Real Money Lessons Learned by Real GenYers is a series that highlights financial lessons learned and experienced by our generation. Ranging from entrepreneurs and freelancers, to married couples, to those with a steady bi-weekly paycheck, this series will showcase a variety of financial issues we face and will hopefully show that you’re not alone in your financial journey. Today’s Real Money Lesson comes from Erin (aka Broke Millennial), founder of BrokeMillennial.com Erin is the founder of the blog Broke Millennial. She uses sarcasm and humor to keep readers awake while learning financial basics. Erin lives and works in New York City, where she’s developed quite the knack for finding deals and free events.
Name: Erin (aka Broke Millennial)
Social Media: @BrokeMillennial
Complete this sentence:As a New York City resident, one of the biggest financial lessons I’ve learned is how to loosen up and have fun without annihilating my savings account.
Provide details of the problem/situation you faced or experienced:
I moved to New York City in June of 2011, three weeks after college graduation. Living in the Big Apple had always been a dream of mine and I was fortunate enough to land a job here. Being an employed, recent college graduate (especially one with degrees in journalism and theater), seemed like such a success story. Then I received my first paycheck. Unfortunately, the job I moved to New York City for was not full time. I fluctuated between 20 to 32 hours weeks, but it was in entertainment and too good of an opportunity to pass up. Because the paycheck from that job wouldn’t even pay my monthly rent, I knew had to find other employment to subsidize my meager salary, survive living in the most expensive city in the United States and try to put some money in savings.
How it all turned out:
My first few weeks in New York City I spent most of my spare time job hunting. I applied to every job with flexible hours I could think of including ushering at movie theaters, being a barista at a coffee shop, waitressing and babysitting. I scoured SitterCity, job boards and even tried Craigslist a few times; until all the ads for ladies with beautiful feet finally creeped me out enough to avoid the site. Ultimately, I landed a gig as a barista at Starbucks and a few babysitting jobs. Financially, I got into a good place. I was able to pay all my bills and put a tiny amount into savings each month. Emotionally and physically however, I started to suffer. Working three different jobs to make ends meet led me to work 70-80 hours per week. I rarely had a day off and only managed to save money because I didn’t have enough time to socialize with friends. Eventually, I figured out a way to negotiate for better employment with the families I babysat for. This enabled me to leave my latte making days behind and have a little more control over my life. The experience taught me that sometimes experiences and having a life are more important than focusing on your nest egg. I had no debt to pay down, had enough saved for emergencies and needed to enjoy my life in my early twenties instead of constantly fixating on financial goals. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pretty much a complete cheapskate and hunted down any, and all, free events in NYC. But, I also recognized that sometimes it’s important just to let yourself be young and embrace life’s experiences. Just don’t go into debt for them.
Would you do anything differently? If so, what?
In retrospect, I wouldn’t change the decisions I made. Working at Starbucks was a wonderful lesson in humility, respect and customer service.
Going forward, what will you do to handle situations like this or manage things better?
It may sound strange to hear from a personal finance nerd, but I try not to let my entire life revolve around money. I’ve been fortunate never to find money intimidating or a source of major contention in my life, but that’s largely due to my general stinginess and major debt aversion. As a spendthrift, I’ve had to learn to loosen up every-so-often in order to have life experiences instead of just hoarding money away in my room (which I totally don’t do anymore, it goes to the bank)!