Do You Make a Lot of Money? Or Do You Just Think You Do?

This week I’m featuring guest posts from some of my best blogging friends while I take a small blogcation. Don’t run away - these are awesome posts from talented bloggers! Today’s post is from Bridget at Money After Graduation. She has recently adjusted her spending habits to live with a little, but is still seeking someone to proofread her blog post for times when she types “alot” instead of “a lot.”

(image source:

“A lot” is a relative term, it depends on a frame of reference for comparison. It is not to be confused with “Alot,” which is both a grammatical error I frequently make and the mythical beast pictured above.

What constitutes “a lot of money” depends on:

how much money you already have

how much money you need


your ability to reconcile your behaviour with basic math

Sometimes it’s easy to think you have a lot of money if you have a large amount saved or invested in assets. But the reality is that even if you own a million-dollar house, if your salary is only $20K you can’t live a million-dollar lifestyle.

It’s an even bigger problem if you are already trying to live a million-dollar lifestyle on a thousand- (or even hundred-) dollar income. However, there’s some forgiveness to be had here since cost of living is as much dictated by geography as your penchant for luxury goods. There’s a significant cost difference when you compare living in a small town to trying to claim some apartment space in an overcrowded city. Nevertheless, it’s easy to get swept up in what we “need” to buy even when we can’t afford it.

When it comes to debt, it’s easy to be accusatory and insist people were living beyond their means on purpose. But when some indebted people say “I just don’t know how this happened”, I kind of believe them. When people think they have or make more than they do, or when they don’t have a solid grasp of what’s an appropriate cost for a certain service or material good, they will spend accordingly.

From my own calculations, I only take home about 60% of my paycheque and the rest goes to things like income taxes, union dues and mandatory employer retirement plans. I did the math because I knew, deep down in my heart of hearts that I was spending like I made my gross income and not my net, and if I didn’t immediately change my behaviour, I was going to find myself in debt again and fast.

I think it’s pretty easy to think you make a lot of money, and much harder to actually make a lot of money.

So what can you do? Figure out how much you actually have and how much you actually make. This means taking stock of how much money is accessible to you, and how much is left over after other taxes and deductions from your regular pay. When it comes to finding how much you actually need, be realistic: you need a place to live, but you don’t need a 4,000 sq ft home with granite counter tops and an indoor pool. Keep track of what you spend and inform yourself so you can find the lowest price, especially on regular costs that can vary tremendously like car insurance or cellphone plans. Lastly, accept that when it comes to your income, you actually make less than you make. Figure out how much of your paycheque is actually yours after taxes and deductions, and adjust your behaviour to fit those numbers.

After all, it’s better to be happy with a little, then to spend your time trying to have Alot.

Five Ways to Center Yourself

This week I’m featuring guest posts from some of my best blogging friends while I take a small blogcation. Don’t run away - these are awesome posts from talented bloggers! Today’s post comes from Daisy at When Life Gives You Lemons.

I’m an emotional person. Like Kristen Bell and her sloth shenanigans, but over everything. I don’t mean that I cry at everything, although I do. I mean that all of the emotions that normal people feel, I feel in excess.

To demonstrate this, when watching Kristen Bell’s breakdown over the sloth appearing at her birthday party, I was probably equally excited. I actually almost started tearing up and freaking out with her. Sloths are cute, okay?

This is an issue for several reasons in my life: My blood pressure is dropping like it’s hot. My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy, and people around me probably also think I’m crazy. Also, having the tendency to jump the gun on things is probably not the best way to be conducting my life.

Also, strong emotions lead to overeating and overspending. If I’m excited, sad, mad, annoyed, or even just happy, I want to shop. Emotional eating and emotional spending are a big problem in North American culture, and I fall victim to both of these things all the time. When I got my first internship, I was so excited. I emotionally shopped until I was flat broke, which wasn’t a hard feat as I was already jobless. Seeing my credit card bill after that shopping trip was a sobering experience.

During that first internship, I had to deal with a horrible coworker who micromanaged me to the point of me locking myself in the supplies closet in tears. I dealt with that by emotional eating; I gained 15 lbs during my four months there, and it took me 6 months to get rid of it.

So, in short, I need to learn how to calm the $%&* down, and I’ve been brainstorming things that help me do that. The following things are lifesavers for my wallet, weight, and health in general:

1. Read a Book

Even just doing this for a few minutes slows my heart rate and distracts me from whatever it is that I’m spazzing about. Even if it’s something super exciting in a good way, I find that I can be unhealthy-excited, as opposed to healthy-excited.

Normal people get excited and happy, I get exuberant. Chilling out with a book for a few minutes helps me see things practically, and act upon the exciting things in a normal way.

I think this may be because you have to concentrate on the words on the page to absorb the book. TV never works for me because that’s more mindless; reading requires concentration on things other than my emotions.

If I’m super grumpy, this works even better. I’m a stewer (I stew over things). If I’m grumpy because the boy didn’t make coffee that morning, I’ll stew over it until it’s a criminal offense. Getting my mind off of it for a few minutes will stunt the anger from multiplying, and I’ll probably be able to transfer my thoughts to the book instead of the target on the boyfriend’s head.

2. Stare at a Blank Wall

I know most of you probably think I’m joking, but seriously. If you’re super angry, annoyed, excited, or just over the top, do this. Stop, take a deep breath, and stare at a blank wall.

I prefer white, but any neutral or pale color will do. It takes away the over stimulation and makes you focus on calming down.

I should warn you that any old wall will not work. If it’s a bright color, don’t do it. Same with patterns or wall paper.

Apparently, this helps decrease sensory overload and that’s why it works.

3. Go for a Run

It sucks for all of us that don’t necessarily like to exercise, but sometimes running it out really works.

If I’m super excited about something, and my mind is going a thousand miles a minute, sometimes running helps me calm down and since my mind is elsewhere, I can run for longer without complaining about every single step in my head. It’s a win/win. Afterward, I’m usually too tired to get overly excited about things, and I’ll just passively go over the event in my head instead of jumping up and down about it.

Any exercise will work for this, so feel free to pick your poison. Some people like walking with their dogs, some like yoga. I find yoga too serene, so for me, running is a good way to pound out my pent up energy.

4. Check Your Bank Account

That’s always a sobering experience.

Warning: do this only when your overflowing emotions are positive ones. It will take you down a notch. Never do this if you’re wallowing in hysterical self pity. It will only drive you to drink.

5. Do Something Mundane or Routine

Doing something ordinary, or something that normally bores you, will calm you down as well. I find that any period of time in which I’m freaking out, I’m also the most productive with housework. My adrenaline keeps the vacuum going at top speed, and the regularity of housework helps me calm down.

Some people say cooking calms them down, or even just taking a hot bath.

The difficult thing about all of these tips is getting the motivation to do these things when you’re bursting at the seams with excitement or hysteria. If you’re like me, you’ll want to shop, eat, or pace the floor while frantically calling everyone you know to complain/rejoice/overanalyze the incident. But, I encourage you, next time you’re emotions are getting the best of you, force yourself to try one of these activities before stepping into a mall, restaurant, or grocery store.

How I Got Interested in Personal Finance

This week I’m featuring guest posts from some of my best blogging friends while I take a small blogcation. Don’t run away - these are awesome posts from talented bloggers! Today’s post comes from Vanessa, who blogs about personal finance (among other interesting topics) at Random Thoughts and Acronyms. Check out her blog to see more of her writing!!

My first introduction to the PF community was waaaay back in 2008 when I found Poorer Than You. I immediately started a blog and gushed about how great her idea of a debt snowball was and she commented! I was ecstatic! An internet stranger thanked me for stopping by her blog – I must be special.

Slowly I collected more and more PF blogs in my Google Reader. In true Vanessa fashion, I was hung up on the logistics of “What should my first real post be?” and I never blogged on that blog again. I did clear $6,000 of debt in 3 months though.

After clearing my debt, I looked at my salary – a whopping $411 a week after taxes – decided that it would be enough to live off of, and stopped working overtime and tracking my money. Only recently, say, tax time 2011, did I sit down and calculate how much income I’ve earned since I’ve started working and how much I had left.

2005: $1,000
2006: $13,000
2007: $16,000
2008: $18,000
2009: $34,000
2010: $24,000

Actual net worth: Not $100,000, not even half.

What had I done wrong!? I always felt (and continue to feel) as though I’m living the life of a pauper. I didn’t have a car, I lived in the most ghetto apartments imaginable and I didn’t buy clothes or makeup. Where was all my money going?!

The answer, I soon discovered, was that it was going toward the sheer amount of fast food that I was consuming. 2011 was my renewed year of blogging and I started to blog (albeit unseriously) in June. Today, after almost a year of meticulously tracking my expenses and finding the holes where my money leaks out, I’ve increased my net worth by almost $2,500, while paying for my university tuition in cash and travelling to Cuba, Europe and the Dominican Republic.

The first step toward financial independence and achieving your goals (to travel, in my case), is to track your spending and identify where your money is going. Your money is essentially being wasted unless it’s being used to fulfill your dreams.

Thinking of Entering a Helping Profession? Here’s What You Need to Know

This week I’m featuring guest posts from some of my best blogging friends while I take a small blogcation. Don’t run away - these are awesome posts from talented bloggers! Today’s post comes from TeacHer Finance, an educator who is rocking her debt payoff while educating the masses. Check out her blog, which may or may not have been recently redesigned by yours truly!

I’m American. As such, a common question that is asked of me when I first meet someone is, “What do you do?” (FYI – Europeans usually ask “Where did you go to school?” Interesting stuff, huh?) When I tell people that I’m a high school teacher, I get a lot of interesting responses, such as:

“What? No way – you look like you could be in high school.” (Thanks, that makes me feel confident in my position as an authority figure.)

“Oh my God, I am not patient enough to be a teacher.” (Thanks, but you don’t know the half of it.)

But usually, people say something like:

“Wow! Cool! I always thought about becoming a teacher!”

A lot of college students consider entering what I refer to as the “helping professions,” professions like nursing, teaching, or social work. These are the types of careers that you know will never make you rich, but where you’ll make an impact on the lives of others. In fact, it’s not just college students who enter into this type of work – a lot of people choose these professions as second careers when they feel it’s time to transition out of the first career they chose. As a person in one of these professions, I think it is great when people choose enriching the lives of others over making tons of money. I find my job incredibly rewarding and strongly encourage others with similar interests and personalities to enter the teaching profession.


Becoming one of society’s “helpers” is not a decision to be taken lightly – teaching has one of the highest turnover rates of any profession in the United States. According to this article, nearly 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years, and one of the top reasons cited for such staggering teacher attrition rates is low pay.

Now, money should probably not be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing any profession. There’s no sense in choosing a lucrative career only to wind up rich and miserable. But in the interest of full disclosure, I want to share some of the financial considerations that come along with choosing to enter one of the helping professions:

1. You’ll need to seriously minimize your educational costs

I’m going to be straight with you: if you’re going into a helping profession, you are not going to earn enough money to pay off the costs of a private university education – assuming that you’re taking out loans. If your parents are footing the bill or you’ve gotten a full scholarship, then by all means, go to your dream school. But if you’re planning on taking out loans for college, you might have to let go of the idea of going to your dream school if your dream career is a helping profession. I know a couple of teachers who owe more in student loans than they make in three years of work. Trust me, you don’t want this to be you. Consider going to community college for two years or going to an inexpensive state school. If you just can’t give up the idea of a high-priced education, then maybe the helping professions aren’t for you.

2. You will not be able to take a vacation every summer

I’m mostly talking to the future teachers of America out there with this one. If you think you’re going to have the time and money to go on a big vacation every year, you’re SO wrong. I mean, you might have the time (probably the whole month of July) but you definitely won’t have the money. If you’re thinking of becoming a teacher because you want to travel all summer – and you’re not independently wealthy – you might want to reconsider.

3. You will not be able to keep up with your friends – financially speaking

Right after college, all of your friends will be broke. For the first few years, you’ll all be in roughly the same spot financially. But eventually, they will get significant raises and promotions. Your salary will climb, but not at the same rate that theirs will. Eventually, they will be significantly out-earning you. You’re going to have to be ok with this, and you’re going to have to resist the temptation to try to keep up with them, otherwise you’ll end up seriously in debt. So when your roommate from college buys a new convertible as a reward for paying off her student loans, you’re going to have to smile and nod at her accomplishment then be ok with driving away in your Honda Civic. Smile through gritted teeth, maybe, but be ok with your Civic nonetheless.

4. Buying a home will be harder for you than it is for others

This is somewhat dependent on where you live in the country, but it will probably take you longer to become a homeowner than it will for others in your social circle. You’ll have to save harder and longer because you simply won’t be making as much money as they will. Again, you’ll have to be ok with this. You’ll get there, you just need a little more patience and perseverance.

5. Earning extra money will probably be necessary for a little while

When you first start working, you might not be able to pay all your bills without a second job or working overtime. There is not shame in this. In fact, I think that working a second job while you’re young is a really good financial move. Just be aware that not working a second job might not be an option for you, at least at first.

I should say that I hope that what I’ve laid out here hasn’t totally turned anyone off to the idea of entering one of the helping professions. Again, I am very passionate about my work and would never want to dissuade anyone from considering what I find to be a very fulfilling career. But at the same time, I wish someone had been a little bit more up-front with me about some of the realities of choosing to enter a notoriously low-paying field.

What about you? Have you ever considered a career in a helping profession? Why or why not?