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The Money Diaries: The 20-something semi-conscious 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.

iStock_000006806693XSmall

Today’s post is by a 24-year old social worker who also works a second job. She’s a semi-conscious spender who’s struggling with the willpower to cut down on spending. But in strict financial terms, she might be doing ok.

I’m trying something different today by offering some advice and resources in the diary below. Let me know what you think.

* * *

Day 1
5:40 p.m.: Got the email requesting me to do Money Diaries! Sweet. Checked my Wachovia Account Statement and saw that my loan payment of $200 went through although I submitted it last week. While I enjoy the convenience of online payments, I loathe the turtle pace it often takes to see my true available balance. Bought a Caramel Frappacino at Starbucks with the debit card. I thought about it for at least a half hour in the car beforehand and flip flopped, but I rationalized it by telling myself that I ran this morning so I am allowed to treat myself. Brought lunch so that was an avoided expense. Total Spent today: $3.79

Day 2
4:45 p.m.:
After at least 4 days of visiting the Nike Running website and looking at some sweet new gear (training for a marathon) and ordered a Dri-fit shirt and shorts with the desirous zipper pocket in the back, totaling $61.99 including shipping. I have an Orange (ING Direct) Savings sub account specifically for clothes so I transferred the appropriate amount over. I haven’t been too spendy lately; the last time I bought clothes was over a month ago. I am proud of myself – clothes are my weakness. T-Mobile Bill came in today: $84.10. That is an automatic deduction, which after 4 months of having my AWESOMEDONTKNOWHOWIEVERLIVEDBEFOREIT Blackberry (suck it iPhone-users), I still am unable to get a handle on when the bill comes and is deducted from my account. Total Spent today: $146.09


Day 3
3:15 p.m.:
Bought breakfast this morning, but I basically had no choice – ate breakfast #1 at 5 a.m. and then after my track workout, I had to eat (obviously) and I had to be to work soon after I showered and left the locker room. So I got sausage egg and cheese and an Odwalla smoothie (new obsession), bringing the breakfast total to $8.45 on debit. In the back of my mind I know I should start leaving my debit card at home for the day thereby forcing myself to bring lunches, breakfasts and any other snacks I might need. Somehow I counteract this thought with “well what if there is an emergency?” Total spent: $8.45
[Ramit’s comment: What she is talking about is using barriers to prevent yourself from spending money]

Day 4
10:12 p.m.:
I managed not to spend any money today! I actually lost my wallet for about 2 hours (it was in a binder in my work car). Made pancakes at the boyfriend’s house for a late breakfast/brunch and was treated to what basically is a guaranteed weekly Saturday dinner by my bf. Upset after checking the mail and seeing I still haven’t received my paycheck from my second job. Total spent: $0
[Ramit’s comment: See the results of going cash-only for a couple weeks]

Day 5
2:40 p.m.:
Bad morning, failed attempt at a running workout due to knee pain which in turn made me have to spend 12 bucks on a Runner’s Knee strap at Sports Authority. Please note, I spent about 25 minutes perusing the store although I KNEW what I was going for, which is usually the more desired approach to shopping. Not seeing anything I liked more, and because I just spent $60 on running gear, I left with only the strap. Oh but look, Barnes and Noble is in the same strip so of course I had to run up in there and get a Dean Koontz book and another book I had been eyeing. I am very impulsive and have difficulty really restraining myself. I spent $23 on two books that I EASILY could have gotten on half.com for half the price, but I like the instant gratification of having what I purchase. The positive of today is that I was able to refrain from buying food! Total spent: $36.57
[Ramit’s comment: I’m not opposed to spending money, but much of this unplanned spending could be mitigated by (1) using barriers and (2) PLANNING WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND BEFOREHAND AND USING WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY TO NOT GET INTO SITUATIONS THAT TEMPT YOU TO SPEND MORE]

Day 6
4:30 p.m.:
So I was in an extreme rush this morning and in an effort not to be late and for an excuse to get a frozen coffee from Panera, I stopped after my first appointment to get a sweet breakfast sandwich and aforementioned iced coffee $8.42. I also neglected to bring lunch so I took out a $20 at the bank and bought a meatball sub for $5.08. I did have some snacks that held me over for later. I didn’t feel guilty however. I find that the closer I get to receiving my paycheck, the less restrictive I am on myself about my spending. When I got home I saw that my paycheck came from my second job: $259.50. Whoop! Total spent: $13.50
[Ramit’s comment: It’s interesting that this Money Diaries participant is pretty perceptive about the causes of her overspending — for example, how she loosens her spending near payday, or how she is impatient and spends more to get something NOW! — but isn’t so clear on the solutions. In this case, she could plan lunches at the beginning of the week and save significantly.]


Day 7
6 p.m.:
Deposited my check today and felt fine about buying lunch at Whole Foods. I know it really will just make much more sense to buy lunch fixings at the grocery store, but I hate making it and putting everything in a bag. [Ramit’s comment: I know what you mean, from my original article on barriers and my mom’s Indian food.] Buying ready-made food is just so much more appealing, albeit expensive. I spent about 40 minutes in Best Buy today looking at laptops as well although I believe that I am very far from purchasing one. I am constantly reminding myself that it’s not a necessity at this point, being that I have a work laptop. I do have a sub account set up, and to date it has $25 in it. It may just end up being funds for a laptop that I want to buy for a friend for upcoming b-day present. Generous, I know, but she spilled milk on hers, has had a bad streak with electronics and has no money (but is learning from tips I’ve provided via I Will Teach…). Total spent: $10.96

In Sum
I spend way too much on food, and would do better buying – no, USING the food I have at home to make dinner and lunch. I realized that I don’t spend AS ridiculously as I once did, but the food thing is getting out of hand. $100 got automatically deducted from my Wachovia Checking to ING Direct as well as $25 towards the “clothing account.” In all reality I should be saving way more being that I have a company car and a second job. I need to write down my savings goals because they aren’t currently clear. I can appreciate however, my discretion and not going absolutely nuts and draining my checking account on a regular basis. This week: $125 saved, $219 spent, extra $259 earned. Not a bad 7-day stretch.

* * *

My comments:

  • If I were her and I knew that willpower was a problem for my spending, I would automate the hell out of my money and make sure it was aggressively going to sub-savings accounts to hide it from myself.
  • She seems to identify some of the reasons WHY she’s overspending, but that’s only part of it. There is a lot of emotion in this post (“I felt fine…I am constantly reminding myself…I spend way too much…”). Though most people cannot turn off all emotions like I have, I like to move towards a slightly cooler, systemic way of handling money, rather than a hot/emotional way of thinking about it.

    Also, guilt drives me nuts with money. We all know people who sigh and say, “I know, I know…I really should pack my lunch / contribute to my 401(k) / work out more…” and then do nothing. Just identifying what you “should” do. Guilt is one thing. Action is another.

  • She’s right that it’s not all bad. Process-wise, there’s a lot to work on. However, while I don’t know her income or debt, the spending numbers here are modest enough that they could probably be handled with some automation, a change in perspective, and perhaps some earning on the side. Easier said than done, of course.
  • This reminds me of a lot of my friends who spend extravagantly because there’s no overarching goal to save for. In other words, their savings account is really a “should” account — “I really should save for something… — until the next shiny item comes along and they buy it. Forget the 10 Year Savings Strategy. Sometimes, it can be something 3-4 months away. And we need these sub-savings accounts for specific items, not guilt-inducing “should” accounts that invariably get ignored.

All in all, pretty interesting to read.

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

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/ramit.

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54 Comments on "The Money Diaries: The 20-something semi-conscious spender"

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xmasy
xmasy
6 years 11 months ago

Laptop for a friend?? There are many working married people out there who dont even buy laptops for each other 😉

Tyler
6 years 11 months ago

If your sweating the $3 cup of coffee here and there that might indicate that your way over committed on the big, fixed costs like rent, car payments, Crackberry payments, etc. Also, costs like the Crackberrry accrue everyday, not just the day the bill comes due on.

Humaira
6 years 11 months ago

Ramit, I liked the new format of this segment. I liked the notes, and she’s right, she’s not as bad as some of the money diariers, but she does need to control her spending more.

Kevin@OutOfYourRut
6 years 11 months ago
This is an outstanding format!!! The poster seems to be doing a lot of impulse buying on the fly. On the surface this seems a bit self destructive, but she’s juggling a full time job, a part time job and a running schedule. In her life, time may be more valuable than money, as it seems she’s frequently transitioning from one substantial activity to another. As you said Ramit, there doesn’t seem to be any plan that she’s saving for, even though she’s making progress in the midst of all of the impulse spending. The biggest issue I see here… Read more »
No Debt Plan
6 years 11 months ago

She should take the books back, get the refund, and get them from the library. I would challenge her to look around at the books she currently has — how many has she read more than once? Her tax dollars are paying for the library so she might as well use it.

Enjoyed the new format. And this one isn’t as heartbreaking as some of the others one. Getting those goals in writing and making changes with her finances to get her there, especially with a second job, should help her moving forward.

The book thing just really bothers me. Foolish spending.

Snowballer
Snowballer
6 years 11 months ago

I wonder if her problems wouldn’t be solved with the envelope system or more sub accounts. II do the ING sub account thing as an electronic envelope system myself and it works GREAT (for me anyway). She seems to have her clothes compulsion at least somewhat controlled with it, why not do one for Coffee, Eating out, etc?

Patrick
Patrick
6 years 11 months ago
I can’t emphasize this enough: get your books at the library. It satisfies that need for immediacy and it’s completely free. Get familiar with your library’s website. That will show you if the book is checked in at your local branch, and if not, you can order it to be delivered there. I mean, sure, Dean Koontz books are cheap. So maybe it’s not a big deal. But that’s not the kind of book I want to own because I won’t read it again. I just got done watching the entire series of the new Battlestar Galactica, all of which… Read more »
melissa
melissa
6 years 11 months ago

I’m interested to hear about why the library is overrated. I use Netflix for movies, but I have become obsessed with the Brooklyn Public Library’s hold system for books. I can get practically any book I want fairly quickly, and they hold it right by checkout so I’m in and out in minutes. I do absolutely love going to bookstores, so I’m not a total library convert, but for day to day reading, it’s actually easier for me than buying books. (but I am unusually close to the library and pass it on the way home)

k
k
6 years 11 months ago
I find the new format really annoying. The commentary at the end I don’t mind and it might actually be useful to the featured person or to readers who can see themselves in the diary entries. But the running commentary throughout has got to go. This has been one of my favorite features since you began running it, because it’s so interesting to hear strangers talk about their financial lives *in their own voices* but including commentary on individual entries destroys that flow and makes it seem more like I’m reading a column by Ramit that quotes extensively from one… Read more »
Track Our Spending
6 years 11 months ago

It’s interesting to see how some people spend more throughout the work-week than on the weekends as she apparently does. I don’t know if this is average, but I guess a lot of people spend on lunches and coffees throughout the week.

I tend to spend more on the weekends because I feel like I deserve to not make my own food on my days of rest haha.

Anyway, interesting diary and I like the comments within, also.

Foxie @ CarsxGirl
6 years 11 months ago
I like this format, makes it a bit more interesting to read. (At least to me it does.) I can relate a lot, I think. I spend quite a bit on lunches at work… Then again, I budget for the expense and wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t afford it. I often cap myself at $5 per day for a lunch and use coupons when I can. Arby’s coupons are my best friends! For books, I buy mine used on Amazon. Sure, there’s libraries… But the closest one I have the easiest access to, in a word, sucks. They never… Read more »
Patrick
Patrick
6 years 11 months ago

I’m extremely curious why you think libraries are overrated. I cannot come up with a single possible objection from a consumer standpoint except perhaps the possibility of being frustrated by an inadequate collection.

I get so much value and convenience from my library. But perhaps I am too passionate a devotee and cannot see that being able to borrow books, DVDs, and CDs for free, browse and reserve them online, and pick them up three blocks from my house (you’re not unique in this Melissa, they are designed to be conveniently located) is overrated.

hollyhk
hollyhk
6 years 11 months ago
I like the new format! This reminds me a lot of “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” except she has a better idea of what she’s doing and is much less extreme. It’s just in the way she writes about running to Barnes & Noble because it’s there. I don’t think she has that many problems, to be honest. I really relate to buying books on an impulse; I’ve been waiting a week to go to the bookstore when I probably could have gotten a shipment from Amazon at half the price in the meantime. I think many books are worth plenty… Read more »
Alex
Alex
6 years 11 months ago

I like the new format as well.

Kevin
Kevin
6 years 11 months ago
I still think these money diaries are pretty useless unless we get more background on the person. What kind of income, debt and other expenses does she have? Sure, it’s fun to say “Don’t spend money on things you don’t need”, but without knowing what she brings in, it’s impossible to assess whether or not she can afford to spend what she spent. We know she has a 2nd part time job, but no mention of what the primary job brings in. I like the idea, I like the new format where you leave some comments, but we still need… Read more »
anshuj
anshuj
6 years 11 months ago

Add my name in the list of people interested to hear why libraries are overrated. “Nice ambiance ( for book lovers anyway), Solid collection, minimum possible hassles, highly automated systems of turning books in, check out, reminders of due books and placing a hold and what not. I just love the libraries. It sure would be interesting to know what you come up with against libraries. Did they decline buying your book 😛

JimE
JimE
6 years 11 months ago
The format works moderately for me, although I would prefer that you keep the in week comments strictly to the links and do not expand commentary in between. I try to get the feel of the person through their text and the interruptions take away from that. Aside from that Hooray for our first normal poster in forever! so normal in fact that the commentary is mostly about the library. I do think it’s funny that this woman gets up early and is a bit of a fitness monster so nobody thinks twice about her not having a “social life”… Read more »
Nishant
Nishant
6 years 11 months ago
I personally love buying books. I want to have biggest book collection in the world, and not because ti brag that I read all those books, because i do and i will continue to go back to them to refer to them in life. Ramit always talks about spending money on value. If i get one idea from that book… thats the biggest bargain of your life! So yeah if your going to the book shop to buy Cosmo magazine or some stupid Twilight series style book than yeah probably a waste of money, i’d rather get it from the… Read more »
The Frugal New Yorker
6 years 11 months ago

This was a good entry from someone who seems pretty levelheaded. Your suggestions to her seem very good, Ramit–and I think future contributors to this series will benefit from your comments!

As for the format, it’s better when you stick a comment in after the end of a complete day, rather than in the middle of the diary entry (like on day 7).

Kevin@OutOfYourRut
6 years 11 months ago
Track Our Spending (11)–That’s a good point on weekday spending. For some people, money is lost on the big categories like an oversized mortgage, car payment or credit card debt. For others, it’s like a slow but relentless drip! One’s a situation, the other is a lifesyle. The person with the big fixed outlay is more likely to know he’s in a bad place. The drip person doesn’t see it because he’s constantly spending just below the pain level. Plus he’s still getting something for his money through the gratification of the small purchases. That may be the tougher situation… Read more »
No
No
6 years 11 months ago

Let’s see, she is running but also sucking down frappucinos. Since one cancels out the other, perhaps she should give up both. If she did so, she’d hardly spend any money at all.

Margo
6 years 11 months ago
We all have well-defined opinions on every topic, don’t we? Regarding buying books versus the library: I think some people like to own books and some people just like to read them. If you just want to read them, sure, the library’s fine, but if this girl wants to spend twenty bucks every once in a while on some books, I think we should leave her alone (assuming she has savings, no debt, etc – as others have said, it would be interesting to know that about all the Money Diaries people). I feel the same way about her occasional… Read more »
Tyler F
Tyler F
6 years 11 months ago

It _is_ quite curious that most of the comments here are about the library and not the diary subject (way to thread-hijack, Ramit). That’s saying something! She’s pretty normal and pretty balanced! We can all use some improvement, but good for her 🙂

Gen Y Investor
6 years 11 months ago

I like the new format with Ramit’s comments at the bottom. But, I think it can be improved further by having the writer post some basic info like their income and higher fixed cost payments like rent, mortgage or car payments.

Sometimes these high fixed payments don’t get mentioned by the writer b/c they occur monthly and may not fall during the week of the diary.

Just a suggestion

-Gen Y Investor

anne
anne
6 years 11 months ago

I am training for a marathon myself and find that I am eating a lot more than I would be if I wasn’t training. My foods bills have definitely increased. I agree on packing lunches or at least some snacks. If you make some lunches and snacks you can ensure you are getting nutritious food to balance out the Frappacino

Kevin@OutOfYourRut
6 years 11 months ago

Maybe if she gave up the extra spending ($219) she could give up the part time job ($259). That would free up her time for other things, like her running, and she wouldn’t need the extra stuff she’s buying.

Mike P
Mike P
6 years 11 months ago

If she is training for a marathon she will need extra calories during the day, that being said there are cheaper and better alternatives than gourmet or frozen coffees.

Also it would be better if we had an estimate on income since this is anonymous it could definitely be in there.

I would definitely suggest going cash only for her as the debit card is too easy and she might need the ‘pain’ of forking over cash.

JT
JT
6 years 11 months ago
OK, I’ll add my two cents worth on the new format: I like the comments at the end, not in the middle. But I do like it. On the money diary, she seems alright for the most part. We don’t get a glimpse into too much of her “bill stuff”, just her everyday spending. One thing I noticed is that she tends to beat herself up for eating lunch out or getting a cappucino. Meal planning would help but I would also encourage her as a young person to just budget some money for eating lunch out occassionnally (once or… Read more »
T. Lawless
T. Lawless
6 years 11 months ago

My library is overrated because you can’t find Ramit’s book there!

prufock
prufock
6 years 11 months ago

I’ve noticed that none of these diaries have much mention of rent and bills. Is that on purpose? I know that on any given week I have at least one bill to pay, between rent, electricity, phone, car, insurance, student loan, etc.

Jon
Jon
6 years 11 months ago

I’d have to agree with some of the previous comments: Money Diaries is very interesting and would be a great tool…if we had additional information on the person. Without a background as to income, living situation, cost of living/location, you have to assume that the person is barely getting by in order to assess their spending habits. I have yet to read a Money Diary (at least I don’t recall) where the diaried spending habits would put a substantial salary in jeopardy.

AJ
6 years 11 months ago

I totally relate to this article. I need some sub savings accounts.

Bem
Bem
6 years 11 months ago

Ok, did anyone else think this? Completely meaningless unless we know her overall financial situation. She doesn’t say how much is in her bank account; she doesn’t tell us how much she earns every week at her job. For all we know she could only be bringing home like $500 a week of more like $800. Or she could have 100 grand in the bank from an inheritance. These are all relavant facts and without them these diaries kind of lose their flavor and importance.

Greg
6 years 11 months ago
Ramit – great story today…really enjoyed it and found a lot of myself (sadly) in her. I’ve definitely tried to do more automation and taken a lot of your advice to heart and am being more conscious about my spending. @ Bem – I think the whole point is that it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank but rather how carelessly we spend when we could be saving more or doing more with that money. I have enough money in the bank. (Well, you can never really have enough and I don’t have that much.) But…I’m… Read more »
Adam
6 years 11 months ago
A few comments: Like the new format, though agree with the earlier comment that I preferred the comments at the end rather than inline. Figure we should let the diarist tell there story and then we can pick it apart 🙂 Regarding the library, it’s something I flip flop on. I’m a voracious reader, and both buy and borrow books. However, one of the things that frustrates me with the library is that most of the books are hardcover. I recognize that they are longer lasting for lending, but at the same time, as someone who travels for work, and… Read more »
Mary
6 years 11 months ago

You introduced a new format and everyone seems to like it, except for the placement of comments inside the poster’s paragraphs. Maybe you could try a money diary where you post all the financial info – income, debt, etc. – and see how that goes.

cukamunger
cukamunger
6 years 11 months ago
1) Based on the information in the diary it sounds like the person has taken steps in managing her money, but hasn’t quit grasped the concept of using these tools to her best benefit. If she is going to want unbridled use of money for food during the week, she should plot out what she wants to spend every week, taking into account rewarding herself for training (kudos on the running btw, keep it up). I totally understand the thrill of deciding what you want on the spot and the ennui of buying in bulk and then not wanting it… Read more »
R.S.
R.S.
6 years 11 months ago

I’m glad you include your own comments into the format. Maybe tried to include financial information and see what type of feedback you get =). Can’t hurt too much, and can help optimize future money diaries.

Kevin@OutOfYourRut
6 years 11 months ago

Bem (36) raises a good point, it might help if we could know more about the big picture of the people in the diary. Our opinions could change based on overall circumstances.

We all have certain opinions based on the information given, but if we knew she had $100k sitting in the bank, we might just pull back and say “good job, carry on”.

Kuhle Kitchen
6 years 11 months ago

I wonder if commenters read other comments before posting.

prufock
prufock
6 years 11 months ago

@Ramit: it might be boosting your comment count, but if a lot of the comments contain criticism that we don’t know the person’s background, is that better? I’m not sure criticism/complaining = more interesting.

Kelly
6 years 11 months ago
I feel like she needs to examine her time priorities. She feels it’s important to bring food for lunches and breakfast but it doesn’t seem like she has set time aside just for this. All of her impulse spending is convenience based or almost as a reward of some kind. This makes me think she is constantly overwhelmed by a lack of time. If she could create non-monetary awards for herself that may alleviate the reward portion of the impulse spending. For the time portion, one way to examine your time is to create a 3×3 grid on a piece… Read more »
KellyA
KellyA
6 years 11 months ago
I think the diarist has a pretty good balance going on, she doesn’t seem to mind the part time job or have issues managing her time. Most of the spending “problems” stem from her guilt but she is (presumably) making her bills and enjoying the coffee so she’s further ahead than many posters who don’t know where it all goes. Suggestions: today- set up a loose meal plan for days you run so you’re less likely to go out for a second breakfast -or- build that cost into your training budget next week- once you’ve selected the training gear you’re… Read more »
Sean
6 years 11 months ago

Hmm, I think she needs to NEVER look at Best Buy for an overpriced laptop. Try the internet.

That being said, thanks for this update, and great new format! Although it’s easier to understand if your comments are at the end of each day (I also thought you were hijacking her diary to tell us you were buying a new laptop).

Dave
6 years 11 months ago

Great hilarious post. Easy to relate too. Thanks

Dave
LifeExcursion

Ben
Ben
6 years 11 months ago

RAMIT!!!!!

More Money Diaries ASAP please!!!!!!! Thanks!

Brian Armstrong
6 years 11 months ago

Truly Amazing.

This is random but I noticed you’re using Aweber’s blog broadcast…have you seen http://feedmailpro.com? You might like it.

Hope it helps,
Brian

Paula at CreditLaw.com
6 years 11 months ago

Wow. I wish I had that much control over my own spending.

This is the first post I’ve read on your blog, but not the last. I do like the format; it was clean & easy to read.

Now I’ll have to figure out my own improvement plan… those $3 coffees add up and after reading this I feel guilty.

Strick
Strick
6 years 10 months ago

I didn’t realize until the T-mobile bill that regular bills were included in these Money Diaries (thought it was just out and about spending being tracked). Now I am extremely impressed with how little everyone has been spending throughtout all of these entries ($219 of spending for the week!, wow! my electric bill is that much)

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[…] The Money Diaries: The 20-something semi-conscious spender (I Will Teach You To Be Rich) – The Money Diaries are modeled after New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries, only these entries focus on coinage instead of…you know what?  Just read them.  Each post is a fascinating look into the spending habits of one anonymous person over one week. […]

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