Living Expenses

The Work and Money-Related Secret Fantasies of Adults

Our very own Jazmine Hughes is in the New Yorker magazine being brilliant about our secret fantasies as grown-ups, which have far less to do with sex than with work and money:

UNLIMITED TIME OFF FROM WORK FOR VARIOUS PRESSING MATTERS “Excuse me, boss?” you say, as you knock on an already open door, since your company believes in open-door policies, catered lunches, and summer Fridays. She—it has to be she, because you’ve always worked for a woman—looks genuinely happy to see you, and encourages you to take some freshly cut fruit, because you live in a place where harvests are bountiful. “Take as much as you want!” she says. “The harvests were bountiful!”

You don’t hesitate with your request. “I noticed this morning that I’m getting pretty behind on my issues of The Economist,” you say. This is not a lie. You regularly read The Economist, and you find typos every time, too. “Could I have a few days off to catch up?” Your boss gives you ten, and some more fruit. …

TRADER JOE’S PEANUT-BUTTER CUPS GO ON SALE “Marked down to $3.50? I better get two!”

A MEET-CUTE, WITH PERKS You’re walking down the street, furiously tapping away on the screen of your Latest Coolest Phone model, when you bump into an actual model, one not famous enough to place but well known enough that your nemesis, whom you haven’t seen since third grade and who walks by at this exact moment, does a double take. The model apologizes, and holds out his somehow muscular hand for a handshake. You two stand on the street and talk easily, like old friends or familiar neighbors who talk to each other only in the elevator, and he eloquently explains to you the difference between a traditional I.R.A. and a Roth I.R.A.

To this, I can only add, “free Diet Coke in the office,” “someone really old who lived a full, happy life dies and leaves me all their frequent flier miles,” and “Babygirl teaches herself to read, preferably while figuring out how to use and clean the potty, leaving me free to write novels and/or watch British miniseries.” Also maybe “waffles burn calories.”

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Paying for Theaters vs Waiting for Netflix

Over the weekend, I watched Obvious Child on DVD, and it was one of those rare movies that I wished someone had frog-marched me to the theater for. It got a lot of press at the time as the “abortion comedy” (the way Brokeback Mountain was the “gay cowboy movie“) and, though I supported that in theory, the film seemed like something I could wait to enjoy later. No. NO. I was wrong. The film was so funny, so poignant and interesting and smart, that I wish I could have shelled out the $13 to see it then so I could evangelize for it and maybe convince other people to shell out $13 each to see it too.

Usually I’m fine waiting for the red envelope. Gravity, which everyone swore you had to pony up to see on the big screen? The couch was fine. 12 Years a Slave? Even better, because I could press pause when my heart was beating too hard and I needed to calm down. The downside of waiting, of course, is an inability to participate in the cultural conversation; but sometimes listening to the conversation is sufficient. In the case of 12 Years a Slave, what would I have had to add? My four word film review would have been “Slavery bad. Performances good.” Definitely worth two cents, that.

But Obvious Child acted on me like a stimulant, like last year’s In A World …, another surprising breakthrough feminist indie comedy I regretted having waited to see on DVD. I wish I had gotten it together to buy full-price, as it were, because both films could have used that kind of word-of-mouth support. My money could have meant something, maybe. It coulda been a contender.

Now I have to wonder what else is coming out this fall that I will regret not seeing in theaters. If only $13 didn’t feel like a lot of money and/or if only I felt rich enough to spend $13 whenever I wanted.

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The Week It Rained and the Future of Umbrellas

MIKE: I am a no umbrella person. Meaning I like a good waterproof jacket with a hood. And rain boots.

ESTER: That’s nonsense Mike and you know it.

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Heartbreaking Story About Homelessness in San Francisco

The myth of the “good poor” kills me, the idea that people should have to point to their accomplishments and credentials to make clear that they don’t deserve to have to live on the street. No one should have to live on the street.

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A Drunk Stole My Kale. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Today’s Link of the Day, a gripping tale of tragedy, redemption, and kale, comes from the vibrant, increasingly yuppie Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.

About two weeks ago, my Tuscan kale plant disappeared. … we wrote it off as lost, a casualty of the urban environment in which we knew fenceless gardening to be a risk. And then, over the weekend, we found this wet note sticking out from under a flowerpot. [Note reads: "To: Wonderful Gardener. From: A Remorseful Kale Thief (I was drunk & I'm very sorry."] Attached to the back was a $25 gift card to Ace Hardware, where we plan to restock our gardening supplies in the spring. Never has my faith in humanity been more emphatically restored. Kale thief, if you’re reading this, all is forgiven and then some.

Back in the early days of our relationship, Ben borrowed my laptop and left it attended for a moment in the law school library. Some other enterprising law student, no doubt bound to be one of those shysters who advertises on billboards using dollar signs, made off with it. Ben was devastated — so upset, in fact, that I ended up calming down so that I could calm him down. (Good trick, btw, if you can pull it off.)

What’s the most valuable thing anyone has ever stolen from you? Did the thief make recompense somehow? Or have you ever had to express your remorse for taking something that wasn’t yours?

Photo via Washington City Paper

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To Pay Back Loans Faster, Go West, Young Man

Nearly three-quarters of college students borrow funds to pay for school these days and, as we know, it is not always easy — or possible — to pay those loans back. Well, it turns out one thing you might be able to do to help yourself succeed is move. Specifically, move west.

According to schools.com, four of the top five states for student loan repayment are on the Pacific side of things: Utah, Wyoming, Washington, and Nevada. (The fifth is Virginia so the Atlantic gets a brief nod.) California and Colorado also place in the top 10. But stop short of Cali: San Francisco is a luxury ghost town these days. (“On average, 39 percent of condos built since 2000 have absentee owners, and for newer buildings like One Rincon Hill, that number is 50 percent or above.”) Also there’s no water.

Why is the West such fertile ground for loan repayment? Low unemployment rates, low cost-of-living, and high incomes boost Utah and Wyoming. Washington State, Wyoming, and Nevada make things easier on residents by not charging income tax. Wait, what?

FYI, there are only seven states that don’t charge income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.  I can understand the small and the oil-rich not needing to profit off individuals but how on earth do huge states with significant populations of poors and olds like Texas and Florida get away with that? Texas makes up the difference via property taxes, “some of the highest in the nation.” New Jersey and New Hampshire are also expensive places to own property. And Florida … is there anything good to say about Florida?

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How People Do Money: The High Holidays

Perhaps the less Jewish-y people have noticed that the more Jewish-y people are saying “Happy new year”? That’s because it is once again Rosh Hashanah, a lunar calendar holiday that usually falls in September and coincides nicely with the beginning of school. Happy birthday, world! Time to hit the books.

This is a pleasant holiday: we get to miss class, eat apples and honey, and challah with raisins, and various kinds of cake. I had a donut this morning when I got back from services and it felt almost, like, spiritual. We don’t have to hear horror stories about people trying to kill us. Services go on forever and ever, it’s true, but pretty much guaranteed, when you doze off, someone blows the shofar and you jolt upright again. As a teenager, when I got bored, I’d sneak off to the synagogue library and reread Exodus or Marjorie Morningstar. One time my family drove home without me because no one thought to check the stacks.

So, good food, mini-break from school right out of the gate, and you get to hear someone blowing a ram’s horn like it’s 2500 years ago: what’s the problem? Money. Especially for us X-ennials / members of Generation Catalano, the issue becomes, how or what do you pay for High Holiday tickets. Because yes, it costs to go to services: it has to, so that synagogues can keep the lights on. Even factoring in that dough, rabbis still have to make a traditional “appeal” during the high holidays where they petition for more from the people who crowd the pews once a year.

Even understanding that, though, it can feel weird, because mixing money with spirituality seems so strange. Can’t, you know, God provide?

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For Only $2,499.95 This Deconstructed Sofa Can Be Yours

Well it’s Monday. Here is a couch.

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Stress-nesting During a Season of Turmoil

It was a bad week on the heels of a bad month. If you are reading this in real time I hardly have to tell you about it, but in case you aren’t: Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola, Michael Brown, Robin Williams, Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson—what am I missing? Probably a lot. Anyway, there was all of this, and then suddenly the lamp situation in my dining room became untenable.

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The ‘Instant Gratification Economy’

At Re/code, Liz Gannes kicks off a special series exploring the “instant gratification economy,” which is driven by tech companies creating apps allowing you to instantly access almost anything you can think of—transportation (Uber), takeout delivery (Seamless), groceries (Instacart) dry-cleaning (Washio), makeup and blowouts (Glam Squad), medical marijuana (Eaze)—and have it delivered to you immediately.

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Getting Married and Living on $11 Per Hour

When my wife and I first got married, I was working at a real estate office in Miami while she finished her degree in nursing at Florida International University. I hadn’t finished school yet and wasn’t very close to doing so. She was in her last—and toughest—semester. (Try your best to continue reading this before you make your judgments about whether we should have gotten hitched or not. If we get divorced, I’ll let you tell me that you told me so.)

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