How we are Using our Misc Money


As you know, we are going hardcore on a tight budget for the next few months as we work toward living on last month’s income and a July payoff date for consumer debt.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some fun planned.  If you will recall, we played hooky from life last May to attend the twin’s homeschool prom and enjoy a mini-vacation at Great Wolf Lodge here locally.  As we as a family discussed what the new budget would mean over the next few months and then on past the July date, we were all very clear that we wanted to attend this event again.  But we were all aware that we would need to plan for it ahead of time to stick to our budget and be able to do all the things we want to do.

So we’ve taken a vote and all the budget Misc money for April and May will go to that event, primarily the cost of the hotel, extra food and dog care.  The twins have already purchased their tickets with their own money – proud mama here.    I was able to reserve the room and pay for the first night with the remaining monies from the Kid’s Activities money.

So we are all excited and looking forward to a mini-vacation.  But that does mean is that for the next two months, we have no play money at all. It’s going to be interesting how the kids handle this, okay, how I handle this.  But I think it’s going to be a great exercise for us all.

And most exciting to me is that if we are able to do this, stick to it…at the end of May, I will be down to one consumer debt….ONE…and living on last month’s income!

It’s Hard Saying No


I suppose this is a financial win and a testament to just how much my self control and decision making has come, but I have to admit that it still makes me a little sad.  As I mentioned a week or so ago, we took a quick weekend trip up to DC for the VA Boys Gymnastics State meet.  Well, I am super proud to report that in almost every event Little Gymnast did one of the best routines I have seen him do AND as a result of his scores, qualified for the regional meet.

Regionals are just a couple of weeks away and would require a longer trip to participate.  Another meet fee, hotels, gas, food, etc.  So I made the very hard call to stay on budget and not go this year.  My reasoning….

  1. Stay on budget, stay on budget
  2. Debt payoff by July
  3. He’s only 9, he’ll have another chance

So we are not going, and I had to let him know this after it was announced at the gym that he made it, etc.  I think it broke his heart a little bit.  He works so hard at gymnastics and sacrifices so much.  But this mom stayed strong despite a reasonable amount of backlash from his disappointment.  (I think it was a good lesson to both of us in disappointment and appropriate ways to handle it.)

I know it’s the right decision financially.  And I will tell you now, that if he makes it next year, even if I still have student loan debt, we are going.  But I made a very hard choice and am proud of the financial implications it will have for us.

Here’s What’s Bothering Me


There’s a lot I’ve been thinking about lately–mostly centered on a couple of questions:

1) Am I TOO frugal and/or cheap?

2) And what is this frugalness/cheapness costing me? (Not speaking financially)

Here’s what’s bothering me: I have family that live within a 2 hour radius (immediately family- parents, brother…other family members and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) and then I have family who lives an airplane ride away- of course my sister who lives in Orlando, as well as my favorite aunt and cousins who live in Ft. Lauderdale. So is my being, what I deem, too frugal and cheap costing me memories and life experiences along the way with all these people? Hell, I have friends right here in town where it feels like I haven’t seen them in forever. There’s no way it couldn’t be, right?

My sister, who just had her first child, I KNOW could use all the help she can get, so even though I went and helped her out for a few days (if you can consider it help…I did pay for meals, both for myself and her family (sis + boyfriend) and helped drive her around for doctor’s appointments and errands), I feel like I SHOULD do so much more. I wish I would have brought a couple hundred dollars with me and bought them a week’s worth of groceries and a month of diapers. (Note- I did buy them a baby supplies of their registry prior to me blogging here to help them out- still not enough, IMO). So why did it feel like I COULDN’T do this, even though I have the means to? Is it selfish? I think it is. And even though we were never really that close growing up, I can’t help but feel that adulthood is the best time to build a bond we didn’t have as children.

My parents- my parents gave me a fantastic childhood. FANTASTIC childhood. And even into adulthood, even though we don’t always see eye to eye, we’ve become, in a lot of ways, friends. I wish I were in a position to help them out now that I’m a grown man and say “thanks for everything.” I shouldn’t say this- what I should say is I wish I FELT like I were in a position to help them out. Again, if you look strictly at my budget, I have the means do it, so why does it feel like I can’t? Not only this, but I get a feeling that they still worry about me (granted, I’m not a parent, so maybe parents just always have that feeling with their children) since my existence right now is fairly…bare bones. They’ve never come out openly and said this, and I’ve never inquired about it so it really is just a feeling (like whenever I go up to Buffalo to visit them, my mom’s ALWAYS trying to send me back to Erie with a week’s worth of food, lol, which I normally decline unless it’s 1- homemade soup or 2-Sahlen’s hot dogs). For the mom’s out there- is this just a mom being a mom? And whenever something sorta minor comes up down here, my dad is always the first to ask if he needs to come down and sometimes he just comes regardless- again is this just a dad being a dad? Two notes- 1) I’m NOT complaining- I love my parents, I’m just wondering if my cheapness is keeping them worried 2) I’m completely independent of them financially and have been since college graduation. So is my debt payoff plan keeping me from building a trust and bond with my parents that I think we could have?

And then’s there’s my friends- the longtime friends that I haven’t forgot about. How many times does your phone have to ring and you have to say “No” or suggest the “cheap beer thing” before the phone stops ringing? I feel like I’m living this experiment right now. For the out of town friends- how many months and years have to go by between visits and conversations before the friendships are really just good memories? Again- living that experiment. I wrote about being an introvert in post describing my Social Life, and in no way, shape, or form a socialite (still true), but I’m not a recluse, either. A couple weekends ago, my best friend Cameron stopped by on his way through town, which subsequently led to a Moe’s trip. It was AWESOME, and something I haven’t had in far too long. Most of my friends are married with children at this point, and even though that’s probably has a lot to do with us losing contact, I blame a lot, if not most, of it on myself- had I not been so focused on debt payoff, where would we be? And that’s the tough question; one that no one can answer.

Over past couple of years, the only relationship that I’ve felt truly grow and blossom is my relationship with my girlfriend. Since we’re in similar but not so similar situations (I’m paying off debt, she’s going back to school), we really know where the other is coming from and we’ve been able to work as a team to overcome (knock on wood) any obstacle that we’ve come across. And since we’ve both have had to have a frugal mindset since we’ve been together, we have a pretty open relationship concerning our finances and our lives in general (and it certainly helps we share a lot of the same personality traits and interests).

This post has been very hard for me to write. When it’s come to debt and the payoff, I’ve always played the stoic card- the debt and my spreadsheets are just numbers after all. But what I’ve haven’t done is take time to look at what/how the payoff is effecting me in more than just financial terms. It’s pretty clear I’ve made pretty good headway on my debt, so my question is:

What would you do/what have you done if you found yourself in the same situation?

Would you slow down the debt payoff to take care of other, maybe more important things, or would you continue to pay it off as fast as you could and take care of things after it’s all said and done? One note to keep in mind- my timeline for this debt payoff (on my current trajectory) is completion by November ’16, or 18 months.

P.S. I don’t really have anything to share this week on the debt numbers themselves. I didn’t really pay anything, so I’ll save it for next week.



Another Free Yelp Event


Remember the last time I talked about a Yelp event? It was in November and husband and I attended a fancy-pants charity event (for free, courtesy of Yelp) and called it our anniversary date.

Side note about Yelp: I’m a Yelp Elite member. This basically means I use yelp a lot (they measure your # of reviews, log-ins, likes, picture uploads, etc.). If you are an Elite member you get invited to all kinds of free yelp events – they have at least one or two per month. It’s hard for me to go because you have to RSVP pretty far in advance, but then you aren’t notified if you’re “on the list” or not until 2 days before the event. This often precludes me from being able to go since I generally have to line up childcare farther in advance than that. But if you don’t have kids and/or your kids are older or you have a last-minute sitter… Yelp events are where it’s at. Lots of fun for free! They spoil us! All you have to do to become elite is join yelp (for free) and start becoming active on the website! Note, this is not a sponsored post in any way, just wanted to explain how I get to do these things for free.


Have you guys seen these painting classes popping up all over the country? I’ve been wanting to try one for months! Seriously! When I was in Austin over Christmas I was begging my sister to go to one with me, but we just didn’t have enough time to make it work out. I am SO glad that I held out because here we are in March, only a mere 3 months after Christmas time, and I got to do one of the painting classes FOR FREE!!! Score!!!

Typically these classes run about $40/class. They supply a canvas, paints, brushes, related supplies (like aprons, easel), and you show up ready to have a good time!

Since this was a Yelp Elite event, we also had food catered. We enjoyed all kinds of stuff from Rene’s Organic Kitchen (a delicious eatery in Tucson) + drink tickets for drinks. This event also allowed a +1 on the RSVP, so I decided to bring a girlfriend. It meant I got some girl chat time, plus didn’t have to pay a ‘sitter since hubs could stay home with the kiddos.

And…..we had a blast! Here’s what we made. It’s called “Saguaro desert”



An artist, I am not. But I still think I did a pretty decent job. I mean, I’m impressed with how it came out considering my lack of artistic ability.

So here’s my review of the art class in case you have any in your area and have been debating about going….

I had a great time. They did a fabulous job of walking us step-by-step through the painting process so we all came away with a work of art that actually looks pretty impressive! For real, hubs actually hung it on our wall.

One negative side of all the instruction is that there’s barely a break for simple chit chat amongst friends. We really had to be paying attention to get all the steps right. I would have liked it if were a little more laid back with more chances for talking with our friends during the class (not just before/after class). That could be a function of our specific painting (maybe some are easier or have fewer steps?), or maybe just our instructor’s style. The painting took about 60 minutes to complete in total.

Another negative is just the cost! $40 is kind of a lot for a night out if it doesn’t even include any food/beverage (again, we got food/drink since this was a Yelp event, but with typical events you have to pay for the extras).

Do I think it’s worth it? Would I go again?

Well, I would….but it’d have to be a special occasion. This type of event is “too rich for my blood” if its just a simple girls’ night out. But if it were a special occasion (e.g., sister’s birthday, christmas present), I might spring for the cost. It also depends on the place. I know the painting places in Austin are BYOB, which would be significantly cheaper than the studio in Tucson where the prices were $5/beverage (wine or beer).

So lots of “it depends” type responses. In the end, I’m really glad I was able to do this as its something I’d been eyeing for quite awhile. But I’m glad I got to do it for FREE! The bottom line matters these days, and you can’t beat a bottom line of $0!

Have you ever done one of these painting classes? How much did you spend and did you think it was worth the cost?

Free Family Fun


When I first moved to Tucson I hated it. Like, really hated it.

It seemed so….boring!

I was originally from Austin, then lived in southern Florida (where all the cities really merge together), so I was used to the feel of a larger city. I was used to there being LOTS of community events, many that were city-sponsored (and therefore FREE), with tons of family-friendly options that were available.

There was none of that in Tucson. Or so I thought.

To be fair, there really aren’t a lot of city-sponsored free events. They do have some (paid admission) festivals, but they’re really not that frequent. A few per year is it.

So it felt like a whole new world when I moved out of the central/campus area and out to the ‘burbs. Now there are ALL KINDS of family-friendly and FREE events! Some of these events are sponsored by the town where I now live (I live outside Tucson city limits in a neighboring town), but some are sponsored by HOAs and are open (and free!) to the public. Why would an HOA host a free event that’s open to people outside of the HOA community? I have no idea (false:  its a newer neighborhood and they’re trying to sell houses). But I certainly took advantage of the free fun this weekend!

So I packed up the girls and headed to a big free Easter event this past Saturday. And we did it RIGHT this year! Last year we went right in time for the easter egg hunt (at 11:00am), then stayed around for the other activities, which inevitably put us in the area when lunchtime rolled around and we ended up buying overpriced food from a food truck for lunch (they always have food trucks at these events). This year, we got there early so we could enjoy all of the free fun BEFORE the easter egg hunt, then we left right after the hunt so we could be home in time for lunch. It was perfect timing because we didn’t have any lines for anything since we were early, and we saved money (and calories) by eating at home instead of at a greasy food truck.

Here are some pictures of what we did….

IMG_1092 IMG_1089

Free ballon animals (the artist wouldn’t even accept tips, as he’d been compensated by the HOA).  Got a ladybug and a puppy dog!


bounce house fun


waiting to collect eggs (all children were given an egg carton to decorate for their eggs; they discouraged actual baskets because they wanted to make sure every child got some eggs – once the carton was full, the kids were done).

Other un-pictured events include meeting the Easter bunny, sitting inside a fire truck, and the several other bounce houses (girls ran from one to the next while there were still no lines). We had an absolute blast and received all kinds of goodies for 100% free (plus a killer nap that afternoon for the girls, which was an extra bonus) ; )

Right now (Spring) is PRIME TIME for all kinds of these free events. I encourage everyone to check out their community/city calendars to figure out what kind of free stuff they’ve got coming up. Maybe you’ll find something really cool to do, too!

Does your community host a lot of free events? If you’ve got a family, what types of (free/cheap) things do you do for fun?

Hello From T-Town!


I’m back safe and sound in Tucson after a bit of a scary flight. First, we were on a tiny plane and I felt super claustrophobic. Second, we had bad turbulence that left me white-knuckling the armrests for a good portion of the flight. And finally, when we made it back to Tucson the pilot was circling around the airport forever. Finally he came over the speaker and said there was some type of emergency situation at the airport so air traffic control didn’t want us to land until the issue was resolved. I have NO IDEA what the problem was (nothing was on the news either, so maybe just a false alarm?), but I was SO SO SO ready to get off that flight when we touched down! Whew!

Meanwhile, I’m absolutely exhausted! I’m a need-8-hours-per-night type of girl and I’ve been sleeping at the absolute max 5-6 hours (or less) per night for nearly a week now, first due to staying up late to work and prep for this visit, then because of nerves, and finally last night because I had a super early morning flight and had to be up before the crack of dawn.

It was all worth it, though, because I had an awesome visit! Just like my last interview, I was super nervous driving to campus (TMI alert: I was seriously scared I was going to poop myself during a presentation because I was having terrible nervous tummy issues that morning! Hey, just keeping it real, folks! We’re all human here).

But, luckily, the moment I met up with the committee chair (my unofficial tour guide), I was totally set at ease. The faculty were so welcoming and genuinely friendly. They were very complimentary, interested in my work, and even started talking about sharing data/ideas for some possible collaborations! The second I stepped foot in the classroom (my first time in a physical classroom in 2 years), I felt 100% at ease. If I had a life calling, this is it. Not only do I love to teach, but I’m really pretty good at it (let me just brush my shoulders off while I’m at it). There were a handful of faculty that sat in on the lecture, too, and it was one of those magical kinds of lectures – you all know the kind from when you were in school (or teaching, if you have that experience). The class was totally enthralled with the topic. They were engaged and interested, they participated in class discussion, and I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they began connecting dots between the things I was teaching. They were absolutely lighting up with excitement about the subject matter. Not every class is that way (hey, we have to teach some boring stuff, too), but it felt SO GOOD to be in my element again. Even if this full-time professor thing never works out (but fingers crossed that it does!), I’m definitely going back to teaching in-person adjunct as soon as the girls are in public school. It’s not enough money before then (it would literally not even cover the cost of full time childcare), and I’m so grateful for my incredibly well paying and flexible online teaching job, but it just doesn’t afford the same level of satisfaction that an in-person class gives. Tangent over. Back to the campus visit….

So after the full thing was over (which included guest lecture, research presentation, lunch with faculty, individual faculty meetings, tour of research lab space, and dinner with faculty), I came away feeling really good about everything. I also think I have a little bit more clarity about their hiring timeline.

Right now there is definitely not a position on the table. I was thinking that maybe they knew of one coming up soon (maybe Spring semester, which starts January 2016). But that’s not the case either. The next position won’t be until Fall 2016 (starting in August 2016), a full 1.5 years away. Yes, that’s really how academia works. Years in advance. So if there’s a position, it will be advertised in October 2015, interviews will take place (generally in the Nov-Feb time frame), and the selected person doesn’t start until the following August (2016). At any rate, I think I would be a good fit with the faculty and I could really see myself being friends with a couple of them. All these good things make me think that there’s a strong possibility that something there could materialize. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime….I’ve got to make conducting research and publishing more of a priority so I continue to be competitive on the job market. This was a tough decision for me to come to because (1) it’s super time consuming, and (2) its totally unpaid. I still have some publications coming down the pipeline from previous collaborations, but I’ve kind of been coasting the past 6 months or so.

In one of my very first posts on this blog, I’d mentioned that THIS would be my last hiring season to really “try” for a full-time academic position. If something didn’t happen this year, I was going to let go of that dream.

But this visit just made me realize that I can’t yet. I have a strong background in research and teaching and if the right position comes up in an area where I’m willing to move (one of my stipulations is that I will NOT move “just anywhere.” There’s a short list of places I’d be willing to relocate my family), then I need to give it an honest shot. The only way to do that is to remain active in academia (largely through continuing to research and publish).

So, yeah. I’ll give it another year.

Happy Friday, y’all!

Have you ever had to do unpaid work to try to bolster your resume in order to land a better job?

Hair Solution


I was debating what to do about my hair for my upcoming not-an-interview.

As you might recall, I went a full 9+ months without a single professional hair cut/color (I cut and colored my own hair at home during that time). The only reason I opted to finally go back to a professional hair salon was in preparation of my last interview. That was almost exactly 2 months ago and I’ve been really torn on what to do for my upcoming trip. I know I want to have a nice, polished look, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money and I feel like I just barely had my hair done!

Well, I think I came up with a good compromise/solution to the hair conundrum I found myself in (first world problems, right?) I went to an Aveda Institute salon (the “Institute” salons are the schools so they’re cheaper) and I paid for a cut and eyebrow wax, deciding to forego the color. I think my “old” highlights (said in quotes because they’re only 2 months old!) still look great. I don’t have a noticeable line of new growth and I think they’re holding up well. But my last salon visit I did more of a trim so, to have the polished freshly-cut look, I had the hair stylist cut a couple inches off the bottom and add in some new subtle layers.

The total cost for cut + eyebrow wax was a whopping $25. Add in the cost of tip ($7) and parking ($3) and the grand total was $35. Much, much cheaper than if I’d added in any color. Plus, I think the new ‘do provides a nice, polished look to it. Could just be a psychological thing, too, but hey – it’s important to feel confident at an interview, so I think it’s worth the price tag (plus I’d budgeted for this back in February, too).

Speaking of….

Surprise! I’m here now! (note:  I’ve purposely not mentioned where, specifically, I am….but I’m at the interview location, heh).

I flew in on Wednesday afternoon, picked up my shiny new rental car (brand new! so many fun/cool features!), and checked into my super fancy-pants hotel (with a full kitchen! full fridge! free hot breakfast! free evening social hour!!!) I’ll miss my kiddos but – man – can I stay an extra day? LoL! I feel like I’m in the lap of luxury right now!!

Meanwhile, I wrote this post on Wednesday night as TODAY is my interview not-an-interview! Wish me luck! They’ve got my itinerary pretty jam-packed in the morning (guest lecture from 9:30-10:45; then research presentation from 11:00-12:00), but then the rest of the day is more casual (lunch with faculty, individual faculty meetings, etc.). I wish it wasn’t back-to-back with my two presentations first thing in the morning, but at least that way I’ve got them out of the way and can just basically coast the rest of the day.

So – for a second time – please wish me luck! I know that there’s not officially a position open right now, but I’ve got to think that if this visit goes well that I’ll have made the short list for the next position that comes available (whenever that may be).

Also, thanks to those of you who have sent lists/links of interview questions for academic positions. I’ve definitely used them to brush up a bit before my campus visit.

Hope you all have a great Thursday! I’ll see you next week when I’m back in Tucson!