The Money Diaries: The 20-something coupon-clipper

Ramit Sethi

Today is another post in the Money Diaries series, which is based off New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries. We’ve collected stories from real people about their spending habits over seven days, anonymized them, and posted them here.

clipping coupons

Today’s post is by a 26-year-old who works in television and is engaged to a guy without a job (and a wedding looming). Notice how her costs are extremely low and she’s very conscious about her spending…but is she missing the bigger picture? Let me know in the comments.

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Day 1
10 a.m.: It’s Monday and I just made it to work. My fiancé, T., has recently moved to my area and really needs a job. Unfortunately he just dropped out of school for two reasons: 1) We were four hours apart and 2) The profession he originally wanted to go into — culinary arts — would mean we wouldn’t see each other much.
1:01 p.m.: Drive home to heat up leftovers of pineapple marinated pork and au gratin potatoes. The really beautiful thing about being engaged to a culinary school dropout is that he can cook. T. and I fiddle with some electronic equipment so I can get a work task done.
7:13 p.m.: Get home from work. T. and I cuddle in bed for a while. He makes pork and mushroom dumplings and steams rice for dinner. The meal probably cost about 25 cents per serving. Not too bad for a couple on a budget.
10:47 p.m.: We start watching “Smart People,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Dennis Quaid. I fall asleep soon after the movie starts. I’m pretty sure T. played Halo 3 well into the night…Total daily spending: $0.

Day 2
9:51 a.m.: Get to work early and eat strawberry whipped yogurt from Aldi’s (49 cents) While I’m eating, I check my accounts online… 401k is in the tanker, but am I really surprised? (Right now my vested total is $3,200, which is much less than I contributed.) $779.23 in my checking account; $4,252.07 in my online savings with 3% interest; $452 in my Ameritrade account I opened only because it was part of Suze Orman’s Save Yourself plan, which offers $100 if you deposit $50 into the account for one year. Not a bad return.
10:30 a.m.: Peruse over daily newspaper and notice a few jobs T. might be interested in. Long story short, we met four months ago when we were both in a mutual friend’s wedding. Six weeks later we got engaged. My dad still doesn’t know about it because he hasn’t been answering his phone. T. was going to school in a city four hours away, but quit and moved in with me last month. He is now looking for work. I am terrified that he’s going to have a very difficult time, as he now has looming (huge) student loan payments and no degree. He really needs to find a job.
11:15 a.m.: Call a few moving companies. T. and I are moving to a condo less than a mile from where we live now. Rent is $700 for a 680-squre-foot one-bedroom, plus the third month is totally free. I’m quoted $260 for a two-hour move, and the movers provide wardrobe boxes. Not too bad. Another place I called charged $120 an hour, plus an hour charge alone for travel time!
12 p.m.: Check the county web site to find out requirements for getting a marriage license. T. and I want to get married at the courthouse to wed as soon as possible. Apparently it costs $93 for the license and $30 to have a deputy clerk perform a ceremony after a three-day waiting period. Much cheaper than an actual wedding! My mom still has no idea we are planning to elope.
1:47 p.m.: T. picks me up and we go for lunch at a nice steakhouse. We get calamari, prime rib, steak, and sodas for $24.60 including tip. How, you ask? I bought a $25 certificate at for $2. We saved about 50% and got a luxury meal. I confess, I do eat out with coupons. We are trying not to eat out as much, but if we do it at a discount it’s a little less of a blow.
2:15 p.m.: Talk to T. about getting married, and possible moving and wedding dates. This stuff really stresses me out, and I hate paperwork!
3 p.m.: When I return to work I discover my purchase of a 53-piece flatware set has arrived. I paid $19.99 for it.
4:24 p.m.: Check credit card statement. So far I’ve charged $139.76 worth of items including groceries, Body Shop toner and a facial mask, a prescription for acne medication, that flatware set, and a new 2009 Entertainment book. I’m trying to cut down on spending…However, I just charged $544 for my auto insurance six-month premium and my card is automatically billed for my cell phone plan. That should be about $80. Yikes! If I don’t charge anything until my next statement, the balance will still be at least $763. I’m really hoping visiting my parents for Thanksgiving won’t be too expensive. Luckily, I used credit card rewards points to purchase my flight and already paid for the rental car. Total daily spending: $24.60 (lunch at steakhouse).

Day 3
9:49 a.m.: Get to work. T. and I had a fight last night stemming from his getting friendly with my roommate, who I’m not on good terms with. Neither of us slept very well and I barely spoke to him. I’ve decided that I’m not going home for lunch to see him. Instead, I’ll run errands!
9:55 a.m.: Re-checked credit card statement… Forgot that T. and I ordered our wedding rings and my card’s been dinged for one of them already. It’s $39.99 off So much for keeping the bill under $800…
11:04 a.m.: Chat with coworkers about weddings. One woman says wedding planning is the most stressful thing you can ever do. Another agrees with me on a courthouse wedding. In fact, she wanted to do it over Christmas, but since her boyfriend’s family couldn’t come — nixed the idea. Apparently her sister was able to do a wedding with 425 guests for $4,500. That’s amazing!
12:30 p.m.: Get Body Shop facial products and my wedding ring in the mail. The band pretty closely matches my engagement ring and fits perfectly. All for under 40 bucks. Not too bad.
1:56 p.m.: At Target. A few weeks back I received coupons for up to $30 in gift cards if I 1) transfer or bring in a new prescription and have it filled and 2) join Target’s Pharmacy Rewards program (must have Target’s credit card). Did that and walked out with my $9 prescription (paid for with my Health Savings Account card), $30 gift card and a $2.68 hot dog and drink combo. Is it bad that I eat lunch at the Target snack shop?
2:10 p.m.: Text from T. He has a job interview as a cook  at a nursing home. Good news: full time, with benefits. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. It’s been a difficult and stressful month.
7:12 p.m.: Arrive home to roses on the nightstand and a leg of lamb in the oven. T. is trying to get back on my good side with a home cooked meal and flowers! Okay… It works. Total daily spending: $51.67 (wedding ring, prescription, hot dog and soda) T.’s spending: About $30 ($20 lamb, sack of potatoes, roses from grocery store).

Day 4
10:02 a.m.: Drive to work (late) while eating a hot dog and chugging a can of Aldi’s GT Cola.
11:37 a.m.: My 2009 Entertainment book has arrived! I can’t help but look at all the great coupons in there. I see at least five restaurants that we can definitely go to in the near future. The $20 investment is well worth it.
2:15 p.m.: Our photographer brings me two desserts from a shoot. (I work at a TV station.) I drive home quickly and eat banana creme brulee with T., then stick a berry crepe thing in the fridge.
4 p.m.: Stop to fill up my Toyota Matrix after a meeting across the street from my office. Gas is $1.95 a gallon, and my total is only $20.56!!!
10:21 p.m.: Just got home from the Media Battle of the Bands event. My coworker’s wife was singing in one of the bands. There was free sushi there so I definitely took advantage. T. had a couple drinks. Spent $20 on cover, $6 for parking, and T. spent about $15 on drinks. We don’t do this very often. Total spending: $81.56 (Entertainment book, gas, going out) Dinner was free, though.

Day 5
8:46 a.m.: Wake up and immediately check my bank account activity online. It’s payday so there is now close to $2,000 in my account.
9:30 a.m.: I feel guilty about spending so much money last night. Not to mention the fact that we went out for lunch the other day on top of that. I’m really hungry and I brought another dessert to eat from yesterday’s shoot but it’s terrible so I throw it out.
1:55 p.m.: T. found out that they hired someone else for the cook position before looking at his resume. The receptionist told him that the guy who got the job was unqualified and that T. should have gotten hired. I’m really disappointed to hear that, because that would have been a good solution for T. He loves talking to elderly people and making food, so I’m sad. His cooking really is amazing. This is very scary. We need to get married soon so T. can be put on my health insurance plan through work. That doesn’t sound romantic at all, but it’s what we have to do.
2:03 p.m.: Tears well up in my eyes, but I really don’t want to cry in the office. Thank God no one else is around.
2:05 p.m.: Still hungry, but will wait to eat until I get home later.
3:19 p.m.: Go home for lunch. Make a lamb leftover sandwich and chat with T. We agree to have a “no spending” weekend of more leftovers and job-hunting for him. Our plans include Target so he can apply for seasonal work.
4:45 p.m.: T. went over to a swanky bar & restaurant club and they’re interested in having him work in the sushi room. He has worked in a sushi place before, so let’s see what happens…Total daily spending: $0.

Day 6
8:35 p.m.: Have not left the house except to check the mail and find soda left in my car. I’ve had a craving for it all day. We had leftovers for lunch (I think we’re going to have that leg of lamb until we leave for Buffalo.)
9 p.m.: Break down and buy a night guard for my teeth and replacement toothbrush heads on T. says I grind my teeth really hard. That’s probably why I had a cavity a few months ago. So I realized that the cost of getting a bite plane far outweighs the disaster of having my tooth enamel ground away. Total daily spending: $32

Day 7
11:09 a.m.: Just returned home from CVS’ing while T. is sleeping. He needed more contact solution and I saw the online ad and had to go. With the Extra Care Bucks rewards program, it was FREE. I also got a few other free items: deodorant, soda, Q-Tips, and make-up. Most of the items were free after ECB’s. That means you pay for the items, and get the amount back in Extra Care bucks, which you can spend on on ANYTHING in the store at another time. It’s a great way to rack up free toiletries. My total was $55.78. However, I got $47.95 in ECB’s. That’s my best day yet doing this. I’m not nearly as good as some of the Super Moms, but I’m getting there! I also saw a coupon for a $25 CVS gift card with a transferred prescription. Perfect! (Since I just transferred my prescription to Target, I’ll transfer it back to CVS and get $25 more in free gift cards)
3:13 p.m.: T. and I spend a few hours fishing off an old bridge this fine Sunday afternoon. Spending time with him is priceless, and in this case, doesn’t cost a penny. It makes me think about how the simple things in life really are the most rewarding. Total daily spending: $55.78 (but got $47.95 back to spend).

In sum:
Total weekly spending: $245.61 – $60 in very unusual expenses (wedding ring, night guard) – about $75 in eating/drinking out. Because my fiancee does not have a job, we should not be spending money on that right now and I feel guilty. Most of the expenses were necessary though (gas, groceries, toiletries). However, out of the deal I got $30 in Target gift cards and close to $50 to use at CVS so I’m not doing as bad as I thought. This was a very valuable experience for me, as I got to see where I can cut back and be a smarter consumer.

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  1. JimE

    Retirement savings, talks to SO about money, lots of work on the little details, all thats missing was the big meeting in the middle of the week about future plans. I’d say move along people nothing to see here.
    My one comment if any, do alot of reading about the restaurant business, its harsh. With a Cook for a hubby I wouldn’t be surprised if they go down this road once in the future. Just be prepared.

  2. Tina B

    I would say getting married to an unemployed, school drop out is a disaster waiting to happen, financially and personally. Not to mention the fact that they barely know each other. Sad story, makes me feel like crying….

  3. Gnimsh

    This 20 something’s fiancee sounds like a real winner. Dropout, no job… and engaged and eloping after 4 months!?! I hope things work out for them, but it doesn’t sound like the best plan…

  4. hollyhk

    I’m going to echo that this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. You met 4 months ago and he decided to drop out of school and give up on his studies? What was he planning on doing before then – never have a relationship because he’d be too busy? This just doesn’t sound very good. I hope everything works out for you two, though.

  5. Moneymonk

    “we met four months ago when we were both in a mutual friend’s wedding. Six weeks later we got engaged”

    blank stare

  6. Neha

    I think they need to eat more vegetables.

  7. Kimberly

    As someone who in my very early twenties rushed into marriage with an unemployed college drop out, and as someone who is now getting divorced from said unemployed college drop out, I would advise her to RUN FAR AWAY.

    Or, at the very least, slow down the pace of the relationship considerably and see how it pans out. There shouldn’t be a rush to spend the rest of your life with someone.

  8. JT

    Getting married and who you marry is such a personal decision that I don’t really want to judge based on this post alone. However I will say that you haven’t planned for (since it seems you got engaged really fast) so why not wait a year or two until fiance gets a job and gets settled, and you both have a chance to save some $$ for the wedding/honeymoon? You are already living together so I fail to see what the big rush is.

    I understand you want to eloupe but there are still expenses and I keep reading “Oh, I forgot I charged the rings, etc”. That is not the concious spending that Ramit always preaches.

    Even if you are elouping, I don’t believe that weddings (or marriages for that matter) are something you should impulsively rush into, and at least from the reader’s perspective that is exactly what you are doing.

    After all that: Can you **please, please, please** post the recipe for the pork & mushroom dumplings? They sound really good. I do have to agree that a guy who can cook is a massive turn-on 🙂

  9. Kimmoy

    I must admit that she is pretty savvy when it comes to the coupons and is lucky to be dating to someone that’s great at cooking. However, what is the rush to get married especially when you’ve only known each other for a few short months?

    Also, can he use his culinary skills to start a catering business or something similar? He needs a job or some way of bringing in income (i.e. side business) if he plans to provide for a family as a husband. Good luck!

  10. Chad

    Sounds like another one of those New Yorkers who is too “clever” for her own good. For example, she proudly declares

    The meal probably cost about 25 cents per serving.

    Does she have a garden in her 400 sq ft New York City Studio ??

    Even if you cook, vegetables and other ingredients don’t magically appear on your table for free, unless you are stealing from your kitchen 😉

  11. Holly Hoffman

    He doesn’t need to be looking for a job – he needs to be back in school! Without a degree, he’ll always be looking for a job and spending your money, girl.

    Getting married on the cheap = great. Getting married to a guy without a job or a degree + your parents not knowing = NOT SMART.

  12. James

    Hey guys, instead of judging their love life, how about their finances? She seems like she’s got a decent income, and long term, it will be difficult to support two people on it. He IS looking for a job, and with some on-the-job experience and a culinary school education, he could be head chef someday, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. She’s conscious of her spending and working to find any kinds of deals she can. I think the courthouse wedding is great, finance-wise. If they’re happy with it, more power to them.

    She should look into researching that car insurance! It’s not a bad price, but you never know what some negotiation can do!

  13. Courtney

    go back to school!! Seriously, dropping out is the worst thing you can do.. most jobs don’t care what kind of degree you have, it is just the fact that you were disciplined and smart enough to complete it in the first place that shows you can be a good employee.

    I realize that he needs her health insurance, but what is the rush? This bugs me about everyone I know who stresses out about planning a wedding and being in college or trying to find a job, etc. If you are truly in love and want to be together forever, why do you need to get married this instant? Slow down, enjoy life and take things one day at a time.

  14. Rt

    “Is it bad that I eat lunch at the Target snack shop?”

    For your health…yes.

  15. Lisa

    Stop. Please don’t get married to someone with debilitating debt. If you’re really in love, and if it’s really meant to last, you can wait until he has a solid job, has significant savings and is well on his way to paying down his debt.

    Why does this woman think she is responsible for her fiance’s health insurance? I doubt that as many men would think it their responsibility and choose to get married because of this.

    This guy needs to take serious action towards getting a job, earning money and paying down his debt. If he doesn’t, this woman is GUARANTEED to be suffering for him.

  16. GloriaWandrous

    Everything sounds WAY too extreme. Money and Marriage are 2 matters that deserve deliberation. Slashing spending is good, but is this a change that you will be able to handle for the long term? Why is she trying to keep costs so low? Saving? Retirement Account? Too much rent? That would be useful to know why she is forcing herself to stay in on weekends and buy a $30 wedding ring. If she is scrimping to offset the cost of an unemployed boyfriend, well, that will get old real fast.

    And I hate be part of the rain-on-the-parade gang, but this marriage situation makes me so uncomfortable. I am speaking from years of experience both good and bad. Why is it so important that a man you’ve known for a few weeks be on your health insurance? He’s waited this long, he can wait another year. Firstly, for the sake of your relationship. Your going to be starting your marriage stressed out, broke and, after the cake is gone, cranky. Secondly, for the sake of your financial health. His huge debt is going to be something you will have to then shoulder. The inconsistent hours and employment of someone in culinary profession is going to take its toll. How many other expensive decisions is he going to reconsider?

  17. Ramit Sethi

    Hey guys, good comments. It’s really easy to get ultra-critical with these Money Diaries, so what would you constructively suggest she do (1) tomorrow, (2) next month, and (3) next year?

    My guess is she “knows” she should do XYZ, but hasn’t. Anyone have ideas about why not?

  18. Jess

    This si going to sounds extremely pessimistisc but, why the rush on getting married? T hasn’t shown to be a true partner in this relationship yet as far as I can see. Everyone gets down on their luck, totally understandable, but let him find a job so he can get health insurance… that’s not a reason to get married! (Was there a reason he didn’t land a job before he came out?) And while it’s very romantic that he quit school and work “for her”, I’m hoping that they have some sort of foundation to build from. Even the best marriages are hard sometimes and take a lot of work every day. Little patterns become big things and money is only one potential problem these two look to have. This poor girl is controlling her money like someone who has an eating disorder controls their food – maybe she feels it’s the only thing she has control over? The teeth grinding, not telling her parents they are eloping – lots of stress, and I’m pretty sure it’s not over money.

  19. CentsInTheCity

    Overall I think on her own, she is a very responsible spender. If her fiancé can get a job, I think financially they’ll be ok.

    Meeting and getting married in a 6 month time period is her own business, however, I don’t think it’s a good idea to drop out of school just to go move in with someone…especially if it’s a new relationship. Yes 4 hours is a bit of distance, but it’s not impossible to maintain a long distance relationship. In the long run it would be best for their finances for her fiancé to finish school. Why pay money for student loans and then never get the benefit of the education? It seems like such a waste. Maybe he can look into transferring to a school closer to their new condo?

  20. Lesley Denford

    Dear 20-something coupon clipper,
    Please do not rush to get married right now. I fully agree with everyone else’s comments about waiting until careers and finances are more stable. Health insurance is important (and I understand wanting to marry to get better/more benefits) but it is not a reason to marry someone! Eek.
    Just looking out for your best interests,

  21. Kuhle Kitchen

    I think she focuses way too much on the “value” of coupons and totally misses the fact that she is still spending money that she didn’t need to spend. $25 eating out, even with a nice coupon, is still $25 eating out.

    Do not use coupons for anything that you would not purchase otherwise. The whole marketing “gimmick” behind coupons is exactly what she has fallen for.

  22. Stephen T

    Sounds like she should be budgeting more so she can qualify what should constitute as guilt free spending. The online savings account can be subdivided into however many categories she wants. A little more automation might make the odd evening out not seem like so big a deal.

  23. lbg

    maybe I’m stating the obvious, but I don’t think she has money problems.

    I think her fiance has money problems and she’s about to make his problems her problems.

    Bad move.

  24. Justin

    My first thought is “how much time does finding those $25 gift cards, credits, etc. and taking advantage of them take her?”

    She’s good at keeping monetary costs low, but certainly her time is worth something too, no? (Not to mention the gas involved in running around.)

    It’s weird to me that she’s OK/happy with paying someone $260 to move her stuff less than a mile, but will go to extremes to save $30 at CVS. Granted, I don’t know if she or T have friends who could help them move in exchange for a case of beer/bottle of wine or a home-cooked dinner by T, but that sort of bartering seems more in line with her habits (and a bigger savings than most of them get her) than paying a moving co.

    I also have to wonder how sustainable her tactics are. Her financial situation obviously takes an emotional toll (not to mention a possible physical one – is she grinding your teeth because her money worries are following her to sleep?), and the things she does to save a buck sure strike me as exhausting. This is a case that would be very interesting to track over a month or 2 to see how she holds up (I hope she does, but there are some serious odds against her IMHO).

  25. Georgie

    To answer Ramit’s question, she should:

    Tomorrow: Postpone the wedding until they are both employed, debt free, and have at least a 3-month savings cushion. She should also shop around for better auto insurance (I pay $371 every 6 months and that’s with no deductible) and cell phone plan (I got a 15% discount through my work’s corporate partnership with Sprint, I discovered).

    1 Month From Now: Sit down with T and evaluate where money’s been going and long-term plans for financial solvency. Why does this girl have a bunch of money sitting in savings acocunts but she’s charging things and not paying them off? Make a plan for not only cutting costs, but bringing in more money. How are they going to divvy up financial responsibilities until they get married?

    1 Year From Now: There should be no credit card balances and everyone should have a job and insurance. If they still plan on eloping that’s fine – they can focus on building up their emergency fund to 6 months of expenses rather than using it for a wedding. Now is about right as far as setting a date, though still probably too soon to get married.

  26. JimE

    @ lbg
    Nice way to put it concisely, I disagree though, she’s fully aware of his debts, she’s getting married for “legal” reasons meaning she better know that debt will be her debt. If she hasn’t fully recognized this I agree, bad move, but it seems as though she’s done her homework so let her go take her risk.
    If 2 people are ready for marriage and want to be married thats pretty much all you need, there’s no reason to wait 5 years to be sure. My wife and I figured it out pretty quick, wedding took longer than 4-6 months but thats cuz we saved up for the big razzle dazzle party.
    I don’t think they need to do anything except stay on the same page with each other as far as long term goals, the fact that they talk about money with each other is HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE.
    Ramit, Try a couple diary, simultaneous week of spending, see how many couples actually talk to each other about their spending, and see what the tally is, bet the results are dismal in most cases.

  27. Matthew

    As a pharmacist, I cringe at those $25 gift card offers and people transferring back and forth between pharmacies. You get a $25 gift card, but could be stuck with a hospital bill or worse if you have a medication interaction that is missed because your RXs are spread out at different places. I wish people would just one place with people they trust and respect then stick with it, just like they wouldn’t go to multiple primary care doctors.

  28. Deb Danforth

    First, it’s good that she has savings, but at that interest rate it might make more sense for her to take out enough to pay off the credit card, which must have a higher interest rate than she’s currently earning on the savings. Then make sure that if she continues to use the credit card, she pays it off in full every month. Or if that’s something that’s hard for her to do, consider ditching the credit card and obtaining a debit card instead.

    Second, why are they moving? Will it save money overall? If not, why do it? If so, not sure where they live, but to move only one mile away, couldn’t they do it themselves and have friends help out? Just a thought, but it could save her $260. Especially since her fiancé isn’t working, and during the time he’s not job hunting he could pack their things up. Boxes are fairly easy to come by….many businesses will give them to you if you ask. That’s what I did when I was younger and needed to move.

    Also, has she tried getting a lower cell phone rate? Someone else has already mentioned looking at negotiating a lower auto insurance premium.

    It’s important that her fiancé get some sort of a job and begin contributing to the household income as soon as possible. He should do this whether he returns to school or not. Or if things are very tight financially with him not working, she’ll need to increase her income in some way.

    Not going to comment much on the spending because everyone has different priorities.

  29. Jenni

    1) Tomorrow: Tell your parents you’re engaged! If you’re hiding it from them, perhaps it’s your subconscious realizing it’s not the best idea and trying to hide from your loved ones who will tell you as much.

    1.5) Next Week: Definite your goals. I see a lot of “we can’t afford this” without a mention as to what you’re saving for. Clearly it’s not for wedding costs. Is it for an emergency fund while DF is jobless? Is it for money for DF to take classes at a community college and finish up his degree? A house? Kids? What timeframe is on all of these?

    2) Next Month: Get some marriage counseling. That’s not just for you, it goes for any couple about to get married. Encourage DF to get a job (at least it sounds like he really is trying) and figure out how you will combine your finances when you’re not the one paying for everything. If money is so tight, is there something you can do to earn more? Can DF start a business as suggested above? Start discussing these ideas, what it would take to do them, the benefits and downsides.

    3) Next Year: Encourage your fiance to have his degree finished up by next year. What about your job, are you happy with it? Do you want to travel? Maybe a traveling fund would be a good idea. If you’re getting married this quickly, will you be wanting kids in a year? Start saving for them now.

  30. rodrigot

    Excuse my ignorance, but if u love to cook, have some formal training and desperatelly need some income is it that hard of a problem to solve?
    Can’t u think about baking to sell b2b (like pies, cakes, bread, or small candies) or on street (fast food, dessert, candies).

    Start the business, work out the social network, give away some freebies on neighboring workplaces, etc…

    I dunno really… and I hope not to sound arrogant but I’d probly start at that, I’m not an american and have no idea if it would work this way in US, but for me it sounds slightly more appealing than hunting for a job where you’d be dicing onions for others.

  31. Jess


    Postpone the wedding indefinately until he has a job and has been working steadily.

    Plan out a payment schedule for his debt and a monthly budget to work from so there is bill money and play money and no need to feel guilty over going to lunch. Determine if T is going to work or going back to school to finish his education so that 1) he is able to complete his degree and 2) his loan payments can be postponed since he’s back in school and 3) so he can show he’s contributing/being a partner by handling his business.

    Next month: Check to make sure original budget is realistic and that both partners are working with it.

    T has created stellar resume and/or has applid to school.

    Next year: Start talking about a wedding date and long term financial goals if you are still a couple.

  32. John K

    I give this marriage one year tops.

  33. FB @

    The quick, fast marriage thing is pretty silly esp since you JUST met 4 months ago. You probably don’t even know what his favourite colour is!!!

    I usually give relationships a hard assessment at 1 year …

    AS for the “free dinner” bit.. nothing is free if you had to pay to get the food ($81!?!?!?)

  34. David M

    When it comes to the marriage, just stay on the same page and know what you’re doing financially. Waiting isn’t going to do any good financially, it’s just love advice from those that disagree with getting married quickly.

    Tomorrow – work hard to help T find a job – ask him what you can do to help. Talk about starting a catering business or something similar.

    Next month – build a business, work hard at your job, and get married if you want to.

    Next year – pay off those debts, max retirement, etc.

    Why she hasn’t done it? I think she’s too focused on saving pennies. If all of your time is spent clipping coupons you don’t have much time to help T start a business.

  35. J

    It seems that this is the reverse of many of these diaries. The writer seems to be pretty cognizant of money and seeks out bargains/coupons. Sure, it may take time from her schedule.

    The far more worrying aspect is the hurried wedding plans. I’ll speak not to the financial/emotional side so much, but to the financial side. The first most glaring yellow flag is the “getting friendly with my roommate” comment made. That would worry me personally. Now onto the financial bits — marriage is not only a celebration of love, but a financial instrument, as well. It’s entirely possible that when they find out that they no longer wish to be married she will need to pay alimony or other financial support — to him!

    I would put off the wedding until he’s got a job and completes his schooling. I’m sure the sex is great now and it does sound like he’s a good cook, but it’s very highly possible he is using you and will be a drag on your life.

    Another worrying aspect is that the parents have not even had the opportunity to meet this guy (or she his). Marriages join families, and you’ll need to have some contact with the in-laws for some time to come, especially when the children come along. Also, by observing his parents, you can get an idea of how he was raised and where things are going.

    Now: Have a very frank talk about marriage. Tell him you want him to meet your folks, and you to meet his. Set up meetings. Go. Listen to your parent’s advice and disregard it at your own peril.

    One week: Set up a budget. Discuss marital finances. Children. Life plans.

    And, of course, during this period, he MUST get a job. It’s not like he could be a house-husband, right now he is a leech living the good life — someone paying for his food, a nice bed to sleep in, a roof over his head and the ability to stay up late playing video games. Oh, and a roommate to fool around with when wifey isn’t around.

  36. Georgie

    I disagree that people’s advice to wait is purely love advice. They will be co-responsible for debts after that – it is worth waiting to get a better idea not only of each others’ complete financial situation, but so they can get married with either no debts at all or at least with nothing but student loan debt (that should NEVER EVER be co-consolidated).

    I have a friend who got married very quickly so a friend could keep his visa and he stole TENS of THOUSANDS of dollars – not out of malice, but because he had horrible financial habits, while she had awesome credit that let him take out tons of small business loans that she then became responsible for. No thanks, ESPECIALLY with all the advice here that T start his own business.

  37. Erica Douglass

    I’m not going to criticize since I know full well most of us have some sort of problems with money. What I will say is that she needs to look into whether she can get the boyfriend covered on her health insurance under a domestic partnership agreement. I’m covered under my boyfriend’s insurance (since he prefers to work a regular job and I’m Ms. Crazy Entrepreneur.)

    California requires that domestic partnership insurance be available. You have to have lived together at least 6 months and sign a notarized sheet of paper stating that you are domestic partners. You do not have to be of the same sex (obvious to me, but some get tripped up by the wording.) You have to have documented proof that you have lived together — a drivers license with the same address or postal mail such as a bill delivered to both of you at the same address qualifies.

    Anyway, she should be in no rush to marry if her state supports this. R and I have lived together two years and neither of us feel inclined to marry. Sure, it would make some things easier, but it’s expensive and a hassle. Both of us have parents with various problems which would make it difficult, as well.


  38. David M

    @Georgie – you bring up a good point about waiting, I hadn’t thought of that. Make sure he isn’t taking advantage of you. A serious talk won’t always get through that, so waiting until you’re sure that both of you are serious about taking this on does sound like good advice.

    However, to others, it doesn’t have to be 5 years from now. Just long enough to make sure no one is being taken advantage of financially in the relationship. Just remember, the financial relationship can work as long as both of you are on the same page financially.

  39. Georgie

    @David – yes, I don’t think they have to wait 5 years or anything, but certainly a year or so – long enough to figure out where the other is coming from financially. Also, if he’s only ever been a student before, it’s going to be quite an adjustment for him. I got a PhD and so was in school straight through age 18 to 28. I had NO IDEA how to function as an adult, financially speaking.

  40. Hannah

    OK No one else has commented on the fact that this girl’s fiance bought her roses with her own money. Kinda funny.

    It’s easy to be like “that guy is a loser” but we are probably just seeing one rough patch in his otherwise perfectly responsible life. Picking up and moving somewhere new to be with someone you love is pretty romantic.

    I would suggest tomorrow give up coupons and just don’t spend money at all. Don’t pat yourself on the back for saving a lot, because you had to spend to save.

    Next month, remain financially independent (single)! It seems like you’re already together, so rushing into the actual formality of marriage is unnecessary. I think getting married to share health insurance, even when marriage is coming down the line is unwise. Since he just left school and was presumably insured while he was in school, he should be able to continue with COBRA.

    Next year, when you’re both through this and back on your financial feet, get married for the right, romantic, reasons. Good luck!

  41. Ian

    I haven’t read any comments- so not sure if I’m repeating someone.

    I don’t see any real issue other than she is jumping into marriage a little quickly. I’m not going to question their love, committments, etc. I know plenty of a few couples that have married very quickly after meeting and are still together and happy.

    It sounds like she is pretty frugal with her money and has some investments started. That’s good.

    I’m not going to rip on T for not having a job or whatever. In fact I’m going to give him props for rolling the dice and moving to be with the girl he loves. Cook jobs are out there and generally plentiful- I doubt he will have a hard time finding work. From what I can tell, he is looking. There’s time to back to school, credits transfer, its not the end of the world.

    So, tomorrow and next month, let family know about eloping, and set some financial goals. As for next year, focus on establishing goals for work, travel, family, etc.

  42. MoneyFunk

    LOL. I am with MoneyMonk’s (#5) comment.

    I’ve been thru that road… and from experience…not a good plan. Postpone the wedding for 2-3 years. What is the hurry? Lets see if the couple plays worthy to eachother in that time.

  43. Battra92

    Eloping is bad news. Your families will never let you live it down and you’ll start the marriage with a black spot. Good news if you want to alienate all of your family.

    Congrats on traveling the road to ruin. Still, you’re young and can correct those mistakes later. Just never have kids.

  44. SP

    Is this girl for real? Seems sensible with her money, totally crazy when it comes to the relationship. How could you not at least question it? Health insurance is not a good reason to get married quickly. Postphone the wedding! PLEASE!

  45. sherif

    1- Postpone the wedding until he gets a job
    2- Postpone the move together until he gets a job
    3- 3 month after getting a job start planning the wedding

  46. melissa

    @Erica’s comment is really useful! I didn’t realize that–I bet it isn’t taken advantage of very often.

    Tomorrow, she should call up a few health insurance companies (or better yet, have T do it) and price out an interim health plan for him. If you have to pay for it out of your savings, do it. Have you looked into this at all? It seems like insurance is putting some pressure on speeding up the marriage, but T seems to be healthy, young, and employable–I don’t see a reason not to do this. It’s a smart money and relationship decision!

  47. JimE

    @ Erica
    Wow I did not know about that one at all regarding the domestic partner health insurance. Neato! Nice tip which I’m sure can be useful for lots of people.

  48. Ben

    – Latched onto a successful, responsible young woman
    – Dropped out of school
    – Huge school loans (with no degree)
    – Doesn’t have a job
    – “I’m pretty sure T. played Halo 3 well into the night…”
    Sorry, but this pretty much summed it up for me. I know this type of person…well. Don’t complain about judging either, because unless your readers are missing something HUGE, this sounds like an emotional and financial whirlpool about to suck you down the drain. Good luck…..

  49. Dee

    Question: Will she be responsible for his student loans once they get married?

  50. Zack

    First off, I’m not here to bash, I just want to add my opinion/logic/advice.

    Getting engaged and married shortly after meeting…at a wedding…sounds like an almost purely emotional decision. My advice is to slow it down. If you two are meant to be, it will still happen later on, so why not wait until the odds are in more your favor (i.e. statistically the later you get married the higher likelihood of staying together). And why are you doing this all secretly, without your parents knowing. Are you afraid they would not approve/understand? If anything, most parents know and understand their own children better than their children know themselves, add to that the years of wisdom they have through their own life experiences (i.e. their own marriage). So if they wouldn’t approve, it’s probably for good reason.

    As much as we say, love conquers all, you still need to have the logistics taken care of. If you two have differing values, goals, or views of money, it will lead to difficult times no matter how much love is involved.

    I always listen to advice, because I believe it is the closest thing we have to a time machine. The director at my company once told me, “You should wait at least 18 months before getting ready to marry someone…because by 18 months the real person usually comes out and that’s who you would be marrying.” And that is true for both of you in a relationship.

  51. Vonny

    “$60 in very unusual expenses (wedding ring, night guard) – about $75 in eating/drinking out”
    You must watch out for “unusual” expenses. My experience is that every week/month you will have unusual expenses so in the end, it is not really unusual. Yes they are one offs, but next week/month you will have a different one off. It is far better to add up your spending for a couple of months and average it out to find out really how much you are spending.

    The “daily spending” tally is also deceptive. There are things which you pay for in advance which lasts a while, and even though you didn’t take money out of your pocket that day, you are still using it. Example, staying in to watch a movie – you spent no money supposedly but you are still using electricity which you paid for in bulk earlier in the month. Hence why again I think it is better to average out your spending to see how much you spend every day.

    Food – you should be eating better. Starving yourself at lunch on day 5, eating some junk dessert just because it was free and getting a cheap hot dog is NOT good. At the end of the day, if you don’t take care of your health you will regret the health problems you get as a result (and it will cost you more in medical expenses and other things which can’t be tallied in $ terms). Since your fiance is such a good cook, why not bring leftovers to work for lunch? It is cheap and healthier.

    Make sure you are financially stable before doing big things like getting married, having kids, travelling, moving etc. This means T needs to have a job before you get married. Ideally, he has a job before he moved in with you but he’s already done that so it’s too late to change it.

    Coupons – only use these if you NEED them. So if you don’t NEED something, don’t go out of your way to spend a coupon. Most often, coupons still mean you spend money on top of the coupon value. With the entertainment book, if you wish to spend say 1 day each week/month etc whatever you feel is acceptable to go out for dinner then make sure you stick to it. Do not think that just because you have a coupon, you must go before it expires since you are still spending extra money in the end. i.e. the whole spend to save phenomenon.

    (1) Tomorrow: Bring leftovers to lunch
    (2) Next Month: Make sure T gets a job. When he does, he’d better be contributing to rent and expenses. Tally up his expenses while he’s not working and make sure he pays it off when he does. Unless one party is not working for a reason that benefits both of u (e.g. looking after kids) then I believe that they should still be paying their fair share of expenses. You are not his mother and aren’t supporting him for nothing. (Sorry, I don’t subscribe to the “our money” idea. I prefer to go halves with all my expenses and I’ve been with my boyfriend for 8 years, living together for 4 doing just that.)
    (3) Next Year: Make sure T pays off or is well on the way to paying off his student debt. Then with two incomes (provided you’re still together with T and he’s found a job) you should have enough money put a signficant amount in savings. If T hasn’t found a job, you probably should think twice about him taking advantage of you. I am assuming you are using your credit card wisely and paying it off every month unless it’s at 0 interest. If not, do that first before saving. Savings are for those big things so I’m sure you have 101 things on that list of what to spend it on and I’ll leave that up to you. Eventually in the future, when all that’s under control, then think about investing…..

  52. hustler

    I think it’s very helpful if couples sit down and discuss financial goals, where they are now, where they want to be, and work together towards those goals. Both of these people sound like they have potential, T. could have a great career if he pursued it, and she is great at saving money. I suggest they not rush into a marriage just for the insurance. Create a budget, find T. some type of a job, and work towards removing debt and start saving.

  53. Daily Links for Thursday, July 9th, 2009

    […] The Money Diaries: The 20-something coupon-clipper | I Will Teach You To Be Rich […]

  54. LT

    just want to tune in on the unemployed finacee situation- went through a similar one myself. thought i was oodles in love, parents kept pushing for a wedding, but the dude wasn’t gonna be able to bag a job (philosophy major, lazy ass), plus i didn’t know him as well as i thought (yes he dates guys now).
    in any case, i kicked him to the curb and a few years later am with a guy i adore with an awesome job that my parents love. i’ve known him for 10 years (old friendship turned saucy), and while we were going to get married IMMEDIATELY!!!! we’re waiting a bit for the money situation to calm down.
    is it the right thing to do? who knows. was marrying the broke unemployable gay dude the right thing to do? god i hope not!!
    i just don’t want to have to buy a $30 wedding ring at target. they have some nice stuff, but i hope to think i’m worth more than that.

  55. Doctor S

    Def red flags flying up with this one. Moving into a new place together and only one present source of income? They are definitely living in a smaller city if rent is only $700. they do a good job of spending wisely when it comes to food and everything, but I just can not get past the fact that this dude T is unemployed. People drop out of school b/c they do not have their head on right OR they need to spend more time on a potentially successful business. Thats it, not to be closer to your female. You can be closer to her after you are done school and can land a job.

  56. Steve O

    It’s really sad that people are so worried about this guy being unemployed. He dropped out of college, moved four hours away, and rearranged his whole life so he could be with the woman he loves. And you want him to have a job lined up before he gets there?? He’s obviously applying to places–what more do you want? Bottom line: their priorities were relationship first, money second. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about supporting themselves, but they just care about their marriage more. I think they’re doing great, saving money when they can while he’s trying to find a job he can enjoy and make good money at.

    That said, I’d never get engaged to someone six weeks after meeting them. BUT, these people are not me. And they’re not you.

  57. David

    I’m amazed at how shallow some of these comments are. Many people are suggesting waiting to get married, but more so for their own moral beliefs rather than for any financial reasons.

    I say this because the girl obviously seems very aware of her own finances, as well as her fiancee’s debt. Also, seeing as how they’re going to the courthouse to get married, it doesn’t seem like they’ll have a big wedding to pay for.

    Just because you wait a year – or two or three or four – will not guarentee that the marriage will be any more successful. I know that most marriages have a longer dating period, but most marriages also end in divorce, so what does that prove?

    Also, it seems like they are open and communicate about money, which is probably more than most married couples can say.

    As for him dropping out of college – so what? If he was going to school to learn to be a chef, and he believes that he has the skills to at least get a first job he would be happy with, why should he continue to go further into debt? Once he gets that first job, he’ll be able to start build to experience. Experience that will do more to get him his next job than having a diploma would.

    And criticizing him because he plays video games into the night? SO WHAT! It doesn’t make him a bum. I consider myself an intelligent, hard working person, but I love to play video games. Sometimes well into the night if I can’t sleep.

    I am truly amazed at the comments. This money diary seemed like the most level-headed, financially responsible one yet, and the majority of the comments criticize her for getting married so quickly, or her fiancee for being a bum?

    It sounds like BOTH people in the relationship are being honest about their money and making good choices. They should be applauded – not criticized because they don’t share your beliefs regarding courtship and marriage.

  58. Gime

    This person and I have so much in common. I am a professional who makes a good living, I am engaged to a cook/chef, and we just finished his third job search in 1 year. Also, we got engaged about 1 or 2 months after we met and have lived together for 3 years since. We plan on getting married, but we dare not elope for fear of our mothers. And that is my main advice on that. Don’t elope, your family might never forgive you.

    On the catering business…DO NOT under any circumstance attempt it at this point in his career. It is so much trouble and requires a lot of money up front. Also, most people want someone that has an established reputation. My DF tried it, and although it wasn’t a disaster, it was not a money making venture either.

    About T’s job search. His school should be helping him out. One thing to look in to is if he can get credits for working. At the school my DF went to, they require 700 hours every other year of working at a restaurant. Maybe that way, he can live close and finish his degree.

    I think others have covered the basics with the exception of the importance of an emergency fund. The restaurant business is so crazy and volatile, a six month emergency fund is a must. It is hard to build it up, but start slow and you will get there. It took me two years but I finally got ours together. This should be your priority!

    Good use of I love that site too. Eating out for us is a must not an option. My DF always needs to be eating at new places and trying new types of food. It inspires his work and so I think it is reasonable. I don’t think that anyone will get anywhere by completely depriving themselves and 25 dollars on a steak dinner is totally a steal. Don’t feel guilty.

    It sounds like this person is really smart and grounded about her finances, and it seems like T is on the same page. Now they just need more income.

  59. Paul

    Following up with Vonny’s comment:

    All this coupon cutting seems to add to her expenses. It appears that she’s buying stuff that’s otherwise unnecessary/excessive just because it’s on sale.

  60. mcara

    You need to stop! Take a deep breath. Take another one. Now read these posts as if they weren’t from you. What would you say to this girl? What would you say about her boyfriend? If it’s go for it, then okay, it’s your life. If it’s what the…???!!! Then you need to rethink everything.

    One extra thing. You only think he has student loans, but you need to check deeper to make sure there isn’t more.

  61. J

    @Amy — wow. just wow.

  62. Deb

    At the age of 47, I may well be the oldest poster here. Why is someone my age following Ramit’s blog? Because you are *never* too old to learn, ever.

    Take it from one who has been down this path – WHO YOU MARRY IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FINANCIAL DECISIONS OF YOUR LIFE. If you two do not share the same goals financially, if you do not share similar values in regards to money management, your union will be extremely rocky and may be doomed. And that, my friends, could result in an ugly financial setback right in the middle of your life.

    At age 28 I married a man after dating him for 2 years. I thought I knew him well. I knew he had some issues, but CRAP was I clueless as to how bad they were! I did not dig deep enough prior to marrying him. End result: At the age of 35, after 7 years of marraige and a 9 year relationship, I had to start all over with only $1,200 in cash, a meager retirement account, and credit card debt for the first time in my life (his, which he had hidden from me and refused to pay, so it became MY debt). He and I simply could not get on the same page financially.

    He was okay with living in debt and not saving for retirement. He actually screamed at me when at age 32 I came home and told him I had joined my 403(b) at work. The man owed years of taxes to the IRS – it was ungodly, and he refused to pay his business taxes, year after miserable year. The only reason I discovered there was a lien on our house was because I came home early one day and intercepted the mail. What made it escpecially maddening because was that he ran a business successfully and was a hard worker. He made good money. But he refused to grow up financially. He was impulsive, he could not distinguish a need from a want, he spent whatever was in his pocket at any time. He wasn’t interested in changing his behavior, even after the IRS came after him.

    I am not saying this gal will end up where I did. But do NOT jump into marraige lightly, ever. Rushing marraige for insurance purposes – are you kidding!? NO WAY.

    Know eachother well, and be sure that you are on the same page with your financial plans and goals. Talk about it, LOOK at his financial history and credit report, and let him see yours. Discuss who will manage the bills, what the priorities should be, what the goals are and the steps you’ll need to take to get there, etc. Take a personal finance class together!

    He needs to get a job, ANY job, at this point. It may not be his dream job, but he needs to be working. Finding a job needs to become his job.

    I am not exaggerating. Marraige is one of the most singularly important financial decisions you will ever make. You do NOT know this guy well enough to be jumping into it yet. Use your head, not just your heart.

    Best wishes.

  63. Kevin M

    She’s in OK shape financially from the limited info given, but her impending divorce from this guy in a couple years could ruin her for a long time. Trust me, I speak from experience. After 5 years of working (and spending, partially my fault) I had little to show for my efforts. I basically had to hit “restart” on my life at 28. At least I was still young, but all the missed opportunity from 23 on still kills me.

    1) Tomorrow I would sit down and really discuss where this is going and why the need to rush – health insurance is not a good reason
    2) Next month – revisit the job hunt and how the relationship is progressing
    3) Next year – maybe revisit getting married if a) he has a job, b) is repaying his debt and c) you still love each other.

  64. rsenwood

    I agree with Deb, who you marry is the most important financial and emotional life decision you will ever make.
    I am concerned that this fellow is taking advantage of her. spending her money, and she’s running errands to pick up his contact solution while he sleeps? He needs to be busting his ass to find a job, anything to pay the bills. At the concert “T had $15 in cocktails”, when he couldn’t been focusing on meeting people to network for work.
    tomorrow: Schedule a time to sit down with T and review your financial situation. how much he owes to whom, come up with a one-month plan, six-month plan, and a five-year plan to start. You need to discuss both your long term financial and life goals. Also, you should remain engaged for at least a year before getting married. Stop planning your wedding for now. Scheduling an appt. with a marriage counselor is a fantastic idea.
    Next month: You need to meet his family, and he needs to meet yours. You need to know what you’re getting into. Also, if this man is unemployed, he should not be accepting lunches and dinners out. He is a cook, if he’s not working he can be saving you both money by cooking healthy inexpensive meals, with leftovers you can take to work. He needs to contribute to the household in some way. He should look into a long term solution to the career situation in addition to a job now. does he plan to remain a chef forever? perhaps he could be taking some business courses now if he plans to open his own restaurant down the road. He could intern somewhere, bus tables, anything to get his foot in the door.
    Next year: if you’ve met each other families and networks of friends, and discussed your financial and life goals, and feel confident that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, and you will support each other through thick and thin, and you’re willing to accept the possibility of being the breadwinner of the family, then set your wedding date.

  65. xmasy

    T is a lucky son of a gun…..but u know what, T wll someday know that if he plays Halo 3 well into the night, the only booty he will ever see is his own

  66. xmasy

    about being jobless and marrying someone jobless….c’mon guys….we can marry a woman who is jobless but why cant it be the other way around?

    I was jobless when the wife married me. Today I make over $200K a year. The economy sucks…and it sucked when we got married as well. (9/11 happened)

  67. imelda

    @xmasy: Thank you! If the comments on this post aren’t indicative of a double standard–one coming from the women, not the men–than nothing is. I can’t believe people are bashing him and criticizing him for not contributing when he moved his whole life around and changed cities for her.

    He’s cooking meals from scratch and job-hunting pretty intensely (2 interviews in 1 week?), which is a great start. I don’t want to dismiss everything that above commenters have said, though–there are other warning signs in this relationship (parents don’t know? Rushing to get married? Flirting with roommate?) that I wish the OP would stop and think about. It also seems that the fiance has much more expensive tastes than she does–he buys the rack of lamb, flowers, spends money on drinks, etc., while she clips coupons obsessively.

    The biggest thing missing from this post? Any sort of goals. Why is OP cutting costs? She has plenty in her bank account, so what is she afraid of/preparing for?

    My recommendations: 1) Have a frank talk with the fiance about different spending habits and how to prepare for combining your finances. See Suze Orman’s YF&B for tips. 2) Establish clear money goals. 3) Meet and tell the parents before you get married. Please. 4) Fiance should look into continuing his culinary education part-time in the new city. Why not? 5) Read some of the comments above with an open mind.

  68. Vonny

    Steve O – I think it is very important that this guy is unemployed. If he was intelligent with money, he would have saved enough to support himself during his unemployed stage rather than sponge off his gf. When I moved in with my bf, he was between jobs but he was fully supporting himself with his saved money. If T doesn’t have any money saved, he shouldn’t be moving in with her until he does. Of course, this assumes a stable home life (assuming he moved out of his parents’ home) which he might not have had so I don’t think I have the background knowledge to comment there.
    To his credit, at least he is doing some domestic work like making her meals.

    xmasy – I wouldn’t condone marrying a woman who’s jobless either unless shes at home looking after the kids 😛 Women like that give all females a bad reputation going shopping all day spending their husband’s wage on crap 🙁

    Either way, I believe that there should be a fairness on both sides. Both sides should be contributing financially and/or domestically to the relationship. There is an imbalance in this relationship which has got everyone worried. He has potential which is to be recognised but this needs to be followed up with action (i.e. getting a job or some source of income) and to commit to someone without any income or savings is financially dangerous.

  69. J

    My financial advice:

    Get a pre-nuptual agreement!

    That’s NOT to say that their relationship is doomed — I just think everyone should get a pre-nup. I think it’s especially important when there’s a financial imbalance in the relationship, as there is here.

    By the way, a pre-nup is not an unromantic document. It’s a commitment to act in the future based on the love and respect you have for your spouse now, not based on how you may feel about each other down the road if things get tough. It helps you be fair to each other even in a situation that may bring out the worst in both of you. Financially and personally speaking, it protects you both from the possibility of an ugly, expensive, lengthy divorce that takes away from everything good about what you had together.

  70. Journey

    I thought this post was very useful as I am a 20 something. It makes me reflect on my food spending habits. I am certain I will be back here for more.

  71. Erin

    I think it’s very odd that her fiance dropped out of school in the middle of the semester. Why not finish the semester or even the school year and then transfer to a school near her? Financially he lost all the money he spent on credits for that semester.

    I think the spending on these diaries needs more context. At the beginning of each diary I would include the region of the country they live in (so readers have an idea of whether their cost of living is realistic for their area), their salary, and maybe a mention of how much debt they have.

  72. BTDT

    Why are you doing personal tasks, including T.’s (job search, pricing moving expenses), at work? Shouldn’t you focus on the job you have?

  73. The 20-something coupon-clipper

    Hi there, thanks for all your comments on my Money Diary.

    It’s been awhile since I kept track of my spending (that was 8 months ago) and I was pretty shocked to see that my diary was published. I figured that it was rejected or something, but apparently not! The last time I visited was about three weeks ago.

    Wow. Some of the comments are supportive, and others seem a bit critical.

    Many of you seem to want some background information or an update on my situation.

    1) My former roommate was a dude

    2) We did elope in December

    3) Our parents were supportive

    4) T secured decent employment at a restaurant right after we got married. The owner has been very impressed by T’s work and T is expecting a promotion sometime in the near future.

    5) We live in the Tampa Bay area, so it is not exactly a small city

    6) We have mutually decided to be a childless couple (neither of us have ever been interested in having kids)

    Reading this was eye opening for me, as it seems so long ago! I was so panicked and worried about the situation, but I think I really overreacted. T is a good husband who genuinely loves me. We’ve been married for seven months and while we have our issues like everyone else, I have no regrets. We are very much in love and knew we wanted to be together from the start.

    Since we’ve been together, our financial situation has actually improved substantially. We’ve saved up about $25,000 (when T and I met I had less than $5,000 in my savings account) and I have more than $10,000 in my company 401k (which has a 66.66% match). The monthly payment for our student loans combined is about $1,000. After paying our bills and expenses each month, we’re able to save close to $1,000 on top of everything else. That’s also after contributing 10% of my pre-tax income into the 401k.

    Our bid on a short sale property has been verbally accepted by a bank, we are about 50% on the road to home ownership by the end of the year. This is a single family home on a large lot in fairly good condition, ONE block away from the water. The house is on a small island, and is a desirable neighborhood. Most of the comparable homes in the area are going for close to $100,000. The price we offered was $47,590. We are just waiting on written confirmation, the inspections, and appraisal. Even with flood insurance, the mortgage payments and what not will be a few hundred dollars cheaper than our current rent, which is considered a great price already. My husband is multi-talented and plans to build our own furniture and remodel the house himself. (his father and grandfather spent many years in construction)

    I’ve seen a few comments questioning my ability to handle money and my intelligence. Five years ago I graduated from a private college with close to $30,000 in student loans. (My parents are not rich or well off by any means and my school was totally private – no federal grants or loans) I moved to Texas sight unseen to take my first job making not very much money. While there for close to three years I owned a condo and rented out the second bedroom to a coworker in order to pay for most of the mortgage. When I was hired at my current company, the condo sold in three weeks and I cleared $15,000 in profit.

    At this point in time, I have only $7,000 in student loans to go and am very proud of paying these off as early as I have. T’s loans are quite substantial, but we have put a lot of thought into dealing with them. Currently we are very much able to afford them, but don’t want to have $1,000 payments for 30 years. If we gain substantial equity in the house (and I definitely see that as a real possibility), we’ll pay what we can toward the loans when we sell.

    Thanks for reading and commenting on the diary, and I do appreciate all the advice and suggestions!


  74. The 20-something coupon-clipper

    One more thing: we pay off both of our credit cards in full every month. I have NEVER had a balance carry over. The rewards programs are great, and using the cards helps build up our credit score.

  75. Not My Mother

    I don’t understand. He drops out of school because pursuing “culinary arts” would mean you don’t spend much time together but then he starts looking for cook jobs? How is that different, apart from him starting at the bottom?

    I’m not going to comment on the relationship or finance stuff other than to say she is letting her emotions and ‘love’ for this guy make decisions that should be made with her head, and justifying it all up the wazoo.

    I met a guy and had a whirlwind romance, moved in together within a couple of months and everything. He was the one, was going to make all my dreams come true. It lasted 18 months and the last 10 or so were miserable. Plus I ended up with $15k of debt courtesy of him (paying all the rent, paying off his credit cards just for him to run them up again). Sometimes when people give advice it’s from experience, and you’re not that different. BEWARE.

  76. David

    @ JM (the original poster) –

    Congrats all around! I am very happy for you and your husband. It seems like you guys are really on the right path.

    If I were you, I’d ignore all the harsh criticism you’ve seen on here. I’m all for getting advice from others, but a lot of it was baseless, and not constructive (or based on facts) in any way.

    Also, I am jealous of your house – only a block from the water!

  77. David

    @ Erin –

    Saying he wasted the money he spent on school by dropping out is an example of sunk cost fallacy. No matter what he did, that money was spent.

    If he no longer felt that school was helping him reach his goals, then there is no reason to continue. Spending more money on it won’t bring back the money he had already spent, nor would it make school any more useful to him.

  78. The 20-something coupon-clipper

    David, thank you for the nice notes. I agree with you on the college costs being a sunk cost. My husband T did not expect to meet anyone or get married. Actually, he was quite set on that. His plan was to go to culinary school and work 24/7 the rest of his life.

    Then he met me and that changed.

    If he continued with his culinary degree (which would be another two years) it would cost infinitely a lot more money (culinary school runs about $30,000 per year for tuition ALONE) and he would have ended up with a similar job situation that he is in right now. He is well respected and liked at his restaurant, and is in charge of the food. (It’s a gourmet restaurant to boot)

    But now that we are married, long term, he would like to eventually go back to school (at a much cheaper state school) for possibly business or real estate.

  79. Vonny


    I’m glad you posted the update. Sounds like things are going alot better than they had when you posted the original diary entry. I am happy to hear that T got a job, your eloping was ok with your families and you are discussing how to handle his debt together. Now that you both have jobs I think it will be much easier and less stressful on the money side of things. Sounds like you are back on track 🙂

  80. Weekly links to Posts I've enjoyed | The Monetize blog by Michael Fletcher

    […] The 20 something Coupon clipper – I Will Teach You To Be Rich’s Money Diaries look at a typical 20 something so busy doing the wrong things she has no time to realize it. […]

  81. JimE

    Glad to see you followed up on this. Since everything appears in order you seem good to go. Nice to see what appeared to be a success story in the making actually become one (contrary to all the naysayers). Now about those kids you won’t have……

  82. aaron 8 Pillars

    I have found that a successful marriage is founded upon similar goals and values. 8 Pillars offers a financial education course that really helped me and my wife get on the same page. I am very passionate about financial literacy.
    I think coupon clipping and budgeting are good when they are inline with you and your partners financial goals. Budgeting isn’t an end in itself.

  83. Oz

    Jumping on the bandwagon a little late, here.

    I find the plethora of “postpone the wedding several years” comments to be more than a tad annoying. I’m young myself, but I know many couples who married “too early” and are doing about as well as any other married couple.

    I will say that this sort of relationship-impatience (I loathe to use the phrase “rush to the altar”) is characteristic of new relationships. If you mesh well together, that will fade away and simply being next to each other is more than enough. That’s about the time when the prospect of marriage takes on a new, intriguing patina.

    Taking legal responsibility for someone else’s debt is just never a good idea, no matter who they are or how much you may love them. This alone is reason enough for me to agree with the suggestion to hold off on signing the nuptial papers until you are both 110% certain of where each of you stands financially, and where you stand as a single unit.

    Whether that takes two weeks or two years just depends on the two of you.

  84. Kayla

    Time to find an employed man who can make his own phone calls and buy his own contact solution!

  85. NorthernGirl

    I didn’t think I’d read all 85 of these comments – but I did. Wow. I was happy about the update too… good luck & congrats with all.

    I guess the only other response I have is to the person who suggested holding out for a bigger diamond – as insurance. It’s obvious to me that you’ve never bought, owned or tried to sell diamonds. They are not the hot commodity they once were. I am the proud owner of a $10k (yes, appraised) hunk of a rock that I cannot sell (we’re divorced and I’d rather use the cash towards our kids’ college savings plans.) Diamond jewelry is desperately over-inflated and you will never be able to get a decent return from an estate piece (which is what ‘used’ jewelry is romanticized as.) I guess there are exceptions – but if you or he pays full retail for a diamond, you’ve already been had. Don’t count it as an asset. Don’t start sewing pockets into your dresses for when you steal away in the night… you’ll be stuck with saggy hemlines.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Yeah people don’t realize that if they try to sell their diamonds, they’ll only get pennies on the dollar. Seriously. Try taking any diamond to sell tomorrow and you’ll be SHOCKED by the paltry amount you’ll be offered for it. More about diamond marketing here.

  86. Inspired

    I just started my own blog inspired by The Money Diary series on this site because I know that tracking my family’s spending will help us realize what we need to cut back on and change. I will try to track my spending constantly instead of one week, and we’ll see how things improve a few weeks, months or a year from now. Thanks for the inspiration, Ramit!

  87. The 20-something coupon-clipper

    It’s been over 7 years since my entry for The Money Diaries was published, and I can’t believe how long ago this was! T and I are STILL MARRIED (no children), and have relocated to another state for work. Our financial situation is in a totally different place. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen off the coupon clipping wagon a bit. While I still try and look for deals, I’m not nearly as obsessed with coupons as I used to be. That’s likely due to my NEW obsession – which is sewing and quilting. Our combined income has doubled, and we ended up renovating and selling that $47,900 house for $85,000. We pocketed over $30,000 and used the entire sum to pay off one of T’s larger (private) student loans. We still have a ways to go on the student loans – our payments are now about $750 a month. Currently, we own another home (new construction) and plan to take it from builder grade to a more custom look. We plan to also use proceeds from this house to become debt free in the next few years. T and I have both switched jobs several times since the original TMD. I still work in television, and he just received a great promotion managing a chain of restaurants. Both of us are making more money than we ever have in our lifetimes. Life is good! Thanks to everyone for reading our story!