Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Goals Update

My net worth is $23,613, which represents an increase of $1,052 or 4.66%. I'm expecting a strong month in May, as it's a three-paycheck month, so hopefully by the end of next month I should be closing in on the $25,000 mark.

I'm revising my net worth goal to $30,000 for this year, which would be an increase of $10,000. I'd factored the assumption of a strong market performance into the previous goal, which turns out to not be a great idea. I hope to beat this goal, but I think my initial goal of $35,000 was overly optimistic.

I made some progress in my 401(k) this month, too:
Fidelity Freedom 2050 Fund: 383.59 shares (last month: 351.2 shares)
Fidelity Total Stock Market Index Fund: 35.3 shares (last month: 32.2 shares)

That said, how are my other goals going?

Earn the full match in my 401(k)
I'm nearly at 50%. At this rate, I'll have earned the full match by the middle of September.

Save $4,000 in the Freedom Fund, for an end balance of $10,000.
My Freedom Fund currently stands at $7,275. It should be quite close to $8,000 by the end of this month.

Earn $1,500 of non-salary income, earmarked for graduate school application expenses.
I'm not doing a great accounting job on this goal...eek. Let's see: I made $35 from a paid link, and $60 from Prosper referrals...decent, but not great. I'm itching to take Google Ads down and replace them with BlogHer ads (technically, you can do both, but I don't want the page overwhelmed by ads), but I haven't yet hit Google's threshold for a payout. It's agonizingly slow.

Buy a friend a drink at least once a month.
I don't think I made this one this month, actually--I offered a couple of times for sure, but I don't think it worked out, actually. I did throw a seder for a bunch of friends at my place, though, so maybe that counts.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Job Decision

I'm staying put.

I talked to one of my bosses today: told her I'd had an offer and that I wanted to stay. Told her why: I'm excited about a couple of upcoming projects, I can be open about the fact that I'm considering going to grad school (if I stay here through then, I'll have been here nearly three years, which is an extraordinary tenure at this kind of job, and won't feel at all guilty telling my bosses in advance that I'm looking to move on and getting them to write me recommendations), and I appreciate the opportunity to work on my own. All of this is true. I also told her that they'd offered me $4,000 more, which is sort of true (the base salary was $2,000 higher than I make now, plus a bonus of about $2,000--but as I've mentioned, the benefits were worse than the ones I get now by a margin that wipes that difference out). I told her that I'm not making demands for a raise, but that I'd like a salary review in June, instead of waiting until the customary one in December. She said she thinks that's fair, but that it's ultimately my other boss's call, since he runs the department. He's in London, but she and I will meet to go over my projects on Friday so that she can be prepared to meet with him to advocate for me. If I get this raise in June, I come out ahead of where I'd be, financially, at either job, and I'm in the right place to boot.

So, that's done. Ultimately, I decided based on the way each of the two jobs fit into my life and my plans, not based on money or even the fact that I find my boss (not the one I talked to, the other one) abrasive. My current plan has me staying here about another twelve to thirteen months, then quitting for a glorious summer of travel and vacation before starting graduate school.

Next up: finding a damn apartment. I've already done some things right and some things wrong, and in my next post I'll tell you what they were.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Job Stuff Some More

I was supposed to hear back from the woman I've been negotiating with over at Prospective New Company today. I didn't. I think this means that the news that's coming is bad: that they're not going to be able to give me what I asked for.

That's okay.

I mean, not "okay" as in, "oh, okay, I'll take the job anyway." It's okay because my options are wide open. While considering this job offer, I realized that it's not an either/or situation: it's not a simple choice between a) stay in my current job for another year until I quit to go to graduate school and b) take that job. I can do any number of things. I could put off grad school some more if I found my dream job, or I could quit altogether and try to make it through to grad school doing freelance writing (hey, that's why they call it a Freedom Fund, my friends). In the meantime, I've contacted a well-placed friend of my parents' who's agreed to chat with me about working with books and ideas in a couple of weeks. I've got a lot going on in my life right now: planning parties and starting blogs and thinking about my future, in addition to some personal stuff I'm still having to put time and effort into, and then the big push for graduate school coming up if I don't find my dream job in the next couple of months...

The thing is to remember to treat it as a joy to have so many options. It is a joy, and a privilege, and I tend to choke up and flip out about having to make decisions about my life--I'm working on not doing that so much. Breathe, I am trying to remind myself. Breathe.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Great Blog Find: The Economical Academic

I just stumbled on The Economical Academic, which is a perfect cross-section of frugality and academia, directed at grad students, and simply had to bring it to your attention posthaste. Hit it up for tips on surviving through to the PhD.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

My New Baby

I've alluded to this a couple of times on this blog, but it's mostly up and running now, and you can go check it out:

Please welcome The Interpreted World!

I do, frankly, think of this both an investment and a career move, and I'm interested both in the possibility that it can (eventually) earn me income on a month-to-month basis and can (possibly) get me a job doing what I love, which is analyzing, criticizing, processing, interpreting. But in the short term, it's a way to hone my writing skills and a source of personal satisfaction, and though I haven't hit my stride yet, I'm looking forward to carrying the project forward. I invite you to check it out, comment, subscribe, all that good stuff.

My brilliant and generous boyfriend did all the design. He's not credited yet, because the one thing he can't be pinned down to do is take credit for his work, but he did it, and he deserves recognition for it. But I'd love your feedback on the site: anything that looks weird, works weird, reads weird—let me know.



Thursday, April 17, 2008

Job Decision Update

Thanks for all of the comments on the previous post--they were really helpful. I just wanted to drop a quick update on what's gone down since: I called Prospective New Company's HR department about the benefits package. It sucked. No 401(k) match, high health care premium...the two combined mean that I'd need $4,000 more at New Company than at Current company to break even, and they'd only offered me $2,000 more. No way I'm taking a pay cut to take a more responsible position.

So I wrote the woman I've been talking to about this job all along and told her that. More tactfully, obviously. I just said, look, I called the HR department, they told me the deal, the deal is unsatisfactory. I'm still psyched about the offer, but it has to be higher; please let me know if you can swing that. I gave her a number: $40,000.

So the ball's in her court, and I'm waiting to see how she responds. She sent me a quick note this morning acknowledging my email and promising a response soon (she's at a conference). I feel good about what I did: the email was tactful but firm, and I think I did pretty well at conveying my enthusiasm for the job without caving on the stuff I need (/want).

This means I'm putting off discussing any kind of job change with my current company (I was thinking about going ahead, but my dad pointed out that I won't be coming into the situation from a position of strength). And it means I'm appreciating my excellent benefits at my current company a little more than I did yesterday morning. Counting my blessings!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Decision Time

I've officially got an offer. The money is essentially a wash: the initial offer was $35,000; the director of development is going back to HR to get them to approve $36,000--there's a bonus, but the 401(k) match is probably worse, Whatever. So the question is not money, because I'm not basing a job change on $4,000, because that would be dumb. The question is where do I want to work?

I do not know the answer.

I know that at some point, also, it might be worth doing to talk to my boss about this dilemma, and that scares me, and the thought of giving two weeks' notice scares me, and the whole thing of being a grownup, ack. I could give my current boss a chance to match the offer, I guess, but then there's still the where-do-I-want-to-work question, ultimately.

What value do I add to this organization? I am replaceable as an editorial assistant. Not by, like, the first college graduate in the door, but I am replaceable in that capacity. I am pretty confident, however, that I'm not nearly so easily replaceable in my editorial capacity. In my dream arrangement, I get to walk out of here with no hard feelings and an agreement that I can work on the upcoming exciting book project as a freelance editor. How likely is that? I do not know. I suppose I won't know until I ask.

Holy shit, do I find this situation overwhelming. "Platinum problems," as my mom says, but still.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Frugal Food: Late-to-work Chickpea Salad

This quick-and-dirty Late To Work Chickpea Salad is so named because...I was late to work this morning, and needed lunch! Here's what I did:

Hardboiled an egg while I washed my face, brushed my teeth, put on some makeup, etc. Strictly speaking, I coddle eggs, I don't boil them: I put an egg and some salt in cold water, crank the heat up, wait 'til it hits a boil (not long, if it's a teeny pot like the one I used for this purpose), turn the heat off and cover the pot with a plate (you may want to use a lid. I use a plate). You want to leave your egg about 13 minutes before shocking it with cold water, but the great thing about this method is that a few minutes' overcooking won't turn your egg to greenish rubber.

Once the egg was done, I dumped half a can of chickpeas (but rinsed them first) into a Tupperware. Then I hacked up half a cucumber into roughly chickpea-sized bits. Then I crumbled in a substantial slice of feta cheese. Then I laced the whole thing with soy sauce and shook it up. The feta sort of breaks down in the soy sauce and becomes a dressing. Then I sliced up the egg on top. The whole operation took maybe five minutes.

1/2 can chickpeas: about $.80
half a cucumber: $.25 (I got them 2 for $1 at my supermarket the other day--slightly less than peak freshness, but still good)
about an ounce of feta: $.43 (I bought a pound for $6.99)
liberal dash of soy sauce: shall we say $.10?
one egg: about $.20--I can't actually remember what I paid for that dozen.

So, total cost of a big container full of healthy lunch deliciousness, packed with high-quality protein and fiber: $1.78. (It could be made even cheaper if you made the chickpeas from dried, but that would require more planning.)


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Who, Me, Waffle?

One of the (few) things that makes me want to stay at my current job is a forthcoming book by a prominent Harvard English professor. Because my boss is super-busy, I'd basically be editing the book, much as I've been basically editing "his" other two titles. The book is perfect for me: the subject matter is right up my academic alley, and the professor (a Pulitzer winner and New Yorker contributor) would be an amazing contact for me to have, especially if I could impress him with my work on his book. It would also be helpful to know him if I wanted to, oh, say, get into Harvard's English department. Which I might want to do.

This makes me want to give my current company the chance to make a counter-offer once I've got the job offer on the table, but I don't think they'd be able to give me what I want (essentially, an exclusively editorial position with minimal administrative work...and more money). I'm not sure they can make that offer. Then I think about how little of my average workday the new book would take up. And it's little. Much as I've been enthused about the book I've been editing lately, it hasn't entirely alleviated the day-to-day hassles and irritations of my job, like the fact that I'm both bored stiff by and not all that great at its administrative elements.

And then I just do not know. I'd actually been kind of hoping this book wouldn't be on the schedule anytime soon, which would make my decision much easier...but the estimable professor was in today, and confirmed that he can get us manuscript by August, for a spring '09 pub date. Which means I could see it all the way to publication if I stayed.

(I was behind the door when God passed out the decisiveness, by the way.)


So Many Interviews!

I thought I had a firm offer coming to me, but instead, I've been asked to come down to the office on Thursday (during my lunch hour, I guess?) to meet the Editor-in-Chief of the entire publishing group. She doesn't work in the office I'd be working sense (from previous conversations) is that the director of the New York office wants to make me a higher offer than her HR department will authorize without the okay of the big boss. Hopefully, if I impress her, I get an offer I'll want to snap up.

Seriously, making $40,000 (plus bonus!) instead of $34,000 would mean a lot to my life and my finances. That's the figure I'm crossing my fingers for, the figure I'd definitely switch for. It would make enough of a difference that I'm almost considering buying new shoes for the Thursday interview. Surely that's overkill, though.


Monday, April 07, 2008

TaxCut Giveaway Winner!

So, I've filed my taxes (I owed $157), and now one of you can, too, with free TaxCut!

The number is 37, which makes the winner...


GL, who picked 42! Maybe it really is the answer.

GL, shoot me an email to claim your prize. Thanks for playing, everyone, and thanks for the haiku!


March Goals Update

My March net worth is up at NetWorthIQ. It's up 3.69%, to $22,561, which is not too shabby. And in the vein of this previous post on my retirement accounts, it's worth noting the progress of my 401(k), in terms of shares:

Fidelity Freedom 2050 Fund: 351.2 shares (last month: 317.15 shares)
Fidelity Total Stock Market Index Fund: 32.2 shares (last month: 29.06 shares)

I've weathered the last few months' downturn pretty well (haven't yet seen a reduction in my net worth), but I'm definitely not on track to hit $35,000 if things keep up this way. I probably shouldn't factor a continually climbing stock market into my goals, huh? A more realistic goal for this year is probably $30,000. We'll see.

That said, how are my other goals going?

Earn the full match in my 401(k)
I've earned 39.9% of it. Nice! If I really am going to switch jobs, though, this goal is going to have to be reworked.

Save $4,000 in the Freedom Fund, for an end balance of $10,000.
I saved a mere $200 of income this month, but I'm still on track to hit my year-end goal (I think...again, a job change may rearrange this, because I'm currently planning on big savings spikes in "extra paycheck" months). My freedom fund is just north of the $7,000 mark now.

Give $1,200 to good causes.
A post on this is forthcoming, but let's just say for now: no. This is not going according to plan this year, for reasons to be discussed later.

Earn $1,500 of non-salary income, earmarked for graduate school application expenses.
Very little activity on this front this month: just a couple of Pinecone Research checks I haven't deposited yet. I'm due a bunch of blog stuff this month, though, so this should see a big bump for the next monthly update.

Buy a friend a drink at least once a month.
This is by far my favorite monthly goal! I'm pretty sure I bumped it off early this month (I remember thinking, "Hey, two in February! ...Wait, no, it's March."), but I don't remember exactly how.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

I Am Stupid, ETS is Evil, Or Possibly Both

So, I paid $130 for the privilege of a four-hour torture session also known as "the GRE in Literature in English." Then I did not study. No problem, sez I, I'll move my test date. I tried, a couple of weeks ago, was foiled by ETS's non-functional website, and stowed the idea away in the back of my brain.

Today, nine days before the test for which I am registered, I finally get around to thinking about it again. I find contact information and call. I get a recorded message saying that in order to get half your test fee back, you have to

1) find the correct form on ETS's non-functional website (which I can't, actually, even now)
2) download it, print it, and
3) send it to ETS,
4) and it must be received by ten days before the test date.

And then, when all of these hoops are jumped through, they still keep $65. Except in my case, they will be keeping all $130, because I am dumb, dumb, dumb.

Seriously, ETS, bite me so hard.


Tax Cut Giveaway: A Balm for Tax Procrastinators

So, have you filed your taxes yet? I haven't!

If you're in the same boat, well, good news! I have one code guaranteeing a lucky winner free access to TaxCut Premium + E-file to give away.

To enter, write me a haiku about taxes in the comments and pick a number between 1 and 50. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on Monday.

P.S.: the haiku is optional. But preferred! But optional.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I heard back from the company where I interviewed a few weeks ago: the director of development says that she's very impressed with me and would like to make me an offer (yay!) but is having a hard time getting their HR department to match my current salary (boo!). I actually gave a current salary $2,000 above what I actually make, though (I had some reason for doing this at the time: I think I was counting the 401(k) match, maybe, or maybe my freelance work), though, so it would be a teeny bump, and she also says that there's an annual bonus of "at least a couple of thousand dollars." She called to "feel me out" about salary.

I think I was pretty clear: I'm certainly not taking a pay cut to take the job. A little bit of a raise is pretty much necessary.

It's frustrating because it's definitely a step up in job responsibility, and to have the thought of an equally substantial step up in salary evaporate is..well, annoying. Nevertheless, it would be a little more money. I wonder if this would be a good opportunity to ask for some of those more ineffable perks: an extra week of vacation, for example--now there's a thought...

But oh, what a joy to hear "We thought you had some really good ideas!" as a reason they want to hire me.