Originally Published: August 25, 2017 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: I’m 24 years old and trying to get a better handle on my life. A year ago, I was unemployed for a few months. During that period, I blew through most of my checking and savings accounts to pay rent and my credit card for things such as groceries and utilities. That quickly grew into a mountain of debt. Brutal interest rates haven’t helped. I guess I needed to learn that lesson the hard way.
I have a full-time job now, but after rent, utilities, insurance, student loan payments and my monthly credit card payments, there’s not much left for savings.
I’ve been looking at areas in my life where I could cut spending. I go out to eat a couple of times a week — whether picking up something on my lunch break during the workweek or getting brunch with a friend over the weekend. I also go out to happy hours with co-workers or concerts with friends occasionally. I live in Washington, D.C., and even two drinks at a bar (with tip) can end up costing $30, so it really does add up quickly. However, whenever I stay in to save money, I end up feeling as if I’ve missed out on bonding time with friends. Plus, I know that when I’m older, I won’t feel like going out dancing the night away, and I’ll probably have a family to stay in with.
Maybe what it comes down to is I’m scared of growing up and not being able to be so carefree. Do you have any wisdom for 20-somethings trying to seize the day without losing their savings? — Trying to Be an Adult
Dear Trying to Be an Adult: It’s not the bars or brunches that make the memories. It’s the friends. You live in a city with beautiful parks, free museums that people travel from all over the world to visit and public transportation. Grab a friend and explore one of the many costless and priceless things your town has to offer, or just stay in and host a movie night. Popcorn is cheaper and more healthful than a cocktail.
Face down your debt and make a realistic repayment plan. Draw up a budget and stick to it. Don’t make impulse purchases. When you’re about to buy something, wait and see whether you still want it in 24 hours; it’s not going anywhere. (And if it does, that’s just as well. You probably shouldn’t have been buying it in the first place.) Consider meeting with a financial adviser for more personalized guidance.
If you take care of your body and your finances now, “growing up” won’t be such a scary prospect. You may even enjoy it.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Speak Up or Put Up,” who is tired of having friends bring out their smartphones while they are all out to eat together. You said phones have no place on the table during a meal, and you should have left it there. Instead, you said it is acceptable when sharing photos of grandchildren. You have now given permission for cellphones to be on the table and utilized during every meal in America henceforth.
Everyone already knows that just about no one wants to see pictures of other people’s grandchildren, but they won’t say so. You need to say it for them. You blew it. You need to take this one back. — Ed From Vermont
Dear Ed: I’m sorry you feel that way. I love seeing photos of grandchildren almost as much as I love seeing the pride on the faces of the grandparents sharing them.
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