Our Favorite TFD Articles Of 2017
This year has been an eventful one for those of us in the TFD universe. It’s been so rewarding to be a part of something that keeps growing in so many different directions. While the TFD book isn’t *officially* out until 2018 (five more days!!!), 2017 was the year Chelsea and Lauren really got to see the hard-earned rewards of their labor. There have been so many special moments with the team this year, from seeing the YouTube channel really take off, attending a financial media conference, and, of course, the New York launch party for the book tour. And on the content end, I can’t tell you how awesome this year has been.
One of the best parts of being TFD’s managing editor is working directly with our contributors — many of whom have been writing for the site for years, and dozens (if not hundreds) more who submitted an article for the first time this year. I’m so proud of everything we get to publish here, and while narrowing down a list of my favorite articles seems impossible, I’m thrilled to highlight just a few of the wonderful pieces that make TFD such a great internet community.
This year, I especially adored Meghan Koushik’s list of kitchen items that did (and didn’t) help her become a kickass meal-prepper. Bree Rody-Mantha’s PSA about consumerism packaged as feminism was such a great, poignant conversation-starter. Savanna Swain-Wilson’s honest look at her life as a substitute teacher is both lovely to read and super eye-opening about a job I admittedly knew little about. The always hilarious and on-point Bitches Get Riches shared what to do when you’re asked about salary requirements during a job interview, something I think a lot of us don’t think about enough. Ally Sabatina’s breakdown of how much she spends on visible vs. invisible makeup was super entertaining and fascinating. I also really loved Desirae Odjick’s honest look at how she really saves half her income — she both provides great, practical advice for upping your savings goals and admits how important your actual income is in regards to how much you can save, a point that’s regrettably lacking from so much personal finance advice out there.
In 2017, we also got to publish many excellent articles from first-time contributors. Carolyn M.’s piece on little-known budget cooking tips had me giggling (and also taking notes). Jay S.’ cost breakdown of her “free kitten” is a great cautionary tale for the financial realities of pet ownership and ALSO includes some cute-as-hell kitten photos. Jane Chertoff’s list of money-saving vegetarian recipes, Caitlin Kennedy’s essay about living with intention, and Hattie Dutton’s unpopular take on cashback credit cards are all first-timer posts that are must-reads (in my humble opinion).
And, of course, our goal with TFD is to make sure it continues to be a place on the internet where useful budgeting tips and entertaining clothes spending articles are right at home next to every type of article about money — the ones that are emotional, important, and sometimes difficult to talk about. Conni Boykins’ piece about the cost of starting to overcome her eating disorder was beautifully written, and something I hope resonates with many readers. I was so honored that Sarah Ingraham chose to write so thoughtfully about how much her abortion really cost her. And Laurie Clark’s financial and emotional costs of infertility gave us a highly personal perspective on an issue that so many women face, but one we maybe don’t hear much about.
I’ll end with my favorite pieces from the TFD team this year. Chelsea’s “How To Become An Adult” was such a warm hug of an article — the kind of thing I bookmark to send to friends whenever I know it’ll be a helpful, lovely read (which is often!). Mary’s cathartic and hilarious piece about making periods suck less, both emotionally and financially, was something I was so stoked we got to publish — down with taboos, people. And I am absolutely loving the always-soothing and beautifully crafted Design Your Life series that Lauren started this year, especially the Gilmore Girls edition!
I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of my favorite TFD posts from this year, but enough from me for now — here are the rest of the team’s favorite posts from this year!
I’m someone who talks a lot about her general dislike of radical crash diets, and, in fact, recently tweeted about not doing one in January as “penance” for however much you might have overindulged during the holidays (which the author did here). But I am also someone who practices intermittent fasting, which is its own eating habit that can draw a lot of ire, so I understand what it feels like to have one’s personal health choices judged and scorned. Which is why it feels refreshing to me to read someone who did the opposite of what I would have done (so many people think TFD only publishes what are effectively my opinions or those I agree with, but we go out of our way to do just the opposite), and who talks about it in such a candid and relatable way. While I don’t think I’ll be doing Whole 30 anytime soon (or ever), because I am simply not the type to do any kind of lifestyle overhaul for 30 straight days, regardless of social or travel calendar, I find that there is a lot to learn from those who do things very differently than you, but who ultimately reach a similar conclusion: balance and moderation are, above all, what will take you through life in a happy and healthy way.
I am a huge fan of Mary’s (obviously), and one of the things I identify with most in her writing is the feeling of growing up and learning in real time, something I did at my first writing job. I started that job at 22, and made every mistake one does at that age, in front of an audience older than me (and only too happy to jump on every flaw). Being a professional writer in 2017 is no easy task, because the days of working weeks or months on a single, perfect piece are long gone, and the demands of the internet for both high production and total accessibility are basically insatiable. You must make yourself available on a consistent basis, but when you do, you only open yourself up to more scorn and half-formed judgment. Mary is someone who has walked this line with wit and grace, and this essay breaking down both the logistics and the emotions of growing up financially in front of an audience is something I feel every internet commenter would do well to read.
One of the biggest joys we have here at TFD is getting to talk about money from every angle, and bring to the front of any conversation its often-unspoken financial subtext. Thinking about things in terms of their expense in our lives, literal and otherwise, is often one of the easiest ways to quickly clarify how we really feel about something: is it worth it to us? Almost everything we do, like it or not, is on some level about money, and in America, the most difficult times of our life medically can often be brutally compounded by the raw financial cost. Exploring the topic of infertility from this perspective is something we were lucky to do, and the kind of story we are always looking to tell more often.
Gah — I’ll never forget the feeling of being able to publish this article on the site. What an enormous professional and personal milestone! Chelsea and I worked so hard and plugged away for what felt like forever to bring this project to life. Being able to provide our readers with concrete details about the publish date and book tour was SO AWESOME. Every day I feel grateful for the support we get from this community, and this post was a highlight this year.
While this one is technically a write-up of a video we shot with author Laura Jane Williams, it was by far one of my favorite collaborations of the year. Laura’s sense of humor, her career wisdom and lessons, and the fact that she has a clear understanding of herself and the value of her work makes this interview a standout for me. She’s a striking example of the pretty incredible people we get to work with here at TFD. I feel lucky to have the chance to absorb some of the wisdom Laura Jane brings to the table, which feels pretty incredible.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles to focus on the good instead of the bad, but Holly’s article about how to shift this sometimes problematic mentality was really helpful. When you truly understand how the ways you think of yourself, see yourself, and define yourself shape not only your perception of the world but also, your role in it, you realize the enormous power it holds. As Holly wrote: “We don’t have complete control over the image we project to the world — but we have some. And what we do with that ‘some’ is extremely important, not just in how others perceive us, but in how we feel about ourselves. (Not to mention that thinking positively about yourself is super helpful in reducing stress.)” This is an article I’ve revisited a few times, and one that I loved most this year.
This was one of my favorite articles Mary wrote this year, and as I was reading it I couldn’t help but nod along in agreement at the useful and very wise tips she had to offer. As a renter of an (extremely tiny) apartment in NYC, it’s so easy to think that it’s just a space Joe and I are passing through — and I did feel that way the first 6-8 months of living there. But, over time I came to realize that any place I live in, despite the length of time or obvious flaws, should be treated with respect and care, and decorated with enthusiasm. I’ve learned to truly adore my apartment and found Mary’s advice to be spot on.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Kara on several occasions, and she is lovely, outgoing, and smart as hell. I loved reading this article, and I do believe that it’s one of the most important things for people to keep in mind as they’re bombarded with write-ups, lists, and ~think pieces~ propping up the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” narrative. I so enjoyed reading her discuss her own experience with this notion, particularly this section, in which she writes, “The personal finance world has a big problem when it comes to talking about privilege and accessibility. It’s all ‘bootstraps this’ or ‘latte factor’ that. People talk about their accomplishments, and people are happy to share financial lessons they learned that helped them achieve success. But rarely do people want to talk about the emotional burdens that come with money, or acknowledge that certain people have financial privileges and access that others don’t.” Definitely worth a read!
When it came time to pick our TFD Favorites from 2017, the first thought that popped into my head was “dibs on the article about Holly baking pies.” This is a post that just made me feel happy. It is an entirely wholesome and practical hobby that brings happiness to my friend and team member without costing too much, and I absolutely loved reading about it.
For similar reasons, this installment of Lauren’s Design Your Life series made me so ridiculously happy. If there is anything I’m vaguely aspiring to be as I continue on my path through young adulthood, it is the Barefoot Contessa herself. The things that make me feel happy and warm inside tend to be cooking, baking, and speaking in a soft voice while sharing the things I love with others. Ina Garten inspires me and soothes my soul, and Lauren’s writing truly does both of those things as well.
The comments section on this post were ~lit~, but in spite of the bit of criticism, I found this article to be full of practical, useful, actionable advice that was presented in such a fun and easy way. The personal finance community has a way of getting down on others and diminishing their accomplishments because they didn’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps enough, or because they had too much privilege, or because they had too good of a life before they started their financial journey — but saving $50,000 as a young person is an impressive feat, and should be celebrated for all that it is, rather than dismissed due to the fact that this author lived with her parents during her saving journey. Living with parents is certainly a privilege, but it is also a choice — I’m impressed with and humbled by all that this author did to accomplish what she did, and can’t help but think “you go girl!” when I read it, even considering the “loopholes” that helped her get there. (Additionally, I also get a “lady boner” from saving money, so I totally relate to the very first sentence of the piece.)
I like this post because it’s super practical, but gets to the core of a lot of poor money habits, which is emotional management. I think so much of our unnecessary spending is a direct attempt to use money to band-aid bad feelings that would be better solved by more meaningful actions like those listed here.
As much as I love practical personal finance tips, I think it’s really important to remember that certain inequities in our society are entrenched and systemic, and in some ways very unfair for low and middle-class people. There is a tendency among some personal finance writing to glorify those who “make it” and put all of the onus on the individual to be successful, and I think that is a dangerous mindset because it ignores some really basic realities. It can make people feel excessively guilty or ashamed for not having enough, or unfairly judgmental of others for not having more. Keeping the greater economic context in mind (even getting justifiably upset about it) is a difficult balance, because we still have to do our best to save and spend wisely while knowing that in some ways the deck is stacked against us. But I think it’s important to acknowledge and have these conversations, whether we agree with this writer or not.
I’m a huge proponent of any mental health strategy that works for people, and moreover, think that mental health is intrinsically tied to financial health. It’s very hard to be responsible with your money when you feel crippled with anxiety or depression. It’s very easy to make poor decisions when your mind is clouded, or you’re reaching for any way to feel better. So I love this article because it’s useful, specific, and empathetic. I also think that the more we talk about mental health, the less of a stigma there will be, and the more people can feel comfortable seeking help, reaching out to loved ones, and getting the support that they may desperately need. The more we talk about the relationship between mental health and money, the more we can gain self-awareness and draw connections, such as why we make certain financial decisions.
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