Surviving Twenty Something

Money + Happiness

How to Figure Out Where Your Money Is Going

Money + Happiness, Popular PostsDanna Rowan

"I'm trying to cut down on buying Starbucks coffees," said a coworker of mine, while sipping her venti black dark roast— the one coffee she was allowing herself that day, rather than the usual two to three. I try to arrange my face into an expression that doesn't look too horrified, and is somewhere between surprised and impressed.

Yes, you read that right: two-to-three Starbucks coffees everyday. And while this might not make your face melt off as quickly as if they were two-to-three lattes everyday, the math is still pretty shocking.

Let's say here the price of a coffee is $2.00 (it's about $2.20CAD, I think). Times three coffees a day (assuming there are no croissants, scones, doughnuts, cookies, or breakfast sandwiches accompanying said coffee). Times 350 (I'm being kind and assuming there are days she stays home, holidays, busy days, etc).

Hold up your pants.




Let's look at what $2100 can get you:

  • a trip to the UK
  • groceries for one person for a year
  • 10.5 pairs of gorgeous quality shoes
  • 175 trips to see a movie
  • 84 lunch dates with your girlfriends

I mean, that list could go on basically forever. Save that up over a couple of years and you've got yourself a decent car, or a good chunk of a downpayment for a house. A sweet financial cushion, or enough money to let you pursue your side-hustle.

All of which, I think is safe to say, are better than Starbucks coffee (at least black, ew).

But here's the thing: this lovely coworker of mine, until she really sat down and did the math... wasn't really aware of just how much money was disappearing into the Black Hole That Is Starbucks.

She didn't have a concrete number, so it was a lot easier to pretend it wasn't happening. But after that $2100 started staring her in the face? Nnnnnot so easy. And it's not just Lovely Coworker— the number of people I've talked to who were stunned to find that they were spending thousands a year on coffee, take out, booze, and Uber rides is, well, high enough that I'm writing about it (and I think almost everyone can relate to the feeling of looking at your bank account or credit card statement and thinking WTF HAPPENED).

Getting your spending under wraps means setting a great budget or financial plan that works for you— but before you can make a realistic budget, you've gotta find out where your money is going. Ah, we arrive at last.

If you're trying to put into place a budget that someone else has tailored to their life, without figuring out your money situation and what you need in your life, you're getting a pile of meaningless numbers based on someone else's lifestyle.

No es bueno. 


1. Make yourself some rough spending categories

Where you spend is not going to be the same as where others spend. I, for example, do not have a car, nor do I often go out drinking— these are not things that need to be a part of my categories.

But they might be for you.

Categories you may consider include:

  • groceries
  • home essentials
  • transportation
  • housing costs (rent, mortgage, utilities, etc)
  • student loans/other debt payments
  • entertainment (movies, eating out, lattes)
  • pet expenses
  • school expenses
  • "fun money" (non-essential makeup beauty products, clothing, decor, etc)


2. Decide on a method of payment

Okay, good. We've got our categories. Now, you'll want to be tracking your spending over a typical month. A strategy I find super helpful here is to stick to just one method of payment, if you can— it makes it much easier to track, and much easier to see where your money is going and when. You can do old school cash, or pay for everything with your debit or credit card; the important thing is that you do your best to stick to one.

Obviously, situations may arise where that's not possible— in this case, note down the purchase ASAP.



Whether you've chosen cash or a card-based or digital method of payment, you've got one more decision to make: how to track.

You can easily use an old-school Excel sheet (except, Excel blows, let's be honest), pen and paper, or a Notes document if you feel like that will work best for you. If you're looking for some more organization, however, I recommend a digital tracking app, such as:

The best method of tracking is the one you're going to stick to.


4.  Look into the future

Alright, so there's one last thing before we go: you gotta think ahead just a little.

Not every kind of expense is going to be accounted for on a month-to-month basis— there are lots of expenses that only show their faces once every couple of months, or even once a year (hello, dog vaccinations).

Take a few minutes to think about the types of expenses that show up for you on a less than regular basis and note these down. You can then either work them into a yearly budget, or divide them by 12 to see what the equivalent monthly spend would be.


You've got the tools, now go out there and start spending (er, you know, not too crazy or anything, as you normally would. Carry on)!


Did you find this post helpful? Click over on the left to share it. And while we're at it, let us know in the comments what your most surprising spending-find was!


p.s. And for a little money-inspiration... >> How We Paid Off $30,000 In A Year


How to Create a Minimalist and Productive Workspace

Life Advice, Money + HappinessNadya Jones
How to create a productive minimalis workspace 3.jpg

Ten years ago my desk generally looked like the aftermath of a small colourful explosion. I was just out of college and getting started on blogging and designing and I’d read somewhere that a messy desk was a sign of creativity, so I let the chaos grow. I had bucket-loads of cute office supplies, pin boards layered with swatches, cryptic sticky-notes on my monitor, heaps of unread magazines and at least two moribund plants. One rainy morning, I just pulled up the garbage bin and started throwing stuff away. By dinner-time, I had a clear desk and an enormous sense of relief. If this sounds familiar, and you’re feeling weighed down by your messy workspace, or you’ve been inspired by Danna’s thoughts on How to Live Lighter: A Minimalist Decluttering, here are my top tips for how to create a minimalist and productive workspace for yourself.


Step 1 // Visioning

Tackling a big decluttering job can be daunting. If you take a few minutes to inspire yourself with a picture of how it will be when you’ve finished, it will help to keep you on track.

  1. Close your eyes and imagine how your workspace will look, notice what items are there and which are missing.
  2. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, perhaps you feel lighter and more organized already?
  3. Now that you’re feeling motivated and energized, open your eyes and make a list of only the items that you need to do your work. Challenge yourself – for example, why do you need a stapler? If you are using it to staple things you’re printing, do you really need to print them? If you don’t need to print, do you need a printer? Could you digitize everything and go paperless?


Step 2 // Clear the decks

  1. Take everything off your desk, pick up anything on the floor, empty drawers, and remove things pinned to the wall.
  2. Find the items on your list of essentials and put them to one side.
  3. Throw out anything that falls into a ‘no regrets’ category. This includes things like old magazines, dead plants and so on.
  4. File anything that you have to keep but doesn’t need to be on your desk. This includes things like bank statements, utility bills and so on.
  5. Put things like spare pens, calculators, and so on, out of sight in drawers unless you use them every day.
  6. You’ll probably be left with a miscellaneous collection of things which you’re not sure you need. Put them into a box. Anything you haven’t needed to get out of the box in the next month, you can safely dump.


Step 3 // Reset

  1. Consider location. An ideal workspace benefits from natural light which helps reduce stress, improve mood and increase concentration. Place your desk perpendicular to the light source to reduce glare and shadows.
  2. Put the essential items that were on your list back in your workspace. Check that you have everything you need, now is the time to invest in a new desk lamp if your lighting was always inadequate, or to buy a gorgeous new notebook so you won’t need a new sticky-note collage.
  3. You now have a clean slate that includes just the essentials you need to do your work. According to researchers at Harvard, you’ll be 1.5 times more productive on challenging tasks now your workspace is neat than you were when it was messy.


Step 4 // Add joy

A minimalist approach is one that seeks simplicity and balance. It’s not about reducing to an empty, sterile, utilitarian, workspace. It’s about creating an environment where there is space for your ideas and creativity to breathe and grow, a space that refreshes your spirit and brings you joy. There is nothing wrong with adding items simply because you like them. I have draped a beautiful set of Allen Roth crackle string lights around my workspace because even when I am feeling tired or unproductive, simply looking up and catching sight of them lifts my heart so that I can get back to work. However, it’s important to do this in a controlled way so that you don’t add too much. Try the steps below.

  1. Add a single item back into your workspace that you love. The item can be anything: a family photograph; a beautiful piece of glassware; a luxurious throw. Be very selective.
  2. Leave the item in your workspace for a few days, notice how often you look at it and how it makes you feel. If you stop noticing it, or it fails to lift your spirits, consider removing it from your working area.
  3. Continue adding items one at a time. There is no right or wrong number of items to add but it’s important to stop as soon as you sense that you have enough. You’re aiming for a small, carefully curated selection of objects that you value.
  4. Consider adding a plant. Scientists at Exeter University have found that indoor plants can increase productivity by 15% in addition to improving the air quality and your sense of wellbeing - just don’t forget to water it!


Step 5 // Maintain that Zen feeling

When you’re busy it’s very easy to let your redesigned space quickly become cluttered again. Try these tips to keep things under control.

  1. Buy a big waste bin. Having plenty of space to put your garbage is likely to encourage you to throw things away.
  2. Be mindful about paper – think carefully about printing, post, newspapers, and magazines all of which can sabotage your space very quickly.
  3. Once a week, check your surroundings and do a quick declutter.

Confucius said, “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”. We confuse ownership with happiness and quantity with quality and we fill our days with a multitude of gadgets and tasks but we’re not always as productive as we’d like to be. I hope you’ve taken a little inspiration from these ideas for creating a minimalist and productive workspace, I’d love it if you’d share this article if you found it useful, and let me know your thoughts and how you get on in the comments below.



Nadya Jones is a blogger and an entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of Allen Roth HQ, a blog about home design and improvements. With her husband Brett, she writes tips and tricks they learned while renovating their house in Raleigh, North Carolina. Nadya handles the interior design. Brett implements her ideas in a cost-efficient way.

Twitter @diy_brett


Why Life-Changing Happiness is as Simple as Riding a Bike

Life Advice, Money + HappinessAdam Koberinski

If you were to ask the average middle class North American what they would change in their life, you’d expect to hear things like, “I’d love to get in better shape!” or, “I wish my financial situation could be a bit better”, or even “I want to spend more time outside, enjoying nature.”

But hey, we’re all pretty busy, right? As much as we’d like to improve our lives, who’s got the time? Between a busy work week, spending hours in traffic on your commute, and paying for your house and car, there’s no time for working out, or money left over at the end of the month to put away.

How We Paid off $30,000 of Debt in Under a Year

Money + HappinessJordanna RowanComment

In 2015, money worries nagged at me all day long. I thought about debt during class, I thought about debt during dinner, when friends were over, when I was going for a walk, and when I was trying to fall asleep.

Debt is powerful like that. The uncertainty and fear cram themselves into every area of your life, leaving you feeling stressed, out-of-control, and off-centre.

My debt was all student debt, acquired from undergraduate and graduate degrees from a university in Ontario. But I grew up with an unhealthy attitude towards money. My family loved to spend— loved to have the latest new things, expensive decor, the nicest yard– But my mother also had debt from student loans and car loans. This was debt that she carried around for years and I saw the way it affected her, too. The way it made her feel like she had never quite made it, never had quite enough, or was never on stable ground.

'Tis the Season: How to Handle Gift-Giving Relatives as a Minimalist

Money + HappinessJordanna RowanComment

Maybe you’ve been on your journey to a more minimalist life for a while now, or maybe you’re just starting out.

Either way, chances are you’ve thought about a scenario that goes something like this:

Says mother: “What do you want for Christmas?”

Says daughter: “Oh, nothing. We have everything we need.”

Says mother: “Well I have to get you SOMETHING.”

Says daughter: “No, really. It’s okay. We’ve just decluttered a bunch of stuff and it’s been nice.”

Says mother: “Oh, too bad. I can’t not get you something for Christmas. You deserve a treat! You’re so frugal.”

The State of Things: Why Minimalism is Perfect For Millennials

Money + HappinessJordanna Rowan2 Comments

For better or for worse, when I picture minimalists I picture some of the leaders in the industry: Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, and Leo Babauta of Zen Habits— and I find that they all have something in common.

They’re men over 35. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing— I find inspiration every day from all four of these fantastic writers, but sometimes you just want to hear from people who are… well, more like you.

Buy it for Life: Why You Should Be Buying Quality Over Quantity

Money + HappinessJordanna RowanComment

For most of my life, people have assumed I have money because I have quality, often expensive items— which hasn’t been the case.

I worked nearly full-time hours during university and subsisted off of student loans to make ends meet. I made it most of the way through a graduate program which wasn’t easy on the bank, before dropping out and saddling myself with more than $30,000 in student loans and no job (and no job prospects, at least in my field).

How to Ditch Your Shopping Habit for Good

Money + HappinessJordanna RowanComment

Retail therapy.

If you're a female between the ages of 3 and 103, you're probably feeling the effects of consumer marketing— even if you're not consciously aware of it. From TV commercials, billboards, magazines, social media, popular influencers on Instagram and Youtube, and internet ads— even ads on your phone— more is being offered to you from every direction. The desire for more even pits us against one another. 

We're presented with shopping as a solution to unhappiness, boredom, dissatisfaction, and feelings of unworthiness. Shopping is something you do by yourself, with friends, on the weekend, on a date, and when you visit a new city. 

24 Ways to Bring Simplicity to Your Life

Life Advice, Money + HappinessJordanna RowanComment
24 Ways to Bring Simplicity to Your Life

Sometimes, life can get a little crazy— even when it's good.

It's pretty easy to get swept up in the fast-paced rhythm of work, school, and social obligations, and forget that sometimes we need to pull back for a moment, breathe, and find simplicity. As someone who runs two different blogs as well as a business, I know the feeling only too well. Here are a neat two dozen ways that I bring more simplicity into my life when things get a little out of hand.

  1. Garden
  2. Find out what plants and animals live in your yard or neighbourhood
  3. Make a mindful cup of tea
  4. Declutter
  5. Write a letter to a friend
  6. Bake bread
  7. Picnic in the park
  8. Take an evening walk
  9. Unplug for the day
  10. Bike to work (or go really big and sell your car)
  11. Get farmer's market groceries
  12. Go berry-picking
  13. Then make jam
  14. Give a handmade gift
  15. Donate things you never use
  16. Meditate
  17. Listen to an audiobook
  18. Learn to sketch
  19. Plan your day with paper
  20. Journal
  21. Start a morning/evening yoga routine
  22. Accept yourself
  23. Simplify your beauty-product stash
  24. Practise daily gratitude

What are your favourite ways to simplify? Let us all know in the comments!


p.s. How You Know You're Ready For Minimalism


24 Ways to Bring Simplicity Into Your Life: Life can get a little crazy sometimes when it comes to work, school, and social obligations. Here's how I bring a little sanity and simplicity back into the mix.