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Financial Ups and Downs

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We already know that this month is tough – emotionally and financially!

Here are the latest happenings in this roller-coaster called life…

Good: I got called to do a campus visit interview for the job I recently talked about. It’s really kind of odd. They told me to pencil in 1-4 on a couple different days and they’d get back to let me know which day works for the committee. Very different than my other interview experiences where I’ve had a full day worth of meetings and activities, complete with detailed itinerary and dinner with faculty. I’m hoping this has more to do with the last-minute nature of this job posting and is not a red flag of a potentially low salary (no salary range was listed in the job posting, it just said DOE. I’m very nervous about a surprise super low salary offer, where we might be too far apart to even negotiate).

Bad: Hubs’ truck was making a super scary noise and not braking correctly so he took it into the shop. We were hoping brakes were the issue (they were recently replaced and are still under warranty), but nope. It was related to power steering (he told me more specifics, but I can’t recount the issues here because I’ve already forgotten the names of the leaking/broken parts). Price tag = $1350. Could not have come at a worse time.

Good: We had nearly $900 in our car repairs saving account! I’m going to pay for the repairs on a credit card so I can buy myself an extra month until it has to be paid (note: I still use the credit card for large purchases for the extra assurances and to earn some credit card rewards points, but I always pay it in full when the bill is due). I’ll be able to put $900 toward it from the money we already currently have and the other $450 will come from next month’s budget (since the bill won’t be due until next month). Wiping my brow, thankful we have that savings to cover the majority of the expense!

Bad: I cannot get my husband into the dentist. Cannot do it. Does anyone have any tips on this? From a logical perspective, he totally agrees he needs to go and should really have better oral hygiene – taking more preventative measures instead of waiting until things hit “crisis” level (aka: root canal) and being hit with a much larger bill. So – that’s not the issue. He “gets” it and he agrees. Part of the issue is work-related. Especially with the lower income he’s been drawing he really wants to focus 100% of his energy on work and not take time off for dental appointments. The other part is more psychological. He hates the dentist. I want him to go to a new dentist (an awesome local family-run office who has cut me deals for paying cash and works with me on price), but he refuses to get another dental x-ray. After his health scare in late 2013 when he had a million medical procedures performed, he’s very aversive to any additional procedures. He’s especially reluctant to have new x-rays done because he thinks he’s going to get cancer from all the exposure. He did try to call and have his dental x-rays transferred from his old office, but they send some file format that can’t be opened by the new dentist. The new dentist would even do it for FREE, so it’s really not a cost thing. It’s all about hubs’ fear of dentist/x-ray/dental work and his reluctance to take any time off work. Suggestions? I’m at a loss.

Good: We were officially accepted to a new preschool starting in mid-August! I will be very sad to leave the JCC. They truly have an incredible program! But I really like the new school too and I will LOVE the close proximity to our house and the lower cost! One caveat is it only operates during the school year (not year-round), so I may still enroll the girls in summer camp at the JCC next summer (which, of course, means summer months will be more costly for childcare since JCC costs more). I do like that as a possible compromise though.

What are some good (or bad) things that have impacted your finances lately?


Disappointing Debt Payment

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First, thank you so much for all of your kind comments regarding our family health situation. I’ll try to keep you updated (especially in terms of finances) as I get more information.

In the meantime I wanted to tell you about how this situation, coupled with the no-income May, are going to affect debt payments this month.

It kills me to do this….but I’m going to have to pay only minimums.

We live on last month’s income, so having such a low income for the month of May is really hurting us in June. Hubs’ business drew no income last month (thankfully it didn’t cost us anything so he had enough income to cover his expenses, but no profits were earned). Also, remember how we owe the IRS money? Yeah. We already have some of the money set aside but I was going to use my May paycheck to cover the rest of the bill. BUT, since my paycheck was our only source of income for the month, I’ve put some aside for IRS bill, but I’ve kept some to help cover part of our expenses this month. And we’re raiding our EF hard-core. I’m trying to minimize the amount we have to withdraw from the EF (we’re trying to sell everything possible), but it could come close to being wiped out this month. A very scary feeling.

Given all this (and uncertain future spending) I think that it’s better to keep some money in the bank, pay minimums on current debt, and try to build some reserves this month. Debt payments will be as follows:

  •       PenFed (car payment) = $0 (I’m prepaid ‘till next April so no fees incurred)
  •       Student Loan Payments = $433 (minimum payments:  $77 to ACS ; $356 to Navient)
  •       Medical Bill = $25 (minimum)
  •       Balance transfer = $0 (no interest currently, but this means later payments will need to be higher to cover this month’s deficit)

That’s only $458 in debt payments this month!

I hate it! This is my lowest monthly debt payment in the 15 months I’ve been blogging here.

To compensate I’ve also taken away all monthly savings in their entirety. That means nothing toward:

  •       Cruise 2016 fund
  •       EF (in fact, we’re raiding the EF)
  •       Car repair fund
  •       Health/Dental/Vision fund
  •      Semi-annual fees fund

Usually I put several hundred toward savings each month (up to $1,000), but all savings is being suspended until we can get the financial bleeding to end.

So…minimum debt payments, no savings. Pretty much sums it up.

I’ve got to get back to work – Mondays are always a busy work day for me because assignments are due on Sundays. : ) Still thankful for my job!


Surprise Job Application

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I have a friend whose son goes to the same preschool my girls are at (the Jewish Community Center) and we generally meet up once a week while the kids are at preschool so we can hit the on-site gym and catch up a bit.

So the other day we were on the treadmill and he was talking about recent job applications he put in (did I mention – he’s a friend from when I was a grad student. He was a couple years behind me so he’s just reached ABD status). Anyway, he mentions a job at my alma mater that he’d wanted to apply for but couldn’t because it requires a PhD and he’s not done yet. At first I was encouraging him to apply anyway. Maybe he can hurry and finish before the summer deadline?

But then after chatting a bit he drops this little knowledge-bomb:

Friend: You know, Ashley, I actually think you’d be really well suited to the job.

Me: Me? What do you mean???

Friend: Well, they’re looking for someone to teach (X, Y, Z) classes but the person would also be in charge of developing a lot of online material. They’re trying to get a full online bachelors program up and running, so that’d be a large portion of the position.

Me: *Blank Stare.*

Friend: Yeah, the job has been posted since May 1st. Maybe check it out.

Me (thinking): WTF, friend?! A job that is literally PERFECT for me given my background/skills opens up and has been posted for an entire MONTH and you’re just now mentioning it all casually in conversation???

*strangles friend*

LOL! So, that’s obviously not how it really went down (the end part anyway), but I was a little shocked I didn’t know about this position earlier. I didn’t want to compete against my good friend, but after being reassured he can’t/won’t apply for the position I went home and applied the very same day.

It’s a bit of a weird thing because the last-minute nature of the position. It was posted May 1st, they begin reviewing applications June 1st, and the official position begins August 15th, with the possibility of a mini-contract starting July 1st to allow time to prepare the classes that will be taught in the Fall semester. Apparently funding came through last minute, because the timing of the position is nuts (remember how I just mentioned most of academic hiring takes place way in advance?)

At this stage in the game I basically never get my hopes up. I’ve put in sooooo many applications over the past 2 years and even had some really awesome interviews and ultimately haven’t received a single job offer. So, yeah. Not getting hopes up.

But, especially after reading the full position description – it really could not have been written more perfectly for me. Not only do I have experience teaching the exact in-person classes they want taught, but I also have extensive experience transferring in-person classes into online classes in addition to teaching online (I really only talk about the teaching part…but years ago I was on a grant and turned several in-person classes into online classes, so this is really right up my alley).

So now I can only wait and hope I get a call for an interview. Oh – and also hope the pay is decent (it’s advertised as DOE – dependent upon experience. Since it’s essentially a new position I can’t simply look up what people in comparable positions make). Given the quick timeline for hiring I assume I’ll hear pretty soon one way or another.

Fingers crossed for me, mkay???


Everyday I’m Hustlin’

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First, a funny story…

When hubs and I first moved to Arizona he didn’t immediately have a job. He rustled up all kinds of side-gigs, though, including buying/selling stuff online (which can be quite lucrative if you’re good at it), working security at fraternity parties and clubs, doing random odd jobs that mostly included manual labor (e.g., wheel barrowing rocks from the front of a house to the back, laying flagstone, etc.). Early that first semester a new grad school friend asked what my hubs did and I told her, “He hustles!” Her eyes got all wide, “Really!?! Like…he sells drugs???” LOL!!! Apparently I’m not gangster enough to realize that “hustlin’” is a slang term for slinging drugs. I laughed and explained myself – “No, husband doesn’t sell drugs! He just does a ton of random things right now to earn an income!!!”

But I still like to think of the term (hustlin’) as referring to working your butt off to try to make money (through legal means, of course)!

So, all this to say…I’ve been trying to figure out some ways to hustle up some extra income for myself.

Initially I thought I might try to apply for other online teaching jobs. But after discovering how well paid I am compared to other online teaching institutions, I didn’t think it’d be a sound investment of my limited time. A better use would be to continue trying to beef up my research program, publish, and land a better long-term position (more on that discussion in this post).

But in the meantime…what could I hustle up?

Well, I’d love if I could do more work for my current online teaching university (since their compensation is more than fair). The problem is that I’ve been trying to get extra classes from them for over a year at this point and every time I’ve been granted an extra section, it’s been canceled due to low enrollment. I haven’t been able to get new classes altogether because the instructors have been hanging onto their classes (no surprise since everywhere else pays peanuts in comparison).

So I emailed my boss today with a novel idea.

“Hey – what if I developed an entirely new course for the department? I have a great idea for one that I honestly think would be a valuable asset to the program and, as luck would have it, it just happens to be my own area of expertise! wink, wink!”

(Side note: obviously my tone was more professional, but that’s the gist)

Annnnnd, I received a pretty prompt reply:

“As for your question about a [redacted] class – you are correct, no such course exists in our curriculum. The idea of developing one is outside of my direct control – as it would need to be something the department deemed appropriate and worthwhile. That said, I know they are always considering additions to the curriculum as appropriate and possible. Let me float the idea around the department and see if this is something they’d be interested it. It may be that developing it for [online dissemination] would be a nice way to make it available to students across our campuses. Let me think on this and get back to you.”

YEAH, BABY!!!

I mean, let’s not get all excited and count our chickens before the eggs have hatched! But I would just LOVE if I had the opportunity to create this class. Not only is it an area I’m passionate about, but then I’d be able to add a 3rd class to my online teaching portfolio! Hello extra money, get in my bank account (False. You won’t be in my account long enough because you’ll be busy paying down my debts). You get the point.

So there you have it. Just putting out feelers, planting seeds of ideas, and trying to hustle up a little extra cash. Now, let me get back to grading. I have exactly one week between Spring and Summer sessions and I plan to use my entire 3 preschool days being CRAZY PRODUCTIVE with research. If I say it, it will happen. And all that good stuff. ; )

Hope you’re kicking butt at work lately!


A little good news

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I feel like lately I’m all “fight, grind, repeat.” (quote credit: Bobby Bones).

Sure I’ve had some times out last month, but to be 100% honest and open, they aren’t events I would have chosen to group together into a single month for spending purposes. In choosing how to spend that money I would have preferred, for instance, a date night out with the hubs.

And in spite of these times out, I have maintained a pretty steadfast focus on chipping away at my debt. Slow and steady, slow and steady, slow and steady. It’s like a mantra that keeps playing in my head.

It was so much easier last year when our income started to sky rocket during the summer. We had two months where we actually made over $10,000 in a single month! That’s more money than we’ve ever made in our lives and it felt so great to be able to throw it at debt and completely eradicate our $10,000 worth of credit card debt in just a few short months! Living the dream, friends! (side note: I just re-read the post where I wrote about making that final credit card payment. Put a smile on my face just re-living my little dorky celebration dance! 😉)

So this year’s tax bill has certainly made me feel a little “blah” about the summer. That, coupled with the fact that our income has most certainly not gone up so far this summer…at least not to the extent that it had last year at this time.

But then today I got a piece of good news that puts me in a more positive head-space.

I got an email from my boss at the teaching university. The department has decided to do something a little unusual. One of my classes is completely full and they’ve received a lot of requests from students wanting to add it. There’s not enough interest for a full second class (classes are capped at 30 students), but they’ve decided to do a half-section (capped at 15). My boss asked if I’d like to take it on. Since it’s half the students (and, therefore, half the grading), it will be half the pay of the 30-person class. But, again, it’s a class I’m already teaching (just a second mini-section of it), so it’s incredibly easy for me, as it’s already completely prepped and ready to go. OF COURSE I jumped at the chance for some extra cash this summer! I feel so grateful that this extra money is coming at a time that we need it more than ever (with the IRS breathing down our necks). So, I’m not sure this will really translate into a big boost in income with the figures I report on the blog (since I’m taking out tax debt off the top instead of including the debt in my monthly debt update), but it will certainly provide a nice buffer to pay off that debt and still be left with a nice, solid income over the summer months. Thank goodness!

Nothing like a little good news on a Monday! ; )

Have you had any good news today (or lately)? Share!


What’s Next to Come

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I’ve had an allergy/sinus-related borderline migraine for the past couple days so bear with me today. This post is a bit stream-of-consciousness…. (side note: I googled whether the expression is “bear with me” or “bare with me” and its definitely “bear.” Apparently “bare with me” would literally be an invitation to undress with someone. lol!)

Anywho….

Two big things going on right now that I’d like to talk about and discuss amongst ourselves. Perhaps would be better to split into two separate posts but you get stream-of-consciousness Ashley today, lucky you!

1. Preschools. For new readers, my twin almost-three-year-old daughters are in preschool Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We pay an exorbitant amount of money for this part-time care to the tune of over $1,000 per month (see last budget post here). For long-time readers, you may recall that deciding on this specific preschool was a decision that we emotionally wrestled with for months. We first tried two separate options (an in-home daycare and a different preschool) before settling on our current place. We pay through the nose for this care, but it is HIGH QUALITY care. This is very important to me, so I was willing to pay this price (and drive quite a distance – a solid 30-45 minute drive each way x 2 for morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up). BUT – a lot more options open up for three-year-olds. We were a bit more limited with options for 2 year olds, but I’ve already started touring some new places nearby. Let’s be honest – our current place is INCREDIBLE. Really, truly incredible. They don’t have official NAEYC accreditation (the “gold standard” for measuring quality child care), but they meet all the top 10 program standards set forth by NAEYC (see here for more info). Meeting all 10 of those standards is TOUGH! I’ve got 4 new preschools on my list to see and so far I’ve checked out 2. One is definitely out. The other one I really liked! It doesn’t have standard #8 (i.e., there’s no community involvement/outreach), but it meets all the other standards and the curriculum is specifically designed to be NAEYC-compliant. Plus its much closer (about 15 minutes versus 30) and costs less. For 3 days a week, the cost would be $640/month (for both girls!), so significantly cheaper! For 5 days a week the cost is still less than our current preschool, costing $880/month (for both girls). I do have one concern – the main teacher is only in the room until noon; at that point the aids take over for the rest of the afternoon. That’s not ideal for a few reasons (higher turnover of aids disrupts relationships, not as high education/training, etc.), but it’s not a deal-breaker. Overall, I’m hopeful that come August (when the new school year starts), our preschool costs will be decreasing! Fingers crossed!

2. Job Stuff. Blah! Now that I’m writing this I feel like it really deserves its own post, but here goes…  I’ve recently determined that I’m going to spend more time doing research (which is completely unpaid but can help me get a full-time academic position). BUT, I’m really starting to feel the pain of losing my part-time research job at University B (got my last paycheck back in December), so I was thinking about trying to pick up more work. I starting poking around at online teaching jobs (for new universities) and it is so incredibly depressing. Do you know that online college teaching – for people with masters and doctorates – pays an average of $1500-$2500 per class? What the heck? That is insane!! For a 3-credit hour class, the general rule of thumb is that you spend 10 hours per week on the class. If the class is 15 weeks long, that averages out to only like $10-15 bucks an hour! Sure, there are shorter classes (condensed into an 8 or even 5 week course), but then you spend more hours per week on it! We’re talking – adjuncts are getting paid peanuts! You get paid more flipping burgers at some places! Wow! I have never revealed exactly how much I make teaching online (I’ve just said I get paid very well considering its part-time work). Let’s just say…I make substantially more than that. Like…by a lot. So now I’m so torn! I want to make up my lost income, but I have begged and pleaded to teach more classes at my current online teaching place and they just simply don’t have the demand for more classes right now (I’ve been granted an extra class 2 separate times, only to have it canceled due to low enrollment). I do teach 2 classes per semester – thank goodness! – but I would LOVE a third! BUT, it turns out that if I want to branch out to teaching at other places, I would essentially have to teach THREE classes just to equal the amount I get paid for ONE class at my current job. Makes it feel not even worth it! You guys – help! Would you try looking for additional teaching work? At $10 or $15 bucks an hour, is it even worth it? Or should I be focusing my attention more on the research (even though its completely unpaid…though has the potential for a bigger reward in the end if it lands me a job)??? I’m thinking I may hold out on looking for additional revenue streams while I’m trying to bolster my research career, but wanted to know what you think.

And one final question – can you OD on tylenol? I mean, I’m sure you can….but how much does it take, exactly? Liiiike, I’ve taken 4 and my head is still throbbing. Maybe time just to lay down for a bit??? We only have tylenol at home right now, but does a different medicine (motrin?) work better for sinus-related headaches???

I hope no one else is experiencing the allergy hell I’m in right now! Be well, everyone!

 


Hello From T-Town!

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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?