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Yelp employee Talia Jane was recently fired from her customer support job after publishing a letter directed at the company’s CEO. In this letter, she publicly agonized over her personal struggles as an entry-level employee making minimum wage in one of the most expensive cities in America.

As a millennial, I felt disappointed after reading her letter because unfortunately, one person’s actions will fuel the public’s negative perception about an entire subset of people. It’s just not cool to claim that people born between 1980-1995 are all conceited, lazy and spoiled okay? Okay thanks.

First of all, I’m also 25. I also live 15 miles away from the city in the East Bay and take BART to work every day. I also moved to the Bay Area with a job offer that was actually paying less than minimum wage at the time, also because I wanted to pursue a career in digital media. I got my hands dirty – some days for 12 hours at the office as an assistant, all just to learn a skill set for an industry that I wanted to break into. I wouldn’t say that I was comfortable back then, but I loved every minute of my life and if I could go back in time I would do it all over again. (But hopefully not again in my present life. Heh!)

I did everything I could to save money and believe it or not, every dollar does add up and compound interest really is quite spectacular. Before starting that angry letter to your boss over social media, consider the following:

  1. Ask for a raise. I mean, it doesn’t hurt to ask. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I was in a bad position to ask for a raise because I had absolutely NO relevant experience at the time and was still learning. However, I pointed out to my boss that the minimum wage had increased that year and scored my coworkers and myself an additional $43 per month. It was a proud day to learn that I was finally making minimum wage… :/
  2.  Pay less in rent. Given the competitive housing market, I know it sounds like I’m joking but I’m not. For two weeks I refreshed every housing website (PadMapper, Craigslist, etc.) every day multiple times per day, filtering for anything that was under $1,000 per month. I now live with a roommate in the East Bay in a building with paper-thin walls that sometimes have mold and has laminated warnings everywhere stating that my building does not meet earthquake safety codes.
  3. Walk. My office was nowhere near the BART stations. I saved $2 each direction by not taking Muni the rest of the way to work. I woke up earlier and left the house by 7:30 to get to work by 9 and walked 3 miles every day, rain or shine. This saved me $20/week, which was a lot of money at the time.
  4. Scrounge for free food. I drank free office coffee, ate people’s leftovers, skipped meals, ate the old frozen bagels sitting in the office freezer… I also bought cereal in bulk, which was my breakfast, lunch, and snack at work.
  5. But… nutrition! I was lucky to receive a NutriBullet as a gift that year. I bought the massive $5 box of spinach from Safeway each week and blended fruit + veggie smoothies with an added scoop of protein powder with appetite suppressant. Then I ate a lot of pasta.
  6. Keep your clothes clean. I felt that $3.50 per load of laundry was a ripoff, so I started spot-cleaning and hand washing my clothes. I also kept a tide pen on hand to treat stains right when it happened. I ran a full load of laundry every 3-4 weeks.
  7. Buy cheaper clothes. Forget shopping at department stores. In fact, forget shopping at all. One time, I actually took hand-me-downs FROM MY BOSS.
  8. Accessorize. Buy solid colors that are easy to match with, and dress the same outfit up or down with different combinations of accessories.
  9. Gym? What’s a gime? Forfeit the gym membership for now. Take advantage of free trials, and purchase dumbbells and a yoga mat for workouts at home. Go running or hiking outdoors for free.
  10. Kiss all your subscriptions goodbye. I did not have a Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Spotify subscription. The free version of Spotify allows at most 6 skips, so this one time on BART I watched the woman sitting next to me flip through unlimited songs on her Spotify Premium account as I continued listening to the German Kidz Bop version of Gangster’s Paradise “recommended” for me on the free version.
  11. FunCheapSF. Boyfie and I found a free improv class on the site. Then we went to John’s Ice Cream in Berkeley for the $1 ice cream cones. Believe it or not, it doesn’t cost much to have fun when there is no alcohol involved. Another option is BYOB in a sunblock flask the old fashioned way. 😉
  12. It’s only temporary. Keep learning and be patient. Think of it as an opportunity to prove how resilient you really are.
September 2020
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