The Money Diaries: The 20-something with two jobs who’s still living paycheck-to-paycheck

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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.

This week’s post is by a 20-something working two jobs but still living paycheck-to-paycheck. Only a few days after being paid, and she’s already almost broke again.

* * *

Day 1

8:00 a.m.: I woke up this morning to my daily balance text message from Bank of America letting me know that my account is $5.31 overdrawn. I can’t really do anything about it, so I basically just have to shrug it off until my direct deposit goes through from my part-time job (Thursday) and my full-time job (Friday). Getting paid bi-weekly is such a pain. I’m okay at budgeting myself out sometimes, but I had a vacation a few weeks ago that I haven’t yet recovered from. So, here we are, on the Tuesday of a pay week, and I’m broke as a joke.
9:00 a.m.: I get a coffee and a donut at Dunkin’ Donuts on my way into the office ($3.47) and a French roll at the bakery nearby a few blocks later when I realize I’m not in the mood for a donut ($1.35).
10:00 a.m.:At work, I do some online window-shopping through all the discount sites I subscribe to (Ideeli, Rue La La, Gilt, etc.) but delete all the e-mails. I know I’ll get new ones on Tuesday after my paychecks come in, and that I’ll probably do some shopping then. I also research some trips to St. Bart’s that my boyfriend and I talked about taking next fall. $2,500 per person seems reasonable to save up over the next year, although I have student loans and credit card debt piling up that I never think about savings plans for, ever. I’ve actually been spending the money in my ING Savings account that I transferred over. That’s supposed to be my vacation savings but it’s disappearing.

Day 2

11:00 a.m.: My boyfriend and I just resigned the lease on our apartment. We decided that we were going to celebrate by going to Ikea and buying some furniture for the place. I still owe him $300 for rent that I borrowed for my trip last month, but he says I can just pay him all back when I get paid this week. We get a Zipcar for the day and drive the 45 minutes to Ikea, where we spend about $150.
4:00 p.m.: When we get back to Boston, we’re too tired to go to the grocery store, so we spend about $70 on overpriced provisions at CVS across the street. The amount I owe him is climbing but it’s all stuff we need, we rationalize, so I just go with it.

Day 3

5:00 p.m.: I got a $100 paycheck from my part-time job today, and I immediately feel relieved and want to spend something. I bring home $25 worth of Panera for me and my boyfriend on my way home from work (we barely even eat half of it like I knew we would), loan $50 to my best friend for Red Sox tickets I really wanted her to have, and think briefly about shopping (just one shirt!) but I manage to control myself. Not much I can do with my remaining $20 anyway.

Day 4

8:00 a.m.: Pay Day! I feel rich when Bank of America texts me this morning with my new balance ($1,300), but I watch it disappear so quickly over the course of the day that I feel guilty and stressed. I pay back the total I owe Jon ($560 – ouch), pay a part of the $3,800 bill I owe to the vet for my dog from over a year ago ($150) and $110 to my only non-closed credit card.
3:30 p.m.: I decide it’s time to spend money on something for me, so I go downtown and find a salon and get a haircut. I expect to pay about $50 plus tip, but the total comes to $90 because the owner did it, which I didn’t ask for or expect at all. I’m too embarrassed to say anything to the girl at the register, so I fork over my debit card and start feeling anxiety knowing how much cash I blew through today. I get myself a burrito at Boloco for dinner and go home for the night.

Day 5

9:00 a.m.: Today I’m going shopping with my best friend for her wedding dress. I debated with myself for hours last night whether I should take the train to meet her, or get a Zipcar and drive. The car would have cost at least $50, and the train was $20, but I didn’t want to get up that early to take the train. Jon convinces me to save my money and take the train, which I do but I’m not the happiest about it.
12:00 p.m.: Luckily her parents buy us coffee in the morning and lunch after the fitting so I cut some spending there.
5:30 p.m.: When I get home, Jon and I get another Zipcar and go to Target for a few other household things we need. We also grab some groceries while we’re out and spend a total of $150 that I split with him. I keep rationalizing that we deserve to have our apartment the way we want it, but I still feel stressed.

Day 6

12:00 p.m.: Today I’m working a double waiting tables at my part-time job, because I picked up an extra shift at the last minute thanks mostly to this damn haircut. We make okay money, which makes me feel a little better, and I only spend about $10 on food since I just ate at the restaurant all day. I’m exhausted, but if I’m at work for 12 hours, I can’t possibly spend any money, and that’s a good thing.

Day 7

9:00 a.m.: I work from home all day today, so there’s not much of a chance of shopping. I get myself a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning, but I have bagels at home. I get cat litter at CVS, but I have a $2 coupon so it’s only $5.99.
12:00 p.m.: Lunch time. I walk over and get a burrito and a smoothie ($10) and stop at CVS again for some soda. I notice my favorite mascara is on sale, so I pick one up ($5) even though I have enough makeup in my bathroom to last me forever.

In Sum:
Total spent: $1150.81
Total deposited: $1300.00

Lots of shopping, lots of stress and guilt over how much I shopped. All week long I neglected to return the phone calls from the Department of Higher Education who keep calling about the loan payments I’m late on. I got paid three days ago, and I’m almost broke again. I spend 60 hours a week working, yet somehow am still living paycheck to paycheck and am ignoring my debts. I need to get it together!

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60 Comments

6 15 1
 
  1. It’s very engaging to read a diary of someone else’s spending habits. Please more of this.

  2. Thank you for sharing all of this. My questions/suggestions:

    Can you cook?

    What’s up with all the zipcars?

  3. This girl uses the word “deserve” way too often to rationalize her addiction.

    Since Jon had the money to loan, I would assume that he is a little more responsible with one. Jon, if you’re reading this, run!

    • I agree. Her relationship with money reminds me of my relationship with food.

      I mean, you make $100 and your first thought is that you should buy something?

      I guess the concept of “long-term” escapes her.

    • I agree Ryan. I hope he isn’t thinking about marrying this girl. She’ll drag him to financial ruin…

  4. I remember those days in my 20′s when I rationalized and anguished like this. I did not max out credit cards or pay my student loans late, but I made stupid decisions and had feelings of entitlement that still shame me. I think it’s incredibly brave of people to be this brutally honest about their spending decisions and mistakes; I wouldn’t go back to my 20′s again for all the tea in China.

    Jon may or may not be more responsible; it’s just as likely that he makes more money and/or comes from a family of more means. Graduating from college without debt makes a tremendous difference, for example. In my experience it is infinitely easier to be frugal when you have more than when you have less–I don’t know why, but I’ve experienced it in my own life over and over.

    • I actually wondered if Jon made more money (they seem to share expenses 50/50 yet he seems to have a lot more) and if the author got sucked into trying to emulate his lifestyle even though it’s out of her means.

  5. You know, it’s funny. I sold my car because I didn’t need it and didn’t feel like incurring the expense (I live in the densest part of San Francisco). I told myself that I would either get a zipcar or rent a car *anytime* I needed something, without holding back.

    As it turns out, I have rented a zipcar for personal use *once*. Funny thing is that I haven’t ever actually *needed* to go to Target or any other big-box store in that time. However, when I had a car, I used to go frequently. In fact, you can buy whatever you need online – and/or – you don’t really need to go to those stores and buy all of the things they have to offer. I guarantee they are making you buy more than you actually need.

    Now I use the money I save on shopping at those stores and on my car for long-distance travel – for fun.

    I think this person should seriously consider whether they need to do those Ikea/Target runs and make Zipcars a much more infrequent splurge.

    • I sold my car last year and it has done wonders for my budget for the very reason you state: if there’s a limit to how much you can carry home in your bag or on your bike rack, you will buy a lot less!

      It seems a lot of this spending is for lack of planning, which often trips me up too. I try to keep a running list of the items I need at Target (or wherever) so that when it’s time for my monthly ~$30 Zipcar rental, I can do it all at once. Renting a Zipcar twice a week? You might as well own a car.

      Best of luck to the person profiled!

  6. I find the way this couple handles common finances perplexing, but whatever works for them (although I don’t know if it actually works for them…)

    What baffles me is the massive and obvious waste – buy food that you can’t eat, buy cosmetics that you won’t use, buy something and decide minutes later to throw it away to buy something else – come on! I get that these impulse purchases are about making her feel better, more deserving, more worthy, but there has to be a cheaper outlet for that…

    Finally there’s a lot of denial about her earnings and her spendings. On the day she’s not hungry she “only” spends $10 on dinner, on the day she has no oppurtunity for shopping she “only” buys $26 worth of random stuff, she plans a vacation for “only” $2500, even though she’s in debt! Hopefully keeping a money diary will be a useful exercise to snap out of it and realize that she is living beyond her means.

    • I like your comment on making purchases to feel better. There may be an underlying issue of unhappiness that needs to be addressed? Is this an outlet for depression or perhaps problems with Jon?

    • I actually doubt these impluse purchases make her feel better. If they did, they might be worth the money, but I get the idea that the “feeling better” disappears about 5 seconds after the purchase.

    • I want to point out that while to me, $10 for dinner seems expensive because I was raised on home-cooked meals since we couldn’t afford to eat out much at all, a fast bit of research tells me ZipCars are only available around major cities. I’m not sure where this woman lives, but if it’s anything like New York City, $10 for dinner is cheap.

      That said, I agree with her feelings on purchases that are, quite bluntly, not needed to survive. You don’t deserve anything other than what you earn, and it seems like she feels she “deserves” too much. Conscious spending would certainly help turn that into truly deserving what she buys herself because her monetary obligations would be taken care of.

      Jon also seems to be a positive force in her financial life – he convinced he to choose the cheaper transport option even though it was slightly inconvenient. I think she was also considering his income when she was thinking about the price of that trip – she mentioned he had talked to her about wanting to go, that they’d been planning it together.

      I don’t think she’s too bad, really, she just needs to separate her wants from her needs.

  7. I agree with Eric. This is wicked awesome, keep them coming

  8. Is this person even real? All this post did was make me angry at the author for being such an idiot.

    • Patterns of bad behavior are unfortunately easy to get into and hard to break out of. Someone above mentioned having a similar relationship with food, which I can relate to.

      I get your anger, and my first reaction is the same, but give the person a little credit for recognizing the issue and actively tracking themselves to facilitate change.

    • It’s easy to criticize others, isn’t it?

  9. Thank you both to Ramit and the author for doing this money diary. I’m sure it’s difficult to have all the ways you should be more frugal pointed out, but I’m sure it’s also eye-opening.

    To the author: for your benefit, please talk to the student loans representatives as you can make deals with them decrease your monthly payments (this would increase overall cost) or get them deferred if you talk to them early on. If you wait, they’ll start garnishing your wages and you can’t get the amounts changed at that point.

    Ramit, please do the money diaries more frequently again. They’re always interesting, and something everyone can relate to in some way or another.

  10. This person has the amount of self discipline necessary to show up to work for 60 hrs a week but that self discipline seems to fall apart in those “instant gratification” scenarios.

    They realize the amount of pain and anxiety they’re putting themselves through by spending all this money but those emotions are forgotten the minute they want something or an entitled feeling comes up.

  11. This seriously made me cringe, because this could possibly be me if I don’t graduate college or start something (freelancing, a business, whatever) by the time I graduate. Ah. Real eye opener. Thanks for sharing.

  12. This was me a year ago. I simply could not stand to read after day three. I already knew what was coming.

  13. These posts are always awesome because you get into both the diarist and the commenters.

    Most people who did a week-long diary on a variety of behaviors would find themselves engaging in similar thought processes in some area of their lives. Maybe not money, but eating habits, productivity, dating, parenting, etc.

    It’s not discipline or willpower. Plenty of people are extremely regimented in some ares of their lives while a mess in others. Modifying negative behaviors is a brute.

  14. one thing I noticed about myself is even though I am very organized financially and doing quite well for myself, I am a different person in the casino.

    Sometimes when i am down a few thousands in the casino, i begin to build a “screw this” attitude and bet hastily in the next few rounds. Its the attitude of “i am already screwed, whats a few more…” (this is my one vice that I am trying to shake off because its a scary version of me)

    I feel this person goes thru that daily. For example, she was overdrawn by $5.31 and she said she cant do anything about it, but yet went and spent $5 by 9 am, when she could have possibly ‘settled’ the overdrawn issue. (Unless she charged that amount on a CC, not too sure). But basically, reading her diary, I can sense the “i am screwed financially this week, so screw it, let me spend more” attitude in her notes.

  15. I’ve missed the Money Diaries! Glad to see they’re back!

    It doesn’t seem like this diarist is even TRYING. There’s so much “I deserve it” and other rationalizing without ever taking into account the consequences.

    I was spending a bit too freely when I first got out of college and realized the freedom of having income, but when I realized what was happening I gave myself a rule: I’d wait an amount of time appropriate to the cost of an unnecessary purchase, and after that time, if I still wanted it and I had the money, I would go for it. Usually I wait a week or so and luckily that’s helped me curb the impulse buying.

    It seems to me like this girl could benefit from doing something similar. Or at least work on her ability to say “no.”

  16. More of this. Do you think you can get enough of these two cover a post 3-4x a week? It is interesting to see how others handle their relationship with money.

  17. Wow, $3,800 to the vet?! Did her dog have brain surgery or something?? Perhaps she should look into pet insurance, because I can’t imagine owing a vet that much $, but then again, maybe they’re expenses for the last 5 years.

    She should remove herself from the online mailing lists to avoid the weekly temptation to purchase. She admits that she has no set plan to pay off debt and student loans, so that should be priority #1. Priority #2 could be defining needs vs. wants.

    I think it’s odd that she says that when she gets her $100 paycheck, she feels so relieved that she wants to buy something! ?! It’s seems very clear that getting her finances in order isn’t any sort of priority.

  18. Interesting… There are a lot of simple ways she could make improvements. I won’t criticize too much, but I do have to ask… What exactly is the point of these types of posts? Other than to be a book ad (I pre-ordered/read it/love it, so not against your book by any stretch)?

    What I don’t get is how the diarist – if real – seems to actually understand her problems in her writeup. Wouldn’t be much of a leap to do something about them.

    • It’s also interesting that she doesn’t change her behavior this particular week. For example, if I had to write down everything I buy, I’d probably think twice about the purchase. Similar to keeping a food journal when you are dieting.

    • My bet is that most of these behaviors are unconscious/unexamined until she really sits down and does something like write a diary about it. Or she was aware enough to volunteer to write the diary, but while she knew she was stressed on money, she never really put it together with her micro-habits like buying donuts and rewarding herself with “little” things, so she never saw the trees for the forest.

      It’s easy to look at a big pile of debt, maybe something like $20k if she has student loans, and think “Well, if I spend $4 on coffee and donuts, that’s not even a drop in the bucket, that wouldn’t make any difference in my spending, and that’s not what’s giving me this big problem of being in this mountain of debt.” It’s only when you go from the micro, the individual actions, to the macro view, like tracking your spending across a whole week and comparing how much you spent to how much you brought in, that you can put it all together.

    • The gap between knowing your problems and changing your behavior is vast.

  19. It’s interesting the author feels she deserves to have her apartment the way she wants it. I wonder if she feels she deserves to be less stressed by not spending on things she doesn’t need so she doesn’t have to pull a double shift. It seems that the extra hard work is waking her up to reality, hopefully the next week for her garnered a behavioral change after writing everything down that week.

  20. Ramit -

    Thanks for bringing The Money Diaries back! Hopefully they’re here to stay!!

  21. I’m 20 and while I could understand what she’s doing, it doesn’t mean I think it’s okay. I don’t understand how you can let a debt keep going unpaid, yet you’re loaning money to friends for tickets they “deserve”? Public transportation should trump ZipCars; just take the train. I’m definitely disappointed in her poor decision making.

  22. What’s more interesting to me is that on paper, most people would probably consider the author fairly successful…especially for someone in her 20′s.

    Using some really rough mental math, pre-taxes and benefits, she’s probably making 50k a year (+/- 5k) form her full time job. With the part time on top of that, she’s got another $2500-5000 in her pocket.

    So that’s roughly 55k a year, which after taxes works out to ~36k a year or almost 700 dollars a week.

    Just a few little hacks, like buying food and cooking her meals could start to peal back those costs and leave more and more money in her account every month. Now I’m not exalting frugality, but it seems like the author really wants the freedom to splurge on emotional impulse buys, so save money on the things that don’t have to be impulses, like food, and enjoy the rest…consciously.

  23. Being extremely disciplined at work might actually LEAD to reckless spending, if we’re to apply the lessons of the recent NY Times article about decision- making fatigue.

  24. I had the same thought as Amy. Working 60 hours must take a large mental toll. After that, you just don’t have the energy to make the right decisions. Is the part time job worth it? Would quitting the part time job give her enough mental strength to not make most of the impulse buys?
    If she can live on just her full-time job, she should have that money deposited into a “bills” account, and set up an automatic withdrawal from the bills account into the fun account. The bills account is strictly for paying bills/paying off debt/essential food. Any extra that she works can go straight into the fun account, and the fun account can be spent on whatever she likes.
    At that point the extra work has an pretty quick reward of being able to buy something fun, but it’s not a requirement that is draining her will power and preventing her from making good decisions.

    Tim

    • Thirded. Whenever I have to work 60 or 70 hour weeks, my spending goes up. No time or energy to cook: eat out. No time or energy to walk: get a zipcar. No time to relax slowly with a book: splurge on some other entertainment when a few free hours crop up.

      Since the second job is unskilled labor, why not put it on hold as an experiment? You could sleep and relax more, make some of your own food, and up your game at the day job. I bet the change would pay for itself. If it doesn’t, you can always go back to waiting tables in a few weeks.

    • Fourthed. When I was in a very similar situation for a summer in college (full-time paid internship, part-time job in retail), I ended up saving very little of the money I made. It was all eating out (because I had no energy to cook or time to go grocery shopping) and impulse buys.

      I wonder if the fact that the part-time job is a customer service job is particularly bad. At least in my case the stress of dealing with sometimes challenging customers made it particularly difficult not to rationalize “treating myself” later.

  25. I do not see really a problem here. They thoroughly enjoy themselves and it is the most important thing.
    They got no kids, hence no responsibilities.

    Perhaps if they would restrict themselves and start saving more, it would not be such fun.
    I do have a lot of examples, when people diligently saving money – where are they now?

    A colleague of mine postponing his retirement since 2008. Now his financial adviser told him go to work another five year and pray that Dow will be back.
    If 5 years time he will be pushing 70.

    • Dunno. “lots of stress and guilt” doesn’t sound like she’s enjoying herself to me. If she got rid of the debt and wasn’t owing her boyfriend money and had a bit of a buffer so if things went south she wouldn’t hit rock bottom I bet she could go back to shopping all the time and spending her money and be fine with it, but not like this.

    • So it would have been better for your colleague to be unemployed and praying that the Dow would come back?

    • How do you not see a problem? The author readily admits she doesn’t even want to think about the debt she’s racking up on her credit cards, or her student loans. The problem is life gets more complex and expensive, so if she doesn’t fix it now while she doesn’t have kids or other responsibilities, how is she going to be able to fix it when rent, car, life expense increase?

    • Since when does no kids = no responsibilities? I don’t have kids but I do have a husband, a job, a house, a car, student loans, 3 cats and a dog, and lots of family. That’s plenty of responsibility. Being able to meet your financial obligations is also a (huge) responsibility and I don’t think the author is there yet.

    • I definitely see a problem here. It’s great that they enjoy themselves, but I think that the stress of working 60 hours a week and being in debt is not enjoyable.

      In 5 years time, if he starts collecting his SS at age 70, he will receive payments that are 132% of what he would get if he retired at age 66. I will assume that your colleague is 65 (70-5); if he collected his SS now, he would be getting 93.3% of what he would collect if he retired at 66. His financial advisor knows what he’s talking about, if your colleague is capable of working 5 more years.

  26. Having a haircut cost almost twice as much when the owner does it, is that an American thing? I’ve never heard of anything so bizarre.

    • I can’t speak for the whole country, but I do know at the salon I go to the owner is more expensive than just a regular stylist.

  27. I think her habits and how she rationalises things and uses the word ‘deserve’ show that her subconscious belief about money is that spending money is how you feel good about yourself…

    She sees she’s in overdraft, feels bad about it, and then buys breakfast without even realising she doesn’t want a donut. She gets paid and it makes her feel good and that makes her want to spend money – just like an automatic response. The downside is that not being able to pay her loan etc. obviously makes her feel bad, and the automatic response of spending money to feel better about life/herself/etc only exacerbates it.

    I think setting money aside or prioritising paying off her debts instead of a vacation or any other life change would end up being impossible to maintain. It deals with all the symptoms, but you’d still have the underlying problem of how money and self-worth are linked together. And I think you’d eventually just find yourself back where you started originally.

    And if watching an unhealthy amount of reality television has taught me anything, it’s that having that kind of a relationship with money makes it even easier to run into problems like debt, no matter how much money you’ve been making (i.e. being filmed getting an eviction notice when just episodes earlier you were going in for a facelift and getting your daughter a nosejob.)

    I hope that doing this helped her think about the WHY behind her actions more than HOW she wants to change them. I always think it’s easier to change if you know why you want to do it, not just that you SHOULD be doing x, y and z. I’d actually be interested in getting updates from some of the previous diarists to see if they change anything or realised anything after seeing it written down and reading the comments. (if they read the comments…)

  28. It’s possible she is using up her finite reserves of will power on 60 hour work weeks split between two jobs that typically offer little room for advancement. It’s one thing to work 60 hours a week when you are advancing professionally, but a whole other thing to be grinding it out at lower paying jobs with little hierarchy. She may lack the energy and attention to detail in her down time outside of work.

  29. Ramit, you may have already thought of this, but i’d love to see a series develop from this:
    1 – Author writes a Money Diaries Article.
    2 – You meet/skype with author and discuss actionable items (or just as you did here, outline where to look in your book, but giving a little more advice and time to the author)
    3 – Follow up article after 1 month, 3 months, then a year.

    I missed the Diaries too! Even those with “poor” financial skills (get it? its a pun! womp womp) have something to add to the (overall financially savvy) readers of your site – I feel like reading this was an exercise in figuring out how to help a friend of mine in the same boat. I’m learning to give better advice – no “shoulds”, but real, actionable advice.
    Even tho i’m not yet *completely* out of debt, sites like yours have made me the success story in my group of friends.

  30. Thank you for sharing this rather personal “money diary.” I see above that it is based off of New York Times’ “sex diaries,” and ironically, I think this is almost more personal for some people. Money is often a taboo subject, but talking about spending openly like this, really helps people I think.

    Also, I think it will really help the writer, if it hasn’t already. Just seeing some of your spending choices written down is a great way to recognize what needs to be changed! Another thing that might help is writing down a budget.

    I work at Mango Money’s blog and in researching a recent post, I found out that Google Docs actually has some really cool budget-creating tools. The post won’t go up until Friday, but I think this might really help you out, so here is the link for Friday’s post. Visit us then and check it out! Good luck, and thanks again! http://www.mangomoney.com/blog/

  31. It’s currently 2:37pm California time.

    I woke up at 7:30am got to work by 9am, didn’t forget to grab a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner from the fridge (on sale for $1.99) for lunch.

    Around 11am took a break and grabbed a blended drink from coffee bean and tea leaf ($3.95).

    Heated up my frozen lunch and ate it while browsing the internet reading PF blogs.

    After work I really want to get a pedicure and lip wax because my feet look gross and ‘staches aren’t that cute on girls. BUT! I’m just going to go home and chill out since I won’t be showing my toes anytime soon and this ‘stache I have probably only bothers me.

    Total spent today $5.94.

  32. It sounds like the author needs more than a diary. She needs one-on-one counseling with someone who has experience creating budgets and debt management plans.

    Both Consumer Reports and Clark Howard recommend the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org). They’re a well-respected non-profit, and their services are free.

    I wonder why Ramit never mentions NFCC. Perhaps he realizes that their services would compete with his for-pay products. Or maybe he does not like that their advice includes penny-pinching and latte avoidance. :) Ramit, why don’t you recommend this group? I don’t remember any NFCC mentions in your book, and I can’t find it on the website. (P.S. I have no affiliation.)

  33. what an awesome post.

    i progressed from “what an idiot” to “oh, I can see why she would do that” to “hmm, sounds like me” to “well, she’s not doing too badly” :-) Cognitive dissonance in the time it takes to read a blog post?

    sounds like she works damn hard and deserves a few treats (Zipcar instead of train etc.). Naturally its a cycle where the money is essential due to other treats of varying expense but I totally understand it. The author does not need a counsellor or any other type of therapy- the liklihood is that over time she will balance what she can and cannot live without and gradually her money situation will improve.

    Or she might find as I did that after a few busy weeks where I literally had no time to fritter away cash I suddenly had more money which lessened the pressure which meant I could think more clearly about purchasing decisions.

    And also, if anyone thinks that buying things to cheer yourself up does not work (at least well enough to keep you doing it again and again) then you are deluding yourself.

  34. All I can say is WOW. This was like looking into the mind of a loved one. She too always rationalizes that way she spends and then has guilt and anxiety that manifests itself physically afterwards, i.e. restless nights, jitters, etc.

  35. This is interesting. Kudos to her for honestly sharing her personal money habits on a site like this where she could probably expect to get some brutal comments. I’m not sure she’s ready to make major changes yet – you can’t badger someone into behavioral change if she’s not ready or by just telling her to start cooking at home more – plus she’s still planning an expensive vacation despite her stress over her other money problems, so that’s a pretty good indicator.

    It does sound like she could really benefit from automation, as described in Ramit’s book. Once she does that, I think it would also be useful for her to go an all-cash system such as Dave Ramsey’s envelope method, since she’s overdrawing her bank accounts and running up credit card bills. If she can automate bills (even having her bank mail her boyfriend her half of the rent) and debt repayments (even if it’s just $10 a month!) and use cash to pay for whatever else she wants so she’s not going further into debt, and even if she eats out every day, that’s a good start. But again, this is all moot until she decides herself that she really wants more control over her money issues.

  36. I, too, have really enjoyed seeing the return of The Money Diaries. More of this please, Ramit!

    As for the author of the diary: I have a lot of sympathy for her. I could easily have been her, if I hadn’t have lucked out in a few ways. It is easy to feel like you deserve a treat when you’re working hard and/or feeling stressed/miserable, and it is hard sometimes to keep track of all the treats throughout the month.

    What I would suggest is this: 1) figure out minimum payments for everything – including savings and whatever financial arrangements she has with the boyfriend – and automate them before she even sees her paycheck. 2) figure out how much she can afford to splurge per month, pull that money out IN CASH, and when it is gone, it is gone – no more splurging. I am generally skeptical of the articles that insist that we spend more with plastic – for me it helps to know exactly where my money is going and I won’t keep track of it with cash – but for this girl, going cash-only on her treats and splurges may help her to re-prioritize what she treats herself to. If she can visibly see the amount of cash she has left for the month, she may re-think some of the impulse purchases. She may figure out which splurges gain her the most return (e.g. relieve the most stress or give her the most happiness) and start avoiding the rest.

  37. This is a great post, and reminded my of myself a few years ago. It also made me very grateful that I changed my spending habits when I did. She seems to not care about the situation because if its already bleak what else can happen? I feel bad for her and hope that she gets her wits about her before she wakes up to a much larger overdraft and $50,000 in consumer debt.

  38. I read this as I identified with the headline. I worked 75+ hours pw with 2 full time jobs (one day time one night time) including weekends for 3 years so I know exactly what it’s like.

    However my spending is nothing like the above diary. This makes me realise the extent of the budget that I have in place and just how much it has become habit.

    The idea of a “no spend day” isn’t even considered here. Food is bought as and when leading to poor decisions made in the grip of a hunger. They are low on funds from the hol they’ve had yet still looking into the next one!

    There’s mention of putting money aside for hols but she doesn’t actually do it when she gets paid from either job.

    The part where she says “I only spent about $10 on food” shows that she expects to spend that much or more most days!

    It sounds like the spending only stops when she reaches the bottom of the account.

    I want to write out a budget for her so much that it hurts!

  39. Girl, you’ve got boobs! Use them! Get out there and hustle some dances. Do ‘em well enough and you won’t have to spend your own money on fun stuff you “deserve”.