Here’s 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.
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Note from the author: I graduated from college about a year ago and was lucky enough to land the job of my dreams. I moved into my parent’s house so I could get out of credit card debt and start saving for a house of my own.
I have a penchant for the good life, but after a year of living it up, I found myself with $12,000 in credit card debt! In addition to that, I just got myself into some legal trouble and need to come up with about $6,000 for my lawyer.
I make $1200 every two weeks after taxes and 401(k) contributions. The only real bills I have are my phone and student loan payments ($150) and paying down debt ($600), after which I end up with about $450 per paycheck.
For the past year, I’ve been going out about 5 nights a week , and I don’t know if I’ve ever not gone over that $450 per paycheck. I realize I need a serious lifestyle change. I may die of boredom, but at least I’ll be closer to getting out of debt. Let’s see if I can do it.
2:20pm: I heard that I’d be featured in The Money Diaries while at work. I’m excited but nervous because it’s Friday night. I start brainstorming drastic ways to pay off my debt and actually considered cashing out my 401(k). I started it 10 months ago and have about $7,000 already in it. I know cashing out is probably the stupidest thing I could ever do. I need to suck it up and change how I spend my money.
6:30pm: I’m excited to get off of work and meet a group of friends at one of my favorite restaurants downtown. After all, it is Friday and I worked a hellish week.
7:14pm: Fuck. I can’t afford that restaurant. I shouldn’t eat out at all. I have an obscene amount of food at home. I call my friends and tell them to go without me. That may be dick (to arrange it and then ditch), but I know from experience that they’ll have fun anyway and it’s not like they are going to pay my bills for me! I call other friends and decide to meet up at their house. I’ll bring some leftover Belvedere from last weekend so I don’t have to buy tonight!
1:00pm: I’m hung over and hungry. My friends and I decide to go somewhere to eat. I insist on cheap. This brings us to Taco Bell. I spend $3.50 and don’t even eat everything I order. I love this place!
2:00pm: I forgot to mention- I smoke. I spend $7 on a pack of cigarettes and lottery tickets. Both are my guilty pleasure.
8:00pm: I’m invited to go out to eat but I decline and decide to try to choke down some of my step dad’s cooking… If I die, at least I’ll know it was in effort to make a good financial decision.
9:00pm: I decide to hang out at a friend’s house instead of going to the bar with other friends. This whole financial responsibility thing is getting old… But at least I’m sticking to it. On my way, I see some really cheap gas and decide to fill up even though I don’t need it, $16.
3:00pm: It’s Sunday = football. Instead of going to the bars with friends, I decide to go to work and get some stuff done. I stop at Starbucks- $3.50. I’m getting antsy – I need to go out sometime soon! At least tomorrow starts off a busy workweek.
8:30am: I need cigarettes. I’m too late to work to care about the fact I’m spending money. Without these, my day would not be too great. I spend $4.
12:30pm: I need cigarettes again. This time, the gas station has one of those buy 2, get 1 free offers. Even though I still pay sin tax for the 3rd pack, it’s still cheaper than buying 3 individual packs. I also throw in a Powerball and state lotto ticket. I spend $13. I probably won’t need to buy cigarettes for another 4 days, thank God. Even though I’m doing surprising well at not spending money, I was reminded today that I have a trip to Chicago this weekend and a family wedding in LA to attend the weekend after. How can I stick to a minimal budget when I’m jet setting across the country every weekend?
2:35pm: I figured it out! Since my whole family is going to the wedding, I’m going to save myself $50 by not buying a present in my name and piggybacking on my mom’s gift. I don’t know how I feel about this because now that I have a “big kid job,” I feel responsible for my own gift. I’ll think about it for a minute.
7:50pm: $13 on gas. I’m not normally a serial tank filler but gas has been at it’s cheapest, and from what I’ve read, prices are supposed to drastically rise. I thought I’d take advantage one last time.
12:00pm: Ok, I broke down today. I couldn’t resist going to lunch with coworkers. Pizza buffet costs $9. I don’t feel so horrible because I consider this my first poor financial decision of the week.
8:00pm: Haven’t spent any money… Yet. But I did cancel my Chicago trip so I could save money. It doesn’t seem like the end of the world, either. I get paid tomorrow and I know I would have spent at least $300 over the weekend.
8:30pm: I’m still at work and need to eat. I won’t feel so guilty buying dinner considering I just canceled my trip.
1:00am: I’m stupid. I decided to go out to eat and drink with buddies. I spent $40. I’m shocked at how one bad financial decision can ruin a week of serious efforts. I regret this because I realize that it is moments like this that get me in financial trouble.
I only spent $114 this week! That’s amazing. I’m also kicking myself… Almost HALF of the money I spent this week could have been saved! Still, thanks to this, I have an extra $200 that I can throw at my debt. It feels great. Just seeing my frustrations written out has helped me realize how debt is affecting my life. I look forward to continuing this on my own. Let’s hope I can keep it up!
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