The topic of money has come up a lot in my life as of late. Although it’s taboo to talk about money and your finances publicly, I think it’s important for young women in our 20s and 30s to understand what our peers are going through so I’m going to share a few thoughts and what I’ve learned since I graduated from college 10 years ago (Oh man, saying that out loud is a reality check!). I get a lot of questions about how we saved for our house so I’ll go over that in this post too. If you want more concrete advice on how to gain control of your own finances read my seven tips here.
The reason that I’m writing about this now is because in the last six months, our finances have been turned upside down. We bought a house in November, putting almost all of our savings into the down payment (that was a scary moment). Then I quit my job in February, something that we were not planning on. As you can imagine, our lifestyle has had to change quite a bit.
Keeping Up with the Jones’
While all this was going on, we finally started to make new friends in Connecticut but, and this is to be expected where we live, most of them are pretty well off. One girlfriend and I had a long talk about money and how it’s changed our lives. From my end, I was at first embarrassed to have her and her husband over to our house because the whole thing could quite literally fit into their garage.
I kept pushing off the inevitable invite until she finally showed up one day this spring to meet Boots and I had no choice but to be okay with it. Of course she was great and loved our home, but that first time she visited, I felt anxious about the vast difference in our houses. Since then, I’ve been working on letting go of that feeling with her and with everyone else we meet out here.
Living in the suburbs can often have a “Keeping up with the Jones'” feel and I totally bought into that when we first moved. I was always trying to prove myself, trying to keep up with a crowd that I had no place being a part of. When I realized that they all accepted me for who I am, not the money I make or the cars I drive, I was able to begin my process of dropping the act and not worrying so much about what other people think.
Money in my 20s
When I first graduated from college and moved to New York, my friends and I were pretty much all in the same boat. My salary at CondÃ© Nast was so low that it was virtually impossible to live off of. My parents paid for a portion of my rent and gave me a monthly credit card stipend. Even with all that, I ate a whole lot of canned soup towards the end of each month.
Despite my struggles, that was such a fun time in my life. My friends and I would pre-game to save money at bars, and we let boys buy us drinks when we went out. Our investment banker friends would take us out for fancier nights on the town. Because we were all in similar positions, no one really talked about money or cared about the disparity in our incomes.
In the next few years, there was a big shift. I got a new job and was, for some reason, vastly overpaid. At 24, I was making more than most of my friends, and instead of being proud of that, I felt guilty. I’d pick up the tab at big group dinners, buy every round at bars, and was careless about spending because I could be. I remember blowing my first ever monthly bonus (I worked in sales) at J.Crew in an hour. What was I thinking? My salary was more than enough to cover my lifestyle and I didn’t even have a savings account. I want to go back to my 24-year old self and shake her.
When I met Anel the next year, and realized shortly after that I was going to marry him, I opened up a savings account and upped my investment into my 401K. That’s when I started getting OCD about saving. I was obsessed with hitting a certain amount each quarter and it paid off as I watched the numbers in my savings account grow. Despite my input into savings, I was still making enough money where I never had to worry, a feeling that is pretty amazing at any age.
Then I quit my job in 2013 (for the first time) to blog and open my short-lived online boutique. Anel and I invested a huge amount of our savings into that which, in the end has paid itself forward but for a while was pretty rough. We were living off of only his salary because my blog wasn’t making much yet and the store was in debt. We had to say no to many dinners out and fun activities because we just couldn’t swing it. That lasted for about six months and then I realized that it was too much of a struggle and ended up going back to work for Nourish Snacks.
Saving for a house
While I was working at Nourish, Anel and I slowly started building up our savings again with a goal of buying a home. It was hard because we were living in Manhattan, but we did it and I’m so proud of us for making that happen! We put away almost every dollar that I made on my blog and tried not to live too extravagantly during those two years.
For those of you without a blog or side income, I suggest committing to a certain amount each month going into a savings account. You can usually set up a direct deposit from your job so that you don’t even have to see the money in your checking accounts. Even if it’s $100 per paycheck, that’s worth it! It might not seem like a lot now, but it adds up, I promise. Read the rest of my tips here.
I clearly know very little about managing money so last year, we ended up using Learnvest who hooked us up with a financial advisor and a dashboard to manage our finances and investments. I highly recommend this service and, although we left them for a bit, we’re going to jump back on board in the next month because it was so helpful.
A few weeks ago I was at an event with a city friend who had a fabulous new hot pink Chanel bag and I complimented her on it, telling her that I’d love to be able to just go and buy something like this but I just can’t. She was surprised to hear that, but when I explained how these days most of my income goes toward mortgage, car payments, and the dog (more expensive than you’d think!), it made sense to her. I’ve never been able to go out and buy a hot pink Chanel bag because I’ve been saving for our house for so long.
I’ve said no to expensive vacations, stopped myself from impulse purchases, and cut back when I had to and, while that sucks at the time, I promise you it will be worth it in the future! Now that we’re talking about our future children, I’m even more proud of myself for the decisions that we made.
We’re so lucky that through my blogging we’re able to take free trips and get so many amazing gifts which makes it look like we’re rollin’ in some serious dough but I guess that’s my point here… You never know someone else’s situation so try not to get jealous or play the comparison game. As my friend Loren said to me last weekend, “comparison is the thief of joy”.
And while I’m sad I don’t have an incredible bag collection, the one Chanel that my husband and sister bought me for my 30th birthday is that much more special. And at the end of the day, I own a home which was always my end goal. Side bar, if I could live in a pile of Chanel bags, I definitely would, but pretty sure Anel wouldn’t be down for that