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Is it Worth It?

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Continuing along the lines of last week’s post on Lessons I’ve Learned Being Poor I’m having an internal debate /struggle with myself.  On one hand I am applying for all sorts of corporate IT jobs that should reasonably pay $80K+ per year with benefits.  On the other hand I am applying for anything that peaks my interest including but not limited to: teaching English in China, church secretary, social work liaison and so on.

I want the corporate job again.  I want regular income, I want benefits, I want travel.  But on the other hand, I want to make  a difference, I want to stay home with my kids (or at least work from home,) I want to feel good about what I spend the majority of my time doing.  I’m really torn.  But I keep moving forward and am just waiting for something to stick.

So here’s where I’m at as I write this.  Today I interviewed for a part time church secretary position.  It is one of my “makes my heart feel good” job applications.  I could do Powerpoints, graphics, some technology and also answer phones, support people through tough times, really build community.  Kind of the best of both worlds in my mind at the time I applied and even after my interview.

Now, as I’m writing this, I have no idea if I will be offered the position.  But I started thinking as I returned home…of the money, benefits side.  It’s part time, no benefits, other than the fact that for the most part they would be willing to work around my kiddos schedule.  Big win there in my mind!  But it only pays $11-12 per hour.  After taxes, I was guesstimating bring home pay would look like $8 per hour.  At 20 hours per week…that’s $160 a week coming home, $640 a month.  Ouch.

So is it even worth it for me to pursue these types of jobs?  With my current part time job and this type of job, I would be working 40ish hours a week bringing home just at half of what I was making prior to November.  A very tough pill to swallow.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

I’m still hopeful for some other interviews I’ve had and have scheduled shortly…but I am looking at an considering everything until something sticks.  Lots of moving parts in this job search and considering options that come up.


Job Title/Raise Update

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Hey guys! Thanks for all your awesome suggestions on this morning’s post! I haven’t been able to read/reply to all of them yet, but I did see a sampling of great ideas and I’ll be sure to reply later this evening. Thank you! As always, you’ve come through with great tips!

So, remember in mid-December when I mentioned wanting to ask my boss for a title change and raise? Well our meeting was just a couple hours ago and I wanted to give you a little update.

It’s a mixed bag but I’m happy with the results.

For privacy issues I’m going to try to be a little vague about exact title, etc.

Basically, I was hired as a non-tenure track faculty. However, my role has included a lot of administrative duties as I have worked both within my department and externally to really get our department’s online program off the ground (it just launched this Fall and, as you know, I have lots of experience working online since that’s what I’ve done the past several years).

Anyway, I’ve been taking on lots of duties that are really far beyond the scope of “non-tenure track faculty” as an intentional and strategic move to try to get my foot in this door. Of my own accord I’ve been taking additional training classes for online course design/instruction and have been meeting with people across campus in all kinds of departments (including people from content-based departments, IT staff, ID staff, etc. etc. etc.). I’ve been trying to forge relationships and get my name known amongst the various powers that be.

So in today’s meeting, I had a strong case for why my current title no longer matches up with the actual job duties I’m performing. I also typed up an actual proposal of title change that listed (in bulleted fashion) duties that I could perform in my new role as well as a second list of ways that this will benefit the department (of course, mostly revolving around money since dollars are the name of the game).

I didn’t write any actual numbers in my proposal. I wanted to be open. I’m currently on a 9-month contract but know my department head had wanted me to be on a 12-month contract. So what I’d had in my mind is that if I stay on a 9-month contract that I want a 20% raise (and I had lots of reasons to back up this specific figure). If I moved to a  12-month contract I would be willing to keep my current monthly salary (framing it as though I’m not actually getting a raise), but my salary would continue across all 12 months instead of the 9-months I currently work. In my last post I referred to this as a 25% raise in salary (I was thinking instead of 3/4 of the year, I’d now be working 4/4 of the year, hence 25% extra). But thoughtful commenters pointed out that I was being a dummy with my calculation. From a dollars perspective, this is actually a 33% raise over my current salary. So those were the two competing figures I had in mind, either of which I’d be happy with.

And here’s what I was told…

Basically, my department head does not have the authority to give me a raise. She would need to get approval (and funds) from another entity on campus that is control of online programs. She indicated that if things continued going well and the program continues to grow, she believes she could make a strong case for it “in the next year or two.” That was a huge bummer. I wasn’t expecting an immediate change, but I was hoping for a change over summer or by next Fall, so hearing the 1-2 year timeframe was a bit of a blow.

BUT, I’d made this compelling case for why I really needed this new title. So I was told that in the meantime, department head doesn’t care what I call myself. I’m totally seizing the opportunity, changing my e-mail signature, and am now going to give myself this more prestigious title (albeit, without the raise). I still think this is a good thing, because it will look good on my resume/vitae, and if I ever make a move down the road it will show longevity in this position. Good things.

But here’s where salary comes into play.

Remember how I mentioned that they really need me to work this summer? Like, bad. They need me to prep 3 courses AND teach a course. For any non-academic folks out there, that’s a full-time load! But I’m only on a 9-month contract. I don’t get paid over the summer.

So for this summer, specifically, I was told that department head thinks she can justify the need (from the separate entity in charge of online programs) for continuing my full-time pay all summer. In essence, giving me the 33% raise I was going to ask for had we ever gotten to talking about numbers!

It’s still not in-the-bag because department head has to get approval from the powers that be. But from my perspective there’s really no way around it. They NEED this work done NOW. There’s no putting it off until later down the road. They need it.

So I continue with my current contract for now. I’ve given myself (with department head’s blessing) a fancy new title. And I’ll (very likely) continue getting paid all summer. At the end of summer, maybe I can try again for re-negotiations. I really plan to make myself super invaluable not only to my department, but to the larger online program entity as well. As long as I continue doing good work and showing how this change will be mutually beneficial for all parties involved, I have to hope that this will be leading to a permanent increase in pay down the road. For now, I’m happy with the compromise.

What are your thoughts? You’ve got to remember that this is my first ever full-time job so I’m super inexperienced in terms of negotiations and such. I really value your expertise and would love to hear if you think I could’ve done something differently (or maybe can do something different in the future), or what your thoughts are on the situation.


Ashley’s Year In Review (2015)

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I know we’re now a full week into the new year, but I always like to look back and reflect on the previous year around this time. So indulge me in a week-late review of some of the big highlights of 2015.

Personal and Financial Goals

The year began (or really was preceded by) setting some big goals. We had one list of financial goals, and a second list of goals related to “growing up” (in my mind this meant doing things like getting wills, life insurance, etc.). By the end of the year we hadn’t quite met all of our financial goals, but we’d made incredible progress. In all, we paid off over $26,000 in debt!!! We did even better on our “year of becoming an adult” goals. We fully accomplished 3 of our 4 goals and are well underway on the 4th goal (see update here). We’ve set some pretty lofty financial goals for 2016, too!

Budgeting

In early January, we made some pretty big changes to the way we did our budget. This eventually lead us to using YNAB for budgeting (we’d previously used an Excel file). I still can’t say enough great things about YNAB. I really think it’s made a huge impact on how well we’ve been able to stick to our budget and, therefore, how well we’ve done with paying off debt (see my full review here).

One of the categories in our budget that we really struggled with this year was our grocery budget. I talked several times about our efforts to make cheap meals, saving money by making homemade yogurt (super easy and so tasty!), DIY-ing pumpkin spice coffee (a personal fave), and trying my hardest to meal plan (which was much easier when I worked from home compared to an office-setting, and I’m still learning to balance competing needs).

I also saved a lot of money on self-maintenance this year. With the exception of 2 professional cut/colors (which I did prior to big job interviews), I’ve saved money in our budget by cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 21 months (but who’s counting? hehe). I’ve even received compliments on my self-maintained hair and really like my new darker color. To be transparent, I did just barely receive a professional cut/color from my Mom as a birthday gift, so this totals 3 professional jobs (only 2 that I personally paid for) in nearly 2 years.

Employment

I interviewed for 3 separate jobs in 2015:  one in January (recap), one in March, and one in June. I was offered the third job (third times a charm!) and accepted the position soon thereafter. I started the position in July and have been very happy in the job ever since (though I have plans to try to negotiate for a title change and more money).

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Gift-Giving

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Before I started our debt reduction mission we really spent a ton of money on gift-giving. Since starting to blog here, I’ve drastically reduced the amount spent on gifts. I now try to spend an average of about $15-20 per gift (though hubs and I set a $50 limit on gifts to each other). I talked about a cheap classroom gift here and waxed poetic about the impact of a hand-written thank you note (as opposed to an expensive flower delivery). I also talked about a cheap going away gift basket, a cheap Mother-in-Law (or grandparent) gift, an inexpensive alternative wedding gift, and relatively inexpensive ($50 limit) anniversary gifts.

Kids Crafts

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The kids did lots of fun and cheap crafts this year. A sampling of crafts include: a  Valentine’s craft, a Mother’s Day craft, and an Easter craft. All of these doubled as cheap cards/gifts for family, too!

Entertainment

Our entertainment budget was really bare bones this year as we tried to funnel all our extra money toward debt. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun! I talked about a free family activity here and a free painting class (courtesy of Yelp Elite) here. I also shared how we got cheap Halloween costumes for the kids and had fun with a cheap-ish birthday day date for hubs’ 33rd birthday.

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Successes

In April we celebrated kicking hubs’ license fee debt to the curb! That left us with only the car loan, some medical debt, and the monstrous student loans to contend with. That same month I did a balance transfer of a higher-interest student loan (8.5%) to a 0% APR credit card to pay off one of my Navient student loans at a lower rate (just paid a 2% initiation fee). I also celebrated when we paid off another of my Navient student loans back in October. It’s no secret that I freaking hate Navient, so I can’t wait to rid them from my life!

Personal

In June I let you know something I’d been keeping a bit of a secret. I have a very close family member experiencing a debilitating illness for which there is no cure. I later told you all that the “close family member” is my father and divulged that his diagnosis is frontotemporal degeneration (a type of dementia). I had a rough time in regard to processing this information. I was painfully honest about the scary feelings and emotions experienced knowing that his health is quickly declining and my siblings and I will be tasked with becoming his caretaker and all of the other financial implications of the situation. I also discussed prioritizing the costs of therapy so I could take care of myself. I never updated, but I did in fact search for therapists but there was only one person who really stood out to me as a good fit. Of course, that person was not accepting new clients at the time and, feeling overwhelmed by life, the new job, etc., I never pursued any other options. To be honest, I do think I’ll try again to find someone to talk to in the New Year. I feel like I am in a much better place mentally than I was when I first wrote this post (or this one, too), but I know my Dad’s health issues will continue to be a HUGE deal in my life and I would like to see someone at least occasionally to help me process everything as his disease progresses.

Summary

2015 was a wild year! Lots of great successes – Can I get a high five for that $26,000+ of debt that was paid off!?! and some tough times, too. In 2016 we plan to split our priorities a bit between saving for a house and continuing to pay off debt, but I know that we’ll continue to make great progress along the way. I’ve admitted before that I may loosen up the purse strings slightly. I think it’s important to have more regular date nights and such. But I also can’t wait to make some big dents to our debt this year. This will be the first full year of me having a full-time job and income (in addition to my part-time job & hubs’ job). With the additional money we really hope to do some crazy things in 2016. A house, a car (not a new one, but our current one being paid off), punching Navient in the nose, and so on. Great things ahead, friends! Thank you for joining me on life’s wild ride!


Asking for a Raise

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Asking for more money has never been easy for me. To be fair, this is my first “real” (traditional) job in my life so I haven’t had a lot of experience. Prior to this I worked in the service industry for years (bartending and waiting tables), worked for universities in adjunct/contract positions, and other miscellaneous work with set rates (and often on short-term/contract bases).

I’m going to use a little ambiguity to try to preserve some anonymity here, but when I was hired in my current position my contract listed job duties and responsibilities. Although I’ve only been in my position for a single semester, I feel as though my list of responsibilities and duties have grown. This is totally fine with me and I really enjoy the work that I do. But I no longer feel that my title accurately describes my position. And the pay doesn’t seem to quite match either.

I foresaw this happening when I was first hired (and, indeed, I’d tried to negotiate for a different title from the beginning). Because of my foresight, I asked to have it specifically written into my contract that I would have a performance review after a single semester (the norm is to conduct annual reviews). This would give me a chance to discuss with my supervisor what I’ve done well and to identify opportunities for improvement. But more than that, it would give me a chance to try to re-negotiate my contract a bit.

But wait, there’s more….

I am currently on a 9-month contract. My department head has already asked if I’d be available in summer and I eagerly said yes. The way this is typically handled is by providing an additional short-term/summer contract. But when my department head (who is new to the position and not actually the person who hired me) learned that I was on a 9-month contract I could sense the frustration. I believe the words, “well that was a mistake” were actually uttered.

Here I have an opportunity to expand my job duties/role, gain a more prestigious title, and get paid more all the while. While I like the idea of a 9-month contract simply because of the flexibility it provides in allowing me to be with my girls, I also like the stability of a year-round job with a year-round paycheck.

So I’m thinking my proposal to my boss will be to change my contract from 9-month to 12-month. Because I’ll be working an additional 3 months (25% of a year), I’ll ask for a 25% raise. The way I’ll frame it is that it’s actually the same exact rate I currently get paid (same exact $ per month), but it will be year-round rather than only during the academic year. From this perspective, I’m not actually asking for a raise…I’m simply asking for more time to work!

I don’t know if it will fly. A 25% hike could cause some serious waves in the department, as I’m already paid more than several people who have been there longer and this type of raise would throw me up into the upper half of the department in terms of earnings. But, again, I’d be working more than others too.

Even if my boss doesn’t want to re-negotiate with me for a 12-month contract, I know I’ll still be getting extra money this summer because they really need me to develop and teach a class over the summer. So that’s already kind of a raise, in the sense that it’s more money than in my current contract.

This is such a crazy time of year. I had hoped to be able to have our official meeting prior to the semester ending but the last day was Friday so it wasn’t in the cards just yet. But we’ll be meeting in early 2016 to discuss these issues. My assumption is that any change will not take place until Summer 2016 and, again, I’m really only asking for additional work time so my monthly pay wouldn’t actually raise. Of course, if we stick with the 9-month contract but change my title and increase my duties, I could still have grounds to ask for additional money. Basically things are just really up in the air right now. But things are looking up. I feel pretty good about my performance and where things are at so (fingers crossed) I feel confident that things will only continue to improve across time as I become more comfortable in my role, etc.

Wish me luck in my (future) negotiations!


Move = Complete

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Hi friends!

I hope you had a great weekend! We arrived back in Tucson yesterday after a whirlwind of a trip and I have never been more thankful to sleep in my own bed!

Initially, my brother was going to go assist my Dad with loading a moving truck a month or so ago but, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, that didn’t happen. My sister and I were both unable to go for the originally scheduled move date but I decided to go over my Thanksgiving break since I had a few days off from work (though one is never really “off” in academia – I monitored my email daily).  At first I had booked a flight to go alone:  fly out on Monday, load on Tuesday, then fly back on Wednesday so I could spend Thanksgiving with my own family. But after some thought and discussion, we decided to make a family trip of it. I’m so grateful it worked out that way because I really needed the emotional support of having someone else there with me. Moves are stressful enough (one of the top 5 life stressors according to here), but I think things were exacerbated a bit being that this move was not exactly a happy, exciting, or even desired thing. It was more a chore of necessity to get my Dad somewhere closer to family where he can be helped and watched over better.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave town until Wednesday because hubs’ work had him busy all the way through Tuesday evening (he worked late to finish up on time). So we made a 14-hour drive on Wednesday (some of it in snow driving only 20 mph). It was nice that we got to spend all day Thursday hanging out, enjoying good food, and visiting with extended family that I don’t get to see too often. On Friday we had movers, so we fortunately didn’t have to do any heavy lifting, but we still had to direct things which was rife with stress given that not everything could go (my Dad is downsizing), and this was quite troubling for him to see things get left behind.

After the truck was all packed, my family went and checked into a hotel (there was still a guest bedroom set that was left behind in my Dad’s house so he still had someplace to sleep but his other bedroom set was packed). We all took a long family nap, and then met back up with my Dad that evening to go see the Christmas lights at Temple Square. Besides it being the coldest weather the girls had ever experienced (bundled up in 4+ layers and still complaining of the cold in 23 degrees), they really enjoyed seeing all the lights! I can’t wait for Christmas this year – it’s going to be such a fun holiday with them!

We left town on Saturday morning, but split the return drive into two days so it wasn’t quite as grueling. Still not what I would consider pleasant by any stretch of the imagination, but far preferable to our 14-hour one-day drive. Plus – the girls got to see and play in snow!!! They’re obsessed with Frozen (they were late to the Frozen game because we didn’t let them watch movies until just relatively recently), and they kept pointing at the snowy mountains saying, “Look!!! Elsa’s ice castle!!!” Pretty adorable!

Financially speaking, the trip didn’t cost us anything since my Dad covered our costs for gasoline, lodging, and food (all of which was pretty minimal. It actually saved my Dad money for us to all drive compared to what my plane ticket had cost). The only other cost incurred was that of missed work for hubs. Yes, no one really works on Thanksgiving Day, but he could have worked over the weekend and was unable to since we were out of town.

Speaking of….I’ll be posting a debt update later today. I have to maintain a positive attitude and realize and acknowledge that November is always a relatively down month for hubs’ business. But, of course, it’s a bit disappointing to not have earned as much as we would have liked/needed in order to make our astronomically large planned debt payment (we’d planned for a $4500 debt payment and didn’t come anywhere near that). Those numbers will be up later.

But to end on a happy note, I’m so thankful that the first phase of this move is complete. My sister will be meeting the movers in Texas and overseeing as things are unloaded. She will also be the person to help actually set things up once they come off the truck. And, just like that, the burden has shifted off my shoulders and onto hers. I’ll still be primarily responsible for paying my Dad’s bills, but all the day-to-day things will surely fall to my sister now that he’s close to her.

Right now my Dad does NOT want to sell his old Utah house. We’re trying to take things in baby steps so, rather than pushing him too far, we decided it could just sit for now. I’ll be hiring a lawn-care company, his brother (my uncle) will check up on it regularly, and we will revisit the issue in the Spring or Summer. It’s likely we’ll make another family trip up there at that time so hubs can do some general handyman work around the house and we can finish clearing it out of its leftover contents.

I have to say – my Mom has been caring for her aging mother (my grandmother) for a half decade. My grandmother did not do a great job at planning for retirement so the financial burden of her care has fallen directly to my Mom as the only child. It pains me to see the stress it has caused my mother and the financial toll is not trivial (over $4,000/month). I hate that my siblings and I are in the caregiver role for our father, especially at such a young age. That being said, I am beyond grateful that my father took better precautions than my grandmother had, and that he actually has assets (both liquid and real estate) to help pay for his care. As stressful as the situation has been for us, I cannot begin to fathom how much worse it could be if all of these costs were falling directly onto our shoulders. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to financially take over caring for their parents. This has definitely been a lesson to me to get our financial house in order so we never leave our children with the burden that’s been placed on my mother in financially caring for my grandmother. It’s hard enough to take over as caregiver. The least we can do is make sure that we have ample money available to pay for whatever care we may need as aging adults.

Food for thought on this Monday morning. Have a good one!


A Little Good News on the Job Front

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I’ve been offered and accepted a part time job.  It’s contract work, so no benefits, but it is what I have been doing and the pay rate mediocre at best.  But it is skilled labor and on the outskirts of my field and for a company that is VERY HIGHLY respected in my field.

So beginning in January, I will get between 15-25 hours a week which I can work from home at my leisure.  I figured that it’s great to know I will have some money coming beginning in January and it’s something I can do in conjunction with another job until I get back on my feet…firmly back on my feet!

So yeah!  The job hunt is still on…looking for full time, corporate work with benefits and maybe Relocation Expenses or a Signing Bonus!


Relocation Expense vs Signing Bonus

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In my defense I haven’t sought a new “job” in almost 14 years.  I’ve written before about how off my resume was at the beginning of this one and Faye from LeapofFaye.com jumped in and saved the day.  And really, truly it was saving the day…I think to date I’ve had 8 first interviews for what I thought were ideal jobs.  I count myself blessed with every single call I get from an application or recruiter.

But now I think, rather hope, I am coming to the end of several application processes…multiple interviews done, references checked and reviewed,  interviews with CTOs done…etc. etc.  What I haven’t been prepared for were questions regarding “What do you expect?”

I mean I’m good with my salary requirements question…and throwing in the request for a full benefits package, that’s coming pretty naturally.  The thought of a paid day off, a paid vacation, well, that’s what dreams are made of!

But what other requirements do I have…and thus we come to Relocation Expenses vs Signing Bonus.  I’ve pretty much been clear with companies that if I need to relocate…well, they have to pay for it.  And then I was told this…

  1. Relocation Express – A budget is set at the beginning of the process, but I have to cover the costs upfront and then be reimbursed.
  2. Signing Bonus – Paid up front but taxed upfront, possibly at a high tax bracket?

So my question…what are your thoughts, have any words of wisdom for me on this front?

Relocation Expenses vs Signing Bonus – which would you choose? Pros and cons of each?  Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated!


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