The Money Diaries: The 29-year-old workaholic who’s counting down the days until he goes into debt

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.

This week’s post is by a 29-year-old graphic designer exhausted from trying to hold down his full-time job, grow his part-time freelance work, pursue his artistic goals and help raise a three-year-old. He’s debt-free but saving nothing, and his stress about money is through the roof. What’s the first change this guy should make?

* * *

Day 1

12:45 a.m.:  Good morning! It’s past midnight. That must mean I’m wrapping up another long night of freelance work. Three hours x $70 an hour = $210. Minus about 25% for taxes, so that’s about $157 net. My wife’s been bugging me to review the weekly budget she emailed me several days ago, but I’m still too afraid to look at it. And tired. I can’t stand to recalculate how many weeks or months until we’re in debt. I’m honestly not sure how we still have cash in the bank. She took a couple years off to raise our son and now she’s having a tough time finding work again. I’m trying not to be bitter that I’m burning the midnight oil doing freelance on top of my day job while she goes to bed early because she’s too tired to put in a little time each night looking for work or doing freelance. What am I supposed to do? Part of me says I need to crack down, cut up the credit cards, watch each penny like a hawk. That won’t work, of course. Part of me says fuck it. I buy a song on iTunes that I’ve been playing on Grooveshark nonstop. There goes another buck. Time for bed.
7:00 a.m.:  My son is up. Which means I’m up. My wife is slow to get up in the morning. I gotta start the kid’s breakfast and feed the dog and pack my lunch and shower and get ready for work. I know I should pack a big, tasty lunch the night before. But I’m tired and have to get to work. So I throw in a can of sardines (which I do like) and some carrots and a soda in my lunch bag. I make eggs for my family, but I have to put mine in Tupperware and eat it at the office. I’m running late.
10:30 a.m.:  Morning break. I walk to 7-11 with my cube mate. The maple frosted, cream-filled long johns are calling my name, but I resist. Save myself $1.35.
1:30 p.m.:  Who am I kidding? One can of sardines isn’t going to make me feel better. Plus, I need to get out of the office for lunch or I’ll go crazy. My office is full of idiots. And at $20/hour, I’m underpaid. It’s depressing when I think about it. Off to McDonalds. $4 and change for a McDouble, two small fries and a large Coke (to keep me awake through the afternoon). I know it’s bad for me, but it’s cheap and easy and delicious and the only restaurant close to my office.
9:15 p.m.: My wife went to yoga this evening, so I watched the kiddo. Finally ate my sardines. Had a beer to relax. Now it’s time for freelance. I make another $100.

Day 2

10:30 a.m.:  So much for resisting that long john. I just wish I could get back to the office before it’s all gone. $1.35.
3:30 p.m.:  Thank god for my smartphone. I can keep an eye on my freelance email while I’m at the office. One client drops a couple rush projects in my lap. Altogether, probably $500 worth of work. That’s great, I need the money. But I don’t know if I have the time. Oops. Time for another boring meeting.
10:00 p.m.:  I’ve started outsourcing some of my freelance to a friend of mine. He’s good, but still learning, so it still takes a chunk of my time to explain, review and polish his work. I give him half of the work and pay him $150 (which he’s glad to get). And I do the rest myself. I wanted to start working earlier this evening, but it’s hard to put my son to bed and go straight to work. I need some time for myself. Which isn’t spent painting – what I really want to do. Mostly it’s spent on Facebook and Twitter. Ugh.

Day 3

11:30 a.m.:  My insurance agent calls with estimates for private health insurance. I want to go full-time freelance, but with my wife out of work and no savings, I don’t think we can afford the transition. Right now I’m spending $8,000 a year to insure all of us through my work. And the coverage isn’t that great. Seems like highway robbery to me. Private insurance should be cheaper.
12:00 p.m.: I use my lunch break to take a nap in my car. Kind of helps.
5:00 p.m.:  I get home to find my wife bought a new welcome mat. This is supposed to help our feng shui and improve our financial situation. All I know for sure is that we’re out another $45. What would really help? Her getting a job.
9:30 p.m.:  More freelance. Mostly admin and paperwork. Necessary but not billable time. I manage to squeeze in an hour to update my blog for my painting website. I haven’t sold anything yet. I just started six months ago. It’s hard to find time to market my paintings – or paint – on top of all my work. I feel like everything is backwards.

Day 4

9:30 a.m.:  I use my break at work to visit my son during his gymnastics lesson (down the street). He usually has a good time, and I love that he has these enrichment activities, but $15 for 45 minutes seems pretty steep. I mean, it’s a group class and it’s not like he’s getting one-on-one instruction from an Olympic gymnast. He does love the trampoline, though.
11:30 a.m.:  I was supposed to have a meeting with my boss about a big promotion I’ve been pushing for for six months, but he’s still dragging his feet and putting up excuses for why the timing isn’t right and what about this and that even though he still says I’m good for the job. I’ve been counting on the raise for months to help cover our expenses (we’re about $1,300 in the red each month), but still nothing. Now he’s suggesting the raise that goes with it might not be as big as I may have thought. Why do I bother?
2:00 p.m.:  Back to McDonalds. Another $4 and change for more junk food. This time I actually brought a lunch, but I needed the comfort food. (God, is McDonald’s really comfort food?) I’m embarrassed about eating McDonalds again so I put the charge on my business credit card (for my painting), which my wife doesn’t have access to.
10:30 p.m.: It’s Friday night. Do you know where your graphic designer is? He’s still working. The freelance never ends and never is enough. Another $105.

Day 5

8:45 a.m.:  Saturday morning. I don’t have to rush off to the office, so I can enjoy a nice breakfast with my family. Then it’s off to do more freelance work. I have a full day of work. My wife collects the week’s receipts so she can update the budget. We track every expenditure. There’s some 75 different categories of expenses. The ship might be sinking, but we’ll know exactly where the holes are. (Everywhere!)
12:00 p.m.:  Lunch. I’ve made $140 so far and spent another hour looking at someone else’s painting blog and daydreaming I had more time to paint. When was the last time I actually painted? Now I’m behind at work.
12:30 p.m.: My wife tells me one of my freelance checks arrived ($1,200) and my direct deposit check from work cleared ($1,200 – biweekly). Then she tells me she paid the mortgage ($1,100), HOA ($200), car insurance ($95), nanny ($400 for a few afternoons a week while my wife looks for work) and gym membership ($127). She also says we’re going to be overbudget (again) for groceries. We’re halfway through the month and we’ve already spent $600 on food. If past months are any guide, we’ll definitely spend another $600 on groceries (that doesn’t count eating out) before the month’s over. The budget is always depressing.
1:00 p.m.:  I break down and look at the spreadsheet my wife sent over. We’ve budget $30 each month for personal expenses. I’ve averaged $24 so far this year. She averages $70. Last month she spent $204 in this category. As far as I can tell, this is mostly her eating out regularly because she’s depressed about being stuck at home all the time.
4:00 p.m.:  My wife is asking when I’ll be done with work. I’m pissed off. How am I supposed to pay for all of this shit when she’s constantly asking me to stop working early or to take a long lunch break or skip an evening? I’ve made another $170 (so $310 for the day), but I’ll need to finish tonight after everyone goes to bed.

Day 6

10:00 a.m.:  Sunday is my wife’s day off. I spend the day with my son and she goes to yoga then can do what she wants in the afternoon. I wish I had a day off.
3:30 p.m.:  I take my son to the gym. For $3.50, he can play in the gym nursery – a great deal! – and I can work out for an hour. Afterwards, I take him swimming at the gym pool. Lots of fun.
4:45 p.m.:  We stop by Sam’s Club on the way home to pick up a few items. They don’t have much organic food (we shop at Whole Foods almost exclusively…when we’re not eating at McDonald’s, I guess). Another $44 at Sam’s. I also stop at the liquor store for a $22 handle of Jim Beam. Helps the medicine go down.

Day 7

7:00 a.m.:  It’s Monday and I’m somewhat rested. I decided against doing freelance last night and just went to bed. I’ll pay for that tonight, but for now I’m rested. Time to start the work week over again.
8:45 p.m.:  My wife tells me we should be contributing to our IRAs. I tell her I don’t know how that’s possible since we’re losing money every month. She says it’ll work out and that I’m supposed to get another freelance check this week. So we have cash in the bank. What about keeping some set aside for freelance taxes? I can’t talk about it. I have work to do. Two hours I have to get done before tomorrow. That’s $140.

In Sum

Freelance income: $1,215
Day job income: $600
Expenditures (bills/family): About $2300 (but that includes some monthly expenses)
Expenditures (personal): About $35

Endless work. With all my freelance, I’ve almost doubled my income over the past year, but I’ve also increased my hours 50%. Thinking about money still gets me upset, and I don’t know how to deal with it with my wife. I’ve been just hoping that she’d get a job and things would get better with the thought that it’s easier to make more than save more. But I’m not sure how long we can keep going before we’re screwed.

* * *

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  1. Brian

    Man, this guy can’t seem to catch a break. Working non-stop and still getting behind. I’d like to donate $25 towards the cost of Earn 1K for this guy, and then see an update a year later. That would be a really interesting study. Who else is with me?

    • Julius

      Ditto Brian! This guy works his self to the bone. I’d be up for donating $25 to the cause of affording Earn 1K for this chap…

  2. Ted


    • Julius

      I would talk 1-on-1 first about the financial situation before counseling. You never know, the 1-on-1 talk could turn out really well. That way you’re not having to pay for the professional counseling they probably can’t afford…

  3. MJ

    I’m the software developer version of this guy: bigger income, but bigger debts, too. I can relate to his situation, down to the significant other trying to get a job and spending money on the sly.

    I want to know what happens to this guy. Hopefully there will be an update? Otherwise, best of luck to you, brother–you have my empathy and I’m rooting for you.

  4. Mike

    Sounds like he and his wife are not on the same page financially. Key phrase “she took a couple of years off” — probably always a bad financial decision for a family. How could you not have seen the red ink before that decision was made. Tell her to get a job in fast food or Starbucks. She should swallow any pride she has and take anything she can get.

    • Jenn Mc

      As a mom I agree. If I were to stay at home & then couldn’t find a job when I decided to go back to work, I would take almost anything until I could find the right one. She spends so much….I agree with poster above on counseling.

    • liss

      “Tell her to get a job in fast food or Starbucks.” Isn’t necessarily a viable solution. They will need some sort of daycare solution for their child. It’s unlikely that a minimum wage job would cover daycare expenses. Thus they would actually be more in the hole.

    • John

      Exactly, I have never understood why people do not take the low paying jobs while they look for work in their field. The only reason I can think of in this example is maybe she is watching the son at home during the day and paying for a nanny with a low paying job does not make sense.

  5. Greg

    Looks like this guy is able to find some decent freelance work if he has to outsource some of it to others. Here are a few of my ideas:
    1. If the new promotion doesn’t carry any hope of a raise, perhaps it could work with flex hours or maybe one Friday off a month. He could then focus more hours on more profitable (over 8x his hourly pay) freelance work. (~8 hrs @$70/hr- $560).
    2. $600 for two weeks of the free-range, fair trade, organic, non processed, crunchy food from Whole Foods? They already have a membership to Sams Club, time to start using it. You can still get healthy food from Sams Club. You just have to stay away from the jumbo sized packages of hot dogs. (estimate of savings at half the existing Whole Foods budget of $600)
    3. You will probably see some savings from paying the car insurance in a 6 month block instead of monthly (probably only $50 or so savings here).
    4. We only got one side of the story here, but the wife could make a few cuts here. Any family members to look after junior instead of hiring a Nanny? Personal expenses are over 6x what they’re budgeting. Maybe find a gym where you can pay per visit instead of a monthly membership. Once the wife finds a job this will probably help the budget out greatly.

    Just a couple thoughts off the top of my head. Hope this guy gets some good comments from everyone on here!

    • Greg

      Err..actually the freelance only pays 3x his base hourly wage, don’t know where that 8x figure came from. Haven’t had enough coffee yet…

  6. Kristal

    First thing he should do is have a loooong chat with his wife. She seems to be getting her relaxation in while he works himself to death. This is very unequitable and unfair. How about they stop shelling out $400 for a NANNY (seriously!?!?) and she looks for a job on Sunday instead of “taking a day off”. She gets a day off when her husband gets a day off. They should be in this thing together, if he doesn’t talk to her about this he’s going to end up resenting his wife + money problems = divorce.

    Instead of paying a nanny, his wife could also “swap” babysitting with a few other ladies that want time off & they can rotate….get the free time she wants without costing much.

    Also she spends money eating out because she’s depressed being stuck in the house. How about take their child out to a park & play? Meet up with some other kid’s mom’s and have some social interaction? It’ll be cheaper AND more fulfilling. Being divorced is much more depressing than being stuck in the house all day.

    And shopping at Whole Foods???? At least try for a weekend farmer’s market, where you get bascially organic food without the high price. Many small local farmers aren’t certified organic but they follow the same growing methods.

    • K00kyKelly

      I 100% agree about swapping babysitting hours with other families.

      I’m not sure I agree with his wife skipping her days off…. it might be the only thing keeping her sane. That said, he should find a way to get some time to himself as well.

      His wife seems depressed yet they don’t seem to be addressing the issues that are causing it. There may be ways to aleviate her depression without spending more money. As many other commentors have noted… the resentment is building up. Resentment = doom, relationship wise.

  7. Charlie

    I feel for him. I think most of us who work a lot and try to manage families who may not see everything the same way can relate. based on this diary, I definitely see a few areas for a very fast improvement, coming from the outside.
    1) Cut the nanny and 120/month gym. My gym is $10/month. That’s 500/month savings right there. Have the Mrs. search for work at other times, when you can watch the kid. Maybe that means asking the boss for work at home some days privileges, which it sounds like you have earned.
    2) Cut the grocery bill. 3 people should be less than 600/month, more like 400-500/month for healthy eating. 1200/month is insane. Don’t shop whole foods. Consider gardening. Analyze food receipts for highest ticket items, and don’t eat the top few items, or reduce consumption. Don’t buy prepared foods. You could probably find an easy way to save 500/month here.
    3) Forget the raise in the current job. If you spend 30 minutes a day looking for a new job with higher pay, I bet you could find it within 3 months, raise + promotion included. Then consider leaving or showing it to your boss.
    4) Love the freelance direction. Sounds like you are on the right track for sure. That sounds like a good medium to long term plan. Try doubling your rates.
    5) set aside some time for self reflection. Your wife gets it, why not you? Your work schedule is not sustainable.

  8. Amy

    It’s sorta hard to suss this one out, partially because I think it’s pretty clear that we’re getting only one side of the story.

    Regardless, however, it is VERY clear that there’s some resentment building up on the part of the author here against his wife. Whether her expenditures are necessary or not, whether her attempts to find a job are enough or not, they need to have a serious sit-down to discuss their respective perspectives on the situation and figure out how to find a happy medium where neither of them feels resentful of the other.

  9. Shannon

    How the hell are they spending $600 on food? They need to start cooking at home, with groceries not bought at Whole Paycheck, because it literally is that.

    I would say he needs to raise his freelance rates some, which would help bring more money in, and then have a serious discussion with his boss. Boss needs to know that if he’s serious about keeping him at the agency, he needs to become competitive with the freelancing rate.

    I’m also seeing a lot of avoidance, he and his wife need to have a serious talk about money, and expectations. They need to figure out a system that works better for both of them. It sounds like he avoids dealing with the budget until necessary, but spends all his time fearing what’s going on. They both have to be involved. I would put both of them on a cash-only envelope system for a while, it’s helped me a ton for expense categories I tend to go over in.

    Being out of work and looking is hard and discouraging and demoralizing, I know. She needs activities to do during the day besides job-hunting, I would suggest cooking from scratch or networking with employed friends at lunch.

    I would cut the gym membership, or find a cheaper one. I just feel bad for them. Hope they turn it around.

  10. Jess H.

    God, this was painful to read. Money, stress, relationship problems – each piece makes the others worse.

    I think it’s clear that this guy is underpaid at work. If he’s able to charge $70/hr for freelance work and get repeat clients, it’s ridiculous how little he’s making in his day job. Now that $20/hr figure doesn’t include taxes or benefits, so the disparity is less than it seems. But still, it’s a big difference!

    Under other circumstances I might suggest he try to make the freelance transition. He’s making so little at his day job that with 40 hours a week to work freelance, I think he could replace his income. But he’s currently the sole wage-earner and has a small child, and I can understand that he’s unwilling to take the risk. I think instead he can use his freelance situation to leverage asking for a raise, or possibly looking for a new job.

    Doing either one of those things well means having some time to prep for it, and right now it sounds like time is the main squeeze. I think he’s already on the right track with outsourcing some of his freelance work. Until his wife gets a job, maybe he can outsource some of the non-billable work (administration, etc.) to her, giving him some time to do the research and prep he needs to do to get a raise. Or this might be an area where it’s worth spending money to make money, to free up his time for a week or two to prepare for those negotiations Ramit-style.

    On a personal note, I’ll add that I remember when my husband was unemployed. It was awful for both of us, and based on that experience it sounds like his wife may be depressed. Take advantage of the family’s health insurance and see if there’s something you can do!

  11. Sarah

    So much going on here – but it looks like there’s a real lack of communication between him and his wife. And the resentment is just building up (probably on both sides).

    Looks to me like they need a lifestyle downgrade. Perhaps they can’t afford that $1100 mortgage. And what’s with $1200.00 per month on Food? For 2 adults and one child? Why Whole Foods?

    All those conflicting choices make no sense to me. He has to be honest with himself that he’s making these odd upscale choices. It’s him and his wife who spend $400 on a Nanny. And he’s decided to sacrifice his time and sanity for it.

    It’s a choice. He’s making it. And it’s his responsibility to change his situation.

  12. Stephen

    He should:

    Raise his rates on freelancing immediately.
    Allocate more hours to his buddy.
    Renegotiate his salary. It may help him to do this by getting other full time job offers on the table that his boss can match or lose him.

    He’s almost home, so much of the really tough stuff he’s already done.

    • Brian

      Good thoughts. But remember, with behavior change, any time you say “should,” you’ve already lost.

    • Ramit Sethi

      MY MAN!!

    • Nick Fox

      Everyone really should have seen Brian’s comment coming by now.

      …see what I did there?

  13. Paul

    My sympathies to this guy. I let my ex-wife become a SAHM and it was a financial disaster. Not only lost her income (Which would have been OK) but she seemed to have to spend an extra $1000-$2000 per month just to counteract her boredom.

    This young man needs to take some leadership and take charge of the finances. The wife is just giving him S#!t tests and he’s failing.
    1 – I feed a family of 6 on $700/mo – I don’t shop at Whole Foods
    2 – A SAHM does not need a nanny
    3 – When you’re in financial trouble you don’t need extras like gym memberships and dinning out
    4 – He could do some serious analysis and determine whether he can net more working freelance Vs a low paying job with health care benefits

    When you feel you are being taken advantage of in a marriage, things will not end well.

    • theluckykiwi

      I completely agree. No one needs to spend $1200/mo on groceries alone!

    • Ramit Sethi

      @theluckykiwi, give me 20 mins on the phone with you and I guarantee I can find something you spend a “ridiculous” amount of money on.

      Read more here.

    • theluckykiwi

      @Ramit – I’m sure you can – daycare! That’s our largest expense at $800/month.

      I just came off of the Dave Ramsey debt snowball, am down to about $6k in debt to be paid off this year, and working to build a solid emergency fund and savings. I paid off $25k last year, by way of renting a basement apartment from my dad (so 90% of income could pay off debt). When I got married this year, we spent $175 on the marriage license and $90 on the ceremony (which we only did to get the license signed so our marriage could be official).

      I’m terrified of going into debt again, so I keep it reasonable ;-). I’d love to get you on the phone though, I make a pittance and I need to do Earn1k!!! I can justify it to myself after I get my debt paid off.

      Feel free to email if you’re interested in a food competition startup!


    • Claire

      When I shopped at Whole Foods, I fed myself on $200/mo., bought whatever I wanted, and I eat a lot. People who spend X amount at Whole Foods will easily spend the same X amount at Safeway. The overall price differential of the brands is really not that much. I bet 80% of their food goes in the trash.

  14. E

    Better to get some counseling now than end up paying alimony and childsupport later. This guy seems afraid of confrontation (at home and work) and is avoiding the larger issue. Seems like this money diary is a step in the right direction. Good luck!

    I really like the idea of him outsourcing some of his work to his wife–she can dust off her skill set, free up some time for him, they can spend more time together and start communicating more. Great idea @JessH!

  15. Josh

    Okay, there are few things going on here

    1) The wife, taking time off to spend with the spudnik. Great idea, yes that could be a financial red flag, but in the long run the time spent with junior could be beneficial years on down the line when he isn’t sniffing coke off a strippers ass. But then again he may end up that road anyway. Too many people these days let others raise their children, so this is a good to see.

    2) The wife not really (from his perspetive) spending fuitful hours searching for a “job”. Okay, what is she qualified to do? I suspect that because she is the one that took the time off she ain’t no rocket scientist. There are two things she could do.

    a) Volunteer – sure you don’t get paid, but you get out meet some people and learn some skills or keep your skills up to date. Great for networking and getting those crucial leads.

    b) Go to a temporary agency and get some work through them, yes they take advantage of you and all that jazz, but here again you meet people, gain skills and pull in some income. Just make sure the extra income won’t kill you on taxes.

    c) Start her own daycare, sure there are costs for marketing (use your artistic skills to help her), and probably some other expenses to start up. Sell ownership stakes to your relatives to get the start up capital.

    d) Sell some MLM product, not sure what this entails, but i hear it is good for social type of people.

    2 continued) sure she took time off work and now according to his side of the story is a lackluster performer in his marital bond. Find some way to boost her ego and help her get back into the work force. Use positive affirmation about her, remember all the good things you love about her and commit to only focusing on the good, not the bad. Hell, can she help you out at all, get her involved in what you do to get her some confidence.

    3) The big red flag this post shows is that this guy is doomed for divorce, and he thinks he is having financial problems now. By creating such a negative picture of his marital partner he is surely dooming any positive outlook in his subconscious. This guy needs to sac up and bring his negative feeligns about this marital partners negative positions to light and deal with the consequences. Either man up and get through the hard times or bail like a snivling child.

    The faster you find her work and augmenting your income the faster you can exit to doing freelance more and doing your own painting and artist type of stuff.

    If you can’t effectively communicate with your partner you are creating a hole that will never be filled, and resentment is not a way to live life.

  16. Marilyn

    I feed my family of five on 360 a month. 1,200 for 3 people? It’s astonishing.

    I agree with the Sarah that he is making very strange upscale behaviors, like astonishingly expensive food, a rather expensive nanny, and somehow all that food doesn’t include going out to eat repeatedly.

    Instead of a nanny, get a cheap high school baby sitter. They’ll do the same work for much less, and if you need odd hours, find a homeschooled highschooler.

    Change the grocery and going out to eat budget to just cash. It’ll take a month or two to adjust, but then it’ll be much easier. I feed my family of 5 for 320 a month! Including going out to eat! I do it with just cash! If I paid with the credit card we’d be sunk so fast. But you can make do with less and it won’t be so frustrating.

    If your wife is bored at home and spending lots of money, then help her find some free activities to do- such as going to the park, free swim day at the pool, etc. Then she can have a life.

    If your wife doesn’t want to go back to work, it’s okay! You can make what you are doing still work. I’d advise that you teach her as much of the freelancing business as possible, that way when you work evenings, she works with you.

  17. Chris

    I think everyone so far has hit on the salient points: cut the luxury food, cut the luxury nanny, cut the lifestyle perks. Add them back in once you’ve added the income to support it.

    I just find it hard to believe that someone who focuses so hard on personal finance doesn’t look at the Whole Foods budget and say, “Well there’s our problem right there.”

    • Ramit Sethi

      So ask yourself: Why might that be?

    • Dana

      I don’t think it’s ever that simple. There are often reasons people make the choices they do regarding spending more in one category. In our household, we don’t buy all of our groceries at Whole Foods, but we will often go there to get things for my husband who is gluten-free (allergy, not just a preference) and a vegetarian to boot. Whole Foods, though expensive, has cheaper GF options than many of our local groceries. (GF foods are dreadfully expensive.)

      I’m not saying the guy shouldn’t spend at least part of his food dollar elsewhere – get your organic produce if it helps you sleep at night, but balance it out by getting some of your health & beauty items at Sam’s Club to maximize the value of that membership. But to expect a family who clearly values eating organic for its health or ethical value or whatever to throw those values under the bus because of hard times, when he could just as easily raise his freelancing rates, seems too reductive and flippant.

      I have to wonder whether those of you whose comments are centered on his shopping at Whole Foods even read this blog. Finding ways to save money is great, but this guy is clearly a successful freelancer, and I’d be willing to bet he could easily sustain his food budget if he were to bump his asking rate.

    • Paul

      Whole Foods and McDonald’s don’t add up. There’s some lying to oneself going on here: the desire to eat healthy/socially responsible/whatever, but then the impulse to eat crappy low quality fast food.

  18. Tra

    I agree with the others. All this building resentment = impending divorce. Show the MRS this blog post and the comments as a way to start that conversation you have been avoiding.

    What field does the MRS work in? Maybe she can do freelance work from home too? If she is having all this difficulty landing a position, maybe this is a sign to switch careers entirely? Cut the nanny immediately. Instead have the MRS make money by watching other people’s children. She is already watching only 1 child. This should be a no-brainer. Instead of paying $400 wk for child care, she can be making that money herself by doing child care. There are websites out there to aid you in doing that (google “babysitting jobs,” “nanny jobs”, etc). That’s $800 right there (400 saved, 400 earned). You shouldn’t be the only one supporting your family.

  19. Lisa

    Although I also bristled at the thought of his wife hanging out at home being “bored” while he’s working night and day to support them, it might not necessarily be the best idea for her to find full-time work. I don’t know where they live, but in many cities daycare costs so much that it doesn’t make sense for one parent to go back to work. Now – she certainly shouldn’t have a nanny if she’s also not working in this situation. Perhaps the best solution is for her to also find part-time/freelance work that she can do around their kid’s schedule.

  20. Christina

    “I work so hard, I deserve it.” Goes both ways.

  21. Stephanie S

    He doesn’t want to disappoint his family. He wants to believe that he can have a wife who is a SAHM, all of the luxuries in life (gym, $1200/mo grocery bill, Nannies, etc)

    The truth is, he can, there just need to be some changes…such as raising his freelance rates. He billed ~20 hours in this diary. If he charged $85/hr he would have brought in about $200 extra (~$800/month) that could cover half of his nanny expense.

    The man doesn’t want to do without! He doesn’t want to tell his wife and his child no and he’s frustrated because it’s not working out in his favor. He has the knowledge and the skill, he already has the clientele that value his work…start bidding a little higher on your projects and providing more value to cover the lifestyle that you choose to have.

    And for God’s sake, start contributing to an IRA.

    • Stephanie S

      He could also forget about the subcontractor he’s hiring and hire his wife instead…It’d probably be just as easy to train her.

    • Dana

      Exactly. On this, and hiring his wife as a subcontractor.

  22. Jessica Rudder

    It can suck to work as hard as this diary makes it sound like he’s working and have to cut back on every single luxury – which is why I wouldn’t recommend that he cut everything.

    He does need to figure out which things are important to him and cut the rest though.

    The biggest win seems to be in the Whole Foods budget. Does he shop there because he really prefers organic food? If so, he should slash the hell out of his dining out budget. If not, he should consider shopping at a cheaper grocery store.

    Additionally, $1200/month seems like a lot for 3 people (even if everything is from Whole Foods). I would recommend checking to see if there’s any waste in what is being purchased. He should pay attention to whether a lot of bread and produce is tossed at the end of the week because it went bad then adjust the amount of food he buys accordingly.

  23. Cristina

    I really feel for his wife. I can totally understand how she might feel trapped at home and frustrated that she can’t find a new job.

    Here are a few suggestions for her:
    * Pack your husband’s lunch the night before. That way you can sleep in while he takes care of the baby and feeds the dog, but he still feels taken care of and won’t buy lunch.
    * Find another mom who you can trade a few hours of childcare with. Even if it’s just a few hours a week and you still have to pay a nanny the other nights, $15×4 hours can save you $160/month. I can understand why you may not want to leave your child with a cheaper nanny (e.g., a high school kid), but if you’re still at home while the nanny is there, this may not be a bad option.
    * For less expensive, organic food, try farmer’s markets. Or go through the list of foods where organic makes the biggest difference, and decide to only buy organic in these categories (e.g., dairy, meat, certain fruits and vegetables). You can shop at the regular grocery store for things like pasta or canned goods.
    * Maybe you could find a part-time job at a yoga studio. This way you’d have access to free yoga (classes are $15-20 each where I live), and earn a little extra on the side. And some of studios will probably let you bring your child.
    * Organize a weekly potluck get-together with other SAHMs for really inexpensive social interaction. If you don’t know many other SAHMs in your area, go to and look for a group.
    * Set aside a date night for you and your husband. It can be free/at home, but make sure it doesn’t involve work! Buy a bottle of wine and some light food, and have some alone time after your son is asleep.

    Good luck to both of you! They say that the hardest years of marriage are those where you have young children. Hang in there and ignore all these people making snide remarks about divorce or counseling.

    • sooz

      man thank you for being the only person not blaming this on his wife.

  24. Al

    It sounds as if the poster and his wife are taking all the expenses out of a single joint bank account…he might want to try separating that into 3 accounts: one for their joint expenses and one for each person’s singular expenses (i.e. gym, yoga, “personal expenses”).

    Doing their banking this way allows each of them to spend their personal allowance guilt-free, because they won’t need to worry about going their budget (you should only transfer your budgeted amount to your personal accounts, no more). It also has the benefit of creating a barrier for anyone going over their personal budget – you’ll be forced to think before drawing money from the joint account for personal expenses.

    Besides staying on budget, personal accounts allow you more flexibility on what you spend your money on. Save some money by reducing your gym costs? Well you can put that savings away in your personal account until you’re ready to buy that new computer you’ve had your eye on. It’d be much harder to justify that kind of purchase when everything is shared.

  25. Cristina

    One more idea that would take longer to implement, but sounds good in theory–Could your wife find a job that doesn’t pay as much as she’s used to or justify the cost of child care on its own, but that would provide free/low-cost insurance?

    Say she made $15/hour plus free insurance, and you built up your freelance business to where you could bill 30 hours/week. You could quit your regular job and bill $2100/week, plus she would earn $600. You would be earning more than now, not paying so much for health insurance, and your childcare expenses would be minimized because you’d have the flexibility of a freelancer.

    Just a thought, I know this one isn’t nearly as simple as cutting your grocery bill or whatever, but it’s an alternative to your wife continuing to search for a job that matches her old salary or justifies paying a nanny full time.

  26. Ray

    I’m surprised at how many commenters went straight to cutting spending. Yes, there are some seemingly obvious opportunities to cut expenses, but I’d say the number one thing he needs to do is get a new full time job. Some reasons why that’s my first choice:

    1. Cutting spending is hard (as we all here should know) and many of these expenses aren’t entirely in his control. It’s hard enough to change your own habits, it is absolutely impossible (or very nearly so) for a husband to change his wife’s habits no matter how rational and good intentioned he may be.
    2. He’s seemingly qualified for a better job. If he can bill $70/hr for freelance work, he has the skills to do much better than $20 at the day job.
    3. Raising his freelance rates is helpful, but increasing his 40 hour work week by $15+/hr will have way more impact than the same raise to his <20 hour freelance week.
    4. His current job is going nowhere if he's been negotiating for the promotion and raise for six months. If he gets that, then what?
    5. A new higher paying job will boost his confidence; hopefully resulting in being more productive, more motivated to pursue freelance work, and more capable of dealing with the apparent relationship issues.
    6. A new higher paying job for him may be just the incentive the wife needs to finally get work herself. Whether admiration for or jealousy of her husband's success, I think it may give her the edge to finally start working again.

    • Ramit Sethi

      It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Why do you think people jump at cost-cutting?

    • Ray

      7. I would otherwise have suggested going freelance full time to increase income. If he’s already outsourcing some of those hours, he could probably make the jump, but there seem to be some barriers preventing him from doing so.

    • Ray

      @Ramit – wrt to jumping at cost-cutting. I wonder if it starts with the fact that we humans are pretty terrible at empathizing with others. Rather than imagining what it’s like to be him and why he/they make the choices they do (hard/foreign mentally), we just take the basic facts and stick them in the context of our lives (easy/familiar).

      So, it becomes “if this were my income and my expenses… well, I never spend that much on food, and we get along fine without a nanny so that’s the easy and straightforward way to solve this (and I don’t have to admit my own barriers and insecurities with finding a new job and making more money)”

    • Joseph Buchignani

      His overspending is tied to willpower fatigue and bad diet and logistics imposed by work.

      Her overspending is created by bad game and insufficient time with husband and need for specific personal development knowledge and demoralization.

      Neither can be directly altered without addressing root causes.

    • Lisa

      @Ramit, yes, of course you’re right about cost cutting. I guess the reason why I went to that immediately is that none of his current expenditures really seem CONSCIOUS or INTENDED – he doesn’t indicate that he’s chosen to spend money on all the things he and his wife are spending on…so I guess if he had said “but we want to be able to afford a nanny, and/or buy all our food at Whole Foods” – he seems more an unwilling/unknowing participant in these outlays.

    • Kristal

      So what do you think will happen if he earns more money and does nothing to control costs? His costs will grow to match his income.

      Yes it’s easy to harp on cutting costs. But that is a FAST way to see results. That’s GUARANTEED money in the bank that you can see. You don’t have to wait on the next raise/freelance job, etc to see a rise in income.

      You are correct that he cannot change his wife’s habits. But he CAN talk with her about changing both their habits and together they can make a plan to actually get ahead together. This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have plenty of opportunity to make her life better by changing her habits. Many of her habits seem easily correctible and would actually improve her quality of life if pointed out to her. I.E. You want your husband to stop working till1 a.m.? Then spend $300 less a month than you do now. Spending that $300 may alleviate some depression temporarily, but I’ll bet spending a few hours with her husband at night would alleviate her depression EVEN MORE.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Good point, Kristal

    • theluckykiwi

      @Ramit – Because psychologically, it’s much easier to stop doing something than to start doing something else.

      Especially if “something else” is new and different. Bills are something we’re used to, and challenging yourself to do more is scary because it’s different. We are always afraid of change in some way, even if it’s good change. I was terrified the day we signed our mortgage, but it was the best change I’ve made yet!

    • Joseph Buchignani

      “Because psychologically, it’s much easier to stop doing something than to start doing something else.”

      That’s backwards

    • theluckykiwi

      @Joseph – is it? How many times has Ramit talked about passive vs active change? Humans are innately lazy as well as afraid of change, therefore it is easier to do nothing than to do something.

    • Joseph Buchignani

      I believe it’s generally easier to instill a new habit that overrides the old habit than to continuously exert willpower to prevent an old habit, yes.

    • Joseph Buchignani

      You may be thinking of passive barriers e.g. “losing” the password to his photography blog.

    • theluckykiwi

      @Joseph – I think you are the only one who thinks that. For most of us it is difficult to replace an old habit with a new one. It takes 30 days of continuously practicing something, in order for it to become a habit. Because most people will not practice consistently for 30 days, they will not succeed in creating the new habit.

    • theluckykiwi

      @Joseph – not thinking of passive barriers. Thinking of passive action. As in, it is easier to continue doing what you are doing now (passive), rather than think of a new way to do it (active). Things like willpower fatigue come into play here and demotivate a lot of people at this point. Therefore most will continue to do what they are doing now, rather than attempt to change, because they lack the time/energy/motivation to do the necessary work to complete the change.

    • steve ward

      Lol, was going to say the same thing, Cutting cost good but if your making $70 and hour. Raise that rate up too at lest $100 and hour, ask for referral’s and looking at the end result.

      Expenditures (bills/family): About $2300 (but that includes some monthly expenses) that would be what 23 people a month? maybe a little to many people.

    • Joseph Buchignani

      not doing something as in doing the same thing != stopping doing a habit

      I’m not the only one: “For every single trigger, identify a positive habit you’re going to do instead. ”

    • Claire

      Perhaps the people who suggest cost cutting find it easy to cost cut. But getting people who don’t already cost cut to cost cut is a different story.

  27. asrai

    I see an eventual divorce in this guy’s life if his wife doesn’t clue into the fact that she cannot have the lifestyle she wants on the income they have. I suggest Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s books. The stress of carrying the whole load is going to drive this guy to leave her.

    She wants to buy organic foods (it’s her, because he hides his McDonalds from her). She has a nanny. She has yoga classes. She has alone time. She wants a lifestyle she sees on TV.

    He has his work and his child.

    Sit her down and tell her that this is not going to continue. Get assertive.

    • poor guy

      True. She is one of the main causes of their financial situation. She is SAHM and they pay 400 for a nanny? 1200 in grocery store for 3 (2 adults 1 child?), how come she doesn’t cook or prepare his meal?

      Thank god i won’t marry. Miss the good old times.

  28. Arti K

    Like everyone else, I find the nanny expense odd too considering she is a stay-at-home mom. But, why is she looking for a job in this economy? Why doesn’t she start freelancing just like him, and all her daycare + days-off expenses can come out of that? Like Ramit says, there’s something she can do. Maybe teach yoga.

  29. Becky

    It seems that he’s making all the money, while the wife does the “budgeting”. He needs to suck it up and set some time to sit down with her and see what they can do. It seems like if she’s bored at home, she can take some of her time to help out with his freelancing.

  30. liss

    It’s probably not fair to blame the wife when we only have his side of the story. He is working like mad, no doubt, that doesn’t necessarily mean that what she is doing is nothing.

    Such a swirling vortex of pain for both of them it looks like. Realistically, looking at the actual tone of the reports this guy is happy when he eats well, gets some sleep, and does something besides work – even his “non day off” with his son seems to be rejuvenating for him.

    Without adding a ton more “to do”s to their list it seems like they could make three changes, 1. The night before the wife could make the lunch for him to take to work. either from specific options he gives her or something in the realm of “yummy” and “healthy”. 2. They could include the nanny on the Sunday to give this guy time to paint, or on Saturday. A set time. I know it’s “more money” but happy people does equal productive people.
    3. Certainly they’re gonna have to talk. When my husband and I couldn’t see the financial forest for the burning trees we used this technique to help us actually hear each other. It’s called “three minute therapy:”

    Sit across from one another. There is to be no pacing, no checking of email, no distraction aside from checking a clock/setting to timer to note when three minute intervals are up. You may make eye contact or not, you may touch or not, but your attention is not to be wandering around away from one another.

    Person A speaks for three minutes uninterrupted. If nothing is said, it doesn’t matter, he or she still has three minutes of time.

    At the end of the three minutes Person B says, “Thank you for sharing. I promise to consider it carefully.”

    Then Person B speaks for three minutes uninterrupted, it may have to do with what Person A just finished saying or not.

    At the end of three minutes Person A responds with “Thank you for sharing. I promise to consider it carefully.”

    This continues back and forth for at least twenty-minutes though my husband and I have been known to go back and forth for over ninety minutes. You’ll know you’re finished when good feelings have been restored, or at the very least you aren’t fighting anymore. If you end your three-minute therapy and begin arguing again go back to the uninterrupted three minutes of talking.

  31. Brandi

    I am a SAHM and my husband is full-time freelance. Part of our “agreement” is that I do all of the administrative tasks. It took about two weeks to fully understand everything I needed to do but was a huge help for my husband. Another thing we do is take our “allowance” out in cash – so her yoga and meals out, etc. would have to come out of the allowance so if she runs out it is all gone. On a health insurance note: we are able to get insurance for both of us and our kids for about $4k a year.

    I might be going against everyone else with this one but I would transition to freelance after talking to your wife. It might be tough for a few months but you are already in the hole, so it can’t get much worse.

  32. Joseph Buchignani

    His two biggest problems are the following:

    1. Unmanageable wife. Solution: Learn LTR Game. Read Athol Kay, Daniel Rose, RSD Blueprint and Flawless Natural, and Narciso Babaero.
    2. Low paid time-sucking day job with no room for advancement. Solution: Quit and go freelance. You earn 3x more per hour and have more work than time right now.

    Secondary issues:

    Wife doesn’t know how to find work. Solution: Buy Earn1k for himself and wife.

    Bad diet leads to low energy and willpower failures for both of them. Solution: Start eating paleo and force wife to do the same. Cut expensive whole foods idiocy and shop paleo at regular grocery store. Eat a high meat, low fibrous vegetable diet. Throw out all non-paleo food.

    Painting passion earning nothing and sucking time and creating disappointment. Solution: Stop messing with painting passion in the short term, in the long term figure out better monetization strategy by reading books including Earn1k.

    Excessive expenses. Solutions: Short term, cut nanny, gymnastics, wife’s yoga and gym. Work out at home.

    Mortgage expensive: Short term, plan for move to cheaper housing. Long term, earn more.

    Time shortage: Cut Sundays with kid. Plenty of time to hang with him when you quit your job.

    Wife specific behavior changes:
    These can be implemented only AFTER learning LTR game.
    Wife overspends. Solution: AFTER learning LTR game, implement Ramit’s budget book with her. If that fails, stick her to the envelope system if she’s math-challenged and remove her credit cards.
    Cut wife’s day off. If she’s in love then being around you will be like heroin, and she won’t need or want a day off. This will also solve her obvious depression and demotivation and palpable sense of giving up.

    • theluckykiwi

      How exactly do you “force” someone to do something when they do not want to or do not know how to do it?

      Also, you don’t just quit something you’re passionate about. Everyone needs and deserves time for a hobby, something they enjoy doing *outside of* work.

      Where do you suggest they come up with $2000 to purchase Earn1k when they can’t keep their grocery budget in line? You don’t go into debt to buy anything. You get out of debt first, and then have discretionary spending later. Right now they need to stop spending more than they earn immediately, so they can catch a breath. Once they aren’t spending more than they earn, then they can save a little $ to do Earn1k with.

      Other than that, I agree with you that they should both go to freelance if he’s making as much as he says he is. Wife can definitely learn to take over the admin so the husband can focus on the actual work – wife can even be taught to do some of the things the subcontractor is doing. If it were me, that’s what I’d do.

      I don’t understand why the wife has a day off either, especially when the husband is working 100+ hours a week – where is husband’s day off? My husband and I prefer to spend our time together, as you said above, so I don’t get it either.

    • Joseph Buchignani

      wife changes may not be possible without game, as mentioned.

      the paleo change is easier cuz you can just throw out non paleo food, hence “force”. but it may still fail without game.

      it needs to be read as a whole. quitting the painting was short term. and quitting refers to up time, he can still do it when he lacks energy for productive stuff.

      some solutions obviously require getting out of the money hole first. not all can be acted on immediately. enough of them can though, including both main ones. ergo it solves.

    • Anne

      Dude you are never going to keep a woman around with that attitude.

      Relationships are a game of give and take.

  33. Melissa

    Wow, I feel bad for this guy, but it seems like a lot of it is his own problem.

    Obvious issue – communication with his wife. Some husbands really wants wives to a SAHM mom, while others are very against it. Since we don’t have the back story on why his wife decided to become a SAHM, it’s hard. I can definitely see why resentment on both sides can build up.

    Him: I’m doing all the work and I don’t get any free time. Possible additional resentment if he didn’t want her to become a SAHM
    Her: “I gave up my career and now I can’t find a job. Guilt about not being able to find a job, potentially additional guilt if husband didn’t want her to be a SAHM. Possible resentment if he pressured her to become a SAHM

    Either way, they should have a heart to heart about their priorities for spending time on work, with kid, and with each other. Then about where their financial priorities are.

    My thoughts:
    – wife look for freelance work if can’t find another job
    – sounds like a lot of pre-made food being purchased at Whole Foods, re-evaluate if more cooking can be done with real foods.

  34. liss

    One more note:

    I don’t know their monthly expenses … that said. My husband and I have a (happy) situation that is similar to this guy. I don’t currently work (in school) and husband works a full-time job (he enjoys) which is salary + commission. He is also a freelancer, and he has a creative hobby he loves (acting). I manage our budget and other book-keeping needs. Our monthly expenses are based on his salary. Everything that can be is paid automatically. After months of tracking expenses I figured out that we could save an additional chunk from his salary pay. Those savings go into an ING savings account. Every single commission check, freelancer check and creative hobby check goes through a percentage breakdown as follows:

    20% (gross) taxes (FNBO direct savings account until pay “Uncle Sam”)
    10% (gross) charitable donation

    The rest is a “net” percentage taken from what remains after these two payments, each category has a corresponding ING savings account:

    18% business (amount in business checking maintained other put in savings account)
    5% home
    7% travel
    25% retirement
    42% bill pay / savings
    3% baby

    That “bill pay” category helps with bills in a month that there are many unexpected bills (because unexpected amounts are built into the budget already that’s rare), usually it goes into a savings account that is the “buffer” account. When that account has a sufficient savings for 9-12 months’ of expenses my husband may quit his “day job” to focus full-time on freelancing & acting.

    It’s working for us. All the bills are paid, we have some fun money, and we’re progressing on our long-term goals.

  35. Joseph Buchignani

    By the way Ramit of the game gurus I mentioned Athol Kay is the least offensive and most mainstream acceptable, and also the most relevant to your oevre since he focuses entirely on LTR (Long Term Relationship) game. He has a book out called Married Man Game. I’m internet-acquainted with him and can introduce if you want. Obviously the strength of a marriage is of extreme relevance to personal finance, even more so than a live-in girlfriend.

  36. JaneR

    I hate to say it, but it seems like he’s taken on a martyr role and is more comfortable in that position (as much as it sucks at times) than he is actually taking bold actions to improve the situation.

    Like others have suggested, he needs to talk honestly with his wife to get to the bottom of their problems–which seem to be more emotional than anything else. (Buying Whole Foods when you can’t afford it=a status symbol emotional crutch to maintain the lifestyle you’re accustomed to…etc.) I don’t buy into the idea that his wife is the root of all the problems.

  37. Stef

    Guy needs to invest a few bucks in marriage counseling before that bitter angry streak gets out of control. Oh wait, he just published 18 wife insults on the internet. So I guess he’s already there.

  38. Russ Thornton

    A couple of ideas:

    This dude needs to raise his freelancing rates immediately. I would suggest he double his rates. He can do half the work and make the same amount of money, or he can find better workload and pocket more.

    Perhaps more importantly, he needs to have a “values and priorities” discussion with his wife. Why is his wife “emailing him a budget?” They need to make the time to sit down and go through it together. Highly recommend they use Ramit’s system to automate their money and leave less up to “in the moment” decisions.

    If it’s important to them to maintain what some commenters have called “luxuries” that’s OK, but they need to accept that it might call for some trade-offs in other, less important areas.

    Seems like there is a lot of improvement for communication between he and his wife about money issues and planning ahead based on their shared values and priorities.

  39. shotgunner

    Uhh… sell the condo.

  40. Jason D

    The one major thing that jumped out at me–they have a nanny despite the wife not working yet. This isn’t explained fully, so I have made a few assumptions (the kid is at least two years old since the wife took 2 years off, the wife is actively looking for work but isn’t successful due to the current economic woes, etc.)

    The diarist (OK, not a word but I like it) mentions the nanny is so the wife has time to look for work. One thing I have noticed while my wife and I have raised our daughter (she’s 4.5 now): My wife seems to be able to do little else while watching our kiddo while I can manage to do other things. It turns out that kids do not need to be watched 100% of the time (again, assuming they are over 2 years old).

    What if the wife was able to devote some of her time watching the kiddo to some of the more mundane tasks associated with her job hunt, and to save the nanny time for the ‘big picture’ stuff like analyzing her results, considering new tactics, or perhaps working towards freelancing as others have suggested, etc.

    As for spending cuts, I am not going to make any specific suggestions (plenty of them have already been made). One thing that the folks saying ‘spending cuts will not help’ may be forgetting a piece of the situation–after the 2 year ‘stay at home mom’ period expired the couple is in the exact same position as if one of them lost a job. In those circumstances, you cut spending to something sustainable. It sounds like they’ve still got a bit of savings left, so they’re not entering a debt spiral … they can make some temporary changes and revert once the wife has an income and they’re back on track.


    • theluckykiwi

      @Jason – I can watch my 2.5 year old while I write my blog, cook in my kitchen and generally do anything else I need to do. Children do not need 100% attention all the time, like you said.

      I don’t understand why she needs a nanny, *except* for when she goes to an interview or meeting with a prospective employer or networking contact. I have written multiple resumes, cover letters and networked extensively while watching my son, it’s not difficult. I guess it depends on your ability to multitask, but I could (and do!) analyze results, consider new tactics and work towards freelancing while I watch my kid, and neither are the worse for wear after.

  41. Adam

    @ramit – I think most of the posters jumped to cutting spending because of the overworked tone of the post. The poster is also taking advantage of freelancing to create on the side income. Finally, he’s also jockeying for a raise/promotion. Between all of these, it doesn’t seem like there is much more that he has time for.

    With that being said, I do agree with most of the posters here that it would be beneficial to spend time building some leverage in the promotion negotiation, whether that is other job offers or freelance work.

    In terms of the spending, I got the impression that spending $600 at whole foods every two weeks is not something that is important to this poster. I say that because 1: He makes two trips to McDonalds and two trips to 7-11 over the course of the week, and 2: when he gets the choice on where to shop, he goes to Sam’s Club. Going to a different grocery store is the highest benefit/lowest change possibility in this category.

  42. Tyler F

    This was hard to read. I really feel for this family.

    My 2c is that the rates seem out of whack. Job @ $20/hr vs consulting @ $70/hr? Makes me think I could charge twice what I am for consulting and have no problem with clients, as that’d bring it to the same ratio as this guy. But that would require leaving my comfort zone of existing clients and finding new ones at the new rate… (mental barriers impeding my own growth)

    With regard to Whole Foods…yeah, they’re crazy pricey. If it were that important to me, sure, I’d keep it up. I buy lots of computer parts and games that 90%+ of the country would think is hugely excessive. But, I’m also not in a budget pinch. My wife and I are very in the black and have a healthy automated financial system running things. She works, and we have zero dependents.

    One of the barriers I’ve noticed in myself lately is that I feel entitled to this, that, and the other thing, all while getting ahead and “winning” without any sacrifice. I’ve realized that my expectations do not match reality. I’ve realized that there is not enough time in a day to do half of what I want, so something has to give. I simply can’t do it all. I need to cut the fat to really grow. For me, I need to drop consulting clients to make room for another (harder than it sounds). In this case, it sounds like he and his wife both need to face some facts about reality and make the hard decisions. Then set a plan to re-evaluate in 2 weeks/2 months to decide if their changes are sustainable, what changes should be made, what they’ve made progress on, etc. Anything to stay communicating about it and be accountable to each other.

    Or, keep coasting. It’s easy (see: my track record).

  43. Laura in Cancun

    I have to agree with the people focusing on cutting costs.

    If the author wants to go freelance full-time, they have several areas where they can cut HUGE amounts that would make the switch possible right now. If they reduce their grocery shopping by half and make do without a nanny, they’d be saving $1000 a month! If they’re very brave, they could even get a less expensive home.

    I’m not sure how much he makes freelancing per month, but I wouldn’t be surprised if just a few big cuts would allow him to cover household expenses on his current freelance income.

    Once he’s making the money he wants to (more clients and/or higher rates), then they can incorporate those luxuries back into their lifestyle, but this time without all the stress.

    I’d also recommend they communicate more, start a “fun money” allowance for each of them (to stop the resentment and hiding), and that the wife consider some sort of work from home, at least while she searches for a job.

  44. Krista

    Ramit talked about barriers in his webcast last week, and this story brought up that idea to me, over and over again. This family seems to have all sorts of barriers in their budget and relationship. I hope they are able to access what is holding them back so they can make the needed changes.

  45. -rob-

    It sounds like this guy has plenty of freelance work; even more than he can handle with his full time job. Since he seems to be getting nowhere with his boss on the pay raise side, perhaps he should negotiate for time. He could try and work from home a few days a week, if only to cut out the nanny expense. That’s assuming he couldn’t already make up the difference by focusing on the freelance side, which it sounds like he actually could.

    As far as the wife thing, silent resentment is dangerous. She doesn’t feel the same guilt he does at spending, and that pisses him off. If this is really a matter of out of control spending, he should setup a spending account with limited funds (auto-transfer from his payroll). That’s the account for spending. However, I think he’s got bigger fish to fry ($1200 grocery bill, $400 nanny fees) than a $1.35 long john or a yoga class. Reclaim that time, re-evaluate those big expenses, and good luck!

  46. Ben D

    The first thing he needs to do is stop feeling guilty about his spending.  1.35 long johns and 4.00 McDonald meals?  Where is that link to who cares about saving money on lattes?

    The second thing he needs to do is accept reality that they are spending money and actually look at the spreadsheet or whatever program they use to manage their finance. You have to know what you are spending your money on in order to know where to focus your energy. If you deny it or push it off then you are just only making things worse for yourself because you’ll build up so much resentment. I’m sure the wife means well.

    If you want to control your finances, he needs to manage his team and get them onboard. That means he needs to actually communicate with the wife. Of course you can’t tell her to cut her expenses that will only create more resentment. Instead he needs to actually build up rapport with her. If he ever wanted to manage the baby sitting or the foods, he could say “hey wife thanks for managing our finances. It’s defiantly helped me focus my time on work.  While I was looking at our expenses, I didn’t realize we spent that much in these items. (insert whatever bugs you). Why does it cost so much?”. Then this is where he needs to shutup and let her speak and vent possibly.

    If he ever wanted to look for a new job or whatever increase his pay, he can say “hey hun, I just had a long day at work. I don’t feel like I’m treated right at work. I also don’t feel like I’m getting paid enough. Do you have any pointers on what I could do?”

    If he wants to expand his freelance business, he can say “hey babe you know I have working really hard on this side business and I have to say it’s been quite rewarding staying at home and making 3x more than my job. I know we aren’t ready to make this fulltime yet but one day I’d love to do this permanently.”

    Basically what I’m saying is he just needs to start communicating with the wife.  When you get your team on board the easier it is for both of you to make financial decisions together.  That’s the key point.  You guys can’t cut stuff out so easily.  But you can always create an environment where both of you will of you are in tune and work together. 

  47. Ryan

    I think his issues are more marital related than financial related. Good luck, buddy.

  48. Brendo

    Beh….tactics galore here and everyone is saying the same thing.

    This guy is really focussed on the negative – without a focus on where he actually wants to be he’s never going to get there. He needs to sit down and work out what he actually wants, where he wants his life and relationship to be, decide to go after it and then starting taking small little steps to get there.

    Tactics are a means to an end – if you don’t actually know what the end goal is the tactics are worthless

  49. Iris_Eben

    Why is that whenever a Money Diaries post is published, the comments volume triples at IWTYB? Every other post averages about 20-40 comments including high quality case studies with clear action steps. Perhaps it’s easier to critique than it is to act…hmmm.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Very smart comment.

    • liss

      Easier to critique AND easier to get emotionally involved. There is a genuine belief that what you say might affect the actual person in this post.

  50. Greg

    I think we’re going to have to hear more about his wife’s level of attractiveness before we jump to any conclusions on whether or not it’s her fault for their financial problems.

  51. Kate

    At different times in my marriage, my husband and I have each dramatically out-earned the other. Sometimes we were in great financial shape, sometimes not so much. Here’s what NEVER works when you want to tell your spouse you have a problem with the current financial situation:

    1. “We can’t spend X on Y.” Instantly makes the other person question why you have the right to say this, debate you, waste time not solving the problem.

    2. “How can you spend X on Y?” Instantly shames the other person into thinking of themselves as someone with poor judgment, poor self-control, lack of maturity.

    (Note: I’ve said both these things; I’ve had them both said to me. From both sides of the equation, I found them ineffective — they didn’t help me change my actions, and they didn’t get the results I desired. Hey, look at me, collecting data and measuring outcomes!)

    Here’s what has worked:

    1. “I need help.”

    2. “I’m worried. I want to be sure we have enough money to be able to pay for [something important to your partner] and [something important to me], and I’m afraid we’re about to get in a situation where we can’t.”

    3. “How are you doing?” You would not believe the number of times my husband and I have solved a looming problem by checking in with the other person.

    I agree with the comments above that the wife sounds like she might be suffering some depression, which can be a bigger barrier to smart decision-making than most people realize. Therapy for one or both halves of this couple might help them strengthen their ability to open up and communicate. (And by law, your insurance plan has to offer you equivalent physical and mental health coverage — so if you have unlimited doctor visits, you also have unlimited therapy visits, for the same co-pay.)

    I also agree with the comment about volunteering. Both my husband and I have moved back into the job force after layoffs by starting with volunteer gigs that got us out of the house, meeting people, thinking about what we’re good at, and how to turn that into income.

  52. Marguerite/chicspace

    Ok, if we listen to Ramit:

    Making a budget
    Telling him what he should be doing (Well, Ramit did ask what he’s doing wrong)
    Telling them to cut down on expenses we think are important

    “Should do”:
    Decide which items are worth spending on to them. Which ones aren’t. Who among us knows which are important, but they must know.
    Increase income: Figure out how to get THE WIFE into Earn1K. Let her freelance/come up with a business. Keeps her happy, which then helps with her depression. Have her work with her husband for him to pick up salient points of 1K for his business (a twofer!)
    (Counseling, because I agree their communication is poor)

    The more he tries to control his wife, the more she’s not going to go for it.
    (Oh, and by the way Trader Joe’s is a lot cheaper 🙂 )

  53. Tim

    Money is not your main problem. I’m not qualified to offer advice, but seek out some help to become more confident and assertive in your communication with your boss. But I would probably just get a new job though if you are afraid to freelance full time, your boss is stringing you along and may not change his interactions with a confident you, he likes the old passive you.

    I understand difficult topics can seem impossible to bring up with your spouse, but you’re being really passive aggressive with your wife. Killing yourself working isn’t the right way to send a message. In your case, maybe you could write her a short letter, telling her what is concerning you, in a neutral tone without assigning blame, and that you want to talk about it but don’t know how. DO NOT leave the money diary up on your screen, or even mention you wrote one. It is too incendiary to share with her.

    Also, look at how you got started freelancing. If that wasn’t just happenstance and a default action on your part (like an old employer begging you to continue working) can you reflect on how your behavior and actions were different then and recapture that?

  54. Stanley Lee

    Here are my suggestions for this gentleman:
    1) Get well-rested. He really needs it in order to think properly, draw out his cash-flow diagram properly (, address the family financial situation with his wife rationally (and also respond to her emotional reactions).
    2) Talk with his wife about the financial situation face-to-face. Go through the cash-flow diagram with his wife together. At that point, both of them should be scared about the potential consequences shall they continue with this path. I call this getting out of denial. At the same time, realizing some of those mistakes are irreparable sunk costs would reduce their guilt from progressing further to fix their situation. I think talking about their trust for each other would help as some of those hidden expenses are made b/c they don’t trust or understand each other.
    3) Tally the regularly incurring expenses and negotiate with service providers. Doing this would educate them what they are paying. This would allow them to shop around before negotiating with the service providers. (Ramit talked about it; I have yet to be successful lately, but I do negotiate every quarter or so, and I at least manage to self-educate what I’m getting out of what I’m paying) Spare no one, including health and car insurance, mortgage financing, utilities, cell phones, gym (if he still uses it, which I doubt).
    4) Until they manage to pay themselves first and getting the regular expenses under control (tallied in step 3), minimize the impulse spending. This contradicts Ramit’s philosophy of guilt-free spending. What I’m saying is that guilt-free spending is only safe for one to do if and only if expenses and emergency/FYF/retirement savings are taken care of when there is income. This means no more welcome mat for changing luck, gym membership that he’s too busy to use (I recall he’s a workaholic, and most workaholics I know don’t have time for gym; at the very least, go pay-as-you-use), etc.
    5) Simplify their tracking! I would rather summarize the costs of the 75 different categories of expenses into one ball-park figure, and then seeing if they are regular expenses or one-time expenses. They can also adjust their funds easier (i.e. put more money from their guilt-free spending into those expenses, or reward themselves with more guilt-free spending if they manage to spend less later on). Their current system puts anyone off from getting off their asses and manage the expenses in the first place.
    6) Track accomplishments at day job for future salary negotiations. Salary negotiations from what I’ve read are easier than the negotiations in step 3 (human capital is harder to replace than customers). Especially useful if the employer has at least some control on how they can generate income (i.e. not solely depending on the headquarters to hand down money from an annual budget). I’m reposting Ramit’s link here ( J.D. Roth has some good tips too (
    7) Pricing appropriately for his freelance gig. This is especially useful if he has (1) no hope of negotiating his day-job salary within the year, (2) no security of keeping his job through the year, or (3) no longer qualified to perform his day job. If he’s busy all the time completing freelance gigs while ignoring his wife sleeping, clearly he has some credibility but not priced appropriately. Search for “case study” on Google and there are quite a few success stories. Identify the clients’ key itches and solve them in addition to their requests. Then the success stories and his abilities to solve customers’ problems proactively may bring up his courage to finally raise his prices.
    I agree with the comments and the philosophy of not nitpicking on the odd dollars here and there (song downloads, ice-creams, McDonalds, etc.). 80/20 principle definitely comes into play here (one bad decision with insurance, home refinancing, etc., and poof, there goes the savings of $1.00s or $2.00s you’ve made). However, I tackle the expenses before trying to make more money b/c I believe in the philosophy of operating lean and mean (i.e. building security). Focusing on making more money before cutting costs could induce the family to spend more money to match their income.
    There are a lot of steps, so I’m not sure what kind of timeline would be required to fix the situation. All I can suggest is work on completely one step (and work on one step only) before moving onto the next one. Bringing a sense of urgency of what could happen to them (e.g. if he loses his day-job or his child gets seriously ill) won’t hurt either!

  55. jkaleidoscope

    A lot of people are saying he should cut spending and get a better paying job. What I’m seeing is two people whose lives are out of balance. He’s working all of the time, and resents his wife for not earning any income. Meanwhile, his wife is working full time to manage the entire household and raise their kid. I’m sure there is some resentment on her side that her husband has almost no free time for either of them. She must feel very lonely. Yes, she doesn’t have a job, but how can they afford daycare right now? How can he find time to get a better job if he’s this stressed out 24/7? I think they are spending on small luxuries so that they don’t feel too so broke and depressed. Solution: both of them need to make a change. He needs to limit his freelance hours, and focus on either getting a new job or charging more for the freelance positions he takes on. Then he’ll have more time to watch the kid while his wife looks for work or just relaxes for a few minutes. She needs to spend more of her time on reducing food costs, including cooking at home and shopping smarter. He’s eating whatever, whenever–can’t she pack his lunch or use leftovers from the night before? Also, skip Whole Foods, it’s a rip off. Finally, I haven’t noticed anyone saying this, but kudos to them for being debt free. That’s a huge accomplishment before 30! I wish I could say the same for myself…

  56. kate

    He makes 3Xs as much freelancing than he does at the ‘day’ job and says he is only there for the insurance. He met or setup a meeting to discuss private insurance. What was the outcome? This seems to be the only tether to his current draining situation. Insurance! Once he has insurance on his own he has freedom to do whatever they want to meet whatever goals they have.

    This gives him options:
    1. Quit the full time job and freelance full time
    2. Look for another job (making a lot more, he’s worth it, freelance work says so) and stop freelancing
    3. Look for a part time job and freelance the rest of the time, paint in the evenings
    4. Endless combination of options!!!

    As far as his wife, she needs to do her own assessment. What does she want to do? Someone suggested she do the admin work for the freelance business. This would help in multiple ways:
    1. He would be freed up from unbillable hours to do billable work
    2. She can add it to her resume, stating she is currently employed
    3. She is now vested in his business and feels she is contributing to the family financially

    Those who are saying she shouldn’t have a ‘day off’ don’t know the entire situation. Neither of them gets a break really and this mostly creates time for him to spend with their child. He even says he loves it and I am sure the child loves it as well and she gets mentally recharged to deal with the new week. This is one piece of that diary that is win-win. Once they make whatever changes they decide, he could dedicate one evening a week to ‘alone’ time or painting or whatever. (also it sounds like it’s really more like a couple of hours, and not a day).

  57. Pam

    It seems like the guy’s biggest issues are being the sole breadwinner and maintaining his freelance work. Perhaps instead of outsourcing extra work to a friend, is there anything his wife could do? Graphic design is a specialized skill, but maybe she can assist in the administrative and less-specialized tasks with his freelance work. That way, he would get to keep ALL of the income instead of paying someone else to do what he can’t handle, AND his wife will be helping to bring in money on some level. That might be an option while she is still looking for work. This will free up more of his time, allay some of the resentment he’s been feeling, and bring in more income.

  58. rachel T

    1. Depression. Your wife is skipping out on a lot of her own duties because she is depressed. You’re picking up the slack and resenting her for it. Instead you need to support her and ask her to take on her own responsibilities.
    -she needs to find a playgroup for her son. Then she can dress up and visit with moms in her own situation. This will help her adjust and she won’t feel so in over her head
    -husband needs to give up on “this is all my woman’s fault because if she would just/if she had just..” and deal with your current situation. (Tell wife: I looked over the budget you made up…and we need to take a more pro-active approach to our spending. I need you to figure out how to tame the grocery budget. Will you research this on line? Some people plan out every meal. Some really get into coupons. Some only shop with a list. Some people only use cash to buy food so there is a set limit. Some buy more foods at Sam’s Club–especially produce. It won’t be like this forever. But for now, we really need to tighten up that food budget. (both of us) Will you please be in charge of the food? Will you research this and be in charge of it? I know you can do it! Let’s meet together in 5 days so you can tell me the new grocery plan….and what I need to do to support it.) I’m counting on you!
    She needs to feel this support from you. She needs to feel like an equal partner who is contributing something valuable.
    She feels like you feel like she’s slacking and that’s a huge part of her depression. Being a stay at home mom is hard–emotionally and physically. It’s so easy to feel worthless – especially if your husband thinks your life is wasted doing “nothing”. Meanwhile she feels trapped by this little 3 year old…and then feels bad for feeling trapped….etc

    2 – Freelancing. You are not charging enough. I have 2 friends who do freelance design work. They’re both accomplished and experienced. One charges about 3 times as much as the other. They are both swamped with work.

    3- Painting. Carve out time for your dream. It’s important to you. Don’t feed it leftovers.

    4- marriage – think about the things you love about your wife. Think about when you were dating and the things that attracted you to her. Think about these things often. Tell her these things often. This will make both your lives better. Happier.

    5 – clinical depression. If you do these things and your wife is still depressed, she needs to seek professional help. Postpartum depression is a serious yet treatable condition that causes tons of pain. If her depression is clinical, treatment will bring her back to you.

    I don’t see how you can remedy your financial situation without remedying the depression first.

    Even though you are about to slip into debt, congratulations on being out of debt to start with and on your concern for the approaching debt. In our society, that puts you ahead of the crowd. Keep at it. Don’t give up on your wife or your dreams.

  59. Rachel

    What a depressing post!

    The day to day of work, freelancing, job-hunting, and child rearing has them both stuck in a serious rut. I also think they both are having feelings of loosing themselves, he by not having time or energy to devote to his true passion (painting), and she by feeling a career demotion by taking time to care for their son. Since they are feeling like they are not where they want to be financially and it spills over into feeling like they are not where they want to be in their marriage.

    So my response is to spend more money (which may seem counter intuitive). They need a vacation!! Obviously they don’t have a ton of extra cash right now, but they need just a couple of days away from it all to really step back and analyze their situation. I would recommend that they drop their son off with a family member for a long weekend and hole up in a hotel somewhere and just talk. Doesn’t have to be a fancy destination or anything, but just a nice comfortable hotel room where they can be rested and thus have fruitful discussion. I can’t imagine them being able to have a productive conversation in their current day-to-day.

    Day 1:
    -Both parties write down a list of goals, fears, and dreams; these don’t necessarily have to be financial in nature and can be long term or short term (i.e. paint more, find a job, have more kids, buy a house, eat less fast food, buy a convertible)
    – Do something fun, i.e. talk a nice walk, watch a movie in bed, etc.
    – Both share their list with the other person in detail

    Day 2:
    – Talk about how to best prioritize the items on both lists, i.e. wife get a job comes before husband buys convertible (just an example) and write out all of the goals/fears/dreams in order of priority (not necessarily by time frame, but by order of importance)
    – Do something fun
    – Discuss what action steps each person is going to make in the coming weeks and set up a time to revisit these issues in a month

    Day 3:
    Sleep and eat well

    Once they have re-focused their joint big picture it will be easier to break down what their daily lives need to look like to head that direction. Ultimately their problem is rooted in their relationship more than the money itself. If they give themselves time to work on that then the money discussions will be easier.

  60. Anastasia

    After thinking about the guy’s challenges in my opinion the answer would be for him to quit his day job and take on freelancing as his full time occupation. It looks like he (a) makes 3 times more money freelancing; and (b) does not enjoy or gets motivated by his day job. Taking this route would allow him to make more money and have flexibility in his hours, which would in turn allow his wife to look for her job while he could babysit their son.
    In my opinion cutting his food expenses is not the answer. I think everyone has reasons for allocating their money towards a certain priority expense. In this household it seems to be organic food. I have to say that we have the same priority in our family: for us eating organic meat, fish, dairy and the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables is a number one priority. We view it as investment in our long-term health and we contribute to it in the same way as we contribute to long-term retirement: at no compromise. So to surprise the majority of the other contributors we actually spend $2,000 a month on food and certain supplements like fish oil. And we are a family of 3. But after having done so much research about cancer we decided that this expense is definitely worth it. In return, we live in a small condo with our son, we have one beat up car and I only take public transport, and we only shop for cloths when the old ones worn out.
    I think everyone has a right to spend the money they make in a way that they believe contributes to their long-term happiness. In a case of the guy I think he already has a solution at hand: he actually already developed his free lancing business enough to make money off it. And he seems to have more clients that he can handle on the part-time basis. So instead of hiring his friend as a partner he should take advantage of this opportunity.
    And just a side note I really don’t believe that cutting all expenses is ever an answer to someone’s financial problems. Just as an example my husband spends a lot of money to train 5 times a week with one of the top trainers on the continent. When he first considered it I was definitely thinking it to be .. well crazy. But then I told him to give it a try and since he started the work outs his confidence, happiness and energy levels have exponentially increased. Because of how he felt he asked and got couple of promotions at work and now is the youngest executive in his company. He loves his job, has the energy for it and comes home happy. To others that expense would sound nuts . To me it’s worth it and it is balanced in our budget.

  61. Sherif Koussa

    I didn’t read all the comments. I disagree with those suggested that the wife is not on the same page or she is a wreck financially. I think she is sounds financially and trying to do her best, the yoga and nanny and whatever are just her way of trying to vent, I think she is really depressed because she thinks that she is the reason she put the family in that situation.
    My suggestion is that the wife should take EARN1k to start some kind of a business to support the family. The guy is doing the right thing with a full time job and part-time freelancing. Once the family is OK financially, it is a no brainer that he should switch to full time freelancing

  62. ARC

    I’m late to the party but really feel for this family. I think the VERY first thing he and his wife need to do is talk about how they’re feeling and what their goals are. The resentment just builds up over time and at some point you can’t fix it. The money stuff will follow once they’re on the same page relationship-wise and *understand* the other one’s perspective and goals.

    I also wonder what kind of company they’re keeping. Are their friends one-income families, with SAHMs who shop at Whole Foods and have nannies? Maybe that’s where the pressure to live this lifestyle is from. That’s definitely the case where I live.

    As someone who would love to be a SAHM but knows it would be financially difficult for us, and also *very* stressful for the sole breadwinner, I get it. Good luck to them – they need to be on the same side first, before they can get a handle on the details.

  63. Greg C

    While there are many other issues at play here, the root cause of this problem is the wife’s depression. They need to focus on how to get her out of her funk and productive again. Raising his freelance rates or getting a salary increase or cutting back on finances will not solve the wife’s problems, which will likely result in divorce. This is 95% of their battle.

    She needs to build her confidence and meet people, particularly people that can help her get working. She should choose something that makes her feel good and can be a decent thing to say to the question “so what have you been doing with yourself”. There is nothing I hate more than looking for a job. When I was unemployed and feeling bad about myself, I decided to train for and compete in triathlons – this made me healthier, happier and more confident and I found it easier to pursue a job because of this. I also participated in a coaching/networking group. She needs to find this source of happiness, and quickly.

    Apart from this, I think the guy should work on his income. Either push for that raise, look for a higher-paying job, or ask for flexible hours – maybe see if his boss will let him work 20-30 hours a week for the rest of the year and see if he can push the freelance business a little. It’s easy to say “raise your rates”, but it’s not clear to me that he can get enough work to sustain 20-30 freelance hours every week. He can certainly try and ask for more money though. And, in the short-term, get the wife involved – either doing administrative stuff or helping out in some other way. Once she starts gaining confidence, this work will make her feel more useful too.

    Lastly, I would say that cutting expenses should be done immediately. None of these ideas for increasing income is going to make an immediate difference and besides, aside from politics, the right way to reduce debt/save more is to raise income AND cut spending – just ask Democrats and Republicans! They need to figure out where they can cut stuff and where they can reduce expenses – this involves a two-person mutual prioritization exercise and frank discussion of what they can afford. It’s not up to this peanut gallery to impose values on this family. Practically speaking, however, I would look at everything in the budget and see where it makes sense to raise and lower budgets/expenses. They need to think of every bill – can it be lowered with a phone call (following a Sethi script)? Perhaps it would help to enforce spending behaviors by going to cash only or debit cards that use accounts that have only the allowance for the week/month in them. Maybe even allocating monthly expenses into their own envelopes to make sure agreed upon rules are followed.

  64. jesus

    Start your own business, not just as freelance, get your own design firm (You could be a provider to your current office). Tell your wife to get a job, or assign a job to her, but make that woman to produce money (not just wasting it in eating out and yoga, come on)

    • Felicity Fields

      In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s not a simple as “go out and get a job.” If it were, the nightly news wouldn’t be full of the highest unemployment rates in decades.

  65. Craig

    Is he an Earn1k grad by chance?

  66. Mike

    Work with what you alone can control first:

    Renegotiate the day job to be part time and/or work some/all from home to cut out travel time/car expenses and the cubicle drag.
    Focus the new found extra time (from going part time at your day job) on the freelancing work – test rate increases (especially for rush jobs) look at your point of differentiation/solving your clients’ real problems, fire your difficult clients, explore getting a retainer from your better clients.
    Get the day job to pay your medical insurance.
    Put the painting career on hold until you get the big stuff sorted.
    Get all these done so you can demonstrate runs on the board.

    Next the joint stuff:
    Time for a chat with “the trouble and strife”.
    Just think zen and the art of getting on the same page.

    Remember: nobody ever cut expenses to grow the top line.

  67. Jay

    This guy needs to snap out of it, realize what’s happening and make some decisions.

    He’s avoiding his financial situation, working for work’s sake, and blaming his wife that things aren’t going the way he’d like. Blaming other people for your situation is a surefire way to ensure things don’t get better.

    The only advice is to step back, look at the big picture, make some decisions about where he wants to go and what he’s prepared to sacrifice to get there, and execute!

  68. Felicity Fields

    I have to say, I sympathize with both sides. Having been out of work, and having worked my butt off for a lifestyle I wanted but could barely keep my head up, I get it.

    So here’s a question: can his wife help him out with his freelance business? Maybe she can do some administrative work for him, or find new clients, or maybe she has design skills of her own? Working together, especially given his building resentment, might be difficult at first, but it might also be what they need to get back on track.

  69. Jonathan

    Wow, this hits home. Sounds like he needs to reboot his life and get his ducks in a row for going solo if his wife isn’t on board. I don’t view his situation as a budgeting failure – it’s more of a failure of him and his wife to communicate their goals and desires and make appropriate decisions based on their financial resources. It really depends on how the problem is framed: if you think in terms of “SAHM needs occasional alone time” instead of “I need $400/month for a nanny” it opens up possibilities, some of which may be free or low-cost. They can make some obvious cuts but until they solve their communication gap and re-train their thinking, whatever knee-jerk changes they make will be for nothing.

  70. Natalie @ Mango

    On a positive note: I love this series! Keep the stories coming! On a more somber note: Poor guy. I know a lot of people are in this situation– some people who are on their own, some people who split costs with roommates, but honestly, I think the most difficult situation is this one. This guy is supporting his family on his income alone, and doesn’t seem to be discussing his fears or concerns with his wife.
    If I can give some very general advice: talk to your wife! Even if she doesn’t end up getting a job, she’ll at least know what you’re thinking. She might be completely unaware that there is even a problem! I work for Mango Money and we recently did a really great infographic about different spending personalities in relationships, and how best to discuss these differences. You might want to check it out…
    Good luck!

  71. Emily

    I didn’t read every single comment, but I didn’t see anyone mentioning one of the benefits of having a corporate job vs freelancing – I presume he gets some kind of paid vacation time. Yes, he might get a little behind on work for his regular job if he uses it, but assuming he has it should take a day now and then to either rest, have “me time”, or see how much freelance work he can get done in a day to judge what that life would be like. It’s like free time to explore options, since he will be getting paid for it through the vacation time.

    Anyway, if his regular job is being so stubborn about his raise, he should not feel bad about taking the time that is due him!

    Also, I know a bunch of people said this, but I wanted to reiterate – I agree saying to someone “well, just cut your expenses” is generally a lazy response, but in this particular case, it does really sound like money is not being spent consciously, and I agree with other posters who said, if they don’t *consciously* decide their budget is $1200 on groceries, earning more won’t help – they will just continue to throw money around without thinking about what they’re doing or trying to do, the numbers will just be bigger. A shopping location change and an eye on food waste, even if just temporarily until they get stuff figured out, is a easy win.

  72. Paris Hunter

    Don’t know if it has been said but ignoring the obvious of the wife getting a job why can’t she help sell paintings and line up more freelance work for the guy? She can be a liason since she has time during the day. That would be a big change for both parties. She can be active again and he can get a little less stress. It will also keep her skills sharp or sharpen them and he can teach he things here and there about freelancing and managing it. Its not an instant or big win but she can help track down more lucrative opportunities or at least save him some time.

  73. K00kyKelly

    I’m reading Spousonomics and a lot of the material in the book would be a great starting point for the kinds of discussions this guy needs to have with his wife. A lot of the other commentors have touched on the tactics side of them – Can his wife help with the freelance? Can he take on the food shopping? Allocating self time, etc.

  74. lisa

    I don’t know if anyone will read the last post but here goes.

    Procrastination is usually fear of failure. Or it can be related to not knowing how to do something. On top of that there may be the martyr thing going on.

    Taking a wild stab, he does not know what to to to fix his life or talk to his wife. Even though he is slowly sinking, to others he looks fine.

    Figure out what you can’t live without, and figure out what your bog problems are. Write down some suggestions or brainstorming for solutions. At this point get in a positive mood about your wife, she is your partner, mother of your child and love of your life I hope. Then talk sub her. Let her know how you feel only talking about you. No I wish you would get a job. Instead I feel like I’m drowning in the bills, and no matter what I do I can’t keep my head above water. I really suggest non judgmental brainstorming and at he end you two pick solutions and a plan of action. No imposing fixes unilaterally, she is not a child and will resent it.

    We have a problem, help me fix of or let’s figure out what to do. Heck she is probably frustrated too, can tell you recent her and also avoiding a talk. I’m sure she isn’t lazy or a bad person and she would probably love to take a more active part in her own and your life. Asking for her help is flattering and does not make you less a man, husband or anything else. You don’t have to have all he solutions.

    Good luck.

  75. christiana

    THis guy is never going to get out of this hole unless he gets on the same page as his wife. Yoga? A nanny? Afternoons doing what she wants? He’s working two jobs, so she should be too – watch the kid and look for a job, or utilitze the nanny while working at Target and looking for a job. Seriously.

    Also, news flash – with the exception of meat, everything you buy at Whole Foods can be found much more cheaply elsewhere. Though I am not sure why you’re going there while eating at McDonald’s…

  76. marina

    Am I missing something?

    If this guy can get at least 40 hours a week doing freelance, it could be his full time job. If he raised his rates to $80/hour and got the 40 hours a week, he would be making $3200/week, which is over 500% higher than his day time job. Granted, he would then have to get his own health insurance and cover his own taxes, but if he is as good as it sounds, raise his rates even higher. He is making $600/week at his job with a foot dragging boss.
    Either really push the raise with his boss, which even if he got it, seems like a small salary compared to what he could earn freelancing, a job that sounds like he can do at any point in the day. If possible he could work from home more, be around during the day to help raise his son and allow his wife banker’s hours to hit the streets in her job search.

  77. CL

    He and his wife need to have a solid talk about their priorities. They are heading down the road to divorce. A SAHM does have to spend money to take care of the household, but spending $2300 to take care of 3 people seems extraordinarily excessive, if he’s making $1815.

    He’s right that he also needs a day off or some free time where he doesn’t have to work or worry. I agree with all of the posters who believe that the mom should trade babysitting or play dates with another mom. I highly doubt that there are no moms in the area who would be willing to switch off. $400 for a nanny is more than what my cousin, who is a SAHM, spends on childcare and homework tutoring for her three kids in Los Angeles.

    His wife can calculate how much money she would need to make in order to make it worth going back to work. It might be more cost effective to cut out the nanny and stop searching for a job. She does need to get out of the house, but she should join a playgroup or something. That way she’ll stop spending $204 on eating out when they are spending more than they earn. Perhaps she should begin freelancing as well.

    If he contributes any money to an IRA at this point, he will go into debt even earlier. I think the posters who think that he should contribute to retirement right now are ridiculous.

  78. YOHAMI

    That was very depressing!

  79. Sarah Smith

    I feel for this guy, but it seems like if he and his wife don’t agree on a budget/plan of action, their finances (and marriage) are going to keep sinking. This diary reeked of bitterness towards his wife!

    Hard to recommend too much without really knowing the family, but they need to sit down & agree on a budget – and stick with it. I would also stop shopping at Whole Foods exclusively – you can get better bargains at another grocery store, and you’re canceling out your healthful grocery shopping with McDonald’s runs anyway.

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  81. Ally

    1) The wife could be making his lunches for him in the morning, or night before, so that he didn’t have to spend extra money in the day.

    2) A high-schooler would cost much less than a nanny for an afternoon or two off for the wife while she job-searched.

    3) The wife could be taught to do the administrative/paperwork tasks of the husband’s freelance work, which would alleviate a little of her boredom and take something off his too-full plate.