Living Expenses

On Appreciating the Little Things, Especially Around the Holidays

For those of us who live paycheck-to-paycheck, for whom the accumulation of savings is always one perfect-month-without-crises away, it is important to take pleasure in the little things. For me, one of those little things is the stretch of the month between the 15th and the 25th, when all my big bills are paid — student loan, 2011 independent contractor taxes on the installment plan — but the next round of them — rent, phone, after-school for two kids — is still the better part of a week away.

Often, a paycheck, or, more precisely, a pay advice from a direct deposit, arrives during this period, giving me the false sense that I am getting ahead and accumulating the absurd amount of emergency cash that financial planners smugly say I should have. By now I have learned not to rely on my foolish notions, so I resist big purchases (well, maybe a few extra drinks). Instead, I just luxuriate for a few days in a false sense of financial security. This month, it’s false financial security and a glass of egg nog with rum in it. Happy holidays.

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Meet America’s Most Worthless Human Being

You must, must, must read the back-and-forth between the pompous, aggrieved Edelman and the polite small business owner.

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One American’s Search for a Bank Account Abroad

Stocking up on GBP became my new hobby.

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Okay, So Where Should We Move to Get What We Want?

Tagging on to Ester’s post this morning about how young people in expensive urban areas will probably need to move to a different city if they want to buy a home, it’s time to play: where should we move?

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Where Do You Want To Live When You Retire

Canada is where Americans are retiring these days. Maybe it’s the cheap drugs.

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How Many Safety Nets Do You Have?

How many nets would each of us crash through before we ran out of options? It’s not the world’s happiest thought, but it’s certainly something I’ve wondered about more than once in my adult life. (By “more than once” I really mean “more than once a month.” Adulthood is scary.)

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John Oliver Throws Stones at the Lottery

People hate taxes yet love lotteries, even though lottery winners are often quite unlucky in the long run.

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Living Together to Save Money

Generally speaking, roommates expect to keep their money separate, since they know the arrangement is temporary. Romance, though, works like peanut butter, slathering everything — especially money — in a sticky layer of complexity that is hard to remove.

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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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