Frugaler February

Having enjoyed both the Christmas season credit card bill and seen our appalling tax bill (thanks for that tax cut, jerks!), it’s time for us to get our financial house a bit more in order. We’re generally pretty good financial eggs, but we have a serious weak spot for dining out (the winter is long and the cats make us crazy, so we go out). I haven’t run the 2018 credit card report, but I’d bet dollars to donuts (both of which are on there) that the biggest category for us is dining–we’re not really shoppers and don’t travel much. Since I’m feeling broker than usual, so I’m putting us (well, at least me) on a Frugaler February. Frugaler February is about spending but also about what I choose to eat and do.

Here are the rules:
  1. Eating in restaurants is limited to once a week.
  2. Coffee out is fine if it means I’m working in a coffee shop on my projects for a couple of hours. Muffins and related yummies are now generally on the no-go list (the expanding waistline is real, and I like baking more than coffee shop muffins).
  3. Don’t shop much–this is generally easy. Buy mostly essentials/needs, avoid the rest.
  4. I must move this body at least 3-4x/week. I’d gotten one good week in in January, after having an endless cold, only to spend most of last week injured. Ha. So this category needs work.
  5. Less booze. I like to imbibe. A glass of wine at night is fine by me. But maybe fewer nights? And probably not out as much, since booze is big money when it’s not happy hour.

Other areas of effort include thinking about my karate studio membership: I go there for a kickboxing class (it’s like a high-energy self-defense class), but it’s an 18 minute drive with no traffic and a half an hour with it–that’s why I don’t go as much as I ought. It was easy in the summer, but I’ve barely made it in since October. Renewal is March 1. It’s a serious chunk of change, especially since we also have gym memberships and pay for training. I like doing it, but I don’t know that I like doing it at a rate of $100/month. So this needs real thought.

Four days in and tho my husband has no idea we/I’ve been doing this, things are going well. All we’ve purchased are groceries and cat food, including a pie we took to a night with some friends and ingredients for something to bring to a superbowl party last night. I stocked up on ground turkey because I had a digital coupon making it $1.48/pound, but it didn’t scan correctly so I’m headed back there for an adjustment today (and they’ll likely have to give it to me for free–state laws say if something scans wrong, you get it free here). We have enough food to basically not shop but for lunch supplies and some fresh veg for at least a week or two. The issue will be sticking to it when we’re tired or bored.

Don’t be a Rich Jerk

Good morning, dear readers! Today we’re going to have a fun chat about money and shame. It’s going to be one giant subtweet of Some People on the Internet. Let’s do it.

Let’s start here, with Tanja Hester’s pithy observations about charitable giving (you can source her points here):

Predictably, within a few short hours people were lamenting that we shouldn’t shame people on how they spend their money, because it was their money to spend.

Now the core of this point has some truth to it: we shouldn’t shame people on how they spend their money. If you saw this twitter thread last week you know the many ways in which poor people are shamed: if they pick up some fast food, if they have a smartphone, if they drive a decent car–all of their choices are policed by those who needn’t worry about such things. It has to do with control: some wealthier people seem to think they have the best ability to make choices and that poor people have made chronically bad choices, thus leading to poverty. You can’t throw a rock on the personal finance internet without hitting this kind of belief in bootstrap narratives. Even though most of America’s wealthiest players have made their money on far more than the sweat of their brows (family money, government subsidies and tax breaks only the wealthy enjoy, the ability to invest their money so as to make passive income, etc.), they’re treated as though they’re all self-made–and those who are struggling are often treated as the opposite, even though they make up far more of the population.

The recent government shutdown and the idiotic criticisms of government employees as not having substantial enough emergency funds to weather an unanticipated MONTH-LONG shutdown is a prime example. Suddenly every choice an employee ever made was up for public scrutiny, and the scrutinizing done by people who have no idea what the employees’ lives were like but who spoke like some kind of god-given authority.

Then some of the very same circles of people started talking about how we shouldn’t shame the rich for not giving to charity.

For me this hits on so many levels of things. One, peoples’ wealth-bias was showing here. Glaringly. They’re buying into the “wealthy people know best” narrative, and that narrative is garbage.

Next, you’re letting people who could make a serious difference off the charitable giving hook while also taking for granted how much less wealthy to downright poor people DO help each other out. We also need to talk about how so many people (cough, Jeff Bezos, cough) make their money by keeping others at stupidly low wages–and how when they do finally decide to be charitable, it’s often a tiny percentage of their wealth they give away; in reality, they could still be stupidly wealthy while paying people more and putting more money towards good causes.

You see, for example, I think shooting a car into space isn’t a good cause.

We have tremendous wealth disparity right now in the US and in the world at large. Shaming less-wealthy people for their lack of emergency funds while claiming wealthy people shouldn’t be shamed for their financial choices reflects not just a double standard but a double standard that promotes these ongoing disparities. It supports the “wealth knows best” approach and unsurprisingly rejects any awareness of systemic problems that exist, persist, and grow with wealth disparity.

We can fix this, and if shame’s what it takes, well, I’m all for it.


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Oh, hello there.

The last several months of 2018 were both a whirlwind and an eternity. My semester was one of the most challenging I’ve had, mostly in terms of numbers (a good thing, but exhausting as I rushed to get through all the exams, papers, and so on) and other work stresses I didn’t anticipate. On top of that were current events, and I spent a lot of time explaining those things, as best I could, to my students who both didn’t know the things that were happening (blissful college information bubble, I remember thee well) and/or didn’t understand what was happening. Spending so much time explaining to students–combined with a high level of stress about them, detailed below–utterly sapped my energy for blogging about the same.

Current events stressed me out far more than I remember happening before. I chalk this up to a couple of things. One, politics aren’t good. Arguably, they are worse in many ways than I’ve ever seen in my forty years, and I’ve seen a lot of assholes come and go. They feel more chaotic, and I don’t like that feeling of careening with little sense of where we’re going and when. Two, because I wasn’t doing much besides grading and otherwise working, I spent a lot of time online in between grading hours and I think I overdid it. There’s a point at which I have a solid understanding of events and really ought to walk away for my own sanity. I’m not good at that.

But we made it. 2018 is closing, and I don’t think many of us are sad to see it go. May 2019 be what you need it to be. May you find some peace with the world, with who you are, with the hardships and challenges you face.

Oh, and big big thanks to Bitches Get Riches for joining TF as a patron last fall!

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So, you say you’re an ally (thoughtful meanderings)

Good Monday to you. This morning the New Yorker is reporting that the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh ordered on Friday is looking like a sham given the ridiculous limits the White House has placed upon it. The self I worked to rebuild all weekend is feeling like garbage again, and so I’m writing this post. Continue reading So, you say you’re an ally (thoughtful meanderings)

New Normal?

I am trying to wrap my head around what has gone down today.

I did not watch all of the hearings. I was in class most of the time.

I am assuming that despite all of this, the GOP will fall in line and Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the supreme court.

That his abuse of women is a feature, not a bug, of him and many men like him.

That even if most Americans disagree, it doesn’t matter. But do most Americans disagree that misogyny is a problem? I don’t know.

I’m struggling with having spent my career advocating for women and teaching about working in and around systems to help women achieve change, and seeing so much of what’s happening now as a big fuck you to all of that.

I believe that this response–the visceral hatred, the rage of thwarted entitlement shown by Kavanaugh and his supporters like Grassley and Graham–is an angry tantrum by men who see their way of living (misogynist and racist capitalist ways of being) are threatened for realsy real. but I don’t know that we survive the tantrum enough as a political system to go back to fighting it.

I’ve seen so many women on social media talking about how tired they are. I am, too. I am exhausted to my marrow. The mere existence of this week’s events has left me drained of all energy, in part because it’s exhausting to feel invisible and irrelevant all the time.

I’m tired of having to be a warrior for obvious fucking shit.

Even if there’s a wave of democratic victories in November–women, too, in office in bigger numbers than in a long time–he’ll still be there, his sneering, contemptuous face a blight on the judicial system that, while flawed, has served the nation fairly well (barring exceptions) a long time.

My god I’m exhausted. I can turn it off and be someone else for a while–I can watch tv, dawdle the internet, grade papers–but it comes back, the realization that I am purely a sex and housekeeping object for a host of our population, and that they’d grind me up if they could, for fun, particularly if I threatened them.

I don’t know how we bounce back if, when, this man is confirmed.

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“Why didn’t she say anything when it happened?”

  1. She could not even process what happened to her at the time.
  2. She feared retaliation.
  3. She knew no one would believe her.
  4. There wasn’t a culture of reporting assault.
  5. She didn’t want to relive the memory.
  6. She knew no one would believe her.
  7. She wasn’t sure what happened even *was*assault, given the messages she’d heard over the years.
  8. She thought she must have done something to deserve it.
  9. She knew no one would believe her.
  10. The psychological after-effects were terrifying.
  11. She was just grateful it wasn’t worse.
  12. She knew no one would believe her.
  13. If she did, her reputation would be in tatters, not his.
  14. She’d absorbed the culture that said women were men’s property.
  15. She knew no one would believe her.
  16. She just wanted it to go away.
  17. She feared the agony of police, paperwork, and trauma without assurance anything would be done.
  18. She knew no one would believe her.


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Let’s Talk Financial Feminism

I’m a big fan of The Fairer Cents, a podcast hosted by Tanja Hester and Kara Perez and dedicated to all things women and money. A recent episode titled “Financial Feminism” got me thinking. Tanja and Kara talk about all kinds of elements they’d consider under that header and much of the episode concerns things like wage gaps, the illusion many have that those who don’t get certain salaries simply aren’t working as hard as themselves, and the child penalty. But I think we should think even broader about financial feminism: let’s talk about “pink collar” work. Continue reading Let’s Talk Financial Feminism

Fill-the-Bucket List

Maggie Banks over at Northern Expenditure (who gets points already for naming her blog after one of my favorite shows while growing up) had a great idea when she turned 30 in 2016: a fill-the-bucket list. As she put it, 

“Life is full of opportunities, changes, and unpredictability and it’s all about experiences and filling your bucket so that by the end of your life, your bucket is full. Instead of making a list of things you would like to see happen in your life, a fill-the-bucket list focuses on the opportunities you have had and the things you’ve taken a chance and done.”

Genius. While I think I’ll still work on drafting a list of the changes I’d like to work on as I enter my 4th decade, Maggie’s idea shifts the focus and promotes gratitude for what is and has been. Here’s a first few bucket-filling things

I got a PhD.

As you know, this wasn’t an easy process, but few things showed me how tenacious I am or could be like finishing that sucker when about half of my cohort decided it wasn’t for them and left altogether.

I biked down a volcano in Hawaii.

We started by watching the sun rise at the top, and then rode the switchbacks down. Sure, I took a header as we came to a stop, but as someone who’s only sort of physically adventurous, this was both exciting, terrifying, and ultimately beyond amazing.

Sunrise over Haleakala, Maui
Sunrise over Haleakala, Maui
Just recently I started taking kickboxing/self-defense classes.

It’s so much fun. I hate doing cardio in most forms but this? I really like it. I hope I stick with it.

As a 3a of sorts, I once took a bellydancing class. I was in my mid-20s and it was me with a bunch of much older ladies from my Boston neighborhood. It was a hoot and I had no idea until then of the ways one could move their torso muscles.

We spent a week in Italy in 2008.
Italian countryside
The view from where we stayed in Italy.

What was particularly special about this was that a) it was our first trip to Europe and b) my uncle lived there. Not only did that make the trip less pricey but it also meant we got to stay in a village and meet all these people and be part of their community, ever so briefly. That was almost as good as seeing Roman ruins.

I think this is a good start. 40’s now around the corner.

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Oh God I Haven’t Finished My Book

When I was in graduate school, I was miserable a lot of the time and so I started sewing. Pretty soon I started sewing for friends, too, and then I started selling what I sewed. I learned how to code and built a website. I had a nice little online shop. It helped me have a sense of starting and finishing things, which was not a feeling I had about my dissertation.

I’ve been revising that dissertation ever since. For 11 years, with breaks–some deliberate, some unintentional. It took me five years to find an angle on the original research that was new and compelling for the field–and I won an award for the article that came out of it. Since then I’ve been working on it, off and on, in fits in spurts.

Continue reading Oh God I Haven’t Finished My Book

We’ve Long Separated Kids from Parents: We Have to Stop

In the last several weeks, our government here in the U.S. has been separating children from parents at the southern border as a political strategy for discouraging migration but mostly for getting funding for a stupid-ass wall. Many, many Americans are outraged but the refrains “this is not America” and “we’re not like this” feel like platitudes to me that grow from insufficient historical knowledge. It’s my argument–one I made at a weeklong workshop at one of our Fanciest Pantsiest Universities recently–that Americans, particularly white Americans, need to own their history and the ways in which they have (or have not) benefited from it. What you’re seeing today is from a very old playbook that has served America’s white supremacist goals for centuries. Today in Tenacious Feminist’s No BS History Corner we’ll talk about the ways family separation has been used for political and capitalist gains: own that history and we can begin to change the present.

Continue reading We’ve Long Separated Kids from Parents: We Have to Stop