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Living Below Financial Means

Why Living Below My Financial Means is the Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

I have spent the vast majority of the last five years living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, it was only just a few months ago that it became realistic for me to spend less than I make.

Unfortunately, that’s the reality for most young adults (and many adultier-adults) right now. Housing is freaking expensive. Student debt is crippling. Cell phones and home internet are expensive necessities.

However, there are also a substantial number of people who make a great deal of money and still live paycheck to paycheck. In fact, as much as 44% of millennials who make $100,000 to $149,000 per year admit to living paycheck to paycheck.

Let me tell you, I don’t make close to $100,000. But last December I picked up enough high paying work to substantially increase my income overall.

I’m not a rub-it-in-your-face kind of person, but I think that it is important to discuss salary openly, so my friends all know that I got a substantial raise.

Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments:

When are you getting a new car?

Don’t tell me you can’t afford [whatever], I know how much you make!

When are you moving somewhere nicer?

Frugal cat says how about shut the fuck up

How I got to the point where I could afford to live below my means

By the middle of last year, I was living right at my means pretty comfortably. I could afford my rent. I could afford a reasonable grocery budget of $50/week, and didn’t have to worry about skipping meals or going to the food bank.

I could afford my car insurance and to eat out once per week.

But by the time each paycheck rolled around, I had about $20 left in my checking account.

I didn’t have crippling debt, but I didn’t have any extra cash either.

Then I got a raise. And the reason I now have extra cash is because I didn’t greatly expand my budget.

Where I Save Money

Save money on expensive car payments


It’s recommended that you keep your housing expenses around 25% of your gross income. Last fall I was spending around 23% of my gross income on rent.

Since getting a higher paying job, the same apartment I’ve been living in for the last year now only costs 12% of my gross income.

Don’t get me wrong, my apartment is a little run down and I don’t live in the nicest neighborhood, but I have enough space, a friendly and fair landlord, and I never feel unsafe in my home.

My Car

Similarly, if I wanted to, I could “afford” to drive a really nice car. However, by today’s standards, “afford” means putting $500 down and taking out a $20,000 auto loan with a hefty monthly payment + interest charges.

Instead, I am perfectly happy to keep my 2000 Hyundai Accent, which will probably last me another 5 years without major mechanical expenses.

Impulse Buys

I also try to keep my impulse buys to a minimum. If I find that I need or want something I don’t immediately go buy it, even though for most things I could.

For example, right now I have a DVD player but no remote. The DVD player I have is basically garbage anyway, so I should probably just go buy a new one. But I primarily watch Netflix, not movies, so spending $50 on a new DVD player probably isn’t a very smart use of money.

Cell Phone

Nowadays most individual smartphone plans cost from $60-$90 monthly, sometimes with additional “phone payments”.

Instead of having the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, I have an Alcatel OneTouch. While many plans will offer a 2 year payment plan for fancy phones, totalling up to $1000 over time, I have chosen to have a slightly less pretty, slightly slower phone for the total cost of $120.

I also have chosen to have slightly less reliable cell service through Cricket instead of Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, so I pay $35/month instead of $80.


I take small road trips several times a year – sometimes to visit my family who live 650 miles away, and sometimes to do athletic competitions.

I took a trip to the Seattle area in April to celebrate my birthday, and I kept it affordable by:

  1. Bringing homemade sandwiches and snacks that I bought at the grocery store for the drive
  2. Renting an apartment on Airbnb instead of getting a hotel – I spent $60/night for a private apartment with 2 beds, a full bathroom, washer/dryer, and a full kitchen
  3. Eating at affordable restaurants
  4. Doing free and affordable activities – my mom and I spent most of our first day wandering the Pike Place Market, and the second day we went to the Tacoma Zoo and Aquarium

I’ll be heading to Colorado later this month, and I plan on staying with a friend instead of paying for a hotel.

Where I Splurge

I can’t say that I don’t spend any more money than I did on my former salary, but I don’t spend much more than $100 more a month.

Splurge on coffee shops

These are the few things that I have loosened my reigns on:

  • I go out for coffee 4 or 5 times per week instead of 2 or 3 (my order is only $2 anyway, so it’s not a huge spend)
  • I spend a little bit more on groceries (typically $45-$55 a month instead of $40-$50)
  • I have invested in a few larger home items: a desk, a bed, and soon I will be buying a window AC unit (I got the desk for $60 at a thrift store, and the bed for $80 at a yard sale, so they were still very inexpensive)

Everyone values different things – having a nice car may genuinely be important to you, while eating out or going out for coffee may be less important.

Why living below my means is the best choice I’ve ever made

My overall financial anxiety is substantially lower

Even now I feel like I can’t afford things. Every time I receive a paycheck I put a substantial chunk directly into savings, where I can’t access it with my debit card. By the time my next paycheck rolls around, my checking account may be feeling a little empty.

However, I don’t ever have to worry about money. Realistically I know that I can afford my rent every month. I can afford my rent even if my paycheck is a few days late, or there is an error with my deductions.

I can be spontaneous

If I wanted to, I could fly across the country this weekend and stay in a hotel in a city I’ve never been to. (In fact, if I wasn’t preparing for an athletic competition in a couple of weeks, I probably would be on my way to the East Coast as we speak.)

I can decide to go to a movie if I’m bored and restless on a Friday night, or I can treat myself to a nice meal to celebrate a small work victory.

While spontaneity may be easily confused with impulsivity, there are subtle differences. Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, describes spontaneous behavior as “natural, and in a good way”, and impulsive behavior as “impelled” or “driven”.

I can spend money to save money

Paying up front for things can often save you a little money, and when you can do it for everything it really adds up.

I can now pay for 6 months of car insurance instead of paying monthly, so I get a discount. I can afford to buy a 24-pack of toilet paper every once in a while instead of buying a 4-pack every week, so I am spending less overall.

Similarly, I can own my car outright instead of taking a loan or leasing.

I am prepared for emergencies

If my car breaks down or is wrecked, I can pay my insurance deductible, pay for repairs, or buy a new (used) car without worrying.

I can easily meet my health insurance deductible out of pocket, so even a medical emergency will not cripple my finances.

Most importantly, I can afford to take a huge pay cut if I ever lose my job and have to take a lower paying job, without compromising my current lifestyle.


Not being broke is awesome. Unfortunately it’s really hard to not be broke nowadays, especially in places where housing is expensive.

While it may not be possible for you not to live paycheck to paycheck right now, chances are you will eventually get a pay raise – and if you can keep your lifestyle at a similar level as today you will find that your financial troubles will become more and more manageable, until finally you’re one step ahead.

Censoring my Personal Brand Online

Why I Choose Not to Censor My Personal Brand Online

If you haven’t noticed, my personal brand is big, bad, and sassy.

Or something like that.

I use curse words sometimes. I talk about controversial topics sometimes or I talk about non-controversial topics in controversial ways. I post pictures in my sports bras and shorty-shorts.

Sometimes people give me crap about my Instagram because ladies “should” act or dress a certain way *cough my boyfriend*.

Let’s first get this out there.

Ladies should act and dress however the fuck they want

Oh, and for those of you who are visual learners, we can cater to you too:

women living uncensored lives

End of story. Get those narrow, utterly offensive preconceived notions of what women “should” and “shouldn’t” do out of your head right now.

Yes, some attire is more setting-appropriate than other attire. No, that doesn’t mean I would ever walk into an office wearing these shorts:

A photo posted by Annie Singer (@singerswings) on

But I am also going to be unafraid to wear short shorts, and I’m going to be unafraid to wear crop tops and bathing suits in settings where I find it appropriate.

But Annie, people will sexualize your body

Uncensored personal branding

(image by Burnside Photography)

Guess what? People will sexualize my body no matter fucking what.

People sexualize my body when I’m at the store wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

People sexualize my body when I’m walking down the sidewalk in baggy sweats.

When I post fitness pictures in a sports bra, I am not sexualizing my body. Other people will, and I understand that, but most any reasonable person will understand that when I post a flexing picture, the sentiment of my post is “gish dang look me so strng”, not “ooh-la-la I’m so sexy”.

If someone wants to sexualize my body and leave an inappropriate comment, I can easily delete it and block them. If they decide to solicit me in real life, I can exercise the wonderful power of the word “no”.

But is it okay to post sexy/sexualized pictures?

You own your body. There is nothing inherently wrong with posting sexy, sexualized, and/or nude pictures (unless you are under age).

What’s posted online can easily be seen by anyone, even if you have your profiles set to private, so keep in mind what you personally are okay with the world seeing and what repercussions there may be.

But Annie, what if your mom or dad saw those pictures, or saw a post where you used curse words or talked about poop?

Hi Mom, hi Dad.

Guess what? My parents follow my social media accounts and blogs.

They read and share my posts, even some of the ones that talk about tattoos or have the F word in it.

You know why it doesn’t bother me?

  • My parents birthed me. They used to wipe my butt. They are not going to be offended by a picture of me in a bra
  • They do not own my body, and they can’t (and don’t try to) tell me what to do with my body
  • My parents will be the last ones to sexualize my body, not the first. They understand that I am passionate about fitness, and that I am proud of my body
  • My parents can disagree with things that I say or wear without losing respect for me as a person

Actually, the typical rule I go by is if I wouldn’t want my parents to see it, I don’t post it.

But Annie, what if a future employer sees your Instagram or blog?

Censoring personal brand

Future employers will see my Instagram, blog, and other facets of my online presence.

I am okay with that.

In fact, I have already gotten legitimate marketing work from my Instagram page.

Do you know why?

Because employers are interested in hiring people who have a proven track record of their work. If I tell businesses that I can grow their website or Instagram or Pinterest account, then it’s a benefit to me to have a strong presence online.

I am confident in my ability to get work

My problem is not that I can’t find work, it’s that I don’t hardly have the time to do all of the work that I have.

I “accidentally” get jobs more often than not. I get jobs from people who find me on social media. I get jobs from local business owners whom I know personally. I get jobs from business associates who have involvement with other projects.

There undoubtedly will be a time in the future where I am looking for work, and there’s a slight chance that pictures of me in a sports bra on Instagram will negatively impact my ability to land a job.

However I work hard to build up as many opportunities as possible at all times.

If my current job fails for some reason or another, I already have my toes in the door on two other projects run by the company’s manager.

If SEO stops being such an in-demand skillset, then it’s probably a good thing that I am also experienced in social media and other forms of digital marketing, and even better that I will soon have a master’s degree in marketing research.

I have made it a goal for myself to save six months’ worth of living cost to have as a cushion at all times in case there is another recession in the foreseeable future – and if all else fails, I do not see it as “below” me to work at a fast food restaurant, retail store, or temp agency.

I undoubtedly will lose future opportunities based on my choices

But I can say confidently that sporty pictures on Instagram will never make or break my lifestyle, even if it causes a hiring manager to turn up their nose.

I have tattoos all over, including places that cannot be hidden. I post “immodest” pictures, and I use language that some people find offensive.

I acknowledge that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s okay, because not everyone else is my cup of tea.


Do you censor your online brand?

Why or why not?

Diversity in Blog Images

I’m Sorry for All of the Young, Skinny White Girls On My Blog

One of my absolute favorite things about working in marketing is that I am in control of the visuals my company uses for their advertising, although I have to admit I haven’t done a great job with this blog.

I’m a skinny white girl… why shouldn’t I use skinny white girls as the face of my blog?

This blog is written from me to the world wide web, and as it turns out the world wide web is not a skinny white girl. I hope that my writing is inspiring, motivating, and actionable, and I think that inspiration, motivation, and information should come from a diverse background.

Representation in the media matters

Aside from research and information sourcing, representation in the media matters. In fact, in one study researchers found that watching TV was predicted decreased self-esteem in girls and black boys, and an increase in self-esteem in white boys.

Could it be because when white boys watch TV they see strong doctors, scientists, and superheroes in their image?

I also hope to be as much of an ally as possible for people who are underrepresented by standing up against whitewashing. As a young, skinny white woman, I have to stand up and say, “I don’t think that you need to look like me or be like me.”

older woman with a hat

To larger women: you do not need to aspire to be skinnier.

To women of color: you do not need to style your makeup to look “lighter”.

To older women: you do not need to use expensive face creams to try to make yourself look younger.

To women of other cultures: you do not need to abandon your traditional clothing and fashion.

To non-cis and straight women: you do not need to express your femininity in any certain way.

To all of the younger women who might look up to me: you can embrace your unique traits and grow into exactly who you want to be.

Some of the problems with diversity in marketing

Unfortunately representing diversity in marketing can be challenging. There are mad genius minority women doing incredible research, but it’s easier to find a white man’s research.

It is important to source information from writers and researchers from diverse backgrounds because people with different cultural traditions and experiences are able to identify different issues and address them in unique ways.

STEM Diversity

Here in the United States, we solve a lot of problems for white men (and white people in general), because the majority of our scientists are white men.

In addition to research, it can be challenging to visually represent different and diverse peoples. There are beautiful women in hijabs or with bindis all over the world, but in stock photo libraries they are far, far outnumbered by smiling skinny white women.

very white male doctor

While there are thousands of pictures of men in doctor’s scrubs, there are far fewer women represented as medical professionals, and most of them are represented as some nightmarish stereotype.

It’s also sad that using diversity in marketing can be controversial. In the last year, several companies have used gay couples in ads, which in some cases has caused blowback. It shouldn’t be controversial to represent gay families. It shouldn’t be controversial to represent people wearing traditional cultural clothing like hijabs and turbans.

What I can do to represent diversity

Beautiful Woman in Dotted White Dress

Be intentional in showing diversity

Historic biases make is all too easy to neglect diversity. The majority of STEM researchers in the United States are white men – and even more well known researchers in the United States are white men. Does that make it okay to back an argument exclusively with the research of white men?

A lot of what I see in my news feed is from a fairly un-diverse group of people. It’s easy to only re-Tweet skinny white women when you only follow skinny white women.

Anil Dash is a great example of someone who was very intentional in sharing more content from women – in fact, for an entire year he did not re-Tweet any men. In MozCon’s earlier years they had primarily white male speakers, and when they made intentional efforts to increase diversity their satisfaction scores went through the roof.

I can be mindful in selecting accounts to follow on social media, and in finding research and informational resources to cite.

I can also be mindful to represent people visually by seeking out stock photos that represent:

  • People with different skin tones
  • People in different cultural styles
  • Disabled people
  • Overweight people
  • Older people

Try to listen more

When you are the majority, listening is one of the most important things you can do. I see this neglected a lot in fitness.

If you peruse the #fitness hashtag on Instagram, chances are you’ll come across one or more picture of some incredibly fit person in a wheelchair (or person with a prosthetic limb), and messaging saying that you have no reason to make excuses if “these people” can do it.

While as an able-bodied, fit person this might seem to make sense at first, I have heard from members of the disabled community that this sentiment is degrading and condescending, implying that disabled people are inherently inferior.

Listening allows me to understand things from different perspective, and consider things I naturally might not.


This blog is not just for me, it is for you. If I ever post something misrepresentative or offensive please let me know (as politely as possible). It is never my intention to be appropriative, but ignorance is a weak excuse for being insensitive.

Tattoos in the workplace- research

Tattoos in the Workplace Part 2: Five Research Examples

In searching far and wide for decent articles on tattoos in the workplace, I wasn’t satisfied (see Part 1). The main resources used in advice articles were surveys from 2010 and 2011, neither of which really give much insight into how tattoos affect employability.

So I turned to the academic world.

I found several recent research studies and papers examining the topic of tattoos and social climate and tattoos and employability. Unfortunately the majority of free, publicly accessible research is still very thin and disappointing.

To get started, let me explain to you a few things about research.

Things that research does:

  • Helps us understand social climate and attitude trends
    • Attitudes of employers
    • Attitudes of employees
    • Attitudes of consumers
    • Common company policies
  • Shows us correlations
  • Allow us to further create educated hypotheses about the impact of tattoos on employment
  • Quite tasty with a grain of salt

Tattooed man in tank top

Things that research does not do:

  • Prove anything, ever
  • Allow us to show causation using correlations (it’s not a real thing, guys)
  • Allow us to wildly apply concepts where they have never been tested and probably do not belong

That Being Said, Here Are a Few Key Takeaways:

Study 1:

  • When asked to rate tattooed and non-tattooed front-line staff, consumers showed preference for non-tattooed individuals
  • Males and female consumers hold similar gendered views of body art for service people

Study 2:

  • 86% of young professionals thought piercings and tattoos do not reduce the chance of getting a job
  • 83% of young professionals thought tattoos were not linked to deviant behavior in the workplace
86% of young professionals thought piercings and tattoos do not reduce the chance of getting a job Click To Tweet

Study 3:

  • Grooming and business attire were more important indicators in the hiring decision than tattoos and piercings
  • Piercings and tattoos were still negative indicators
Grooming and business attire were more important indicators in the hiring decision than tattoos and piercings Click To Tweet

Study 4:

  • Heavily tattooed professionals:
    • Felt pressure from coworkers/superiors 50 years and older, but they felt tattoos made them more accessible to younger coworkers
    • Felt that there was a trade-off between being an authentic member of the tattooed community and working a white-collar job
    • Experienced unwanted and uninvited touching in the workplace
    • Managed their identities by covering up their tattoos upon first impressions to establish their professional identity before allowing their tattoo identity to show

Study 5:

  • Visible tattoos had a predominantly negative effect on selection, mitigated by:
    • Location of tattoo
    • Type of organization
    • Proximity to the customer
    • Content of tattoo
  • These attitudes were driven by the manager’s perception of customer expectations
  • Employers were less prejudice when hiring for non customer-facing jobs
Negative effects of tattoos on employment selection was driven by the perception of customer expectations Click To Tweet

What It Means

Tattooed woman

Really, there is still a lot more room for research on the topic of tattoos and employability. Each of the studies outlined above (and detailed below) covers a different topic that allows us to paint broader conclusions.

As I was first thinking about writing this article, I was going to take the “things are changing” standpoint. Things are changing.

However I am not entirely blind to evidence and recent research shows that there are still visible, measurable prejudices in the workplace.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that:

  • There are still negative attitudes about highly visible tattoos in the workplace
  • In service jobs this is largely due to the fear of customer perception of tattooed employees
  • Most tattooed professionals cover up at least some of the time in the business setting
  • In many situations being well-groomed, hygienic, and well-dressed more heavily impacts the appearance of professionalism than tattoos


Does that mean you can’t get a job if you’re tattooed?

Homeless man holding cardboard sign


There are tons of tattooed professionals out there, ranging from those who have one or two small tattoos, to those who have their arms, hands, legs, and torsos covered.

There are doctors with tattoos, teachers with tattoos, financial advisers with tattoos, and digital marketers (wink wink) with tattoos.

However, being heavily and/or very visibly tattooed might make it slightly harder to get a job, or if you work in a customer-facing field it might make it substantially harder to get a job. It may also mean that you face certain prejudices in the workplace.

Many tattooed professionals and job seekers choose to cover up their tattoos in the work setting, or at a minimum when they meet new connections. Managing a tattoo identity and separate professional identity feels inauthentic to some people, and others prefer to maintain complete separation between identities.

Advice from a heavily tattooed person:

Am I heavily tattooed yet?

I don’t know if there’s a percentage-of-body-covered rule.

In any case, I’ve got a 3/4 sleeve, a 2-foot octopus running from my thigh to my ribs, and three other small tattoos. I have a tattoo on my hand too, which can’t reasonably be covered in everyday situations.

If you’re thinking about getting a very visible tattoo and you have major reservations about whether or not it will negatively affect your career, my advice would be to slow down, do more research, and think on it a little longer.

If you’re thinking about getting a very visible tattoo and after doing your research you are still confident that it is the correct choice for you and your body, go for it. 

You might have to work a little harder to succeed in your career. There may be times when you have trouble finding work.

It’s your risk. Go forth. Get tattoos. Be fabulous. Decorate and adorn your temple. Love your body.

The Research

Below I will summarize five of the research studies and papers that I looked at, noting a few obvious limitations. Some studies explored multiple hypotheses both related and unrelated to tattoos and employment. I chose not to include major findings unrelated to tattoos.

No, I’m not diving deep into sampling methods, validity, reliability, or methods of statistical analysis, just bigger picture stuff. If you want to do that, go for it, I have better things to do.


I have linked some of the studies mentioned to free, full-text copies, and others will be linked to pages where you can purchase a PDF copy of the study. If you are a college student you may have free access through your university library system (which is what I used to access full copies of all of these studies).

Taboo tattoos? A study of the gendered effects of body art on consumers’ attitudes toward visibly tattooed front line staff

Baumann, Timming, & Gollan, 2015

Read the abstract or buy it here.

This study tested the effects of gender and visible (neck) tattoos on consumer preference. 262 participants were recruited through on online crowdsourcing platform.

They were asked to pose as customers, shown a series of images of faces of front-line staff described as either a surgeon or a mechanic, and asked to decide whether or not they would want that person to perform the service.

They used images of both men and women from different races, and in the image the individual had either a tattoo on their neck, or no visible tattoo.

This study found that people preferred both surgeons as well as mechanics without tattoos as opposed to with tattoos.


  • It was a survey and surveys suck
  • It does not look at the effects of tattoos on job recruitment (not a flaw of the study design, just a caution in applying concepts)
  • The sample group could have been more randomly selected to improve external validity
  • Female respondents were over-represented in the initial sample group
  • There was only one tattoo and one placement used
    • Would there be a higher preference for individuals with visible hand tattoos as opposed to neck tattoos?
    • Would there be a higher preference for non-abstract tattoos or colored tattoos over abstract black tattoos?

Attitude of Professionals and Students towards Professional Dress Code, Tattoos and Body Piercing in the Corporate World

Mishra & Mishra, 2015

Full text available for free here.

This study examined attitudes and opinions of young professionals and graduate students aged 21-35 towards tattoos and piercings (among other things).

Researchers used snowballing sampling to gather 120 survey responses, approximately half of which were career professionals from private companies, and half of which were in their final year of MBA or engineering educational programs.

They found that the majority of both professionals and students thought tattoos would not reduce the chances of getting a job (86% and 87% respectively), and that they did not think that tattoos were linked to deviant behavior in the workplace (83% and 89%).


  • Surveys still suck
  • The sample size was relatively small
  • Professional participants came only from private companies
  • Limited information was provided about demographics
    • This study comes from an Indian publication which means we should be cautious generalizing norms to American culture
  • It shows us peer attitudes and opinions that may be prevalent in the workplace, but not attitudes of hiring managers

What is professional attire today? A conjoint analysis of personal presentation attributes

Ruetzler, Taylor, Reynolds, Baker, & Killen, 2012

Read the abstract or buy it here.

The research performed for this study was conducted in 2010 at a restaurant convention. Researchers recruited hospitality management students, faculty, and industry representatives to participate.

Participants were asked to imagine themselves as a HR representative in hospitality management hiring new entry-level employees. They were presented with 16 laminated photo cards with images of prospective new hires.

The 16 cards showed images of people with with varying levels of:

  • Clothing cover
  • Conservativeness of clothing
  • Level of attire (ranging from more formal or less formal)
  • Attractiveness

It was also noted whether the person had conservative or non-conservative body piercings and tattoos.

Participants were asked to rank the cards from 1-16 from most desirable to least desirable.

A conjoint analysis of different attributes was performed, and they found that:

  • Grooming and business dress attire were the most important indicators
  • Tattoos were not desirable as indicators of professionalism


  • This study is from 2010 so the results may be outdated and inaccurate
  • The study was designed with a manipulation check – one card was designed with the lowest level possible for all characteristics – and the manipulation check failed
  • It is limited to a single industry
  • In the study they did not specify to their participants what department area they were hiring for (food, housekeeping, etc.)

The hidden mark : an ethnographic examination of visibility in heavily tattooed professionals

McLeod, 2014

Full text available for free here.

Men's work briefcase

This paper is a qualitative rather than quantitative research study, but a master’s thesis examining attitudes and beliefs of tattooed professionals. It is a pretty extensive paper at 44 pages long but it is well worth the read, and includes 5 pages of references which offers a wide variety of additional reading material on the topic.

In his research, McLeod reviews past literature relating to tattoos, stigma, and gender implications. He then goes on to discuss interviews he performed with 21 tattooed professionals from the US, UK, and Canada, exploring tactics they use to navigate between tattooed identities and professional identities – and the decision to “cover up” in professional settings, or not.

He found that people felt that tattooed people were stereotyped as less intelligent and less capable, but that these professionals sought to separate themselves from the “rest” of tattooed society through markers of artistic quality and cost.

All of his interviewees discussed managing their identities through covering up upon first impressions because they felt they were able to establish their professional identity before allowing their tattoo identity to show.

Both men and women experienced unwanted and uninvited touching, such as people trying to move clothing out of the way to expose more of a tattoo. Women also talked about assumptions of promiscuity, sexual orientation, and emotional “damage”.


  • This is a thesis, (and as far as I can tell) not peer-reviewed, empirical research
  • Sample size is very limited

Visible tattoos in the service sector: a new challenge to recruitment and selection

Timming, 2015

Read the abstract or buy it here.

This study involved the interviewing of 15 hiring managers in the service sector and 10 visibly tattooed individuals in 2012 and 2013, all in Scotland.

Hiring managers came from a wide variety of organizational type, size, and a wide variety of industries including retail, higher education, finance, and local council.

All of the recruiters, including the three hiring managers who had non-visible tattoos, harbored negative attitudes towards candidates with visible tattoos.

Interestingly, they admitted to having prejudices and that those prejudices and personal feelings were largely irrelevant, however they feared that customers would see tattooed employees as distasteful.


  • These interviews took place in Scotland and may not accurately reflect American culture and attitudes
  • Sample size is very limited


The effects of tattoos in the workplace are complex beyond what we can understand from current research, however taking a look at more recent publications gives us more insight into the matter.

We rely heavily on the first results in Google to help us make informed decisions, from what to eat to dinner, to how to change a headlight bulb, to matters like this one.

Statistics, especially when visually presented, are easy to understand and share, however it’s important to make sure those numbers come from reliable and up-to-date sources.

What do you think about tattoos in the workplace?

Have you seen any good research on the topic?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @singerswings

What do employers think of tattoos- The internet lied to you!

What Do Employers Think of Tattoos? The Internet Lied to You!

I was going to write a great article about my thoughts and opinions on tattoos in the workplace.

You know. Me. If they made a movie about my life it would be called The Girl With the Food Tattoo.

Here’s the gist of what I was planning on writing:

In my humble, unbiased opinion, and in my extensive experience of the working world (kidding) you can have tattoos and a job too.

But then something happened.

I researched.

And I realized… the internet has no idea what impact tattoos have in the workplace.

3 Resources the Entire Internet Is Using to Determine Whether or Not Tattoos are Harmful for Your Career

Formally dressed tattooed man

Career Builders Study on Reasons Hiring Managers Don’t Promote

It all started with two articles from Forbes, an internet authority on businessy stuff. At first in 2011 they were like nah, not worth it, you won’t get a job (or a promotion). Then, two years later they began to rethink things.

The funny thing is, they each backed their opposing arguments with the exact same research study by CareerBuilders from 2011.

What the Study Explores

This study by Career Builders surveyed over 2,500 hiring managers, asking them why they might be less likely to extend a promotion to someone.

The top three answers selected were:

  • Piercings (37%)
  • Bad breath (34%)
  • Visible tattoos (31%)

Understanding the Value of This Study

Now in general I’m not a huge fan of non-academic studies, nor am I a fan of surveying in general. However, when done correctly they can give us some broad insight into social trends. This survey by career builder  gives us some insight into whether or not hiring managers see tattoos as a reason not to promote.

However I have two main issues with this study, or more specifically with the use of this study as a resource:

  • It gives no indication of the overall hireability or ability to maintain employment of “tattooed people”. What are the chances a tattooed candidates will be seen as less qualified or discriminated against?
  • The study was conducted in 2011 and is being cited as if it were fresh, revolutionary data (the Petoskey News cited it in an article from just a few months ago)

A Pew Research Report on Millennial Social Trends from 2010

In my examination of a couple dozen articles on the topic, the second most common resource I have seen cited is an old Pew Research report from 2010, again, cited just last August by Petoskey News as well as in publications as big as SF Gate. If you take a look at Chapter 7 (page 64 of the report) there are some awesome statistics and visual representations of data.

What the Study Explores

So you don’t have to click through and try to find the spot I’m talking about here are a few stats that this study covers:

  • 38% of Millennials have tattoos compared to 32% of Gen X-ers
  • Half of these Millennials have 2-5 tattoos, and 18% have six or more
  • Millennials who have not attended college are more likely to have a tattoo than those who have attended some college

Wow! Great numbers.

Understanding the Value of This Study

This Pew report gives some great insights into the social values of Millennials, however like the former study it is basically ancient.

I’m kidding.

But not really. Consider the Millennial generation.

The Pew report defines this generation as people born in 1981-present.

That means that while this study was being conducted (assuming the same number of babies were born every year), 62% of the generation was not yet old enough to legally get a tattoo without parental consent, whereas only 38% was old enough.

It also means that today, assuming the definition of “Millennial” is the same, the population group is now 20% larger, 51% of the generation are not old to get a tattoo while 49% are.

It would be great to have a similar study conducted again capturing new information, and more narrowly defining what our understanding of “Millennial” is today.

Skinfo Tattoos in the Workplace Infographic

Another commonly cited statistical resource cited by an article (republished on Yahoo News) from Business Insider, Cheat Sheet, and others is…

…drumroll please…

An infographic created by a skincare boutique.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a phenomenal piece of content, and they deserve every share and every link they have received for it. However I find it interesting that it is being used as the foundation for several articles.

Understanding the Value of This Study

While this infographic is great for what it is, I have three main issues with it and the way people are using it:

  • It is not a study. In the journalistic accounts shared it is being presented almost as though it is first-hand research, not third-hand research (it cites articles which got data from actual studies)
  • There are dozens of statistics and a handful of resources, but there’s no way to tell what data comes from what resource
  • None of the resources listed are actual research studies – in fact, this infographic cites one of the Forbes articles as well as the SF Gate article mentioned before, which cite the Career Builder and Pew report respectively, leading users down a rabbit hole of mediocre and outdated information.

Are Those Really the Only Resources People Are Using?

Not exactly. I would be lying if I said that these 3 resources are the absolute only things that people are using, but they do seem to be the most frequently cited resources out of the 20 or so articles I looked at.

Other resources used include:

  • Quotes from managers at specific companies
  • Summaries of different company policies
  • Opinions and personal experiences of the authors

The Problem with Relying on these Studies

By Pew’s ancient estimate, 38% of my generation has tattoos. In a more recent survey from 2014 and 2015, Pew found that the Millennial workforce is now 53.5 million large – and growing.

By these numbers, tattoos in the workplace potentially affect over 203 million people in the United States, and there is no valid, reliable, easy to understand, and readily available information on the internet discussing it.

In Part 2 of this series I will dig up, analyze, and explore current research on tattoos in the workplace.

Edit: Part 2 is live!