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The Money Diaries: The 20-something who doesn’t make enough to cover her shopping habit

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Today is the second 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.

glassware.jpg

Today’s post is from a 25-year old woman who’s struggling between paying her bills and the irresistible urge to spend.

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DAY ONE

9am: At work… Stressing because this check has to pay both my rent AND car payment, as I was completely irresponsible with my money in July. Plus my best friend is getting married and I’m trying to foot the bill for a bridal shower. Ouch. I will not spend any money. I will not spend any money. I will not spend any money.
10am: I have Gmail chat with my other best friend. She’s incredibly financially responsible. She’s telling me about her Excel spreadsheet that she uses to track her budget. She makes me a mock-up copy and talks about how watching every cent go in and out makes it like a game – how much can I save this month? I’m developing this odd excitement and new-found resolve to get my finances in order. I’m going to fix this. I’m sick to death of being broke all the time and having no idea where my money went.
1pm: I spent money. Some coworkers asked me if I’d like to join them for lunch. Why, of course I would! I spent $10.60 at the Mexican place. I was too lazy to make lunch last night, so I figure I was going to spend some money anyway. I still feel guilty.
3pm: I check my bank account online. My paycheck (due tomorrow) has already come through. $1,268.22 total. This has to cover my rent ($975), my car payment ($300) and my cable bill that’s due this weekend (about $60). This isn’t enough. I have to ask my mom for money. SHIT.
6pm: I went Bridal Shower shopping. I had $25 cash in my pocket from hawking my old crap on Craigslist, and had to stay under that amount. I go to K-mart to get a few things for a craft project. I get to the register and they ring up more expensive than the display said. I can’t believe I’m standing in K-mart haggling over $6 with a cashier who barely speaks English. He gives after some persuasion and I’m off to a craft store with $6 remaining. I end up spending $8.48 and running my debit card after I told myself I wasn’t going to. I have no self control. So I reward myself with a $2.10 cheeseburger from In-n-Out on the way home. After all I can’t spend money once I’m home, right?
8:30pm: Wrong! $6.99 is shelled out to buy print-from-home Bridal Shower Bingo cards. I need to go to bed.

DAY TWO

11am: I get an email from Amazon. One of my books sold! I’m dorkily excited as this is the first time I’ve tried this. The upside is that I just made about $32. The downside is that because it’s my first time selling, they have to wait 14 days to deposit the funds. Damn. Plus I have to figure out how I’m going to get the money to ship the thing.
2pm: I just got off the phone with my mom. She’s agreed to LEND me $150 which will pay my cable bill and put gas in my car. This can work. I’ll pay her back in September. She’s not happy, but sometimes I have to shut up and listen to a lecture to see any money, and I RARELY ask.
5pm: I’m supposed to go out with friends tonight….I’ve already informed them of my little “situation” so we’ll be pre-drinking and then I’ll most likely con some sucker at the bar to buy me drinks once we’re out. I can avoid a cab (who has $7?) by sleeping on a friend’s couch. I have a feeling this can end up in financial disaster for me, so I’ve already decided not to take my debit card out with me, so that I can’t cave and start swiping it without abandon. Wish me luck!

DAY THREE

11 am: Last night was a success in that I didn’t spend a penny. It sucked not having money for a cab home, and I was in a very unpleasant mood at the end of the night. It’s a really shitty feeling to not be able to sport $7 for a cab. Lucky for me a friend picked me up. I find out my mom deposited $200. I’m so SICK of being in this rut! It feels like it’s never going to end, and I’m constantly going to be fighting to keep my head above water. I’m pretty sure I went to college to avoid be some broke-ass loser.
3pm: A girlfriend picks me up and we were supposed to go to a BBQ, but it ends up being a wash. We’re both starving and go to the market and get sushi and soup. I spend $13.60, which I told myself I wasn’t going to do, but I’m hungry and cranky.
9pm: I also paid for the cab home and chalk the $10 up to being a lot better than a DUI.

DAY FOUR

3pm: So I actually MADE a little money today! I sold a few old things from my school days to a current student. $180! She made out because I just saved her over $250 and I made out because that’s $180 I didn’t have this morning. I owe my credit card company $123 for going over my limit. It’s due by the 12th, but I don’t get paid until the 15th and they were NOT budging on that, despite my charming persuasion. At least this way I can bring it current and try to get a lower interest rate.
7pm: I’m staring into my desolate refrigerator and feeling a little depressed. I have a little leftover pasta (boooooring) and not much else. Usually my trusty freezer holds all kinds of forgotten treasures and even that is failing me now. I may have to allot $40 from my sale money today for a Trader Joe’s trip. My smarter option would be Ralph’s with it’s plethora of cheap and easy food, but I tend to shy away from over-processed crap. But sometimes broke and desperate means eating as cheap as possible. I bake cookies instead.

DAY FIVE

1:30am: I’m currently going through a serious conscience battle with the cash from yesterday. There’s a little angel and a devil on my shoulders screaming obscenities at each other. I can go wild and buy a few more things for both the Bridal Shower and Bachelorette party (can we spell “new dress”?!) but I’ve vowed to not continue to screw with my credit cards. I need (and I do mean, NEED) to do the responsible thing and pay them. It’s just so hard to part with $125 and get “nothing” in return! But that’s what got me in this little debt to begin with. I need to view this as being blessed that I have this money and can now pay my cards without completely bankrupting my next paycheck. It’s a good thing that angel is a witty little bitch!
6pm: I put some expensive drinkware on my Macy’s credit card for the Bridal Shower. I fully intend to pull a fast one and return it next week. I know that’s sneaky and dishonest, but I don’t really have a slew of other options. I don’t want my best friend drinking from plastic red party cups at her Bridal Shower! So I’m taking a chance and hoping nothing gets broken. I’ll wash and return it and no one will be the wiser!

DAY SIX

1pm: I have a voicemail from a guy trying to buy more CL stuff. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but if he buys this stuff and the woman I’m meeting with tonight buys that, that’s an additional $45. I’d be setting the money aside to pay for a spa day that’s planned for right before the wedding. Fingers crossed!
7pm: One of the buyers flaked, but I did walk away with $25. I’m setting it aside. I also went grocery shopping and ended up spending around $33. It’ll get me through at least next week. I’m gone all weekend, and that means I’ll be fed elsewhere!

DAY SEVEN

2pm: I’m thinking about my next paycheck (already!) and it’s giving me stress. I have to set aside my rent money so I don’t have a repeat of this month, and pay for SO much wedding related activities/appointments. I’m getting my hair done, going with the bride for pedicures, AND going to Vegas. Man. Plus I have to pay bills AND a $212 car insurance installment. I’m so ready for this wedding to be over.
5pm: I just realized that in the whirlwind that has been this week, I haven’t touched the budget my friend made me. I feel terribly guilty and can’t even explain why, as the only person I’m letting down is myself. I still have resolve and hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend while I’m visiting my mom.

In sum: $1530 made, $1410 spent… over $100 of that being just food, one loan from my mom, 7 days of making-my-face-break-out stress, $0 in Credit Card debt paid off, and one dishonest department store scam. Whew.

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

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59 Comments

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  1. So if it’s anything like the sex diaries – nobody is going to want to read about budgets and penny pinching and responsible investing, they are going to want to read about SEX… I mean, spending money.

    So as entertained as I am, I think the format will lend itself to stories of budgets blown and desperate measures and mistake-prone folks. Um, the trashy celebrity disaster stories of the financial world, if you will. And it will be entertaining because it will make us feel better about ourselves. Stop me if I’m wrong.

  2. Make us feel better about ourselves? Poor budgeting skills is not an uncommon problem. If anything, these money diaries are helping to shed light on just how bad many of us are with our money.

    I enjoy reading these. They’re a real eye-opener.

  3. This is incredibly depressing. It’s like watching a drug addict do his/her thing: “I spend money today”

  4. Totally depressing – but at the same time oddly uplifting. Admitting you have a problem is the first step isn’t it??

  5. Fairly obvious she has absolutely no self control. Hate to be that guy, but when you’re writing “I know I shouldn’t have done that” “I shouldn’t go to Trader Joe’s” etc…

    Beans and rice.

    Rice and beans.

    You’ll feel better with money in the bank.

    Then again, the first step is always the hardest…

  6. I can’t believe this story….

  7. I sympathize with the bridal stuff. I was just recently in a wedding and while I had the money to pay for everything, it wasn’t cheap. Luckily, its a very good friend!

  8. This is the downside of having a cultural norm that tells us that talking about money is rude and lowbrow. This woman is in a situation where she can’t afford to pay her bills, but she still feels obligated to go to Las Vegas and pay for a bunch of expensive stuff for a friend’s wedding rather than simply tell her best friend (!) that she’s broke. If she’s really your friend, she’d certainly understand. But our culture says that it’s uncouth to talk about money, so we pretend that activities like this, no matter how ridiculous, are within our means.

    I would encourage this woman to tell her friend that she can’t afford Vegas or an expensive wedding gift right now. Please try to get over any shame you may feel about being broke. It’s more important to pull yourself out of this temporary financial mess, especially given that the economy is unstable right now, than it is to keep up the facade that everything is okay. Be honest with your loved ones; they’ll understand.

  9. Francis Valencheck Link to this comment

    I track my expenses on a spreadsheet everyday and track how close I am to my bi-monthly spending budget. It really helps and I hope you try it too. I also track my cash flow for the next 3-4 paychecks and it’s helped me keep my spending in check.

    Another comment too – Your fixed expenses are too high and you should work on reducing them. Should you try to get a cheaper vehicle? A $300 car payment on a $2600/month salary seems really steep. Also, why not get a roommate to reduce that rent payment?

    I totally feel your pain but it’s good you admit you have to do something about it.

  10. This is exactly how I treat my money. In fact, instead of attending two of my good friend’s weddings in august I blew money on keeping up appearences at expensive restaurants and parties. It’s a horrible state of affairs.

  11. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t get along with a lot of people my own age (particularly females), and then I read these stories, and I remember why.

    -Erica

  12. I’m a twenty-something, and can relate to this lady’s blunders. I was completely unprepared financially, as were most of my friends. I strongly feel there should be some class implemented into the school system to help people realistically manage their finances once they’re sent off to college/into the working world. A lot of parents don’t talk to their kids about this until it’s too late and they’re bailing them out. Then there’s a world of judgment on you. It shouldn’t have to come to that. Debt is practically a rite of passage.

    I agree she could have told the friend who’s getting married that she’s broke. It would have been a brave thing to do. But I also think the flip side is completely understandable. When a good friend has asked you to be in charge of party planning for their wedding, it’s supposed to be an honor instead of a weight and stress. Honestly, I don’t think people at that point have enough faith in their friendships to own up like that. Some might take it as bailing and failing to follow through at a crucial moment. It’s a tough spot to be in. I’ve witnessed a lot of resentment in my twenty-something years. People are lacking in experience and understanding.

    Last year my friend had to plan for a bachelor party in PARIS during the holidays. On top of everything, he had finals and was so stressed out. From his plane ticket alone, he went completely broke. Seeing that happen to my friend sucked. It left me feeling that, if there comes a day when I want to get married, it’s going to be a simple occasion in my backyard.

    I hope this lady can sanely get through this and learn from it. I’m rooting for her.

  13. To Francis – I don’t know where this woman lives, but in San Francisco, $975 might be the rent WITH roommates! I agree she should have bought a used car.

  14. What cracks me up is her inability to cut corners on certain things. Is she totally incapable of eating Ramen noodles for a few nights or something? Is she incapable of staying home once in awhile? Being in a situation where you might have to spend money, and not having the willpower to say no or at least limit it, means not getting into those situations at all. She needs to consider going out with friends a treat, not a regular thing.

    I’m bad with money too, and realize that I can get on a jag of spending, but I also know how to buy the cheapest thing on the menu.

    Sounds like the voiceover to a bad yuppie comedy.

  15. I am sorry to say but, this is the worst post I have read on this site. I mean, what in the world stops this 20 something woman from earning money/doing other job besides 9-5 and tracking her money?

    - She can always say NO to her friends and save money by not going out/taking cab.
    - She can always work at nearby Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts/local Pizza store and make 7-10/hr. Also, she can get one time food free from the store.
    - She can call to various car insurance company and try to get lower rate on her car insurance.
    - And main thing she could have done is, instead of spending time on writing a money diary- she could have spent time on Excel file which she got from her friend and enter/track expenses. She could have read coupe lf of finance/money books, like ‘The Total Money Makeover’ by Dave Ramsey.
    - She could have spent money on lower priced drinkware. What if it breaks or some stains leave on it. It’s expensive (I am sure, it must be more than 100 $) and I do not see any point to buy besides to impress friends..
    - Or the best thing she could do is just go thru selected posts on this website and learn something and change her life instead of spending money on things and not saving enough.

    According to her, the person who lent her money gives LECTURE and the person who will give money for drinks is some ‘sucker’. As per the richest person in the world, Warren Buffet, try to be a nice person (in other words- respect other ppl, especially yr parents.) He has given valuable advice: |It’s so simple that it’s almost too obvious to notice. Look around at the people you like. Isn’t it a logical assumption that if you like traits in other people, then other people would like you if you developed those same traits?”

    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/061022/30buffett.htm

    Good luck…

  16. Yes, Pritesh, and I bet you could probably stand to lose some weight (statistically speaking). Yet the fact that you “could” or “should” doesn’t stop people from smoking, getting overweight, or overspending. So why don’t we stop the patronizing comments and try to be constructive?

    Maybe, just maybe, are there a few key nuggets to be learned from the post? Maybe even not relating to personal finance?

  17. It seems like personal finance stems from lifestyle; therefore, the lifestyle needs to change first. Just my opinion, because I know mine needs to change.

  18. I agree with you, Ramit. There are many things that we ‘could’ and ‘should’ do but most of the times we failed to do so.

    My reply was not to make any judgment on person’s situation or make comments on her life. At one point, we all have been in that situation, more or less.

    As you pointed out, there are few things to learn from this post or any post on this site, I would say. That’s what I have been doing in last few months since I started reading yr BLOG.

    My point was, if you won’t help yrself (in this post, by not educating yrself about money or lifestyle) and if you don’t know what you want to do in terms of short term and long term goals (in this post, by not saving money for next month’s rent, car insurance and friend’s wedding) or what are the resources you need to get there (in this post, by not saving or earning enough money for the coming expenses), no BLOGs nor any books will help you. You’ll feel good after you read but unless you act, nothing would be changed. I am saying this only from my own experience as I read this BLOG and other finance BLOGS/web articles but until I actually act, it was all on paper, nothing else.

    Thanks for the great site, Ramit. It’s been wonderful journey, indeed.

  19. lonne dortch II Link to this comment

    this is my frist time reading one of these stories. and i enjoyed it. its letting the people know what not to do!!!! EVERY BODY JUST SAVE YOUR MONEY… PLAN AND SIMPLE.. A++++++

  20. I don’t think many of the commenters truly understand what it means to be a woman with all of these wedding-related girly-girl obligations. I personally hate all of that stuff, but oftentimes we women have to do it no matter what our feelings are.

    For example: I tried to get out of merely ONE DAY of a bachelorette party weekend I had to travel 90 miles to AND spend money to share a swank hotel room AND treat the bride to all of her expensive meals/drinks (translation: $400 that I didn’t have). I was subsequently greeted with was a seven-paragraph e-mail from the bride-to-be telling me she was up all night wondering why I couldn’t come and how our ‘friendship must not be a priority” to me. Guess what? I went just to keep the peace. I can hear Suze Orman in my head right now telling me to just say no,but when you’ve been friends with someone for 10 years plus, choosing the week before their wedding to make a financial statement is just not a viable option.

  21. I had a long comment written about how frustrating I found this diary, and how I feared that this series would , as Christine said, lend itself to horror stories rather than anything really instructive or encouraging. I was going to explain why I felt that Pritesh, above, was not being condescending or patronizing, and that I hoped you would have diaries with more positive stories.

    But I deleted that comment and, instead, went ahead and wrote my own Money Diary. I’ll send it to you and we can see if you want to post it (it needs work). Hopefully it will act as something that–not to be conceited here, but in all honesty–can be instructive for readers, rather than confirming their worst fears.

  22. That was the best comment in a long time. I love when people stop complaining and do something about it. Thank you, Imelda.

  23. This might sound dumb but….
    You can get lots of stuff at the dollar store/thrift shop that looks nice but isn’t durable. They have nice glassware…it just breaks if you drop it. which is no big deal since it’s only a buck. It’s great for parties and even some gifts.

  24. “I’ve already informed them of my little “situation” so we’ll be pre-drinking and then I’ll most likely con some sucker at the bar to buy me drinks once we’re out.”

    Yet another reason for guys to stop asking girls “can I buy you a drink?”

  25. Why should she go to the trouble of using a budget when she has a safety net to fall back on in the form of Mom’s bank account. I will be a mother in a few months and this is a lesson to not give your adult children money (short term loan maybe). They will never be self reliant. She will go from taking handouts from her mother to handouts from her husband and never experienced the feeling of personal financial security. This security can be an ongoing source of true confidence instead of the facade of confidence provided by new dresses.

  26. Ray, thats why my pick up line at the bars is “Can i buy you a drink or do you just want the money?”

  27. For one thing, I don’t think $300 car payment on a $2600 paycheck is all that bad. My car payment is $350 (yes, I bought new, and I’m glad I did) and my paycheck over the life of my loan so far has fluctuated between $1500 and $2000 (as well as about 4 months of living on an $800 unemployment check alone). Then again, my rent is only $535 (which is cheap for the area I live in, especially with no roommates). Even so, I’ve never been the sort of person who goes to bars. Drinking at someone’s home, besides being cheaper, affords you the ability to choose your company, and actually be able to have a conversation without shouting. I’ve also never been afraid to live on ramen noodles in order to afford things that matter more to me, like a high speed internet connection (couldn’t work without it), or my car (which I love).

    I’ve finally landed a job that is affording me enough income to save and invest a little rather than living paycheck to paycheck, and I have to admit I’ve borrowed money from just about every member of my family in my struggle to gain independence. I have kept track of the amounts and intend to pay them all back with interest, if they will accept it. My mother is the only one who hounds me constantly to pay her back, consequently she is last on my list to pay back.

  28. Wow. I hope writing it down and reading it again will make this woman see what’s going on in her life. The way she is beating herself up makes me think she’s on the brink of change. Good for her. She’s young and has time to turn things around. Makes me feel better about my own finances!

  29. First of all, this bride probably asked the girl several months ago to be a bridesmaid – why didn’t she start saving money then? The avg. bridesmaid probably spends roughly 500 – 1000, for the dress, parties, and wedding gift. If she had started saving 9 months ago, that would only be 50 a paycheck (at the most). She obviously has no remorse blowing $25 on one lunch and one dinner. If she had skipped those two, she would have been able to save the $50/ paycheck. Hindsight is 20/20 though. I am not saying that a bridesmaid should spend that much money, but really – all it comes down to is budgeting. And Yes, I have been the BM in 3 weddings within a month of each other before on a similar salary and managed to save that much for each wedding.

  30. xmasy, so are there any who replied: “just the money, please”? :-)

  31. they usually laugh….if they seriously want the money, then I will seriously ask to see some titties

  32. She should have told her friend she couldn’t afford all the wedding things. It is hard and can make you feel bad, but so worth it.
    My best friend wanted to go to Vegas for two nights for bachelorette party, but I couldn’t afford it and told her so. I felt bad, but I just couldn’t spend the money and if I had, I would have been super pissed all weekend with myself.
    Once I told her and she told the others, they all said the same thing. Sometimes someone just needs to upfront and then everyone will stop pretending they have money.

  33. I applaud the person who wrote this diary. Obviously, they realize the way they are going is not working, and they’re looking for input on alternatives. It’s too bad that most of the people who have left comments chose to blast her. (That will teach her to open up!)

    To the author:

    You’d be surprised how much of a difference bringing your lunch to work can make. You don’t have to make it the night before. If you have a fridge at work, just stick some bread and lunch meat in there, and make yourself a sandwich at lunch time. You can easily cut out $200/month right there. Take your sandwich outside to a park and read a book or something. It’s a nice break in the day, and a good stress reliever.

    For dinners at home, a can of soup is fast, easy, cheap, and healthy. You don’t have to eat ramen noodles.

    Having a car costs alot of money. Besides the payment, there is insurance, fuel, parking, and maintenance. It sounds like, from the cab fares, that you live in a city, or might live close to where you work and/or go out for the evening. Would public transit work for you? That would save you from a huge expense.

    I wouldn’t feel bad about a lack of a budget. Budgets are like diets, and most people who have them break them. However, you can do something like this, that is just as effective, by setting aside some cash for incidental expenses (like going out with friends) from each paycheck, and when the cash is gone, just stop spending.

    If cash doesn’t work for you, set up a separate account for spending money from your bills, and setup direct deposit to put the amounts you need for each into each account. Then, get rid of your debit card for the account that is only for bills (you write checks for your bills, or send online payments).

    Buying drinks when you go out is definitely expensive. If you’re going to keep your car, volunteer to be the designated driver for your friends. It will be much appreciated, and will probably make you quite popular. They may even buy non-alcoholic drinks or tapas for you, in return for the favor.

    Finally, if you want to get ahead, set aside 10% of all you earn into a savings or retirement account. That may seem hard when you’re having a tough time making ends meet, but you’d be surprised how little you might miss it. They key is to make it automatic, though, so you won’t give yourself the chance to spend it. This is cited by many, many people as the key to getting wealthy.

  34. Dear write of this diary:

    it seems that no matter what u do, money will never be enuff. Go ahead and marry a rich bloke. That should solve ur problems. Love only lasts few years, but swimming in cash can be a lifetime.

  35. Ramit, this is such a phenomenal idea. I look forward to reading these entries because they actually help give objective insight your own spending habits. When you see yourself in other people’s detrimental decision making, it really makes you rethink how you spend, buget, and manage your money. Good stuff.

  36. When I wrote this, I never thought it would end up being chosen. I did this as a recognition to myself that my finances were in the shitter, similar to someone who can’t figure out why they can’t lose weight and is asked to keep a food diary (or -ahem- sex diary). I appreciate the support and compassion from most of you. A lot of these suggestions are really helpful and will most likely not go overlooked. I do bring my lunch 9 times out of 10 and rarely go out to eat. I have acknowledged that I have a problem. Turning something like this around is not something that happens overnight and I’m trying to take the baby steps necessary to do that.

    To the critics: first and foremost, I am a person. A human being, with feelings. I am not ignorant and I most certainly an not a gold digger. The “sucker” jab was out of line, but I was trying to write unabashedly. My mother does not support me financially, and never has. She has given me less than $1000 (always in small installments) in the last 4 years that I’ve been on my own and this includes my time in college. I take great pride in that fact that I’ve always supported myself. I may be broke, but I’m broke bc of MY money, not blowing someone else’s. It’s easy to say I should have backed out of Bridal festivities, but just you try it when your best friend since high school is tying the knot.

    I can bash you for hiding behind the annonymity of the internet, but I’m doing the same thing, aren’t I? It’s very easy to criticize words on a screen. I don’t suppose those people are opening themselves up to the world by documenting one of the most personal and intimate things about a person’s life! This has been shockingly eye opening re-reading it 6 weeks later. The feedback on top of it has certainly been interesting. Thanks, also, to Ramit for defending me and for opening my eyes. Maybe I needed the world to see this.

  37. It is quiet interesting to read this diary and how our expectations are same. Even if half the globe separates us financial needs and anxieties are the same.Currencies differ but not the concerns! Great blog Ramit

  38. What i admire most about your blog landing page is your opt-in box! capturing email addresses you can keep personal contact with is the ultimate online marketing skill and as your opt-in list grows so will your success! :)

  39. Ramit, this series is brilliant.

    I must admit, reading today’s diary was depressing. Although I have not yet had to deal with weddings and such huge expenses, I’ve been on that sinking ship and I know the feeling.

    It takes more than sheer willpower to restrain your demons and keep your wallet shut, especially when loose spending has seeped into the core of our culture.

    Anya, I hope you weathered the wedding all right and you’re now financially afloat.

  40. Anya,

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I know so many people that spend like this and sympathize with your situation. Money is hard in general and much harder for some people.

    Also, I was quite impressed at the comment you left above. Some people seem to have no qualms about beating other people up via internet comments.

    @xmasy: What is your issue? Why the need to leave three absolutely insulting comments with no relevance to her post or more importantly, the reason why she was posting? Get a life. I hope no woman ever has to be subjected your obvious insecurities and general rudeness.

  41. Anya – I think posting this blog and owning up to your situation is an incredibly brave step. You don’t need any more advice (My preface before giving you advice…)- you need encouragement and accountability. It sounds like your girlfriend that gave you the budget is a good place to start. She obviously cares enough to try to help. Maybe she can be your budget buddy. Like when you break up with a guy and need a friend that you always call/email/text every time you get the urge to call/email/text your ex. Maybe each time you feel like you are going to unnecessarily spend money, you could call her, and she can talk you out of it or help you brainstorm on a cheaper alternative. That was a HUGE help to me as I slowly worked through $30K of debt… took a long time to get in the habit… but there’s nothing better than when you’re fixed on an objective and have the strong support of loved ones. Good luck. I’m sure you can turn this around.

  42. People, what did you expect to read from this diary?? This is the average American these days. We all are struggling in one way or the other. So if you happen to not be in this situation , good for you. Instead of criticizing, give us constructive feedback. Tell us how you stretch your all mighty dollar.

  43. This is obviously fake. Is it just me? It’s like watching reading an after school special transcript on money management.

    to script writer: trader joe’s is less expensive than Ralph’s.

  44. [I deleted this comment because I don't allow sexist nonsense on this site. Get a life, xmasy. -Ramit]

  45. Anya, if she really was your best friend from high school, she would understand your money situation. My best friend from high school did. But maybe that is why I felt comfortable enough in telling her in the first place. And as I stated before, everyone else said the same thing after I did. She changed her plans. We still had a ton of fun, it just cost us less doing so.
    I wish you luck on your journey to being more money savvy.

  46. Anya: Some suggestions.

    1. Increase your cash flow. You’re already trying to do this through selling things on Ebay, etc. But could you get a better job? Ask for a raise at work? You’re a good writer; maybe you could take on a freelance project now and then.
    2. You really, really need an emergency savings cushion. Start a high-yield savings account with a different bank from your main bank (so you’re not tempted to access it with your ATM card, and have to wait a few days for money to transfer) and put in a small amount per month. $40, $50 — whatever, as soon as you get paid. Then set a very high bar for what constitutes an emergency. A sort-of paradox: Often, the more you accumulate, the less irresistible the impulse to spend — you’ll start to derive real pleasure and pride from having a nest egg, and you won’t need frivolous purchases to keep from feeling poor.
    3. Seriously consider selling the car (if you’re above water on the car loan). You could spend $150/mo. on cabs and still come out way ahead. And if you have some equity in the car (doubtful, but who knows) you could put it in savings.
    4. At the risk of triggering flames: In this circumstance, anyway, think like a dude. Meaning: don’t live like you’re subconsciously expecting some white knight to come along and get you out of your financial morass. You wouldn’t want Mr. Right to come along until you proved to yourself you could be financially secure anyway. If you started dating some guy and found his finances were like yours, admit it — you’d wonder what his deal was.

  47. thanks ramit for deleting the xmas comment. my sentiments too

  48. if a woman says men are pigs…is that sexist too?

  49. Wow. These are great! I agree they are a little depressing but I found myself reading them and being proud of myself for getting out of a similar rut. I guess that is a little selfish, but I think someday they she will read this and be proud of themselves too.

  50. 3 things: 1) She needs new friends. 2) She needs to hunker down and live like a hermit for a month to get ahead of the bills and 3) She needs to learn to not be a financial poser; to have the courage to say ‘know what? can’t afford it. If you want to come over and go on a walk with me, great. Otherwise I need to stop spending so much $”

  51. [...] Ramit from I Will Teach You To Be Rich has begun an interesting series that he calls The Money Diaries. He’s asking readers to send in diaries of what their financial life is like for an entire week and he posts them anonymously on his blog. This week he’s posted one featuring a young lady who doesn’t make enough to cover her shopping habits. Check Out The Money Diaries. [...]

  52. A few thoughts:
    Nix the cable bill for a few months. A lot of TV shows are online now. I haven’t had cable in 2 years and don’t miss it too much. Most of the shows on cable just made me want to buy things, anyways, so not seeing the makeover shows and “lifestyle porn” on FoodTV, TLC, etc. has been good for my bank account! I get a periodic cable-fix when I go visit with family & friends.

    Start a weekly girls’ night with 3-4 girlfriends. MIne was “trashy TV Tuesday” – we’d take turns cooking dinner for everyone and pile on the hostess’s sofa to watch our shows. It’s a great way to catch up, to force yourself to learn to cook, and to have a lot of fun! I learned how easy it is to roast a chicken, which can be bought on sale for just $2.50 and has enough meat for 4 meals plus scraps for making chicken noodle soup. I might not have tried it if I didn’t see my friend make them herself! Plus, lots of tasty foods are too much work for just one person, but work well for a group, e.g. tacos, enchiladas, etc.

    You can do dinner for 4, with a bit of booze, for under $20. That’s $5 a week, versus $10-20 every week if you met out at a bar for cocktails.

  53. [...] an interesting blog about young people and money by a recent Stanford [...]

  54. [...] Personal Finance: -Debt-relief firms don’t provide any relief at all! Blargh. [WSJ] -Are credit cards at a tipping point? There’s more borrowing and less paying. [RedTapeChronicles] -I Will Teach You To Be Rich is doing a regular feature called “The Money Diaries,” inspired by NY Mag’s sex diaries. Great idea! (Wish we’d thought of it!) The second installment deals with someone who doesn’t make enough to cover her spending habit. [IWillTeachYouToBeRich] [...]

  55. [...] your cost of living stable, you spend it instead.  While I’m not saying you should never spend your money, keeping your lifestyle inflation under control will benefit you and your finances significantly in [...]

  56. [...] your cost of living stable, you spend it instead.  While I’m not saying you should never spend your money, keeping your lifestyle inflation under control will benefit you and your finances significantly in [...]

  57. I got an overwhelming sense that this girl just does not have time. I’ve noticed that over-spending is associated with lack of organisation. If you don’t have much time it may be good, as a first step, to sort out a plan of next week.

    For example, allowing time to prepare lunch for work everyday. It takes 15-20 mins tops depending on whether it’s prepared cold or hot. This can save you up to $8 per day.

    Also it’s a shame that you have all this bridal stuff to do because it really can put a crimp on any changes you wish to make to your financial situation. At least you recognise that you can’t go on living like this. I really can’t believe you’re paying so much in rent. If possible it may be worth downgrading for a year or two just so that you have the ability to build up a healthy emergency fund and also a general savings account. This means you won’t have to use those credit cards to save you. (It is only short-term help too and then the extra charges and interest fees hit making it awful long-term).

  58. My heart goes out to this poster because she reminds me of my older sister. My sister is know filing for bankruptcy because she has lived beyond her means since she graduated college. My parents even bailed her out of the $9,000 credit card debt she accumulated in college. But she still managed to rack it all back up and THEN SOME -at least $30,000 in credit card debt and upside down about $20,000 on a car payment…..on a teacher’s salary. Anya I really hope that you are able to learn from this experience and turn your finances around, it will make you feel better when you have that control.