My story is REALLY boring, but I'm sharing it in case it makes this seem more doable for someone else? I've saved around $15,000/year for the past two years. I'm single, in my mid-20s, live in a kind of rundown apartment where my room is $850/month in the greater NYC metro area and I make pre-tax in the high 50s. I go out to eat/drink way more than I should and take one nice vacation a year for around $1500. But I don't buy a lot of stuff and I'm lucky to have paid off my (very minimal) loans already. My biggest monthly financial indulgence after nice food is yoga classes. I also haven't done anything particularly interesting with the money. I contribute 12% of my pre-tax salary to my retirement account, have maxed out my IRA contributions for the past two years, and the rest is in a Wealthfront investment account. Financially, I am 100% on my own, so this cushion is very, very important. It feels weird to write that out. It looks like I'm doing well, but I always feel like I'm overspending, particularly on food/drinks. But I used to make a lot less and live in a more expensive city and I was miserable because I ate discount microwave food all the time and limited my social life to save money. I've realized that, if I can make it, the being a little less frugal is totally worth the happiness I get in return.
@sherlock Thanks! It's nice to know my experience isn't out of line with the data. Also the Yale Daily News had a fantastic article on this a few years ago from the student perspective. http://yaledailynews.com/weekend/2011/09/30/even-artichokes-have-doubts/
@bowtiesarecool It is frustrating, but also annoying to be frustrated by. I've taken a lot career risks, but my former classmates often treat it like it was braver because I forewent these types of opportunities, when other people take risks all the time without these types of easy options. But I also doubted myself a lot (and still do), because I was "giving up" a high-paying job and stable career by choosing to do my own thing. I don't regret any of the choices I've made, but I also haven't avoided the later career-transition angst because I didn't know what I wanted at 21 either. Most of us flail at some point and repeatedly, no matter the starting point.
I graduated from an Ivy League school post-crash and, during my senior year, it was very hard to get good career advice on industries other than finance and consulting. The majority of my classmates outside of STEM fields were either going into finance, consulting, or fellowship programs like Teach for America. Looking to journalism, but unable to take an unpaid internship, the only advice I could get from our career advising office was to network. That's legitimate advice, but contrasted heavily with the easily marked path to consulting/finance jobs. The big problem here is not expected salary (or you'd see far fewer people doing low-paying fellowships). The big problem is predictability. A large percentage of Ivy League graduates are students who followed the rules and expected paths and it paid off. They know how to apply to programs with clear expectations and set patterns like application deadlines and case interviews. Consulting jobs, finance jobs, fellowships, and graduate school all follow the same type of scheduled, predictable application process and many people who've been successful students find comfort in that. Job hunting in general is unpredictable and scary. Consulting and finance companies come to Ivy League campuses, have clear and predictable application processes than you can *study for.* And students on that path know where they'll be working by the middle of the school year, which takes an enormous weight off planning. It becomes an easy default path for people who don't know what the other options are or are uncomfortable with job applications where not everyone's resume gets an equal shot. By 5 years out, a lot of the people who went into finance and consulting have left those industries. And now they're going through the process of figuring out what to do next. I didn't go that route and graduated without a job. It often felt like I was the ONLY person in my class to do so. It's a huge waste of talent and it can be really difficult for people not interested in those industries to resist the allure of the easy path, in the absence of a different plan.
That last bit is really valuable advice and should be required reading for every soon-to-be or recent college grad looking for work. Especially in a city like DC.
In my office, I have a Mac desktop computer with an extra Dell monitor and a pair of Sony Professional headphones for listening to interview recordings. When I'm in the field for research trips I use a MacBook Air (with ethernet adapter for all those countries without wifi!), a digital flash recorder for interviews, and Skullcandy in-ear headphones to listen to those interviews. I also couldn't live without my Kindle on work trips (even though I hated the idea of them) because it saves me the weight of packing multiple books.
I do, but only because I travel for work to places where I often can't use ATMs/there aren't ATMs/the local currency is unstable and I need enough money for a couple weeks. These are often not fun places to walk around with a lot of cash.
I returned my first Ikea mattress under their 90 day policy because I hated it and it was WORTH IT. I didn't even have to spend $40 on a memory foam thingy.
I went through this earlier this year, and it is confusing. You guys should definitely do an article on how to buy a bed/mattress. Comparison shopping is almost impossible. I ended up deciding on an Ikea bedframe and mattress because I didn't have to buy a boxspring and I didn't have to pay for delivery. I got a queen so the bedframe was about $75 and the mattress was around $350. I originally got the cheapest mattress for under $100 but it was so terrible I had to return it. I kept waking up because I could feel the slats of my bed. Lesson learned: don't try to spend less than $100 on a mattress. It's not worth it! You can get the Ikea memory foam top mattresses in the $150-200 range, which are supposed to be pretty comfortable. Plus their 90 day return policy (for credit toward a different mattress) is great.
Saturday: $4.55 coffee, $8.50 more coffee beans, $16.50 train ticket, $10 to refill my metrocard, $16 dinner and a margarita, $11.50 six pack to bring to a party. Sunday: $1.50 coffee, $14.50 train ticket, $8.95 dinner, $8 tea and dessert. Total:$100, just about what I estimated.