Help, a Direct Mailing For a Cleaning Service Actually Worked On Me And I’m Worried It Will Ruin My Relationship


Dear Life Partner,

I am using the Billfold to tell you that I paid $29 to have someone come clean our apartment in a few weeks, the day before my mom is coming to visit.

I know if I discussed this with you first you would NEVER stand for it, and use it as a way to guilt me into cleaning the house more. I know I am bad at cleaning. I know you are good at cleaning. To make up for my inferior standards of cleanliness, I am investing 29 of my own dollars into two hours of professional service.

DO NOT PROTEST. Or do, but do it as you read this, when I am not around. I am telling you this via the website I work for because I do not want to hear you protest.

As for the rate, it is $29 because I got a flier in the mail from some startup called Handybook which yes, I am worried is VC-funded and underpays their employees. I am not going to Google it for fear I find a Kevin Roose article about it or something. Twenty-nine dollars is an introductory rate. They basically automatically sign you up for recurrent cleanings and it’s up to you to cancel before they come back, and charge you at a higher, more humane rate. I promise I will try to cancel before then. READ MORE


Meet The World’s First Bookless Library

All that money for all that time we slept in the school library

The Commons does have librarians and Internet connections to all the standard electronic resources of a university library. It provides access to a digital catalog that launched with 135,000 e-books. But take a look around the room, and it’s completely bookless.

That is, unless a student happens to bring an old-style hardcover or paperback to school.

They might; like most university systems, Florida State makes all of its books available to students through interlibrary loans, giving them access to 6 million volumes.

But the idea of the new Florida Polytechnic library is to move away from paper. Printers for articles accessed online are available but not encouraged. Instead, the staff hopes students will organize their research online with tools that are part of the library service.

Florida Polytechnic University opened this week, and its library is an empty room. I like it! Though it does raise one question for me, namely: What is a library anyway?

This library does seem to align with the motto of the American Library Association:

The best reading, for the largest number, at the least cost.

Is it just me or is this an EXCELLENT motto? Almost makes me tear up a little bit. READ MORE


What Would You Do for $1000 an Hour?

but don't you dare get rid of that sweater IT'S A CLASSICIn college, we spent a lot of time playing a fun game called “Would You Rather.” Like, “Would you rather have to vomit every third time you opened your mouth, or take a dump on your favorite professor’s desk chair?” Sometimes the questions went beyond bodily functions to money: “Would you rather steal $10,000 or have it given to you because a relative you loved died?”

Nowadays everyone just plays Cards Against Humanity.

Let’s be retro! Would you rather make $1000 an hour by shaving monkeys for use in labs, or by being Anthony Green, doing “guaranteed results” remote test-prep for Manhattan’s richest children and having to answer to their parents?

Green is one of the premier SAT and ACT tutors in New York. His company, Test Prep Authority, serves some of the richest kids in America. Using a student’s PSAT, the practice exam, as a benchmark, Green promises he can help raise scores an average of 430 points on the SAT (and 7.8 points on the ACT) — “higher than any other tutor, class, or program in the country,” according to his website. That promise seems to be enough for his well-heeled clientele. And for this very small but wealthy minority, money is truly no object. Green charges $1,500 for 90 minutes of one-on-one tutoring, and he insists on a minimum of 14 90-minute sessions, with very rare exceptions. What’s more, the sessions happen exclusively over Skype. Green’s pupils have never stepped foot inside of his eclectically decorated townhouse.

In the article, Green acknowledges that the system is broken, that the SAT is a “blatant class indicator” and “the entire system of standardized tests and higher education is completely ridiculous and ludicrous.” But as long as that system exists as a supposedly “objective” way of sorting students, he will help the most privileged succeed. AMERICA.


True Value: One Pair of Black Pumps From Payless ShoeSource

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I was 22 when purchased my first pair of Professional Lady Shoes. I was preparing to fly to Boston for a few hours to meet with the woman who would become my supervisor in a seasonal position at an intensive summer program for high school students. I had to look like someone who could manage unruly teenagers, not like someone who recently was a teenager herself. I searched a store that provided reliable quality to match the little investment I could afford, and for roughly twenty-five dollars I walked out of Payless convinced I now had what it took to be a real grown-up: a basic three inch, black matte, pointed toe pump. I was consumed by confidence during my commuter flight with well-dressed business men and women, and then again at my stop at a coffee shop surrounded by urban professionals before my interview. I was mentally singing the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show right up until my nylon covered left foot slid out of my equally synthetic shoe, causing me to regain balance by placing my almost bare foot in a pile of slush. The shoes survived, the nylons and my ego did not. I got the job anyway.

The morning of my college graduation, I found myself digging through my closet to find suitable attire and footwear. I donned my black pumps for only the second time, as they were the only vaguely appropriate items I owned. I had failed to iron my robe and though I would describe my overall appearance that day as “rumpled at best,” I felt like I had achieved something substantial hearing my own heels click across that stage as I received my diploma. READ MORE


The Real World Cost of a $22 Gadget

Up in the AirThe “knee defender” (great name, dude) costs $21.95 and keeps the person seated in front of you on an airplane from being able to recline. It’s also a great way to start fights between strangers!

The spat began on United Airlines Flight 1462 because one passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 lock that attaches to a tray table and jams the reclining mechanism of the seat in front. The male passenger, seated in a middle seat of Row 12, used the device to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official said.

The pilot made an unplanned stop in Chicago, at which airport the feuding passengers were ejected, and the plane continued on to Denver where it landed an hour and a half late. So, in case you’re thinking of getting your own Knee Defender, buyer beware: the hidden costs might be significant and include your suddenly having to figure out how to get you, and your water-logged laptop, to Colorado.

Business Insider offers a refresher on airplane etiquette here. The publication supports your right to use the seat you’ve paid for however you see fit, but cautions, “make sure to look behind you before you recline. Maybe warn the fellow traveler whose space you are about to invade, so they can hang onto their drink or adjust their laptop. And stay upright during meals.”


The Earning Potential of a Liberal Arts Degree

Okay, so a few things about this tweet from The Chronicle of Higher Education that has been making the rounds:

• Where is the data from? Who knows—the article related to this chart is behind a paywall.

• Median wage at age 36 for liberal-arts degree holders is higher than the median household income of $53,891 in June of this year (household income being the combined income of anyone over the age of 15 and earning money, as measured by the U.S. government).

• If I showed this chart to my parents they’d shrug and say, “So? Why are you showing us a chart when you should be showing us a paycheck?” (And who could argue with that.) READ MORE


The Cost of Bringing a Person Into The World Via C-Section

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The claims section for my personal account on my health insurance provider’s website gives me great anxiety lately. This is why.

CLAIM ONE: $24,254.25
$14,489.90 Allowable
I OWE: $500 Copay

A few notes:

Did I go to the emergency room ($500)? I did not! I went to triage in Labor & Delivery, which is I hope what they mean. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though I have no idea why I would do that.

Did I get an ultrasound ($480)? Okay I did but it was for like two seconds in triage when they checked to make sure he was still head down. That should have cost like, $20 tops.

Anesthesia, $338? My first epidural didn’t work so they had to give me another one. Then they did more stuff to me in the OR, don’t really know what. This relatively conservative amount only makes me fear there is another claim coming from the anesthesiologist, and that the anesthesiologist doesn’t take my insurance. If you pray, pray for me.

The line item I take the most umbrage with has to be $14,400.00 for three nights in a 8′x5′ section of a hospital room, cordoned off by puke green curtains. My neighbor — yes I shared a room — did not want to use air conditioning, as it was presumed to be bad for the baby. She wailed to the nurses when visiting hours were over, not that I blame her, and demanded that her husband be allowed to stay. They said no but he stayed anyway. No one had the energy to forcibly remove him. I told the nurse, who insisted I could say no, that I didn’t care. I wanted my person there, too, desperately, but I am, I guess, more desperate to follow the rules. In the middle of the night, after days of no sleep, I’d wake up and hear her husband snoring. The curtains would billow open and various family members of hers (of which there were many) would catch sight of me, sweaty, wrestling with my sweaty baby, tits out, on the verge of tears. $4800/night. Cool. READ MORE


Keeping Your Childlike Enthusiasm Alive with Janet Varney


Janet Varney’s positive and generous attitude might be best exemplified by her Nerdist podcast The JV Club; in it the actress, producer, and writer interviews women in entertainment (and this summer, men) about their experiences growing up and how their formative teenage years influence their work and who they are today. In her often funny and sometimes emotional conversations Varney exudes warmth and an earnest curiosity to understand and share her guest’s stories with her audience.

As a comedic actress Varney has made a variety of guest appearances in shows and movies like Kroll Show, How I Met Your Mother, and Key and Peele, but she might be best known to alt comedy fans for her work on Burning Love, in which she played the disinterested lesbian love interest of Ken Marino’s pompous bachelor.

Varney also founded SF SketchFest with Owen David and Cole Stratton. The festival celebrated its thirteenth year in February with shows at nearly two dozen Bay Area venues.

This summer Varney has appeared on the relationship comedy You’re the Worst and stars in the animated adventure series The Legend of Korra, which released its third season finale online on Friday.

I recently talked with Varney about The JV Club, Korra, SF SketchFest, and interacting with fans. READ MORE


DWYL, Year 2: Starting in the Red

968full-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind-screenshotThe 8th floor of a huge, high-ceiling building just north of Houston Street in Manhattan is a good place to work. My little chunk of it, a sizable room, comes with air conditioning, comfy chairs, a sofa, a whiteboard, a large mirror, an Apple device charging station, a yoga mat, several industrial-chic lamps, a coat hook, two windows that are each taller than I am, three unobtrusive plants, a magazine rack, and a conference table that can seat six. Ordinarily, the space costs $30/hr but it’s free to me from 1:00 to 3:00 PM via Breather, the room-for-rent service.

A psychiatrist I once saw operated in this very building. I dubbed him Dr. Worthless because I am uncharitable that way, especially after a break up. He tried to get me on a strong psychoactive medication and I resisted because my mother had been prescribed that very medication and reacted badly to it. He kept forgetting that I had said no, or kept pushing it on me anyway, and finally I lost my temper. “What, do they pay you or something?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied, without blinking.

He also told me I wouldn’t need the pills he did give me because the placebo effect of my carrying them around will suffice to keep my anxiety attacks at bay. The poets sing of placebos: Oh, a good placebo, who can find it? Its worth is above rubies. What would the copay be on an effective placebo? I’d pay rubies, sure.

Month 1 of DWYL: Year 2, is almost over. Year 2 is going to be even more scary interesting than Year 1 was, because Ben, my life partner and co-parent, has joined me in the quest of tying personal satisfaction to professional fulfillment. He has traded one FT, well-paying if soul-sucking job for a combination of two PT jobs, one of which is in what he thinks is his chosen field. I am still freelance. No benefits, no stability. This is, patently, crazy.  READ MORE


How It Feels to Pay Off $70,000 in Debt


We take out student loans casually, and then rail against having them for years.

I knew grad school would be expensive, but I don’t think anyone is able to comprehend what $70,000 of debt truly means, without personal experience. My $16,000 loan from college had been a non-issue in my life—mostly because I was on a low, interest-only repayment plan—and I wasn’t worried. I was going to increase my earning potential! I got into a great school! This was going to be worth it.

By the time I finished my master’s degree in 2011, that “nonissue” undergrad loan had grown to $20,000, and I had $50,000 of brand-new debt to pile on top of it. This felt like a real, burdensome amount of money that I owed now. My first bill informed me that I was saddled with minimum monthly payments of roughly $700 for the next 10 years, with an astoundingly high portion going to interest.

So I took the high-achieving drive that had gotten me into that expensive school, and devoted it to paying off my loans as soon as possible. I created spreadsheets evaluating various snowball approaches and projecting my anticipated date of freedom. I took subsidized public transit to work. I brown-bagged. I said no to trips and dinners out. I looked forward to applying my tax refund to loans. I saved very little. When bored or impatient, I mentally pulled up my credit card bill and bank account balance, and calculated how much I could put toward the loans that month. I was spending a lot of my life bored or impatient.

Now I’m only weeks away from paying off my loans, after just three and a half years—wildly exceeding all of my projections. When focused, you find a way. By the end I was putting more than $2,000 to the loans (enough money to buy a pretty fancy vacation) every single month. I always figured when the loans were gone we’d splurge for a month and would celebrate with a trip, or a week of fancy dinners, or skydiving because the loans were GONE. READ MORE