In Naked With Cash, seven anonymous Consumerism Commentary readers publicly track and analyze their finances on a monthly basis. For almost a decade, I tracked my own finances on Consumerism Commentary; now I’m sharing the benefits of public accountability with the participants. I’ve partnered with financial planners who will offer some guidance along the way. Read this introduction to learn more about the series.
Kathleen is thirty-one years old, single, and living in Portland, Oregon. She loves her job, even if it isn’t very lucrative. Since her income was $33,000 last year, she’s looking to make more money from “side hustles” (like her blog, Frugal Portland) this year. To learn more about Kathleen, read her bio. Kathleen is on Team Sara, with Certified Financial Planner Sara Stanich.
Kathleen’s report this month, below, includes Kathleen’s progress during August 2013. You can read her July report here. Following Kathleen’s own self-analysis, Sara Stanich will offer thoughts from her perspective, and Jacob Wade, from iHeartBudgets, will offer his insight.
Comments and analysis from Kathleen
For me, August was the most emotional and difficult month of my life. It seemed like the world was conspiring to put all the bad things into one month. I worked less, which will probably be reflected in September. But I suppose that doesn’t explain the spending.
Here’s the thing. I bought a new living room set, and I’m not the least bit sorry! I have a small space, and my couch touches my front door and the sliding glass door that goes out to the patio. So, the huge change in credit card spending is due to that. Don’t worry, it all gets paid in full before it gets a chance to accumulate interest.
I forgot to mention last month that I picked up a freelance writing job that is bringing me some money. August was my second month of that, and I’m really happy so far. I’d love to pick up more writing gigs. Does anyone out there need a writer?
Heading into September, all I can think is how happy I am to have this month over with. And it does feel good to spend a little money in order to make my space more beautiful. It’s my home, after all, and everyone is right: You want the place you own to be a place where you feel the most relaxed. No more “good enough” furniture for this girl!
Feedback from Sara Stanich, CFP
I’m glad to hear you picked up some freelance writing projects, Kathleen. Increasing your income is going to improve your financial picture more than anything else at this point. Focus on that, because you already have the budget and debt pieces of the puzzle totally dialed.
Don’t worry about a little extra spending to set up your new place. It’s not like you buy a new couch every day!
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Feedback from Jacob Wade
I’m sorry to hear about the whirlwind month; I’ve had one as well. And since you have the cash on hand for the furniture, I don’t think you have compromised yourself in this scenario. I, too, buy everything on cards and never pay a cent of interest. It’s the best way to play the rewards game! Just make sure a furniture set doesn’t turn into a complete condo overhaul next month.
I hope September is a much better and happier month!
Feedback from Luke Landes
It’s interesting that August was both an emotional month and a month in which you spent more than you might have expected going into it. First, I’m sorry to hear that it was a difficult month. When high emotions conspire with a major life change, like buying a condo, it can be a recipe for financial disaster. Emotional spending — “retail therapy” as I’ve heard it called — makes your bank accounts just as vulnerable as your emotions.
The good news is you seemed to keep that in check. You did purchase furniture for your new condo, and that’s something you would have needed to do otherwise. The period after buying a new house is often full of more spending to make that house seem like a home. I wonder if there was any effect on this particular furnishing choice by your emotional state; would you have made the same purchasing decisions if you were having a better month? You may well have, but I’m bringing this up because retail therapy is a common emotional band-aid and readers might recognize a pattern in their own spending if I mention it here.
Great job on finding an ongoing writing assignment!
Updated June 22, 2016 and originally published September 26, 2013.