October Mortgage Update: Perspectives on $500

This month (September):
Balance: $74,178.15
Years left: 5.9167
P =$916.47, I = $297.93, Escrow = 613.58

This month (October):
Balance: $73,085.37
Years left: 5.75
P =$920.78, I = $293.62, Escrow = 613.58

One month’s prepayment savings: $0.68

$500 this month on new carseats.  DC1’s old ones expired just as DC2 outgrew hir infant seat.

$500 for plane tickets to include the family on a conference trip this month, though we spent that in August (and it was more like $600).

$500 to each kid’s 529.  $500 tuition at the community college after financial aid (for the non-new-mom daughter of the relative), but the relative paid for it out of the 529 we set up earlier, so we didn’t write a check this time around.   He can do that because of the three years in the past that we put in $500 for each of the girls.  We used to pay an additional $500 into the mortgage each month, but no more.

This time last year, $500/month here or there didn’t seem like a big deal.  Now it does.  Last year, if it was under $500 we could do it without thinking about it.  Last year we had a few extra $500s each month from DH’s take-home pay.  This year we have to think about things like eating out.  Maybe.

I still don’t have a handle on our spending.  We spend about what I take home.  I’d rather spend less than what I currently take home or make more money each month.  But the things we spend money on are either important or very enjoyable, and thus difficult to cut out.  Eventually we’ll figure things out.

Does $500 seem like a lot or a little to you these days?  What level of spending is small enough to not have to worry about, or is there such a level?

long lost link love

We both spent way too much time this week reading through hundreds of pages of Yo, Is this Racist?  That prompted a response from one of us to this poignant post on stirrup queens, not so much for the act itself (which was obviously racist), but for the clueless racist comments in the comments section.  (#2 notes, this one is funny)

Isis discusses privilege and what we wish for our children.  I agree.

Squeezed between feminism talks about her experiences slouching towards feminism.  It, combined with a realization about a couple of my senior (white, female) colleagues, is helping to illuminate what the younger black studies guy in my department has been trying to explain to me about the failures and backlash of second wave feminism and… I should probably talk about this in another post.  (#2 says, Intersectionality or GTFO)

Historiann introduces ask a slave. 

Perhaps if folks tried to relate more with people whose experiences were different from their own, they’d become better people.  Just sayin’.  From the little professor.

excelsior bev tells us about her unfavorite things.

the only good use for kale (though #1 likes kale chips)

He’s just got to go.

The toast provides evidence that oscar wilde and walt whitman totally did it.

this otter has mad juggling skillz

zomg we found the perfect journal

What now suggests sucking less.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.  It’s extra cranky this week.  Also figured out why people are so down on link loves from it.  Well, we only link to things we think are worth reading and I don’t think we do quid pro quo links, or if we are, we’re doing it wrong because we’re not getting the quid part in return.

Google, Show me the way!

Q: whatto do with grampy 2 years old

A:  You allow him to grow up so that he can father your future parent.  Otherwise you will cause a rift in the space-time continuum.  Nobody wants that.  (The literature on this is pretty clear:  Do not go back in time to shoot your grandfather as a child!)

Q:  what are some odd things that contain gluten

A:  Worcestshire sauce.

Q:  am i the only person who doesn’t like mr. money mustache

A:  No!

Q:  sanitary dish rag or scrub brush

A:  The brush is the one with bristles.  The rag is a cloth.

Q:  what should u do if u wasted your food

A:  Compost it.

Q:  does a person get paid to write a guest article for a blog

A:  No, usually when the person gets paid to write the article the person is called a “contributor” or “staff writer.”  Guest articles are either free or you pay to get them posted.

Q:  what is mr moneynmustaches real,name

A:  Pete

Q:  do they pay for grad school

A:  Some of them do, some of them don’t.

Q:  how to pay off credit card fast with.minimum wage job

A:  Work lots of hours and put all your earnings towards the credit card.

Q:  why banking the unbanked

A:  There’s some thought that banking the unbanked will help them both save more and spend more because they won’t be wasting so much money on check cashing fees.  This, in turn, would help them to become less likely to need government services.  That’s the idea, anyway.

A sad update on the relatives

The babies were set to be delivered at 37 weeks, to be induced if necessary.  The smaller twin had had several scares and had forced at least one extended hospital stay.

Just before 35 weeks, she went into labor.  They rushed to the nearest big hospital, and then to the big city hospital two hours away.  The smaller twin had died.  They stopped the labor and recommended she try to keep the babies gestating a little longer.  A few days later she went into labor again and 18 hours later they were born.  The larger twin was 5lb 4oz and other than standard preemie stuff (not wanting to be touched, lungs not fully developed) was doing fine at birth.  They held a funeral service at the hospital and another back home for the smaller twin.

The other baby is now off the ventilator and feeding tube and is cuddly and should be coming home soon.

Do you ever comment on blog posts without reading the whole thing through?

Just curious…

Prepayment discounts

When I started this post a couple years ago, it was going to be talking about how awesome pre-payment discounts were.

I was going to talk about how you get 5-10% off just by paying everything in advance, but the real benefit was that you didn’t have to remember to write a check every month.  An additional benefit (for some people) was that you tended to feel a little poorer when you paid out one lump sum and that helps moderate spending.

Since then, I’ve discovered the main danger of pre-payment.

DC2’s daycare, which DC1 went to for many years, suddenly and without warning disintegrated.  A former worker emptied out the bank account prior to the electric bill or payroll being paid out.  The management handled it terribly, waiting until the lack of funds became dire and unfixable.  All but 3 daycare workers quit.  Mass exodus from the students.

We prepaid $8000 for the year.  We’re out around $4500.  The director swears she’ll get us the money back once the bank refills the account (since they weren’t supposed to let that person take the money out), but it looks exceedingly less likely that that’s going to happen.  It looks more likely that the school is going to declare bankruptcy, and people with unfilled orders come last in the repaying of debts in bankruptcy cases.

Was that worth saving 5%?  No.  We’re wishing we’d just paid monthly.  But in May when we signed up, everything still looked fine.  The school has been around for a couple of decades.  We had no reason to believe that something like this could happen, and could happen so suddenly and without warning.  We thought that if we left the school it would be because we didn’t like a teacher or something (unlikely, because they have great training and we’ve always been able to work with the director in the past), and it would at least be our choice.

We’re still prepaying DC1’s private school.  That’s a non-profit and they can fund-raise through donations.  I guess since they survived the last drama, we didn’t learn any lessons there.  Also we sort of think of that prepayment as a donation itself.

So…. bottom line, think really hard about what you would lose if the company went out of business before you take advantage of a pre-payment discount.

Have you ever been burned by pre-paying?

like a Lincoln log, but with love

We’re not sure if we’re going to survive the semester.  The blog queue is empty!  But #2 has on her calendar to craft delicious posts for you for the upcoming week. So that’s something to look forward to!

There are many posts out there making fun of the ridiculous Jonathan Franzen post because he is a hilarious buffoon of cranky white male privilege (he has everything, so it’s hard to feel sorry for him), but this one is the funniest.  We also have not had sex with Franzen.

Less is enough with the sometimes phone tips.

Dean Dad talks about what skills are important for the first job compared to later career jobs.

Penn State fines women for not disclosing their sexual habits.

Tressie MC discusses the very real danger of not signaling that you don’t fit a negative stereotype.

The non-consumer advocate asks why people are such jerks when someone rich tries to bring attention to hunger.


I like the title of this post from stirrup queens.

I’m not sure I would want to see these musicals.

I dunno, is that enough links for you?

Ask the grumpies: subsidies and obesity

Linda asks:

I saw this story about rising obesity rates and thought there must be an angle here for an economist. http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-report-obesity-rising-dramatically-in-illinois-nation-20120918,0,3401712.story Maybe I am biased, but I’m thinking that one reason the obesity rate is rising is because people are incentivized (is that the right word?) to buy processed food with a lot of fillers, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and many other bad substances because they are so cheap. Of course they are cheap because the products that are used to make them (mostly corn and soy) are highly subsidized. So, if the subsidies were diminished or removed and the costs of cheap food fillers, the product cost would go up, too, right? Then there would be a more level playing field for true costs of foods, whether they be the highly processed junk or the whole foods like vegetables, fruit, etc. If food prices rise, that would impact people’s budgets, too, but is this logical? Factual? Inquiring minds want to know! ;-)

Sorry, typing too fast…if the subsidies were diminished or removed and the cost of cheap fillers went up, the product costs would go up, too, right?

Ok, here we have some huge problems with food deserts, poverty, and, as you so rightly point out, subsidies and lobbies for stuff like HFCS.

#2 says:  There must be answers to this we can cite.

Have you seen King Corn?

#1 says:  Well, this is one where the science isn’t complete yet.  Many folks still believe that sugar is sugar, whether it comes from beets or cane or corn or apple juice or whether or not it has fancy chemical stuff done to it to make it “high fructose” instead of just regular.  However, there’s some compelling (in my mind) new research that suggests that our bodies don’t understand the calorie load of things like high fructose corn syrup, or (with a stronger research base) artificial sweeteners.  Therefore yes, it’s quite possible that these more processed things are making us fatter.  But that’s not mainstream yet and we don’t really know.

We also know that many processed foods are processed in a way to make them addictive– to get that perfect balance of sweet, salty, fatty, and crisp, so that no, you can’t eat just one.  Does that lead to over-eating?  I think it’s likely, but I don’t know that’s been proven.  (People could substitute with lower calorie intake later.)

We do know that you’re absolutely right about these cheap carbohydrates providing cheaper calorie loads.  They also are bad for folks with insulin problems because they’re digested quicker and lead to insulin spikes.  The insulin spikes then lead to weight gain and other health problems.  Are they bad for folks without insulin problems, I don’t know.  But, 10% of women have PCOS, so even with that alone, a lot of people are going to be affected by cheap simple carbohydrates.  We do know that being poor and getting your calories from simple carbs does lead to obesity.  That’s why there are a lot of obese poor people.

And absolutely, the subsidies are on grains that are not good for us.  They’re not on real veggies.  Without them corn and potatoes and bread would cost more, and healthier foods would be more likely to be grown (because there wouldn’t be a kick- back for planing the filler foods) and their costs would actually go down.  Overall food budgets would probably increase, though if we also got rid of tariffs and embargoes, it’s hard to say what the bottom line is.  Your economics logic is impeccable.

I’m sure someone has looked at the hard numbers recently, but it’s not summer so I’m not going to look them up.  I do know a guy who did his dissertation on getting rid of the sugar monopoly, so people do look at these questions and put numbers on them.  With the huge amount of funding going into obesity research, I’m sure there are plenty of numbers on what getting rid of the farm subsidies would do to obesity as well, though they’re really just guesstimates.  (Sorry for not looking them up… it has been a crazy busy semester, and sadly the only two ask the grumpies posts left require actually knowing stuff.  We have fallen down as omniscient bloggers.)

Doing math multiple ways

On gifted forums, sometimes parents complain that the teacher says the kids have to do something X way, but DC gets the right answer doing it a different way.  So why should they have to do it X way when Y way is obviously working?

It’s kind of reminiscent of the argument that elementary schools no longer need to teach math because we have calculators now.

I disagree with that sentiment.  It’s important to do math multiple different ways.  There’s value in learning a different way to get the same answer.  You get a better understanding of how numbers (and later, symbols for numbers) are put together.  That leads to more accurate math, better estimates, faster calculations even without a calculator or pencil, and a greater knowledge of the possibilities of what can be done.

Even if we have computers that can do calculus, it’s still important to know how calculus works, because you know what is possible, you have ideas about what to try for things… and that’s even ignoring that math just makes you smarter.

DC1’s school just switched from Saxon math to Chicago math, but we’re doing Singapore math at home.  I’m glad ze’s learning the traditional computational methods at school (and we practice them in hir Brainquest workbook during summer and on the weekends), but I love love love that Singapore math looks at the same things in a different way.  For example, we just hit multiplication of 2 or 3 digits by a 1 digit number.  The traditional method ze’ll learn in school (and practice in brainquest) is to start with problems that don’t require any carrying.  Probably lots of x2 and x3 simple problems (23 x 2 = ?, 12 x 3 = ?), in order to cement the idea of multiplying the ones digit and then the 10s digit (and then the 100s digit another day).  Eventually they’ll introduce the concept of carrying (23 x 4 = ?).  (Then next year, the mechanics of double digit multiplication.)

The Singapore method, instead starts with some pictures.  It says, you remember when you learned multiplication how that was like having 3 rows of 4 balls?  And 3 * 4 = 12?  Well, what if, instead of each ball being worth one, that each ball is worth 10.  So you have 3 rows of 4 (10) balls.  (In pictures this is more obvious than in words.)  They’ve done the 10 ball representation previously with place value and with skip counting and x10s, so they’ve seen this idea before multiple times.  So 3 * 40 = 12 tens, and they know that 12 tens = 120.  Then they move on to 3 * 400 with the same pictorial representation.  Finally they finish up with 6 sample problems:  5*9, 5*90, 5*900, 9*5, 9*50, 9*500.  These last problems are set up in a way such that there’s pattern matching insights there for students who are good at getting insights from pattern matching, but it isn’t forced on kids who aren’t.  (At this point DC1 asked if 50*90 = 9*500 and 5*900.)  The next day moves on to 2 and 3 digit times 1 digit without carrying, but teaches it using these insights with the distributive property (13* 2 = 10*2 + 3*2), and this is not the first time they’ve seen the distributive property either– they’ve worked a lot with it with addition.  By the time Singapore math kids get to algebra a lot of tricky algebra concepts should seem pretty obvious.

I believe there’s value to being able to do math with both of these techniques.  They each provide different insights to how numbers are put together.  They each have different numerical problems for which they are the faster and easier method of solution.  In addition, the standard US method tends to be easiest when one has a pencil handy, whereas Singapore math is often best for mental math.  It isn’t that one technique is better than the other (though I confess that Singapore is more beautiful and I can see the sneaky ways it’s introducing higher level math while working with simple numeric problems, something beautiful in itself).

Being able to use multiple methods is even more valuable, however, than the sum of being able to use two individual methods.  Because of the insight given by seeing two different ways to solve the same problem, I would argue that the value of learning a second method isn’t even multiplicative, but instead exponential (or maybe factorial…)  Each new way provides a deeper insight into the magnificent world of numbers.

And, with that pattern matching turned on… if there are multiple ways to get to the right answer in math, maybe there’s multiple ways to get to a solution in other kinds of problems too.  If everyone had that particular insight, then maybe government policy wouldn’t be quite so messed up (a long shot, perhaps).

Do you think there’s a benefit to learning different ways to get the same answer?

Don’t say no, say “Yes, but…”

Seems like this is the year (or month or something) of saying no.  We’ve been enjoying Femomhist‘s series on the topic, and have been cheering Dr. Crazy‘s new found ability to say no to unreasonable requests.

#1 is a big proponent of saying, “Yes, but…” to unreasonable requests.  Think about what you would need to make something worthwhile.  If what you would need in return is unreasonable, so much the better.

So, “Yes, I will teach an overload this semester, but I will need a course reduction in writing in the future.”  “Yes, I will allow my section to be twice as large, but I will need grading support.”  “Yes, I will be chair of the department, but only if you double my salary.”  Maybe not quite that blunt on the last one, but you get the idea.  (Ideally you phrase it in a way that makes it sound like you need the thing in order to benefit the department, “As you know, my research agenda is very important for the department’s ranking…” “As you know, it is vital that the students get feedback on their homework, and without grading support…”  “Doing a good job as chair will take up a lot of time, and I’ll need to be able to make some cuts in time-use at home, may not be able to apply for grants,…”)

Sometimes they say yes, they can get you what you need, and the unreasonable request is no longer as unreasonable.  Often they say they can’t do that and move on to their next victim.

The big benefit to this strategy is that you are no longer the first or even the second person that they ask to do these unreasonable requests.  And, by the time they get to you, they may be desperate enough that they’re willing to give compensation.

#2 notes that her requests for compensation are usually also unreasonable given the monetary restrictions in her department.  So either she gets forced into doing it anyway, or else it becomes a hard NO because the thing that would make it a YES are unavailable.  For example, my college won’t pay me enough to be chair of our department.  I would need a WHEELBARROW more money than they’re willing to give in order to even consider it.  And also, the dean got annoyed when I made it clear that’s what I wanted.  For some reason I should just do it out of the goodness of my heart, I guess?  HAIL NO.  #1 notes that this is how it is supposed to work– that hard NO isn’t really a hard no, it’s a Yes, but it’s too bad you can’t compensate appropriately for what you’re asking.  If the dean really wanted you to do it, ze would have come up with the funds.  Fortunately for you someone else had a lower asking price.

How do you react to unreasonable requests?