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Young American: A portrait of overspending

Via Flickr, by user Wonderlane. Used under Creative Commons License.

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine; we’ll call him Young American. You probably know him (or her) as well.

Young American is in his early twenties, recently graduated from college, and got his first “grown-up job,” where he earns a yearly salary of $30,000.

With adult responsibilities and a decent paycheck, this single young person is enjoying some of the fun parts of an independent lifestyle, but nothing out of control. Like most young Americans, he has some student loan debt, and carries a credit card balance. With his new job came a new car, as well as the need to grow his wardrobe.

Young American is also a Christian, and an active member in his local church, where he does his best to tithe, give and support missionaries. Beyond this, though, he thinks that his spending is fairly typical. He doesn’t buy many big-ticket items; he simply lives at about the same level of lifestyle that his peers do.

From time to time, Young American overdraws his checking account. It puzzles him, because he has a good job with a salary, and should be able to afford his lifestyle as a single dude. He doesn’t really budget or keep track of where his money is going. But he’s beginning to notice that his credit card balance is getting bigger each month, even though he’s making the minimum payments.

Although Young American doesn’t really track his spending, I’ve tracked it for him. His $30,000 annual income breaks down into $2,500 each month. So how does his monthly spending add up??

  • Taxes & Paycheck deductions (health insurance, retirement, etc.) — $722
  • Rent or mortgage payment — $500
  • Car payment — $200
  • Gas (at $25 per week) — $108.33
  • Tithe — $250
  • Missions (giving to support short-term missionaries, about $150/year) — $12.50
  • Special giving (church ministries, charities, etc., at $100/year) — $8.33
  • Clothing (for the adult job and weekend fun, at $1,000/year) — $83.33
  • Lunch Out (three times a week, totaling $25) — $100
  • Dinner Out (two or three times a week, totaling $40) — $160
  • Starbucks (two or three times a week, totaling $10) — $40
  • Groceries ($40/week) — $160
  • Gifts (birthdays, weddings, etc., at $400/year) — $33
  • Hair Care — $20
  • Household upkeep (repairs, decor, etc. at $200/year) — $16.67
  • Car insurance — $100
  • Doctor and dentist visits (at $300/year) — $25
  • Medicine (regular prescriptions and over-the-counter) — $20
  • Miscellaneous expenses — $50
  • Cable and internet — $80
  • Movies and recreation (bowling, mini-golf, concerts, etc.) — $50
  • Supplies (batteries, light bulbs, makeup, etc.) — $15
  • Smart phone & data plan — $75.00
  • Utilities — $160
  • Student loan payments — $300
  • Credit card payments — $100
  • Car registration/property tax ($150/year) — $12.50
  • AAA Membership ($50/year) — $4.17
  • Vacation and travel (at $1,000/year) — $83.33
  • Christmas gifts (at $300/year) — $25
  • Car service (regular maintenance and emergency repair, $300/year) — $25
Discover More:  The Outliers of Giving

So how is our young friend doing? Well, none of his purchases seems outlandish. But once you factor in one-time and semi-annual expenses (spreading the cost evenly to each month), the picture turns bleaker. Though he earns $2,500 each month, Young American is spending $3,539.49. That’s a monthly deficit of $1,039.49. No wonder he’s racking up credit card debt and bouncing checks.

At this rate, our young friend is headed quickly to a life of financial slavery, struggling to pay the minimums on his debt and wondering where it all went wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way. But to break free, Young American is going to have to face some tough realities, make some difficult decisions about his lifestyle, and learn some skills, like budgeting and discipline.

Does this story sound familiar, or even hit too close to home? The good news is that there is hope, but we’ll have to start by renewing our minds and un-learning some bad habits. Ready to get started?

Up next: Fixing Young American’s money mistakes

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