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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance”

An annoying email I got

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Nathan writes:

This is nothing personal against you, because every personal finance author I’ve read says the same thing, but your advice is not for real people like me. The “spend less, save more” theory is great for singles or young married couples with no kids (and therefore, fewer attachments, expenses, etc.) I’m 30 years old, married, with two children. I make a very good wage for a 30-year old, but after a mortgage, two car payments, a wife who is a full-time student herself, daycare, and (many) other various utilities, activities, etc. there’s not much left for saving.

Granted, things will be better in a couple years when my wife is done with school and we’re back to being a dual income household. But all you personal finance gurus are people who have graduated from Stanford (or some other 1st tier school) and worked your way into a high paying, high end job. You represent about 0.01% of the population. Not that I hold that against you–I wish I had been that successful. But I need some other strategies to help me get my finances in order.

My response:

So what’s the alternative? Throw your hands up and say, ‘I give up — there’s nothing I can do’? Or are there small, systematic ways you can save more, invest more, earn more, and spend money in a conscious way?

I also pointed him to The Shrug Effect. He wrote back:

I think you miss my point. At no time did I resent your success and doubt that I ever could have done that. Had I had differing priorities in my younger days, I’m sure I would be in a much different position than I’m in now. But I chose to get married, have children, and support a wife’s dream of medical school, among other things.

[…]

My whole point, which you missed, was that most of the the personal finance articles available are not geared towards people in my situation.

Huh? I’m not the only personal-finance writer online — there are lots of other people who write about getting out of debt, frugality, etc. My response:

This is an interesting discussion so I’d like to continue on it for a minute, if it’s ok with you.

I understand your point, but I’ve seen thousands of articles about people in your situation. Few, very few articles, are geared towards young people who have everything together. Most of the articles are about how to get out of debt, how to spend less, etc.

I’m curious: Exactly what kind of advice are you looking for?

He didn’t respond, so I re-pinged him a couple days later. His final response:

After sitting on this a while, I realize that there isn’t really any advice I can be given. I want to–and do, for the most part–give my wife and kids whatever they want. Until I stop doing that, the whole saving more, spending less thing won’t work for me.

I think that’s very perceptive of him to realize that there isn’t really any advice he would listen to. Notice how at first he didn’t think any personal-finance advice was relevant for him (even though there are millions of articles online for every conceivable situation). Could the problem have been him, not the advice? Answer: Yes. So here are my thoughts.

1. If you don’t say no to things, your life is guided by external priorities, not your own.

  • If you don’t say no at work, you’re going to be resentful of your workload
  • If you don’t say no to going out all the time, it’s going to be tough to save money
  • If you don’t say no to your family sometimes, you’re not going to be able to save, much less grow your money

2. Ordinary actions get ordinary results. Look around. Do you see many rich people around you? No, because they are behaving in predictably ordinary ways: Not knowing how much they spend, not being conscious about where their money goes, and not setting investing goals. Want an easy way to see this? Go ask your friends who just went on vacation (or bought a new handbag or iPhone or whatever) this: “Wow, that’s awesome. How long did you save to be able to buy that?” Their reaction will be priceless, as if the antagonist from Saw II is holding their head in a vise and ordering them to look at the moon while opening their mouth. Try it.

As always, there are no secrets to personal finance. Fundamentally, you can either cut costs or make more money. When I say that, people roll their eyes, but they fail to dig into each part. Cut costs? That means saying no. That means being merciless with budgeting and negotiating and making smart purchases for the long term. Make more money? That means entrepreneurship, working two jobs, or asking for a raise.

The whole point of this site is that getting rich doesn’t happen to you. You make it happen. Until you step up, nothing will change.

Don’t miss my next post

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113 Comments on "An annoying email I got"

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terrell
8 years 10 months ago

this is an awesome post, and so true — no secrets to personal finance

Finance and Fat
8 years 10 months ago

Very well said. I was in a similar situation as the person mentioned above until I woke up. Yeah, why don’t I ever have any money? Oh, because I spend it all on stuff I don’t need and I put no effort into spending less.

It took some work, it took some drastic cutting of expenses in some places, it took getting my wife to be in agreement to live on less money, but now we are making real progress and it feels really good.

Bethany
Bethany
8 years 10 months ago

I started saving for my iPhone the day it was announced. 🙂 So I’d love it if someone asked me how long I saved!

Earth-Byte.com
8 years 10 months ago

I don’t know, a lot of the financial advice I read seems to apply to a lot of people. I’m 27, unmarried, living with my disabled father, making about $33k/year. We rent our home, I have a car payment, and yes the spend less than you make theory works for me.

I’ve learned a lot from these financial bloggers, and money management is pretty much the same all around. People just tend to get more than they need, larger houses, more expensive cars, etc.

Writers Coin
8 years 10 months ago

I bet you that guy plays the lottery

mike
mike
8 years 10 months ago
Arrrgh! I’ve read a number of Ramit’s posts about kicking ass and minding the small details. At one point, a few months ago, things clicked. My family and I tend to do very well (for a while) – we stay on budget, eat well (at home), and make a concerted effort to be effective with our family time. With predictable regularity, we’ll have “bad weeks” – work stress, aging relative stress, … and the floodgates come off. We eat out too much, stop exercising, and have “shopping therapy”. The “aha” moment happened when we realized those are actually the precise… Read more »
Nicole
Nicole
8 years 10 months ago
Go you! I so agree. I’m 30 too and pregnant with our 3rd child. I stay at home, making us a 1-income family. And we save more than 20% of our income right now which means that money is working for us, not the other way around. We didn’t get lucky, we worked hard. We busted our butts to pay off car loans and student loans. And we do with out a lot in order to save money and avoid using credit. We say no to keeping up with the Joneses – which is hard. My point is that whining… Read more »
Joe
Joe
8 years 10 months ago
I guess I relate to the letter writer but I have made my peace with it. I am married with a couple small kids and we have decided that we will continue to live in an expensive area (near Washington DC) and that my wife will be at home with the kids. This is not a time for being rich, except in the non-monetary way. Stability, health insurance, steady paycheck, getting home by 6 o’clock – these are very nice things to have. We talk about getting back on track (making more money!) in a few years when the kids… Read more »
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years 10 months ago
Interestingly enough, I find that the opposite is true. I’m a single, young (26), college-educated professional. I make significantly more than the national median. I get sick of reading articles on personal finance blogs telling me that I should stop buying coffee so I can safe money, or how to save $8/year on electricity by unplugging appliances that continuously have LEDs turned on when they’re plugged in. For me, all these things are so trivially small that I don’t care. I’d much rather read about how to manage six figure sums of restricted stock that I can’t sell yet, but… Read more »
Glenn Ward
Glenn Ward
8 years 10 months ago

Wonderful analysis, Ramit! When are people going to learn that the things they own, end up owning them?

The Div Guy
8 years 10 months ago

I have been able to save money the past five years with an income of less than $40K with a wife and two kids. I am in my early 40’s and went to a state university, our networth is now over $800K. My wife recently went back to work and we now invest all her income. There are choices in life, I would rather spend time with my kids than purchase anything they want. I do provide what the need but wants are different story.

Tommy Suriwong
8 years 10 months ago
I’m glad that guy finally came to his senses. It took me a while to get the point of saving money and actually start doing so. While I can afford to go out and buy a damned nice flat TV, a Porsche, and other so-called luxury items, I simply have no need for those things. My RSX is fast enough, saves gas, is in mint condition after 5 years, and most importantly paid-off. My wife’s Ford Escape is in mint condition and paid-off too. No car payments-woohoo! My old 32-inch Sony tube TV that I got free from a buddy… Read more »
Teleolurian
8 years 10 months ago

For goodness sakes. I’m married, 29 years old, and have two children- but the concept of saving and investing money is universal, regardless what extra money comes from each check. I may not have cable or eat out very much, but I’ve got a 12% return rate on an ever-growing capital. Financial blogs like yours are part of what woke me up and I appreciate them all.

Trent Hamm
8 years 10 months ago
Hmm… I exactly match this guy’s demographic. I’m 29, married, have two kids, make a good wage, have two cars in the driveway, pay for daycare… I sound just like him. Yet I was able to start digging myself out of debt – and all my high interest debt is now gone. What’s the difference? I realized that all the extra stuff – the brand new car in the driveway, the 54″ plasma television – isn’t going to have much value if I’m up to my neck in debt and lose my job. Sometimes you have to grow up.
Steve
Steve
8 years 10 months ago

That guy has nothing to worry about, except maybe divorce. When his wife graduates medical school, the only thing he won’t be able to afford is… well… nothing. I was in a similar situation 4 years ago. He just needs to keep the faith, and count down to graduation day, while keeping the wolves from the door. He needs to try to minimize unnecessary expenses in the short term while realizing that the easy street is coming soon.

91030Mom
91030Mom
8 years 10 months ago
It’s oddly very similar to dieting. You talk to some people that are overweight sometimes and they want to know how you can get nice and slim and healthy WITHOUT making better food choices or increasing exercise (financial corollary: getting out of debt without making better financial choices or increasing our income). I recently had a little sit-down with myself where I said “I’m TIERED of complaining to myself and anyone who will listen that I can’t loose the last 20 pregnancy pounds” The following was key: I decided I seriously either needed to make peace with myself at that… Read more »
Laura
8 years 10 months ago
While I’m not exactly in his circumstance, I’m in a similair boat. I’m married and I’m still a fulltime student (graduating in December). My husband works full time and I’m interning. We’re trying to save money for a house downpayment and so we had to tell each other ‘no’ sometimes. We’re not trying to be mean or deprive one another, we just remind ourselves of the choice that we have. Go out with our friends (many single and working full time) or do something cheaper, like hosting a movie night or inviting people over for dinner. Personally, I’d rather have… Read more »
paidtwice
8 years 10 months ago

At least he came out of self delusion for a minute at the end there.

There are lots of bloggers (myself included) that blog from the single income, struggling, with kids, making a better life for themself one penny at a time place. If he can’t find them he doesn’t want to listen.

Jeff S.
Jeff S.
8 years 10 months ago

I applaud your ballsiness with this reader. I too am married with two kids and a tight budget. I’ve had to say no many, many times. It’s hard. The arguments can be long and tiresome. But in the end, not having a pile of debt is worth it. So is having a better perspective on what’s important (family and security rather than possessions that tend to break).

Sara
Sara
8 years 10 months ago
Yeah, you can never help people who don’t want to help themselves. And to all the people who always complain personal finance bloggers and books all say the same thing, well that’s true but it’s because what’s hard is putting the advice into practice and sticking with it. I continue to read for continuted motivation. And also for learning about things that are more complex and take more time to understand (investing, taxes, etc). The simple, tried and true advice will always be the same. I also appreciate advice geared towards young (mostly single) college grads who want to save… Read more »
Michael
8 years 10 months ago

Ramit,

Excellent post. I particularly liked the priorities you listed. I recently came to terms with this regarding work. I was working too many hours and never really punching out. Once I realized this mismatched priority as compared to my family, I’ve been a lot happier.

Thanks!

Aaron
Aaron
8 years 10 months ago

I applaud the guy who wrote you the email for being able to look at himself objectively and being able to admit that he has to change himself.
I think you should change the title of your post and give the guy the credit he’s due.

Little Miss Moneybags
8 years 10 months ago

To continue with the praise on this post, well done. I’m glad the poster was able to come to a bit of an understanding of the *real* cause behind his situation.

To mangle Yoda, there is no “can’t”. There is do, or do not.

J
J
8 years 10 months ago
I doubt Nathan will ever read this comment, but I do feel for the guy. There are a lot of people out there who live a sort of hand-to-mouth half life that just can’t be balanced on any sort of ledger. I’m grateful that I’m not one of them. I suppose that being able to be grateful for that sort of thing is financial freedom. I suppose that we should all feel incredibly lucky if Ramit’s advice does apply to us. But . . . Nathan . . . if you do read this, I’d like to offer you this… Read more »
sarahnade
sarahnade
8 years 10 months ago
I agree with J that Nathan’s gifts come from a place of love. I won’t fault any person for wanting to support and provide for his or her family. But it sounds like maybe Nathan’s desire to provide for his family now, during a time when maybe there’s not as much income, is taking precedence over saving money with which he could provide for them in the future. Now, this might work for Nathan and his family in the short-term, but it’s not very good for long-term planning. With a wife in Med School, Nathan’s practically a single parent. And… Read more »
mike c
mike c
8 years 10 months ago
Not enough info in Ramit and Nathan’s email traffic to really make an opinion about Nathan and his family’s spending habits. I have just one piece of advice: If you can practice disciplined money management and separate the needs from the wants now, then your habits may become routines which will carry over into the future when your wife is bringing home a higher percentage of the family income. You’ll be more disciplined to save in the future, too. The most frustrating thing I see frequently is when people allow their spending habits to increase with income increases, ie –… Read more »
Doug L
Doug L
8 years 10 months ago
Great post today Ramit. That guy needs to scrutinize his own expenses. A few years ago, my wife told me she wanted to be a stay at home mom once we had kids. Knowing that she was serious about this, I began to look at what we spent our money on and the value we were getting for those dollars. Much to our surprise, we were spending it on garbage. Eating out, car payments, cable television, gasoline, new clothes all the time. We thought we were good stewards of our own money, but after examination a few months of expenses,… Read more »
devil
devil
8 years 10 months ago

I’d bet hard cash that this guy and his wife are planning more kids they can’t afford. That is, if they even planned the first two.

At least he had a moment of clarity at the end of the post. Not that he’ll change, but at least he’ll realize WHY his family is so broke.

devil's advocate
8 years 10 months ago

So the take home point for me is don’t have kids.

trackback

[…] of the time, Ramit and I see eye-to-eye. This post, An Annoying Email I Got is no exception. The email Ramit received: This is nothing personal against you, because every […]

Michelle
8 years 10 months ago

Very good post – and a reminder that if one isn’t making progress, it’s probably more personal resistance then a flaw in the method.

jen_chan, writer SureFireWealth.com
This is a very insightful entry. Thanks for sharing your email interactions with us. It gives people a glimpse of how challenging handling personal finances could be especially when you have a family of your own. It’s not just the basic needs you have to attend to but other miscellaneous expenses as well. And I thought the 30-year-old dad had a very interesting reaction to your replies. He had a moment of realization. The problem doesn’t lie with the “lack” of personal finance articles out there. Rather, it was he who couldn’t apply any of the advices because he couldn’t… Read more »
trackback

[…] An Annoying Email A person, who sounds almost exactly like me in a lot of ways (30, married, has two kids, makes a good wage, has two cars in the driveway, pays for daycare), is sending out some rather bitter emails about a lack of advice for people in his situation (I’ve gotta assume he’s never read The Simple Dollar). This is how one person responded. (@ i will teach you to be rich) […]

Nicole
Nicole
8 years 10 months ago

Devil’s Advocate: Yep, that’s what I got from it too. Oh, and marry a doctor AFTER their ex has put them through medical school.

Smart Money & Money Management
8 years 10 months ago

Finally it comes down to choice. You can read all you want, listen to advise ad nauseam but if you don’t take that first step – nothing changes. And this is true not only for your finances but how you choose to live your life. It takes courage and conviction to take action – talk is after all cheap.

Wil
8 years 10 months ago
I feel bad for Nathan, but only because he’s looking for some over-correction. He’s got a lot going for him that others don’t have. Makes good money, two kids, wife who wants to do more, cars, house, the list is probably much longer. I’m sure it’s been said before, but there’s nothing wrong with being satisfied with what you have (while looking for ways to improve IF they come along). My wife and I don’t have the income many PF’ers do, but I can guarantee that we are happy where we are. Would it be nice to have more money?… Read more »
Jason
Jason
8 years 10 months ago
What’s really amusing is that the original writer rattled off pretty much everything he needed to do to save money in his first letter. Some things you can’t just get rid of — for instance, having children. Those cannot be returned. And there are choices that are made to facilitate dreams and/or future earnings (medical school). But then there are the things you can really do without. Two car payments, for instance. If we tried to swing that, we would be paying probably $1-1.5K a month on car payments. So we don’t do that and drive our cars for a… Read more »
finance girl
8 years 10 months ago

I guarantee if I looked at that guy’s family’s spending I would find ways for them to cut and (gasp!) save money to pay down debt or put into a (gasp!) savings account.

Just like I have yet to meet a fat person who excercises consistently and eats moderately but whines about not being able to lose the weight, I have yet to meet a person who whines about not being able to save that doesn’t have things they could cut from their spending.

mapgirl
8 years 10 months ago
GREAT POST Ramit! I am glad you pursued the writer till he responded with an insightful truth about himself. Life is choices and he made the choice NOT to save. Because in reality, he could choose to do it and it would be easy once he committed to that choice. Heck, I think saving money is a LOT easier than having kids. Mr. complainer needs to read more blogs though. The Simple Dollar is exactly like his life. There’s a lot of blogs out there in the same boat, but the themes in them remain the same. It’s about choosing… Read more »
richard
richard
8 years 10 months ago
The key statement he made was that he’s 30 with two car payments. By that time in his life he should have been able to pay off at least one. At no point should a family have two car payments. Cars last long enough to where you can overlap and have at the most one car payment at a time. He also spoke as if he was 40 or 50. 30 is still young and plenty of time to start saving. If you are going to choose a certain lifestyle you often have to make sacrifices. My question to this… Read more »
Deaf Musician
8 years 10 months ago

Ramit, if the shrug effect isn’t true, why do you keep mentioning the fact that you graduated from Stanford. Why not give advice, just because you can? Of course, a school you graduated from says a lot about you and your values. I dare you to take that “I’m a recent graduate of Stanford” line off if you truly believe that the shrug effect is a bunch of horse shit.

white collar
white collar
8 years 10 months ago

so basically that guy failed in life and still won’t listen to u
as if when ur successful u can’t have a family and support them
wut a crock of sh*t

u should have responded, hey continue failing
and no its not 0.01% thats successful
its more like 5%

tho i’m sure his higher math can’t be strong
such as %’s and multiplication

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago
I find a lot of this personal finance writing annoying. I’ve got the frugality thing down pretty well: I don’t play lottery, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t go to clubs, don’t have an iPod or cable/satellite tv or cell phone or dvd player or XBOX or any of those other toys most of you take for granted. (I do have a used 500MHz PC and a dialup connection.) Basically, I don’t have a life, but frugality won’t make me wealthy on a minimum wage income. Personal finance stuff is written for people with ordinary incomes. It’s not written for the… Read more »
KS
KS
8 years 10 months ago

Great post Ramit!
I’m in my 30’s married and with 2 kids. Saving and investing takes work, it just doesn’t happen by itself.

white collar
white collar
8 years 10 months ago

i can’t beleive ‘minimum wage’ actually posted that
if thats the honest truth, go get a job doing some good old manual labor
dial up! 500mhz computer u really hit the low in life. hows life in the 90’s bubble boy?

of course personal finance stuff is written for more the average person, if your poor as hell like you are wut finance does ur person have like 20 dollars in coins in a mayonnaise jar?

embarrassing, ur parents must hate u

al
al
8 years 10 months ago

I really like this post but above all the comment made by DOUG L 🙂 Thank You!!!! Sometimes there are words that WAKE YOU and this one did!

I read somewhere that “the true cost of something is how much of your life you have to give up to pay for it”. It’s really not about dollars and cents, but more about what you could be doing with your time instead of working to pay for all the stuff people think they need…

Sasha
Sasha
8 years 10 months ago
I agree with Ramit. You must sacrafice in order to gain anything. I am married, my husband and I both work full time and we’re currently paying daycare expenses for TWINS and expecting another, so I promise you – this guy has nothing on my financial situation. There is nothing I would love more than to further my education, buy a new car, etc… However, that is just NOT something that is at all financially reasonable at this time. It perplexes me that a person would decide to futher their education, after recently having two kids. I don’t understand the… Read more »
escapee
8 years 10 months ago

Excellent post- and I LOVED The Shrug Effect.
People like this guy make me want to scream. They think that they are the first person on the face of the earth to get married, have kids, and support a spouse while they are undertaking some sort of endeavor. Guess what, THERE ARE MILLIONS OF US OUT HERE DOING WHAT YOU ARE WHINING ABOUT! Shut up, suck it up, and DO something.

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago

white collar: i already have a job, it pays minimum wage! i’ve already raised the change jar and now i’m living on fumes until next friday. i’ve always lived behind the tech curve and the tech snobbery and elitism i’ve faced are major annoyances. i didn’t even own a pc until the early ’90s when i bought components at a trade show and assembled my own 286. today i see all sorts of websites i can’t use because my pc is so lame.

Anonymous Analyst
Anonymous Analyst
8 years 10 months ago
Ramit: At least this guy admits he won’t listen to advice and is not going to change their behavior. When I was a personal banker, I can not count how many people came to me looking for a “magic pill” to make their financial problems go away. But when we started talking about budgeting or behavior changes, they just gloss over like zombies. Too many people have never had to “step up” as you say and take responsibility for themselves and their actions. It as always been handed to them or handled by someone else. This guy is like so… Read more »
John
8 years 10 months ago
There are some very easy suggestions, but I doubt he’d be willing to follow through with them. Two things jump out immediately. 1) Sell your cars and buy cheaper ones. While I make 6 figures, I drive a 95 Civic because it lets me…get this…SAVE MONEY. Shocking, I know. 2) Stop giving your wife and kids everything they want. Talk to your family, set a budget, and then let them decide what their priorities are. I’m early thirties, 2 kids, mortgage, single income (by choice), and have a wonderful life all while saving money. It’s not that hard if you… Read more »
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[…] sick and tired of commenters telling personal finance bloggers that they’re unrealistic to talk about spending less and saving more, and that they’re not in touch with the […]

MoneyDummy
8 years 10 months ago

I’m usually pretty compassionate but I’m sick and tired of reading about these whiney comments.

We make 43K a year, have two kids, one income, and give away 12-14% of our net pay before we do anything else with it.

We’re paying off between 700 and 1000 dollars in debt PER MONTH.

So stop telling yourself it can’t be done. Stop being a victim. Stop whining.

I’ve been where you are. I’ve had your attitude. I got over myself.

You can too.

Swim Upstream to Wealth
8 years 10 months ago

It takes two characteristics to succeed at anything: discipline and vision. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose weight or build a financial nest egg. If you can set goals and discipline yourself until you achieve them, you will succeed. If not, then you will be bitter and make up lame excuses as to why you are overweight or financially strapped.

I think this person realizes this. He knows he can’t say no to his family. And, I don’t think he has a vision for his finances. Ramit handled this conversation well.

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago

I’m early thirties, 2 kids, mortgage, single income (by choice), and have a wonderful life all while saving money. It’s not that hard if you actually decide to do it instead of complain that you can’t.

But can you have a wonderful life while saving money on minimum wage?

Robert G.
Robert G.
8 years 10 months ago
John, right above me, gives two good pointers on how to control expenses when you’re in a single-income household with children. But rather than doing that, I prefer to remain unmarried and childless. I make a little less than 6 figures, but enough to be able to own a decent house, drive an expensive car, have a costly hobby, and max out my 401k and Roth IRA at the same time. Yes, if I wanted to be totally frugal I could sock away half my income, but what fun is that? Saving 20% puts me in excellent shape for early… Read more »
Adam
Adam
8 years 10 months ago
I spend about $20 a month on coffee, and other unneeded crap. I enjoy life, I could save more, but I’d rather not fork over my little joys here and there, unless I had to I wouldn’t stop drinking coffee, I’m 18 with a coffee love. I save over $100 a month, most months a lot closer to $200, I have 2 goals in my finances, Millionaire by 30, own my own successful business. Being rich isn’t about money, or want you look like, its about your net worth. The real rich have a positive net worth. The key to… Read more »
Pamela Slim
8 years 10 months ago
Oh Lord Ramit, this post cuts waaay too close to home. It is like the Roberta Flack song “Killing me softly with his song, singing my life with his words …” (that I remember in its original form, and you have probably heard on your parent’s “oldies” station or in a new remix.) The truth hurts. The behavior change is the tough part, and if you have spent your life being lazy with budgeting (that’s me) and helping everyone around you financially (that is my hubbie) and you throw in a general dislike of financial details (that is both of… Read more »
plonkee
8 years 10 months ago

The only other strategy to spend less, save more, is earn more, save more. There is no creative accounting that will generate money out of thin air. If you’ve got some spare money, there are loads of ways to save and invest it but finding extra money means earning more or cutting back. There are no other tactics.

Mario
8 years 10 months ago
This is another case of the entitlement mentality at work. Most people want it all, and they want it now, and then they wonder why they don’t have any money. Example: if his wife is in school, why on earth do they have two car payments? Can’t she, or he, get by with driving a used car that is paid off for a couple of years? At lease he got it right in his response: his current predicament is a consequence of the choices he made. It may sound harsh, but in business and in life there are no magic… Read more »
mapgirl
8 years 10 months ago
Ah. I see you’ve been attacked by Minimum Wage troll. For everyone reading these comments, please understand that MW has been offered free blog hosting by other PF bloggers so he can air his opinions and thoughts on earning minimum wage, but has yet to take anyone up on his offer. He complains the rest of us who make ordinary incomes don’t write for his audience. Even though he could fill that niche, he consistently declines to do so. He’s been around since at least Summer 2007, you’d think he’d jump on the blogging bandwagon to spread his message rather… Read more »
Blonde Chick
8 years 10 months ago

I just discovered your blog, and I really like it so far! I’ve subscribed to your feed, and I’m looking forward to reading more posts from you.

dimes
8 years 10 months ago

It sounds to me like he could probably benefit from professional help (and it’s a foregone conclusion he’d LOVE the attention and status a financial planner would bring to him). If blogs written about every conceivable situation aren’t personal enough for him, he needs the coddling only a certified expert can provide. Too bad for him it will probably come with strings attached, like someone trying to hawk their products to him.

Rob
8 years 10 months ago

Sounds like he had a revelation at the end of the conversation.

RickSF
RickSF
8 years 10 months ago
Minimum Wage, I think that personal finance is MORE important the LESS money you make, because the less you make the harder it is to find any surplus. >Basically, I don’t have a life, but frugality won’t make me >wealthy on a minimum wage income. Just because you don’t have a lot of $ shouldn’t mean that you don’t have a life! There are a lot of wonderful things you can do for little or no money- you just need to find ones that appeal to you. Spend time with friends or family, write a novel, etc. No, frugality won’t… Read more »
Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago

psst…mapgirl…there is a blog project in progress…should be up and running soon.

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[…] two car payments, child care,  utilities, and various and sundry expenses.) We won’t give away their entire exchange, but it ended with the reader’s honest assessment: “I want to — and do, for the most part — give […]

RickSF
RickSF
8 years 10 months ago
>The truth hurts. The behavior change is the tough part, and if >you have spent your life being lazy with budgeting (that’s me) >and helping everyone around you financially (that is my >hubbie) and you throw in a general dislike of financial details >(that is both of us) it works out to a perfect storm of a non->saving household. Pam, I suggest a different strategy for you- put aside the savings first, and then spend all the rest that is left. Just be sure not to spend MORE than is left. If you find that difficult- go to using cash.… Read more »
College-Computer_Guy
College-Computer_Guy
8 years 10 months ago

I live on Minimum Wage, I even do some IT business on the side, the whole I can’t spend less then I earn is total bullshit.

K.B.
8 years 10 months ago
There’s always something that can be saved. If it’s only a dollar, save that dollar. It’s the habit that’s important. It’s hard to break the habit of spending, and hard to see where one could be saving instead of spending. But given time and the desire to change, one can find ways to save. I signed up for a 403 investment plan at work that takes pre-tax money out of my paycheck and puts it into whatever investments I choose. It’s a painless way to save because 1) it’s done for me automatically once I set it up, so there’s… Read more »
Aspiring Accountant
Aspiring Accountant
8 years 10 months ago

Personal finance is real simple: live within your means. Avoid excessive debt. “Grow” your money first. Save it, invest it, then spend it.

JR
JR
8 years 10 months ago

I’m sorry to say but I don’t agree on this one.

Nathan has set his priorities: education for his wife and having children. These priorities are more important for him then having more money later in life.

You argued that he should put money aside for investments. I think that is what he’s already doing. He’s not investing in stocks or saving accounts but in education of his wive! That education can improve the salary of his wife later on.

Imelda
8 years 10 months ago
I think this guy is basically asking how to be frugal and earn money while still buying everything his wife and kids ask for. Gee, there’s no PF blogger explaining how to do that? What a surprise! Actually, there are some–but their solution would be for him to change his mindset! You might direct him over to Trent at The Simple Dollar, who is in a fairly similar life position (minus the med school). Of course, he probably won’t like what he reads, which is…frugality. On a totally unrelated note: I thought I’d point you to this NYTimes Mag article:… Read more »
white collar
white collar
8 years 10 months ago

if you have a family and you make 43k. congrats on failure
jesus christ wtf do you guys eat ramen all day
walk everywhere?

Boudreaux
Boudreaux
8 years 10 months ago
Jason you are so right, having two car payments with a house payment is a large burden. This guy was intially just making excuses for his behavior and “wishing” things were better. Well “if wishes were horses, then beggers would ride.” My mother always tols us that, and sometimes I do fall into the “wishing” self-pity mindset as well I think of her. I have gotten to point where I am by my choices and my choices not to choose which more often than not led to unsatisfing results. Like many others I try to keep my past failures close… Read more »
Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago

Aspiring Accountant said:

Personal finance is real simple: live within your means. Avoid excessive debt. “Grow” your money first. Save it, invest it, then spend it.

Simple, eh? Try living within your means when you start out with student loan debt and you warn minimum wage.

Let’s see you make that work.

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago
College-Computer_Guy said: I live on Minimum Wage, I even do some IT business on the side, the whole I can’t spend less then I earn is total bullshit. Okay, do you live at home (with parents) or do you pay market rent, or do you have some cushy below-0market deal? Are you making payments on student loan debt? Are you getting financial aid or some other subsidy (e.g. money from parents)? Did you have an extended uninsured illness with a loss of income and an increase in debt? Are you paying almost $300/mo toward debt like I am? What IT… Read more »
Benedict Chan
8 years 10 months ago

Well said. I truly believe that it does take extraordinary action and well as extraordinary circumstances to be successful.

-Benedict

Minimum Wage Sucks
Minimum Wage Sucks
8 years 10 months ago

Minimum Wage,
I swear, if you put as much time and effort into making your financial life better as you do complaining about your crappy life, you would be a millionaire. TOO BAD YOU SUCK!!!

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
8 years 10 months ago

Dear Sucks:

Let’s go with that.. What time and effort can I put into making my financial life better? I have no marketable skills and going back to school isn’t (financially) an option. I don’t have a car so there are lots of jobs I can’t get to. Last week I found some great janitor jobs at Intel but they’re swing shift and there’s no way to get back home at night.

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[…] Nice post at I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit responds to a reader who says he can’t relate to the advice on personal finance blogs. […]

Mike
8 years 10 months ago
Great post. I feel for the guy, because when you have a wife and kids, all these decisions are group choices. (even the kids have a say, although you don’t think so, but their whining and complaining will create its own input) He can’t be the only one to say no, he has to have his wife onboard; even though he is the breadwinner, odds are she spends the family money just as he does. The fastest and easiest way to say “no” is “I don’t have any money on me right now.” As for Nathan, he should open a… Read more »
a south asian woman
a south asian woman
8 years 10 months ago
ok so he’s a troll who bugs “financial advisors”. the real question is, has any one of you been able to give him one bit of meaningful advice other than ridiculing him and calling him a loser? now if this blog is for people who are above a certain wage limit, it might be better to state that as a disclaimer right off the bat to avoid folks who do indeed make minimum wage and are truly struggling. after all, isn’t just easier to make money out of already existing money? i personally cannot imagine how people can have 3… Read more »
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[…] at I Will Teach You to Be Rich has the post of the week, writing about an annoying e-mail he got. One of his readers wrote: This is nothing personal against you, because every personal finance […]

Darkwingdave
Darkwingdave
8 years 10 months ago
I have to agree somewhat with one of the posters that many of the financial advice books written don’t address people in lower middle class situations. I laugh, well, didn’t used to when I read a book about ‘surviving unemployment’ or looking for a job… Lets see..arcane concepts like, can you cash in part of your 401k? What’s that? Budget how far your separation pay will take you..You mean the last paycheck before they said “See ya!”. Look at your finances and see what you can cut back on – do you need 4 vacations this year, maybe you can… Read more »
escapee
8 years 10 months ago

The best advice for low income people is to increase their income by going to college (or getting some other training that will increase their income- trade schools, etc).

PELL GRANT!! Ever heard of it!? Well, I have because I wanted to go to college and didn’t have the money or parents who could bankroll it.

dong
8 years 10 months ago
South asian woman, many bloggers have tried to give minimum wage solid real advice. Just a few weeks ago, Trent a the Simple Dollar and JD at Get Rich Slowly offered sage and realistic advice. Minimum wage is a troll not because his concerns aren’t real, but shrugs off anyone’s offers of help and advice. His is a can’t do attitude. It’s one thing to understand that there are very real obstacles that make it difficult for someone to succeed on minimum wage, and another to say it’s impossible without making a real attempt.
south asian woman
south asian woman
8 years 10 months ago
ah i see, dong! thanks for the links, i do see how MW could be a troll. the only advantange i can see from MW is that as he keeps bringing up his “concerns”, perhaps people get to think a little bit about poverty in this country (i’m not saying that i think MW is really poor or not. or whether he’s simply aiming to challenge readers and bloggers.) which seems to be quite hidden and most facilities are geared towards people who have some means already. also, a good exercise for bloggers to think more holistically about money and… Read more »
JW
JW
8 years 10 months ago

The Internet: Full of obnoxious cranks since 1990 (back then they mainly used Prodigy).

His point is that your advice sucks because he’s not willing to listen to it. Who cares?

T. Rockmann
8 years 9 months ago

Wow, I feel for this guy.. this one line says it all

“I want to–and do, for the most part–give my wife and kids whatever they want. Until I stop doing that, the whole saving more, spending less thing won’t work for me.”

Such a huge mistake. The best thing he can give his family is more financial stability. Two car payments? Sell em both and buy older reliable cars. Oh, but what will the neighbors think?

No sacrifice, no progress.

Mira
Mira
8 years 9 months ago
The “spend less, save more” theory is great for singles or young married couples with no kids (and therefore, fewer attachments, expenses, etc.) I’m single…therefore, I have a one income household….I may not have the same responsibilities, attachments, expenses, etc. however different doesn’t mean less… If something happens to my income, I have no other income or no one else to fall back on! My mortgage, my student loans, my car loan, my activities, my everything is my responsibility! However, I’m not complaining…. I have my spending under control 🙂 Just annoyed at the “I have three kids and a… Read more »
AvidReader
AvidReader
8 years 9 months ago
The basic principles of spending less than you earn are universal. However, the minimum wage disclaimer suggestion may be warranted. Try budgeting $0? It gets kind of tricky and frustrating, doesn’t it? As an earlier reader stated, many folks stuck in the minimum wage, real poverty cycle have the “frugality thing down, ” and don’t live in denial – they know they are poor and struggling, many work harder or as hard as most on this blog, go to college, save and skimp and what happens when they miss one house payment or car payment or health insurance payment? Big… Read more »
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Miriam Schwab
Miriam Schwab
8 years 9 months ago
I’m wondering – aren’t there some situations where it really is almost impossible to save money? For example, I live in Israel. The average salary here is less than $2000 a month , and is taxed about 50% (that amount is in the top tax bracket!). Then, if you have a whole bunch of kids (as I do), you have to pay for schools and day care (if you work), which can cost thousands of shekels a month, food (thousands), mortgage or rent (thousands), car (thousand), phone/water/gas/etc. (thousand). And we’re not talking about people living a fancy lifestyle – we’re… Read more »
Sunbee
Sunbee
8 years 9 months ago
OK. On minimum wage: yes, it’s hard. It’ sucks. That said, it doesn’t have to be forever. You’re getting experience. If you’ve had the job six months, have you started applying elsewhere? Can you walk or take a bus to a library? Look for a book called What Color Is Your Parachute? It’s got some good ideas for marketing yourself. Don’t bitch to potential employers about current employers: you just want more responsibility, that’s why you’re looking for a new job. Can you do some extra of whatever you do in off-work hours as self employed? (If you do, save… Read more »
DAve
DAve
8 years 9 months ago
I think you have completely missed this person’s point. He’s right about you, and I’m not sure that you really comprehend the reality of the demographic of most people’s finances in America. The majority of America is not very well off. They are more like “Just getting by.” I think your advice would change drastically if you didn’t have a college education, 2 kids, a wife who didn’t work and a home that was large enough for 3 people not 4 but with massive mortgage payments. Maybe you should take a step back and realize this was constructive criticism not… Read more »
Carlin
Carlin
8 years 9 months ago
Um, are they just getting by because they’ve made concious choices about what to do with their money and earning power? His wife is going to school. Could she be working? Yep. Would this lessen his so called burden? Yep. But they’ve made a choice to invest in her, so she can potentially earn more. They had kids by choice. They chose to buy that house, those two cars, and decided to take on those payments. If they couldn’t handle all those expenses, then maybe they shouldn’t have incurred them. He’s says the blog is all about spend less, save… Read more »
Rick
Rick
8 years 9 months ago
If someone actually has a college degree and makes minimum wage, then they should join the Military. They pay more than minimum wage, and if you retire, they will pay you 2 million dollars over 40 years. I’m currently in the Army, making 23k a year as enlisted. I go to college full time for free. My wife stays home. My wife wants to spend money on frivolous things. Fine. 50 bucks a month for both of us. Want something else? Wait, until next month. We owe 7,000 in credit card debt(0 percent APR Car Loan balance transfer). Like said… Read more »
Liz
Liz
8 years 9 months ago
Ramit, I enjoy your blog, but this post smacks of condescention. This guy’s obviously in a very different financial situation than you are, but you might have offered a little feedback rather than the “so what?” defense. That doesn’t help anybody and makes you look more like the snob he’s accusing you of being. Others have said two car payments are a red flag. Absolutely. They should have one at the most, and it should be on something they plan to drive into the ground. A second car should be owned free and clear, even if it’s a beater. He… Read more »
AvidReader
AvidReader
8 years 9 months ago
Re: Sunbee’s comments … Those are U.S. solutions … albeit very very good ones. Outside of the U.S. (and even in some disparaged parts of the U.S.), however, the same structures are not in place, even affording the dry beans and grains alone can be a challenge in and of itself, most people already take the bus… and so on. (Refer to Mr. Ramits interview with Kiva’s Premul Shah of which a google link led me to this site). I like your challenge, though, because solutions exist even the most dire of circumstances – and those are the type of… Read more »
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8 years 9 months ago

[…] loved this recent post from I will Teach You to be Rich. My favorite part said, Ordinary actions get ordinary results. […]

Tertius
Tertius
8 years 9 months ago
I’m a 24 year old, just basically finished my BSc degree and I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so taking that route from the start. I’ve been struggling with budgeting, always working it out to the t. I haven’t read your blog in a while, it was in my RSS reader, but I reinstalled windows and hadn’t gotten round to installing the reader again (exam time). So I read the first few pages today and came across “An annoying email I got”. I realised that, yes I want a good financial future, but that I’m not as committed to it as… Read more »
Amy
8 years 9 months ago

I think you are awesome. I can be more verbose but it’s really not necessary because that just sums it up. Thanks for investing your .02 in our world.

Danilo Jose Vargas
8 years 9 months ago
Wow! An amazing post indeed. Ramit you broke it down perfectly. The first step to financial independence is about taking responsibility for the actions we’ve taken, and for the steps we need to take to create a better future for ourselves. If nothing else, I think your exchange with this gentleman helped him see that. No matter how dire, how poor, pay yourself first! That’s what I always say. And how about focusing on the abundance that exists everywhere around us, instead of always focusing on scarcity and limitations. Being rich is a state of mind! I’m new to your… Read more »
john
john
8 years 8 months ago

He called you a guru. He’s quite generous right there. 😉

Michelle
Michelle
8 years 8 months ago
I know a single mother with 2 kids (of which she has to pay an obscene amount for childcare), but she IS happy….really! She shops at Goodwill for her own & children’s clothes (BTW – Target donates a whole lot of inventory), housewares etc. She had to look hard at her finances and found hidden expenses – do you really NEED kleenex boxes, qtips, paper towels all over the place? For the ladies, 10 pairs of black pants? Buy NEW books at Barnes? When there is a library around the corner? This is being wasteful to some. It is to… Read more »
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[…] yesterday Ramit over at Iwillteachyoutoberich got an email from a guy who was saying that all the personal finance he reads doesn’t apply to him. That […]

AvidReader
AvidReader
8 years 7 months ago

Ramit, what’s u r take on this?

Check out this post from Money Blog

On $11 an hour, Jersey man made millions
Posted Jan 17 2008, 02:29 PM by Karen Datko

http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/archive/2008/01/17/on-11-an-hour-jersey-man-made-millions.aspx

Impressed
Impressed
8 years 6 months ago

Wow! I loved this. I just paid off $27, 000 in credit card debt in two years. How did I do it? Got a second job and really cut costs. It can be done! Next on my list, that student loan WILL be paid off in a little over a year!

Jan
Jan
8 years 6 months ago

Well, I think it can be hard. The U.S. has almost no maternity or paternity leave laws, fewer flexible job options, no subsidized daycare… all of which mean you try to survive on one income or pay a lot for daycare, or remain at home longer than you’d like b/c it’s tough getting back into the workforce and tough to find a part-time job. It doesn’t mean you’re throwing money at fancy cars, gadgets, and overpriced coffees.

IUnderstand
IUnderstand
8 years 5 months ago
Yep, It was so much easier to save when I was single and childless. I had complete control. Now my husband has credit cards and a checkbook, too. So, here are some meaningful ways to save a lot of money: 1) Send your kids to public school – at least for elementary and middle. Private school is a complete waste of money since the college applications don’t ask where your kids went or what their grades were for K – 8. If you think your public school is lacking, spring for some private tutoring. So much cheaper. This alone saved… Read more »
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