One Month Into Post-Grad: Debt, Adulting, and Hotels (+ Books!)

It’s been a while! I have to admit, when the end of June and the 4th of July went by and I still hadn’t updated here, I became more frantic in trying to figure out what to write. Spoiler Alert: Living at home and trying desperately not to spend any of your savings is a very boring existence. Relaxing? Mostly. Blog worthy? Not really.

With less than three weeks now before I head off to job training, I plan to start ramping up my packing, cooking skills, and figuring out the mess that is living in a hotel for a month during training.

This week, I decided not to dive into one particular topic, but to touch upon a range of Adult Stuffs that I have been reading up on and listening to these past few weeks, featuring student loan debt woes, budgeting, hotel worries, and some awesome books I’ve been reading.

1. First off, the worst: The horrors of student loan debt.

At the recommendation of a Bitches Get Riches post, I listened to the two-part student loan debt series on the podcast Death, Sex, and Money by Anna Sale. I am a podcast junky, so I was in love at first listen, but I recommend it to anyone else out there trying to navigate their oversized debt. Give a listen to others stories and know that you are among A LOT of Americans in the same situation. Especially us millennials.

Personally, I have been debating two methods of student debt reduction, known as the “snowball” or “avalanche” method. The snowball method is a method of debt reduction that tackles the smaller sized debts first. This has the benefits of giving the debtor a feel-good, accomplished feeling earlier and can help motivate you to work to eliminate debts faster. The avalanche method, in contrast, goes after the biggest and meanest of the debts, which means the debts with the highest interest rates. A more in-depth examination of the two is found here. The first method makes me feel all fuzzy inside at the idea of less debt-juggling and quicker achievements. Who doesn’t like the happy endorphins of getting something done? But I will likely swing toward the latter if possible, because the bitter side of me feels that high interest rates are a creation of the devil.

Now, lucky for me, I am still within the six-month grace period after college and will have begun my job by the time I have to start making minimum payments. I do plan on beginning with just my minimums, but once I have a handle on my finances, I want to get a bit more aggressive with my evil loans.

2. While we’re on the topic of money, let’s talk budgeting.

I did it! Sort of. I’ve started to try and track my money. To start off, I did a trial with a fancy electronic system online, which was great but also cost monies I don’t have. After my free trial ended, I kissed the fancy software goodbye, at least until it’s more feasible for me, and decided to turn to the handy-dandy spreadsheet. Luckily, I am definitely not alone on this: I found a useful spreadsheet on Half Banked, a financial blog by Desirae Odjick, to start me off.

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Screenshot of the Half Banked spreadsheet.

While Desirae’s spreadsheet is limited, allowing for tracking expenses and simple budgeting, it is a great base for me. See, earlier I said I’m tracking my money, not budgeting it, for a reason. Budgeting implies a solid inflow and outflow of money. Right now, without an income and living a lifestyle of mooching off my mom (thanks mom!), I have a limited amount of both of those. To flip that, once I start job training in August and start apartment searching in my new city, I will be spending way more money and actually making a real income. All I can do at this point, unfortunately, is try to create a budgeting system to use once that insanity begins.

3. Speaking of job training — I’m going to be living in two hotels. For a month.

I have two separate training programs in August: The first is a classroom style training to give new recruits information about how the non-profit works and provide us with skills training. The second involves actually working in another city on a mini-campaign to put our skills into practice.

I should mention that neither of these cities will (probably) be the city I finally call home for two years. Meaning, I will be living in two different hotels for a total period of a month.

[Cue panic over how this poor college grad with minimal resources is going to eat without draining my entire bank account.]

Facing the distinct possibility that I might have a refrigerator and microwave to my name throughout the month of August, I started to panic-slash-prepare for this inevitability. Putting on my best “earnest former student journalist” persona, I contacted the woman in charge of housing coordination and asked if my room would have a refrigerator and microwave. Luckily, I got a response only a few minutes later that I would have a mini-fridge in my room and have access to a common microwave. Phew, one worry down.

Thus, I have started to brainstorm food to eat on the cheap (I do not have enough shame to exclude PB&Js from the list) and already discovered the closest grocery store to my hotel. Eating out will probably be a strategic game of finding the cheapest places and making sure to always have leftovers to bring home with me. While the whole thing feels a bit like being thrown back into a dorm room, I can’t say it’s all bad. After all, I’ll be starting my working life looking out at Lake Michigan from the Chicago downtown coastline. Not too shabby.

4. Okay, now that ugly, adult stuff is out of the way: Books I’m reading and loving.

Books I’ve been reading recently.

Oh, summer. I will miss you so dearly very soon, in part because all this free time allows me to lay around and read books with zero demands that I write an analytical paper about them.

I admit that I will probably never truly give up my young adult fantasy/sci-fi loves. I’m sure at some point I’ll grow into important, adult fiction that one talks about with cool adult friends, but for now I enjoyed the heck of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, a fantasy novel with dual narrators and a fast-moving plot. It features Middle Eastern mythology and has fantastic world-building that I am excited to read more about in the sequel. However, the sequel is currently still in hardback, so I’m lusting after it from afar. I have a small book tower to get through before I can justify that purchase just yet.

Next up, and more related to this blog, is the audiobook Adulting: How to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps. I’m caught between wishing I had bought a physical copy so it would be easier to go back to Kelly Williams Brown’s tips on the fly, and enjoying the snarky, witty narration by Anjili Pal. I am about halfway through this book and I enjoy the way in which it balances between providing advice that makes me think “I should know that” or “yay, I already do this” with the loving and firm message of “Look, it’s all good because you know this now, got it? Now don’t forget it.” It is definitely a fun listen meant just for someone like me, who has limited on-my-own experience and has an almost obsessive love with tips and life hacks.

This final book has my nerd self excited: The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War by Russian-born journalist Arkady Ostrovsky. I’m not sure if I have mentioned it prior on this blog, but I have a freshly-minted International Relations degree with an unofficial regional emphasis on Russia and its periphery. Because I am a weird overachiever, I wrote a 80 page senior thesis on Russian state media influence in Latvia. You’d think I’d kind of be over the topic by now, after a literal year of my life obsessing over Russian ethnic minorities and state media, but apparently not. While this book assumes some base knowledge on the happenings in Russia in the last century, it so far seems pretty approachable. The book focuses on how the Russian media has played a key role in crafting Russian identity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The reverence for the written word and discussion of free speech and the power of the press alone should make it interesting to those outside the wonky political junkies.

That’s all I have for today! I hope to be back with more regular posts, but between a pair of end of summer vacations and a surprise surgery — nothing too terrible, just unpleasant — my life will be speeding up again. Woo?