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The Money Diaries: The 20-something emotional spender

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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.

Consumerism

Today’s post is by a 25-year-old woman who feels guilty about spending money she doesn’t have.

* * *

Day 1
10 a.m.: Pay day! Go online to check my payments and see how much I got paid. Another small pay check. I consider working more hours despite knowing school is too demanding to do so.
2 p.m.: Decided to buy Starbucks for everyone at work. Spend $13 against my better judgment. Half of me is happy to do something nice, half of me is ashamed of spending the money.
7 p.m.: Spending the weekend alone, boyfriend is out of town. Decide to buy some groceries, not because we need them but because I know I’ll be lonely. I walk to the grocery store so that I cannot buy more than I can carry home. Despite this spending limit, the bill still reached $55.

Day 2
10 a.m.: Wake up alone, feel like going shopping. Decide instead to do some yard work, my wallet cannot handle any shopping.
5 p.m.: Came home for supper on my break from work to save money. The $20 bill I thought I had in my wallet is gone, I must have spent it but can’t even remember where.

Day 3
9:30 a.m.: Just spent $30.54 on postage stamps. I needed to buy 10 stamps to mail a few letters, ended up being caught up in all the cool designs and bought more than I needed. I probably won’t even use the ones I bought because I like them too much.

Day 4
1:30 p.m.: Wrote a check today for a race entry fee, had to check my account online to make sure I had the $45 in my account. I also made a note to myself not to use the account until the check clears. Feel guilty that at 25 I don’t even have a $50 cushion in my checking account.
9 p.m.: Go for supper with my little sister. The bill is $25 and I am prepared to pay for it but I’m secretly happy when she grabs the check and insists on paying.

Day 5
12 p.m.: See a sweater I must have, convince myself it’s practically free because it’s on sale. Another $69.29 on the credit card.
12:30 p.m.: Get home from buying said sweater to a credit card statement. It seems that since I acquired a significant amount of credit cards I can’t keep them straight, missed the payment on one last month. Could have sworn I paid it. Went online immediately and paid as much as possible on the card: $125.00.

Day 6
11:30 a.m.: Decide I need to go out to eat again. Spend $13 on the meal and feel guilty two fold, unhealthy and expensive.
4 p.m.: Get a phone call that the underwear I ordered is in at my favorite local store. I go down to pick them up, not only did they get in the 4 pairs I ordered, but also a regular shipment, I pick out one more pair. The total is $108.85; I just spent $108.85 on 5 pairs of underwear! On the credit card of course.
7 p.m.: Despite having an unlimited pass for a local yoga studio I go to a class at a different location because I prefer the longer class. Drop in fee is $13, he gives me a deal, only $11. Drop in gets expensive over time but I convince myself I deserve it and I’m doing something good for myself. After 2.5 hours on the mat I know I made the right choice.

Day 7
10 a.m.: Decide to stay home all day to limit my spending, not much I can do from home, but first thing in the morning I resist the urge to buy something online. I go read instead.
11 a.m.: Get an e-mail to renew my JPG magazine subscription. Enter my credit card number for another $35.
10 p.m.: Am pleased with myself because I manage to go the rest of the day without spending a dime despite going shopping with my little sister.

In Sum:
Amount of money spent that I actually had: $0, number of things I bought that I actually needed: none. Number of nights spent worrying about money 6/7.

* * *

Read more about guilt and our money.

To be featured anonymously in a future Money Diary, click here.

Journalists/reporters: If you’re interested in working together on another Money Diaries for your publication, let me know.

* * *

Conan-O'brienBook

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66 Comments on "The Money Diaries: The 20-something emotional spender"

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MD @ Studenomics
7 years 2 months ago

She’s a few years older than me but pretty much describes a few girls I know. I’m just wondering, what is her level of debt?

Rebecca
7 years 2 months ago

WTF, $100 on 5 pairs of underwear? Save something for the honeymoon, girl. Literally, put it in the bank and save it.

Rachel
Rachel
7 years 2 months ago

Maybe start by picking one actionable thing you can do to save. Could you possibly change your membership from the gym you don’t like to the one you do? Or drop the subscription all together so you’re not paying drop in fees on top of the monthly studio fee?

You can do this! Good luck!

Josh
Josh
7 years 2 months ago

I wonder what she does for living. This can’t possible continue for her, she doesn’t mention any savings, future goals. Maybe she should read Ramit’s post one by one.

By the way, how can I be selected for this money diary? It seems cool to be the host.

Grant
Grant
7 years 2 months ago

She should try the freeze-your-credit-cards-in-a-block-of-ice strategy to slow down spending money she doesn’t have.

Also, get Ramit’s book and pay attention to the budgeting section. It’s very simple and realistic.

caroline
caroline
7 years 2 months ago
I sympathize. That girl was me, right after I graduated from college. Had my first “real” salaried job and was making more money than I thought possible. Spending it too, and then some. It took a long time (including the addition of graduate school debt) to wake up and smell the creditors. And it took a few more years (and a lot of discipline) to clean up my act and move in the right direction. I sincerely hope our friend in the Money Diary wakes up sooner than I did. Thanks for the post, Ramit!
Rosa
Rosa
7 years 2 months ago
Sigh. This reminds me of me… except I’m basically have been mooching off my parents. Starting August, though, I’ll have a “real” income (though really really low) so for the past few months, I’ve been very slowly working towards reining in my crazy spending habits. Shopping girl, I just wanted to offer a few notes (in the off chance you take the time to read the comments): 1. I know the $55 on groceries seems like a huge amount, but honestly, I don’t think this is where you should be concerned. No, groceries aren’t necessary, but they are still food… Read more »
eMoneyLog
7 years 2 months ago

$100 on 5 pairs of underwear….Really…! with no money in checking account….

AD
AD
7 years 2 months ago
Like Caroline (#7), this isn’t that much different than how I was right after college. I would run up my card doing the same sorts of things Emotional Spender does, but then I’d pay the card off, only to run it back up again. No savings, just a cycle of debt and repayment for five years. Then, I got married, and my husband and I got serious about paying off everything, including our cars. We did it in less than a year, but we were highly motivated. Now we have an EF fund and we’re saving for the house we’re… Read more »
Trent
7 years 2 months ago

I would spend $200 on 5 pairs of underwear if I could afford it:
http://www.rei.com/product/763021
Or if I was this girl, I would do it anyway.

JT
JT
7 years 2 months ago

Wow, well at 25 she’s still young enough to learn. I would really start with the envelope system – she’s obviously not so good at tracking exactly what she’s spending her money on, and just throwing everything on the plastic. So, ditch the plastic, and just put cash into envelopes for rent, food, entertainment, gas, etc. – and when that money is gone no more spending for the month.

A-ron
7 years 2 months ago

I feel sad for her, but can empathize, except for the panties part. Trying to fill some empty void with spending is just another method of tranquilization. I know, I’ve been there.

BTW, why are they called “pairs” of underwear when it’s just one? I can see jeans because of the two legs, but underwear?

Tracy D
7 years 2 months ago
Sadly, this reminds me of my spending habits when I was first out of college. Hopefully she will decide to stop spending the money she doesn’t have and live within her means. First of all, she should only buy necessities. Um, $100 for 5 pairs of underwear? I’m guessing they were Hanky Panky thongs? Don’t get me wrong, they’re the best panties out there, but not if you’re going to feel guilty wearing them or end up paying 3 times their actual price due to credit card interest/late payments. Gap makes a halfway decent copy for about $3-5/pair and I’m… Read more »
Nikc
7 years 2 months ago

This lady seems pushed around by her habit and her possessions more than anything. It reminds me of watching Bubs on “The Wire.”

I know so many people like this, and I really wish there was an effective way to tell my friends about saving money without seeming like a condescending douche.

Ryan
7 years 2 months ago

I see a lot of recommendations so far for the envelope system and various other methods… all good suggestions. Though I think the best suggestion is to cut up those credit cards. That way you absolutely cannot spend money that you don’t have.

The envelope system doesn’t work if you don’t have cash to begin with. 😉

Amy
7 years 2 months ago

So glad I stumbled upon your blog-very interesting!

xmasy
xmasy
7 years 2 months ago

How come I never meet Americans who are willing to spend on others?? But always read about them here!!

J
J
7 years 2 months ago
At the beginning of the week, she says school is “very demanding”, and this prevents her from working more hours. Yet she still finds time for shopping, meals out, yard work, yoga and (assuming this) training for a race. It seems that she needs to not only get the financial house in order but also look into a time management system. It seems that she already has the fitness thing going, which is good. I’d think that getting time and money under control could provide benefits to her — she could work more hours to help with the debt problems,… Read more »
AD
AD
7 years 2 months ago

@Tracy D–Yup, Hanky Panky are the ones I shell out the big bucks for! So funny you said that. BUT, I can do that without guilt because we’re saving almost my entire salary at this point. It feels better to buy without guilt.

Erin
Erin
7 years 2 months ago
Was someone following me around one day when I was in my early 20s? Because this sounds exactly like me 10-15 years ago. Except that I didn’t buy such expensive clothes, but I definitely bought clothes I couldn’t afford on credit cards and went out to eat with friends when I didn’t really have the money for it. I really, really came to regret it and it took me many years to get out of the financial hole I dug. This woman needs to find a personal finance plan that works for her, whether it’s Ramit’s book or Suze Orman… Read more »
Trendy Indy
7 years 2 months ago

I was once that girl..but it didn’t take me that long to realise that I was heading the wrong direction. The fact that she signed up to be featured in Money Dairies itself shows that she wants to ckean up her act. All she needs is a little bit of conviction and ensure you surround yourself with some financially smart/sound people and don’t feel embarassed to seek help/support

Sarah
7 years 2 months ago
Some people gave some good suggestions like the envelope system and cutting up credit cards. Might I suggest that she calls up her credit cards and uses the script from Ramit’s book to see if she can get them to lower the APR? It doesn’t hurt to try. That will at least help a little. Also, getting the credit card due dates to be on a more predictable schedule will help her avoid late fees and ballooning interest rates from defaulting. She can do this by calling the credit card’s customer service as well. These suggestions won’t change the bigger… Read more »
Tracy D
7 years 2 months ago
@AD – It sounds like you and I have a lot in common. My husband and I made paying off our debt together our main priority when we moved in together 3 years ago. We had a total of $40k in debt and it took us 3 years of diligently paying it off. We made the final payment last week! Now we’re putting our money towards building our emergency fund and vacation savings. It feels awesome to be credit card debt free (we still have a car payment and student loans, but the balances on those are small). Good job… Read more »
laura
laura
7 years 2 months ago

wow, i’m surprised so many people are sympathetic! she’s paying yoga fees to go to a diff studio even tho the other one is already paid for? couldn’t she just go to 2 sessions?

girl needs to learn control! 🙂

Kevin M
Kevin M
7 years 2 months ago

It’s sad that she’s disappointed at spending $55 on groceries, but doesn’t flinch when she spends almost $200 on a sweater and 5 pairs of underwear. And $30 on postage?

Since I criticized, I’ll offer a piece of advice. When you get the temptation to spend on something tangible – clothes, stamps?, etc. – make yourself wait an extra day. Go home, sleep on it and before going back to the store, check all your credit card statements and ask yourself if you really NEED it.

Frank Kim
7 years 2 months ago

Love the photo w/ Conan!

Courtney
Courtney
7 years 2 months ago
I was in her shoes for a couple months as well. Luckily I snapped out of it before I went into debt, just depleted most of my savings. Reading this website as well as Young, Broke and Fabulous by Orman would be my first advice to her. Cutting out the shopping isn’t easy.. I love going to Target or the mall when I am bored, but exercising and taking up yoga has definitely given me more to do in my spare time. Also, continue the money diary: write down every single expense and then add them up at the end… Read more »
David
David
7 years 2 months ago

I wish I could be empathetic, sympathetic, or even show compassion, but I can’t. I don’t think there is any system that will help her if the mentality is flawed on what priorities are. She won’t be able to get ahead until she gains some basic discipline, makes sacrifices, and improves time management. After she does this, I think the systems would help optimize her ability to save and kill debt. Obviously if she has time to go shopping, eat out, do yoga at two different clubs, etc. she has time to do some additional work.

Rebecca
7 years 2 months ago

Oh, I can relate! I remember back in the day in high school when shopping was the activity my mother and I did on the weekends. I think it was kind of a good thing since I became so sick of it by the time I was older.

anonny
anonny
7 years 2 months ago
My advice, make a spreadsheet of your credit card balances and due dates. The sooner you face the music, the better. Later on, think about how often you actually wear that sweater or those fancy underpants, or the postage (that is going to collect dust in a drawer) and if they were worth the $200. Once you save up a cushion – stop carrying that credit card in your wallet. If you want to stop worrying so much, take control. Having some savings in the bank and no (or a smaller) CC balance will make you feel as good or… Read more »
AD
AD
7 years 2 months ago

@Tracy D–Sounds like you guys have accomplished a lot! Also, a tip on Hanky Pankys–if you have a Last Call Neiman Marcus, sometimes you can luck into them at half off. Sometimes they also show up on Bluefly.com.

Ha ha. I love how I’m commenting on a Money Diary about how to save money on overpriced thong underwear.

20-something
20-something
7 years 2 months ago
As the author of this money diary I thought I would share a few thoughts: -Thank you all for the constructive criticisms and feedback. One of the reasons I did this was to see myself through an observer’s eyes. I know it is bad, I know I have a problem, but getting to real change is always difficult. It is a work in progress. -Second this was written last summer (almost a year ago) and I would like to say things have changed for the better. Not that thing’s didn’t get worse first but I am now on my way… Read more »
CentsInTheCity
7 years 2 months ago
There’s definitely some things that can be done to immediately improve this girl’s situation. Right off the bat, she needs to find a method of tracking her spending. I think she really needs to see where her money is going. Either sign up for a free service link Mint.com, keeping receipts, or better yet keeping a spreadsheet. Many credit card companies will let you change your due date. I would suggest moving them all to the same date and keeping the list of cards. Once a month she can set a reminder on her phone or calendar to sit down… Read more »
Susan
7 years 2 months ago
Lots of focus on the underwear! I can relate to the shopping high that’s been widely mentioned in these comments, but, as we all know, it fades by the second time you wear your new acquisition. It’s an expensive addiction to feed. Recently, I’ve realized that the shopping high can *almost* be achieved by ogling clothes/electronics/books/whatever online. It may feel like a waste of time, but if you invest 30 minutes a day into ogling instead of actually shopping and spending, that’s still a small price to pay. As Ramit often emphasizes, it’s more about the psychology of spending and… Read more »
Aurelia Masterson
7 years 2 months ago

Why has nobody suggested getting rid of these credit cards? It’s very materialistic. I guess she is not really learning the meaning behind her yoga classes–maybe she should go find a 3rd studio.

Dar
Dar
7 years 2 months ago

It’s a good thing she’s only 25. At this rate, she’ll need to be working a while to pay off the debts she’ll be accumulating until she gets her wake-up call.

Kristy @ Master Your Card
7 years 2 months ago
I was this girl, so I understand. She clearly understands there’s a problem, so now she needs to sit down and take actionable steps to fix it. First and foremost, she’s got to figure out her goals, followed very closely by a budget. I’d say she needs to put those credit cards of hers into a shoe box and put them up where she can’t reach them without really thinking about it. Just out of curiosity, where did the $125 come from to pay the credit card she missed one month? A few entries earlier she wasn’t even sure she… Read more »
Nicolaï
Nicolaï
7 years 2 months ago

Wow…. this person is not well.

moneyremix
7 years 2 months ago

The Week in Review: Money Issues #41 (side note: This ain’t yo papa’s blog!): http://tinyurl.com/o9zlaa #moneyremix

butter
butter
7 years 2 months ago

Seriously why doesn’t she just declare bankruptcy?
I think it is criminal the way universities have gotten into the loan scam business.

Ben
Ben
7 years 2 months ago
Ramit…..Seriously, stop writing your own Money Diaries and pretending it’s someone else. There is no personal information about this person, no background, and the daily posts are about 4 lines long. Seems to me they used to be much more informative, descriptive and REAL a few months back. I think you are busy so you just scratch together what you think a typical 25 year old girl would spend money on to incite !!! from your commentors. Anyone could have written this up in 5 minutes as a sloppy blog post. Sheesh, If your going to post for someone else,… Read more »
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[…] Emotional spending […]

The Arabic Student
7 years 2 months ago

Why do you always pick people who are flat broke and don’t know how to use money correctly? Or are those the only people who read this site?

Strick
Strick
7 years 2 months ago
She seems to be soooo close to being OK with money. I mean, its not like we’re talking about shopping sprees daily buying tons a stuff (which is kind of what you expect with the multiple references to spending because “need to shop”/bored/lonely). Its just the few things she did buy were not in her price range. If she had gone to something like Ross/Target and spent $20 on a sweater and underwear, and had skipped the magazine and stamps, and corrects this issue of having a pass at a Yoga club different than the one she uses, she would… Read more »
Geena
Geena
7 years 2 months ago
Oh my gosh, I was like that girl once. I used to spend on credit without even thinking whether I had enough in the bank to pay for the purchases. What made me change my ways was when my Dad got hospitalized and suddenly, it made sense to have savings tucked away for personal emergencies. I began to create a budget (even bought a $0.99 iPhone budget app called WalletWhiz from iTunes) and disciplined myself to stop spending. Whenever the urge to splurge hits, I think of what happened to my Dad, check my budget and remind myself of my… Read more »
JimE
JimE
7 years 2 months ago
I found this one fascinating in two respects, first of all, the amount of commenters that totally identified with this girl. It just goes to show how many young women totally buy into the stereotype of the shopping woman with no justification. I’m sure there are plenty of guys who at a similar age bought into the “player” stage of guyness in a similar stereotypical fashion, its not the same but startling to me how many people think behavior is acceptable based on some self perpetuating myth. Secondly the repost by 20-Something was awesome. I bet if she had to… Read more »
ellen
ellen
7 years 2 months ago

this makes me feel so much better about how i spend money (most of it spent on clothes that i get tired/rid of after a month or 2)

Denis
Denis
7 years 2 months ago

This seems almost unreal. At what point does common-sense come into play?

Janna
Janna
7 years 2 months ago
@JimE: I must say that the stereotype is not “women shopping with no justification,” nor is it about “common sense,” @Dennis. Rather, I would argue that women who spend like this need a reality check because they are taught by media and by our culture’s expectations of women that in order to be accepted and valued, they must buy that sweater to keep up with the latest styles and trends, otherwise they’ll be perceived as unfashionable. Or, buying that $100 underwear will make them more sexy — at least they’ll FEEL more sexy, for maybe about a nanosecond. Love how… Read more »
JimE
JimE
7 years 2 months ago
@Janna I agree completely that my comment comes completely from the standpoint that there is something in society that says this is acceptable in a general sense, but if you break it down to an individual case by case basis it “shouldn’t” hold any water. As for the implication that it is from a guys point of view, I can only say that my comment references only that there were commenters that agreed that they identified with this post. Yes I am male. Every personal financial advisor will not condone the conduct represented in this post as a long term… Read more »
Lucia
Lucia
7 years 2 months ago

I’m a girl in my late 20’s and this post isn’t far from something I would experience. Its hard to control your spending, even when you know you don’t have the money to afford things like $20 underwear. I find the best way for me to stay on track is to look at my finances daily, always plan ahead for all meals, stay away from malls and clothing shops and try to think of my control as a game….how long can I go without spending money on unnecessary items.

gime
gime
7 years 2 months ago
In this post, I see not myself but my close friend. I love her to death but her spending is out of control. She has no savings so everything that happens is a financial crisis. For example her roommate moved out, and she didn’t have enough to pay the full rent. Me on the other hand, I am 25 and financially responsible. I have about $20k in student loans, which is about half of what I took out, I also have an EF with a years worth of expenses, I max out my 401k and my IRA, blah blah blah.… Read more »
Ian Ultra
Ian Ultra
7 years 2 months ago

Given her spending and honest descriptions, no financial advise will *really* help – she def has an emotion/control problem, as she mentioned she feels lonely and immediately feels the need to spend with money she doesn’t have. You see this with other socially acceptable addictions – mainly food.

I’m glad to hear Ms. 20-Something that you’re on your to getting out of debt, I wish you the best with emotions and control.

Sherene
Sherene
7 years 2 months ago
I agree with an earlier comment in this thread about the immense peer pressure among the 20-something crowd to ‘live in the moment’ and not plan for the future. As one of the few in my age group to start putting away savings for grad school, retirement funds, mortgage downpayment, etc, I got flak among friends for being so sensible. This is not to say that I did not go out, drink, eat, shop or travel – one can do all of this and still save a lot if there’s good planning, deal-hunting, gratification deferment and budgeting involved. Wish more… Read more »
Bruce
Bruce
7 years 2 months ago

The Money Diaries series has been great to read.

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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something Emotional Spender I know a lot of people like this. I wish they read sites like The Simple Dollar. (@ i will teach you to be rich) […]

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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something Emotional Spender I know a lot of people like this. I wish they read sites like The Simple Dollar. (@ i will teach you to be rich) […]

Steve O
7 years 2 months ago

It makes a difference if the money is in Canadian dollars. That makes it a little better…

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[…] Will Teach You To Be Rich presented: The Money Diaries: The 20-Something Emotional Spender.  This actually made me think of tracking my spending and where it goes in a similar format.  […]

RT Wolf
7 years 2 months ago
I realize this is incredibly late, however I wanted to drop by and congratulate the author for commenting and getting her act together. Good work! Two or three notes: – I don’t see this is as a financial problem, I see it as a lifestyle/spiritual problem. It sounded a bit like the person in the diary (who I suppose you’re not anymore) has no sense of purpose, no sense of joy of their own in their life so must fill it with shopping. The “I deserve it” bit just set off red flags in my head. Get some goals that… Read more »
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[…] over the head and says, “this is the right way to do it” I listen. I was reading this Money Diary over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich and saw the dreaded phrase, “I deserve it”. I […]

katie
katie
7 years 1 month ago

Sounds like so many people I know–ever think about doing a post for college kids/high school seniors about saving/general money knowledge?? I feel like we (as in this age group) are uneducated when it comes to being a “real person” financially and may be making mistakes when it comes to investing (or lack there of). Just a thought.

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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something emotional spender […]

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