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The Money Diaries: The 25-year old restaurant worker on his way up

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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.

old-car.jpg

Today’s post is by a 25-year old married man who works at a restaurant but is looking for bigger and better opportunities elsewhere.

DAY ONE

10:45 a.m: Work called, wondering where I am. Turns out I was scheduled for 10:30 and not 12 noon as I thought. I apologized and explained I must’ve misread the schedule and will be there ASAP.
10:46 a.m: Left for work and spent the drive wondering what the manager was going to do. Getting fired crossed my mind. My reserves have been used up maintaining my bills while training for this job and pulling only minimum wage. How was I going to cover rent a month from now?
11:15 a.m: Got to work 45 minutes late. The Manager gives me a written warning that says “future violations will result in termination” and makes me sign it. Wow.
2:45 p.m: My shift is over and I only made $40. My pockets feel painfully light.
4:11 p.m: I arrive home, check my email and see a bank alert that my account was overdrawn by $3.44. I can’t believe I forgot that automated credit card payment.
6:11 p.m: Mailed rent check to landlord. I always hate sending out so much money to one person at a time. I now have about $260 and I need $1350 to cover my budget for the coming month. I’ve got a job interview lined up for Tuesday; hopefully I can finally start making closer to what time is worth.
8:45 p.m: Had a short phone conversation with a friend about banks and their expensive overdraft charges. I recommended ING Direct’s Electric Orange checking account which earns interest on your balance and doesn’t have overdraft charges, although I was secretly hoping to earn the $25 referral credit…

DAY TWO

4:10 p.m: Long day at work so far. Had an opportunity to leave or take one last table before I go. It’s kind of a waste of time to have only one table at a time, but I decided to take it anyway. Also asked my manager to schedule my next two weeks with as many shifts as possible. No school, so I need to make the most of my free time.
5:45pm: Driving home. That last table worked out favorably and I made $25 on it. Leaving work with $91 in my pocket. Not great, but not horrible. I notice the check oil light is flickering on my dash telling me I need to feed it some more lubricant. I can’t afford to spend the $400+ on the repair right now so I spend about $9 every two weeks on some cheap oil until I can. The power steering fluid is leaking as well, but that’s only $3 every other month. A pain, but still a minor expense.
7:45 p.m: Carpooled to a going-away party for a friend of mine. Saved money on gas, but bought a 6-pack of beer so I don’t seem like a mooch.

DAY THREE

7:20 p.m: Today was excellently spent relaxing and recovering from a hectic week. Fortunately, the only financial decision today was regarding dinner. Decision: Go to Chipotle and share a salad with the better half ($14 for two salads), or go to Publix to purchase the ingredients and make our own. We considered the possibility of sharing one salad and only spending $7…
7:43 p.m: At Publix, our total comes to $12.84 for lean ground beef, a tomato, an avocado, cilantro, a lemon, an onion, garlic and sour cream. This will make enough to feed us three dinners.

DAY FOUR

9:00 a.m: Left for the Rapids Water Park with my wife, her 12-year-old sister and her 14-year-old cousin. Their tickets were covered by their parents with a little extra money for food. Our tickets were free with “2 for 1” coupons which I had from earlier this year. Total cost: $5 for parking and $5 to rent a locker, plus a few bucks for the gas to get there.
7:20 p.m: We used the rest of yesterday’s dinner to feed the four of us. Well worth it.

DAY FIVE

7:30 a.m: Getting up for a big job interview. The position is in my field and would be a huge jump in income for me. Additionally, it was referred through my university and allows me to earn an additional credit toward my degree each semester. Two birds with one stone!
12:30 p.m: Long interview day. Met with three separate individuals and did a programming test to see if I’m the real deal. My contact said his boss was very impressed with me, which he said is very hard to do. I personally feel that I nailed it, but I can only wait now.
1:40 p.m: On the drive home, I hear this very distinct knocking coming from my car. I pull over to inspect the hood and see that my engine has lost all of it’s oil and is bone dry. My engine has never run out of oil that quickly and normally my oil pressure light would turn on. I waited 30 minutes on the side of the road in the blistering 90 degree weather for the engine to cool. All I could think about was how much this will cost to fix.
1:43 p.m: While I’m standing over the car, I get a phone call from the company I just interviewed with. I’m being extended an offer for the position! I’ll need to go through the formalities, but I can start as soon as HR does a background check. Great. Now I just need to figure out how I can get there.
4:00 p.m: After a 30 mph crawl back to the apartment, I’m more than ready to call it a day. I’ll deal with the car tomorrow. I enjoy a reheated slice of pizza that was left over from lunch and unwind.

DAY SIX

9:30 a.m: I’m pretty sure I wasn’t scheduled to work until noon, but I still called just to be sure. Even though I had the job offer, I didn’t want to count my chickens.
10:45 a.m: Reading notices that two of my bills are a month overdue. The first time I’ve ever been behind on my bills because of a lack of funds. Decided it would be best to pay them with my American Express for now. It will keep the accounts current and I’ll pay a little extra on it in the long run.
3:30 p.m: Uneventful day at work. It was slow, so cuts got made early. I made $38 since I got on at noon.
6:00 p.m: Wife helped me organize my clutter and discussed what to do with all of it. We’re going to stop by the management office tomorrow morning to see if we can have a yard sale next weekend. Get rid of unnecessary stuff AND make a few bucks? Why not.
8:00 p.m: We made ramen for dinner. Added some lettuce and a little tuna for some substance. We left the provided seasoning out and used some of our own. Didn’t turn out half bad!

DAY SEVEN

10:00 a.m: After a lazy morning, my wife and I got up to get started organizing the rest of the stuff we moved into the apartment.
10:40 a.m: Management had no problems with us having a yard sale. We go around and post the news in the other buildings in the complex asking if others want to join in and sell their items.
1:10 p.m: We went to the AT&T store to change our cell phone plan but we were misled, as they no longer deal with AT&T. Wasted gas.
4:00 p.m: Back home, we go through about half of our apartment and have a tall stack of things to sell as a result.
7:00 p.m: A friend comes over and helps me change the rollers on our patio door. The parts cost $12.00 and we saved on the handyman cost.

In sum: Despite a large amount of life changes all happening at the same time, my wife and I focused our expenses and wrung out every last drop of cash we had at our disposal to make it through this last month.

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

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31 Comments on "The Money Diaries: The 25-year old restaurant worker on his way up"

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Erica Douglass
7 years 10 months ago
No comments? Guess everyone is out shopping. 😉 A couple thoughts: – Patio door: Shouldn’t the landlord do this for free? You live in an apartment; take advantage of the perks. – You didn’t mention your wife’s job (or lack of job) in the post, but I’d be curious to see how your financial interactions with her play out. Couples’ finances are always interesting to me. – It would be interesting to see a longer-term perspective. What do you plan to change when you get the new job? Why are you working at a restaurant instead of in your industry?… Read more »
Denise Fisher
Denise Fisher
7 years 10 months ago
But what happened with the car? From what’s posted, it sounds like you’re living fairly frugally … especially in the area of food and entertainment. Good job. Like Erica, I also wondered why you were paying for repairs at an apartment, unless it was something that was damaged by improper use or similar type of negligence by you or your wife. If it was due to normal wear and tear, take your receipt to the apartment manager and see if you can get reimbursed. They should be glad to compensate you for the parts, especially when they got your labor… Read more »
Trevor
7 years 10 months ago

Awesome story.

You sound like you manage money well.

ageekymom
ageekymom
7 years 10 months ago

I wish you well. I can’t imagine trying to start out at this time. We’ve been married 24 years and it’s depressing to see our investments dwindle. Our house value has decreased to almost where we bought it 19 years ago. There is no market here to move, as much as we’d like to. We are thankful that we paid off our mortgage last March, we have no loans, and we have no credit cards. Our biggest expense is our health insurance.
Now we’ll just have to work longer. sigh

A. Dawn
7 years 10 months ago

Awesome! Kinda reminds me what my days were like when I was living in NYC and going to school + work.
Cheers,
A Dawn Journal
http://www.adawnjournal.com

John K
John K
7 years 10 months ago

This time’s episode of the money diaries was a little more inspiring than the others. All the best with the new job!

F
F
7 years 10 months ago

I agree that you’re managing your situation reasonably well. Good luck with the new job!

Stop Getting Cheated
7 years 9 months ago

It sounds like this young man is being as resourceful as he can. Congratulations on getting the job he hoped for. He comes across as unselfish, responsible, and willing to do what it takes to makes ends meet under tough circumstances. I wish him much success in his new job.

Strick
Strick
7 years 9 months ago

Awesome. Some day this fellow will be making six-figures and thinking about how good he has it while his peers making the same amount will be always needing more to just get by…

Monevator
7 years 9 months ago

He’s clearly doing very well, especially given he’s only 25-years old. But I do think he could cut costs further. In particular, cut out eating out. Even $7 for a salad isn’t a bargain compared to buying the ingredients and learning how to make a dressing. (Although I guess perhaps he’s had enough of kitchen work after a hard day at work).

Don’t want to sound too down – he’s doing well. 8/10 for effort. 🙂

RT Wolf
7 years 9 months ago
Wow, generally positive comments. I’m curious, did he get the job? how’s he liking it? It’s like leaving a story half told, when getting to the best part. At some point I started rooting for him and wanted him to get that job so I’d like to know. Just a thought: you can pick up “service manuals” for your car, prolly from a third party (can’t remember the name of the main one). I dunno how bad your current problem is, but using that manual and a bit of dedication, you can keep your car in pretty good shape without… Read more »
25-Year Old Restaurant Worker
25-Year Old Restaurant Worker
7 years 9 months ago
This post actually occurred back in the middle of August. Was really excited to see my submission being posted!! As of the end of November, everything is MUCH better along. To answer some questions: – Patio Door: This wasn’t mentioned, but my landlord agreed to take care of some extra things around to house in exchange for some small handyman work. This was a one small upfront expense in return for air duct cleaning and prof. carpet cleaning. I also fixed a window for $2 so it would close (some wire I substituted as a nut/bolt assembly). – Wife’s Job:… Read more »
RT Wolf
7 years 9 months ago

Thanks for posting. That’s great to hear! I’m serious. I’m feeling great happiness that your life is working out for you. 😀

I reckon you’re not considering college funds and retirement funds, etc, too. Have fun!

Michael
Michael
7 years 9 months ago

This is my favorite diary so far.

Dylan
7 years 9 months ago
To the restaurant worker: I thought you used really innovative ways to effectively cut back on personal spending. If applicable to you (I didn’t see if you had a cell phone or not) I might be able to add a little insight into saving on cell bills given that I work in a company called Validas that helps consumers do exactly that. To save through Validas, customers upload their online cell bill through the Validas website, http://www.fixmycellbill.com, where the bill is analyzed to determine how much money the person could be saving on their cell plan. Up to this point… Read more »
John
John
7 years 9 months ago

I’m glad we see someone who’s actually sensible and not like this:

http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/the-money-diaries-the-slightly-lovedrunk-bar-hopping-new-yorker

Good job taking responsibility for yourself and working hard to get ahead.

rkt
rkt
7 years 9 months ago

This is the best money diary so far – thanks for following up in the comments and giving us an update!

I’m a little confused about leaving your current job to pursue other endeavorswhile using the government funding to subside on. The company that lets you telecommute overseas sounds like a hidden gem. No way you can scale down your work for them which would allow you to keep getting paid and have some time to pursue other endeavors?

Even the government teat may dry up with the financial crisis.

Dave
Dave
7 years 9 months ago

I think this is the first Money Diary to receive positive comments. Well played sir.

April
April
7 years 9 months ago

Very impressive! It is nice to read a money diary written by someone who wants to improve their situation, and is actively working to do so.

Some of the other Money Diaries got a bit annoying when the person would claim to want to improve their finances, then blow all the money on going out to bars. I like reading a diary written by someone with a good head on his shoulders.

Andrew
Andrew
7 years 9 months ago

Saved 1200 bucks last month on a 33K a year salary! Thanks for the tips.

Moneymonk
7 years 9 months ago

Something about being married makes you straighten up

Sara
Sara
7 years 9 months ago

Yours was the best money diary entry yet! Your diligence and discipline is inspiring. Congratulations to both you & your wife on your son Isaac, and also on your degrees 🙂

Cecilia
Cecilia
7 years 9 months ago

“American government is really shafting us with support”

Hmmm…how exactly is the American gov’t shafting you with support? Just curious.

Jane
Jane
7 years 9 months ago

John: Fuck you. I do save money, I worked my ass off to get the job I have, I’m not in debt, and I’m tired of getting raked over the coals for my honest post.

25-Year-Old Restaurant Worker
25-Year-Old Restaurant Worker
7 years 9 months ago
I have to admit, the positive response is really encouraging. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come and the decisions I’ve made (despite that some have not been the right ones). While everything sounds rosy, I doubt I’m the ideal role model either. I accumulated a significant amount of debt in years past from bumps I’ve had in the road and a significant amount of time spent in school. (Approximately $20k in student loans and another $15k in credit card debt.) These are things which I’m not so proud to mention, but they were decisions that I do not… Read more »
RT Wolf
7 years 9 months ago

Thanks for replying personally. Health insurance reminded me: now that you’re about to have a child, have you considered life insurance? I understand Term life insurance is your best bet for providing for your family if the unforeseen happens. I realize it’s not in the budget currently, and this might be something to keep in mind in the future. Cheers and good luck!

I agree with you about the health care bit, I’m really glad for the level of health care I receive here in Canada.

Cecilia
Cecilia
7 years 9 months ago
Thank you for explaining the comment. I agree that health care is scary in the US. It is supposedly the leading cause of bankruptcy. On the other hand, the idea of blaming the country for the failures of the industry bothers me. The true fault is the industry (“insurance” companies that don’t insure a thing) and their control over the US gov’t. On the other hand, there are plenty of people banging down the US’s doors trying to get in to get the quality of health care available here. And free coverage for certain classes of people…unfortunately, most people don’t… Read more »
David
David
7 years 9 months ago

Pathetic product placement of ING Direct in Day One passage.

Coincidence they are one of Ramit’s sponsors?

zoe
zoe
7 years 9 months ago

I have HSBC Direct. I was wondering…is ING really better?

On Jane–geez, people are really so judgmental and harsh on her. Pretty unfair, I think.

25-Year-Old Restaurant Worker
25-Year-Old Restaurant Worker
7 years 9 months ago
As a customer of ING for over 7 years, I push them any opportunity I can. If not for the better than average interest, or for the decent customer service, then maybe for the $0 overdraft fee (replaced with a line of credit they change you interest on) or possibly for the same ease of access you are given with most other banks. All for the small inconvenience of maybe not living near a brick and mortar branch and waiting a few business days to get money transfer from account to account. Worth it. Zoe: Never used or were aware… Read more »
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