Shitty jobs and shittier cars.

I remember sitting in the kitchen in this dirty, could-be-nice-if-my-roommate-wasn’t-such-a-mess townhouse while I was making something cheap for dinner, like Ramen of spaghetti, on the phone with my mom. I had just started grad school and felt way in over my head (I was) and was working a coffee shop job just a few days a week to make some money in between class and schoolwork. I was in a car that broke down so often that, I had a very familiar relationship with the local auto shop owner. “What is it this time?” he’d ask as soon as he saw me hop out of the tow truck that brought me to his shop.

I remember sitting on an ottoman in the kitchen (why was there an ottoman in the kitchen?) nearly in tears on the phone with my mom. “I’m just tired of being poor all the time. I’m tired of the shitty car and the cheap food. I’m just so ready to be past this stage in my life.” I know it broke her heart to hear me talk that way, and I know that, if they wanted to, my parents could have completely financially supported me in a much more comfortable lifestyle than I was living. But now, with years between now and then, I’m so grateful that they didn’t.

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On The Unfortunate Art of Worrying

I’m not an introspective person in the least, so I love when people who know me well make an offhand comment about my personality that to them is completely obvious, but to me is completely groundbreaking. A few years ago my mom said something along the lines of, “For someone who makes very little drama here,” motioning to our surroundings, “you sure make a lot of drama up here,” pointing to my forehead. And then she continued on with the conversation we were having like she hadn’t just dropped a huge bomb into the center of my being.

That simple comment sent me into a silent state of shock. I have been consistently described as “laid back” all my life, but in my head the sky is always falling. My mind moves a mile a minute and, with out guidance, will careen off into a state of absolute panic in a short amount of time. The “what if’s” and the “maybe’s” leave me teetering on the edge of internal panic nearly all the time, while on the outside I am as “laid back” as ever.

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The Unexpected Money Challenge All Servers Have To Deal With

This post was written for an originally appeared on the incredible blog The Financial Diet. The original post can be seen here.

I spent around two years working as a bartender and server while I was in grad school, and then again while job searching after I had graduated. It had its ups and downs, was both stressful and fun, and was ultimately a great learning experience, as well as a really great way of supporting myself.

The blessing and curse with serving and bartending is that, for the most part, you make money in cash. And making money in cash as bartenders and servers do, for me, became almost addicting. When someone would ask me to pick up a shift for them, all I could see were dollar signs, and it was really hard for me to say no. Imagining the wad of cash in my hand at the end of the evening made each shift something I was excited to take. And besides, not only did turning down a shift mean that I would not make money while working, but it also meant I’d likely be out spending money instead. Taking the shift was always a win-win for my wallet.

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What I Do For A Living

It’s pretty standard to ask, “So what do you do?” which I never mind answering when it is asked of me. But when I respond there is often a follow up of, “…so, what does that mean?” which can be hard to answer unless someone is willing to hear a several minute explanation (they don’t).

So. I’m a structural engineer. To get here, I got a bachelors degree in Architectural Engineering that is actually a complete bullshit degree, but it got me into a great engineering school where I got my Masters of Science in Civil Engineering with courses concentrating in Structural Engineering.

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The Emergency Fund: How I Saved It, And What It’s Done For Me

This post was written for an originally appeared on the incredible blog The Financial Diet. The original post can be seen here.

When I was in grad school, I worked two jobs: a part-time office job and a bar job. My grad program was designed for people working full-time jobs, so I would leave my office job and go straight to class, then would leave class and go straight to work at the bar until 4 AM, with enough time to get roughly four hours of sleep before starting it over again the next day. As you can imagine, it was rough. I worked something like 70 hours every week, plus school on top of that, saving diligently as I went.

When I finished grad school, I kept up the two jobs while searching for a full-time job in my field, which took about six months to find. As rough as it was, working so much had so many benefits. I was making good money, and because I was so busy I was never spending any of it — it effectively eliminated the desire I would have had to spend money “because I could,” or to relieve my stress. I was either working or sleeping, and rarely anything in between. Yes, there were days off that were spent shopping and nights off that were spent out ~on the town, but they were infrequent. My rent and utility bills were super cheap, and I was in the grace period of my student loans, so almost all of the money I was making went straight into my savings account, creating a robust emergency fund.

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How Becoming A Bride Taught Me To Hate The Wedding Industrial Complex

This post was written for and is originally posted on the incredible blog The Financial Diet. The original post can be viewed here

I remember sitting at a lunch a year or two ago with my sister, mom, aunt and grandmother. My sister had been in a relationship for several years and was getting the standard henpecking, “Where is the diamond?” from our grandmother. Luckily for my sister, the conversation quickly turned to the expense of wedding planning. My mom voiced that she and my dad had always planned to give my sister and me each a chunk of money to spend on a wedding or to do what we choose. My aunt, who has children who are 10 or so years older than my sister and me, agreed that she and her husband had done the same: they had offered to either pay for their children’s wedding or to give them an equal amount of money. She then rolled her eyes and said, “But they wanted a wedding,” and my mother rolled her eyes in agreeance.

Flash-forward a year or so, and now my sister and I are both engaged. And, despite her eye-rolling performance at that lunch, and from witnessing her passionately planning my sister’s wedding for over a year now, I am convinced that my mother would hand me her broken heart along with my head if I said I wasn’t having a wedding. Immediately after my engagement, my mother was sending me emails with Wedding To-Do Lists and Pinterest boards… and I don’t even have Pinterest. My fiancé and I seriously considered going to the courthouse in order to avoid the stress and cost of a wedding. Ultimately, though, we decided that we love celebrating with our friends and family when they get married, and we’d love for them to celebrate our marriage with us. So, we are wedding planning.

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Wedding Planning

I never had a dream wedding in my head. Since my friends have started getting married it’s been more of a, “I like that they did this…” and “I do NOT like that they did this…” And, since D and I got together and have been going to these weddings together, we have been making these observations together.

And now we are trying to take all that and implement it into our own wedding.

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