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 Condé 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
Absolutely wonderful blog article! No matter your age or stage in life every reader will learn something from this. We are at the stage of still paying for our house – and there are always renovations and raising our son. When you focus on the long term goals the saving becomes easier and of course in the long run so worth it. Good luck to you and Anel.
I love reading about all things money/how people handle their finances and appreciate your transparency here. I’ve slowly tried to open the door to “money talk” in my friend group because I think it’s so important and there’s always something to learn – whether it be how to negotiate for a higher salary, who’s doing what for retirement or who decided to get life insurance and when! Thanks for sharing 🙂
26 and Not Counting
I love this! Money can be so taboo to talk about and I love that you are so real on your blog. And so relateable! It is crazy how money changes when you buy a house and are dealing with other things – debt, student loans, saving money for 401k. I appreciate this post!
It does get hard not to keep up with the Joneses… but I know in the end it is for the best! Love the line about comparison being the thief of joy – such a true statement!
Loving the real-talk, lady! I totally agree about traveling back in time and having a stern talk with my 24-year old self! Have a great day!
I truly appreciate you being so candid about a topic that too many people treat as taboo. I have always found it difficult when people don’t share an open view of their lives – how are we all supposed to learn if we can’t be honest about things! I have always been open about money and how we do things. I remember when we were first starting out and I quit my job to stay home with my two boys full time. There was more than one eyebrow raised in my circle of friends and I was always open and honest. My husband worked three (yes, three!) jobs and we rented and did not own our home to be able to afford for me to raise our boys. We saved like mad people to be able to buy our first home and after being there for 10 years we could upgrade to something bigger, and more expensive, but that’s just not our plan. I like our home, it might not be a mansion, but our value has increased and our payments have decreased and it affords us a lifestyle that we are comfortable with. If we upgraded we would have to give up on travelling and there is no way we are letting that happen. Travelling is our passion! I’m still saving up for my Chanel bag (one day) but I am quite comfortable with how my life is. Being in your 30’s is great. You are more settled as a person and you gain so much perspective. I loved my 20’s but I much prefer my 30’s (I’m told 40 will rock!) xx Rox-Anne, Celebratingthislife.ca
I agree! My 20’s were so so hard and so far my 30’s are much better. I agree that travel is so important and I hope that when we have kids, we’re able to travel with them. I’d rather have a smaller house and see the world with my family 🙂
I can so identify with the “keeping up with the Jones'” also being a Fairfield County resident. We live in such a strange place where people either have a lot of money, or not much at all – and we (hubs and I) strangely find ourselves here in the middle somewhere. I always stress to my friends – especially the younger ones – that it’s hard to catch up on savings. As painful as it might be, it’s better to start socking away money in an IRA or 401k as soon as you possibly can. The compounding of that money over time will beat out a mad dash to put away savings later in life for sure. Great post, thanks for your insight!
Oh girl, I feel you! And I agree about the IRA/401K situation. It’s hard to do it because you don’t see immediate results but thinking long term is so important!
I really love this post- I think it is so helpful to be able to see what is really going on with most people and their finances. While I agree that it comparison is often the thief of joy, it is also nice to compare yourself to other people with regards to how they manage their money because it gives you a clearer image of what is “normal” at certain stages. I often ask my closest girlfriends these types of “what do you do for xyz” questions just to see how I stand up next to them (or if i should change what i’m doing to be more efficient). Saving is so important – I agree! It gets us where we ultimately want to go!
Such a wonderful post! I’ve really appreciated all the high-quality content on your blog recently. While I enjoy the beautiful fashion and lifestyle photography, I REALLY enjoy the more personal posts and discussion of more substantive issues (not sure what the right adjective there is).
I love the saying “comparison is the thief of joy” and it is such an important concept to keep in mind– for all of us, no matter where we are in life and who we’re tempted to compare ourselves to. You’re also (as you noted) living/working in an area with particularly high concentrations of wealth!
I’m glad that you were brave enough to post about this. I think that most of us feel this to some extent, and it’s a matter of being open and honest about it. I can’t afford to go buy the brands I want off the rack because I have two kids involved in very expensive activities that require a lot of travel. So, I get good at waiting for deals. There was a Sex and the City episode where Carrie wants to buy her place but has no savings. She looks around and realizes it’s because she has so many shoes and comments that she’s literally going to be the old woman who lives in her shoes. If only we could make smart financial choices as sexy as those Chanel purses.
Julia – I just wanted to compliment you on your down-to-earth and super real blog content lately. It’s so refreshing for you to be covering issues that we’re all going through or know someone who is/has. As fellow residents of Fairfield County, my husband and I can certainly appreciate the pressure you mentioned to maintain a certain lifestyle. Last year, we purchased a foreclosure in a well-to-do town and renovated it in entirety from heating system to ripping down walls and redoing the kitchen, our version of saving where others in our town would definitely have splurged and bought the move-in-ready home. To have a beautiful place to come home to and call my own at 27 is really a dream come true, especially in our expensive area, but would not have been possible without some serious planning and determination! I have one LV and, while I really covet your Chanel, I don’t think I’ll be spending thousands on another luxury bag any time soon! Please keep up the great blog content, yours really is a joy to read!
Finances are such an important topic, especially for women, and I really appreciate your willingness to tackle the topic with honesty and candor. Dropping the taboo helps everyone make better informed decisions like saving and investing early (such great advice). In NYC (like Fairfield County), it sometimes feels like everyone spends freely / doesn’t worry about finances / carries designer bags. As you are so right to point out, appearances can differ from reality, but it’s still tough sometimes to be immersed in that environment. I haven’t taken the plunge on a designer handbags (although I lust after them) because I haven’t felt comfortable diverting that money away from potential savings.
This was an awesome post, Julia! As a young woman in my early 20’s, it’s difficult to keep savings in mind, but it’s so important and easy to lose sight of! I hate that money is such a taboo topic; I think it’s so important to talk about it in order to learn from other’s successes and mistakes.
Great post– very realistic. Fiscal responsibility pays off in the long term, for sure. I’m into my 40s now and comfortable enough that I could buy myself a couple of Chanel bags if I wanted to. But I never will– I don’t understand the attraction.
Haha, I think every girl would live in a pile of Chanel bags!! Love this post 🙂 Very well said.
Yes to this! I see fellow bloggers and all the crap they spend money on and have to ask myself, “How are you going to afford a down payment on a house?” Some have Mommy/Daddy’s money I suppose, but still. This was nice to read — a honest perspective.
I love this post so much, thanks for talking about a usually taboo topic! I can relate to so much of this (especially the bit about wanting to shake your 24 year old self ha!). Let me know if you figure out a way to live in a pile of Chanel bags though, because that sounds pretty fantastic…
Thank you for the honest post! You are one of my all-time favorites! I used to work in Stamford, and know exactly what you are talking about.
Two questions, if I may, why did you close your online store? What did you sell?
Elizabeth @ AATD
Julia, thank you for this! What an honest and real post. My fiancé and I recently moved to Fairfield county (Stamford) and the wealth here is incredible. I’m definitely struggling with the “keeping up with the Jones'” right now. We are renting while we find our house in either Westchester or Fairfield County. And even though we are successful and have what I’d consider a higher home budget it seems like peanuts compared to what some of these homes cost. It’s good to know that I’m not alone and that there are other people who have the same feeling here. I’m constantly wondering if I look like the misfit because I don’t own a single Chanel bag and don’t drive a Range Rover.
On a side note your house is absolutely gorgeous from what I’ve seen on your blog and Instagram and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it in any way! If you ever consider interior design let me know, I’ll hopefully soon be looking for some good decorating advice!
Hi Virginia! Welcome to the ‘hood 🙂
I totally feel you and was in that exact same boat when we moved here two years ago. I’ve learned to not care as much because I’ll never be able to keep up, but it definitely took me a while.
Good luck with your home search!! xo