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Top 10 Tips for Marital Bliss

April 7th, 2008 at 03:14 pm

I've been really busy finishing up that dang dissertation and haven't had much time for posting, but I couldn't resist linking to this column (also pasted below) from today's Washington Post.

What does this have to do with money? Well divorce is expensive and unhappiness is, too!

I'm sure we've all read numerous lists like this, but I think this particular list really hits the nail on the head.

My favorites are #3 and #9. Number 9 is particularly relevant for us this year since we are long-distance. We usually talk once in the afternoon and once in the evening. I'm usually busy in the afternoon and sometimes answer the phone gruff and exacerrated. That's something I need to change. Mr Bean likes #8 and #10? How about you?


Top 10 Tips for Marital Bliss

Marital bliss? Some days I'm happy (really happy) to settle for marital survival.

Here are the top 10 tips for keeping a marriage together, contributed by On Balance readers:

1. Be nice. This is stupidly simple, but it works. Even when you feel like hell, or have a beef with each other, or are tense or tired, make the effort to be kind and gentle with each other. Make the partnership a safe harbor where the other person wants to be. This means taking a breath, biting your tongue and going easy even when that's not exactly how you feel.

2. Before you get married, find common ground on your most important issues -- where you want to live, the role work plays in your family balance, how you will handle your finances, whether or not you want children (and if you are older, what lengths you will go to to have biological ones), the degree to which your extended family are involved in your lives, and what role religion will play in your lives and the lives of your children.

3. Whomever feels most passionately about a position wins that argument. It is rare that, upon candid reflection, you can't unanimously agree that one or the other simply cares more (or as is more likely the case, one cares less). You are going to have different opinions on many different subjects. Winning an argument doesn't mean the other loses. It just means one cared more about that particular issue.

4. Nurturing your marriage is more important than kids -- in part because staying together is so important for your kids. So, make time for each other. Have a regular date night without kids. Sex and affection and time alone together are a top priority. Make dates to cuddle up, let other things slide sometimes, do whatever you have to do. Just don't let it get pushed off the table by everything else that is "important."

5. Stay flexible, in every sense of the word. That means finding a compromise between his need to watch the game and your need get the house clean. It means finding ways to discipline the kids that both of you can live with. It means staying open minded to new ideas in bed. It means communicating, it means nothing is set in stone, other than your core values, which you should discuss and share before you ever get married.

6. Treat the logistics of raising a family and running a household like a small business. Once a week have a calendar meeting. Go over the schedule of the upcoming week or weeks, and talk through what you both and the kids have going on. Make lists about what has to happen to help the week go smoothly and who has which carpool, cooking responsibilities, etc.

7. Have a sense of humor -- some arguments can and should end in laughter.

8. Don't crowd too much into your lives. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.

9. When you get home at night, or when you honey calls in the middle of the day, stop, take a breath, smile, and say "Hello, sweetheart. How are you?" before launching into whatever daily business or complaints you have. Start every interchange on a basis of affection and kindness.

10. Accept that you can't change your spouse, especially by yelling or screaming or playing passive-aggressive. However, this doesn't mean letting small resentments simmer. Deal with them before they become big deals. If your spouse does anything that upsets you, talk about it. If he or she can understand why you are upset, and you can understand why your partner does what he/she does, both parties stand a chance of finding that happy medium.

Keepin' it Real Since 1978

January 8th, 2008 at 04:29 pm

Reflections of my $20 Challenge are coming... next week?

I'm house sitting this week and away from my desk top computer and Quicken records. On the bright side, I'm making $60 / day for sleeping a house 5x the size of my own and walking a dog. Between the babysitting and house sitting, sometimes I question my decision to get a PhD and wonder if I'm just better suited to be woman-servant to the well-off.

Yesterday was also my 30th birthday! Yes, I've been keepin' it real since 1978. Mr. Bean is in town and helping me enjoy the palace lifestyle (this was OK'ed by the homeowners first, of course). We're going out to celebrate the birthday tonight at one of the town's finer dining establishments, expense abatement compliments of Restaurant.com.

Frugal Job Search Ideas

October 7th, 2007 at 02:39 pm

Over the course of the next few weeks I'm going to have several interviews for post-doc positions. In addition, I have 2 poster presentations (a way of presenting your research at scientific conferences) between now and early November. I decided it might be a good idea to have some business cards printed so I could have a handy, clean method of getting my contact information to people.

I had thought about getting cards printed at Kinkos. Mr. Bean had done this, and although the price was reasonable, the quality of the graphic looked poor (probably because Kinkos doesn't have access to a legal, good quality University logo).

Had I done my research earlier, I would have known I could get 50 business cards printed by the University Stationary Shop for $20, but the turn around time takes 12 days-- time which I do not have.

I decided to give printing my own cards a try. I know there are web sites for this, but I wanted the card to look clean and professional, just like the faculty and staff business cards. Advertising on the card would be a big no-no.

For ~$8.00, I purchased a package of 120 Avery Clean Edge Business Cards at my local Big-Box store. I know from previous experience it's best to spend the $1 extra for the clean edge cards-- otherwise your cards will have a tacky perforation along the edge. I grabbed a University logo (albeit probably illegally), from a University web page and then set up my card to look like the other faculty / staff cards. I printed on my home Cannon i560 ink jet. The result is beautiful! The cards look like they were professionally printed. If I didn't mind sharing my identity with the internet, I'd post a photo to show them off.

Mind you, I spent about an hour perfecting the card. The process wasn't totally easy, but I'm happy with the end product. Also, I only need 50 cards, so I can use the leftover blank cards for a future position, or even making place cards for our upcoming Thanksgiving meal (we're hosting this year!)

Another thing I've done to prepare for interviews to to create an online professional portfolio. The University offers free web space to students, so I redeemed mine and created a professional web site with a statement of my research interests, a link to PDF of my CV and graduate coursework, professional references, and a statement of teaching philosophy as well as a downloadable Power Point of a sample lecture. I put the URL for the site on my cards.

The online portfolio was time consuming to create, but hopefully it will help me market myself and have all my materials in one central location. I used Dreamweaver software to create the site (also free in University computer labs), so very little coding skills were needed.

These two items are complete, but I still have a lot to do to get ready!



California of Bust!

September 12th, 2007 at 02:44 am

I'm off to Santa Monica for a week of some much needed R&R and quality time with my husband.

Los Angeles isn't exactly known for being a budget-friendly place, so I'll be interested to report back on my experience of living it up while living on a budget.

Here are a few things that I've done already to help minimize the expense:

1.) We're combining business with pleasure. The primary reason for the trip is for Mr. Bean to attend a work meeting. His airfare is covered, as are 5 nights in the hotel. We are staying 7 nights, but we were able to get the "corporate" hotel rate for the extra 2 nights. Also, our cab to and from LAX are covered. The cab normally costs $50 each way!

2.) We're not planning to rent a car. Yes, I know this is ambitous since LA isn't exactly known for having marvelous public transportation. Although a car rental for the week was reasonably priced at ~$150, parking at the hotel was $35 / day. Yikes! I was able to use the Los Angeles Metro web site to figure out how to take public buses to Hollywood and the other tourist attractions we're interested in seeing. It also helps that we are both content to spend time just enjoying the lovely Santa Monica beach rather than trying to travel all over Orange County.

3.) We're taking advantage of the of one of LA's best free events: a television show taping. We're going to be audience members on the Dr. Phil show! All I had to do to get tickets was fill out a simple form on his web page. In my opinion, the quality of topics covered by Dr. Phil has really declined in the past few years. I expect the show will be a hoot!

4.)I used my coupons to stock up on suitcase friendly snacks. I got all of the following for $3.50. I'm also packing a lunch for our 6+ hour plane ride.



Of course, we'll also do our fair share of eating out and splurging to make this a memorable trip. I've already paid $75 for a private surf lesson. I can't wait!

That's what frugality is all about for me-- saving on things that don't mean much so you can take advantage of the opportunities that do!

Disposable Tableware as a Societal Ill?

August 18th, 2007 at 04:35 pm

I wanted to share a link to No Impact Man's blog. I read an article about his experiment some time ago in the NY Times, but I just started reading his blog this weekend. He offers great ideas on life, environmentalism, and living simply. There are many posts I've enjoyed, but this post was struck a chord with me: World's easiest-ever green living tip.

He writes:

"So here is one radical solution I came to. If I didn’t have time to sit down and drink a coffee out of a real cup, I didn’t have it. If I couldn’t eat food from a real plate, I didn’t eat it. There was no need to buy a full table setting of portable cups and bowls to be green. Instead, I finally learned to either do without or wait until later."

A guilty pleasure of mine is watching the TV show Wife Swap. I can't tell you how many times, week after week, I see families routinely eating off of disposable tableware, even when the food is prepared at home. I've often remarked that I think disposable tableware is a symptom of bigger problems, and I like No Impact Man's credo that if you don't have the time to sit down and enjoy a meal properly, then you need to re-evaluate. (Yes, this is coming from the same woman who just admitted to the internet that she loves Wife Swap. We all have room for improvement).

In other news, my roommate moved in 1 week ago. After 2 years of living on my own, followed by 3 years of living with my spouse, having a roommate feels a little bit like retrograding. However, my roommate is a wonderful person and I just need to get used to this being the state of my life. I have to say focusing on the money saving part of having a roommate helps me stay positive (for those new to my life, my spouse moved 250 miles away for work. I'm in the final year of my graduate program and plan to join him once I graduate in ~10 months).

My bike was stolen!

July 8th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

I stepped out onto my front porch this afternoon to hop on my bike and ride to the grocery store.

Hey wait, where's my bike?

My beloved bike had been stolen off the front porch!

Yes, I called the police and filed a report. I also walked around the neighborhood to see if I could find it abandoned somewhere. I checked the local classifieds to see if I could find it being re-sold. I'm not holding my breath.

I loved that bike. I loved riding the bike. Cruising home on my bike at the end of the day reminded me being 10 years old and cruising around my neighborhood on pink Schwinn banana seat bike.

I loved that bike and biking around so much I'll probably buy a new one. Unfortunately, they don't come cheap (even used bikes). I'll also need a new lock since my lock was dangling around the handle bars. No, it wasn't locked. I'm kicking myself now, but I thought it would be safe on the front porch of my own house.

I rode it home Friday and parked it on the porch. I don't remember tripping over it when I watered the flower boxes Saturday afternoon so it was probably stolen Friday night.

I don't like that someone crept onto the porch and took it. I'm not in anyway suggesting that the two events are related, but just earlier this week a few blocks from here a young woman awoke to her apartment being burglarized. The invader then beat and raped her. Such events are rare in my small college town. I have been extra vigilant to keep the windows shut and locked. I am thankful that I did not hear who ever took the bike off the porch because I think I might have suffered a heart attack had I awoke in the night to hear someone of the porch.

Live and learn, I guess.

Grad School- How bad is the financial burden?

March 17th, 2007 at 02:06 pm

Mr. Bean had his wisdom teeth our yesterday. They should have come out, oh- say 15 years ago, but for various reasons they didn't. One reason for delaying extraction was that when he was employed full-time (before returning to graduate school), his dental insurance did not cover a major portion of the extraction fees and the out-of-pocket expense was ~ $600. Under our new insurance from the University, our only expense will be a $75 co-pay plus whatever the prescription co-pays work out to be.

So, in between making milkshakes and dosing out pain medication, I've been thinking about the financial benefits we've experienced from returning to school full time.

It is typical that doctoral students are given full tuition remission plus a monthly stipend for 9 months of the year. Summer funding (for the remaining 3 months) is contingent on academic unit and student performance.

I've stated before that by returning to graduate school, we cut our household income by ~70%, but this doesn't give a complete picture of the situation. I’ve listed some of the financial benefits / drawbacks that come to mind. This list is financial only- I can’t even begin to comprehend on how to quantify the psychological problems challenges grad school can bring! Also, it might not apply to graduate students who don’t receive tuition remission, and the health benefits also vary by university.

Benefits:
• Increased earning power after degree attainment
• Lower cost health insurance (medical, dental, and vision)
• On campus access to pharmacy and basic health care (except dental and vision)
• Access to University Facilities (ie, I can join the University gym: including aerobic classes, weights, and pool for $41 / semester)
• Student ticket prices for cultural and sporting events, both on and off campus
• Lower clothing costs (ie fewer instances for the need to dress professionally)
• Undergraduate student loans can be deferred while in graduate school
• Fewer transportation costs (We live close enough to campus that we can walk or bike. I usually bike—something I probably wouldn’t do if I needed to dress professionally)
• Lower housing cost (our former jobs were in an urban high COLA city)
• Societal expectations are lessened (ie pressure to buy a house, go on vacations, etc are lessened but not absent)
• Ease in finding odd jobs. A few years from now when I have my PhD, people might find it odd if I were working as a personal chef or babysitter. However, because I’m currently a student, this is perfectly within societal norms and people are willing to hire me.

Drawbacks:
• Lost income while attending school (most doctoral programs take ~5 years)
• Lost income while in post doc ( as if 5 years wasn’t long enough, PhDs in the sciences are often need a post doc to have a good chance at the best jobs)
• No guarantee that earning power is better after achieving PhD than if you did fabulous work for the 5 years and had various promotions. However, the type of job is likely to be different as a doctoral program teaches very different skills that cannot always be learned on the job.
• No employer sponsored retirement savings program while in PhD program, unlikely as a post doc
• No Medical savings plan
• Uncertainty over funding, especially summer funding
• Delay in being able to purchase our first home
• For married or partnered students, if both partners are not able to graduate at the same time, one partner may need to move ahead- thus adding in additional housing costs, or stay with partner still in school and employment search

What else? I’m sure I’m missing things.

Stress

February 14th, 2007 at 12:37 am

I'm feeling stressed. I've debated whether I want to get into the details here, but basically Mr. Bean will be graduating with a Master's degree this year, I won't graduate until next (with my doctorate). The issue has been what to do while I finish up. The job opportunities in this town are severely limited for him. Should he go elsewhere while I stay here? Should I ask to spend my final thesis year away? Would I have to forfeit my stipend if I left? Would my adviser be peeved? I know the answers to some of these questions, but not all.

The odd thing is, these issues HAVE NOT been stressing me. Mr. Bean has been applying for jobs both here and elsewhere. I've felt like we have everything in order that's under our control. The rest- well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

And then, I got a call from our landlord. He wants us to sign the lease for next year--even though our current lease doesn’t expire until August. Such are the joys of living in a tight rental market. I love this house—this is the first house we first lived in as a married couple. I don’t want for us to find another place to live—but if I’m here by myself, I probably don’t need an entire house—and if I go with him we certainly don’t need any house in this town.

I explained our situation to the landlord. He said he’s give us a week to decide. I know we won’t have anything figured out in a week. I reminded him that we’ve been great tenants for the past 3 years. I keep the house spic and span—finding renters will not be a problem. He wasn’t persuaded. I understand where he’s coming from. He has a business to run. It seems unfortunate that we’re only ˝ way though our 1-year lease and have to make a decision already for the next year or risk losing our house.

Geocaching

February 12th, 2007 at 01:24 am

Any Geocachers out there?



We logged 3 this afternoon!

Between being a FT doctoral student and my various odd jobs, I'm a pretty busy gal. Luckily, Mr. Bean is supportive of my choices.

Nevertheless, I like to keep Sundays open and spend time with him. He's recently really gotten into Geocaching. Aside from the initial outlay of a handheld GPS unit (~$100-150), it's a pretty frugal hobby. It’s also a great way to get outdoors and explore new trails. We don't have kids (yet), but we notice in the log books that a lot of families with kids are into it.

The GPS unit is handy for hiking, too (just make sure you don't place it on the top of your car while loading up and then drive off-- this is how we lost our first GPS unit-- doh!)


Greetings and Salutations!

November 11th, 2006 at 02:52 pm

Welcome! As a long time lurker among the Personal Finance blogs I decided to dive in and start one myself.

A little bit about my personal finance situation: After graduating college, I was lucky to find a good paying job (for my field, at least) and live a good life in one of larger US metropolitan cities. During this time, I met Mr. Bean. In Summer 2004, after 3 years of working FT and 2 years of dating, we were married, quit our jobs, and moved to another state where we are pursuing our doctoral degrees at a large land-grant state university.

We are fortunate that both of our doctoral programs pay all tuition and fees and pay a modest stipend (after taxes, ~$1300 / month each). I also moonlight as a Personal Chef (more on hat later) which brings in roughly $300-400 / month

Mr. Bean has always kept exact records of his spending. I have not. I’ve never been a BIG spender, so ever since I’ve had enough money to know I’m not in jeopardy of depleting the account, I’ve been a lax and disorganized record keeper. Since we started school in 2004, I’ve been a penny pincher and always looking for ways to make our money go farther, but I never tracked my spending (I should note: Mr. Bean and I each have our own accounts as well as a joint account. Mr. Bean has always kept exacting records of his own money as well as our joint money). However, I felt like it was silly of me to be clipping coupons, turning down the thermostat but not know, even within a $500 range, how much money was in my checking account.

Starting in Summer 2006 I started tracking all my money n Quicken. I now feel like I’m in control of my finances. I hope that in a few years when we are done with school, we’ll have preserved enough of our pre-graduate school savings to buy a home. I’d like to use this blog to get your help and support, as well as share some of my strategies for adjusting to slashing your household income by over 70% and still having a happy, fruitful life. (added 11/30: I should note taht while income was slashed, we also moved to a less expensive city adn get really affordable health insurance through the university.. so some expensives have been slashed, too!!)