The Money Diaries: The 20-something who can’t seem to get out of his parents’ house

Ramit Sethi

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.


Today’s post is by a 25-year-old who lives at home with his parents in an attempt to save money to buy a house. Meanwhile, he obsesses over small expenses thinking that they affect his housing fund.

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Day 1
3:45 p.m.: I read my email while taking a break from work and I find out I’ve been chosen to do the Money Diaries. Oh jeez! Why today? I just spent $107.00 on the Inazuman DVD Box Set. I suppose I still have time to cancel the order but the demand for Japanese TV shows in America is small so I think I’ll make this my only real purchase of the week.
4:30 p.m.: I left work at 4 and carpooled home. It’s been a month since the coworker chipped in anything, so he gave me $20. I think what with gas going down I might want to tell him he now only has to pay me once every 5 weeks or so. Sure that’s less money coming in but honestly, I feel bad taking too much money for what is essentially a mile out of my normal commute.
4:45 p.m.: I get home and the giant box from DeepDiscount’s DVD sale is on my bed. Luckily they are all presents (Christmas time) bought by my siblings for each other under my credit card account. This of course means that I have now find a way to collect almost $400 from them. Why I lend money to relatives I will never know. My brother will probably pay me back after the first of the year unless he gets some seasonal work or sells something on eBay, but everyone else should pay me back within a week.
5:56 p.m.: Dinner is over and I finished my exercising. I’ve decided that even though there are a few things I could buy that I genuinely need, I’m not making a special trip out. I resigned myself to the comfort of my bedroom, my TV and DVD player for some entertainment. Ah yes, that TV was literally funded with my first paycheck at my current job. Why I didn’t save that money and buy it later I don’t know. At least I didn’t put it on a credit card. Total Spent Today: $106.95

Day 2
7:38 a.m.: I check my budget for the month on my work PC while I wait for some of my systems to come up. It looks like buying all my Christmas presents in November was as dumb an idea as buying them all in December except I get to skip the stores for a month. While I’m nowhere near maxed out, I will probably have to tap into savings to cover the bills next month. I guess I should just leave the CC home for a few weeks. Also on the way to work I debated going through the drive-thru at some fast food place to get a breakfast sandwich but for the sake of my wallet and my waistline I didn’t. I also got my eBay invoice. $22 in fees this month. Not too bad but it’s been a slow month for acquiring merchandise I guess.
9:02 a.m.: After getting a big project at work rolling, I check the email yet again and find out that the Inazuman set has shipped so no chance to cancel it now. Oh well, if I don’t like it I suppose I can sell it.
10:30 a.m.: I give in to my hunger and eat an apple from my lunch. This of course means that I now have an inadequate lunch and since tonight I work late I will have to pick up a side dish somewhere.
1 p.m.: I got back from lunch without too much damage. I walked around the mall eyeing a few items here and there. Steve & Berry’s was having a final closeout of shirts for $1 a piece as they are closing tomorrow. While it is tempting to find a few shirts for lounging around, none are work appropriate and I pretty much picked out all the casual ones I wanted last week. I also walked around the dollar store and Target. Normally I love to browse their stationery and pen section to see if there are any good new pens on the market. I instead went straight for the cafeteria and bought a Popcorn Combo for $1.58 including tax. I ate half of the popcorn and put it in the back seat of my car. I’ll save that for tomorrow’s snack I guess.
5:30 p.m.: I’m getting my haircut tonight by the same barber who cut my hair when I was one year old. At least she gives us all a good deal so I paid about $8 for mine.
8 p.m.: Same old nightly routine in my parents’ house. I live in my bedroom as I have since I was back in school. Despite making more money than both my parents combined, I just can’t seem to find a place. Perhaps it’s because I refuse to buy into slums, or maybe because I spent every dime I had in college.
10 p.m.: After talking with a friend about car insurance, I decided to give Progressive a try. Looks like my insurance can be cut in half next year from what I paid this year. I’m not sure if it’s because I turned 26 or because my car will be paid off, but I look to pay about half with Progressive compared to what I paid last year with Encompass. That will certainly be nice as my car insurance is set to expire in April and that’s also tax time. Total spent today: $9.58

Day 3
9:38 a.m.: A coworker mentions that GMAC is desperate for money and their CDs are much higher than even ING Direct. This may be worth looking into. Granted with what little savings I have, it may just make more sense to stick with ING. The differences equal only a few dollars but I’ll have to look into it and do the math. Still, I should work on a rent/housing fund if I ever want to get out of my parents’ house this decade.
10:23 p.m.: I just got the $25 from Amazon refunded to my credit card for the DVD they never sent me. I’m kind of glad they didn’t give me store credit as I would’ve spent that so fast it would make your head swim. I have $75 in Amazon gift certificates now. I don’t know what I’m saving them for (maybe a Kitchen Aid Mixer?) but it seems silly to give Amazon free interest on holding my money. Perhaps I should just use them along with my next order and put the cash in a separate account at ING. That might make sense I guess. Of course the worst part was my CC has about $1,500 charged to it this month. Eek!
1 p.m.: I had a craving for a Wendy’s Frosty but it was too packed so instead I ate the leftover popcorn. At least I didn’t spend any money outside of maybe 3 miles worth of gas, which is pretty cheap now.
2:58 p.m.: I’m thinking of converting my Electric Orange I just started a couple weeks ago to get the $25 sign up bonus into a future housing fund. Maybe if I can get my car paid off I can start making say $400 a fortnight to it to pay for housing. The only problem is that it doesn’t earn all that much interest but I do need to keep it somewhat liquid, I guess. I am so envious of my friend in Nebraska with her lovely apartment at $350 a month. Why is it that everything here is $650 a month and up for garbage? I don’t even live in a city!
5:20 p.m.: I filled up my gas tank at $2.099 for regular at Mobil. Of course after I drive another 3 miles or so towards home I realize that Shell just dropped down to $1.999! So basically I spent 81.29 cents more because I didn’t wait to check the price. I guess that’s just more bad luck than anything else. Still, it’s amazing to fill my tank up from half way for less than $20.
5:45 p.m.: In today’s mail I found out the hinges I bought to repair my desk’s keyboard drawer came in. While I did have to pay $20 including the shipping, I guess they are worth it since these are solid brass and were the only ones I could find (online or off) that were the same size. The only problem is the brass doesn’t match the rest of the black hardware and I am tempted to replace all the other hardware since the brass looks much nicer. Total spent today: $17.06

Day 4
8:30 a.m.: I’m sitting at work completely and totally exhausted. I guess it will be a frugal Friday as my friend I usually hang out with at least once a week is at seminary in Pennsylvania this weekend. Perhaps I’ll take her our for lunch/dinner next Wednesday as I have the whole day off.
1 p.m.: Since I didn’t pack a decent lunch, and I desired something hot, I got three breadsticks from the Pizza Hut Express. Not only is that $1.78 spent that I did not plan, but it’s also 450 calories I now have to burn off.
3:32 p.m.: Well, I get to leave in 28 minutes and while the prospect of spending a Friday night home with my family is not my idea of a good time, unfortunately none of my friends seem to want to go out or even come over to my place. Of course, when you live at home in your mid 20s your friends start to get the idea and stop coming over. Total spent today: $1.78

Day 5
1:30 p.m.: Slept in today and outside of going to Stop & Shop to take advantage of their sale on Pepsi, I haven’t spent any money. This morning my parents and I went for a drive to look at the neighborhoods of some houses for sale as well as some apartments. More than half of the houses needed a lot of work (something I’m really not ready to do at this point in my life) and quite a few were in areas where kids are constantly hanging out. I don’t have a problem with kids normally but honestly I’d rather live in a neighborhood full of old people. They make less noise and cause less trouble. Plus my town has a bit of a juvenile delinquent problem and they tend to congregate closer to downtown so I guess I should look more towards the higher priced outskirts.
2:30 p.m.: I realized with all the spending I’ve done this month I’ll be getting something around $50 in rewards from my credit card. I have made a vow that I will put all these rewards together and use them on something I really, really want and thus use them as a sort of forced savings plan. I wouldn’t mind a Kitchen Aid mixer, despite not having my own kitchen yet. I just have to be good and not spend it on DVDs, books, video games or other forms of entertainment. Honestly, I just need to keep my eye on my spending and I’ll be fine. Total Spent today: $4.20 – Hmm, maybe I won’t do so bad this week.

Day 6
I am so glad this week is about over. I did manage to go an entire day without spending money. I decided to play handyman and went to my grandmother’s house to get some projects done that she’s been needing help on. I did some weatherstripping as well as moving some stuff out of her garage into the basement. The best part was that I got to stay for dinner. I did check some sales papers and outside of a few non-essential items, I don’t see anything I really need to buy this week. Total spent today: Nothing!

Day 7
1 p.m.: I took a trip to Best Buy on my lunch break and picked up two 50 packs of DVD-Rs for $10 each. Including tax I spent $20.98, which is a fairly good price. I debated on not buying these but I figured they are at least $14 less than the Taiyo Yudens I normally buy and they don’t go bad so it was certainly worth it, to me.
4 p.m.: Well, I’m going to go straight home tonight and just relax doing nothing. I can’t really go out and I can’t really spend any more money. I can tentatively say, unless I go out to eat on Wednesday, that I won’t be spending any more this week. I can at least guarantee today, though. Total spent today: $20.98

In Sum:
All in all I spent a grand total of $160.55 this week. What’s even more sad is that the depreciation of those items are pretty close to 100%. Granted, I did have daily living expenses such as food, gas and a haircut but this week keeps me $160.55 further away from ever getting out of here. In my defense I have some automatic savings already in place for the house but still, that $160 would be better in my high interest savings account than in the form of DVDs and cheap snacks. Maybe though, I’m being too hard on myself. Perhaps I’m viewing this as an all or nothing game where I must either spend it all or save it all. Where is that happy medium? I hope someday to find out.

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  1. Lisa

    Honestly – I don’t think he did all that bad. Sure, some purchases were unnecessary – but if they were something he was planning on AND he was also saving money, it wasn’t that bad.

    Some obvious tips, if he’s not already doing them – keep track of every penny spent, always (not just during Money Diaries week). Keeping track of these purchases will help with this kind of spending – he’ll think twice before buying things he doesn’t need.

    But again – this isn’t that bad at all!

  2. sprfrkr

    I don’t see this diary being much different than a lot of 25 year olds. At least he has guilt associated with spending on somewhat frivolous things. Though, he shouldn’t beat himself up over $160. He needs to make more money plain and simple- or at least try to. It looks like he has the investing and savings part down, but only has a trickle of income to work with (though not directly stated). I don’t see where he is trying to diversify his income streams in this post.

  3. Ian W. Parker

    While his spending wasn’t horrible, he would do well to spend less money on DVD box sets (perhaps rent some of the movies/shows he is unsure about?), get rid of the eBay fees (use Craigslist instead?), and spend a bit more money on some healthy food to take to lunch. He did mention an apple the one day, but then went on to eat popcorn and bread sticks in later updates.

    I don’t know if he is making lunch from Mom’s kitchen or what, but I think it would be prudent for him to examine food spending carefully and make lunches ahead of time. Bonus points for splitting the popcorn into two snacks though. Portion control is a good thing.

    As for looking for houses and not wanting to do repair work, well, I’m not sure what to say to that. I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to do home repair. It can be frustrating and time-consuming. But it is far more rewarding for the time/money investment as opposed to anime DVD box sets.

    He speaks of all the items that he purchased depreciating. Well, a house will not depreciate, especially not if he puts some money into fixing it up. Buying a house is certainly not a decision you should jump into without some research, but it’s time he bites the bullet. Find something affordable in a relatively decent neighborhood and make it work. Then get the Kitchen Aid mixer.

    It’s all easier said than done, I realize. He may need to address that credit card spending, too. Stop loaning money to family, especially on a credit card with INTEREST. I hope he’s charging his siblings the interest on what they spent, otherwise, he’s losing money there.

  4. JT

    I agree with the others, he’s not so bad at 25 with his money…he knows what his goal is (his own place) and has the savings account set up, I think he just needs to budget his spending a little bit better, so he can plan in some fun purchases of DVDs without feeling so guilty about it. He’s also doing a good job of optimizing big expenses like car insurance.

    His diet, on the other hand, seems really atrocious…just bring a simple sandwich into work and that would be healthier than the fast food.

  5. Shawanda

    It seems like he really has his heart set on a KitchenAid mixer. I suggest trying Freecycle. A lot of people purchase small household appliances then never use them. You might be able to get one for free from someone who’s sick of it taking up counter space.

    I don’t think $166 spent in one week is so bad. Then again, it depends on your income. I think he has the right idea when it comes to food. Foregoing the restaurant fodder is better for your health and your wealth.

    Maybe a little bit more planning will serve him well. There are people who actually prepare their meals in advance out of necessity. If they don’t prepare their lunch, then they have to wait until they get home from work to eat. Crazy – I know.

    I commend him for not buying the $1 shirts. Even if free, such items are more trouble than they’re worth if you’re not going to use them.

  6. SP

    He’s really obsessing over minor stuff. Yeah, the small stuff counts, but either spend the money or don’t. Don’t spend $2 then worry about it.

    Making more than both his parents combined? I hope he is contributing to the household!

  7. J

    I’d suggest that the writer look more into things like condos or townhouses rather than detached homes, since the condo fee would cover a lot of the things he doesn’t want to do at this point in his life. If he doesn’t want to go that route, he should get estimates on what the repair work would cost to get done — in which case, he’ll either get more enthusiastic about DIY work, or have a better incentive to save more money to pay for someone else to do the work. There’s nothing wrong with paying people to do work around the house — but you just need to have an idea of what things cost.

    My aunt and uncle own about three tools total, have a very nice house and are doing just fine financially, having a fine retirement filled with travel and leisure. My uncle spent a lot of time following investments and finance, and this likely paid off more handsomely for him than spending a lot of time on house projects.

    Myself, I like the house projects more and have employed a financial planner to help with investment decisions and doing legwork that I don’t want to do. We still call the shots on the final decisions, but the work wasn’t being done previously. As a result, I have adequate life/disability insurance, my retirement funds are reallocated periodically, are getting a will together, and so on. We do a monthly budget and have an OK grasp on the day to day, but I’m really happy to have someone who gets the minutae of the long term stuff.

  8. MMH

    Having to find food, for cheap, when you’re already hungry can turn into a diet and budget disaster. He needs to start planning his meals better.

    Also, I noticed this sentence:
    “I did check some sales papers and outside of a few non-essential items, I don’t see anything I really need to buy this week.”
    …and the fact that he walked around the mall and “eyed” some stuff then went to the dollar store and Target.
    If you don’t want to spend money, don’t put yourself in situations where people are trying to sell you stuff!

    Additionally, while the total he spent wasn’t awful (depending on what his income actually is), more than 60% of that amount was on one item that was 1) not a necessity, and 2) didn’t seem to make him all that happen. It just doesn’t sound like thoughtful spending, regardless of the $$$ amount.

  9. Sra

    I found this guy’s obsessing over little purchases annoying. We hear about how he spends $2 here and $20 there, but we hear nothing about what he’s doing savings-wise. Spending $160 is perfectly fine if you’re also investing in your savings. Also, I don’t see why he can’t get out of his parents’ house. Get some roommates your age and share a place. A few years ago I made roughly $350 per month, and I still managed to rent a place with three friends. It can be done if you are willing to be flexible. Why must he buy now?

  10. Rt

    I think this person needs to put a percentage of his income (of what one would normally pay for housing) into a savings account, even if he’s living rent-free at his parents. It seems as if he’s struggling to save up that much now, but the cost of living should be factored in automatically. When he gets his own place, he won’t have that money to spend on entertainment, so he should get used to not having it now.

    Instead of worrying about the 80 cents he had to pay extra in gas, he should really be concerned with how he’s distributing his income. As others have said, a budget is useful. Also, writing down all your fixed expenses will help you see how much you actually have for savings and spending.

  11. JimE

    Its hard to say anything about this guy since all we see is his spending instead of his income. The fact that he’s this concious of money is probably good, but it sounds to me more like he got this conscious since he knew he would be recording this week’s expenditures.
    The comment about friends not calling on him anymore probably worries me more than anything. Handling money is important, but learning how to do it effectively in your society is just as important. If he has to retreat to his parents house and cut himself off from society to feel good about managing money, while at the same time walking around the mall and checking sales as an activity, well that ain’t a good combo.

  12. MoneyEnergy

    I don’t think he’s obsessing too much about the small things if he’s also saving all that money and putting it into his house fund (or rent fund). It’s a temporary situation – he’s obviously not trying to live like this his whole life. He could take some tips from Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme. Sacrifice now for greater leverage going into the future.

  13. Courtney

    I think these Money Diaries would be better if they started with some basic information: Salary, savings, do they contribute to retirement?, does he pay rent/cable/etc? His spending pattern is probably fine for someone making like $40,000, but we have no idea. Every comment here is basically worthless because we have no idea what individual situation really is.

  14. Emily

    Yeah, some data would help. What region does he live in? How much does he make? What does he do?

  15. dream

    I live in Orlando and houses here are getting dirt cheap. I plan on buying a house next month because there is 4 decent houses for under 52000 in the area I want. Add the first time home buyers tax credit and this year is the best time to purchase a home in decades!!

  16. Erica Douglass

    “Well, a house will not depreciate, especially not if he puts some money into fixing it up.”

    Ha! You must not live in California. I know plenty of folks, including my landlord, who have lost over $100,000 on their houses since they purchased them during the bubble.


  17. Kevin W

    This guy’s hobbies seem to be shopping at the mall, shopping at Target, and collecting import DVD sets, all of which revolve around spending money. He’s trying to enjoy these without spending any money, which is a surefire recipe for feeling deprived.

    He might feel better about all this if he branched out into an activity that isn’t fueled by constant spending — take up chess, driveway basketball, old computer games, hiking, whatever. We’ve all seen lists of these things.

  18. Steve O

    This guy is doing well at not spending money if he has a steady job, especially if he doesn’t pay $100 for DVDs every week, but he should ask Ramit what he thinks about buying a house at 25 years old!

  19. Kelly

    It seems like the only reason he didn’t spend more money this week is because he sat at home and did nothing. Not exactly a sustainable savings plan. It seems like to him spending money = fun and therefore not spending means no fun. His attitude seems to say that he has resigned himself to some amount of no fun to get to his goal. That is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. He needs to plan to spend some money so that he can get on with his life and stop stressing over all the small things. Also, I agree with many of the posters above… shopping is not a good hobby for saving money.

  20. Nikc

    Writer would have a much clearer idea of what house to buy, and what kind of living arrangements he requires if he rented for 1-3 years. That knowledge alone can help save him from a very very bad buying decision down the road.

  21. Gerard

    I can’t see anything inherently wrong with the author’s spending. Sure you could cut out some expenses but would you really want to? You need to spend some money.
    That siad, here’s my problem – If you’re trying to save for a house and you get home at 4pm, why are you not looking at other income sources?? Surely that would be a better use of your time instead of hanging in the bedroom and watching DVDs!! I don’t mean to sound harsh but even a couple of hours’ work is more income -> more savings for the house fund…

  22. Jan S

    Ok.. so when Ramit takes about settling your debt does that hurt your fico score.. I saw online that if you settle your debt that will show on your credit report and also hurt you on other card’s interest rates. Which one is true? I would like to talk to my credit card companies and work something out, but I want to make sure there is no catch.

  23. J

    @Jan S — keep in mind by the time someone settles with a credit card company, they likely are already months (if not years) delinquent on the account and their credit rating is likely in the toilet already. As time goes on, the company has less and less chance of ever seeing a dime, or they will need to take you to court to try and get something, which isn’t free for them.

    So if you are making payments and pretty much current with the account, then they are not going to work something out. If you truly want to make a positive change, pay it off and never, ever carry a balance again. For some people this will mean cutting up the card and closing the account altogether if you can’t keep the spending under control.

    I paid off my CC years ago, and the CC business has only gotten slimier since. Carrying zero balance means no worries about changing terms, interest rates, late payment fees, etc. It’s a wonderful feeling to be free of that shackle of debt. The sole purpose I keep the card for is to pay for very occasional work-related expenses which are reimbursed.

  24. J

    @Jan S — in other words, there is always “a catch”. Pay off the CC and you won’t have to worry about it ever again.

  25. Crystal

    This Money Diary just struck me as very sad. This guy is living with his parents yet doesn’t seem to have a very positive relationship with them, doesn’t really do anything, just walks around window-shopping and watching DVD’s in his room. None of his spending seemed to be associated with paying his parents for rent or food or utilities. The only glimmer of hope seemed to be when he went to Grandma’s house and helped her with some home repairs and stayed for supper.

    Sadly, this doesn’t sound too different from other 25yo’s I know. Come on, guys…find purpose for your lives! Spend your evenings at a second job. Deliver pizza or wait tables or take a class to improve your skills. Read books. Volunteer to read to or tutor kids. Be a Big Brother. Be a CASA. Do something for others instead of sitting around entertaining yourselves. Be MEN, not just overgrown boys.

    Why in the world is this guy talking about buying a house? What for? A house is a huge responsibility, and this slice of his life doesn’t seem to indicate that he’s really up to it. And why in the world does he want a Kitchen Aid mixer? Does he cook? There’s a lot of dreaming going on, as opposed to doing and being.

    I find it frustrating that we only get some of the story. I really hope there’s some depth to this that I’m missing.

  26. Nikc

    @crystal : Calm down. The guy could be reviewing the DVD’s he buys for an online ‘zine and establishing a writing portfolio or something. Maybe not, but the info is just presented for us to know.

    99% of people don’t equate delivering pizza on the side to finding purpose in life.

  27. msurads

    Did everyone miss the fact that his CC had 1500 charged to it? and thats just this month. while $400 is his siblings debt which he may or may not get back, $1100 is his. No wonder he doesnt have any money if he runs up credit card balances like that. While it is possible these were spent on something nessecary, considering he lives with his parents, its more likely it was spent on toys of one kind or another. It may have been spent on chrismas presents, but come on $1100 in christmas presents? sounds a bit ridiculous for some one who cant afford to live on his own.

  28. Kelly

    I agree with msurads… just his first statement:
    “I read my email while taking a break from work and I find out I’ve been chosen to do the Money Diaries. Oh jeez! Why today? I just spent $107.00 on the Inazuman DVD Box Set. I suppose I still have time to cancel the order but the demand for Japanese TV shows in America is small so I think I’ll make this my only real purchase of the week.”

    He orchestrated this week to look good for the Money Diaries. This is not a typical week and not reflective of his typical spending habbits.

    Additionally the comment that he is “nowhere near maxed out” on his credit card is telling. Personally I don’t even know what my credit card limit is offhand. Being maxed on my credit card isn’t even on my radar… it is so far above whatever I would spend in any reasonable month.

    It is sad that he is so uncomfortable with the way he spends money that he can’t give an honest accounting of it to an anonymous audience. He would have to admit it to himself first.

  29. Chris

    I thought it was implied throughout that he had a good chunk of savings built up, but that might have mostly been because he didn’t seem too worried about the expense of buying or (especially) renting a place. He didn’t want to pay 650 for a trashy apartment, but his language didn’t sound stressed by the idea. It seemed like it was more that he was annoyed.

    I do think, even if he’s always restraining himself, he looks towards purchases a little too much to find happiness. Really, if something will make him happy, he should purchase it and not beat himself up over it — that’s the mentality of a cheap person. So, maybe he shouldn’t have bought the box set, and maybe he should have purchased the damn electric mixer. But, even more likely, he needs to find something fulfilling to do with some of his free time.

  30. Aurelia Masterson

    Owning a home is not worth stressing over every dollar–why does it matter so much. It’s not worth living with your parents either. Live your life the way you want it NOW without this heartache and unnecessary stress. He’s 25, seemingly without a girlfriend. There’s a lot of glory in a bachelor pad, after all.

  31. Seth

    Pretty sad all around. No info on salary, debt, rent (if any to partents) etc. So fairly worthless as a teaching tool. Also, as others have said, dude’s life seems pretty crappy. Living in your room watching tv is not what anyone wishing they could be 25 again would hope for. Agree also that just wandering Target isn’t good for anyone. No idea why he wants to buy a place either. Guessing he really doesn’t want to himself but is using it as an impossible goal so he can just sit at his parents place for now.

  32. rsenwood

    honestly this sounds like a person who will turn into a grumpy angry old man, pinching pennies and avoiding social interaction to save money. Once you buy the home… then what? I heard no interest in anything life has to offer outside of shopping and DVDs. And stressing about 450 calories for lunch? Also, this age is a fantastic time to make friends, network, and explore all that the world has to offer! While he is very fortunate to have the option to live at home, as others commented, renting and having roommates can be a very valuable leraning experience. Stop buying DVDs and pack a nice big healthy lunch, and rent is nearly covered at $160 a week… certainly kudos for having the eye on the prize, but a house is still just a house, your firends and family are what life is about.

  33. Klint

    I am also in my 20’s, and have it good at home with Mom and Dad. I realize it is a temporary exile, but it is the good life to not have to pay rent or utilities.

    As a college student working 20-30 hours per week, I am able to save generously as well as enjoy the present. All of my friends who live on their own, while “building character,” etc, wind up in debt or barely scraping by. Stay home as long as you can!

  34. The Money Diaries: the 20-Something Who Can’t Seem To Get Out of … « Business

    […] 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. …Continue […]

  35. Ted

    I’d like to know who paid for the food for the non eating out lunches and dinners.

  36. Dana

    I love these money diaries–is there anyway to run a series? You know 30 somethings with kids money diaries, 40 divorced, 50 getting ready for retirement, etc.. It’d be helpful to see how all age ranges are dealing with this economy

  37. Crystal

    Nik: I’m calm now; I’ve been taking slow deep breaths all afternoon and evening. ;^)

    While pizza delivery is not known to be a big player in the meaning of life, a few nights a week of a second job could (a) bring in an extra couple of hundred bucks to spend without guilt (a KitchenAid mixer one week, a box set the next), (b) promote interaction with other people (as opposed to watching DVD’s alone in one’s room), and (c) prevent aimless wandering around Target (b/c one has nothing better to do).

    My intention is not to pick on this guy; I’ve made these mistakes myself and wasn’t objective enough to self-correct. I spent several years sitting around my room doing nothing and would love to have that time back to spend on something worthwhile. I’ve also wandered around Target, and the results (other than the guilt) will be available for purchase at a yard sale on Saturday.

    The fact that this guy is willing to be featured in this forum seems to indicate that he’s open to seeing himself through others’ eyes, so I hope my comments will be construed as constructive criticism.

  38. wat

    Anyone guess what his salary is? I’m around the same age, but spent a couple years living at my parents, now in a small apt. with a roomate. I couldn’t bear to imagine spending so little on food though. Think of the health costs of being cheap on food later on in life!

    As others mentioned, This diary was pretty meager in details to let us come to any conclusions about his situation. Did he go through college? Is he in a job he’s comfortable with? Is he happy with being this way?

    As for myself, I’m a single engineer, usually going out to eat lunch and dinner, with food costs totalling about 17% of my take-home pay (and I can still sortof manage to save half my salary). And I’m happy with spending that much on food now, instead of my earlier state of constantly worrying about what a single guy should cook, and excluding myself from social situations out of saving the cost of a meal.

    I’ve been in a similar situation to this guy, living with my parents, usually having my parents cook dinner for me. While I saved a decent bit of money at the time this way, I realized the cost of gas driving to work (parents lived far away) was adding up to nearly half the cost of renting a small apartment with a roomate. More importantly, living with my parents put me mentally in a state where I felt unmotivated to stand up and think of ideas, look for a better job, apply for graduate school, etc. It depends on your situation of course, this is just my experience.

  39. Lynette

    It would be good to know extra details like income and how much he automatically puts away each week for the house.

  40. celia

    In reading this Money Diary entry, I’m picturing an overweight, unhappy loner who is using his unrealistic house-buying dream as a crutch to live the same blah existence since he was 18. It sounds like he has resigned himself to a life of DVD watching and guilt-induced spending to fill the void in his life from lack of socialization with peers. It’s nice that he has the luxury of living at home, but it doesn’t sound like he likes the area too much, so why on earth would he want to buy a place and create roots there? Sounds like there is a lot more at play than just some money issues here. I think he needs professional help to break out of his rut (and there’s nothing wrong with that -I saw a therapist for 8 months to break out of mine).

  41. thisisbeth

    Like many others, I also got the impression that this was not a normal week of spending. This week was how he felt he should spend in a week. Too much seemed to be focused on “I shouldn’t do that” implying that he normally did.

  42. JJ

    This kid is a huuuuuge loser. Grow some balls and get a job that alllows you to have enough money for a little excitement. I can’t imagine poeple live this way.

  43. Lauren

    This guy totally misses the point of “The Money Diaries”. He thinks it’s a challenge to see how little he can spend in a week, rather than a snapshot of what his true habits are. And if he reads IWTYTBR at all, he should know that Ramit does not think you should stress over $1.50.

    This would have been a lot more interesting if we had been able to see a typical week, and gotten a picture of his income and normal monthly expenses.

  44. Ben

    I’m with #40… Celia said it best.

  45. AtHomeWithTheParents

    Wow, I totally forgot that I did this. I stopped reading IWTYTBR a long time ago due to my life getting a bit more hectic. Strangely I decided to come back today and this is on the front page!

    I find it kind of amusing and disconcerting as to how people picture me based on this little snippet I wrote which I was told to be dramatic about the week so this is what i figured they wanted. Oh well, here’s a snapshot of my life now.

    1.) Making $53K before OT and Bonuses
    2.) Contributing $200 cash to my parents per month plus I buy food and other items for the house. I offer more all the time. They refuse to take it. I also take care of the cooking three days a week.
    3.) Saving $1K minimum per month. This month I put aside $1,500
    4.) I’ve struggled with weight issues my entire life but I’m now perfectly healthy and no, I don’t eat fast food all the time. This was around Christmas when life was pretty damn hectic for me. Regardless, I’m at a normal BMI and have some nice muscles
    5.) I bought the Kitchenaid Mixer and don’t regret it at all. I got it on sale and used gift certificates. I bake quite a bit so it’s been quite a help in the kitchen.
    6.) I don’t charge interest to loan to the family but I never carry a CC balance
    7.) No, this wasn’t a normal week for me. It was around Christmas and I had some stuff bugging me.
    8.) I work next door to a mall. It’s a good place to walk for exercise during lunch. I rarely buy anything there.
    9.) Since then I’ve taken a nice vacation (frugally I might add but very fun)
    10.) I’ve looked at apartments since and most seem to smell bad, are horribly overpriced or are just too much in the city for me. I much prefer the ‘burbs.
    11.) I bring my lunch probably 90% of the time. They are usually healthy as well.
    12.) I invest to the max matching of my company’s 401K
    13.) Several grand in bank accounts (including CDs)

    Any other questions, feel free to ask.

  46. Robin

    I totally agree with #13 Courtney that in general, some prior information would be helpful to set the tone on overall spending. For instance, if I were doing this on the 10th of the month, I would be spending a lot because thats the day I pay my bills. Even though its a snapshot of a spending life, without more information it seems too incomplete to be useful.

  47. MillionaireAdventure

    Why is he obsessed with buying a home? What’s wrong with renting first?

    I really wish this generation would realise that renting is not all bad, especially if you are young and have not yet settled down.

  48. Crystal

    AtHomeWithTheParents: Thanks so much for giving us an update!

    I’m glad to know that this all took place around Christmas, which makes the references to Christmas gifts much clearer. I was wondering why your family does its Christmas shopping in June!

    Have you considered looking into rental houses? Perhaps they would be in better condition than the apartments in your area.

    I’m glad to hear that you enjoy cooking and baking, got the KitchenAid mixer, and don’t regret it at all. I love mine, too. ;^)

  49. AtHomeWithTheParents

    Crystal: Yeah, I suppose more info on me would’ve been helpful.

    My gf and I have looked into rental houses. A lot is up in the air right now, though and I’m almost never home anyway. My life isn’t nearly as abysmal as this snapshot of me depressed before Christmas makes it out to be. I am now a bit more free with my spending on things I care about (going out with my girlfriend and some of my outdoor hobbies.) but winter is usually a really rough spot for me due to living in one of the coldest parts of the continental 48.

    MillionaireAdventure: I’m not really obsessed with owning a home, it’s just that rental properties in this part of the country really stink and if you want something decent you have to pay out your @$$hole. I’m sorry but if I’m going to pay $1K a month for a decent 2-3 br house/apartment, I may as well just buy.

    I know what I want, I just have to work hard to get it.

    And I forgot to mention all of my bills go to my credit card and then I pay it off in one month. That way I earn rewards points. Right now I’m saving my points for something else but I haven’t decided what. I am thinking maybe a vacation.

  50. xmasy


    Rent is cheaper than owning a home. Purchasing a home is only good for people who dont know how to save money. It’s a forced savings.

    Who said you cant be a renter for life? It is NOT throwing away money. Dont let morons tell u that.

  51. xmasy


    I actually disagree with Ramit on this. I think we should fret even the small stuff. But not to the point where u become obsessed.

  52. JimE

    Glad to hear a fuller picture of life that seems stable and healthy. I’d say your doing fine. A few things to consider:
    1) Since you can’t find what your looking for have you ever considered going whole hog and merging finances with your parents? Seems to me that if you have a good living arrangement with them and can handle the idea of supporting them when older so just fess up to the idea and plan for it now. (check with the GF obviously but seriously the idea of each generation in their own house is a relatively new concept historically)
    2) How much family do you have nearby? If they are all spread out why not consider moving to a better climate so winters don’t bother you,
    3) 1k/mo is reasonable for a luxury apartment in the midwest (1-2 beds). Not sure which burbs your in but in SF rents are about $2-3/sft per mo and buying is a ridiculous $250+/sft whereas the midwest is again much closer to $100-125/sft. On 53k/yr there’s likely something affordable for you in that context. Just might want to keep that in mind when you consider what your looking for

  53. Thomas Le Ngo

    This was so depressing to read. I’m also with #40.