What happens after sending out hundreds of A/B tested resumes and cover letters? What ends up moving your applications forward is your job interviews.
The most surprising thing I learned throughout all the interviews I’ve done is that my judgment of how well I did isn’t always accurate. I’ve gone to interviews and thought I did ok yet ended up with an offer. And I’ve definitely gone to the occasional interview where I thought pretty well and ended up rejected.
Here are my tips for fine tuning your interviews, and ways I’ve been able to learn from my failed interviews.
Figure Out Your Elevator Pitch
You have to know why you’re a good fit for the job you’re applying for. You have to sound confident in the value you bring to the role. You have to know your resume inside and out, but you also need to bring new life to the words on your resume.
Where I went wrong in many of my first phone screens was re-describing my resume. This usually turned into a long list of responsibilities I had. When things are a giant verbal list, it’s hard for any of it to sound distinct. Even if the person interviewing you hasn’t taken the time to look at your resume, it’s boring! It’s even a little…pointless.
The purpose of an elevator pitch is to sell you. It communicates your end goal to the person receiving it. What are the types of problems you want to work on? What work environments really compel you? What types of people do you want to work with?
The elevator pitch also gives a compelling and brief view of your work history. The word to note here is “brief”.
If you want to summarize your work experience, you have to know your resume inside and out so you can pick the work you’re most proud of to talk about. I highly recommend taking the time to reflect on why you’re proud of those particular experiences. The experiences you feel proud of not only show what you did and how you did it, they also demonstrate what motivates you.
Knowing what drives a person is much more unique and memorable than a laundry list of responsibilities. It creates a personal story that the person on the other side of the interview can connect with.
Get Value Out Of Every Interview
When I sent out my 120 applications, some companies never got back to me. Some companies auto rejected me. Some companies interviewed me then rejected me. Other times, I rejected a company after interviewing and realizing it wasn’t for me. It can be demoralizing dealing with situations that never turn into a job offer for any number of reasons, but instead of treating it like a waste of time or a dead end, treat it like a learning experience.
Recruiters always ask you to tell them about yourself. When I first started getting phone screens, I didn’t even have my “Tell Me About Yourself” pitch ready. By the time I had gotten through the first 20 phone screens, my pitch sounded so much better. I had a more conversational tone despite being able to repeat the same content without thinking twice.
You can gain a lot of insight into what a recruiter’s looking for just by observing the questions they ask. “Have you worked with x technology?” or “Have you solved y type of problem before? How?” or “Our organization is structured in a way where you would have x, y, z, responsibilities, would you be comfortable with that?”
Through those questions, I ditched talking about things I realized weren’t relevant to the job. I used to talk about presenting to the executive staff for my allocation position at Macy’s, but realized it didn’t make a huge impact because it wasn’t technical. I started emphasizing strengths I hadn’t thought of before that were directly related to the jobs I was applying for. Discussing my reasons for technical decisions in personal software projects I worked on did much better in demonstrating my technical abilities and passion.
I learned so much about how to sell myself as an inexperienced applicant just through initial phone screens! I learned even more from technical interviews. Technical interviews kept my mind engaged with problem solving. Even when I failed to solve a technical question from one interview, another company sometimes asked a similar question that I was not only able to answer, but solve with confidence and clarity!
Ask For Feedback
I had multiple friends tell me I should be asking my recruiter for feedback after getting the news that they wanted to move forward with someone else. I followed this advice a few times, but it ended up being unbearably awkward for me. I kept wondering what incentive did recruiters have to email me back. Wasn’t this transactional? Shouldn’t they just move on once they’re done with me?
While it’s true that many recruiters de-prioritize communication with candidates they’ve already passed on, it never hurts to ask. If you have an email template you can copy/paste, it makes asking for feedback way easier and faster. Hopefully you have some time to add a bit about what you enjoyed learning about their company, the people you met, or your interview process.
Whatever you find is just another data point you can use to go in stronger to your next interview.
Reach Out To The Real World
While the first 2 posts in this job search series focused on tactics you can work on from home, eventually we all have to talk with someone out in the world. Not only can we work on our interview techniques, we can also reach out to the world for help. Next week I’ll be talking about reaching out to recruiters and other professionals as another avenue to explore during the job search.
Marketing your value. Hmm, you may be wondering what exactly you can market if you don’t have any experience in the career path you’re job searching for. How do you market when you don’t have anything to market?
I once felt this way too. I didn’t believe I had anything to offer a company (other than desperation enthusiasm). When people suggested I market myself better, I seriously interpreted their advice as a suggestion to lie on my resume. Well I couldn’t just lie, so that put me back at square one again.
People told me I needed to stop focusing so much on what I had to gain from a company. I should focus on what I could give to a company. But I didn’t understand. I couldn’t stop thinking that I had everything to gain but nothing to give.
I was a new grad who had only spent one summer writing blog posts and user acquisition emails for a tiny startup, most of which were copy/paste jobs with some list making. That tiny startup had only paid me $800 a month, or ~$5/hr, so how could what I did for them actually be worth anything to anyone?
I was thinking about it all wrong. I focused too much on what my skills meant in a vacuum. Copy/pasting emails seems like a skill anyone can do. Even the founder of the startup could do it if he wanted to. But he couldn’t do it. His time was far too valuable.
While the task seemed straightforward and simple, it was one that was incredibly important in the context of growing a business that needs users in order to be successful. They had 0 users when I started as an intern there. When you have 0 users, you need to trust someone to find and engage users for you. If you could find someone who can do what you would do and more, wouldn’t you jump for joy? That’s valuable.
I hope I’ve convinced you that value can be completely distorted by your insecurities, and the reality is many jobs and internships are simply underpaid. I hope you see that there are many ways to contribute without already knowing how to do everything.
You can always learn more throughout your job search and increase your value, but you already have what you need to start. You just need to learn to see value where you didn’t before. I’m still learning myself, but here are some things I’ve figured out along the way.
A/B Test Your Resume
It’s really easy to feel like an imposter. It’s even easier to blame yourself, your work history (or lack of work history) as being the reasons why companies aren’t getting back to you.
What’s better is running tests, iterating, and figuring out what is and what isn’t working. Usually you aren’t doing everything wrong. You’re just doing one or two things a little wrong, and you need to figure out what those are.
You can do this by A/B testing your resume (and LinkedIn!). A/B testing requires changing one (or a few) variables and seeing which version gets a better response. Change one variable like the font, or wording on your work history, or the placement of certain sections.
There’s mixed skepticism in the tech industry for bootcamp grads, while my university network in the Bay Area is established and trusted. At my friend’s suggestion, I ended up reconfiguring my education information. I used to have my education at the bottom of my resume. After moving this section to the top of my resume, I saw a huge improvement in response rates to my applications.
Another tactic the career team at my bootcamp taught was placing all the programming projects we worked on near the beginning of the resume. This was really helpful for people who were transitioning from completely non-technical careers.
One of my cohort mates was teaching English in Korea before deciding to get into software. I realized early on I didn’t need to feature my projects before my work experience because my work was technical enough as long as I talked about it in the right ways.
Jazz Up Your Resume
In a similar bucket to A/B testing small changes on your resume, you can also gage how recruiters or hiring managers respond to a visual changes on your resume.
When I first started job searching out of college, resumes were pretty traditional (at least the ones I was aware of). Most of the example resumes I googled were the same format as my boring resume.
I ended up crowd sourcing a few friends resumes as examples, but thinking back all of them were still quite traditional. My first resume ended up being the same–plain. It followed the traditional corporate Times New Roman template. It didn’t stand out.
Over the years, I’ve seen tons of examples of exceptional resumes that broke from the traditional visual format. They were bold and designed. They stood out. It felt like the person who wrote it cared. They were telling me who they were without words. I was learning about their brand and what they represented.
When I committed a few hours of my day to redesigning my resume, I actually saw more responses! Here’s a snapshot of my resume before and after A/B testing and redesign.
These days, a simple google or pinterest search can show off many of the best resume templates worth emulating. If you don’t think you have a design eye or tech skills to DIY a more creative resume, you can even use a number of resume templating tools like:
Rewrite Your Resume To Highlight Skills and Accomplishments Related To The Job
Usually your resume has a skills section which is a list of all the technical and job specific skills you have. There’s also an experience section that details your past and current positions and your various responsibilities.
When applying for my first job, the only thing I updated to match the job description was the very small section with technical skills. But where you’ll get the most value out of updating your resume is changing your experience section. This is the perfect place to highlight particular skills, traits, or accomplishments that can translate to the job you’re applying for.
When you leave a job, you have a sense of skills and accomplishments valued by the company. We usually highlight these accomplishments in the experiences section of the resume. But you have to ask yourself whether the items you’re highlighting will prove your value in your next role.
Most recruiters or managers reading your resume are asking themselves how can this person apply what they’ve done to the opening on my team? If they can’t answer that question, why should they reach out to you?
My first job was a role in allocation at Macy’s. The bulk of my responsibilities was placing orders to our vendors and tracking the status of orders I had already placed. This had absolutely nothing to do with the following job I applied for which was writing custom business intelligence logic in Excel.
This is what I initially highlighted on my resume for business intelligence development positions:
Responsible for all PO follow up and communication with vendors, buyers, and planners. Held weekly meetings discussing outstanding issues and cancellations reporting delays in receipt of goods, open dollars to place new orders, and receipt forecast adjustments.
Assisted in bottoms up class-component, color-size, and damages profitability analysis per vendor in preparation for Fall ’14 market.
Improved vendor fill and out of stock rates to be within 3% of department average while decreasing customer backorders.
Published Daily Sales and Performance reports for entire Textiles team to analyze sales and event performance to Last Year and Plans.
If a manager was hiring for a business intelligence developer, they would surely pass on my resume if they only saw my actual responsibilities listed. It didn’t matter if I had the right technical skills listed on my resume, there was no obvious experience that gave any indication I was the right fit for the job, even if I knew I was. Even though I had already written business intelligence scripts, but not under my official job description.
So instead of just listing my job functions in bullet points, I focused my resume points on the internal business intelligence scripts I had written. They were small tools I had written for fun to speed different processes along like copying and pasting things from Excel into our order placement software. After I talked about the scripts, I listed my main responsibilities and job functions as an allocator.
This is what I highlighted instead, with my allocation responsibilities following it:
Decreased allocation time by 70% and eliminated human error in the allocation process by developing an automated excel program to import inventory projection files and input necessary data from projections to Macys’ external proprietary system for allocation.
Developed a multi-module excel program to scrape data from Macy’s databases through an external proprietary system based on user inputs. This automated data scrape helps replenishment planners maximize open to buy dollars when generating replenishment orders.
(Side Note: Looking back, I could have made things way more readable/easy to understand, but I still think it was a great place to start)
Now I looked like a skilled business intelligence programmer who also had a great allocation background that could help me relate to the business partners I’d be building tools for. If I had focused on highlighting my allocation skills first, I’d look more like a great allocator with a knack for Excel.
When you’ve been in a role for a long time, you fall into the trap of valuing what others value. In my allocation job, my coworkers didn’t care that I had written these scripts for fun. My tracking and order placing skills had the highest impact to the team.
It’s easy to think you always need to emphasize the skills that were the most visible to the people you used to work with.
Entering new industries requires you to reflect and question whether you’re highlighting the right experiences for the jobs you’re applying for.
If you were out with friends recounting an old story, you would emphasize different parts of the same story based on who you’re telling it to right? Some friends might find one part boring and others might find the same part exciting. It’s important to be honest, but there’s no reason to give irrelevant information to those who won’t care about it.
Emphasize Skills and Accomplishments Instead Of Passion In Emails And Cover Letters
Serious question, how do you measure passion? Real passion can’t be measured in an email or a cover letter.
I used to think I could substitute passion for skill mostly because I didn’t believe I had any real skills as a new college grad. I saw so many techy job postings that were all written with flair and personality.
I was a junky for the “You may be a good fit if” section of the job posting. I always felt that section made room for people who were “passionate” (and had no other “valuable” skills) like me.
For example, I just plucked this off a Product Manager job posting for Stripe, a payment platform that has shaped online payments.
You may be a good fit if:
You’re motivated by the the chance to improve the lives of your customers
You have strong written and verbal communication skills with a talent for precise articulations of customer problems
You do whatever it takes to make your product and team successful whether that means writing a QA plan or hunting down the root cause of a user’s frustration
You can turn incomplete, conflicting, or ambiguous inputs into solid action plans
I believed that if I could demonstrate how much I loved the company and its product that I would have a chance at landing an interview. I spent hours writing page long cover letters detailing how much I loved a company’s mission and its product.
I always fixated on the most vague and abstract “good fit” qualification. If I were applying to the example job above, I would spend almost the entire cover letter writing about why I cared about the chance to improve the lives of customers but ignoring the other qualifications they listed.
I would go on about how I relate to people who’ve always wanted to start their own small business but couldn’t because there was never a payment solution. I would try to emphasize how I’m personally invested in the product because I too have always wanted to start a small business some day. I completely failed to allude to any real skills I could bring to the position.
I vividly remember submitting a 2 page cover letter with paragraphs longer than 10 lines each to a company called Quirky thinking that my impassioned letter was going to be the thing that got my foot in the door.
I was so confused when I didn’t even hear back. Looking back it’s obvious why no one ever got back to me.
Writing lengthy, highly personalized cover letters and emails for the purpose of showing off your interest is impractical. It’s unsustainable and not scaleable. The 2 page cover letter I wrote took a half day to write. It did nothing to show any value I could bring to the company.
People over sell curiosity and willingness to learn. While those are important, you still need to bring demonstrable skills to the table. Even if they’re soft skills! As long as they’re proven soft skills.
It can range from exemplifying an ability to learn quickly through getting up to speed on technologies during a past internship or the ability to strategically analyze data sets that you picked up from your last job.
Cover letters and email communication need to be direct, concise, and clear. As a rule, I try to keep paragraphs in any job communication to 3 lines max. A company needs to know what you can do for them now, and they need it laid out in an obvious way.
Even with an optimized job application funnel and a better resume, interviews can still feel like a make or break event. Come back next week to read about how to get the most out of your job interviews, even the ones you bomb.
What have you changed on your resume that brought huge results? I’d love to hear more ideas below!
It’s been 6 years since I graduated from college, but every May still brings back traumatic memories of post graduation unemployment. It took me almost an entire year to find a full time job. Looking for that first job out of college was emotional. I was hopeless. I felt stuck in a nightmarish chicken and egg philosophical loop. I didn’t have experience so companies didn’t want to hire me. But the only way to get experience was to get hired.
Focusing on my lack of experience wasn’t getting me anywhere. Everyone starts out inexperienced. We’ve all been there, but I felt like the only one who wasn’t getting anywhere. I felt like an imposter. Meanwhile, I was also freaking out internally about the [lack of] money in my checking account, making me even more desperate to “fix” my unemployment problems.
Trying to find a job without experience is scary. It feels like there’s nothing you can do, yet the world is pointing a judgmental finger at you. Life is racing forward without you. All my best friends moved out of my college town and started their first jobs the summer after graduation. I was working odd jobs to stay afloat, never with enough time or headspace to figure out a strategy for actually getting a job.
No job search plan seemed like a guaranteed way to find employment anyway. Was I destined to waitress, sell shoes, and intern for practically free forever?!
I’ve been through 3 career transitions since then, and I’ve learned a lot. The first job/career transition search gets stuck at takeoff because getting your foot in the door and having someone taking a chance on you is hard. The only plan is to keep on trying. But along with trying comes all the other things I learned that help increase your chances at the job application stage. Here’s what I learned.
Play The Numbers Game
Set aside your inner emotional job search drama queen who’s constantly reminding you “NO ONE will hire you”. Instead, focus on statistics. Is it really very likely that out of 10 job applications, 0 companies will request a phone interview? If the answer is yes, what about out of 100 job applications, what about out of 1000 job applications?
When it comes to applying to jobs when you have no skills or experience, the job market is tough, but not impossible. You have to treat your job search like a sales funnel.
You want to broadly capture awareness of people you’re trying to sell to. You usually lose a large percentage of people between brand awareness and buying (or in this case, giving you a job offer). You’ll eventually find people who connect with you. It doesn’t do any good if they don’t know you exist.
I approached my job search for my first web software engineering job out of my coding bootcamp this way, and it really allowed me to stop taking rejection so personally. Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will believe in you. But you need to find the people who will. I submitted my resume for almost 120 jobs over the course of a single month.
A funnel needs to be really wide at the top because you’re trying to capture as many opportunities as possible. Apply to as many jobs as possible. It’s smart, not desperate, to apply to a bunch of companies, not just companies with great reputations.
We don’t know what a workplace will be like or what a manager will be like or what the work will be like, especially when we don’t have experience. Don’t get too caught up in all the qualities you’re attributing to your dream companies. There may be plenty of workplaces out there that have exactly what you’re looking for. You just don’t know it yet.
Apply (Almost) Everyday and Keep Your Funnel Alive
This is a tip the career advisor gave us during our job search out of the coding bootcamp. When it comes to your job funnel, you always want to be filling it so you never have to start over. My career advisor’s rule of thumb was to apply to at least 5 jobs a day.
It’s so easy to let hope and wishful thinking get the best of us. When your dream company responds to your job application and you start interviewing, you might be tempted to put all your eggs in one basket and believe that everything will work out.
I fell for this so many times during my job search after college. As soon as I passed the phone screen round for any job, I immediately placed all my hopes and dreams for an offer into one company. It was really disheartening when I didn’t make it to the second or final round. I was forced to start over from the very beginning after hitting a dead end.
I felt like a fool for having hope. Another 2 weeks of my life wasted, I thought.
I realize now that I wasn’t a fool. I was just too inexperienced to realize I was neglecting an essential responsibility to find other leads.
During my job search out of my coding bootcamp, I kept a very healthy application funnel. Even when I was interviewing onsite at a company, I had phone screens and technical phone interviews lined up just in case. I also continued to submit my resume and cover letter for new job openings I saw popping up on LinkedIn.
Apply To Jobs You Aren’t Qualified For
One of the best pieces of advice I got when applying to jobs was to apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for. As a new engineer, it was really tempting to only apply for jobs that were junior level. I know I wasn’t alone. I’ve met plenty of new bootcamp grads who focused only on junior level positions or internships!
It’s intimidating reading a job description asking for 4-5 years of experience. I’m so thankful my career advisor for my bootcamp gave plenty examples of bootcamp grads getting mid level and senior positions.
There have been times when I was phone screened for a more senior position, but if a recruiter really liked me, they would go out of their way to find openings for a slightly less experienced role. It was a great way to get my foot in the door at a company even when I wasn’t a great fit for the more senior position I applied for.
Let the company decide whether you are or aren’t qualified for the job.
Apply To Freshly Posted Jobs
Freshly posted jobs are the best because fewer people have applied to them. They’re almost always open positions without anyone in the recruiter’s funnel. I usually aim for jobs that have been posted within 48 hours.
When I was hustling to get my first job out of bootcamp, I filtered Indeed and LinkedIn by most recently posted every day and always made sure to at least submit my resume if I didn’t have time to edit my cover letter template. While I’d highly recommend trying to submit a cover letter, especially depending on the industry you’re trying to make it into, only sending in a resume is better than not sending in an application at all.
My job search out of college was full of keeping open job descriptions in my browser but being too afraid to apply because I wanted my application to be perfect. I cared so much about a perfect application that I seldom started applying because I had no idea what to do to make it perfect. During my job search out of my bootcamp, I would apply with only a resume if I found myself putting an application on my endless “to apply for” list but never getting to it.
What Else Can I Do?
Job applications aren’t the only thing you have control over when it comes to finding a new job. You can test better ways to market your skills in your resume and cover letter. You can also fine tune your interviews, especially the ones you bomb. There are also avenues beyond the official job application pipeline you can learn to explore. I’ll be talking about these in my upcoming posts.
Have you ever faced a career transition? What challenges did you face, and what helped?
During college, my friends designated me The Hobby Fairy. That’s because I’ve had many hobbies over the years.
As a kid, I made do with what I had and explored my interests within my limited resources. My parents set the boundaries. As an adult with disposable income, hobbies became a way more dangerous category of spending. Even as a college student with not-really disposable income, I spent a good chunk of money on hobbies.
I know some people prefer free or inexpensive hobbies, but passions are tough to find, so if you find one that costs money, I’m all for investing in your happiness. What you shouldn’t invest your money in are fake passions you don’t follow through on, so before I spend money on a hobby, I try to ask myself these five questions:
Do I really want to do the thing or do I really just want to be occupied by the idea?
Many of my hobbies started out from admiration. I saw someone somewhere doing the thing and thought it was really cool. Pinterest and Instagram make it easy to see the photogenic end result of a hobby someone has worked multiple years to be good at. Photography, cooking, ceramics, knitting, climbing, yoga, the list can go on forever.
If you’re caught up in the dreaming or the idea, you just might make shopping for your hobby the actual hobby. We think to ourselves, if we can just figure out the best tools to help me do this thing, then I’ll become the best by using the best! It’s like we’re looking for a guarantee when the only guarantee is practice.
One big danger of spending on hobbies is over investing monetarily in a hobby before actually committing to it. I’ve naively fallen into this same trap many times.
Take the time I was in college and started watching an art student’s youtube videos on sewing her own clothes. I became obsessed with the idea of making my own clothes. I spent months researching different sewing machines and their various features. I also spent a ton of money on fabric and sewing tools like self healing mats, pins, and cutters. I only ever made one clutch and now all the stuff I bought sits at my parents house. I don’t even remember the Youtuber’s name.
What is the cheapest way to explore my interest?
There’s a difference between “just knowing” you’re going to love something and actually loving it. When you’re attached to the idea of how much more creative or healthier or stronger you’re going to be if you were into an activity, you’ll cheat yourself into believing you already know you love it. All you really know is that you would love to be more creative or healthier or stronger, which of course we would all love to be.
Spending money on a hobby that has the potential to make you better might feel like you’re putting your intention to work, but really all you’ve put to work is your hard earned money.
I’ve regretted all the times I skimped on actually verifying my interest. It’s important to know the difference between trying something out and investing significant financial resources in it because you already love it.
I’ve found Groupon, single classes, or even a friend who can give you a tutorial is a great way to inexpensively explore an interest.
I first got into rock climbing by going to a gym and getting a day pass. After I realized I really enjoyed that single session, I waited until I found a discounted one month membership through Groupon instead of automatically signing up for a monthly $100 membership. I even bought my first pair of climbing shoes for $30 off eBay because I didn’t want to invest $80-$100 on brand new shoes for an activity I might lose interest in a month later.
Have I shown my commitment to this hobby in the past?
There are times when an opportunity arises to spend more money on a hobby. When it comes to spending on a hobby you genuinely enjoy, a rule for myself is spending based on how much time and commitment I’ve already invested. I will spend on a hobby even if it’s not an absolute necessity.
I’ve spent money on multiple pairs of climbing shoes even though I haven’t worn through each pair. I’m ok with that because I commit 6-10 hours doing this activity every week. I plan entire vacations around climbing.
Compare this to painting. Painting is something I occasionally enjoy doing, and I own 6 tubes of paint. Sometimes when I’m wandering around Blick Art Supplies, I find myself gravitating towards buying more colors. But I can never justify the purchase because painting is something I do only once or twice every three months!
What does my support system look like?
A couple months ago, the assistant instructor at the aerial hoop class I attend asked me to sign up for an upcoming aerial hoop competition. The competition cost $90 to enter. Up until that point, I had been attending class once a week for 5 months with a regular gym membership. I was terrified. Who, me? Performing in front of people? On a real stage? Doing graceful showy things?
Self choreographing a routine seemed way over my head. I didn’t want to spend $90 just to realize I suck half way through and quit. Though it was a hard decision, I ultimately went through with it because 6 other people from my class signed up, and we set aside dedicated time Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to practice and help each other. I would’ve had an impossible time figuring out what to do if I had to do it alone.
Did you know marathons can cost $100+ to sign up for? I didn’t! But I’ve had friends sign up for races they didn’t even show up to. You know why? Because it’s really hard training for a marathon by yourself. It’s a huge commitment of time and energy to go it alone even if you love running.
What value will I get from spending on this hobby?
We value the things and experiences we spend money on. We can get the value in a number of ways. We can get it from experiencing more fun by doing something different or we can get it from pushing through a greater challenge.
There are tons of ways to get value from a hobby, but the focus of this question is figuring out what you’re really in it for. When I decided to enter that $90 competition, I wanted to confront my fear that I could never be graceful or put together enough to be a performer.
When I bought new climbing shoes, I wanted better fit and performance so I could climb harder. When I bought my blog hosting plan, I wanted to share my story and reach people who are as confused about their first steps into personal finance and their career like I was.
After answering these questions, I have a much better sense of what I’m trying to get out of my purchase and the likelihood of following through on making use of the purchase once it’s been made.
How do you decide when to spend money on a hobby? Do you struggle with over investing in them?
I often hear people say “I know I should have a budget, but they just don’t work for me”. In this sentence, I almost always hear two sentiments.
Being an adult means I don’t have to listen to other people tell me how I should run my life. Now you’re asking me to impose rules on myself?! Stop telling me what to do.
Sometimes rules suck. Like when Comcast tells you they have a rule that says they absolutely have to charge you a cable box fee even though you just want internet! But other rules are there to help you.
The rules in a budget are meant to limit spending, but also to free you from the guilt of wondering whether you’ve spent more than you want or can afford. A budget has your goals built in for you, so even when you forget why you’re resisting an opportunity to spend money, your budget doesn’t. And no one is making you do anything!
I tried to budget and it was hard. I couldn’t stick to the goals I set up for myself and now I feel like a failure.
I get it! Failure does feel terrible and shameful! But learning is good, and failure is self defined anyway. Missing your budget doesn’t have to mean failure. For example, when I lived in the NYC and shamelessly spent all my money, I never once thought I was a failure, at least not in the money management realm.
Yet this year in my goals, I proclaimed I was going to try and save 55% of my take home pay. Well, one month passed and I only hit 50%. I felt shame and failure even though compared to me 5 years ago, I was doing 1000x better. If we don’t set a bar for ourselves, it’s technically not failing if we overspend right? That type of thinking is wrong and everyone knows it.
When I dropped my computer science major in college, I felt like a failure. As cliche and annoying as it sounds, failure isn’t real until you quit for good. 3 years after I dropped my major, I went back to programming professionally. Then 2 years after that, I circled back around and went to a coding bootcamp. Now I work professionally building websites, which is what I always pictured myself doing as a high schooler.
Did I fail? Some might call me a failure because it took me 3 years longer to end up where I would have if I just stayed with my CS degree program. I learned so much about work, life, and play during that time. In no way do I view that time as a failure. It takes screwing something up to get it right. Trying things that don’t work lead you eventually to something that does which is why I’d like to share how my budget has changed over the years.
My Budget EvolutionKid/Teen Budget
Let go of the idea that a budget needs to be a sophisticated spreadsheet of numbers. Even as a kid, I kept a budget. It was unsophisticated. I call it a Threshold budget. A threshold budget just requires setting a number you won’t allow your piggy bank balance to fall under. Of course as a kid, I didn’t have many expenses so budgeting was easy. I skimmed off the cream in my piggy bank as long as I was still left with the threshold.
As a teen, I combined the threshold technique along with budgeting on top of that by saving for aspirational or large purchases. I was aware of how much money I had and if prom was coming up, I prepped in advance for all the expenses associated with it. I would estimate ticket costs + corsage + dinner out on prom night and make sure I had enough of that above the threshold.
I know many adults today who still use this method and it works really well for them! My friend who’s just as avid a saver as me uses this method for determining her spending money. She keeps her super liquid emergency fund in a checking account and never let’s her spending dip into it.
Because of my work study job in college, my threshold went up. Before if I never wanted my piggy bank to dip below $100, in college the threshold was closer to $300. I only had a debit card until senior year, so it was really easy to see how purchases affected my checking account balance.
First Job in NY Budget
During the time I was unemployed, I continued to use the threshold budget. After I started my first job, I felt it was time to get my finances together so I started direct depositing part of my paycheck straight to a high interest savings account. I allowed myself to spend the rest freely. This is a pretty common budgeting technique actually!
This was also my first encounter with Mint. At the time it didn’t work that great for me. I didn’t have many expenses, and I only had 2 credit cards so it was still super easy to keep track of my spending (or specifically that I wasn’t spending more than was in my checking account). I gave up a few months after on Mint because I didn’t really feel I needed it. I never put in the time to figure out how to get Venmo to show up correctly. I also didn’t have my budget categories set up correctly so Mint would double count the same transaction. Every time I tried to do greater analysis on how I was spending, I would quit from frustration.
New Career in SF Budget
After completing my bootcamp in SF, I picked up Mint again because I found that I was saving way less than I thought I should. Clearly my old budgeting methods weren’t working anymore. After finding a job in SF, I had multiple credit cards to keep track of along with way more Venmo payments to friends than before. Mint helped me immensely this time.
I still direct deposited a set amount into savings, but I also thought I’d be putting leftover money from checking into savings at the end of the month. There was rarely any leftover money, and if there was, it wasn’t much. It’s true what they say, you spend what see and you save what you don’t. With so much more I could afford, I said yes more—to eating out, shopping with friends, ordering Ubers, and seeing shows.
There’s nothing wrong with saying yes, but I didn’t stop and ask myself if it was a good use of my money. I treated all the money I spent as if it were spent in a vacuum. There weren’t any real life tradeoffs to spending that money (like not meeting my savings goals). I couldn’t balance the spending among all these new categories.
In order to truly see how I was spending in every category, for the first time, I turned to creating a budget for every major spending category. I had little confidence that automatically direct depositing more into savings alone would fix my spending. I was afraid I’d be left pinching pennies the last two weeks of the month from not knowing how to even out my spending over the month!
This time I committed time to set up my Mint budget properly. Everything became super easy. Mint fits my lifestyle and budgeting needs at this stage in my life. I figured out how to to track Venmo. I figured out how to categorize things so transactions weren’t double counted. I also figured out a system for setting up rules that would properly categorize without leaving me constantly recategorizing the same things over and over. If you want to learn how I’ve been using Mint, you can sign up for my free Mint class below.
3 Reasons Why People Fail to Follow Their Budget
They don’t track all their expenses
They don’t make adjustments to their budget
They don’t set realistic goals for their budget
In this course, I will teach you:
A foolproof system for complete expense tracking
How to setup a customized budget that fits your income, bills, and spending habits
An easy system for quick budget adjustments and accountability
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What changed between my life in NY and SF? What changed between college and NY? Why did Mint suddenly work for me when it didn’t before? I’ve heard so many people hate on Mint, and then immediately translate that to hating all budgeting apps.
Not all budgeting apps are created equal. Not all people are the same. Mint, YNAB, envelope budgeting, spreadsheets, what’s most important is trying different ways of budgeting until you find one that meets you where you are.
So if you’ve failed so far at budgeting or some budget app didn’t work for you, don’t give up. Don’t hate budgeting forever! Don’t hate the app forever! Try to figure out what is and what isn’t working. Does the budget system not work well with your on the go lifestyle? Do you like seeing your spending everyday? Do you want something more low maintenance? Don’t blame yourself. There’s no one right way to budget.
What’s your favorite budgeting method? What other methods did you try before you found one that worked?
While I was traveling from Las Vegas back to Oakland over New Years, I overheard a heartbreaking story of a woman telling her story to the couple next to me and my boyfriend at the food court in the airport. Her story had to do with job relevance and the impact it had on her financial freedom. I’ve always had some sense for the relationship between job relevance and financial freedom, but hearing someone tell their personal story is completely different.
The woman must have been in her 50s, and she was a janitor for the food court in the airport. She was overweight. She had handfuls of pills she had to prepare and take for various ailments during her dinner break. She prepared her medication with such standard routine it was hard to imagine how long ago she began acquiring each ailment.
The woman had been a janitor her entire life, but she very distinctly pointed out to the couple she was talking to a turning point in her life when that had become her career. She had started out doing janitorial work just to make it by and support her family. The job had enough flexibility so she could send her children off to school in the morning as well as be home to make them dinner and help them with their homework.
At one point in time, she considered transitioning to office work and working as an office assistant. However, the commute to this job was so far she would need to leave extra early and return home extra late. She wasn’t willing to trade time with her children in order to work an office job even if it would require less physical labor. So instead she stayed at her job.
A significant amount of time passed, and I can only imagine her children were grown, when she attempted again to transition to a career in the office. This time there was something different. During that time, technology had taken over the workplace, you needed knowledge of how to use a bunch of different software on the job. She expressed how she never learned to use tools like Microsoft Word or a calendar application. She remembered 10 years earlier feeling the ease of picking up new skills, but at that moment she felt the entire landscape of the working world had shifted. She no longer saw herself as adaptable enough to keep up. She didn’t know where to begin learning these new complex technologies. And so she stayed where she was, stuck with a very limited set of options.
I’ve seen many less extreme examples of this same phenomenon. During the financial crisis of 2008, I heard about many friends of friends parents who lost their 10-20 year career at the same company, laid off and unable to find a new company that would hire them. While they spend 30-40 years working to build valuable employable experience and skills, the new economy designated those same skills and experiences as outdated and irrelevant.
Two things really stood out to me while reflecting on this woman’s story.
Job Relevance Is Unpredictable
No matter what skills are desirable today, we really have no idea how a number of factors—technology, politics, economics, and more—will influence the skills that are valuable tomorrow. Working in tech, I see this emphasized every day. Every few months there’s some new technology that makes it easier to do my job, except if I don’t know how to use it, it makes my job hard. It’s not enough to just code well, I also have to keep up with these new technologies and learn all of them to stay relevant.
This really emphasizes the importance of working towards financial independence. Regardless of how much I enjoy my job, we really have very little control of where our industry may move 20 or 30 years from now. We also have very little control over the types of government programs like Social Security or Medicare that may assist us financially in the case that we aren’t able to work anymore. That’s why I learned to project the numbersI need in order to become financially independent, and you should too. I’ve made financial independence a goal.
Cultivate That Growth Mindset
Something that struck me about the woman in the airport was the turning point of her confidence around learning. The point where she lost the feeling of her own adaptability. I don’t want to assume anything about the things that happened in this woman’s life that brought her to the point of feeling resigned to where she was.
But I also realized that the mentality surrounding adaptability and growth needs to be trained. It’s like a muscle that atrophies if you don’t use it. It was a huge leap for me when I moved to San Francisco without a job to learn new employable skills. But it had also only been a year and half since I last transitioned careers. And it had only been two and a half years since moving to an expensive city without a job at all. In a way, I was used to having to adapt. If I imagine maintaining a stable career for 10 years then suddenly moving to a new city and training for a completely different role, compounded with potential financial and health complications, I could see it being terrifying.
We can feel a little better about the new and unfamiliar if we continue cultivating and reinforcing our ability to change and grow. Even if it means continuously doing something small or seemingly immeasurable, we can slowly build an internal portfolio illustrating our capacity to learn and grow that will boost our confidence in times of uncertainty.
Have you ever worried about the lasting relevance of your employable skills? Do you feel limited in your career options and why? Does the idea of change terrify you?
Here in the personal finance community, we talk a lot about financial independence. Financial independence can roughly be defined as having enough money to live life on your own terms. Financial independence equals never having to do what you do not explicitly choose to do. For many, financial independence also equals early retirement. An important question that comes with the idea of early retirement is WHY do you want to retire early? You’ve reclaimed your time, but what do you plan on doing with it?
I haven’t given much thought to this question. Though I love the idea of early financial independence, I know for certain I don’t want to have a retirement that just involves sleeping in and being lazy. If you’re in the same place as me and craving that freedom, spend some time really reflecting on what mission that freedom will serve for you. I’m still figuring out what that freedom would look like for me and what my mission will be, but I absolutely figured out how dangerous it is not to know.
I went home for the Christmas holidays at the end of last year for 7 days. I usually work remotely during the business days overlapping Christmas so I can at least physically be at home with my family during the holidays. This year I was super lucky that my new company had the last 6 business days of the year off. This left plenty of time to just be at home, sleep in, and laze about. Well, that got tiring and depressing really quickly.
Laziness Begets Laziness
Initially, it felt wonderful to have no obligations. Most of my old friends from high school weren’t in town. I hardly had anyone I needed to see other than my family. I didn’t have to work. It felt great to go to sleep until I felt refreshed. It also felt great to finally live slowly and not need to hustle to get anywhere or do anything in particular. However, what was initially a positive restorative lifestyle quickly devolved into an indulgent cycle of laziness. I was sleeping until 11 am, eating lunch, and taking a 2-3 hour nap until 3 or 4 pm! I started going to bed later and later until I was sleeping at 2 or 3 am.
The rushed feeling I felt while working revolved around trying to cram everything I wanted to do in a day. While I eliminated that particular sense of restriction by sleeping as much as I wanted and clearing my calendar of anything I had to get done, the feeling began manifesting in a different way. I started feeling that same restricted feeling because I knew I was sleeping away my precious time! I felt rushed not because I had so much to do but because I had so little to do yet I couldn’t seem to find the time or motivation to do it.
This entire time, I had so many aspirational work I wanted to get done. I wanted to get ahead of my blog posting schedule. I wanted to read this very long book I had just started and brought home with me. I wanted to find time to be creative and draw. Yet I hardly did any of these things. It was a nightmare. I couldn’t motivate myself to write or read or draw or anything really. None of these were out of reach but I no longer had the structure I needed that reinforced my motivation to push forward.
I found myself defaulting to the “easy” things like scrolling through my Instagram feed. I watched tons of mediocre rom coms on Netflix. Not to say I didn’t enjoy all of these things, but I was overindulging in them. It robbed me of a lot of the momentum I built while working!
Structure Your Mission!
After this experience, I realized how easy it is to become unmotivated and complacent even when you have all the time in the world to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Wanting to do things and starting to actually do them are entirely different. Structuring time to complete your mission matters! In some ways, it was actually easier to fit in more of the things I wanted to do when I was working. It was easier because work is time blocked and everything else gets planned around it. It makes it more obvious where and when everything else you want to do should belong in your schedule.
When your calendar is a blank slate, as it would be in retirement, you can often times be left with decision paralysis. I know I personally ended up spending hours just deciding what to do, and by the time I actually made any kind of decision, it was too late to actually do anything! This was especially true when I was at home and sleeping in so late—I felt I hardly had any operating hours that overlapped with the normal waking world. Oh, finally made up my mind to go write after dinner? Well, now it’s 8 pm and all the coffee shops are closed!
I felt so much better towards the tail end of my vacation when I forced myself to leave the house. I made it an obligation. I hit up a local coffee shop with my laptop and actually got writing done! And because I forced myself to go in the afternoon, I even had time leftover to climb for 3 hours at the gym afterwards before dinner!
I totally get the desire to be free from the traditional 40 hour work week. Sometimes you just want to wake up, take all the time in the world to make coffee and breakfast, and work out at 10 am in the morning. Sometimes you just want to spend the afternoon cooking a great lunch and not have to meet some deadline set by someone else after. But I’ve also learned that some scheduled obligations actually make our own free time more manageable and valuable.
Why Are We Even Retiring In The First Place?!
Experiencing for just 7 days what it would feel like to retire without a plan or any structure led me back to my original sentiment—why do we so desperately want to retire early? Why is early retirement the holy grail? What are we reclaiming that time for?
Certainly a large reason is to escape the so-called rat race. Some people may want to travel. Others may want to escape the hard labor their job requires. Maybe some people hate their jobs so much they can’t wait to leave them as soon as possible. But I can’t help but wonder even if we left our current 40 hour obligations, how would we fill those hours?
Answering by saying “going to the beach” or “traveling” don’t feel like conclusive answers to me. When I was traveling in Vietnam, I had no idea how to fill my time. I spent my time going from coffee shop to coffee shop. I took in the scenery, but I couldn’t have sat there taking in the cultural differences of a new place for 40 hours.
While the possibility of early retirement is still a long ways away for me, I think it’s important not only to start thinking about what I would like to do during that time, but how to structure my time in a way that will force me to complete what I would like to do.
What do you think of early retirement? Does it appeal to you? Why?
Marketing driven holidays are always a funny thing. I’d be lying if I said I was 100% above holidays that seem to exist just for the sake of trying to get into your pockets. Valentine’s Day is as commercial as they come. I just learned in South Korea they celebrate on the 14th for 3 months straight! February 14 is the day women give gifts to men. March 14 is the day men give gifts to women. April 14 is the day singles commiserate their singledom by wearing black and eating black noodles.
But even with all the commercial drudgery the day brings, I still think it’s nice to celebrate the day and acknowledge your partner with something special. For those of us who are money conscious, we definitely want to find creative, inexpensive, and low key ways to celebrate it.
I’m sure you can do a simple search on Google and Pinterest and find tons of listicles of frugal date ideas that include having a picnic at home or going to IKEA to visualize your dream home together or even just cooking dinner together at home. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter what you end up doing as long as you get to spend time with the other person. But to really amp up the occasion even if you’re going to be staying home, cooking Blue Apron, and watching a movie together, I suggest you do at least these 3 things beforehand.
Clean the Apartment/House
Ambiance is everything! And I’m not referring to the typical low light, mood music. A couple Valentine’s days ago, Valentine’s Day weekend overlapped Presidents Day. Since it was a long weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to drive down to Monterey Bay for a scenic weekend. The two of us are pretty last minute people so the entire trip was super spontaneous and unplanned. We ended up calling a bunch of restaurants off Yelp on Valentine’s Day to see if they had any reservations available. Thankfully we ended up stumbling upon one that did!
The restaurant, space and service all ended up making it a pretty nice place, but the general ambiance was terrible, namely because all the other couples there. It seemed as if we had stumbled into one of the only restaurants where every couple seemed to hate each other.
The dining area of the restaurant was dead silent as every couple just ate in silence across from each other. It was honestly just depressing, especially since that was our first Valentine’s together! Meanwhile, everyone probably hated us because we got a little toasted on some key lime pie martinis and were laughing like we actually enjoyed each other’s company. The point is, whatever you do, even if it’s making dinner like you always do at home, make sure the scene is as right as possible.
One small tweak like this in the setting can make a world of difference in making the night feel more relaxing. My boyfriend and I are far from neat freaks so I can totally see us try to pull off cooking a dinner together in a completely disorganized kitchen and sitting down at a table covered with a bunch of mail and books. No matter how romantic we try to make the effort of preparing a wonderful meal together, the clutter of the environment is going to take away from that. Lighting a candle on the mess would just be a fire hazard.
Make A Plan
Don’t get me wrong, spontaneity is great and all, but if you’re like me and seem to cave under pressure right at the moment of needing to come up with a great idea, you should make a plan. For me personally, if I don’t have a plan, I end up caving to the easier routine which is usually being wishy washy and spending 30 minutes picking out a movie after spending 30 minutes before that picking what to eat.
I’m a complete believer in making something special just by amping up the daily routine a little. The easiest way to do that is through planning. If you’re going to be staying in and cooking a dinner at home, plan what dishes you’ll be making. It’ll make the grocery shopping way easier even if you decide to pick up the ingredients on the day of. Having a defined grocery list also leaves room for a touch of spontaneity since you can add some additional goodies that might catch your eye.
Similarly, if you plan on watching a movie after dinner, pick out the movie in advance. I hope it’s not just me who starts feeling like I’ve already seen everything worth seeing. You don’t want to be stuck feeling ambivalent about your options. And if your actual plan gets derailed by a different movie that suddenly interests you, you’re still committed to watching something you feel great about.
How I’ll Be Spending Valentine’s Day
While plans haven’t been completely finalized yet, my boyfriend and I settled on the night in option. We’ll be scheduling a delivery with Postmates from one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in Berkeley, and since we don’t usually “eat out” on weeknights, this will be a special treat for both of us.
To top it off, we wanted to do something a little different than the usual dinner + movie option, so we decided to order a 1000 piece puzzle to work on together. If we find enough energy after a delicious Chinese dinner, we’ll be taking a nice evening walk along the lake near our apartment with some hot cocoa and tea. The lake is cheesily perfect for the holiday because it is entirely bordered by overhead bulb lights, and its shoreline is shaped like a heart!
Do you keep things frugal for Valentine’s Day or do you go all out? How do make the day special?
Ah, the age old question of modern heterosexual dating. Who should pay on the first date? This always seems to become a hot and contentious topic whenever it comes up. Everyone has their own perspective on the question. Exchanging stories with various friends of what must be at least a hundred dates, it seems like there truly still exists a spectrum of expectation and answers surrounding this question.
I’ve even seen all sorts of ridiculous questions about it on the internet like “Should I go on a second date with a guy if he didn’t pay on the first date?” or “What is the best way for screening out free loading women prior to the first date?” I can see why these questions could be considered both valid and invalid. I’ve even changed my mind about the topic more than a few times.
When I was fresh out of college, I moved to New York City and started working at a 4 month internship with 6 other female new grads. The majority of us were single ladies, new to the city, and eager to test the waters of the post college dating scene. One of the first topics to come up was the question of who should pay on the first date?
One of my coworkers declared that the man should always pay. It was the man’s responsibility to prove himself to her. She also indicated that she never offered to pay because she found it disingenuous if she didn’t want to pay in the first place. She wasn’t the type of person to offer to pay without the intention to pay. I respected her honesty, that’s for sure! Being near penniless at the time after moving to one of the most expensive cities in the US with less than $1000 in my bank account, I found plenty of reasons to see her point. I came to the conclusion that it was the man’s duty to pay. After all, I considered myself a considerate and giving girlfriend, so eventually the man would reap the rewards of a happy relationship.
At that time, I went on a lot of OkCupid dates. I met my last boyfriend on OkCupid, and while I suggested a wonderfully free first date, we ended up hitting it off and grabbing a bite to eat afterwards. Well, guess what happened when the check came to the table? I awkwardly sat there and didn’t make a move as he put his card down and paid the bill. After we were in a relationship, he recalled how rude it was that I didn’t even make an offer to pay. He had even specifically recalled this detail to his mom after the date ended. D’oh. At the time I felt entitled to it.
After that relationship ended, I dated completely differently. I’m sure maturity had something to do with it, but economic advancement definitely played its part too. When my last relationship started, I was still trying to make it with my internship and second job at the shoe store! By the time I was dating again, I had been working as a salaried employee for a year and a half. I didn’t expect the other person to pay. I always offered, and I appreciated it even more when my date paid. Even so, I have to say it feels very nice and even normal when the man pays for the first date.
There’s obviously some social conditioning at play here! Why do we put so much weight on who does or doesn’t pay? Why do we care whether the person not paying at least offers to pay? I’m very curious what the financial part of this equation really means because issues around money usually go deeper than money. I polled a bunch of friends and coworkers on their reasons and expectations when it comes to this loaded question! The results are in:
Reasons The Man Should Pay
The Man Needs To Prove His Character To The Woman
A man proves himself as chivalrous and generous when he’s able to demonstrate the ability to put someone else above himself. By giving up financial resources, he is literally sacrificing a resource with the potential to bring value to himself exclusively, and giving someone else a valuable experience. This isn’t to say he gains no value from it, but he also pays for the other person’s half of the experience as well.
While this argument makes sense, I find it interesting that the man must demonstrate his ability to sacrifice on behalf of someone else through financial means, but it isn’t generally expected that the woman prove this generosity the same way. This is a complete generalization, but I think women are more often expected to prove their feminine qualities like nurturing and empathy. These are not easily proven through financial sacrifice.
The One With Less Opportunity Pays For The Company Of The One With More
This one makes dating sound super transactional, and I think sadly in the age of online dating, it can become that way. In every article about online dating, I often read that women on dating apps receive way more messages than men. This gives women the advantage of being ones with more opportunity in general. In this case, it may not necessarily be the manis paying, but more the person with less opportunity is paying as a way to show appreciation and genuine interest for the busier person’s time.
The Person Who Asks Should Pay, And The Person Who Usually Asks Is The Man
I feel like the question “Why are men expected to ask the woman out?” could be an entirely separate article, but it would be too far removed from the theme of this blog! I would say from my own experiences and observations that it is generally true the man usually asks the woman out, and he also picks the venue.
I think barring a date that is really inexpensive, it makes sense that the person who asks also pays for the date, and I can only imagine this is how it usually works out during the dating phases of same sex couples. The person who asks and picks the date venue is indirectly setting the budget of the date. It might be rude to assume your date can pay for half a very expensive date when she had no say in where it would take place.
Women Pay Upfront In Personal Care, So Men Should Should Pay For The Date Itself
I’ve heard this argument a few times. Women pay a lot for personal care products. They have to shave, do their hair and makeup, buy all sorts of outfits that make them look good on a date. There exists a level of expectation of how a woman should appear on a date, so the man is paying in order to subsidize this upkeep.
Women Pay In Emotional Labor In The Future, So Men Should Pay Upfront For That Now
I think this mentality is highly influenced by our previous relationships as well as the dynamic between our parents growing up. In my family, my mom definitely did more of the emotional labor (not to mention the physical labor of actually popping the babies out). Not only did she have a full time job as a teacher and was an equal financial contributor to my dad, she also did the majority of the work when it came to cooking, cleaning, and raising the children. My dad was in charge of the repairs and technology portion of the household.
Even living in a time when both men and women are more progressive in their beliefs about the division of financial, physical, and emotional labor, I think we still subtly fall into the gender roles outlined by society and our upbringing. If a relationship works out and women still do the majority of the labor, then it seems a small price to pay for the man to pay for the first date. This aligns more closely with how I was thinking about the topic right after college.
The Man Is The Provider And It’s His Responsibility To Take Care Of The Woman
Men have long been considered the protectors of the family. When it comes to protecting the family, or more specifically, a potential future partner, it’s the man’s traditional responsibility to take care of all her needs. The needs may be physical protection, they may be emotional support, but they may also be financial needs. I was actually pretty surprised to learn this is how my boyfriend used to think about paying on the first date!
Reasons The Woman Should Pay
There seem to be no societal expectations around a woman paying for the date. The only time there is potentially the expectation for the woman to pay for the date is when she is the one who asks the man out. Again, this has to do with her being the one indirectly setting the budget for the date.
Reasons To Split The Bill
It’s Antiquated To Expect Otherwise
In the past, women were not allowed to own property or hold a job, so they were completely financially reliant on their husbands. Some restaurants even carried different menus for men and women. They provided a “ladies menu” which didn’t have the price on any menu items because it was not considered the woman’s responsibility to worry about the cost of the meal! Since women can both work and own property now, there’s no reason not to split the check because men and women are economic equals.
You Don’t Want To Ever See Each Other Again
I would absolutely not want my date to pay for me if I already know I don’t plan on ever seeing him again. I recognize that even people I don’t get along with work hard for their money, so I absolutely don’t want them to spend any money on me if I know I can never make it up to them by treating them the next time. Surprisingly, I’ve heard this reason a lot from others as well!
It’s Insulting To Imply A Woman Can’t Pay For Herself
I’ve heard many women say it’s insulting having a man pay for her when she is financially independent enough to pay for herself. It feels good to know you can pay your own way and afford it.
It Demonstrates Both People’s Progressive Values
Every type of person still exists in the dating world, including those with traditional mindsets around relationships. If you’re specifically looking for a partner with progressive relationship values, splitting the bill can help identify these people. Of course, splitting the bill and traditional values aren’t mutually exclusive, but it can sometimes be a helpful indicator.
Neither Person Feels They Owe The Other Anything
No matter how much we would like to believe otherwise, money clouds our judgment. Having someone else pay for us can create a feeling of indebtedness. Or it may indirectly shift the way we perceive someone. It has the power to subtly make us think more positively of someone, after all they are, in a way, sacrificing for us when they don’t even know us! Splitting the bill can smooth out the influence of the financial factors and allow both people to judge the true quality of their connection. This is the mentality I’ve personally adopted when it comes to why I always offer to split the check.
So what do you think? Who should pay on the first date? What are your reasons for thinking so? I’d love to hear any new reasons and perspectives too!