How To Become a Math Person, Vol. 1

The woman who just won a Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani, did not initially conceive of herself as a math person; like so many of us, she wanted to be a writer.

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The Billfold ABCs: A is for AMORTIZE

The Billfold ABCs is a new feature that translates financial language into understandable concepts. Using real life examples alongside definitions and illustrations, Billfold ABCs explains the words that we associate with money.

Words understood and interpreted by non-official money thinker Deb Weiss and actual professional illustrator Charrow.

A is for AMORTIZE

Definition: to spread out the cost of something over multiple periods. This can mean paying off debt in installments over time or accounting for the cost of an asset over the useful life of that asset. In accounting, this is usually an intangible asset. 

Real life example: sure, one expensive haircut may cost $600, but if you think about it on a monthly cost basis, it’s just a latte a day. Right, Suze Orman?

 

What other financial words have you scratching your head? Leave suggestions for the Billfold ABCs in the comments!

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How Do You Decide Which Books To Buy?

The Millions this morning came out with a list of the most anticipated books of 2014: Part II, and it is exciting and painful in equal measure. Billfold pal Dustin Kurtz captured the feeling well on Twitter. (See left.)

To make matters worse, Book Riot also this morning came out with its list of the Best Books of 2014: Part I. Every one of these volumes would bring a person closer to God. What does one do when faced with the kind of bounty that occasions both greed & despair? Unless one is a billionaire — in which case, according to James Surowiecki, one is too busy grousing about how no one likes you and making ill-advised comparisons to Nazi Germany to buy books — one must triage. But how?

Because of various constraints related to not being a billionaire, my method is to be supremely practical. I get books from the library first; then when I fall hard for one, so hard that I find myself babbling about it at parties and in even less appropriate situations, and I know that I will want to both a) read it again, and b) lend it out to people I love so that they too can experience communion with the spiritual realm, I will pay money for it, usually once it has been released in paperback. Bonus points if the author is a female debut novelist, because karma. I have to be stern with myself, though, because small New York apartments only have so much space and thin freelancer wallets only have so many dollars.

My other hack is to review books for places like Barnes & Noble, because they send me novels for free, and the only catch is that, in exchange, I have to say nice things about them. (The books, not the store.) (Though I also like the store! Wandering around it, I feel like Corduroy: “This looked like a palace. Corduroy guessed he had always wanted to live in a palace.”) How do you feed your book habit? Are you library-only, or e-reader only, or audiobook only, or merely dreaming of the day when you once again have time to read for pleasure at all?

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The Burrower, Part II

With your sleeping bag, travel-sized pillow and airplane blankets, you now have a bedroom that can be assembled in less than five minutes and stored away in your bottom desk drawer.

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What It Costs to DIY A First Book Tour

People take you seriously in the business world only when you take yourself seriously. By pouring my money and my life into this book tour, I was merely being my own best boss.

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How Much Should I Pay for a Star Chart? and Other Key Questions Answered

Rule No. 1: Don’t be afraid to haggle. These are psychics, fortune tellers and palm readers. Believe me, you won’t be the first person to haggle. Rule No. 2: Don’t do any of this “over the phone” or “online.” Did you learn nothing from Miss Cleo’s fall from grace?

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How To: Barter! Featuring Chickens

Remember that Nevada Republican running for Senate who suggested we pay doctors with chickens? She was great. Or at least great for the headlines, and for her opponent Harry Reid, who went on to get reelected:

Phoebe Sweet, communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party, and a few of her barnyard friends who shall remain nameless stopped by Lowden’s campaign headquarters. “I tried to trade this goat for some health care, and my doctor looked at me like I’m crazy,” Sweet told a receptionist as she carried the 25-pound goat into the headquarters with a local TV crew tracking her. “So I was just curious if you had any information on her barter plan.” “No, thank you,” the unidentified receptionist said politely.

Well, Chicken Lady Sue Lowden (R) may have gone away, but, as Esther Schindler details in this article, the idea of incorporating some bartering into our economy is still with us:

An accountant might do the tax-filing for a company that can redesign its website. Farmers can (and do) exchange tractors for cattle. A landscaping business can work out a maintenance services agreement with the lawyer who’ll do its incorporation papers.

What a fantastic plan! I’ll write you a limerick if you change my lightbulbs. Except, as Schindler goes on to note, assigning value to disparate tasks can present some challenges. Is an hour of legal advice equivalent to an hour of house painting? What if I need my lightbulbs changed immediately but you’re happy to wait a week for a perfect limerick? Who is the ultimate arbiter of what’s fair and what is worth what? I don’t want you dragging me into small claims court because you hate my rhymes and demand a do-over. You know Judge Judy would ultimately take my side, anyway.

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Live Like Marie Antoinette on a Marie Callender Budget

I have a Marie Antoinette appetite for decadence, but my wallet can’t keep up. And so, from babysitting days to college days to first-big-girl job days, my budget has learned to adapt in small ways, to make room for small luxuries. So I can eat my cake and have it, too.

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Survey Says: The Type of College You Go To Doesn’t Matter

I do love when a Gallup poll confirms my assumptions! When it comes to how engaged you are at work, and whether or not you’re “thriving in all areas of our well-being”, the type of college you went to — public or private, big or small, competitive or not — doesn’t matter nearly as much as the type of experience you had there. And what type of experience is that? you might ask.

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