Friday Estimate

Malta foodHello, again, I’m back! Malta was lovely—I’d highly recommend it as a place to visit, but perhaps if you’re looking for the kind of vacation that’s quiet and leisurely (our hotel, at this time of year, was filled with retired couples visiting from the U.K.). The food is excellent and meals can last for hours (see photo), and usually came out to about 30 euros per person. Also: Lots of cats.

And it’s Friday! All I’d really like to do is lay low after being away for a week and a half, but I have a friend’s annual dinner party to attend; I need to get a haircut and pick up a host gift for it. I’m also having lunch with a friend on Sunday. My estimate is $150.

What are your estimates?


Will Spoon You For Money

cuddleTwo interesting stories in the news today about asking other people to touch our bodies, non-sexually, in exchange for cash. In the first, a woman opens up the world’s first professional (and platonic) cuddling parlor. It’s in Portland, of course.

the shop is called Cuddle Up To Me and is already very busy. “This business has taken off,” Hess told Fox 12. “I’ve gotten as many as 10,000 emails in a week.” Hour-long sessions cost $60 dollars and include hair strokes, hand-holding and a plethora of different cuddle positions. Hess says the business is in no way adult-orientated, and that she got the idea for it during a low point in her life. … Sessions are taped to ensure the safety of both cuddler and cuddlee. … The shop is open Monday to Saturday. Talking is optional and pyjamas are encouraged.

Speaking of talking, in the second story, a woman recounts her experience paying for a more hands-on kind of therapy.

Being with Ann E. feels a little like being in psychotherapy, except you’re usually lying on a massage table in your underwear. It costs about the same for a session, although it lasts a lot longer and she doesn’t care if you doze through most of it. …



Working Over the Holidays Horror Stories

while you were sleeping sandra bullockAs you may have noticed, I messed up by suggesting that not having a homemade, wholesome, Norman Rockwell-style extended family Thanksgiving at home was “cheating.” Though I apologized for it in the comments section, I wanted to tack an I’M SORRY here too. I do not myself have that kind of Thanksgiving. My mom used to do it up when I was a kid and I still have that image in my head, but I am not my mother and I can’t do what she does. No one else should be held to that ridiculous standard either. Anyway, that’s my own baggage. I’m sorry to have thrown it around and made other people feel bad.

I also neglected to make any mention of the many many people who have to work on Thanksgiving and other holidays. I have had to do that; other people have to do that regularly including, as Nicole wrote, employees at K-Mart. The Times recently reported that Wal-Mart too is not content to wait until Black Friday to lure shoppers in with deals; it now stays open on Thanksgiving day itself. Other stores, though, are taking a stand.

Costco, Marshalls, GameStop and T. J. Maxx are riding the backlash against holiday commerce by boasting that they will not relent: They will remain closed that day to show that they are family-friendly and honoring the holiday. But even as retailers vie for every dollar during a very competitive season, Tony Bartel, the president of GameStop, views this debate as open-and-shut. “For us, it’s a matter of principle,” said Mr. Bartel, whose company has 4,600 stores nationwide. “We have a phrase around here that we use a lot — it’s called ‘protecting the family.’ We want our associates to enjoy their complete holidays.”

Thank goodness for small mercies. Do you have to work over the holidays? Do you have working-over-the-holidays horror stories, or ones that perhaps end in true love?


On Being a “Workaholic” When You Need the Money

bee(First of all, I need to be really clear that I put “workaholic” in quotes because it is a word with a cultural meaning which we all understand—and, perhaps, a word for which there is no obvious synonym—but also because making fun of alcoholism is kinda gross. So… that.)

It occurred to me at some point when I was banking freelance pieces so I could secretly disappear this Wednesday and Thursday, that a “normal person” (another gross term) might have just taken the days off. Instead, I planned out my schedule by the half hour (which gives me nine minutes to complete this piece, btw) so I could do everything and still disappear for most of Wednesday and Thursday.

Why? Because I like work, sure, but I also like the money.

I come across, both online and in person, as a cheery do-bee who just loves working. And yes, I get the question about work all the time. “How do you do it?” “How do you do so much of it?”

And I want to say, full stop: Because I need the money.

You know, to live.



Reviews of Store Catalogs


The J. Peterman Company: Owner’s Manual No. 121
By John Peterman
The J. Peterman Company, 74 pp., $0.00

Not long ago, I spent an afternoon in a sparsely populated cafe on the bank of the Seine with an older gentleman, an Ernest Hemingway-type in rolled-up sleeves. His chief claim to fame was that he’d successfully wooed Audrey and Marilyn in the 1960s, but while the glamor of his private life eclipsed his public travails, he’d been busying accomplishing more than his fair share of success in life—or should I say exactly his fair share; when you meet the man it becomes immediately clear that he runs on only a dash of luck generously greased by a certain European charm and personality—and today his résumé includes climbing Mount Everest wearing only a motorcycle jacket and adopting a coterie of displaced polar bears from southern Alaska, which he raised as his own children. We’d been talking for three hours before I realized I wasn’t in a weathered cafe off the Seine at all: I was in a small room in my own home—my bathroom—reading a J. Peterman catalog. READ MORE


1 Thing Will Make You Jump (Jump)


Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.

Yesterday I went to use my breast pump and it wouldn’t start. You laugh — I am laughing — but I kind of freaked out, imagining I’d be squeezing my boob into a jam jar within the hour. Luckily Dustin was ON IT and we swapped in the power cord from our internet router and got it working. Because the internet is basically our version of breastmilk, I need to dig up the warranty and email the pump company about getting a new cord ASAP.

Also I dropped my phone and the screen cracked and I’m getting glass shards in my fingertips. Dropping your phone is not covered under warranty. It costs $109 to get fixed in the store. $109 plus the psychological damage that comes along with sitting at the Genius Bar.

I don’t even think Mercury is in retrograde. How are you guys? What is weighing on you this week?

Image via Flickr


How To Get EU Citizenship, Country By Country


One of the great things about New World countries like the USA, Canada and Australia is that we’re all melting pots of different races and cultures; most of our ancestors came by sea to start a new life in the land of opportunity. Many of us think that being the descendants of pioneers, convicts and refugees just means we have a grandparent with a funny accent and stories about the old country. Not so! Under the right circumstances, your heritage can be your ticket to European citizenship.

How does this work? New World countries tend to be founded on the ideal of multiculturalism: the principle that race is irrelevant when it comes to what makes a citizen. European countries, on the other hand, often have old-fashioned ideas about the importance of ethnicity to a community. In legal terms these differences are known as jus solis (right of soil) and jus sanguinis (right of blood). For example, I’m an Australian citizen who was able to register as an Irish citizen because my grandparents were born in Ireland. I have a certificate and a passport and everything, even though I’ve never been there. Obviously this is ridiculous, but I’m not complaining.

Maybe you don’t think your grandfather’s birth in East Gradzykystan is all that appealing; maybe you don’t want to go to East Gradzykystan and live in a Soviet housing block eating boiled potatoes. You may, however, find that your obscure European country of origin is a member of the European Union. And that opens all kinds of doors, since every citizen of every EU member state has the right to live and work in every other EU member state, which is how I’ve used my Irish passport to come and live in the nation of my grandparents’ brutal oppressors. I chose Britain because it has an okay economy and I only speak English, but legally speaking, I’m perfectly entitled to go study at the University of Stockholm or open a bar in Barcelona or retire on a Greek island.

The trouble is that when it comes to letting their emigrants’ offspring claim citizenship, every country has its own rules. Some are generous, some are jerks, and it’s luck of the draw as to which ingredient your ancestors were in the melting pot. Let’s take a look at some of the nations which the average New Worlder might find further up their family tree. READ MORE


The Billfold Book Club: Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’ (Chapters 26-52)


Reader, she married him.

But we all knew that was coming.

Let’s talk about the economics.

Earlier this week, Ester wrote about the windfall theory of personal finance, and you can see why this theory is persuasive, because it’s how Gaskell brings her book to its end. All seems lost? BAM! Rich person dies, leaves you all his money. Your mill is failing? BOOM! The woman you’ve been pining for offers to solve your problems with the money she got from the dead rich guy.

(I’d be more respectful towards Mr. Bell, because he seems like a stand-up gentleman, but his entire purpose in the story is to show up, make a few tasteful comments about how rich he is, and then die.)



“I Don’t Believe in Owing”: How James McBride Does Money

James McBrideAnna Sale’s podcast Death, Sex, and Money is short, at roughly half an hour per episode, and yet manages to cover a tremendous amount of ground. In each show, a different subject talks candidly with her about real life subjects we often shy away from as taboo. The end result feels startlingly intimate and, often, inspiring. We’d all probably do ourselves a favor if we implemented Ellen Burstyn’s occasional “should-less days.”

This week National Book Award-winning and bestselling author James McBride (The Color of Water, The Good Lord Bird) riffed in a frank and meaningful way on the topic of money. About quitting a good, stable job to become a musician when he turned 30, to the horror of his mother, who raised him in the projects. About getting cleaned out in his divorce. About loss and grief and consumerism and success and how long winning a significant professional award will make you happy (about a day). The episode is worth listening to several times over but here are some choice quotes:

I knew I was rich when I said I wanted a pair of jeans and I went to the store and I said, give me two of them. Give me two of them. And I want those sneakers that my brother Hunter has too. Those red ones with those stripes on the side, you know. So I did that for a while, and then after a while, I just totally lost interest in it.

Is there something that you look back and you’re like, I can’t believe I bought that? 



Spending Money To Make Money: The Cost of Getting Your Law License


This year I graduated law school, took and passed the bar, and was admitted as an attorney in my state. It’s a given that law school itself is expensive. But like a lot of other professional programs, there are also tons of costs when you’re coming out of law school that I didn’t really think about until I had to. Since you have to be licensed in order to work and make that sweet professional salary, there’s no getting around some of them. For lawyers, of course, there’s the bar.

One option for law students are bar loans. My school was mysteriously quiet about this process, but they are the most common option for people who need to borrow in order to cover their post-grad expenses. Basically, your school confirms to the federal government that you will need extra funds to cover “education-related expenses” after you graduate. This allows you to then apply for more federal loans. If you miss the deadline to do this (December for my year), private loans are available, and are also called bar loans, and they typically come with the same or similar terms as most private student loans.

If it is at all possible, the best bet is to plan for this expense at the beginning of your final year: you can set aside any loan money you take out and earmark it for your bar expenses, or you can opt not to take out the maximum amount of federal loans offered to you, and go back and take it out later. This is what I was lucky enough to be able to do, and it’s worked out well. READ MORE


“The Cost of ‘Daddy I Want a Pony’” as Experienced by Josh

The New York Times published a hilarious piece of journalism called “The True Cost of ‘Daddy I Want a Pony‘” (i.e., the Veruca Salt Story), and our friend Josh live-tweeted his reaction. It began with an eye-roll and ended with the kind of righteous indignation that could power speedboats.

It started small, with a pull-quote:

Josh tweet 1

Then he got going.  READ MORE