It’s all about the Benjamins: Budgeting (Part I)

Or Lincolns… or Washingtons. Let’s be honest, I’ll take what I can get.

Make it Rain

Brunch, cabs, happy hours, shoes, cabs, cabs, cabs, food… Living in NYC isn’t cheap — especially if you want to have a certain kind of lifestyle. Despite making a decent amount of money for someone my age, financing my life isn’t as simple as you may think.

For the past couple of years, there has been a big hoopla in the media about the rising costs of higher education. I distinctively remember walking by the Occupy Wall Street protesters one day (end of 2011/beginning of 2012) when a specific complaint caught my attention. A small group of people were complaining about student loans. One guy in particular had over $50k in debt. He had a job and was slowly paying off his debt but was complaining about the fact that he now owes more than what he borrowed. At the time he was living with his parents and they were also helping him pay down his balance.

I’m going to go on a little rant here, so please, bear with me. I come from a very modest family. My parents are small business owners (they are the only employees). Any time my parents aren’t at work means they they aren’t making money. For my parents, bank holidays weren’t fun three day weekends but days they get to rest or prep for their business. Such is plight of a small business owner–you’re never really “off” from work because there are always things to do or worry about.

When it was time to go to college, I knew that I would have to finance my own education. I applied to a number of schools and got accepted and received varying degrees of financial aid from each of them.
– Public universities gave me full rides plus more
– Private colleges offered me from 75% to as little as 25% in financial aid

The difference would have to be made up by student loans. When choosing a university, I considered many different factors, including the expected amount of debt I would graduate with and the likelihood of finding a job. I was rather pragmatic in my approach and chose to double major in a “hard skill” major (math, science, finance, etc.) with a more interesting “soft skills” major (communications, journalism, anthropology, etc.). The reason for this was to ensure that I could maximize my marketability in the job market post graduation.

I worked my ass off in college. I worked roughly 20 hours a week at various (paid) internships while attending school full time in order to gain work experience and stand out from my peers. It was a long and difficult journey but my diligence paid off and I was able to secure a full time job in finance by November of my senior year. By the time I graduated, I amassed enough debt to buy roughly 8 cars or a nice house in the suburbs. The aggregate sum was and still is a bit intimidating–but I knew what I was getting into when I chose to attend the school that gave me the least financial aid.

Even at the young age of 18, I knew that the concept simple and compound interest. This is a concept we all learn (or should have learned) in middle school. Logically, why would a financial institution loan you thousands of dollars without expecting anything in return? Let’s be honest, nothing in life is free. I do believe that the cost of higher education in the United States has become ridiculous. It is incredibly inflated and definitely needs some sort of reform.

HOWEVER, I do not believe that the banks, the government, or “the 1%” is responsible for your student loan debt. I chose to to incur debt for my education and I take responsibility for it. I knew that if I didn’t find a job, I would still be on the hook for my loans. I knew that I was taking a huge gamble. For this reason, I made sure that I did everything I could to ensure that I would be employed post graduation. I had two majors, a minor, worked 20 hours a week and still managed to hang out with my friends and do well enough in school to find a job. I knowingly did not major in something with low practicality, scarcity of jobs or a very low starting salary because I was choosing to go to an expensive school, so the stakes would be higher. Now had I chosen to go to a state school (with a full ride), I could have been more risky about choosing my major since I wouldn’t have the financial burden once I graduate. I literally could have afforded to take that risk–but I didn’t.

When I saw the Occupy Wall Streeters, I was so irritated. The guy was complaining, not only about the cost of education, but the fact that he would have to pay for his student loans for the next 20 years. He and the other protesters were demanding debt forgiveness. For me, this made absolutely no sense. While I commiserate with the general suckiness of having debt, the protesters complaints were mainly unfounded in my opinion. Now I don’t know any of their specific stories, but I can tell you this. No one forced them to go to an expensive college and no one forced them to pick a specific (or less marketable) major. The difference between the protesters and me was that I chose to work while going to school. I chose my specific majors for specific purposes and I chose to incur student loan debt. I had more student loan debt than the people protesting and had absolutely no monetary help from my parents. I think if anyone should be complaining, it should be me–but I’m not.

After graduating, I’ve been very responsible about my loans and have already paid back half of what I owed. I’ve done this by paying more than the minimum amount per month and by paying off the higher interest rate loans first. Every single tax return I’ve gotten has gone straight to my loans. Despite this, I still go on nice vacations, take cabs, and have fun on the weekends. This is all attributable to good budgeting and intentional decision making.

Look out for Budgeting (Part II) for specific ways I manage my finances.


Bring on the Sweats (Part II)

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This is Part II of the Bring on the Sweats series: How House Clothes Almost Killed Me — For Part I, click here.

So house clothes almost killed me. Well, more like I almost died* while wearing/lack of wearing my house clothes…

It’s Friday night and I’m starving. I have to eat before meeting up with friends or the night will end badly. I consider cooking but don’t want to wait for chicken to defrost so I opt to get food delivered instead. Delivery in NY is pretty quick and painless. Everything is done online; all you have to do is browse, click, and open the door. I play on the internet until my doorman calls to let me know that the delivery man is headed towards my apartment. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap! I’m not wearing any pants!”

I quickly get off the couch and put on pants (my grey sweats… you know the pair). I walk towards the front door then, BAM. I pass out out of nowhere. I wake up on the floor of my foyer, fully dressed but disheveled. I’m not sure how long I had been lying there but shortly after I come to my senses, the delivery man rings the doorbell. It turns out that I only blacked out for a couple of seconds. My blood sugar was low and I got up too quickly to put on pants and get to the door.

After the shock of falling on my face wore off, I ate dinner and lounged around until it was time to get ready to go out (I may or may not have started bawling in between). Now most of you don’t know me but in the not-so-distant past, I was the queen of going out. I’ve done boozy brunch (with bottle service) til 5 pm, only to go out again for dinner and drinks at 8 pm and come home after eating breakfast around 5 am. But that single girl is long gone.

Nowadays, if I have tentative plans, by the time 9:30 pm rolls around, a very strong wave of laziness washes over me. On the night I almost died*, the laziness was also met with a lot of pain, ugly scratches and bruising. I obviously didn’t make it out that night, but even on any other night, it’s become a nearly impossible task to take the single girl out of her house clothes. The most common excuse for not getting dressed is, “Ugh, but I’m so comfortable right now!” For the same reason why I put on the house clothes after work, why would I want to take them off?

My girls and I have spoken about this phenomenon ad nauseum and after much scientific testing, we’ve concluded that house clothes are to be blamed for about 70.3% of the time we don’t go out on the weekends. I look at it like this; once you pull a new umbrella out of it’s casing, it’s nearly impossible to stuff it back in. The same goes for me and nice (i.e. tight, fitted) clothing–once I shimmy out of a pencil skirt, why would I want to stuff myself back into a bandage dress? It’s just that much harder…

Or am I just too lazy for my own good?

*May be exaggerating a tiny bit.

Bring on the Sweats (Part I)

I’m a pretty low maintenance girl. I don’t have a skin care regime, rarely wear makeup and frequently forget to wash my face at night. Call it youthful ignorance, but I ain’t got time for all that. Despite this, when it comes down to it, I still love getting done up. Now, it doesn’t happen too frequently, but even I enjoy putting on a full face of makeup and fuck me heels once in a while–but that story’s for another time. Today, I’m going to talk about my everyday, after work look.

I work in a fairly formal office and my outfits usually consist of pencil skirts, slacks and blouses. While the clothes aren’t that bad, it’s still not something I would choose to wear outside of work, and most definitely not at home. From a very young age, the clothes I wore to school and work were different from what I wore at home. I grew up, and still do look forward to house clothes time. I mean, what’s more freeing than shimmying out of a form fitting pencil skirt and into a soft, baggy oversized pair of pants?

Now, what are house clothes you ask? Well, it’s different for every girl. For me, it’s a pair of men’s sweatpants and a random XL shirt I acquired for free. For some of my friends, it’s going pantless, braless and putting on a worn in, oversized sleep shirt. It doesn’t matter what you end up wearing, but we single girls know that once the house clothes come on, there’s no turning back.

My House Clothes

My House Clothes

I’ll be honest. It’s not the prettiest of sights–but you best believe I’m loving it. When in my house clothes, it’s a judgement free zone. I can open that pint of ice cream and binge on reality TV with no shame. That is, until someone comes to the door; then immediately I regret my decision. This can be a delivery man (because you definitely aren’t going out looking like this), your maintenance guy, or a friend, but regardless of who it is you need to think and move quickly. For those of you who choose to stay pantless, you scramble around looking for pants. As for me, I hide behind the door because I realize I don’t have enough time to look “normal.”

House clothes are acceptable because they aren’t permanent. Once you wake up the next morning, you slip out of your 10 year old dingy pajama set and into your sleek pencil skirt with heels, ready to face the world… but what happens when you need to face the world only hours after changing into the comfort of jersey cotton and fleece? It’s a frequent dilemma of mine and it usually happens around 9:30 pm on a Friday night. What do I do? I’ll tell you in Part II.