What Not To Do When You Land Your First Grown-up Job .

July 12, 2012

I was 18 when I first started working for my previous employer. I had a few different jobs before that, but this was my first grown-up job in an office. I had to show up on time, and had the directors and VP’s visiting us frequently. I was also fortunate because that particular employee worked around my school schedule. You see, I was eager to prove myself and pretty good at my job, so it wasn’t long before I transitioned into a role (at the ripe old age of 19) where I was making more money that I thought possible.

I loved my work, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that my future wasn’t in that role. That didn’t stop me from spending every penny I made.  My parents had no idea what I was making per year, and were under the impression that I was paying for school with my income. While I did pay for my undergrad in full, grad school loans filled up rather quickly.

Its 10 years to the day that I started that job, and I honestly have almost nothing to show for it. I mean, I have fancy clothes, purses, a car thats paid for, but in the grand scheme fo things, that is a drop in a bucket of how much I made.  The biggest mistake that I made was assuming that just because someone trusted me enough to give me a grown-up job automatically meant that I was an adult who didn’t need guidance.

As the years when on, I transitioned from one role to another, and took on more responsibility, but money smarts didn’t automatically get included with each grown-up job.  I try very hard to not have any regrets; rather I like to think of past experiences as lessons that I can pass on to future generations (or my siblings). I see some of my reckless money traits in my brother at times, and it scares me to think that he might find himself in the same position as me.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t horrible, but I should not have student loans. Period.

We all have different priorities, and it has taken me a while to figure out that traveling is mine. I made a conscious decision to shift my professional life around so I wander wander the world a but more than the 3 weeks a year that I was allotted.

Things to do when you land your first grown-up job.

The older I get, the more I realize the some of the best splurges have been on experiences for me. And by experiences, I mean, traveling. I can sit down and talk about all the stupid things we did in Greece, or the people we met in Spain, or the adventures in Italian churches. I can’t have the same conversations about the stupidly expensive jeans, or that that unlocked phone that I had to have.

Things I wish I hadn’t done: (Lessons learned)

  • There was no need to buy my new Jetta, and then spend $4000 on extras like rims, subs, speakers etc. Yes, I was that girl.
  • Those $500 jeans look the same as the $50 Gap ones to everyone else. Put aside the rest of the money.
  • The Motorola Razr was not the greatest phone on the planet and I did not need to spend $650 just to have it before everyone else.
  • Same goes for all of the HTC TYTN models.
  • Torn True Religion jeans are not appropriate for said grown-up job.
  • Start an RRSP account as early as possible, especially since my employer matched it.
  • There are no need to upgrade cars every 3 years. Most 21 year olds don’t need a brand new Civic, followed by a 3- series. Cars are a not a smart    investment.
  • Ignoring investment and the lacking the basic know-how until recently.
  • The fact that the Mac makeup ladies know your name and wait for you on payday is not a good sign. (Solved this by not wearing anymore)
  • Bottle service is a stupid idea when you don’t drink.
  • New outfits for every occasion is a dumb idea when the same people are not at every event.
  • Ignoring my parents when they offered financial advice and assuming that I knew everything.
  • Spending $7000 on Toronto Raptors season tickets is a dumb idea esp since school and work didn’t allow you to go to all of the games and you were too proud to try and sell the tickets.
  • 3 Economics courses does not make you an expert in all things finance.
  • Budgets are not for poor people or for suckers. Having a maxed out credit card when there is no reason for it is.
  • Smart people save money.
  • Grown-up job does not mean that are a grown-up.


I would still travel as much as did, but be smarter about it, and learn to have a budget. 

The amazing thing about being a PF blogger is seeing all the absolutely intelligent people that write about their lives. It gives me hope.



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  • krantcents July 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I believe the PF rule is pay yourself first! I always make a point of saving money. It is the best route to financial freedom.

    • Marissa July 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      I agree.

  • Janine July 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Great post! Thanks for the tips, I started my first “grown up job” in January and this post helps =)

    • Marissa July 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm


  • Lance@MoneyLife&More July 12, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Glad you learned from it and don’t dwell too much on the past. Sounds like you still have a great future ahead of you.

    • Marissa July 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks! I’m trying. I also wrote as a subtle hint for my brother.

  • bogofdebt July 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I wish I would have done these things while I was working retail looking for a real job. Being out in the real world was a huge shock when I had “no” money. Really I had it, I just was spending it on frivilous things instead of budgeting!

    • Marissa July 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      It takes us a while to figure out our priorities.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses July 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I definitely did that with my first real job. It was only a 4 month contract but I still lived at home and only have maybe $200 in monthly bills/expenses. Somehow after it all, I think I earned about $10,000 or something but I only have $3,000 left. And it sucks because honestly I don’t know what I did with all that money. I don’t go on a full on shopping sprees, but I did like to go drinking with friends or afterwork with co-workers, and ate out way too often. Learned my lesson for my next job that’s for sure!

    • Marissa July 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      Its the little things that add up really quickly.

  • Financial Samurai July 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I don’t think guys can help themselves when they first graduate. We must buy a decent car b/c that’s all we think about when we have no money, and wonder whether a nice vehicle will help us meet ladies!

    Obviously, cars aren’t that important, but a big wallet helps!

    • Marissa July 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      You clearly haven’t met classy girls who don’t care about that stuff 😉

      • Jacob @ iheartbudgets July 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

        You’re spot on Sam. I actually did meet my wife because of my fancy car, LoL. She admits that, totally. We’re much less shallow now, but it’s funny that you mention that.

  • Gen Y Finance Journey July 12, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I made many of the same mistakes when I got my first real job as well. It took me a few years to realize that all those fancy things don’t matter at the end of the day. Buying expensive things and treating myself (and friends) to nice dinners made me feel like a grown up, but now that I’m living a frugal lifestyle and planning for my future I feel much more grown up!

    • Marissa July 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Me too! I had a conversation with a friend about saving for a house yesterday. That felt more grown up than anything else I have done in a while.

  • Michelle July 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Love this post! I did so many things when I was younger that I wish I hadn’t. But you can only learn from those mistakes 🙂

    • Marissa July 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Exactly! I think a lot of us did the same things.

  • Country Girl July 13, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Great post! It’s amazing how much we learn in a few short years ‘eh? I was in debt (and a fair bit older than 19) when I got my first ‘adult’ job, so that helped curb my spending. I do remember thinking initially, ‘holy crap – what am I going to do with all this money?’. Funny how it can seem like so much, but it sure doesn’t take much to spend it all away.

    • Marissa July 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Exactly. I find that if I don’t use cash, I have no idea where I spent all my money.

  • femmefrugality July 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! Travelling and experiences with friends is what makes me feel rich in the long run. The things we’re all so tempted to buy seem to just get in the way financially and materially.

    • Marissa July 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

      And just ends up as extra luggage to lug around.

  • Budget & the Beach July 13, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I totally agree about the car. Even now I wouldn’t buy a new car. I’d buy something slightly used I could afford.

    • Marissa July 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

      The problem is that I thought I could afford the new one.

  • Michelle July 13, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    So true about the $500 jeans! The only person who will know how much you spent on them is the salesperson…who probably also thinks you’re crazy. I love when people ask me where I got something cute and are surprised when I tell them it’s also inexpensive. Work that sale rack! OWN IT!

    • Marissa July 14, 2012 at 12:01 am

      The salesperson probably got a discount on those jeans so even they don’t pay that much.

  • Broke Professionals July 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Oh my gosh, you did splurge on a lot of things you didn’t need! The rims made me laugh, but the season tickets too? When I had my first well-paying job, I spent almost my entire paycheck on clothes. I didn’t put a dime to savings.

    • Marissa July 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      Thats what most people did. Savings weren’t “cool” back then.

  • Shannyn @frugalbeautiful.com July 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Oh, if I only knew then what I know now… I spent my money on so much stupid junk- then again, I’m sure I still do that, but I’d like to believe my taste in shoes has vastly improved! Great post!