On Selling Book #1 And Dreaming Rothschild Dreams

indie ebookstore, basically

For today’s chat, Billfold pal Jason Diamond is here to talk with us about books, money, dreams, and one very particular pair of shoes. 

Ester: Hello Jason!

Jason: Hi Ester! I’ve spent too much on lattes today. I’m feeling a little bit bad after hearing that one reader the other night.

Ester: Helaine Olen? But her argument was that no one goes broke getting lattes or gets rich giving them up!

Jason: I liked her argument, but I was thinking, “What if she’s wrong and I’m going broke drinking these things?” I’m really paranoid.

Ester: We all get paranoid that we’re DOING IT WRONG, I think, especially when it comes to money. But you’re celebrating this week, right? The day after you performed at Billfold Live, you announced some exciting news?

Jason: I found out on my way to Housing Works that I sold my first book. It was crazy to find that out and then get in front of so many people!

Ester: We should all have such problems! That’s amazing, though, congratulations. :) How long did the process take? Were you trying to sell the book, or a book, for a while?

Jason: Thanks. Well, the thing is, the book idea evolved from failing to write a John Hughes biography, something I tried to work on for several years until a bunch of crazy stuff happened. So you take those five years and add about six months of my agent and I working on the proposal, and I guess you get a long time. In terms of trying to sell it, that didn’t take as long as I thought. The proposal went out and we heard a few rejections, then a few editors reached out. All told, I’d say that took two weeks. Two very long weeks.

Ester: Two very long weeks, plus five and a half years. And now you never have to worry about money again! READ MORE


The Cost of Things: Pregnancy

Pregnant dr bailey grays anatomyI used to read the website Mighty Girl frequently both for the blog and the cool-yet-affordable products on the gift guides. Mostly I only ogled them, but window shopping is half the fun.

Today I happened over there for the first time in a while and I saw that, in addition to a Valentine’s Day gift guide and lingerie round-up that will serve the (sexy) Berts among us who can think about such things before it’s even February, there was a useful post called “Maternity Wardrobe Links and Tips.

Now this I could have used. People don’t really tell you how to spend money on yourself once you get pregnant. I had no sense of what to buy, only an assumption that someone would strap a pillow to my belly at some point and then drape dresses over it. In Brooklyn, those dresses are stylish and cute but cost around $100 each, so I put off buying them for as long as possible and instead got larger-than-usual or extra roomy clothes for myself at thrift stores. In consequence, I looked frumpy and felt less than great about myself.

I did have good luck with the belly bands, though. I got two, which allowed me to keep wearing my old jeans for several months. Considering how expensive maternity pants were, that was a gift. When it was time for official maternity pants, I went to a secondhand/consignment maternity store, a place I liked so much I returned to it twice more before my due date. I also trolled neighborhood listservs for other people’s cast offs, though with more mixed results.

Here are some of Maggie’s suggestions for avoiding pitfalls without spending yourself into exhaustion: READ MORE


All the Exposed Men’s Ankles in the February “GQ,” in Order



Agonizing About Vacation Expenditures

tina belcher horse poster

In a couple of hours, I’m going to set an Out of Office message, get on a plane, and spend a week on the JoCo Cruise.

What else am I going to spend?

There’ll be $25 to check my bag to and from FLL.

There’ll be some $8 “snack pack” that will serve as tonight’s airplane dinner.

There will be about $45 in taxis to and from the hotel, airport, and cruiseport.

There will be about $50 in cash tips. Even though Royal Caribbean is all “gratuity is included” on its website, what I’ve found is that cash tips significantly improve service. (A suitcase with a $2 tip will arrive in your stateroom at the last possible moment; a suitcase with a $20 tip will arrive right away. I know this from experience.)

And then there will be the fun expenditures, which I am still trying to justify in my mind.



How a Microbiology Lab Tech Who Enjoys Saving and Hates Spending Does Money

honey lemon

Sarah (not her real name) is a 38-year-old microbiology lab tech in Eugene, Oregon.

ND: So, Sarah, tell us a little bit about your finances.

Sarah: I’m doing pretty well, all things considered. I just turned 38 and I’ve owned my own home for two years, which seems like an accomplishment to me. I make about $50K a year as a microbiology lab tech and I feel like I’m ready for most emergencies. At the same time, I’m always panicked that I’m one exploded water heater away from ruin and I’ll never be able to recoup my investment.

Where are you living?

Eugene, Ore. It’s a great college town. Expenses are fairly low here.

Oh, I know Eugene! It is a great place. Did you end up there by choice, or by chance?

Very much by chance! Very short version: I was in a small midwestern city that I hated, finishing up training for this field. I was dumped in an amazing way and had to get out of the town. My little sister had just finished up an internship after becoming a real-live veterinarian and she said “I’m moving to Oregon,” and I invited myself and my stuff into her U-Haul.

Amazingly, I got a job within a month of moving here. That was almost four years ago now.



All Right So How Should We Pay For College Then

robin leach lifestyles of rich and famousAs you might have heard, Obama’s plan to adjust how 529 college savings account plans are taxed has been scrapped. The NYT’s Upshot blog explains how the President ran afoul of what has become conventional wisdom: you can suggest asking for more from the rich, but anything that affects the “merely affluent” is DOA.

the White House proposed to end tax advantages for new deposits into 529 accounts. Instead, they would expand tax credits for tuition, with benefits on a scale that slides the opposite way: declining in value as a family’s income rises, phasing out entirely at a family income of $180,000.

Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle calls this swap “a plan to redistribute money from the upper middle class to the lower middle class.” While it’s true that 529 accounts are not exactly a sop to hedge fund managers like the carried interest loophole, that characterization involves taking quite a broad sweep for “upper middle,” and reflects how the idea that $200,000 is a normal, not-rich family income, at least along the Acela corridor, has taken hold. But if you look at the data, $200,000 is not a normal income, even in a prosperous suburban county like Westchester, N.Y., where 77 percent of married couples are somehow managing to get by on less. In Montgomery County outside Washington, the figure is 72 percent. These figures start to seem normal to politicians only because, when they’re not hanging out with ultra-wealthy donors, they tend to spend time with the sort of pretty-wealthy professionals who use 529 accounts.

If Robin Leach hosted a show these days, it would be called “The Lifestyles of the Pretty Wealthy and Disproportionately Influential.”  READ MORE


Career Dilemmas Present in ‘The Sims 4′

Sim working late

Different types of Sims players have different types of goals: The Architect wants to build beautiful homes. The Murderer likes to create Sims only to watch them die slow, painful deaths by trapping them inside their homes and watching them starve. Then there is the type that I fall under: the Careerist whose goal is to get to the top of whatever career their Sim is in.

I’ve been this way ever since I played the first generation of The Sims. I usually play as a woman, which makes things a little more complicated—just like in my real life. Things in the new Sims 4 are simpler and more progressive, but even in a simulation game the following finance and career dilemmas still pop up:

Struggling for a work-life balance
In previous generations of the game, you might have to work to increase your skill set, and maybe schmooze with some people outside of work to get a promotion. Now every position has a daily task to do once you get home. Were you looking forward to your Sim hanging out after work? Well if you want a promotion anytime soon then that’s too bad; get on that computer and start filing reports for several hours until it says you’ve completed them! READ MORE


Your Uber Has Arrived… For Your Job


Earlier this month, we worried that someday all of our jobs might be performed by robots.

Turns out that worry might be a little outdated.

What should we worry about instead? That we might all lose our jobs to “Uberization:”

Just as Uber is doing for taxis, new technologies have the potential to chop up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction.

That’s from Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times. He quotes NYU business professor Arun Sundararajan’s vision of what Uberization might look like:

“We may end up with a future in which a fraction of the work force would do a portfolio of things to generate an income — you could be an Uber driver, an Instacart shopper, an Airbnb host and a Taskrabbit.”

I feel like this future is already here.



Friday Estimate

SnacksIt’s Friday, which means the weekend is near. Let’s do some estimations.

I’ve got a Saturday morning haircut appointment, and a Super Bowl gathering on Sunday, which I’m not interested in except for the array of snacks that will be available (Super Snacks Sunday? That could be every Sunday, really). I’m still stocked up on groceries thanks to over-preparing for the blizzard, so I’ll only need to pick up a handful of items. My estimate is $100 this weekend.

What are your estimates?

Photo: Lori L. Stalteri


“Your Children Deserve To Know What You Make” Uh OK

Billfold pal Adam Freelander pointed me to this NYT article making the rounds today, summarizing the opening scene as follows: “This fellow goes to his bank and terrorizes the staff, making them give him 10k in 1 dollar bills.” Then he brings the money home in big bags marked with dollar signs, dumps everything out on the table in front of his frightened children, and gives a demonstration.

Mr. Parker began peeling off bills. He told them about taxes, set aside money for a tithe to their church and made a big pile for the house payment. The singles piled up for soccer and scouting and hamburger night. By the end, there wasn’t much left over. “I was trying to make as big of an impact as I could, and I definitely had their attention,” he said recently. 

That’s a fun thing to do with your dollars! You could also dive in and swim, Scrooge McDuck-style, or light cigars with them. But even if you aren’t going to be this literal about it, teaching your kids about money — and specifically being more transparent with them about how much money the household has, where it comes from, and where it needs to go — can be useful.

I remember the first time I had to fill out some form that asked how much money my parents made. Stumped, I passed the form over to my father, and he checked the last box on the list: $100,000+. My eyes widened. $100,000? We were rich! Who knew?  READ MORE