Listen: we all have money challenges.
Some of them are (relatively) easy to solve, but others are big and thorny and no fun at all.
My friend Andrew at Family Money Plan is running this interview series, where he interviews other bloggers, and one line of questioning in the interview really stuck with me. To paraphrase his awesome questions (and not give away any of the interview!) it boiled down to
“What was your biggest money challenge?”
Ooof. Am I allowed to answer with a year?
Because if yes, the year was 2012.
To totally date myself, that’s the year I graduated from university, and started working in the world on my
fancy not very fancy new-grad salary.
That I had no idea how to manage.
I knew the basics, and it’s not like I went out and lifestyle-inflationed it up on a high-interest credit card. But I also didn’t realize that maybe my aggressive savings goals and inflexibility would put me in line for a world of stress as I tried to save 30% of that entry-level salary.
What do I mean by world of stress?
Oh boy, I’ve been meaning to tell this story for ages.
Once upon a time, it was 2012, and my mom graciously drove me to Ikea to pick out a new $49 desk for my
fancy decidedly student-style apartment. We got the desk, had a great time and made it back to my apartment unscathed.
I pulled the desk – which, let’s be real, was not that big, there’s only so much $49 will buy you, even at Ikea – out of the car and made my way towards the apartment.
And then I tripped.
Because I was carrying this awkward box full of desk, I wiped right out, and my knees took a huge beating on the pavement. That wasn’t even the problem though.
I was wearing my only pair of nice jeans at the time. Now that?
That was a problem.
Such a problem, in fact, that I went straight into full money meltdown mode.
“I can’t AFFORD TO REPLACE THESE JEANS!”
My budget was so tight that the thought of replacing a $40 pair of jeans, after spending $49 on a new desk, was absolutely unthinkable. Meanwhile, yes, my retirement accounts and “emergency fund” savings were getting big chunks of my paycheque every two weeks.
So on “typical” measures of money management, I was killing it, right?
Crying over a $40 pair of jeans is nowhere in my definition of killing it.
With the benefit of hindsight (because isn’t that always the way?) I can see now that I could have been a little bit more relaxed, and acknowledged that maybe – just maybe! – the strident adherence to what I thought was “the best and only way to manage my money” wasn’t necessarily working for me.
I mean, my god, I cried over a $40 pair of jeans. I never want that for anyone.
When I look back on it, I think the root of of the issue, and my real biggest challenge, was that I had no real idea where and how to start being an Adult With Money.
I had great examples and teachers growing up about how to manage money, but I didn’t really know – like, on a detailed, step-by-step level – how to look at my monthly income and turn it into a reasonable, realistic plan for myself that didn’t leave me crying over a pair of pants.
I started Half Banked to chronicle the current phase I’m in with money, and my (yes, sometimes ridiculous) attempts to save half of my income. But the absolute best part of this whole experience, by a long shot, has been hearing from friends new and old that somehow, this little corner of the internet where I overshare about money has helped them in some way.
So I want to do more of that, and can I ask for a huge favour?
I need your help.
I’ve created a super-quick, 4.5 question survey to help me figure out how I can create more content that actually helps you with the biggest money challenges you’re having right now – even if it’s more “I want to buy a house someday” and less “I’m crying over a pair of pants.” To each their own, OK? We all have our stuff.
And I mean, how can I judge anyone after crying over some pants, right?
It’s totally, 100% anonymous, and after having the all-stars on my email list send me some answers this weekend, I can guarantee it takes an average of just under 2 minutes to fill out (ahem, and if you have 60 extra seconds, you can even create a budget with the One-Minute Budget. I’m all about efficiency guys.)
The survey is closed now, but a giant thank you to everyone who participated!
As if I wasn’t already honoured enough that you made your way here to read my ramblings about money on the internet, I am beyond grateful for the time each and every one of you took to fill out the survey. I seriously appreciate it, and I’m going to repay the favour by addressing as many of the survey answers as I can over the next however-long-it-takes!
I mean, given how much fun I’m having, we’ve got years of me oversharing about money on the internet ahead of us, friends.
There’s totally enough time to get through all of them.
If you’d rather share in the comments, I’d love to hear – what would you say the biggest money challenge is that you’re having right now? Or do you have any new-grad money stories to share? I’m fine being the only one who has cried over pants, but if you have other funny-in-retrospect stories, I’d love to hear them!
Thanks so much for sharing the story about your pants. I know this is ridiculous, but I still find myself slipping somewhere towards this end of the spectrum. We’re saving somewhere between 25 and 30% of our income but I get really annoyed when we go over by $50 on our home maintenance fund. It was good to hear that it not only happens to others — but that it is indeed ridiculous. Thankfully, my less thrifty husband is a good dose of reality in this regard, as well.
Thank you so much! I will admit that I still have to remind myself to relax when I have months where I don’t quite hit my savings goals (even though those months are more frequent than the months where I DO hit my savings goals, haha.) Like, yes, the world will be OK even though there was a big vet bill this month, and the summer is likely going to be full of vacation spending.
And three cheers to less-thrifty partners to keep us balanced! Hahaha I am so right there with you.
Man, Des…you said you were feeling aged because you graduated undergrad in 2012. I graduated in 2006. I had a little panic attack when I realized I graduated from college 10 years ago when in fact it only feels like four years max.
I think my biggest money challenge was the year I filed bankruptcy. I was 2 years out of school and I was so terrible with money that it could make you cry worst than an onion makes your eyes water. I remember one day throwing my little Nokia (you know the really old and fragile ones) up against the wall because my power bill had went up a couple extra bucks and I didn’t even know how to pay it.
I’m glad that was so long ago because I’ve made serious strides to get myself where I am.
Haha it’s funny because I still feel like it’s been a year or two, tops, so I totally get the feeling! When it hit me that it’s been four years, I was like… shit. I have Career Experience and stuff now! So strange.
And I’ve read some of your posts about your experiences and they’re so powerful – thank you for sharing them! You have done an amazing job in such a short period of time, you should be SO proud.
Survey completed and it didn’t even take 2 minutes! Boom! 🙂
Currently our biggest challenge is saving 50% on one income since my wife is staying home with our daughter. I still want to hit the savings goal but it does make it a bit harder when abnormal expenses come up.
Thank you so much Thias! And *wow* – that is impressive and awesome!
And “hard when abnormal expenses come up” is like, the official tagline of saving 50% if my experience has been any indication, lol.
I think so many times people get into a bad situation and they stay in it longer than they need to because they don’t know where to begin. So rather than figure it out they just do nothing and the problem stays or even gets worse.
Totally agree – it’s hard to commit to making a change, especially when it’s something as big (and full of feelings!) as money can be.
This put a smile on my face. And not because you couldn’t afford new pants, but because you can take any story – make it relatable, and encourage others in realizing money is scary (for all of us) until we take the time to learn. I’ve already taken your survey because I’m a huge keener, but I hope you get a ton of responses!
Awwwwwwwww Alyssa! Thank you thank you thank you! It means so much coming from you because I admire exactly that about your writing!
And re: being a keener, I am almost positive I bought the first CPFC ticket this morning, before they even started promoting it. So awkward. I am the most awkward keener ever. It’s like I showed up to class like an hour early (again.)
I cried over a coat once. My mum and I were Uber poor when I was in high school and I needed a new winter coat.
She bought me one that I loved and cherished for many years.
Years later, I could afford the opera and saw La Boheme.
I cried at the part where someone gave away a coat.
Totally lost it.
Oh Suze – hugs! I would have done the same in that situation, I can only imagine.
Thanks for sharing the story! Learning to handle money has got to be one of the hardest things to learn.
Thanks Alex! It’s definitely been a process, haha.
Great story. I never cried over a pair of jeans (except maybe when they didn’t fit anymore haha!) but I can totally relate. I’ve gotten better at managing my stress over the years but I still get freaked out occasionally. I think it’s a sign of being really driven towards goals and not always a bad thing!
Totally! I get that way when I’m too focused on a goal / have taken on too many goals at once too – it’s a uh… ongoing process to make sure I’m not taking on too many commitments, lol.
Oh, girl. I have cried over sub $50 expenses SO MANY TIMES. It always feels like the sky is falling too! I took the survey- i love surveys! And I still work at an ikea desk, hahaha
Kara, remind me to send you a picture of my Ikea desk – it is, no joke, COVERED in ink stains and the least trendy wood and metal combo you could possibly ask for, lol. My folders are like… standard grey-brown bank folders I stole from my mom when I moved out. But hey, it’s a desk! And it works! (The funniest thing is, it’s not even the Ikea desk from this post – that one got sold to the people renting my apartment after me! It’s an even-older desk that I had growing up that I was like sure, I have room for it now, I’ll use that one. My mom was thrilled to declutter it out of her house.)
And girl – HUGS. The crying over expenses thing is no fun.
The moment I realized that I had hit rock bottom financially was the day my wife called me. She was upset. She had just received a call from the hospital billing department asking why we hadn’t paid the medical bills from the birth of our first child. I decided I would never let that happen again.
Awwww I read that post Andrew – so sorry to hear about that! (But you tell the story beautifully, and kudos on tackling it head-on!)
You have such a knack for storytelling! And I have the same problem as you- I can dream up all sorts of financial goals, but when it comes to executing I am the biggest procrastinator. I just have a difficult time actually sitting down and making it happen! Looking forward to seeing what content you develop 🙂
Thank you so much Jill, that’s so sweet of you! And yes to the procrastination thing, haha – it took me sooooo long to actually get my butt in gear and do things like switching to an online bank or investing, even though I knew it was the “right” thing to do!
AHHH!!! I so empathize, on two counts:
1. I was at a bar earlier this week and a friend of a friend started chatting with me. He mentioned he was in NYC for his first job out of college, which already made me feel old, and then asked when I’d graduated college. I said 2011 and his eyes got wide and he said that’s when he graduated high school. Listen, I just turned 27 so that didn’t feel nice. 😛
2. I too was that person crying over something like a $40 pair of jeans. My first year in NYC I focused on ensuring I never had to touch the $10,000 I’d saved to move here. I had a regular job and worked as a barista and babysat, often pulling about 18 hour days. I’d eat leftovers from Starbucks as meals (pumping way too much sodium into my body) and finally, my hands started to tremble from sleep deprivation. Sometimes, super aggressive saving isn’t worth it if it means a major detriment to your health.
I totally agree on the health thing – although can I just say omg wow to your former work schedule? You had some serious hustle, girl, I am *impressed.* But also so glad that you probably sleep more regularly / plain old more these days!
And the new-grad challenge is so real. I work with a few new grads and some co-op students, and they’re *so* young. I’m only 27, I shouldn’t be the work grandma yet! (Although to be totally fair, I try to position myself as older than I am at work because I am on the younger side of the office and want to be taken seriously. But still!)