Monday Check-in

BoyhoodGood morning! Hope you all had great weekends. Let’s check-in.

Most of my money went to errands this weekend: haircut ($60), taking a pair of pants to the tailor ($22), picking up a suit from the cleaners ($14), grabbing some items at the drug store ($23.92), plus groceries ($30.67). I also saw Boyhood in the theater ($21 for ticket, soda and popcorn), which I thought was just such a lovely film. On Sunday I grabbed a coffee and some breakfast at a place near my apartment ($10), and caught up on some work. My estimate was $200 and I spent $181.59.

How’d you do?


It’s Time to Talk About ‘Snowpiercer,’ the Best Action Movie of the Summer


At last we are ready to discuss Snowpiercer! Joining us is ‘Folder, academic, and Buzzfeed writer extraordinaire Anne Helen Petersen. Caution: Serious, major, we-warned-you spoilers ahead.  

Ester: Hi friends! Are we ready to talk about SNOWPIERCER, the train that becomes the world?

Mike: And what a world!

Meaghan: Okay first of all, did you guys find this movie slightly … terrifying at first? While being introduced to the premise? Maybe it was because I brought a newborn to a movie theater and was worried his hearing was about to be blown out. But OMG.

Mike: Meaghan, I have a question about that: This was a showing specifically for babies?

Meaghan: Yes! It was a screening at Nitehawk, a Brooklyn movie theater, designed specifically for parents and babies, so if the baby cries no one cares. But then we got there and we were the only people with a baby.

Ester: I think your baby was the youngest person to ever be exposed to a post-apocalyptic action movie about class warfare.

AHP: I tried to read as little as possible beforehand so I could have my mind boggled. And one of the things I really loved was its willingness not to give us a crazy amount of exposition

Ester: Yes, the world-building was very efficient: Here is a train, and here is the steeple; open it up, see all the people! Also see: outside, snow.

Meaghan: I had no idea what this movie was about, only that it wasn’t “my type” of movie and it seemed like some kind of action/masculine type of thing, except class issues! Which is why, Mike, I think you kept telling me I would loooove it.

AHP: I have developed a generalized antipathy towards action movies, which is a shame, because I love old school action movies. And by “old school” I mean “from the ’80s.” But the summer crop of blockbusters has been so dismal for at least a decade.

Mike: Oh totally, and how many action movies have Tilda Swinton in them? READ MORE


Amazon Isn’t Spending Less Than It Earns, Either

kitty in an Amazon box

If corporations are people—and, as we all know, they legally are—then Amazon is a person just like you and me.

That is to say: Amazon is spending more than it earns.

And, just like you and me, Amazon has plenty of reasons why it’s overspending. To quote Mashable: “Amazon is spending an incredible amount of money on a variety of investments that are not turning a profit. Well, not yet.”

Yes, the Amazon quarterly numbers are out, and although—as Geekwire notes—its net sales increased 23% to $19.34 billion for Q2 2014, the company also reported a quarterly loss of $126 million dollars.

I am having flashbacks to my own failed business and the cycle of thought in which I convinced myself first that I was “spending money to make money!” and second that as soon as I had one good month, I could start to pay back what I’d lost.

It’s amusing to learn that Amazon, just like you and me, is spending money to make money. (As a corporation wearing a people suit, it truly has picked up the local mannerisms and cognitive dissonances.)

Also, I suspect that despite this quarterly loss, Amazon is going to do just fine.


Photo: Stephen Woods


Here Is Your Open Thread

Who's coming with me?

At LinkedIn, a discussion of what not to do when you quit your job so you can leave gracefully:

There are a number of things employees are known to do once their notice period started, and for me those are the negative top 3:

Gloating – You are off to somewhere supposedly better, but no need to rub it in too much. Your colleagues still want to feel good about their jobs, and management will probably see it as provocation.
Slacking off – Tempting since you feel (and pretty much are) safe, but is it fair on your colleagues? Just because you are leaving does not mean it is ok to simply dump your work on others.
Disloyalty – You think it would be great to let your clients know you are leaving and tell them why they should probably do the same? Nothing can earn you the management’s wrath faster than this. And you would deserve it.


My First Job, Or How Not to Deal With A Boss Who Masturbates at Work

at work?

I graduated with honors from a good college in 2012, but I didn’t have a job lined up. The U.S. economic recovery was moving at a snail’s pace, but I still had a vague, almost charmingly naive belief that “something would come around.”

I had loved my undergraduate life because of the academic opportunities given to me, but also because of its inherent limitations. I never had to wonder what I was doing on a given Saturday evening. My social life consisted of attending parties at fraternities with Keystone Light-slicked floors, of skinny-dipping in the river that hugged campus, of going to the local bar and flirting with graduate students who studied things like Creative Writing, or Globalization, or Digital Music. I was enamored of my life’s provincialism and loathe to give it up.

But then I graduated. The night before I had attended a party forebodingly called “Last Chances Dance” and had slept four drunken hours. I packed up my dorm room in half a day and moved to New York with no real plan.

I am a master of denial in general and avoidance in particular. Careful evasion of the inevitable—or “anxious passivity” as my therapist kindly calls it—is my forte. With the benefit of hindsight, it is more than a little embarrassing to admit that I believed that New York had been waiting breathlessly for my arrival and would fete me with a bounty of job offers in my chosen field. It will come as a great surprise to absolutely no one that this did not pan out. I slowly came to realize that I was one of a cadre of Young Women Armed With A Liberal Arts Degree Determined To Make It In The Big City; our genus was especially saturated.

After pillaging my college’s alumni job board to no avail, I graduated to that prurient holy grail of odd jobs, soiled underwear, and missed connections: Craigslist. READ MORE


Kima Jones on ‘The Wrath of The Math’

rice, no beans

The newest quarterly edition of Scratch Magazine just released, and this quarter’s Scratch is on the theme of “security,” both financially and in other ways. The entire issue is fantastic, but one of the pieces that stuck out was Kima Jones’ five-part “Baby Gotta Eat” piece. (Although Scratch is subscription-based, you can read all of “Baby Gotta Eat” for free.)

Kima Jones is a poet and a writer, but that is only one of her many jobs—she also has a full-time job and a part-time weekend job. As she writes in “Part I: For Further Consideration:”

I have always worked two jobs, my whole life. Two jobs and school. Two jobs and relationships. Two jobs and family. At the end of the summer I am leaving my second job so that I can write more and read more and sleep. I will make less money, but I will have more time for me. I think, Am I worth it? Am I worth it? Is my work worth my own time?

She also writes about the financial mathematics that dominate adult lives:

Mostly my lists look like this: a list of my dream items, a list of my outstanding debts, a list of my recurring bills, a list of household items to buy, a list of groceries. I feel like an adult and responsible and on top of things when I cross items off of my list, but the crossing is slow. There are things I won’t spend money on anymore—namely, manicures, pedicures, or the salon. Luxuries have long gone out of the window. Instead, I remember having health insurance is a luxury, being employed is a luxury, having an apartment that is mine all mine and being able to keep the rest of the world out is a luxury. There are days when I come in this house and take a nap because I don’t have the answers or the funds or the energy to think about it anymore.

And then, in Part V, she gives us a chart of her writing income and expenses. I love charts. I was so glad to see this chart. It puts her perspective literally into perspective.

So read Kima Jones’ story and then, if you want, we could start a comment discussion about our own “wrath of the math.” Or, we could take our lead from Kima Jones’ “Part III: The Real Question” and talk about how we manage money and food, and whether we have a bag of rice hiding in our cupboards waiting for the truly lean days.


Photo: Mario


Why I Have To Be So “Rude”


“Rude” is the #1 song in America; “Rude” is a strong contender for the worst song I have ever heard. For the lucky uninitiated, I can only explain “Rude” like this: it’s the aural equivalent of a man listening to reggae for the first time in his racecar bed, slowly fucking the hole in a Kidz Bop CD.

Here, take a dip, the water’s absolutely disgusting!

Ostensibly, the success of Magic!’s “Rude” can at least partially be explained by the history of American top 40′s irregular dabbles in reggae, which have tended to appear in the form of one-offs rather than any tangible wave: “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1973, “Red Red Wine” in 1984, Shaggy in 2000. But “Rude” is a reggae song the way a gas station taquito is a formal expression of Mexican cuisine, and I think, if we’re going to situate the song in some larger context, “Rude” is most interesting as an artifact in the realm of ideas. “Rude” is like a Dorito bag that got stuck on a spike of the crown of the Statue of Liberty: it’s a pop object with no content and only as much form as is necessary to deliver brief chemical gratification, which, through an unlikely ascension, becomes newly visible as a pure expression of tragedy, degradation and American garbage. “Rude” is utterly embarrassing and radically unselfconscious, a derpfaced college sophomore defensively grunting FML as he waddles to the closet for toilet paper because he ran out mid-wipe.

The first time I heard “Rude” I thought it was a 1-800-411-PAIN ad, because Detroit radio is currently running one that sounds sort of like a more palatable version of “Rude.” The next couple of times I had the sort of physical reaction I associate with suddenly coming in contact with bees; before my mind could process what was happening, I pawed at my radio dial quickly, ahhh, get it away! READ MORE


The Cost of Breaking Up and Moving Out

One Day

Last month, my relationship of five-plus years ended. Emotionally, it was about 75 percent mutual and 25 percent devastating. Financially, it was 100 percent a huge setback to my savings.

My ex and I had been living together since the summer of 2011. Luckily, we had been careful to split every major bill and purchase over those years, and kept a regular IOU that we tallied up at the end of every month and paid each other back via our separate rent checks.

However, separating our lives and moving out has still been a huge hit to what little I had in savings. A tally of what I have spent so far:

$4.15: Cost of public transportation to take myself and three travel bags to stay with a friend the morning after the break-up

$62.40: Various toiletries and cleaning items I bought to use at my friend’s place that I couldn’t haul with me when I left

$350: Rent I paid my friend to stay in the guest bedroom of her apartment for most of June READ MORE


What Would It Be Worth To You To Be a Laker Girl?

bring it on screenshot cheerleadersCheerleaders have it all — in high school. Once they become professionals, though, and cheer for the NFL or NBA, they face an array of obstacles, including some entrenched, institutional unfairness; and at last, like the famed stewardesses of yore, another group of attractive, exploited young women employees who had to rebel against gross and unequal treatment, cheerleaders are beginning to push back:

Former Buccaneers cheerleader Manouchcar Pierre-Val has just made Tampa Bay the fifth NFL team to get served with a lawsuit from its cheerleaders. … Pierre-Val is the only named plaintiff as of now and was paid $3,000 less than minimum wage during her one year with the team.

On a recent This American Life episode (#530), writer-producer Chana Joffe-Walt discussed the cheerleader suits and the insanely stringent restrictions in their employee guidebooks, which cover everything from appearance and hygiene to decorum and what feels like cotillion-level etiquette. 

“Never apply makeup or fuss with hair front of people. If it’s absolutely necessary you reapply, freshen up, go to the ladies’ room. And do not hang out and talk while there. Beware, other women will judge you in there, too. (emphasis added because OMG WTF –ed)



GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations: What You Get For $750,000

everyone loves an old houseThe Grey Lady is feeling, like, Iggy Azalea-level fancy this week. Her latest “Great Homes and Destinations” looks at “What You Get For … $1,750,000” and comes up with “a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion with six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half-baths.” I don’t know what “Richardsonian” means: not like Terry Richardson, I hope? But when the NYT actually calls something a mansion, you know they’re for serious.

The fireplace in the dining room is almost large enough to walk into. Off the kitchen is an octagonal sunroom with five large arched windows overlooking a pond. Bedrooms are upstairs. The master has a dressing room and French doors that open to a private deck. Two bedrooms have walk-in closets; one has a fireplace. Also on the second floor is an office. The third floor, reached from the original spiral staircase in the dining room, has four more bedrooms, with original wide-plank floors and built-in desks and storage. Downstairs in the walkout basement is a den with heated floors and another enclosed porch, with a fireplace.

OUTDOOR SPACE: The spring-fed pond is suitable for swimming and skating. There is a nine-stall barn with an apartment upstairs.

Skating on ponds always makes me think of Amy falling through the ice and Jo hesitating for a second about whether or not to save the brat who will one day go to Europe without her and marry Laurie. Here are some GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations for $750,000: real estate suitable for the March family rather than Aunt Josephine.

AX8297477 - Kitchen READ MORE


Friday Estimate

gotta get some alterationsGood morning and TGIF! Let’s do some estimations.

Most of the money spent this weekend will be in preparation of next weekend, when I’ll be attending a wedding: getting a haircut, getting some clothing altered and cleaned, and running a few other errands. I’ll be meeting up with some friends, but we don’t have any concrete plans yet. My estimate is $200.

What are your estimates?

Photo: Elliot Brown


The Year I Saved $10,000

all by myself...

I want to share stories from people who saved $10K in a year. Whether you do it every year or did it just once, it’s time to talk about serious saving. If you have a story to share, email me at

The year I saved $10,000, I didn’t do anything differently.

That’s not completely true.

For starters, I finally had a job that paid more than $50,000. In 2009, that was supposed to be the “magic number;” the salary at which you stopped having to worry about being broke and could start focusing on being happy. Additional salary increases weren’t supposed to make you more happy; they were just more money.

(It’s worth noting that the first time I read about the “magic number” was in 2004, when Penelope Trunk called it at $40,000; in 2010, Princeton did research to determine that the actual magic number was $75,000. Who knows what it would be today.)

So my salary was different. That’s really the determining factor here. But I also did a few things differently myself. READ MORE