How do you manage your monthly spending?

Long-time readers of the blog will know that #1 hates hates hates budgeting.  So she doesn’t do it.

While DH was employed, what I had been doing was funneling his take-home pay to checking and mine to savings.  Back when we were still paying the mortgage, I’d move 1 or 2K from savings to checking each month if the checkbook register became negative.  If I had to move more than 2K, I would re-examine our spending habits (though usually such expenditures were reimbursable and would be reimbursed).  Since we’ve finished the mortgage I haven’t been having to do any moving from savings to checking.  We pretty much just spend DH’s take-home pay each month, give or take.

(It’s actually a little more complicated than that since we funnel DH’s reimbursement checks and my freelance checks to Wells Fargo and I take most of the children’s lesson costs out of that account.  But we can ignore that oddity.  Also 529 money comes out of my take-home pay and gets pulled directly from savings.)

Of course, DH is unemployed for the full month of June, likely employed in July (but without a firm start date meaning not drawing unemployment this month, by state law), and then we don’t know what will happen after that.

We saved up for this so there’s plenty in savings.  The question is how to allocate it.

My two thoughts are to either:  1.  transfer the equivalent of DH’s former take-home pay to checking at the beginning of checking each month or 2.  only transfer the amount necessary to keep checking in the black above our minimum requirement for the bank after bills have been figured out for the previous month.

I’m leaning towards the second option so long as the amount I’m transferring is smaller than DH’s former take-home pay because I’m hoping that will decrease the amount we spend each month.  However, if it turns out we’re spending more, then I will do the first option instead and make sure we don’t have to transfer more without a really good reason.  I foresee a lot of eating down our pantry in this scenario.

I honestly can’t remember what we did the last time he was unemployed.

Sigh, once again I am reminded how the way I know we’re going to have an income setback is when I think to myself, “Gosh what are we going to do with all this money?”  The answer always comes.  Kind of like how new referee reports know when you’ve finished the last one in your queue.

But we’ll be ok.  This is why we paid off debt and have saved so much.  And it helps that I’m still driving my grad school car, we don’t really vacation, and we never did get around to renovating the kitchen.  A large emergency fund and low expenses mean that a potentially long-term unemployment spell doesn’t come with frightening money worries.  And we will still be able to buy whatever we want at the grocery store (which is how I feel rich).

Do you budget?  How do you make sure your spending doesn’t outstrip your income while still allowing for savings?


I love you (and links)

One would think that after more than a decade and a half of years in marriage and 20-odd years together that I wouldn’t be learning new things about you.

But this year I did learn something new.

One of the things you said you loved about me back when we were teenagers was how much I cared about things.  You’ve generally been calm and have tended not to pay much attention to current events.  But you liked about me that I wasn’t and I did… you said you admired that.

Generally when something has been important enough to me, I’ve been able to ask you to do something and you’ve done it.  I’ve always thought that you’d gotten out of your comfort zone in those cases because of your love for me and because I thought things were important.

But this time you’re doing more than I’ve ever asked.  I asked that you attend a university anti-hate rally, go to the women’s march, and make calls with the weekly actions from one of the lists.  You’re doing that, but so much more. You’re paying attention to the news and occasionally send me links.  You’ve volunteered for all sorts of things with the local democrats [and now indivisible].  You’re helping the local group that works with immigrants.  You’ve become a certified voter registrar.  You’ve gone so far out of your comfort zone with all this activism.  And you’re not even unemployed yet!

And I asked you why, and you said because it matters.  Because you need to do something about all the horrible things going on.  Because it’s the right thing.  Not because I think it’s the right thing, but because it is the right thing.  You don’t seem to be enjoying all of this– you’re still an introvert who dislikes politics and are much more comfortable with playing games on a virtual landscape or with the sterile world of saving lives through engineering.  But you’re doing it anyway.  Because you’re a responsible person.  A good person.

You told me this morning that you’d slept poorly because you’d had a nightmare about gunslingers and then when you woke up you kept thinking about politics and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Usually that’s me who is doing that (and usually I wake you up and you talk to me until I fall sleep again).

I don’t know what life is going to be like in a few months when this post posts.  I don’t know who our president is going to be or what kind of links will be following this post.  Right now as I type this, the news is about lies about ties to Russia as the President’s men are recusing and resigning.  Remember that?

But I do know, whatever the future holds, where ever we are this June 17th or next or any June 17th after, I am lucky to have been able to spend my life with you.  I admire you.  You are the best person I know (our children, as always, included, as they came from you).  And, as always, I love you so very much.  Thank you for sharing your life with me.

And now for some links!


Juneteenth is this weekend (technically it’s Monday, but the weekend is better for celebrating)!  Celebrate the actual end of slavery!

What can you do if your senators are Democrats?

Republican senators are unable to explain even what they are trying to fix with the AHCA.

Republican health care bill would raise insurance premiums

Russia may have actually hacked some voting.

Counter-protests last weekend

Another thread on sexism and HRC

Celebrate bureaurcracy

Stop pretending you’re not rich

#2 will live seemingly forever

Maybe I need a writing hat!

Saliva DNA and migration

I cleaned out my email inbox a bit… here’s some scholarly articles:

Ugh Uber

Manager bias decreases work output for minorities (get rid of racist managers!)

Gender diversity and performance in venture capital

The lifecycle of scholarly performance across fields

Head Start works even better when followed by better funded K-12

The presidential election was bad for health

/end scholarly articles

Modern love fairy tales

Ow, the title on this.

Get Old Man’s War for free through June 21st

This is a nice mansion

This is a cat house

Interview with Seanan McGuire

Nerd!  Also, Sweet

Ask the grumpies: Skipping K?

The frugal ecologist asks:

Our LO is in Montessori but started early so she will do the 3 years before she’d be eligible for K. (3rd year Montessori is K). I’m intrigued about having her skip a grade and start in 1st at 5. What are factors to look for about being ready to skip, any particular grade better to skip or not, etc etc?

You may want to find the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  Here’s Hoagie’s gifted talking about it.  It basically provides questions that will help you think about what’s important in terms of skipping vs. not skipping.  For example, if your family is really really into sports, then skipping isn’t as good an idea as if you’re ok with your kid not being the star athlete at school.  It’s a bit pricey and may not be useful without having taken concurrent IQ tests, so it might be worthwhile just to read up about the general ideas it covers online without actually getting a number.  (But if you want to do testing, that works too!)

It sounds like in your LO’s case, that your child will not actually be skipping K– she will be getting K at Montessori, which is pretty common (something my sister did back in the day!).  So basically you’re asking if she should do K a second time in public school after having done it at Montessori.

I would look into what K is in  your state.  If you’re on the core, then they’re going to expect more than if you’re in a state that doesn’t require K, doesn’t have full-time K, or is in one of the states that refused to go on the core.  For schools on the core, you’ll want to make sure that your LO has mastered the K skillset, which may include reading and simple arithmetic.

IIRC, you’re in a state in which K is mainly for all the kids who didn’t go to preschool to learn how to play nicely with others and reading isn’t really tackled until 1st grade.  (Though your individual school district may vary.  Definitely check the K learning objectives for your district for the year.)  Given that your child went to preschool, I would be very tempted to skip out.  Unless, of course, you’re in a situation like ours in which you want to do the dual-language option and you have to start at K.

This website discusses details and research about acceleration.  One of the things it mentions is that they recommend not skipping the year before starting at a new school.  So if your elementary school is K-4, they recommend not skipping 4th grade.  I’m not sure how big a deal this is in practice, since kids get moved around from schools because of their parents’ jobs all the time.  But maybe it matters in marginal cases.

We chose acceleration for DC1 because zie was bored and starting to act out and hir preschool had run out of materials and was suggesting that the entire next year DC1 would act as a teacher’s aide.  Zie had already mastered all the K skills (except cutting, but zie mastered cutting in the summer before K).  Our private school tested hir and suggested to us doing K and 1st concurrently.  That worked out quite well, though in retrospect, zie probably didn’t need the K at all.

So, I guess I would think about the following:

  • Was the LO in preschool?  If yes, then that aspect of K is unnecessary.  Zie knows how to line up and listen to the teacher etc.
  • Has the LO mastered the skillset that will be taught in K?  This will vary by your LO, the preschool, and the school district.  If not, then there’s less value to skipping K because there’s less chance the LO will be bored in K.
  • All that other stuff on the Iowa Acceleration scale like sports and siblings and so on.

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about grade skipping– there are plenty of reasons not to skip for most kids, but for kids who can skip, the things random “helpful” people will suggest to you are just not real concerns.  So… I would not worry about your LO’s size.  DC1 has skipped two grades and has still not been the smallest kid in hir grade in public school even though zie is of exactly average height.  People also have been pretty nice to hir– hir social experience has been very different than mine was and has been much more like my experience in my single-subject skipped math classes.  I would also not worry about drivers licenses etc.  The trend right now is for kids to put off driving until they’re much older than 16.

In general, it’s easier to start out in 1st and say you’re trying it out and then drop back to K midyear than it is to start out in K and do a mid-year skip up to 1st.

In general, I’m very pro-skipping for kids who have mastered the material prior to the year starting.  For kids who have mastered most, but not all, of the material, it is going to depend on more stuff, like how much they act out when they get bored, how quickly they can pick up what they’ve missed, and so on.

For our kids, we’re still taking it a year at a time.

Update:  Before another person posts about grade skipping being bad based on one anecdote for which they do not know the counterfactual (note:  research suggests that on average, the counterfactual would have been worse!), please read this post here.

What kind of activism does your community need?

It’s summer– if you’re one of our academic readers, you may finally have the feeling that your head is above water and you can start paying attention to the world again.  If you’re not an academic, this post still applies to you.  :)

Right now, there’s a huge groundswell of support for the resistance.  Change is finally possible.  People want to do things, aren’t sure what to do.

(There may also be some burn-out given how it seems like we’re treading water and still being dragged under.  But things would be much worse if we weren’t resisting at all.  Hang in there!)

What best to do depends on where you live… blue states often have organizations and networks.  Groups tend to know what is out there and they’ve got connections.  It’s pretty easy to join something that matches your interests and become a foot soldier for justice.

Unfortunately, even liberal cities in red states may not have these kinds of networks. Instead they may have lots of separate little groups that each do their own thing.  This ends up leading to duplication of effort, especially if, for example, the local democratic party is small and disorganized and hasn’t tried to pull things together.

There are some things that you can do in these situations that may have a big effect:

Just figuring out what the groups are and introducing them to each other can multiply the effects of what each group is doing.  Leaders can coordinate on bigger events.  They can let each other know what’s going on.  They can do better crowd-sourcing of simple things.  They can share effort.  First you need to find out what these groups *are* and how to contact them.  A more advanced step would be to invite all of the leaders to a leaders meeting so that they can meet each other and share their abilities and needs across the community.  My DH nudged the local dems to do this in our area.  My sister got together the leaders in her major city– she rented out one of the big library spaces and put out the call.  It’s possible this has already been done where you live which is great, but if my sister’s major red state (blue) city was fragmented, then yours may be too.

Another problem with some of these organizations is that they don’t realize some of the problems that they have with their systems.  For example, our local dems had no idea that they had a huge backlog of people signing up to join from their webpage back from November until DH met with the head of the dems in January or February and asked her to look into it.  Turns out their automated email system wasn’t working and they’d had no idea.  If things aren’t running smoothly, sometimes it just takes a small check to find that there’s been a technical glitch.  If you’ve tried to join a group and met with silence, it may be worth following up.  There may be other systems that could benefit from a little bit of streamlining.

Both of the above in our town resulted from a 30 min meeting DH had with the head of the local dems.

More standard things you can do (in order of how hard they seem to us):

  1. Check your voter registration.  Register to vote
  2. Get on a weekly mailing list and follow their instructions (or a subset of their instructions)
  3. Fax
  4. Call
  5. Find and visit the local groups in your city
    1. Figure out who is doing things well and join them
    2. Figure out who is doing things poorly and fix them (either via nudging or taking over small parts– nobody seems to get upset when you fix their technical problems).  Make sure if you take this step that you’re actually helping/doing the work and not just bro-splaining that people are “doing it wrong”.
    3. Connect local groups to each other
  6. Get other people to be active.  I haven’t yet figured out how to get the bros who complain (loudly, in the hallway) but do nothing to lift a single finger, but there are a lot of people out there who want to do stuff but either need a little nudging or a little direction.  Talk to folks– you might be surprised!
  7. Go to protests
  8. Become a voter registrar for your state
    1. Register voters
    2. Get other people to register voters!
  9. Call harder
  10. Write letters to the editor
  11. Figure out where your rep is going to be, be there, and say something
  12. Do a district office visit with your representatives
  13. Start your own #indivisible or #resist group
  14. Run for local office
  15. Run for state office
  16. Run for federal office

BTW, today (Wednesday) is national “Call your senators about the AHCA day”.  Here’s a link from 5calls.  If you can’t get through and would rather fax, you can do that here.

Grumpy nation– what am I missing?  What resources have you found or are you using?  What else should/could we be doing?  Suggestions for activism links?

Musings on decreased childcare costs

With DC2 going to public school right away instead of private school, we’ll be paying a lot less for childcare.  DC2 will be in the after school program, but that’s only $120/month give or take, and DC1 has aged out of that program so really it just cancels out what we had been spending on DC1.  There will also be 3 months of daycamp next summer, but that shouldn’t be much more than the cost of daycare would have been.

What to do with the extra money?

The mortgage is gone.  We’re maxing out our retirement options (except we’re not doing backdoor Roths).  We currently have no debt.  We have a healthy (one might argue bloated) cash emergency fund and a secondary emergency fund in taxable stocks.  We’re not saving for anything in particular.  DH’s job situation is highly precarious, mine is very stable.  We spend a little bit more than half our take-home pay each year now that the mortgage is gone.

Here’s some possibilities:

  • The amount we’re saving annually  is about equivalent to 1.5 months of DH’s take-home pay.  If/when he loses his job, the money can go towards regular expenses.  (He’s on break this month, but we had already saved up for June/July/August.)
  • We could up our 529 saving by another $500/month to 1K/kid/month.  (Currently ~106K in DC1’s and 38K in DC2’s.)
  • We could put it in taxable stocks.
  • We could spend it.
  • We could just let it continue accumulating in savings until we decide to do something about it.

Right now it looks like the most likely option is the one where DH’s company goes out of business and we live on my takehome pay.  Dropping to one income will be a bit easier this time around now that my salary is higher, our mortgage is gone, we have a substantial emergency fund, and nobody is going to be in private school next year.   And yet, we’re still going to be at a point where we spend about what I take home just the same as last time DH was unemployed.  How is this so?  We upped the 529 contributions, we’re fully maxed out on my retirement now, and we’ve upped our charitable contributions substantially.  DC1 is in more expensive summer camps now that zie is older and there are more interesting options.  Both kids have more lessons.  Also they eat more.  And inflation + local (mostly demographic) changes have made our regular expenses like local taxes, utilities, and grocery bills go up.

So I guess this reduced expense is good timing for us.

What have you done when a regular monthly expense (loan payments, childcare, etc.) goes away?

Link Love

The senate is trying to pass the ACHA without input from anybody– they’re hoping to put a vote up right after the CBO comes out without allowing anybody to understand what is in the bill.  It looks like they might have enough votes to do it.  Why?  Because they think they can.  They think we’re all distracted by this whole Comey thing.  They want to do the same thing that the House did and pass it without giving anyone time to understand it first.  Why?  Because it is a bad bill that will hurt Americans.  Even if you’re in a state where you know your legislators aren’t listening to you, it is important to keep contacting them to let them know that you’re paying attention.  Because the more they think they can get away with, the more that they’re going to do.  I’ll try to finish up one of the posts on more ways to activism that’s sitting in drafts, because it’s important to become active again.  Until then, read this excellent twitter thread with suggestions and links and discussion of the ACHA and explanations of what the GOP senate is trying to do.  I know it has been hard and tiring and demoralizing, believe me, I know, but it’s still incredibly important.  Let’s give it another push.  Because every little bit that we do literally saves lives down the line.

Who is human in your America?

Race and government by design

This entire thread by John Hodgman

The Iowa General Assembly cut funding to the long term care office in order to punish Kim Weaver for running against noted racist Steve King in Iowa.

JK Rowling on why “liberals” who attack women for being women are not really liberals.

You don’t get to talk about abortion unless

How sexism played a role in Trump’s election

Ariana Grande, y’all

eighteen hours

Oh yeah, that’s totally a nipple

Can men and women be friends?

Do you enjoy travel?  Why?


Chalk paint

Wish Linda from a windy city gal a happy belated birthday!

Soliciting more Ask the Grumpies!

Ask the grumpies is a feature we run almost every Friday (sometimes we post less-popular but still fascinating google questions).  You ask, we answer, or we punt and ask the grumpy nation to answer.  In any case, you get the benefit of not only our wisdom but the collective wisdom of the far wiser grumpy nation.

What questions do you have for us?  What can we bring clarity or further confusion to?  What can the grumpy nation ponder and discuss on your behalf?  Ask in the comments below or email us at grumpyrumblings at gmail dot com.