We bought all the things: Will I run out of ways to be obnoxious?

So over the past year or two we’ve bought two cars, renovated the kitchen, shared the expense for a new fence with our neighbor, and bought a new clothes washer.  We’ve subsidized family vacations to not-so-fancy midwestern destinations and we’re going on an anniversary trip (to Portland!) next summer.  I also bought an iPad pro and a Remarkable for quasi-work purposes (the iPad pro seems to be the winner so far for editing other people’s papers, and I’ve been good about not using it for goofing off).

Since October we’ve bought the aforementioned clothes washer, donated a TON of money to various educational causes (including $2K+ to DC2’s school, the + because they had a couple fundraisers that we donated to separately), sent money to various political causes, and I made DH buy an Apple watch because he works from home alone and it can detect falls and irregular heart-beats and notify people about them.  (Really I started the campaign to have him buy one because I thought it could detect heart attacks, but it turns out it can’t.  Still, the other health metrics seem more useful than nothing.)*  DH is buying himself a 3D printer (he’s been avidly reading gasstationwithoutpumps among other sources in anticipation), though maybe that shouldn’t count since he’s been saving up his allowance for it for a long time.  We also bought $200 worth of Scholastic books and a new tall bookcase to replace DC1’s short bookcase (hir old bookcase is going back into the hallway) for $500.  And we paid the full property taxes in one fell swoop and I transferred 10K over to Vanguard taxable.

Really only the property taxes (and technically the Vanguard transfer before it) made a dent in our savings.  This is because in October we both got a bunch of large delayed reimbursements (I think something like 9K (!) worth– did you know you can just rent an ultrasound for like $500/mo?), late summer salary, and my first paycheck on top of DH’s paychecks.  So we were super flush with cash after having a somewhat careful September and then the bills for a lot of these won’t be due until after we get paid again.

I don’t really have a point to this post, but it’s been weighing on me and I had to tell someone, and who else to tell besides the grumpy nation?  I am going crazy buying all the things, but a lot of this buying was also delayed spending.  So it feels like a lot, but maybe it isn’t because other people would have renovated that kitchen a decade ago, bought a new clothes washer the first time it broke instead of repairing it multiple times, regularly gone on vacations, and have bought a watch to replace that 20 year old Casio calculator watch a long time ago instead of just replacing bands and batteries.  (Me, I’m still rocking a 20 year old Timex that I love.  I think you can get the same model new for under $40.)  But let’s be completely honest, we’ve been spending a lot.

What I’m wondering is if after this spurt of buying things we’ve been putting off buying or thought would be nice to have if I’ll settle down again into not spending frivolously or if this is a new normal.  I can’t really think of anything else I want… I mean we’ve kind of exhausted useful Apple products.  Maybe my next big purchase will be a crown for when my third molar finishes cracking (dentist thinks no earlier than next year, but definitely in my future).  Or maybe I’ll see something new I want and just get it in my best Ariana Grande style.

Will the obnoxious posts end?  What money things will I blog about if they do?  Do you delay purchases and then spend when you’re flush or do you spend more evenly?

*Update:  it turns out our iphones are just a little bit too old for the newest Apple watch (we didn’t get the S version when we bought our phones).  So DH has to decide if he wants to get a new phone or return this watch.  And if he returns this watch, does he get an older model Apple watch or not.  He probably won’t get an older model.  My guess is we’ll either return or DH will finally upgrade phones (his is falling apart a bit and we have been thinking of passing it down to DC1 since DC1’s current dumb phone works only about half the time we need it to work, though that has its own concerns).   There was another item in the initial draft of this post that got returned as well– I bought a pair of fancy European shoes off Zappo’s, but when I got them one of the two didn’t fit and had all sorts of stitching problems(!) so I sent them back and decided I really do have to go to a store to try on expensive shoes, but there are no such stores nearby so… I’m not sure what I’m going to do for my brown dress shoes need given my half boots are really worn down in the heel.  DH is thinking an iPhone 8 (same size as his current 6) for $450 instead of an 11 for $700 or 11 Pro for $1000, so that’s almost frugal (not really).

The diminished mental load of having a lot of money: An obnoxious post

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 5TH!!!!

Back when I had just graduated from college, my former roommate and I had gotten a bill for missing furniture that we’d never gotten in the first place (our room was too small to fit an easy chair they’d tried to deliver).  I had called up and complained and gotten the charge revoked.  My roommate’s father had just paid her half.  I don’t remember the exact amount but it was definitely over $100.

At the time I did not understand how someone could just *do* that.  If nothing else, the principle of the thing.  I’ve spent most of my life keeping track of things.  Billing discrepancies, missing reimbursements, accidental overcharges.  Even though I hate calling places, I would protest mistakes or make DH protest them.

And now… I just don’t.  I don’t notice them as much and when I do notice them, if the amount is small enough and not likely to be repeated I don’t call.  I do make DH keep track of our internet bill out of principle, and I would make him do the same for the cell if Ting wasn’t such a great company, because those companies would regularly cheat us.  In fact, shortly after starting this post our internet bill went up somewhat randomly, and DH called and… they refused to budge or let DH talk to a manager or anything.  We only have two internet providers in the area (this is down from 3– the major competitor no longer provides internet, only tv) and the other option is pretty bad, so this company feels like they have a monopoly on us.  Old us would have switched out of sheer annoyance at not being allowed to talk with a manager (or at least gotten far enough along in the cancellation process that they offered us a deal).  But right now we don’t want to deal with the hassle.  Maybe this summer.  Or never.

This is a pretty new phenomenon for me… maybe half a year old, give or take.  This is the first time we have money and really nowhere to put it.  We’re not saving for a car or a house.  We’re not saving for leave or so DH can quit his job.  We have a full emergency fund.  We’re maxing our our retirement.  Our mortgage is paid off.  Our college savings are such that depending on where the kids go we might be over-saving (though fortunately with two children we can adjust after we know what DC1’s situation is going to be).  We’ve way upped our donations.  We can cash-flow the kinds of vacations we go on with DH’s family.  And our next “it would be nice”s are so far away that there just doesn’t seem to be much point– we’re not going to quit our jobs and move to a house we’ve purchased in a West Coast city any time soon because we can’t afford a house out there without high-paying jobs and we don’t have those jobs in West Coast cities.  That certainly doesn’t seem worth scrimping and saving for.

I like this diminished mental load.  I like not worrying about things.  I like being able to say, “Enh, it’s just money.”  I like being able to think, “maybe they need the money more than we do” (NOT something I think about our terrible big chain internet provider, but something I do tend to think about say, restaurants, or the piano teacher if she makes a billing mistake).  I like having a lot of money.

Don’t let people say money can’t buy happiness.  It can and it does.  Having more than enough (without going insane with stupid things because you want to keep up with the Trumps or whatever) decreases stress tremendous amounts as you go up the income ladder.  Yes, there is some point where you hit diminishing marginal returns on that de-stressing, and we’ve probably hit that point, but with every increase there’s been more and more we can just not worry about.  First the price of groceries, later the price of gas, now the price of letting small* billing mistakes go.  Not keeping track of these things is such a gift.

*Disclaimer:  I do still keep track of BIG billing mistakes, which is why I got big influx of late reimbursements in early October.

Are there things you just don’t worry about anymore because you can afford it?  What do you wish you could just ignore?

Why we didn’t open a Chase bank account to get a $1K bonus

IF YOU CAN EARLY VOTE:  GO DO IT!  (Don’t forget regular voting day is Tuesday, Nov 5th!)

Somehow the fact that DH and I are high income has been made known to credit card and bank companies.

Chase banking has been trying to get us to open an account for a couple/few years now.  Usually they’ve offered something like a $200 or maybe $300 bonus offer which we don’t even look at because it’s not worth the hassle to us.  But most recently, they sent a $1,000 welcome bonus offer.

  1.  Open a new Chase Sapphire bank account by mid-November
  2. Transfer $75K NEW money to checking/saving/J.P. Morgan investments (but not cds or retirement or 529 accounts) and hold it for 90 days

We’re not going to be switching our investments to J.P. Morgan when there’s Vanguard and plenty of other lower-cost brokers out there.

If the balance drops below $75,000, a $25/month fee will be assessed each month.

So, ideally we would drop $75K in and then remove it and close the account after the $1K deposit on day 100 or 101 (they say the deposit will occur after 90 days).  This sounds like a hassle, but for $1K we could probably deal with that hassle in a way that we wouldn’t for a mere $200.

But is it really $1K?  No– we have to be aware of the opportunity cost of money.  $75K is a lot of money and it has to come from somewhere.  Unless we’re saving for an unpaid leave, I don’t keep that much in cash (I try to keep a slush fund of $30K in my primary emergency fund which covers the summer even with slow reimbursements or potential DH job-loss).  Selling stocks would trigger tax implications in addition to requiring too much thinking (though I could theoretically undrip dividends– though those are generally quarterly so I may have missed my chance).  I can probably get $75K by temporarily moving our primary credit union emergency fund (we don’t really need that money until summer), moving money from our online high interest secondary emergency fund, closing out our Wells Fargo account (it’s useful for ATMs when traveling and for checks), and then using my next two paychecks, overdue reimbursements, and overdue summer salary.

Ok, let’s then assume that I have gathered all 75K and instead of putting it into the stock market, I decide to go with the risk free alternate option to put it in my Capital One online savings account that pays 1.90% APY (which we opened up because they gave a $200 bonus AND had a good interest rate AND we already had a capitol one credit card).  Holding onto that in my already existing Capitol One account for three months provides total interest of $356.81 according to this online calculator.  Of course, I would actually need to hold it a little longer to make a direct comparison (it takes time to transfer money, time to get the Chase match, time to close an account etc.), though probably not a full additional month (another month in that savings account would bring in $476.13 total), so it will be more than that, say $400 (which is about a third the difference between 4 months and 3 months added to 3 months).  If I were instead to look for the best online rate out there, there’s a 2.75 rate (that may or may not be real) on one of those bank rates websites.  Three months of that would provide $516.18.

How much does the Chase savings account that they want me to put $75K in earn?  .01% APY.  Which is practically nothing.  That’s even less than our Wells Fargo account.  Three months of that is $1.88.  Four months is $2.50.

And, of course, we have to pay taxes on that $1K, minimum 15%, so at least $150, making it really only $850 of free money (though any other method of earning interest will also be subject to tax).

So, yes, there’s a big one-time cash infusion for opening up one of these Chase bank accounts, but it has to be with the strategy of closing it as soon as possible because the interest rates are so extremely low and the minimum required balance to avoid fees is so high.  And it is not worth even $600 to gather together money from all those different sources (while hoping an actual emergency that can’t be cash-flowed doesn’t occur), open a bank account, deal with the paperwork and hassle and so on, then remember to close the account and deal with all the attendant hassle of doing that, and then figure out where to place the money after.  Heck, I might pay $600 to avoid all that potential stress.

Now, I’m not planning on actually putting all those reimbursements and incoming checks into a savings account, not even a fancy higher interest online savings account.  I probably should sit down sometime and figure out a long-term strategy for our money now that we’re doing all the obvious things, but I’m not sure it’s going to be any better than putting money into a broad-based index fund of one kind or another every couple months (is it time to look into munis?  Maybe?).  So until I actually figure out what we’re going to do, that’s what we’ll be doing– keeping our emergency funds full and shoveling any excess money into Vanguard taxable.  Doing so does have higher risk than a Chase savings account, even at .01% APY, but we can chance it.

How much would a bank have to give you as a bonus to make you willing to switch?

So… how to donate to DC2’s classrooms this year?

In Kindergarten and First Grade, we donated $1K anonymously to DC2’s classroom teachers for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”.  We would like to do that again this year.

The problem is that DC2 skipped second grade.  And DC2 is the *only* kid who skipped second grade.  If the third grade teachers get the same gift cards that the K and 1st grade teachers got last year and the second grade teachers don’t, it will be pretty obvious who the anonymous donor is.  And we really don’t want to seem like we’re buying favors from the school.

So here’s my crazy thought.

Give the second grade teachers the same gift cards for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”, and give the third grade teachers slightly different cards (or maybe just one card to share) with no such restrictions.  After all, DC2 is more on-level this year and they’re doing a pretty good job with differentiation in math (though there’s a very real chance that they will run out of packets for DC2 sometime after winter break, even assuming a slow-down in the rate zie is going).

Then next year, only give the unrestricted donation to the fourth grade teachers.

DH was initially confused by this idea– DC2 isn’t in the second grade class.  Why donate?  But then he decided he didn’t like the idea of it seeming like we’re bribing them for DC2 skipping a grade and has warmed up to the idea.

The alternative is to not give at all.  Or to give something less useful than cash gift cards.

What do you think?

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?

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?