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The Money Diaries: The 20-something who can’t seem to get out of his parents’ house

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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.


Today’s post is by a 25-year-old who lives at home with his parents in an attempt to save money to buy a house. Meanwhile, he obsesses over small expenses thinking that they affect his housing fund.

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Day 1
3:45 p.m.: I read my email while taking a break from work and I find out I’ve been chosen to do the Money Diaries. Oh jeez! Why today? I just spent $107.00 on the Inazuman DVD Box Set. I suppose I still have time to cancel the order but the demand for Japanese TV shows in America is small so I think I’ll make this my only real purchase of the week.
4:30 p.m.: I left work at 4 and carpooled home. It’s been a month since the coworker chipped in anything, so he gave me $20. I think what with gas going down I might want to tell him he now only has to pay me once every 5 weeks or so. Sure that’s less money coming in but honestly, I feel bad taking too much money for what is essentially a mile out of my normal commute.
4:45 p.m.: I get home and the giant box from DeepDiscount’s DVD sale is on my bed. Luckily they are all presents (Christmas time) bought by my siblings for each other under my credit card account. This of course means that I have now find a way to collect almost $400 from them. Why I lend money to relatives I will never know. My brother will probably pay me back after the first of the year unless he gets some seasonal work or sells something on eBay, but everyone else should pay me back within a week.
5:56 p.m.: Dinner is over and I finished my exercising. I’ve decided that even though there are a few things I could buy that I genuinely need, I’m not making a special trip out. I resigned myself to the comfort of my bedroom, my TV and DVD player for some entertainment. Ah yes, that TV was literally funded with my first paycheck at my current job. Why I didn’t save that money and buy it later I don’t know. At least I didn’t put it on a credit card. Total Spent Today: $106.95

Day 2
7:38 a.m.: I check my budget for the month on my work PC while I wait for some of my systems to come up. It looks like buying all my Christmas presents in November was as dumb an idea as buying them all in December except I get to skip the stores for a month. While I’m nowhere near maxed out, I will probably have to tap into savings to cover the bills next month. I guess I should just leave the CC home for a few weeks. Also on the way to work I debated going through the drive-thru at some fast food place to get a breakfast sandwich but for the sake of my wallet and my waistline I didn’t. I also got my eBay invoice. $22 in fees this month. Not too bad but it’s been a slow month for acquiring merchandise I guess.
9:02 a.m.: After getting a big project at work rolling, I check the email yet again and find out that the Inazuman set has shipped so no chance to cancel it now. Oh well, if I don’t like it I suppose I can sell it.
10:30 a.m.: I give in to my hunger and eat an apple from my lunch. This of course means that I now have an inadequate lunch and since tonight I work late I will have to pick up a side dish somewhere.
1 p.m.: I got back from lunch without too much damage. I walked around the mall eyeing a few items here and there. Steve & Berry’s was having a final closeout of shirts for $1 a piece as they are closing tomorrow. While it is tempting to find a few shirts for lounging around, none are work appropriate and I pretty much picked out all the casual ones I wanted last week. I also walked around the dollar store and Target. Normally I love to browse their stationery and pen section to see if there are any good new pens on the market. I instead went straight for the cafeteria and bought a Popcorn Combo for $1.58 including tax. I ate half of the popcorn and put it in the back seat of my car. I’ll save that for tomorrow’s snack I guess.
5:30 p.m.: I’m getting my haircut tonight by the same barber who cut my hair when I was one year old. At least she gives us all a good deal so I paid about $8 for mine.
8 p.m.: Same old nightly routine in my parents’ house. I live in my bedroom as I have since I was back in school. Despite making more money than both my parents combined, I just can’t seem to find a place. Perhaps it’s because I refuse to buy into slums, or maybe because I spent every dime I had in college.
10 p.m.: After talking with a friend about car insurance, I decided to give Progressive a try. Looks like my insurance can be cut in half next year from what I paid this year. I’m not sure if it’s because I turned 26 or because my car will be paid off, but I look to pay about half with Progressive compared to what I paid last year with Encompass. That will certainly be nice as my car insurance is set to expire in April and that’s also tax time. Total spent today: $9.58

Day 3
9:38 a.m.: A coworker mentions that GMAC is desperate for money and their CDs are much higher than even ING Direct. This may be worth looking into. Granted with what little savings I have, it may just make more sense to stick with ING. The differences equal only a few dollars but I’ll have to look into it and do the math. Still, I should work on a rent/housing fund if I ever want to get out of my parents’ house this decade.
10:23 p.m.: I just got the $25 from Amazon refunded to my credit card for the DVD they never sent me. I’m kind of glad they didn’t give me store credit as I would’ve spent that so fast it would make your head swim. I have $75 in Amazon gift certificates now. I don’t know what I’m saving them for (maybe a Kitchen Aid Mixer?) but it seems silly to give Amazon free interest on holding my money. Perhaps I should just use them along with my next order and put the cash in a separate account at ING. That might make sense I guess. Of course the worst part was my CC has about $1,500 charged to it this month. Eek!
1 p.m.: I had a craving for a Wendy’s Frosty but it was too packed so instead I ate the leftover popcorn. At least I didn’t spend any money outside of maybe 3 miles worth of gas, which is pretty cheap now.
2:58 p.m.: I’m thinking of converting my Electric Orange I just started a couple weeks ago to get the $25 sign up bonus into a future housing fund. Maybe if I can get my car paid off I can start making say $400 a fortnight to it to pay for housing. The only problem is that it doesn’t earn all that much interest but I do need to keep it somewhat liquid, I guess. I am so envious of my friend in Nebraska with her lovely apartment at $350 a month. Why is it that everything here is $650 a month and up for garbage? I don’t even live in a city!
5:20 p.m.: I filled up my gas tank at $2.099 for regular at Mobil. Of course after I drive another 3 miles or so towards home I realize that Shell just dropped down to $1.999! So basically I spent 81.29 cents more because I didn’t wait to check the price. I guess that’s just more bad luck than anything else. Still, it’s amazing to fill my tank up from half way for less than $20.
5:45 p.m.: In today’s mail I found out the hinges I bought to repair my desk’s keyboard drawer came in. While I did have to pay $20 including the shipping, I guess they are worth it since these are solid brass and were the only ones I could find (online or off) that were the same size. The only problem is the brass doesn’t match the rest of the black hardware and I am tempted to replace all the other hardware since the brass looks much nicer. Total spent today: $17.06

Day 4
8:30 a.m.: I’m sitting at work completely and totally exhausted. I guess it will be a frugal Friday as my friend I usually hang out with at least once a week is at seminary in Pennsylvania this weekend. Perhaps I’ll take her our for lunch/dinner next Wednesday as I have the whole day off.
1 p.m.: Since I didn’t pack a decent lunch, and I desired something hot, I got three breadsticks from the Pizza Hut Express. Not only is that $1.78 spent that I did not plan, but it’s also 450 calories I now have to burn off.
3:32 p.m.: Well, I get to leave in 28 minutes and while the prospect of spending a Friday night home with my family is not my idea of a good time, unfortunately none of my friends seem to want to go out or even come over to my place. Of course, when you live at home in your mid 20s your friends start to get the idea and stop coming over. Total spent today: $1.78

Day 5
1:30 p.m.: Slept in today and outside of going to Stop & Shop to take advantage of their sale on Pepsi, I haven’t spent any money. This morning my parents and I went for a drive to look at the neighborhoods of some houses for sale as well as some apartments. More than half of the houses needed a lot of work (something I’m really not ready to do at this point in my life) and quite a few were in areas where kids are constantly hanging out. I don’t have a problem with kids normally but honestly I’d rather live in a neighborhood full of old people. They make less noise and cause less trouble. Plus my town has a bit of a juvenile delinquent problem and they tend to congregate closer to downtown so I guess I should look more towards the higher priced outskirts.
2:30 p.m.: I realized with all the spending I’ve done this month I’ll be getting something around $50 in rewards from my credit card. I have made a vow that I will put all these rewards together and use them on something I really, really want and thus use them as a sort of forced savings plan. I wouldn’t mind a Kitchen Aid mixer, despite not having my own kitchen yet. I just have to be good and not spend it on DVDs, books, video games or other forms of entertainment. Honestly, I just need to keep my eye on my spending and I’ll be fine. Total Spent today: $4.20 – Hmm, maybe I won’t do so bad this week.

Day 6
I am so glad this week is about over. I did manage to go an entire day without spending money. I decided to play handyman and went to my grandmother’s house to get some projects done that she’s been needing help on. I did some weatherstripping as well as moving some stuff out of her garage into the basement. The best part was that I got to stay for dinner. I did check some sales papers and outside of a few non-essential items, I don’t see anything I really need to buy this week. Total spent today: Nothing!

Day 7
1 p.m.: I took a trip to Best Buy on my lunch break and picked up two 50 packs of DVD-Rs for $10 each. Including tax I spent $20.98, which is a fairly good price. I debated on not buying these but I figured they are at least $14 less than the Taiyo Yudens I normally buy and they don’t go bad so it was certainly worth it, to me.
4 p.m.: Well, I’m going to go straight home tonight and just relax doing nothing. I can’t really go out and I can’t really spend any more money. I can tentatively say, unless I go out to eat on Wednesday, that I won’t be spending any more this week. I can at least guarantee today, though. Total spent today: $20.98

In Sum:
All in all I spent a grand total of $160.55 this week. What’s even more sad is that the depreciation of those items are pretty close to 100%. Granted, I did have daily living expenses such as food, gas and a haircut but this week keeps me $160.55 further away from ever getting out of here. In my defense I have some automatic savings already in place for the house but still, that $160 would be better in my high interest savings account than in the form of DVDs and cheap snacks. Maybe though, I’m being too hard on myself. Perhaps I’m viewing this as an all or nothing game where I must either spend it all or save it all. Where is that happy medium? I hope someday to find out.

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  1. Honestly – I don’t think he did all that bad. Sure, some purchases were unnecessary – but if they were something he was planning on AND he was also saving money, it wasn’t that bad.

    Some obvious tips, if he’s not already doing them – keep track of every penny spent, always (not just during Money Diaries week). Keeping track of these purchases will help with this kind of spending – he’ll think twice before buying things he doesn’t need.

    But again – this isn’t that bad at all!

  2. I don’t see this diary being much different than a lot of 25 year olds. At least he has guilt associated with spending on somewhat frivolous things. Though, he shouldn’t beat himself up over $160. He needs to make more money plain and simple- or at least try to. It looks like he has the investing and savings part down, but only has a trickle of income to work with (though not directly stated). I don’t see where he is trying to diversify his income streams in this post.

  3. While his spending wasn’t horrible, he would do well to spend less money on DVD box sets (perhaps rent some of the movies/shows he is unsure about?), get rid of the eBay fees (use Craigslist instead?), and spend a bit more money on some healthy food to take to lunch. He did mention an apple the one day, but then went on to eat popcorn and bread sticks in later updates.

    I don’t know if he is making lunch from Mom’s kitchen or what, but I think it would be prudent for him to examine food spending carefully and make lunches ahead of time. Bonus points for splitting the popcorn into two snacks though. Portion control is a good thing.

    As for looking for houses and not wanting to do repair work, well, I’m not sure what to say to that. I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to do home repair. It can be frustrating and time-consuming. But it is far more rewarding for the time/money investment as opposed to anime DVD box sets.

    He speaks of all the items that he purchased depreciating. Well, a house will not depreciate, especially not if he puts some money into fixing it up. Buying a house is certainly not a decision you should jump into without some research, but it’s time he bites the bullet. Find something affordable in a relatively decent neighborhood and make it work. Then get the Kitchen Aid mixer.

    It’s all easier said than done, I realize. He may need to address that credit card spending, too. Stop loaning money to family, especially on a credit card with INTEREST. I hope he’s charging his siblings the interest on what they spent, otherwise, he’s losing money there.

  4. I agree with the others, he’s not so bad at 25 with his money…he knows what his goal is (his own place) and has the savings account set up, I think he just needs to budget his spending a little bit better, so he can plan in some fun purchases of DVDs without feeling so guilty about it. He’s also doing a good job of optimizing big expenses like car insurance.

    His diet, on the other hand, seems really atrocious…just bring a simple sandwich into work and that would be healthier than the fast food.

  5. It seems like he really has his heart set on a KitchenAid mixer. I suggest trying Freecycle. A lot of people purchase small household appliances then never use them. You might be able to get one for free from someone who’s sick of it taking up counter space.

    I don’t think $166 spent in one week is so bad. Then again, it depends on your income. I think he has the right idea when it comes to food. Foregoing the restaurant fodder is better for your health and your wealth.

    Maybe a little bit more planning will serve him well. There are people who actually prepare their meals in advance out of necessity. If they don’t prepare their lunch, then they have to wait until they get home from work to eat. Crazy – I know.

    I commend him for not buying the $1 shirts. Even if free, such items are more trouble than they’re worth if you’re not going to use them.

  6. He’s really obsessing over minor stuff. Yeah, the small stuff counts, but either spend the money or don’t. Don’t spend $2 then worry about it.

    Making more than both his parents combined? I hope he is contributing to the household!

  7. I’d suggest that the writer look more into things like condos or townhouses rather than detached homes, since the condo fee would cover a lot of the things he doesn’t want to do at this point in his life. If he doesn’t want to go that route, he should get estimates on what the repair work would cost to get done — in which case, he’ll either get more enthusiastic about DIY work, or have a better incentive to save more money to pay for someone else to do the work. There’s nothing wrong with paying people to do work around the house — but you just need to have an idea of what things cost.

    My aunt and uncle own about three tools total, have a very nice house and are doing just fine financially, having a fine retirement filled with travel and leisure. My uncle spent a lot of time following investments and finance, and this likely paid off more handsomely for him than spending a lot of time on house projects.

    Myself, I like the house projects more and have employed a financial planner to help with investment decisions and doing legwork that I don’t want to do. We still call the shots on the final decisions, but the work wasn’t being done previously. As a result, I have adequate life/disability insurance, my retirement funds are reallocated periodically, are getting a will together, and so on. We do a monthly budget and have an OK grasp on the day to day, but I’m really happy to have someone who gets the minutae of the long term stuff.

  8. Having to find food, for cheap, when you’re already hungry can turn into a diet and budget disaster. He needs to start planning his meals better.

    Also, I noticed this sentence:
    “I did check some sales papers and outside of a few non-essential items, I don’t see anything I really need to buy this week.”
    …and the fact that he walked around the mall and “eyed” some stuff then went to the dollar store and Target.
    If you don’t want to spend money, don’t put yourself in situations where people are trying to sell you stuff!

    Additionally, while the total he spent wasn’t awful (depending on what his income actually is), more than 60% of that amount was on one item that was 1) not a necessity, and 2) didn’t seem to make him all that happen. It just doesn’t sound like thoughtful spending, regardless of the $$$ amount.

  9. I found this guy’s obsessing over little purchases annoying. We hear about how he spends $2 here and $20 there, but we hear nothing about what he’s doing savings-wise. Spending $160 is perfectly fine if you’re also investing in your savings. Also, I don’t see why he can’t get out of his parents’ house. Get some roommates your age and share a place. A few years ago I made roughly $350 per month, and I still managed to rent a place with three friends. It can be done if you are willing to be flexible. Why must he buy now?

  10. I think this person needs to put a percentage of his income (of what one would normally pay for housing) into a savings account, even if he’s living rent-free at his parents. It seems as if he’s struggling to save up that much now, but the cost of living should be factored in automatically. When he gets his own place, he won’t have that money to spend on entertainment, so he should get used to not having it now.

    Instead of worrying about the 80 cents he had to pay extra in gas, he should really be concerned with how he’s distributing his income. As others have said, a budget is useful. Also, writing down all your fixed expenses will help you see how much you actually have for savings and spending.