• Kavya Ravikanti

Denisha Storie: Don't Forget About Taxes!

This week we have Denisha who shares what she learned during her transition from college to her first job. Taking account of taxes, prioritizing her debt, and more!


Occupation: Graphic Designer

Salary Range: $85,000

Location: Boston

Student Loans/Debts: Credit Card Debt (~$3,000 - paid off) and Student Loans ($20,000)

Monthly Expenses: Spotify, Adobe Creative Cloud, Rent, Utilities (~$2,500)


Tell me a little bit about yourself? Where did you go to college and when did you graduate?

I went to school in Boston at Suffolk University for a Bachelors in Graphic Design and I graduated in 2017.

What was life like for you post-grad?

The first-month post-grad was terrifying because I didn't have a job lined up yet. I luckily found a temp position for a few months before a full-time gig. I have had a few different full-time positions now and I'm currently contracting right now. Bouncing around a little bit, but I'm exploring and getting new experiences to figure out what I like and what I don't like.

When was the first time you seriously thought about your finances?

I started working in middle school and that was always my spending money. I don't remember getting an allowance. Every summer, I would work my summer job and that would be my money for food, going out, and books for when I was in college. My parents luckily paid for my tuition, room & board, and meal plan but everything else I had to pay for myself.

As stuffy as it sounds, I think it really hit hard when I was studying abroad and I ran out of money while I was there. I had to call my mom and ask for money to get through the last month. Since then, I worked part-time throughout the rest of college to make sure I had money.

Once I graduated, rent and everything else was on me. So, it's definitely always been on my mind but I definitely had to figure out things more during the last year of school.

Did you have any systems in place to help you manage the money you were making in college?

I tried to do the 50 (needs)/30 (wants)/20 (savings) system and tried to write things down. It's something that I'm still working on, I know what my budget should look like but then it's actually paying attention to it and staying on top of it.

Has your system kind of changed post-college? Or do you still follow a 50/30/20 split?

It's changed in part to having more bills to pay now. I also think I have gotten better about paying attention to my credit cards and student loans. However, it's more or less the 50/30/20 approach.

Was financial security something you thought about when choosing your major or your job post-college?

Yes and no. I fell into graphic design during my last year of high school through a few classes I took. It felt like a safer choice since it seemed like the business side of art. I also minored in marketing.

Graphic design comes into play in every business and I thought about how it could be a lot harder to find a job with a fine arts background.

I wanted to go to a college that wasn't just an art school, I looked for a more well-rounded education so I wouldn't feel trapped if I wasn't happy.

When you graduated and moved to your first apartment, what steps did you take to transition from college to post-grad life?

I was lucky enough to have some money set aside for me by my great grandmother for when I wanted to buy a house. I dipped into that to pay for the first month, last month, and the security deposit for my first apartment.

I also dipped into it when tax season came my first year out of college. I found that since my first position was a temp position, no one was taking taxes out of my paycheck. It wasn't disclosed to me and it wasn't clear enough to me that I needed to do that myself. I wish I was more aware of how that worked.

When I owed about $1,000 for taxes, I didn't have that extra money just sitting in my bank account so I had to dip from that savings account.

What does engaging with your money look like now?

A couple of years ago I started bullet journaling, writing down goals both money related and not. I also have a budget for my wants per week, things like getting my nails done, getting coffee, etc. Some weeks I'm really good about writing things down and other weeks I'm not, but that's been my strategy.

Do you use any savings or investment tools?

After I worked my temp job, the full-time job I had was with a really small company so they couldn't really give me many benefits. So I started a Roth IRA through the Stash App. Before that, I had been putting a little bit of money through a personal investing account. I put in around $5 a week into each account. It's not a lot but hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to put more away.

I also use Albert, where it takes money I'm not using and puts it into mini savings accounts like a rainy day fund that I can withdraw from when I need to.

I also put $20 bucks a month into Ellevest and then the inherited money from my great grandmother is also invested that I just don't touch and I let them just grow.

Do you do any monthly checks to see how things are doing or have you just set up these accounts and let them do their thing?

I definitely have automated most of it and let things do their thing, but I do have a little bit of credit card debt and student loans that I try to put more money towards whenever I can.

How do you manage your student debt and credit card debt?

Usually, I pay more than my minimum payment on my student debt but currently, they are furloughed till the fall. So currently I'm putting more money towards my credit card debt since I'm really close to paying that off completely.

With my student loans, I'm also trying to tackle the highest interest rates loans first before the others.

When I pick up an extra freelance job, I will put away more towards the highest interest rate loans on top of the minimum payment.

If you could go back and give your college self one piece of advice around money, what would it be?

During college, I wish I worked through college so that I wasn't spending all my money till I was broke to then work all summer and repeat the cycle.

I should have continuously worked throughout the school year as well so that it didn't come down to having pennies left in my account. But I also think having those uncomfortable moments has made me never want to go back to that. So I try to pay attention to that as much as possible now.

What keeps you accountable to yourself and your money goals?

Generally, I'm a very goal-driven person so knowing that I want to pay off my debts in a certain amount of time motivates me. But also knowing that there were times where I had almost nothing in my bank account and knowing that I don't want to be there.

I have goals for financial stability in the future, where I can go out and just not worry about it.

I don't need to live a lavish life, but I don't want to worry about the small things.

What are some mistakes that you've made with managing your money, what would you tell people to avoid doing?

I haven't been the best at saying no, even when I probably should have said no to going out to get drinks or dinner. I'm not always super realistic with how much money I actually have.

I don't always regret that because it's important to have those moments, but when you're putting a lot of those moments on your credit card, it's not great long term.

What actionable piece of advice do you have for someone just starting out with their money?

  1. Invest. Even if it's just $5 a week, it's a small step that's going to have a big impact later on.

  2. When starting out your first job, be extremely aware of what's going on with your money and what it all entails. Are they taking money out for taxes, what are your benefits, etc?

Rapid Fire

What credit cards do you own and why did you get those ones?

TJ. Maxx Credit Card - I didn't realize it was a credit card when I got it, I thought I was signing up for a rewards program. So I didn't really touch it for a long time and then I started making little purchases on it.

Capital One Credit Card - Last year of college because I needed a new laptop since it had 0% interest for the first month.

What tools/apps/services do you use to manage your money?

I use Albert to siphon money into a few savings accounts. It also analyzes my transactions and my savings a little bit that I check out.

I also check Credit Karma to see how my credit score is doing.

Resources you recommend?

I subscribe to some resources on Clever Girl Finance, but I haven't been super consistent with it, but they have great classes and information.

Bad With Money and She Makes Money podcasts

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Most personal finance blogs only share stories of the people who have it all under control, save 50% of their income, and retire early. While that is impressive, some of us want a career and some of us just need our almond matcha latte every morning. However, we all still face the same woes when it comes to managing our personal finances. MoneyStories is a series of interviews with young professionals and recent graduates sharing their stories on how they have and are navigating their personal finances.

Disclaimer: Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the interviewee, not the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee, or any other group or individual.

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