The Millennial generation: Entitled or just different?

The Millennial generation: Entitled or just different?

You can hardly peruse Facebook or news sites these days without finding some commentary on Millennials. Some articles insinuate that Gen-Y is entitled and lazy, while others delve a little deeper to look into the challenges many in this generation face.

I recently read an article about how Millennials spend their money titled “Pets, debts and e-cigarettes: how millennials spend their paychecks”. Now I wouldn’t consider myself part of this so-called Me Me Me Generation but according to Wikipedia’s age range I am smack in the middle of it. (Okay, so maybe being born in 1986 puts me about 1/4 of the way in, but I look younger than I am… Right? Right?!?) In case you don’t have time to read the article, here is an overview:

  • A non-scientific case study of six Millennials ranging in age from 23 to 29 was completed to see how they spend their money and how much they earn.
  • Salaries ranged from $0 (one young lady was unemployed) to $130,000 annually, with a median income range of $30,000-$33,000 a year.
  • Each person spent their money in different ways, but both income and spending were self-reported. Their expenses were then broken down into the top five categories.
  • The highest reported expenses were typically rent, food, and student loans, closely followed by things like medications, daycare, and car payments.
  • Of their top expense categories only one person listed hair appointments, one listed cigarettes, two listed gym memberships, and one listed travel.

The question I’m left with after reading this article is:

If we’re spending money on the same things as other generations, why are we being labeled as entitled?

Now let me jump to my own life; if I were to be included in that article, what would my “Top 5” look like?

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Now let’s see how my income stacks up:

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Assuming everyone in the article works an average of 40 hours per week, the average hourly rate would be $21.31. In comparison mine is $20.24. With my second job and working about 65 hours per week, my income per hour drops to $19.55.

It looks like I am right in line with others in my generation. I know there are a few in the higher echelon and many more making less than I am, but for ease let’s just go with the numbers we have here. With the average monthly rent payment of $790 and a mean net income of $2,770.83 per month (if we are all in the 25% tax bracket), this means that Millennials, on average, are spending about 28.5% of their income on rent. Completing the same calculation for student loans, Millennials spend an additional  24% on college debt each month.

When other generations describe Millennials as being lazy or extravagant spenders I get a little riled up. In fact, one of the issues my own parents have when it comes to my spending is that they “don’t know where all my money goes”. Even when I break everything down, showing them my budget, they don’t believe me. It seems like a lot of people from Generation X are wearing the same blinders. After all, they paid rent (or a mortgage) and made much less money than we’re making now. So why can’t we save like they did?

There are a myriad of possible answers to this question, not the least of which is inflation, but I’m not going to get into that right now. What I’d like to focus on is student debt. This 2013 article featured in The Huffington Post goes over some of the numbers haunting Millennials. The most relevant point to me is that the average student loan debt of Millennials graduating with a 4-year degree is around $26,600. The article points out:

This can be contrasted to 1993, when less than half of students graduated with debt, and those who did had an average of $9,350 in loans. Maybe we are just bad with our money?

This writer echoes what I’ve heard so many Baby Boomers say: “You’re just bad with your money.” I think all Millennials everywhere throw our hands up and retort right back with me: “Fuck off.” Because it’s not just the fact that we have student loans. It’s the inflation of the cost of a college education that’s really killing us.

I started college in 2004; the tuition there at that time was about $34,000. The tuition at that same school today, 12 years after I started, is just under $55,000. The same education now costs 62% than it did when I started college.

You read that correctly – 62% percent.

In comparison, let’s look at U.S. inflation over the same period of time:

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Calculated by http://www.usinflationcalculator.com

 

I’ll just come right out and say it. $42,700 is nowhere near $55,000, and 25.5% is nowhere near 61%.

So the added burden of student loan payments, is it any wonder why Millennials can’t save for a mortgage, pay for a new car with hard-earned cash, or deposit more into their 401k each month?

I think this is part of the reason people my age (or younger) get excited when they hear me talk about buying a Tiny House. They struggle with the same financial burdens that I do. Even if they can’t see themselves living in a Tiny House, it inspires them to think outside the box in terms of living situations and expenses. The people that balk at this idea are primarily members of older generations who do not understand the weight that is student loan debt.

We can’t buy huge houses then pay them off in 10 years (like you did) because we’re paying the amount of your mortgage in student loan debt every month.

I can’t keep banging my head against the wall to conform to what one group of people thinks of as “normal”. My circumstances are different than yours were at my age. My priorities, therefore, must be different.

It’s time for our parents and grandparents to look at us in a new light. It’s time for Generation X to give Generation Y a little break. It’s time for us to look at our futures differently. Because we are different. And like you taught us Mom and Dad,  different just ain’t so bad.

Let us become the swans you always said we could be.

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People don’t suck?

People don’t suck?

So yesterday I posted about the terrible happenings of this past weekend. (If you missed it, read the last post here.) I also posted a link to my GoFundMe page asking for donations to help me get back some of the money lost in the burglary and to replace the window. I didn’t expect much… maybe $100 or so to help me pay back some of the ensuing credit card charge. But you guys have been very generous and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for it. So far you’ve raised $350 in less than 24 hours.

You are amazing.

I negotiated my bill with the auto glass company down to $300 including tax, so this has already been covered. I thank you so much! The money left to raise will go toward the cash that was stolen. I’m almost tempted to take the GoFundMe page down, but then I remember how much my feet hurt after working from 8:00 Friday morning until 1:00AM Friday night and I resolved myself to leave it up. Plus, the kindness and support and messages I’ve received are wonderful. You are wonderful. Thank you.

Now I turn to the real reason for this post, which is to take a moment and reflect on this situation in its entirety. To start, one person sucked, and sucked big time; he took my money and wrecked my car window. Then, people hugged me, bought me drinks, and sat with me while I was in a bit of shock. Yesterday, people started donating to help me recoup some of this money; people who couldn’t donate sent notes of encouragement.

So how can I look at this situation and conclude that people suck?

That night, after my money was stolen and I’d had a drink (or three), I started talking to one of my friends about the situation. (Mind you this was before I’d considered the cost of the window repair. I was only thinking about the stolen cash at this point.) In my slightly tipsy and ever-pensive state, I started talking about the nature of human beings and my relationship with them in the world.

There have been many times in my life when people have tried to break me. I assume everyone reading this has been in at least one similar circumstance. Just a few examples: My purse was once stolen out of the trunk of my car at a football game. I was once stalked and forced to quit my job because a co-worker was upset and decided revenge was the ticket. (She even wrote, “I’m going to rape and kill Rachel” on the door of the building I worked in. Fun, right?) There have been countless occasions of bad friends letting me down amidst the depths of my depression. And after each bad interaction I think to myself, “I should just stop trusting people. People hurt people. I’m sick of being the nice guy while everyone else shits on my life.”

But after this situation, in that moment, with the people around me being so kind as to make me cry, I didn’t think that. Instead I said to my friend:

I’m not going to let this break me. I am not going to allow some lowlife junkie to determine how I’m going to feel. So my tips were stolen… No one was hurt. I’m not going to allow this one awful person to make me a worse person. I’m going to continue to try and do good. I’m going to be the person I am. I’m not going to let this jade me.

And in that moment I felt what I was saying with my whole heart. While it should be noted that the next day I had other (angry) thoughts, nonetheless I’m back to feeling this way now. And the reason I feel this way again is because of the people who have reached out. It’s because of those who are determined to prove that not everyone sucks; not everyone is out for only themselves. There are still people out there who have sympathy, empathy, or compassion.

I’m lucky in this life to have even a few of those people around me, and I can’t thank you enough.

And now you:

What have you overcome in your quest for goodness? What is the worst thing someone has done to you that has made you question your intentions?

It was all going well until…

It was all going well until…

..there were some major setbacks this weekend.

Most importantly, my builder had some unexpected things come up and he was not able to deliver my THOW shell on Sunday. We are rescheduled for this coming weekend, on Easter Sunday to be exact. And that turned out to be all well and good considering what happened Saturday night…

As most of you know I have been working two jobs since November to try to save for my Tiny House. As some of you know, I have been working 70-80 hours/week to save as much as possible before the THOW arrives. As a few of you know, 80 hours/week is my cut-off for losing my mind. I need at least one day off a week to rest and recoup.

There was no resting or recouping this Sunday. Only anger, a sense of betrayal, and the ensuing depression.

My car was broken into at some point Saturday night. All of my tips from Friday were stolen. The money was hidden in my car as I was going to deposit it that night after work. I checked it between 4:00-5:00PM when there was a slight lull in my shift.

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When I came out after midnight (after having been there since 9:30AM), I went in my car to change my shirt and have one post-shift drink. That’s when I noticed the glass in the back of my car. Nothing else was stolen even though my purse was in my car. All of my debit cards, credit cards, and keys were still there. The only thing missing was my cash.

We called the police and they say they’re going to pull the camera footage from neighboring businesses. They say they’re going to look for this guy. They say with any luck they’ll find something in the footage. They say, they say, they say. I’ve had my car broken into before. I know how this works. I’m out the money the thief stole as well as the money to fix the broken window. The person won’t get caught and, since I think it someone I work with at the restaurant, I have to either quit or feel uncomfortable for the rest of my time there.

Now I usually work Monday thru Friday (8:00-4:30) at my day job. I then work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights and all day Saturday. I have one bank account where my main job’s paycheck is deposited and another just for my tips and other income. This helps me to keep things straight and not spend what I’m making at either job.

As of Thursday when I updated my budget, I only needed about $65 to hit my income goal for the restaurant this month. Then I made $315 on Friday night, which is a very large amount of money for 7 hours or so of work. One of my regulars gave me a very generous tip for which I was beyond grateful, and all because he sees me working hard and wants to help me achieve my goals. He tells me this every time he sees me. It is encouraging.

Not only has this thief robbed me, but he has robbed others of their good intentions toward me and my life. He has robbed me of my sense of security and made me more than a little vexed with my car. He’s robbed me of the $315 in hard-earned tips and the $300+ it will cost to fix the window he broke.

For the record, if you ever have to break into your SUV, the vent window is the most expensive window to break. This isn’t a picture of my car but another one similar to it, and I’ve circled the vent window in red:

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Even though it is the smallest window, it is permanent and considered part of the door, so it must be sealed differently. For my SUV with the privacy tint, I got quotes ranging from $305-$499 for this window alone. Never break this window if you can avoid it.

Now I’ve said before that I don’t want to ask anyone for money for my Tiny House project because I am fully capable of doing this alone. I can work hard for this and wear my body out every week until I have everything paid for. I can do whatever it takes. But this was such a blow, both mentally and financially.

For this reason, I’ve decided for the first time to ask for a little bit of help. I have to write two very big checks in the next week (one for the down payment on my land the other for the remaining balance for my THOW shell) and this $600+ swing is coming at exactly the wrong time. If you can, please considering sending just a few dollars to help me recoup this loss. It would be more appreciated than you know.

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Go to: http://www.gofundme.com/rachelsbrokenjeep to help me recoup my THOW money. Anything is appreciated!

Here is my GoFundMe link. Click here: Bum Thief Broke My Jeep Window fund or go to: https://www.gofundme.com/rachelsbrokenjeep. PLEASE share it as well. I am not asking for more than I lost in this fiasco. Thank you all for your continued love and support.

 

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An extra special thank you to those who have already helped me deal with all of this over the past weekend. Thank you to those who drank with me afterward to numb myself, let me crash with you, taped my window up like surgeons, and continued to text me to make sure I was okay. You are wonderful friends and you know who you are. I won’t embarrass you by calling you out by name, but I owe you more than you know. Thank you.

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Good afternoon Tiny House enthusiasts! I know I promised I’d post about my research regarding insulation and other super fun things (like drywall), but first I need to put some things down that have been bothering me…

I was asked this weekend who I am writing this blog for. While I am hopeful that my audience will find this to be both amusing and (eventually) informative, I am primarily writing this for myself. I want to be able to remember the decisions I’m making now and why I made them. I want to be able to look back and show things I accomplished and things that deflated me. For this reason, some of my posts will be less about decisions I’m making and more about how I’m feeling or why I’m confused.

Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time at both of my jobs lately…

The restaurant I work at started (and kept on) messing up my schedule. I was working Monday night, Friday night, and sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m not even available to work Sundays or Mondays. It was stressing me out quite a bit and for quite a few reasons. First, with the amount of time I’m spending working I need a full day off each Sunday. Having to find someone to come in on what is actually my only day off was stressful, primarily because no one would ever want to work the shift. Second, I have been at this restaurant since the day it opened. I was one of the first three people hired and I didn’t understand why I was being singled out to work on a day I wasn’t available. So I sat down with them, had the conversation, and have been given my preferred schedule. I now work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, as well as all day Saturday. My knees are killing me but I’ve already made an extra $1600 this month. (And it’s only halfway through the month!)

Now on to my full-time job. (I find it hard to call just one of my jobs “full-time” now since I’m basically working full-time at both jobs, but I digress.) Things are feeling increasingly stifled to me. I work for a private company, but a large one. We recently moved to a new location and the vibe around the office is becoming more and more corporate. There is a lot more micro-managing and a lot less creativity. There is also an awful lot of inter-office pettiness that stresses me out daily and negatively affects my mood. I’m annoyed or upset more often than not these days and it takes all my energy just to get up in the mornings.

I know part of this is my depression but knowing why you feel a certain way doesn’t change that you do feel that way. My new medication takes the edge off the depression like ibuprofen may dull joint pain, but it doesn’t take it away.

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I worry about what will happen when this Tiny House push is over. I know I’ve outlined all of the reasons I’m embarking on this journey, but what happens when it’s all done? I have always been good at pushing through and working toward a goal. What happens when I attain that goal?

Time for a story.

When I started college I was 17 and very smart. I earned several scholarships for writing and academics. I was excited for all that college would bring. I enrolled in interesting classes like one about Marxism and another called “Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma”. It was exhilarating to open my mind up to topics I’d never really heard of, yet alone dared to study. Coming from a close-minded Catholic education, this was really a treat for my mind.

And then it all crashed, and crashed quickly. My depression quickly spun out of control and by my sophomore year I was failing classes. I had to transfer to a larger and less prestigious school, but I did so well there (while living at home with my parents, mind you) that I was convinced I was cured. I even managed to convince my parents of that. I returned to my fancy (see: expensive) college, and promptly ended up back on academic probation. I quit college just one year shy of graduating.

Why am I telling you this sad story? To tell you this better one:

Fast forward five years. I’d never gone back to school and I’d moved around Western PA a lot. I was fed up with my job after two-and-a-half years and ready to move on. When they said they’d pay me unemployment if I quit, I quit that very day. I decided a few weeks later that I’d return to school. And I decided to return to my school. Sure, I could have gone somewhere closer or cheaper or less distinguished, but I wanted to prove to my 17-year-old self that I could do it. I filled out the paperwork, I got my loans, and I returned to class.

My first time around, I’d planned to graduate with both a Psychology and an English degree. Each Professor who knew me way back when told me to take it easy and choose one major and allow the other to become my minor. I didn’t listen. I couldn’t do that. Instead, I took 22 credits during the fall and 23 in the spring. I re-enrolled in classes I had failed or gotten a ‘D’ in, just to pull up my cumulative GPA. When I returned to school, my GPA was a measly 2.3. My goal was to graduate with a 3.0.

After just one year and enough classes to fill at least three semesters, I graduated with both degrees. I made the Dean’s List each semester and my GPA was a 3.0. (Well, it’s technically a 2.97 but we all round up, right? Math, right!?)

So again, why am I telling you this? Because I need to remind anyone who is listening that you can do whatever you put your mind to. And I need to remind myself that I can do it. Despite any craziness at my jobs or with my family or the battle against my inner self, I will not succumb. And neither should you.

It shouldn’t matter who is with you or against you, as long as you are with and for yourself. So long as you keep your own hope alive, you can do anything.

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     – Dylan Thomas

Framing and Plating and Landing – OH MY!

Framing and Plating and Landing – OH MY!

First I’d like to apologize for my inconsistent updates. I feel motivated in many ways but updating frequently has not been one of those ambitions as of late. I find it is difficult to update when all I seem to be doing is researching the same things over and over again. I also have to do all of my blogging at strange times since I am still working 70-80 hours per week.

Now that that’s out of the way, today I have good news, bad news, and fantastic news.

The good news is that I have some updated pictures of my build from Tiny House Squared! See below for some amazing progress! My builder, Mark Boyer, is working very hard to complete my build despite the flu, the weather, and some visits from curious locals. (Click on each picture to see a description and larger image.)

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Now for the bad news… Due to circumstances (including my own miscalculation with the trailer registration), my trailer delivery has been delayed a week. It is now set to be delivered Sunday, March 19th.

 

Pennsylvania-DMV-testWord to the wise: Check your local requirements for trailer registrations and plates well before you start thinking about transporting your trailer. As it turns out, PA is strict about more things than just liquor sales. Not only do I need my MCO (Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin) and bill of sale, but I also need another form (the MV-41, apparently) that requires VIN and trailer inspection by a certified mechanic. We’re figuring it out now, but it’s taken some maneuvering. Save yourself this hassle and talk this out beforehand.

Now on to the fantastic news. I just found out today that I was approved for my land loan! The appraisal came back and everything is good so I’m just waiting for the closing now.

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My next post will be all about insulation and drywall (or wood). I have a lot of decisions to make and I’m concerned about how the choices I make now will affect the future of my Tiny Home.

 

 

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

If you’re a fan of “Sex and the City” you’ll undoubtedly recognize the photo above as Carrie’s closet from her apartment. (And if you’re like me you’ll even be able to identify which outfits were in which episodes…) It used to be one of my dreams to have a closet stock-piled with clothes and memories like hers. The teensy-weensy difference is that Carrie’s Chanel dresses and Manolo Blahniks cost just a smidge more than my Forever 21 tunic shirts and Charlotte Russe wedge sandals.

One of the things I’ve been both dreading and dreaming of through this process is paring down my wardrobe. Allow me to explain… It takes me a very long time to pick an outfit in the morning and even longer to second-guess my choices. I have at least 30 pairs of heels and yet I wear ballet flats to my first job and Payless-brand non-slip sneakers to my second. I can’t remember the last time I wore heels, in fact. I own dresses I’ve never worn and shoes I’m afraid to ruin. During one after-Christmas sale at Old Navy I bought the same sweater in 9 colors. You read that right – NINE DIFFERENT SOLID COLORS.

In addition to the sheer insanity that is “nine of the same sweater”, my gluttonous need for closet space has inadvertently affected my living conditions. Anywhere I’ve lived I’ve needed a huge amount of closet space. I have even had to buy an extra wardrobe to store my myriad of clothes when the closet in my apartment is too small. (FYI: To me, “too small” is a double closet of normal depth.)

I have bras I haven’t worn in years and hand-me-downs that still have the tags on them. Due to years of going to a laundromat, I have more mismatched socks than correctly matched ones. (And with my OCD I cannot wear the ones that don’t match. I just hope they’ll turn up again someday like a long-lost puppy.) I have leg warmers. I have banana clips. I have at least 20 non-winter scarves. I have…a problem.

I can admit it. That’s the first step right – admitting it?

Here is a picture of my old closet, just for kicks. I don’t have one of my current closet.

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(Please note that in this apartment I had another closet with almost as much clothing in it too.)

So now that my Tiny House will be here any day now and I’m facing the reality of downsizing, I’m beginning to panic. I’m beginning to panic a lot. Where am I going to put all 18 pairs of skinny jeans? How many of my nine solid-colored Old Navy sweaters can I afford to keep? Can I still have my size zero dress from high school to remind me of how skinny I used to be?

AND WHERE WILL I PUT MY SHOES?

I’ve read about people who have pared down to capsule wardrobes but I think I’m just going to call myself out.

I’ve been a hoarder of a clothes and a shopaholic. It was fun. We had some great memories. But it needs to end now.

And isn’t that part of the reason I’ve decided to live Tiny in the first place? I wanted my life to be more simple, less cluttered, and more about actually living. I want to spend more time outside and less time doing chores. I’m going to digress for a moment but bear with me: Do you know how quickly cat hair gets on clean clothes? I estimate it to be about 1/10 of a second. That shit is everywhere. So the natural conclusion must be that the more clothes I have, the more clothes I have to launder. And don’t even get me started about putting them away.

I think the above reasons illustrate that I’m getting myself psychologically ready to part with some of my clothes. In a way, I’m pumped. But I haven’t yet addressed why I’m dreading this process at the same time.

If you read my last blog post you saw my plans for my Tiny House in 3D. If you are a woman (or a well-dressed man), you likely noticed that I was missing something crucial; I had no traditional closet. Not many Tiny Houses do, and I was convinced I could get on board with this notion.

But then I couldn’t sleep last night because I was looking around at all my clothes, panicking about not having anywhere to store them. This is the first time my Tiny dream has truly scared me. Because it is getting to be so real, I am starting to really stress. As such, I’ve had to make a change to my floorplan. I’m going to move my washer/dryer into the kitchen where I have plenty of storage and take 2.5′ from the bathroom to create a closet. See below:

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I may try to install a pocket door but I also may just leave an open doorway to the closet. I can’t decide yet. I am also going to place the washer/dryer under the stairs, but I’m now wondering if I may change the stairs to a ladder. Happily, that can all be decided later.

I hope this new solution alleviates my fears a bit. Maybe I will be able to do my laundry in peace tonight, with no nightmares afterward.

Designing My Life

Designing My Life

I have my delivery date nailed down for my Tiny House and I have some great news to share as well! My builder is delivering the shell himself on March 13th to surprise me. YAY! But the biggest news is the best surprise. My parents have reconsidered their position and are allowing me to store my Tiny House on their property until it’s almost finished.

This makes me feel better since I’ll only be able to get out to my land once a week or so to do the demo. This makes my future home safe, secure, and protected.

Sure, I’ll have to endure endless suggestions from my dad, but honestly suggestions are pouring in from all angles now. That’s part of the problem of going public and of documenting your journey; everyone has an opinion. But it’s also very cool. Some people are pointing me in directions I’ve never thought about before. I’ve talked to a guy building a yurt and a gal who is funding her trailer in a creative way. (BTW, that gal’s name is Melanie and you should read her blog too. It’s called Little House in the Steel City. She is offering to paint small portraits for $15 to help fund her trailer – click here to order yours! She’s an amazing artist. I’ve ordered three!)

Now I’m making decisions about super-fun things, like drywall and insulation. I hate it. I want to keep looking at tile and flooring and paint colors and shiplap (damn you Joanna Gaines…). But instead I’m looking at cement board and radiant heat flooring mats and trying to nail down a budget.

I did make my first fun purchase though. I bought this fireplace from Wayfair.com to heat my Tiny Home. The flames change colors and so do the ambient lights. This won’t be my only source of heat but it will certainly be a fun addition!

I also did a 3D creation of what I think my Tiny House layout will be. I’ve never done one of these before so keep that in mind…

The stairs are all individual cabinets that will open in different directions. Those will have to be custom-made. I also changed my mind for the size of the vanity and shower, but that won’t change the picture much. Here are some of the materials and furnishings I’m thinking of using:

There’s one thorn in my side right now – no news on the land front. The loan is still going through the process so I’m just waiting to hear back.