We (satisficed and) bought a digital piano

We finally got around to signing DC1 up for piano lessons this past fall, about a year after we meant to.

Ze really really likes it.  The first things ze does when ze gets home is hir piano practicing, and sometimes if ze gets up early enough, ze’ll practice piano before going to school.

Unfortunately, the $100 keyboard hir grandparents got hir doesn’t have weighted keys, so you can’t do piano or forte, just one volume.  And there’s no pedals for sustained sound.  Since it seems like DC1 is going to stick with it, we really need to get hir a real piano to practice on.

Well, almost a real piano.

Looking up how to buy a used piano online is terrifying.  Page after page talking about how you need to have a trusted professional with you at point of purchase or you may end up with something that’s only good for hauling to the dump (something you will, of course, have to pay for yourself).  New pianos are confusing as well, though the only terrifying thing about them is the price point.

So… on the advice of one our readers (I think chacha, but maybe it was Ms. PoP), we looked into digital pianos.  They’re new and under warranty.  They don’t have to be tuned every year.  They cost a fraction of what a low grade real piano costs.  And… they don’t sound too bad.

After reading tons of reviews and scouring the piano forum, we decided to get a low-mid-level Casio for $1099. Specifically the Casio PX850 BK 88-Key Touch Sensitive Privia Digital Piano. This piano is on all of the top 10 digital piano lists that I found.  Although it was only #1 on one of those lists, the #1s on the other lists weren’t even listed on many of the lists (if that makes sense).  The only detracting thing on the Amazon reviews is that some people find that after several weeks of intense playing, the keys start to clack a little because the pads wear thin (they should be wool, complains one reviewer), but that seems to be a potential problem across our price range, and probably isn’t one our 7 year old will encounter for a few years.    The piano forums recommend this one as a good learning piano, and while some people have preferred digital pianos, nobody really says anything bad about this piano (while those “preferred” pianos all have detractors).  Everyone seems to agree that this piano is pretty good and is a good value.

We tried to find a place in town that carried it that we could listen and then buy from, but the place in town that said they had it turned out to be out of stock.  They did have the $1699 Yamaha that some people prefer to the Casio (and many people do not), and we weren’t that impressed with it.  We talked about trying to find a place in the city that has a bunch of pianos we could listen to, but it seems like all the shops in the city have a monopoly of one brand– they just carry Yamaha or just Roland etc.  And we didn’t really want to go into the city this weekend anyway.

So we ended up getting it without listening to it from Amazon.  I splurged and got the recommended bench for $44 instead of a slightly less expensive one because someone in the reviews said that one of the settings fit hir 4 year old.

The Casio came in less than a week.  DH spent the evening putting it together, mostly after DC1 slept.  At 10-something, he got DC2 and me to look at and listen to the finished product.  It’s beautiful.  It looks like a real piano, but it’s slimmer.  It feels like a real piano.  It sounds like a real piano.  Plus, unlike that $1700 Yamaha, it didn’t have tons of confusing controls.  Its controls are even more intuitive than the controls on DC1′s old $100 keyboard.  It probably has fewer features, but we don’t need a keyboard that can bark like a dog, we need a keyboard that mimics a regular piano.

We congratulated ourselves on doing a good job picking a piano out (and thanked our lucky stars), even if we weren’t able to check out the piano in person first.  It’s exactly what we need and it’s much nicer than the ones we saw at the local store, even the equally and more expensive ones.  So we’re very happy with our purchase.  DC1 loves it too.  It’s scary spending $1000+ on something you’re not sure about.  Getting it wrong is an expensive and/or annoying proposition (depending on if you return the purchase or not).

So yay for top 10 lists and yay for piano forums and amazon and satisficing.

Have you ever made a big purchase partly-blind like this?  How did it work out?  How do you decide on big purchases?

Link love hot ‘n’ fresh

Link love! Link love! Getcha link love here…

Hobby Lobby is not slang for vagina: a guide for guys.

Phdestressed discusses the worth of a humanities PhD.

The Atlantic joins in the discussion of what can be done with a humanities PhD, with some statistics.

Academomia is bewildered by a bedtime solution.

Mike the Mad Biologist discusses who gets grants.

Not of general interest discusses wisdom she’s learned from movies.

The blog that ate manhattan discusses a benefit of electronic medical records.

This link is not safe for work (NSFW, srsly!) or kids: Sexuality, kink, and disability.  Let’s broaden the discourse on these things.

This is a really interesting idea: Write A House, which fixes up distressed houses in Detroit and gives them to writers for free so they can live and write in Detroit.  I don’t know if they’ll make it on to my list of causes for donations but it’s a cool approach to several issues at once!

 

Grumpeteers, what did we miss while we were busy having no sense of humor on April Fools’ Day?

 

Google may not have all the answers, but we do

Q:  how do you pay for a phd when you have a family

A:  You don’t.  The PhD needs to pay you or you shouldn’t get it.  (Assuming you’re asking this question because you don’t have enough money, not that you’re asking which trust fund you should sell in order to keep up with your lifestyle while you’re away from being a middle-manager at daddy and mummy’s company.)

Q:  list 10 interview questions to ask her mother like about school life, etc

A:  Seriously, kid, if you’re trying to cheat on your homework now for these low-ball, no-wrong-answer sort of things, you’re going to be a huge PITA when you hit college.  Instead of asking the internet, sit down with a pencil and paper and just think about this a little bit. What kinds of questions would be interesting to you?

Q:  can la people tell youre from the midwest?

A:  People in LA will ask you where you’re from and all sorts of invasive questions before they have a chance to figure out you’re from the midwest based on your tells.

Q:  why does my husband feel bad for living a better life than his parents

A:  Was he raised Catholic?

Q:  how to teach someone not to take things that are not theirs

A:  If this someone is over the age of say, 4, you should probably seek professional help on this question.  For ages 4 and under, gently say, “No, this is X’s [thing].  We don’t take other people’s stuff.”

Q:  the inlaws got new carpet so no one got thr usual chridtmad money?

A:  Good for them!  You know, that money is a gift, not an entitlement.  You should not be expecting it.

Q:  how to make my face look friendly

A:  Probably not permanent makeup

Q:  how to transform the mean priming to percentual

A:  Um.  Math?

Q:  if you have a masters in accounting does that make you a phd

A:  No.

Q:  how do gifted students cope with stupid kids

A:  They grow up and write snarky blogs.

Small change is ok

I can’t stop rape by myself, but I can refuse to tolerate inappropriate and disrespectful behavior from the men (and women) in my classes.  I can show students resources, and issues, and hope to inspire a new generation of activists.

I can’t fix the American education system, but I can tutor and give scholarships.  And I can fix math anxiety in my own students.  I can present them with research about the advantages of a growth mindset.

I can’t fix the problems with unwanted animals in the country, but I can donate to shelters and save a couple of kitties.  Of course, we have our own fixed, too.

I can’t feed the world, or give everybody books to read, but I can donate to the local food shelter and local book program.

While it’s true that where you live and what you drive will have bigger impacts on your wallet and on the planet than the latte factor, if the latte factor is all you feel able to address right now, start with that.

Some flossing is better than none; it’s not quite but almost as good as daily flossing.

Writing 1 sentence a day may be a suboptimal way to write a paper, but it’s hella better than waiting for the perfect time or inspiration, and sometimes it leads to an entire paragraph.  Boice is all about this with his daily sessions.  15 min of writing is better than none and leads to greater things.

All-or-nothing thinking leads to burnout, discouragement, apathy.  One thing at a time.

Snowball your debt– even small contributions will add up over the long term when you have high interest.

Instead of the bestest blog post ever, we’ll post this one now, so you can all start the conversation with us.

I sound pretty disgustingly hopeful here, eh?

Some days you dismantle patriarchy; other days, the most radical action you have energy for is turning off the TV.

What radical action did you do today?

RBOC

  • True art is not bounded by paper.
  • In related news, DC2 has had hir marker and crayon privileges revoked.
  • Also in related news, we caught hir at DC1′s desk on hir stool grabbing for the forbidden crayon box.  Ze’d carried the stool in from the kitchen.  Suddenly it became clear how ze’d been getting all those things we’d thought we’d placed out of hir reach.
  • The (somewhat) terrifying thing is that ze knows to put the stool *back* (or at least not someplace incriminating) after ze’s used it for nefarious purposes.
  • Ze also drew on my monitor with a pencil.  Twice.  Once after we’d removed the pencils and cleaned the first drawing off.  DH caught hir the second time mid-draw.  It’s amazing how much havoc ze can wreak in (literally) less than two minutes.
  • I had a weird dream the other night that I accidentally sent a (small) can of catfood with DC2′s lunch.  They sent it back in the dream and suggested I meant to send tuna or something.
  • Dear democrats, wanting something to be true does not make it true.  If you think that, you are as bad as the republicans.  You may be better intentioned but you are going to do just as much damage to the country and to the people you care about.
  • Why is it that people set the a/c at 65 and the heat at 80?  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  (Or just like 76 degrees all year.)
  • St. Andre is like if boursin and brie had a love child.  A very fat love child.  A delicious fat love child.
  • Is it just me, or do stories by SAHM about SAHP (in blogs or the media) always start out with how difficult and terrible their lives are, and then end up with but it’s totally worth it because I got to see my child’s first X, I need to savor every precious moment etc.  [Similar stories by WOHM seem more varied-- either I'm so stressed out without a "but it's totally worth it" punchline... I guess the punchline is generally, "and I wish I were a SAHM," or "but I'm not actually stressed out, I love work and family."  Sometimes with a, "but the only thing I sometimes feel guilty about is how I don't feel guilty for not following the SAHM narrative."]  And yet IRL, the SAHM I know don’t seem to have particularly difficult or terrible lives, other than the occasional financial worries.
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April Mortgage update: And more musings on where to put extra money

Last month (March):
Balance: $61,508.58
Years left:4.75
P =$962.48, I =$251.92, Escrow = 613.58

This month (April):
Balance: $58,365.65
Years left:4.5
P =$970.93, I =$243.47, Escrow = 613.58

One month’s prepayment savings: $8.60

So we still haven’t really adjusted to DH going from 0 salary to 2 times his previous salary (this is a great problem to have).  I’m (mostly) not letting those $200/week grocery bills get to me (though to be honest, grocery spending was still down at the beginning of March– oddly, spending money on cheap stuff last month meant our pantry was stuffed by the time the challenge finished… and we’ve got prepared leftover soups in the freezer and plenty more lentils), but as was noted last month, I still feel a twinge of guilt for a $73 restaurant bill.

On top of that, now that DH has an industry job instead of a state government job, his ability to save for retirement in a tax-advantaged fashion has been dramatically reduced.  He no longer has access to a 457, and his 401(k) access is only worth contributing to up to the employer match (and the match is only 50% instead of 100%).  Still, with my 457 and 403(b) and mandatory retirement, we’re socking quite a bit away.  And the 529 plans are growing at a nice clip.

What these two factors together mean is that our savings account is starting to accumulate.  Before DH got his job, we had to have a big emergency fund for emergencies and we had to have enough money to cover the unpaid summer.  We didn’t spend that lump down before DH’s new revenue source started coming in.  In fact, there is now enough in savings to almost exactly cover the mortgage.  Now, if we paid off the mortgage, there would be no emergency money left or extra summer money and we wouldn’t be able to pay DC1′s tuition for next year, so obviously we’re not going to do that (plus, what would we post on the first of every month if the mortgage suddenly disappeared?).

But, that is a ridiculous amount of money to have just sitting in savings.  In fact, if DH lost his job tomorrow (which we hope he doesn’t!) we’d still have more money than we needed to get us through the unpaid summer + tuition + emergency fund.  (Though I’d have to go back to being mindful about expenditures again.)

I have opted not to put 11K away in the IRA this year.  We’d have to do a back-door Roth and even though it wouldn’t cost extra for us to convert it (we only have ~$33.00 in our traditional IRAs because something spit out a cash dividend into the traditional account instead of DRIPping into the new Roths during the conversion process and I didn’t bother to ask them to fix it).  It is true that we could draw contributions out of the Roth whenever, so maybe I should reconsider (in the remaining 15 days), I dunno.

DH is leaning towards putting more into the mortgage.  I’m not ready to commit yet to putting 10s of Ks in there, but I did up the pre-payment this month another 1K.  We’ll see what happens going forward.

I think we should make some of those expenditures we’ve been putting off.  We’re going to replace the a/c for $5K [update:  3.5K], and buy DC1 a digital piano for something under $1.5K.  But calling the a/c people takes time and effort, and shopping even more so.  DH wants to get a yard person to take care of mowing and mulching and weeding and bush trimming.  I agree.  Also I really want to take a sabbatical, something that will cut into my pay and increase our expenses because I’ll want to sabbatical in a different state.

Of course, DH might not keep this job forever.   It’s not an enormous company and it may someday go out of business or be bought and changed or they may give up on the telecommuting aspect.  That means we may not have his big income forever.  I haven’t been getting even cost of living raises every year that I’ve been here, and although the current administration seems committed to trying to get my salary up to that of our assistant professor hires, that doesn’t mean that future administrators will feel the same way.  We’ve tried living on just my income with the two kids and it kind of sucks.  It’ll suck more when my income is worth even less.  Tenure is nice, but it doesn’t guarantee even keeping the same real income over time, much less increasing income over time.

When thinking about what to do with extra income, it is important to think about the long term consequences of those decisions.  Some decisions are really obvious.  Putting money towards debt is going to make life much better off later even if something terrible happens.  Having a smaller required bill makes life easier down the road if inflation erodes your earning power or you suffer a job loss.

Similarly, putting money into investments, while more risky, also has the potential to ease things down the road.  Either you won’t have to save as much for your retirement, or you may even be able to turn those investments into an income stream, such as with dividends.

Spending money can go three ways.

There’s spending that decreases your expenses down the road. We’re hoping that replacing the a/c will decrease our needs for a/c repairs, and lower our monthly energy costs in the long term.

There’s spending that increases it.  Switching to smart phones (something we haven’t done yet) would potentially increase our spending over time, unless we found Ting or a similar company to be a good match for us.  It would be difficult to go back to flip phone plans after getting used to having a smart phone.  Our colleagues, faced with similar situations post-tenure, have opted to buy new houses and fancier cars– when these are financed, they can trap you into needing your higher income (and higher insurance and/or tax expenses even if not financed).  Some of our colleagues who have done this complain about not being able to afford to pay college tuition for their kids, or say that their kids have to go to state schools.  Different priorities.

There’s also one-time spending that isn’t going to make much of a difference (except, of course, through lost opportunity costs).  For example, one-time spending on things like vacations or the piano is unlikely to either increase or decrease our future expenses.  They just happen.  And you can always stop paying for housecleaning or yard-work if times get tough.

A goal then for the risk averse is to turn the kinds of expenditures that will be liabilities if your income drops into the kinds where your future expenditures aren’t increased.  Paying in-full helps reduce future monthly drag, but it doesn’t work completely because there’s usually still higher operating costs –you might have to buy more expensive insurance or your property taxes might increase.  That’s where that first kind of money placement comes in–putting as much as feasible into debt pay-down and investments can make those lifestyle inflation increases less risky because it offers a cushion in case of a job loss or other emergency.

So you can’t do too much of the liability increasing spending without a bunch of the liability decreasing kind to off-set.  If you’re going to do some of column B, you really ought to do some of column A too.  And if there’s money leftover, maybe some column C.

How do you decide if you can put money into something that’s going to cost you more later?  How do you allocate between investment expenditures, extra-cost expenditures, and ephemeral expenditures?  Do you think about the future costs of a purchase?

Link Love

Very confused dogs

Infertility explained by cats.

True story.

Dynamo

Cheese and responsibility is completely and totally right about the Lizzie Bennet diaries.  I normally hate Pride and Prejudice re-dos, but this one is even better than Clueless (was for Emma).  They do a great job updating it to the 21st century and fleshing out characters and these web shows all have such diverse casts because there are a lot of extremely talented minority actors who don’t get jobs that go to blond white people who aren’t as good on tv (we blame the patriarchy).  The three main characters are still white, but they’re also really great actresses.  (This link is probably why we have so little link love up this week.  Well, that and meetings.) (and spring break)(and work drama)

I went to find more links, but the internet FAILS me!  FAIL!!!  I rode a horse, though?  [Wandering-scientist has more hard-core links today over at her place.]

An oldie but a goodie:  signs made funnier

how to put a toddler to bed in 100 easy steps

these are so beautiful! And occasionally a little creepy.  But mostly lovely.

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