25 Reasons You’re REALLY Broke In Your 20s And 30s

woman with cash savings money piggy bank

Seriously, if you’re wondering why you’re broke, that’s probably a reason you’re broke in itself: You have no idea what you’re doing with your money. Here are a few ways you’re probably cheating yourself out of financial security.

1. You feel like you need the newest, shiniest gadget. Apple knows that you don’t want to look old, out of touch, or cheap. That’s why every year or so, a dumb new model comes out that isn’t much different from the last one, and you still shell out big bucks for it. If you feel a constant need to keep up with the Joneses, you suffer from insecurity. There’s no two ways around it. Apple, with its constant new iPhone innovations (many of which are buggy and all of which are overpriced, especially when you consider the alleged child labor often involved) is a prime example of preying on insecurity for profit. Get over yourself and save that money for an emergency fund, something most of you don’t have.

2. You feel like you’re not popular enough. Social media inspired FOMO may make you shell out more on nights out than you can actually afford to, because you don’t want to look broke or lame in front of your buddies or in tagged photos.

3. You’re vain. I have a buddy who will never be photographed in the same outfit twice. This wouldn’t be a huge deal if she wasn’t also obsessed with being photographed to begin with. And she’s broke because of that and another reason …

4. You don’t understand that credit cards aren’t free money. Said buddy is in a buttload of debt because she charges everything and only pays the minimum payment every month. A $30 dress can easily cost five times that amount when you add on interest over time.

5. You hitched your wagon to a really dim star. We went over this yesterday.

6. You live beyond your means. There’s nothing wrong with working retail or service jobs. They’re respectable professions and not everyone can do them. (I tried waiting tables when I was in school and lasted two hours. Tip your damn servers.) That said, if you work in these jobs, you’re probably not making a ton of cash. A pal of mine worked the box office in a small movie theater, and I always marveled at how many vacations and trips she’d go on every year. A coworker of mine who makes less money because she didn’t negotiate her salary lives in the East Village and pays a lot more than I do in rent because she wants a Manhattan zip code. Then I learned that both gals are roughly tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and it made a lot of sense. If you’re only making $400 a week, you can’t spend $500 a week and expect to get ahead.

7. You don’t know how to plan. A big part of planning includes planning for the unexpected. You need to have an emergency fund, because no one’s life is a picnic all the time. Car trouble, layoffs, unexpected deaths or illnesses in your family, health issues and other surprise expenses come up all the time. If you don’t have any cash set aside for them, you’re going to be in big trouble when they do.

8. You can’t say no to your friends. If your friends are having bridal showers, weddings, second weddings, second bridal showers, bachelorette parties, baby showers, baby sprinkles, sex toy parties, Tupperware parties, Avon parties, nail wrap parties, jewelry parties, etc., you’re going to be expected to shell out money. Don’t feel obligated to do that. You can be someone’s friend without subsidizing her lifestyle. If you can’t afford to get yourself a Kitchen-Aid mixer or a baby food processor, don’t feel like you need to buy one for your BFF. A true friend wouldn’t put a price tag on a relationship with you and will understand if you can’t scrape together the coins for her dumb destination wedding or another ugly gown you’ll never wear again.

9. You’re wasteful. Open your fridge. What’s in there that you bought two weeks ago and made plans to prepare and never did? Stop buying those. Also turn off your lights, open your windows instead of blasting your AC constantly, don’t leave water running, etc.

10. You don’t donate wisely. Now open your closet. See all those clothes you never wore? Or that haven’t fit since you were 16? Donate them. And instead of donating them to a bin in a drugstore parking lot, look up local churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc. and donate to them instead, because they’ll give you a tax receipt for it, which will save you money at the end of the year instead of giving it to Uncle Sam.

11. You don’t read the fine print on loans. I’ll let Jon Oliver handle this.

12. You don’t read the fine print on contracts. My boyfriend and I recently took the next step in our relationship and signed up for a cell plan together. Because he hadn’t been paying attention to his previous contract, we ended up paying the same amount for both of our phones and respective plans as he did for just his own previously.

13. You don’t know how to negotiate a salary. Negotiating a salary is a huge deal. While a lot of studies say women make less money than men do for the same jobs, it’s not necessarily because employers are sexist. It’s because studies also show that women are scared to or don’t know how to negotiate a salary. You can’t blame your employers for saving money when they can. Business is business. Use these tips, figure out how to hustle, and demand what you deserve.

14. You don’t know how to negotiate your bills. Chances are you don’t have to spend as much on your cable or phone plan as you are right now. Call your company and ask what they can do for you. They have retention specialists who are here for this very purpose and will probably at least give you a few months of free HBO to keep you around.

15. You don’t buy generic. Generic brands aren’t the best for everything, but will usually save you big bucks that can go elsewhere. You know, like that emergency fund you still don’t have.

16. You’re not turning down free money. If you’re not taking advantage of coupons (especially for things you already always buy and use) or your company’s 401K matching, I really don’t know how to help you.

17. You’re a smoker. Cigarettes are expensive in and of themselves. Add in the cost smoking takes on your health and you really have to be a special breed of idiot not to quit.

18. You’re paying for things you don’t use. We’re all guilty of this. I’m pretty sure I have a gym membership leftover from 2008 that’s being charged to my checking account every month. I’m canceling that, finally, after I finish writing this damn thing. Especially because I got more toned just hula hooping in my living room than I ever did getting sexually harassed by their trainers.

19. You quit school. Sorry, but you’re going to make a lot less money forever. On the bright side, you probably owe less in student loans, so whatever money you do make, you may be able to keep more of it.

20. You trapped yourself in the “pink ghetto” professions. The “pink ghetto” refers to jobs typically taken by women, many of which are respectable jobs that people need others to do, like teaching and nursing. The problem is that teachers and nurses get paid less than, say, college sports coaches and doctors. If you’re happy with what you do, that’s great. But you also have to understand that if you make the choice to work in daycare instead of studying engineering, that’s an expensive decision—and one that you have to take responsibility for making.

21. You don’t use birth control. Condoms and birth control pills are a lot cheaper than prenatal care or raising a child.

22. You have a kid. More on this later, but guess what? If you can’t afford to have a child, don’t expect your finances to magically fall into place once you do.

23. You have expensive hobbies. I know a lot of special snowflake bloggers like to make it seem like we can all afford to travel if we just try hard enough. The problem is, not everyone tries hard enough, and even when they do, not everyone can afford to travel, sky dive, scuba dive, perform taxidermy or other pricey things rich people like. Get over it.

24. You don’t understand that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Oh, so your buddy’s cousin’s uncle’s ex-stepsister made $7,000 a month selling hemp-based beauty products from home? That’s good for her, but it’s probably not good for you. You need to understand that most direct sales companies are pyramid schemes with loopholes, the loopholes being the overpriced tangible items that you’re selling (instead of imaginary products). By recruiting others, you’re recruiting competition, even if you get a cut of their earnings, and unless you have a huge network, chances are you’re going to have to rely on the same few friends who aren’t broke to subsidize your business just for you to maybe break even. It’s better to, you know, get a job unless you actually have sales experience elsewhere.

25. You go to Starbucks twice a day. I know you’ve heard this before, and you dismissed it. That $10-$15 a day every weekday adds up. Unless, of course, you’re being subsidized by your buddies or parents, in which case, seriously, go f*ck yourself.

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