point he wanted to marry me. So you never know how it could turn out. But anyone who isn’t willing to stand by you through something like that isn’t someone you want to be with long term anyways.

          • anonforthis :

            my bf is actually a financial planner, so this is even more embarrassing! and he’s 2 years younger than me and talking about buying a house already… oy vey!

    • Wildkitten :

      I cut up a bunch of my cards so that the minimum payments each month actually pay them down instead of just freeing up a little more space for me to use. Obviously you can’t do that if you need that space to buy essentials, like food.

      • anonforthis :

        yeah, I’ve considered doing that and just using my debit card, but I don’t know if I’d have enough disposable income to both make the minimum payments and pay for my necessary expenses.

    • I was in almost exactly your shoes not too long ago…It gets better, I think is the best I can tell you? ESPECIALLY If you are going to a firm. And bonuses – just throw your entire bonus at your debt, minus a little bit of money to treat yourself to something not too pricey just so you don’t feel too deprived. The best part is once you are done paying off a card, you have all that extra cash you were spending just paying your minimum.

      I think do what you can and try not to obsess until you’re at your law firm. Then, throw as much money as aggressively as possible at it – and stop charging new stuff while you’re doing that!

      • anonforthis :

        thank you, that makes me feel a lot better. i guess at this point i just don’t want my debt to get higher, if that makes sense, and i don’t want to be in a situation where there’s a month i literally can’t make my payments. for me that would be hitting rock bottom. i have it arranged so that i can make my minimum payments, pay rent, pay for my phone, but it just leaves me very little cash at the end of the day.

        • Blair Waldorf :

          I think you being honest with yourself about how much debt you are in is a really great step. You have to see it all and really understand it before you can get yourself out of it!

          Getting out of debt isn’t easy if you aren’t making enough money to cover it all. Luckily, it looks like you will get a salary increase in the near future, and you can then really start making a dent in it. Try not to change your style of living when you start making money – like the post today mentioned, things can add up quickly!

          In terms of telling your bf, I know it isn’t easy but it does seem like that would alleviate some of your stress, especially if he is mentioning buying a house, or other decisions you know you won’t be financially ready for in the near future. I’ve always found that it helps to go in with a plan. You can tell him what you’re facing, and then tell him your plan to get out of debt.

          Good luck and kudos to you for being honest, it’s the first step to getting rid of debt!

  4. Anonymous :

    Ugh. I think this advice is all good. Finances just depress me though. I live in DC and I have student loans from my MA (which was necessary for my career). Rent plus student loans plus transportation takes up so much of my income. I save like $25 each month and contribute to my employer matched 401K, it just feels like I can’t get ahead. The only time I can buy clothes is when I get gift cards/money for my birthday or Christmas. I cook, hardly ever go out drinking, and live in a fairly priced studio apartment. I make a good salary for my field, I just can’t wait until I have more money…

  5. I called in sick yesterday. My boss asked me if I was feeling better today. I said yes I am. He then looked at me like he expected a description of the sickness and said….so a cold? (I actually had a nasty urinary tract infection – went to the doctor and got antibiotics but was just uncomfortable and didn’t feel like sitting at my desk all day). I am not a super private person so I said actually, no, I had a urinary tract infection but I’m good now. He turned bright red, looked completely grossed out and said you could of left that out. I said – hey, you asked, completely straight faced. Now I’m kind of embarrassed and wish I would’ve just said – I’ll spare you the woman details, but yes I’m feeling much better. Should I really worry about this? If you ask what someone’s ailment is you should expect that you might not want to hear the answer is my feeling.

    • Wildkitten :

      Sounds like he learned his lesson! Future yous thank you.

    • He should be embarrassed that he was prying into your personal medical life!

    • Thank you both for confirming my feelings. I didn’t really know how to respond in the moment besides with the truth.

      • I would have told him the truth too! Don’t worry, he’s the one who thought he wanted to know. And I don’t really think it’s that embarrassing, I a lot of women (and probably men too) have had UTIs.

    • Anonymous :

      He should be embarrassed because 1) he was prying and 2) he can’t handle the mention of a UTI (men get them too!)

    • Accidentally reported instead of reply, sorry! I clearly can’t handle the two “rep-” words in close proximity.

      I think it’s great that you did it. He should know better and now he will.

    • You are my hero. Good on you. FOOEY on UTI’s.

    • Don’t worry about it. I think you’re my role model.

    • I can’t believe your boss asked for specifics. That kind of thing is strictly forbidden where I work. It’s ok for coworkers to ask (within reason) or for the person out sick to volunteer, but absolutely not allowed for a boss to ask subordinates about the particulars. Even with long-term illness, the only groups that *have* to be notified with specifics are HR (if you need accommodation) and the medical department.

    • He asked for it, you told him. Nothing whatsoever for you to be embarrassed about!

  6. Calibrachoa :

    I am the absolute worst about finances. I live paycheck to paycheck with zerol savings and the one thing I am grateful for is that I do not have a lot of debt :/

    I always keep telling myself I will implement this or implement that but it never seems to work out that way….

    • Agreed. I’m lucky to be funded but I wish I was more structured with my savings and budgeting.

      • Calibrachoa :

        I think this article hits the nail on the head when it comes to a lot of my issues. It might be relevant to some others, too…


        I am sure there is a more scholarly version of this out there somewhere but I like Cracked’s approach.

        • This Cracked article is totally my life. Growing up, Burger King was a once a year treat. We never went out to the movies, took a vacation, or went clothes shopping anywhere other than Salvation Army or (for a really special treat) Shopper’s World. My mother is still financially insecure, and she continues to make terrible life/finance decisions. I’m about to finish law school and start making more money than I can really fathom. NYC lawyer salary is over 5x what my mom made bringing us up.

          I racked up a few thousand dollars of credit card debt in college that I still can’t get rid of. I will have massive law school loans, but minimal undergrad loans thanks to scholarships. I’m going to start saving for my upcoming wedding as soon as I start working. I basically have no idea how to get it together and prioritize debt/savings. This is all wrapped up with very complicated feelings of guilt about my prospective salary and my mother’s situation. It’s like I’m about to enter this whole other world I wasn’t born into and have no idea how it works.

          • Been There :

            Forest, I have been there. I am about twenty years further along in my career, though, and the best, BEST, thing I did was to pay off my credit card and save money. It kept my mother from commenting about how “fancy” I was and how “fancy” I lived, since I saved the sh*t out of my paycheck and lived below my means. Four big wins from doing this: 1) no credit card debt, 2) saving for retirement and my wedding made me feel sane and safe and un-financially-damaged, 3) my mother didn’t constantly comment how I thought I was soooo much better than her, 4) I had the resources to pay her bills and provide live-in care the last eighteen months of her life. While I had to live with the “success=rejecting where you came from” message for too many years, my financial sobriety meant that I was able to give her some comfort at the end of her very, very tough life.

  7. springtime :

    Bringing a flask to a bar- I’m pretty sure that is illegal and could get the bar in serious trouble. Poor advice, IMO. I would just not drink. If you can’t have fun at a bar sober from time to time, it means you don’t really like going to bars.

    Honestly- I just never have seen CCs as extra money that I don’t have. Every time I charge something to a card, I treat it like I was withdrawing on my bank account. I have always been able to pay my card off in full. I have worked throughout undergrad and law school- I bartended every Saturday, and while that means I didn’t socialize as much, every bit of money helps. I also worked for profs and tutored and lots of other small jobs. Don’t go to law school unless you can ‘truly’ afford it. I rarely ate out, I lived at home for awhile- it’s just called being responsible. The amount of money you save in your 20s turns into HUGE amounts in your 60s (time value of money!).

    This has all paid off immensely- I have a large amount saved, now I can actually spend on things and not worry, and I know I am setting the rest of my life up for financial freedom. I transfer my savings to an account that I rarely look at so that I never feel like I am ‘rich’. I leave a minimal amount in my checking account. Delaying financial responsibility is the worst thing you can do. Act now.

    • Prioritizing Debt? :

      I get what you’re trying to say, but for some reason, your post is reading really, really smug to me.

      People get into credit card debt for all kinds of reasons that have very little to do with irresponsibility/lack of self-discipline, and a lot to do with factors beyond their control. We’re not all ditzy morons who don’t feel like getting part-time jobs, running around charging Louboutins to credit cards just because we can. Your advice is sound, but the judginess that seems to be accompanying it? Not so much.

      • springtime :

        Did not mean it to be judgey- obviously there are lots of legitimate reasons why someone gets into debt- illness, family, things just going wrong, it happens. Don’t know what part was judgey because it was all pretty much factual. I never said ‘I don’t understand why people buy expensive shoes’ or something like that. I was giving examples of how one might minimize their debt by showing what I did.

        • anonymama :

          But you pretty heavily implicated (“it’s just called being responsible”) that avoiding debt was pretty straightforward/simple, and that other people were being irresponsible in acquiring debt.

          I mean, it would be like if someone were asking for weight-loss tips and I came in and started talking about how I’ve never had to worry about my weight, I just eat healthily and exercise regularly (what, do I want a pat on the back for that? a gold star?). It was all about you, and showed pretty much zero compassion or understanding (or attempt at it) for people who might actually have the money issues that the whole post is about.

          • springtime :

            Okay, next time I won’t use those types of words. It’s hard when people read into your words on an internet forum- saying doing X is being responsible doesn’t mean doing Y is irresponsible, you know? I was typing rather quickly and since I wasn’t replying to someone, I didn’t think I needed to use compassion i.e., I wasn’t talking directly about anyone’s circumstances, just generally, if that makes sense.

            Plus, being in debt is nothing to be ashamed of/to be judged on! It sucks, and it’s not good, but it does not reflect on who you are!

          • Anonymous :

            We aren’t reading anything into your words that isn’t there. You should be careful of your words. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t talking to anyone directly. If the whole thread is about having weight problems, you don’t write a full post about how skinny you are. Your post didn’t have any advice, it was basically like oh people have problems with this??

            And I would really question your thinking that living at home is being responsible. I think that’s being a mooch, and basically means you won a little lottery. Many peoples finances would be much better if they had the option to live rent free for a little while.

          • Prioritizing Debt? :

            Yes, this exactly.

            Your commentary – “just live at home!” “just have lots of part-time jobs like me!” “just don’t go out so much!” – made it seem like you assume that anyone in debt was in debt because they lived in unnecessarily expensive apartments and didn’t work (or didn’t work enough) and went out socializing too much. For so many people, that’s just not the case.

            Believe me, if I had been strong enough at the time to avoid my credit card debt, I would have. I worked three part-time jobs while attending law school full time just to keep my debt from getting any larger than it did. I never went out, never ate out, sometimes even missed out on otherwise-free social activities because I didn’t have the money to put gas in my car to get to them. I lived in an illegal apartment with no stove to save money on rent. I also, for two years, had an abusive partner who literally stole money out of my wallet, and threatened my safety and his own any time I tried to refuse to buy him something he wanted. But that’s entirely my fault, right? For not “just being responsible?”

          • springtime :

            My post was really meant to try to be helpful. I guess people can believe that was my intention, or not. If it didn’t come across that way, all I can do is say sorry. Can’t change the past!

            And anyway, I lived at home for a little under 2 years post-undergrad (not very long), and my parents were glad to have me (so long as I provided fun stories from my ‘youth’ haha). I didn’t think that would be considered mooching, but different opinions. Obviously not everyone is able to do that.

          • Anonymous :

            Its certainly not being a responsible adult is all I was saying. And its not “if” your post came out wrong- it did. I think instead of putting the blame outward (saying that we are reading it wrong) you should just make a note to yourself to check your tone so you don’t do this kind of thing to people you actually know. Its not like it was totally offensive, it was just so tone deaf I find it suprising that you are not really getting that or getting why.

          • springtime :

            Okay, last post on this so I don’t drive people crazy! Nope, don’t talk about finances with anyone really (except my SO), so maybe that’s why I didn’t realize direct language would sting so much.

            I said sorry. I don’t know what else to do that would appease the people who were upset with my post. I guess I’m refusing to say sorry I am a jerk and I was wrong on all accounts and I am smug. My delivery was wrong, but it was not my intention. And in any event, I’ve been judged a lot in this post for what I suggested, how I said things, the fact I lived at home at one point, and I’m not fussed- we are all internet strangers after all, you can like or ignore my advice at your will.

            While I post on this site rarely and I’d like to think I’m usually pretty friendly/try to be helpful when I do (pumps that are comfy, or other random questions). I just don’t like seeing people upset! My post is not worth it, no?

          • Prioritizing Debt? :

            Springtime, no one’s upset that your language was “direct” – the issue is that you were completely insensitive to (or maybe unaware of?) the fact that people end up in debt for reasons other than their own personal lack of discipline/responsibility, and once that was pointed out to you, rather than admitting that you completely missed the boat, you’re giving a [email protected]$$ed “whoops, sorry if your panties are in a twist, you just didn’t read what I said the right way” apology instead of acknowledging that yes, in fact, you were being insensitive (which you were, intentionally or un-).

            I’m just getting the vibe that you *still* don’t really grasp that debt isn’t solely a matter of lack of self-control.

      • Anonymous :

        Agree. Feel free to give advice but no reason to go on and on about how great you were about everything.

        • springtime :

          Trust me, I am not perfect. Nor am I trying to be. Just trying to give tidbits of things that have worked for me.

          I truly don’t understand what is judgey about it.

          • Anonymous :

            “it’s just called being responsible.”that part for 1.

          • Anonymous :

            I tend towards financial smugness myself, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here. Writing “it’s just called being responsible” is judgey.

          • anonymama :

            Some people do not have the option of living at home. Also, some people would really never be able to “truly afford” law school, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a reasonable and practical choice in terms of their long-term financial future. Just the sheer amount of “I” and total lack of empathy for someone who would be needing your helpful advice was a little… oblivious. Even the “I have always been able to pay my card of in full” indicates that you have some sort of safety net, or have been lucky enough to avoid unexpected financial difficulties.

          • Springtime, Ijust wanted to say that I didn’t read your comments as judgey. You didn’t say your situation applied to everyone. When we comment from our own personal experience, we are all doing just that: commenting from our own personal experience, that’s all. Please don’t sweat it.

          • I didn’t see your post as judgemental. Don’t worry about it.

    • +1 re the flask. I think it’s very poor advice.

    • Wait, is bringing a flask to a bar illegal? I think it’s tacky and wrong, but are there actual legal consequences to it?

      • springtime :

        Hmm, I think it might get the bar in trouble. They are responsible for any alcohol consumed in their premises, and if they didn’t serve it to you, that could be a huge problem for their license.

        If I was bartending and saw that (haha! back to the job i mentioned in my original post!), I would probably have to ask the person to leave. I can’t 100% remember the rules from my serving certification. It might vary by state?

    • My parents live in a very small city with very few opportunities. Living at home is not an option unless I wish to be a payroll accountant at Mutual of Omaha for the rest of my life.

    • NWanalyst :

      As someone who’s just starting to go from financial near-ruin to something starting to approximate security… I just want to add my name to the list of those who were involuntarily ruined. Despite good planning.

      I developed a major disability (physical, but rare, so I’ll not mention the name to avoid outing myself) in high school, but it didn’t manifest fully until I left home for college. Due to religious differences, I was not welcome in my parents’ home (they basically think the devil is behind my disability). While I attempted to work, I could not keep up with the pressures of both school and work. Taking a break from college was not an option because I couldn’t go home, and I had no close relatives to turn to. Because of said religious issues, I was homeschooled, so I didn’t have the life skills to even consider taking time off to just work a job while I dealt with my disability. My primary medication alone cost about a third of my monthly income. The one thing that saved me at this time was that I didn’t have a credit card, so I couldn’t go into debt that way. But during this time, I incurred a small number of black marks to my credit because there were doctors’ bills I just couldn’t pay.

      By the time I left university, I was broke. Completely. I moved to the town my SO was in to live with him, and the government spending freeze really sunk in halfway through my interview loops. All the jobs in my field in that town were government jobs, and suddenly none of them were available. As a result, I spent a substantial period of time unemployed. I tried “alternative” employment methods (writing a book, starting a business) but nothing panned out. The one bright spot is that I made huge progress getting my disability under control. But now I’m in the latter half of my twenties, and I’ve never had more than four figures in my bank account, ever. And my credit is not perfect. I almost couldn’t get a credit card, once I started my current job, because of those issues.

      Now, for most of the time I had these problems, I considered them my fault because I was “irresponsible.” I had simply been raised to believe that *anyone* in financial straits had simply been irresponsible. But lately, I’ve started to question that belief. I’ve started to understand that sometimes, you do your best, but money is like water that slips through your fingers. I don’t ever want to be there again, and you can bet I’m being paranoid about creating safeguards against ever having that happen again… but sometimes, life happens.

      To be honest, Springtime, the predominant emotion I experienced when reading your post was envy. Envy that trying hard and “being responsible”, for you, meant success and financial security… while doing the same, for me, meant poverty and misery. I guess there’s a little bit of anger at the world, too… and that’s probably where all this pushback you’re seeing is coming from. I’m kind of angry that I didn’t get to have your life, where things worked out and I could live with my parents while I figured out how to be an adult. I’m kind of angry that I had to be disabled. I’m kind of angry that my parents taught me terrible life skills and, as a result, I still have severe anxiety when I so much as *see* a bill, etc. I guess what I”m saying is that it’s probably great to be you, and I think we can all admire your life and agree that what you’ve done totally worked… but just a few “hiccups” in the trajectory you described can be enough to bring the whole ship crashing down. So while it’s good advice in a way, it seems to me that it’s good advice primarily under favorable conditions. But that doesn’t make it bad advice, either.

      Thanks for sharing, and thanks for responding so well to criticism. :)

      • I really admire you for posting here. I’m glad things have gotten better, and hope they continue to work out.

  8. Ciao, pues :

    Attention cowgirls! Advice on making cowboy boots more comfortable? I bought a used pair, so they’re broken in, but still not comfortable– the soles are just hard on my feet. I got them a half-size up to leave room for amendments, so any advice? Is this a drugstore insoles fix or something for a cobbler?

    • Ciao, pues :

      ack, sorry, just realized this is a topical thread. I’ll repost elsewhere!

    • Had the used pair been worn before? Cowboy boots are EXTREMELY comfortable once you wear them in. The fit is tricky with boots, when you walk in them your heel must rise slightly out of the bottom.

    • Equity's Darling :

      When I bought mine, I was told that they should be comfortable from the start, and that they’ll mould to fit your feet over time- I wonder if them being used and already broken-in isn’t a good thing, because they need to be broken in by the wearer. I’d second LHH’s comment about the fit being tricky, I tried on probably a dozen pairs before I found some that I both liked and that fit well.

      I’d try insoles? I don’t think a cobbler can fix this problem, I’d also consider a specialty cowboy boot shop – the ones in my city are great at fixing fit issues, they can stretch various parts of the boot to fit better, so they might be able to replace the sole in some way that will help you out.

  9. I could go on and on about personal finance (yep, I’m a huge geek, even have a budget spreadsheet and another specifically for budgeting travel that you can download on our website). First, this is good advice all around. As to not overspending and changing your lifestyle too much, I read an article that said research shows that people who are “rich” and can afford to buy whatever they want but don’t are happier. So, treat yourself but stick to a budget so you’ll be happier when you buy something special.

    Next, absolutely save as soon as you can, you will love the piece of mind. Set up a direct deposit or auto transfer so it’s automatic and you never have the chance to spend the $. Put it in an account you can’t access easily (e.g., AmEx Personal savings takes a few days to transfer to your bank’s checking account, so accessible but safe distance). Max out your 401k if you can afford it ($17,500 is general cap this year), if not, try to contribute enough to get any match offered by your employer. Strive for an emergency fund (I’ll skip detail on this bc too much to say)

    Try envelope software. I have the EEBA Can Help app, nice and simple, I don’t bother linking to accounts, like the psychology of entering manually. Mint is also great for an overall financial picture but don’t like as much for day-to-day.

    Try to find a Certified Financial Planner (not the same as a financial advisor!) I love mine, she is extremely helpful and explains things clearly. She helped me for an affordable fixed fee, and it has been totally worth every penny. She also helped with my 401k applications, and very affordable disability insurance (way better than one I get through work for reasons I won’t bore you with but this is important), life insurance, and other insurance. She commented on student loans approach and checked all my insurance limits. We all work so hard to get a career going, having these mechanisms in place to protect that income should something go wrong is key and worth the small price. (If you’re young these things are cheap, do it now!). Don’t underestimate financial peace of mind.

    For those with debt you’re struggling with, I hear you. I’ve supported myself every step of the way so I’m with you on the student loans! CFP made me feel much better about those. A few quick tips – check your payment schedule, federal loans have various payment options, use the envelope approach and apps to control spending and account for everything – avoid “missing money,” and finally make a spreadsheet with all your student loan info, helps you feel in control.

    Oh and go to Let’s Make a Plan Dot Org for CFP info and resources.

    Hopefully some helpful tidbits in here, could write a whole, very practical article on all I’ve learned, but back to work for me. :-)

  10. Shaking at my desk :

    I just got an email from my ex-bf, saying that he is visiting my city later this month and do I want to get together to catch up? This is the ex-bf who:

    – committed to follow me to my new job in a new city;
    – advocated strenuously for me to buy a house in new city (we could not find a reasonably priced rental that would fit *his* things; I had almost nothing and could live in a studio);
    – joined me at the closing table when I bought the house he wanted;
    – on a Sunday last December, as I freaked out about the responsibilities of a homeowner, hugged me in our new kitchen and promised that I was not alone, he would be here soon, etc.;
    – days later, packed up his things and disappeared; and
    – had his mother send me an email ending the relationship.

    Oh and after exiting with his stuff, but before I noticed (holiday travel), attended my birthday dinner with my family and acted like everything was normal.

    We’ve had no contact since 2012. What, if anything, do I do?

    • Calibrachoa :

      Tell him that if you want to catch up, you’ll contact his mother.

      Seriously, what a dinkweasel.

      • Statutesq :

        Ha! I can’t think of a better response. Seriously though, sorry you have to deal with such a jerk.

      • Houston Attny :

        Great advice.

        I honestly suggest hitting ‘delete’ and not talking with him, seeing him, NOTHING. Also, as V says below, your time is limited. He gets no more of it.

    • springtime :

      Ignore his request. Sounds like a total jerk!

    • Anonymous :

      Delete the email immediately.

    • *delete*

      I wouldn’t even have any words to reply to an e-mail like this after someone had treated me like that. Your minutes on earth are limited and I don’t think you have any more for this person; it’s not like you’ll get them back.

      Unless he’s been in a fugue state or something.

    • Anonymous :

      Immediately delete the email and pour yourself a glass of wine.

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      Yes, delete. I know that the temptation is there not to, but speaking to him/meeting up etc. is just validating his apparent feeling that he has done nothing wrong. I could probably not resist sending a snarky e-mail, but I would try very hard not to.

      Seconded on the glass of wine. Large, preferably.

    • In House Counsel :

      Delete (and see if you can set up a filter to have any future emails to go directly to SPAM folder)

    • just Karen :

      I would reply, but with the single word “No” – just to avoid him e-mailing you again unsure that the first went through…for him to even ask makes me think he is totally clueless, and in that situation getting another e-mail from him would upset me all over again.

      • I am a banana. :

        Agree, but I would say, “No. Do not contact me again.” Went through a breakup (nothing like this) a few years ago and he kept trying to e-mail me until I sent that one.

        • CapHillAnon :

          + I like this response. No ambiguity at all. He seems particularly challenged on basic, appropriate human behavior. And congratulations on not having him in your life–that is something to celebrate.

    • Nothing. I would say “the balls of that guy” but maybe his balls are in mommy’s purse.

  11. Catherine :

    I’ve done OK with money but didn’t feel like I was going anywhere or doing anything more advanced than I was doing in high school and college. Upgrade little by little with the things that matter, and don’t do anything big without thinking it through.

    One book that was mentioned here that I just finished was “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s” by Beth Kobliner. Good for general overviews, learning the lay of the land, stuff like that. Highly recommended.

    • I also really like Suze Orman’s Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke. It’s very helpful if you don’t have a lot of money, have a lot of debt, or don’t know what to do with your new-found money. http://www.amazon.com/Money-Young-Fabulous-Broke-ebook/dp/B000PC71Q4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380739343&sr=8-1&keywords=young+fabulous+broke

      I also recommend Lois Frankel’s, “Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich.” It’s the follow-up to “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.”

      • Frugality :

        Yes, but check the books out from the library. It is amazing what you can get at the library (back in the day: ab fab on VCR tape; now they have DVDs).

  12. Anon Lawyer :

    I have sympathy for the indebted posters. My debt is relatively low by US law school standards (started out at $81k at the end of law school, now five years out, it’s around $45k). For the first two years out of law school, I was making minimum payments and incurring more interest in the process, yet I never had any money for anything fun. Now I’m making much bigger repayments, and also saving at the same time, and I’m not desperate for disposable income anymore. I can afford to do nice things.

    For me, the significant points about this lifestyle have been (1) I could live very very frugally akin to when I was a student and pay down debt/save much more aggressively, but I’ve spent so long never having any money, that for a change I want to actually enjoy it and go to nice restaurants and take nice vacations etc. and (2) I’m 32 and still have no retirement plan and no prospects of saving enough money for even a 10% downpayment for a house.

    Assuming a few decent bonuses and pay increases, I’m looking at having it all paid off by the end of 2015, but oh man, that’s a long way away. I’ve just gotten used to the money going out of my account every month before I get tempted to spend it and this is how I’ve been able to manage paying off more than the minimum payments. If I can’t see it, I won’t want to spend it. Plus I haven’t used my credit card for quite a while, though it is there for emergencies, which has helped.

  13. RETIREMENT. No joke. DH started working at 22 and contributed 6% (and got the 6% company match) to his 401(k) and put $5k in a Roth IRA every year until he was 26. He took 2 years off for b-school from 26-28 and did not contribute then.

    I contributed but not as aggressively until age 25, then I picked up the pace and did my 6% plus $5k into a Roth.

    We are both now 30. DH has $50k more than I do in retirement savings! And so much of that was because he started 4 years before I did (that he was buying in 2008 when stocks were at an all time low was also beneficial…).

    • AnonInfinity :

      Yes!!! My husband started saving in his company’s 401(k) in his late 20s w his first real job. I started at the beginning of my first real job a few years later and the difference between our accounts is jus crazy to me. I wish I’d been more disciplined in my 20s.

    • +1000! The secret ingredient in a retirement account is time. If you only have $100 to contribute to a retirement account in your early 20s, DO IT!!

  14. Anonymous :

    So take a flask to the bar and just order a coke (don’t turn your nose up at this, we’ve all done it).

    Ummm no! this is super shady. I would side eye the hell out of anyone who did this.Have people over, or nurse one glass of wine all night. Good lord.

    • Yeah. I’ve heard of people “pre-gaming” before going to a bar, but never taking their own liquor there. Yikes.

  15. Another suggestion: DH and I were getting sort of depressed that our savings account isn’t larger than it is. I went through all our debts/assets and put it all into a big spreadsheet. As it turns out, our net worth is increasing by about 5-10% per month. It just isn’t going directly into our main savings account, so we can’t see it.

    It is hugely satisfying to log in all the different info each month and see our various retirement accounts go up, our debt (mortgage, student loans, one car loan) go down, and our savings account stay the same/ get slightly higher. Tracking month to month like this really helped us see our progress (we paid off $20k in student loans this year!) even though it wasn’t obvious by peeking into the back account.

    • espresso bean :

      I do exactly this, and I agree that it really helps motivate me, especially when individual accounts are down but I can still see the big picture.

  16. At 35, in the last two years, I have seriously and substatively destroyed my debt. I’m looking at paying off my medical school loans (240K) by the middle of 2014. I have a decent start for retirement. I have zero credit card debt.

    I say all of this, because 6 years ago, at the end of my 20s, none of this was true. I had panic attacks over my debt at night…sleepless totally anxious, worried about all of it. I would catastrophize everything, and literally feel like my world was falling apart.

    I think other posters have given great advice about the nuts and bolts of saving and paying down debt. But my heart went out to all the posters who are having anxiety and other emotional issues to their debt. Please please know that the hard work is worth it, that you will feel better and that living debt free is such a worthy goal. Hang in there, keep working and you will get there

    • @ EC MD, can you talk a little more about how managed the anxiety of it? I live modestly, and I make huge payments every month. Still…the anxiety and stress kills me. Any thoughts….?

    • I am a banana. :

      Thank you for this!

    • Very similiar story. I had 200K plus of debt and was absolutely paralysed for my first three years after school. I was extemely lucky in that I have had a steady stream of income since I graduated, but I survived years of being teriffied of losing my biglaw job and never being able to pay off my loans. That said, I think that on a level it IS just going to be stressful. For me, both my salary and debt load were crazy numbers, and I had no financial safety net. I also hated my job but felt I NEEDED it. So don’t let the anxiety take over, but don’t beat yourself up over some anxiety either, its scary. What helped me was to have a very detailed repayment plan, which I re-visited compulsively. Then the first thing I would do on the days I got paid was make a student loan payment. Now I’m in a place where i could afford my remaining debt payment on a “normal” salary, and have started saving for other goals. Feeling like I see the light at the end of the tunnel feels really good, and I’m proud of myself for staying frugal and focusing on the payments, because for me the peice of mind I’m gaining is more important than any lifestyle upgrades I didn’t accumulate.

  17. Hypothetical :

    Does anyone have any financial planning advice for, say, a relatively recent law school graduate who is now working for the federal government? I’d love to try to start putting away more money for retirement, but it’s hard to think about anything other than my emergency fund when I have DC rent and student loan payments and have to prepare for furloughs/shutdowns every few months…Is 6 months of savings really enough?

    • Another Gov :

      I saw that Hyundai is allowing federal employees to skip their car payments during the shutdown. I logged into my federal student loan site and it said nothing about the shutdown. Anyone know if any of the student loan companies are proactively offering any relief? I’d like to just postpone my payment until the shut down is over and pay my missed payments in a lump sum after the shutdown. I’m exempt so I am confident I will be paid.

      Also, to all the other ladies with debt, thanks for sharing. I’ve been feeling a bit down after reading comments to news articles. They all basically say if this shutdown is going to hurt a federal worker financially, they obviously were financially irresponsible to begin with if they can’t miss a couple of paychecks. I’ve wanted to come on here and ask but was to embarrassed to admit I’d have to skip my loan payments during shutdown.

      • Wildkitten :

        Oh Gov you are in good hands here. Call your loan company and tell them you aren’t getting paid this month and they’ll just defer it a month. I’ve done this a number of times for various reasons and it’s very very easy.

      • Deferring student loans isn’t that hard.

      • ExcelNinja :

        I can’t believe people are saying that – I make great money, have no debt, have savings, but I’d be effing screwed if I missed a paycheque (savings are not liquid and DH is out of work). Hang in there!!

      • Anonymous :

        That’s so rude to say they are financially irresponsible if they can’t deal with missing a few paychecks, especially in DC where the cost of living is so high and oftentimes your paycheck doesn’t match up (which is why so many companies want to enact a “living wage”). I pay my $600/month student loans, my rent in a part of the city that isn’t great (but not horrible), my retirement fund, any benefits contributions, commuting costs, and food. What money is left for savings? I have no fun money, ever. So I don’t see how I’m financially irresponsible because I haven’t been able to create a month or two’s emergency fund yet.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I think deferring payments may cause the interest to capitalize on certain types of federal loans. Just something to be aware of and check into before you do it.

  18. I highly recommend checking out LearnVest.com, which is geared toward young women. They have a great “Learning Center” that walks you through different subjects and goals: http://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/ as well as interesting articles.

    Automating savings really helps so you don’t even think about it. You can set up individual accounts through Capital One (formerly ING Orange Savings) and name them whatever you want (ex. Emergency Fund, Auto, etc.).

    It’s easy to fall into the “all or nothing” trap of thinking you can’t pay down enough debt or save enough money to make a difference, but starting with whatever amount you CAN do and moving up from there makes a huge impact over time.

  19. ExcelNinja needs skinny jeans :

    Hello hivemind! I have a gaping hole in my wardrobe – no skinny jeans. I’d like a dark wash pair. I’ve tried on pairs of skinny jeans before, but the choices are totally overwhelming me and after 3 unflattering pairs I’m done. Does anyone have a recommendation for skinny jeans for an hourglass type? Measurements are 27″ waist, 44″ hips, 31″ inseam. I also have thick ankles and calves. Thanks for any help :)

    • No, but we’re very nearly body buddies, so I’m interested to see any suggestions as well. :)

    • Oh, but you may have better luck posting on another thread.

      • ExcelNinja :

        Thanks, I will try posting again tomorrow :)

        PS – re: body twins: isn’t it ridiculous?? I’m a size 6 waist and size 14/16 hips…le sigh :)

        • Me too!! Sooo frustrating to purchase pants, slowing transitioning to a skirt only life….

    • try curvy fit at express!

    • anonypotamus :

      It takes me forever to find jeans, but my current favorite skinny jeans are a pair of jbrand that I got at nordstrom. I think they are these ones, but I can’t remember. They have been on the Anniversary Sale the last two years, and they are great!


      • anonypotamus :

        and I’m a very similar shape to you and am very picky about fit and how they feel. I like these ones because they hit at the right spot in the rise and aren’t too low cut, and also have enough stretch for comfort but not too much that they sag.

        • ExcelNinja :

          Those look awesome, but the size 32 is a 42″ hip, and they say to size up! How do you find the sizing?

      • I am a similar shape and love these exact jeans also! Nordstrom is so easy to buy from, I’d buy a couple of sizes online and return the ones that don’t fit.

    • Veronique :

      Try straight leg jeans with some stretch. They’ll fit like skinnies on a curvy lower half. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I found jones New York jeans (at tj maxx) that fit my pear shape really well.

    • I like mine from Gap!

  20. Anon For This :

    I was in a really good position for a while – I was keeping my expenses down (I don’t have the option of living at home but I could afford my apartment), was saving a decent amount and was sticking to a budget for shopping/eating out and paying off my credit card in full every month. But then I went through a traumatic breakup and I started spending way more money than I should. I burned through almost $10,000 worth of savings in 6 months on basically clothes and can’t find a way to stop shopping now. I keep telling myself that next month I’m going to get on track, but unfortunately that’s not happening. And it’s humiliating because it’s like not only did he break my heart but he also took my self discipline.

    • Wildkitten :

      Shred your cards and ebay your clothes? That probably won’t make you whole but it might make you feel better and more in-control so you can get back to feeling like the [email protected] you are.

    • Anonymous :

      Yup, cut up your cards and sell the clothes you bought (and return anything with tags still on it). Oh, and get yourself to therapy. Break ups and divorces are horrible, but it’s helpful to learn how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way.

  21. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. I’ve managed to save approximately 11K since I started working (first job out of college) in January 2012. I save about 25% of my income on a pre-tax basis through direct deposit, put any bonuses/tax refunds directly into savings, and live a pretty frugal lifestyle (but in a high cost-of-living East Coast city). It absolutely can be done and it has done wonders for my stress levels. If I get laid off or have something happen to me, I’ll be able to take care of myself for a good long while. I do sometimes struggle with building up a balance on my two credit cards, but it’s nothing I haven’t been able to get back under control with some extra diligence.

    • Agree–we have a set amount of cash direct deposited into a savings account. It is not for spending.

      So much so that when I was calculating our monthly income, I was getting depressed because we were basically living with very little left over for savings. Then I did the math, realized there was some money missing, and realized we actually have $X/month extra that I didn’t even factor in since it goes directly to savings. It was then that I realized how well that strategy had worked–I was about to ratchet down our budget even further to make room to save…when the savings had been happening all along.

  22. Sydney Bristow :

    I made all the stupid mistakes in college and for years after. In the past few years though I’ve really taken charge of it. I still have such a long way to go although it is entirely school loans now.

    I paid off all my credit cards, although my dad helped with the structure. It was extremely helpful and I’m incredibly grateful. My interest rates were 29.9% and my cards were maxed out (around $4500). He paid them off entirely for me and then I paid him back the same amount I was paying to my cards without interest. The key for me was not using them at all anymore.

    Around that time I started doing document review work, which meant my income increased a lot from the part time temp job I had. I almost repeated all the errors of my past but I got the You Need A Budget software and started reading and listening to podcasts on financial topics. I discovered that I’m the type of person who actually needs to track every individual dollar in real time. I also started paying all of my bills on one day each month. It took awhile for me to be able to do that but I gradually started adding one bill a day to my bill pay day as I saved up my YNAB buffer. The buffer means that you are paying this month’s bills on last month’s income. Paying all of my bills at once forced me to focus on the buffer and also helped me avoid late payments, which I used to do all the time.

    My credit card debt was my only debt besides my school loans (which are $230k+) because I sold my car when I moved to NYC. Now I’m really trying to focus on those. I read the Total Money Makeover and listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcast every day. I find it super inspiring to hear the people call in who have paid off huge amounts of debt.

    I’m not following Dave Ramsey’s plan exactly because I’m paying my private loans off first and they are all close to the same size so I’m paying them in interest rate order. I’m waiting until I pay my private loans off completely to focus on the federal ones because those are at least subject to IBR adjustments. I paid off Sallie Mae last Thanksgiving then slowed down the intensity for awhile, which I wish I hadn’t done. I’m paying an extra $1000 min but always striving for $2000+ each month to my Wells Fargo loan. I have a $1000 a month extra snowball all mapped out, which will take me about 10 years so I’m focused on paying most extra money to it. I could be more intense about it and I probably should, but my boyfriend (and I) loves to travel so I include travel savings in my monthly budget. I also split things like my tax refund into mostly debt payoff and a little extra to the travel find.

    I use a free iPhone app called Debt Payoff Pro which lets you enter all your debts and set up a debt snowball. I like to mess around with it to see how much faster I can be done with extra contributions to keep my intensity up.

  23. This is an okay article but kind of basic. “Save more, spend less, then talk to a financial planner.” Alrighty then…why exactly am I reading your article, if it’s just the same mickey mouse advice that’s trotted out in every single article on this subject? I feel like financial articles like this always stop before getting to the real meat. Once you’ve contributed to your retirement account and built out your emergency fund, then what? Keep everything else sitting in a savings account, earning .001% interest? Invest in stocks? Bonds? CDs? Mutual funds? What kind? I recently looked at my bank’s offerings for short- and mid-term investments, and I was completely overwhelmed by the dozens of options. So my money continues sitting in a savings account, being whittled away by inflation, until I have a better sense of where exactly I should be putting it.

    • Lily-Student :

      Actually, I found it quite good. Nice to read an article about saving that doesn’t exclude me by referring to US tax vehicles. (I’m British)

    • Baconpancakes :

      I read a really good piece of advice here a while ago to get started on using the money in your savings. The advice was to keep about a 2 month emergency fund completely liquid to cover unexpected expenses, and buy 1-year CDs every month in the amount you need to cover a month’s expenses. That way, if you need it, each month’s cash will become available as you need it, but will otherwise be building interest in a completely risk free way.

      Beyond that, I’d also like to know what to invest in. (I’m not there yet, but y’know, for the future.)

    • Wildkitten :

      I read r3tt3 for the comment section. Sometimes worse articles (this one) have better comment sections (this one).

    • I’d open a Vanguard account and put some of it in their index funds.

      • +1 — this was the least effort option for me. The best advice I heard was that it’s a lot of work to try to beat the market, so you might as well put it in a well regarded index fund. At some point I’ll go a few steps further with a financial planner.

        But first max out your 401K, esp it your employer offers some sort of matching (rare in law firm land).

      • +1000. Go to MrMoneyMustache and read his blog on investing with Vanguard. They have a number of different funds with different risk levels, and you basically manage it yourself. Fees are low, so you don’t blow 1.5% on an advisor.

        CD’s make sense but interest rates are still pretty low. I think you need to look at a 5-year CD to beat inflation (assuming 3%, which I think is the average).

        I think this is the fun part about investing and you should just start absorbing information. There are so many blogs and books out there now. I would start with the mrmoneymustache blog (ignore some of the stuff about living the perfect frugal lifestyle and just focus on his tips on investing). Then check out Ramit Sethi, Dave Ramsey, and Suze Orman. Then just take a leap!

        • Vanguard is awesome – low costs, good funds, and their customer service is excellent.

          • THIS is the kind of advice I’m looking for. Thank you. Adding Mr. Money Mustache to my bookmarks. Off to research Vanguard now.

    • This is exactly what a financial adviser is for. I really love my Edward Jones financial adviser. When I moved to a new city, I looked up all the Edward Jones branches, and found the closest woman. The first meeting is just a get-acquainted meeting, but now all these years in, I have a great relationship with her. She makes recommendations to me about where my money can grow. With a well-managed portfolio, you can double your money every 10 years.

      (Some people prefer Vanguard or one of the other options that isn’t commission-based. I have been with Edward Jones for many years, in several different cities. I have never felt that they were pushing their own products on me because they’d make a commission. For the most part, I am happy to compensate them for making me money.)

  24. Anonymous :

    START NOW! I’m not getting a paycheck because of the shutdown, but, while very unhappy, I’m not freaking out because I have a sizable emergency fund. A lot of people in the same boat will be screwed if this goes on another day, literally. Developing good financial habits early means peace of mind, and that is priceless.

  25. One thing that I would recommend, especially if your post-school income is going to be higher than the Roth IRA limit, is getting some money into a Roth IRA while your income is below the limit. Tax-free withdrawals are an important way to balance your tax liabilities in retirement.

    During undergrad, I basically had to support myself. This was in the early days of the free checking account “overdraft.” I would run up about $1000 in CC debt and be living at -$250 in my checking account until the summer, when I would pay everything off and maybe have a few hundred dollars to start out the next cycle. Then during the summer between undergrad and grad school, I made enough to get substantially ahead.

    Unfortunately, my fiance (now DH) and I then started grad school in an expensive area (Chicago suburbs) and started planning our wedding, which was largely self-paid. This resulted in a $5000 CC debt that we could hold in the $3-5k range. The only way we dug ourselves out of that hole was by selling some of DH’s Cisco stock. It was a good time to sell a little (near the all-time high) so we paid off the CC and paid my parents back for the loans they took out for my undergrad. We’ve been free of CC debt ever since. I was able to pay off my federal student loans about six years ago and the car loan I had to take out when I got my “real” job is also paid off. Since then, our only debt has been our mortgage. By the time DH was laid off in 2009, we had a good cash cushion, so between that and his UI, we were OK. In 2012, he started working again and things are going well.

    I think the primary reasons we have done so well are:
    1) Luck/Other assets available. It would have taken a lot longer to get to mortgage-only on our debt had it not been for the Cisco stock, which DH bought in high school after his father started working there.
    2) Spending habits. I grew up fairly poor and watched my parents make some bad decisions, which snowballed into even worse decisions. I probably swing too far the other way and don’t enjoy our situation as much as I should. For instance, paying full price for clothing, furniture, and even groceries practically breaks me out in hives. DH grew up in a better overall situation, but has never spent money. His parents joke that he still has First Communion money somewhere.
    3) Didn’t pay for grad school. In general, engineering Ph.D. students don’t pay tuition and get a stipend. Not enough to be cushy (and definitely not enough in expensive areas), but you don’t come out with much, if any, debt. You do spend 5-6 years in limbo and give up that compounding salary and the job market is not fantastic depending the economy and what you study, but you do get to defer any federal student loans from undergrad and the ROI is still positive.

  26. Any advice on making friends/meeting people when you’re tight on money (and therefore can’t casually go out for meals or drinks)? I just graduated law school, took the bar, and am now working a volunteer position with my city’s law department while waiting on bar results. I have funding, but it just about covers my living expenses (damn car!), and some travel (home to see my family.) I’m in a midwestern city (not Chicago) and don’t know many people here. It seems like its impossible to make friends or expand on acquaintance relationships when I don’t know someone well enough to invite them over but can’t afford to go out drinks/coffee/food because its not part of that week’s plan.

    I feel like things will get better once I have a “real job” (I’m aggressively networking and attending events, which I took over my social budget), but in the meantime, it’s getting quite lonely!

    [Note: I’m now living on the other side of town in the city where I went to law school, but most of my friends bolted out of the midwest the second we got our diplomas).

    • I have had luck inviting people to do active things like go hiking or play tennis, or free things like go to a museum. People are usually up for it because the point is to hang out and it’s nice to do something besides lunch/dinner/coffee. I often suggest brunch instead of dinner because it can be significantly cheaper and most people love brunch food.

      Like someone else mentioned, meetup.com is a good option to find like-minded people; I’m in a book club with some really fascinating women that costs only $10/year.

      Hang in there – I have been in your shoes and know it’s not easy. Internet hugs!

  27. @R: Meetup.com is a great way to get started, and there are groups for nearly every interest. If your community has nice, free outdoor basketball or volleyball courts, there would be no cost to join a Meetup group to play team sports. There are likely also “help I’m broke but I still want to make new friends who are frugal too” groups.

    Other ideas:
    Tutoring for the various grad school admissions exams. Seriously. I tutored for the GMAT, and a major perk was that my clients were all like-minded, career-driven people, ages 26-32. I got paid to tutor, but meeting new people and making friends are undeniable perks.

    Hang out with artists and musicians. They are wildly interesting people who know how to find joy in the free things around town. Find them at the monthly gallery walk in your town.

    Volunteer to be designated driver if the group agrees to pay your cover charges / buy your non-alcoholic beverages for the night. You don’t have to cry broke AND you get to be everyone’s favorite new friend.

  28. Unrelated somewhat but for those of you who get biglaw bonuses, do you put it all towards debt? I don’t have student loans but my husband does. We also have a mortgage.

  29. Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote inotmrafive articles.

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