Being breadwinner

can be stressful

Right now #2 and I are both breadwinners of our respective family units.  In case you were wondering about #2, after her FIL died, her DH got very depressed and is taking a break from paid employment.  There’s probably a bit more than that, but it’s not my story to tell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been the sole income of the family– if you recall, DH quit his tenure-track job without anything lined up, so for a few months we weren’t sure what our income situation was going to be like until he got employed.

One of the first things I’ve noticed about being breadwinner is that I feel the need to increase my income.  Asking for raises, getting grants, taking consulting opportunities, all of these seem to be more important now than when DH is also bringing in cash.  Getting my research done and out so that I can be more attractive should we need to move takes on greater urgency.

Combined with this, I let DH take on greater responsibilities at home.  We already have a pretty egalitarian household, and when DH isn’t earning, he starts taking care of more of the daily and weekly chores, especially kitchen stuff and chauffeuring.  And I feel less guilty about him doing so.  I imagine this is how some women get shunted into home production even when things start out equivalent.  I do spend more time on our finances when I’m the only one earning, but it doesn’t make up for the time I’m no longer spending on regular chores.

I do like having DH take care of things at home, but I also like the stress of not being the only person earning money.  I think I like it best when we’re both enjoying our jobs and earning a lot of money.  I would like it least if I disliked my job but had to keep my job because mine was the only income.  My next least favorite would be being the homemaker if DH was the sole breadwinner and hated his job.  I’m not sure how I would rate hating my job vs. being a homemaker if DH was happy with his job.  I guess it might depend on how easily I could find a new job in that situation.  I suspect that I would rather have each of us make 150K than have DH make 300K with me required to make nothing.  I might prefer making 300K myself and having DH at home to either scenario though.  (Note:  I am happy to test any of these three propositions!)  Smaller dollar amounts would probably lead to different preferred combinations.

As we’ve noted before, this time we’re in a better position than last time DH stopped bringing in income.  As I look through that old post discussing what to do with finances, I am happy that we don’t have to move so much around.  There’s no mortgage to stop prepayment on.  No private school to save tuition for, no mother’s helpers to pay (though we do have summer camp and daycare throughout the summer).  No IRAs to fund (though if DH’s jobless situation continues, I will be eligible to contribute again).  And we have a nice cash cushion.  My plan is to convert this cash cushion into tax-deferred savings (by continuing to max out my 403(b) and 457, even as we dip into savings) with the thought that doing so will make us more likely to be eligible for financial aid when DC1 goes off to college.

I also don’t know how long I am going to be the breadwinner.  DH’s company is supposed to be getting back on track in July, but i’s have not yet been dotted nor t’s crossed on the contract that will put the company back to work for the next couple of years.  We can wait, as can DH’s direct boss, but much of the rest of the company cannot afford to take more than one month unpaid.  If waiting for the contract lasts too long, the company might just go under and the contract will fall through entirely.  My bread-winning this time around may end up being longer term than we had hoped.

Have you ever been the sole breadwinner of a multiple-person household?  How do things change?  Do you feel stressed?  Do you have a family income combination that you prefer (breadwinner/homemaker/dual-income, etc)?

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DH and the kids are going on a real vacation

sort of…

We do a lot of traveling, mostly for work, which means we haven’t really been on any vacations that aren’t connected with a conference or someone getting married.  Almost all of our vacation time is spent in DH’s home town (population ~3K and falling) at the grandparents’ because DH needs to see his extended family at least once a year or he starts getting maudlin and depressed.  So essentially everywhere we’ve been, someone else is paying for our housing and often part of our meals or some of our travel.  Or there’s been a wedding.*  When we’re low on cash, we spend a day and another one back driving to get to DH’s home town (it is a very long day).  When we’re flush with cash or miles or rates are especially low, we will fly instead which cuts the time spent traveling by about 2/3.

This year DH’s parents are both retired so we’re going to try something different.  Not, you know, too different.  But still a little different.

Last year, DH’s brother’s company transferred him and he ended up moving near DH’s sister.  So last summer DH’s parents rented a couple of cabins in a state park near the town DH’s siblings live in and they spent a few days there as an extended family.  This year, DH wants to join them with the kids.  So after some discussion (and realizing that everybody in the world wants to visit peak tourist places like Yellowstone during peak tourist season which drives the prices way up), they decided to go to the same place as last year and DH and the kids will fly in to the nearest big city, rent a car, and drive down to the cabins.  After a few days there, they’ll spend a night in the city and fly home.  (Me, I will be staying home getting work done because I have to go to TWO conferences the next week.  :/ )

It’s like a real vacation!

When this was initially discussed, we talked about splitting the costs for the cabins, since DH would be adding an additional family and we want to subsidize his less-flush siblings.  Plus we’d just found out that DH would indeed be working in April and May so we were going to have more money than we’d anticipated.  AND DH’s dad is retiring and his parents are going to have to start budgeting again for the first time, so there’s no need for them to shoulder the entire expense.  But DH’s mom is being difficult about it (we finally got a “we’ll talk about it later” from her) so we’re going to have to figure some way to pay/subsidize.  Maybe we’ll pay for the hotel the night in the city and DH can pay for food purchases if she won’t let us write a check to her for half the cabins.

With some research, it looks like they’ll be paying $450/night (plus tax) for 3 nights = $1350 for the cabins.  We’re going to try to pay half of that:  $675

Airfare for DH and two kids came out to= $937 (We don’t have enough miles on the right airlines to make it worth while to use miles for this trip.)

Then there will be one night in a big city (estimated) = $250/room (if we go for near the touristy stuff rather than near the airport– airport hotels are closer to $150/room)

Car rental + gas for us (estimated) = $350 (though we may find a better deal closer to the time)

Food (estimated– a total guess because who knows) = $200

So total cost (not including incidentals):  $2,182

Which seems like a lot of money for 5 days for 3 people, but also not a lot of money for a vacation compared to what we see when people go fancier places than a Midwestern state park.  (Going on a weekend would have cost double the cabin fee!)

 

*We honeymooned in beautiful London… Ontario (the one in Canada).  Which is kind of like honeymooning in Ann Arbor if you could daytrip to Niagra Falls from there.  We did not have a lot of money.

What do you do for vacations?  How often do you go on them?

Thoughts on the children’s Xmas haul this year

  • Our brothers and sisters in law spent less on our kids this year than in previous years.  This is a good thing.  Maybe next year we’ll also spend less on them (we spent about $50/kid, mostly on books), but probably not because I love picking out and buying books.
  • We spent Christmas at the in-laws’ this year, which means we opened presents there.  MIL is going to end up spending a ton to send the presents home.  I don’t really know of any way to suggest just letting amazon send the bigger stuff directly to us so she doesn’t have to do that.  But also she probably likes watching everybody open gifts.  And presumably she doesn’t want cousins to feel like they’re being treated differently.  But there are so many gifts that I’m not sure anybody notices.
  • DC1 got a Nintendo DS.  And since DH had mentioned earlier that it was probably too expensive for hir to take to school given the number of times DC1 has lost hir cheap flip-phone (that thankfully nobody wants to steal, so it has been recovered each time thus far), DC1 also got a Kindle Fire.
  • The problem of DC2 getting the same gifts as hir slightly older same-gendered cousin is getting worse.  And we couldn’t just confiscate those gifts either (for the most part) because DC2 saw them at Christmas and MIL is planning on taking them out of the packaging before sending.  Putting on the wish list what DC2 was into in general terms didn’t help much.  Zie got some stuff related to that, but still got lots of stuff zie isn’t interested in that hir cousin likes.  Nor did it help to say explicitly on the amazon list that DC2 wants what DC1 gets (though my mom paid attention to that and got both of them rubix cubes!)  One of the items was so bad that I actually did take it to MIL and tell her we couldn’t accept it– it had crossed a line (I didn’t say it like that though, it was more like could you give this to hir cousin, we don’t really approve of this show).  I know it’s easier to keep things even across grandkids if she’s getting the same stuff for them, but maybe she could match hir up with the opposite-gendered kid who is about the same age instead of the older same-gendered kid?
  • So we’re still struggling with what to do about our in-laws bounty, particularly for DC2.  They still get DC1 really cool stuff even if they’re over-generous (mostly things that hir somewhat younger cousin already owns and loves).  They did get some of the things off the amazon list for the children, but in the end my mom ended up buying most of it just before Christmas.  And that stuff, along with the stuff we got hir, has gotten a lot more playtime out of it.  DC2 just really isn’t into the same things hir same-gender older cousin is into.
  • One thing that did happen that I’m embarrassed about… I was talking to BIL about presents, I can’t remember what about exactly, as we were going up the stairs, but I mentioned that DC2 seemed to get the same stuff as his kid, and he said, “that’s good because they like the same stuff” and I was all, “well, not really, DC2 is really into what DC1 is into.”  At which point we turned the corner and saw my MIL.  So, uh, maybe this will resolve itself?
  • Why can’t the cousin be as into Bubble Guppies (and other gender-neutral stuff) as DC2 is?
  • Sometimes getting the same gendered stuff for both cousins works… DH’s sister got them both a gendered-craft kit that they both loved and spent many hours working on.
  • DC1 may have gotten all the cousins addicted to Batman.

What are we getting people for Christmas?

It’s that time of year again…

For my sister I got a lipstick-sized USB battery and universal USB cable.  I’ve gotten these (but different brands) at two conferences and they are just so incredibly useful.  I don’t know why they don’t come as a combined set on amazon, but after some poking around I was able to pick out a cable that looks decent, although it has a couple more connectors than she probably actually needs.  The smaller sets of connectors got worse quality reviews with the iphone connector stopping working.  Also per her request, I got her the Hamilton cd.  DC1 made a glass sushi plate at camp this summer for her as well, and I assume DC2 will give her some art.  DC2 has been doing a lot of art lately.

We got my mom a kindle last year so this year I sent her the brothers sinister  box set, a steal at $10.  Even though there’s very little murder mystery in it, I think everybody enjoys the series.  Except the first novella (A governess affair) which, sadly, isn’t as good as the rest of the series.  And a $75 gift certificate to the regional bookstore chain in her area.

My father we are getting a fancy black cherry balsamic vinegar.

FIL:  $75 gift certificate to Cabela’s as per usual.  I suspect DH gets his joy of the shopping process from his dad.

MIL:  A picture frame engraved with the names of all six(!) grandchildren.  The last time she had professional group pictures done, there were only 4, though the fifth was on the way.  We will be getting a full family photo done when we visit this year.

BIL1:  DH picked out a video game to play, Titanfall 2, and picked it up at a holiday sale for $35.

SIL1:  SIL1 thankfully populates her amazon wishlist on a regular basis.  She seems to want to become a fiction writer, so I’m torn with getting her books about writing from her list vs. novels from her list.  Usually she’s got a bunch of novels on the list that I’ve already read and enjoyed so it’s easy to get her more, but this time around she seems to have gone heavy on Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs, so it’s not as tempting.  I’m tempted by this adorable electric tea kettle.  But I’m going to wait to see what other people buy and if she adds anything I find more interesting as the season progresses (update:  She added the first Incryptid novel!  So I got that and also Rat Queens Volume 1).

Since Tegu blocks were so popular with our kids last year, we’re getting a set for the cousins.  We’ll also be getting some A-Z mysteries for the older child and the princess cookbook for the younger (it has surprisingly good recipes).

SIL2 and BIL2:  They make the least amount of money of DH’s siblings and they just bought a house.  We’re guessing that the lack of amazon wishlist updating is a hint that they’d be happy with money.  (Even if they just spend the amount of the check on obligatory gift giving to us.)  We did send them a house-warming check after they bought the house just as we did when BIL1 and SIL1 bought their first house, because there’s always unanticipated expenses right after purchasing and got a nice thank you card back.

The IL2’s kids are a little more difficult.  I like getting them books, but there isn’t anything right now that my own DC2 is really into which is how we usually decide what to send their oldest (who is just a little younger).  Maybe some easy readers like Hot Dog and Cat Traps and Too many dogs.  These Tug the Pup books are pretty good for early readers too.  For the younger child it’s a bit more difficult because we already gave them a lot of board books with the first child and we can’t quite remember what.  So I think we already gave a bunch of Sandra Boyntons and Dear Zoo and Where is baby’s belly button.  I’ll have to think harder on this.  I wonder if we gave them chicka chicka boom boom

Despite DH’s relative getting a new job right away, we will probably send him a check, but for $50 instead of, say, $500 [update:  DH says $100].

Target gift-cards for all the daycare ladies at daycare, probably $20/each.  And I think a gift card for $50 to half-price books for the school.  Even if we’re retrenching otherwise, it’s still important to be generous to others.

What are you getting for people this year?

Long-distance book and bonding club

My mother-in-law texted me that she loves me and misses me.  We both love to read, so she suggested that the two of us have a book club!  We could each read the same book and discuss it once a month.  I said that it would have to incorporate drinking wine, as that is a key feature of book club.  We agreed that we will both drink (possibly the same) wine while discussing.

We’re in different time zones, but we both have MLK day and Presidents’ Day off, so those will be our first two meetings.  Yay day-drinking for the two of us lightweights!  Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere, including possibly in one of our time zones.  Time is TBA.  The first book will be The Library at Mount Char.  She recently loved it and I’ve been wanting to read it, so we’ll discuss that in mid-January.  I’ve heard only great things about it.

I’ll update and let you know how it went!  She really is the sweetest.

 

Should parents help out kids equally?

Occasionally one of us will flip to the Mr. Money Moustache Forum and poke around while procrastinating.  This thread on whether or not parents should help kids out equally was really thought provoking.

DH’s mom is excruciatingly fair when it comes to doling out presents.  This means that our kids get a TON of stuff from his parents even though we don’t really need it because DH’s siblings are in much worse financial shape than we are (and also live close to DH’s parents so they can see what the kids need).  It was especially bad the year DH’s then-unemployed brother and SAHM wife were living in his parents’ basement.  We don’t really have a choice in the matter, and, since they focus on the kids, we don’t really feel like it’s our place to suggest they cut back (or put the money towards a 529 etc.).  It is, after all, their money, and they’re giving it to the kids, not to us.

My father is much more like Jacob from ERE than like Mr. Money Moustache in terms of spending, infrequent cold showers and all.  That means over the years my parents’ small nest-egg has grown enormously.   I don’t know how much, but I do know my father is concerned about avoiding inheritance taxes and wants to give up to the gift limit every year.

With the exception of when DC1’s school was about to go under (and he donated a considerable sum to it on our behalf), I have told him no.  I do not want their money.  I want them to SPEND it, or failing that, give it to charity.  I want them to move some place nice after my mom stops working and just enjoy life, even if it costs more to live there than it does in my small college town home town in the Midwest.  They’ve taken me up on the giving to charity bit and have set up a number of local scholarships for graduating high schoolers to go to college or for the library to reward customer service or to keep the paper version of the stock books he loves to spend hours going through to do value added investing.  (He says he needs to consolidate everything to index funds, but he keeps not doing it.  If he ever dies, the estate is going to be a nightmare to unravel.)

My sister, on the other hand, does not mind accepting their money.  So she does.  Neither of us needs the money.  It just gets put away and saved (or rather, it stays in whatever complicated 1980s mutual fund or single stock it was originally invested in because having to deal with selling it is a pain in the rear, which may be part of the reason I’d rather they just give the money to charity(!)).

It doesn’t bother me.  It’s their money.  (Though to be honest, a little bit of me worries about the extreme cost of assisted living expenses and wonders if it might be a wise idea to accept that money and put it in a “for parents’ assisted living expenses” account in case they’ve underestimated their health costs in old age.  I know there’s Medicaid for nursing homes after the money runs out, but I also know that $ buys higher quality care.  They don’t have long-term care insurance and my father is too old to get a policy.)

In terms of fairness for college– they paid for both of us, room, board and supplies.  My sister’s college cost substantially more than mine did, but a portion of that is that I got a lot more need-based financial aid because they were wealthier when my sister went to school than when I did.  Should she be penalized or I be rewarded for the stock market doing well or my mom taking on a temporary administrative position?  (They did give my sister more spending money than they gave me– I had to work for my spending money, but that probably didn’t add up to much and she did take on a heavier class-load and more hard-core extra-curriculars than I did.)

We used the same ancient Oldsmobile to learn to drive on.  Then my parents gave me a no-frills (as in 2-door, manual, no a/c) new Hyundai Accent as a college graduation present that my sister drove the two years (and seriously dented) because I couldn’t afford to pay for car insurance while in graduate school.  They gave her her own no frills new Accent when she went away to college, but she also went to school in driving distance of home whereas I went half a country away.  She paid for her own new car post-graduation (one with a/c!), the same  year we moved to our real jobs and bought our own new cars for ourselves.

They paid for my wedding (~3K, though 1K of that was alcohol my father insisted on providing)– it was either that or there was not going to be a wedding because DH and I had no money just out of college.  My sister doesn’t have a boyfriend, and when/if she does get married it will likely be much fancier than mine was.  I do not know what my parents will do if she does settle down.  And I won’t mind whatever happens.

I suspect though, it might bother me if they hadn’t offered both of us the same deal.  We’ve both been offered stock transfers (though after I said no the second time, they stopped offering).  We were both told that college would be paid for us– not that we’d get the same amount of money, but that we could each go to whatever college we wanted (the reward my mother negotiated with my father for her to go along with his frugality-to-the-extreme ways).  We both got new cars, even the same type, though at different times in our lives.  So the offers seem fair, and we’ve been allowed to react to them in ways that seem fair.  That choice means that if there’s any favoritism going on, it isn’t going on through money channels.  And that seems like a good thing.

I suspect DH and I would not mind if his parents showered a little less on us, but in this case we are so much better off than his entire family that it really feels like the money should be flowing in the other direction.  And maybe it will, some day.  Until then, we accept their generosity and save the money we would have spent on clothing and toys.  We’re pretty sure his parents can afford what they’re doing, but at the cost of working longer than they might otherwise have.  Still, while I wouldn’t say they enjoy working, they do get value out of work, so perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.  If it turns out they miscalculated, we will have savings to spare.

What are your thoughts on financial assistance to individual kids when there are multiple children?  If you have siblings, do you think your parents treat(ed) you fairly?  If you have kids, do you have a philosophy for financial assistance?

You are my center

You make me grounded.

I can have had the worst day at work, the worst luck, the ickiest tummy ache.  And you’ll hug me, and I’ll feel your warm arms around me.  And for a moment, everything will be ok.

You are my comfort.  You are my hero.

I never want to imagine life without you.  Everything will always be ok, no matter what, so long as I have you and the children.  So long as we have each other.

I love you so much.

15 years today!  And hopefully for decades to come.