What if you run low on toilet paper? A reminder about “family cloth”

So… we aren’t doing this and haven’t done this, but the other week we were down to 8 rolls of TP and the grocery store was out and we were fairly sure everything was about to get shut down for 2 weeks (oh, how naive we were!).  While DH drove to Walgreens, where he was eventually successful, I looked up family cloth on the internet.  Just in case.

So… what is family cloth?  It’s using cloth for pee instead of using toilet paper.  There’s a lot of discussion about it on the internet, most of it negative (“rich white people wanting to feel poor” “not actually that environmentally friendly”).  Here’s a buzzfeed article.

We did use cloth wipes for pee diapers for DC2 because poor DC2 was allergic to *everything* (this is also part of why DC2 responded really well to elimination communication).  And it was fine!

So for insurance purposes I ordered a bunch of cloth wipes from amazon. I got two kinds– some soft organic baby wipes and some super cheap white terry cloth baby washclothes.  My hope is that these remain unopened and we can donate them to refugee families once this pandemic dies down.  But if not, here’s my plan:

Put a bucket and some other container (plastic bag?) in the master bathroom.  Before TP runs out at home, get DH on board with family cloth for pee.  Talk to the kids about not using huge amounts of TP (I think they’re fine on this already?  I don’t keep track, but I haven’t noticed them running out unreasonably quickly, though who knows).  Put clean cloths in the plastic bag.  Used cloths go in the bucket.  When cloths run down, wash them in bleach.  Repeat.  (If it is a true emergency, we will cut down some old t-shirt rags into additional cloths.)  Reserve paper TP for poo.

Probably we should just get a bidet attachment for the toilet, but my sensitive American rear is still squicked out by that idea.  (Update:  bidet attachments have been sold out on amazon!)

Do you have back-up plans for shortages?

Adventures in cleaning out the dryer vent

One of the things you might do around the house while working from home these next few weeks is home repair.  But be careful that you don’t get injured!  Now is not a great time to have to go to the emergency room!

We had been noticing that our dryer was taking longer and longer to get things dry.  DH thought maybe our lint tube thingy was clogged again.

Ewww lint clogged tubes

So he vacuumed all the lint areas in the dryer and then bought a snake from home depot and snaked as far as he could snake.  And some stuff came out.  But that just made things worse– he managed to complete clog the tube so no air would come out.

Unfortunately instead of doing something sensible like venting out to the side into our driveway, our dryer vent takes a long tortuous path up and sideways and up to vent in the roof.  That results in a weird little built-out above the cabinets in our utility room.  DH had to take that apart to get to the vent.  Afterwards he had to close it up and paint over it again, but the only picture I have of that has too much of him in it to be anonymous (though you might just think I’m living with a celebrity since he does have a famous look-a-like).

How stupid is this when the driveway is like right there to the right?

Sadly, even after taking this part apart, air still wasn’t going through. Nothing was working. So we did two things.  First, we took the dryer completely apart.  It was clogged and disgusting.  I don’t think this picture fully captures the cloggedness– this is like 70% packed hard dryer lint by volume.  It took effort to pull it all out.

Caked dryer innards.

A grocery bag full of lint from the dryer.

Then, nothing worked to unclog the tube.  DH tried some dumb stuff like taping a box fan in a garbage bag to it (I’m like that does not seem like it could possibly be powerful enough to do anything, but hey, you’re the engineer) and started worrying he’d created a dangerous fire hazard while I determined that if you want someone to fix this for you, you need to hire a chimney sweep company (some plumbers will do it too, but it’s mainly a chimney sweep thing), but none of the sweep companies in a 90 mile radius online serviced our county.  I left a message for one (this being a Sunday when DH tried it), but by the time they called back the next week we’d already solved the problem ourselves.

So… the second thing we tried, the one that solved the problem was buying an electric leaf blower.  Now, I HATE leaf blowers with a fiery passion and we continuously remind our lawn service that we don’t want the sidewalks blown (at least they asked this year instead of just “forgetting”).  But… we needed the clog fixed before something sparked a fire and we had loads of laundry to do!  And an electric leaf blower was probably going to be less expensive than hiring someone from the nearest city and paying time for driving out here.  (Why electric:  because we don’t want a gas motor running inside the house, the same reason we had to run a generator outside the house that time DH forgot to get our electricity turned back on over 4th of July weekend.)  Buying the leafblower was just a little more expensive than renting and saved a trip back to home depot.  It is now in our shed for the next time we need to unclog something.

The electric leaf blower was impressive.  It looked like it was snowing.  Worked like a charm in only a few minutes.

After the bulk had floated down and been captured for disposal. Some still remains on the roof.

Lint snow on our plants. In our driveway. Where it the vent could have just, you know, vented.

And… now our laundry dries in 50-60 minutes again.  Even full up.  WHEW.

Though this whole debacle did add a lot of dust to the house and DC2 and I both got hives and had to take Zyrtec until DH and DC1 vacuumed/wiped everything down.  Perhaps we should have taken the dryer apart outside and started with the electric leaf blower.

Disclaimer:  If you try this at home, please read up a lot on how best to do it and for goodness sakes, do not do anything that could get you injured.  At least not until the covid-19 vaccine is available (12-18 months from now…) and you’ve gotten it.

RBOC

  • DH’s relative’s kid got into the closest regional school!  No word on financial aid yet.  Hopefully it won’t be too bad.  We’ve decided to put off thinking about how much we’ll expect him to contribute once we see the numbers.  We can definitely cover tuition, but living expenses is double that.  Ideally we’d be able to do a dormroom, mealplan, and books on top of tuition, but that could get pricey.  I’d prefer for him not to have to take out loans, but subsidized loans are not the end of the world.
  • We are sending DC1 to a fancy out-of-state specialty camp this summer for a week.  The camp only picks up kids DC1’s age who are flying Southwest Airlines (because they won’t pick up “unaccompanied minors” and SWA allows 13 year olds to travel alone) who land/leave at specific times.  We got everything figured out, including taking SWA at Christmas and having DC1 lead us around the airports etc. … and then they changed the flight.  But, although cutting things close, it was still in the allowed time window.  Then they changed the flight home so that zie would have to change planes.  In Orlando.  There are no longer any direct flight options for the way back.  And… DC1 is 13.  We can’t do that.  Our current plan is to keep the flight there (assuming it doesn’t change again) and to cancel the flight back.  (They are allowing us to refund without penalty.)  Instead DH or I will book a r/t and DC1 will get a one-way with a different airline that does have a direct flight to the airport closer to our town so that DC1 is accompanied on the way back.  This will greatly increase the time and the cost.
  • Burt’s Bees baby shampoo changed its formula so it’s itchy just like everything else (I am not the only person to complain about this– the Target comments section is full of complaints starting around 7 months ago).  Now what am I going to do?
  • Getting another tax refund from the government that goes directly back into estimated taxes for next year and a tiny refund.  I guess this is ok with us?  It seems silly though.
  • Emergency fund is finally full again for the summer.  Since we didn’t have to pay taxes or estimated taxes I don’t need to hold on to the excess, not that there’s much excess yet, but in a couple months there may be.  Of course, it might be best to keep the excess in cash for that first bullet point come August.  I hope the financial aid information comes soon so we can plan all this out.
  • DH’s company was supposed to get a Phase 4 grant from the DOD this summer (verbal agreement, not in writing) that would pay for several years of the company, but then the guy in charge at the DOD got promoted and the project got transferred to another department and that funding is no longer likely to be forthcoming.  So now it looks like the company has full funding through the summer, but they’re going to need to secure more funding after that.  So… I guess I won’t be doing a lump to DC2’s 529 this year since we might need the cash instead.

Getting more bait in Capital One 360 savings’ bait and switch

The interest rate on my Capital One 360 money market savings account went up to like 1.8 for a while but has been steadily dropping and is now at 1.5%.  I hadn’t heard of any big interest rate cuts and I’d seen ads for higher rates with other companies, so I decided to see what’s going on.  Surprisingly, I noticed that Capital One 360 is only advertising a Premier online savings account that has an APY of 1.7%.  Which … is higher than the 1.5% we were currently getting.

So I called up the company and got a very nice customer service representative– like extremely nice and extremely knowledgeable, who explained that they no longer offer the money market account to new customers and the new account doesn’t have a debit card, but we weren’t using any sort of card with the account anyway.  Then I asked if I could switch over, and he explained how to do that and then walked me through and closed out my old account.  It took maybe 8 minutes, and much of that was because I had to close Firefox and start over in Chrome (Firefox at work needs to be updated).   All in all a simple and almost pleasant experience.

What’s not pleasant is having to keep an eye on one’s rates because they’ve decided to lure people in with high initial interest rates but then drop the interest rates after people stop paying attention while offering new customers a different product with higher rates.  That part kind of sucks (I estimate I lost at least $40 before noticing).  But… they’re paying for really high quality customer service reps, so…

Have you been the victim of a bait and switch?  How are your online savings accounts doing these days?

Rewards

Young house love has a podcast talked about how in the Hygge book, the guy who wrote the book rewarded himself with a chair.

For example, this guy who wrote the book had saved money for a new chair that he really wanted. But he waited until he published his first book to buy the chair. And so that way in buying the chair it reminds him of this accomplishment, and it feels like more than just the time I bought the chair. It’s like, “Remember when I wrote that book, and then I bought myself this chair to celebrate?”

I used to reward myself.  I’d read a part of an article for a referee report and then I’d get to watch a 4 min youtube video or read a section of a chapter of a novel.  If I got X done, I’d get to read a book.  And so on.

But… forcing myself to be productive via rewards has been harder to do lately… If there’s a reward I will just take it without actually doing the work.

I want it I got it.

I think I’ve been losing this ability since we got really comfortable with our finances and there’s really nothing reasonable that we can’t have (so long as we don’t want a house in Paradise).  I feel like no longer needing to deny myself monetarily has spilled over to other areas of my life as well.  Like, even if DH and I lost our jobs tomorrow we still wouldn’t be forced to live in a van by the river any time soon.  I’ve also been listening to my hunger a bit less… though my desire to not have to buy any new clothing helps a bit there.

Do rewards work for you?  How do you reward yourself?  If not, did they ever work?  How do you get yourself to get through unpleasant tasks?

 

Ask the grumpies: Why are firms so short-sighted?

Leah asks:

Why do so many companies make decisions based primarily on short term economics and not long-term health of the company? Is it just the stock market, or is there more going on than that?

I am sure that people really do know the answer to this one in terms of how systems and laws and so on have changed to favor short-term over long-term… and I do know that a lot of that has to do with how bonuses and CEO compensation has radically increased over time, meaning short term gambles pay off a ton more than they used to.  So some of it is the stock market, but some of it is also how compensation and tax structures have changed.  This is really outside of my knowledge area though– my knowledge basically comes from skimming paper abstracts of general interest journals and working papers.

My short answer is that even though companies are supposed to be risk neutral, and are supposed to be trying for immortality, they are run by people.  And people are short-sighted.  If the rewards are for the short term and not for the long term, then that’s the direction they’ll go.

Why I won’t take money from my parents: cw: Captain Awkward level family stuff

This post sounds crazy.  Reading it, I keep thinking that a bunch of people must be thinking, “Gee I wish I had her problems.”  Or why WON’T she just take money.  Or lots of us grow up without spending a lot, why is she complaining.  And I don’t really have any answers.  I would probably need therapy to sort through things and I’d far rather just forget than revisit.

For a long time, I had a very powerful post* in drafts about what it was like growing up with a fear of money.  Of not having money.  Of being yelled at for spending money. Of parents fighting because my mother occasionally spent money from her salary. I realize now, it was more about being controlled with money than some general money fear.  I deleted it because every time I looked at it the fear would return and I’d start to cry.  I decided… I’d rather forget.  If I’m forgetting the good stuff, maybe the bad stuff will dim with time too if I don’t keep going down those neural pathways.

My personality is such that I tend to be present and future-focused.  I don’t like dwelling on the past (unless reminiscing about DH is involved).

But sometimes I think about things.

To preface:  I need to say that my household growing up was very much like Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme, but without buy-in from the family.**  So I grew up washing dishes and hanging up laundry (women’s work) and freezing in my room above the garage in the winter because I wasn’t allowed to have my heat set above 50 even if I couldn’t sleep (I’d often sleep in my mom’s snowsuit under the covers in the winter and didn’t stop wearing a hat to bed until I was over 30) and sweltering in the summer basement because we weren’t allowed to use the air conditioning and feeling guilty about every single cent.  I’d neglect to mention class trips and pictures and so on because my mom would want me to be able to participate and I knew that would result in a screaming fight about me again.  Ugh… I need to stop or I’ll get back to that post I deleted however many years ago.  And I really do want to forget.

During graduate school, I think I’ve mentioned before, my father gifted me with some then worthless PG&E stock– it had gone bankrupt after spitting out some dividends that he had not given me.  But I had to pay taxes on the appreciated value and the dividends at the time he gifted it to me, which he hadn’t told me about, but happened before the bankruptcy.  I found out about this at tax time.  DH and I were each making 18K and our rent was 18K and he’d brought 10K of high interest college debt into the marriage.  We were scrimping and saving so much I’d lost my ability to eat meat without throwing up.  An additional few thousand dollar tax bill on stocks we couldn’t sell because they were worthless (and I didn’t know how) was hugely stressful.  Eventually I got him to give me the dividend checks to cover the tax bill.  But it wasn’t fun.  (If I’d known I’d had these stocks, I’d have sold some before they went bankrupt instead of borrowing money from my mom for a deposit and last month’s rent on our first apartment.  But I had no idea.)  My father’s name is still on the PG&E stock in addition to mine, though I’ve managed to gain control of the web-page for tax purposes.  (Also, PG&E is bankrupt again, though we were getting dividends for several years so I no longer feel complete hatred for it, I mean other than the way it kept setting California on fire so I could get those dividends).

At some point I got old enough and found out I had a matured American Century Trust fund that he’d started as a tax dodge in the 80s.  I didn’t need the money and it had dropped in value and it was a huge pain to finally get his name off of it years later.  So… we occasionally pay taxes on it when it randomly decides to sell and rebuy itself.  This used to be stressful, but now we have enough money to handle it.  I would just sell it because it’s an over-priced S&P 500 Index but I am greatly concerned about the cost-basis as well as having to pay capital gains.  My current game-plan is to leave it to our children after our death.  Prior to this, I’d earmarked it to pay for DH’s relatives’ kids’ college, but I think we’re going to be able to cash flow that unless more of their kids decide to go to 4 year schools.

And then there was a small amount of other stocks, maybe 5K of tech companies that went out of business, or a few shares of AOL that got bought and sold by a million companies over time.  Figuring out the cost-basis for these has been an occasional nightmare, but at least we got to take losses for tax purposes.

Around the time that we finished graduate school, after we’d bought a house and gotten grownup salaries, and my sister graduated college, my father offered to give us stocks up to the annual gift tax amount.  I said no.  My sister said sure.

Throughout the years, he seemed increasingly upset that we wouldn’t take his money.  I’d say we didn’t need it.  They should spend it on travel or a house in Sacramento or charity.  The one time we asked him to donate to DC1’s school on our behalf he seemed happy.  I would suggest that if he was so interested in skipping over the inheritance tax that we’d be happy to let them fill up the 529s.  But he was never interested– just wanted to give me stocks directly.

He just sent an email with a lengthy rundown of all of my sister’s investments from the gift tax each year, including how they’re invested and how much they made in the past year.  Apparently it’s over $650K now, in a variety of stocks for single companies, and can they give their usual $30K to her again?  He cc’d me.  I don’t know why.  If I’d wanted the money I guess I could have had it, but I didn’t, and we don’t need it.  We have our own money.

So much of what I’ve done with my life has been because I want to be in control of myself.  I want to be in control of my body temperature and what I eat and how I spend my time.  I want to never feel trapped.  Money is a means of control.  I don’t want to control other people and I don’t ever want other people to control me.  So… I chose a lucrative profession.  We got rid of debt.  We saved and saved and saved.  We lived below our means, but always in a way that we both had buy-in.  Yes, it was hard starting out, but we didn’t have much income either and DH was happy to get rid of those loans.

As we’ve gotten more money, we’ve loosened up.  Money stopped being a source of guilt many years ago– once we had enough of an emergency fund that a job loss wouldn’t set us back too badly.

I read that email my father cc’d me on and thought, thank God I didn’t let him give me any money.  He’s controlling the stocks.   He’s telling her what taxes she has to pay or what losses she gets to take.  He could probably take the money back if she ever displeased him.  Or if he disagreed with how she spent it, if she ever sold those stocks.  What a nightmare.

There’s many reasons that I use only index funds (other than the stocks he’s given us).  The fact that they’re less risky and less time intensive are the main reasons… but it’s also really nice to not have to worry about them going under and having to find their cost-basis.  I’m glad one of the recent previous administrations made a law that companies have to keep track of cost-basis, but that’s no help for stocks that were bought when Brown and Company was still a private entity.

So… I don’t take money from my parents, not for the noble reasons of me wanting them to enjoy the fruits of their labors.  That’s what I told myself for years.  And not just because taking money from my father has always been a huge hassle (and we always find out about it after we no longer have use for it), though that is still definitely a part of it.  But because I still associate my parents’ money with control and being yelled at and about.   The money I have access to now is mine and my husband’s.  We earned it.  We saved it.  We control it.  We can spend or save it as we like.  We built a peaceful life where money is a tool that buys goods and services but isn’t used to create guilt.

I have no questions.

*This post is much more jumbled.  And I’m sure there’s people who are thinking #firstworldproblems about this post who would have had sympathy for that post.  But I’d rather not be brave than be told I’m brave.

**To be completely fair the rest of us were allowed heat with our showers or baths, so long as we didn’t take long showers or fill up the tub too much.  Instead of quick cold showers like Jacob, my father generally only does sponge baths unless he’s at a hotel where he takes advantage and leaves a ring around the tub.  Oh lord, now I’m doing that flashback thing and getting yelled at for wasting water while washing dishes in my mind (because even though my sister and I had to wash the dishes, we had to do it his way except we could never get it exactly like he wanted).  Maybe I should delete this post too.