Where Leah’s donation went

Leah won our “most commenting of 2017″ contest .  That means she got to pick where we donated our previous month’s blog earnings to.  How much did we donate?  We topped it up so that we could give $50.

Where did she pick?  Advancement Project

According to its website:

Advancement Project works in deep partnership with organized communities of color to dismantle and reform the unjust and inequitable policies that undermine the promise of democracy through the development of community-based solutions to racial justice issues.

Here’s their charity navigator page—  looks pretty good.



Networking FTW (part 2)!! Or how to get the job you really wanted in 10 short years

(See Part 1 here)

How to get the job you’ve wanted for 10 years:

Step 1:  Graduate from graduate school.  Be a lecturer for a year and some change because the job market sucks.

Step 2:  Get a faculty position.  Occasionally meet people who work for the place you will want to work because your research overlaps with theirs.  Apply to where they work a couple times when a job looks particularly interesting since your partner still lives in Paradise and you hate being without him.  Hear nothing.

Step 3:  Decide to quit your tenured faculty position.  Decide you really want to work for this other place, but it is several states away.   Apply along with a bunch of other places in Paradise.  Fail to hear back.

Step 4:  Move to Paradise, where the place you want to work is located.

Step 5:  Apply again and again as jobs come up and never hear back.

Step 6:  Get a different job where you regularly meet with people who work at the place you want to work because that is part of your job (one of the parts you like best, solidifying your desire to work there).

Step 7:  Find out that your applications for the other place never made it through the hiring screening system for reasons that nobody understands or can tell you, but the screening is automatic and very bureaucratic.

Step 8:  Do a great job at your current job, learn new skills and research areas (including writing under review papers!) that make you more attractive at the place you’ve wanted to work for several years, and as time passes, be more convincing that you’re ok with not being tenure track just by dint of not being tenure track.

Step 9:  Realize that while you value the flexibility and academic freedom aspects of your current job, you dislike the personal assistant parts of your job and you kind of wish you were still working more in your research area as part of the job that you get paid for.

Step 10:  Apply for jobs broadly.  Get a couple interviews for places that you would have enjoyed working at probably (or at least would have enjoyed the higher salaries at), but you weren’t a slam dunk fit for.  Fail to get those jobs.

Step 11:  Get an email from someone at the place you’ve wanted to work at for 10 years asking if you or your boss have any students who might be interested in a position that has opened up that looks like an even better match for you than the jobs you’ve applied for there previously.

Step 12:  Respond, “YES!  ME!!!!”  Have a conversation with the person.  Then apply, but this position also doesn’t require the full system for various bureaucratic reasons not detailed here.  Your application does not get lost.  Ace the interview which is more like a conversation because you’ve been working directly with this person off and on for the past few years and had met her even before that.   Hear from a friend that your references have been checked.  Have your boss tell you that he’s sad to lose you.  Hear the person you interviewed with tell your boss that she now owes him.  Get the job offer.  Note the salary and benefits are both better than what you have now.  Accept.  Get paperwork.  Get a start date.  Tell your boss your last day.

Step 13:  Get a terrible terrible cold because you always get sick after deciding to quit a job.  This time it better not turn into pneumonia.

Step 14:  Document and organize everything because you want to leave your previous position in a much better place than you found it!

Congratulate #1 in the comments below!

How we bought a new car this time

This is pretty similar to a guest post we did on GRS like a decade ago.  One big difference is that it is very hard to find email addresses on dealership sites now.  Still, if you live near a city or two, even a couple of hours away, I strongly recommend using this method after you’ve decided on a car.

First:  I made a list of all the Honda dealerships in a 2.5 hour radius.  I then found the contact information page for each one.

Here’s what we emailed:

We are in the market for a 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Base Model, any trim.  We are not willing to pay extra for add-ons.

What is your walkaway price?

Usually this would start with a generic email that didn’t autopopulate asking if we were sure that we wanted a [blank].  Then we’d be invited for a test drive.  Next we’d get an email asking for a phone number or to come in for a test drive.  We’d reply that we weren’t interested in a test drive and preferred to do business via email.  And then we’d reiterate that we were looking for a walkaway price.  Enough iterations of this and someone would finally send a walkaway price.  Those started coming in:  $36,443.82; $36,771.90; $36,086; $36,059.63; $35,573.50… and a bunch in the 37K range.  Once we got the $35,573.50, we mailed back everyone who had given us a quote and asked if they could beat it.  Several dealerships offered $35,500, which we then emailed back to people as they sent in new $37K offers.  At that point everyone left converged on “we can beat $35,500 if you come in right now and talk to us in person”, at which point I went to the local dealer and said that if they could match or beat $35,500 then we’d buy from them.  After some confusion in which they thought they’d given us a walkaway price when in fact they had not, DH went to the local dealer and bought the car.

Sadly they only valued our trade-in at $1000, which was lower than the $1300 minimum that KBB suggested our car (in “fair” condition) was worth as a trade-in (it’s worth quite a bit more according to KBB as a purchase).  So DH didn’t trade in.  I’m not looking forward to selling on Cragislist, but DH says he’ll take care of it.  I suggested he add any amount he gets over 1K to his allowance.


What we decided to do with “all that extra money”

In the end, DH was a voice of reason and noted that we really don’t know how long his job is going to last (they have funding for ~2 years, but it’s touch and go after that, and the company owner is in his 70s and keeps putting off succession plans), and he would much rather have 10K in the stock market than a 10K vacation to Hawaii (or anywhere else).

That said, we did make a few changes:

  1. DH increased his allowance from $35/week to $40/week, with a 10x lump sum of that at birthdays and Christmas.  It’s been $35/week for a long time and was $30/week before that and $25/week back in graduate school, so this isn’t that big an increase.  He is looking forward to buying a new super fancy monitor.  (Work will be upgrading his computer for him, but he wants a nice monitor for gaming!)
  2. I impulse bought a $75 pair of jeans online without knowing if they will fit based on this post from anabegins.  There was a woman in the reviews who sounds like she’s the same size and shape I am who gave her size which is what tipped me into purchasing.  [Update:  They fit and are as advertised.]
  3. After we get the water filter thing figured out, in theory we will move on to replacing the counters (I want quartz that looks like marble), the stovetop (DH really wants gas), and the sink (it’s cracked, showing the iron beneath it) in the kitchen.   [Update:  My sister’s car died recently and her car shopping got me looking at cars and there’s a lot of new stuff out there so we might replace DH’s car prior to remodeling the kitchen.  We will see.  Update:  We bought a base model Clarity for $35,500– it’ll be a while before we update the kitchen!  DH wanted a new car more than a gas stove.]

Other than that, all our plans are still puttering ahead back from when DH got back from layoff.  So that means we’ve been donating more.  We’ve funded backdoor Roth IRAs.  Our 529 saving was already bumped up to $750/kid/month (previously it was $500/kid/month).  The DCs will be going to various daycamps as expected (this will be the first year for DC1 who previously had daycare!)  I’m trying to keep 50K in the Capital One savings account (currently 40k), 30K + the month’s expenses in our Credit Union [currently down to one and a half month’s expenses with the car purchase], and ~20K give or take in Wells Fargo. (I don’t mind having less in Wells Fargo, mainly I put any reimbursements or side income that comes to us in checks in there and write most of our checks under $500 from it, so the amount varies.  We need at least 2.5K in there to keep the checking free.)  Additional lumps of money will go into a taxable Vanguard broad based stock, though I’m not sure how much to build up before making a transfer.  Back in graduate school I invested when it got to 6K over what I thought we needed (I think because that’s what it took to fully fund two IRAs!).  The last time I put money in taxable stocks it was 30K because we had excess leftover from living in Paradise.  Maybe I’ll do 10K now since that’s a nice round number.


What are our long-term money goals?

  1. Make sure that we’re ok if DH loses his job.
  2. Continue maxing out our retirement.
  3. Be ready to replace one or both of our cars. [Update:  better be just one!]
  4. Be ready for smaller emergencies and expected home maintenance.
  5. Pay 100% for the kids’ colleges.
  6. (MAYBE):  Save up enough money to move to Paradise permanently(?)

We are well on our way for #1-5, but #6 seems near impossible.  We could achieve #6 with some luck and some sacrifice, and if we wanted to move there with employment, sooner makes more sense than later given age discrimination concerns.  (Though perhaps we’d be ok with age discrimination given our deep networks?)  Plus… I like my job and my colleagues and may never actually *want* to do #6.  But the future is a long time and many things can change (indeed, the location of Paradise may move given global warming, tax changes, and whatever our friends decide to do as they age and retire).

What are (some of) YOUR long-term money goals?


DH got a 10% raise and now we’re really going to have some obnoxious money posts

What do we do with all this extra money?!?!

I think we’re going to really have to sit down and think about our money goals.  The alternative is to not do that and to just put all excess money away in taxable stocks until we actually need money and then see where we stand.

We’re again at this point where we can easily buy all our needs and all of the upper-middle-class wants we ever dreamed about as lower income kids, but we can’t you know, quit our jobs and buy a house in Northern California.  We’ve paid off our house and don’t want a bigger one (or a second one).  We’re maxing out our retirement and saving at a heavy clip for the childrens’ college.  We have a hefty cash emergency fund and an even heftier secondary fund in taxable stocks.  We have yard service.  We eat out once or twice a week.  We don’t really want a cleaning person because that’s not a priority and I find it really irritating to have to pre-clean or to have to deal with cleaning people in the house when I want to be relaxing.  (I understand that truly excellent cleaning people don’t require such things, but I wouldn’t know how to find a truly excellent cleaning person.)  I don’t mind doing our laundry or loading/unloading the dishwasher.  I just bought myself a whole bunch of Cat Sebastian Kindle books, but that really wasn’t a huge expense.  I’ve also started (as of DH’s re-employment) regularly giving to charitable and political causes when they ask, usually to the tune of $25/pop, on top of our regular previous giving (mostly to educational causes).  And we’ve stopped driving to visit DH’s family and fly instead.  But all of that was before this 10% raise.

But now there’s more that we could do.  Things I’ve never really thought about doing before and maybe they’re things we should do or maybe we should just keep stockpiling money because if we didn’t want them before, maybe we don’t need them now.  (And yes, many of these are things that lots of bloggers who regularly complain about money make priorities rather than paying off their debts, so maybe we’re not thinking big enough.)  And even with all this excess money, we can’t do all of these things, only a subset.  So it isn’t obvious that the answer should be yes to any or all of these.

We could go to Hawaii!  Or Europe!  Or the Caribbean.  (But… vacations take time away from work…)

We could send the kids to fancy away summer camps.  (But they’re still pretty young.)

We could spend the summer someplace that isn’t a bazillion degrees Fahrenheit.  (But moving is a pain, especially with cats.)

We could spend the summer (or part of the summer) someplace where only Spanish is spoken and let the kids get immersed in the language.  (See above, plus I wouldn’t be able to spend time with econ colleagues.)

We could fund a scholarship for someone low income to go to private school or college.

We could remodel the kitchen and bathrooms (though actually, we could remodel the kitchen even without this raise [update:  maybe not right away—see below update]).

We could landscape the lawn to make it less thirsty.  (But… Bermuda grass…)

We could replace the roof and put in solar tiles before the roof dies (but we’ll probably wait on this until the roof is older and solar technology has improved).

We could buy a super fancy electric car or a minivan.  (This is not going to happen.  Ditto having a third child…) [Update:  the Honda Clarity that we just discovered existed is affordable after the federal tax incentive…]

We could eat out a lot more each week, or order fancy food online, or get a subscription service that doesn’t require chopping.

We could buy empty land around town and keep it empty and make sure it never has obnoxious advertising for evil political candidates posted on it.

What is missing from this list because of the limits of my imagination?


We finally got TSA-Pre

We’d been wanting TSA Pre for a while.  Where $85 once seemed like too much to pay for the privilege of keeping our shoes on and slightly shorter lines at security, with both of us traveling more and our incomes being higher, it now seems worth it.  What wasn’t worth it was trying to get an appointment.  When we were in paradise, there was an office close to us, but appointments were booked 3 months in advance, so we didn’t do it.  Where we live now, we’d have to drive into the city (1h 45 min) to get an appointment which seemed pretty ridiculous.

It turns out that most big airports have TSA-Pre walk-in sign-ups.  Last year we didn’t have our passports when we had some time to kill at a large midwestern airport.  This year, we brought our passports just in case.  As predicted, FIL got us to the airport a few hours early.  There was no line at the TSA-Pre sign-up place.  DH and I each signed up and got our fingerprints taken (now using scanning technology– no ink!).  It literally took 10 min each.  A week later we each got a letter telling us we’d been approved and giving us our confirmation numbers.  Now we just need to enter them into our existing travel plans and put them in for any new travel plans and we’re set for the next 5 years.

Children under 13 (maybe 12?) don’t need their own TSA-Pre because they’re included with the parents.  So we didn’t get them their own.  (We will probably get it for DC2 in a couple years.  Probably at the same airport.)

Do you have TSA-Pre?  Was it a hassle or super easy?