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First – Happy Father’s Day to all! I’ll be back Monday with a Father’s Day recap post to let you know what we’re up to. But in the meantime, I wanted to get this post up sooner so I can try to get as much feedback from readers as possible, given that this is a time-sensitive issue. Thanks so much! I hope you’re all having a great weekend!


Hallelujah, y’all! I’m not even going to lie. I was starting to wonder if this would ever happen. I’ve come up with a whole contingency plan of what I’ll do if I never land a full-time position (continue working part-time teaching online, then also go back to in-person adjunct teaching once the girls start public school).

So I am THRILLED to announce that I’m on the verge of signing the deal with an awesome department where I will be so excited to work!

I really, really want to spill all the details about the salary negotiations but I’ve decided to hold back because I certainly don’t want it to get back to the department and jeopardize anything. So instead of dishing everything, I’ll give you some general information about the first round of negotiations and tell you some more specific details about the benefits package to get your feedback there. This is a bit of a long one, so prepare yourself.

Here we go…

At my meeting last Friday, I was offered a position and money was discussed almost immediately. I nodded and smiled and then proceeded to discuss job duties and responsibilities for the next hour without ever mentioning a salary amount. When the conversation was wrapping up I was point-blank asked what I had hoped for in terms of salary. I’m kicking myself now because I asked for more money, but I was met with an immediate “DONE!” which definitely leads me to believe I short-changed myself a little and could have asked for more. In all, the pay is more than I’d expected they’d give me, but less than what’d I’d really wanted.

In terms of benefits, it’s a mixed bag.

The university gives excellent 401k matching (up to 7% immediately, and up to 11.6% after six months of employment!!!). They also offer a child care voucher of $1500 (literally only covers one month of full-time childcare, but it’s free money so I’m thankful for it). Additionally, they offer a flexible spending account where I can put up to 5,000 pre-tax dollars aside for childcare – essentially saving the taxes from that $5,000.

So all that is good. Here’s some of the okay-not-great part of the benefits package…

The health/dental/vision package isn’t as good as I’d hoped.

For health, my options are between a PPO and a health saving account (HSA) option. The PPO is $486/month and has a $1,000 deductible. The HSA is $193/month, has a $2500 deductible, and the university contributes $120/month to the account. I’m leaning toward the HSA, but there’s a HUGE caveat. The info I’ve been given says “You must submit valid claims before the end of the claims period runs out. Any unclaimed remaining funds will be forfeited to your employer, so estimate your expenses carefully and set money aside accordingly.” So I’m not super thrilled that the money doesn’t just sit and accumulate, but can actually be lost. Anyone with strong opinions one way or the other (regarding PPO versus HSA), please comment. I’m new to this, so I’d love to hear from others’ experiences!

The vision is simple enough – only $16/month.

The dental is kind of disappointing. $105/month covers free preventative care. But they only cover 50% of other procedures and there’s a $2,000 annual limit per person. I’m really giving this plan the side-eye. I feel like it might be more beneficial just to stay without dental and pay out of pocket as we go (or buy the cheap dental discount programs that you can start and stop easily). Still – I may choose to enroll in the dental for the first month or two of employment to try to get hubs to have his dental work done, and then quit so we don’t keep paying the premium year-round. Thoughts? Opinions?

To sum up, we’re looking at:

  • $193 (HSA) + $105 (dental) + $16 (vision) = $314/month, not including any contributions to the health savings account and not including the fact that we’d have to pay the first $2500 out-of-pocket.   OR
  • $486 (PPO) + $105 + $16 = $607/month. That seems like a lot for health care! We only pay $350/month currently for health/vision, but that’s a non ACA-approved insurance that was grandfathered in. It expires December 31st of this year at which point we’ll have to upgrade to an ACA-approved plan. I’ve priced independent health insurance to be about $1,000/month so this seems to me like the university paying approximately half of the premium (note: in their benefits materials they say they pay 85%…but that figure seems a bit high. It would mean the insurance is incredibly expensive before their contribution).

When I left the meeting, we had negotiated a salary and I essentially gave verbal assent. BUT I did leave myself some wiggle room by specifically saying I was eager to look over the full package in writing, including benefits, and that I’d give my final decision in a few days.

Given that the benefits aren’t quite what I had hoped (meaning, the university doesn’t pay as much of the health/dental/vision as I had hoped), would it be tacky to go back and try to negotiate for a little bit more money? That’s what I’d like to do, but I’m also a little nervous. I’ve read horror stories online of people who took negotiations too far and ended up having the offer rescinded. Thoughts? Opinions? Advice?

I’m leaning toward sending a very complimentary email talking about how genuinely excited I am to start this position (which is 100% true), but then to say that after looking over the full offer package I was a little disappointed about the benefits package and wanted to know if they would be open to raising my salary a little to compensate for the benefits. – Ugh! I cringe just writing that out! I have no idea how to write it so it still comes across as thankful for the job offer and conveys that I’m excited to start….but that, ultimately, I’d like a little more money. Again – thoughts? Is it okay to handle this in email or would a phone call be more appropriate? Give me your tips!!!!

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Also, thank you for all the comments on my negotiations post! You guys are awesome and gave me so many great ideas! I’m very thankful for your collective insight! You readers are a smart group : )

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads, Granddads, and special men in peoples’ lives. And Happy Day to single parents doing it alone (Moms or Dads), and to all those who no longer have a living father….my thoughts are with you all!

Dad’s Health and Job Update


I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?


Good choice. Let’s just get it out of the way.

The trip my sister and I just took to be with my Dad for some scary appointments was met with mixed results. The specialist wasn’t convinced of the preliminary diagnosis my Dad had been given by another doctor. He’s scheduled appointments for additional tests and has ordered additional scans be done. My overwhelming feeling about this is disappointment. Although it does offer a sliver of hope, I feel in my gut and my heart that I know where this is headed and its not good. I wish we could have received a conclusive diagnosis and began to make some plans for the future. Without an official diagnosis, however, we’re stuck in a bit of a holding pattern. My sister and I have arranged for someone to accompany my father for his remaining tests and we plan to make a return trip when the diagnosis is officially being handed down. Not sure yet the exact time-frame for when this trip will take place, but certainly sometime this summer. On the bright side, my Dad did indeed give us money to reimburse the costs of the flight. I still incurred a few additional costs (e.g., I had to park at the airport instead of being dropped off due to the flight schedule, so I paid for airport parking and a couple of fast-food type meals while I was out of town). Nothing too major in the grand scheme of things. I’m certainly thankful that the largest expense (the $425 flight) was covered by my father. I would also be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and kind words in response to this family crisis we’re dealing with. Please keep those prayers and thoughts of strength and courage coming our way. This has been an incredibly stressful time, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Now, onto something good.

While I was out of town I received a call from the dean of the department where I just had an interview last week. It was so bizarre! In the voicemail message the dean literally said, “I’d like to meet and see if this will work so we can offer you the position.” So, I take this to mean that we’ll be discussing salary and job duties a bit more, but I’m officially being offered the position as long as we can come to terms. That’s very exciting news for me – my first full time job offer since graduating! I’m still very nervous about the salary negotiations given that the job was posted as DOE (salary depends on experience). I need to make enough money to make it worth my while emotionally and financially to move my daughters into full-time preschool (a huge transition psychologically and practically). I know this is such a random and broad question without additional background information – but what is the lowest amount you would accept if you were in my position? (or maybe a better question is – what salary would you try to negotiate for?) To give some more financial perspective, I think full-time preschool at our new childcare facility will run us about $1300ish/month. Also remember this isn’t just any random job – it’s advertised as only available for people with Ph.Ds. (so taking into consideration the extensive training – and accompanying student loan debt). Also, I’ve never given my precise salary but I’ll give you a range that I make between $30,000-$40,000 working part-time from home teaching my two online classes per semester (3 semesters in a year: fall, spring, and summer). That’s a LOT of money for working part-time. I tell you this to explain that I’m not going to accept an offer of $40,000 for a full-time job when I make nearly that much working from home part-time. Also, this job is not a tenure-track position, which means that if I accept it I’m basically taking myself out of the running for ever moving into that type of job position (limiting my future job options). I know every individual is different, every situation is different, and ultimately I just need to meet with the dean and discuss these concerns to see if I can get a salary offer that I feel comfortable with and that I think adequately compensates me for the work I’ll be doing. But I’d still love to hear your opinions on the matter and if there is a “magic number” you’d try to negotiate for given some of the parameters I’ve outlined above. Oh, by the way, my meeting with the dean is tomorrow (Friday)! So, yeah. Get me those suggestions asap! ; )

One final thing – I still haven’t heard back from the dean of the other department (remember I talked to the department head last Friday and was told the dean would likely contact me the beginning of this week. It’s now Thursday and….crickets over here). Should I reach out to the dean and/or department head and say that I’ve received a job offer from another department? This could help me in negotiations, right? And, honestly, I don’t know enough about the job parameters and responsibilities to know which job I’d prefer (since I’ve now talked with two department heads about two slightly different positions: one as lecturer/online program coordinator; the other as lecturer and academic adviser – though both jobs seem to have some fluidity of the responsibilities and could shift across time).

Lots of things to consider. Thanks for supporting me every step of the way with these two potentially HUGE life changes (e.g., Dad health issues and full-time employment opportunity).

Hugs to all you guys/gals!

Third Time’s A Charm?



Third time wearing my interview outfit. It felt a little out-of-place in Tucson’s deadly summer heat. I wore a dark grey pant (photographed darker due to indoor lighting), black low-heels, and a pin-striped long-sleeve button up. To make it a little more summer-casual I rolled up the sleeves and ditched the matching suit jacket. I still felt incredibly over-dressed at the interview. One person was wearing denim shorts. Another was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Gotta love academia.

In spite of wardrobe faux pas, I do think the interview went well. They made references to an upcoming meeting with the dean (meaning….I move on to the next level of the interview process). So that’s promising.

Additionally, just this morning I spoke with the department head of another department on campus (the same department where I interviewed in January). Apparently someone unexpectedly resigned, effective June 30th. They need to hire someone to teach a couple classes this academic year (one in Fall, one in Spring). They’re also working at the college-level to try to get a full-time position approved (if approved in time the position will start this Fall; if not, it will start in Spring). They offered me the classes and made it sound like I’d be a top candidate for the full time position, as well. I’ll be speaking with the department’s dean early next week to discuss details (e.g., hiring timeline, salary). I know that adjunct pay is really low (much less than what I currently make working online), but I think it’d be negotiable and they certainly seem to need someone ASAP so they’re sure motivated to fill the position.

Best case scenario – I may have a couple different job offers to pick from (and use for negotiating purposes) starting this August (the start of the Fall term). That’d be pretty exciting, right?

I guess this is life’s way of maintaining balance between the bad and the good. Funny how things work out sometimes… We’ll see!

Any good job news in your world recently? Raise? Promotion? New job?

Financial Ups and Downs


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


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


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’


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.”


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!