Obnoxious money: Standard tricks for saving money lead to spending money when your hourly wage/salary is high

One of the standard tricks for saving money is to calculate how many hours of work it takes to pay for the luxury you’re thinking of spending. If eating lunch out is equivalent to two hours of work at the call center, you might decide to brown-bag it instead. (I never understood why so many of my coworkers ate out while on break at our minimum wage job when I was in high school.) Here’s becoming minimalist explaining how we don’t buy things with money, we buy them with time. A related technique is to translate those dollars into something tangible, here’s us talking about the candy bar exchange rate, though as grownups you’ll probably want to use something like cars or computers or weeks of groceries.

Another standard trick is to add up how much your latte factor (which could be any small regular luxury expense, not just lattes) is costing you over the course of a year. At $5/day for 5 days/week for 50 weeks/year, a latte factor could be $1250/year. Here’s the frugal girl discussing this technique in more detail.

The problem with these techniques when you’re making obnoxious amounts of money is that they lead to more spending.  If the cost eating out can be measured in minutes of work instead of hours, then it seems silly to not eat out.  The cost of DH’s recent rabies scare hit home with him when I told him that two emergency room visits = 1 new car, but if we were making more money, even that cost wouldn’t be a big deal– the comparison might be a small fraction of a nicer car or yacht or single private airplane ride.  At a certain point $1250/year seems like nothing– why wouldn’t one spend that on small luxuries?

… so… should we be spending more?  Laura Vanderkam from a few years ago would certainly say yes.  (I don’t know what she’s selling now.)  Use that hourly wage calculation to loosen up on spending, especially if it increases productivity or diminishes stress or saves time.

Indeed, recently I got a glasses exam out-of-network (probably)… $130 for the exam.  The insurance company didn’t make things easy for LensCrafters, so after trying to login to the stupid BC/BS page and being stymied by changing my password and then finally finding my benefits on the university website I discovered I’d only be reimbursed 50% anyway, I decided SCREW IT it’s not worth it.  Even if they should have reimbursed me $65, even for the principal of the thing (which was more important to me back when I had more time), I wasn’t willing to put more time and mental energy into it.

Here’s a tweet from an econ professor:

Susan Dynarski makes $270,000.00 according to the UMichigan website (not as much as many of their other star professors!) and is in the 98% percentile of income for the US.  (I am again reminded of talking with professional colleagues whose families make about 2x Dr. Dynarski’s and how their view of what a vacation is or cleaning person’s duties are is so different from most of the upper middle class’s… when you make over 500K/year and it isn’t going to your mortgage, you have a personal assistant and you rent a chef to go with your Caribbean vacation and your cleaning person will put things away instead of refusing to clean if the house isn’t already uncluttered.  We’re not there.)  (In fairness to Prof. Dynarski, she’s a first-gen college student whose family was in the bottom income quartile growing up.  She’s not out-of-touch.  Even if the comments on that thread… economists, man.)

Is this rational?  Is this necessary?  Should people with higher wages be spending more based on these tricks?  Should we instead find our “enough” as recommended in YMoYL?

I don’t know.

What do you think?  And how do you feel about these kinds of spending tricks?

Weekend Link Love

Look, a baby!

Hey, book drive to get books by authors of color into school libraries.  A worthy cause. (We donated.)

The day this posts (Saturday) is Independent Bookstore Day.

Suggested hobbies for heroines in romance novels.  Adorable.

Gail Carriger’s reading kryptonite.

Maybe ask your doctor to check your measles titer.

This film looks quite delightful!  Apparently it’s on amazon and iTunes, though I haven’t checked.

Posted without comment:  https://crr.bc.edu/briefs/do-individuals-know-when-they-should-be-saving-for-a-spouse/

Look, sexist structures in the workplace!  Ugh.

Fascinating thread on what still life really means. https://twitter.com/Iron_Spike/status/1112219901761126400

Ask the grumpies: Blog of a female asphalt engineer?

Bonnie asks:

 I’ve been trying to find the link on your blog to another blog written by a female asphalt engineer. I’ve searched your site, as well as Google, and I can’t find it.

We have no idea.

Here’s a civil engineer:  https://www.engineerbecomesamom.com/ .

Does anybody have any ideas that would help Bonnie?

What are we reading? Mostly mixed-quality romance.

All Night Long was dark and (tw: spoiler) turned out to have child rape in it.  Not the usual Krentz/Quick/Castle fare.  Do not recommend.  (Then right after I tried When All the Girls Were Gone, which, while less graphic, is about tracking down a rapist.)  I think I’m now out of Krentz/Quick/Castle books that I can borrow online from Big City Library, though the library in the next town does have a ton more in paper that I have not yet read.  And in a few months our local library will be open again!)  The library also had an old Krentz called “Lady’s Choice” which wasn’t that bad even though it was originally published in 1989 and neither the hero nor the heroine were particularly likable.  It was kind of fun in that it turned the hero seeks out the heroine for revenge on her family trope on its head (this is not a spoiler) and it is the first book that I’ve read that starts mid-orgasm.  Probably not worth rereading though.  I also liked a trio of early Castles that have floral women’s names.  They’re set in a world that is similar to but different than the Harmony books– the key differences being that, 1st,  people with powers either have the powers or they can help someone with powers focus their talent, so it takes a pair to do anything substantially paranormal, 2nd, there are no dustbunnies.  But they’re fun nonetheless.  In other Krentz novels, Eye of the beholder was a great (non-paranormal) mystery, and I think I like the Coppersmith books enough that I will have to eventually buy them.  I wonder what it would take for Krentz to write a novella with the gay brother, Nick, as the main character, since the two sisters have gotten full novels.  And what Coppersmith family member would he eventually pair up with?  Oh man, that would be so great.  Krentz was an early romance novelist to add LGBT characters to her novels, and LGBT characters as completely normal people not sassy best friends.  (Nick, in this case is a super sexy thief with paranormal powers.  Just crying for him to pair up with some hunky Coppersmith guy.  Especially since SHE SETS THAT UP in the second, and final, book.)  Sadly she last visited this group in 2013, so it’s probably not going to happen.  :(  If I were super rich, I’d totally talk to her agent to see if I could commission one.  (Update:  I’m fairly sure he would pair up with a guy from the family that is in competition with the Coppersmiths.  Like, it’s all there, just ready to be written.)

I’ve been having trouble getting through Unfit to Print by KJ Charles because although it is high quality, it is also dark and sordid and has child prostitution (not a spoiler because that’s pretty up front), and though it’s never graphic about it it is still disturbing.  The quality of her work taking on these dark subjects is unmistakable, but I so much prefer her (equally high quality, IMO) lighter fare.  Where children aren’t getting abused and family members aren’t betraying each other.   And I guess that’s literally the definition to the plot of Any Old Diamonds, but the children are grown and the abuse is off screen and some of the betrayal is deserved unapologetic revenge betraying.  Speaking of Any Old Diamonds, it is amazingly good– extremely well-plotted (at the end, I texted #2 to tell her it was “splendid”).  You can read it as a one-off, but I think it gains something extra if you read it after reading An Unsuitable Heir, as it is set place in the same world a couple decades later.  If you’re into rereading, then I might suggest reading this one first, then reading the entire sins of the cities series (which is dark and Victorian– I like the third book best… the people in it, even the more minor characters are amazing), then rereading this one to maximize pleasure (reading the first time for the plot which is riveting, the second time to indulge).

Last night with the earl by Kelly Bowen was pretty meh, and the Grace Burrows novella at the end was But Faaaaaaaamily and magical thinking.

I deleted A rake never changes his spots by Samantha Holt.  It was ok, but not worth ever reading again.  Maybe worth a library read if you have a lot of free time and need something brainless.  I mean, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t very good either.  I’m a bit mystified by the high reviews.

Salt magic skin magic by Lee Welch was ok, I guess.  I’m really not into that particular supernatural trope, which I can’t tell you about because the book is a big mystery leading up to the unveiling of that particular trope, but I figured it out pretty early because I feel like I’ve read this book before but without a M/M romance and without the main character being a jerk.  Usually it’s a daughter in the trope.  And the mom is always dead dead dead.  (Usually there’s a “or is she” attached.)  Aside from the trope, the writing was good, one of the two leads was great, but the romance wasn’t really believable given the other dude.  There’s a long inner monologue in which the great lead thinks about how great the other guy is…how different from other aristocrats… and the things he’s saying are at odds with what’s actually shown in the book.  Maybe worth trying this author again, I dunno.

I got so many amazing books for my birthday this year!  The kids and I loved Lupin Leaps In.  There’s a lot more substance to this one than to the first Breaking Cat News compendium.  Squirrel Girl continues to be unbeatable!

A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert was wonderfully soothing.  More than worth the $2.99 it cost on Kindle.  I need to get the rest of her books now.

House of Cads by Elizabeth Kingston was fun! Part grand sophy, part farce. It has the irrepressible French woman trope but manages not to be obnoxious.

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure was pretty good.  Definitely a novella.  And I think the first aging septuagenarian F/F romance in which the couple are the main characters and not minor characters (in which one invariably the heroine’s aunt… in this case, the aunt was aunt to a horrible nephew).

I was excited to see a Cat Sebastian book in the new books section at the library!  Previously the library had been 0/(all of them) for LGBT romances.  I already own this one, of course, because I get all her books when they come out, but I’m so glad that our town has purchased at least this one.

What should I read next, Grumpeteers?

Link Love

We’ve both had weird (but different) sicknesses this week.  More on that when my DH doesn’t end up dying (at which point #1 will have a funny but extremely expensive story) and maybe after #2 figures out what ‘s going on.

Wandsci is inspiring.

Measles can destroy your immunity to other diseases

One reason it’s hard to be a woman in STEM, and what can men can do about it. (Also:  chirp, what up!)

Code switching isn’t pandering, and saying it is is a way to people who grew up having to do it “in their place”.

What to do if you are targeted by the right-wing smear machine

Alice Hamilton American Hero

The best books you’ve never heard of April 2019 (#1 can attest she has not heard of these)

Ask the grumpies: More sabbatical/faculty development leave questions

Susan asks:

I have some related questions on sabbaticals:

— How do taxes work – did you change states and file in new state? For us, home state 3%, new state 9%, yikes.
— Did you change drivers’ license? Car registration and insurance?
— Did you need to switch health insurance? I’m on a local-base HMO plan, which won’t work in new state.
— How did you find tenants? Did you rent out your house furnished? Full year lease? Utilities? Yard work? Our home area is small college town. I have landlorded a condo before, but this part is still giving me apprehension.
— Did you fully move, or send a Pod of things, or …? Did you rent a furnished place, or spend a bunch at IKEA? How did you approach that choice?
— What was your supervising plan for the year away?
— Did you pay yourself from grants? I have opted for the half pay for a year away, and have a grant that I could use. However, we’re fortunate enough that I think we can swing this without taking extra grant money, and I … feel like the grant should go to my lab, not me. I’ll need to spend some on supplies anyway.
— How did it go departmentally being away for a year, any resentment or sidelining or other professional issues?

Whether or not you have to pay taxes in the new or old state depends on a LOT of things.  First… if you *want* to pay taxes in the new state, I’m pretty sure you can.  You will also need to change your drivers license and it helps if you change your voter registration.  If you DON’T want to pay taxes in the new state (like in your situation), there’s other things that need to be true.  First, if you or your spouse are paid by an employer from your new state then you’re most likely going to have to pay new state taxes no matter what, though not necessarily on all of your income.  If you’re getting half your income from your sabbatical employer and half from your university, you might be able to only pay new state taxes on the sabbatical employer stuff.  You will have to pay taxes on any income you earn from employers in the new state even if not from your sabbatical employer.  This is going to vary though.  It helps if you stay in the new sabbatical place for less than a full year (even a day less).  It helps if you don’t change your drivers license to the new state, and you can definitely not register to vote in the new state.  For state specific stuff, (NY and CA are especially finicky states in terms of remote workers) you may need to call the state tax/franchise board (after tax season is over) to ask them your specific questions.

Laws vary on whether or not you need to change your drivers license.  One year we did, one year we didn’t.  You definitely do not need to change your car registration.  You will likely need to change your insurance, but call your insurance company to ask.  Their rules vary.  If it’s half a year you may not, if it’s almost a full year you will almost certainly need to.

I did not need to switch health insurance (both DH and I have insurance with national coverage) but it sounds like you might need to.

To find tenants, I cannot recommend sabbaticalhomes.com more highly.  You will also want to see if your university has a housing page for new and visiting faculty and post your ad there.  We rented out our house furnished for a full year, but you can also choose not to do that.  We did not pay utilities or do yardwork, though most people include yardwork in theirs.  One of my colleagues has a husband who is a real estate agent and he takes on the manager role when we go on leave for a monthly fee.  You could also get a full-time manager who only managers rentals.

The first time we did leave, we rented a fully furnished place (from sabbaticalhomes!)  The second time we did not.  We did, however, buy a bunch of used stuff from a family who was moving out of state, like basically their entire 2 br apartment worth including a bunk bed and california king.  We also picked stuff up on curbs in our neighborhood– our second leave was in a rich place where people put nice stuff out with “free” signs and we got a surprising amount of useful stuff.  We even got a piano from a friend of DH’s who lived in a neighboring town for the cost of moving it.  Another of our friends gave us all their old no-longer-used kitchen stuff which was good enough or a year.  Most people don’t go that direction though, most people pod.  We did pod back because we liked the sectional couch and a couple of the bookshelves we picked up.

For supervising, I left a senior RA at home for the year and got her permission (and a key) to use my office as her base.  She took charge of my other RAs and I kept in touch with her daily via google hangouts and via phone as necessary.  The previous time I only had one RA but she was a recent graduate and extremely good– we kept in touch via gchat and email.  A lot of people use google docs these days.  I think it’s a good idea to have daily or weekly check-ins depending on the nature of the supervision.

First leave, I had a second employer paying half my salary as a post-doc.  Second leave I had one month of summer salary from a grant I was on (not as a PI– really more of a consulting thing), but other than honoraria, that was it.  In general my grant money priorities are usually for paying subject payments/data etc. first, then RAs, then summer salary, then course buyouts.   I have yet to have enough money to buy out a class.  :(

Being away for a year is AWESOME.  You get taken off all of your service commitments and it takes them about a year to remember you’re back and the service builds up again (this year is my “oh let’s put you back on every committee” year).  If you do it every 5-6 years or longer there’s no resentment.  If you do it every 2-3 years, that can cause grumbling, especially if you generally dodge service obligations when you’re around.  At least in my experience for my department.

Otherwise:  I find it’s hard to work long hours if all I’m doing is research.  This hurts my rhythm a bit upon re-entry because I’m not used to working the long hours I have to work when I get back, so I have a bit of a research slump upon re-entry.  I’m used to having more free-time.  I don’t know how normal this is or if it’s just me.  I also never get as much done during leave as I’d hoped/planned, partly because I say yes to everything and seem to spend every week traveling somewhere.  Traveling every week is great for getting to know people across the profession, but it also hurts with making ties at the sabbatical place.  I’m not sure what the right balance is.  But I also find that the year after leave I do not want to travel ANYWHERE.

More posts from our last leave.

Grumpeteers, What advice do you have for Susan?