The Weird and Easy Hack I Use to Make Failure Fun

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I made a resolution this year to apply to one guest post and one job every week. This means I’m putting myself out there, but also means I’m getting a lot of rejection.

Rejection is hard! It hurts the self-esteem. It dampers the spirit. It can be hard to keep going when faced with so much rejection. So how do I do it?

Well, full disclaimer, I’ve only been doing this for two months. But I’m still very excited about these goals! I keep myself excited by playing a little game.

Do you know how to play football? If you don’t, basically each team has to advance across the length of the field. Each team gets four attempts (called “downs”) to advance the ball 10 yards. Generally, if the team doesn’t advance the ball 10 yards in three downs, they’ll kick/punt the ball to the other team; otherwise the opposing team gets the ball at the last place the ball was downed, which is usually advantageous to the opposing team.

Basically, I’ve made a little football game for myself to deal with rejections. I apply for three jobs and if I get three rejections, I give myself a bit of a rest. In my mind, I punt it away. If I get an acceptance along the way, I keep on trucking along! I hold that acceptance in my mind and reset the counter. It makes me feel like I’m advancing towards my goals even if the win is a little bit trivial at times.

It’s a fun, silly way not to see myself as endless rejections. Even great teams go three and out sometimes. Then they take a break, regroup and try again. It gives me a bit of grace to deal with a string of rejections but also keeps me pumped up when I succeed. I can just envision myself trucking along the field until finally, hopefully, one day, I’ll get my touchdown!

What do you think of this method for facing rejection?

S%&* Bad Advice Personal Finance Bloggers Give

Save money on hideous harem pants! Source

The beauty of getting financial advice from regular people bloggers is that you get such a breadth of experience and advice. The downside is that no one is policing these people from saying really terrible and stupid things and giving the worst personal financial advice I’ve ever seen. Look, I’ve done some stupid things to save money, but I don’t recommend those tips to anyone else. I’ve seen a lot of the advice below on different blogs and I think, hey, no one follow these, ok? Let’s not be jerks. Let’s not condone bad, stupid advice.

1. Rent out an extra room.

Who are these people that have extraneous rooms to rent out but are low on money? In any case, even if you are one of these mythical people, this is bad advice because you might not be able to find suitable people to rent out your extra room, and it might be against your lease or condo agreement to rent out on Airbnb. If you are low on money, perhaps the easiest to thing to do is rent someplace smaller instead of figuring out how to rent out extra rooms.

2. Don’t spend money on [X].

X tends to be luxury items – designer clothing, daily lattes, fancy cars, cable TV, vacations. But they might also be purchases that the person loves. Personal finance is personal. There are very few things that people buy that are universal bad ideas (except lottery tickets and scams). Personal finance shouldn’t be about giving up arbitrary things but giving up things that mean very little to you so that there’s sufficient funds for things you really care about – whatever those things are.

3. Student loan and mortgage debt is “good debt.

This was more prevalent advice before student loan debt toped $1 trillion. While student and mortgage debt may be unavoidable for some, there’s nothing desirable about having the debt.

The “good” label really refers to the moral superiority over having this debt. In terms of impact on your finances, I would venture to say that student loan debt is the very worst debt because 1) it can’t be discharged in bankruptcy; 2) is the fastest and easiest way to get into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt; 3) can’t be settled for a lower payment; and 4) you can’t return or sell the product you purchased to alleviate some of the debt.

4. Eating others’ leftovers or diving in the trash is a good way to save money.

If I literally had no money for food, I would still rather skip meals than eat out of the trash. It’s like French kissing strangers, except the stranger has been rotting in the garbage can and tastes bad.

Food prices have decreased dramatically over the decades. Food is cheap. Ramen, beans and rice, frozen veggies, eggs, pasta – you can eat a delicious dinner for less than $1/meal – why eat someone’s gross leftovers for free?

5. Save money by not tipping.

This is how you actually save money – eat at home or eat at a place where you’re not expected to tip. Don’t be a jerk to save money.

6. Get free meals by going on dates.

First there is the inherent risk that if you go out, your date will not cover the cost of dinner or may even expect you to cover the cost of it. Second, if you aren’t interested in dating this person, that’s a waste of your time. Time is more important than money. Third, you’re making the rest of womankind look bad. Some people will argue that men should pay for dates. Some people argue that everything should be split. Everyone thinks that each person should be prepared to pay for the meal.

Generally, these tips don’t save a lot of money but have the side effect of making you a terrible person and hurting others. Let’s not follow these tips because being a stingy miser that everyone hates doesn’t mean you’re good with money.

PSA: Every Woman’s Job is as Important as any Other Woman’s Job

In an article about an upcoming movie featuring gun-toting women with STEM degrees, the characters were described as “badass bitches.”  I thought, if these women were baby-toting women with sociology degrees – would they also be called badass bitches?

The main difference is that the first group of women are breaking the stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. And while that’s unique, it doesn’t make those choices better or worse than the choices to engage in more traditionally feminine activities.

Women in male-dominated fields are not better.

It makes me sad when women doing traditionally male activities are exalted. And this isn’t jealousy from me not getting enough attention. I work in a field dominated by men. I love watching football and I love biking, traditionally male activities. I also wear dresses nearly every day, love to cook and entertain and love my nephews. I don’t think my stereotypically male activities make me better, cooler or more valuable than the stereotypically female activities. That would be denigrating things that a lot of women like and, in turn, denigrating women.

The point of getting women into certain male-dominated jobs isn’t because these jobs are better – it’s because they pay more. Of course, we now know that women face a boys’ club and sexual harassment and all sorts of other problems when competing for these positions.

We also know that if women start to take over a male dominated field, the pay collapses.  It seems like women are being sold a house of cards. Work really hard in this career so you’ll get paid more, but it’ll be a difficult job where you’ll likely face a lot of sexism and harassment. When the sexism and harassment tide turns and it starts becoming easier for women to enter the field, the pay will drop.

It doesn’t make sense for women to chase male-dominated jobs. It reinforces the idea that male jobs are better, but the only reason we think they’re better is because they pay more and the only reason they pay more is because they’re male-dominated. Maybe you help a few women for a short term earn higher pay, but it would be far more fruitful in the long-term for people to respect typically female jobs.

Of course we should all support women who want to go into male-dominated fields if that’s what interests them. But it’s not inherently better for women to be in male-dominated fields.

Women in female-dominated fields are not better.

I’ve heard some women (annoying women I may add) stress that motherhood is the most important job anyone can have. Ok fine. You are entitled to your thoughts, annoying woman.

The problems with this belief are at least threefold. It’s other-ing to women who cannot or don’t want to have children or who are single. It’s other-ing to women who put their career first. It’s shaming for women who have to work and who have to hire outside help for raising their children.

There’s nothing wrong with not having children. I don’t have children and I’m fine. I know a lot of women who have fertility issues. Obviously women without children are not any less worthy of being mothers. They are excellent aunts and sisters and daughters. We need all of these roles. Being a mom isn’t the job that everyone can have or wants.

My mom stayed home for a few years when we were young but when she went back to work, her salary went to pay for our nanny. At no time did I think I was neglected by my mother or my father because I had a nanny. My parents still raised us. I will fight to the death anyone who would shame another mother for having a nanny or for having help in raising their kids.

My sister is a stay-at-home mom. That’s fine too. I will also fight to the death anyone who says that her staying at home is easy or useless. These are all perfectly good choices.

Sometimes I worry that feminism spends too much time exalting one group of women’s choices over another’s and that’s not what feminism should be about – it should be about helping every woman and man make the choices that are right for themselves. Let’s stop saying more women should do STEM or stay home or whatever. More women should be able to do whatever they want without judgment from others.

End rant.

A Noncomprehensive List of items I Buy on eBay to Save Money

eBay used to be the place where I would buy expensive items on the cheap. But eBay has grown to sell basically everything for cheap. I use it to buy anything and everything these days.

1. Items that I lose all the time. 

I’ve lost the right hand for six pairs of gloves. SIX!  Continuing to spend tons of money on buying gloves is almost literally throwing them away  So I buy gloves in bulk on eBay. Also socks, because the people who can keep their socks from disappearing are tough task masters.

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The Unexpected Childhood Lesson that Makes Frugal Living Easy

I remember my very first doll. I was 9 or some age that is quite old for a first doll. My dad had won some raffle with the booby prize of two dolls. Luckily he had two daughters. My sister, by then 12, was too old for dolls so I took both. They wore purple and green ball gowns respectively but I worried about their lack of wardrobes to get their day-to-day errands done. And so I came up with the only solution I could think of. I cut up my old clothes and glued or pinned or sewed the dolls new ones for going to work and running charity boards and exercising. I had a lot of fun designing and creating. Not having anyone teach me how to play, I figured this is how girls were supposed to play with dolls.

I told this story to my friend recently and she expressed sadness that I was forced to make my own doll clothes. She had had countless Barbies each with their own store-bought wardrobes. It  had never occurred to me that other kids’ parents bought them premade doll clothes or that dolls had full wardrobes. That seemed like the stuff of princesses in their castles.

But my friend was the normal one and I was the oddball. Our family was very used to creating our own fun.

My siblings and I were watching bowling on TV and wanted to play. My brother had collected box tops and sent away for a miniature basketball. Then we set up used 2L soda bottles as pins and bowled to our heart’s content. A decade later, my cousin bought her son a bowling set. That’s strange, I thought. Your kids can make those for themselves, you know.

Another weird thing my parents did is have vacations where we would drive to random cities. As middle class parents with three kids, we couldn’t go balls-to-the-wall every year. So while we did travel to Hawaii, Disney World, and Asia, we interspersed those trips with lesser known vacation spots like Kitty Hawk, NC, Dayton, Ohio  and Pigeon Forge, TN.

You know that annoying parent advice that “only boring people are bored?” I was never bored. I had no idea what kinds of awesome toys other kids got and though I understood how lame our vacations were, I didn’t have social media to help me gauge how incredibly lame they were. If you have no idea what the exciting options are, how can you know that you’re supposed to be bored?

I think I would have been a completely different person had I not learned to entertain myself. Entertainment is often an exercise in passivity. You go to a city that’s so exciting that it entertains you. You have so many toys that you keep playing until they let you down. But when you have limits to how entertaining the city is, how many toys you have – you have to be more creative in how you have fun.

This may have mad me more creative but it also made me more active in determining my happiness. To be fair, Disney World was way more fun than Dayton Ohio. But I also have fond memories of Dayton. I know that I could have fun everywhere.

My nephew enjoys when I make up new games. Once we played the classic Whose Line is it Anyway game where you come up with different pantomines for the same oddly shaped object. And one day we went “bowling”: I set up some random bottles of lotions and conditioner at the end of the floor and rolled a stability ball. If he ever recalls this incident, maybe he’ll think, what a strange family this is. Our family is boring. Our family is poor. But I hope he will look back at this and remember how much fun it was, even though he didn’t have a proper bowling set.

Yeah going to a bowling alley is fun but if you can have fun spending less, you can have fun doing anything.

Do you get bored?

You Can Be a Feminist and Have a Big Wedding

you can be a feminist and have a big wedding

Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

It’s wedding season – which means new brides will get inundated with personal finance advice telling them that if they spend too much money, they’re a bridezilla!

My Experience Planning a Wedding

When I thought about planning my own wedding, I was very cognizant of this judgment and of the possibility of being labeled a bridezilla. I figured I could cut out nonsense like releasing doves or hand carved ice sculptures and save a ton of money.

But two things stood in the way of having my uber-budget wedding. One, my fiance was not afraid to be called a groomzilla. He was very interested in wedding planning and would not sign off on a shoddy menu or anything less than an open bar (in his defense, I thought these were perfectly reasonable requests). Two, and most importantly, weddings are crazy expensive even if you cut the luxury items.

We were planning a wedding in a small town, in a “budget” space, with a mid-cost well-reviewed caterer serving the cheaper buffet option in the wedding shoulder season. Our wedding budget spreadsheet was filled with 0’s. I would wear an old dress and shoes. He owned a tux. No decorations. No video. No DJ/band. Invitations were emailed.

The wedding (including rehearsal dinner, bachelor/ette parties and flying relatives in) was still going to cost $30k.

Are these Numbers for Real?

I ran the numbers over and over again, sure I’d missed something. The average wedding costs $25,576, but that number is going to be skewed by the weddings of the wealthy and, you know, Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Most weddings cost less than $10,000 to feed and entertain 120 guests.  Though our guest count was higher, I was still aghast that we would be above average in our budget.

The biggest costs for a wedding are the space and the food and drink. I read every single article on the Internet about saving money on a wedding. The only ways to cut these costs were 1) having the wedding during weekdays and/or in the morning; 2) not serving alcohol or having a cash bar; and/or 3) passing costs to our guests, like having friends and family perform services for free. These were all concessions we loathed.

Perhaps even more stunning than the estimated budget was the fact that we could afford it. We didn’t have to put the wedding on credit or get help from family members. (See, we are actually frugal!).

Still, I had it ingrained in my mind that a wise person shouldn’t spend too much on her wedding. It felt frivolous. It felt almost shameful.

Why Brides are Shamed for Spending

Personal finance blogs can be the source of some great financial wisdom but also a lot of judgmental and conflicting advice. For instance, many financial bloggers espouse the idea that one should choose experiences over stuff. So it should come as no surprise that if a young couple saves money to travel the world, that’s equated with living the dream. Contrast that with  a young couple who buys all their loved ones dinner and drinks to celebrate their commitment to one another – i.e. they have a wedding. This couple is stupid and wasteful and stupid again.

A wedding is an experience – it’s not stuff. So why should the couple throwing the wedding be derided?

I have a theory that the reason that spending on weddings is viewed so negatively is because weddings are considered “feminine” activities, and thus, they’re not valued. But “feminine” activities are not inherently less important. Spending on them shouldn’t automatically be considered a waste of money.

The Hyprocrisy Over Weddings

Contrast the scorn over wedding spending to the lack of vitriol for expensive bachelor parties. Some cost $850 for each member to attend (meaning the cost of the entire party is in the thousands). Bachelor parties can be quite expensive but, unlike weddings, they don’t serve a communal purpose. And even if a man spends way too much on a bachelor party, there’s no equivalent term to bridezilla – no bachelor-zilla.

Weddings are about love, commitment, family, friends, and community. Most people would agree that these are the most important things in life. And if you have 120 guests who love you and support you and you want to (and can afford to) buy them dinner and celebrate your love, there seems to be a good argument that that’s a good use of money.

Having a wedding within your budget (and a happy marriage!) should be a couple’s main goal. You shouldn’t have to worry about being labeled a bridezilla or a bad feminist. I hope we can someday reduce some of the stigma associated with spending on weddings, because weddings can be beautiful affairs.

How a Feminist Made Peace with Having a Big Wedding

Eventually, I learned to love the idea of spending on my wedding. I mean, I wasn’t happy that everything cost so much money and if I could spend less, I would. But if that was the cost of the wedding we wanted, then we were willing to pay, I was willing to pay. Though I ultimately had to cancel my wedding, I don’t regret any of it. Our wedding was going to be a celebration and I couldn’t think of a better way to use my money than to bring my friends and family together for the ride.

So if you’re struggling with the idea of spending money on a big wedding, because it’s a gift to your family and to your community, well just know that this anonymous blogger is on your side.

Also, congratulations!

Why I Moved

I moved 4 miles and a world away.

Whenever people visit my new apartment, they ask why I moved four miles to a worse neighborhood. I explain that this apartment is cheaper and larger and closer to my office. It’s a good explanation because it sounds plausible. But I loathe moving, and I loved my old place. Further, I just hate change.

But change came for me. After almost two years of a long-distance relationship, my fiance was moving into town. We had toured some very hoity-toity apartments and picked the best one. We were planning to move in mid-August. I remember worrying a lot about the overlap with my existing lease. Those wasted days of rent! Perhaps I should have spent the time being more excited than worried.
Despite hating moving, I enjoy the preparation. I like decluttering. I like building boxes. I like packing. I had made a spreadsheet of all my possessions so that I could eliminate redundancies when we combined our stuff. These little tasks kept me distracted from the gnawing worry that my fiance still hadn’t reserved the apartment. It was -mid-July.

In late July, my fiance said he was having second thoughts about moving in together. He would move into the apartment complex that we had chosen and I should find another place. My current apartment required two months notice before moving out and they told me my apartment had already been rented out.

So I had to find a new place before my move-out date on August 14. I figured it made the most sense to rent a place near my fiance. It didn’t have to be too nice because we would move in together soon.

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Help! My Lifestyle is DEflating!

Placeholder ImageFinancial experts say one should continue to live like a grad student even after starting work to avoid lifestyle inflation. I took this advice to heart when I graduated from law school. I maintained my 18-year old car and rented a one-bedroom apartment in the ‘burbs in a 1970s-era building.  Much of my income was spent killing my student loans, nesting and building a corporate wardrobe.

Fast forward six years to today and I’m car-free and in a cheaper apartment. I still wear the corporate wardrobe I bought at the start of my career. I am typing this on the couch I bought off Craigslist for $40 when I moved into my first apartment. The money I spent on loans is largely moved toward investments.

All the while, my income has increased by 25%.

 Turns out, lifestyle deflation can creep up as easily as lifestyle inflation.

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