Money Diaries: The 20-something cube-dweller with an addiction to phone accessories

Ramit Sethi

This is another post in the Money Diaries series, which is based off New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries. We’ve collected stories from real people about their spending habits over seven days, anonymized them, and posted them here.


Today’s post is by a 23-year-old married guy who works for an insurance company in San Francisco. Check out how small slips in budgeting and spending can add up before you know it.

* * *

Day 1
7:30 a.m.: Wander around the house half-dazed, decide to eat breakfast at work rather than attempt to feed myself in present state. Grab a banana, pear, emergen-C, 2 Omega3/DHA gummies, and a packet of instant oatmeal. Make a PB&J, throw all these into my backpack, make sure my BART ticket from last week still has money on it ($14.50, CHINGY!) kiss my wife goodbye, and head out the door.
12:13 p.m.: Received an email from I made $5.86! From the sale of a book, which cost me nothing except gas/time to get it. After shipping I make about $4. Now I just need this to happen another 40 times this month and I’m good. Sales are slowing, though. I’ve made $27.89 since end of January; usually it’s 2-3 times that much, so this is a slow month for sure.
12:30 p.m.: Spent the day thus far working (very little) and (mostly) working on my own personal business stuff from my office computer, such as looking for free things on FreeCycle, which I will pick up after work. I locked down a free microphone for the wifey, possibly some free books from the same person, which I’ll sell on Amazon, and a succulent plant that is half-dead in a very nice pot, which I can either let die and reuse the pot, or get it healthy if possible. Either way it will be sold at some point.
1 p.m.: Going over finances from the weekend. Here’s what it looks like since last Friday when I got paid: Payroll Direct Deposit – $769 + $214 I had leftover = $983; $40 from the ATM for Medical Marijuana; $250 transfer to the joint account my wife and I share for food/groceries/Amazon shipping expenses; $8 plastic stand for G1 smartphone (I’m addicted to phone accessories); $5.43 Frisbee; $51.11 new clothes at Crossroads (John Varvados dress shirt for $24.50?? YES PLZ!!); $32.61 Lizzy Pulitzer sweater at an outlet. (Normally I wouldn’t, but it was just so nice, and the original price was $160 yowzaz!); $33.33 on “personal items” (use your imagination). Balance starting the week is $562.89 in my account and $234.65 in the shared account.
1:30 p.m.: Wow, I spend too much on payday weekend every time. Sadly, that’s only what I spent from my account. Our joint account has about $120 on eating out/groceries ($36 on groceries) over the weekend as well. This is why I eat PB&J at work (as he bites his PB&J mournfully) AND I haven’t even paid ANY of my bills yet. I text my little brother in Arkansas to remind him he owes me $100 for a phone I bought him around Christmastime. A loan, not a gift.
5:30 p.m.: Realized my BART ticket was wrong, it only had $1.40 on it, so I put another $21.80 on it for the rest of the week.
6 p.m.: Get home and eat pizza my wife left me before her yoga class.
7:30 p.m.: My wife picked up the free books/microphone (no plant, sadface) ; she got a bunch of really nice ones. Instead of listing them on Amazon I sit around getting high, playing with my G1, and watching PBS and the news all night with the wifey and our roommates.

Day 2
7:30 a.m.:
I eat breakfast at home, as is my normal routine. The wifey hasn’t gone grocery shopping yet this week so it’s slim pickins. I pack a lunch consisting of just fruits (which we make sure are always plentiful) because I’m out of PB&J. This may necessitate a run to the Subway around lunchtime. Luckily there’s always free coffee at work.
10 a.m.: COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE! Check my bank account online. Some more items came through, some from last week even. I can’t stand having stuff I bought a week ago show up on my bank statement so much later. Reading through my news feeds I see an entry from CNewmark (creator of craigslist, has a great blog where he talks about politics and birdwatching) about Apparently keeping track of my own money isn’t going to cut it anymore, I need to keep track of Obama’s economic stimulus as well.
2:30 p.m.: As predicted, I buy a $6 Subway sammy on the shared/food account, and munch half of it at my desk. I’ll probably eat the rest at home later in a cloudy daze before we go to BSG night (Battle Star Galactica, we watch it with friends on their projector).

Day 3
9 a.m.:
Brought breakfast from home, I eat it at my desk while shopping for G1 accessories on eBay before I start my day. I spend $5.05 on screen protectors and $26.14 on a docking cradle. I’m still deciding if I want to use the cradle at work or at home…
12 p.m.: Looking at my WaMu Online statement, this is something I do several times a day. And for exactly this reason: I find a mysterious $4.99 charge from PayPal. Investigation reveals a pair of socks from eBay that I apparently forgot about. And I found out I accidentally had them shipped to my mom’s house in Arkansas…bummer dude.
7 p.m.: Finally getting around to putting some of my Amazon stock online. While I’m there I check my account balance. I made $33.75 for the first half of January. That’s half what I normally make. Also, the wifey reminded me I owe her $70 from a month ago for something or other. I transfer $100 into our joint account because it’s low and she’s probably going to go shopping sometime this week. We’ve spent quite a lot eating out already, I’m sure I’ll have to put another $75 at least in there before I get paid next week.

Day 4
11:32 a.m.:
Woke up late and rushed to get out of the house on time. Ate breakfast at my desk, didn’t pack a lunch so I might get food with a friend.
11:53 a.m.: Broke down and bought a car cradle/charger for my G1. $25.38 but it’s worth it because I’ll use it all the time. We might sell our TomTom since we never use it anymore, thanks to Google Maps on my G1.
4 p.m.: UH-ooooh, eBay at work is such a bad idea. Boredom equates to purchases I can somehow justify. I just bought an ergonomic MS4000 keyboard. I get pain in my wrists at work, so it really is an investment in myself. But with a $29.99 pricetag, and of course I had to donate a dollar at checkout to save blind kittens. $30.99 isn’t bad compared to what it retails for, but still…..
7 p.m.: We hit the jackpot! I got about 30 assorted glazed and plastic pots with even more drip saucers. A couple of rectangular plastic pots (like for an outdoor window) with dying flowers I intend to restore. And three full TJs bags of new-good condition books. After weeks of not pulling much of anything, this is a great boost to inventory. I spend a few hours potting up cuttings, taking more cuttings, watering/rearranging plants, and posting some books on Amazon. This weekend I’ll have to do a craigslist sale and thin out some of my plants, they’re getting far too populous.

Day 5
9 a.m.:
Dragging today, thank goodness it’s Friday at least. I eat breakfast at work, find nothing in my free inbox, check my WaMu online statement. Not bad, I still have about $400 left. I need to drop about $200 of that on a hospital bill I’ve been putting off way too long. And I just got a text from T-Mobile saying my account is past due. I’ll die if they kill my G1, so I probably need to shoot them some money today. I can do that online later.
8 p.m.: I basically spend all day Friday cutting jokes with my office mates/boss, reading Greader and talking to my friends/family back home on Gchat, downloading music on my G1, and generally kicked back at the office. I manage to spend absolutely no money, cheah! I do a lot of browsing for high-dollar items I plan to buy w/my stimulus check though. And due to way too much coffee at work and a complete lack of any company at the house, I end up taking a very nice nap and basically sleeping all night. Sleep is free, thank goodness.

Day 6
2:30 p.m.:
Valentine’s Day… Woo, I count my lucky stars. After an entire week of procrastination, I find the day upon us with no plans or reservations of any kind. My wife opts to watch movies she rented from the library (for free!) on the couch after we wake up at 1:30. We spend all day doing that because the weather is completely terrible. 7 p.m.: Just when I think I’ve gotten away with a money-free holiday, we decide to go out for dinner. This basically consists of driving around and looking at which places don’t have people at every table. We settle on a nice Vietnamese place. Unfortunately, we sit down to find the menu consists of three choices for each of a three-course meal, with no prices on anything. Here’s wear I start to sweat. Luckily there are prices on the drink menu. I order a $7 glass of wine, we decide that we both love the exact same things on the scant menu, and order identical meals. Long story short, we walk out of there for $88 including the tip.
9:30 p.m.: We skip the bar and billiards in favor of a cheaper night at home playing scrabble and watching dubbed Thai/Israeli movies from the library.

Day 7
11 a.m.:
The wifey and I spend the day cooped up inside due to rain.
7 p.m.: Dinner at Cafe Zoetrope in the Francis Ford Coppola building in San Francisco. We absolutely love this building, and it’s my wife and her cousin’s first time being there to eat. My sister’s boyfriend works there so I usually get hooked up on drinks, but he’s out of town so we are cautious and split a plate of the Puttanesca – look this one up, we had a fun time discussing its origins with the waiter. Another long dining story short: We get our drinks comped, dinner is still $67.28 (OUCH). At least this is the end of my purchases for the week.

In sum:
All in all, this is a terrible week for me financially. I failed to use the programs my phone offers to keep track of my budget. I spent way too much on accessories for my phone/office ($92.61) and eating out ($161.28). So yeah, I spend the next week broke and trying to keep my accounts from bouncing, which they both do and I pay fees on my next paycheck. Lame.

* * *

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

Do you know your actual earning potential?

Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz

Takes 3 min


  1. Moneymonk

    *Blank Stare*

    I cannot critize this guy, I was just as bad in my twenties especially early twenties. However, his wife seem to be totally opposite

    My advice, have fun before you have children. LOL

    Get a gripe on your spending, it’s ok to spend as long as your priorities are in place.

    Try not to bouce checks and sink into cc debt. practice saying NO to yourself every now and then

  2. JoeK

    Yes, very bad here. You live like someone making $70K when in fact you make….$40K? What would you do if you had to pay for a major expense, or lost your job? If you ever had children with your wife, how could you afford it when you only have a few hundred bucks in your bank accounts? Do you ever want to take a nice vacation with your wife? Do you enjoy living in your crummy apartment? This sounds like too many american 20 somethings.

    There is good news here though!! You don’t seem to have any major credit card debt or the like which is great! You are supplementing your income with a small side job (selling stuff) so that’s good to see. You probably only need to make a few lifestyle changes and change your attitude toward money (from one that thinks money is there to buy stuff I want today, to an attitude that money should be saved and grown so in a few years, I can buy some REALLY good stuff or do some really cool things). You’re not in a deep financial hole (yet), at least it sounds like you aren’t.

  3. JoeK

    Totally unrelated but I wanted to get this out there. So it is tax season. last night I wast filling out my 1040 to get my return. Well I had the 1040EZ and the regular 1040 which is more work. While I’m filling out the EZ (I’m lazy) I notice that my refund is gonna be huge. Huge. Much bigger than I expected (it’s going to be over $3K wow!). Then I saw I paid a good amount interest on my student loans last year, and that is tax deductible. Well at first I was tempted just to fill out the EZ and don’t worry about the extra deduction because I was so excited about how much I’m gonna get back.

    But then I stopped.

    “wwaid?” I thought to myself. (What would an indian do?)

    An indian wouldn’t be in this position because he’s in India, and he doesn’t have to pay American taxes…

    ok kidding. But I decided to at least look into how much extra this deduction would get me.

    Turns out it’s an extra $200 on my return! That is definately worth the extra effort of going through the 1040 and getting it all down. So instead of 10 minutes, I spent about an hour on my tax return, and it gets me an extra $200. I’d say that’s a pretty good job! Remember, I was this close to just saying, “ah it can’t be that big a difference”

    Just wanted to say thank you Ramit, for making me stop to think what I was giving up by not looking for stuff like that. (incidentally I won’t be thanking you with any royalties of the extra $200).

  4. Vik

    It’s a violation of FreeCycle rules to get stuff ONLY to sell it.

  5. kevin

    This dude is totally abusing the system of trust that FreeCycle is built around. F him…I’m glad he’s struggling financially.

    Doing sketchy things is not part of a healthy financial lifestyle (look at the banks on Wall Street).

  6. Chris

    Posters #4 and #5 bring up a good point. You are not supposed to sell items that you receive from FreeCycle.

  7. Lise

    Medical marijuana, uh huh 😉

  8. sprfrkr

    Not as extravagant as other posts in this series. He is doing what the majority of folks do, but is at least conscious of the small issues he has. He needs to continue to look at increasing his rev (yes, including selling FC stuff. He’s not going to H3ll for it). I think they will be fine in the future. Good luck!

  9. Geoff

    WTF hommie? The karma police are gonna lock your ass up for flipping those Freecycle books. Plus, if you weren’t such a lazy POS you might be doing better financially. And your wife might appreciate you going to the store just once.

  10. James

    Hey, I feel for the guy – his paycheck was less than $800 after taxes – for those wondering, that works out to around $21,000 a year to live on.

    I’m 23 and feel like this guy goes through a lot of the same issues that I do – he really tries to watch his bills day-today and eat food at or from home as much as he can, but that gets repetitive and boring. If I was giving him advice, I’d say stop browsing ebay at work – it’s far too easy to just make non-essential purchases out of boredom. Force yourself to spend your down time doing it – it’s generally not very fun, so hopefully you’ll cut back. Also, eating out once in a while is fine, it’s fun and a great stress relief! But on that income, an $88 dinner tab is a once a month kinda thing, not once a week. If you wanna go out w/ friends, eat at home then go out for coffee or a few drinks.

    Finally, AUTOMATE YOUR BILLS. Once your bills are automatically deducted, you know what you can spend on toys and going out and can start doing it without feeling (quite so) guilty.

  11. Jeremy

    Selling FreeCycle stuff is pretty low. I was a FreeCycle moderator, and it’s definitely a violation of the rules and spirit of the thing. We even had people posting asking for stuff they clearly didn’t need.

    The real question is what’s the hourly take on selling other people’s giveaways on Amazon? Is it really worth it, or is there some other way you could be making extra money that’s sustainable and more well paid?

  12. Trips

    Agreed with #4 and #5, he shouldn’t be selling stuff he get on free cycle. In fact, since he gets items for free and selling it for a profit, he would need to report the amount as taxable income.

  13. Ben

    …..Is this a joke? $88 dollars for a restaurant tab when you only have a few hundred in your account? People, wake up. This recession is a DEPRESSION. So many of you are one paycheck away from disaster!! (read above post). People like this guy are going to drown in expenses in less than a month when their jobs are yanked from under them. STOP MAKING EXCUSES….START SAVING NOW. Unemployment is on the rise and there will be a period of inflation heading our way in less than a year’s time. Search YouTube for Gerald Celente if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yeesh…..

  14. JT

    OK, I can understand the $88 splurge on Valentines Day…but I can’t understand doing it again the very next day. You just don’t have the income that supports that kind of gourmet dining habit that frequently, and you need to be realistic about that. Either find a way to increase your income, or stay in.

    Which brings me to my next point…you’re spending an awful lot of time and energy scavenging stuff from FreeCycle to sell on Amazon…doesn’t seem worth it. Why not think of a meaningful way to increase your income…a business opportunity, getting ahead at work (which you seem bored at…you should think about doing something you actually LIKE, so that you won’t sit and twiddle around on eBay all day), grad school…whatever.

    Do something with your life because at the rate you’re going, being 45 and living your current lifestyle will not be so cool…

    Also – not sure what the medical mari is for, you mention a hospital bill but then don’t seem to be in any pain and seem to be able to function well enough. If you’re problem is medical than I apologize…but if its not (and it really doesn’t seem that way) than maybe you should spend some time getting a life that doesn’t require chemical enhancement for you feel pleasure in. Sorry to be harsh but that lifestyle is a one way ticket to Loserville.

  15. melissa

    This is really interesting to me because it’s the first Money Diaries where the person made about the same income as I do in a major city. I’m curious where his rent money comes from since it isn’t mentioned–does wife make a lot more than he does? (but I live in NYC so rent is a major expense). I’ve thought a lot about selling things on Amazon/ebay lately but, like other posters, wonder if the income vs. time is worth it.

    JT–I was also curious about the medical marijuana thing! haha

  16. rkt88edmo

    Selling things that you’ve picked up on freecycle for weed money, Skeezy!, dreaming about big purchases with that juicy stimulus check instead of financial stability, love the money diaries.

    To the OP – imagine a life where you wouldn’t have to compulsively check your account balances every hour – it is within your reach.

    @JoeK & James if he is netting $800 per weekly paycheck he is probably making a mid to high 50k income

  17. Steve O

    I don’t think this is really a good example… I would never spend money on half of the stuff he does. I don’t feel sorry for him at all.

  18. scott

    Selling stuff on FreeCycle really rankles me! It totally goes against the spirit of the site. If I just wanted to unload my stuff I would give it to GoodWill and receive a tax writeoff. FreeCycle is all about connecting with people who can put stuff to good use and improving their day. It skips the middleman and prevents individuals from having to scavenge thrift shops to find what they need. No one would donate through FC if they knew their item were simply being resold at a profit (think about the “FREE” part of freecycle).

    As far as advice goes … get some instant soups and easymac or something for your office. You won’t be so up the creek if you forget lunch again because you will have something there to munch on.

    Learn to cook. Think about what a fancy and gluttonous meal you could have made with that same $80.

  19. rkt88edmo

    Also another tip for the OP – when I got laid off I went to costco and bought 5 pounds of ground beef, a bag of shredded cheese and a case of refried beans. Taco seasoning and an onion from the grocery store and two packs of tortillas. I made some 70+ burritos and wrapped them in plastic wrap and froze them. Eating two made a decent meal. There really isn’t any reason you have to just eat PB&J.

  20. lt

    another vote for it being skeezy to sell stuff from freecycle for weed money.
    also, why are you complaining about the tab for taking your wife out when you are buying frivolous chargers and things for your phone on ebay? $88 dinners aren’t ridiculous. where do you usually take your fair lady, denny’s?
    i’m all for selling (my own) books on amazon though- my bf and i pooled together all our old books and dvds we didn’t want anymore, and made enough to buy a wii (we had our eye on one for a while, and doing a trade-up felt a lot better than dropping $400 cash!)

  21. Ben

    rkt88edmo >> He is not making that $800 per week from the end of his diary – he’s making that every 2 weeks. Putting his Yearly income in the range of $25-28k Even with a second income from the spouse, that’s definitely not cash for living large.

    Self control in spending seems to be key here and is a hard lesson that every last person in their early 20s needs to learn. Saying no to the impulse buys unless you have a very comfortable cushion already established and know you can afford to spend it.

    Agreed that it’s good he doesn’t seem to have a bunch of credit card debt, but if he keeps going as he is it’s only a matter of time.

  22. Jeff

    Drop the stupid phone accessories and that $88 meal isnt such a bank breaking event. On an $800 every 2 weeks salary, your monthly budget for eating out should be something around $100, you spent more than that in a week.

  23. AT

    I think there is a bigger issue that commenters have missed so far. Yeah, it’s great that he’s trying to increase his income by selling items on Amazon, but what about this PRIMARY income? He mentions that he wastes a good amount of his time at work on eBay, downloading songs, purchasing things, etc. This is time that should be spent working and aquiring skills. Time spent on actual work activities may lead to increased responsibilities, promotion, raises, etc. Selling on Amazon may help but a raise/promotion can yield thousands per year.

  24. James

    @ rkt88edmo

    He makes it pretty clear it is a bi-weekly paycheck.

    @ AT

    I think that’s all well and good intheory, but he sounds a lot like a cube-dweller like I am. I work for a middle-sized insurance company, and the simple fact of the matter is, there ARE no advancement opportunities. Times are tough in this economy, when a company would rather hire 3 temps that they can fire in a month instead of one valuable full-time employee.
    I learned very quickly that asking for more responsibility will get you more responsibility and appreciation, but not promotions or a raise. That being said, I DO think he should be doing something to improve his situation – I’ve resigned myself to this being my “job” (NOT my career) while I finish working through school, but I still try to network and improve upon soft skills in the meantime.

  25. ryan

    I am in a similar employment situation as the guy in the story and as James (comment #24). I am an under-employed twenty something at a job with no advancement opportunities. I imagine there are lots of people who are like us. We should be thankful we have jobs period.

    It sounds like he has a lot of spare time at both work and home.
    I agree with everyone else that he should really be trying to improve his job skills with his free time. Your ability to earn money is very important and this guy isn’t doing anything to increase it.

  26. evie

    Instead of browsing ebay at work, maybe he could bring some books or magazines with him to read, and improve his skills that way. Or start a blog, learn programming, expand a talent… this is assuming it doesn’t distract from his job. He could also set up a barrier for himself, like blocking that site or leaving his debit cards at home when he’s at work (and not memorizing the information).

    I also agree that automating his finances will help keep him from being so compulsive about checking his accounts. Even on a tight budget, compulsively checking your accounts could make you a bit crazy about your finances.

  27. Ryan

    I hope this guy doesn’t work for my insurance company… seems like he wastes most of the day. 🙂

  28. Peter

    I used to live in the Bay Area.

    A) I gave and received from Freecycle when I lived in CA. Getting things from Freecycle to sell is pretty low. On top of that, how much time and effort does this guy spend to make $75 a month? What hourly rate does that work out to? “Loser” on both counts.

    B) “medicinal” is a load of crap. I know a few people who are actually in chronic pain. They are terminally ill and are prescribed pain killers legitimately. None of them has ever bragged to me that they “sit around getting high, playing with my G1, and watching PBS and the news all night with the wifey and our roommates.” Again, I lived in the bay area and met my share of folks who were prescribed medicinal marijuana for a variety maladies. Most of them had lame excuses for why they needed it. I’m sure this guy’s “reason” is similarly lame. The fact that he is bragging about getting high is a big clue that it is more recreational than medicinal.

    C) Some folks mentioned that he should seek additional duties at work to expand his skills and perhaps garner a promotion. The rebuttal from several others was they they work in an environment with no advancement opportunities? What? What a load of crap! Of course there are advancement opportunities! Just because HR doesn’t publish a step-by-step manual to become CEO does not mean there is no way to accomplish it. Furthermore, you should look at the bigger picture. Perhaps the advancement opportunity is with a different company, you just need some skills that the other company finds attractive. Whether your extra efforts are acknowledged and appreciated by your current employer or not, don’t discount the fact that you can pad your resume with these accomplishments and make yourself stand out in the marketplace. The days of spending your career at one employer and rising through the ranks are long gone. Companies are looking for employees with varied experience (without being a job hopper) so start doing things now and they will pay off later.

    Everyone who thinks they have “no advancement opportunities” do me a favor. Head down to the library/bookstore and get Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Read the book and then think about it. See the forest for the trees. Start making little changes now. Start adding new skills to your repertoire here and there and I guarantee you will be ready to seize that advancement opportunity when it presents itself in the future.

  29. Erin


    There actually is such a thing as a job with no advancement opportunity. I used to work as an auditor in a warehouse. My department, loss prevention, consisted of only 6 people: four auditors, the supervisor, and the manager. we also represented the only nonunion positions in the union warehouse. Add to that the fact that the position above us, Supervisor, required law enforcement experience and was already staffed, and we were not allowed to move unilaterally through the building positions as someone in the union and there really was nowhere for us to go but out the door.

    As others have said, the trick with a job like that is to look at the big picture. What skills can you aquire at the “deadend” job?

  30. rkt88edmo

    Ok 800 every two weeks is definitely a pittance in SF but…as suggested above OP should probably spend some time improving his prospects.

    @Erin – if there are really no prospects then it is time to build skills for your next job. Take one accounting or bookkeeping class at a time at the local JC? Put in the extra efforet at work – can you come up with a more efficient process, automate or computerize documentation, correct the sng errors and update the procedure manuals or training documents? Your current employer may not value those things but you will build your personal skills and will create stories to tell your next potential boss about during interviews about how you have added value in the past and will do so for future organizations you work for which hopefully offer better pay and advancement. Apologize for spelling errors postibg from the mobile.

    In the end build your skills and work ethic because you take them with you when you leave. Is there a workplace out there that doesn’t want aproven:
    Self starter
    Independent worker

  31. Erin

    Thanks for the tip but I left that job two years ago and opted to return to school full time. Right now that was most cost effective for me because I had a parent willing to let me live with them rent free if I am in school and my financial aid qualifications are such that I have been able to work with grants and not take out loans.

  32. j4n3

    Totally irrelevant but I just love the picture with the Aussie 5 cent pieces going into the mobile phone.

    25 cents – wow, big spender!!

  33. Fable Fox

    There is dead end job, and there is dead end workplace.

    I have the experience being a car washer, and I have experienced to work in an office where the way to move up is to move on.

    So I took a study loan and currently taking a night class for a degree in 3d animation – at the age of 30. And where I work right now, I’m receiving clerical level salary. My target is not the degree, but MBA after that.

    My problem is simple, while I read a lot (reading is my hobby, and I have two public library membership), it seems that people doesn’t acknowledge what you have in your head until you have it on paper.

    I start improving my skill by first taking a Certificate in Translation. Hey, being paid to read (actually translate) a book is good.

    I’ve read Outliers and many other self help book (half of it is rah-rah lame). One interesting point is that how successful people get successful. Oprah was right about opportunity meet preparation. I’ve been prepared my whole life, just waiting for the opportunity. I have two technical book published, but can’t be a lecturer because I have no degree.

    Anyway, to cut things short, it can be done, but it’s not easy, specially if you don’t have normal childhood. I guess right now I just focus on my degree and later, MBA.

  34. Battra92

    Ok, as stated many times before, GTFO Freecycle. You are ruining it for the rest of us.

    Plus you spend all day doing your own stuff at work when you should be working. Hell, at least I only go on here during my breaks. What a loser!

  35. Stephanie

    I am willing to place a very large bet that this guy is bipolar. Stop smoking the weed and get some medicine for your REAL medical problem. I would be mortified to be your “wifey”.

  36. AMY

    Wow… Speechless, I can’t find one redeeming quality about this person. Not one. I’m searching hard. If this was not written by the person himself, I might cut him some slack, like maybe this one week glimpse into his life was atypical and unfair- but he wrote it himself. The freecycle thing bugged me right away, the weed bothered me too, the apparent lazy and selfish (both at work and at home) attitude really got me good. Running a side business while on the clock- shady. I have absolutely no sympathy for this individual and really hope his employer and wife realize the complete zero that they have on their hands. Disaster waiting to happen.

  37. Dazzford

    Ramit, thanks for posting this one. It is a really good illustration of how to fail in life.

    I make more than 6 times he does (and in my 20s), and my wife and I live in NYC. We eat out maybe once every 2 months. I don’t feel we can afford to eat out any more than that. We have strict allowances of $200 each per month for doing/buying what we want including yoga, electronics, clothing, any going/eating out etc.
    Everything else I make goes to rent, savings and our travel budget (about 2k per year). We don’t have/need/cant afford a car here in the city.

    To spend like he does on what he makes is just pure idiocy. He is the type of person who will get in over his head in debt unless he changes now.

    To the OP, it’s not too late to make the changes to fix your life. Your family will thank you for it.

  38. Dylan

    I read how he withdrew $40 for medical marijuana and stopped reading.

    This is a ridiculous money diary.

  39. Tyler

    Wow, when I first read this I was expecting a backlash on the FreeCycle thing, but not the weed. Is smoking weed really that offensive? I’ve never smoked a bit of it in my life (I’m 25) but even I am surprised at how much it’s looked down upon here. Granted, I live in Denver, where we have an official smoke out day on 4-20 in Civic park that is not only permitted, but arrests aren’t even made during it!

    It sounds to me like he has a few expensive habits and he should try to eliminate one or two. He likes phone accessories, eating out, and weed. He should severely scale back at least one to save some money, but I don’t think he should stop all 3. IF you’re paying your bills and saving for retirement/rainy-day, then why not enjoy some of it?

    Next, I’d advance to earning more money than flipping books provides. Start asking for HDTVs to resell! Just kidding, start consulting or get a PT job. I try to flip my old (6-12 months) computer games sometimes, hoping for even just half of what I paid. What I find most often is that the $9 to $10 I get is hardly worth the walk to the post office and wait in line.

    Just make sure you’re earning your money honestly and making wise long-term choices…

  40. JimE

    Gotta say this guy is a huge train wreck and I’m absolutely rubber necking on the highway. Nothing to be said or done, just wow look at all the carnage.

  41. markigreene

    LOVE IT ALL ~~~~~~~

  42. Stephanie


    It IS offensive to talk about your $40 weed habit when you overdraft your account. If you want to smoke weed and have no financial problems, I have no issue. The fact that this loser is is taking stuff off of Freecycle to resell is a violation of their terms of service but is made worse when he reveals that he violates it in order for extra weed money! Go pick up aluminum cans or something for your weed and your phone accessory addiction. This guy has really screwed up priorities, that is all there is to it.

  43. mike

    Don’t agree at all with the FreeCycle abuse, but my bigger gripe is the “I owe my wifey $70 comment”. Dude, you’re married. Why do you still have “her money” and “my money” categories?

    I’d suggest pooling the money, sitting down with the “wifey” and creating a FAMILY budget for the two of you, since, you know… you’re a FAMILY. Starting there, you can make decisions at the start of the month about where to spend your money. Make sure you’re covering the needs, then budget for the wants and your longer term savings. And get over the idea that one of you owes the other one for anything… that just leads to friction in the marriage.

    Oh, and check into medical insurance at work. You might be able to get a prescription for something that helps you better and cheaper than that “medicinal marijuana” habit… I mean prescription.

  44. Monevator

    Let’s not be too hard on the guy. I actually saved about 20% of my annual income in my 20s (and I wasn’t earning much above average) but I still bought some absolutely idiot things.

  45. Vicki

    OP, thanks for your honest insight. However, just judging purely on what you wrote, it seems like you do have some growing up to do, as mentioned by previous commenters. Being the same age as you and also married, I don’t think that other commenters’ note that “He’s only in his 20s” is a good enough excuse. Let’s rehash the facts:
    1) You buy “medicina marijuana” for what seems like just plain old getting high when it’s not within your budget. $40 a month could be going into an emergency account or other savings/investment.
    2) $32 on brand-name clothes when you make, as others have noted $25-$25k a year? go to TJ Maxx or an outlet and buy brand-name stuff there. It just takes a little sorting and looking
    3) If you like phone accessories, get a raise or switch jobs so you can afford them. We all have our “things” that we just can’t resist.
    4) Integrate your accounts with your wife. If you already have one shared account, why not share the rest? It will make transferring money much less painful and you will know all the money you are spending and what is available to you.
    5) Keep on packing lunches. It looks like this is one thing you are doing right.

  46. rkt88edmo

    Curious as to why people think integrating accounts is a good thing – seems like the OP would quickly drain out any surplus in wifey’s account.

  47. Vicki

    @rtk88edmo After thinking about it, you’re right. At first I suggested merging accounts because, if she is vigilant/empowered enough, she’ll see how quickly he’s depleting funds and put him in line. But, this is also endangering her financial stability. I know when my husband and I merged accounts I cut down on spending, realizing that I was no longer spending just for myself, but for two. But it’s hard to say how psychology would factor into the merging decision here.

  48. mike

    IMHO, integrating accounts makes sense because they are a married couple and should be fully open and honest with each other regarding how the money is earned, spent, saved, etc. It also gets them immediately on the same page financially. That way, they can budget their needs, wants, goals, and vices on paper, before they go out and spend. As a side benefit, it also gets rid of the “you owe me…” nagging, because they’ll both take ownership of the family money if it’s in a shared account.

    All that said, part of my thinking requires the couple to be rational and mature enough to communicate their needs and wants, and actually live within their means. I’m not sure, by this guy’s write-up, if he’s there yet.

  49. Catherine

    This guy really grates my nerves. Re-read the FreeCycle guidelines and spend your time doing something valuable instead of getting high and making money from other people’s generosity and trust.

  50. Tom

    I’m surprised that I didn’t see anyone comment that all of that goofing off at work can do more than inhibit promotions. If your boss stops by at the wrong time, or your IT department tracks website usage, you could end up being fired very quickly. If that were to happen, you would have been fired “for cause” and would likely not be entitled to unemployment benefits (I don’t know CA’s employment law, but in PA, you’d be up a creek). Then, without a job or savings, all the free books on FreeCycle couldn’t save you from financial death.

    A side note: if your wrists (or anything else) are hurting because of your work, you must report that to your employer. The ergonomic keyboard should be provided by your employer, and shouldn’t cost you $29.99 OR a dollar for sad kittens.

  51. My 25 Favorite Personal Finance, Career, and Personal Development Blogs | Dazzle Blog

    […] I Will Teach You To Be Rich I read I Will Teach You To Be Rich for two reasons. First, Ramit’s focus is largely on entrepreneurship – it’s fairly obvious that his audience is the Silicon Valley startup crowd. Second, his tone is pure entertainment – a pastiche of self-assurance and compelling advice that makes most of the articles there quite worth reading. Two great examples of his style and advice are The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? and Money Diaries: The 20-something cube-dweller with an addiction to phone accessories. […]

  52. brian

    wow. i’m glad i went to college.

  53. Kristen@The Frugal Girl

    I agree with everyone else who said that it’s not right to sell stuff you get on Freecycle.

    I’m also a little bit surprised that the OP sells books for $4 while spending money with impunity on other stuff.

  54. Money, Cash, Hoes at

    […] in many cases good for a few laughs as well. I was particularly amused by the guy who talked about getting high and buying cell-phone accessories, for […]

  55. Judy Brittain

    Great Information!