13 Millennials Spill Their Most Embarrassing Money Secrets

I don’t keep a lot of secrets. I am not good at secrets — I always end up telling them to someone. When I have a secret, I can’t keep a straight face. I get sweaty and silent and giggle when someone talks to me. I’m the worst. I know. TBH, if you have ever told me a secret (at least not a big one — I usually am capable of keeping the really important life-changing ones), I probably at least confided in my mom or best friend, and told one of them because it killed me to keep it inside. I’m not proud of it, but it is definitely one of those “know thyself” things. 

But I do think a lot about secrets. Specifically, as you can probably understand (with me writing for TFD and all), I think about money secrets.

Financial secrets are probably the type I am least capable of keeping. If I spend money on something embarrassing, or make a money-related mistake that leaves me feeling stupid, I want to hold it in — but I can’t. I guess this is the part where I tell you the only money-related secret I do have right now:

I’ve never used a financial tracking app. Considering the fact that I write daily in a community that centers almost exclusively around personal finance, it is weird that I’ve never used Mint or anything similar, considering how much people rave about them. I think the reason I never caught on was that I always had a handful of jobs at once that paid me at random times, so I never felt like my bank account was secure enough to count on in a real way. I budget myself week-by-week a lot of the time, and adjust depending on how and when I get paid from certain jobs. I also have had a good amount of jobs that paid in cash, so the money sometimes never even hit my account before I used it or tucked it away to save. (Before anyone asks, yes I still paid all my taxes despite being paid in cash, and no I’m not a conspiracy theorist despite sometimes saving some of my money in cash at home instead of putting it in the bank. It works for me, and I’m comfortable with it.)

That’s how I justify it. But it is weird. Considering the time I spend preaching about effective budgeting and tracking your expenses, I should be doing it in the most technologically advanced way possible. But I’m not. It is embarrassing. And I think I’ll hop on that bandwagon soon.

It feels good to get that off my chest, honestly. I’ve almost written articles about it more than once, and stopped because I didn’t feel like telling people that the best way I track my money is by writing it down on post-it notes.

And with that confession, I’ve also decided to out some other people (anonymously) on the most embarrassing financial secrets they are currently keeping. Some aren’t so bad — and some are. All are honest, and all of these people (hopefully) feel better for finally admitting them. Shout-out to everyone reading this — thank you for letting us release our secrets to you. Enjoy!

1. “I tell people I have no debt when I actually have a lot. I consider it ‘no debt’ because it is all student debt, which for some reason feels different than like, credit card debt to me. But it isn’t. It is still 50 grand that I spent on private education and am not sure how I will pay back. Lol.” — Jennie

2. “I’m not sure if this is embarrassing per se. I guess it is because my husband doesn’t actually know this about me. But I have money saved as personal, ‘just-in-case’ money, as in money I will use to protect myself in case our relationship doesn’t work out or something. We have merged our finances, but he out-earns me by quite a bit, and I almost am at the point where I am not working at all just because we have a toddler and are having another baby and childcare seems more expensive than it will be worth considering my salary is low. It isn’t embarrassing I guess, but like, I definitely don’t want him to know — at least right now. I don’t anticipate it ending, obviously — but you hear so many stories that a few months prior to our wedding I just started tucking money to the side just so I could keep it for worst case scenario.” — Sierra

3. “I don’t have a good answer for this, but it is embarrassing that I actually spend money on a Runescape membership.” — Andrew

4. “I track what I spend on an app and I found out that I spent almost $400 (yes you are reading that correctly) on alcohol last month. I feel ridiculous. And I don’t have a drinking problem. Nothing close to that — I just think I got caught up in the summer, going on vacation, going out even on work nights, and I absolutely went overboard. I don’t want to tell anyone but it does feel nice to get off my chest to you!” — Janine 

5. “I spent over $1,200 on my dog and I tell people he was a rescue. I’m surprised people believe me.” — Emily

6. “Omg my biggest embarrassment is that I’ve paid a tiny bit over $100 in overdraft fees in the past year. It is actually so stupid and ENTIRELY my fault. I don’t pay enough attention to when my paychecks are direct deposited into my account, and I definitely don’t pay attention to how much I’m spending and when. I called the bank begging for forgiveness and they forgave one $30 fee but they said they just can’t waive that many and it happened to me like four times recently.” — Shayla

7. “My most embarrassing secret is that I’m 100% looking for money in a partner. Not saying that I necessarily wouldn’t date someone who didn’t make money, but I do actively seek people who earn a lot. I go on Tinder and basically only swipe right if it says they are like a lawyer or a doctor or work in finance or something. I’m an asshole, but I know what I want. But it is embarrassing, yeah.” — Natalie

8. “I’ve got no emergency fund. Like, zero dollars. When I buy something I don’t need, I justify it because I do have a bit in a savings account, but it isn’t a designated emergency fund, and I should have both. Like I know I’d use the money in my savings for rent one month if I were short, or for a vacation if I wanted one. But I need money that I essentially pretend doesn’t exist to treat as an emergency fund and I’m just too lazy/greedy to save it, I just spend like a crazy person.” — Brea

9. “I have credit card debt for the first time in my life. I’m 22 and I wanted to move out of my parents house so badly after graduation that I did despite a lot of (totally fair) warning from friends and family that I should save up some money first and make sure I could really do it. I have had a lot of unexpected expenses come up in just the first three months living on my own, and I’m too embarrassed to reach out for help. Not just financial help, but emotional help — I don’t want to admit to my mom that I’ve failed so quickly at doing what I thought. I’m carrying a balance on my card for the first time ever and am really only making the minimum payment. I don’t see myself saving enough to pay it off for many months because I just didn’t budget for that kind of thing, and I don’t really have leftover income in my budget. I’m embarrassed to admit it to other people because that feels like truly admitting it to myself.” — Kat

10. “I’m very heavily funded by my parents. I’m 26 and I work in New York City as an administrative assistant and the money is average/good, but it is hard to live well in the city. I could live without money from my family, but they offer it and I know they can afford it so I take it. It is supplemental, but it is a lot. I do earn a full salary. But to keep up with friends and coworkers I do feel like I need the extra, and my life would be substantially different if I were living off of my salary exclusively. It is embarrassing, though, and no one knows besides myself.” — Janelle

11. “A year and a few months ago I bought a plan b pill because I wanted it ‘just to have.’ But I’ve not used it yet. I still have the return receipt just in case I’m feeling sexually secure enough, and ready to collect my $50 again. Its like a savings account, just at the drugstore.” — Vanessa

12. “I pretended to be poor during school because I didn’t want everyone at school to treat me differently because I was rich. A lot of people from my elementary-high school days know, obviously, because we were young so we would be at each other’s houses and they knew my family. But when I went to college, armed with credit cards straight to my parents’ bank account and a brand new car that was fully paid for, I decided to keep it to myself, pretend the car was financed and being paid monthly by me, and sometimes even pull ‘I can’t go out tonight, I just can’t afford it’ — I’m not ashamed and not trying to be a jerk, but people really do treat you weirdly when you have a ton of money, and I just didn’t want it to be a topic of discussion while I was starting at a new school and making friends. Plus, in my eyes, the money isn’t mine — I’m not rich, my parents are. I am lucky to have them, I’m proud of them and grateful for what they’ve given me, but their money isn’t mine — they care for me with it and always have, and soon, I will be earning my own. I want to be in the same boat as my peers. I don’t want to be struggling — I’m not ignoring how hard it must be for people who don’t have the advantages I have. But I do want to know that I’m working for what I want and not just having it handed to me, so I do what I can to dumb down the money and work the way I see others working so hard to get where they want in life.” — Paige

13. “My boyfriend and I live together and he thinks I make about $15,000 more a year than I do. Because I told him that. Before we got serious. Now we live together. I have to tell him the truth or fake a demotion or something. Or actually get a job where I earn that much. Idfk.” — Callie

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Anon

    Is it catty that my immediate reaction to these was, “Yeah, the people around you almost certainly know you’re funded by your family”? Especially in a place like NYC, where people have a pretty good idea of how expensive neighborhoods are, it’s really obvious when you’re living a lifestyle beyond what an entry level salary could fund. when I was in grad school it was always really obvious when people had help from their families.

    • Tara

      As I stated above, if you don’t have any debt you can live a good life. I mean, not buying luxury goods every day or having 3 cocktails at dinner every night, but still. I went on European vacations on an entry-level admin salary while living in NYC. Someone who didn’t know me or my family might have thought I was getting help from them, but that wasn’t the case.

      • Anon

        Yes, but vacations aren’t the money drain in NYC; it’s rent. I’d have no problem believing you could spare a grand to go backpacking in Europe from a 45k salary if you caught the right flight deal. What I couldn’t believe would be that you could afford a 2BR in the Village on 45k/year without help. That’s the visible stuff, along with the sort of restaurants you go to, your bar tab, and the logos you wear.

    • ManderGimlet

      I don’t know if it’s “catty” but more like, from the perspective of someone MUCH closer to 40 than 20, none of these are as secret as the confessors believe and also SUPER common/normal for people at that age. At least they are addressing their issues!
      Also, bless the girl who was ashamed of the $100 in overdraft fees in a YEAR. I blasted through $300 in fees in the span of about 15 minutes in my 20s (bank was later successfully sued for fee stacking).

  • Tara

    I’m interested to know the salary of the admin assistant being funded by her parents in NYC. I started out making $45k a year here and I had a very nice life. I was able to shop, eat out on weekends, travel, live in a decent neighborhood, etc. Mainly this is because I had no student loan debt but I’m assuming this person doesn’t either, given her family’s financial willingness to help her out. I wonder what is this “extra” that she feels she needs. A really nice apartment in a super trendy neighborhood? Clubs/drinks multiple nights a week?

    • ManderGimlet

      I would say probably yes to all of that. Why pay $800 a month to live with roommates when your parents can pay $2500 a month for you to have your own studio? Why shop at H&M when your parents pay your Saks card? I mean, people find ways to fritter away double that income in much cheaper places, but also I think that some folks who have never had to explore budget options don’t realize how costly/unnecessary those “extras” are.

  • #13 – I’ll try not to be mean here but you are the exact kind of human being I was unfortunately married to until I got the courage to cut my losses and move on. He lied that he made 40 grand more than he did (which by the way was less than my salary so I did not marry him for money), he lied that he had no debt, whereas he was in a lot of serious debt and still continued to open multiple credit lines to fund various habits, and then he had the nerve to be upset when I held him up to the standards of what he claimed he was making (as far as bills and other household needs were concerned).

    Instead of faking a demotion or looking for a new job to cover up your dishonesty, this is a chance for you to become a decent human being and come clean. If your boyfriend does not want to date someone who makes 15k less that’s his decision and you should not take his right away from him by telling lies. Running away from the consequences of your dishonesty only leads to more dishonesty and shows your true character. That’s a terrible thing to do, we should not have to show our W2’s while dating but people like you are starting to make this necessary.

  • alyjarrett

    I guess my embarrassing money secret is that even though I’m a hardcore budgeter and proud frugal person, I have wasted at least $100 on in-app mobile game purchases. It seems SO dumb to spend real money on virtual money in a game just so I get through levels faster, but it’s a fun time-suck. I keep that mindless spending at bay by using iTunes gift cards instead of linking my account to my CC, and limiting myself to $25 per month. It’s not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but we all have our guilty pleasures!

    • Tiffini

      That’s a good idea to use a gift card!

  • Ana

    #7: That is not even how it works. A lawyer or doctor will have tons of student debt, probably. And, as in all jobs, some people might be bad at budgeting. People can be hella broke or irresponsible at any income. So, going just by job title is pointless.

  • Vicky J

    #10: how lucky you are to have parents that help you at 26! It’s unfortunate but completely understandable that you feel the need to “keep up” with friends and coworkers but years later you’ll probably wish you hadn’t. Living frugally young means you can live lavishly when you’re older and have more money for the things that matter!