Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Xin, a newly-minted law school graduate.
I went to law school in New York City and I started working at a large firm there last September. I blog at An Invincible Summer and I write about a little bit of everything:
When I first started I focused more on minimalism and fashion with a side of Marie Kondo-style decluttering, but more recently, I focus on fashion and my experiences with personal finance.
(Editor: It mimics my entire minimalist philosophy.)
As a new almost-attorney, I have a scary amount of student debt.
I borrowed about $160,000 for law school, but because of interest that grew to right around $200,000 USD by the time I started working.
My loans are mostly federal government student loans (5% to 7.9% interest) with a tiny slice of loans from my undergraduate and law schools (5% interest).
This is fairly “normal” for my profession and, more importantly, I am lucky enough to have a job that should allow me to pay it off within 7 years or sooner if I play my cards right.
What’s your money motto and where did you learn about budgeting?
As a relative beginner to budgeting and managing my money, my money motto is:
Always learning to do better.
It’s not the most inspiring thing, I know, but I’m still very much in my formative stages when it comes to managing my finances.
My parents were always fantastic about supporting me and my education, and they helped me out until I started law school, where school became so expensive that it was only right that it be my sole responsibility.
That must have taken good personal finance management on their part as neither of them are wealthy. I am forever grateful to them for their support.
My parents did not, however, teach me about the nitty-gritty details of managing my money, outside of:
(1) a firm rule of “always pay off your credit card balance in its entirety,” or “never take on credit card debt”
(2) a more fuzzy directive to “save for retirement”
This meant I had to learn about budgeting mostly on my own, with some help from online resources.
My undergraduate school has an active personal finance Facebook group for alums, and they directed me to Manisha Thakoor and Sharon Keddar’s book, On My Own Two Feet, which I recommend to other beginners.
I also credit a software called You Need a Budget (YNAB) with helping me actually track my spending, which is a fundamental first step to managing one’s money right. I use the old version which is more like a slightly fancy Excel spreadsheet that requires users to track every individual transaction manually.
From what I hear, I don’t think I’d like the new web-based version, so I might eventually have to learn to use Excel..
(Editor: For those interested, I have an Excel-based Budgeting Tool which gives its net proceeds to charity)
Do you create a clothing/wardrobe budget and how did you come about the method?
Last year was my first ever year of setting a clothing/wardrobe budget. My maximum budget was $3000/year.
Within that budget, I tried to stick to spending roughly $250/month, though I didn’t sweat it if I overspent in any given month as long as I was on track for the year.
There wasn’t too much logic to this number, to be honest. I was mostly living on student loans until September, so that budget was maybe a bit high for my actual financial situation.
This year, I’ve reduced my monthly clothing budget to $2040/year or $170/month.
However, I have a separate open-ended spending category for some big-ticket work clothing purchases.
I’d like to buy a good-quality wool suit and am also willing to spend on a pair of conservative black leather pumps for interviews.
If I can keep those expenses under $1000, that would be great, though I can’t guarantee it.
Thus, my total clothing/wardrobe expenses for this year will probably still hover around $3000.
What do you like to shop for and why?
I enjoy shopping for most clothes, especially dresses and tops.
I find pants and skirts a bit boring, I suppose, and maybe a little difficult to shop for even if I have no real trouble with standard mall petite sizing for those items.
Dresses are the most fun to shop for because they’re pretty, though I definitely don’t need any more!
Is there anything you hate shopping for? Why?
Shoes for sure. I just don’t get excited about them.
I also find almost all high-heels, even very low ones of around 2 inches or a little less, to be extremely uncomfortable.
I only wear them when I absolutely have to.
What is the all-time best and worst item(s) you’ve purchased and what have you learned from its purchases?
It’s hard to pinpoint a best purchase because I like to think that I generally make good shopping choices now!
My best purchase in terms of cost-per-wear must be my black Longchamp Planetes tote (now known as the Longchamp Le Pliage Neo tote and made with slightly different materials). It’s just so versatile and easy to carry because it’s roomy, very light, and waterproof, while still looking formal enough to be carried to work and interviews.
My all-time worst purchase is probably my Rebecca Minkoff Morning After Bag.
I bought it on Gilt for about $450 dollars in 2009, while I was still a college student. There are two main problems that put this in the “worst purchase ever” category for me.
First and foremost, I couldn’t actually “afford it” back then, in any real way.
I was a college student with some income from summer internships and from a part-time work-study job with very low hours, but really, my parents were covering my living (and shopping) expenses. I still feel guilty about this purchase!
Second, I don’t actually use the bag. It is a lovely bag, very high quality.
However, it’s too big and heavy for me to use regularly, and my best efforts to obtain a cross-body strap for it in hopes of making it more versatile have been to no avail.
(Editor: Why not sell it? 🙂 )
Do you ever go off track from your budget? If so, how do you recover from it and fix the situation (if at all)?
Not really, actually, if only because I’ve been budgeting for such a short time.
One thing that YNAB encourages is to “roll with the punches.” If you overspend on something or encounter an unexpected expense, the software encourages you to move money from other categories to cover the shortfall.
I think that makes sense, and I feel like the average young childless professional probably has a few other budget categories they can cut down on (coffee shops, restaurants, entertainment, etc.) to cover a month with slightly too much shopping without too much trouble.
Your 1-3 favourite outfits and how much each item cost in each photo.
This work outfit is very “me.”
I love bright colors and kind of loud prints and I strongly prefer to wear flats whenever possible.
[TWO: Gorjana Taner Small Bar Necklace ($40) | H&M Basics Tank Top ($6) | H&M Premium Quality Cashmere Sweater ($80) | J.Crew No. 2 Pencil Skirt, Wool ($42) | Mukluks Fleece-Lined Tights ($19) | Sam Edelman Petty Booties ($110) ]
This work outfit incorporates some of my favorite pieces from the past year.
The Sam Edelman Petty booties I’m wearing are my favorite shoes ever.
They are super comfortable, didn’t need any breaking in, and work well with both work and casual outfits.
The H&M cashmere sweater is a bit big and is maybe a bit overly trendy for something that was a little pricey (though I got it as a birthday gift), but I just love how comfy it is.
Your 5 favourite places to shop (offline and online):
- Nordstrom (US, online)
- Everlane (online)
- Madewell (US, online)
- Loft (US, online)
- Buffalo Exchange (NYC)
What is the one best piece of advice you can give to someone starting out in budgeting?
Know the big picture of your finances and your goals. To that end, tracking all your expenditures is absolutely necessary.
Budgeting never clicked for me until I started using YNAB so that I could see all my accounts and spending easily and clearly in one place.
Also, I probably wouldn’t be half as good about sticking to budget limits if I wasn’t intimately acquainted with all the details of my financial situation, my student loan balance, and what size payment I need to make each month just to stay on top of the interest ($990/month), be on track for a 10 year repayment plan ($2100/month total), or be on track for repayment by year 7 ($3000/month total).
If you’re tracking your expenditures and are conscious of your overall financial situation and your goals, there’s a good chance that everything else could come naturally because you know exactly what you have to do to get where you want to be.
Thank you so much for participating, Xin!
Want to read more interviews?
About “Style Bloggers <3 Budgeting”:
I love shopping. I love budgeting.
I love the idea of the two marrying.
Thus, Style Bloggers <3 Budgeting was born.
I want to bring to you different viewpoints of people who love fashion & style (like myself) but also want to make it work on a budget.
We all have different budgets, shopping personalities, styles and ways of looking at things, and it is fascinating to peer into the mind of others and to maybe grab some inspiration & sneak a peek into their wardrobe.
Are you a style blogger who would like to participate?
Contact me here or leave a comment.
The only pre-requisite is you must be a style blogger of some sort, whether you post outfits on Instagram only (like me) or do it on your blog itself.