budget · the money diaries

the money diaries: the state of the millenial budget

omg, if i have to hear about dave ramsey’s baby steps one more time, i’m quitting the internet.

i’ll spare you the gory details, but this accountant’s daughter has never been a budgeting babe. i sailed through my early years blissfully unaware of what kind of cash it takes to enter the real world.

don’t get me wrong, i worked in high school. i was a grocery store courtesy clerk, and then a macy’s perfume girl until i graduated 12th grade. but i went to college with not a dollar to my name. i’m not sure what i was expecting, but what i got was a mountain of student loans, and and generalized anxiety disorder.

when i graduated college, i moved to the second most expensive city in the country, san francisco, and was making $36,000 a year. you read that right, $36,000. this was pretty average for a starting pr salary in 2011. after taxes and my 401k contribution, my paychecks were just over $1,100 every two weeks. My rent was about $1,100 {including utilities}, so half my take home pay. i was paying in the neighborhood of $900 in student loans payments.


for the first few months, my parents were giving me hundreds of dollars a month. this was obviously not sustainable. i called my student loan lenders and got those payments down to around $500 a month, and then pinched my pennies as best i could. luckily i got a few nice raises, and after a few years, was on my feet. or at least, on my feet-adjacent.

it wasn’t until the fisherman and i got together, though, that i had to face the harsh reality of my student debt. he wanted to quit his job and attend a web development bootcamp just a few months after we got married, so we would need to live on my income for at least 3 months; probably more. this was when i really got into budgeting. i knew we needed $1,000 more than my income per month to make ends meet, so we went into major savings mode.

luckily, the fisherman was only unemployed for about four months, and we had six months saved. once we knew we were back up and running with two incomes, we had a decision to make: save for a house or pay off student loans. we agonized about this, and decided to buy a house. the market where we live is rising quickly, and we found a neighborhood we love at the price we wanted.

now that’s totally the cliff’s notes about our budget, my relationship with money, and the hell that is student loans. this is the first in a series of posts where i’ll talk about what it’s like to make hard decisions about money. i wanted to start out the series with a few resources i use to keep track of our budget and help us reach our goals.

  1. the subreddit, r/personalfinance. whoa. when i discovered r/personalfinance, my whole world changed. It’s hundreds of thousands of everyday people, asking strangers on the internet, for financial advice. it was here i learned about everything from emergency funds to the basics of a budget. you can find any answer you’re looking for on r/personalfinance. i promise.
  2. unbury.me. when you finally pay the piper and decide to throw every extra dollar you have at debt, head over to unbury.me. enter all of your information, balances, interest rates, monthly payments, income, and it will help you figure out what payments to make to which loans, using either the avalanche or snowball methods.
  3. google docs. omg, i know. i use a spreadsheet! i’ve used mint and ynab, but honestly neither one impressed me. mint was always having issues connecting to my bank account, sending me emails about overspending {no thanks}, and mis-categorizing like, everything. ynab has an interface that is weird af, plus it’s not free. i’m hustling to pay off my student loans, why on earth would i pay for a budgeting app? makes no sense. I have several tabs. one with our general budget, one with all of our loans, and then one with what loans should be paid off when at our current rate.
  4. bank apps. This one sounds dumb/simple, but i have all the apps for all the financial institutions we’re affiliated with. i have almost all of our accounts on auto pay, but every once in a while, i login to keep my eyes on the prize, you know?

i’ll be honest, we bought our house in august, and are still digging out of that hole. and i don’t mean our mortgage, i mean all the stuff you have to buy when you build a house {blinds, anyone?}. in the next post, i’ll discuss how we plan to get ahead.




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