30 Days without Instagram + A Money Diary

And no, it’s not for Lent. 

I go into periods without social media once in a while. Usually it’s because I find it affecting my mental health (Insta-envy is real!), or I find it taking over my free time too much.

This time, it started off as an accident.

As most of you know, I love my (new-ish!) job. It’s rewarding, it’s challenging, and most of all, it’s demanding. March started off with a few weeks of crazy intense work. When I wasn’t traveling (for work), I woke up, went to work, went home to eat dinner, worked until I fell asleep (and y’all know how late I usually go to sleep), and repeated the next day, including some weekends. There was a stretch of time where I literally didn’t have time to check social media. And one day, when I came up for air, I opened Instagram mindlessly, scrolling through the endless pictures of happy people having mimosa-flowing brunches and blue-tinted vacation photos. I’d read something recently about how a prominent journalist loved Instagram because it’s such a positive platform – a clear differentiation from his daily life of reporting on horrible news. But I scrolled through that day, and wondered where real life was. This time I felt no Insta-envy for the accounts I followed with blonde goddesses in billowy clothes on some beach in the Maldives.  I wondered how others like me, who love travel (see: my blog + Instagram), but who held a full-time, pretty intense job, and derived a lot of satisfaction from daily life, lived a normal day. I wondered how peers, in my same age group, were dealing with increased Instagram use and its ensuring provocation of “wanderlust” or “FOMO”, when there are bills to be paid and savings to work towards. I wondered how many people were putting off working towards their future for the temporary satisfaction of showing followers what a colorful life they were having. I knew my friends were living wonderful lives and really deriving satisfaction with their jobs and simple pleasures of friends and family –  I suppose those things aren’t “worth sharing” on social media, and I’m sad I don’t get to learn about those moments. And as I get older and busier, it’s become more difficult to keep in touch with people one-on-one, so I depend mostly on social media to keep updated with many people’s lives – all the nitty gritty details, including the “boring” ones.

So, it’s been half a month without Instagram, and yes, I feel more conscious of my everyday actions, feel healthier, etc. (I’m still on Snapchat, because I find it’s filled with more ~dumb~ and ~ugly~ pictures!) But I do think social media can be used to actually connect with friends and the world. So for now, I’m hoping to create healthy habits of not constantly, mindlessly checking my phone when I’m on public transportation or in the bathroom, when I return to Instagram. And in the meanwhile, I hope to continue sharing a (perhaps boring, but personally satisfying) snapshot of my life – finances included! – to get in the habit of sharing a portion of my “real life” – not my life on vacation mode. Right now, my “real life” consists of being very mindful of my finances and the immediate future.

As for the travel update – I have been doing pretty well with sticking to the wedding plan and not traveling so much this year! This has probably been the longest stretch of time without traveling for fun in a while. But it’s ok, because…5 months before we’re officially married, and a little over 6 months until our actual wedding ceremony (WHAT)

Here is a money diary of a week in the life of someone who works a lot, has a decent amount of ~affordable~ fun, and saves up for travel – but only after having a nice cushion of long-term savings, short-term savings (grad school), and random savings (an upcoming wedding!).

Current savings for grad school: $108k (recently this took a hit as I had to pay back my past employer for paying with my other degree, + family obligations). I put away 15% of my take-home pay towards this at minimum, plus whatever is leftover at the end of the month. Grad school is expensive! But it’ll be my last degree (if I end up getting in!)

Long -term savings (future house, retirement): I put 30% of my take-home pay towards this.

Current savings for wedding: $20k (we’re getting married in the middle of the woods!)

Short-term savings (travel): I put away $750 a month towards my travel fund. This is a small portion of my monthly take-home pay. This is how I go on these cool (but budget-friendly) trips with M! Currently I have a decent cushion in here for our honeymoon. Also we’re going to Hawaii soon (tickets were $400 RT…but everything on the island is expensive) 🙂

Charity: 10% of take home pay

Groceries: $100 split between 2 people (Aldi + Trader Joe’s FTW. I’m pretty good at meal prep at this point!)

“Entertainment”, including date nights: $100 split between 2 people (some weeks we do free things like random museums/shows in town, other weeks it’s a fancy dinner)

Other (toiletries, random things for the house) $50 for 2 people

Rent: $2.6K for 2 people a month (we live in the most expensive area of Boston in an old Victorian brownstone)

Utilities: $80 a month for 2 people

Phone bill: $32 a month (Virgin Mobile!)

Gym: $54 a month (partially expensed through work)

Leftovers: Emergency savings account

(We have a joint account for shared expenses which we both deposit a set amount towards every month, and the remainder is “self money” towards my own savings + entertainment. But I play this game where I basically pretend I have the same salary as M – a comfortable PhD salary, but a PhD salary nonetheless. This way we both spend around the same amount for normal life, and I save like crazy rather than “spending what I earn”!)


I hesitated for a good 30 minutes about posting this. And then I thought – ugh, millennials should be better about not feeling ashamed for openly talking about money. We can all help each other cultivate better financial habits!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Yen @ SwingAbroad says:

    This idea came across my mind quite often but I never made it, even though I didn’t spend lots of time on it, I will scroll it from time to time though. That’s an achievement !


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