Late 20s Rut-BustingLate 20s Rut-Busting: Lazy Ways To Kick DebtMary Traina

You know, when people say your 20s are difficult, they mean your whole 20s.  They don’t mean that somewhere around your mid-to-late-20s, you start to figure stuff out and settle in.  You don’t coast into 30 with a bag of answers.  Who told you that?  Who’s been running their mouth about your 20s?!  They seem like a know-it-all, honestly (wink!).  No, the entire decade is ughs on top of blahs.

I’m here to submit that your late 20s are the worst.  You have to fix your early 20s, and it is a bummer.

The first thing most of us start to notice is looming credit card debt.  Debt you can’t seem to make a dent in.  Debt you ignored so easily in your early 20s.  Remember the good old days?  When you started an alarming amount of sentences with, “Well, when I’m rich…” Your early 20s are about testing your limits and figuring out the details later.  Later is about scrambling for any way at all to get out of debt. Any way at all: like reading a list of tips on a blog (see below).  In my case, adhering to these tips takes a lot of discipline.  For those of you who have this amount of discipline in your pinky finger, please read on and judge me hard.

Look over your monthly credit card bill for bogus commitments. Like, maybe you’re still paying to own “”  STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

Consider canceling cable.  When I moved into my own apartment and had to make cuts, this was my Everest.  However, I’ve persevered and found the ol’ lemonade in the cloud (that’s the saying, right?  Good.).  I discovered that you never truly know your friends until you’ve invited yourself over for their cable and stayed for the squeal-filled terror you both suffer at the hands of a random Paranormal Witness marathon.

During nights out, stop drinking at around 10.  Have a water.  Assess the situation.  Do you want to go all in tonight or do you maybe wanna save up for a bar tab and taxi home another night?  Unless someone has suggested karaoke by this point, odds are Imma go home and save up.  Everyone has their thing!

Pack your lunch.  It’s healthier and cheaper.  Plus, after a while, you’ll find yourself bragging about it.  Feelin’ all smug about it.  Also, my friend Maliaka’s blog, Packable Feast, just plain makes it look cool.

Take some time to know your personal style.  If you are in the dressing room thinking, “I’m a little uncomfortable and I’m not sure what kind of bra would work but maybe it’s time for a new look!”  Nope.  Not your new look.  You’ll probably never wear this.  Your new look is a savings account.  Also, while I’m on it, clean your closet before buying new clothes, young lady!

Don’t get dessert at the restaurant. There is always some kind of holiday candy at Duane Reade that has just gone on sale.  What are you?  Too good for Peeps?  What is your sweet tooth, Queen Elizabeth??  You think you’re better than me???

Every few weeks, don’t go to the grocery.  Celebrate misfit food week.  Just finish the pasta and week-old broccoli that’s been winkin’ at you from the crisper.  Up for a real challenge?  Interpret “sell-by” dates as a comfortable distance from “eat-by” dates, which you assign however you see fit.  My boyfriend hates this about me.  Trust your nose, I say!

Credit cards are for needs, not wants. Use cash. This also allows your friends to make the classic, “did you just come from a strip club?” joke when they see your wallet is full of singles. Everybody wins!

Be the mysterious tightwad.  If you are at a large group dinner, throw in money but don’t factor in tax, tip or the birthday boy/girls’ portion.  When people start to notice the bill is short, act surprised and look around at everyone else.  Just kidding!  DON’T DO THIS!  This would make you the worst.  What?  Are your friends just an ATM to you?  I feel sorta hurt by you.  It hurts my feelings that you see me this way.  As a chump I mean.  …Okay, you goof, apology accepted!

Don’t join a gym if you don’t already like gyms.  You’re just gonna go there and half ass it, if you go at all.  Learn how to work out on your own (a few sessions with a personal trainer to get you going, videos, podcasts, running, etc.).  You’re much more likely to sweat and workout so hard your face looks stupid if you’re not in public, anyways.

Learn how to be alone.  Socializing is expensive.  Now, when you do socialize, you’re likely to be twice as excited about it and therefore twice as awesome to be around. You’re gonna be the person who gets people dancing when ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO comes on! Yay! You’re not party rocking alone in front of your mirror tonight, no sir!  Some people do party rock in front of their mirrors when they are alone.  Or so I’ve heard.

Stop going to tapas restaurants.  Tapas means “still hungry and now also broke” in English.

Well, there you have it!  My tips for making a dent in that debt you’ve accrued throughout your 20s.  Also, don’t go on vacation ever.

Image by Grant Cochrane via

  • Jacqueline Kate Barlow

    Not to be a downer, but I do all of these, am 30, and still have loads of debt.

  • Clari Hermann

    to post a comment

  • Stephanie Howell

    Oh and for the bar… Make friends with a bar tender. I normally pay for 1.5 drinks a night ( fri and sat, I’m not a lush). Not only is drinking cheaper but you have sober someone looking out for your well being when you’ve had too much to do it on your own

  • Stephanie Howell

    I’m planning a clothing swap with my friends. A great way to change out your wardrobe for free, and get you hands on that sweater of your friends you always envied

  • Caroline Jeffery

    i like to think i already employ many of these tactics in one form or another. just to add onto your point about groceries and bar tabs – liquor is SOOO much cheaper when you buy it yourself. and for the amount of money you spend on a meal at a restaurant, even one as small as $10, you can make like 4 or 5 servings of spaghetti for the same amount.

    ALSO: get yourself a nalgene style water bottle (and a brita filter if need be) and drink from the tap. water is basically free, why are you spending a dollar per bottle on Dasani???

  • Paula Gonzalez

    This is particularly useful to me since I’ve just quit my job and will be “in-between jobs” for a while… Time to avoid luxuries such as desserts at restaurants :D BTW, I was loving your article till I read “be the mysterious tightwad”. Thank God it was just a joke! I’ve had one too many friends with that obnoxious habit…

    • Mary Traina

      oh man, it’s been done to me so many times… and by people who I ordinarily love! It’s like a twilight zone episode, “well… I guess I’ll put in another 5… and another 5… is it just me trying to make sure this bill adds up… okay, I’m putting in ANOTHER 5… guys?”

  • Louise Watson

    I love this! Interpret “sell-by” dates as a comfortable distance from “eat-by” dates, which you assign however you see fit’.. Seriousy have you been in my kitchen, I totally gross my housematess out with my lax attitude to best before dates! Great tips- Also, shop in charity shops too, you can save a fortune, be unique and be giving to charity all at the same time!

  • Mary Aurelia Dacuma

    I have a one-in-one-out policy on unnecessary clothing items. If I want to buy it, I have to give one equivalent item in my closet to charity. It works!

    • Mary Traina

      Oh yes! That is great advice! Sometimes I cheat and my out item is from an old Halloween costume… :)

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