Obnoxious whine: I’m tired of the food options in my town

This is truly an obnoxious whine.  See, back when we lived in places with amazing food options we had no money.  Now that we have money…

I live in a small college town that has had some recent growth.  Usually in the summer a number of college student places go out of business and a number of new places move in to replace them.

This year instead of getting interesting new places, we’ve been getting places that are either literally or essentially duplicates of places we already have.  We do not need yet another cheap wood-fired pizza place in town, yet this summer we got three of them.  We do not need another crappy Thai place, but this summer a couple sprang up.  (These things seem to go in cycles– when I got here we had a bunch of great Vietnamese places and the one Thai place in town had gone out of business the year before– now all the Vietnamese places have been replaced with sushi of varying quality and we have an overabundance of mediocre Thai.)  We even got a second really mediocre poke place (I did not realize mediocre poke existed until we had some in our town– I think it’s just not the right demographics to support a decent poke place… students prefer cheap), though I suspect that now there are two they will both go out of business.

So what’s left are places that are so meh that we don’t particularly want to go there again, or good places that we’re kind of sick of.  (In the case of super fancy restaurants, only I have had the chance to have gotten sick of their menus– I was on two search committees last year and really do not need to go to the fancy restaurants in town again any time soon.  Even these are kind of repetitive in terms of menu options.)

The way work is for both of us this year, we have a lot of disposable income, but less time than usual.  It would be nice to have a list of places we wanted to try or places that we like but aren’t tired of.  But we don’t.  So we waste time trying to figure out where to eat and finally decide we might as well just make something instead.

Now, our kids would be perfectly happy if we went to the burger place once a week and our favorite pizza place once a week and the hand pulled noodle place once a week and pei wei (never mind—pei wei just shut down) once a week and so on.  But DH and I have just gotten bored of their limited menus, along with those at our favorite Chinese place and our favorite Indian place.  Over the eight years or so that we’ve had an Indian place in town, we’ve literally tried everything on the menu, most multiple times (particularly when I was pregnant with DC2 and couldn’t eat wheat).  (To be completely truthful, I suspect our kids would be happy with macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas, spaghetti with meat sauce, and grilled cheese each once a week… I don’t know what we would do for the other meals.)

It’s so easy to find new exciting things to try when we go into the city.  Heck, there are fun things at the grocery store to try in the city.  But it seems like if we want new things to try here we’re going to have to keep making them ourselves.  And that takes time.

The box delivery services remove the part of cooking that I like (picking out food) and keep the time consuming parts (chopping).  And, with the exception of purple carrot, the recipes seem pretty pedestrian.  Plus there’s all that plastic.  And the per-person cost for most places is more expensive than take-out.  (Of course, we’re tired of local take-out…)

My sister suggested getting a personal chef, but that seems expensive (most don’t post their prices online, but the ones who do it looks like ~$80/meal for four people, and their suggested menus are BORING).  Plus I really don’t want the kind where someone comes to your house because I don’t want people in my house when I need to work or relax.  Moving to the city and commuting to work on week days also seems less of a good idea than going the other direction on weekends.  But when weekends come, there’s so many chores at home that going to the city just to eat out seems like maybe not a great idea.

So I guess we’ll keep cooking, going through new recipes in cookbooks and Cook’s Country magazine.  And we’ll spend a good portion of each weekend on fancy recipes.  And the kids will complain half the week that they don’t like whatever we’ve made and will thank us fervently the other half.  DC1 had been starting to cook more this summer, but zie has way too much homework during the school year.  Since we remodeled the kitchen and got a new stovetop, DC2 is no longer tall enough to safely use the stove.  So it’s on us.

What do you do about food when you have more money than time?  Would you ever get tired of your local restaurant options?

Advertisements

Moving away from paper: I tried to get an IPAD Pro with Apple Pencil (an obnoxious post), but ended up with something reMarkable

My office is full of paper.  I don’t read scholarly articles very well unless I have a pen or pencil in hand and can write on them.  Paper is heavy.  Paper takes up space.  Paper is difficult to organize and difficult to find.

Properly labeled pdfs are easy to find!  You can put them in folders and search for them.  They alphabetize easily.

My problem has always been that the pdfs don’t have my notes on them; the paper does.

So… the phd students in my department have been taking notes with ipads and ipad pencils.  They take notes on their assigned pdfs using their ipads.  Instead of carrying a bag full of paper, they bring a slim tablet with one of these electronic pencils.  They protect their documents from theft or loss by backing their pdfs up on the cloud.  The technology is so much better than when the tablet/stylus idea first came out.

I decided I must have one.  I hope to better organize my service load and literature reviews.  I hope to better be able to carry my reading on planes without breaking my back.  (Imagine– referee reports, reading for external letters, particularly interesting conference papers, and so on.)  I’d like to have my notes in one place!

My first attempt was a total failure.  I bought the wrong size– for some reason I thought an 11 inch ipad Pro would be 8.5×11, but no, 11 is the diagonal.  So I had to send it back.

My second attempt resulted in a pencil that was amazing when it worked (it writes like a good quality smooth pen!), but customer support on the phone decided it had bluetooth problems and had to be replaced.  Fortunately we went through apple service on the last day before it had to be returned because they were going to send me a refurbished pencil without my name on it rather than a new one with my name on it.  Instead we returned it and ordered a new one with my name.

My replacement pencil also didn’t work.  Luckily one of my conference locations this summer had a genius bar nearby.  The Genius Bar determined that it was indeed something wrong with the Ipad’s bluetooth and not the pencil that was the problem.  They didn’t have any in stock, so we had to return and, in theory, buy a new one.  Thankfully this was also before the warranty ran out.

I disappointingly bought the apple recommended portfolio which has no place for the pencil– it just kind of dangles there on the side of the ipad and easily slides off.  Instead, I should have bought the otterbox (we get no kickback for this one) which is the same price as the crappy one apple makes but covers the pencil.  But, I decided instead of returning the disappointing apple portfolio, I would get a really nice case and leave the portfolio on.  So I went to Etsy and got this beautiful wool case from Germany (no kickback here either).  It is lovely and makes me feel a little guilty with how nice it is while at the same time feeling like I am middle aged and can afford to occasionally have nice things that make me look like a grownup.

I planned to do NOTHING with this ipad pro except email, google hangouts (which is how I communicate with RAs), texts (I don’t have a good reason for this, but I don’t text very many people), pdfs, editor stuff, and notes.  My vows:  I will not search the internet.  I will not play games.  I will not read novels.  I will not update the blog.  I will not do anything except treat it like a kindle that I can write on and communicate with.  It will be a work machine and nothing else.  (The reason for this is that I have a heavy addiction to DH’s ipad and I need to not succumb to temptation, which is easy for me to fall into the habit of.)  So I installed adobe reader and planed to use “notes” to take notes and safari for nothing but email, downloading pdfs, and editing duties.

While I was having problems with the ipad Pro, I sat next to a gentleman who had what looked like an oversized kindle.  He was taking notes on it with a stylus.  He was able to move around text and turn his printing into typing and just do all sorts of neat things.  At a break I asked him about it.  He said it’s a tablet from a European company named reMarkable (no kickbacks, just think this is a cool product).  It only has internet access for pdf uploads and downloads, which are done using an app on your desktop or mobile device, and for emailing your text.  It is optimized for note taking and marking up pdfs.  It handles deleting and remembering mark-ups better than the notes or adobe reader on the ipad pro (which can accidentally delete everything far too easily, and can make it difficult to delete earlier things once things have been saved once).  He told me it also functions as an e-reader for books, but doesn’t do as good a job (I have not verified).  Best of all, it’s less than $600 including the stylus, unlike the ipad Pro.  The case they sell is more like a pocket, so do not recommend, but the reMarkable doesn’t really need a case.  It is exactly what I wanted, except a little smaller.

In the end, I bought both.  I decided that I would use the iPad Pro for trips because it’s a lot lighter than my laptop and more functional than my phone.  I used it on a recent trip to read and mark-up the readings for a tenure letter I had to write and it worked well for that purpose (though after using the remarkable, Adobe Reader is a bit clunky in terms of switching between scrolling and annotating, and it would be nice if they made better use of layers to make erasing after the fact easier).  The reMarkable will be my go-to at home and work as I transition from paper to electricity.  If we were cash poor, I definitely would have returned the Apple Pencil when I returned the broken iPad Pro instead of buying a new one and just stuck with the reMarkable, which really does do everything I wanted.  If I weren’t prey to loss aversion, I might have looked into getting a slim laptop instead of the iPad Pro for more functionality after sending back the broken iPad Pro.

How do you mark things up?  Do you still use paper?  If you use electronics, what do you use?

Feeling like a jerk about money

If you will recall, DH and his family go on a family vacation each summer.

This year at the end of the trip, they talked about where to go next summer.

A first suggestion was an East Coast beach tourist destination (not Florida).

This year we paid for the house and our travel and a portion of the food.  DH’s parents mostly paid for the rest.  But the house was cheap because it just doesn’t cost much to Air BnB a house in a state capitol in the summer.  So total was something like $2,500.

East Coast tourist destinations are expensive and far away from the Midwest (except Florida, which is relatively cheap but still far away).

Another suggestion was a popular midwestern summer destination heavy on theme parks.  Some of us would fly but some of them could drive.  But the group houses there are expensive!  I don’t feel like we could foot the entire bill like we did this year, especially since we’d probably be staying longer than three nights.

Neither of DH’s siblings asked about defraying the cost of lodging this year.  We wouldn’t have let them contribute this year because it wasn’t a big deal, but if we’re talking about a more popular tourist destination, the price goes up.  BIL has a good union job with a SAHW and a house that’s bigger than ours (glassdoor suggests a salary ~$90K, but who knows).  SIL’s family makes over 100K now (she’s a teacher so her salary is public and MIL said her husband is now making more than she is with his latest raise– I am so crass!).  Of course, BIL has paid for his wife’s family to go with them on a second trip to Disney World.  SIL is financially supporting her husband’s family in many ways.  So income is not the same as disposable income.

DH had been thinking that next year they could all gather in BIL’s hometown, which is an hour or so away from SIL’s.  But it sounds like they want to do something more exciting.  Which means we have to think about how much of the cost we’re going to defray and what we’ll let DH’s parents pay.  And… I think it’s really unlikely that either DH or his parents will ask his siblings to contribute unless they decide to get separate hotel rooms instead of renting a house.  And I think it’s really unlikely that his siblings will even think of offering.

What is wrong with me that we can’t just give a gift without me expecting some gratitude or acknowledgement?  I think in this case, it really is the money.  We can handle nobody knowing or caring that we paid for a lot of this summer’s vacation and other previous summers, but once they start talking about more and more expensive places without chipping in (to be fair, DH’s parents do offer to pay for the entire thing and have paid for whatever we don’t pay for in the past, or to be more accurate, with the exception of this past year they pay and we contribute) it seems like a bit much.  We can fix that in the future by saying we can contribute X amount during the planning stage, so it’s unlikely to be a big deal going forward.  I don’t think DH’s parents would spend so much on one of these family vacations that it would jeopardize their retirement, so we shouldn’t be worrying about that possibility.

Anyhow, I feel like a jerk about money.  We do still make more than the rest of DH’s family.  If we don’t offer to contribute, DH’s parents will pay for everything.  As far as we know, they’re not in danger of running out of retirement money.  This shouldn’t be a problem.  And yet, I have to admit, I’m a bit annoyed.  But we will probably continue this way unless and until some negative change in DH’s job situation.

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?

Confused money feelings

This summer has been full of contrasting monetary feelings.

Last school year we were starting to feel pretty wealthy until we bought a car.  We have not yet completely refilled the emergency fund, but it is close.

Now this summer I’m not being paid because it is summer (disclaimer:  I will get some summer grant money, but closer to fall), so I see the check register balance (where his paycheck is deposited) going down each month instead of up.  Twice a month the balance goes up when DH gets his paycheck, but the end number is lower than it was a month prior because we spend more than his take-home pay.  So when I see that, I don’t feel rich and I start cutting back on spending or at least questioning purchases.  The Disney vacation also put a pretty big dent into our buffer, even though DH’s parents paid for Disney itself and housing.

Meanwhile DH still feels wealthy and keeps buying stuff without questioning as the household needs/wants it (things like electric toothbrushes or new ballasts for the kitchen light), and we *are* still wealthy and he doesn’t need to question about stuff like that.  But it’s weird how I have a hard time thinking about annual income instead of monthly income.

I’ve still been making myself donate to something #resist-worthy for each weekday I don’t get an action in.  If I don’t make my phonecalls or do some other real form of activism, then I have to find someplace to give $25 to.  Should that $25 feel like a real sacrifice or should it be a bagatelle?  I don’t know.

Maybe it’s good to have a 9 month salary because it causes me to reset my spending ideas each summer.  Or maybe we’re meant to be spending more (though we would seriously regret getting used to 2x my income if DH lost his job).

I don’t really know how to feel about money amounts this summer.

How are you feeling about your income/saving/spending balance right now?

How do you feel about obnoxious money posts?

I’m genuinely curious– how do the polite silent readers who want to remain anonymous or don’t want to log in feel about the obnoxious money posts?  (Also people who aren’t silent and/or don’t want to remain anonymous on this topic can chime in, as always!)

Obnoxious post: things that being rich (and high income) makes easier

As we’ve climbed up and fallen down the income distribution we’ve talked a lot about how things have changed.  Mostly they’ve been big things like not having to worry so much about stuff, being able to ignore (or being highly focused on) work pressures, being able to pay (or not) to make big problems go away, and then being able to pay (or not) even more to make problems go away.  Really, I enjoy the lack of fear, but that started at a much lower income than what we have now (though there’s definitely been diminished stress with more savings).

Here are some things that we’ve done since DH’s re-employment now that we’re high income for which I’m a bit surprised about how much I appreciate them.

  • Forgetting to get a meal receipt for a conference trip (or losing it or laundering it) is not that big a deal– I can just not submit a receipt and pay for the meal myself.  $10 or even $20 is not going to break our budget, so to speak.
  • TSA-PRE turns out to be pretty nice. I did not realize how much I would enjoy not taking my shoes off or taking my liquids bag out of my bag.  I’m sure I will feel the same way about not taking my laptop out next time.  These things are still true even when the TSA-Pre line is long.  It’s not just saving time like I’d thought but also decreasing hassle.  I put a lot of mental effort each time to getting everything out/off and back/on as quickly and efficiently as possible and now I no longer need to keep that mental space going.
  • We’re finally getting a toll-tag for the city nearest us, even though we only go about once a month and even though we mainly only would ever use the toll-roads on the way to the airport.  There are some tolls that ONLY take the electronic pass so we can’t even stop and pay taxes when we’re in a hurry (though we can get a bill later including fees for law-breaking, ask me how I know), which means we were driving on the access roads which are crowded and stop-and-go.  Now we’ll be able to hop on the toll roads and just not care about the money part because the tolls aren’t high enough to matter for us.
  • When I got to unexpectedly high shipping costs for a recent political thing (I bought a yard sign and t-shirt(!) for a state election), I just went, “meh, we can afford this” instead of taking it as a sign that I shouldn’t be purchasing.
  • We flew out my MIL to watch the kids while we were both on work trips (using miles, so no frugal-card problems there).  DH for some reason decided he had to fly out of a city that doesn’t do an airport shuttle to our town, so he has to drive his car and park it at the airport.  After looking at the kids’ schedules and my schedule, I decided to spend $130 to rent a car for MIL for three days rather than having her drop me off and pick me up at work/airport/etc.  Now I can park my car at the (local tiny) airport super early and drive myself home without anybody having to bundle DC2 into the car.  And I don’t have to worry about explaining to her how you have to start braking waaaay in advance to get my car to stop, ditto acceleration and speeding up.  My MIL demurred at the expense, but honestly, $130 is just not that big a deal for not having to worry about things.  (There were a couple cheaper car rental options, but they had one star on yelp… another thing I didn’t want her to worry about.)
  • We paid for valet parking at the restaurant where we took my sister out for her birthday instead of finding a (distant) lot that wasn’t full and walking.

I guess these come under two headings:  Things that reduce hassle for people with money and money mistakes I used to feel guilty about.

I suppose if I were Frugal Samurai I would be thinking about the things we can’t afford to do yet and using that as “proof” that we’re not rich.  (And it is true that we still couldn’t afford to buy a house in a decent school district out where he lives, even if we kept our current incomes.)  But I look at these luxuries and think wow, we can do this and it doesn’t really make a dent.  That’s amazing.  And man, you really can buy less stress, even in these little ways.  The world is set up to separate high income people from their money and to make life less pleasant for everyone else (except the current Government, which is set up to keep high income people high income while making life less pleasant for everyone else, possibly so that money can be siphoned off for private interests).  #resist

How does money make your life easier?