Welcome Simple Dollar Readers!

Please, leave comments and say hi!

Posts you may find of interest:

Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire.

Why you should read Your Money or Your Life.

Optimizing isn’t always optimal. Satisfice– it’s nice!

What’s your cooking system?

Don’t *just* prepay the mortgage.

Different methods of sharing finances, whether with a loved one or simply a housemate.

It’s ok to buy a new car, or a used one. This one doesn’t have the predicted 200+ comments yet– please spend some time explaining your point of view!

What do YOU think about no-spend days?  The comments talk about who they work for and who they don’t.

Are you doing better than your parents?

The experiences vs. stuff post.  It mentions marginal utility.

Have you done a financial fire drill?

We have a lot of “stop feeling guilty and relax” posts… here’s why we think they’re popular

Our most commented on post is really just a series of questions on how balanced personal finance bloggers are allowed to be, but the comments are incredibly thought provoking. So read it for the comments even if the post is kind of post-lite.

There’s a lot more personal finance posts in here (generally on Mondays, but here and there throughout the week), please poke around and enjoy! We’re very excited you’re visiting.

Universal truths

  • Conservation of files:  A filing cabinet is filled every five years, no matter what size the filing cabinet or its location and purpose.
  • Feline paper displacement:  Whatever you are working on or reading will be the most comfortable place in the house for a kitty.  Addendum:  even if your “book” is a Kindle.
  • Inch = mile student edition:  Anything you do above and beyond to make your students’ lives easier will come back to bite you.  That is why it is above and beyond and not standard.
  • Store-bought raspberry lifespan: Illustrated by Sheldon comics.
  • Most people are too involved in their own lives to worry about yours on a regular basis.
  • The more you need sleep so you can think clearly because of a deadline, the less you will be able to sleep because you’re a stress-case.
  • If you spend an entire semester with no social life and every weekend free, you will get several invitations for events overlapping on the same day near the end of that semester.
  • The more time you need, the faster it goes by.
  • You will lose something in the process of organizing that you would not have lost had you not tried to organize.  (Currently looking for copies of the restricted data proposal that would be on top if I hadn’t filed them…)

What Universal Truths are we missing?

How do you mark your place?

I was rereading Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and one of the chapters is on how one uses books… she makes an analogy between courtly lover and carnal lover.

The big question being:  How do you mark your place in a book?  Do you splay it face down?  Do you use bookmarks?  Or business cards?  Do you dog-ear the pages?

How do you feel about people who treat books differently than you do?  Are they philistines or merely priggish?

#1:  When it isn’t my book, I will use whatever is handy for a bookmark.  Often a piece of paper I’ve used for some other purpose first.  When it is my book I often splay it down, though with other creatures in the house that often ends up in my place being lost.  Sometimes I’ll use floss to mark my place or a pen.  Whatever is handy.

#2: I usually don’t dog-ear cuz that’s going too far. Usually face-down or find a bookmark.  My partner has this freaky ability to just remember the page he was on, doesn’t use bookmarks, just closes the book.  I also use the dustjacket flaps as bookmarks, as God intended. But not on partner’s books cuz that makes him sad. It was useful when library books came with cards, built-in bookmarks.

Tales from the relatives: Why you need a college degree

A common pf blog (and news article) meme is the admonition not to go into huge debt for a college degree.. is it worth it?  Obviously it makes no sense to come out from a BA with 6 figure debt.  But there’s some amount of debt that it’s worthwhile to take on for the better earnings power.  Liz Pulliam Weston suggests one year’s expected salary in your major field from your school and that seems to be a good heuristic to me (YMMV).

The folks for whom this should be the biggest concern are those from low income families– they don’t have as much of that family safety net to fall back on.  But, so long as the parents are willing to fill out a FAFSA, the students in question should be able to get financial grants conditional on being accepted to school.  School may not be as expensive as anticipated, and indeed, there’s an excellent study that’s been done by a handful of famous economists working with H&R Block that finds that helping parents fill out the FAFSA when they put in their tax returns dramatically increases college participation.

For all the discussion of a how a university degree isn’t worth it, the sordid world of jobs that don’t require more than high school degrees is beyond belief, especially since union power is declining, and companies are even getting around unions by using unprotected contract labor.

My partner’s large extended family mostly lives in a small town and has a wide range among educational and income spectrums.  We hear a lot about what can happen in jobs for the less educated.  The kinds of jobs that many of us took in high school but some people need as adults.  Here’s some snippets from the family that convince me how much nicer life is with a college degree:

Had worked at the video store for 3 years, manager decided to replace her with one of his friends.  No notice given, no two weeks pay, just, tomorrow you’re gone.

Fired the first week on the job because the daughter of the manager wasn’t working, she told the daughter to work, and the daughter told her mom some sort of lie, and the mom believed her daughter.

Worked as a waitress, a competitor tried to hire her, she said no.  Then the competitor bought the bar where she had been working at and laid her off.

Hurt his hand off working hours.  Didn’t have insurance.  Got fired because he couldn’t work.  Went bankrupt because medical bills + no income.

Can’t get a job at the Dollar Store or Walmart because when you don’t have education, they check your credit, and your credit isn’t great.  (Not all folks have poor credit, but for jobs requiring more education, they are less likely to run a credit check on you.)

Contrast this with the kinds of jobs my college and higher degree educated friends have– they always get at least 2 weeks notice, they almost always get some kind of severance package.  If they’re let go they’re generally laid off; it’s more difficult to get flat-out fired.  There’s generally a lot of notice about what’s happening, and sometimes they get furloughs instead of lay-offs.  We tend to complain about not getting raises, not about being fired with no notice for no good reason.  The cost of our benefits keeps going up, but we have benefits!  If we get hurt we’re insured.

When you’re in one of these marginal labor markets, there’s less job security, there’s less fairness.  Even when you’re protected by law, the company is more likely to ignore the law, because what can you do?  Especially when it’s a your word vs. someone else’s word situation.  Education makes you more powerful, it allows you entree into labor markets where this kind of treatment is less prevalent.

Do you know anybody in the low-wage job market?

Irony ^2 (or perhaps cubed?): Do we need The Doctor?

[Note:  Don’t bother trying to find the drama that caused the below conversation– it was weeks and/or months ago and we wanted to keep from warping the fragile space-time-irony-continuum as best we could.  Any more recent drama is unrelated but probably caused by the same underlying processes that caused this exchange.]

#1:  Does it make me [immature] if I say I find these passive-aggressive short posts about some people (but never saying which) being mean to other people on the internet to be highly ironic? I think it does. I will own it.

#2:  Chuckle.

#1:  I decided not to comment because the added layer of irony would cause a warp in the space time continuum.   Have to be careful of the space time continuum.  Warps are so hard to fix.

#2:  Sometimes you have to call The Doctor.

#1:  Who?!

#2:  Exactly.

link love

What a great list!  The little professor brings us the best books for children, circa 1900.

CNN explains how depressed brains hate differently.

Scalzi with 6 reasons it sucks to be a jedi.

NPR explains how this season’s tv line-up is all about the black best friend.  And how that’s kind of uncool.  It reminds me of all the stupid movies we had to watch in high school that were supposed to show racial diversity but actually just fell prey to the Magic Negro stereotype.

Read this blog post by wayward classics.  Then look at the post’s title again.  And shudder.

Insaecularsaeculorum discusses how adjunctification turns teaching into competition rather than cooperation.

Tenured Radical discusses how the job of a flight attendant has changed.

Google Q&A

Not to be confused with replacing Q with T.  That gets you something else entirely on the internets.

Q:  are we othe inyernet?

A:  Yes, weare e.

Q:  i live in zone 7 can i shape my compact holly now?

A:  Um.  Maybe?  DH says:  Don’t let your neighbors see you do it.

Q:  why do hot toddies work

A:  because of the DELICIOUS.

Q:  is it ok to merrie your best friend?

A:  It is absolutely ok to merrie anyone so long as they’re not doing one of those sulks where they just want to be sulking… or if they need to get through the stages of grief.  Comforting is good with the stages of grief but merrie is not really appropriate.

Q:  wat to make with barely anything in the fridge

A:  Usually I will make an egg in this situation (an omelete with stuff in it if there’s variety of barely anythings).  Of course, that only works if you have eggs in the fridge.  If you just have odds and ends and no eggs, you could make an odds and ends stirfry.  Or soup.  Or just eat things separately and alone.  Don’t eat just ketchup.

Q:  what is “a tony family”

A:  One that is wealthy and generally has a pedigree… old wealth.

Q:  why do i have to sacrifice everything

A:  Because if you don’t the great Monster Gathuuza will swallow the island and start on his path to vanquish the planet.  With your sacrifice, he will sleep another 400 years.  (Alternate answer:  You don’t.  Also, don’t marry a douche.)

Q:  what does rboc mean

A:  Random Bullets Of Crap.

Q:  do you agree that you should teach your children about housework even you are rich

A:  Depends on how rich and what you’re going to do with your inheritance.  Still, it’s good for a person to have basic skills so they can live on their own… cooking, basic cleaning.  Knowing how to make a bed when you’re a guest at someone’s house even if you will never need to make your own bed.  That sort of thing.

Q:  whats chores

A:  Things that need to be done whether you want to or not.

We hope that cleared some things up for you.

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How do you make smilies?

#1 is oldschool.  Colon.  End paren.  :)

Occasionally she’ll   :|

#2’s have more character.   ,:-)

)-:

#2 hates the way #1 tries to indicate wiggling eyebrows.  Every time #1 sends one of those, #2 asks, What is THAT?  ||:^)

We love the secret google chat smilies.

Here.

V.v.V

}:-)

+/’\

How do you make smilies?  Give us your favorite!

My choices are not judging yours: Part 3: on childbirth.

Most women in the US have epidurals.  The internet gives this figure as between 60-90% of US births include an epidural.  There are pros and cons to epidurals, but I will not discuss them here.  Frankly thinking about epidurals makes me feel pathologically uncomfortable.

I didn’t have an epidural.  Other than some Advil, I had a completely natural childbirth.

What’s that?  You didn’t?  In fact, you can’t stand *those* women who make women who had epidurals feel guilty by their mere existence?  Well… not only do I not care that you had an epidural, I’d really rather not talk about needles at all, thankyouverymuch.

I planned to have a natural childbirth.  I took a semester of classes so that I could have a natural childbirth.  My fear wasn’t a c-section.  I’m not particularly a hippie.  I dislike pain.

Why then?  Proof I’m not judging you.  Did you get your wisdom teeth out in July with an intern anesthesiologist, unable to leave your apartment until August because it looked like your husband beat you?  Then my reason doesn’t apply to you.

But it doesn’t matter why.  If there are good concrete reasons for and against having epidurals, then we should be allowed to discuss them without calling each other names.

Why can’t we discuss things in order to educate?  There are statistics, facts.  Facts and opinions are not the same thing.  And both can be discussed in the interest of shared knowledge.

If someone could have convinced me that an epidural would have been better for my baby than not having an epidural, then I might have switched– tried CBT for anesthesiologist-specific anxiety rather than Bradley class for giving birth.

Instead there’s some statistics that there are small increases in probabilities of c-section, lengthening childbirth, etc.  One can weigh the pros and cons of these probabilities with the need for pain management and make one’s own decision.  I decided one thing with the information available at the time.  60-90% of you decided another.

My decision isn’t judging yours.

And I doubt that the folks trying to tell you about what can happen with an epidural are really judging you either– they’re just trying to share information since medical professionals do tend to push medical intervention even when scientific evidence is more measured.  “If you die in the operating room, we can always bring you back to life.”  What is easiest for a medical professional is not always best for the patient.  So we rely on word-of-mouth for other options.  You can take that information or discard it.  You can do your own research and argue against what you’re being told once you know the full story.  I often do.  Or you can ignore it all and go with your gut.

If you think you made the right decision with the information you have, then you shouldn’t feel guilty.  Then what other mothers did and what other mothers say shouldn’t really get to you.  And if you got an epidural… well, then you’re in the majority.  Look around… most likely at least half of the other moms you see did too.  You are not alone.  Those moms who had the natural childbirths… well, unless they’re in an area with a fantastic birthing center (usually a city), they kind of are alone.  If they actually did it because they thought it was the best choice for their baby, and not because the thought of needles gives them a panic attack, then they kind of do have to justify their choices with an air of superiority, otherwise they get berated by folks not confident with their own choices.

Before I close, let me preempt the comment:  “Nobody will know what kind of birth you had if you keep your mouth shut.*”  1)  Why is it that only the minority has to keep their mouth shut on these issues (why can’t all moms share their birth stories without fear of offending people)? 2)  People a) ask direct questions and b) like to say nasty things about the arrogant minority that they wouldn’t say if they realized not everyone in the room was a member of the majority (“I did what you just said only awful/stupid/crazy/superior people do, and it wasn’t so bad.”).

*Not to be confused with, nobody will know your toddler can read/do math if you keep hir from showing off in public or other similar statements.

Happiness Pie: Reading

As we get older and more curmudgeonly, our reading tastes get more and more heart-warming, and we’re less and less sympathetic to stupidity as a method to drive plot in books.  Actually, #1 always only wanted to read happy books, but #2 is coming around that way too.  Life is like totes too hard and stuff.

Here’s a transcript.

#1: I don’t think I want to go to Romeo and Juliet.

#2: That one always annoyed me how once sentence of communication could have averted the whole tragedy.  JUST TALK!  The poison is FAKE! She’s NOT DEAD!

#1:  Yeah, there’s that great line in Bells Are Ringing where Judy Holliday says, “Hello, this is Verona phone, to avoid getting married to other fellow, am playing dead, Friar Lawrence gave me a great big sleeping pill…. if they’d had answering services back then then those two kids would be alive today!”

#2: I have less and less patience, these days, for plots that depend on the characters failing to tell each other one key, simple thing that could avert all trouble. Sigh.

#1: Yes, though I still don’t mind them when, “hilarious antics ensue.”  Especially when they try to tell each other things but the things are misunderstood or they think the other person can hear etc.  Though I don’t like the one where the person is all, “I love you… but if you don’t love me just pretend you didn’t get this message,” and then the person doesn’t actually get the message. But then hilarious antics don’t ensue.

#2: JUST TALK.  I’m so old and crotchety.  SO DUMB.  JUST COMMUNICATE FFS!

#1: I like slapstick comedies still.  I like Shakespeare comedies.  If Romeo and Juliet had been a comedy instead of a tragedy, I wouldn’t have minded!  But see, then someone would have communicated.

#2: could be better that way….hmm….

#1: “No no, Romeo, it’s not real! Stop!”  Also the the whole, “he’s dead I must kill myself right now” thing.  Kind of dumb.

#2: I can kinda get that, but why not VERIFY before killing oneself?  I can understand wanting to kill oneself but you better be sure the person is REALLY dead before you try to join em!

#1:  Yeah, you at least have to go to the funeral first. How about ,”She’s dead… I will need therapy and then I will devote my life to ending gang violence and forced marriages so that others will not share similar fates.”

#2: I blame the monk guy with the poison, who didn’t tell anyone.  Dorkus.

#1: Yah.  It’s a dumb show that could very easily have been a comedy. I also wish Tosca had had a happy ending, but the deaths in that one were just bad timing and purposeful lying by the bad guy, not miscommunication.  Sniffle.  She really thought the bullets were fake. And then he didn’t get up.  And then the soldiers found the body of the guy she killed and ran her off the ramparts.   Waaah.  If she’d just been able to wait a day, Napoleon’s army would have liberated her and her lover and given her a medal for killing the evil rapist baron.  Poor Tosca.

#2: I know, right. One effing day.

#1: But none of that was bad communication, just bad luck.  Still, it would have been awesome.  Actually, I guess her leading the bad guys to his hiding place was poor communication.  He should have trusted Tosca.  She should have trusted him.

#2:  If we were in charge of the world… I get less and less joy from angsty drama as I get older. Man, I like ESCAPIST fiction!

#1: I love Georgette Heyer.  Though the last two books I read weren’t that great.  It was funny reading Patch and Powder,  because it’s obviously an early work (whether it actually is or not– I didn’t check) the hero and heroine are SO DUMB. And they don’t tell each other what they really feel, and she wants him to be more masterful and ignore her “nos.”

#2: rrrrrrrrrrr

#1: Yeah, suuuper dumb.  But while reading it I was happy to make the mental note that in later Heyer novels, couples like that are the comic relief that the real hero and heroine get exasperated with their stupid antics. They’re just side stories.  Sadly I’m running low on Heyer on my Kindle– I’m left reading LM Montgomery short stories!

Do you like to read depressing books?  Have your tastes changed as you get older?  #2 used to love Soooper Angsty books in high school, like Russian-levels of angst.  Do you have any good heart-warming fluff to recommend?