A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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Part-Time Lifestyle And Income Report #2 (Week Of August 12)


Income Report Context


Earlier this year, I was earning a salary of $60,000 in a job I despised, and my family was making over six figures annually. We were able to pay off some debt, invest, and save. After many months of searching, I took a lower-paying job that I hoped would be a better fit. The new gig turned out to be a total horror show, so I eventually quit and embarked on a career break.

Now I'm trying to figure out my next steps. I don't feel like I'm on a break anymore, but I'm also not working 40 hours a week. Instead, for the time being, it looks like I will be cobbling together freelance and hourly gigs to help bridge the gap between our family's expenses and income. This is an entirely new journey for me: until now, I've always worked full time.

Fortysomething's job covers many of the bills, but not all of them. I need to earn ~$1000 a month after taxes in order for us to break even. Ideally, I'll earn more than that so that we can put money into savings and investments.

I thought it might be fun and informative (if only for myself!) to post a weekly recap of what I'm referring to as my New Part-Time LifestyleTM.  Assuming I can make myself stick with it, I'll stop in every Friday or Saturday to share what I've earned throughout the week, any challenges that have come up, and how I'm feeling about my new approach to work life.

You can find the first installment of my report here.

Personal Income This Week


Online Teaching Job: $330

I worked 15 hours this week. I'm usually slated to work 12, but my boss allowed me to tack on some extra time so that I could deal with an enormous grading backlog. I'm pleased to say that I'm almost done!

Overall, I'm enjoying the job. It's fairly easy, interacting with the students is fun, and I feel like I know what I'm doing, which is always a plus. My bosses don't seem like micromanagers (never change, bosses. Never change!) Also, I don't have to talk to anyone over the phone! HURRAY!

Oh, and happy day: last week's earnings were deposited this morning!

Rover: $56

Ohhhhh Rover. Rover, Rover, Rover. Last week, I described some of my recent frustration with Rover petsitting gigs. That frustration hasn't abated.

Perhaps my biggest source of stress is the last-minute nature of most of these requests. More often than not, people contact me the day before they're leaving town - or even sometimes the day of! - to ask if I'm available. If I say yes, it throws my schedule out of whack; if I say no, I'm dinged in the Rover algorithm (which is why it's important to say yes to as many offers as possible when you're first getting started).

Since I began petsitting in May, I've accepted most of these requests. Now? I'm over it.

The other problem is that I seem to be a magnet for difficult/awkward situations: key is missing, roommate is home and wasn't expecting someone to blast through the front door, nice dog has turned aggressive, dog refuses to go for a walk, suddenly there are three pets instead of one and nobody told me, dog has destroyed a giant ornament and now there are glass shards all over the floor (that last one happened this week), etc. etc. etc. Things happen. I get that. But do they have to happen at almost every visit? 

Some of my friends have told me I'm charging too much. I've tried to explain to them that the fee doesn't cover just the time I'm cleaning the cat litter, filling food bowls, or taking a pup for a walk. It also covers drive time, gas, and these crazy headaches I keep arriving to. If anything, I feel like I'm not charging enough.

I'm not ready to give up on Rover yet. Instead, I've made some changes to my petsitting profile in an effort to cut down on the less-than-ideal requests. First, I'm marking my calendar as unavailable a week out. That is, the earliest someone can start a booking with me is a week from today. My existing clients will still be able to make last-minute requests, but for new clients, my name won't pop up in the search results if they're looking for someone immediately.

Second, I've adopted a strict cancellation policy, meaning that if someone cancels at the last minute, I'll still get some of the money. Rationale: people who are apt to change their plans probably don't want to deal with a rigid cancellation policy.

My guess is that I'll receive fewer requests, but I'm hoping that the requests I do receive will be for longer-term bookings by organized people who know their pets and respect my time. Those are the people I want to work with.

Total income this week: $386

Last Week's Challenges: Where Am I At?


Insurance

Status: Resolved! Yay!

Last week, I shared that a claim for a recent doctor's visit was inexplicably submitted to my expired insurance plan. It took a while to get people on the phone to discuss the problem, but I eventually reached both my health provider and the insurance company. The doctor's office resubmitted the claim to the correct company, and we're all set (I hope). I received the appropriate insurance discount and now owe $55 instead of $165.

This is the first time I've used my short-term insurance plan. It's nice to know that it's actually doing something for me.

Ghost Company

Status: Who knows.

After one of my best friends got sick of hearing me rant about being ghosted for a job (her: "...that you are perfectly qualified for... We know, we know..."), she made me email the hiring manager and ask for an update. Nobody responded for days. Finally, I received a 3-sentence note explaining that they've been too swamped to make a decision and everything's just CRAZY BUSY and SORRY!

Um. Maybe hiring someone would help with that? Just a thought.

I know that these processes take time, but come on. Everything about this situation screams WE DON'T CARE. This is a terrible way to do business (though an excellent tactic if you want to drive people away). It is stupid, inefficient, and disrespectful. WHY DO BUSINESSES OPERATE LIKE THIS.

So... I'm just moving forward as if I did not get the job.

This Week's Challenges


I've already mentioned Rover. Hopefully, the adjustments to my profile settings will help.

Another challenge was trying to figure out what to do about my kid's extracurricular activities. He's the type of preteen who likes nothing more than to spend his afternoons cruising through his homework, firing up the Xbox, and eating ice cream. Can't blame him, but we figured cross country would be good for him both physically and socially. He participated last year and generally enjoyed it. I can't say he was super into it, but he did it, checked it off his list, and then went to play Minecraft.

This year, the fee for cross country has ramped up to $200 per participant. My eyes just about fell out of my head when I found out. Maybe that's not a substantial sum of money for some kids at his school, but it's a wallet buster for us.

In the end, we asked him if he really wants to be on the team, he said meh, and we were like, okay, let's not do it. It's not the ideal solution. I think cross country offers a lot of benefits. But... yeah. I don't want to pay that much, and all of the other team fees are about the same price.

Lastly - and this isn't really a challenge, just something I did this week - I applied for one more part-time online teaching position. I'm qualified; however, I don't know what it pays. Sometimes adjuncting isn't worth it. Sometimes it is. We'll see.

I'm still keeping an eye on the job boards for full-time employment opportunities, but the options were limited this week.

How I'm Feeling Overall


Good! I feel pretty good! This week was relaxing yet invigorating. If work-life balance is something one can actually achieve, I think I did it.

In addition to working, I did a lot of fun things: taking time with my morning coffee, making healthy breakfasts, running, reading, cleaning (I like cleaning), napping, baking cookies, and watching Survivor. The nice thing about working part-time is that there's so much room for variety in one's day.

I also decided to go on what I'm referring to as a Life Elimination Diet: that is, I'm going to cut out all extraneous activities and obligations and keep only the necessities. The necessities include family time, my job, running, blogging, book club, and helping my kid with homework.

But I also had all of these other odds and ends in my schedule that were stressing me out. Like an experiential Marie Kondo, I did not feel the spark of joy and needed them gone.

Some of the things I cut included last-minute Rover requests (see above), uncomfortable Meet and Greets (if I feel even a little weird about meeting someone at their house for the first time, I'm not doing it), random parent meetings at my kid's school (some of them are important, but others are totally unnecessary), a race I was not going to be ready for, and a trip I was supposed to go on in September. I was not excited about this trip and realized that participating in it was just going to make me feel bad about myself. So I emailed the organizer and asked if I could back out. They were totally fine with it.

I'm also not going to do some of the things I've thought about doing simply because I feel like I should: serving on the PTA, tutoring, freelance writing. These are all good ideas... for other people.

Anyway, that was my week. How was yours? Any big wins and/or challenges?

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6 comments:

  1. I love the concept of the Life Elimination Diet. And I can really relate to that balancing act of finding (and paying through the nose for) activities and things your kid will actually use and need. Part of me always wonders, if I shell out the money anyway, then maybe...But then it is so painful to see it either go to waste or just be underappreciated. Sounds like you made the right call on cross country, for now.

    I really hate how so many of the gig apps push us to work to unhealthy standards, while billing themselves as a form of self-employment. When I briefly delivered groceries for Instacart, their algorithm pushed and pushed me to rush through the pick-up and packing and driving and parking--leading to more opportunity for mistakes, back strain, unsafe driving, and parking tickets in my very urban area. All landed on me, not them. I had the choice to walk away, but a lot of us don't. Hope your Rover experience improves, because it seemed so fun for a while there.

    Keep going, you are my shero!

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    1. We need to meet in person. I feel like we are such kindred spirits!

      We paid for soccer over the summer. Hate to say it, but it was kind of a waste (though we were out only $80, so... not terrible). The practices were infrequent, my kid wasn't as into it as he thought he'd be, and it was a lot of driving. I think our summertime sports experience made me all the more reluctant to pay for XC. These activities can be soooo pricey. I'd do almost anything for my child, and if he were truly committed to something, I'd find a way to make it happen. But if he's halfhearted... nah. I'd rather play video games and eat ice cream with him. LOL.

      I think Rover is a really good way to make some quick money. If I were in college and saving for an awesome winter or spring break trip, I'd reserve all of my free time for Rover stuff and accept all bookings until I could pay for my expenses. But as a consistent way to meet our budgetary needs? Ehhhhh. I'm having second thoughts.

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  2. Could you into more detail about the online teaching. I teach full time online now and it's going pretty well. I just posted about it on my website. What company are you with? Why do you have to grade?

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    1. Teaching online is something I accidentally fell into in graduate school. The regular instructor quit, and they needed someone right away... so I volunteered. Once I had that job on my CV, it was easy to get similar jobs with other schools. I've worked for on-ground universities that offer a handful of classes online; I've also worked for schools that are or were entirely online. I stepped away from it for a little while but was recently hired by an on-ground college that has a small online program. The courses are all offered via an online learning system, so my job mostly entails grading assignments and tests, answering student emails, and making sure the courses are up to date.

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  3. Sounds like a great week! As far as the company that's ghosting you, I'm thinking it's a sign of how they handle things (no planning, always busy, lack of communication). It still stinks that they are acting like that though, so unprofessional.

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    1. You're right. I clearly dodged a bullet with that one! I'm fine with not getting the job but would like to avoid similar job search experiences in the future.

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