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Getting Your S**t Together, With An Audience


I was at dinner with my boyfriend, telling him about a podcast I’d listened to earlier that day. It was about personal finance, I’d told him, and the ways people are bad at managing money because no one ever speaks about it. He didn’t seem convinced of the premise: How can you turn a faulty financial history into engaging podcast episodes? 

“You just have to listen to it!” I urged. This was the first time we’d gotten close to discussing capital-M Money, as in, the concept of money in general, and one’s feelings about it: spending, saving, lines of credit and all. “Do you have any credit card debt?” I asked, emboldened by all the money-talk I’d listened to that day. “I have some. I can tell you mine …”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he offered with a nervous smile. 

“That’s it! That’s why this podcast exists!” I nearly shouted. Hence, the premise of Los Angeles comedian and YouTube star Gaby Dunn’s “Bad with Money.” We’re all stressed out about it, we all feel like we’re not making or saving enough, but we also don’t talk about it. Salary conversations among coworkers are hush-hush. Dropping a Jackson Tubman on drinks out with friends is done without the blink of an eye. While you’re anxiously refreshing your bank website come payday, you wonder how everyone’s getting along while you feel an unending pressure about the almighty dollar. 

Dunn is only one episode in, but her project is off to a promising start. In the first episode, she speaks frankly both with her father and her best friend — addressing the former’s perplexing money habits that inevitably had an affect on her, and the latter’s different approach to spending or holding on to money as a fellow millennial. It’s fascinating to hear Dunn discuss money through the lenses of two people she’s close to — there’s a tender moment where her friend admits, “Sometimes, I wish I could just take the problems away from you,” before adding, “Cut to some sort of zany music, I’m not comfortable with how real that got!”

It reminded me of another fairly new podcast called “Complete Me,” where Detroiter Laura Herberg takes listeners along as she completes items on her to-do list. On the surface, it may sound as exciting as reading the nutritional info off a carton of milk, but in practice, Herberg is engaging and interesting. A journey to pick up a drum set that Herberg left at a former residence turns into a wily adventure with a last-minute twist. Hearing the effort she went through to have the satisfaction of a long-empty box finally checked made me think of the lingering tasks I’ve shelved all but permanently in my mind.