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Let’s Talk About Money…

Talking Openly About Money

Do you discuss finances with friends and family? There’s still a taboo around talking about money, but it can be really helpful to hear what others are going through. This month, Turbo, a new app from the makers of TurboTax, invited Cup of Jo to join its mission to encourage people to talk openly about money. So, I’m sharing five financial ups and downs in my life (and would love to hear yours!)…

Entering the real world.
After graduating from college, I moved to New York City, feeling both excited and nervous. I had saved $2,500 from summer jobs, but my rent was $850/month (I slept on the living room sofa of a Manhattan sublet I shared with a friend). I knew I could blow through my savings quickly, if I wasn’t careful. I added up the costs of my rent, groceries and utilities — and then after that, I gave myself $20/day to spend on everything else, including clothes, movies, books, the bus, lunch, dinner with friends, toiletries, etc. I wrote down every single thing I spent and drove myself slightly insane, but overall it worked and thankfully I was able to stay in New York.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to create a budget that works for you.

Racking up educational debt.
When I was 23, I went to law school for a year before deciding it wasn’t for me. When I left, I had a staggering $54,000 of debt. I got an editorial day job and tutored in the evenings to make extra money, but I felt completely intimidated by the financial world. Since my friends were in the same boat, I wasn’t sure who to talk to — so I ended up finding two books: Get a Financial Life and The Automatic Millionaire (terrible title, awesome advice). Both were smart and encouraging. They helped me get the lay of the land — how do I do my taxes? what smart steps can I take at my age? will I ever pay off my debt? — and inspired me to make a plan to take control of my financial future.
Lesson learned: It’s not as daunting as it seems to become more financially savvy and make a plan to overcome debt.

Getting married.
After meeting a cute bespectacled guy at a party, I fell in love and ended up getting married two years later. Although my heart was fully on board, my head still worried about one thing: merging our money. I had always been so careful about spending and saving — were we now going to just mash everything together in the bank? So, for the first year, Alex and I kept separate bank accounts and added up receipts at the end of each month, but then we finally took a deep breath, talked about overall philosophies, combined everything, and it ended up being just fine.
Lesson learned: Big life moments are great times to review your financial health and set new goals.

Having a baby.
Nine months after our wedding, we welcomed little Toby into our family! The day before he was born, Alex and I met with a lawyer to put together a will. We felt at peace walking out of the office. If anything happened to us, Toby would be taken care of. (This was also the year I left my day job to focus on running Cup of Jo full-time.)
Lesson learned: Creating a will provides peace of mind, especially for new parents.

Planning ahead.
Over the last few years, I hired my first employees at Cup of Jo, we became homeowners and we added little Anton to the mix. Yet I realized something funny: Alex handles the money management for our family, and I don’t really get involved in the big-picture strategy. (Is that the same for you, or are you the family money manager?) According to Kiplinger, women control 80% of all household spending, but men usually handle investing and other financial decisions. My mission for this spring is to become an equal player in managing our retirement savings, budgets and college planning.
Lesson learned: It’s important to stay on top of your finances at eveey stage of life, and plan for the future. Knowledge is power.


How do you feel about your finances these days? Are you going through any life changes? Do you want to get everything sorted out? Turbo is the first app that combines the three key numbers of your financial health — your income, credit score and debt-to-income ratio — so you can see where you stand with your finances. I highly recommend checking it out, and it’s free. (If only something like this existed when I was in my twenties — it would have given me so much peace of mind.)

Also, if you’re inspired to share something about your own path along the financial highway, Turbo invites you to use the hashtag #RealMoneyTalk to join the conversation. (Bonus: They’re giving away $5,000 to one person each week for the next three weeks in response to selected #RealMoneyTalk stories; to participate, use that hashtag and tag @IntuitTurbo. Good luck!)

Talking Openly About Money

Thank you so much, Turbo!

(Photo and styling by Veronica Olson for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Turbo, a great new financial resource. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)

  1. Elizabeth says...

    Oh, and one final thing! And I can NOT emphasize this enough!

    For those of you who are the sole money managers (like I am…) in your families… put together a file or folder of all statements, accounts, life insurance policies, investments, or ANYTHING financial or legal that your spouse will need in case something happens to you.

    We keep a basket in our bookshelf that I update as statements come in that holds information on anyone he’d need to get in touch with should I pass away to have full control of the assets and get the life insurance money. As statement comes in I put the most current one in and shred the previous quarter’s statement. These statements all have the account numbers and contact info and that’ll give him a start should he need to use them.

    Also, in a fireproof safe hidden in the house I keep things like marriage certificates, our will, Power of Attorney, the deed to our home, and so on. These are things that hardly ever change or will never change.

    I’ve explained to my husband how to use these things and when to use them and why I’ve put them together. I want to make sure that if anything happens to me he’s 100% taken care of and that he won’t have to think hard about anything financial and he’s set up for success. I always heard stories of people searching through mountains of paperwork after a parent or spouse died because they were not involved in the process at all and I don’t want that to happen to him. I don’t anticipate anything happening but…you never know.

    • You are smart to keep your records so organized and accessible. We never know if today will be our last. It’s almost impossible for someone else to try to recreate your financial picture with so much being done online these days. I always advise my clients to make a list of their assets and any significant debts. I’m an estate planning attorney and this is so important. Also, update your beneficiary forms.

  2. Elizabeth says...

    I’m also the money manager in the household, too. I also handle the investments. Money in marriage is absolutely compromise, and I think it’s important to recognize that we come to the marriage with years and years of money training, be it for better or for worse, and those habits are really tough to break.

    In the first years of marriage I was definitely not as gentle as I should have been – my husband’s family does not handle money well and he carried those habits into our marriage. Instead of being understanding about the fact he’d have to un-learn some things and I would have to loosen up I thought his poor money habits were deliberate moves to wreck my perfect financial plans. This was obviously not true but it seemed like it to me!

    We’re doing just fine now, nine years later. And as he’s watched our net worth grow and watched us be able to do big things like save up for a house and pay the house off early (we’ll be done in one year!) he realizes that there’s something to be said for saving, investing, and planning.

    To communicate we do a weekly budget (we are paid weekly – this works for us…) on a google doc that we can both look at from our phone and on Monday mornings before work we check in with each other about any events or things not on the budget that we want to do and adjust accordingly. Also, we have added in “free spending” money for each of us every month that we don’t have to account for in the budget to each other.

    Finally, I think the thing that really makes our budget work is the fact that we both want whats best for each other, out of love. This is something that took some time to develop, but at this point if my husband wants a new bicycle, for example, I want him to have that bike more than I care about having as much spending money that month so I reduce my spending money and he gets the new bike. If I want to take a trip to some place by myself, he wants me to have that trip because he loves me more than having spending money so sometimes he cuts down on his spending money that month so I can go somewhere.

    Anyways, that’s our money management style – loving each other enough to sometimes sacrifice our own wants for the wants of others. It’s ideal, but it has taken years to cultivate that.

  3. Lauren says...

    Money is top of mind for my husband and I this week in particular because we have an accepted offer to buy our first home!! It’s definitely been exciting and overwhelming experience and I would say we are still in a state of shock that it’s actually happening since we unexpectedly beat out an all cash offer. We have been pretty deliberate about our savings over the past few years with the goal of buying a house and now that it’s actually happening, we are a bit freaked out about so much of our savings leaving our conservative investment account and going into property. I feel confident about it – it’s a great house in a desirable location with lots of potential to add value through updates over time – but it’s still a little scary!

  4. Mary says...

    I am 53. My husband and I are thankfully doing ok. We both avoided huge debt when we were younger. We both had small college loans. Mine was $18,000. My life goals were never exactly the norm ,as I valued travel more than money but I made it work and lived frugally. We married when I was in my mid 30’s. At the time we both were home owners. We managed to build our home paying as we built so we avoided the whole mortgage thing. We were only able to do this because my husband had a good paying job, a small chunk in savings and no debt. It was not easy ,we did not have extra money and we lived pretty frugally.
    I would say we always had what we needed though. This one piece -being mortgage free has been the thing that has made it so that now we can live the life we want and save for our retirement. Granted , we are not living the highlife. We don’t eat out much, don’t spend much on a daily basis like for coffee etc, we are frugal In certain aspects but I don’t see how one can’t be unless you are wealthy. I truly believe that in many cases the more you make the more you will spend so learning to live within a budget is paramount. I manage the finances since my husband travels for work. We talk about money a lot. Decide a couple times each year what if any big purchases will be etc. and have to mutually agree. We don’t use credit cards and we both share similar money and spending values. Like spending on experiences vs stuff. I learned about IRAS and mutual funds and my sister and I frequently discuss it. Vanguard is awesome! If you only have a little bit to,spare each month ,put it in a vanguard IRA. Even if it is just a little. It will grow and it will help establish the habit of saving.
    Because of my husbands job we are able to travel a lot but we camp and backpack. Occasionally take a more expensive trip. I feel like we both made choices that helped get us to,where we are now which is not, stressed out about money and have both an emergency and retirement savings. But I also acknowledge that we also had some luck along the way too like no unpreventable financial set backs. We raised 2 kids and did help pay for college for one, the other did not go to college but did need some help here and there.
    Anyways, With all that said, things have changed over the decades. The costs of college and housing are crazy. I see many people younger than me that will be in debt peonage for likely the majority of their lives just for college. I feel like we have oversold the notion that young people have to go to college to be successful, that coupled with the horrific cost of college and ease of money lending has lead to this.

  5. Mary says...

    Great post! I used to be consumed by how our peers could afford stuff. What I’ve learned over the years is that you never know how other people can afford their lifestyles. How can they afford that new kitchen? That car? Here’s how: We have one friend who has been dipping into her inheritance for years. Another who got an insurance payout from the tragic death of her son. Others have racked up serious debt. Years ago, we refinanced our house to help pay off nagging debt. We don’t save as much as others, but we’re solvent, well on our way to paying off our house, and looking forward to retirement.

  6. Blair says...

    Hi friends! I would LOVE some thoughts about combining finances after getting married (we’ve been married 7 months) – my husband and I currently have a joint checking and a joint savings. But we each have our own checking/savings/credit cards as well. It’s getting kind of complicated and hard to feel like we’re on the same “team” financially – it still sort of feels like “his” and “mine” still.

    Did you keep everything separate? Did you combine everything? I’d love to hear your stories/thoughts, as we are still figuring it out!

    • Maire says...

      My husband and I keep everything separate. We lived together for a few years before we got married, and we worked out a system then. He sends me a money request for half the mortgage and half the utilities bill. I pay for groceries. He pays for internet/subscription services/dinners out/entertainment and vacations. (He makes about 3x my salary). It works for us!

    • Heather says...

      We have one family credit card, and one family checking account, and then we each have our own private checking account that gets an equal “allowance” out of each paycheck. We can do whatever we want with what’s in our own checking accounts, but neither of us have separate credit cards.

    • T says...

      My husband and I figured out our total monthly expenses, and then calculated what percentage of our paychecks we each needed to contribute to cover our fixed expenses. So we each contribute an equal percentage of our paychecks to our shared expenses and the rest stays in our accounts. We each also contribute to our individual retirement accounts.

    • Libby says...

      We ended up combining everything, so eventually getting rid of our individual checking accounts and only having the joint checking and savings (among retirement and investment accounts etc, some of which are still individual due to the nature of retirement accounts). BUT one thing we’ve done that has helped us a lot is in the budget system we use, we still each get a little pot of money each month that is our “individual” money. It’s still coming out of the joint accounts, but it makes us feel like we still have a little play money. We use YNAB for budgeting and have found it life changing (ugh I hate when people say that, but it really has been great). It’s the biggest factor in us feeling like we’re on the same page. I also recommend searching the archives of A Practical Wedding – they have some GREAT articles on combining finances.

    • Kate says...

      I think it really depends on your personalities and attitudes towards money. We started out with largely separate accounts, but established a joint account when we got married out of which we paid joint expenses (housing, groceries, utilities, etc.). We both made the same salary at that time and put in a fixed % of our incomes. We paid our grad student debt and personal expenses (clothing, entertainment, personal grooming, etc) out of our personal accounts. I am the more controlling of the union and really wanted to maintain some separation so that I didn’t try to control how he chose to spend his personal money (especially on clothes, where he has very expensive taste).

      We have moved now to putting all our paychecks into the joint account and each getting an “allowance” of the same amount. When my husband gets a bonus (which I don’t get) we discuss how much should go into the joint account but have him keep some chunk of it.

      This has really worked for us. We love discussing money and it is not a source of tension at all (the only fight was when i told him i wanted separate accounts for his clothing spending!!).

    • Amy says...

      My husband and I each committed to putting 10% of our salary in a 401K, saving $X/month for a future house (it goes into a shared brokerage account) and having no credit card debt. Our salaries are almost even so we split rent and bills down the middle. We did not combine checking or savings accounts. I love this approach because as long as we are hitting our shared savings and zero debt goals, there is no need to scrutinize each other’s spending or get permission to make purchases. And by having my own account, I can still surprise him with gifts! We will split expenses based on our share of the household income if our incomes ever diverge significantly.

  7. Emma says...

    I would love to hear more about how you handle finances considering different level incomes. My partner and I will probably never have similar income due to our different professions. As you are the main contributor to your families income at your current lifestyle, I am so interested in hearing how do you handle the responsibility? How do handle the difference of income on an emotional level?
    I am so worried that at some point me and my partner might feel like the higher earners job is somehow more important – which obviously it is economically, but should not be in different aspects.

  8. Lou says...

    Cup of Jo Team: Thank you. Only you could make this conversation happen.
    1) my parents are both terrible with money and always have been. I don’t think they ever understood it. Growing up, the only financial education I got was “always be worrying about money.” I was also raised in part by my dear grandparents, who survived the Depression, so I also was taught, “Hoard for hard times.”
    2) my husband and I are so lucky in that because of scholarships we have no student debt. We recognize how rare and lucky this is. We live in a small, affordable city, with okay salaries, and some good savings, but we aren’t doing much saving now, and I get no benefits at all, since I work in the administration of a school that has been in perpetual start-up mode for seven years. I’ e decided it’s time to change jobs for something that compensates me more appropriately (and offers insurance! Retirement!), it we’d likely have to move or I’d have to start my own business. Exploring all options now. Our only debt is our house, which we take great care of, but aren’t sure if we could sell, because of our local market.
    3) we’ve been dealing with infertility for six years. Until now the doctor hadn’t advised IVF, but we’ve spent money that I don’t want to think about on everything else. And the time. And the surgeries. And holy moly all the headspace. We’re taking a break and will revisit the topic next month. Our next step would be IVF and the financial and every other burden that comes with it. I’m not that hopeful that it would work. Also, the knowledge that this may be the end of the road for us, child-wise, while heavy, has lead to a kind of reawakening for me in this new year. I have so much mental space! I can think about my job, making art again, financial matters. I’m hesitant to give that up and go back into the fray. Of course this changes frequently. I’m not sure that i’n Ready to give up.
    3) my brother and I manage a financial trust for our dad, because of a chronic health condition he has. So far, the money has been just sitting there, available when he needs it, but we need to invest. I really miss the days when a CD at the bank was an investment option. I know nothing about investing.
    4) what do I need? A book? A podcast? A financial planner? Please recommend. I need it for my own finances and my dad’s.
    5) schools should teach personal finance. It’s built into many non-traditional models, but traditional schools neglect practical life skills.
    6) I sincerely hope that the twenty-, thirty-, and forty-something lawmakers will treat higher ed costs and debt as a crisis, an epidemic. I know *so many* people who can only make life decisions based around their debt, and it’s compounded by the staggering amount of money that they estimate they need to save for their children, to give them the opportunities of college but protect them from the same fate. It’s an entire generation of people impaired, who would otherwise be starting businesses, traveling, revitalizing cities, having babies, adopting dogs, investing, volunteering, supporting charities… It’s a disgrace, and we should do better for our citizens.

    • Andrea says...

      Ramit Sethi’s website and book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, is a great intro to handling finances. It’s action-oriented and can be done in 8 weeks. His philosophy is set it and forget it–figure out your buckets, put them in place and then go on with your life.

    • Swissmama says...

      Lou – I hear you on the IF expense. 6 fresh IVFs took a HUGE chunk of our income in our 30s but helped us build a beautiful family. There is a huge range of prices and success rate in the US so do your research. There are also shared-risk programs. Plan for the first cycle to not work – and hope you get lucky :)

  9. T. says...

    I think I’m older than most people commenting. My husband & I are in our 50’s. I just want to emphasize the most important financial lesson I’ve learned – the power of forced investment is absolutely amazing. After we got married in 95, we saved about $3k a month in mutual funds (we are both attorneys) – for about 7years until kids. I remember wanting to buy a beautiful bed for $3k & being unhappy that we couldn’t do it w/ the mutual funds sucking that amount out every month. But that passed and I was fine w/ our plain bed frame & headboard. ( I am totally aware of how ridiculous that sounds). Living below your means- especially in the early years is very very helpful to accumulating a lot of $ painlessly. One of the best websites out there for this is
    https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

    HOWEVER, the crazy thing is sometimes that’s not the rule. We bought the most expensive house we could afford in San Francisco & it’s appreciated greatly. But I wouldn’t recommend this approach – buying a house as an investment can easily backfire.

    • Yes love mr. money mustache! Also I’m so impressed you could put away 3k a month … then again I work in social services … but thanks for the reminder (which I need) that being young and focusing on savings will pay off.

  10. sjm says...

    I am the money manager and investor in our family (bordering on control freak), and I can into this role through a somewhat messy process of trial-and-error. One big misstep: When I turned 18 I didn’t know enough to ask my parents about how college loans work – and I don’t think they read the fine print either. Fast forward 4 years and I learned at graduation we had signed the dotted lines for several loans that were just terrible (unsubsidized, high interest and unconsolidated). This meant I had accumulated substantial compound interest, when instead I could have declined several unnecessary loans and been paying down the rest while I was working through college. It had always been out of sight out of mind…. and for some reason my parents assumed all the loans offered were necessary (Ididn’t know enough to question this at the time!).

    This situation left me feeling burdened and stressed at graduation, and even a bit resentful. But in the end it was manageable and taught me a huge lesson: talk openly about money (which is why I love this post!), don’t assume the education industry has your best interests in mind, and ask a million questions!!

    I’m glad to see the conversation around student debt and predatory lending is getting more attention these days. This experience was such an eye opener for me that I became obsessed with financial planning and started saving aggressively in my early 20s. Now at 37 I sure am glad I opened my Roth IRA at the age of 23.

  11. Christina says...

    I’ve always been obsessed with money – since high school. When my husband and I got married, it just made sense that I would handle investing – I enjoy it and generally care more. We have separate checking accounts, combined savings – and that works great for us. Thankfully, we’ve both enjoyed finding ways to live well below what our salaries would allow (some years more so than others). Over the years though we’ve racked up some funny stories connected to our search for an affordable lifestyle: the time we secured apartment rent for $320 a month but lived with a giant rat who came out of his hole regularly to eat through our rice maker’s electrical cord – and not-so-funny times when our drug dealing neighbor killed a visitor and left the body across our street! Through it all, I’ve had moments when we’ve invested so aggressively and other years when we’ve been more relaxed – perhaps preoccupied by life. The thing that always gets me back on track – my secret weapon so to speak – is an online compound interest calculator (Money Chimp). I recommend it as a fantastic resource. When I was in my 20s I would religiously play around with it – seeing what I could accomplish long-term by investing $200 per month, $500, $1,000, $2,000, at a range of potential interest rates. Now in my 30s, I recognize how fantastic those 20s are for wealth building. Take a look at what compound interest can do over 40 years instead of 30! Regardless, I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to start saving.

    While we weren’t as successful as we could have been with saving (expenses happened, we bought a nicer house when our baby was born in our early 30s, etc.), I’m still proud of where we are today. I have normal concerns, get stressed by daycare costs, etc but we’ve worked hard to be able to sleep well at night (recognizing that we don’t know what financial curve balls are ahead).

    That compound interest calculator is still inspiring – and great at helping me get back on the investment wagon when needed. I’ll leave the link below.

    Lastly, while I love handling the money, my husband knows so much more about pop culture (gaming, entertainment, the tech world, etc). I’m not sure how this happened but I figured out that he’s a fantastic tip off for stock purchases! I reserve roughly 1/5 of our portfolio for buying stocks which is now a sort of hobby for me. I do get my husband’s opinion on big purchases and provide all our pass codes in case he ever needs them. (Side note, I don’t think he’s ever signed into one single account – seriously no joy there for him I’m afraid. ;) It has been so much fun and such a connector to talk through new product introductions that he loves – while I’m intently listening and researching the company to size up potential impact to earnings. When we first married, I would never have thought to look to him for investment advice – but it’s such a no-brainer. Hate to think about what he would have suggested 10 years ago! I’d be a very rich woman. ;)

    I love hearing these stories on here! P.S. YES to Vanguard and I can’t wait to try some of the apps you all have mentioned. http://www.moneychimp.com/calculator/compound_interest_calculator.htm

  12. Ker says...

    So many insightful comments — thank you CoJ and everyone for your wisdom and openness. I wanted to mention a website, Mr. Money Mustache (MMM), https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/, which has had a major impact on my thinking over the past five years. I’m not planning to retire early and am not able to follow all the recommendations on MMM, but the philosophy behind the blog really resonated with me.

    Others have made the same points in the comments here, but MMM’s approach boils down to a few principles: (1) a good life can be one where you don’t seek out convenience at all costs but instead take on challenges and experience some discomfort; (2) consumerism and lifestyle inflation don’t bring happiness and they certainly aren’t good for the planet; (3) you don’t have to do things the conventional way; (4) value your time.

    Number 4 to me means that I consider each purchase in terms of hours spent working to earn that money and I calculate about the costs and benefits of commuting in a totally different way (for example, losing 2 hours a day commuting so that I can live in a bigger house isn’t worth it to me).

    I strongly recommend reading some of his posts. It seriously changed my life!

    • Mary says...

      I was just going to add a link to Mr. Money mustache. I totally agree with his principals.

    • Bonnie says...

      I agree – found MMM a few years ago (as well as Frugalwoods.com and a few others) and WOW I wish I’d known about FIRE when I was in my 20s or 30s! But it’s never too late. We’re inherently frugal anyway, staying in a home that others always refer to as a starter home … but bigger isn’t better and we don’t want to pay to heat or cool more space than we need. Our saving habits and well, our spending habits, set us up for a bit of ribbing that we don’t buy bigger or newer when coworkers do, but I also know we’ll be retiring much earlier than they will and feel secure with choices. My mom used the envelope system, and I used that when just starting out. Fun to save up for trips, ticking off each hotel night or campground night as dollars went into that envelope. Even vet bills –
      setting aside the amount for their annual visits and extra for an emergency in monthly allotments. Now we’re saving up for freedom of time to do with as we please when no longer working.

  13. Hannah says...

    My boyfriend and I largely handle our finances seperately. We use the same method you did: At the end of the month we sit down, write down our expenses (for the things we share like insurances, groceries, dining out, furniture, etc.) and then divide things equally. It helps that our salaries aren’t super different.

    I’m better at financial matters, though, largely because I’m better at saving. I think that’s partly due to me and my sister growing up with a single mother (dad didn’t support us financially) and us not having much money. My sister and I quickly got pretty smart about financial yields, saving accounts and doing our taxes.

    Right now I’m getting into investing. It’s daunting for me (women are apparently more risk-averse and investing has a bad rep), but neccessary. I’m reading up on this topic and plan on finally investing this early spring.

  14. Marisa says...

    As someone about to graduate college this spring, I am terrified of finances and feel so uneducated. Luckily I will have no debt, but I will also have virtually no savings at all. I would love advice, both personal and from trusted resources…can anyone help me out?

    • Christina says...

      So exciting! I’d reiterate what everyone is saying on here – Mr. Money Mustached and add: Fiery FI and the use of a compound interest calculator you can access online to figure out what you could save. I linked above in a post but it will show up in a Google search. Someone also linked to JLCollinsworth – who shows his entire investment portfolio makeup, so helpful. He’s a Vanguard fan. Best of luck! Just remember that anything you can save is a win. ;)

    • Jamie G says...

      Hey Marisa! Congrats on graduating without debt–that’s awesome! My little piece of advice, though, is if you ARE eligible for student loans still, take out about $2000-$3,000 dollars as a loan to have as a cushion for when you graduate. Use this money wisely to help with travel for interviews, getting an interview outfit, and/or relocation expenses, a cushion between jobs, or for a deposit and first month’s rent for an apartment. It’s harder to find loans after graduating, and having a small chunk of change available can prevent extra expenses and stree.

    • Bonnie says...

      Check out frugalwoods.com … inspiring and well-written. Even if you don’t take the lifestyle to heart in all aspects, many ideas can be adopted. Don’t buy in haste, everything doesn’t have to be bought new, etc. Good luck, Marisa!

    • AMR says...

      I gave my daughter a copy of The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack when she graduated from college last spring. She found it both readable and
      helpful.

      Good luck!

    • kate says...

      Set a budget for everything and stick to it! Be very specific when creating your budget, down to how much you can afford for toiletries, going out with friends, groceries per week, take out coffee per week, etc. Be VERY strict about sticking to it for a couple months and chart all your spending. This will set you up for lifelong good spending habits.

      Also: don’t let yourself get caught up comparing your spending to your friends. Be honest with them about being on a budget and that going out for dinner and drinks isn’t in the cards for you right now. Suggest a night at home with grocery store wine and chips. They are all in the same boat and will appreciate you being the one that is realistic about spending.

  15. lulu says...

    I just spent the last hour or so devouring everyone’s comments on this topic. A lot worries are universal: credit card debt, providing for kids, retirement. But some worries seem SO American: student loan debt, daycare costs, health expenses! Yikes. I would so love to read about how our peers in other high income countries are faring with their finances for some perspective. Maybe a Money Around the World series?

    • Taylor says...

      This is a brilliant idea!!!! I’d love to read a Money Around the World series.

    • Alison says...

      YES. I would read this in a heartbeat.

      When I was on vacation in the Faroe Islands, my husband and I made quick friends with a couple – newlyweds, a British man and German woman – on the same rough itinerary we had. We had several great discussions over lunches or drinks and inevitably we talked a lot about health care costs, affordability of different goods and services, etc. It was fascinating hearing their take on where their money can go and what they don’t have to worry about (or do!).

    • Marta says...

      Yes, great idea!

  16. Rachael says...

    Such an interesting topic! My husband is about to finish his PhD in the spring; I have a master’s degree. Neither of us took out any loans, but we have six kids and the oldest one will start college in 5 years. We have no credit card debt, paid for both of our cars in cash, and just bought a 4000 square foot home with 20% down…but we also just started saving for retirement this year (we do have smaller savings accounts with 6 months of income). So on the one hand I feel like we are doing great with no student loans or consumer debt, but on the other side I’m terrified that we haven’t been shoveling money into retirement and college savings. We have six brilliant and talented kids and I’m hoping that they will all get full-ride scholarships like we did, but man, it makes me so nervous! Choices, choices. Grad school is no joke in terms of the career/savings delays.

  17. m says...

    Every time I think about my finances (or lack thereof), I want my mom, my therapist, a stranger, anyone to stroke my hair and reassure me that it will all be ok. Reading about the good, bad, and ugly of other people’s finances on this post felt like a warm hug. I don’t feel so alone. Please PLEASE PLEASEEEEE do a money-related post once a month!

    • Taylor says...

      Honestly once a week would be great. I’d love a regular feature like the home tours and the make-up uniforms.

  18. As an estate planning attorney, I would caution against using online or diy wills. In my opinion, there is absolutely no substitute for sitting down with an attorney understands the big picture when it comes to estate planning, and who can make sure you execute your documents right. There is more to it than you may realize. If you just want a simple will, it shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars. Trusts are generally significantly more expensive and you have to fund them which many people who get diy ones don’t understand. I would at least call around to lawyers and ask what they charge. I really hope this helps.

  19. Lesa says...

    Wow, great topic! I can’t keep quiet on this one. I have been a divorce attorney for 20 years (an attorney for 32), and I am shocked by the number of women clients who have let their husbands handle the finances, only to learn during the course of their divorce that they have been financially screwed by his inept handling of money. No savings, tons of debt, unknown loans against the house, forged signatures, title to the house in your mother-in-law’s name, you name it!

    So many women think they’re bad at numbers, finances, and money. I think girls start thinking that way in junior high, when they stop raising their hands in math class b/c they don’t want to appear smarter than the boys. I don’t get it! Math ability has nothing to do with gender.

    Anyway, for whatever reason it happens, to all the wives out there who have voluntarily ceded control to their husbands over this CRITICAL area of your lives, stop it and learn what is going on! If you don’t, you’re acting like a child, not an adult. Become empowered! Be an active partner in your financial lives. You just think you can’t “do” money. You can!! You can count, can’t you? Then you can do money. Find someone (like a female money manager or any woman who appears to be good with money and who is NOT judgmental) and ask questions!!! Lots of questions. “Dumb” questions. Don’t be afraid to sound dumb…the real dummies are the ones who aren’t asking these critical questions and making decisions jointly about their lives. Your future depends on it!!

    • Great advice!

    • Kate says...

      Gosh I wish my mom would take this advice, she knows NOTHING about her and dad’s finances and it freaks me out. My husband and I share responsibility for money, have monthly “money dates” on the calendar where we go through things, review our spending plan and go over the next month, and we communicate about money almost daily.
      Growing up, talking about money always meant mom and dad were fighting and I am darned if I let that happen to my husband and me.
      I’m just loving the frank, open discussion going on here. Thanks all for sharing!

    • Kristen says...

      This. 🙌🏼

    • Alison says...

      @Kate – love the money dates idea. Stealing that for myself. I hate bringing up money with my husband and of the two of us, I am the one who is responsible for most of our finances! I would love to have an honest conversation with him where he’s engaged, but always feel like he’s not in the mood to talk about it. I think planning out a night would be perfect and allow us to not wait until there something that NEEDS to be decided on to finally sit down!

  20. Grace says...

    I wonder if this is something Millennials are keenly perceptive to. The recession hit when I was just about to go to college (2008). My parents went from lower to mid middle class while growing up, but declared bankruptcy a few years before I went to college. Finding a co-signer for my private loans proved difficult (financial aid didn’t cover all my expenses for a UC, which my dad did warn me about but young, dumb, naive me thought it would be worth it — ended up transferring to a CSU my sophomore year; smartest financial move I’ve made). My family really only consists of me and my parents, but a close family friend ended up as my co-signer.

    That entire experience, plus the high interest loans of those years (2008 and 2009 at 11%), really, REALLY stressed me out on top of going to college and (poorly) managing a LDR. I took a Finance 101 class my sophomore year and it blew my mind — I even contemplated switching my major to finance lol. My student loan debt sits at 40K, which is NOTHING to scoff at but I know it could be worse. Many of my friends have student debt closer to 100K.

    My SO has zero student/any debt, which is awesome for us, but I do feel this strange guilt for dragging my debt into the equation. When we marry we do plan on sharing our financial lives but it’s SO weird to even think about!

    • Elizabeth says...

      I was debt free with a six month emergency fund and baby investments and my husband had student loans it took ten years to pay off (and that was paying over and above what our monthly payment was) and zero dollars in savings when we met.

      My love for him was not diminished by his debt. In fact…it wasn’t a factor at all. What was a factor is that he was teachable and willing to adjust his spending/saving patterns. He listened and worked through the advice I gave him. We paid off his loans together, and he was fine sacrificing in our lifestyle to pay those student loans off.

      So…talk to him about it if you haven’t. Ask him to teach you how to do these things and you’ll be working together in the “our” money arena before you know it!

  21. Maddy says...

    I grew up solidly middle class, but because my dad lost jobs a couple of times (never long term), I feared the same for myself and became more monetarily risk averse. This drove my decisions about where I attended college (public universities), my job (public sector), my savings (15% to retirement on top of pension), and savings (one year + of salary). As a single female, I crave financial security. It was terrifying to buy a home on my own. And though I’m a huge saver and could’ve swung it on my own, my downpayment was far more significant because I inherited money (my sibling died in her 20s and listed me as the beneficiary of her company’s standard life insurance package- a horrifying way to acquire money). I recognize my financial position right now is due to these circumstances (parents who could pay for my room and board in college- though not tuition) and an untimely death.

    • Geri says...

      Oh Maddy I’m so sorry that your sister died. You are using the money so wisely though and you will always think of her while in your home x

  22. Sara D says...

    Money is the biggest stressor in my life. Multiple times a month when I look at my bank account or at my credit card debt (honestly not that much, but still daunting to have any to me) I just want to get sick. I am a 24 year old grad student who will graduate in May and have close to 90k in student debt, and very little in my bank account. I know that in May I will be able to start paying it off, but until then I live month to month, paycheck to paycheck and just get sick towards the end of the month wondering if I can pay for the little things like groceries. I just moved to NYC for a clinical rotation and the cost of living here has exponentially increased my stress. I can’t wait for this stage of life to be over!!

  23. Steele Marcoux says...

    thank you — this is great! Can’t wait to check it out…

  24. Caitlin says...

    Ahh thank you for talking about money! I only have one friend that I feel more comfortable discussing the specifics of this with, probably because we make about the same. I’m 28 and am undergoing some major adult milestones. I finished grad school a year ago, got a job, still work a part time job, bought a house, and am getting married. My fiance makes more than twice as much as I do and it feels really overwhelming to figure out our finances and budget. He’s wayyy better at math than I am and we just did a breakdown of what we each make and roughly what we spend each month. That was such an eye opening conversation! I had been assuming he had way more left over than I did, but the sad/scary part is that the vast majority of our paychecks are pretty much accounted for! Even knowing exactly what we’re spending, I’m still like “omg where is all the money going??! How is that possible??” It makes me wonder how we’d ever have enough to support a child. I’m trying to not go into anxiety mode and just trust that things will work out. We are both responsible with our money and want to be saving more. It’s just way harder than I imagined when I was younger!

  25. gillian says...

    I’m getting married this year and managing our money has been something we’re starting to think about, so reading that section of this article was so helpful! thank you!!

  26. Andrea says...

    i just wanted to say, if you’re reading this discussion and feeling bad that you don’t have it “all together”, just remember that money management is a thing you do, it is not you. You are not a “good” or “bad” person based on your finances, money is a thing, it has no inherent morality. YOU, however, have infinite worth just because you’re you, and there’s nothing you could ever do that would change that <3

    • Capucine says...

      Beautiful. Unexpected, and perfectly said. Thanks.

    • Hannah says...

      What a kind comment to include in the thread! 💛👍🏻

    • Very wise words! Thank you.

    • Such a kind thing to post–and so profoundly true!

    • Kate says...

      Thanks for the encouragement! Just what I needed to hear right now :)

    • Jennie says...

      Lovely and true comment. Think of it like starting a new fitness program! No one is good when they first start, then you slowly get into shape.

    • Andrea says...

      This also applies to food, exercise, clothes, skincare, career…we’re too hard on ourselves! As my therapist loves to say, when you “should” this or “should” that, you’re just should-ing all over yourself :)

  27. Jodi says...

    My husband and I just got married and before, lived together for 5 years. We bought our home as an un-engaged couple, so we were financially tied together even though we had everything else separate! Ha! But we’ve had to have a lot of money talks together, but I think we are in agreement of our long-term financial well being (save a lot now for a better retirement in the future).

    Would love to read more on the money topic as I find it so fascinating!! xox

    • Capucine says...

      I had a coworker who bought a house and had a baby with her boyfriend, but was terrified of the marriage commitment. I was buying a house with my husband at the time and I remember so clearly the terror I was steeped in from signing my name to owing $700k with him, and contemplating motherhood. I mean, talk about being stuck with each other! A divorce is nothing compared to a house, a baby! To me. To me. Whereas she was ‘eh’ about the house and coparenting should they part ways, but like rattling-the-bars frantic asking HOW DO I EVER FEEL OK COMMITTING TO MARRIAGE? about which I was like, most natural thing ever, no second thoughts. In that moment, I understood how people feel about money is not rational, for anyone, but personal and often illogical. So helpful. We are human in everything we do, including money – there isn’t some reasonable rational facet that turns on when money is involved, it’s as emotionally nuts as the rest of it.

  28. Emmie says...

    When I got pregnant, my boyfriend and I talked about combining finances. I reached out to several friends and family members to get an idea of how people do this and I was ASTONISHED. No one does this, people can’t even explain their system. “Oh it’s all one pot” = not a strategy. My research showed that one person usually “handles” the finances. Insane if you ask me!!!! What a missed opportunity to learn and make your money work for you. Men don’t know what they are doing anymore than we do, you are losing money by having one brain think through things, two is always better, get it together everyone and set up a system! My boyfriend and I have opposite spending philosophies. I am more of a “yolo” or as he likes to call it “poor scripts”, and he is a, “i’ll die with 2 million dollars in my account” type of person. Admittedly, we have a complex system, but it works so well for us and we created it from scratch based on what works well for us! I feel like I have the freedom to spend “my own” hard earned money on whatever B.S. HSN is selling (including investing some on Betterment and Ellevest) and he has the ability to save knowing that I am not over-spending. To do this we split “expenses” almost equally, then equally contribute money marked for: savings, home, baby, college, and vacation. (Logistically we have many free accounts across a few institutions). Anything else left over is FREEDOM money, and I “blow” mine each month (including trying out random new investments!!!). We have access to all of each others accounts, passwords etc. and conduct periodic look-backs to make sure we are on track. It took us 1.5 years to perfect this system but now we “set it and forget it”. We never argue about money and rarely even discuss it except for our look backs which I always do with wine. All the rules are in place and we have lists of what we are doing with each “bucket” of money. Seems like a lot of work but once in place, is actually less work than arguing about it all the time/losing money. Anyways, I am being detailed here in the hopes to help others out there . #endrant

    • Your system and relationship with money in relationship is SO inspiring, Emmie! Thank you for offering a model!

    • Capucine says...

      Sounds like you’re in a good place with how you approach money! I love your point about the power of firing up two brains! We cycle through firing up and cooling off and then reinvigorating again, together certainly has an alchemy to it.

      It might help to explain where the ‘get it together, people!’ puzzlement you are expressing can come from. After our second child, I stopped earning money and was so time-strapped I paid a credit card late, to say nothing of investment review, so my husband took over as the one with time. It was a no-brainer, as in I had no brain space for it. Nowadays, I manage the budget and we save well. We could do better on the investment angle, neither of us has mustered the fighting spirit to deal with that. Kind of like regrouting the kitchen – the burnout is real, ten years into parenting, for us.

    • Mandy says...

      I screenshotted this entire comment to re-read for inspiration. Your system and your calm confidence are what I want to be! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Yes, love this method! This is basically what we do using YNAB (You Need a Budget). Another tip is to save up for Christmas and birthday gifts all year long. It is so, so nice to have a chunk to spend when the time comes. Also works with date nights and donating to charity. Then we don’t feel guilty or concerned about our spending in the moment. I’m also considering having a budget line that is just for spontaneous giving- like $100 a month to bless a recent grad with, or alot to new relief efforts.

    • Emily says...

      I also want to add that it doesn’t have to be super complicated- my husband and I paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars of law school debt, bought a house & had a kid by setting up automatic savings/investing/paying off debt payments when we graduated. I am more interested in our money and check in on it every few days– I adjust things a few times a year but mostly leave things be– I also MAKE my husband sit down with me a few times a year and explain to him where our money is at and what I’m doing. I want him to not only be on board, but understand what’s going on if god forbid something happens to me.

  29. Katie says...

    Something that helped me stay the course in paying off my student loans early was calculating how much extra I had to contribute each month in order to pay them off by my 30th birthday. Then anytime I didn’t want to contribute extra, I had to think about missing that milestone. I also took the first month I didn’t owe a payment and spent that money on a really amazing pair of shoes ;)

  30. melissa says...

    Even though I am confident my politics differ from Dave Ramsey, I am fascinated by his podcast. I have learn a lot from hearing stories by people who got themselves into debt and then paid it off.

    Planning ahead should also include saving for college. It’s a big deal! My daughter graduated from college in May and my son started this year so we are past the halfway point. Phew!

    • t says...

      I totally agree but many of my friends don’t think it is beneficial to pay for your children’s college education. They are of the opinion that have to take out student loans makes one work harder to finish on time and value their education. They also feel that it forces them to jump into the workforce immediately rather than linger. It’s an ongoing discussion/debate in my circle of friends and I seem to be the only one on the side of wanting to pay for their education.

    • Jenny says...

      My parents paid for me and my 3 siblings to go to college. The rule in the family was/is that they would pay for college, but we were on our own for any grad school. My dad put himself through school (all the way up through a PhD) and for my mom to go back to school (she left after my big sister was born and went back once we were all in school full time) and he has always said that the gift of no debt when you graduate was the greatest gift he and Mom could give us. My brother went straight to work and was lucky to not be starting in the hole. My 2 sisters and I all went to grad school, which was a decision we could make based on our career desires and not driven by money fears. That being said, growing up we never went on vacations and rarely ate out. The reason that was always given was “You’re going to go to college”. I’m not telling this story because I think it’s the absolute right answer, but to share that what works for each family is so different, so you do you ; )

    • L says...

      I also find the podcast fascinating (and fast forward through his political rants.) :P

      We are saving for our kids to cover a 4-year in-state school with the understanding that if they want to go out-of-state or go to grad school they will need to cover the difference.

      My family wasn’t able to pay for any of my education and I had to figure it out on my own (work, loans, grants, etc.) and my husband’s parents paid for his, although he helped pay off the loans post-graduation.

      Most college-aged people (my past self included) can’t make the connection between how paying for things by taking on debt will feel later on when it comes time to pay it. I realize that not all families are in the position to pay for their children’s education, but I think that valuing debt as your child’s motivation to work hard is kind of like wanting your kid to be more active and saying let’s send this bear after them and see how fast they run.

  31. Katie says...

    Help! I’m so embarrassed that i just had my second baby and we do not have a will or trust in place. I keep bringing it up to my husband, but he is on the frugal side and is more comfortable putting it off…

    Is there anyone is California who feels comfortable sharing how much they paid an attorney to have a simple will put together? I honestly have no idea what an appropriate range of cost this service would be. I know there are online services that provide this, but I would like the peace of mind of going to meet a professional in person.

    • Linda says...

      Our friends in Bay Area paid 1500 for living trust set up. Which is more useful then a will. Or you can buy a program and make it yourself.

    • Charlie says...

      I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are will the plates you can use online (lawyers use them too) so you can do it yourself if you’re on a budget. I’d read a few different ones to pick your favorite, make sure you choose one that’s California specific, and do a little googling on CA estate law to see if there’s any specific things you need to do to make it legit, e.g. Notary. Wills are so common that you can usually find everything you need online.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you can do a free will on fabric — for what it’s worth, lexi and her husband just did it for their growing family, and showed trust & estate lawyer friends and they said it was perfectly accurate:
      https://meetfabric.com/

    • t says...

      We paid $1500 in CA but I don’t think you need to go that big. I am not an attorney so I can’t attest to the validity of this but several of my friends who don’t have much in assets don’t have wills and instead just sent notarized letters (or even not notarized) to their families and followed up via family email (everyone on it so no one can argue it) with the same information specifying some of the biggies: who gets custody of the children, do you want to be resuscitated, and what to do upon your death with your body/ashes.

      The financial aspects of wills are always changing (account number, trust names, etc). Who gets custody of our kids was our BIGGIE. Everyone knows so there won’t be any surprises.

    • Sarah says...

      Not in California. But ours was $850. (DC)

    • Alisha B says...

      We just did ours & we are lucky to have legal insurance. A good friend of mine did hers a while back & hired an estate planner attorney & I believe they paid around $1500 for their trust. Kind of pricy but peace of mind is priceless!

    • Daisy says...

      I am so glad I am reading through the comment section today. We just met with an estate planning attorney who said it would cost $2500 for a Will and trust. Ours could be a little tricky in that we don’t have any close relative in the US and I didn’t even know that I couldn’t make my relatives who are not in the US as our son’s guardian if something were happen to both of us. Any immigrant readers in here on similar boat on how to handle guardianship issue? Attorney suggested to ask local friends but it is such a big thing that I am nervous about asking friends.

    • Cooper says...

      My work offers a free will-writing service! Just something to look into. It’s part of their Employee Assistance package of services, along with things like free phone counseling, etc.

    • Emily says...

      I am a lawyer in CA and have heard ranges from 1500-3500– lawyers charge about $200-$500/hr, so those price ranges are pretty in line with that. What you want is a trust & a pour over will- that will avoid you and your family from having to go through probate (=taxes, time & money). I don’t think the free stuff will set that up for you– but having just a simple will (which will need to go through probate) is better than nothing, if only to talk through options with your partner. I would do that now, and then save up for setting up a trust later. FWIW, my lawyer friends, all in our 30s, are all behind on this, and it is my goal for 2018.

    • RBC says...

      @Daisy – who told you you couldn’t name guardians for your kids that were outside the US? My sister is in the states and I’m in Canada (we are both dual citizens) and my husband and I are the named guardians for their children in their will. I’m pretty sure they did the will with a lawyer and presume they mentioned where we live but now this has me questioning…

    • Katie says...

      THANK YOU so much everyone! :) Love this community so much.

    • Daisy says...

      @RBC- I am assuming you have dual citizenship (US and Canada) and because of this, you being a US citizen as well, your sister was to name you as her Kid’s guardian. In our case, if something were to happen to us, our relatives who are outside of US and who only have a Vistor’s visa cannot really become our son’s legal guardian until all legal hazzles are taken care of which could possibly take years.

  32. Michele says...

    A note on investing: Investing doesn’t have to be a scary topic and you don’t have to have a lot of money to do it. I love this philosophy of 3 funds, contribute steadily and stay the course. That’s it. There are several easy-to-read books that do not require extensive math knowledge, finance interest, or hours to read. For example, this e-book is a free download: If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly.

    Wish I had read it when I was in my 20’s.

  33. Linda says...

    I’m 33, married with one kid living sf Bay Area. Cost of living is extremely high! I graduated with 130k in student loan debt. Last month while refinancing our house my husband was able to do some magic and paid off my loan! Which was liberating…it took exactly 10 years. My husband is a mathmatician and is able to figure out long term effects of our financial decision…so he tells me what to invest in for my retirement, what kind of house loans we should get and which credit card is better use to our family. We are technically living paycheck to paycheck but we know it won’t be next year when our son finally goes to school. Childcare costs are extremely high in the Bay Area. I would say my husband deals with 99% of our financial future but it makes sense since he just has a better understanding, which he does not get from a book. Financial books are great for basics but does not work for every style of financial planning. We have no other debt then our house mortgage and we pay off our credit card every month. I make more then my husband. We both have life insurance since we had our son. We do not invest or save for his college fund separately. That was my husbands decision. We invest in other ways and plan to help pay for college but not fully pay. Neither one of us had our college tuition paid for by our parents. That’s our current financial situation in a nut shell. This is a great topic!

  34. Dani says...

    It’s timely that you mention finances today, since it’s a topic that’s had me wallowing this week. When Obama’s overtime law was on the table, I had written notice from HR that I would be receiving a sizable raise to keep compliant with the new minimum pay for salaried workers. With that in place, we decided it was a good time to try for a second baby. We conceived the same week that a federal judge in Texas blocked the law. My raise went away, and now the extra daycare tuition has us precariously paycheck-to-paycheck, and it just feels so unfair.

  35. Amy says...

    I thought my parents had primed me well as a kid (and they did!) but my husband is a natural saver to the nth degree plus got his degree in personal finance, so we’re doing really well considering our income (which isn’t a ton; we’d rather work to save money than make money, and we’d rather spend more time with our kids than spend more money on our kids). We have pretty thrifty lives compared to many of our friends, and we try to think about what *we* need and want, and not expect to live the status quo.

    When I was six, my parents opened a bank account for me. I was given an allowance not for the chores I did (those were just expected), but for the responsibilities I now had (any candy, toys, etc – this grew yearly). That allowance was split into four categories: 50% savings, 10% tithe/donating, 30% spending on significant things, 10% spending on frivolous things.

    When I was thirteen, I was expected to work 27.5 hours per month on the family farm, and was paid $200/month for that. The above categories still applied, although the 30% + 10% spending were combined. I was responsible for school supplies, all clothing, personal products, school sports/activity fees, buying a car, saving for university, etc. I supplemented my income with extra work on the farm and finally got a job at a grocery store in grade 12 (I was an introvert so I wasn’t enthusiastic about working away from home). I know that their unique situation to offer us work made this possible and it’s not as easy for other families, but it was really good for us! We learned to save up for September when we needed clothes/school supplies/fees, we learned to donate to worthwhile causes, and that banks will pay you to store your money.

    My husband and I don’t live on a farm, but we do plan to give our kids more control and practice with money as they get older, and we’re giving our six-year-old an allowance to pay for hot lunches and toys. She’s decided that she usually would rather save the hot lunch money and help me make her lunch for the bi-weekly hot lunches offered at school and use it for other things, as opposed to kindergarten where we just bought them for her. It’s great to see her mind working on this!

  36. Rebecca says...

    I’m *completely* obsessed with The Barefoot Investor book – it’s changed my financial life. Instead of having my head firmly in the sand about all things money, I feel like I FINALLY understand what I should be doing and how to pay off debts and save (without having to stick to a strict budget). Kind of annoyed it’s taken 33 years though – this stuff should be taught in schools considering it’s such a key part of every person’s life! Loving seeing this topic explored on COJ X

    • Tess says...

      Fellow Barefoot Investor fan over here in Australia. The book is life-changing – so many ‘aha!’ moments!

    • Bec says...

      Are you in Australia? I live in Melbourne and everyone I know is obsessed with the Barefoot Investor! I got it for Christmas and found I already do a lot of what the book recommends but I should probably do more…

    • KylieO says...

      Yes!! I bought my husband this book for Christmas and it has totally changed the way we look at our finances – so, so good! Although as a high school teacher, I’ll say 15-17 year olds would still make excuses not to read it if it was pushed in schools ;-)

  37. Irina says...

    My husband (41) and I (36) bought our first home last summer with zero down payment, thanks to the first-time homebuyer assistance program through the state, and a 30 year loan for 100% of the purchase price. We have zero savings and would not have been able to buy a house without this program, so we are very grateful.

    That being said, we do live from paycheck to paycheck and are unable to save any money or contribute towards retirement. I make a decent salary (by nonprofit standards) and also have a little bit of freelance income but my husband has not been able to work for over 5 years (except for a couple of very short-term gigs) due to chronic health issues that have been getting progressively worse. He did not qualify for disability and we do not plan on reapplying.

    However, the main reason we are living paycheck to paycheck is not that my husband cannot work but our $28,000 in credit card debt, accumulated mostly from costs related to his condition that do not qualify as medical expenses per se, so they are not tax deductible. (We are still incurring these types of expenses but are able to pay them out of pocket rather than charge them, thank God.) Also our dog had to get emergency surgery several years ago that cost $8,000, and, with no savings, that, too, went on a credit card. Any unanticipated major expense like car repairs goes on a credit card too. We try to minimize this, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

    We used to be able to travel at least occasionally, treat ourselves to a concert or a meal out, buy nice presents for friends and family, and now this is all out of reach. Splurges are extremely rare and on a much smaller scale than they used to be. Basically we pay our mortgage and bills, buy food for ourselves and our pets, put gas in the car, pay medical costs, and that’s it, money is gone, with a little bit left over for an inexpensive outing ($10 show tickets or a couple of treats from the bakery) or a necessary household item. It’s more than a little depressing to think that, if nothing changes, our financial situation will not improve for another 20+ years, until we’re done paying off credit cards.

    I’d like to have a kid or two before it’s too late, but I really don’t know how to make it happen financially. I’m not as concerned about clothes and supplies as we’d be fine with hand-me-downs, but I do worry about any expenses related to prenatal/birth/neonatal care that our health insurance might not cover, as well as being able to provide our kids the experiences that we think they should have, like extracurricular activities, hobbies, and travel.

    • Nicole says...

      I’m no expert, but I wonder if you’d be able to take out a loan that would help pay off credit card debt and have a much lower interest rate long term? Wishing you good luck — credit card debt is really hard, and it sounds like you have a lot going on.

    • Emilie says...

      Hi Irina,

      Sorry you’re going through this. If you’re comfortable setting up a gofundme account or something similar I’d be happy to contribute a small account towards your credit card debt.

    • Emilie says...

      *I meant a small amount, not account.

    • M.K says...

      Just throwing it out there- kids are definitely expensive, as is the hospital bill for delivery (even without any pain medication/ epidural which is a ton of money, and leaving the hospital a day early, we paid ~$3500 out of pocket even with insurance)… but I just want to mention that people often think they can put off having kids until it is more feasible and then they run into fertility issues or something else and end up looking at tens of thousands of dollars in invitro / other medical costs. If having kids is important to you, you will find a way financially- but the costs of not having kids when you can are much higher and much more permanent.

    • Irina says...

      Thank you so much, everyone, for the empathy and suggestions, and especially Emily for offering to help out! It really means a lot. We don’t feel comfortable asking for money at this point. There are so many people who are way worse off than we are, like people that have lost their homes and everything they own over medical bills. We were able to buy a home despite our debt, and we do have enough for basic daily living, just not a whole lot left over. Looking into a debt consolidation loan is a great idea, though! I keep receiving offers for these kinds of loans but so far the interest rates combined with loan origination fees look pretty high and instead I’ve taking advantage of balance transfer offers on our cards. Maybe I can find a loan with better terms.

    • Jane says...

      I routinely invest in debt consolidation loans all the time on prosper.com. Some of the interest rates are high (20%+) but other rates are pretty reasonable-all depends on your credit score etc.

    • I would highly suggest you take a look at Dave Ramesy’s baby steps to get out of debt and save so you feel financially secure to have as many babies as you guys want.
      His method includes a snowball effect and makes you feel like you are progressing quickly. Plus, he believes in rewarding yourself for the hard work. His baby steps changed our lives.

  38. breanne says...

    money has always been so scary to me. i grew up in a household where both my parents were (and still are) small business owners. they didn’t come from families that were smart about their money, so they weren’t very smart about it either. i remember when i was in 6th grade my sister picked me up from school and told me mom and dad had filed for bankruptcy that day. i didn’t know what it meant beyond we didn’t have any money. when i went to college i was completely lost. i had to get a full time job to support myself and use credit cards to pay for groceries and gas. my parents wouldn’t co-sign the student loan that would give me enough to support myself through school. thankfully i’ve paid off all the credit card debt, but both my wife and i just finished grad school, and we live pay check to pay check with huge student loans. thankfully she was raised much differently and we live in a two family with her mom who charges us really cheap rent so we can try and save. i hope one day i can think of money without my chest tightening in panic and my mind immediately avoiding any type of budget. i know that even though it terrifies me, i’m letting money have all the power in the relationship, and we need a budget in a serious way. fingers crossed i’ll get over the fear one day!

  39. Re: managing finances with a partner–I recently heard Emily Ley say on a podcast that her husband asked her, “Do you want to be the CEO or the secretary?” She chose secretary…not because she didn’t want to be the boss, but because that meant her husband was going to do the more long-term, big picture stuff as “CEO,” and she would do more of the day-to-day bill paying, etc. I realized my husband and I kind of naturally fall into those roles, but it gave us language to talk about it and to more clearly define our expectations. :)

    • Emmie says...

      Is that because your husband is better at long-term big picture than you and vice versa? You may be surprised! Many of my female friends are shocked at the state of the “big-picture” they left to their husbands to sort out. I think we can do a better job!

    • Amy says...

      For what it’s worth, I do think there is a way to be co-owners with more or less equal involvement in money management! My husband and I keep a Google spreadsheet on overall net worth that we update quarterly (I started it and do most but he puts in info for accounts in his name like those for retirement) and we talk together to decide where savings go and what to do with any windfalls/where to pull money from for unexpected expenses. When money was tighter, we kept up with tracking spending in Mint but have relaxed that a bit over the years.

    • Capucine says...

      I don’t love that analogy for a couple. ‘Big picture’ is visualizing a shared dream and talking over the nuts and bolts you find to implement the dream. That is a couples thing, not a ‘you or me’ thing. Evetybody gets to be the secretary in my house; plenty of that to share. Big picture long term is us together, always.

    • Cooper says...

      Haha, we joke all of the time that I’m both the CEO AND the secretary in our marriage. We’re working on making things a little more equal and getting my husband more involved :)

  40. Jennie says...

    I love that you are broaching this topic!! When my husband was getting his Masters we got on the same page financially specific to that. Which for us meant 1. no student loans, 2. continue to invest in retirement, 3. no credit card debt. I should mention that he could not work while in school so I carried the year AND managed all the finances. It was our first year of marriage and while on the surface it was one big struggle after another, it actually really set us up for success financially and in our union because we really had to be in sync! I remember “going over the books” one day and thinking, “hmmm he is buying a cup of tea every day at Starbucks. We could drop that and save $1.79.” Then I thought, “He is sleeping four hours a night, he is working constantly, he has no joy. Let him keep his cup of tea.”
    Regarding talking about finances with your friends, I have a recent experience. Recently we got hit by a triple whammy: our investment property in the city sat unoccupied for 3 months, our primary residence was hit by some major expenses, my annual bonus was less than usual. Rather than tip toe around topics like planning girls trips, I just came out and said these things happened, we took at hit, we will be fine but a big part of the reason we will be fine is because we are really taking it seriously and I have to tighten up the purse strings right now. I found a place to park the debt interest free for 18 months, we we are paying it down by reducing our expenses in a variety of ways while still greatly enjoying life. It felt really freeing and liberating to just tell people rather than make excuses why I could not do things.
    While my husband is the one who is over the actual executing of the retirement investing, we discuss the strategy together.

  41. Ro says...

    Throwing in a comment here mostly because I’m wondering if other people reading this are like me and are doing the usual: not saying it in a room full of people who have it Figured Out:

    We live paycheck to paycheck.

    Family of four renting in an expensive city. We have some credit card debt (2k?), a bajillion dollars in student loans (okay, only $50k which is small to some, I’m sure), a reasonable car payment for our cheap car.

    To be honest, I don’t feel like we make a lot of terrible decisions (though there were times I did – I had my wages garnished in my late 20s – I’m late 30s now – from medical bills I couldn’t even remember getting from years prior) but there simply isn’t any money save. At least beyond the careful planning we have to do for things like Christmas presents for the kids.

    The biggest things I’ve learned about money are a) owning a home is never going to happen for us, b) student loans will eat you alive but you don’t really have another choice, c) whatever you do, don’t become a teacher (best job I ever had, miss it every day, such a low salary that I had to leave).

    At this point in my life I’m trying to almost focus away from money (those of you here that say you love talking about money blow my mind, it makes me wish I was dead) and more on how can I live a meaningful and happy life without any? There is a hard place to navigate when you have a very tight budget – I mean the kind of tight where your rent is most of it, your student loans are another huge chunk, you pay your utility bills and when you are creative with groceries can have $50 or so a month in play. And then you have to decide – do I save this $50 somewhere hoping I live long enough that it will eventually be helpful to me or my family? Or do I occasionally take my kids to the zoo? Because I have to choose.

    I’d also like to say that I’m actually incredibly privileged, even if I am so much less than some of the others commenting. I live in a city where I feel safe for our two-mom family and my being a WoC. I have a college education. I have a good job and feel confident that I could find another if I needed to. There are plenty of people who are struggling so far beyond anything I have to deal with.

    • Jennie says...

      I have certainly lived pay check to pay check before. Just wanted to throw out there (in case you did not know) many library systems have museum, Zoo, Art Gallery passes you can check out. Trying to think of any way I could be helpful…..

    • Sarah W says...

      It sounds like you’re doing a great job and putting your family first.

    • Christy says...

      We live paycheck to paycheck also. Not as much as we did earlier but still one income is what we have. And there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room.

      One of the biggest stressors in our finances is government shutdowns. If the government shuts down then my husband works for free until the government reopens and they vote whether to back pay him or not.

      My husband and I, if we have extra money, we do something as a family. We are all about having fun with our girls. We know that we only have them for a short time and going to the zoo today is more important and memorable than most things down the road.

    • Stacy says...

      I love that you said all of this. I’ve been there worth my husband and being 10-15 years older than you I can tell you that you may look back, down the road, and see how much this can change! Do what you can and spend time as a family. Our daughter never remembers the STUFF, she remembers going to the park with her dad in the wagon and playing “monster” under the park bridge, heading to our friend’s organic farm to pick free basil for pesto, and sitting at the laundromat eating ice cream with money we scraped from the couch cushions. You’ve got this, and thanks for also saying that you are privileged as well. Because most of us really are. Big hugs!

    • Lilly says...

      You sound like you’re doing an amazing job! It’s tough out there. Your priorities are on straight and you’ve got this.

      I’m super pay check to pay check right now and just making plans to try and move out of that this year, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot and was doing @BrownKids debt series this week. You might enjoy Roe’s videos? She’s absolutely lovely (and another Ro!) and so down to earth about this. It’s been a really cathartic exercise for me. https://www.instagram.com/brownkids/ (Plus she’s also a WoC and totally gets it, her financial advice just makes more sense for my life.)

    • Emily says...

      Been there myself. And I believe most people are. Most Americans (about 80% from the figures I’ve seen) live paycheck to paycheck. I have to say, having a budget ON PAPER (or on the computer – not just in your head) has been literally life changing for our family. We pay more each month in student loan payments than we do on our mortgage!! BUT the software – You Need a Budget (YNAB) has been hugely helpful to getting debt paid down, keeping it at bay AND allowing us to save for our future. It makes no judgements. (i.e. – I like $120 Madewell Jeans, so I have a line item on the budget for them once a year. Once the $$s there, I get them, but not before.) I’d check out that software, use the free trial and above all else – watch the educational videos. One of their big philosophies is to be “forward funded.” i.e. your January paychecks fund February. You start each month fresh. I have at least 6 couples that are friends that have also gotten out of debt with YNAB’s approach. Good luck! We could all be better at money management.

    • Meghan says...

      This breaks my heart! As a teacher, I hate the thought of anyone not following their calling simply because our society doesn’t value people who work with children. I’m Canadian, so (thankfully) this isn’t as much of a concern. I’ll never be rich, but at least I can afford to do the job I’m meant to.

    • Hannah says...

      You’re not the only one staying quiet in a room full of people ;) Although I enjoy Cup of Jo and am a frequent reader, posts like this one strike a somewhat sour tone for me. The financial facts portrayed are simply not the reality for the majority of American families. Between the two of us, my partner and I have well over 100K in student loan debt. Neither one of us came from a family that was able to help us through college or pass on much in the way of financial wisdom. The jobs we worked in high school mostly went toward meeting basic family needs. Even now that we are in our 30’s and have jobs with healthy salaries (though for me that means working 2 full-time jobs in the city), it’s a struggle to meet expenses.

      It took me a long time to learn that not having any money doesn’t mean you’re bad at managing money. It’s easy to talk openly about finances when every scenario can be tied up in a neat “lesson learned” tagline. Personally, I would find it inspiring to read a post with a more realistic portrayal of family financing that acknowledged a readership with a wider range of income and background.

    • Kanga says...

      Yep I hear ya!
      It makes me incredibly upset … all my friends live in multi-million dollar houses (it’s Sydney Australia so there’s nothing less!), drive nice cars and don’t even think about buying a new dress … while I don’t even buy a morning coffee … I’m almost 40 and I am so upset this is my life …BUT i do have the most gorgeous 5mo baby boy so life’s not all bad!

  42. Em says...

    I feel so down about money lately. We are paycheck to paycheck, don’t buy food out, can’t remember the last time I bought myself new clothes or makeup or a new book, and we are having a 2nd baby in April. I don’t know how we are going to do it. I know we can try to get better jobs, but we have been where we are for 10 years…it feels like such a hurdle to try and make a change.

    • Andrea says...

      Em, sorry this is where you are at. I hear you and have been there.

      Money talk is often magical thinking talk where people talk about economizing like it’s not already what you are doing. I like Ramit Sethi’s approach about expanding your pie (ways to earn more) rather than slice it even thinner.

    • Jennie says...

      Oh Em! Sending you a virtual hug. I think you have the right idea about looking for work elsewhere – big gains can be had by making a move!

    • Emilie says...

      From and Em to an Em, I feel you and hear you. I don’t have children and am single, so our situations are different, but similarly I feel down and it is not because I am not considering all my options or reading the right books, I simply don’t have options. I am paycheck to paycheck despite having a good paying job (I am a junior lawyer) — but that career choice meant 7 years of school and $175,000 in students loans. It is simply insurmountable, and the interest payments alone are almost more than I can afford. I have downsized to an apartment that is $900/month, the cheapest possible, and eat cheap food. I carry credit card debt now from instances where I had to travel for family reasons. I am almost 30 and the idea of even being able to pay off this debt, let alone EVER own a home or have money to invest, just feels like a pipe dream. Kudos to all the readers who have championed their finances – you are my heroes. Sadly for me, though I love my job and enjoyed the process of getting here, I have to think it was probably not worth living the majority of my adult life in heavy debt.

    • Amy says...

      As someone thinking about going to graduate school and taking out significant loans, this is a reality check. I have no debt thanks to wonderful parents and a hard, hard-earned college athletic scholarship (being a college athlete is not all it’s cracked up to be).

      I remember going to a graduate school fair and asking the students behind the counters if they had a plan or a scholarship- the majority said they weren’t going to address it until after they graduated. I have a friend with over $90K in student debt and this is the norm in my high-achieving, high COL city that demands a masters degree. I feel so frustrated by the lack of options available to those seeking a masters to do it frugally, especially when it seems like there are no jobs unless you have one. (Bachelors degree accepted, masters preferred, ie: no way you’re getting this job without a masters).

  43. Amy says...

    My husband and I have a “three account system”. We have a joint account, where 80% of each of our paychecks go. Then we each have our own accounts where the other 20% goes. That way, we each have spending money we don’t have answer to anyone for. We adjust the percentages accordingly for situations where we make the same, one makes more, or one isn’t working. (We’ve been married for a while. ;)) That way, one doesn’t feel like he/she is contributing more or doesn’t have enough personal spending money.

    • C says...

      I like the three account system! It seems so reasonable and smart. Thank you for sharing :)

    • What a lovely idea! I think my husband and I need to institute this…

    • Jane says...

      That’s exactly what my husband and I do. I spend my account down to the last $5 every single month and he just saves and saves.

    • Dana says...

      My husband and I did a version of this for 10 years before we were married. The joint account paid the rent, utilities, groceries and slowly accumulated some surplus which we would use for special occasions. We never argued about who needed to pay what and it allowed us to take some trips and have a nice dinner or go to a concert without either feeling like we weren’t able to individually afford it. I always recommend this to couples with shared expenses and income inequality. It is a great equalized. It is a easy way to begin the process of merging finances if that is the desired end result. It also allows a fairly easy clean break if needed.

    • Dana says...

      Equalizer (not equalized)

  44. Hannah says...

    We opened a 529 account when our son was born and set up an automatic deposit into it. The online calculator said that we need to put aside $1500 a month now to pay for 4 years of college when he turns 18, how insane is that???? That’s a bit too much for us to do each month, but just knowing that we’re saving *something* eases my mind. I’m a college professor, so I always counted on tuition benefits from that for our future, but we decided to save up anyway to give our son other options. After the debates around tuition benefits with the tax law, I’m so glad that we did – who knows if the tuition benefits would have been there by the time he’s old enough?

    I’m also a firm believer in being a judicious consumer of education. College and grad school are huge expenses! County colleges and state schools are great investments in many areas, provide excellent ways to get a good education at a fraction of the cost. Four years at a private university are great, but not always necessary. And I say this as a product of private schools at all levels and as a prof in one now. Some of my best students have transferred in after two years at a county college!

    • Liz C says...

      Hannah, I agree! I earned my undergrad and graduate degrees at a state university. My former co-worker earned her undergrad and graduate degrees at very expensive private universities. We had the same jobs! She had loans. I did not. I share this story to say community colleges and state universities are valuable and much more affordable.

  45. Marcella says...

    Joanna, how did you tackle paying off your student loans? I currently have about the same amount you did after law school (private liberal arts school…) and I’m 24. I work at a nonprofit (it took me about 8 months after graduation to find a job) and I LOVE my job, I just don’t make a lot of money. I kind of panicked a couple of weeks ago because I’m currently on the 20 year repayment plan on my loans which I seriously do NOT want to be paying them off for 20 years but at this rate that’s what it feels like.. help!! How did you stay optimistic?? And how long did it actually take you to pay them off? I still live at home with my parents and it’s very frustrating seeing my friends who have wealthy parents and they have no student loans, while I’m feeling like I’m suffocating over here.

    • Emily says...

      Have you applied for loan forgiveness? The program still hasn’t been killed although it may be at risk in the future, but the idea is that if you work at a non-profit and make 120 consecutive loan payments (10 years) the rest is forgiven. Also, look into income-based repayment plans!

    • Annette says...

      Marcella,
      Check into “loan forgiveness” for working at a nonprofit. After graduation, I lived with my parents too. Instead of spending $500 for rent I paid about $250 in rent and used the other $250 to put towards my school loan on top of the required amount. Reconsider going out to eat, having drinks, buying a new outfit, etc and think in terms of how much of a payment those items will cost vs. putting that money to a school loan. I paid off $26k in 8/9 years on a graduated plan while still purchasing a car and a home. Not everything will work for everyone, but it’s something you can consider.

    • S.G says...

      If you have federal student loans and plan on staying in a non-profit position for a while you might look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. It would forgive any remaining student loan debt after 10 years of payments (still a long time, but better than 20!). It’s definitely helped me a lot, I’m 5 years in and making minimum payments.

    • Fiona says...

      The biggest thing I learnt was to just put anything away possible. Every bit of cash for christmas or for a birthday goes right to any debt, I talk myself through every big splurge to determine if it is worth it (making room for smaller splurges – I have a personal date night once a month with a book and an adult milkshake from my favourite diner for instance). Its a pain in the butt, but every time $10 goes into my loans i know thats $12 or $14 that I wont be spending (I freak myself out with thinking about the total of the loan considering interest, to give me perspective on the little savings now vs the bigger savings later). I dont know if it is any help but know it is doable, and you can do it a tiny bit at a time! (PS: my cousin has a special jar with all $1 bills, whenever he has one (change from a restaurant etc.) he separates it and every few months deposits the whole lot into his principle account).

    • Anastasia says...

      It can be hard to stay optimistic about student loans – my parents weren’t wealthy but always told me they’d take care of them once I graduated so not to worry. Well, by that time the economy was going down and things were tight for them and in the end I was completely responsible for them. Which turned out fine, but I would have made different choices along the way (less loans, work study, etc) Even working for a non-profit (and feeling like I made about half what most of my friends did – though we were never that transparent – cheers to this series!) I was able to pay off $25,000 in 5 years. I started small by rounding up all my payments to the next 10 number – $93.72 became $100 for example. Then whenever I could, or if any unexpected money came my way, I’d pay it towards my loans. Best advice I received was to tackle the smallest first. Put all your extra payments towards it until it’s paid off (yay!) then put whatever you were paying monthly on it towards the next biggest loan and so forth until they are all paid off. It’s called a snowball effect to make a bigger dent in the loans. You start with the smallest because that will be the fastest and most encouraging to see results. Stay positive – you can do it!

    • Marcella says...

      Thanks for the tips! I have looked into the federal loan program, however the bulk of my loans are private (only about 10k is in federal, which I am confident I will have paid off before the 10 year mark). I recently made a $4,000 payment last week and it felt SO GOOD. So I do feel positive about that!

    • Kristin says...

      You might want to look into refinancing. I graduated law school in 2015 at age 29 with $160k in debt. Some of my loans had 8-9% interest rates. First Republic worked with me to consolidate my debt at an interest rate just above 3%. It felt great and has made repayment super easy–I really don’t even think about it since I’m set up on automatic transfers. I am on a 15-year repayment plan and while I hope to pay it off sooner, I just take it in stride. I also love my job and feel so fortunate to be an attorney. Don’t let the debt control your life, just see it as another monthly expense. I remember Obama saying something about not paying off his law school debt until right before he entered the White House . . .

    • Jane says...

      About 5 years ago I finished paying off $25,000ish of student loan and car debt. It took me about 3 years total and a solid 18 months of non-stop work. I worked a TON of overtime (I know this isn’t always an option or easy). I stayed in. I only saw the art museum special exhibits on Friday nights when they were free etc. I always used my tax refund (usually about $1200) to go straight to my debt and I also used the two “extra” paychecks a year (during 3 paycheck months) to go directly toward my debt. I think really those three big payments a year kept me going the rest of the time. YOU CAN DO IT!! :)

  46. J.M. says...

    Cup of Jo, reading my mind this week! First the post about only children, now this money post!
    Anyway, I was brought up in a super financially responsible household. My parents paid off their home in 15 years, they always drive their cars for at least 8 years, pay off their credit cards every month, and only travel with points. This has been ingrained in my brain, so I am financially responsible as well. My only debt is a mortgage on a condo that I bought before I got married, and my current mortgage on my home. However…..my husband is not like this. When my husband and I started dating about 4 years ago, he had over 20k in credit card debt, rented his apartment, and leased his car. He has since paid off the credit card debt and we bought a house together, but he is a spendthrift and constantly buys gadgets and nick nacks we don’t need. I have tried to have conversations with him about this, but he always says, “its nothing, it was cheap” which drive me insane because all of that adds up. I feel like we need a financial intervention and I don’t know how to make him see that all of it adds up. We have a baby daughter now, and I started a pre-paid college fund for her. The monthly payments are high, but her college will be paid for by the time she is in kindergarten. Not to mention her daycare expenses. So yes, every single dime counts. How can I make him understand this?

  47. Ceridwen says...

    My husband and I were very stressed about money a few years ago. We were single income, had two,young kids and trying to pay rent every month becomes so stressful; we didn’t feel in control at all and always felt behind. I also had a really, really hard time talking about , money. I would avoid and avoid any conversation he tried to start. I wish I was like you Joanna in my twenties! Finally, it came to the crunch and My husband organised a babysitter and booked us in to see My Budget, an Australian financial planning organisation, and we had a real (3 hour!) conversation about money, about what we wanted to achieved, what things do we both want in our lives and what we wanted in the future. It was great. We made a plan, got out of debt and had total control. Plus, we, I, could talk openly about money and it improved everything. It was like weight watchers with money which is not always easy! No more sneakily late night ASOS purchases. It was hard not being spontaneous and I felt it was hard not to be generous with friends. So, we told everyone what we were doing and they got it. It was a bit awkward but then I found others were interested too. Now we are teaching our kids about financial literacy. It’s so important! Thanks for the post. Will def check out The app!

  48. Inge says...

    My husband does our finances but I also keep track. We try to save money before we buy things (we saved to buy a new car, next we’ll save for renovating our house). We only have one loan to pay off, which is the mortgage of our house.

    It’s common where I live to not pay over a third of your total monthly income for your mortgage. We looked for a house to fit into that budget. But I know that must sound insane if you live in NYC or somewhere expensive.

  49. Kate says...

    After trying to maintain a budget in Google Sheets over the past few years (complete fail…I guess I’m just not a spreadsheets person), I FINALLY figured out a budget method that works for me this! I have a weekly allowance that I track on a simple app that basically lets you input any amount as income and then input expenses manually that can be marked as “groceries” “transportation” “eating out” “clothes” etc. (I didn’t want an app that connected to my bank accounts because that felt complicated and overwhelming.)

    To make this work, I totaled up all my set expenses and subtracted them from my monthly income to figure out what amount of money I have to spend each week on everything else (groceries, fun stuff, gas, etc). Each time I buy something I input it in the expenses of the app, and that way I have a running amount of the money I have “left” for the week. It’s been really helpful to set things up in a weekly format because it feels more real-time. I can cheap out on groceries on Friday, knowing that it’ll keep me within my budget through Saturday, rather than a monthly scenario where I might be stuck eating canned soup for a week at the end of the month because I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead.

    And it’s been a tiny rush (so nerdy, I know), to input the next week’s allowance on Sunday on top of the leftover money I’m rolling over from the previous week. :)

    Oh, and the app is a free one called CashBase. I’m not affiliated with it in any way, I just did some research and it was the simplest one that fit my needs.

    • Jenny says...

      I use a similar app called SimpleTrack. It basically operates off the “envelope system.” I keep a spreadsheet for my student loans (over $300K eeekk! Thanks law school) but find it hard to use spreadsheets for day-to-day expenses which are much smaller amounts and occur so much more often.

  50. Haylie says...

    I love this post! One of my girlfriends and I were just talking about money, and specifically about dealing with money in our relationships. My partner grew up very poor, and financial security is really important to him. I grew up with lots of conflicted ideas about money from two very different financial backgrounds, so money stresses me out: it brings up class issues and feelings of imposter syndrome in me. Consequently, my husband always been in charge of nearly all of our finances. This has worked for us so far, but it’s also bothered me for a long time. t’s always felt like something we would change… eventually. But we never have. On the one hand, between the two of us he’s the most passionate about money, and he’s very good at financial planning. On the other hand, it just feels… not as feminist as I’d like. Even though he always solicits my opinion and would never say anything to this effect, I often have this uneasy feeling that *our* money is really *his* money. I hate that. I’m embarrassed about all of it. Plus, I really worry about the worst-case scenario: if anything were to happen to him, trying to untangle all our finances would be a nightmare. I would barely know where to start. Anyway, this is all just to say: I’m with you, Joanna! RESOLVED: this is the year I become a more equal partner in our finances.

    • May says...

      I feel this way too! I never want my marriage to be one where a single person holds all the power or control. And the feminist in me is afraid that by letting my partner manage our finances, I’m relinquishing too much power. But, managing finances is his strength and our family is better off for it. What has helped me is sharing an app like Mint with my partner, where I can periodically check in on our bank accounts and spending. While he manages the day to day financials, we work together to determine our priorities for spending/saving…so I’m involved in the overall direction and he actually makes it happen. I still resolve to be more involved this year!

    • Ellie says...

      I think having conversations like this is SO HELPFUL! I think because it’s taboo to talk about HOW MUCH money, it’s become taboo to also talk about how couple split things. I love talking to coworkers or friends about how we split things with our partners because people have great methods that work for them!

      Also, you go girl! (Lol I haven’t said that in so long.) I think it’s never too late to get more involved! Maybe carve out some time to make coffee and sit down to have him walk you through everything. Heading into tax season is probably a good time to do this too since you have to gather everything in one place :)

  51. Irene says...

    It’s been mentioned a few times already, but anyone looking to get a great handle on their finances in a fun way should try YNAB! 34-day free trials, awesome, AWESOME support. Total game changer! I found out about it after finally discussing financial stuff with a group of mom friends. Please CupofJo do a money series!!

  52. Anon For This says...

    I paid off my student loans two weeks ago! When I pay off my pension buy back in September, I am going to go to Paris, my favorite place, to celebrate being debt free! During these years of serious debt pay down, I have maintained course by thinking of how wonderful that trip will feel.

    • Kelly says...

      That’s what I did, too! When I finished paying off my student loans, I took a three week solo trip around central/eastern Europe. Even while my trip was a little bare bones to some (staying in hostels), it was the absolute best way to celebrate being independent and debt free (since I have no credit card debt, car loans, etc.).

  53. Kaitlin says...

    My father made all the bill payments, automatically from online banking. My mum knew roughly what was going in and out and always had enough, but she was never directly involved in the process. When he died suddenly in 2016, my mother had to figure it all out: Not only the dollar values but actually making sure money was transferred from accounts as part of this system he had created.

    I think the dollars and cents is a big part, but we don’t talk about the values behind them all that much, nor about our operational process. Part of financial transparency for our household is having all three sides of that triangle covered. I don’t have it entirely figured out, but that overall financial literacy is important to me.

  54. B. says...

    I used to find the topic of money so intimidating. As American women we’re not really given the tools to understand finances or make them work for us at any point. I’ve found the best way is to rip the bandaid off. Get a financial advisor if you can. If you can’t, go to seminars (Ladies Get Paid has some good ones) or ask your company’s HR department to set up a presentation on wealth management (Stash Wealth does great ones).

    I went through all the stages people have mentioned here—graduating with student loan debt, then getting into credit card debt in my free wheeling 20s, then being nervous about combining finances with my husband. But, about 3 years ago we just decided to get uncomfortable and talk about all this. We set up a budget. Made some sacrifices and we’re in a really good place now. All that to say it’s possible to get out of a hole! It takes hardcore budgeting and facing some tough facts—maybe living in smaller apt. for a while or cooking at home every night. But you can do it.

    One great little tip—consider putting your savings in an online-only bank like Ally. Regular brick and mortar banks have to pay for stores so your interest rates are usually less than 1%. That means if you have $20K in savings you’re only making about $2 in interest every year. Meanwhile online banks can offer rates around 1.11-1.35% meaning at the minimum you’ll make $200/year on $20K savings. It’s like free money!

    • brianna says...

      This. My main savings is with Ally (and I have an emergency savings at my regular bank that I can access from anywhere in the country). I make $25-$35 a month at Ally in interest, vs. 2-3 cents at my regular bank.

    • Sasha F says...

      I use Ally and love it! Checking is through a brick-and-mortar bank so I can conduct in-person transactions (the rando Millennial who actual prefers that, haha), but Ally is great because of the overhead/interest consideration you mentioned. Plus, online only means it’s slightly harder to reach – out of sight, out of mind. :)

  55. Carol says...

    It’s nice to read about these things as it can be so good to get tips, or even just feel that you’re not alone!
    I’m currently in an bad financial situation as I spent the last few years not earning much, travelling, and then I decided to go back to study. Now I’m working part-time while I study and just scrape by. My pay varies each month depending on hours worked, and I keep track of everything in an excel sheet. I’m still getting a feel for my new budget and living costs in a new city, so I’m constantly checking my spending and reassessing. I think it’s important to be disciplined but also realistic in your targets. One of the hardest things has been a lack of money to socialise when I need to make new friends in a new city.
    I feel extremely stressed knowing that I don’t have a financial safety net if anything were to happen, but hopefully I’ll be working full time again by the end of the year. I plan to move from the UK back to Australia, where the wages are better, then save myself a buffer and start towards a deposit to buy my own place.

    • Verena says...

      @Carol I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Barefoot Investor, anAustralian who helps people get a grip on managing their personal finances. There are lots of free resources (all I have ever used) and I found his advice super helpful, easy to implement and honest. His writing style can be a little annoying though. Thought as a fellow Aussie with plans to move back you might like..

    • Carol says...

      Thanks, Verena! I have heard of him, but I haven’t read any of his books or anything. But I’ll definitely check him out when I’m back.
      At the moment there isn’t really much to manage. I don’t have any loans or credit cards, and after rent and bills it’s just a matter of being frugal at the supermarket (hello, about-to-expire reduced section!) and limiting myself to the odd pint at the pub.
      One thing that reading all these comments about huge student loans makes me remember is how lucky we are in Australia with our university fees compared to the US! (The government covers the cost and we just pay them back by paying a little more income tax each paycheck once we start earning over a certain amount. Not as amazing as countries where uni is free, but still less financial stress than loans from a private bank).

    • Simone says...

      As a fellow Aussie I also back the Barefoot Investor. I was lucky enough to be recommended the book when I had just got back from living in London for 18 months (the most financially insecure months of my life but I wasn’t there to make money). The book’s advice is incredibly easy to follow and breaks the rules I think most Australians have grown up with e.g. banking with the big 4 because that’s all you know kind of mentality. It’s certainly helped my boyfriend and I in saving for a home deposit.
      Best of luck on your return, it’ll all be okay!

  56. YES! I moved to Boston with no job, 3K in the bank, and 10K in grad school. My parents told me I had to pay off my student loan debts within 6 months or I needed to pay them for the car they gifted me when they moved out of the country.
    I got a great job and paid off my loan in 4 months. I text all my new friends to come over and we had ZERO party with zero shaped foods—donuts and cheerios.
    It was a hard 4 months, but I am so glad I did it. I learned so much about what I really value. Instead of going out to dinner, I met people for walks or tennis games in the local park. This led to a lot of meaningful conversations which I do treasure more than pad thai.

    • Jennie says...

      Can we just pause and talk about how adorable your zero party was!?!?!?!

    • laura-london says...

      LOVE the zero party :) Tres cute.

  57. Kim says...

    I think it’s all about living within your means. In our hyper-consumerism society, it’s easy to get caught up believing that you need a new purse every season, a new car every few years and that it’s normal to live in a McMansion. Does a family of four really need 5,000 square feet of space? Of course not. And it costs a lot of money to fill up that space with things…things we don’t need and things that cause us to go into debt. The drive to keep up with the Joneses not only causes financial stress, but it also causes emotional anxiety and constant self-doubt. Don’t be fooled into thinking that others are happier or live better lives based on the material things that they have; it’s likely that a lot of it is on borrowed credit. I think the whole minimalist movement right now has it right; live only with what you need and enjoy.

    My profession involves looking at financially distressed people’s assets and debts from all backgrounds. Both high and low wage earners have the same issues – those earning $30k/year or $100k+/year may have a ton of credit card debt due to material spending and nothing in savings or retirement. Lifestyle inflation, right? A practical Toyota Camry will do the job just fine, no matter your income.

    I firmly believe in not buying/renting more house than you need. After all, it’s your biggest monthly expense. My husband and I earn decent incomes. We bought a 2-bedroom house even though we could certainly afford a bigger house, but for our family of 3 it’s all the space we need and it’s more environmentally responsible (and I’m not trying to impress anybody). We’ll never worry about paying the mortgage, even if our income dips or one of us decides to work less (we’re self employed) because the monthly payment is well below the recommended 28% of gross income to spend on housing. That leaves extra money for retirement, college savings, and the fun stuff like traveling.

    The next time you’re tempted to purchase something, big or small, ask yourself if you’d still buy it if you were the only person on the planet. This way you’ll know if you were really buying it to suit your own needs/wants as opposed to trying to project a certain image to others.

    • Andrea says...

      I get this, but I also think people buy housing as their primary investment and need the house to appreciate so they can sell it at retirement and take the profits. Unfortunately, in America we abandon the housing of the previous generation and move outward and build bigger and newer homes. So, the McMansions today are not a great investment on most levels.

    • t says...

      That is a great perspective but it doesn’t apply across the board. Where I live we can’t buy a two bedroom house in a neighborhood with decent schools and near enough to my parents for 28% or less than our gross income. So we are closer to the 45% mark and we pay less on our mortgage than we would if we rented. Yes we could move to a different city or state (we are in southern California) but then our travel expenses to see family and our childcare expenses (my mom watches the kids) would add up. Plus improved quality of life by raising my kids around their grandparents is priceless for us.

    • Emma says...

      Amen!

    • Grace says...

      So many great points here. There are areas of life where splurging is worth it (for me traveling) but living below your means housing wise is so smart. McMansions just boggle my mind and being tied down to a huge mortgage is going to be a constant stressor.

      Very interesting how people start making more money, and instead of upping savings their spending increases at the same level. I think we consciously or subconsciously try to mirror the lifestyle of others in our new income bracket.

    • t says...

      I have to say that my house is also a safety net. God forbid my partner died (or I died) the other can sell the house as we have over $400k in equity. That equity was created with a 0% down loan. Basically we have made $400k out of nothing which is amazing to me. We live in an area at the beach though where there is always a lack of supply so even during the bubble we were never underwater. We definitely live above the recommended percentage with our mortgage payment but it isn’t a mcmansion (<1500 SF for a family of four) and it is one of our savings accounts. My point is that there isn't a one size fits all budgeting solution.

    • Kitty says...

      Yes, I too live in a city where the median house costs $1 million. Even an 800 square foot condo has a price tag of $600 000 +. Even with good jobs there are not really any homes within our means and even the suburbs are expensive. So I’m happy you have it all figured out but that it just not some peoples reality.

  58. RDT says...

    I love talking about money. Money, sex, politics, and religion – is there any other good topic of conversation!?

    My wife and I have a few joint accounts but keep our own separate accounts too. We budget and agree on what joint expenses and savings goals we have, and each contribute – according to our means – to the joint accounts. That way we don’t have to worry about each other’s personal spending.

    I highly recommend putting in a bit of time to learn about investing for oneself. The basics are pretty easy to learn and there are lots of good online discount brokerages through which you can invest. Actively managed funds are largely a waste of money in the fees you pay to the bank, which you could be saving and reinvesting yourself.

  59. Michelle R says...

    Here are some things my husband and I did when we first had kids that i am SO grateful we did now (I saw a lot of requests for details and wanted to send these on, if they will help anyone):

    1. We opened a 529 account for each child when they were born – it is a special college savings account that any gains on are tax-free (unlike typical gains on stocks, say) if they are used for education. So we put about $50/month in and goes toward some mutual funds (we started putting $100/month when we had one child and then dropped it down when we had more). My 8 year old has about $7,500 in this account now, for reference. [note: my husband said to mention – some states have tax benefits for investing money into these accounts so check with your accountant or online if contributing to a 529 plan is tax deductible to save even more money]

    2. “DSPP” Accounts – we also started a DSPP (called a drip account) account for each child when they were born. It is a savings account that is made up of investments/stocks that you choose. We choose some varied stocks that would have long-term, slow growth with dividends because we didn’t want to take much risk with this moeny. So the money you invest goes toward purchasing stock and the quarterly dividends/money you make from the stocks go immediately back into that account to buy more stock. Just as an example, we have a mix of stock – one is some railroad stock, one is McDonalds, etc – things that would be stable with long-term growth. We put $100/month in when our oldest was born and then eventually dropped it down to $50/month and he currently has about $32,000 in that account.

    The two accounts above will be used for their college funds and it’s a HUGE relief to have started small ($25-$50/month is bringing lunch a handful of times instead of going out, for example) and knowing that while you’re trying to figure other things out, you have started that major step.

    A friend of mine at work has older children and to teach them the value of money she has them take half of what they get at birthdays, etc, and put it in their bank account. The other half they can spend. I like that too!

    Good luck, i’d love to hear more info on what details have helped others too!

    Michelle

    • Samantha says...

      This is INCREDIBLE! You have saved your kids so much future financial stress. I can say this from experience; my parents started buying savings bonds for my education before I was even born, and I was able to get two degrees completely debt free- which in turn allowed me to buy my own house at the age of 26.

    • Kim says...

      A 529 account is a MUST if you have children. The cost of higher education rises exponentially every year; it outpaces inflation by A LOT. I tell my mom to put money into my daughter’s 529 instead of buying yet another useless toy. An debt-fee education is the best gift you can give to your children. Luckily, I opened up my daughter’s account when she was born in 2008 when the economy was at rock bottom so we were able to invest in rock bottom stock prices. We send in about $400/month and because of COMPOUND INTEREST and a strong market recovery, she now has $100,000 in her account at age 10.

  60. Holly says...

    Refinery29 does a great segment entitled ‘Money Diaries’ where anonymous women in different careers and at different life stages talk about what they spend in a week and include their monthly budget – it’s a great feature!

    • I love Money Diaries! Good call :)

    • Bec says...

      I also love money diaries! Even though I have to convert everything from USD to Australian dollars!

    • Jane says...

      Love MD! I kept thinking of the Money Diaries when I was reading all these comments.

  61. Cyndi Mahaffey says...

    Thirty-five years ago, I was a spender who married a saver. Financial issues, and our differing attitudes towards money, caused numerous problems in our young marriage. One day, after an argument and after tears, my wonderful husband asked me this question: “What do you want our money to do for us?” That one question changed everything. Up to that point, I had seen money as something to spend as quickly as possible, buying things that would make me happy–temporarily, that is.
    We started small, focusing on paying off debt first. Then, we added compulsory savings–pay yourself first. Next came a child, a house, investments, family vacations, college educations. We gradually fine-tuned and added to our financial portfolio based on life choices.
    Nearing retirement now, I often look back on that argument and that question. It was life-changing.

    • Lu says...

      What a powerful phrase!

  62. Oneida says...

    I was brought up by very frugal immigrant parents. Which means though we live on a very small income (albeit in a pretty inexpensive part of the US), I’m constantly feeling guilty for buying things. My husband made me go to target one day to buy hair ties because I was constantly rooting around for that last one standing. “They’re TWO DOLLARS,” he said. But it was ingrained in me to be frugal and to save by not buying anything unless it was absolutely necessary, no matter what it was. Credit cards were to get points and pay off every month. I couldn’t even imagine not paying it (it was like a mortal sin or something). I’m so grateful for my upbringing because it has been extremely beneficial. I couldn’t have bought a house on such a shoestring budget (I made around 20,000 a year at that point) but at the same time want to be free of the guilt so I can stop saving tiny bits of leftover food in the fridge and living off my Christmas gift clothes and freebies from friends. It was fine in college and as a single person but now seems a little ridiculous as a working mom with 2 kids. I want to pass on good practices to my daughters without the sense of terrible guilt!

    • Emma says...

      Are you me? I am working through the guilt of spending this year as a goal. I’ve never been able to spend money on anything and now at 30 I want to be able to enjoy my hard work without feeling awful! It’s a lot of soul work and admitting I am worthy of a lunch out now and then, but I’ll get there :)

    • Anastasia says...

      Hahaha on those hair ties! I’be been working off the same pack for years, it’s a miraculous multiplying pack or something. Before getting married by budget was “spend as little as possible” and I still am very frugal. But when my husband and I got married we took a financial stewardship course that was really helpful for getting on the same page. I learned that making a spending plan (aka budget) wasn’t just to rein in spending but actually allocate it towards your goals, needs, and priorities. That way when it come time, you can freely spend the money you’ve set aside without guilt that it could/should go towa do something else. When we set a plan for our meager salary at the time, we gave each other $5 of fun money to spend each month on a frivolous treat. We even started to put $5 a month towards haircuts so I could go to a nice salon once in a while without guilt!

    • Liddy says...

      Ladies! Think about going to therapy…money is a stand in for so many issues, including and especially our parents (is it love? safety? status? and on and on). I recognize that it may seem to be an unnecessary expense, but understanding yourself and freeing yourself of some of that guilt is priceless.

    • Hanna says...

      Oneida, I so hear you! Buying has always equaled guilt for me. My husband used to threaten to waste a bunch of money on video games if I wouldn’t buy myself new clothes by a certain date. I’ve gotten a bit better as we’ve built our income and savings — particularly when it comes to purchases for the kids and for work, since those things seem necessary. But now I worry that I’m going the other way and not being frugal enough . . . . :-) My husband and I go over the finances every week in our house meeting, and that helps keep my neuroses in check.

    • Oneida says...

      Aw thanks for chiming in ladies!
      @emma you made my day. Are your parents immigrants too (just curious)?

      @anastasia I love the idea of a treat! It’s sooo hard not to spend all our pennies on practical stuff. Like even if I get a gift card, I’m like do I buy bras and underwear or keep wearing the ratty ones and find a cute top (on sale of course)?!?? Ha.

      @hanna That is so hilarious about the video games! I chuckled! Also I love how spouses can make giving perspective so fun 😆

      @liddy Yes! Thanks for addressing that! I definitely believe in working on the soul to find freedom. Its gotta come from the inside out.

  63. Heather says...

    My finances used to be crazy. I started out my twenties being extremely careful and hyper aware of every.single.expense coming in and going out of my bank account. The most important thing that allowed me to control my funds and grow my savings was finding a great bank. You have no idea how many bad experiences I’ve had with banks and even just one bad bank relationship can cause a financial setback.
    As the years have gone by, I’ve done a lot of very expensive things in my life – 3 cross country moves, 3 college degrees, numerous in city moves, buying a car, buying a pet, having dental surgeries. I always made around the same amount of money everywhere I lived, which, let’s just be honest $40,000 a year in Atlanta will give you a completely different experience than $40,000 in Southern California. For so many years I was struggling or just getting by. Until last year.
    I was recruited to work in DC…heavily. The organization had wanted me to join them for years but I always held off. At the time I was living in Atlanta and doing pretty good financially, but I just never loved living in Atlanta. It was okay, but not great. But, the standard of living there kept me from seriously looking elsewhere. I was settled in a way. Then, my job made the mistake of sending me on a work conference to Vegas. Being in a totally different part of the country for the first time in years made me know without hesitation that my time in Atlanta was over. Before the conference ended I called up the organization in DC and told them that I would work for them if they would pay me a certain amount. I looked at my current expenses and salary in Atlanta, added 20,000 to it and gave DC that amount as my required salary. They offered me the job and added $8,000 to my salary.
    It took about a year for me to go through the full hiring process with the entity, but I finally relocated here last May. It has been the best choice that I have made in years and has allowed me to really start new with my finances. I’m saving, paying down old debt, and taking classes in investing to start diversifying my income.
    I’ve learned that financial literacy is about more than just saving. Its about increasing your knowledge of the banking industry, knowing when the area that you live in is/is not a good fit, and perhaps most importantly, negotiating your salary to be what you need it to be, not what the company you work for wants it to be.

  64. Sonja says...

    I love this! I’m a recruiter so I talk about money literally everyday and I know how tough it is for people to talk about. It’s made me super open overall and it’s really helped. I think Stella wrote something about sharing with friends that she’d gone over budget and needed to reel it in – I’ve done the same and it totally works! We are in a phase of reeling it now as we just bought a house and need to save and continue to tackle some debt. Anyway, I would LOVE a financial series. Just like people open up about their makeup bag, homes, and closets; let’s see some wallets! In our world of constant social media updates about what you should be wearing, eating, decorating your house with it would be awesome to see how people manage that. I’d love to see a range: people who are super great, those who struggled and are doing better, and those who are just getting to a point where they realize that budgeting is really hard and they’re bad at it but getting better.

    • Jessica says...

      I second this. I would love CofJ to have a money series. Thank you!

    • Kirsten says...

      I completely agree with this! I would LOVE to read something like this.

    • Lu says...

      Totally dig that, “what’s in your wallet” theme!

    • Jo says...

      Oh yes, this would be an incredible series!

    • Kim says...

      Hey yall. I highly recommend Refinery 29’s Money Diaries series. It is SO fascinating to see salaries, budget breakdowns, and a week of spending habits play out. They do a great job of finding diverse folks as well!

      http://www.refinery29.com/money-diary

    • Jane says...

      Refinery29 has a series called money diaries. It’s exactly what you described. Some people will make you think “omg I’m doing so well” as you cringe and other diaries will make you second guess that second small purchase of the day. It’s been published for more than a year so there are plenty to read by now!
      http://www.refinery29.com/money-diary

  65. J says...

    I’m 30 and have been self-employed for the last 2 years after a layoff. I’m making about 30% less than I would be in the corporate world and with no benefits. My financial instability makes me second guess my decision to work for myself. I feel worse when I go out with friends, talk to my parents, and whenever I think of the housing market (I live in LA!). I have no real financial plan, and I can’t even imagine a future with children. But I have to be proud of my achievements as well: paying off $30k in student loans in one year and having the freedom of a nomadic life. Shit happens, but it’ll be fine and I’ll be fine. One step at a time.

    • Cait says...

      That’s amazing! I hope you’re really, really proud of paying off that debt….and in a year; that’s impressive!

  66. Lisa says...

    My husband and I share financial planning, saving and investing. We have a hybrid set up – we both maintain separate bank and savings accounts (we both work and our salaries are paid into our own accounts), but we have a joint account and all expenses are shared. Even though we have separate savings accounts, we think of it as communal. Even though I do think of everything as shared and the “family’s”, i would find it very odd to give up my own accounts. I’ve been earning my own money and managing it since I was 17. I can’t give that up
    I was shocked to find out that my mother in law got her own bank card for the first time last year. They just have one joint account and before then my father in law would just get out cash on her behalf. What?!

    • ARC says...

      Thank you, we have a similar set-up (still, after 18 years of marriage and two kids later), and it works for us very well. We both work outside the home, so it makes sense to have two checking accounts. And we have split who pays what, and it’s fair (the one who has more flowing into the account, pays a bigger chunk of expenses). We trust each other. But I am also happy to have my own account, as I don’t want to discuss with my husband each pair of shoes that I purchase … (or whatever “frivolous” little purchases he makes). When talking about our financial set-up, people tend to find it weird. For me it’s a bit of independence …

  67. liz says...

    Another good book is “Your money or your life” (not a great title). Most of my adult life, I was a poor artist. I never saved money for retirement (I was very luck to make some retirement money later in life). My advice — do work that interests you and live within your means. Look for good people to work with and for. When you are old, it will be better to remember how much fun it was to do things that were of interest. Find a way to live within your means that you can tolerate (for instance, I had roommates and my furniture comprised cardboard boxes covered with colorful cloth but I wasn’t in debt and I felt free). In this economy, I would also encourage “side hustles” or mini careers. Try not to judge yourself for not having hit milestones by a certain age (homeownership by age x). Put yourself first – when you are young, your friends are getting married and having kids it’s so easy to get swept up in having to splash out for things but if you want a house or kids, give yourself the money – give your friends, your friendship.

    • liz says...

      PS – the other thing is that the people around you that have a fancy house, daycare, go on vacations, wear expensive new clothes, eat out all the time are probably in debt. Or are one missed paycheck from ruin. Life requires hard choices and it can be a bear to live within your means but it offers peace of mind and pride.

  68. Jenn says...

    My husband and I are both in our early thirties and have been living together for almost 10 years. Out of those 10 years, he has been in school full-time for 9 of them! He has one more year to go before he gets his PhD in a very competitive research field. Essentially, we have been living off of my income for our whole relationship. We have very little debt, no credit card debt, only minor student loans (his PhD is fully funded by the University he goes to and they give him a small stipend) but we haven’t had the income to put much money into retirement or savings. I know that when he enters the workforce next year that he is going to make a great salary but I feel like we are lightyears behind all of our peers who are buying houses and cars and raising multiple children! I feel very fortunate that we don’t live paycheck to paycheck like lots of Americans but I am constantly doubting myself that we aren’t handling our finances the right way. Anytime I start to feel a little green with envy for those around us who seem to have it all together I think to myself “YOU ARE MARRIED TO A BRILLIANT SCIENTIST!” and if that doesn’t work… I have a glass of wine!

    • Sonja says...

      I’m also married to a brilliant scientist! And we had a baby in grad school and we have NO money. It’s terrifying. BUT he got the great job in a competitive field and I am 110% that we are going to catch up, if not more so. I joke to my husband all the time that I married him for his height and EP (earning potential). For the record I am also killing it at work and was thrilled when for six hours earlier this year my raise had me making more money. By 5 pm that victory was dead. All about that shared bottom line I suppose but my pride took a hit after I’d been SO pompous.

  69. Nicola says...

    Thank you for this post! I’d love to hear from others, perhaps a rotation similar to your week of outfits posts.

    We feel somewhat financially secure, but have recently had to cut down (ok, completely stop) with investing/saving for retirement. With two kids in preschool AND daycare, and grandparents living either in another country, or the other coast of the US, all extra money goes to childcare and visiting family. How I wish for family that lived closer (especially when 1 is not well).

    I considered a whole year of not traveling to visit family to save money, but with elderly grandparents, how can we not see them while we can?!?!?!

  70. Anna says...

    Please do some kind of post on a will!

    • If you’re interested, there’s a piece of software called Quicken WillMaker. it simplifies the process of making a will, and it also lets you make a living will (health care directive), and has a bunch of other great tools. I recently used it, and recommend it highly! It comes as a CD/book kit, for both Mac & PC, and it’s incredibly easy to use. I got it from Amazon.

    • We recently updated ours after the birth of our daughter and found out the company I work for pays for an employee to create a living will or puts money toward creating a living trust, etc. It’s something I never thought my employer would do so I didn’t ask. Once I told my girlfriends about it and they started asking turns out a lot of companies have that benefit and can even recommend resources to you – it’s worth looking into!!

  71. Melissa says...

    So interesting, thanks for sharing! I handle 100% of our family’s finances, besides my hisband’s 401k through his work, which is funny because I am a stay at home mom and I earn 0%! But, financial planning and budgeting are exciting to me and stressful to my husband, so it works for us:

  72. Layne says...

    Lately, I have been listening to the podcast Moneysplained (https://moneysplained.com/) to learn more about personal finance, investing, insurance and other important topics. I’ve found it incredibly helpful in gaining confidence in my financial knowledge and have implemented many of the things they talk about in the podcast into my daily life.

  73. Amy says...

    Really enjoying the comments. My husband and I are savers, but we live in an expensive area of the country (East Coast) and are trying to buy a house. It’s so stressful, especially on one income with small children. We really don’t buy anything unless we absolutely need it (and often sleep on stuff overnight, so I don’t impulse buy). We’re doing okay, but like people have said, one serious health or house problem can wipe out your savings. That kind of terrifies me!

    What’s the latest stat, something like 70% of people live paycheck to paycheck, and 85% couldn’t come up with $500 in an emergency?

    I think that speaks more to how badly the middle and lower classes are being squeezed, rather than to saving habits. I’m really hoping the government stops giving tax breaks mainly to the rich and starts paying for childcare, healthcare, family leave, etc. for the rest of us. That would make it much easier for me to sleep at night!

    • liz says...

      Housing is so expensive, I moved south for many reasons, one of which was to be able to afford to own a home.

    • anon says...

      and i really hope the government stops telling me how i have to spend my money (by paying high taxes) so I can prioritize it instead.

  74. I loved reading your journey with money through different life stages! It’s comforting to see that it does work out in the end if you put in the effort! I’ve always been a saver, but could definitely up my game in some areas. Since reading “You Are a Badass at Making Money” I am much more comfortable with the topic.

    Olga

  75. Lindsay says...

    My fiance and I met when we both worked at a bank, and he is now a wealth management advisor, so we talk about money ALL THE TIME. the best thing for both of us is to be open about everything. We follow the yours, mine, and ours philosophy with our bank accounts and it has worked out great. The great thing is that he is well versed in the financial markets, so he can help me with any investing and sorts. We take money seriously and are both striving to reach our current savings goals so we can feel content knowing that if either of us lost our job we would be OK for at least a year. Money is fun to talk about, this taboo about discussing it needs to go! I think everyone would be in a better place if they were just open about it.

  76. Rose says...

    I’m horrible about money.

    I make about 52K a year (I think).

    A few more thousand (about 2K-6K) freelancing, WHICH always turn into IRS debt, which keeps climbing, and climbing, because they’re so horrible to deal with. I owe them about 12K.

    Credit cards I owe about 8K (and all time record low!).

    Because I consolidated that debt into a loan, that is now about 18K I owe.

    My rent in NYC is $1,200 (which hey!).

    And honestly this all feels insurmountable. It’s taken years to get a little better, and a little better, but it does takes years, and pressure. For as long as I live on my own, and cannot deal with the IRS constantly (banks are easier, though ruthless of course), I feel the numbers are not going to change. And it’s hard to give myself credit.

    • Amy says...

      I used to have my own business. Just hire an accountant, it’s worth the cost to not have to stress about what you owe the IRS (keeping up with those quarterly payments is key)!

      Maybe meet with a financial advisor, they can help you figure out how you can get your debt under control. It’s worth it to decrease your stress levels. Take care of yourself, do it for your health!

    • jilline says...

      Read Worth It by Amanda Steinberg!

    • Jen says...

      Try YNAB – it could really help you organize things.

      And when you’re freelancing, try setting aside 20-40% of any income assuming it will be taxed. Then if you don’t need for the IRS you can invest it later, or pay off debt.

    • Fiona says...

      Honestly, an accountant was by far the best expense i ever made, it took MOUNTAINS of weight off my back, and helped me stop digging my hole, and in fact start filling it in. A painful but really helpful suggestion she had was to not claim ANY dependents etc. on my taxes and have them fully taken out (ouch), and then when the inevitable tax return check comes in, that goes directly into my debt payments. You don’t owe anything else, and the money you’re putting towards debt is money you weren’t “living off” (or aware of) anyway. I always set aside $50 for something yummy or a treat (mani/pedi? a cute sweater?), just as a high five for a year of tighter belts, but it has kept me on track!

  77. Tovah says...

    Hi Joanna,
    I’m happy to see a post about financial health on my favorite blog, but I’m disappointed to see Intuit/TurboTax as a new sponsor. Last year they spent millions of dollars lobbying to keep filing US income taxes difficult, as opposed to how it’s done in many progressive European countries. Here’s a good source from ProPublica: https://www.propublica.org/article/filing-taxes-could-be-free-simple-hr-block-intuit-lobbying-against-it
    Thanks for all you do.

    • Mina says...

      So interesting Tovah! I live in Sweden, and most years I have filed my taxes via sms. 10 mins to double check the pre-entered Numbers and deductions, and then an text message to the tax authority with my personal code to file. So easy.

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      Thank you. Was hoping someone would bring this point up. TurboTax is not a good sponsor.

    • T says...

      Tovah, this is another topic that isn’t black and white. From the Atlantic:

      “What’s stopping the Simple Return? There are three barriers, and appropriately, since the issue at stake is taxes, they are all fundamentally about money.

      First, changing the tax-payment system for tens of millions of people would require resources for the federal government, and the IRS is already squeezed. Its budget has fallen in the last decade and Congress hasn’t shown much enthusiasm for making their jobs any easier.
      Second, America’s federal income tax system is byzantine—a messy reflection of the messy will of the people. “A simpler tax code is everybody’s second priority,” Gale said. Their first priority? That would be to keep the tax breaks they already have—or even to create new ones. It’s often said that Americans love their congressman but hate Congress. It’s the same with tax breaks: Everybody loves their tax benefit and hates the tax system. Without a simpler tax code, it’s hard to imagine a Simple Return working for more than the low- and middle-class Americans with the most straightforward earnings.

      Third, the opposition to simpler taxes unites two unlikely allies. First, Grover Norquist and other conservatives who want to cut taxes don’t want tax collection to be more efficient. They’re afraid it will be easier for the feds to raise revenue if taxes feel effortless and people spend less time considering them. Second, tax preparers like H&R Block and Intuit,the company behind TurboTax, have spent millions of dollars lobbying against painless taxes, since those companies are in the business of pain relief. It’s a rich irony that the coalition against simpler taxes creates strange bedfellows: Those who want more tax complexity and those who want the simplest tax code of all—one that doesn’t exist.”

  78. Tara says...

    Any talk of finances usually fires cortisol around my nervous system like a pinball machine. I get fiery, hopeful, scared, nervous. My husband and I make plans, we break them. We pay off debt. We create new debt. We have similar philosophies about money, but he doesn’t worry about financial stability. My childhood was much less financially secure, so money equates to stress, fights, and fear for me. Its hard for me to unpack my emotions around money so that I can get better control.
    To all the people sharing success stories. I applaud you, I really do.
    But I feel like a 500 pound person trying to loose weight and fit into a bikini. Where do I start?

    • Allison says...

      The usual advice is to start tracking everything you spend. You can’t change things effectively if you don’t know what’s really happening now. Check out the YouTube channel The Financial Diet for some very digestible but also really sensible financial information.

    • Heather says...

      Tara, this really resonates for me. You’re not alone.

    • Cooper says...

      My husband started with a monthly Saturday morning meeting at a donut shop to simply track our spending by putting into an spreadsheet. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with the info, but it’s hard to figure out the next steps when you don’t fully understand what you make and what you spend.

    • Cyndi Mahaffey says...

      “What do you want your money to do for you?”

    • Eva says...

      YNAB saved my financial life. It’s for budgeting, but not necessarily in a “I-can’t-spend-any-money” way–instead, it helped me see where my money was going, and it helps me make informed decisions about what I want to prioritize with my money.

  79. We have always kept a budget but we have *always* gone over it, slightly. Because talking about money is such a taboo among friends and even sometimes family, I don’t know what’s realistic when we’re planning our budget. I wish I knew how much other people allotted for their groceries for the month, how much they spent on entertainment, etc – just so I know if we’re in the right ballpark! We’re making it work but we aren’t saving a whole lot, and that’s a goal we’re making a huge priority in 2018.

    • Emilie says...

      I really enjoy reading Money Diaries from Refinery29. You should check it out to see what other people are spending (it’s kind of a creepy idea but totally addicting): http://www.refinery29.com/money-diary

    • Katey says...

      I love reading Money Diaries, but it really doesn’t give you the full picture as it is just one week out of 52 weeks of the person’s life. I would love to see a series on here on Cup of JO that features women in different careers, life stages, etc. and how they manage their annual budgets…how much they save for retirement, pay in rent/mortgage, spend on the essentials, spend on the non-essentials (do they travel, go to fancy spas, eat out a lot?), etc. I think it could be both fascinating and inspirational! What do you think team Cup of Jo?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is a great idea, and something we’ve talked about — doing overarching interviews with women about their finances (the good, bad, messy, exciting, worries, etc). would be so compelling.

    • Allison says...

      I think worrying about what others spend is the first mistake in a budget. You have to look at YOUR income and YOUR habits when deciding what to spend. Probably a reverse budget is a good first step (look back over the past few months at what you spent on each major category or if you don’t have enough detailed information from your bank account then just track it for the next few months). Once you know what you realistically spend NOW then you can work on a budget. If you know staying within your new budget is possible then it becomes easier to try to stick to it.

    • Jane says...

      I would love to see a feature on this!

    • Sophia F. says...

      I totally second @Katey – I’d love to see some real money talk (numbers!!!) from women in various life stages. It can be frightening to be so open and vulnerable about money because it’s something most people, whether they want to admit it or not, associate with an individual’s own value and worth, but I think it’s especially important for women. As others have said, it’s hard to gauge what a reasonable baseline budget is when we’re told that talking about money is crass and asserting your economic power isn’t feminine, and when social media largely glorifies consumption and leisure. I know that in my own life, being honest about finances with friends has been affirming, reassuring, and empowering, and extending that to this community would be downright rad. And @Allison, yes – budgeting should be based on what you have and what is realistic for you, not what makes sense for others, but, for an example, I am continually blown away by how much our family of four spend on food, because it seems like such a high number… until I look at the USDA’s food plans and realize that we are actually doing a great job saving on food. Perspective always helps!

  80. Sophia F. says...

    I LOVE this post. I was lucky enough to be raised in a well off but verrrrry frugal family, so as a kid I learned early that just because you have enough money for something you want doesn’t mean that you should get it. My husband, on the other hand, was raised in a working class family that never had enough money to consider how to manage it. When we got married, in 2012, we combined our finances and I created an Excel spreadsheet to track our budget and spending. I thought that I’d do this for a few months, just so we could have an understanding of how much our life cost, where our money was going, and how much we were saving. Over five years later, I still keep a monthly spreadsheet and track everything we spend – LITERALLY everything we spend, down to that $4.15 for a latte or $2.50 for a bus ticket (thanks, online banking, for making it possible). It is so, so, so helpful, and has enabled us to save much more than many of our friends in similar financial situations. You don’t realize how much money you’re spending on the little things until you add them all up; we realized that at one point, due to my husband’s crazy work schedule, he was spending upwards of forty dollars a month on snacks during the work day, which was easily addressed by a single trip to Costco.
    Even so, we’re at a place where I’m constantly stressed about money. In the past year, my husband changed careers, we moved to a new, fairly expensive city, and bought a house. While we have enough money to pay for everything we need, we are saving a lot less than I’d like, and don’t have the money for things that would make our life a little easier or more fulfilling. The hardest part is not having the money to pay for things I’d like to for our kids, 4 and 2. Childcare and school is so expensive here (and for some places there are THREE YEAR waitlists!), and it’s tough to know that we can’t afford the type of school that I think would help my smart-but-bored daughter soar. Plus, having been a SAHM for four years (my husband’s previous career necessitated moving frequently, part of why he changed), I’m desperate to get back into the workforce for my own happiness and fulfillment, but am caught in a circular trap of not having the time to work on getting a job because I’m taking care of our kids, but not having the money to pay for more childcare because I don’t have a job. I’d love to see a post on women’s experiences reentering the workforce – I am overwhelmed and scared at the prospect, even though I know I’m capable and it would make me so much happier to be working.

    • Amy says...

      YUP. Am currently at home with our two kids because daycare is INSANE where we live (like can be $600 a week) but definitely am in the same boat when it comes to going back to work some day vs finding the time to figure that all out. Would love some advice on this as well!

    • jess says...

      I see the vicious cycle you talked about with the active duty military I work with. What I’ve seen work is that the active duty spouse take leave (vacation days) to take over the kid (and house and whatever other) duties for a couple of weekdays so the SAH spouse can use normal business hours to get to job resources. I know its hard for the breadwinner to get time off in a lot of cases, but from what I’ve seen, it really helps logistically free up the time, and I personally think it sends a nice message from the breadwinner that “your career and plans are just as important as mine”

    • Leanne says...

      Sophia, your comments resonated with me so much today because I’m feeling EXACTLY the same way…about leaving the workforce. To steal your last line: “I am overwhelmed and scared at the prospect, even though I know I’m capable and it would make me so much happier to” …spend more time with my kids. (Thank you for giving me the words to describe how I’m feeling). My kiddos – also 2 and 4 – have been in daycare since they were 3-4 months old. I want so badly to EXIT the work world to spend time with them, but because I’m working full time and trying to suck up every moment of time I have with our kids, I feel like I can’t take the time to figure out how to make our budget work on one income. Also, holy scary decision-making! It makes no sense on paper to ditch more than 1/2 our income! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wave a wand and magically switch our situations without having to figure the rest out :) Good luck! And thanks for the few insights you gave about budgeting on one income. I appreciate the tidbits…firing up the Excel sheet now!

    • t says...

      I told my spouse I needed an hour every night to work on my resume and apply to jobs and I enlisted my friends and family to help with childcare while interviewing. You just have to command what you want/need and make it happen. These aren’t unreasonable requests. Plus your 4 yo will be in school soon.

    • Sophia F. says...

      @Jess, we just got out of the military! My husband was an officer in a role where he had very little time flexibility and was gone a lot… when he got out this past summer, we ‘sold back’ something like 60 days of unused, paid leave he’d never had the chance to take. And now that he’s in a relatively new leadership role at a new company, it’s really hard to take that time without having it compromise his ability to perform well in his job. Absolutely agree about the messaging, and he’s on board with my career/plans being equally important, but we just can’t find the time. To @T’s point, by the time we finish dinner, bath time, and bedtime for our kids and clean up the epic mess that two very active kids can make during the day, it’s close to 9 pm and I’m wiped and need to shower because I don’t have time in the mornings. And while we’re working on the friends thing, we moved to a new city with no family only last summer, so we don’t yet have a community to lean on. I’m hoping that our life will settle down a bit soon and I can take a breather and focus on myself – we are stretching our budget to put our elder in pre-K every day next fall to give me some more time, and the little one will start a co-op preschool that will give me a few more moments.

    • Sophia F. says...

      P.S. @Leanne, I’ve helped a lot of friends with budgeting (an advantage of the military community is you know everyone’s salary/pay scale, so people have frank money talks all the time!), and almost everyone has more flexibility with their money than they might think, in the sense that there is usually something that you’re spending a fair amount of money on that you neither need nor particularly want. I’d share my blank spreadsheet with you if I could :) but I’d start by anti-Dave-Ramseying and paying for everything with credit/debit for a month and then once a week (post bedtime!), combing through you online banking line-by-line and categorizing things by rent/mortgage, bills, groceries, childcare, gas, leisure, etc. Drink in hand optional. Good luck!

    • t says...

      I guess what I am saying @jess is i told my spouse they are doing bedtime/bath time/cleaning up dinner for an hour ON HIS OWN (heaven forbid) while i took an hour to lock myself in the closet (no joke to work on this project).

    • Liz C says...

      Yes! I stay at home to avoid daycare costs, but I miss working and earning. I’m currently freelancing for my local newspaper to keep my writing skills fresh. Does anyone have any advice for ‘breaking’ into the online world as a freelance writer?

    • Jane says...

      @LIZ C try Upwork (https://www.upwork.com)! It can take a few days to get approved, have the bank accounts set up etc but I know a few friends who have had a lot of success. You can search for the type and length of jobs you’re looking for too.

  81. Amy says...

    I have a 1-year-old and feel terrible that we haven’t made a will yet. It’ just very overwhelming to know where to start on that. We have a caretaker for her if something were to happen for us – but does anyone have any advice on how to properly handle creating an official will that won’t cost thousands of dollars?

  82. My husband read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and it changed the trajectory of our marriage. I was always terrified of budgeting, or limiting myself. What I found was by creating a zero sum budget (earned money each month is earmarked for a specific purpose), I gained the freedom to buy without guilt. We spend, save and give money each month based on that month’s needs. Flexibility is key. Our 6 month emergency fund is a godsend. I can sleep at night knowing we really do have a safety net.
    We talk about money, saving and budgeting with all of our friends and a number of them have gotten out of debt because of it. Actually, I started a Facebook group to create a community around helping and supporting each other on our financial journeys.

    • L says...

      I second this!

      It’s not a glamorous book. And when you put in your personal numbers (debt, income, etc.) the results are likely not going to be pretty. Sticking with the plan is not fun and oh my goodness is it ever BORING. It’s hardcore, simple, your life is going to be no fun for a while but it is going to be worth it stuff.

      And yes, you WILL sleep better. I grew up in a very financially-insecure home and knowing that the stress I felt from that is something our kids will most likely not have to face because of the sacrifices and choices my husband and I have made over the last few years following this plan is an amazing feeling.

      To those of you feeling weighed down by debt or like you are trying to do everything, but making no progress, read this book.

  83. Emilie says...

    Joanna, I am so excited Cup of Jo is writing about this! I am a professional money manager and I am driven by the belief that having these conversations will open doors to financial empowerment and confidence for women. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called clients to set up portfolio reviews, and it goes like this:

    Me: Hi! I’d love to see you guys and catch up and review your portfolio.
    Woman: Oh, hold on, let me pass the phone to *John* so that you two can talk.

    OR

    Woman: (via email) Hi, Sorry I’m so busy, let’s just meet next year, I trust you!

    The small act of taking a seat at the table, being present, and just seeing the numbers early on will prevent so much anxiety down the road. It is so important to do regular financial “check ups” just as one would with their health. The more we talk about finances, the more all women (and men!) will be empowered. I truly believe it. Thanks Cup of Jo team!

    • christina says...

      How do you go about finding a money manager/financial planner? We have one now (friend’s recommendation) and in our eight years they’ve never once called to set up a portfolio review. I always have to do it. I want to switch but I dont even know where to start to find one.

    • Oneida says...

      That is ME on the other end of the phone!!! Not literally, but I just never know what to say and get confused or feel intimidated when they make suggestions and I don’t know what they mean. I guess I need to just be brave haha! Do you have some tips about what to ask in general and/or good things to talk about? I’d love to hear some tips from your side of the desk 😊

    • Heather says...

      We use StashWealth and they definitely reach out to me to encourage me to set up meetings and revisit my plan. I <3 them.

    • Emilie says...

      @Christina: I would be so concerned they haven’t called you! One of the big topics in the industry lately has been the role of a fiduciary. When it comes to your finances, if you are working with a professional, you want that person to be a fiduciary. What that means is that your best interest is their priority (isn’t it crazy to think that it wouldn’t be?!) Not all financial planners/managers are fiduciaries. Typically fiduciaries are flat-fee, no commissions…meaning they will not receive a commission from selling you a product. It is hoped by removing the commission incentive, they will not sell you a product that is inappropriate for your financial picture just so that they can get a bigger cut. When speaking with financial representatives you should ask them if they are a fiduciary and whether or not they receive any commissions from selling you investments or services. There are also certain professional societies that require members to follow additional ethical standards than what is required by law. For example, I am a CFA Charterholder and I am required to abide by their code of conduct and standards on top of what is required by U.S. law. I’d look for someone who is a member of an organization like that.

      It’s hard to say how to find a financial advisor. My firm, for example, does not do any marketing. Our clients come to us via word of mouth, and the firm has been around a long time, so the client base is now quite large! I have seen lots of discussion on my neighborhood’s Nextdoor forum about financial advisors…that might be a good place to ask, for starters. I also encourage you to meet with several different advisors. This is a person you will share a lot of intimate detail with, so you absolutely want to feel comfortable with them, and you should feel comfortable reaching out to them any time you have a question or want to meet.

    • Emilie says...

      @Oneida: I totally understand — life is crazy busy! You should never feel intimidated. I’m in the industry and I get so annoyed by all the jargon we use! When their suggestions don’t make sense, I would ask them to explain what it is they are saying.

      Other questions I would ask are:
      –How is my account doing?
      –What is the market doing?
      –What strategies are you using in today’s market environment?
      –What are the pros AND cons of today’s market environment?
      –What’s on your radar this year? (tax cuts, rising interest rates, global growth–these are things on most managers’ minds right now)
      –If you have any life changes happening (baby, new job) or large expenses (buying house) coming up, ask them if any changes need to be made in your portfolio to prepare for it, and things you should be aware of when those things happen.

      If you don’t care too much about the market, I can understand not wanting to ask an advisor their opinion on all these things. I do think it is important to keep your manager engaged in this way, however, and over time it might prove very educational!

    • Emilie says...

      @Heather: That’s awesome! I have been following them on LinkedIn and read their blog posts. A good advisor is one who communicates – in the good times and the bad!

    • @Christina XY Planning Network can help you find an advisor who is a fiduciary

    • Oneida says...

      Thanks Emilie! Copied and pasted into my phone! Now just need to make the time to make the appointment ha. I love this community of readers!

  84. T says...

    We try to budget but if we want something bad enough like traveling or a night out with the kids at home with a babysitter I don’t think too much about it. I am happy putting it on the credit card and figuring out how to pay it off later. Life is short and I need to balance my stress with fun. we live in a very expensive area so we are pretty much stretched thin. In fact we have $95 in our account to get us through to the 1st so I am sure we will be charging some things to or credit cards and then we will figure out a way to pay them off next month. We are in our forties with 2 kids but own a nice home and have a good life.

  85. Olivia says...

    For the first few years of working, I was afraid of looking at my checking and savings account balances. I’d feel guilt, worry, etc. about how much I’d have (or not have) and so I’d avoid it entirely. Not smart!

    Around the same time, I started using the app Digit, which tracks your spending and figures out how much you can “afford” to be saved. It’ll take a few dollars out of my checking account every few days and put them into a “rainy day” savings account that I can’t touch, unless I withdraw money. It’s amazing – every few months I’ll check the balance and I’ll have over $1000 in it!

    The BEST part about it, though, is it texts me each morning to show the balance of my checking account. I’m now forced to know, every day, where I stand financially. I’m finally not afraid of my own bank account. It’s such a small thing that makes a huge difference.

  86. Rachel says...

    Oh, man, I love talking about money. (I even keep thinking about starting a personal finance blog.)

    My biggest money “win” was paying off $50,000 in debt in the two years after I graduated. I look back and I don’t even know how we did it (on our $80000 combined salaries). The next year we saved another $40,000 so we could pay for my husband to go to Columbia for grad school.

    Our biggest low point was actually this last fall, when the month after we moved across the country and bought a new house, Hurricane Harvey hit, and our house and car together sustained $15,000 worth of damage ($10,000 of which was not covered by insurance). We had just moved and were saving for a second car, so this was a huge blow to our plan. Thankfully we made it through thanks to our emergency fund and community assistance, but it was super stressful.

  87. Lu says...

    I come from a family that has unhealthy relationships with money. Very emotional spending and feast/famine mentalities. I grew up playing a game by myself where I would pretend to live on pennies and plan where the money would go. No one thought to take me to a child psychiatrist- really??!
    It’s no surprise I grew up controlling about money. I have worked on the emotional spending habits I inherited and though nowhere near where I want to be, I’m happy to say my husband and I are now 95% debt free. However, we don’t own a home yet and don’t have much saved for life or retirement or a kid in the future and that haunts my waking moments.
    My husband grew up with parents that spent wildly and we both grew up with “debt is a normal American way of life”. We have done things very differently than our folks, we were even teased that we even thought about being debt-free at all. It’s something that has not crossed any of their minds. *facepalm*
    All of this is to say, my husband has been hands off about our finances completely, as it is overwhelming to him to think of all the contingencies necessary to make due, save and invest. But he’s getting there. We want to be business owners, own a home and have that baby while I still can. Meanwhile, we are working on all of our parents (5 in total) to start mending their relationships with money and correct the ships for them now that they are drawing ever nearer to retirement age. They are coming around to how amazing debt-freedom can be.

  88. Karen says...

    First, thank you Cup of Jo team for another great sponsored post. I filed my taxes last year using H&R’s website thanks to Stella! So now I’m looking forward to downloading the turbo tax app.

    Second, can we talk about investments?! I’m 25 and don’t know where to start/look & how to begin. What are some companies that offer good returns (excuse my inexperienced lingo). I’m talking more along the lines of stocks and bonds and not investment in self/relationships (although this is important too). Would love to hear from your team!

    Thanks, Karen

    • Hillary F. says...

      Index funds at Vanguard. That is really all you need.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      vanguard can walk you through various options, too. it’s a great company, from my experience!

    • Hannah says...

      I got my investing feet wet with the Stash app. It’s been so helpful and over a 12 month period, the investments I’ve made with 5$ here, 15$ there have grown really well. They include all the same disclosures as with conventional investing platforms but so easy to use and understand. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about how the stock market works.
      It’s worth checking out if 1.) you don’t have a ton of money to invest right off the bat. (What always stopped me before was not having the 1-2k in hand to start an account with some of the other ‘go-tos’. This is slowly changing I think, to accommodate millennial unique financial situations but for me, Stash got there first!)
      2.) want to take it slow and get your feet under you before putting larger amounts of your money to work.

    • Ling says...

      Ditto index funds like Vanguard. A good portion of our portfolio is in Vanguard & Schwab index funds that track the S&P500. All the things I’ve ever read and heard about investing for retirement say index funds like those will do the best for you in terms of gains & stability. We use Schwab for our brokerage account: great customer support, low-cost fees for buying Schwab index funds, and if you have a brokerage account with them you can open a checking account with NO FEES eg. we can go to any ATM in the world and not worry about ridiculous fees: we just pay the exchange rate and are refunded the ATM fee after the transaction processes (SO nice when you travel and don’t want to walk around with wads of cash). We started investing when we started working and it’s been about 9 years now and our portfolio says roughly 10% return since we opened our account, which really is the best you can do without having to actively manage it.

    • Kara says...

      This “Stock Series” really helped me figure out what to do about investing: http://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/

      Bottom line: index funds through Vanguard. However I highly recommend reading through the posts as they’re super informative and empowering. I put off investing until I discovered this series and realized that it can be pretty straightforward.

    • Lynn says...

      +1 on Vanguard like everyone else has said! I love the book “Investing Made Simple” by Mike Piper. It’s super short and as such, was one of the few books I could convince my husband to read on investing ;) It talks about types of accounts, returns, risk, etc.!

      Here’s an Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Investing-Made-Simple-Index-Explained-ebook/dp/B078RNW7V7/

    • Laura says...

      Also try Fundrise (online real estate investing): same returns, but less fees and less liquidity.

    • I second Kara’s recommendation on the Jim Collins stock series and having an account at Vanguard. If you’re just getting started, it might help to focus more on forming good habits (like putting a little bit each month into your account) and investing in funds with low fees rather than on returns.

    • Rachel says...

      Another +1 on Vanguard and the Stock Series mentioned above.

  89. Kelly says...

    I manage EVERYTHING about finances in my household! My husband was raised in a family that never had enough money and didn’t really (in my opinion) deal well with big life decisions and planning and I’m convinced he has a phobia of talking about money. Anyone else in this boat??

    I actually enjoy budgeting and planning and have a degree in finance so I am very comfortable with investing and all the other stuff. I just wish I had a partner who was more comfortable so we could discuss it.

    I’m in my mid-40s and we went through some BROKE years when we were young. I made three smart decisions relatively young that I regularly thank Young Me for today:

    1. Got sick of being broke and made a decision to pay off all our debt and never take on consumer debt again. Took a couple years of very frugal living but it was such a great feeling when we reached that milestone.

    2. At the same time I was focused on paying off debt, I worked really really hard to increase my income. Worked my way up through a variety of corporate jobs starting with an administrative role, found a job that would pay for grad school and got an MBA, kept working up after that.

    3. Shortly after we paid off our debts, I got a big raise at work. Since I had been using all my extra money to pay off debts and was finished with that, I used the raise to fully fund my 401K account. Now we have very healthy retirement accounts and I never missed the income! Yay Young Me!

    • Lisa says...

      my mom is like that. My parents have had decades of financial difficulties but my mother is terrified to talk about (or think about) Money. For eg in the U.K. (where we live) you are entitled to tax free savings accounts called ISAs. She refused to open one because she thought it was linked to a hedge fund somehow (?!). She also refuses to discuss her pension (even though she’s of pensionable age). It’s so frustrating

  90. Andrea says...

    I spent my twenties and early thirties being PANICKED about my credit card debt. But you know what? It was fine. I’m fine. And I still have some credit card debt. I’m slowly paying it off as I’m able and don’t lose sleep over it anymore.

    I think, as with anything, we need to listen to advice and decide for ourselves what to take or leave. For example, Dave Ramsey says pay off ALL DEBT ASAP NO EXCEPTIONS but when I did the calculations on paying my student loans early, given my budget it just made no sense to pay extra on them. I did take a lot of his advice though, like budgeting every month and paying in cash. We all have unique lives and we have to find what works best for us and not let other people get us worked up about not being where we “should” be.

    • Erin says...

      Just out of curiosity, why did it not make sense to pay off your loans early? Not familiar with Dave Ramsey’s plan but I do know that even paying a penalty for loan payoff will be less than the interest you will pay in the long run.

    • Andrea says...

      Hey, Erin! For *me*, to pay off my loans early would have meant scrimping on other things, like saving for retirement, a house, daycare/children or just having breathing room in the budget to make an unplanned Target run once in a while. And in the end I would have only paid them off two years early. So I made the choice to have more money in my pocket now and pay more in interest in the long run. Which, to be honest is still not a lot – I graduated in 2004 when consolidation rates were super low (I’m at 4%). Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited to be done with them in four years and get $500 back in my budget every month! It just didn’t make sense to stretch myself thin to pay them off only two years early (did this math about five years ago).

    • Rachel says...

      Hi Erin!

      One of the reasons we didn’t feel it made sense to pay off all student loan debt is that interest rate on the student loans (and therefore overall “cost” of the debt) was lower than what we could earn in interest by putting that extra money in the stock market.

    • Meredith says...

      If you have a mortgage at a low interest rate and you are plowing all of your money into that at the expense of funding a retirement account, you are cheating yourself. My current 15 year-mortgage is 3.75%. My Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund made around 21% this year. My money is working way harder for me going into my IRA than it is paying off my mortgage early. But say you have a credit card that is charging you 28% interest. Then your money is best spent paying off that debt ASAP. If you have student loans at a low interest rate, pay what you can but not at the expense of funding some kind of retirement account, esp. when you are young. The magic of compounding is especially potent for a person in their late 20s! $50 a week X 45 years = one million dollars (invested, assuming a 6-7% annual return)

  91. Love that we’re getting in some money talk!

    My husband and I opted to keep our finances separate, but join our investments. Though he always says “it’s the same money,” I just feel like it’s healthier to have my own space when purchasing things. I also feel like it keeps the urge for either of us to over spend in check – he makes more than me, so I would be more inclined to “ask permission” in order to spend more. Now I just buy what I want, and I don’t worry about it.

    I also wouldn’t mind if he did the investing, but he’s worked so hard to make sure I’m educated and included in the process. It’s turned out really wonderfully. I’ve read a few books, and still often defer to his well-researched position, but it’s a joint agreement in the end. Money is a big scary issue, and if you can’t talk about it I think it could lead to a lot of resentment! But working together and respecting each other definitely makes for an easier time.

  92. KL says...

    I aim to always be putting away at least 15% of my income into some sort of long term savings plan. I work for the state so I have a pension I pay into, I have my own Roth IRA, and I have a couple investments I put a modest amount of money into. After reading through the comments, especially those about compounding, I’ve just upped my monthly contribution by $20. It’s not anything that will tip the scale or increase the %, but it’s something I likely won’t notice. Besides, $20 today can be a lot more tomorrow!. My 70 year-old-self thanks me, you, and your readers/commenters!

  93. Amy says...

    My husband and I have been married together for three years now and we still have separate accounts. He covers everything (our joint credit card, utilities, insurance, daycare…etc) and my all my money goes to paying off our Mortgage as quick as possible. It’s working out really well for us and we expect to pay off our home this December! We can’t wait!

  94. Erin says...

    I love talking about money, particularly what people splurge on and what they are cheap about. It’s so interesting!
    My husband and I recently made a big lifestyle change that resulted in us quitting great jobs in a big city and moving to a small town where my husband has a new job that he loves way more than his old one. Due to his irregular new schedule we decided I would stay at home for a while (we have 3 and 6 year old boys). Money is on my mind non-stop as we navigate living on one income. Some really amazing things have come out of it. Even though I really want to work again I’m so glad we went on this huge adventure that really forced us to look at our priorities, both financial and just life in general.

  95. Heather says...

    I enjoyed the process of budgeting and understanding my finances before I got married, but pushing/shoving/dragging my husband into these talks has been one of the hardest parts of our marriage. He was raised in a wealthy family and never thought/thinks about money, and seems to find any conversation about financial planning brutally tedious. But while we both have good jobs, we will never be in his parents’ easy-breezy-no-worries $ situation. Our finances – with a mortgage, home repairs, three kids, grad school loans, day care, summer camp savings, college savings, retirement, increasing insurance needs, etc. – just seem to get more and more complicated, and while I’d be OK managing our money on my own (I actually enjoy plugging numbers into excel), I do need him to cooperate, and it’s been a huge struggle to get him to meaningfully engage. It’s a tough one.

    • Michele says...

      This is my issue exactly! We’re working on it by creating a mint account that has everything in it — my accounts, his accounts, every budget (daycare, repairs, insurance) — I do all the mint legwork, and once a month we’ve started having “financial summits” where we both pick a fun place for lunch and take a long work-lunch break. Almost like a date! He seems to look forward to at least the lunch aspect, and is always surprised at the mint pie charts and all the money he’s spending. At least the visual gives him some recognition of his habits and he’s a little more engaged, and maybe even double-thinking a purchase here or there!

    • jilline says...

      Ask him to read, Worth It by Amanda Steinberg. While it is pointed at women, it is really for anyone who ignores money out of fear or boredom. If he’s not a reader, maybe he’d listen on audiobooks – it’s great while driving to and from work!

    • Lynn says...

      I was having a really hard time getting my husband to cooperate with talking about the budget every month too. We decided to try YNAB this year (starting something new together) instead of continuing to use my Excel spreadsheets. Having an app that we can both access on our phones and a web is a lifesaver. One of the mistakes we made in 2017 was looking at our net worth only which was humming alone fine and not looking at our cash flow. YNAB is really helping us to get our cash flow better and for both of us to see that yes, it is a bit of a crunch with me off work while I sort out some health stuff. I do enjoy plugging numbers into Excel too, but I just can’t right now! So I would talk to your husband about what a tool would look like that he would cooperate more with. For us, it looked like something that was easy for both of us to access and enter transactions with.

  96. K says...

    I’m fairly responsible with money, but my husband is SUPER FRUGAL and he’s rubbed off on me over the years. I lucked out in that I didn’t get a credit card of any kind until I was in my mid-twenties so I never spent money I didn’t have before I knew what it really meant to spend my own money. Even though we’re both living off of graduate student stipends, we are still able to contribute to a retirement fund and savings/emergency fund each month and just had our first baby so we’re also trying to save for her future. I also have about $10,000 in student loan debt that is in deferment now, and we make contributions there when we can.

    Our finances have always been combined and I make all the money decisions and manage our budget. We make it work by tracking everything meticulously. I have an excel sheet that I update every week with what we’ve spent and what we have left in each of our budget categories. It’s helpful, I suppose, that my husband never buys anything–I’m not exaggerating. It’s a battle to get him to replace his shoes once a year–so we don’t have many arguments about what we should spend money on. It’s not the most fun all the time. We rarely eat out or go out and we plan big purchases well in advance, but weirdly the act of keeping within our means and not accruing debt gives us both a huge sense of satisfaction. It feels like gaming the system. We cook good food and buy used clothes and have friends over and are able to donate money to causes we care about and that feels like enough right now. Most of our friends are also in graduate school, so it also feels like we’re doing ok within our social circle.

    I do feel stressed when unexpected expenses pop up, but the knowledge that I could always live with less is helpful. I graduated into the recession and worked Americorps in NYC for a year, living off of $1000 per month. I had about $15 left after rent/utilities/food each month and pretty much didn’t buy anything for an entire year. I found lots of things to do between parks and libraries and free events, but THAT was stressful. I remember agonizing for 2 days over whether I could afford a $25 shirt for an interview. Anytime I feel sad that I can’t buy a new bed frame or whatever I try to remember that I used to be happy with almost nothing, so there’s no reason I can’t figure out how to be happy with what I have. Usually that feeling of wanting goes away. If it doesn’t, I stick it in the budget and save until it can become reality.

    • Bvv says...

      I so agree! I interned in NYC as a college student and survived on very little too, and always found fun things to do for free or very cheap. My circumstances are fairly different now, and its a good reminder to myself to reign in materialistic tendencies given how much fun I had w/ so little back then.

    • tuesday says...

      This is where I become so disheartened: “…NYC for a year, living off of $1000 per month…”. HOW? How is it possible to pay rent, groceries, phone, etc on so little in such an expensive city? Details would be great because how people do this is what keeps me from risking any change and I feel trapped by that!

    • K says...

      For Tuesday–deets:

      I paid $550 a month in rent in a very small room in a railroad apartment in Brooklyn. Still was lucky it was so cheap! Heat was included, so I was paying for electric and internet only. Also, the girl that lived there before me left all of her furniture because she didn’t want to deal with getting rid of it. I didn’t track grocery spending as much as I do now, but I only spent about $200-300 per month on food. I was vegetarian. I ate a lot of bulk food. Would not want to go back to that diet, tbh. I didn’t have a smartphone, cause lots of people didn’t back then. I didn’t pay for cable. My job paid for an unlimited transit card, which was a total lifesaver–I would not have been able to survive without that. And Americorps puts you on Medicaid so I didn’t have to pay for my health insurance. My school loans were in deferment so I didn’t have any debt to pay down. And I am not kidding when I say I didn’t buy anything. I only went to museums where I could pay a $1 donation, I spent a ton of time at the parks and at the library and just walking around the city. I went to a free yoga class in my neighborhood. I think I went out for happy hour maybe 5 times that year and would never buy something more than $4-5. It was really hard in a lot of ways and I would have a much harder time doing it now at 30 than I did when I was 21 and didn’t know any other way of living, but it’s nice to know that it was possible!

  97. *Comes to Cup of Jo for my daily dose of great content*
    *Content is about financial matters talked about in an honest manner*
    *Sips my coffee and thinks to myself: “ah, yes. I can always trust Joanna and the Cup Of Jo team to write about stuff that matters in a great way, this is why i keep coming back!”*

    • Oh and also the comment section is gold, as per usual!

  98. Hannah says...

    I would love love love it for a money post to be a weekly thing! It is so important and empowering to learn about handling money smartly.
    I’m 31, married and mother of two. When my husband and me turned 29, I was like–it is time to overcome the financial illiteracy of our families and change things for our kids, so they don’t have to struggle the way we did. I don’t mean ‘give them everything’ ; I mean learn vital skills that we can pass down to them.
    We made a plan, and paid off 10k in debt over 3 years. We started an automatic savings plan through an excellent online bank which links to apps on our phones, so we have real time access to our accounts. At first it was like, 20$ to savings, 50$ to debt repayment each week but we got savvier and eventually were able to rework our budget to align with our goals. It was amazing how quickly it added up.
    I started using the Stash app on the side to sock away money into investments- 5$ here, 10$ there–never missing the money–and I now religiously read every educational article they have. (Before we knew it, we’d invested our first 5k! )
    I’ve learned a lot about investing and the value of saving and compound interest. It is so empowering and yet I know there is SO much more to learn(and subsequently teach our daughter and son).

    This year we also took a huge (scary!)leap and sold our house, since we bought at the bottom of the market and could profit well by selling. We are moving to a (much) less expensive area to live and are gearing a big chunk of our sale profit to finally kickstarting our retirement savings, and funding a good emergency fund to STAY out of debt. It feels.so.good.

    I’m so, so, so happy and proud NOW that I was the one that got the ball rolling 3 years ago, but I won’t lie that there were times in there that were INSANELY hard and we def doubted that we could overcome our obstacles. I should mention that, while I worked part time out of the home, we relied mainly on my husbands income,and he also went to night school to get certification to qualify for job promotions. I know it would be an entirely different challenge if I were doing it alone, or alone w/kids and I tip my hat to the strong single females taking charge of their financial future!

  99. Hanna says...

    I grew up in a single parent household in rural Appalachia, and helped with the budgets and shopping from the time I was 12. I always felt like my family had everything we needed and more, but I also developed a bit of a scrimping and saving mentality early on — so much so that my husband always jokes that he manages the finances because I wouldn’t let us buy things that aren’t food.

    As much as he makes fun of me, my husband and I are pretty united about budgets and aggressive saving. We managed to finish grad school with only a tiny amount of student debt and a nice nest egg of cash. My husband had a good job, I had a great postdoc, and we decided we had enough buffer to have a baby. I was pregnant when we found out we would need to move to Silicon Valley for my next post doc. That was 2008. Fast forward a year, we’d moved, the economy was spiraling, my husband was working freelance and making about half what we had expected for the area, and I had given birth to not one but two babies, after weeks in the hospital with preterm labor scares. The twins were 6 weeks premature and spent a month in the NICU. One of them developed a life-threatening infection at 5 months, and spent more weeks in the hospital. Even with “good” insurance, we spent thousands on hospital co-pays, before, during, and after my 12-week unpaid maternity leave. When I went back to work, day care for two infants took 80% of my paycheck. The rent on our 2-bedroom apartment was raised twice in a year. Technically we both had our dream jobs, and on paper we were successful. But we were walking zombies and losing money every month.

    When our savings — and sanity — were half gone, we quit our jobs. We moved across the country to be near family and started over, renting a little house in the tiny town where I grew up and living off of savings for the first three months. Then my husband found a job and I watched the babies. We scrimped. I saved the cash from recycling milk bottles to buy our clothes from thrift stores. I weighed every small purchase extremely carefully for three years while many, many of the things we had bought in better times wore out, broke, and weren’t replaced. Our parents helped us a lot. Somehow we didn’t go into debt. We were incredibly fortunate.

    Eventually, I went back to work and we began to gain ground. Now we own a house and have real savings again. The children are healthy. But I’m still paranoid. I think everyone in America is one health-crisis or one job loss away from financial ruin. And my husband is still our primary check-book balancer, so that I don’t stuff all our money under a mattress.

    • Christina says...

      Wow. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tori says...

      Being Australian means that the US health care situation blows my mind. My nationality means I consider universal healthcare as a given and a basic human right. A separate issue in some ways, but I think you’re right, it’s so intimately impacting the financial situation of so many Americans, and from this outsider’s view, holding your country back economically.

    • Lu says...

      Girl, my family is from Appalachia too and I can make due with nothing! I have teased my husband that he doesn’t understand the different between a want and a need. I have caught myself rinsing and reusing ziplock bags just like my Mee-Maw did but here’s the thing- Mee-Maw raised 5 children on the single income of an independent farmer. She made due better than anyone I’ve ever known and I’m so grateful for her Depression-era wisdom in this crazy world we live in. You tuck a little under the mattress anyway, honey. You never know when a rainy day will come and you’re not alone—- I’ve got some cubbied away too!

    • Madileni says...

      Hanna,
      I couldn’t have said it better myself, but I have a story much like yours. Even if we work hard and make good decisions, we are all much more vulnerable than we may think.
      I’m glad to hear your family is healthy and more financially stable today. Warmest wishes for a prosperous future.

    • Angela says...

      Thank you for sharing your story. My 52 year old husband had a heart attack last year and hasn’t stopped smoking . . . your “one health crisis” message rings true for me because I’m scared for what could happen next.

    • A says...

      “Every family is one health care crisis or job loss away from financial ruin.” I have been lucky and my husband and I have a lot of savings, but we had friends who were completely blown away and almost homeless after losing jobs in the 2008 recession. That stick with me. I think spending less and saving more are very important, but I also think we need more of a safety net here in America. It was very scary for me to watch friends lose everything. And they were good, hardworking people with college degrees andhigh paying jobs.

    • Christina says...

      Thank you so much for sharing. “Technically we both had our dream jobs, and on paper we were successful. But we were walking zombies and losing money every month.” I feel like that right now – living in Los Angeles is expensive, and while both my husband and I have good jobs/incomes, we have to scrimp after paying off our mortgage each month. At 31, I want to start a family but childcare costs $1,500/mo. here, if not more, and we just cannot afford it. Some days I think we should just throw caution to the wind and do it, and figure out how to pay for childcare later (go into debt maybe?). But I keep getting scared. I know I am not getting any younger, and I feel like I am missing the window where I can still be a somewhat ‘young’ mom (my parents were much older). Sometimes I feel we should move to a cheaper place in the US, but I love my city and my husband’s industry is here so we are here to stay.

    • Claire says...

      Thank you for sharing your journey. I was especially struck by your description of the dream job that was in reality a nightmare life. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work and success and money because I am unemployed, and trying to figure out my next chapter. True success is often so much simpler and cleaner than what we think it will be.
      all best wishes for your continued well being and prosperity.

    • Hanna says...

      Thank you, everyone, for your really kind comments and good wishes. I was a bit nervous to post this.

      Lu — I totally wash out freezer bags, too! Not as religiously as my dad, though . And I’m super grateful for my Mammaw and the general cultural memory of the Depression that’s alive and well in West Virginia. We can always manage here!

      It’s funny, after eight years back home, I’m kind of embarrassed about finances in two opposite directions. Compared to college and grad school friends who weren’t hit as hard in the recession and who stayed in urban areas, I worry that I may be a bit behind in terms of retirement savings (because I had a gap of 5 years in my contributions) and in terms of not living somewhere fancy. Compared to friends and family in West Virginia, I feel embarrassed about how very well we’re doing, since my husband and I have much better paying jobs than the norm here. Growing up in rural Appalachia, spending 14 years in urban centers, then moving back home has made me keenly aware of the incredibly steep wealth and class gradients in America.

      And Tori, as an American, I completely agree with your Austrailian perspective on our health care “system”!!

    • j says...

      this story rings true for me. ten years ago i graduated college without a job and was 10k in credit card debt, had 45k in student loan debt and i found out i had melanoma after i managed to sign myself up for medicaid and get checked out through a preventative care visit. One of the lowest points of my life, and I told myself I would never be that financially vulnerable again. These days, I now have a master’s degree, a husband, a house, less student loan debt and a modest savings but was recently laid off.
      I can say that I’m in a better position now than I was then, which I am proud of but I feel like I’m back in the scarcity/vulnerability mindset. It feels too easy for a headwind to knock you down so hard then its years to recover. I don’t want to be pessimistic — but I read the news wage stagnation despite credentials, student loan debt, medical crises (ie michael hobbes piece in huff po) — and think maybe that birds’ eye view corresponds to my personal experience and vice versa.
      Ultimately, I want anyone to know who is laying awake at night thinking about money, that one can still make it better so keep bravely trying. But also, I want some changes from our society.

    • Mandy says...

      You are an inspiration.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!! awesome to hear.

    • Lu says...

      Mine too! Woo hoo! 💰💰💰

  100. Betsy says...

    This really hits home for me! I graduated from undergrad about two years ago and about a month before I graduated we realized that my dad had really serious money issues. Between living off credit cards and taking loans out in my name, it was really a shock to say the least. Hardest part was that my mom didn’t know anything about it, which made me determined that I needed to beef up my financial know how. I have gone from being afraid of seeing my balance to really trying to be proactive and start saving. There is still a really long way to go, my dad took out about six figures of debt partially in my name, but I realized that being proactive really puts me at ease and that avoiding the situation wasn’t actually helping at all.

  101. One of my goals this year is to get in control of my finances. I had some life situations pop up last year which led to my financial outlook being a bit compromised. But with planning a wedding this year and wanting to buy a house in the not so distant future, it was time to really tackle all of this head on.

    I started loosely following Dave Ramsey and it’s the first time in a long time that I feel really in control of my finances and am not afraid to look at my bank account because I pretty much know what is in there every day. It’s a really nice feeling.

    http://aneducationindomestication.com

  102. Katie says...

    Brianna, I suspect you will get lots of responses. Ditto what others have said. You are young! I’m around your same age, have made a lot of good choices, am decently careful with money, and have some debt, and I still stress out going to Target, and am not able to take vacations like others. And wonder how they do. I would encourage you to keep working at you, but try not to compare quite as much to others. I’m shocked at how often people I think have it all are taking all those vacations by just using more and more credit cards. The fact that you are working on savings is great. You should be proud of yourself for that, and the rest will come. Hang in there, you and me both!

  103. My parents have always been super transparent with me about finances. Despite being quite a bit wealthier than mine, my husband’s family never talked about it and they didn’t really teach him any financial tools really. He is uncomfortable with how open I am with my parents about our finances because I have no problem asking them for advice (maybe this is connected to being an only child like yesterday’s post?!). We don’t own a home yet because we have moved around a lot in the last few years with his job and I’m very content about that for now. I think we are really strong financially for our age and we make a middle class income. We have a lot in savings-plenty for a good downpayment, solid 6 month emergency fund, and even more invested, and started maxing out our IRAs in our early 20s (I’m turning 29 next week). Neither of us have any student loan debt thanks to scholarships and our parents- that has been the biggest blessing! But despite all of that sounding so positive and “worry free”, I do worry way too much! We both work in different industries where we are freelance and volatile and can’t work just anywhere, so it makes our seemingly solid foundation feel temporary- like we are one slow year away from a lot of stress. We also want to have a family soon and factoring that in has caused me stress because we definitely rely on 2 incomes and don’t have any family around us right now and daycare is a big expense! I think I will never feel 100% financially sound. My dad quit his job when I fairly young and tried to start his own business which didn’t end up being a financially sound decision and I remember my parents being very stressed out and our lifestyle changing for a while. I think those memories haunt me and have contributed to my constant anxiety around money. But knowledge is power and it’s a resolution to learn even more about investments and planning for retirement.

  104. Katie says...

    my husband and i have a “married people budget” we started 7 years ago when we first got married and have a state of the finances discussion every few months. we track our spending in Mint and it helps us stay in range (especially with eating out and groceries). we’ve been very committed to maxing out our retirement contributions each year, saving/investing, and aggressively paying off his graduate school loans. we live below our means but it is so, so worth it to have nearly $200k saved in retirement at ages 30 and 33. love that you are featuring money and finance topics–i feel so strongly about women being confident and well informed about money matters!

  105. Kristen says...

    I was fortunate to grow up in a household where finances were talked about a lot! I grew up with parents who both worked in the non-profit worlds but supplemented their incomes with many side gigs throughout the years (think Umping local games for money for date night, cleaning offices, teaching sowing, redeeming rebates, to a mowing business to owning several properties) They struggled and learned a lot, sharing these things with us along the way. My parents are now very comfortable, set up for retirement and to be generous and giving as they choose. The biggest lesson of them all – AVOID DEBT!
    My dad had a mowing business that paid for my tuition and I was an RA (+ other jobs) to cover housing. And so I was fortunate to graduate without debt. The only time I carried a credit card balance was while on sabbatical. And I bought my first place at 26. These aren’t to show how smart I am, but really how blessed I am by my parent’s decisions to be set up for greater success. To have different decisions at hand.
    And now my husband and I are embarking on a major remodel, but he also has $100k in student loans and planning for a baby soon.
    Phew! But we decided this year is the year – student loans will be paid off by the end of the year, priority one. And then we can search for what’s next and settle into our plans.
    My biggest takeaway? Talk to your kids. Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends. I’ve found when you share, your friends will share too – silence is a way to create shame and lies. (If the #metoo campaign has taught me anything, we are not alone, in anything, ever).

    • tuesday says...

      Can you share how you will pay off 100k inside of one year?

  106. Alicia says...

    Thank you for posting about this! Two friends of mine from church were just talking about how we need to be more transparent with each other talking about financial issues because we can empower the other to negotiate for a new raise, know if you’re being paid what you’re worth, and how to invest. I handle all of the money decision in our house. I’m 26 and my husband is 30 and we have 2 Roth IRA accounts, a rollover 401k account, 401K account with a company match, 1 traditional IRA, checking account, savings account, investment account with Betterment, and a “secret” savings account with Digit which we say is for our dog. Those vet and boarding bills can add up! I enjoy choosing our investments and ensuring we are with the best financial institution for us at this time in our life but sometimes I worry that I’m not as transparent as I should be with my husband. We don’t really have a sit down where we look through our retirement or investment accounts and I think that’s something we should start doing. We live in New York City and I’d love to buy an apartment but with my husband leaving his job last year we are down to one income. I’ve been amazed at how we can live in the city on one salary but that makes saving for an apartment a bit more challenging. Maxing our retirement accounts is difficult enough! I tell all of my friends about Digit as it’s truly been an amazing little secret savings account. I encourage everyone to just take one step, whether that’s reading up on index funds, moving your savings to a bank with a higher interest rate (we use Ally for savings), or opening an account with Digit. Knowing more about how to make your money work for you is never going to backfire and ask questions to people you respect or trust. Please post more things like this! Being a New Yorker I’d love to know how you went about buying your apartment or other stories like that. Housing prices don’t seem to be going down anytime soon.

  107. Hillary F. says...

    I handle the finances in our family but my husband and I have a twice annual financial summit where we review our assets and liabilities, expenses and our financial goals. This is so helpful to feel like we are on the same page. We have very different approaches to money (saver vs. spender) but our meetings bring us into alignment. We get a sitter and do it over wine and food and it is really fun and something we look forward to.

    We have always maintained separate accounts but have access to each others (we married later in life and this just works).

    My advice to others:

    1. Pay yourself first. Have your savings transfers (retirement, savings, college) match your paychecks so money immediately goes to savings and you don’t even see it.

    2. Max our your 401K (or other retirement vehicle) as soon as you can. I have done this since my first job and at 40 have a very nice nest egg that will continue to grow for the next 25 years of my work life. It is never too late, MAX IT OUT.

    3. Budget but remember to budget fun. If you budget is too severe you will abandon so understand you priorities (travel, fashion, etc) and budget for that monthly.

  108. Carolyn M says...

    Awesome topic! I handle the finances in our family. My husband and I are very transparent about our spending, savings, and our goals. One of the best things we have ever done for ourselves was to get a financial adviser. We put off getting one for so long thinking we didn’t make enough money to really need one. I wish I could kick my former self for ever thinking that. A financial adviser is there to help you reach your goals, no matter what income level you’re at. We’ve been able to pay off our student loans, buy a house, build a comfortable retirement account, etc. We’re not rich by any standard, but we’re comfortable and safe.

    Oh, and last thing — guys, GET LIFE INSURANCE POLICIES IF YOU HAVE A SPOUSE AND/OR KIDS! There is incredible peace of mind knowing that if something were to happen to my husband I could use his life insurance to pay off the mortgage and then save the rest for college fund for kid(s), emergency home repairs, and still have room for things like taking my kid(s) on vacation, etc.

  109. Rachel says...

    The best day-to-day financial advice I got was from a friend who advised us (although this works for singles, too) to have multiple accounts. One account is for the fixed costs: the rent, the groceries and utilities (take an average per month) and bump it up a bit for specific extras, such as medical expenses or a new suit for work, a new computer/printer for work, etc. Another account is for savings, and you decide in advance how much to set aside per paycheck. And finally, there is the “extras” account. From this account comes all restaurant, movie or other outings, all vacations, home decorations or clothing that is not a business-necessity. Not only can you get a sense of what your disposable income is and whether you need to scale it back, but you also free yourself from the guilt of buying THAT couch -the one that you wanted even though it was double the price of the next best one- because you know you will cut back on restaurant outings for the next month to make up for it. Even your most indulgent spending therefore turns into a rational -rationalized- purchase that will not break the bank, so long as you stick to the budget of what you can spend each month.

  110. This is a topic that has been weighing one me a lot lately! My husband and I are really good with money. He has a background in finance, and I’m super cheap. Haha. We both have really good jobs…he’s an attorney and I work in oil and gas, and we are very comfortable financially. Everything sounds great, BUT I really want to quit my job for a number of very good reasons. There are obstacles to quitting…we should probably buy a house by the good schools in the next year or so, we are supporting three kids, my income takes us from surviving to thriving, and there is always the the little voice in the back of my mind that tells me I need to be able to support myself and my kids should something happen to my husband or marriage. I plan to continue working after a bit of time off, but if I do it will still be a considerable pay cut. It feels really irresponsible to make the decision to leave at the expense of our family’s finances, even when we would gain so many positives in return.

    The internet and well meaning people are always all “follow your passion!” and “you’ll never look back and wish you worked more!” but what about “oh shit, our garbage disposal is leaking and our garage door is broken and our AC went out and daycare tuition is due all at the same time.” That matters too. Ugh.

    • Anna says...

      I felt the same way for a while! Finally, I just changed jobs. It was a slight pay cut, so we have adjusted some. It was a great decision!!! Just another idea for you! I thought what I wanted was to be at home, but what I really wanted was out of that particular job. Good luck!

  111. Kristina says...

    I was raised not to talk about money, and the subject still seems crass to me. I very rarely share financial details with friends or family. I am not financially illiterate—in my household, I take care of the taxes, budget, monitor investments, and so on. I always feel a bit disconcerted when female friends suggest to me that their husbands handle all the finances. Maybe I am just too Type A, but I need to know the details. Not knowing makes me feel like a child and rather helpless, but perhaps that is because I was raised by those who did not discuss money near children.

    My husband and I are early forties with a child in middle-school. We have been affected by the housing crash and the recession, as well many years of high medical bills. Our financial situation has never been dire, but it has not been a steady progress toward a higher net worth either. My husband has not been a job-hopper, but in his industry that appears to be the only means of raising one’s salary now. This approach doesn’t suit his personality, but we see expenses rising (particularly healthcare) and real compensation decreasing at the same time.

    My husband is currently planning to leave the workforce. His industry is no longer rewarding, and he has an inheritance pending that will give him the means to pursue creative and independent work. We have not shared the details broadly, of course. I have confided in one friend while remaining vague about the numbers. But it is a sea change for us. We now need new services like asset management, tax planning, estate planning. And we have been obliged to discuss finances with lawyers, CPAs, and CFPs seemingly endlessly lately. It still embarasses me, even in the context of professional services.

    I thought I was discreet about money before having any, but discretion feels even more essential now. Most of our peers, whether they make a lot or a little, have heavy expenses between taking care of children, keeping up with rising insurance rates, helping out elder family members, and saving for retirement and college at once. And our situation is now such a fortunate one. The only polite tactic we can take is to downplay any financial differences. I have to say I don’t know what benefit an open social conversation about finances would bring when circumstances are dramatically different. I can only imagine feeling awkward after such discussion, and I’d be surprised if the friends subject to such details felt otherwise. Open conversation may be useful for people in similar circumstances, but I’m afraid bad feelings can easily result when financial situations diverge.

  112. angela says...

    Peace of mind for new parents – well said!
    For me, it was more about getting a life insurance policy! After my daughter was born, I had this overwhelming fear that something would happen to me or my husband, and then my daughter would have nothing. I wanted security for her.
    We have a 30 year term life policy – for us that made sense. And we received great advice – to buy a 30 year vs 20 year policy. Insurance is cheaper the younger you are. And it was cheaper to start with a 30 year policy, rather then buy a 20 year term, and then come back in and add more coverage. Although 20 years sounds like such a long time, we realized that our family would still be in college, and not fully on their own within 20 years. For us, peace of mind came with knowing their would be a nest egg for the kids if something happened to us.

  113. Liz says...

    Thank you so much for posting about this!! I didn’t receive a very good money education from my parents, and I want my two kids to be better prepared!! At 40, I feel like I’m still learning (and making mistakes), but I’m on my way to paying off my student loan and credit card debt and trying not to make the same mistakes again.

  114. Carly says...

    I’m so curious to know how much money certain careers (editors, writers, PR/AD people, model agents, etc.) make annually. I’m a sophomore in college majoring in journalism and am trying to figure out which direction I want to go in in terms of the communication world. I’m not necessarily money driven, just a future thinker who likes to be prepared;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great question. i’ll brainstorm about how to do a story on that!

    • Melissa D. says...

      The blog Ask a Manager does a regular post on this–she asks people to say what they do and what they make where, and it covers almost any career you can think of. Super helpful!

    • katy says...

      You can find more information on averages in different industries and specific careers (and a lot of other career info/guidance) on sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Operational Outlook Handbook (bls.gov/ooh) and O*Net (onetonline.org)

    • CM says...

      I’d love to see this too Carly. I also think it is interesting to see what different salaries look like in different cities. (like what does a $60,000 a year salary look like in NYC v Detroit or Jacksonville, FL

  115. Morgan says...

    When my husband and I got married, neither one of us had a credit card or student loans, and we both were working full-time jobs so we entered into our marriage fairly financially flush (flush for small town early-twenty somethings). We traveled a little bit, went out to eat, bought the expensive knives no one got us from our registry…. But now, three years in, he lost his office job and now works (at a job he loves) in the food service industry, and while I’m still working full-time, I decided to go back to school. We still don’t have any debt (I’m paying my own tuition), but we’re living paycheck to paycheck with only a few hundred in savings. Anything we can’t pay for out of pocket, we don’t buy; we still live in the same tiny starter apartment, we *still* don’t have a car, minimal cell-phone plans, etc. Honestly, it’s working, we lead happy, busy lives and still no debt. I think the hardest thing right now, though, is all the money we are spending on food – neither one of us has much time to cook full meals right now so we’re doing a lot of take-out and every few weeks I look at those bills and I’m shocked! Is there any way to meal-plan on a budget AND with very little time? HELP!

    • Sarah P. says...

      As a family of four, our food budget can get crazy and both my kids are under 4 so time is basically non-existent. I meal plan every week and put 30min – 1 hr in the night before to prep. It can be done! Chop all your veggies, pre-cook what you can, let the crock pot do all the work overnight, etc. Then keep a rotation of recipes that work and make enough for 1 or 2 leftover meals (no one likes chili every night for a week). Seems daunting at first, but once you get in a groove it’s relatively painless. I am very passionate about meal planning and convinced that anyone can do it!

    • Chandra says...

      Adding on to Sarah’s comment, you can also make larger quantities of meals and freeze a portion for later (tons of things freeze really well like soups and lasagna). If you get in that habit, you’ll have a freezer stocked with meals for when you are short on time or money!

    • Hilary says...

      We have a weekend habit of making a crockpot meal or two to freeze or eat during the week. So on Sunday I may make a crockpot chili and some cornbread and then portion it out for my husband to have for lunch every day. We stick to things that freeze well (soups, pastas, etc.) . If you have a Trader Joes nearby, check out Cup of Jos post about meal hacks.

    • Bonnie says...

      In addition to the other comments on how to meal prep for a family on a budget of both time and finances, it does take time and planning, but can be done. Also check out what other frugal people are doing: http://www.frugalwoods.com/2017/01/18/our-complete-guide-to-frugal-healthy-eating/ the comments in her blog are superb as well, rife with ideas. You can put cooled soup/chilis in ziplock bags (I double them up), freeze on a cookie sheet then stack them in your freezer and thaw them in the pot you’ll reheat it in, in case of a leak. … Cook double batches of the basis of entrees (taco meat, etc.) that you can use in multiple ways – enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and then while it might be the same meat, it seems a different meal. Affordable breakfasts can also include baked oatmeal with fruit, frittata on a weekend (I do that every 10 days or so for a dinner – eggs, peppers, onions, potato and it comes together so quickly and is very affordable.

      And GRAND KUDOS to you for not spending money you don’t have! Not having a car or a grand phone plan is not a negative…so many those trying to save money are aiming to do that. I see what a monthly cost is, multiply it by 12 and nix it! Our cable bill was $40/month a few years ago. We realized that was $480 if no rate hikes each year and after a decade, that’s close to $5,000! FOR TV. Promptly cut that out. You are doing a great job!

  116. Erin G. says...

    Great post, Joanna! I felt tingly reading it. I want to scream from the rooftops (with the goal of every young person hearing me – women especially): THE MIRACLE OF COMPOUNDING! I had an finance professor in college show us some simple math on the chalkboard (yeah, I’m that old) that I still remember 20 years later. She calculated for us what a $10,000 investment would grow to if you put it into a retirement fund at 22 versus 52. BLEW MY MIND. And yet…I didn’t listen. I’m 40 and just opened a Roth IRA and got into investing in the last year. That said, I paid off 50K in credit card and student loan debt in my 20s, started saving and living cash-only (no credit cards) in my 30s, and am working on the investing and retirement bit now. So, late to the party, but proof that anyone can turn their financial life around. And if I can add to the book recommendations, I think Unshakeable by Tony Robbins is really worth the read.

    • Celeste says...

      Thanks for the book rec! My in laws didn’t start saving for retirement until their 50s. Compound = gone. I think we’ll be ok though.

  117. Sarah says...

    Budgeting has been my Achilles heel for years, but I finally got a handle on it in the last year (at 35!) with YNAB. I had two false starts with the app but the third try has been golden and I’ve really stuck to it. My spending has gone down SO MUCH because I actually make calculated decisions of where I want my money to “go to work” and I can check it quickly on my phone when I’m out and thinking about getting clothes/lunch/coffee and see if I’ve overspent in that area yet (and realize I’m probably just bored so need to redirect that shopping impulse into something else!). What worked for me about YNAB is assigning a job (or bucket) to each dollar you have, which makes some of it seem untouchable, so I don’t dip into my vacation fund or emergency savings just because I want new shoes. I hate to be corny and say it’s empowering, but I really do feel so much more in control of my money and my habits. I feel more confident saying no to things and to assessing if the item/event adds real value to my quality of life. I’m not selling anyone on the app per se (they all have different quirks, YNAB just worked for me), but if you’ve been peeking at your finances with your hands over your eyes like I have for years, just try something and get started! Any effort helps you feel like you’re getting a handle on things, and that’s a huge step.

    • Melissa Dalgleish says...

      Yes! YNAB is a total game changer. I came to the workforce late (after many, i.e. too many, years in grad school) and I was terrified when I started my first real career in my early 30s that I would be so direly behind on saving and investing that I’d never be able to afford a home or a kid or to retire.

      It wasn’t until I started using YNAB that I figured out how to wisely manage my new grown-up income and figured out that I would be able to do all the things I wanted if I kept using it. We have a house now, and a kid on the way, and I’ll be able to retire when I’m 60 no problem. We also have no debt and tons of savings. It really is the best thing ever (and really kinda fun!)

    • Bethany says...

      Yes!! I am a YNAB enthusiast. I have always been a somewhat impulsive spender, and when I got married, I felt so motivated to leave that habit behind. We decided to create a budget with YNAB and it’s saved us SO much grief. We both make pretty small incomes (for Southern California) and YNAB has allowed us to do things we NEVER thought we could afford (pay off loans! rent a 2 bedroom! be prepared for emergencies!). I’m 27, and so many of my friends are filled with anxiety about their spending and they can’t face their habits or their bank accounts. This used to be me. Budgeting has been one of the most empowering choices I made in my 20s- I’m in charge of my money, it’s not in charge of me.

    • Rachel says...

      Another YNAB fan here! It’s not super intuitive at first, especially for younger folks who never had to keep a check register, but I can’t recommend it enough! It’s a great way for couples to communicate their budget in real time and set goals for fun things too. That is what was missing from the excel budget my husband and I previously had. :)

    • Jen says...

      YNAB has really helped me curb lifestyle inflation!

      I paid off $45K in school debt by 30 working temp jobs mostly and haven’t looked back. Now I’m 33 with 80K in retirement savings and a DB Pension so I’m feeling really secure. YNAB helps to keep it all organized though and so I am fortunate to be able to save 60%+ of my income to short and long term savings goals. I should add my partner and I are childless and both in good industries/jobs with no mortgage, so we are very fortunate and are aware of that privilege, and contribute back into the community through philanthropy and shopping local. Supporting local can save livelihoods and community, I believe that strongly.

    • Beth says...

      Another YNAB lover here!!! It has been great for our family over the past few years. This year has been a crazy one: had a baby, left old job, committing to graduate school that will allow me to get a new job (and grappling with the associated expense…GULP). And I am *definitely* the main money manager in our household. My husband and I have recently started having weekly meetings to review YNAB together. With me going back to school, we both really need to be on top of where things stand financially throughout the month.

    • Lisa says...

      I also love YNAB. I’m a PhD student and my husband is in a field that pays about $30,000 after taxes, and budgeting has been a life saver for us. We don’t have any debt, and we had a beautiful wedding last year, travel regularly, max out our IRAs (and he contributes to a 401K – I can’t until I finish grad school so I’ll have to play catch up), are saving for a downpayment, and give 6% of our income to philanthropy (we up it by a percent a year). We are careful in our spending and very mindful about our priorities, but we’ve always felt that we’ve lived well. YNAB has been there for us through unemployment, medical bills, graduate school, wedding planning, several interstate moves, and saving for a house & kids. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Oh, and I run the big-picture finances and investments in our house, but we talk regularly about both day to day expenses and what our upcoming priorities and long-term plans are.

      Echoing the comments that this series is so great! My goal in the next year or two is to start a monthly group that regularly connects around an annual theme (e.g. finances, relationships, etc). Each month we could focus on a different topic that falls under that theme. I’d love to start with finances!

    • Emily says...

      Is it wrong to say if I could make out with a budget software, it would be YNAB? 3 1/2 years later and I’m still in love with it!! We are taking a trip next month that only is possible due to YNAB. And I’m a better clothes shopper because of it… gone are the days of cheaply made clothes. Here are the days of ETHICALLY made quality pieces I can keep for years. YNAB has changed so much about how I look at money and how those $$ can work FOR me, not against me.

  118. Lauren E. says...

    When my husband and I first moved in together as a newly-dating couple, we opened a checking account in both our names for shared expenses: groceries, rent, cable, electric, and household items like toilet paper, etc. After living together for 6 years and married for 1 1/2, it’s still working for us. If he decides to spend $200 on a stupid pair of sneakers and I feel like buying a last minute flight to visit a friend in California, neither of us is allowed to argue. We’re both pretty responsible when it comes to money but I like knowing that outside of our necessities, my money is my money.

  119. Beth says...

    I would love to see more on this topic on your blog! I need help! I’m an English major & have never taken any kind of business class. Help!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!! many many more posts coming up. we actually just had a big finance story meeting yesterday and are excited to work on more types of stories.

    • Susie G says...

      Liberal arts education gets a bad rap as not preparing for the “real world” but that doesn’t have to be true. Consider the skills you’ve built, particularly, the ability to communicate. Clear, efficient communication is not a skill everyone has, and yet it’s essential in the business world. Write a killer cover letter, be a grammar nerd, use your ability to analyze and digest information to success! English/Poli Sci major who’s currently a VP at a tech startup. You got this.

    • Stephanie says...

      Don’t despair! I was an English major too, and like Susie G said, you are much more prepared for the “real world” than you probably realize (though it never hurts having helpful posts like these on Cup of Jo). The world needs your skills — just know that!

  120. JB says...

    I’m about to turn 30 and have paid off 1) $25,000 in student debt (cheaper in Canada, by far, and and a full scholarship for my MSc!), a $13,000 car loan, and a $30,000 wedding. I am 1000000% debt free and it is the BEST feeling in the world.

    Having said that, my husband and I have only a small down-payment saved in the most expensive real estate market in the country and at this rate, will never be able to buy anything but a 1 bed condo here. I struggle with the good debt/bad debt debate. Would it have been better to not pay off all those loans so fast so we weren’t facing our childbearing years in a 500 sq ft. rental? I don’t know!

    My piece of advice in all this – elope! I would love that $30k right about now…

    • Jen says...

      Congrats on paying off the debt! I paid off $45K by 30 too and am about to get married as cheaply as we can while still feeling good about it.

      I’m a Canadian too and moved from Vancouver for a number of reasons but one being that I would never own a house there (and that was in 2010, so it’s much worse now!) I’m assuming you’re in Vancouver or Toronto.

      Things you could consider:
      – rent forever
      – move to the suburbs
      – postpone or decide not to have kids

      Home ownership isn’t the be-all end-all it once was and you can definitely choose a different path to happiness! With home ownership you have the carrying costs (utilities, property tax, maintenance, and insurance) on top of the mortgage (and interest!). It can make more sense to live reasonably frugally and invest the extra money you’re not spending on a house and see similar returns to home ownership. There are pros and cons to both choices, so you have to find what is most important to you and maybe let go of another idea or hope.

    • JB says...

      Thanks Jen! And congrats on your upcoming wedding! Yes, Toronto market but originally from BC so I feel the pain! My parents have sent me lots of literature on the financial benefits of renting vs buying. Unfortunately, Toronto’s rental market is ultra-hot now too so sometimes it doesn’t really feel like “saving” but I see their (and your!) point.

      I joked to a friend the other day that I wish having kids wasn’t a real estate decision. I know many people across the world raise families in tight spaces, but it does sometimes feel like that’s our only barrier! (+ daycare fees + career demands, etc.).

  121. I LOVE this. I think talking about money is so important because I think it’s so helpful to learn from others’ experiences!

    My husband and I recently relocated (and bought a new house) for his new job which left me unemployed. The industry environment where we moved is very different from the one we left, so I’ve only been able to work part-time for about 5 months to supplement his income, and in that time, we’ve easily gone through our savings and racked up a few thousand dollars in credit card debt. I know I’m only 27, it’s nothing detrimental (even though it can feel like such a weight on my shoulders), we’re counting every penny and getting by, and I’m in the process of interviewing for a great full-time job now, but I think it’s so helpful to learn what other people have gone through financially, how they’ve overcome it and then take those strategies and apply them to our situation to keep improving it.

    It’s hard because not everyone is as comfortable talking about money as I am, but it makes me so happy that conversations are starting to become more common.

  122. Jess Richardson says...

    Please please please keep the money posts coming! There is a lot out there geared toward budgeting and paying off debt (much needed, of course) but I feel pretty comfortable with the basics and would like to learn more about investing. I spent two hours on a call through my job called ‘Women and Investing’ and the only thing beyond basic budgeting that they touched on was a RothIRA. These are things I want to learn but I’m struggling to find the resources to teach myself. Plus, as you mentioned, investing and financial decision making can feel like a bit of a man’s world. Time for me to stop being intimidated and start making moves.

    • Agree! I recently started reading “Unshakable” by Tony Robbins as a sort-of 101 on investing and am finding it so helpful and easy to understand. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading through it!

  123. J. says...

    I’m constantly worried about money and honestly think a big part of it is it’s so hard to get a sense of how other people around my age are doing compared to me! (I even feel guilty just saying that I wonder about that!) I’m 33 and opened a 401k in my mid 20s (now rolled over into an IRA that my company doesn’t contribute to – but I put a tiny bit in every month.) But other than that my boyfriend and I really have hardly anything in savings, enough to get us through a month if we needed it honestly, and I know that’s far less than what’s recommended! We try to add a little each month. We’re hoping to start trying for a baby later this year…which is another thing I feel guilty even typing b/c I imagine people make sure they have a lot more in savings before considering that.

    I can’t picture everrrrrr being able to buy a house – I make an okay income for where we live but his employment is a bit less steady as of now, and he has a lot of student debt and we both have more credit card debt than we should, I think. I think all the time about how my parents bought a house in their late 20s (with like a $5,000 down payment) in what’s now one of the most expensive parts of the country!

    I think a lot of it is just me having been a bit…carefree about financial planning in my 20s and I remind myself of that a lot, and also try to remember that we have SO much more than so many others even though it feels like we’re just getting by sometimes. But things are also just so much more expensive nowadays and it feels like we’re up against so much in our economy.

    Anyway thanks so much for starting this discussion!! I feel a little better getting that off my chest to strangers, haha.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “it’s so hard to get a sense of how other people around my age are doing compared to me” = it IS so hard. i’ve found it so eye-opening to talk to friends. you never know what’s happening behind the scenes, and sometimes people who seem to have it all together are actually struggling in some area. you sound like you have a really good knowledge of your current financial situation and are on a path to figuring out best next steps. rooting for you, J. :)

    • BH says...

      Just wanted to reply that you are NOT alone!! I feel like I could have written this. I just don’t understand how people can afford down payments on houses nowadays! I think, like Joanna said, that the best policy is not to compare your financial situation to others, since you don’t have the full picture.

    • J. says...

      Joanna and BH — Thanks!!

      Re: down payments – I know right?!

      And yes, I also try to remember that you never have the full picture so just focusing on us is more productive! There are aspects of my situation like my IRA that are fairly positive but it doesn’t keep me from worrying about the day to day, and there are people who have the opposite situation I’m sure – and all different scenarios in between. We’re all just doing our best with the resources and tools we have at any given time! :)

  124. Justine says...

    I have been working on my personal finances ever since my divorce 6 years ago — I ended up in a REAL mess. Things have improved SO much and I can’t even begin to explain how proud I am of this feeling. I am recently married to a wonderful, brilliant man who has a LOT of student loan debt (good debt, they say). We currently pay $1,400 a month in an effort to bring it down fast — we have about 18 month left if we stay on this path! We also just recently made the BIG (huge) decision to move in with my parents for awhile (ugh) to rapid fire save up money and pay off a few other little debts. In about 1.5 years we should be 85% debt free and on our way to purchasing our first home together — if that’s something we actually WANT to do. It’s the end goal, but we can also see ourselves living in a condo in the city. Either way, our financial goals are in motion and I’m feeling really excited about our future. CHEERS!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s incredible, justine. “our financial goals are in motion” = so happy for you!

  125. B nicole says...

    Working at a life insurance startup changed everything about the way I manage my finances (and all for the better.) Unfortunately, money impacts our job decisions, how we travel, where we live and even our relationship with our partners and family members. Adjusting your budget to save more, to invest, to prepare for the unexpected with wills and insurance, and having positive financial discussions are all intimidating yet so empowering when we take control. Bravo for starting to touch on financial topics. Financial literacy is incredibly important.

  126. Denise says...

    This is a great post and I’ll definitely check out Turbo. This year I’m focusing on paying off the credit card and starting to try to make a bigger dent in my student debt than just the minimum payment amount. I’m 42 and I feel like if I can get out of student debt & stay out of cc debt before I’m 50, I’ll be able to start saving to buy a condo or home. It’s hard to feel like I’m so far behind financially from my peers who own property and travel widely because I decided to pursue education but I wouldn’t give up the education for anything either. It’s difficult to talk about money still with anyone I know because either there’s shame for coming up from poverty, making more money than my family but still I’m not able to give to my family as much as they (or I) think I should. Or there’s judgment about the student debt I’ve accrued for no perceived payoff, and there’s concern & responsibility around my aging parents who have no retirement. I’m contributing to my own retirement but not theirs and that feels wrong but there’s only so much money to spread. There’s judgement tied to renting instead of owing as well. And even among my friends, who are genuinely lovely but for whom budget and spending and vacation all mean different things because of our different income levels. Anyway – Yes to talking about it, and Yes to financial knowledge and making a plan.

    • Cooper says...

      Student debt feels like it’s holding me back, too, and I’ll have to stay a renter a lot longer than my peers. My hope though is that when I’m eventually able to buy a house, I’ll be able to get a 15-year mortgage with a bigger payment (instead of a standard 30-year), and will therefore end up paying a lot less in interest and feel a bit like I’m catching up :) Wishing you the best!

  127. I went from a really high paying job, to even higher paying freelance work. But then 6 months ago work got really slow, like non-existent slow, and around the same time I found out I was pregnant with our first. I’m using the slow work period to pursue my own creative business, which has been so so rewarding. And my husband quit launching his startup so at least one of us could have a steady income. I know we wont end up on the street or anything, but the cost of raising a kid in NYC weighs on me daily. Sometimes I feel like everything is going to be ok, and sometimes I feel like a truck full of anxiety just ran me over 10 times. I wish there was more conversation around finances at every life stge so I could know if other people have the same worries as me, and what tricks they use to make sure they give their kid the world without constantly stressing that they wont be able to. The only thing that seems to help me is picturing our lives in 10 years when we look back laughing and say “remember that?! that was crazy.”

    • Sarah says...

      I was weirdly reassured when I was stressing about kids and money to my mom and she said, with real pain in her voice, “Oh! Your thirties. Your thirties are the worst time financially.” She made it sound like a universal condition to be freaked out at this life stage, and it somehow made me calmer. That idea of imagining yourself in ten years laughing about the crazy hard times does make it seem less daunting.

  128. i don’t think i was properly prepared, educationally or by my family, to handle my finances when i graduated. i was lucky in that my parents paid for college for me, so i didn’t have student debt but i had crazy credit card debt. i didn’t know how to budget, i barely knew how to balance my checkbook. when i was 25 and in about $18K debt, i finally cut all my plastic and paid everything off. i bought my place at 28 and didn’t get another credit card until 33. however, i still found myself in crazy debt, cus i bought just as the real estate bubble burst.
    prior to getting married, my fiance paid off my 2nd mortgage (because like an ill-informed tool, i got the crappiest of mortgage rates) and we only just in the last few years got the 1st mortgage refinanced and we’re about a couple of years out paying it completely off. we’ve combined our finances, and in the last year every month we pay the bills together. i had to learn all the log-in info, where our investments are, what goes in what etc. i don’t want to be that woman who if something were to happen to my husband (my deepest deepest deepest fear!) and i’m clueless about that stuff. we live below our means but it doesn’t feel like i’m without, which is what i was so fearful of when i was in my 20s.
    we are slowly, but surely!, working our way twds meeting with a lawyer to get our wills together. we don’t have children, and never will, but i want to ensure our money goes tws the proper places. (but everytime we even remotely talk about stuff like Death and Wills, i get emotional.)

  129. Jen says...

    Compounding interest. Please everyone look this up. I wish someone told me about this when I was young.

    Ok, now that I got that off my chest, I think the biggest advice is to budget and live within your means. It’s pretty simple.

    I moved to CA with $0 but a line of credit through my credit cards. I also had $35K in school loans. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I focused the first 3 years out of school on paying off my debt. I saved by maxing out my 401K but the rest went to paying off my school loans. I lived a very frugal life. No fancy going out to eat, always living with a roommate to share living costs, and no extravagant vacations or trips. I paid off my school loans in 3 years and was finally debt free.

    • Irene says...

      YES to compounding interest! A friend gave me a google doc showing how retirement outcomes differ based on when you start contributing and what you contribute — eye opening, for sure.

    • YES, YES, YES! You MUST understand compounding interest before you set any kind of financial plan. When my husband and I were in our 20s, he explained it to me and refused to leave the table until I explained it back to him. (I know that sounds sexist but our minds are very different…he’s in the math/science realm and I’m in the talking/therapy realm.) Anyway, we set up a rigorous plan which meant we camped locally vs. flew to balmy destinations, ate at home, packed our lunch, made our own coffee, etc. I won’t bore you with all the details but suffice it to say: we paid our sons’ college tuitions in full, retired at 50 (me) and 59 (husband), have traveled all over the world, own our $1M home outright, and now comfortably live off our savings/investments. We haven’t tapped into our retirement funds yet and don’t plan to for a few more years but our financial planner estimates that even IF one of us lives to 90 we will still have money for our sons or grandchildren to inherit. (We opened 521 plans for all the grands at birth and will add to them each year.) Peace of mind is so worth it and we still practice frugality b/c it’s a way of life AND it’s fun! (We’re in our early 60s now.)

  130. Kay says...

    My husband and I both have separate banking accounts but shared credit cards (as well as our own)! We have a google spreadsheet where we track all of our household financial expenditures. At the beginning of every month, we do a review of the past month and current state of affairs regarding investments. I didn’t really like it in the beginning as I wasn’t a very good record-keeper in the past on my own, but now I like it! It helps us both be on the same page.

    • B nicole says...

      We have a similar approach, and it works well for us. Also, tracking all your expenses makes it so easy to realize what you might be spending on that doesn’t bring you joy. I’ve found we are now more bonded by shared goals for our futures.

  131. Hannah says...

    I’d love to hear more about how you and Alex figured out merging your finances after you got married!

  132. Kirsten says...

    Just chiming in to say that I make all the investment decisions for our family. My parents were very open about money (not the amount they made – that was taboo) but rather why saving young is important, why a ROTH over 401K, get the company match, index funds over individual stocks, level of investment risk depending on your age or your specific situation etc. They always just made it part of the conversation. I’m so lucky that they gave me an education about money that has served me well. We try to do the same with our kids as they grow.

    • Jenn says...

      Yes, I handle the day to day and big picture finances for my husband and me. My parents talked openly about money and investing, and trained me pretty much from birth to be financially literate. Once a month, I sit my husband down and give him the net worth update and we go over any pressing financial topics. I enjoy it, he doesn’t. Win win.

    • Emma says...

      “I enjoy it, he doesn’t. Win win.” << probably the best comment I've ever read hahahahahha, just LOLed at my desk.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha me too emma!

  133. TC says...

    My biggest financial moment was realizing, at 23, that I had over $13,000 in consumer debt (all credit cards) and that I was only going further into debt with my lifestyle. I changed my whole philosophy on life and shopping, became a minimalist, and started whittling away at my debt even though I only made $11/hour at a bookstore. It took four years, but I was able to get completely out of debt and save money to buy my first car completely in cash a few years later. I LOVE talking about finances, because I think a lot of people would be better off it was something they felt they could freely ask questions about without offending anyone. Now that I’m married, my husband and I have a single bank account and share credit cards, so there are no secrets. I actually have taken over 100% of our finances, including bill paying and investing. He has access to all the accounts, but he admitted that it stressed him out to try to remember everything, and I really like to do it. Besides, automating saving and bill paying makes everything really easy. I wish I had been smarter with my money right out of college, but I’m glad I had that turning point because I feel very confident I’ll be able to manage the ups and downs of our financial future.

  134. I know this is through a sponsored post but I really appreciate the honesty and insight into your financial journey! Not enough women.. or just people in general talk about money enough. We all only see what people show us – i.e. the glamour of going out without realizing things were paid for with a credit card and debt or extreme budgeting. Looking forward to more discussions about how we can all create a healthy financial future!

  135. Alyssa Max says...

    I love this. I recently made some BIG DECISIONS to address my financial well-being (and, tied into that, my emotional well-being as well).. I just finished grad school with over 60,000 of debt (student loans and private line of credit), and I also had credit card debt and owed my mom some money. I have a job, but I don’t make a lot (I work for a not-for-profit) and on top of that I recently got out of an emotionally abusive relationship where my partner was taking advantage of me financially. SO. I was not in a great place and really panicking about money. I started budgeting and realized I just couldn’t make ends meet on my current salary, so in addition to applying for higher-paying jobs, my (amazing) sister and her husband invited me to move in with them! I’ll be paying minimal rent and the majority of my income will be going to paying down my debt over the next year. In addition to being a huge weight off my shoulders, I’m so excited to spend more time with my sister and my baby niece!

  136. AWS says...

    Great post with some good tips. I feel uncomfortable talking to my friends about money. I have a tight group of core girlfriends, we are all in our early 30’s, and our current situations vary so widely. Everything used to be more or less the same when we were in college, but now some have gone onto marry (a few into, like, REAL money), pursue high or low-paying careers, or make irresponsible financial decisions. I worry when we talk about these things we end up just comparing ourselves to each other and feeling hurt or offended. Money can be such a tricky subject! Anyone have any advice about this?

    • anna says...

      I saw AWS and automatically thought of Amazon Web Services! This career in mobile product is totally taking over my mind. That aside, I can totally get where you’re coming from. I tend to begin conversations on money with my friends with something like “so I noticed that money isn’t commonly talked about in the American culture (I’m not American) and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I think it might be nice to talk about how we budget/save and handle things from taxes to company matching”. Then I gauge their response and how much they are willing to open up. I also never start with salaries or anything like that, but rather more on short term/long term financial goals and any great tips/tools/books.

  137. Erika says...

    At 38, I feel like financially we are stretched to the max. My husband and I each have full-time corporate jobs with corporate hours, a large family home mortgage, and three kids in full-time end-to-end daycare ($$$). Gratefully, neither one of us are spender personalities and during our less-stretched years funded our retirements well (we’ve pulled back a bit right now due to the daycare juggernaut). Most importantly, we realize that this peak cost moment in our financial lives won’t last forever, and we’ll have more breathing room soon. It has helped us prioritize our spending and develop good habits (packing lunches, wearing our clothes until they are well-worn) that will serve us well even when we have more disposable income.

  138. cgw says...

    Can I add one more thing? Know where all the money is if you are married or in a domestic partnership, that beneficiaries have been listed, people have been appointed and authorized to deal with those accounts. My cousin’s husband died suddenly one day and she was left trying to figure out all his investments, retirements, and such. It was difficult enough with the shock of suddenly being a single parent to two boys, running her own company, and having to deal with all the logistics of his death, but then to have to track down where all his stuff was, make sure she could transfer and close out certain accounts, and prove that she was the rightful heir… it’s been a tough road, and has extended her grieving even more.

    • Jenn says...

      Yes! A post on estate planning would be great. My husband and I have just finished a detailed plan aka treasure map so if anything happens to us – separately or together – our families can easily sort things out. A will is not enough. We are 46 with no kids.

    • K says...

      Yes, this. This happened to my aunt last year when her husband died suddenly and tragically. She didn’t even have the password to his computer, much less knowledge of which accounts were where. It is such a burden to have to work through that bureaucracy while grieving. The first thing I did after his funeral was put all of my information in a paper document for my husband, just in case, and made him do the same.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh YES! such great advice. i actually set up an Everplan for us a few years ago — have you heard of it? it’s incredible and lets you organize everything in one place (your bank accounts, investments, your kids’ schools, even where your will is located in your house, etc.) in case something happens. then you choose people you trust to have access — i chose my parents, for example. https://www.everplans.com/

  139. Well done you on being strict with budgeting. I’m really bad at budgeting and I’m currently in university racking up that dreaded debt. I can’t wait to leave uni and properly begin my life!

    Beckie

  140. Kelly says...

    One word: Ellevest! Sallie Krawcheck is such a role model.

    Also, through Ellevest, I learned that women’s salaries peak when you hit 40 (yes the glass ceiling is live and well) but the idea is that because I’d this female investment goals are very different from men’s, who can expect their salaries to continue to grow through their 50s.

  141. Ammie says...

    My husband and I combined accounts right off… it was about 6 months later I learned of all his credit card debt! We started watching Suze Orman’s show late at night and then bought her book. While we didn’t follow everything she said, we picked her ideas that seemed doable for us. The best thing we did was start a savings account outside of our usual bank. We then did a small direct deposit from our paychecks into that account. It worked the best for us as we didn’t ever have the money in the regular account to miss it. As we started to earn more money we would up the amount. We started with just putting $20 into the account. We looked up one day a few years later and had a nice little ‘nest egg’ starting.

  142. emily says...

    To add to this post: if people are stressed about money they should see what nonprofits near them offer financial education. I work at one and we do a lot for people from having classes on debt payment, budgeting, and credit building to having volunteer coaches who will help you with creating a personalized plan to budget and learn to take control of your money. All for free! It really can help when one is trying to learn about all this stuff and what advice is good advice about finances and what is bad.

    • Frances Marcel says...

      Could you recommend organizations ? Thanks

    • Emily says...

      Hi Francis,

      Here are some groups I know doing this and their locations:

      – In Portland Oregon, there is the Family Success Center at Catholic Charities of Oregon (in full disclosure I work here, and we have one of the more robust programs in the country)
      – In NYC there are groups such as Cents Ability, BlackFem, High Water Women, and the Money Matters course through the library
      – Boston has a group called Budget Buddies and another named Mass Saves, and one around home-buying called Financial Education Associates
      – In Chicago there is another Cents Ability location, MoneyThink to help people with getting a college education, classes through the Chicago Area Project, and more

      These are just a few I found withing a few quick moments of searching. In addition, there are lots of good private finance groups who run social media accounts that post good little tips for success (The Finance Bar is my favorite)

      Hopefully this helps!

    • I second this comment. I live in Nashville, TN, and the city has partnered with United Way to offer free financial counseling to anyone that needs it at the Financial Empowerment Center. IT CHANGED MY FREAKING LIFE. There’s a woman named Sabrina there who has been AMAZING – she helped me review my budget & expenses, she walked us through consolidating our student debt STEP BY STEP, and has given us tons of other helpful advice. And she is amazing at doing her job without shaming anyone. At the end of our first appointment she said, “Bethany, you are doing all the right things, and you’re doing the best you can. You’re not crazy – this stuff is incredibly difficult and some of this really is outside of your control. But you’re going to be okay. We’ll make sure you’re okay.” I cried my eyes out the whole way home (in a good way.) Even just hearing those words gave me a huge boost of confidence to tackle some really serious financial hardship – I have $100K in student debt, my husband and I were both underemployed and earning low wages for the first 6 years after we graduated & got married (that damn recession had a huge impact on us). I’m grateful to say that although we’re not totally out of the woods, we’re more stable than we’ve ever been, and I don’t wake up every day feeling like I’m being crushed under the weight of our circumstances. Thank goodness for Sabrina and free financial counseling. Seriously, it’s like taking yourself to therapy or a medical doctor – if you have access to resources like this, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of it, and it’s part of learning to take care of yourself. Do it. You won’t be sorry.

  143. Alyssa says...

    This was good to read, but also another nod to the fact that I don’t have my finances together. I seemed to do better in college. I balanced a checkbook regularly. I didn’t seem to spend too much on frivolous things. But since being out of college, on my own, with a steady, ok-paying job, I feel like I don’t have a good handle on my finances.

    My parents have been a huge help and have helped me pay off students loans. I’m super grateful for that! But I really need help with budgeting and sticking to it. A good friend of mine helped me with one but it just doesn’t work for me. Curious if there’s advice for different ways to budget out there!

    • Anne says...

      I’m a big fan of YNAB (posted below haha), which is like a virtual envelope system – you put, say, $100/month into a dining out bucket, and if you overspend, you have to take money out of a different bucket (like your vacation fund) to cover it. It’s really flexible, which is important to me because every month is different. There is a learning curve to the software, as well as a fee, but personally I think it’s worth the effort and money. It’s a small cost compared to the financial stability and peace of mind that I have.

    • Irene says...

      Have you tried something like Mint or programs where you can visualize where your spending goes each month? From there, try and look up some rough averages for what you should be spending in various categories based on your income/age/location (rent, savings, groceries, entertainment, shopping, travel, etc.) Doing that helped me better understand just how much I spent on various categories and how to manage spending. For example, if I saw that for three months in a row I spent twice what I really should be spending on groceries or entertainment I could figure out how to address that moving forward. I found my main issue was just actually KNOWING how much I was spending. Obviously a luxury to not need to know where every cent goes — but, IT ADDS UP FAST!

      I had a roommate who used the “envelopes” system which means that at the beginning of each month you put money into envelopes (physical ones, not digital!) and that is the ONLY money you’ll spend on whatever the envelope category is — entertainment, shopping, etc. It seems dated now that most people don’t carry any cash, but it definitely worked for her.

      I don’t strictly follow a budget, but I’ll reassess every few months and think about where I want to be in six-months or a year, savings wise. It might show me that I need to go on a “spending fast” for a few weeks to get closer to that goal and it’s helpful to take that time to figure out where I stand without forcing myself to document every purchase (doesn’t work for me).

    • Lauren says...

      We use Mint and it has been so great! You can set your ideal budget for different segments of your spending (food, clothing, etc.) and see all of your investments all in the same place.

    • Katie says...

      we’ve used YNAB for years (You Need a Budget). it’s software with an app on your phone as well as on the web. it’s a whole different way to budget (using money you have, not future money) so it takes some getting used to, but it absolutely freed me from the “pain” of spending money, realizing that i had money set aside for certain things already so just because i got some bonus here or there didn’t mean that it didn’t have a job already. i don’t work for them or anything, just a huge fan! they also do a month free trial so you can check it out first.

    • Kacy says...

      Another option similar to Mint and YNAB is Everydollar. They have a free version, and a paid version. It forces you to name every dollar of your paychecks from rent/mortgage, to debt, to utilities, to entertainment and vacation funds. It also has an app for your phone that is super helpful. I would totally recommend it!

  144. Meghan says...

    I just had this conversation with my bestie. We’re both lawyers, and she just fought for and got a significant raise. I told her that she should talk about it–that women need to hear about these kinds of successes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome, meghan.

  145. Ashley says...

    My best friend and I talk money all the time. I know what she and her husband make, how much they have in savings and how much they invest — and she knows the same about me. Maybe because we’ve been best friends since 14, so we’ve gone through all the financial “firsts” together, so it just made sense to talk them out. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to have someone not impacted by our financial decisions (i.e., my husband) to talk to about things. I think it makes us make better decisions!

  146. Colleen S says...

    I think the biggest financial milestone in my life was upon turning 18, I managed to get two credit cards with large credit limits without a job (Ahh, 2001). I managed to blow through that money with no way to pay it back (although I got a job in February 2002, so I wasn’t totally irresponsible), but after getting that job, paid large chunks of the debt off. I then lost the job eleven months later, except I had learned my lesson, and stopped using the cards. I eventually started using a debt repayment plan, and have learned to be frugal with whatever credit cards I might have. I have one, that I basically use three times a year to buy something that is less than $25. My lesson was don’t be a stupid eighteen-year-old and get two credit cards. I’m just grateful I take after my mom, and know how to spend wisely (even though I can be impulsive on occasion).

  147. Cynthia says...

    Our biggest financial turning point was 33 years ago when my husband decided to start his own business. I learned more about economics in those 18 years than I would have ever learned in a class.
    Then the next turning point was closing the business due to his needing knee replacements and changes in the economic world. We survived because I had a full time teaching job and my husband was able to be a substitute teacher until his surgery.
    Then he retired from his last job almost 7 years ago and I am retiring this year.
    We survived all our ups and downs because we lived beneath our means. He had the house when I met him, and I fell in love with the house. When we needed more space for our children, we finished off the unfinished upstairs. We did not take extravagant vacations nor give our daughters everything they wanted. We have considerable savings and investments, and our lifestyle has allowed us to have what we want and be debt-free.
    My next big change will be my retirement at the end of this school year.
    My husband and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.

  148. Anne says...

    I love talking about money! I have so many things to say.

    A few years ago, I was a grad student with about $25k of student loans and no real financial plan. I tried not to be frivolous but pretty much spent what I felt like as long as my checking account didn’t drop too low. It mostly worked, but I always had a panicky feeling about it like I wasn’t really in control. A year and a half ago, I committed to a money-tracking and budgeting program (YNAB!) and it has completely changed my financial life! I feel totally at peace, because I know that I can go out for dinner today and it’s not coming out of the money set aside to replace my laptop. I’m really proud of myself for getting my finances in order.

    In fact, just this month I opened my first investment account (Roth IRA)!! In the last two weeks, it’s made $20!!! Am I a rock star or what??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s amazing, anne! congratulations!!!

    • L says...

      okay how how how do you open a roth ira? i’ve been wanting to do this and know i can do it through my bank but idk if that’s the best option. i’ve tried googling it but felt like i wasn’t getting concrete information

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      after a lot of research years ago, i opened mine through vanguard and have had a great experience, fwiw!

    • Anne says...

      L, I opened mine through Vanguard also. It was really easy and fast. You need at least $1k for some of their funds and $3k for others. I stuck with one of the targeted retirement funds (e.g. “Retire in 2050”) because it seemed like the easiest to start with. Maybe I’ll diversify more in the future.

    • brianna says...

      For L, my Roth is through TIAA. My advisor is amazing and is so patient with my million questions and having to stop saving since I’m unemployed right now.

    • L says...

      thank you guys! I’ll start looking into those options.

  149. brianna says...

    I’m unemployed right now (and have been since the middle of August), so I’m in a constant state of panic about money. I’m 99% sure I’ll never own a home and retirement is a pipe dream. Between paying the monthly bills and putting money into savings, there isn’t much leftover. What is goes toward groceries. At 35, seeing people I know buying homes, taking vacations, not worrying about going to Target, it’s really hard to not feel inferior and like I screwed up my life somewhere along the way.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      brianna, 35 is still so young! (after raising three kids and getting divorced, my mom she went back to school in her mid-40s and her whole life changed.) anything can happen! rooting for you big-time. xoxoxoxo

    • VP says...

      What stood out to me about this is that you are putting money into savings. That is so, so important, and I commend you for that! Keep saving, keep budgeting and eventually you will get through the weeds. You’re not failing, life happens. It sounds like you are doing your very best right now, and not spending frivolously is a huge part of that.

    • cgw says...

      It’s tough, but hang in there. I think we often think that by our 30s we’re supposed to be secure. Maybe if it were the 1950s, but that’s not how the economy is nowadays. When I was 35 (ten years ago), we became parents and had just bought a house the year before… then the housing bubble broke and our house we paid a gazillion for tanked in worth and our mortgage seemed like it was heckling us. We barely made ends meet with trying to stay afloat the mortgage, but we weathered the storm, and you will too. When you can, you’ll be in a better place to save more and do more. Hang tight, stay strong, you can do this!

    • I’m rooting for you, Brianna. You and I are in the exact same boat, here. I mean, it doesn’t help but at least you’re not alone. (I’m not unemployed but I am *barely* employed.) I relate so much to your comment about worrying about going to Target. I often wonder, “what am I don’t wrong that everyone else is doing right?”
      Truth is: We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re living our lives. What they’re doing isn’t right. Or wrong. It’s different. It’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay. <3

    • brianna says...

      Thanks, everyone. Your comments are so helpful. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. :)

    • Claire says...

      Hi Brianna- I just had to comment, as I have such empathy for a fellow job seeker. I am in the same circumstances and struggle with the same thoughts and fears, although I am much older than you. It is hard, hard, hard. Of course I don’t know you, but just wanted to say that I don’t think that you screwed up your life. Life just throws curveballs in spite of our best intentions and planning. it happens to the best of us. I agree with Joanna that 35 is still young and anything can happen. I hope you have support around you. Tough as things are for me the support I’ve had from friends and family has been a lifeboat. I will think good thoughts for you.

    • I totally feel you! I spent 4 years in a dead end job, working and going to school on nights and weekends, not going out or on holiday just saving up money so I could find another job. When I was made redundant 1.5 years ago I was excited; I had a lot saved up and was looking forward to a career move. Fast forward to now and I haven’t been able to find new work or make enough money freelancing and, at 31, I am now looking at moving back in with my parents who don’t even live in the same country as me. I guess no matter how well you plan and budget sometimes shit just happens.

    • Kali says...

      Also remember that when comparing ourselves, we don’t really know how others are “doing it.” They might be in debt up to their eyeballs. They might be buried in student loans. They might have an inheritance to fall back on. We can only live our own truths.

    • Hey Brianna,

      I’m rooting for you!! I don’t make much money, and my husband and I live in an apartment at my parent’s house in order to save as much as we can. You sound like you’re doing all you can to be responsible and take care of yourself, so BRAVO! You still have plenty of time. I’m thinking of you <3

    • Laura says...

      I’m in the same boat- at 30 I’m temporarily employed and have been looking for something permanent for a year. When I was younger I thought by 30 I’d have a house and kids on the way, but I have almost no savings, no retirement accounts and educational debt. I don’t know how I’ll be able to afford having kids let alone ever owning a home.

    • I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through Brianna – I was there myself a year ago. Unemployment can be a scary phase but it is always just that – a phase.

      And never say never. Things can change in a moment. Time is a gift because it gives each new minute, hour and day filled with possibilities.

      In the words of Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird. Take things one day at a time. Do your part and trust that things will shake out exactly how they should. It will all come together beautifully.

      An aside:
      Maybe if you post what sort of work you’re looking for the Cup of Jo community can help you with some leads. This is such a great network!

      Cheering you on from DC!