On In an Age of Tablets, Are Calculators Still Relevant?

@Liz the Lemur My school would assign a calculator to each student in AP calc (there were only like 10 of us, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to afford it) and we were able to take it home to use for the year - with the caveat that if anything happened to it, we were on the hook to pay for it. My calc teacher also held a school-wise math contest every year where the prize was a TI-85, and calc students who'd broken or lost theirs would always FLIP OUT trying to win it so they wouldn't have to buy a replacement. (One year a freshman won and all of the senior calc students haaaated her.)

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm 0

On The Billfold Book Club: David Allen's 'Getting Things Done'

Hey, now that I'm done with work I can actually respond for real! I was curious about the book after the post on it here, and running into another post about it on Lifehacker, so I was reading it anyway. I have always tended towards to-do lists in time of stress, and used them sporadically at work (maybe 60% of the time, without them ever being really comprehensive). So for me, the book was a lot of advice in Leveling Up In To Do Lists more than anything else. For me, this all mostly applied to work - I have a smaller to do list for personal life stuff (and I've been using it more) but mostly work things to worry about. I'm not at the level the book mostly focuses on (no assistant for me!) but my job is largely coordinating things and make sure goals are met by deadlines, etc. So going from a haphazard to-do list to one where I actually note down everything (either it's tiny enough to do in the moment or it goes on the list immediately) has actually stopped a lot of stuff from falling through the cracks or becoming a last minute crisis. (This goes double for stuff in my "waiting on" list - if there's something on my plate, it's in a list of to-dos; if me doing my part means someone else has to deal with it before it comes back to me, or I need to check on it later, it goes there with a date. Which means I'm not losing track of where things are in process, which is very very helpful.) That said, I was talking to a friend awhile ago about our different way of handling life. I get really anxious and cope with it by being a total control freak, so having everything on a giant list where I can arrange by priority is very helpful. But for some people that list is just too overwhelming and makes things even harder to tackle, so this clearly isn't for everyone. Since I just finished the book this week (after a month of slow going reading) there's a lot I haven't attempted to use yet to figure out if it'll stick or not. (No weekly review, no filing or even cleaning out my inbox yet. And wow that file system seems WAY INTIMIDATING to me, and I don't have many papers I need to track or physical "stuff" to deal with, so I probably never will). And the book is full of tons of jargon which I find pretty annoying, but there are nuggets in it. (The inbox flowchart is great.) The altitude section is definitely one I haven't spent much time on. I do focus mostly on runway/10,000 and a bit on 20,000 (my job has enough different areas of responsibility that I do have to think through them a lot). But beyond that it's a lot harder. I have one kinda-sorta-long-term thing (someday I want to buy an apartment, SOMEDAY, but I have not figured out literally anything about that yet except that it will require years and years of saving); and one medium term (publishing a novel - recently moved from distant maybe sort of goal to much more concrete holy crapy it might happen in 3 to 5 years goal), but that's about it. But at least the idea of having, you know, long term plans is on my radar, I guess. Hmm. (That was long! Sorry (not sorry) I am a nerd.)

Posted on August 28, 2014 at 6:26 pm 0

On Let’s Throw Some Money at Our Problems: August 2014 Check-in

Student loans. Last month: $6,961.80 Current: $6,674.07 The company that owns the loan conveniently started mailing me a breakdown every month. I paid $300, and $287.73 went to the principle with $12.27 to interest.

Posted on August 28, 2014 at 5:46 pm 0

On The Billfold Book Club: David Allen's 'Getting Things Done'

@sariberry Yah, I think I really like the system overall, but my biggest complaint with the book is that there's a TON of jargon to wade through to get to the practical advice.

Posted on August 28, 2014 at 3:31 pm 1

On The Billfold Book Club: David Allen's 'Getting Things Done'

@nnlsbin I was discussing this with a friend of mine who uses the system and was giving me an overview. Omnifocus is an app that's essentially based on GTD, but it looks like it runs about $40 (which is why I haven't tried it). Since I work at a website, for all my work stuff I've been using SublimeText, which is just a plain text editor (and free!). I like having my work list on the computer so I can move stuff up and down easily, and instead of crossing things out I just mark them with a little "xx" when they're done. (And I put a ! in front of items that I know are particularly urgent.) One of the points in the book is that you don't really need complicated software for your list, so you can use just Notepad or Word or whatever you happen to have already.

Posted on August 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm 0

On I Have a Savings Account for the First Time in My Adult Life

This reminds me of me. :) I had a savings account before I lost my first Real Grown Up Job, because my mother had always badgered me about putting away part of every paycheck into an emergency fund. (I don't think *she* did this, but she told me I should repeatedly.) I wasn't as on top of it as she wanted, but I did open an account and had stashed away a few thousand dollars when the company I worked for went under. (I was also super lucky, my expenses were REALLY low, especially for living in NYC - I was living with my older sister, and she was only charging me $300/month plus utilities and washing her dishes; the only debt I had was student loans and they were only requiring me to pay about $80/month at that point. On the other hand, I had zero financial safety net beyond that - no one in my family would have been in a position to help out if I'd run out of funds entirely.) It was enough to get me by until I got a job about two months later - I remember celebrating when I hit my savings goal of 5k. (The new job paid better! Once I hit that goal my sister and I moved to an apartment actually *meant* for two people and I started paying real rent...) I'm still doing this and have built up a nice cushion, which comforts me when I inevitably get that WHAT IF MY COMPANY GOES OUT OF BUSINESS AGAIN?!?!? paranoia. (Of course I've been in this stasis for a few years now and need to start making actual choices about the money I'm saving, like how much should actually be going into a retirement fund and how much should be going towards saving to buy an apartment, etc... Well, I'm getting there.)

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 10:51 am 0

On Point/Counterpoint: Does Empowerment Sell?

I very much agree with the counterpoint, with the caveat that yep, advertisers aren't looking out for me or my best interest, they're just looking to sell things -- but that I'd way rather be sold to with a message of "you don't need to be sorry for existing" and "forget the haters, do what you want" than a message of, say, "your skin looks old!!! better fix it!!"

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm 4

On Who Benefits When Mike Dang Dies? Chatting About Life Insurance

@Katni My employer offers a small policy for free (so obviously I take part in it). I live with my sister and figure that if anything happens to me, she'll need a few months' cushion (at least) to handle rent and whatnot.

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm 0

On Who Benefits When Mike Dang Dies? Chatting About Life Insurance

Life insurance: super duper extremely important, even if it is hella depressing. My mom died last year - she was 58, and my dad was 78 at the time. He'd retired a few years before that, and they were living primarily on Mom's salary with his social security going to fun things like trips, etc. When she was sick, they were getting by on his social security plus her long-term disability pay (plus savings, with me and my sister offering to help but never being taken up on it). Needless to say, Sister and I were really, really stressed out over money stuff when she died (not to mention literally everything else, obviously). We only knew about the life insurance through her job - $20k - which would have just about covered the funeral plus her hospice service costs. Which would have left us scrambling to help Dad with the mortgage, car loans, and everything else that could have come up. Turned out, Mom had also gotten a private policy for herself. Worth $200k. Dad's mortgage is paid off now. He sat down with a financial planner (for the first time ever) and ended up investing it, with the financial folks providing a fixed amount for him every month (for the rest of his life, evidently, according to the their terms), which combined with his social security is enough for him to live on comfortably. And of course my sister and I are still here to help if needed, but it is a huge relief to know that the chances of *being* needed have gone down a bit in the mean time. I can not say it enough: I am SO grateful that Mom bought that policy years ago. We didn't even know it was there, it was apparently $35/month, and it made a ton of difference for us.

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 3:52 pm 2

On Link Round-up! Cheap Hotel Rooms, Egg Sandwiches, Commutes

@Allison My commute used to be 25 minutes door to door, one subway (no transfers). It was GLORIOUS.

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 2:44 pm 0